Graphic Novel Professional Development

One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read more diverse books. I want to read more juvenile and youth materials, more original graphic novels, more diverse authors, more diverse characters, essentially channeling myself to read things I wouldn’t normally pick. I just finished reading The Prince and the Dressmaker, a youth graphic novel written and illustrated by Jen Want. Prince Sebastian is hiding a secret. He like to dress as a lady and tour the dance halls and nightlife of Paris. While his parents search for his bride, Sebastian is in search of a daring new dress designer, and finds a common seamstress named Frances, who’s creative flair is appreciated by Sebastian more than the other ladies of the palace. With her designs, Sebastian’s alter ego, Lady Crystallia, takes the fashion world by storm, but, afraid his secret will get out, Prince Sebastian forces Frances and himself to stay in the shadows, risking Frances’ chances at meeting her fashion icons and advance his own career.

For some reason, this book really spoke to me on a personal level. Could it be my yearning to return to Paris having seen the notifications that it’s been ten years since I lived in France? Could it be the fact that I recently took out my sewing machine, disenchanted by the current fashion market that I thought I could make all my clothes from scratch? Or maybe it’s the lack of confidence I’ve had lately, especially when it comes to writing and talking about comics. What does matter is that I was able to connect with a book on a personal level, something all authors strive for. It’s also what librarians are always hunting for, the personal experience a patron has with a resource.

But not everyone values the reading experience the same way. There have been times when I talk about my passion for comics and get a lot of push back. Can’t you read full paragraphs? Can’t you imagine the story in your mind instead of needing the illustrations? Aren’t all comics for kids? (In this case, yes!) Aren’t all comics hyper sexual/violent? But others are much more open to the idea, saying things like, wow, I didn’t realize there were so many different art styles in comics! I didn’t realize that character has changed!? What do you mean there are non-superhero comics?!

While comics become a more ubiquitous part of our culture through the major superhero films and their use as an educational tool, it may seem like advocacy is not as needed as it was before. But, there has been an interesting development in the library/comic book world. Whereas YALSA has done their “Great Graphic Novels” lists for years, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helps libraries defend the first amendment rights of comics, but what I’m most excited about from and advocacy standpoint is the transition of the ALA Graphic Novel Member Interest Group into the ALA Graphic Novel Round Table. What this group will do exactly is yet to be determined, but I am excited at the aspect of graphic novels they will focus on, as there is no age restriction, content restriction, and it’s not nestled in another group, so it won’t be focusing on just collection development or creating recommended lists.

I am very excited for the new ALA GN RT. Building community and working towards advocacy is one of the best feelings for me personally. Any opportunity I have to work with other people who are passionate about comics is a great thing. So, consider joining the ALA GN RT, think of some ideas for programs, best practices, projects you would like to work on with other professionals to promote and advocate for comics and graphic novels in libraries.




So You Want to Publish a Graphic Novel

I do a fair amount of original cataloging for comics and graphic novels. More and more small and independent publishers are popping up all over the book market, breaking down the publishing gatekeepers and allowing for different and diverse stories and storytellers to reach a large market. As a professional cataloger, however, there are many difficulties which can arise from cataloging small press and self-published books. Many of these difficulties originate from the publisher themselves creating inconsistencies or leaving out vital information catalogers use to create cataloging records. And here’s a tip for all you publishers out there, some libraries don’t add items unless there is a good cataloging record available. It’s always good publicity to have a library catalog your book, so be have some sympathy for your catalogers and follow some of these general tips to make your books more catalog-able.

There are two pieces of information every cataloger and searcher relies on to find a specific item. The first is contributors’ names. Note how I say contributors and not authors because colorists, pencillers, letterers, and editors, can be as desirable a search term as the author. Because names are so frequently used and searched, librarians use controlled vocabulary to ensure that all contributors have uniquely identifiable names. This can mean the contributor’s middle initial or name, birth year or date, or area of captain americaactivity can be used to make a unique name. So, you could have Smith, John and Smith, John (Letterer) as two distinct names. Sometimes, comic book contributors do not have an authority file yet, and a cataloger has to pick the best, unique name to use. As a publisher, ensuring the name is spelled consistently on the item, your website, and any solicitations, is important to determine the author’s desired name spelling.

