Humans are currently facing some of the greatest environmental challenges ever experienced by our species. Global climate change, energy shortages, loss of species and ecological diversity, deforestation, environmental pollution, and acidifying oceans, combined with vast differences in political power and wealth lend urgency to studies devoted to sustainable policies and environmental management.
Use the tabs above to learn about comics that explore environmentalism and sustainability. Included in this guide are graphic novels and comics. Though not included here, comic strips, political cartoons and manga that cover this topic are abundant. The guide is by no means exhaustive. There will likely be more comics that cover the topic than the titles we’ve chosen as representative examples, but we hope this will give you a good place to start. Happy researching!
Photo entertainment courtesy of imgflip memegenerator.
Atari Force (DC) (vol. 1, 1982; vol. 2, 1984 - 1985)
In the year 2005, the Earth’s environment is devastated. A.T.A.R.I. (the Advanced Technology And Research Institute) recruit five people to travel through space and multiple universes in search of a habitable planet for humans.
Aquaman (DC) (2005; vol 6, particularly nos. 18-36)
Set in San Diego with the fear of global warming looming, Dr. Anton Geist develops a serum that will alter humans and allow them to survive under water. An earthquake causes part of San Diego to sink into the ocean and the serum to be released. A portion of people developed the ability to live under water and form a community called Sub Diego.
Brute Force (Marvel) (1990; vol 1, 5 issues)
Highly intelligent animals make up the team, Brute Force, and fight increasing environmental pollution on Earth.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers (Marvel) (1991-1992; 12 issues)
Characters, Hoggish Greedly and Rigger, are drilling for oil in a protected area. They wake Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth. Gaia puts together a global team, giving them powers and the ability to join their powers and create Captain Planet, a eco superhero. Together Captain Planet and the Planeteers fight environmental disaster.
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science (Abrams ComicArts, 2014) Borrow from The Circuit
This graphic novel by author Philippe Squarzoni explores why and how climate change is happening, and what can be done about it.
Concrete (Dark Horse) (various years, 1986-2012)
Aliens transplant Ron Lithgow’s brain into a stone body and he becomes, Concrete. In the story arc, Think Like a Mountain, Concrete climbs Mount Everest and becomes involved with a group of environmental activists who are trying to save and old-growth forest. In issue number 6, Concrete saves a family farm. In the story arc, The Human Dilemma, Concrete becomes the spokesperson of a campaign to voluntarily reduce the Earth's population. The issue, Concrete Celebrates Earth Day, was created for Earth Day in 1990.
The Econauts (Liquid Comics) (2008) Online
A group of teenagers fight crimes against the environment.
Firestorm (DC) (1989; vol 2 particularly nos. 86-90)
Firestorm threatens to attack Vandermeer Steel Works factory unless they stop polluting. In response, they form a corporate squad of metahumans to protect the company against such attacks - the Captains of Industry.
Forest is Life: A Story on Climate Change, Forests and Communities (AIPP, IWGIA) (2012) Online
Published by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). From the back cover - This comic discusses climate change and REDD (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries) from the perspective of indigenous communities. It is intended primarily for communities as a simple guide to help them understand climate change and REDD.
Great Pacific (Image) (2012-2014)
Chas Worthington, heir to an oil fortune, aims to solve the environmental disaster known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
IDP: 2043 (Freight Books) (2013) Borrow from The Circuit
Thirty years in the future, rising sea levels have flooded Scotland’s low-lying regions and the seemingly minor change in their environment has completely changed the lives of those who live there.
I'm Not a Plastic Bag (Boom! Archaia) (2012) Borrow from The Circuit
This graphic novel follows a plastic bag as it finds its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
This graphic novel shares the life of John Muir (1838–1914). Known as the "Father of the National Parks,” Muir founded the Sierra Club and petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that established Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.
The Massive (Dark Horse) (2012-2014)
In a post-apocalyptic world, an environmental fishing boat searches for its sister ship, The Massive. The main character, Captain Callum Israel, struggles with what it means to be an environmentalist after the world's already ended.
