Comics & graphic novels we loved in 2016

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


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Stella Charls, marketing and events coordinator

This year my favourite graphic novels have been ones that have made me snort-laughing. I’ve picked them up between reading longer books, usually when I’m feeling scatty and just need to sit down and read something straight through. Humour always helps, and these three by exceptionally funny women have been my stand outs from 2016: Miseryland by Keiler Roberts, Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt and Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt.

Plus a special mention must go to Big Kids, the newest work by one of my favourite comic artists Michael DeForge. While not laugh-out-loud funny, DeForge has a creative imagination like no one else and his latest offering is a beautiful and affecting coming-of-age narrative.

Someone whose work constantly challenges me is Melbourne comic artist Sam Wallman. This year, along with many brilliant pieces you can read online (like this one about land and colonisation and this one about the end of the Australian auto industry), Wallman edited If We All Spat at Once They’d Drown. This is a collection of comics, cartoons and illustrations focusing on the topic of class. Discussing class more openly and with compassion in an effort to understand cycles of oppression feels even more important than ever given recent political events, and I highly recommend this collection.

Finally, here are the three graphic novels that I’m looking forward to catching up on over summer, after hearing countless rave reviews throughout the year: Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden, Patience by Daniel Clowes, and Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart.


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Chris Somerville, online team member

Daniel Clowes is probably best known as the creator of Ghost World – a great comic (and less successful movie) that was set firmly, if a bit oddly, in the real world. His latest offering, Patience, starts out with a down-on-their luck couple anticipating their birth of their first child. After Patience is murdered, her partner Jack becomes wrapped up in time travel in an effort to save her life. Spanning decades and jumping through timelines, what emerges is a moving portrait of how our lives impact against each other.

Special mention also to Last Look by Charles Burns, which collects the three volumes of his X'ed Out trilogy in one book, and is both depressing and strange, perhaps even better than Black Hole for which he’s most famous. And Simon Hanselmann also returns this year with Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam (and Other Stories). This release collects some disparate strips from various publications, including the title novella, which is the strongest in the collection.


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Chris Gordon, events manager

Drawing Funny is Oslo Davis’s lesson to budding comics and artists that want desperately to make people laugh. He opens this guide/personal story/ode to magazines and cartoonists with the warning that you can’t really learn to cartoon, but by time I reached the end of this warmhearted book, I was pretty sure he was telling a furphy. You can. And this book will help.


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Alan Vaarwerk, editorial assistant for Readings Monthly

The two-year storyline of Marvel’s The Vision series has just finished, and it’s a really satisfying conclusion to a standalone series centred around a lesser-known, but pivotal, Marvel hero. The Vision is a highly-advanced android who wants so much to be human that he creates a family for himself. There’s fish-out-of-water comedy as the Visions try to fit into their suburban neighbourhood, and an American modernist, Raymond-Carver-esque sense of lingering unease, fed into by some beautiful autumn-palette artwork. There’s no ‘big baddie’ in the traditional sense – the series’ main villain is the protagonists’ own domestic paranoia writ large. As things fall apart and the Vision goes to ever more desperate lengths to protect his family, the series transcends the superhero genre to become a tragic look at outsiders and the toxic nature of ‘normality’. Highly recommended.

Ed. note: This series is available here.


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Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator

For surreal, unsettling, transgressive, blackly hilarious – try Joan Cornellà’s Mox Nox. For a moving, visually stunning, wordless experience – try Nick Hayes’s Cormorance. For bittersweet whimsy – try Leslie Stein’s Time Clock. For a strange, gripping time-travel romance – try Daniel Clowes’s Patience. And for a powerful, thought-provoking reflection on class – try Sam Wallman’s anthology If We All Spat At Once They’d Drown.

Last year, I fell in love with Kamala Khan (AKA Ms Marvel), and this love had not abated in the slightest; if anything, I’m more invested in this amazing teen’s struggles and her growth as a character than ever. Receiving my regular instalments of her adventures has been one of my reading highlights of the year. I especially loved the way G. Willow Wilson approached the Civil War crossover storyline, and the final issue of that particular arc made me cry. I also started reading the much-raved about Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics a few months ago, and while they’re not as poignant as the Ms Marvel comics, they’re very, very funny and Doreen Green (AKA Squirrel Girl) is just such a fantastic, smart confident young woman – I would love to see her story in as many young women’s hands as possible.

Other comics I came across this year that I think would appeal to teens include… The Secret Loves of Geek Girls anthology (including contributions from Mariko Tamaki and Noelle Stevenson!); The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf (a bestseller in France); and, Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood (expect a lot of cat puns).

Also for teens, though on the younger end of the scale, I finally read Cece Bell’s 2014 release, El Deafo, which is a loosely autobiographical account of the author’s childhood and living with deafness. I think it’s a wonderful book for inspiring empathy and I raved about it here.

And finally… For my birthday this year, two of my friends gifted me Aidan Koch’s After Nothing Comes. Her style is distinctive and mesmeric, utterly compelling, and I think she’s one of my new favourite comic artists ever.

Patience

Patience

Daniel Clowes

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