Comic Recommendations for Fans of ‘The Hunger Games’
With a $263 million domestic box office and a $152 million opening weekend, The Hunger Games is an undeniable hit. Even before Jennifer Lawrence brought Katniss Everdeen to life on the silver screen, Suzanne Collins’ books were already the toast of the YA novel world, with kids and teens (and more than a few adults) lining up for the midnight release of Mockingjay. In some circles, its success has been met with complaints; why, they ask, do so many people fawn over The Hunger Games when so many works of literature hit on similar topics?
Personally, I think the success of the series is also an opportunity to share more of the literature we love. If you know someone who enjoys the pageantry, brutality and social commentary of The Hunger Games, here are some comics to put on their reading list.The manga adaptation of Battle Royale might be the obvious answer, but the truth is, I’m not a fan. There are some great moments where we see how different people make very different decisions when confronted with the kill-or-be-killed scenario. But because the English adaptation is so narratively removed from the Japanese manga, the whole thing is riddled with bloody plot holes, and murderous seductress Mitsuko Souma isn’t exactly the poster child for female empowerment. Instead, I’d opt for comics that contain similar elements to what you’d find in The Hunger Games, but with fewer panty shots than Battle Royale has on offer.
If they love they love seeing kids survive in a the brutal dystopia: Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire
For kids who are less into the pretty dresses than the violence and strategy of the Arena, there’s Jeff Lemire’s bleak, post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth. Lemire doesn’t sugarcoat his vision of post-pandemic America; there’s plenty of blood at the hands roving gangsters, misguided scientists and dog-human hybrids. But the human-animal kids who were born during the pandemic and seem to be immune to the deadly plague have to learn to survive in a world where they’re treated as a commodity. Fortunately, while Gus, the candy-craving, antler-wearing protagonist, may start out as a naive innocent, he gradually learns what it takes to survive, and, like Katniss, learns that sometimes there will be bloody sacrifices along the way.
If they love the battle between people and their totalitarian government: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, art by David Lloyd
Both Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and The Hunger Games borrow from George Orwell’s surveillance society. Both involve governments that tightly regulate their populations (although at least the citizens of The Hunger Games‘ Capitol get to enjoy panem et circuses as part of their control), fund stomach-turning medical experimentation and spy on the populace. V is a far more morally troublesome antihero than Katniss is, but it will give kids looking to step up to more ambiguous literature plenty of meat to chew on.
If they love kick-ass girl heroes: Batgirl: Year One Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon, art by Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez
There are a lot of butt-kicking women in comics, but few fight crime with as much joy as Barbara Gordon does. In fact, this version of Batgirl is the anti-Katniss Everdeen, a heroine who fights the good fight not for her survival, but because she wants to. After three books with The Hunger Games‘ reactive heroine, Batgirl is the perfect proactive antidote, and she serves as an excellent reminder that you can fight the good fight without sacrificing your autonomy — or your sanity — in the process. Plus, it’s a great gateway drug to the rest of the DC universe.
If they love the insidious media manipulation by the government: Channel Zero by Brian Wood
Imagine if Katniss Everdeen came to relish her role as the Mockingjay, and found her love of being famous in conflict with her revolutionary aims. Brian Wood’s five-minutes-into-the-future Channel Zero pits a censor-happy government against media activist Jennie 2.5. After the Clean Act passes, restricting freedom of speech, Jennie 2.5 uses her technological prowess to break through the barriers of censorship with her own form of propaganda. And while Jennie might appear at first heroic against the murderous “cleaners” and apathetic masses, she’s not exactly a voice of moral clarity, and her hunger for fame muddles the messages she’s trying to send. It’s a good trip for anyone who wants to question their heroine, though Wood’s DMZ might be more accessible for readers who prefer clear plot threads running through their worldbuilding.
If they love the pre-game pageantry: Finder: Voice by Carla Speed McNeil
When Katniss and her fellow tributes are dressed up and presented to the people of the Capitol, they’re instructed to please the crowds as if their lives depend on it — which, to some extent, it does. In Finder: Voice, the stakes are high, if less violent. After all, if Rachel Grosvenor-Lockhart can win entrance into her mother’s clan, it means financial security for her and her family. But she doesn’t need to be more beautiful or charming than the other contests — in fact, in this conformation pageant, she mustn’t stand out in any way. But when a crisis sends Rachel traveling through the streets of the futuristic domed city of Anvard, she encounters dangers far stranger than any Katniss found in the arena. And if your Hunger Games fan loves this, there’s a whole universe of Finder comics to explore.
If they love the fantastical exploration of classism: The Zombie Hunters by Jenny Romanchuk
Like The Hunger Games‘ tributes the salvage teams of Romanchuk’s zombie apocalypse webcomic are survivors. And like the Arena’s victors, these kids have plenty of psychological scars. And, like the people of the Districts, these titular “Zombie Hunters” are second-class citizens in their post-collapse world. Anyone who’s been living out in the zombie-filled wastes is inevitably infected with the zombie virus, and on the island city the survivors call home, the infected live in special (crappy) barracks, have to wear armbands when they go out in common spaces and get volunteered for the riskiest missions. While the uninfected can live safely, believing that their battle for survival has ended, the infected travel back out into the wastelands, battling zombies so the rest of humanity can live in relative comfort.
If they love watching teens get killed in new and inventive ways: Morning Glories by Nick Spencer, art by Joe Eisma
At least there’s a light at the end of the Arena. Once you’ve offed your 23 combatants, you’re free and clear. (Unless the game makers decide to have a little fun during the Quarter Quell, but that’s a different story.) Things aren’t quite that direct at Morning Glory Academy, where you have to dodge murderous forces while keeping your GPA up. You just never know when you’re going to find yourself drowned, disemboweled, shot or stabbed, or when a teacher will ask you to perform a little ultraviolence yourself.
Obviously, this is by no means a comprehensive list. Anyone have particular luck recommending comics to a Hunger Games-loving teen? What sets Team Katniss’s hearts afire?