Three on a Theme: Animal Comics

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. Continue reading “Three on a Theme: Animal Comics”

#BookBingoNW2020 Poetry or Comics

One of the best things about Summer Book Bingo is how it challenges readers to step outside their comfort zones.  Of all the different kinds of books out there, however, poetry and graphic novels can be some of the most challenging. Readers not used to a visual format can sometimes struggle to make a cohesive whole out of words and images, and poetry can feel so nuanced and esoteric as to be indecipherable, even if you recognize its talent and value. If you are ready to dip your toe into the waters of alternative formats, here are a few to get you started:

Cartoonist Eleanor Davis is well known for her spare yet incredibly evocative work that can twist stories within stories until you aren’t quite sure where you’ve landed.  In You and a Bike and a Road, Davis uses a more conventional narrative to share her experience cycling across most of the southern United States by herself.  It’s incredible how much she can convey with a few plain pencil lines and, in this particular book, she exposes herself with a raw and beautiful honesty. Continue reading “#BookBingoNW2020 Poetry or Comics”

Comics before Cinema! Part Three

This is the third and final feature of comics as the original source material before their cinematic adaptations. I admit that I have not watched or read many of what I’ve listed (though not for a lack of trying!) and I made it a point to explore outside the expansive DC and Marvel universe. Today I will be showcasing the nitty gritty of graphic novels and comics, and how those stories and find humor in pain. If you liked what you’ve seen on screen, try reading it…because sometimes the comic book is better.

The Crow by James O'BarrThe Crow by J. O’Barr

The classic gritty  90’s movie The Crow has left a lasting impact on pop culture thanks to Brandon Lee’s starring role. Originally published in 1989, the original comic follows Eric who was brought back to life by a crow as an unstoppable avatar of vengeance. After a ten year hiatus, O’Barr wrote Crow with Dead Time, a story O’Barr envisioned as a new film. Continue reading “Comics before Cinema! Part Three”

Recommendations from My Precarious Piles of Printed Pictures and Prose

I moved in the middle of this pandemic, and have nearly twenty open boxes and unsorted piles of comics and graphic novels sitting around. Revisiting the books I already own (whether I’ve gotten around to reading them all, or not) while unpacking has been incredibly fun, and is the basis of the following comics recommendations.

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean

From the creator of the visceral and absurd Head Lopper, ApocalyptiGirl is similarly distinct in its art presentation and story pacing. The story follows Aria and her cat, Jelly Beans, as they search through a seemingly abandoned city for a mysterious artifact. Unsurprisingly, this plan is interrupted by unsavory locals and others with designs on the artifact. This story really excels in it’s mix of frenetic action and ponderous moments, letting us ruminate over the many mysteries of the world, then pulling us back into the narrative without ever fully revealing what’s going on.

DIE vol. 1 Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, and Clayton Cowles

DIE is a wonderfully bleak combo of moody aesthetics and a fantasy storytelling melange. Described by writer Kieron Gillen as “Goth Jumanji”, DIE follows a group of now middle-aged “friends” who are once again pulled into the dangerous role playing game that they’d previously survived as teens. If you’re looking for a mix of Jumanji, the Bronte siblings, table-top role playing games, or Timeline, you should read this comic. Continue reading “Recommendations from My Precarious Piles of Printed Pictures and Prose”

Oh, doggone it!

Dogs can completely change the way we feel—for the better. They are funny, loving, and intelligent. Canine companions live in an estimated 63 million U.S. homes, so it’s no wonder stories, movies, and videos featuring dogs have always been big hits. Let’s not forget our own local legend, the public-transit-riding dog, Eclipse, who rides the bus throughout Seattle (except during quarantine, of course). Today, we are going to look at three dog-related titles that highlight the amazing lives of dogs and those who live with, rely on, and love them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain book cover imageThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

This is one of those stories, told through the eyes (and voice) of a dog, that simply works. Enzo is a dog who sees the world for what it is and would love to speak his mind directly to those around him, but cannot. However, we are lucky enough to get an inside look at his joys and frustrations surrounding the life of his human family. Publisher’s Weekly notes: “Stein’s tale of family, loss, redemption, and fast cars—recounted entirely from the perspective of a retriever-terrier mix named Enzo—ups the ante on the recent trend of high-concept anthropomorphism in popular fictions.” Continue reading “Oh, doggone it!”