Shaun Tan, a picture book and graphic novel artist, writer, filmmaker, and theatre designer, shares sketches and rough works. From paintings designed to stretch his skills to quick drawings to flesh out an idea, these show the thoughts and inspirations that go into his work.
Why I finished it: Tan is a genius. His organic machines and mechanical organisms are amusing or slightly ominous or both. Even his non-fantastical works have an other-worldly quality.
On top of that, Tan discusses the importance of playing around with art in order to stoke the creative fires. He quotes Paul Klee, who said that starting to draw without having a finished image in mind was "Taking a line for a walk." Tan finds that doing this helps him get past blocks, like when he’s faced with a blank piece of paper. This was a good reminder to relax as I struggle to balance my need to create with my perfectionism, which can cause me to freeze rather than start a new (and possibly flawed) project.
I'd give it to: Rhonda, who will be amused by "Neighborhood Watch," a dark but friendly drawing of a gigantic, one-eyed creature patrolling a quiet street. She'd love the idea of a monster wandering her tidy neighborhood long after her neighbors have gone to sleep.
@bookblrb: A notebook of artist, graphic novelist, and filmmaker Shaun Tan’s sketches and ideas.
Eisner and Ignatz Award-nominated Rod Espinosa adapts Lewis Carroll’s Alice!
The curious Alice follows a flustered white rabbit to a magical land of talking animals, evil queens, and enough riddles to strain any logically inclined brain.
It’s all here: a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a mad hatter, potions to drink, cookies to eat, and a Cheshire cat. Alice discovers that Wonderland may be a fascinating place to visit, but you don’t want to live there...
My favorite collection of Bob the Angry Flower comics.
Why I picked it up: A million years ago at my very first Comic Con, Notley handed me a flyer featuring several BTAF cartoons. Back at the hotel I laughed out loud (back before there was even a helpful acronym for this) at this especially clever one, and went back the next day to buy all his books. For years I always made sure to pick up the newest one.
Why I finished it: This is the comic strip I would make if I were an irate, nerdy, self-aware, liberal Canadian at the height of my powers. The blossom in question is uniquely and unapologetically bizarre. He builds dangerous machines, has a man-crush on then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, picks up smart women, and wrestles with his friendships with Stumpy the Stump and Freddy the Fetus.
I'd give it to: Rob, who I think shares much of Bob's ideology and could learn a lot about dating from Lovebot, who stars in an original sixteen-page color adventure at the end of the book.
@bookblrb: An irate flower walks, talks, creates dangerous machines, offends his friends, and gets overly political.
“MERMIN the MERMAN from MER!?” That’s the question Pete and his friends ask after finding the fish-boy washed up on the beach! Mermin just escaped the undersea kingdome of Mer, and is ready to have some fun on dry land! But why would this aquatic kid be afraid to swim? Perhaps it has something to do with the fishy pursuers who have followed him from the depths below!
This omnibus edition collects six stories that originally appeared in four volumes of Rick Geary's true crime graphic novel series, A Treasury of Victorian Murder.
The ghastly crimes of the superficially genteel era are exposed in:
--The Ryan Mystery, in which a pious pair of siblings are slaughtered by an unknown assailant.
--The Crimes of Dr. E.W. Prithard, in which a cheating husband decides to hasten "...'til death do us part."
--The Abominable Mrs. Pearcey, in which a deranged woman commits a double-murder.
--Jack the Ripper, in which a mysterious killer stalks the prostitutes of London's Whitechapel neighborhood.
--The Fatal Bullet, in which two lives -- that of United States President James Garfield and his assassin, Charles Guiteau -- intersect in a deadly confrontation.
--The Beast of Chicago, in which a man (possibly America's first convicted serial killer) builds a huge boarding house filled with secret rooms and passages in order to hide his deadly proclivities.
Why I picked it up: I've read a few of Geary's graphic novels and have been meaning to read them all.
Why I finished it: Geary's black and white art often looks as though it were done with woodcuts. (It wasn’t.) It is a very eye-catching, old school style of inking that is pleasant to look at and a perfect fit for the time period he’s bringing to life and the tone of the stories. Plus I've always loved books featuring tales of the unexplained, so I appreciate that Geary doesn't try to solve the crimes which are still unsolved. He just reports on the facts as they are known, even when they are convoluted and unclear.
I'd give it to: Will, who is diligent about writing in his journal every night. He'll enjoy that the Jack the Ripper comic is adapted from a diary kept by an amateur crime buff written during the 1888-1889 killings. The tone is informative rather than sensational, and he will appreciate the anonymous author's musings on desperate poverty and its effects on the inhabitants of Whitechapel.
@bookblrb: An omnibus of Rick Geary’s historical, true crime graphic novels and comics.
The most critically acclaimed storyline in Archie's more than 70-year publishing history has won many adult readers back to the world of Archie. The series is growing steadily with a solid readership, and this third volume prominently features the popular wedding of Kevin Keller to Dr. Clay Walker, which has received international attention in the press.
