With so many movies now based on comic books, you might get a craving to see where Hollywood goes for inspiration. Here are five graphic novels that haven't been turned into moviesyet. Read them before the studios do. One caveat, though: no muscle flexing here, except maybe of your brain.
Already a master at creating hilarious stories about alienated weirdos, most famously in Ghost World, Clowes has more recently been exploring the formal properties of graphical storytelling. Inspired by the overlapping style of director Robert Altman, Ice Haven weaves more than 30 short strips into one cohesive portrait of a strange suburban town shaken by the disappearance of an odd little boy. Bruisingly satiric and brilliantly designed, Ice Haven will have you gleefully reading it two or three times in a row to unlock its complex interconnections.
JOHN STANLEY, ILLUSTRATED BY IRVING TRIPP
The comics of Little Lulu, one of the greatest exemplars of cartooning for all ages and beloved by an entire postwar generation of kids, are being reprinted as a quarterly series of black-and-white collections (Vol. 4 arrives this month). The adventures of Lulu, Tubby, Alvin and the "fellers" seem as fresh and funny as they were 50 years ago. The gang gets big laughs from such absurd contrivances as Lulu's swapping her father's beloved mounted fish for a Civil War cannonball as a surprise gift. Stanley and Tripp keep Lulu as entertaining and revisitable as I Love Lucy.
Recipient of last year's Best Book award at the prestigious comics festival in Angouleme, France, this French import is an emotion-packed story about a burned-out photographer struggling to connect with the world and a woman. It becomes a book about family history, class struggle, guilt and forgiveness. Charmingly drawn, from the vibrant colors of the French countryside to the dreary suburbs of Paris, and filled with endearing characters, Larcenet's Ordinary Victories has all the attraction and dislocation of a trip abroad.
Virtually a one-man subgenre of reportorial comic-making, the author of Safe Area Gorazde continues to delve into his experience in postwar Bosnia for its rich characters and complex moral issues. War's End contains two short pieces, in the first of which Sacco and a couple of local reporters track down the notorious Serb separatist and accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic as he attends a Christmas service. The second story, Soba, is a profile of an intense, charismatic native Sarajevan, an artist turned planter of land mines as he waits out the final days of the war. Sacco has trod Baltic ground before, but his Hogarthian black-and-white images and vibrant characterizations make for some of the most vivid and dramatic comics being published today.
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
The one-named Jason, a Norwegian, populates his darkly comical worlds with men and women whose heads have animal features: beaks, pointy ears and whiskers. In this full-color novella, Alex, a mopey artist, finds focus and meaning in his life only while he's eluding the police after being falsely accused of murder. A fast-paced thriller that uses funny animals to explore existentialist themes of memory and life's purpose, Why Are You Doing This? defies categorization but makes for awfully fun reading.
> Read TIME's biweekly coverage of graphic novels at www.time.com/comix