Genre: Graphic Novels Part II

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at the Nevins Memorial Library

ASSIGNMENT for Graphic Novels II:

Benchmarks: Read each of these three titles for our meeting:
Contemporary: Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a half

Superhero: Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon

Manga: Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½ , Vol. 1.

Read one more title in the Graphic Novel genre—your choice. To see what we have already read and discussed in April 2012, as well as some suggestions for your fourth title.

Appeal to be read for September meeting: Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about visual appeal and the marriage of text and art.

Handouts: * indicates new handout (otherwise distributed in 2012)
Behler, Anne. “Getting Started with Graphic Novels,” RUSAQ, v.46:2, 2006 p.15-21
Exner, Nina. “Basic Reader’s Advisory for Manga,” YALS. Spring 2007. P.12-21.
*Latham, Bethany. “Brave New World: Graphic Novels.” (2012) NovelistPlus (5/21/14)
*—. “Even Braver World: Collecting Graphic Novels.” (2012) NovelistPlus (5/21/14)
*Wright, David. “Hot Topics: Realistic Graphic Novels” (2006) NovelistPlus (10/19/10)
Zellers, Jessica. “Readers’ Advisory with Graphic Novels, parts 1, 2, & 3” (2009); NovelistPlus (11/08/11)
* ___. “Graphic Nonfiction Readers’ Advisory” (2012); NovelistPlus (5/21/14)

Highly recommend that you look through Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art (1993) and other editions–many in all networks

Flavorwire’s Essential Graphic Novels (5/21/14)

RART – NE Notes–9/23/2014–JR

Graphic Novels, Part Deux

Leane: I am declaring Anna Call (Wilmington) & Michelle Deschene (Peabody Institute, Danvers) experts in this genre if anyone wants professional/personal suggestions.

Leane asked participants to think about the next topic arc and to let her know their preferences beginning at the next meeting.

Saga By Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012) graphic series of note recommended by several of the participants.

Contemporary Benchmark: Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a half
The art tells a different, but equally complete, story from the text.

The art uses a cinematic eye – how the art is laid out expresses emotion, makes natural visual sense; makes it easy for the reader to move into the story.

Deceptively simple.

Attractive physical item – draws the reader in.

This title (Hyperbole and a half) went from blog to book; this effort is successful.

Are other blog to book titles as successful?

The sequence in Hyperbole is more purposeful than that of a blog. (It’s more like a new version of Charles Dickens whose books appeared serially.)
Hyperbole made it to the Best Sellers List.

What makes the artist/author decide which parts of the story are art and which parts are text?

The mixture of art and text in Hyperbole make this title a ‘gateway’ for other graphic novels.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Brosh reminded one attendee of this book but for adults.

Memoir style – allows her to look back at an experience; allows her to share her feelings.

Self-deprecating humor. Believable. Slightly over the top, but feelings identifiable, recognizable for most readers.

The use of ‘hyperbole’ in the title provides a heads up to the reader; a view through her lens, she is running with an idea.

Superhero Benchmark: Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye – a super hero without super powers
Interesting use of color; communicates like a bruise.

Uses assembly-line art.

The plot line is harder to follow (also characters) as art changes.


Marvel has better character development than DC Comics.

Perhaps graphic readers (especially younger ones) enjoy being in the know about the customs and flow of graphic novels. They are in on the secrets which are unknown to more traditional readers.

Action is important in this subgenre. Violence is comic.
Readers enjoy wish fulfillment – they can participate in super powers, enjoy the ‘bat cave.’

Stories represent fears, myths.

Titles are more subjective to readers. Hawkeye readers like Superman, but maybe not Batman which has a darker tone.

Character development is serialized over time.

The genre formula keeps readers involved.

Manga Benchmark: Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½ , Vol. 1.

Large eyes for the ‘good’ characters; small eyes for the ‘evil.’ Faces drawn more as perceived by children.

There is no exposition.

Retro POW! Violence.

Plot twists keep happening.

