Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Cute Girl Network by Greg Means and M.K. Reed

Jane has just moved to town when a skateboard accident turns into a date with the cute guy who sells soup on the corner. Jack and Jane get along great; they're both young, broke, and enjoying a laid-back lifestyle. But Jack has dated a lot of the women that Jane knows, and their bad experiences with Jack lead them to form the Cute Girl Network, which is dedicated to spreading the word about Jack and his many shortcomings. Will Jack shape up for Jane? Will Jane take her friends' advice? Will Jane and Jack break up? Living life according to yourself is hard to do, but sometimes it's necessary.
Appeal: adult relationships, friendship, good female characters
Art: Black and white, smooth lines
Text: Conversational, casual
Other: M.K. Reed writes the webcomic About A Bull.
Awards: M.K. Reed's Americus was a YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens in 2012.

Means, Greg. Reed, M. K. Flood, Joe. The Cute Girl Network. New York : First Second, 2013 . Print.

Happy Happy Clover by Sayuri Tatsuyama

Clover is a young, energetic bunny growing up in Crescent Forest. Together with her bunny friends Mallow, Shallot, and Kale, and their babysitter, flying squirrel Hickory, Clover has fun and goes on adventures. Clover challenges the wandering rabbit Bramble to an obstacle course race; promises to deliver a letter across the forest for her teacher Mr. Hoot; and accidentally tells Kale's six little brothers about the human called Santa Claus-- and then has to bring them the presents they ask Santa for!

Appeal: Cute, animals, all ages, growing up, friendship

Art: Chibi, cute, stereotyped

Text: Busy but simple, exclamatory

Other: Happy Happy Clover has been adapted into an anime and a Nintendo DS game.

Awards: Tatsuyama's previous work, about puppies and other pets, won the Shogakukan Manga Award for kids' manga in 2001.

Tatsuyama, Sayuri, Sayuri Amemiya, and Kaori Inoue. Happy Happy Clover. San Francisco, Calif. : Viz Media, 2007. Print.

Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan

On one ordinary day more than 20 years ago, all at once, every chicken on Earth gained sentience and human-level intelligence. This is Filipino chicken Elmer's story, told from a journal left to his son, Jake. From those first hellish days hiding from furious humans, to the fight for human rights, to his middle years trying to provide for his family, Elmer dealt with traumatic experiences and tried his best throughout his life. This story is so real you can feel the heat of the fires and hear Elmer's panic during the burning of the slaughterhouse where he gained sentience.

Appeal: Stories about discrimination, chickens, realistic, racism
Art: Black and white, realistic, grounded
Text: Narrative, argumentative
Other: The story was inspired by the chickens that wandered the streets of Gerry Alanguilan's hometown of San Pablo City during his childhood. Elmer was originally published in the Phillippines, and was released in English and French in 2010.
Awards: Elmer won the Prix Ouest-France Quai des Bulles and the Prix Asien de la Critique ACBE in 2011.

Alanguilan, Gerry. Elmer: A Comic Book. San Jose, CA : SLG Pub. ; 2010. Prin

Static Shock: Trial by Fire by Dwayne McDuffie and Robert L. Washington

Virgil Hawkins is a smart, smart-mouthed high schooler trying to date his best friend and avoid making the bad choices available at every turn. He's also Static, a superhero with electricity powers, trying to defend his neighborhood against superpowered punks. Static uses science and wit to defeat bad guys, but Virgil can't seem to catch a break in love, at home, or on the streets.

Appeal: Black representation, superheroes, growing up, high school
Art: Rough, stylized line, distinctive 90s color palette
Text: Conversational, vernacular, scientific

Other: Static Shock was originally published from 1993 to 1996, and became part of the DC Comics universe in 2008. Static Shock was adapted into an animated television show in 2000.
Awards: In 2003 Dwayne McDuffie won the Humanitas Prize for Children's Animation for the Static Shock episode "Jimmy", which deals with gun violence.
McDuffie, Dwayne and Robert L. Washington. Static Shock!: Trial By Fire. New York, NY : DC Comics, 2000. Print.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mixed Myth by Robin Meyer

Mixed Myth

Mixed Myth is a parody of every fantasy trope you can name. Is the main character, Keeva, a half-elf? She is indeed, but the other half is goblin, and since goblins and elves are mortal enemies, family reunions are awkward. Does Keeva have a drunken sidekick? Yes she does, and he's a literal nightmare, a demon horse named Puck. Does Keeva meet an attractive stranger? How did you know? Aidan is a half-selkie werewolf assassin who quickly gives up his mission to kill Keeva as impossible. 

Keeva is a firebrand, seizing the day and all the explosive phoenix eggs she can find, as likely to blow something up as she is to save world. Unfortunately, saving the world just became her responsibility, so along with Puck, Aidan, and Tamit (a sphinx so mysterious she can barely remember her own name), they set out to save the world from a fate so dramatic you'll be shocked-- shocked! The plot is intricate and brilliant, the characters are deep, and the wit is biting. 

Mixed Myth is available online.

Appeal: Fantasy, parody, good female characters, elves, puns

Art: Grayscale, detailed, flowing, fantastical

Text: Humorous, dramatic, ironic

Other: Robin Meyer's other projects since Mixed Myth's completion include Metrophor and Real Life Fiction.