Nearly as important as how you spell contributors’ names is providing attribution to those contributors. I know that Mark Waid and Chris Samnee started crediting themselves as “storytellers” in many of their collaborations, but this is incredibly unhelpful to librarians because we still live in an author centric world, so the author will always be the main contributor listed. So, even if you are going to be crediting an author and artist as “storytellers”, state in the blurb who is responsible for what. As more authors provide art and more artists become authors, attribution is very important for searching and building relationships among contributor’s works. It helps searchers know the difference between Jordie Bellaire the colorist and Jordie Bellaire the author.

2017.22 Bandette

The second, really important piece of information is the title. I know this seems like a pretty simple piece of information, but you’d be surprised at how many different ways you can formulate a title. Librarians will record the title from the title page but will also note the title from the spine, front cover, title page, and title page verso. If you have a volumed series, make sure you distinguish between a subtitle and the volume title. Let’s look at the Bandette to see the dilemma cataloger’s face. The title page says, “Bandette in Presto!,” the cover and title page verso says “Bandette Volume One: Presto!,” and the spine says “Bandette Presto! 1’.  What’s a cataloger to do? In all honesty, local practices usually dictate which title you’re going to use, but here we have one book with three different title formulations and 99% of the time it will be xmen blueformulated as SERIES TITLE : SUB TITLE. VOLUME, PART TITLE. Think X-Men: Blue. Volume 1, Strangest.

Many, many hours are spent designing graphic novels and trade paperbacks to create appealing books readers want to pick up. However, the way your book looks when it is fresh off the presses is not the way it’s going to look when it hits the library shelves. A lot of key information for catalogers can be obstructed by how the item has been processed. ISBNs are the most important identifying number on your item. It is the first way most catalogers search for an item, but because libraries buy from vendors who can pre-processes items, sometimes the UPC/ISBN barcode is covered with a sticker so it isn’t confused for the library barcode. If you do not put your ISBN on the title page verso, librarians have a really difficult time finding and adding the item to their collection.  Barcodes will go on the back or front cover and call numbers 100% of them time go at the bottom of the spine, often with a genre sticker as well, take up the bottom two inches of your spine. Also, libraries use a lot of technology to ensure their items are not stolen. Tattle tape is inserted into the spine of the book, so if you don’t have a good gutter, some of your text and images will be lost. RFID tags are also used for security and foil covers will interfere with the radio frequency, rendering the security functionality useless.

I understand that a lot of artistry and creative energy goes into making a graphic novel and you should create whatever type of book you want. The suggestions in the post should be used as a frame for thinking about marketing your books to the library crowd. Libraries have collection development policies to ensure that diverse, representative collections are created in libraries. Simply making your book more accessible to catalogers can make a bigger supporter of small and self-published books.

Why is it spelled colourist? Discussion of Relationships Designators

It was recently National Siblings Day and it got me thinking about relationships. We have a lot of different relationships in our lives; our friends, our families, our coworkers, but, when you work collaboratively on a project, like a comic or graphic novel, your relationships with the people you work with are a combination of family/friend/coworker. You’ve created something intricate and nuanced through your collaboration and you all deserve credit for your portion of the physical and emotional labor. The cataloging world has embraced relationships as a way to express a creator’s contributions to a work, which is very important for patrons seeking out specific types of contributors to a particular comic.

In recent years, you may have noticed $e and $4 in 1xx and 7xx fields, as in the following examples:

100 1# $a Gaiman, Neil, $e author.
100 1# $a Walden, Tillie, $d 1996- $4 aut $4 ill.

How you describe the relationships in FRBR is through the WEMI, Work, Expression, Manifestation, Item, model. RDA looks specifically at how creators contribute to the work and expression of the resource. If you are unfamiliar with the WEMI model, the book The Diary of Anne Frank is often used as an example.

