Thursday, November 29, 2007

Graphic Novel Challenge!!!

The illustrious Dewey is hosting a challenge I absolutely positively cannot pass up. The Graphic Novels Challenge is quite simple: pick six graphic novels to read between January 2008 and December 2008.

Now, despite the fact that I don't talk about it here all that often, you might remember that I did my Master's thesis on the Fables series by Bill Willingham. The entirety of my graduate school career was devoted (from semester one onward) to studying comics. I love them. "Why?" you might ask. You're an adult, Andi. A grown woman of reasonable intelligence with a decent shoe collection and a penchant for the written word. Why would you dabble so in a genre that's so obviously written for stoners and kids?

And then I would slap you with a glove. Both sides of the face. Quick succession. You've seen it in the movies and know what I'm talkin' about.

Quite simply, comics are not what the majority of Americans think. Comics are a hotbed of social critique, satire, and free thought. Because, quite simply, when no one is looking, you can say whatever you want. And comics artists caught on a longggg time ago.

Without further ado, my reading list and they stand as recommendations as well...especially Fables!

I was fortunate enough to participate in a conference call interview with Kalesniko in graduate school. He was wonderful and insightful, and I can't wait to read this one...

Mail Order Bride, Mark Kalesniko - Kalesniko's latest work examines contemporary Korean mail-order brides, a provocative and real phenomenon that matches women looking for a better life with lonely, foreign men. Monty Wheeler, a 39-year-old comic bookstore owner (and virgin) lives in Canada and is surrounded by an ever-expanding inventory of collectibles, including a secret collection of "oriental" porn, a cache of erotic Asian stereotypes that will later haunt him. Monty represents a certain type of obsessive, self-indulgent collector, and his loneliness, immaturity and utter geekiness drive the plot. But it's Kyung Seo, his Korean bride (who speaks English perfectly, to Monty's disappointment), whose evolving sense of independence forms the book's core.

A shining star in the literary comics world...

The Jew of New York, Ben Katchor - Whether chronicling the metropolitan peregrinations of Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, or weaving together history and fantasy in 19th- century New York, Ben Katchor's comics, filled with scratchy figures moving through gray-washed streets, feel like the relics of a half- forgotten dream. The Jew of New York takes an obscure historical footnote--an attempt in 1825 to establish a Jewish homeland in upstate New York--and spins it into an intricate tale of a rapidly developing city and its diverse inhabitants, from one-legged actresses, to wandering Jews, to masked anti-Semites. The plot wanders from place to place, never predictable, but always fascinating. The result is a like a story by Paul Auster, rewritten by Charles Dickens, as Katchor gradually draws the reader into his bizarre but precisely imagined world. Weird conspiracies, religious fanaticism, and a plan to carbonate Lake Erie are just three of the threads which Katchor weaves together, creating a version of 1830's New York that captures the spirit of the times in a way that history cannot.

My beloved Fables!!! I fell behind on the new collections when I was writing my thesis...

Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days), vol. 7 - The Adversary, whose forces drove the characters of European fairy tales into exile, is advancing again, and a party headed by Sinbad arrives at Fabletown in Manhattan to assess New York as a possible refuge for their fellows in the Arabian sector of the fairy-tale homeland. A traitor in the entourage nearly destroys Fabletown in the longer story in this volume of Willingham and company's spellbinding epic.

Fables: Wolves, vol. 8 - No blurb for fear of spoilery.

A grandaddy and shiny example of what "superhero" comics can be...

Watchmen (Absolute Edition) - Watchmen is set in 1985, in an alternative history United States where costumed adventurers are real and the country is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union (the Doomsday Clock is at five minutes to midnight). It tells the story of a group of past and present superheroes and the events surrounding the mysterious murder of one of their own. Watchmen depicts superheroes as real people who must confront ethical and personal issues, who struggle with neuroses and failings, and who - with one notable exception - lack anything recognizable as super powers. Watchmen's deconstruction of the conventional superhero archetype, combined with its innovative adaptation of cinematic techniques and heavy use of symbolism, multi-layered dialogue, and metafiction, has influenced both comics and film.

The big daddy of graphic novels and comics theory. I've read Eisner's criticism endlessly, but I've never read his fiction...

A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories, by Will Eisner - The work consists of four short stories — "Cookalein", "The Super", "The Street Singer", and "A Contract With God" — all set in a Bronx tenement in the 1930s, with the first story also taking place at a summer getaway for Jews. The stories are semi-autobiographical, with Eisner drawing heavily on his own childhood experiences as well as those of his contemporaries. Utilizing his talents for expressive lettering and cartoonish figures, he links the narratives by the common setting and the common theme of immigrant and first-generation experiences, across cultures.


In the Shadow of No Towers, by Art Spiegelman
Embroideries, by Marjane Satrapi
The Collected Crumb Comics, volume something-or-other, by Robert Crumb
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman
The League of Extraordinary Gentlement, Vol. 1, by Alan Moore
Our Cancer Year, by Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner and Frank Stack


  1. I am one of those anti-comic/graphic novel snobs, but I think I will have to give your recommendations a try. I LOVED Twilight and New Moon. I have Eclipse, but am pacing myself.

  2. Purl, if you start anywhere with graphic novels, try Art Spiegelman's Maus I and II. They're about the author's father's time in Nazi Germany told through some fantastic visual metaphors. Wonderful, wonderful books. Very deserving of their Pulitzer.

    I'm wishing I'd paced myself with the Twilight books. Now I'll have to wait AGES for the next one!

  3. There are some wonderful sounding books on your list. I can already foresee how much this challenge is going to increase my wishlist.

    It will be fun to compare notes on "A Contract with God". I've read some of his fiction before, and I'm currently reading "Comics and Sequential Art" to then attempt an essay on The Sandman. Anyway, Will Eisner really is quite brilliant.

  4. Nymeth, I expect my wishlist with grow exponentially!

    I loved Comics and Sequential Art! Great book. He wrote another one after that, and I used it in my thesis quite a bit, but the title escapes me. Nope! Wait! There it is...Graphic Storytelling. And there was more, but that is all I can remmeber at the moment.

    I've only read one Sandman and that was sort of an offshoot...the Dream Hunters book. Beautifully illustrated but not much on plot compared with the flow of the rest of the series.

  5. I had never heard of The Jew of New York. I'm going to have to check that out!

  6. Thanks for joining the challenge! I am going to find SO many new books to read from everyone's lists. And I second your recommendation to Purl to read Maus.

  7. Ooh I may have to join this one... I don't typically read Graphic Novels but last year I read like three at the end of the year and loved them. I could see getting really into them. I just always feel a bit at a loss as to where to start. But hey, we are reading the Maus ones for the Reading Dangerously challenge so that's two already (shh, I can cheat a bit right? ha!). I'll think about this one.

  8. I'm really looking forward to this challenge. :-) My husband is the graphic novel reader in our house, but I've got my own stack that I rarely touch for whatever reason. This will be the perfect excuse to finally dive in! And I know it will make my husband happy. :-)

  9. Oh dear. I said I wasn't going to take on any more challenges. But I may just have to do this one. I love graphic novels so much!

    And I'll be glad when you catch up on the Fables. I still need to get the new Jack of Fables book!

  10. Another Fables fan yay. I will have to avoid your reviews though as I have only read the first two so far and have 3 and 4 on my list for this challenge. I will try and read Watchmen this year but haven't put it on my list in case I don't have time. Mail Order Bride looks interesting as well.


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