100 Comics: An Annotated Bibliography from NPR

 

Illustration credited to Shannon Wright for NPR

Glen Weldon and Petra Mayer of NPR present a remarkable list of 100 comics for a variety of readers.  The comics are sorted into ten categories, and the helpful annotations are concise.

The summer certainly is an opportune time for readers of all ages to choose formats that are new to them . . . but this bibliography will be useful year-round!

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/12/533862948/lets-get-graphic-100-favorite-comics-and-graphic-novels

 

Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life: A Comics Memoir

Today is the Last DayNotions of free-form hitchhiking (no itinerary, just scraps of money, no end in sight!) can thrill or chill.  Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (Ulli Lust’s comic translated from German to English, 2013), is a memoir that does both.

Impulsively at age 17, Ulli roams through Italy for a few months with her insistent new friend, Edi.  Eventually, they are ensnared at the beck and call of powerful men.  Each of the two women must decide to stay, to bolt . . . or go home.

Ulli and Edi are adventurous to the point of brashness.  Their journey is thrilling, with new sights, adventures, sex explorations, cocky plans for meals and shelter,  and lots of laughs.  The journey is also chilling, with encountering men (some aggressive, some pathetic, and most raring to go at it), taking street drugs, skirting violence, and spending time in jail.

Ulli’s journey fills 462 riveting comics pages.  Reading through is like being on a roller coaster, rising then plummeting, wishing the experience would never end, and working hard to suck in a breath.  There is a deluge to digest: tattoos, vomit, wine, murmurs in the dark, pubic lice, hairdos (prominent visuals in this comic), Nazis, music, rape, and hunger.  But there are also small, sweet oases of starlight, satisfaction, and dreams.

After absorbing Ulli Lust’s provocative memoir in comics form, readers will want more to feel, see, and ponder.  The following titles can keep the journey going:

MUSIC:  Kind of Blue (Miles Davis, 1959) ◊ A classic, accessible and profound jazz album to relish after the comic’s last page (or for listening while reading).

MUSIC:  Blind Faith (Blind Faith, 1969) ◊ Music about emotions, finding purpose, and facing the future.  [This groundbreaking album established firm footing in Western popular culture just preceding Ulli Lust’s journey, making its style a part of the social scene of the times.]

PHOTOGRAPHS:  Eye to Eye (Vivian Maier, 2013) ◊ “Eye to eye” portraits taken on streets around the world by a woman who kept these images with her personal belongings.

BOOK:  Living Through This: A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and Reclaimed Love (Debra Gwartney, 2009) ◊ A memoir of family abandoned and family reconciled, told by a mother who searched for her daughters in San Francisco.

BOOK:  On the Road  (Jack Kerouac, 1957) ◊ A 20th century ‘Beat Generation’ classic about searching for meaning and growth on a cross country road trip.

BOOK:  Girl  (Blake Nelson, 1994) ◊ A literary look at the transition from stereotypical teen to non-conforming, satisfied young woman.

GRAPHIC NOVEL:  Little Fish: A Memoir From a Different Kind of Year (Ramsey Beyer, 2013) ◊ A girl from small-town America goes to college in the city, documenting changes and transitions in her life with a journal and artwork.

GRAPHIC NOVEL:  We Can Never Go Home (Matthew Rosenberg, 2015) ◊ Two teens leave home and can never go back.  They have music, a car, cash, a gun, and some unusual capabilities.

FILM:  Submarine (Mary Burke et al. [Producers]; Richard Ayoade [Writer/Director]; 2011) ◊ Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, a teenage boy’s coming of age is depicted amid family drama.

References

Beyer, R. (2013). Little Fish: A memoir from a different kind of year.  San Francisco, CA: Zest.

Blind Faith. (1969). Blind Faith (sound recording CD). United Kingdom: Polydor.

Burke, M., Herbert, M., & Stebbing, A. (Producers); Ayoade, R. (Writer, Director). Submarine (videorecording DVD). Beverly Hill, CA: Anchor Bay.

Davis, M. (1958; 1987). Kind of blue (sound recording CD). New York, NY: Columbia.

Gwartney, D. (2009). Living through this: A mother’s memoir of runaway daughters and reclaimed love.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kerouac, J. (1957; 2003); On the road. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Lust, U.; Thompson, K. (Editor/Translator). (2013). Today is the last day of the rest of your life.  Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics.

Maier, V. (2013). Eye to eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier. Chicago, IL: Cityfiles.

Nelson, B. (1994). Girl. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Rosenberg, M. (2015). We can never go home. Vol. 1, What we do is secret. Los Angeles, CA: Black Mask.

Fun Home: A Comic and a Musical

 

                         Fun Home              Fun Home musical

Read the original comic.  See the musical adaptation.

Marvel at the “repetition without replication” (Hutcheon, 2012, p. 7).