Work = the actual diary Anne wrote
Expression = The German language edition, the Braille edition
Manifestation = Hardcover, paperback
Item = the specific copy you have

It is very important to understand WEMI because the RDA toolkit breaks down relationship designators between Works and Expressions for comic books. There are essentially six relationship designators you need for comic books: author, illustrator, artist, colourist, creator, and editor. Noteably, inker and letterer are missing, but because of the use of hierarchy, you can apply the broader term of illustrator for these creators. You can check out a crosswalk of RDA Relationship designators and MARC Relator terms here (especially good if you do not have access to the RDA Toolkit).

When you look at Appendix I, Relationships Designators: Relationships between a Work, Expression, Manifestation, or Item and Agents Associated with the Resource, it tells you what terms you can put in the $e of the 1xx and 7xx fields when describing a person’s relationships to a work. But sometimes, you’ll see a term that is not in Appendix I and is most likely from the MARC relator terms. In RDA, the term is spelled colourist, and in MARC relator terms, it is spelled colorist, thought most of the time, the terms are spelled the same way. According to the 2015 PCC Standing Committee on Training Training Manual for Applying Relationships Designators in Bibliographic Records, you apply the RDA relationships designator, then the MARC code, then another standard vocabulary, leaving the $e vacant if no good term exists.

So what is the point of doing all this extra work and typing (hint, quick keys are AWESOME for common relator terms :))? As we move to linked data, the standardized names of a creator will be just as important as their relationship to the work. A person’s name will no longer be good enough to describe a resource, which is why having specific relationships designations is so important. Many creators have more than one relationship within the cb/gn genre and those relations are important to the information retrieval process. Skottie Young is an author and an illustrator. But, what if I want something he didn’t write? Jordie Bellaire is an amazing and prolific colorist and is authoring her first comic book Redlands with Vanesa R. Del Ray for Image comics. What if I only want to find her work as an author? Catalogers must work to ensure that narrower relationships, such as letterer and inker, are still represented in current controlled vocabularies. People win awards for this work, so isn’t it important to have that specific aspect of the work represented? It is difficult to navigate how to suggest new names for controlled vocabularies, but it’s always good to put those ideas out there.

A Celebration of Women in Comics

It is April, which means it is the end of Women’s History Month. While I think it’s important to celebrate the contributions of women all the time, it’s really important to me to share some of my favorite women in comics, be they creators or characters, and women led initiatives. Women, be they cis, gay, bi, trans, or non-binary, contribute to so many aspects of the comic book industry that I wanted to celebrate a few with you to take you into April.

Artists Chrissie Zullo and Jenny Frison

Cover artists are one of the most important aspects of comic books are the covers. While the artist doing interiors are very important, to a casual reader in a store will be attracted to a book based on its cover. I first discovered Chrissie Zullo when she did the covers for Fables and Cinderella: Form Fabletown with Love. Her Mucha inspired style won me over almost instantly, our main female character surrounded by a framed background. You can check out her work on  Vampirella, Josie and the Pussycats, and Archie among others. Jenny Frison is also a well known cover artist noted for her work on Xena, Revival, Wonder Woman, Clean Room, and Red Sojna. Now, I don’t know if you picked it up, but these women artist do a lot of covers with female led comics and they do their job really, really well. I would describe both their art styles as dewy, yet strong, the characters are often surround by a halo of soft light, but their body language and intensity in their eyes always convey something deeper.

Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Visible Women” campaign
kelly sueKelly Sue DeConnick, author of Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, and Bitch Planet, is one of my favorite comic book writers because she uses her celebrity to help others. She is an expert at leveraging technology in her goal to help others. Using text messaging services, her Bitches Get Shit Done service (you might see it on twitter as #bgsh) is a sporadic motivational service, with reflections, inspirational quotes, or a stern talking to. Her new technological campaign seeks to elevate the visibility of all those who identify as women or non-binary in the comics industry. Using #VisibleWomen to showcase their work on social media via self nomination, then someone in the industry will repost your original post for a signal boost, and finally a spreadsheet with all those using the hashtag will be compiled and set out to publishers looking for creators. What an amazing way for a successful woman to help other women. What can you do to help others trying to make it in your profession?

Femme Fantasy
Over the last few years, female led fantasy and science fiction comic books have taken over a larger market share in comic book stores. I have a pretty broad definition of Fantasy, though the Library of Congress has it defined as, “fiction with magic and extraordinary characters are integral to the story”. Below are some of my favorite female lead fantasy comics from the last five years.