Meyer, Robin. "Mixed Myth." Web. 4 May 2014.

Safe Havens by Bill Holbrook

Safe Havens

Samantha Argus, 26, is the foremost expert in genetics at Havens University and perhaps in the world. In fact, she's cracked the code that lets ordinary humans transform into any living thing at the drop of a hat and has cloned a few dodos back to life. The world isn't quite ready for this knowledge yet, though, so she keeps it under wraps while she works as a dorm RA, professor, and researcher. But life isn't all boring-- her fellow RA is a talking cat, her husband's overseas agent is a time traveler, and her late grandmother can talk to her from heaven through any reflective surface.

Safe Havens began life as a syndicated comic strip in 1988, set in a daycare called Safe Havens. The characters have aged in real time and are having children of their own now. Dave Hamper grew into a professional basketball player and Samantha's husband; Thomas Volant is a Cirque du Soleil performer married to a mermaid, with a trapeze-swinging, half-fish son; and Bambi is a famous singer with plans to travel to Mars.

Safe Havens is available online at The first comic posted online is from October 2010.

Appeal: Science fiction, puns, black representation, anthropomorphism, adult relationships

Other: Bill Holbrook also writes Kevin & Kell, an anthropomorphic comic strip, and On the Fastrack, a strip set in the technology offices of Fastrack, Inc. Some characters from On the Fastrack appear in Safe Havens.

Holbrook, Bill. "Safe Havens." Web. 4 May 2014.

Girls with Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

Girls with Slingshots

Hazel is making her way through life post-college. She's a writer, sort of, when she has work, and she tends to mope, but her best friend Jamie is cheerful enough for both of them. This comic started as a gag-a-day strip, but has developed into a continuity strip about Hazel, Jamie, and their friends. Since the first strip, Hazel has acquired a long-term boyfriend and gone through a difficult break-up; Jamie has found the love of her life, now has an open relationship with her; Thea has gotten over her dating dry spell and found a wonderful woman to marry; and Clarice is finally dating her crush, but still trying to hide her part-time job as a dominatrix. Hazel doesn't always understand her friends' lives and desires, but underneath her prickly exterior she cares about them as much as Jamie does.

It is online at Read from the first comic here.

Appeal: Slice of life, making it in the world, family relationships, friendship, queer representation

Art: Shifts dramatically from detailed realism in the first years to the current bright, cartoony style

Text: Conversational, sarcastic, personal

Other: Danielle Corsetto has been cartooning since she was 8 years old. She began Girls With Slingshots in 2004, and it became her full-time job in 2007. Corsetto has worked on the Adventure Time comic book and The New Adventures of Bat Boy for the Weekly World News.

Corsetto, Danielle. "Girls with Slingshots." Web. 4 May 2014.

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella by Justin Pierce

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella

Wonderella is a terrible superhero. She drinks, she ignores crises, and she'll endorse anything for a buck. This send-up of superheroes sees Wonderella fighting the likes of Hitlerella and Jokerella (or not, depending on what's on tv), failing to save her sidekick Wonderita from peril, and causing more problems than she solves. Readers who enjoy Wonderella will also enjoy R.K. Milholland's Super Stupor.

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella is online at Read from the beginning here.

Appeal: Superheroes, irony, parody, science fiction, humor

Art: In the style of paper cut-out cartoons like South Park or Monty Python. Parodies superhero designs

Text: Mature, non-sequitur, allusions to current events

Pierce, Justin. "The Non-Adventures of Wonderella." Web. 4 May 2014.

Something*Positive by R.K. Milholland

Something Positive

Following the lives of three friends in Boston--Davan, PeeJee, and Aubrey-- and their assorted friends, family, and enemies, Something Positive is sarcastic, cynical, and sometimes touching. The characters age in real time from the comic's 2001 debut to today. Davan dates many unkind women before moving back home to Texas and eventually marrying a newer character, Vanessa. PeeJee holds a number of unpleasant jobs, and now lives in Texas with Davan, helping to care for his witty, Alzheimer-diagnosed dad Fred. Aubrey started a successful phone sex hotline catering to nerds and gamers, and adopted a child with another character, Jason. The characters encounter little oddities like Davan's semi-liquid cat Choo Choo as well as everyday concerns like the Christian haunted house where Fred stages an impromptu protest. 

Something Positive is available at Read from the first comic here.

Appeal: Sarcasm, cynicism, family relationships, adult relationships, work humor

Art: Realistic, it improves over time but the style is consistent. 

Text: Dark humor, conversational, mature

Other: R.K. Milholland writes two other comics: Super Stupor, a dark parody of superheroes, and Rhymes With Witch, watercolor illustrations of very dark children's cautionary tales. Both are available from

Awards: Something Positive won the Web Cartoonists Choice Award for Outstanding Character Writing in 2005, and for Outstanding Dramatic Comic in 2006. 

Milholland, R.K. "Something Positive." Web. 4 May 2014.

El Goonish Shive by Dan Shive

El Goonish Shive

As the author describes it, this is a "strange comic about a group of teenagers and the bizarre, often supernatural, situations that they face". Tedd and Elliot are typical high schoolers-- except that Tedd's dad works at a secret government agency devoted to covering up the existence of magic and aliens and brings home alien technology for Tedd to modify. By contrast, Elliot can only summon a number of martial arts-based fighting spells--until he accidentally gets turned into a girl and accidentally clones himself trying to turn back. 