The third volume of Archie's highly acclaimed graphic novel series for older readers features Paul Kupperberg's tight-knit ongoing romantic storyline of Archie as a young newlywed in two very different universes--one where he marries wealthy socialite Veronica Lodge and the other where he marries girl-next-door Betty Cooper.
It’s Time to Choose, Are you Team Betty or Team Veronica? Fill out our survey for a chance to win a copy of Archie: The Married Life Book 3
Ellen Forney, local Seattle comic artist, pro-sex writer, bisexual, and general bad-ass tells the story of coming to terms with being bipolar. For years she resisted the diagnosis, then read up on it and conceded to her therapist (once she came down from her mania and was nearly crippled by depression) that she exhibited the symptoms. She initially resisted going on medication, believing it would kill her creativity, then struggled for years to find a combination of drugs that would enable her to find balance without gaining weight, getting bad skin, or losing her ability to have orgasms. Along the way she discovers yoga, researches many creative types with her condition, explores the relationship between art and madness, and stops self-medicating with pot. Her relationship with her family is briefly explored, and her gratitude to her mother for paying for therapy, prescriptions, and sometimes rent is highlighted.
Why I picked it up: Forney's previous comic memoir I Was Seven in '75 is one of my all-time favorite comic strip collections. It really captures what it was like to be raised by hippies in the seventies. When I heard this book was coming out, I was dying to read more about her. (I have shyly, straight-girl crushed on her in yoga class and at Fantagraphics events for years.)
Why I finished it: Forney's brutal honesty in talking about so incredibly personal a topic. The sort of bravery it takes to make yourself this vulnerable to readers is impressive, and it became important to me to find out whether things were going to turn out ok for her or not.
I'd give it to: Natasha, whose mom suffers from bipolar disorder, and worries about having it herself. I hope this book could soothe her concerns and give us a way to discuss my own struggles with anxiety and learning to live well despite it.
@bookblrb: Artist Ellen Forney tries to figure out how to deal with bipolar disorder in a way that doesn’t kill her creativity.
The unforgettable story of a child soldier.
Much has been written about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, where, under the leadership of the infamous Joseph Kony, children are kidnapped and forced to become rebel soldiers. Author Sharon McKay traveled to Gulu, Uganda, to record true-life accounts from Kony’s victims. War Brothers, a fictional tale based on her interviews, was originally published as a novel in 2008, and then adapted for this striking graphic novel edition in 2013.
War Brothers tells the story of fourteen-year-old Jacob, who is brutally abducted from his boarding school and forced to become a child soldier. This is a story of unthinkable violence, but also one of hope, courage, and friendship.
Contains color graphic novel adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” and “A Remembrance of Mugby” by Charles Dickens.
Why I picked it up: Papercutz’s Classics Illustrated Deluxe books are all translations of high-quality French comics. They’re beautiful.
Why I finished it: It looks as if the detailed pictures were done with colored pencils. They’re beautiful, and capture the look of candles and firelight as well as the translucency of Marly’s ghost. “Scrooge” wrapped up in just fifty pages, too, though it didn’t feel rushed at all. I’d never heard of “A Remembrance of Mugby” -- it’s an enjoyable, subtly themed Christmas story about a man trying to find a place to call home.
I'd give it to: Ellery, who asked me to tell her about graphic novels with disabled characters. In “A Remembrance of Mugby” Phoebe can’t move her legs, but it’s not the end of the world. The story feels dated because Phoebe doesn’t leave her house (and can barely see out her window), but I think that would be good fodder to start “then vs. now” discussions.
@bookblrb: Beautiful comics adaptations of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “A Remembrance of Mugby.”
A YALSA 2013 Top Ten Great Graphic Novel for Teens
Trinity, the debut graphic book by the gifted illustrator Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, depicts in vivid detail the dramatic history of the race to build and the decision to drop the first atomic bomb. This sweeping historical narrative traces the spark of invention from the laboratories of nineteenth-century Europe to the massive industrial and scientific efforts of the Manhattan Project. Along the way, Fetter-Vorm takes special care to explain the fundamental science of nuclear reactions. With the clarity and accessibility that only a graphic book can provide, Trinity transports the reader into the core of a nuclear reaction—into the splitting atoms themselves.
The power of the atom was harnessed in a top-secret government compound in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where some of the greatest scientific minds in the world gathered together to work on the bomb. Fetter-Vorm showcases J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves, the fathers of the atomic bomb, whose insights unleashed the most devastating explosion known to humankind. These brilliant scientists wrestled daily with both the difficulty of building an atomic weapon and the moral implications of actually succeeding.
When the first bomb finally went off at a test site code-named Trinity, the world was irreversibly thrust into a new and terrifying age. With powerful renderings of the catastrophic events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Fetter-Vorm unflinchingly chronicles the far-reaching political, environmental, and ethical effects of this new discovery. Richly illustrated and deeply researched, Trinity is a dramatic, informative, and thought-provoking book on one of the most significant and harrowing events in history.