Women Getting the Hollywood Treatment
I know I can be critical of Marvel for not releasing a female led comic book movie and can’t wait for a Wonder Woman movie which follows Diana’s exploits at the Louvre, but I am hopeful that the success of Wonder Woman will be a stepping off point for more powerful women of comics to make their mark on the big screen. While I’m under no delusion that the majority of these films are going to be superhero movies, like Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix, a trend of adapting independent comics is also on the horizon. The adaptation of I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura, out this week, is a book I’ve written about in the past and one that I cannot wait to see adapted on the big screen. Female characters from every genre are starting to see more predominance, from Anniliation to Under the Skin and Mad Max, we are seeing women leading in new and innovative roles. Some comics I’d like to see adapted to feature films are Lumberjanes, Cursed Pirate Girl, and Clean Room.

What women in

Bildungsromans – A Mouthful of a Genre

One of my favorite aspects of being a cataloger is looking at the Library of Congress’ LCSH, LCGFT, and Personal Name Headings approval lists. New comic book genres are being added to the LCGFT on a regular basis mostly to make genres which are comparable to other literature genres. The coming-of-age comic genre was added in September 2017; however, I like the term for the coming of age novel, Bildungsromans, mostly because it’s fun to say. And, while you may have heard the term Buildungsromans since your high school English class, but it derived from the German words for education and novel. As an adult reading these stories, I love them as a reflective tool to look back at my youth but also to analyze what teenagers are experiencing now and have empathy for their formative years. 

So, let’s take a look at some of my favorite buildngsromans… or maybe buildngsgraphischerroman.

I Kill Giants

Written by: Joe Kelly
Illustrated by: J.M. Ken Niimura
Published by: Image Comics

I kill giantsSoon to be a major motion picture, I Kill Giants is my favorite coming of age comic. Barbara Thorson is obsessed with Norse mythology, RPGs, and fantasy worlds, so obsessed that sometimes, she loses sight of the real world. When we discover why Barbara is retreating into the fantasy world, we realize why Barbara would rather fight the giants attacking her town than go home and deal with the issue at hand. There are some trials no child should have to face, but there are something children cannot be insulated from. Joe Kelley, author of Four Eyes and co-creator of the animated show Ben 10, shows his understanding of the motivations and wonder of youthfulness. Illustrations by J.M. Ken Niimura have an anime quality to them and the lack of color help drive home Barbara’s worldview, earning I Kill Giants the International Manga Award.


Written and Illustrated by: Tillie Walden
Published by: First Second

spinning coverIt is easy to see most biographical or semi-biographical comics as bildungsromans. Many artists use their medium to express emotions from their personal and formative experiences. Tillie Walden’s Spinning follows the young ice skater of the same name, as she navigates a new school, family issues, and first love. A fairly independent girl, Tillie’s life focused on her ice skating goals, but as she experienced new things, her perspective on the importance of skating changed and she began to reevaluate other aspects of her life. A big part about growing up, that we don’t actively think about, is quitting something. I remember when I told my dad, who had invested time coaching my softball team, sent me to catcher’s camp, and bought me new catchers equipment with every growth spurt, that I wasn’t having fun anymore and wanted to quit. I thought he’ be disappointed or angry with me, that I’d giving up, but I hadn’t given up, I’d simply grown up, and that is the main lesson of this beautiful read. It is ok to grow up and try new things, continual self discovery is what keeps life interesting and engaging.

Joe the Barbarian

Written by: Grant Morrison
Illustrated by: Sean Murphy
Published by: Vertigo Comics


It can be difficult for a coming of age story to seamlessly add fantastical elements while maintaining its core theme of self-discovery. Eleven year old Joe has Type 1 Diabetes and one day, while home alone, he slips into a hypoglycemic state and hallucinates a fantasy world inhabited by characters familiar to him. In the fantasy world, much like Barb in I Kill Giants, Joe uses the fantastical to explore the trama he’s experienced in his life so far. The loss of his father, growing up with a working, widowed mother, and managing a life long and life threatening medical condition, all before puberty, is explored by Joe the Barbarian. Joe’s pet rat play a pivotal role in the story and Sean Murphy’s rendering of him is reminiscent of Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise with slight manga styling. This limited series is a great quick read.

