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  • Joel Cunningham 8:00 pm on 2018/03/12 Permalink
    Tags: 20th century boys, , essenials, fun home, , 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.

  • Brian Boone 9:47 pm on 2018/03/06 Permalink
    Tags: drawn from the facts, fun home, , , smile   

    10 Essential Non-Fiction Graphic Novels 

    Graphic novels may look like a simple volume of comic books or comic strips bound together, but they’re closer to works of “sequential art,” singular stories told in the form of illustrations and words. The graphic novel has emerged as a major storytelling medium over the last few decades thanks to visionary artists and writers like Alan Moore and Craig Thompson. It’s such a sensitive, intimate form that, by its visual nature, allows for so much visceral detail, it has become a useful tool for authors and artists to tell their own true stories—either their life stories, family stories, or world events that shaped them. Here are 10 of the most profound and fascinating non-fiction graphic novels. 

    The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography
    The man we all know as the Dalai Lama, because he’s been the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists around the world for more than 75 years, was once just a toddler named Llamo Thondup. Then he took on the name Tenzin Gyatso and became the fourteenth Dalai Lama. While he’s been a world and religious leader for longer than most of us have been alive, his life remains shrouded in mystery, in part because he lives in exile in India because of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama’s amazing and fascinating life story, which runs concurrently with some of the biggest events in 20th and 21st century Asian history, has never been told better than in Tetsu Saiwai’s graphic tale, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography. Saiwai presents the story in the traditional Japanese manga style, befitting this almost unbelievable true life tale of cultural heroism.

    Tetris: The Games People Play
    As great as many of them turn out to be, most video games don’t have that interesting of an origin story—somebody at a software company gets an idea, 100 people develop it, millions get entertained. The story of the classic puzzle game Tetris is far more interesting…and harrowing. Created by a Russian computer scientist named Alexey Pajiitnov during the Soviet era, the story of Tetris is one of corporate manipulation, government interference, and a peak behind the Iron Curtain. Author and artist Box Brown also fits his style to the material, drawing in a boxy, blocky style, suggesting the endless shapes of Tetris itself. 

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
    Maus is the Citizen Kane or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of graphic novels—a pioneer of the form; rarely have others that came after come close to doing what Art Spiegelman did. In 1992, it became the first ever graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s the autobiographical tale of Spiegelman coming to grips with his father’s haunting and devastating memories of enduring the Holocaust as a European Jew. Spiegelman depicts those scenes as a literal cat-and-mouse game: Cats are cast as Nazis, and mice as Jewish people. That sounds flippant, but it’s anything but—Maus sensitively humanizes the Jewish war experience. Readers will be chilled and forever changed by what deceptively looks like Sylvester and Tweety Bird.

    Fun Home
    Alison Bechdel is a veteran cartoonist probably best known for the “Bechdel Test.” A viral idea taken from a 1985 strip, a movie only successfully passes the test, and is deemed less sexist than the usual Hollywood fare, if two women are shown having a conversation about something besides a man. Bechdel is also the author of, to date, the only graphic novel ever turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Her 2007 memoir Fun Home grapples with lots of Big Issues, including family, sexuality, and death. Bechdel grew up in a rural Pennsylvania funeral home her father operated. Throughout the book, Bechdel replays multiple incidents from her childhood as she tries to make sense as to why her father stayed a closeted homosexual for so long, as well as why he made a tragic decision.

    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
    Great journalists observe first and then report, making sense of their subject along the way. In that regard Guy Delisle is a journalist and a cartoonist, providing de facto reports about what daily life is like in the far-flung locals where he travels with his wife, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to works about Myanmar (Burma Chronicles) and China (Shenzen: A Travelogue from China) is Delisle’s most revelatory work: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. He’s the right man for the job: Delisle wasn’t allowed to use a camera or smuggle out photos, but he could draw his experiences there and bring back to the West to demonstrate what life is really like for regular people in the closed-off nation.

    Muhammad Ali
    Okay, this one does kind of feel like a comic book, if only because it’s about a guy who was the closest thing this planet ever got to Superman. Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane use striking panel art to tell the complete life story—the good parts and the bad parts—of “The Greatest,” boxer and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali. Sometimes graphic novels are a great way to get reluctant readers (kids especially) to pick up a book, and this one might do the trick, providing plenty of context to show not only how Ali was great but why he was so great.

    Non-fictional graphic novels are a great way to learn about the world around us, but they’re also a source for relatable, “small” tales of an individual’s experience. Smile is that kind of story, and it’s also the story of how its cartoonist became a cartoonist. Raina Telegemeier suffered terrible mouth injury as a child, and it required extensive surgeries. Smile details that harrowing journey, as well as the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her classmates, all of which led her on an inward journey into the world of…sequential storytelling. (It also includes a very visceral, you-are-there retelling of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.)

    The Beats: A Graphic History
    With his long-running American Splendor series, irascible crank and cartoonist Harvey Pekar was a major proponent of biographical cartooning. He’s one of many who worked on this animated textbook about an equally important American artistic movement: the Beats. A group that included people as artistically disruptive and often strange as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg need to have their stories told through an unconventional means. A thoroughly honest self-made outsider like Pekar is the one to tell them. 

    This graphic novel is both a history book as well as a memoir, which makes it more impactful as essential examples of both genres. Author Marjane Satrapi was born to a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran, in the ‘60s, and this two-volume recollection shows what life was like before, during, and after that country’s Islamic Revolution. It’s a tale of broad change, but also small change, and how big movements can affect one’s very perception of themselves.

    The Elements of Style (Illustrated)
    As important as it is, and as many times as we’ve all consulted it, let’s be honest: The Elements of Style is a real slog. It’s a grammar and punctuation textbook, which is just going to be dry, no matter how it’s approached. Or…not? The arcane and arbitrary rules of the English come alive when illustrator Maria Kalman applies her warm, classic, and even funny artwork to the words of original authors William Strunk and E.B. White. The result is what any great book, fiction or non-fiction, all-words or graphic-based should do: Make the reader understand.

    What non-fiction comics are on your must list?

    The post 10 Essential Non-Fiction Graphic Novels appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:58 pm on 2015/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , fun home, , 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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