Animals often figure prominently in comic strips and graphic novels, but the ways in which they are represented and the roles they play in telling a story vary greatly across genres and the works of different authors. Often, animals in the comics genre exist mainly for comedic relief, representing cartoon caricatures or anthropomorphisms that tell us more about human beings than they do about the animal they are representing. Here are three graphic novels where animals are represented in a different way – as narrators, protagonists, or silent companions.
The Rabbi’s Cat by Jonathan Sfar
This is a gorgeous tail about humanity, religion, and… cathood… that takes place in 1930s Algeria and is imbued with a healthy dose of magical realism. The protagonist is a cat belonging to the daughter of a rabbi, who accidentally acquires the power of speech after eating a parrot. Now able to communicate with humans, the cat asks the rabbi for an education and to begin practicing Judaism, sparking a theological debate about whether or not a cat can be Jewish. This novel is beautifully illustrated, with bright colors, warm landscapes, and lively, dynamic characters (both human and non-human alike). The story deftly explores themes of what it means to have a religion, what it means to have a friend, and what it means to coexist in relationship with others.
Korgi, Book 1: Sprouting Wings by Christian Slade
At first, this book appears to be a story about a young girl and her best friend, a corgi cub named Sprout. However, as the two adventure into the woods outside their village, the story soon becomes something entirely different as they discover a woodland fairyland called Korgi Hollow filled with creatures – and monsters – they could never have dreamed into existence. This is a children’s graphic novel, but it is filled with so much cuteness and heartfelt exploration of friendship that readers of any age will feel moved and glad to have picked it up. It is also told entirely in pictures, as the work is virtually textless. And, although its wordlessness and short page length render it a very quick read, readers will be joyful to find that this is the first in a series, and the story is continued in Books 2-5. Korgi is available from the Library as both a physical graphic novel and a downloadable e-book.
WE3 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, Jamie Grant, and Todd Klein
WE3 is an adult graphic novel that fits into a science fiction genre. It follows its three animal protagonists, initially only known to readers as “We 3,” who have been turned into animal-robot hybrids by some ominous powerful force and are running away from their captors. Even though they are a rabbit, dog, and cat, We 3 can communicate sparingly using the English language due to their cyborg nature – but most of their storytelling as animal narrators comes from the way they are visually represented by the graphic novel’s images. This is a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking take on both the ethical limits of scientific experimentation on sentient life forms and on the limits of military power. WE3 is also available as both a physical graphic novel and a downloadable e-book.
~ Posted by Hannah P.