catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 9 :: 2008.05.02 — 2008.05.16


Ten graphic novels you’ve probably never heard of, but should totally read soon

In no particular order

When the discussion turns to graphic novels, after establishing that we are talking about book-length stories told using the conventions of a comic book and not a sizzling new romance novel by Danielle Steele, I find that most people talk about how much they loved Maus or Persepolis or Bone, or about the most recent Hollywood blockbuster based on a graphic novel.  There are a lot of good books out there, though, that you may have never heard of.  Here are some possibilities to check out. 

  1. Goodbye Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson is the admittedly odd tale of a mouse who loves a turtle named Chunky Rice.  Chunky feels called to the sea.  There is an odd human trying to atone for the childhood murder of some puppies by taking care of an injured bird.  I told you it was odd.  It still connects with the reader, though.  It made me kind of sniffly at the end.
  2. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming chronicles the true story of Fleming’s search for information about her grandfather, a magician who opened for the Marx brothers and hung out with Houdini, but, like many other vaudeville acts, has since been forgotten.  Fleming’s odyssey takes her all over the world and leads to interesting questions about identity, rootlessness and ethnicity.  
  3. Clan Apis by J. Hostler tells the life story of a worker bee and his sister.  It is moving, informative and Darwinian (and you don’t find that combination of adjectives often, do you?).
  4. The 9/11 Report, A Graphic Adaptation by Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobsen actually makes the government’s report readable, understandable and thought-provoking.  I enjoy thinking about the choices the adapters made in how they depicted the hijackers and the government decision-makers.  (Read the first chapter online.)
  5. Just read something by Kevin Huizenga, already.  What are you waiting for?  I recommend  old copies of Blue Folder Presents but since those are impossible to find, buy Curses.
  6. Palestine and, even better, Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco provide amazing firsthand accounts of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the Bosnian war respectively.  Some of Sacco’s images are truly disturbing (there are three in particular that I can’t get out of my head), but that is really what I want a book about war to do—disturb me.
  7. All right, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is not technically a graphic novel, but it does use some graphic novel techniques to get across the sort of story that will leave you wanting to find someone else to read it right away so that you can talk about it.  Buy it and read it.  Right away.  I want to talk to you about it.  Plus, it won the Caldecott Award this year—thickest book ever to have done so.
  8. Brain Talbot’s A Tale of One Bad Rat describes an abused child who runs away from her parents, first to the streets of London, then to the Lake District.  I love that she finds love and support on the streets, rather than stereotypical fear and violence.  I also love the twisted references to Beatrix Potter.  Also, the ending seems authentically redemptive to me.
  9. Craig Thompson’s Blankets is about art and Christianity and romance and Sunday school and nudity and heartbreak (well, actually it isn’t about nudity, but it does have some nudity in it, be warned.  It isn’t gratuitous, though.)  I am amazed each time I read this book with how it draws me in to the main characters’ lives.  Good stuff.
  10. American Born Chinese by Gene Yang combines the folk tale of the monkey king trying to win favor in the eyes of the gods with the stories of two contemporary American boys of Chinese ancestry.  I can’t tell you how it combines them because you would get mad at me if I did.  You’ll like it, though.  And it will make you think.

Note:  If I forgot your favorite suggestion, it is probably because I haven’t read it yet.  Rather than complaining about my lack of taste, post your suggestion via the link below, then everybody wins!

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