The graphic novel Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun is about a visiting “aliebn” who makes new friends and discovers whimsical profundities about finding joy and connection in an uncaring world, like “look. life is bad. evryones sad. we’re all gona die. but i alredy bought this inflatable boumcy castle so r u gona take ur shoes off or wat.” The misspellings and simple line drawings create the feeling of a children’s story, but the exploration of deeper themes rings true for readers of all ages.
Check It Out Category: Graphic Novels
Nnedi Okorafor is not only a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author, she is also a local talent who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Floosmoor, Illinois. She earned her PhD in English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy writer is the focus of our fourth Black History Month spotlight (see our first, second, and third authors also featured this month.)
Okorafor’s novels span juvenile, young adult, and adult collections, and are flavored with her Nigerian and American heritage. Her works explore the ramifications of racial and gender inequality, violence, war and environmental abuse. She has now started writing Marvel’s much-heralded Black Panther comic series, taking over from author Ta-Nahesi Coates.
One of the inspiring opportunities of Black History Month is the chance to be introduced to talents we might otherwise miss without intention. In this second spotlight (see the first here), our gaze turns to artist and graphic novelist Kyle Baker.
Baker’s creations play with different styles and tones, which makes sampling his stories an exploration of the unexpected. Blending computer-generated art with hand-drawn work, the illustrations often appear animated movie-ready, reminiscent of storyboards, and the unusual touch of captioning below the image rather than having text integrated into the panel emphasizes the power of the art on its own. That impact is heightened by his use of highly saturated colors which make the characters and action pop from the page.
Experience one or more of Baker’s celebrated works for yourself. Whether you are primed to learn, to laugh, to escape, or to think, you’ll find a match in the Library’s collection. Start with one of these:
The story of Nat Turner’s historic slave rebellion is powerfully realized in this award-winning graphic novel. Dramatic images do most of the talking, only sparingly supplemented with outbursts of text. Intentionally breaking from his reputation for bold colors, Baker depicts the action in muted sepia tones that are no less eye-catching, allowing the haunting images to etch the lives and lessons of history into our understanding.
Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel
by Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin
illustrated by Kyle Baker
When hundreds of its black citizens are turned away from national polls for suspicious reasons, what is the town of East St. Louis, Illinois to do? Secede and start a separate country, of course! Baker’s lively illustrations enhance the satire of McGruder and Hudlin’s tale, making us smile even as their social and political points hit the mark.
David of Israel, this is your life! From precocious lad to powerful but flawed monarch, his story is infused with both action and attitude. Baker effectively holds attention captive even during well-traveled episodes, most especially during the shepherd boy’s confrontation with gargantuan soldier Goliath.
Billed as “a spectacular, full-color urban romantic comedy about what happens when the things we hide come back to haunt us,” this wisecracking romp illustrates the story of a former criminal, his unaware New Age girlfriend, and a serial killer with a grudge. Buckle in for an outrageous combination of noir, action, and humor sure to offer the escapism you might need.
Marko and Alana were soldiers on opposing sides of an ages-long intergalactic war, but Brian K. Vaughan’s epic sci-fi comic Saga opens with the birth of their daughter. With incredible artwork and hilarious wit, this tale of building a family unfolds in a harsh and multilayered universe with a cast of colorful, endearing characters (including the large green Lying Cat, snarling “Lying” at any untruth). A counsel for readers: it is a graphic story, both that it is in comic form as well as its depictions of violence and sexuality.
Whether you are an avid reader of graphic novels or want to try one out for the first time, look no further than this post for a list of 15 of our library staff’s very favorite titles! This eclectic mix offers fiction and nonfiction, science fiction, steampunk, humor and the avant-garde. It is sure to provide more than a few gems for your reading pleasure.
For those of you just starting out with graphic novels, here are four good places to start:
Both Denise T. and Carol M. suggest Persepolis, the graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Carol says, “I remember watching the Iranian Revolution in 1979, but Marjane Satrapi’s story gave me the perspective of someone about my own age who lived through it. The graphic novel format was an inspired way to show how society changed after the Islamic Republic came to power.”
