The beauty and magic of the historical buildings and the canals of Venice are the perfect background for graphic novels and comics. If you have been to Venice, it’s so much fun to recognize places and follow the characters around the city.
As a big fan of graphic novels, I selected a wide variety, ranging from travelogues with stunning drawings to (historical) comics. While most are available on paper, some can only be downloaded as an ebook. Click on a cover to see how and where you can order them. If you prefer traditional novels set in Venice, you can find lots of inspiration in my other book lists.
This is my all-time favourite book related to Venice. It has the most beautiful drawings of the city which I ever saw and almost no text. Jiro Taniguchi found his inspiration in a beautifully lacquered box with old photos and hand-drawn postcards of Venice. He travelled to Venice to track down the places and events displayed in the images. He then created his stunning illustrations which bring you all over the city. You can easily recognize the palazzos and canals and follow in his trail. This book is a wonderful gift for yourself or someone who loves Venice.
A series of illustrations take you through a typical day in Venice. Kendall Lynn Gregory lived in Venice for a couple of months and shows all the small, unique moments that make the city so special. The design with pencil drawings on a white background with only a timestamp and without text is spectacular. The illustrations might seem plain at first sight but they are so recognizable. It’s one of these books that you want to browse over and over again. I don’t know if prints are still available but you can download the pdf version for free.
The third travelogue in this list is from Enrico Casarosa, a Pixar artist. He captures both his own travel experiences in Italy, filled with humor and romance, as well as his own personal journey in The Venice Chronicles. His watercolor sketches and encounters with locals take you through the side streets and canals of Venice. The book is available in English and in Italian.
As I love the work of Lewis Trondheim, I had to add this one to the list. After their first explosive encounter, Giuseppe and Sophia hate one another with a passion. On the contrary, their secret identities ‘Eagle’ and ‘Black Scorpion’ feel an irresistible attraction for one another. Will they share their first kiss and track down the mysterious Codex Bellum before Giuseppe and Sophia tear each other into pieces? I guess you could say the same about the graphic style. You will either love it or hate it. This graphic novel is only available as an ebook.
When you think about comic books and Venice, Corto Maltese immediately comes to mind. In this tribute to his home town, Hugo Pratt offers a complex mystery thriller involving freemasons, occultists, and esotericists set during the rise of fascism in 1921. Corto Maltese returns to Venice to search for an emerald known as the Clavicle of Solomon. Will it open the hidden doors of magic in this city of secrets? The books of Corto Maltese are available in many languages such as English, Italian and French.
There are many (graphic) novels inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This edition gives the classic drama an elegant, contemporary feeling, while it also shows the dark, familiar beauty of Venice in black and white. To win the love of Portia, the young Bassanio entangles his dearest friend Antonio in a dangerous bargain with the moneylender Shylock. Only Bassanio’s heartfelt efforts — and a clever intervention by Portia — will save Antonio from paying Shylock ‘a pound of flesh’. This edition is available on paper and as an ebook.
This second version of The Merchant of Venice features a more classic reproduction of Shakespeare’s story and has color illustrations. The book retains key phrases and quotations from the original play. Although Bassanio owes his friend Antonio a great deal of money, he must borrow more to make a good impression when he courts his true love, Portia. More problems arise when Antonio’s ships are wrecked, leaving him penniless when Shylock’s loan is due. Bassanio must now find a way to save his friend’s life.
This graphic novel for young adults traces the life of the Venetian artist Tintoretto and his alleged competition with Tiziano Vecellio. It was produced by Sky Arte to accompany a documentary on Tintoretto. The book is in Italian and is rather difficult to find online, so you might want to add it to your shopping list for your next trip to Venice. If you prefer to admire Tintoretto’s paintings in real life, you can find inspiration in my post ‘Where to find the most stunning masterpieces of Tintoretto’.
The Largo Winch series is a Belgian comics series but has been translated in many languages. In these 2 books ‘See Venice’ and ‘And Die’, Largo Winch travels to Venice after he receives a fax with the message ‘Beware of the Doge’. The millionaire businessman hero thinks his friend, the gorgeous Charity, could be in trouble and heads for Italy. They are invited to a masked ball, where they meet the mysterious Doge. I bought both albums as a set in a beautifully designed cover, but you can also buy them separately.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Aperol has published a graphic novel with wonderful stories about joyful connections. Seven stories are set in different decades and parts of the world, from Padova to New York and of course Venice. The artists have created a mosaic of tales, from comedy to suspense with a touch of romance, with orange (the colour of a delicious spritz) as leitmotiv to capture the magic of human connections. The Italian version is available as a paper hardcover, the English version only as an ebook.
Finally, this small pop-up book unfolds to a length of 1.5 metres and features 12 of the most important sites in Venice, including the San Marco basilica, Palazzo Ducale, Rialto Bridge, I Frari, Galleria dell’Accademia, Ca’d’Oro, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Burano, Bridge of Sighs, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. It gives a short description of each landmark and a lovely pop-up drawing. It might technically speaking not be a book, but I couldn’t resist adding it when I saw it in my bookcase.
If you love graphic novels, make sure to visit Sullaluna in Cannaregio on your next trip to Venice. They are one of my favourite bookshops and only sell graphic novels and children’s books.
PS: Several links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you order a book.