Alison Bechdel’s ‘tragicomic’ memoir, Fun Home (2006), is achingly moving as it propels readers through her childhood and young adulthood in a family which struggles yet copes, explodes yet has love and fun, and gets through painfully yet emphatically.  Comics panels depict and convey Bechdel’s desire to connect with a demanding, enigmatic, secretive gay father, as well as her growing recognition and eventual celebration of her own lesbian identity.  All the while, frank images, sumptuous captions, and plentiful samples of literary-text-as-illustration saturate the pages with poignancy, family history, and her father’s suicide.  Bechdel’s yearnings, pluck, and compelling sequential art are so absorbing that readers will want to experience her memoir in a cover-to-cover sitting.

Adaptation of this comic into Fun Home, the musical, presents Bechdel’s memoir within the wonderful accouterments of live theater (as seen on May 18, 2016 at the Circle in the Square theatre on Broadway in New York City).  Changes in presentation are distinct; stage replaces page, music voices characters’ views and readers’ reactions, a succinct and passionate script supplants eloquent text, and audience members are in a social group setting for the story rather than experiencing a comic solo.

Despite changes from the comic, the audience is propelled through the musical as well.  The basics of Bechdel’s memoir are present in the musical’s characters, scenes, and events.  (A similar idea , i.e., “enough familiar pieces,” is presented by Andrew Sparling in his blog.) The underlying visual guidance of a comics author/artist, however, is replaced with the ingenious incorporation of an adult ‘Alison’ [Bechdel] who roams the stage throughout the ‘years,’ providing intermittent narration and a number of descriptive or explanatory ‘verbal captions.’  Instead of comics panels which connect via layout, perspective and view, there is constant connection of moments and scenes on stage — in full view with no curtains, actors move, scenery changes, lighting transforms, a conductor directs, and musicians play.  Instead of gutters of space on comics pages, there are gutters of expectant silence in the theatre.  Instead of a cover-to-cover read, audiences are swept along a start-to-finish production with no intermission.

Lisa Kron, creator of the “book & lyrics” for Fun Home, the musical, notes the “deep river of yearning that flows through [Bechdel’s comic]” (Ross, May 2016, p. 21).  As explained above, a number of features in the musical create that “deep river of yearning” on stage as well.

References

Bechdel, A. (2006). Fun home: A family tragicomic. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Hutcheon, L. (2012). A theory of adaptation, 2nd edition. London, UK: Routledge.

Ross, B. (Ed.). (May 2016). Playbill: Circle in the Square. New York, NY: Playbill.

 

 

 

Creating a Pathfinder: Spooky Comics for Families

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The inspiration for my ‘pathfinder’ on Spooky Comics for Families was Emily Carroll’s exceptional comic, Through the Woods (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014).  (See my post of May 5, 2016 and click here for the pathfinder brochure.)

It was easy to decide on the pathfinder’s audience (youth in grades K-12 and parents/caregivers) because at my chosen library, one department serves children and teens.  It was challenging, however, to serve this audience because of the wide range of ages/grades, reading abilities, and fright tolerance; possible experience or inexperience with comics; and the need for materials for families and individuals.

The audience largely determined the format: an introductory front cover, titles and annotations in age/grade order, complementary materials in other formats, and resources for parents/caregivers about comics-reading and comics-choices.

Catalog searching involved subjects and headings such as horror, horror comic books, strips, etc., witches, and vampires;  genres such as horror tales and graphic novels [although one title was catalogued as a picture book]; and keywords including spooky, ghosts, and nightmare.  Most book reviews consulted came from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Hornbook [Guide and Magazine], and VOYA Magazine.  Other resources accessed were the Common Sense Media website, YALSA’s annual Great Graphic Novels for Teens (via the American Library Association), online information about the Eisner Award, and websites of ‘comic-cons’ such as Comic-Con International at San Diego.

The greatest joy in creating the Spooky Comics for Families pathfinder was reading through many titles as might a young reader, teen, or family.  Even a scaredy-cat (me!) purred away while poring over the comics.  And, it’s exciting to now have a brand new set of recommendations, in a genre that is new to me, for many types of readers!

 

 

Comic Page-Spread Analysis: Exploring How Sequential Art Works

BlanketsPages 442-443:

Blankets page 442Blankets page 443

There are five panels on the left (“Panels 1-5”) and two panels on the right (“Panels 6-7”) on pages 442-443 of Craig Thompson’s Blankets (2003).  This page-spread depicts a moment in time when Raina’s father discovers her embraced in sleep with her young love, Craig.  Subtle aspect-to-aspect closure is facilitated by increasingly revealing views.  Panel 1 encapsulates many details within the love story – the walls are filled with images in angular mini-panels; Raina’s father is just inside the doorway.  Panel 6 moves in for a medium-distance bird’s eye view of Craig and Raina, with blanket piecework and an exquisite pillow coming into focus.  The sequence of Panels 1 to 6 to 7 includes images (of the embrace) that unwind counter-clockwise, ending with a close-up bird’s eye view highlighting peace and light in Raina’s profile and hair.

