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Graphic Novels & Comics to Read When You’re Under the Weather

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Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, but they come with one big downside: getting sick. As an experienced shut-in, I don’t encounter too many germs, but I do get sick sometimes, including on the October day when I had to come up with a topic for this article: after over two and a half years of successfully dodging COVID, it finally got me.

Fortunately, I didn’t get it that bad, but it did make me think about what comics might be most fitting for someone who is under the weather. Some people like to read about characters with troubles similar to their own. Others prefer pure escapism that allows them to forget about their current discomfort. So, after soliciting suggestions from my fellow Rioters, I divided this list into two sections, plus a secret third one, to accommodate each type of reader. No matter what kind of a patient you are, I hope you will find something to amuse you below.

If you aren’t currently ill, you can still enjoy these comics, of course. You can also take steps to protect yourself and others. Get your flu shots and Covid boosters! Wear your masks! Stay home if you’re sick! (If you can: I know some employers aren’t so understanding about that, in which case, unionize!) And if you know someone who doesn’t feel well, bring them one of these comics — I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Comics About Sickness and Being Sick

Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 by Don Brown

By now, you’ve probably heard a thousand people comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the global flu pandemic of 1918. This comic, written before most of us had ever heard of a coronavirus, digs deep into how the deadly flu spread through America — just as U.S. troops were heading off to Europe to fight in World War I, bringing the disease with them. While this is a nonfiction comic, it is every bit as gripping and emotional as any work of fiction.

cover of Everything is OK by Debbie Tung

Everything is OK by Debbie Tung

When you’re sick — either physically or mentally — it can seem like you’ll be stuck feeling bad forever and that things will never improve. This book reassures you that is not the case. Recovery may not be easy, as Tung acknowledges as she relates her battles with anxiety and depression, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Even if you have the kind of illness that never fully goes away, you can still lead a worthwhile and satisfying life.

cover of Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd & Michelle Mee Nutter

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

If you have allergies, you know that they can make you feel really rotten when all you want to do is go out and enjoy some nice weather or pretty flowers. For 10 year old Maggie, that lousy feeling is compounded by the fact that she is allergic to dogs, cats, and every other cutesy animal she wants for a pet! With her parents and her brothers preoccupied with other things, can Maggie find the perfect animal companion — one that won’t make her break out in hives?

The Truth about Stacey cover

The Truth about Stacey by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

Diabetes is a different type of illness than the ones I had in mind when planning this article, but this comic — part of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel adaptation series — has plenty to say about how an illness and disability can affect your life and relationships. Stacey is the new girl in town, and on top of that, she’s just been diagnosed with diabetes. Her illness often causes her to miss school and feel like she’s falling behind her peers. Can her new friends with the Baby-Sitters Club help her cope?

Comics That Have Nothing to Do with Being Sick

cover image of Check Please, Book 1: Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

Check, Please! Book 1: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

This wins for being absolutely delightful and filling you with just the most lovely soul hugging vibes. It also reads equally well if you want something to focus on and look at all the details in the background of the illustrations, or can’t really focus and are skimming the text and following the illustrations for story. You don’t have to like — and can even hate — hockey, and you’ll still love this graphic novel. Bonus: If you’ve already read it and are feeling under the weather, it’s a great two-book series to curl back up with. 
—Jamie Canavés

cover of The Tea Dragon Society

The Tea Dragon Society by K. O’Neill

When you’re sick, you need something warm and comforting. Like soup. Or tea. Or the sweetest, gentlest little graphic novel series ever written. This is a middle grade comic, so it’s an easy read, but the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and often have ornate borders and other details, which makes it the perfect candidate for spacing out and staring at while you work up the strength to turn the page. Personally, I find looking at Tea Dragons very comforting when I’m not feeling well, and the focus on friendship, care, patience, and love should make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
—Danika Ellis

Superman Smashes the Klan book cover

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

Okay, but hear me out. As a superhero fan, nothing comforts me more than seeing the good guys wipe the floor with the bad guys, especially when the bad guys really deserve it. You aren’t likely to find a bad guy who deserves it more than a Klansman, and you aren’t likely to find a more upstanding hero than Superman. This graphic novel is aimed at a younger audience, so it’s easier to digest, and there is cute art with bright colors that can keep your attention when it’s hard to focus. Best of all, it has a soothing yet powerful message about the importance of being yourself and standing up for what you know is right.

And One That’s Kind of Both!

cover image of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

All through college, I read Allie Brosh’s blog Hyperbole and a Half religiously. It was hilarious and moving and comforting like nothing I had ever consumed before. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that I was ecstatic when her book was announced, and it (as well as her second book, Solutions and Other Problems) absolutely delivered. It’s everything I loved from the blog, only better, because now I can hold it in my hands! From ridiculous dog shenanigans that will make you cry laughing to raw discussions of mental health struggles that will make you just cry, these comics both pack a punch and feel like a tight, reassuring hug all at the same time. Whether you need something to cheer you up, or something to level with you and make you feel seen, Hyperbole and a Half is easy to page through to visit and revisit whatever types of stories you need in a given moment. And if those MS Paint illustrations don’t give you some sort of warm, nostalgic feeling, I don’t know what will!”
—Patricia Thang


For more sick day reads, check out the best books to read before and after surgery, or maybe these books about medicine!

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