I’m not sure what got me into this unending torpor but perhaps something mundane might manage to shrug it off. So here it is: a reflection on some of the best graphic novels ever written (and drawn!).
I discovered (or re-discovered) graphic novels relatively recently. I used to read comics when I was very young but ditched them for theatre and later for novels. I never thought of going back to comics because: a) I’m a girl and it was always seen as a boy thing b) I don’t like ‘serials’, I like complete stories. That’s for me the main difference between comics and graphic novels.
I can’t remember how, but some years ago I chanced upon Will Eisner. I think my rediscovery of Charles Schultz ‘lured’ me into the world of grown up comics (or comics for grown ups, or sequential art!). The Contract with God trilogy changed my life. As I’ve always wanted to be a film director (rather than a politician!), I was captivated straight away. The expressiveness of each character is remarkable, the story and writing capture the environment and the people perfectly. Eisner is the best; his are real (graphic) novels. I was struck by Invisible people, but they are all good: The plot, New York and Last day in Vietnam … pick any!
Then I read Maus by Art Spiegelman, which is extraordinary. Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt will always be a classic, great character and gripping stories. Shame it’s difficult to find outside Italy (or France). From Italy, I like Vittorio Giardino (Max Fridman, Jonas Fink), although he seems to be ignored by Italians who are too busy venerating Andrea Pazienza (yes, he’s good, but….!!!). The Italian comic Tex is yet another classic but I’m not too much for westerns. Diabolik (by Angela & Luciana Giussani) is much more my cup of tea and ushered a new form of comics in Italy, no longer for kids. Tiziano Sclavi’s Dylan Dog is fun, especially if you, like me, like horror and mystery.
Among French artists, I find Jacques Tardi great! I loved his 120 rue de la gare, a truly absorbing noir. Joann Sfar’s Le Chat Du Rabbin (wouldn’t it be nice it they sold it as a complete collection at a reasonable price?)
Yes, I like Alan Moore. Watchmen and From Hell are really good, but a far less known great little book is The Milkman Murders by Joe Casey (and Steve Parkhouse). He depicts the horror of every day life mixing reality with fantasy. Casey’s Rock bottom is also good. Other Dark Horse books I really liked are Richardson’s Cut and The secret. The Fog is ok.
Girls by Joshua & Jonathan Luna was at first annoying. I couldn’t help finding it sexist and very much written from a mono-dimensional male standpoint, but as the story unravels, the characters develop and clash. They become alive and subtle. It’s good!
Exit wounds by Rutu Modan is also good and well worth reading. Angel Fire by Chris Blythe (and Steve Parkhouse) is fantastic.
I didn’t like Gilbert Hernandez much, I found Love & Rockets quite boring. I’m not a fan of Frank Miller but I enjoyed The dark knight returns (forget the crappy and superficial film, just read the comic). I have quite a few reservations, but exploring an Batman as a man who confronts aging makes the character much more interesting. Alan Moore’s The killing joke is also pretty good.
I hated Satrapi’s Persepolis, the art has no dynamism and she keeps on talking ‘at’ you. No, thanks! I hated even more American Splendor. Harvey Pekar seems to think that he’s an eccentric genius whilst he comes across as self-indulgent, compulsive attention seeker, self-obsessed and, worst of all, boring!
More recently, I discovered graphic novels without words: from the brilliant woodcuts of Frans Maseerel and Lynd Ward (wow!!) to Thomas Ott’s Greetings from hellville. There are more, of course, which are piling up on my shelves and more on my wish list on Amazon.
Let me know your suggestions.