Earlier this month, NPR released the results of their summer comics and graphic novel poll.
I could honestly die a happy woman because My Favorite Thing Is Monsters made the list, along with Through the Woods and Bitch Planet. But it’s me, so obviously I have thoughts about the list and some favorites that didn’t make the cut.
In somewhat particular order, here is my addendum of 12 favorite graphic novels I love just as much, whether they receive NPR recognition or not:
- Asterios Polyp (David Mazzucchelli)
The tragic story of a pretentious professor of architecture whose designs have never been built. Somehow he still manages to be sympathetic and human if not especially likeable. With the added bonus of beautiful illustrations, ghosts of dead twins, and more parallels to Greek mythology than you can shake a stick at.
- Berlin (Jason Lutes)
Not least because I’ve been waiting for vol 3 for 9 years. NINE. (In his latest interview, Lutes claimed the last volume should be out next year, but I’ll believe it when I see it.) Striking black-and-white illustrations with keen attention to period detail combine with memorable characters to create a compelling story. Silvia the communist street brawler is my favorite (of course).
- Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes (Mary and Bryan Talbot)
Scholar Mary Talbot and her cartoonist husband tell a story that works as both a biographical portrait of Joyce and personal memoir. Talbot draws parallels to Joyce’s troubled relationship with his daughter and her own difficult relationship with her father, a renowned Joycean scholar.
- Ethel & Ernest (Raymond Briggs)
Though The Snowman is his most famous work, this biography of Briggs’s parents is my favorite of his works. Ethel and Ernest seem to be the only unchanging fixtures as time passes in 20th century London. This quiet portrait of everyday life for a middle class London family is fascinating and exactly the kind of history I love to read about.
- Giant Days (John Allison)
Funny and touching story about a group of friends navigating their way through university. Be warned this gets way too real at times as the characters face disappointment, failure, and some steep learning curves on the way to adulthood…but at the end of the day, the characters’ relationships are there to help them bounce back.
- The Fade Out (Ed Brubaker)
This 1940s noir-style story of murder and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood glam makes this so far up my street it’s not even funny. The story begins with the murder of an actress, but of course we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on the shady goings-on underneath the glitz of show business.
- Super Spy, Mind MGMT, and pretty much anything else by Matt Kindt
His illustrations and inking are gorgeous, and things are never as they seem in his work. Frequently his stories revolve around tough ladies in espionage dealing with a gritty, unglamorous reality—my favorite kind.
- Widdershins (Kate Ashwin)
Magic in a Regency England setting with a series of sarcastic badass ladies and appropriately incompetent men! This webcomic is such a delight to read and is all free online.
- The Green River Killer (Jonathan Case)
I was reluctant to pick this up because I find a lot of true crime stories sleazy and just badly written. Case avoids sensationalizing the story here (as much as possible), taking time to examine the investigation and its toll on the police force. I would add The New Deal and anything else by Case as well—I have yet to read a book of his I haven’t enjoyed.
- Shutter (Joe Keatinge)
This is mostly here because I adore the talking cat alarm clock that keeps our protagonist company and I really need one of my own. Also noteworthy are the LGBTQ characters and their story lines in this fast-paced comic whose many twists and turns will keep you guessing.
- Princeless: Raven the Pirate Princess (Jeremy Whitley)
Though I haven’t kept up with this series, volume 1 is hilarious and makes a deliberate effort to represent women of color, multiple sexual orientations, and various body types. The commentary here is smart and so relevant…plus who would turn down a story about an all-female pirate crew?
- Alabaster: Wolves (Caitlin Kiernan)
An albino teen is guided by angels to destroy vampires, demons, and all sorts of sinister creatures in the swamps of an eerily empty South Carolina. Things get interesting right away as our protagonist begins to doubt her guardian angel and is drawn to a girl who may be something other than she appears. Vol 1 is a compelling mixture of action and eerie silences in a decidedly Southern Gothic tradition.
Needless to say, my TBR list has now grown to an unmanageable length thanks to all of the titles include on NPR’s list (including Blacksad, a noir about a black cat PI?!?!?). What are you reading this summer?