Soon after that, Elliot, Ellen (the clone), and Tedd befriend Grace, an alien-squirrel-human hybrid lab escapee; Nanase, Eliot's former girlfriend and martial arts partner; Justin, another martial artist with a crush on Elliot; Susan, an aloof classmate who can summon magic hammers; and Sarah. Sarah is normal. This comic ranges from funny to dramatic as the characters handle high school, changing relationships, evil teachers, evil laboratory experiments, and evil magic-users. Readers who enjoy Percy Jackson and the Olympians will enjoy the magic, drama, and action of El Goonish Shive.

It is available at Read it from the beginning here.

Appeal: Fantasy, magic realism, science fiction, action, drama, high schoolers, queer representation

Art: Develops over time from 

Other: El Goonish Shive began in 2002 and is ongoing as of May 2014. Its name comes from Dan Shive's inability to summarize the comic in a short title. The "goon" comes from a high school nickname, the "Shive" is the author's last name, and the rest is gibberish conceived of in Spanish class.

Shive, Dan. "El Goonish Shive." Web. 4 May 2014.

Aya by Marguetire Abouet and Clément Oubrerie


Aya is a serious-minded 19-year-old living in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s. It's a time of prosperity for the country, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. Aya tries to give her friends good advice and resigns herself to helping them manage the fallout of bad choices. In this first book of six, for example, Aya helps her friend Adjoua raise her newborn son as they try to prove his paternity so that Adjoua's boyfriend will marry her. Aya joins in the parties, and the gossip around her but always with an eye toward her future. This is a realistic, funny, soap operatic story about middle-class life from a talented storyteller.

Appeal: Ivory Coast, Africa, family relationships, adult relationships, drama, humor, high school plus

Art: Caricature, cinematic

Text: Conversational, vernacular, argumentative

Other: Aya was originally published in French. The comic was adapted into an animated film in 2012, co-directed by the authors.

Awards: Aya won the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for First Comic Book in 2006, the Children's Africana Book Award in 2008, and several Glyph Awards.

Abouet, Marguerite. Oubrerie, Clément. Dascher, Helge. Aya. Montréal : Drawn & Quarterly ; 2007. Print

W Juliet by Emura

W Juliet

Ito Miura wants to be an actor. She's in her high school's drama club, and puts her family training as a martial artist to good use on stage. Makoto Amano wants to be an actor too, but as the only son in his family, he is obligated to run the family dojo. Makoto's father will only allow Makoto to become an actor if he can use his acting skills to successfully impersonate a girl for the two years remaining until high school graduation. 

Naturally, Ito finds out Makoto's secret on the first day of school. Now Ito and Makoto have to hide all sorts of secrets from friends and family, especially after they start dating! Together they must work hard to become better actors and to avoid the obstacles that block their path. This is a touching, realistic, and humorous look at family relationships, working toward a dream, and dealing with uncertainties and insecurities about the future.

Appeal: Action, intrigue, family relationships, theater, drama, high school girls, first relationships, romance, humor

Art: Clean lines, grayscale, character-focused, emotional

Text: Conversational, intimate

Other: W Juliet was originally published in Japan from 1999 to 2003. It has also been adapted into a series of drama CDs.

Emura, William Flanagan, and Mark McMurray. W Juliet. San Francisco : Viz, 2004. Print.

Gon by Masashi Tanaka


Gon is a very small dinosaur who escaped the extinction that killed all of the other dinosaurs. Gon wanders wherever he pleases through the paleolithic era, napping, eating, and terrorizing other animals with his ferocious strength and unlimited durability. No animal can defeat Gon, and none can hope to stop him from doing what he wants, whether it's stealing a lion's lunch or taking over a bear's cave to nap in. Gon might, on a whim, save a defenseless creature from a predator, or beat up whomever crosses his path.

Appeal: Dinosaurs, animals, fighting, power fantasy, elementary school boys

Art: Black and white, realistic and exaggerated

Text: Gon is entirely wordless.

Other: Gon was published in Japan from 1992 to 2002. It has been made into two video games and an anime.

Awards: Masashi Tanaka won two Eisner Awards for Gon in 1998: Best Humor Publication and Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material.

Tanaka, Masashi. Gon. La Jolla, CA : WildStorm Productions, 2007. Print.

Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag by A.K. Summers

Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spend in Drag

When A.K. Summers first decided to get pregnant, she was worried about pregnancy's effect on her identity as butch: pregnancy is strongly tied to femininity, ties which Summers has worked her whole life to break. This is the exploration of the outside and internal pressures on her gender identity that being a pregnant masculine female creates, as well as being a universal pregnancy story. Summers asks big questions and doesn't always find the answers:

"Does it matter if pregnancy is a wrong state for me? So what if I don't find it deeply satisfying to get in touch with my essential womanhood? Isn't it all right to permit some disjuncture to intrude on one's sense of self?"

Appeal: memoir, pregnancy, lesbians, gender

Art: impressionistic, black and white, stereotyped

Text: Narrative, vernacular

This is Summers' first full-length graphic novel. She has previously published comics online through Activate Comix.

Summers, A. K. Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag. Berkeley, CA : Soft Skull Press, 2014. Print.