Namor (Character, Marvel)
Namor, the Submariner, is the son of a sea captain and princess of the undersea kingdom, Atlantis. A mutant, Namor has super-strength and other enhanced abilities. Sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, Namor fights humans would pollute the oceans and threaten his home. Namor appears in many comics, from the Golden to Modern Age.
Sub-Mariner Comics #1–32 (Fall 1941 – June 1949) #33–42 (April 1954 – Oct. 1955)
Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner (1984)
Namor (June 2003 – May 2004; 12 issues)
Namor: The First Mutant (2011-12)
Namor, the Sub-Mariner (1990 – 1995)
Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939)
Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962)
Young Men #24
Check Comic Vine for more appearances.
New Warriors (Marvel) (particularly 1991-1993; vol. 1 nos. 7-9, 14, 21 29-30, 36)
An eco-terrorism group, Project: Earth, creates a team of supervillains called, the Force of Nature. When Project: Earth sends The Force of Nature to use lethal force to stop land developers from clearing sections of the Amazon rainforest, the New Warriors intervene.
Oil and Water (Fantagraphics) (2011) Borrow from The Circuit
This graphic novel follows the lives of those affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
In this graphic novel, Beatrice, a woman from Wisconsin who moves to northern California, explores both sides of a protest to save a Redwood forest.
Poison Ivy (Character, DC)
Botanist, Pamela Isley, was poisoned by an ancient herb, but she survived and developed an immunity toxins and diseases, turning her into Poison Ivy. Ivy is usually portrayed as a villainess who uses her power over plant life and mental suggestion to seduce and manipulate people into doing her bidding. Sometimes considered an eco-terrorist, she works to protect the natural environment, often by hurting humans. Poison Ivy appears in numerous comics, most notably:
Batman (DC) (1966-2009; particularly nos. 181, 183, 208, 339, 342-344, 367, 495, 568, 608-619)
Birds of Prey (DC) (2011-2014)
Detective Comics (DC) (1984-2009; particularly nos. 534, 566, 589, 627, 693-694, 751-752, 823)
Gotham City Sirens (DC) (2009-2011)
Harley Quinn (DC) (2009-2011)
Suicide Squad (DC) (1987-2010; particularly nos. 32-66)
See Comic Vine for more appearances.
Popeye Careers - Environmental Careers (King Features Syndicate) (1972)
From the cover, “Hey, kids, you can help make this country a better place to live... and get paid well for doing it!” The Popeye Careers series published 15 career-focused comics for children.
Ravage 2099 (Marvel) (1992-1995)
This series takes place after the Pollution Wars, during which MegaCorps overthrew the U.S. democratic government, claiming the government was responsible for pollution and unsafe environmental practices, and replaced it with a corporate power. Paul-Philip Ravage, an environmental champion, is hired to lead Eco Central, a division of Alchemax. Upon discovering the truth - that Alchemax is actually responsible for polluting the environment - Savage is framed as a polluter, labeled an enemy, and fights against Alchemax to save the environment.
The Rime of the Modern Mariner (Viking) (2012) Borrow from The Circuit
A modern take on Samuel Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, this graphic novel tells the story of a seaman in the North Pacific Gyre (Great Pacific Garbage Patch), and warns humanity not to meddle with the natural order of the environment.
Scooby-Doo! (DC) (2008, no. 131)
Released for Earth Day, this issue follows Scooby and the gang as they hunt down toxic trolls.
Soil Conservation Society of America (organization)
The Soil Conservation Society of America (SCSA) was formed in 1943 by conservationists with a mission to foster the science and art of natural resource management for sustainability. The society changed its name to the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) in 1987. The organization has created educational comics on environmental themes since the 1950s. Most are intended for readers aged 8-14 years old.