Social issues are present: gender treatment, gender ambiguity.

Ranma ½ represents teen points of view and sensibilities.
In Japan, clothing for teens mimics in cosplay and real dress like these characters.

Second Titles (See below for reviews.)

JR—Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

LG & LE & TS—Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

LB—Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son

AC—Will Eisner’s A Contact With God

JF—Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

DG—Jerry Bingham’s Beowulf; another version by Stefan Petrucha and Kody Chamberlain

MD-Jason Aaron’s Marvel’s Original Sin: Thor & Loki, Tenth Realm; vol.1

JR—Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread; vol.1

SS—Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods—5 short horror stories

RR—Daniel Clowe’s Ghost World

SA—Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

EB—David B’s Epileptic

Second Titles

Leane Ellis

Genre: Graphic Memoir
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
Appeal Factors: Poignant, funny, personal and universal characters

This moving and hilarious graphic memoir celebrates the final years of this New Yorker cartoonist’s parents’ lives through cartoon drawings, family photos, and documents that reflect the author’s struggles with a caregiver challenges. Roz’s struggle between doing what she should or could even though she does not want to embrace her responsibilities certainly resonated with me personally and will resonate for anyone who has been a caregiver to aging parents. The humor often comes from her written descriptions and scratchy-lined drawings that bring to life the stubbornness, eccentricities, and and sometimes seeming lunacy of her aging parents. The inclusion of handwritten text, photographs (contents of closets much too real and frightening for me!), and her mother’s poems) as well as her final line drawings of her dying mother will reverberate for readers. One critic pointed out that her emotionally expressive drawings seem well-suited “to capturing the surreal realities of the death process,” and I concur. This contemporary look at all too real scenarios and the “you are not alone” support this book projects is both entertaining and a cathartic tool. Readalikes (thank you NoveList) are Raymond Briggs’s “Ethel and Ernest” and Joyce Farmers’ “Special Exits” both also graphic memoirs on the topic.

Jim Riordan

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread – Nathan Edmondson, art by Phil Nolo
Appeal Factors: Beautiful artwork, morally ambiguous and gritty characters, Marvel fans

Finely Woven Thread collects the Black Widow comics 1 through 6 (so far there are three more Black Widow comics not included in this graphic novel which probably means a volume 2 at some point). It is written by Nathan Edmondson with art by Phil Nolo. The story follows the adventures of assassin, spy and sometimes Avenger, Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff) as she attempts to assuage the guilt from her past by spying and assassinating for good causes.

Between the Marvel movie franchise and Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow has gotten a lot of attention lately and her rather mysterious past leaves a lot of room for story lines. However, Edmondson’s and Noto’s Black Widow is not Johansson. In this story she is far more down to earth (in as much as a spy/assassin can be down to earth) and introspective. She is a profoundly lonely individual fighting a lot of personal demons which gives the story a lot of depth. This is reflected in the fact that a lot of the dialog is internal and reader spends a lot of time in her head. She is also not a leaps-tall-buildings-in-a-single-bound super hero. She has no super powers beyond her honed skills and training. The missions she undertakes are murky at best and she is not effortlessly successful (sometimes not successful at all). The art adds to the down-to-earth quality. She doesn’t have the unrealistic body type that many (if not most) versions of Black Widow have. She has the signature black body suit but it actually looks like something you would want to wear while assassinating someone. When Natasha isn’t on a mission she lays around her apartment in sweats talking to herself and a cat. Noto manages to capture the air of mystery you would expect from a spy with beautiful stained glass-like drawings that are just a little out of focus.

This story would appeal to readers who liked the Hawkeye graphic novels. Besides style similarities in the stories, there is a personal connection between Clint and Natasha (Clint even makes a very small cameo appearance in the story) and both are super heroes because of skills not powers. People who are just dipping their toe into the Marvel universe would appreciate this graphic novel as well. The reader isn’t hit over the head with a lot of obscure characters or complicated back stories. Individuals who like gritty characters and morally ambiguous story lines will also find a lot to like as well.