Johnny Hiro: Half-Asian, All Hero by Fred Chao

Johnny Hiro: Half-Asian, All Hero

Johnny Hiro loves his girlfriend Mayumi and tolerates his job at a sushi restaurant, but the monster that breaks through their apartment and takes Mayumi sort of puts a cramp in his style. So do the ninjas that try to steal the fine lobster he scored from the fish market. And the ronin that accost Johnny and Mayumi at the opera. Johnny's style consists mostly of frantically trying to survive, whether his current problem is assassins, rival restaurateurs, or his doubts about life in the big city. Through all of this Johnny and Mayumi lean on each other for support, and get a little help from the ubiquitous Mayor Bloomberg.

Appeal: Adult, adult life, kaiju, making it in the big city, humor, adult relationships

Art: Black and white, fine detail, dynamic

Text: Narrative, philosophical

Other: Johnny Hiro was included in The Best American Comics 2010.

Chao, Fred. Johnny Hiro: Half-Asian, All Hero. Richmond, Va. : AdHouse Books, 2009. Print.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Charlie captains the basketball team, tries to hide from his cheerleader ex-girlfriend, and avoids his mom's phone calls. His next door neighbor Nate leads the robot club, drives Charlie crazy, and tends to bite off more than he can chew. When the cheerleaders pit an unknowing Charlie against Nate in the race for class president, the competition escalates until it all ends in disaster for both the robot club and the cheerleaders: as punishment, the principal takes away all funding for both groups. Now the robotics club and the cheerleaders must team up to reach their goals, and they drag a reluctant Charlie along for the bumpy ride. It is available online at

Appeal: Humor, high school, good female characters, friendship, robots, cheerleaders

Art: Bold lines, expressive postures, gray scale

Text: Conversational, dramatic. Teenager dialogue, lots of arguing.

Other: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong was originally serialized online, and was printed in 2013.

Awards: Faith Erin Hicks won a Joe Shuster Award for Favorite Creator - English Language Publication in 2008 for her work Zombies Calling.

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien

Boxers & Saints

Little Bao's village is terrorized by Westerners claiming to be missionaries working for God, who steal and rob the Chinese peasants. Little Bao is inspired by his own visions of Chinese gods and legends to stand up to the Westerners, and to fight back.

Four-Girl was born doubly unlucky as the fourth girl in her family: the number four is bad luck, and her family has no use for yet another daughter. Her home life is miserable, so when Christian missionaries working in China give her a safe place to belong, she converts and goes to live with them. Visions of Joan of Arc guide her in her new life.

Four-Girl's and Little Bao's lives take very different paths, intersecting twice and ending the same way, governed by religious and political wars, conflict, and intolerance. Readers who enjoyed American Born Chinese will find value in this book as well.

Appeal: history, China, religion, war, high school and up

Art: Bold, definite, fantastical, symbolic

Text: Elements of traditional Chinese storytelling, mostly narration.

Other: Gene Luen Yang has also written American Born Chinese, Level Up, and The Eternal Smile: Three Stories. American Born Chinese wong the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and the 2006 Reuben Award for Best Comic Book. It was an ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens in 2007.

Awards: Boxers & Saints had a starred review in Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly. In 2013 it won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adult Literature and was a Booklist Top Ten Religion and Spirituality Book for Youth.

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Cupcake runs his own bakery and plays drums in a band with his friends, but lately he's been feeling like he's stuck in a rut. When his friend Eggplant invites him along on a trip to Turkey, Cupcake is motivated to work extra hard to earn the money for a plane ticket. His extra work interferes with band practice, though, and he is replaced by an avocado. Then Eggplant loses his job and can't go on the trip. Cupcake has to decide what to do, and what will make him happiest. Several of Cupcake's recipes are included in the book. Readers who enjoy this book might enjoy Varon's other works with similar themes, such as Robot Dreams and Odd Duck.

Appeal: Food, cute, kids, working hard, friendship

Art: Bright and cheery, anthropomorphic

Text: Simple, conversational

Other: Bake Sale was recommended by the ALA in 2012 as part of any library's core collection of graphic novels.

Awards: Sara Varon won a Parent's Choice Silver Honor Award in 2006 for her work Chicken and Cat.

Babymouse: Dragonslayer by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Babymouse: Dragonslayer

Babymouse is having trouble in math. None of the numbers make sense and even her big imagination isn't helping. Then her math teacher recruits her for the mathletes team, figuring that a little competition and some encouragement from her teammates will help Babymouse succeed. Together they learn about math, and come competition time, Babymouse uses her new skills along with her copious imagination to overcome the dragon that is mathematics.

Appeal: Imagination, good female characters, animals, math, overcoming obstacles in school

Art: Monochromatic, exaggerated, anthropomorphic

Text: Dramatic, fantastical

Other: Jennifer Holm was a television producer before she began writing children's books. Her other series the Stink Files, Squish, and Boston Jane.

Awards: Jennifer Holm has won three Newbery Honor Awards, for Turtle in Paradise, Our Only May Amelia, and Penny From Heaven.

Holm, Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew. Babymouse: Dragonslayer. New York : Random House Children's Books, 2009. Print.

