Over the past several months I’ve noticed that comics and graphic novels are becoming a significant part of my reading list. Part of me wants to argue that it’s not really reading at all, since it’s fun and I can get through a whole book in just a few hours. However that part of me usually gets stuffed into a dark closet by the other part, which is having a lot of fun discovering all this great work that only takes a few hours to read.
One of my favorite recent reads has been Hark! A Vagrant, a compilation of the best web comics by Kate Beaton. One of my favorite comics looks at the Brontë sisters. Brainy, witty, and starring many historical figures, I feel like if I was a comic, it would be this one. Dani, one of my MPub classmates, turned me on to the series. And then she went on to intern for Drawn and Quarterly, the book’s publisher!
Since 2004 I’ve been reading The Complete Peanuts, an ambitious series released by Fantagraphics in Seattle. They’re publishing two volumes a year (in May and November), each of which contains two years worth of Peanuts strips by Charles Schulz. I fell behind in reading the series for a couple of years while I had a stressful job and no downtime, but just a couple days ago I finished the most recent release, 1983-1984. One of the things I enjoy about reading the series is to see how the strip evolved over time—how characters were drawn differently in the early years, reading the first appearance of things closely associated with the strip (football, anyone?), and encountering really obscure characters like the kid named 555 95472 (“5” for short) or tennis rivals Molly Volley and Crybaby Boobie. Now and again the books also give just a glimmer of the immense amount of historical research that has gone into producing the series, and of course that fans the flames of my heart almost as much as Snoopy does.
Another delightful read recommended to me by my friend Dana was Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle. This is another Drawn and Quarterly title, of course, it is exponentially easier for Canadians to get into North Korea than any American. In the book, Delisle offers up a travelogue that communicates his alienation while in North Korea, while he was almost never alone. He mediates on North Korean culture, pointing out amazing things—some that strike awe in the reader, some that leave us to chuckle. Reading this book showed me what I’d like to do with the Canada zine I’ve been quietly percolating about the last year—but given how poorly I draw, I suspect there will be no wildly popular Bookish Comics in my future. (Although I suppose if I could draw one thing and just recycle it, I’d be in business, like Dinosaur Comics.)
Here are a couple more random comics I’ve enjoyed quite a bit as of late. Today’s Sheldon Comics features an infographic about why novels are the size they are. An older comic that I’ve seen circulating around the internet quite a bit this week about lesser-known editing and proofreading marks was drawn by someone I know. And of course I love Roz Chast, who had a piece in The New Yorker this week about life before the internet.
Given all these great discoveries, I’ve also put Persepolis on hold at the library, and hope to do the same with The Zen of Steve Jobs, which I noticed earlier this week when inside a comic book shop.
It seems that many of my discoveries have been through recommendations by other people. So, reader, tell me: which comic do you think is worth a read?