Comics and graphic novels we loved in 2015

Our staff share some of their favourite comics and graphic novels from the past year.


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Angela Crocombe, Children’s Book Buyer

One of my favourite graphic novels this year was Kidglovz. This spellbinding graphic novel is both beautiful and heartbreaking. It is the story of a musical child prodigy exploited by his mentor who discovers freedom when he meets petty thief, Shoestring. Kid’s epic hero’s journey from naivety to knowledge of his past, appreciation of his talent and ultimately, awareness of his power, is breathtaking. The rich storyline resonated with me long after the last page was turned. Kidglovz is a brilliantly imaginative story suitable for readers aged ten through to adult, particularly those who like music or fantasy.


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Chris Somerville, Online Team Member

Even if this list wasn’t focused on comics, Richard McGuire’s Here would still be there, since it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. With the limiting aspect of a single fixed angle, but each panel dedicated to a different year – spanning from 10,000 BC and a thousand years into our future, Here is not only an amazing book but an incredible work of art.

I’ve also just finished reading Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying. The most surprising element in this new collection of his is a subtle change in style. Where his previous work was filled with an realistic detail and clean lines, here Tomine’s art is a bit more impressionistic and even cartoonish. The occasional moment of humour is also welcome, as he tracks the mundane lives of failed artists and other assorted losers.

And finally: Daniel Clowes’s The Complete Eightball. Recently a friend saw me looking at this and just simply said, “It’s essential.” He was right, it is essential.


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Eleanor Jenkins, Bookseller

My favourite comic of the year was Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner’s Everything is Teeth – a memoir exploring Wyld’s childhood fears and obsessions. Sumner’s depictions of Wyld and her family are sweet and cartoony, punctuated menacingly by photorealistic renderings of sharks that lurk in the pages’s shadows. When the young Wyld’s morbid imaginings run riot, Sumner’s pictures break into vivid reds and gruesome details. The play between repulsion and fascination in this story is masterful. As Wyld matures through the course of the story, we learn that her fear of sharks stands in for more complex (and ultimately more frightening) troubles in her own life. The result is utterly compelling.

I also enjoyed Joshua Santospirito’s Swallows: Part One. This book traces the migration of Santospirito’s great-grandparents from the Aeolian islands to Melbourne, and explores family and memory in a gentle and beautiful way. It’s both a contemplative and a playful book: in one passage, the author sits on the Flinders Street Station stairs and chats with Chloe, the subject of the famous portrait in Young and Jackson’s Hotel. It is moving to see so many familiar landmarks examined through such a personal lens; next time I’m in the city I plan to make my own self-directed Swallows-inspired walking tour!

The third book I’d like to recommend is Leaf by Daishu Ma, a wordless story set in a strange, leaf-powered city. Fans of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival will appreciate Ma’s beautifully rendered illustrations; the patterns built up from different kinds of leaves and coiling industrial machinery are mesmerising. This charming story will appeal to children as well as adults.


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Bronte Coates, Digital Content Coordinator

Even though it was technically released in December of last year, Richard McGuire’s Here is my stand-out book of the year – across every genre. While I have felt more affectionate of other books (Rainbow Rowell’s Harry Potter-esque adventure Carry On comes to mind), or found other books more ‘life-altering’ (Anna Jones’s cookbooks have become a staple of my kitchen), Here is quite simply the most amazing book I read this year. The unusual narrative structure, and the fact that McGuire makes it work, blew me out the water.

This year I also made efforts to seek out great comics for teen readers (you can find some of my picks here and here). My favourites of these were: two graphic memoirs that subtly and powerfully touched on serious topics (Maggie Thrash’s Honor Girl and Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi); a very funny collection of comics from the talented Jillian Tamaki (Supermutant Magic Academy); and, Noelle Stevenson’s smartly subversive Nimona. This last title was a National Book Award Finalist this year, which is an incredible achievement for someone as young as her.

Staying with teen readers… 2015 is also the year I fell in love with Kamala Khan, an Islamic Pakistani American high school student who writes superhero fan fiction. That is until a bizarre incident turns her into an actual superhero – AKA Ms. Marvel. I’ve always loved superheros but I’ve never identifed so strongly with any other superhero as much as I do with Kamala, who is brash and awkward and just so much read to hang out with.

