As the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman song says, “the seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake,” and it’s definitely true that there’s something appealing in the idea of escaping into another world. That’s kind of the whole point of reading, isn’t it? To briefly inhabit another world, another life? Even momentarily, it can be a good escape. For a mermaid, the idea of escaping into another world might mean trading with a sea witch for legs, but for us humans, it often means dreaming of a life under the sea. Whether it’s mermaids, selkies, sea dragons, or any manner of underwater creature, we humans just love a good story of what magical and mysterious things might be lurking under the waves. Eighty percent of the world’s oceans are still unexplored. So it’s no surprise there are so many under the sea comics for readers of all ages, really.
These comics and graphic novels range the gamut from undersea adventures and magical encounters to star-crossed love stories and romps with drunken mermaids trying to get their land legs. These under the sea comics have something — and someone, mermaid or otherwise — for everyone. What are you waiting for? Dive on in!
Sea Sirens: A Trot and Cap’n Bill Adventure by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee
An underwater kingdom full of sirens and sea serpents comes to life in this glorious water color graphic novel. Trot and her old tom cat, Cap’n Bill, are swept undersea by a giant wave while out looking for her missing grandfather with dementia. She finds more than just her grandfather deep in the ocean, though, when she’s saved by a society of sea sirens. Soon, she’s pulled into the battle for undersea territory between the sirens and the sea serpents, with her grandfather’s life on the line.
Aquicorn Cove by Kay O’Neill
This pastel-dream of a graphic novel from Kay O’Neill is full of magical sea creatures and a positive environmental message about taking care of our planet. A young girl discovers Aquicorns (a sort of seahorse, sea dragon, unicorn chimera) in the sea around her storm-ravaged town and realizes she can’t rely on the adults to protect them. Now it’s up to her to content with choices the town made years ago on how to coexist with the ocean and find a better way forward, one that protects both the town and the Aquicorns living beside it.
Tidesong by Wendy Xu
Release date: November 16, 2021 from Quill Tree Books
A young witch hoping to attend an elite magical university travels to her aunt on the coast to learn her family’s magic. But when she tries to perform magic beyond her abilities, she’s saved by a young sea dragon. Now their magic is all tangled together and the dragon is stuck in human form, with no memories, until they can figure out how to pull the threads of their magic apart.
Tidesong portrays a sweet story of friendship and coping with anxiety with big Miyazaki vibes.
The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
A selkie turns human with true love’s kiss. Turns out her true love wasn’t exactly ready for a girlfriend yet, though. Morgan thought if she could just wait to come out until college, she’d be able to live the life she’s always wanted. But now she has an adorable selkie-turned-human following her around, and it’s hard to deny her feelings even if she’d really really like to. And to make matters worse, her friends aren’t exactly welcoming Keltie with open arms. What’s a girl in love with a selkie to do?
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
One of my all time favorite graphic novels is The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. Though mermaids only appear occasional (through fairytale retellings), a beautiful Little Mermaid reimagining and stunning underwater illustrations earn it a place on this list. Nguyen expertly weaves culturally influenced fairytales told through the eyes of the graphic novels characters with the connections and experiences Tien, his mother, and other family members are trying to express. It’s done to stunning effect.
Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner and April Pierce
Based on the novel of the same name, this graphic novel is the story of the warrior women of Eriana Kwai trying to gain freedom from the deadly mermaids who slayed all the men who came before them. But when Meela develops feelings for one of the very creatures she was trained to kill, she is forced to confront her feelings and her long held beliefs. This webcomic adaptation won the Sequential Magazine 2020 Best Graphic Novel and Favorite Writer Awards.
Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh
Why would a mermaid want to live on the land? Well, for these three mermaids, it’s all about the alcohol. Yep, Kat Leyh’s rowdy band of mermaids are partiers in search of a fun night on the town, but when they can’t figure out how to turn back into mermaids, the fun becomes, well, less fun. Good thing they’ve got a new human friend to show them the ropes and remind them of what’s really important: each other.
This is just a charming romp. It’s start to finish fun, and I am so here for it.
Sailor Twain or the Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel
Etched in black and white charcoal, Sailor Twain tells the tale of a riverboat captain, a mermaid rescued from the Hudson River, a reclusive author making a public debut, and a French nobleman searching for the cure to a curse. Combining elements of Poe, Twain, Hemingway, and Greek mythology, Siegel weaves together an atmospheric tale of romance and supernatural intrigue.
The Prince and the Sea by Emily Carroll
A wonderfully creepy horror webcomic from the mind of Emily Carroll. A prince and a mermaid fall in love, but with one of them in need or air and the other water, there’s not much hope of a happy ending. Short and dark and fully of gorgeously creepy artwork. Exactly the sort of mermaid tale you’d expect from horror mastermind Emily Carroll.
Want even more mermaids in fiction? Try these: