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Hivemind suggestions for a newbie
March 21, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Graphicnovelfilter : I am very much a novice when it comes to graphic novels but have enjoyed the realist works of Joe Sacco (The Fixer & Palestine) and The Burma Chronicles (Guy Delise) initially kickstarted along time ago by my stumbling upon Harvey Pekar (American Splendour). What other graphic novels of this nature should I be tracking down? I'm interested in International Relations / Politics / History / Travel / Journalism / Espionage - as well as more esoteric perspectives on the world - so anything ticking these boxes would be great.
posted by numberstation to Society & Culture (26 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, if you haven't already.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:30 AM on March 21, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have not read it yet, but Art Spiegelman's Maus is legendary.
posted by jquinby at 9:35 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Maus.
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:36 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you might be interested in Pyongyang.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:38 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alison Bechdel's Fun Home is a great autobiographical story. Also, if you're into history, and can handle an irreverent approach, Larry Gonick's Cartton History of the Universe is excellent.
posted by mroben at 9:40 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I loved Wil Eisner's New York stories like A Contract with God and The Building.
posted by jb at 9:42 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, has been getting a lot of attention. A sort of Crumb-ish non-fiction account of highschool with Jeffrey Dahmer in the mid-1970s. I've not read it yet, but it's getting great reviews.
posted by bonehead at 9:47 AM on March 21, 2012


Seconding Perseopolis and Fun Home. Thirding Maus.

Also Berlin, Stuck Rubber Baby, and Dropsie Avenue.
posted by rewil at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2012


La Perdida.
posted by janepanic at 9:54 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


And history: Louis Riel by Chester Brown. It's a biography of the leader of the Canadian Red River Rebellion, who was a very strange character.
posted by bonehead at 10:01 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms= the aftermath of the atomic bomb on a family in Japan, in 1955 and fifty years later. Fiction, but the author's hometown is Hiroshima.

Marzi: A Memoir. Growing up in 1980s communist Poland.

Logicomix: the life/work of philosopher Bertrand Russell, with authors who occasionally break the fourth wall to argue about accurate representation& linking mathematical genius with madness. Way more fun than it has any business being.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2012


Near-future fiction rather than factual, but probably you would find this satire of the Iraq occupation interesting - Shooting War
posted by KateViolet at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2012


It's a strip, not a graphic novel, but Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant is a lot of fun for history nerds.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:15 AM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I second the recommendation for Guy Delisle's Pyongyang, since you liked The Burma Chronicles). I'm not so fond of Shenzhen, in which Delisle comes off as a cranky xenophobe complaining about China not being France. On the other hand, all the books together make an interesting comparison read of Delisle as a "character," considering their original publication order: Shenzhen (2000) is lots of cranky, self-important grumbling. By Pyongyang (2003) he's more used to ex-pat living and is making deeper observations of the culture(s) around. And by The Burma Chronicles (2007), he's mellowed out a LOT; with his family present and more relaxing time, his observations are a lot more personal and sympathetic. Really looking forward to The Jerusalem Chronicles (2011) in English.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perseopolis fits the bill some from a biographical standpoint.
posted by zizzle at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it's specifically the international aspect that you're interested in, then most of the previous recommendations probably fit the bill better than mine, but these are good graphic novels nevertheless.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley. Maybe a little lightweight compared to some of the other suggestions here, but I just love Knisley's work.

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Never mind the movie or Moore's (in)famous connections with superhero comics; it's a meticulously researched investigation into the Jack the Ripper killings with tons of background on London history, geography and architecture (the footnotes alone make for fascinating reading).

R. Crumb Draws the Blues - Crumb's biographical work on early blues pioneers. A good companion book is his Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country, collecting his trading cards of his roots music heroes, and including a CD of their music.

It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken by Seth. It's about Seth's search for the work of, and information about, a long-lost New Yorker cartoonist. I'm not linking to the Wikipedia or Amazon entries for this, because there's a bit of a secret concerning the book--not within the book itself, but in the background information for it--that adds a bit if you don't know about it beforehand. Seth has done a lot of work in book design (he designed Fantagraphics' complete Peanuts reprint series) and has other books worth looking at, as well.

And, finally, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware. Much of the book is set in Chicago in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition. If you haven't read Ware's work before, be forewarned that his reputation for being really, really downbeat is well-earned, but he's kind of brilliant.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2012


Sounds like you're talking about two different sub-genres. On the topical Sacco/Delise side I would second Louis Riel and of course Maus ...on the Pekar autobiographical side I'll second "Fun Home" and add "I Never Liked You" by Chester Brown, which I think is vastly under-read. If you can handle it a little more in the cute/precious/indie direction, "Clumsy" by Jeffrey Brown is really good. (Much better than the sequels unfortunately.)

And somewhere in between those two categories is "It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken" by Seth.
posted by pete_22 at 11:46 AM on March 21, 2012


Lots of fantastic suggestions here. Fun Home, Maus, Persepolis, the Gonnick books - these are must reads.

I've also really liked the newly-reprinted Charley's War series, and can't wait for volume 9 to come out this year. This one isn't biography at all, definitely fiction, but I think is in line with your interests.

The very-different-but-similarly-titled Alan's War *is* a biographical one, and is a fascinating look at some of the less-dramatic aspects of what some GIs in Europe experienced.
posted by colin_l at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2012


Oh... also recommend David B.'s Epleptic and Stitches by David Small.

These are more in line with the Fun Home genre than global geo-political stuff. They're great.

Oh! Also the Michel Rabagliati Paul books are fantastic transition-into-grownup-land semi(?)-autobiographical stories.
posted by colin_l at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2012


How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

Notes for a War Story by Gipi

Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan

A Few Perfect Hours And Other Stories From Southeast Asia And Central Europe
by Josh Neufeld
posted by teekat at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


For espionage, you could do a lot worse than Queen and Country. Written by Greg Rucka, art by various artists (different one each arc).
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:54 PM on March 21, 2012


Waltz With Bashir: A Lebanon War Story by Ari Folman and David Polonsky: about Folman's experience as an Israeli soldier in Beirut. At the beginning of the book, Folman has no memory of the the night when Christian militia members entered the refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila and began to slaughter Palestinians--the story is about him trying to figure out, many years later, what really happened.

Hello, Me Pretty by Line Gamache: brief memoir about the author's developmentally disabled younger sister, growing up in Montreal in the 1960s.

500 Years of Resistance Comic Book by Gord Hill: about various instances of Indigenous resistance to colonization in the Americas. Covers Canada, the US, Peru. Gord Hill has also written The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book: From the WTO to the G20, which will be coming out in May of this year.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:50 PM on March 21, 2012


Many amazing suggestions already. Deogratias, about the Rwandan genocide is one I enjoyed (and is very sad).
posted by schroedinger at 9:36 PM on March 21, 2012


Seconding Alan's War. Also, take a look at Asiaddict, which is not quite a graphic novel, but close. I just reread it a week or two ago and was impressed all over again.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:02 AM on March 22, 2012


Blacksad
posted by hellojed at 6:08 AM on March 22, 2012


Thank you all. Especially nicebookrack - as a massive fan of Russell I cannot believe I have not heard of Logicomix before. This should keep me busy.
posted by numberstation at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2012


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