Donna S. recommends the conclusion of U.S. representative John Lewis’s true story of his personal experience of the civil rights movement. Donna says, “I found March Book Three an interesting reminder of the early civil rights movement in America. This is a National Book Award winner.”
Donna C. recommends the YA title, Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino, which uses Thoreau’s own writings to tell the story of his time experimenting with living an unconventional life in the woods. Donna says, “This is a lovely and very accessible way to approach both the writing of Thoreau and the graphic novel medium, for teens and adults alike.”
Anne S. recommends The Gettysburg Address by Jonathan Hennessey. “Hennessey uses text and pictures to illustrate the complexities and beauty in the Gettysburg Address while also giving a clear and concise overview of the driving forces which helped to develop the United States during its first 150 years. P.S. It’s also a great graphic novel for the person who ‘does not read’ graphic novels!”
If you’re looking for something further off the beaten path, try one of these staff suggestions:
Cathleen B. recommends Descender, Book 1, by Jeff Lemire, the sci-fi story of a robot boy whose life is in jeopardy in a universe where androids are forbidden. Cathleen says, “This series start is inventive and suspenseful and sad and sweet, but the gorgeous watercolor art is what truly won my heart.”
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is a metaphysical tale of mythology and history, following the mistaken capture and imprisonment of Dream, who controls the dream world. Janine S. recommends this, saying, “It’s smart, emotional, and relevant with some of the greatest and most interesting characters I’ve encountered in all of my reading.”
Kelda G. suggests Stitches by David Small. “A best-selling and highly regarded children’s book illustrator comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute―a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.”
Joe C. recommends yet another science fiction story, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. This is a story about a world in which only two males exist, Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey. Joe says, “It is a brilliant and clever alternate history premise: what would happen if all the men died?”
Mary S. suggests Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Anderson. “A very funny portrayal of the everyday occurrences that plague us.”
Chelsea L. says, “My more recent favorite graphic novel is The Flintstones by Mark Russell. It is remodeled for the 21st century, hysterically funny, and grown-up version of the quirky Flintstones and their town of Bedrock.”
Anthony A. suggests Blankets by Craig Thompson. “At once powerful and tender, this beautifully rendered autobiographical coming-of-age epic graphic novel grapples with the intense emotional transformation of a young man experiencing first love, disillusionment, spiritual awakening, and the growing realization and acceptance of all the things that are beyond his control.”
Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke is the suggestion of Jenny M. “While there were moments where I could see myself so vividly in Radtke’s memoir and it felt strange to see pieces of me on someone else’s page, this was also an impressionable exercise in peeking into seeing how someone else comprehends and makes sense of life.”
Mary D. suggests Grandville by Bryan Talbot, saying, “Grandville is a steampunk, Victorian noir, suspenseful graphic novel full of anthropomorphic characters and beautifully drawn artwork.”
Claire B.’s favorite is Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. Claire says, “I thought this book was beautifully illustrated and a thorough, fascinating explanation of what happened in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.”
David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp follows a middle-aged teacher and architect who relocates from New York City to Midwestern small town. John M. recommends it “because of the elegant way form mirrors theme throughout.”
The 2017 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were announced at the recent Comic-Con International in San Diego. Try some of these outstanding graphic novels among this year’s winners:
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon
by Jill ThompsonA Princess Diana unlike any we’ve seen before. As a child, she is spoiled and free to exert her will without restraint — until her selfishness leads to tragic results. Before she can become a hero, she will first have to find redemption.
by Jason ShigaNo matter how hard he tries, Jimmy Yee cannot die. A noose around his neck, a razor across his wrist, and even a bullet to his head all yield the same results: he awakes from each suicide attempt, miraculously unharmed, in his shabby room at the Sunbeam Motel. Has he gone mad? Or has he truly died and found himself in hell? Jimmy is willing to tear the world down around him to get at the truth.
by Tom King, Gabriel WaltaThe Vision wants to be human, and what’s more human than family? So he heads back to the laboratory where Ultron created him and molded him into a weapon. There, he builds them. They look like him. They have his powers. What could possibly go wrong?
by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona StaplesWhen two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
The World of Edena
by MoebiusStel and Atan are interstellar repairmen searching for a lost space station and its crew. Their journey takes them to the mythical paradise planet Edena where they unwittingly and unwillingly join a multidimensional battle between good and evil.