Ms. Marvel Series

Written by: G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by: Various
Published by: Marvel Comics

Ms MarvelDo I need to tell you that I love Ms. Marvel….again? This book deftly handles on of the fundamental aspects of the bildungsroman, the journey of maturity, having experiences which transition you from child to adult. We see Kamala Kahn explore what it means to be family, have friends, explore your religion, all while saving Jersey City one baddie at a time. Teenagers often feel invincible, but how does a teenager with superpowers handle the “little thing” like an internet bully? They aren’t “little things,” not even for Kamala because the experiences we go through as teenagers lay the foundations for the rest of our life. While this makes Ms. Marvel seem like a serious study in puberty, it balances the levity and hopefulness of youth very, very well.

Do you have a favorite coming of age comic book story? And don’t forget to add that 655 #7 |a Coming-of-age comics. |2 lcgft to your favorite Buildngsgraphischerroman.

What’s in a Comic Book Title? Using the Title Statement and Varying Title Fields

What are the two most important elements in any library record? Title and statement of responsibility, commonly the author and illustrator, and for comics in particular, can include the colorist, letterer, inker, and editor. Most of your patrons will come in with either a creator or a title in mind. However, graphic novels, and particularly trade paperbacks of serialized single comic issues, are notorious for having title statements formulated multiple ways on the same item. Maybe the series volume is on the spine, but the story arc is written on the title page, but only the series title is on the cover. So, what are the best ways to convey all the different titles in on MARC record?

When you are constructing your 245 and 246 MARC fields, always ask yourself, “How is my patron going to look for this book?” and “How is my ILS and/or discovery layer going to look for this book?” The former has to deal with the rest of the record, subjects, keyword notes, etc. The latter is concerned with hyphenation, spelling suggestions, and capitalization. It is important to know if your ILS will translate Spider-Man into Spiderman and Spider man and determine whether or not you should spell out the name three different ways in the 245 and 246 fields. As a cataloger, it is important to balance how patrons and computers will use and interpret your cataloging records.

If you are cataloging your graphic novels as series, you don’t have much flexibility in transcribing the title because you are using the collective title in the 245 and adding information about the individual volumes in the 505 contents note. However, if you are cataloging your trade paperbacks as monographs, you have more flexibility in transcribing several versions of the title.

Let’s use Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday as an example.

Astonishing X-Men

If you are cataloging your comic book trades as a series, your 245 and 505 would look like this:

245 10 |a Astonishing X-Men / |c writer, Joss Whedon ; artist, John Cassaday ; colorist, Laura Martin ; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos [and others].

505 00 |g Volume 1. |t Gifted — |g Volume 2.|t Dangerous — |g Volume 3. |t Torn —  |g Volume 4.|t Unstoppable.

While this will get across the title of the series and that each trade is named for a different story arc. This is the reason many libraries treat their trade paperbacks as monographs, conveying the chronology and title of the series, through the title statement. You can use subfields n, number of part/section of work, and p, name of part/section of work, to create a complete title statement. Let’s look at Astonishing X-Men Gifted by Joss Whedon again, this time, treating it as a monograph.

[As it appears on the title page and cover]

 245 10 |a Astonishing X-Men. |p Gifted / |c writer, Joss Whedon ; artist, John Cassaday ; colorist, Laura Martin ; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos [and others].

[As it appears on the spine]

246 18 |a Astonishing X-Men. |n Volume 1, |p Gifted

Note from the cover image that volume one does not appear on the cover or the title page, only the spine. So if a patron wanted volume one of Astonishing X-Men and you didn’t include a varying spine title 246, you’d have to use another resource to find the title you are looking for is Gifted. The 246 field has a lot of options for recording various forms of title, giving catalogers a number of tools to aid in search retrieval.  Parallel titles for foreign language graphic novels, cover titles, and spine titles can all be added entries for your MARC records. Again, as a cataloger, ask yourself, how is a patron going to look for this? How have they heard this title talked about? How will they ask a reference librarian to look for it when they can’t find it themselves? My rule of thumb, when in doubt, add a 246, your patrons will thank you for it.


