Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some Graphic Novels And Comics You Should Read

“What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?”  

 That was the question recently posed by The Hooded Utilitarian (The what?  don't ask me, I don't know).   I'm not sure who they posed the question to.  But the answers were collated, or edited, or something, and then presented here.   I learned about this from the always awesome Ted Rall, who posted about it on his blog

I was pleased to see Rall mention and praise Alison Bechdel's Fun Home ("the first graphic novel to fulfill the form’s potential as literature").   But I was really weirded out -- OK, maybe even appalled -- to see that as far as I could tell no other women comic artists or women writers mentioned by anyone.  I don't know all the names so I could be overstating.  But not by much.  Weird, since many of the best graphic novels and comics are either drawn by or written by women or both.  

So, this list.  This list is not "BEST COMICS" or "BEST COMICS FOR GIRLZ" or even "MY FAVORITE COMICS EVER."   It's just a list of some comics, authors, and writers that are so good you should read them and that aren't your everyday super-hero stuff. 

In no particular order:

1.  Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Fun Home is a memoir of growing up, a reflection on gay and lesbian identity, and a gripping story about a relationship between a father and daughter.  The drawings give the story an intimacy you can't imagine experiencing in reading a regular novel.

2.  Marguerite Abouet  and Clément Oubrerie, Aya (a story in six volumes)

The story is about life in Ivory Coast in the late 70s/early 80s, and focuses on the young adulthood of three young women:  Aya, Bintou, and Adjoua.  The author, Abouet, who moved from Ivory Coast to France when she was a kid, wrote these books partly to show people that Africa is not just a place of violence and famine but is also a cool and interesting place where regular life happens.  The story and the drawing are both incredible beyond belief.  Available in French, English, and other languages.

3.  Marguerite Abouet and Singeon, Bienvenue

Also written by Abouet, Bienvenue takes place in Paris and tells the story of a nervous young woman whose parents gave her the awkward name of "Bienvenue" (which means "Welcome").  I love this book because you never get to see a heroine who is kind of grouchy and says what she thinks but is also really likable.  But that's what Bienvenue is like.

4.  Anything by Julie Doucet

I wrote about her on my old blog.  Julie Doucet is like nothing you've ever read:  free associative, a little crazy, and a girl's eye view of the world.  This cover of one of her books will give you some idea what she's like.

 5.  Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 1 and 2
Satrapi's amazing books describe growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  The drawing style is amazingly suited to conveying conflicting and complex emotions and the weird atmosphere surrounding the characters. 

6.  Lynda Barry, like, everything, but I love the Maybonne and Marlys books best, like Come Over, Come Over.

Everything you need to know about that very confusing thing that is life as a girl on planet earth.  It's here.

7.  Roz Chast

Chast is more a cartoonist and comic artist than a graphic novelist.  I think her comics are hilarious and in addition to being funny they always make me feel at home in the world, which for me is really saying something.

 8.  Delaf et Dubuc, Les Nombrils

I don't know anything about these authors and I had trouble even figuring out where this story was taking place, but it centers on three girls:  a kind of ordinary looking tomboy and her two super-popular and glamorous "friends" -- who abuse her but get abused in turn by the fates so it all evens out.  Somehow I found the crazy obsessions of "les filles" -- boys with motorcycles, super short shorts,  etc. -- massively charming.

9. Alison Bechdel, Dykes to Watch Out For

Recently issued in a convenient collection as The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, DTWOF has everything anyone could ever want in a comic series.   

I've probably forgotten some things.  But as I said, these are just some things you should read!

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