Beneath Panel 1, the gutter leads to a tier of small panels showing the father’s juxtaposed set of facial expressions in Panels 2-5.  His face is simple and cartoonish, and communicates his overall reaction in slow motion, almost directly to the reader.  There are stereotypical depictions of surprise and concern, a quick look away (to gather his thoughts?), and a tentative mouth poised to speak.  In Panel 5, the shaft of his speech balloon leads to a suggestion of thought (. . .).  The shaft reappears in Panel 6, effectively connecting with Panel 5 over the central gutter, then wends and propels the balloon – which never reaches the couple.  The suggestion of thought lands in Panel 7 and fades within the profile of Craig’s face.  The balloon is gone and the reader must narrate retrospectively.  Whatever the father had thought is unvoiced, secondary to the bond between the lovers and silenced by his daughter’s happiness.  Raina’s profile is in the center of a white background, dominating the page-spread and vaguely over-layered by Craig’s coexisting silhouette.  Raina’s grace and beauty, with hair and light radiating, are reminiscent of other angelic, transcendent pages/panels and one of the comic’s irrepressible themes: tender hope.

Black and white art allows the reader to react without the influence of color.  Shadows appear around the young lovers (in blanket folds, behind Raina’s father, and emanating from the father’s feet), but their relationship is set apart by faces and skin accentuated with light.

Thompson’s drawing style uses graceful lines when tranquility or loving connections exist, no matter what is pictured nearby.  In Panel 6, the reader is drawn close to Craig and Raina, and they are enveloped in swirls, wavy lines, curls of hair, flowers, and the blanket’s curves.  Such graceful depictions appear in other comics that include tender, loving moments (e.g., at times when a widow thinks of her lover in The Color of Earth (Kim, 2009), or when a man gazes at his wife in This One Summer (Tamaki, 2014, p. 97).

Several themes in Blankets are represented in this page-spread.  Craig’s arm wraps warmly around Raina, but there is a trace of the unforgettable history of abuse in the right-angle of Craig’s arm; it resembles the monstrous jaw held open by Craig’s father when locking Craig’s brother in “the cubby hole” (p. 16).  Raina’s wrist is angled, showing the couple’s connection.  Rejection of certain tenets of faith is represented in the cut-off portrait of Christ on the wall.  Trees appear in this comic in scenes of relief, retreat, hope, and peace; in this spread, Craig’s tree-painting on the wall leads the reader down to a tree-like arrangement of blanket folds on a calm bed.  The “blankets” theme appears literally, enveloping and protecting Craig and Raina.  Just their upper torsos, arms and heads show, presenting their relationship as greatly cerebral.

As a reader, my reaction to this spread acknowledges angularity but is touched by desire, embrace, and serenity.  (I’ve been there and I’ve cherished it.)  For librarians, the spread is an example of the ability of comics to depict realities, yearnings, sweetness, hope, and respite.  For analysis, the spread is compelling because it is infused with the universality of young love amid struggle, such as found in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  From the beginning of Blankets, the depictions of life experiences swathed my thoughts and settled into a deep spot in my spirit.

References

Kim, D. H. (2009). The color of Earth. New York, NY: First Second.

Tamaki, M. (2014). This one summer. New York, NY: First Second.

Thompson, C. (2003). Blankets: A graphic novel. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.

 

Free Comic Book Day at Fourth World Comics

On Saturday, May 7, I traveled with my spouse to Smithtown, NY, to visit Fourth World Comics on FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016.  It was the friendliest, happiest store-based happening I’ve ever experienced.

Prior to the big day, Fourth World Comic’s website and Facebook page announced a schedule for the day, particulars about comics-giveaways and signings, and great information about lines, purchases, certificates, and comics-grading by CBCS (Comic Book Certification Service).  [For information about their services and how the grading works, visit the CBCS website.]

We arrived just after 5:00 PM, when artist Sean Chen would be there to sign.  We choose that time because I’m learning about Zenescope Entertainment’s Grimm Fairy Tales comics, and Chen has done penciling and created cover art for numerous issues.

Fourth World staff were everywhere, just where they were needed – doing friendly crowd-control, finding out why people were on the line and then directing them, guiding people to the rack of free comics, and answering questions.  We selected free copies of these floppies:

Layout 1            Dark Lily & Friends            Dream Jumper

Grump Cat             March            Science Comics

[While preparing this post, I discovered the availability of the 2016 lineup of free comics at the FREE COMIC BOOKS DAY website.]

I asked staff to recommend a comic with Sean Chen’s work, and they quickly selected a copy of Grimm Fairy Tales Issue 103: Snow White and Rose Red Revisited from the rows of floppies in the store.  Mr. Chen was quietly signing away, but when I offered my hand, we shook and he answered my question about cover design (he follows the publisher’s general direction).  I felt he was pleased to be there.  There were original Chen works for sale as well.

I gathered that most of the people attending the event were young men, but there were also women and families with children.  Everyone paid attention to the children – many were in costume and there were smiles all around.

Based on my experience with an upbeat event, friendly atmosphere, and very helpful staff, I will definitely attend a FREE COMICS BOOK DAY event next year!  (And will probably purchase another comic as I did on May 7 — there was 30% off all purchases, staff knew just where titles were, and I couldn’t resist adding Blankets by Craig Thompson to my home library.)

Blankets