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
by Sonny LiewMeet Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Now in his early 70s as he looks back on his career, Chan has spent a lifetime making comics in his native Singapore since he was a boy of 16, in 1954. The artist doubles here as both the narrator and the subject matter, as his life story parallels the changes in Singapore over five decades since the war.
March (Book 3)
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate PowellWelcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
by Ryan North and Erica HendersonOn a trip to Canada to visit her mom, Doreen teams up with Ant-Man when the Taskmaster strikes, but it turns out to be Mew, Nancy’s cat, who saves the day.
by Chip Zdarsky, Erica HendersonRiverdale High prides itself on providing a quality education. But to Jughead Jones, what matters most is meal time–and Riverdale delivers solid midday chow. But when that sacred time is tampered with by a hot-headed new principal, Jughead swears vengeance! Can the burger-loving beanpole curry enough favor (see what we did there?) to rollback the cuisine catastrophe?
Love Is Love
edited by Sarah Gaydos and Jamie S. RichThe comic book industry comes together to support the survivors and honor those killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Writers and artists from across the globe have created exclusive new material expressing their sorrow, compassion, frustration, and hope, all inspired by the tragic events.
by Paul Tobin, Colleen CooverBandette, greatest thief in all the lands, uncovers the greatest of all mysteries! A clue to the location of the legendary House of the Green Mask! But the sinister Voice is after the same treasure, and sent a deadly assassin after the same secrets! Worse, he’s stolen the dearest thing to Bandette’s heart. Now, she’s after revenge!
Sonny Liew’s intricately invented graphic history traces the career of fictional comic artist Chan Hock Chye, with the sociopolitical history of Singapore cleverly mirroring the evolution of the comics medium as depicted via a dazzling series of pastiches. Spanning eight decades, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye finds bittersweet parallels between artistic ambition and political idealism.
Summer gives us a chance to branch out in new directions or more fully immerse ourselves in areas of interest. Here are three Adult graphic novels that will introduce you to some forward thinkers who were pioneers in their respective fields.
Jim Ottaviani’s Dignifying Science, explores the lives of six women whose mark on science is indelible. Included in this book are Hedy Lamarr, an actress and inventor who was a force behind the concept of the modern-day Bluetooth system, Lise Meitner, a physicist who was among a small team of scientists who discovered nuclear fission, and the Nobel Prize-winning cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock.
Henry David Thoreau was a philosopher, writer, naturalist and an early promoter of the idea of civil disobedience. In his beautifully-drawn accompaniment to Thoreau’s writings, John Porcellino’s Thoreau at Walden brings to life this solemn and thoughtful resister.
The graphic biography of Margaret Sanger, Woman Rebel by Peter Bagge, reveals the compelling background behind her activism, rooted in the difficult and painful times of her childhood growing up at the turn of the 20th century. This was a time in U.S. history which offered few opportunities to women in almost any area of their lives, and Margaret saw firsthand the deep suffering this caused her mother and eventually, herself. Armed with the passionate belief that women should be able to make their own choices regarding their lives, Margaret became one of the earliest and fiercest voices for women’s rights.
Few couples are as star-crossed as a 19th-century gentlewoman and a mummified Pharoah, but their story is one of the most charming romps you’ll find. From their opening stroll in a London park to an unwitting murder and a daring prison break, the tale of Lillian and Imhotep IV is one filled with drama and adventure. The Professor’s Daughter, created by French masters Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, also tantalizes with beautifully rendered art panels made up of delicate illustrations, period sepia tones, and fine watercolor washes. Readers new to graphic novels as well as those with more studied appreciation will be tickled by this delightful, fast-paced confection.
The embattled, soulful Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is a winter noir story that is both gritty and beautiful. Expert brushwork teases out different flavors of night sky, and the landscapes reflect the characters’ shifting degrees of serenity, menace, bleakness, and volatility. A harsh tale of family dynamic and of recovery, and one that has lived under my skin for months.