“Trinity illuminates a turning-point in human history, and does so with admirable pace, grace, and skill.” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
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A young man travels to a small, spooky town to find Delphine, the girl he fell in love with at college. She went home to care for her sick father and never returned to school.
When he finds the address where he believes she lives, he’s directed to another part of town. Odd strangers offer him one ride after another, but it soon becomes clear that no one wants to help him. Finally the young man is taken to the woods and beaten severely. Luckily there’s a mysterious, knife-wielding stranger there to rescue him.
Why I picked it up: I’m a huge fan of Sala’s graphic novels, like Cat Burglar Black. And the dust jacket-less cover, with its graphics and the inset color image of a girl walking through a dark forest, looked exquisite.
Why I finished it: It felt like every character was hiding something: the bug-eyed old man making soup, the toad, the lady in the painting, and probably Delphine herself, wherever she was.
I'd give it to: Rob, who’s been getting to know the work of Charles Burns through the 12 Beers of the Apocalypse, each of which is inspired by and features a bit of Burns’ work, because the more grotesque denizens of this strange place remind me of the mutated folks in Charles Burns’ Black Hole.
@bookblrb: A young man tries to find the girl he fell in love with, but no one in her spooky hometown wants to help.
A collection of Scott C.'s art complete with paintings of pop-culture characters, fine ladies carrying five-layer umbrellas, a carnival for zombies, playful clouds, rainbows, monsters, and much more.
Why I picked it up: Scott C.'s paintings are the friendliest! The subjects are happy, doing cool stuff, and in awesome settings. I could look at them for hours. (The author also inscribed it for me: "Sarah! Librarians are the absolute best ever! [heart] Scott C.”)
Why I finished it: My absolute favorite part was the cross-sections of homes: a space ship with astronauts doing neat stuff in every compartment, a crab house hosting a sushi party, a Greek myth house, a ninja’s house (he's watching TV), and an awesome pyramid house for both builders and mummies. It reminded me of my favorite childhood cutaways: Richard Scarry's Busytown and David Macaulay's Cathedral.
I'd give it to: I want to take it to an elementary school art class to inspire the students to join together in drawing something huge filled with ninjas and knights and everything else, all doing something cool and having adventures.
@bookblrb: A book of Scott C’s art filled with pop culture characters, zombies, playful clouds, monsters, and more.
The irrepressible Pippi Longstocking tumbles back onto the bookshelf in these vibrantly recolored comics originally penned and published in Sweden in 1957 and 1958.
Why I picked it up: Pippi cartwheeling across the cover called to me across the bookstore aisles like the Sunday funny pages from my childhood.
Why I finished it: In each episode (there’s a dozen in all), this strong-minded redhead defies adults. Grown-ups are the foils in most of the adventures, like when the strongest man in the world gets manhandled by Pippi, the strongest girl in classic children’s literature. Most stories are just plain fun. The closest one comes to making a moral point is when Pippi stops a man from beating a horse and makes him pull the loaded wagon instead. (Pippi carries the tired horse.)
I'd give it to: Liam and Ridley, whose trampolining, superhero-inspired play fills our neighborhood with laughter and matter of fact declarations much like Pippi’s, “I’M PIPPI LONGSTOCKING...I LOOK AFTER MYSELF. AND THAT’S THAT.”
@bookblrb: The irrepressible red-haired, super strong Pippi Longstocking defies adults (and saves a horse).
Zig (an alien) and Wikki (a robot) return to earth because Zig’s pet fly is sick. After they land he flies to a cow patty and he’s happy as a fly in poop.
Publisher’s note: Easy-to-Read Comics Level Three
Why I picked it up: It’s a sequel to the first awesome Zig and Wikki book.
Why I finished it: I didn’t think the book's title was literal, but at one point these thumb-sized extraterrestrials are actually in a cow. It’s brilliant the way the book turns a sick pet into an exploration of the farm’s ecosystem, including ruminants, decomposers, the soil, and microorganisms.
I'd give it to: My nephew, Layton, because I want him to think poop is funny, too (I need an ally in the family), and in the hope that it will pass on my love for dung beetles.
@bookblrb: An alien and a robot try to help the alien’s pet housefly. They return to earth and explore the inside of a cow.
A handsome man rescues Kalei when she falls into the surf. They fall in love and soon they’re expecting a baby. Only then does she realize her rescuer is the Shark King.
Their son, Nanaue, has his father’s strength under the water (and his appetite), plus a toothy mouth on his back. When the villagers see it, they think he’s a monster.
Why I picked it up: Toon Books’ Easy-To-Read Comics are usually excellent, plus they’re short, so I read every one I come across.
Why I finished it: The bright colors in this book are just astounding.
I'd give it to: My wife, Silver. Johnson’s elegant, simple art creates a beautiful vision of Hawaii above and below the water. I’m hoping it would encourage her to snorkel with our daughter and me next time we’re at a warm beach. (With the cold, grey weather settling in in Seattle, we’re all hoping that’s soon.)
@bookblrb: Villager’s see the Shark King’s son as a monster because of the huge, toothy mouth on his back.