Little Mouse Gets Ready: A Toon Book by Jeff Smith

Little Mouse Gets Ready: A Toon Book

Little Mouse's mother is going to take him and his siblings to play in the barn, but first Little Mouse must get ready! He works hard to put on all of his clothes correctly. The underwear's tag goes in back; make sure you match up buttons to the right buttonholes; and put on socks before shoes. Once he's all dressed, Little Mouse's mother surprises him with a reminder: mice don't wear clothes!

Appeal: Animals, getting dressed, kids, beginning readers

Art: Beautiful lines, bright color

Text: Instructional, simple

Other: Part of the Toon Book series, which introduces the comics format to young readers. The series

Awards: Was a Theodore Seuss Geisel Award Honor Book in 2010.

Smith, Jeff. Little Mouse Gets Ready: A Toon Book. New York : Toon Books, 2009. Print.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier


Callie loves theater-- her singing is terrible, but she has great ambitions for the sets onstage her middle school play. When two cute brothers become involved in the drama club, Callie finds herself in a whirl of crushes, misunderstandings, and confusing feelings. Callie likes one of the brothers, but does he like her back? Is one of the brothers gay? Why won't one annoying boy leave Callie alone? And how can she make the prop cannon work in the third act? This is a funny and light-hearted look at middle school drama that nonetheless treats the characters' troubles as important and worthy of consideration.

Appeal: Middle school, theater, good female characters, queer representation

Art: Bright, enthusiastic, expressive

Text: Simple, conversational. Almost no narration.

Other: Raina Telgemeier attended the School of Visual Arts, and has worked on graphic novels such as the Baby-Sitters Club series and X-Men: Misfits.

Awards: Raina Telgemeier won an Eisner Award and was honored by the Boston Globe-Horn Awards for her previous work, Smile.

Tiny Titans: Welcome to the Treehouse by Art Baltazar and Franco

Tiny Titans: Welcome to the Treehouse

This kid-friendly take on DC Comics' younger heroes takes place at Sidekick Elementary, where Robin and Starfire hang out with their friends, form a super pet club, and feud with rivals from the villains' elementary school across town. Characters reference and parody current events in the DC universe in addition to having their own adventures. Kid Flash races other speedsters only to be distracted by friends. Robin tries on a new costume and new name, but no one recognizes him. Everyone dresses up in special outfits for pink day, where our heroes celebrate all things pink.

Appeal: Kids, DC Comics, superheroes, humor, animals

Art: Caricature, bold, bright

Text: Punny, simple

Other: Art Baltazar and Franco work for DC Comics, and have also collaborated on the kid-friendly Itty Bitty Hellboy and Superman Family Adventures.

Awards: Tiny Titans won the Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids in 2009 and 2011.

Baltazar, Art. Franco. Tiny Titans Vol. 01: Welcome to the Treehouse. Place : DC Comics, 2009. Print.

The Action Bible: God's Redemptive Story by Sergio Cariello and Doug Mauss

The Action Bible: God's Redemptive Story

More than 200 stories adapted from the Bible into full-color comics, with an emphasis on drama. The stories are straightforward, told in a combination of contemporary and traditional Biblical language. The story of Elijah is particularly compelling, following his life as a prophet through difficult times (being blamed for a drought) and good times (ascending to heaven on a fiery chariot).

Appeal: Christianity, the Bible, history, short stories

Art: Colorful, realistic, cinematic

Text: A mix of traditional King James text and contemporary speech. The builders of the Tower of Babel exclaim "We rule!"

Other: An update of The Picture Bible. Sergio Cariello read The Picture Bible throughout his youth in Brazil. Cariello has illustrated for DC and Marvel, and attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art and the Word of Life Bible Institute.

Awards: In 2011 The Action Bible won the Evangelical Christian Publishers Christian Book Award in its children's category.

Cariello, Sergio and Doug Mauss.The Action Bible: God's Redemptive Story. Colorado Springs, Colo. : David C. Cook, 2010. Print.

Prince of Cats by Ron Wimberly

Prince of Cats

Romeo and Juliet is re-imagined in a futuristic, Afro Samurai-like Brooklyn, where the fashions are radical and the gang wars are fought with swords. Tybalt is the main character in this adaptation and the plot follows his role in the larger story, his part in the conflict between Montague and Capulet. The cast is largely black and the dialogue is occasionally, wittily, adapted to the setting.

Appeal: Classics, Shakespeare, action, black representation

Art: Chaotic, colorful, graffiti-like, with manga influences

Text: A stylized synthesis of the original Shakespeare and urban slang.

Other: Ronald Wimberly has also adapted Something Wicked This Way Comes into a graphic novel. He lives in Brooklyn.

Wimberly, Ronald and Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation. New York : Hill And Wang, 2011. Print.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


The first volume is the author's memoir of her childhood in Iran, just before and after the revolution in the 1980s. Marji was a little girl during the Iranian Revolution, living through several years of war, watching as her freedom to play and learn was curtailed by the religious government. Her family was educated and liberal, and constantly discussed current events, feeding her interest in politics, social class, gender, and religion. Marjane leaves Iran for Austria at the end of the first volume. In the second volumes, she details her disappointing years in Europe, used by a boyfriend, abused by her landlady, alienated by Western culture, and her later return to Iran. Humorous, heartfelt, and biting.

