Diverse Comics for Classrooms and Libraries: Religion

Happy Banned Books Week! In this series, we compile a list of comics that have diverse content and creators for which we have developed resources. For this column, we take a look at comics that depict diverse religions or have been banned and challenged for religious reasons.

The First Amendment doesn’t just protect speech—it also guarantees freedom of religion. Unfortunately, some individuals seem to think those protections extend only to certain faiths. CBLDF saw this first hand with several attacks on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Challenges in Illinois and Texas specifically targeted the depiction of Islamic faith in Persepolis, and children’s picture books were challenged in Florida and Michigan for the same reason. Several comics have been challenged or banned for the depiction of religion.

Middle School*


The Book Hitler Didn’t  Want You to Read by Rafael Medoff & Dean Motter

The Book Hitler Didn’t Want You to Read: The True Story as Related by Senator Alan Cranston is about Alan Cranston, a then 19-year-old Stanford University sophomore visiting Germany on a study abroad program. Hitler was just coming into power and had published Mein Kampf. Upon reading the book, Cranston realized he had to do something. The West needed to know about what was happening in Europe.


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the story of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood and coming of age within a loving, educated family that lived in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War. It is drawn in simple, stark, black and white ink with style, poignancy, and elegant detail as well as occasional flourishes (usually in the dream sequences) traditionally found in Eastern art. Despite the book’s critical acclaim, some parents and even educators or school administrators react to the few profanities and scenes of torture by trying to get it removed from schools.


Karski’s Mission: To Stop the Holocaust by Rafael Medoff & Dean Motter

Karski’s Mission: To Stop the Holocaust is about Jan Karski, a young Polish Roman Catholic man who studied law and diplomacy in Lwow (then Poland). Karski’s Mission opens with Karski escaping from a train bound for a Nazi prison camp. He returns to Nazi-occupied Poland to work for the Polish Underground.

Lily Renee, Escape Artist by Trina Robbins, Anne Timmons, & Mo Oh

Lily Renee was one of the fortunate youth to escape the Nazis through a rescue operation called Kindertransport (Children’s Transport). She was supposed to go live with a family in England and to try to find employment for her parents. The family she lived with abused her, and she couldn’t secure work for her parents. Lily eventually found her way to the United States and reunited with her parents. She subsequently became an accomplished comic book artist, drawing comics of strong, daring, beautiful women who had high adventures while battling the Nazis.


Maus by Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman’s acclaimed graphic novel Maus focuses on a son’s quest to learn about his father’s history as a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. The graphic novel is split into two alternating stories: One story is set in the novel’s present, with Spiegelman interviewing his estranged father about his experiences, and the second story is Spiegelman’s interpretation of his father’s life as a graphic novel. Spiegelman famously depicts each race as a different animals: Jews are drawn as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs — a narrative technique that purposely cannot sustain itself when there is a question about a character’s specific identity. Maus was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in the Special Awards and Citations – Letters category in 1992, becoming the first graphic novel to receive a Pulitzer.

Ms Marvel

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

In this Marvel reboot, Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim girl from Jersey City, New Jersey, becomes the new Ms. Marvel. Wilson, Alphona, and the Marvel team create a modern twist offering fun and diversity for tween readers and beyond. Ms. Marvel is a finalist for the first Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity (nominees range from independent to mainstream comic books) and one of YALSA’s Top Ten 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens. It is also one of YALSA’s 2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.

High School


Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets is the semiautobiographical story of Thompson’s upbringing in a religious family, his first love, and how he came to terms with his religious beliefs. The primary narrative in the book describes main character Craig’s relationship with Raina, a young woman he meets at a Christian youth camp. We get glimpses into Craig’s childhood and his relationship with his younger brother through flashbacks, as he wrestles with his views of religion and his relationship with God.


Habibi by Craig Thompson

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, circumstance, and love. Their lives unfold together and apart as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world fueled by fear and greed. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi is a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and the magic of storytelling.

*Please note: Books are organized by approximate grade category based on publisher and creator recommendations as much as possible. A book that is listed as appropriate for one group is often appropriate for others, so please do your own research on the title to determine suitability for your students or patrons.

As you’re planning your events or developing your library and classroom curricula, be sure to check out these other valuable CBLDF resources:

CBLDF is an official sponsor of Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week is also sponsored by American Booksellers for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, Association of American University Presses, The Authors Guild, Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Council for Teachers of English, and People for the American Way Foundation. Contributors include American Society of Journalists and Authors, National Coalition Against Censorship, PEN America, and Project Censored. Banned Books Week is endorsed by the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.

CBLDF’s education program is made possible with the support of the Gaiman Foundation and CBLDF’s Corporate Members — ABRAMS, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, BOOM! Studios, comiXology, DCBS, Diamond Comic Distributors, Dark Horse Comics, DC Entertainment, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, Half Price Books, Oni Press, Penguin Random House, ReedPop, TFAW.com, Scholastic, SPX, Valiant, the Will & Ann Eisner Family Foundation — and members like you. Thank you!

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!