Eileen Barrett

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life Volume 1 – Bryan Lee O’Malley
Appeal Factors: Manga, great illustrations that are easy to follow. Main character, Scott, is a likable. There is fighting but no graphic violence. Lots of appeal for young teens – teen crush and overcoming obstacles to win the heart of another.

It’s been a year since 23-year-old Scott Pilgrim had a girlfriend. He is content to play in his band and hang around and even sort of date a high school girl he met on a bus until he encounters the dynamo Ramona Flowers at a party. Their first interaction does not go well. Undeterred, Scott orders a few CD’s from Amazon when he discovers she is the delivery girl. Scott’s approach may need refining, but when Ramona arrives with his purchase he wastes no time asking her out. There is just one, or rather seven, problems that must be overcome before he can date Ramona. He needs to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends. In Volume#1, Scott comes face to face with Matthew Patel, evil boyfriend#1, who comes with his own set of mystical powers. Who will win the fight evil Matthew or Scott? And who will Scott need to defeat next… why that’s in Volume#2.

Michelle Deschene

Original Sin: Thor & Loki: Tenth Realm – Jason Aaron, Al Ewing
Appeal Factors: (Um, everything?) Character; Story; Pacing; the connective tissue to other Marvelverse storylines/characters; Simone Bianchi’s art

The Watcher’s death (Original Sin, November 4, 2014 | 978-0785190691) rippled out in unforseen ways when his silent observations were unexpectedly revealed, showing Thor, for instance, a sister he never knew existed. An unsatisfactory confrontation with Freya, the All-Mother, leads him to recruit his adopted brother Loki, and the two waste no time in breaking down the walls between our world and the sealed off Tenth Realm. What they find there, however, is not what either expected or bargained for, leading to a showdown between brother and sister.

Tenth Realm is one of fourteen tie-ins to the Original Sin event, focusing on Thor and a particular slice of Asgardian history. It provides the basic premise of Original Sin, enough to get by on because, really, Tenth Realm has its own story to tell, the events of which will certainly effect future storylines for Thor, Loki and Angela (who will be featured in her own solo title, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, debuting this November).

The Original Sin event itself has massive appeal if only for the number of Marvelverse characters it draws into its web: the Avengers, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Deadpool, the Punisher, the Fantastic Four and more play a role. Also appealing: the mystery at its heart, and how each team of characters attempts to answer the question of who murdered the Watcher, running into roadblocks of their own in the process.

Other storylines referenced in this tie-in: Loki: Agent of Asgard (A. Ewing); Guardians of the Galaxy (B. Bendis); Nova: Origin (J. Loeb); The Secret Origin of Tony Stark (K. Gillen).

Stefanie Aucoin

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant – Tony Cliff
Appeal Factors: beautiful artwork, fast pace, adventure based

I don’t usually read graphic novels, but I have a friend who is a sequential artist, i.e. she draws comics, who recommended Delilah Dirk to me. I’ve always trusted Kel’s recommendations since she’s in the business and knows that I tend to like really pretty artwork and was really pleased when I got my copy of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant at the library.

Delilah Dirk, daredevil, adventuress, and thief has come to Constantinople and leaves a path of destruction and humor. The concept of the daring and beautiful Delilah Dirk stealing scrolls and treasure from the rich and powerfully (possibly evil) is a pretty standard plot, but during her adventure she stumbles across Mr. Selim, a young tea loving Turkish Lieutenant, that she almost gets killed in her first robbery. As they flee, steal some more stuff, and eventually escape Mr. Selim explores the ideas of freedom that Delilah embodies.

No rules except your own
No people vying for your attention
No bosses
Just an appreciation of life, beauty, and being out in the world.