Appeal: History, Iran, female narrator, humor

Art: Dark black and white cartooning, subtly expressive

Text: Political, sharp, reminiscent

Other: Persepolis was originally written in French,  Marjane Satrapi has written another comic about her adult life in Iran, Embroideries, as well as a fairy tale comic, The Sigh. Satrapi wrote and directed the animated film adaptation of her comic in 2007.

Awards: Satrapi has won three Angouleme awards for Persepolis, the Coup de Coeur, the Prize for Scenario, and the Best Comic Book Award, in 2001, 2002, and 2005, respectively. The animated film won several awards of its own.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York : Pantheon Books, 2003. Print.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2: The Story Of A Return. New York : Pantheon Books, 2004. Print.

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon

T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon

This is the space race between Russia and the United States from the early 1900s until the moon landing, thoroughly researched and distilled into a gripping 60-year story. The story skillfully depicts triumphs and tragedies of scientific breakthroughs and failures. Sidebars add extra information, and suspenseful countdown tells the reader how much time is left until the big moment: first in years, then in days, and finally in seconds. End matter includes some primary sources and and extensive bibliography.

Appeal: Science, the space race, Russia, history, United States. middle school plus

Art: Realistic, understated. Black and white with a rigid panel structure. 

Text: Dense, expository, informative

Other: Writer Jim Ottaviani has written several other non-fiction graphic novels, including Feynman, Wire Mothers: Harry Harlow and the Science of Love, and Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, and the Century He Shaped.  Artists Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon have illustrated several other non-fiction graphic novels, including Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth and The Stuff of Life.

Awards: Ottaviani won a Xeric Foundation award in 1997 for his work Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists.

Ottaviani, Jim, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon. T-minus: The Race To The Moon. New York : Aladdin, 2009. Print.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

The intertwined stories of three primatologists recruited by Richard Leakey to study apes in the wild. Leakey recruited these woman based on their aptitude, interest, and gender, as Leakey thought that women made better field observers than men. The book covers parts of the careers of each primatologist: Jane Goodall observed chimpanzees in Tanzania, Dian Fossey studied gorillas in Rwanda, and Birute Galdikas learned about orangutans in Borneo.

Appeal: Primates, animals, historical, science, educational, women in STEM, middle school plus.

Art: Realistic, with depth and emotion
Text: Expository, narrative

Other: Jim Ottaviani has written several non-fiction comics on topics such as Richard Feynman, the space race, and Niels Bohr. Maris Wicks has illustrated children's books and the Adventure Time monthly comic.

Awards: Primates had a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, and won a National Science Teachers Association Award for Outstanding Science Trade Book in 2014.

Ottaviani, Jim. Wicks, Maris. Primates: The Fearless Science Of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, And Biruté Galdikas. New York : First Second, 2013. Print.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

A memoir about the omnipresence of food in the author's life, from her earliest memories to her early adulthood. Knisley's parents worked as caterers, and she was raised in a variety of food-focused settings influenced by her father's gourmand tastes and her mother's back-to-the-earth lifestyle. The rich color enhances the humorous depictions of a life-long fascination with food. The story of Knisley's childhood vacation in Mexico with minimal parental supervision is particularly funny. Recipes illustrated as comics separate the chapters.

Appeal: Female narrator, mother-daughter relationships, food, cooking, memoir

Art: Bright, colorful, ligne claire

Text: Enthusiastic, conversational, descriptive, narrative

Other: Knisley was born in New York and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has written another memoir, French Milk, about living in Paris with her mother.

Awards: Relish won an ALA/YALSA Alex Award in 2014. It had a starred review in Kirkus Reviews.

Knisley, Lucy. Relish: My Life In The Kitchen. New York : First Second, 2013. Print.

Womanthology: Heroic edited by Renae De Liz

Womanthology: Heroic

More than 150 women comics creators come together in this anthology of short stories focusing on heroism. Heroes come in many forms, as do these stories. Characters save cats from trees, planets from invasion, and lives from ruin in these stories created by experienced professionals and brand new beginners. Creator information is given for every story, and a fantasy comic strip runs throughout the book in the margins.

Appeal: Superheroes, short stories, science fiction, fantasy, good female characters

Art: Varies widely by story, from Western to manga style and from professional to amateur

Text: Varies widely by story. Some are conversational, some dramatic, some mostly narrative

Other: The book was crowdfunded and published by IDW. The profits go to the Global Giving Foundation. A second volume, Womanthology: Space, was published in 2012.

De Liz, Renae, ed. Womanthology: Heroic. San Diego, CA : IDW, 2011. Print.

Ultra: Seven Days by Joshua Luna and Jonathan Luna

Ultra: Seven Days

In Ultra's world, superheroes are celebrities straddling the line between big business and law enforcement. One night Ultra (Pearl Penalosa) and her friends decide to have their fortunes told, and Pearl is told that she will find true love within a week. During her search for the right guy she encounters scandals, award ceremonies, exes, fights with friends, fights with supervillains, and fights with the Latino community. Pearl can only do her best to navigate a tricky world without going under. Articles from newspapers, magazines, and tabloids round out this fictional world.

Appeal: Good female characters, action, drama, friendship, superheroes, Latino representation

Text: Conversational, vernacular

Other: Created by sibling team Joshua and Jonathan Luna, who also wrote the horror comic Girls.