The Earth Our Home in Space (1972)
Food and the Land (1967; 1972)
Help Keep Our Land Beautiful (1962; 1971)
Making a Home for Wildlife on the Land (1964; 1971)
Pioneers of Conservation in America (1975; 1976)
Plants, Animals & Man Sharing the Earth An Ecology Story (1974)
Plants: How They Improve the Environment (1971)
The Story of Land Its Use and Misuse Through the Centuries (1952; 1956; 1985)
Water in Your Hands (1990 series)
The Wonder of Water (1957; 1967; 1971; 1976)
Working Together for a Livable Land (1970)
Can be purchased online for a nominal fee.
Across Time and Space: Ecosystem Management
Dracons Visit Earth: To Study Food and the Land
Plants: Improving Our Environment
Range of Wonders
Robots of Cave Alpha: Creating A Livable Land
The Story of Land: Its Use and Misuse Through the Centuries
Water in Your Hands
Some New Kind of Slaughter: Or Lost in the Flood (and How We Found Home Again) (Archaia) (2009) Borrow via ILL
This graphic novel explores various flood stories and growing concern over climate change.
Spider-Man Team-Up Special (Marvel) (2005; vol 1, no. 1)
In this Earth Day one-shot, pollution is on the rise, but Mole Man’s methods to save the environment may do more harm.
Street Poet Ray (Marvel) (1990; vol 1 no. 2)
For Earth Day 1990, the rapper with a haiku beat captures the fears and consequences of world pollution.
Superman (DC) (2011; vol 1 no. 707)
When a chemical plant catches fire, Superman investigates and learns that the plant is polluting the environment and bribing inspectors to get away with. The only source of employment for most of the townspeople, Superman promises to let the plant continue operations if they change their ways.
Superman For Earth (DC) (1991)
Superman learns of the many challenges and complexities of trying to clean up Earth's environment.
Swamp Thing (DC) (1972-present)
Scientist, Alec Holland, is transformed into Swamp Thing and has the ability to control all plant life. From the Marvel Database - “A living embodiment of the power and terror in our environment, the Swamp Thing protects both humanity and the environment—usually from each other.”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (Archie Comics) (1988-1995)
Stories often incorporate social, environmental, and animal rights themes.
Terra-Man (Character, DC, New Earth) (1990-2006)
Tobias Manning fights to save the Earth from enterprises that are dangerous to the environment.
52 (DC) (vol 1 nos. 3, 32)
Adventures of Superman (DC) (vol 2 no. 13)
Joker: Last Laugh (DC) (vol 1 no. 4)
Metropolis S.C.U. (DC) (vol 1 nos. 1-4)
Superman: Man of Steel (DC) (vol 1 no. 130)
Superman (DC) (vol 1 no. 666 and vol 2 nos. 46, 52, 187)
Underworld Unleashed (DC) (vol 1 no. 1)
Toxic Crusaders (Marvel) (1992, 8 issues)
Misfit superheroes combat pollution.
Whiz Kids: Safeguarding The Environment (Archie Comics) (1991) Online.
The Whiz Kids series was produced for the Radio Shack Division of Tandy Corporation. In this issues, the kids explore environmental issues.
Wild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays, and other Endangered Sea Life (Fulcrum Publishing) (2014) Borrow through ILL
This graphic novel describes threatened sea species (including hammerhead sharks, manatees, blue whales, coral, albatrosses, and bluefin tuna).
World War 3 Illustrated - Youth & Climate Change (World War 3 Illustrated) (2015; no. 46)
This issue of the political anthology features comic book stories about young people and how they are confronting their social, political, cultural, and especially environmental climates.
Zen, Intergalactic Ninja (Zen Comics Publishing) (1993)
This special issue, Earth Day Annual #1 - Doomsday for Zen, was release for Earth Day in 1993.
SDSU patrons: Try the Proquest Research Library Database for research about this topic. You may also repeat this search in other databases by entering these keywords:
"comic book" OR "graphic novel"
environmentalism OR sustainability
Other helpful keywords to search for comics about this topic: Environmentalism, Environmental Education, Climate Change, Sustainability, Conservation, Pollution, Drought, Deforestation
SDSU Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) has some, but not all, of the comics mentioned in this guide. Please contact us and we can pull the comics ahead of time for your use.
Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Library Addition Room 4410