Top 5 of 2017

I am one of those comic book readers who likes to break down my favorites lists into the major publishers; Marvel, DC, Image and other, smaller presses. While I know that that promotes the two publisher dominated field of comics, I might have to change my way as I read more independently published OGNs and floppy’s published by the smaller presses like AfterShock and smaller imprints like IDW’s Black Crown. So below are my top five, single issue comics I read in 2017.


So right off the bat, I’m listing two favorite comics from Marvel this year. I couldn’t help myself because there were two complete standouts, both great in story and one with an exceptional link between text and art.

Ms. Marvel #25Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Various throughout 2017
Published by Marvel Comics

During the Vice debacle stating that there were no notable comics of 2017, I reflected that Ms. Marvel is consistently on my top of my best of list year after year. G. Willow Wilson has created a compelling character in Kamala Khan who tackles modern issues with thoughtfulness and class. While handling internet trolls and discrimination, Kamala is also a teenager dealing with romance, jealousy, and learning to appreciate her bizarre family. Even if this book doesn’t seem like your thing, I urge you to try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Black Bolt
Black Bolt #2Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics

Black Bolt came completely out of left field for me. I figured Marvel would put something out because of the Inhumans show, but this story of Blackagar Boltagon and his daring prison escape was not what I expected. Hugo and Nebula nominated author Saladin Ahmed bring the intergalactic world of Black Bolt to a small prison setting where we meet Blinky, a telepathic teen, and the Absorbing Man. What really pushes this book over the edge for me is the story plus Christian Ward’s outstanding art. The prison is akin to an Escher painting, noting the theme of the modern prison complex and the colors and layers of the art convey a huge depth of emotion.


Mister MiracleMister Miracle
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Mitch Gerads
Published by DC Comics

I knew absolutely nothing about Mister Miracle or Big Barda when I started reading this book. Being a Wisconsinite, I am fascinated by escape artists because of one of Wisconsin’s golden son’s Harry Houdini (if you ever find yourself in Appleton, WI, check out the Harry Houdini Museum!). After reading this book for a while, I would say that I still don’t know that much about Mister Miracle and Big Barda, but I care deeply about what happens to them. Mister Miracle, a master escape artist the son of the Highfather, the ruler of New Genesis. He meets his wife, Big Barda, during a hostage exchange in Granny Goodness’ Terror Orphanage. With all that emotional baggage and dealing with Gods, it’s been difficult to fully understand Mister Miracle, but I’m still playing along, and that’s a great sign.


Curse WordsCurse Words
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Ryan Browne
Published by Image Comics

Charles Soule quickly became a must read author for me after his run on She-Hulk. He single handedly resurrected one of my favorite characters of all time. And, if you’ve been following Librarian with Issues for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a commissioned Ryan Browne piece up in my home. What I have loved about their work combining in Curse Words is the narrative driven storytelling and Ryan Brown’s comedic art style, makes for a fantastical story. Wizord finds himself on a mission to destroy Earth, but as he gets to know the locals, he becomes fond of them and decides to become their wizard for hire. What could go wrong other than the preternatural evil who sent him to destroy Earth still wants to destroy Earth. Panel layouts by Browne are are phenomenal and really pay on the elemental aspects of the magic system within Curse Words.

Other Publishers

Eleanor and the EgretEleanor and the Egret
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Sam Kieth
Published by AfterShock Comics

If there was an intersection of things Tracy likes, Eleanor and the Egret would be in the center of the Venn diagram of Art Deco French aesthetic, Seussian illustrations, and a mysterious animals. Eleanor is an art thief in a dystopian, nouveau art inspired Paris, but why is she stealing the artwork of famed artist Anastasia Rue? The artistic talents of Sam Kieth, known for his work with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, brings this rich world to life without feeling referencial. I think what really draws me to Eleanor and Egret is how similar it feels to one of my all time favorite comic series Bandette, plucky thief, band of sidekicks, a hint of the supernatural and amazing artwork.

These were my favorite comics of 2017. It’s always difficult to pick your favorites, but these are some choices I’d recommend to anyone who wants to read something new and different.