Luna, Joshua and Jonathan Luna. Ultra: Seven Days. Berkeley, CA : Image Comics, 2008. Print.

The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis

The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis

Tony Stark faces a threat he might not be able to overcome: an American rebel augmented with a powerful new technology. Tony gets help from an old friend and a fellow scientist to defeat this enemy, as well as another enemy hiding behind the scenes.

Appeal: Action, science fiction, superheroes.

Art: Colors could have more depth, and faces could be more expressive, but overall a good match to the storyline.

Text: Scientific, philosophical
Other: Anecdotally considered one of the best Iron Man storylines, this arc was partially adapted into the movie Iron Man 3 and the television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ellis, Warren, et. al. The Invincible Iron Man: Extremis. New York : Marvel, 2010. Print.

The Invincible Iron Man (1963)

Iron Man

Tony Stark, millionaire industrialist, was kidnapped and injured while demonstrating weapons in Vietnam. He built a suit of mechanized armor to escape, and now he fights crime as Iron Man while running his company under the guise of a carefree playboy. He battles avatars of communism such as the Crimson Dynamo and Black Widow, as well as independent villains like the Mandarin. 

Appeal: Science fiction, adventure, action, drama, superheroes

Art: Clean detail, sometimes static in non-action scenes, dramatic.

Text: Scientific, dramatic
Other: Iron Man originally appeared in Tales of Suspense in 1963. It has been adapted into animated televison shows, live-action movies, and novels.

Lee, Stan. Heck, Don. Colan, Gene. Field, Tom. Iron Man. New York : Marvel Comics : 2004. Print. Volumes 3 and 4.

Amethyst (New 52 series)


American teenager Amy Winston's life is suddenly turned upside down one day when her mother reveals that she is a queen from another, more magical world, and that Amy is a powerful magical princess. Amy must learn to use her new powers to save Gemworld from her scheming aunt and other ambitious royals with the help of the House of Topaz and the House of Diamond, among others.

Appeal: Magical girl, fantasy, political intrigue, friendship, good female characters, high school plus.

Art: Beautiful, colorful, fantastical, and detailed. Conveys a sense of realism even when depicting magic.

Text: Expository, sarcastic (on Amy's part)

Other: The series was cancelled after 8 issues. Amethyst was animated as a series of shorts in 2013.
Marx, Christy. Lopresti, Aaron. Sword of Sorcery Vol. 1: Amethyst (The New 52). New York : DC Comics, 2013. Print.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld (1980s maxi-series)

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld

American teenager Amy Winston discovers that she is a long lost princess from a magical land and that when she travels there, she becomes a grown woman. She must join her fellow royals, including Princess Emerald, Lady Turquoise, and Prince Garnet, to defeat Dark Opal and save Gemworld from his evil reign.

Appeal: Magical girl, fantasy, good female characters, all ages.

Art: The only available reprint is in black and white. The original art was colorful, calligraphic, and flowing. 

Text: Dramatic, fantastical

Other: The series was published first as a 12-issue maxiseries, then as an annual, an ongoing series, and again as a four-issue series. Amethyst appeared sporadically between 1986 and being rebooted in 2012. Amethyst was animated as a series of shorts in 2013.

Showcase Presents Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld 1. New Yokrk : DC Comics, c2012. Print.

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is a detective in a large city. From the the 1930s to tday, Tracy and his colleagues use science, forensics and good old-fashioned smarts to catch outrageous criminals like The Brow and Pruneface. Tracy gets help from a young orphan, Junior, whom he later adopts, Tracy's girlfriend and later wife Tess Trueheart, and an eccentric older actor named Vitamin Flintheart. The strip has evolved through the decades, adding contemporary elements to its basic police procedural, and Tracy's two-way wrist radio is now a wrist-computer, but the strip still runs in newspapers nation-wide. It is available online at

Appeal: Mystery, detective stories, police procedural, classic, middle grade plus.

Art: Bold, caricature

Text: Police slang, expository

Other: Chester Gould created the strip and drew it until 1977. The strip has spawned radio shows, comic books, movies, television shows both live-action and animated, and books.

Awards: Chester Gould won the Ruben Award in 1959 and 1977, and a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1980. Dick Tracy was included in the Comic Strip Classics series of stamps from the United States Postal Service in 1995.

Locher, Dick,Collins, Max Allan., eds. The Dick Tracy Casebook: Favorite Adventures, 1931-1990. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1990. Print.

Heavenly Nostrils by Dana Simpson

Heavenly Nostrils

A strip about a girl named Phoebe and her best friend, a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. One day Phoebe is skipping rocks in the woods behind her house and she hits a unicorn by mistake. Phoebe's rock saved Marigold from staring forever at her own captivating reflection and in return, Marigold grants Phoebe one wish. Phoebe wishes for Marigold to become her best friend. Marigold is a magical, self-absorbed unicorn, and Phoebe is an imaginative and enthusiastic nine-year-old. Together they learn how to be friends in a world filled with candy-barfing dragons, goblins, video game-obsessed parents, and fourth-grade frenemies. Heavenly Nostrils is available online at

Appeal: Magic, fantasy, sarcastic humor, unicorns, all ages.