And a final mention must go to the new collection of comics from Kate Beaton (of Hark! A Vagrant fame). Step Aside, Pops is more of what I love best from Beaton – such as straw feminists hiding in closets and a disgruntled Heathcliff.


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Alan Vaarwerk, Editorial Assistant for Readings Monthly

I’ve always enjoyed comics and graphic novels here and there, but this year I’ve tried to really dive in – which has meant most of my year has been spent getting up to speed with older titles recommended to me by others. This year I’ve been hooked on Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel and Miles Morales as Ultimate Spider-Man, and as more superheroes take on new, diverse identities over the coming year I’ll be using those as starting points to avoid wading through oceans of canon.

I’ve also been trying to broaden my reading beyond superhero comics – Jesse Reklaw’s Couch Tag, a collection of darkly funny and affecting vignettes about growing up in 1980s California was a highlight. I also loved Emily Carroll’s Through The Woods – a vividly-illustrated collection of fables and dark fairytales that are as beautiful as they are terrifying.


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Stella Charls, Marketing and Events Coordinator

I only really started reading comics and graphic novels this year, motivated by a resolution to read outside of my comfort zone, and by a competitive desire to try and finish more in 2015 than in previous years (thanks to my colleague Nina’s very persuasive argument on why you should keep track of every book you read). Everything I’ve enjoyed was enthusiastically recommended to me, so rest assured that these picks all come with multiple endorsements!

My favourites from 2015 (some published this year, and some older ones) are…

  • The Night Watchman by Jean-Baptiste Labrune and Jeremie Fischer is a magical story and clever mix between graphic novel, chapter book and picture book, both for adults and children. Full of suspense and intrigue coupled with luminous, art-deco illustrations.

  • Soppy: A Love Story is the illustrated love story of Phillipa Rice and her real-life boyfriend, and it’s a funny, affectionate record of all the small gestures that make up a relationship. These vignettes aren’t sickeningly sweet, but rather a celebration of the mundane with a hell of a lot of heart.

  • Leah Hayes’s Not Funny Ha Ha: A Handbook follows the journeys of two fictional characters, 23-year-old Mary and 31-year-old Lisa, who decide to have abortions, one medical and one surgical. Hayes presents real issues with accessible narration and engaging illustrations.

  • Dressing by Michael DeForge is a collection of his mini-comics, zines and anthology contributions that showcases the artist at the height of his tender and absurd powers. DeForge works as a designer for Adventure Time and is an incredible storyteller with a beautiful (sometimes grotesque) art style. I also adored First Year Healthy, DeForge’s wonderful parable on mental illness, plus general commentary on the human condition.

  • Comics legend Chris Ware said that Richard McGuire’s Here – the unique story of the corner of a room between the years 500, 957, 406, 073 BC, 2033 AD, and more, was ‘life-changing’ – and it’s certainly a strikingly beautiful book, both in concept and design. I was stunned by how genuinely moving I found it.

  • My Dirty Dumb Eyes provided me with laugh-out-loud comic relief. Lisa Hanawalt is crass, witty and gorgeously bizarre. Illustrated movie reviews, ‘Rumours I’ve Heard About Anna Wintour’ and ‘Tips for Living with a Significant Other’ – this collection is bursting with all kinds of colour, and is a total joy.


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Chris Gordon, Event Manager

A well-curated library should include classics from different genres. For example, collections of Australian literature might include a White or a Stead. For lovers of English literature a Brontë would be included. Graphic novels also have their classics and so it is that each collection should include a Spiegelman. Why? Because Spiegelman’s Maus changed the way we view comics. Maus depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s harrowing, alarming and important. If you haven’t read this book, please do. It will possibly change your view of comics.

Spiegelman believes comics echo the way the human brain processes information and I reckon that’s right. We look at pictures differently to words; we consider each movement in a more visceral manner to that of words. My daughter has dyslexia and watching her I can see that the freedom to move your focus in a graphic novel is vastly different to the brain power required for tackling line after line of words. The very first comic she fell in love with was Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman. We read it each Christmas, we watch the lovely film (which is narrated by Bowie), and we wish the Northern Lights were closer. I also quite like Briggs’s Father Christmas as well in which the giver of all gifts is considered a grumpy old man. Both of these comics are masterworks and are a wonderful introduction to pictures being worth a thousand words.

Nimona

Nimona

Noelle Stevenson

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