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  • Joel Cunningham 8:00 pm on 2018/03/12 Permalink
    Tags: 20th century boys, alison bechdel, essenials, , , kate beaton, scott pilgrim, sin city, vision   

    Modern Graphic Novel Classics for Every Genre 

    When a corny pleb like me is reading graphic novels, you know they’re a big deal. Over the past decade, the medium has become immensely popular, and new soon-to-be classics are published every year. Whether you are a noir fanatic with a penchant for macho detectives or a sci-fi buff who prefers stories that take place on a distant planet, there is a graphic novel out there for you. List your favorites modern classics in the comments!

    Science Fiction

    Spill Zone, written by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland
    Scott Westerfeld has written several YA series, including the Uglies and Midnighters. This is his first graphic novel. It’s pretty fantastic. Several years ago, a strange disaster befell Poughkeepsie, New York. Addison, a young photographer, documents the “spill zone” from her motorcycle. It’s a dangerous task. The zone is filled with the undead, or as Addison calls them, “meat puppets.” In the zone, there are strange lights in the sewers, levitating objects, and a wolf-like creature the size of a building. Addison keeps herself safe by following a strict set of rules. Never get off your bike. Never touch anything.

    Descender: Tin Stars, written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
    Ten years ago, the people of Niyrata depended on robots for nearly everything. That changed after the Harvester Attacks, when gigantic robots appeared outside of the United Galactic Council’s 9 planets and killed billions of people before disappearing. The bot backlash was severe. Robots were destroyed systematically. Some believe the key to learning more about the Harvesters, lies in their codex, a machine’s version of DNA. When its discovered that a child robot named Tim-21 shares the same codex as The Harvesters, forces across space will try to track the boy bot down.


    Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, written by Richard Stark, adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
    Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel is an adaptation of Richard Stark’s 1962 book of the same name. Since its publication, Stark’s novel has been transformed into several movies, but this book might be its best adaptation. The book’s central character, Parker, is a bad man, a criminal who makes his living in heists. When a heist goes wrong and his woman double-crosses him, Parker makes those responsible pay up in a big way.

    Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, written and illustrated by Frank Miller
    Featuring one of noir’s most ruthless dames, Frank Miller’s second Sin City volume follows one man’s tale of obsession and revenge. Dwight is Miller’s central character, he is a dangerous man who is barely in control of what he calls “the monster.” Dwight does all he can to keep the monster leashed, avoiding his triggers: women and booze. When the twisted love of his life does him wrong again, he lets the monster run free.


    Hark! A Vagrant, written and illustrated Kate Beaton
    The world has a crush on Kate Beaton. At least the world I live in. Her comics are infinitely cool and totally hilarious and cover everything from the bloodlust of the French Revolution to Austen-mania. If you want a straight-talk retelling of Jane Eyre, she’s got comic for that. You want to learn about America’s founding fathers while cackling at the grouchiness of John Adams? She’s definitely got a comic for that. There’s nothing Beaton can’t do.

    The Influencing Machine, written by Brooke Gladstone, illustrated by Josh Neufeld
    Brooke Gladstone is a cohost on NPR’s On the Media, a Peabody Award-winning show that analyzes the inner workings of the media industry. Her graphic novel takes a wide view of journalism, detailing the history of media from the hieroglyphic age to the modern era. Gladstone’s book is an education. She proves time and again that news has always been complicated. Josh Neufeld’s illustrations perfectly accompany Gladstone’s text. Neufeld is the author of his own non-fiction graphic novel masterpiece, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.

    Fun Home, written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel
    Since its 2007 publication, Alison Bechdel’s darkly humorous memoir has become a classic. Bechdel often renders her unconventional upbringing through literary comparisons. Her father is Jay Gatsby and Daedalus (Greek Mythological craftsman of the labyrinth) rolled into one. Her childhood was indeed a labyrinth, one she struggles to navigate even in its retelling. Fun Home (which served as the basis for a successful Broadway musical) follows the author from childhood to young adulthood, when her closeted gay father commits suicide. She analyzes his incongruous life via his obsessions, unpredictable temper and disarming charm.


    Nimona, written and illustrated by Noelle Stevenson
    Superheroes may save the day, but villains have more fun. Nimona is a crime-loving shapeshifter, a force of chaos. She delights in spreading mischief and mayhem. Her life is missing just one thing: a partner in crime. Enter Lord Ballister Blackheart, a vengeful supervillain. Blackheart and Nimona would be an unbeatable duo, if Nimona could play along. After all, even villains have rules. But aimless destruction, Nimona’s forte, isn’t really a team sport. A graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, Nimona is a comic powerhouse with a bittersweet backstory and stellar artwork—and is currently being adapted as a major animated feature.

    Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley
    The first of a six-volume series, O’Malley’s work chronicles the life and times of a Canadian 23-year-old man-child. In a band, sharing a studio, happily jobless, and dating a high schooler, Scott is pushing against adulthood with all his might. But that’s until Ramona Flowers, an uber cool American, invades his dreams. She’s got seven evil ex-boyfriends, and if Scott wants a chance, he’s gonna need to conquer them all. In a rare feat, the 2010 film adaptation is also a modern classic, bringing the manga sensibility of the comics to life.