The artwork is gorgeous; somewhere between really cartoony, with big explosions and caricatures, and really eyecatching, with clean lines, lots of detail, and a good handle on color. This is the type of story I would recommend to fans of Peter Pan or Doctor Who. This book feels like a clean superhero adventure as well, so fans of the lighter Superheroes might be interested in this change of scenery and time period. I am definitely hooked on this artist and look forward to more Delilah Dirk adventures in the future.

Becky Rowlands

Ghost World – Daniel Clowes
Appeal Factors: Sharply funny, realistic dialogue & characters

I was already a fan of Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 film adaptation of Ghost World when I picked up this graphic novel. Consequently, reading the original graphic novel left me feeling a little wanting, mostly because Zwigoff’s film did such a marvelous job of portraying the wonderfully oddball characters onscreen, and fleshed out the plot considerably more than the book. However, I think it’s a case of different mediums having different strengths, and Clowes’ graphic novel has clout for a reason. At a slim 80 pages, Ghost World tells the story of teenage best friends Enid and Rebecca, two misfits trying to figure things out shortly after their graduation from high school. Enid has tentative plans to attend art school; Rebecca ends up assimilating herself into “normal” society. The humor in the book comes from Enid and Rebecca making snarky comments about everyone they know, but the real heart of the story is the slow dissolution of their friendship as they come of age.

Although the graphic novel’s color scheme is literally muted, figuratively, there is no shortage of colorful characters that inhabit Enid and Rebecca’s Ghost World. Many characters are rendered so expressively that they border on grotesque. They’re meant to evoke a certain fascination, which certainly succeeds. Although after seeing the movie, the storyline felt kind of insubstantial and sketchy to me (mostly because my favorite character was missing–he is actually an amalgam of several minor characters from the book), Clowes’ painfully realistic characters make this book worth picking up. In a genre saturated by superheroes, the antiheroes of Ghost World will strike a chord, especially with high school students.

Tatjana Saccio

Sex Criminals: Volume One, One Weird Trick – Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky (illustrator)
Appeal Factors: humor, character, sex

Suzie (Suzanne) finds that she can stop time when she has sex, or more specifically, when she has an orgasm. Then she meets, Jon, an unhappy young man who shares this same remarkable ability. They are both surprised and excited when they find that they share this lonely and unique gift and we see a relationship budding from this discovery. Besides getting to know each other,” they do what any new young couple having sex and freezing time might do: they rob banks!” (back cover) Jon hates his job at the bank, the bank has foreclosed on the library that Suzie works for, and so why not have sex, freeze time, rob the bank and put the money into the library? There’s no one to stop them, except for the sex police…

At first I thought the drawings should be gritty because of the frankness of the sexual content, but then I realized that there is more of a tongue-in-cheek approach to it. In fact, the cartoonish qualities of the drawings compliment the humor that runs throughout the novel. When Suzie and Jon have frozen time and they move about when everyone else is stationary, the illustrations outline this special time period with violet swirling light beams. Suzie and Jon are drawn to look like somewhat attractive, average-looking characters.

Summary: fun, saucy plot line with clever writing and drawings to compliment it.

2014 Eisner Award for Best New Series

Jan Resnick

Maus: a survivor’s tale – Art Spiegelman
Appeal Factors: Fast paced; Illustration: minimalist, cartoon drawings; Characterizations: poignant, relateable; Story: memoir, chronological; Tone: somber, poignant; Frame: Poland, 1930’s – 1944, before Vlodek was shipped to Auschwitz.

Artie talks with his father Vlodek about his experiences in pre-WWII Poland. Vlodek tells how he survived interspersed with contemporary interactions with his son and his second wife. The Jews are mice; the Nazis are cats; non-Jews are pigs. Somehow this cartoon format allows the story to sneak closer to the reader making it even more effective.

  • Serialized 1980 – 1991; 1992 Pulitzer Prize
  • Titles that may have similar appeal: Eisner – Contract with God; Joe Sacco – Palestine, and Safe Area Grazdi: the war in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995; Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis; Wayne Vansant – The Red Baron; Tom Beland – True Story, Swear to God: 100 stories.