Art: Flowing, modern

Text: Conversational, fantastical

Other: Dana Simpson also drew a webcomic called Ozy and Millie, populated by talking animals, with similar themes of elementary school philosophy and adventure. Ozy and Millie ran from 1998 to 2008, and is available online.

Simpson, Dana. "Heavenly Nostrils." Universal Uclick, n. d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Stone Soup by Jan Eliot

Stone Soup

A strip about the life of a single working mother, Val, raising two daughters in a house with her sister, nephew, and mother. The sister, Joan, dates and eventually marries the man next door, Wally, who is raising his nephew, and they have a daughter together. The strip focuses on the joys and frustrations of family life and single parenthood. 12-year-old Holly wants to be an adult right now and tries to dress like it; Joan's lassez-faire attitude towards life and money management creates conflicts when she owes her sister rent; and grandma Evie is constantly thrilled at the delayed revenge visited upon her children by her grandchildren. It is available online at

Appeal: Single mothers, family life, children, teenagers, middle grade plus

Art: Flat cartooning a la Charles Schulz, dynamic

Text: Dramatic, exclamatory

Other: Jan Eliot created the strip as a way to connect with and support single, working parents in ways that she did not have access to while raising her children and working. The strip occasionally features a book club consisting of the mothers from For Better Or For Worse, Rose Is Rose, Zits, and Alice from Dilbert.

Eliot, Jan. Stone Soup: The First Collection of the Syndicated Cartoon. Kansas City : Andrews and McMeel, (c)1997. Print.

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and his best friend Hobbes, whom Calvin sees as a live tiger and whom everyone else sees as a stuffed animal, have lots of adventures. They explore in the woods, travel to Mars, fight with the girl next door, and make mayhem while discussing philosophy and life as seen from Calvin's six-year-old point of view. Calvin and Hobbes is available online at

Appeal: Childhood mischief, imagination, environmentalism, philosophy, art, family friendly

Art: Calligraphic, dynamic, realism in some Sunday strips.

Textual style: Sarcastic, ironic, conversational.

Other: Bill Watterson is notoriously reclusive, and has given only a handful of interviews since the launch of Calvin and Hobbes. He refuses to allow merchandise or other media to be based on his comic strip.

Awards: Watterson has won numerous awards for Calvin & Hobbes, including the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year in 1986 and 1988, Harvey Awards in 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1993 through 1996, and an Eisner Award for Best Comic Strip Collection in 1992. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes had a starred review in Publisher's Weekly.

Watterson, Bill. Attack Of The Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons. Kansas City, Mo. : Andrews And McMeel, 1992. Print. All.

Sylvia by Nicole Hollander


A sociopolitical and social gag-a-day comic whose star, Sylvia, comments on current events from the comfort of her bathtub, a restaurant booth, her typewriter, and the bar. Sylvia's friends and family join her for discussions and jokes about politics, gender issues, and mass media.

Appeal: feminism, satire, politics, adults

Art: Rough cartooning, bold lines, lots of background detail

Textual style: Ironic, satiric

Other: Sylvia started as a series of cartoons Hollander drew for a feminist magazine

Awards: In 1983 Nicole Hollander won the Wonder Woman Foundation Award for Women of Achievement Over 40.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bloom County by Berke Breathed

Bloom County

A political commentary and satire starring the residents of a small-town boarding house. Characters include Milo, a ten-year-old newspaper editor, his pop culture-obsessed friend Binkley, womanizing lawyer Steve, wheelchair-bound veteran Cutter John, Bill the (mostly braindead), and Opus, a naive and optimisitic penguin. Throughout the strips they run for president, form heavy metal bands, protest unfair treatment of comic strip characters, die, come back to life, and generally lampoon 1980s politics. It is available online at

Appeal: Political humor, 1980s pop culture references, absurdism, talking animals, satire adults.

Art: Dynamic expression and composition, fine use of color in Sunday strips.

Textual style: Sarcastic, ironically juvenile, loquacious.

Other: Steve and Cutter John starred in Berke Breathed's earlier comic The Academia Waltz. Breathed followed Bloom County's run with two related strips, Outland and Opus.

Awards: Breathed won the Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning in 1987. 

Breathed, Berke. Tales Too Ticklish To Tell: Bloom County. Boston : Little, Brown, 1988. Print.

The Boondocks by Aaron McGruder

The Boondocks

A political and social commentary comic about a young black boy and his family and friends in a middle class white suburb. Huey Freeman is intelligent and radically minded. His brother Riley is heavily influenced by gangsta rap and thug culture. Their grandfather was a Civil Rights activist and disagrees with both brothers' opinions on almost everything. The characters clash over and discuss current events in politics and the media. Huey hosts the "Most Embarrassing Black People Awards" each year, needles the naive biracial girl next door, and talks back to racism as it appears in the media.

Appeal: Liberal politics, black representation, satire, children in surreal situations, adults.

Art: Manga-influenced, the style changed slightly in 2003 when another artist took over drawing duty from the writer, Aaron McGruder.

Textual style: High-level vocabulary, heavily tied to current events, awash in irony and sarcasm. 

Other: The comic strip was adapted as an animated television show in 2005, and has aired four seasons to date. 

Awards: The animated adaptation won a Peabody Award in 2006.

McGruder, Aaron. Public Enemy #2: An All-new Boondocks Collection. New York : Three Rivers Press, 2005. Print.