    Vision Vol 1: Little Worse Than a Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
    Perfect. This book is perfect! In Tom King’s take on the enigmatic Avengers character, the synthezoid superhero is attempting to live in suburban bliss with the family he created. The Visions include his homicidal Stepford wife Virginia and well-meaning teenage twins Vin and Viv. Each of them is obsessed with becoming more human-like. Each fails miserably. This book starts weird, and just gets weirder. One of my recent favorites—also check out Vol. 2, in which the rather grim story reaches its natural, inevitable conclusion.

    Superman: Red Son, written by Mark Millar, illustrated by Dave Johnson
    In your fanboy dreams, did you ever wonder what the world would be like if Superman was raised a Soviet? I sure didn’t, but I’m so glad that Mark Millar did. In the story of comrade Superman, alternate versions of Wonder Woman and Batman both make appearances.


    20th Century Boys, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa
    When Kenji and his friends were young, they lived for rock n’ roll, outdoor adventure, and manga. Now, they are all grown up and Kenji spends his days working at a convenience store and taking care of his sister’s kid. Life has become dull. That changes when the world of his childhood starts reappearing in strange ways, ones that may be related to a dangerous cult leader.

    The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, written and illustrated by Konami Kanata
    Just a sweet little manga about a kitten named Chi! Beware: this book is way adorable. Its cuteness may be over the top for some readers. But not for me! Konami Kanata tells the story of a lost kitten who is found and adopted by the Yamada family. As Chi delights in her new home, she begins to learn the ways of a house kitten.

    What comics would you add to our list(s)?

    The post Modern Graphic Novel Classics for Every Genre appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:58 pm on 2015/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: alison bechdel, , , , , , , the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, the king and i, the tonys, ,   

    Four Books That Won Big at the Tonys (and One We’re Waiting For) 

    When you hear the word adaptation in reference to novels, you tend to think of big-budget TV series like HBO’s Game of Thrones or Starz’s Outlander, or big-budget films like World War Z. But in recent years, there’s been a surge in novels adapted for the Broadway stage. In a modern theater atmosphere where a bunch of ABBA songs and a plot so thin you can see through it can be a huge hit, these novel-based shows have become the most exciting tickets to snag.

    Case in point: the 2015 Tony Awards were dominated by shows based on books, with four books in particular winning sixteen major-category Tonys at the awards ceremony.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    WINNER, Best Play, Best Actor in a Play (Alex Sharp), Best Direction in a Play, Best Scenic Design in a Play, Best Lighting Design in a Play
    Haddon’s award-winning 2003 novel is narrated by Christopher, a highly intelligent boy of 15 who suffers from a collection of symptoms—social anxiety, difficulty reading social cues, dislike of physical contact, difficulty appreciating subtlety—that point to something like Asperger’s Syndrome. When he finds a neighbor’s dog murdered, he decides to use his intellectual powers to investigate the crime, slowly expanding his narrow world in frightening ways, and discovering that all is not as it seems. Getting Christopher’s distinctive perspective into a live-action production is an amazing achievement. The play ingeniously captures Christopher’s humor, panic, unhappiness, and ultimately unique voice while showing the audience how the world appears to him.

    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    WINNER, Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), Best Direction in a Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score
    The first Broadway play to feature a lesbian protagonist (no, really), this musical is very different from Bechdel’s comic memoir about coming out and discovering that her father, a teacher and owner of the local funeral parlor—the “Fun Home” of the title—was a man of mystery: a closeted gay man who may have had relationships with boys under the age of consent and who may have committed suicide. Bechdel’s surprisingly rich and humorous memoir is transformed on the stage into a thrilling, satisfying musical that stays true to the real heart of Bechdel’s memoir, which has everything to do with the simple universal tragedy that it’s hard to know even the people we love the most —and that we often do not realize this until it’s too late to do anything about it.

    The King and I, based on Anna and the King, by Margaret Landon
    WINNER, Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical, Best Costume Design in a Musical
    Landon’s “semi-fictionalized” biographical novel has been beloved by readers for generations, and was originally adapted for Broadway in 1951. Based on the two memoirs of the real-life Anna Leonowens, the story of an English widow with two children who is invited to Siam by its king in the late 19th century to teach him and his family English and British customs has been a permanent part of the popular culture ever since, with Yul Brynner’s performance in the original production remaining iconic to this day. The 2015 revival is the fourth time this musical has been staged, and may well be the best, as its four Tonys suggest, and while he didn’t win a Tony like his co-star, Ken Watanabe is always wonderful to see perform.

    Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
    WINNER, Best Costume Design in a Play
    Mantel’s Wolf Hall is quickly turning into a phenomenon, as the stage adaptation took home a Tony and the television series produced by the BBC is some of the best appointment-viewing of recent years. By focusing on Thomas Cromwell instead of Henry VIII, Mantel gave us a view of the Tudor Dynasty seldom seen before, and the events of Henry VIII’s reign are still more dramatic and shocking than most completely fictional dramas, including Game of Thrones. The Broadway adaptation finds a footing and tone distinct from the books (or the series) and reads as almost a lighthearted, gossipy approach to the material, which works incredibly well in a live audience scenario and brings out aspects of Mantel’s work and actual history that might otherwise be missed.

    One We’re Waiting For: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
    Look, no one’s saying adapting this novel into a musical was a good idea, or a workable idea—in fact, reviews from its London run, despite starring The Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith, were not great—but it’s coming to Broadway in Spring of 2016, and who could possibly resist the delirious idea of turning this book into an all-singing, all-dancing piece of live theater? We cannot. It may not win any Tonys, but any Broadway show that includes “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and The News has already magically sold us tickets.

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