Comic Book Award Season for Collection Development

The Eisner Award nominations were released a few weeks ago and mark the industry’s largest and most prestigious awards. Award lists are a great collection development tool for librarians; they provide well vetted titles which would make great additions to any library collection. Some awards have been given out for decades and others are new; some are fraught with controversy and others allow creators to pat each other on the back. Here are some awards lists which provide diverse collection development opportunities.

Eisner AwardLet’s face it, the Eisner Awards are the Oscars of the comic book industry and awarded every year at International ComicCon in San Diego. The Eisner has been around since 1987, and was renamed from the short lived Kirby Award. What is great about the Eisners is the diversity of the award categories. From standard awards for creators and story type to honoring webcomics, educational/academic works, and comic book news outlets, the Eisner Nominees will inform your comic know how in many areas.

Along with the Eisners,  the Harvey Award is one of the largest American comic and graphic novel awards. The Harvey Awards differ from other awards because they are nominated by comic book professionals and the final votes are cast by unpaid volunteers  and the awards are financed by sponsorships. The are the honors that creators give to their peers which provides a different type of award list.

The Angouleme International Comics Festival in Angouleme, France is the third largest comic book festival in the world and hosts an international award ceremony for creators. Unlike other awards, the Angouleme awards  have broad categories and are chosen from a large pool of titles. The Grand Prix de la ville d’Angouleme is awarded to a living creator to honor their lifetime achievement and becomes the president of the jury for the next year. Noted recluse Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes won the Grand Prix in 2014, becoming the fourth non-European to win the award in 41 years. While the Angouleme has been fraught controversy, including the lack of nominating any women for the Grand Prix, citing the unfounded notion that none possessed a lifetime of work worthy of professional greatness, it is still a good place to look for diverse, international titles worth collecting. Hopefully, in the years to come, they will be more cognizant of the continued diverse presence in the comics industry.

International Manga AwardOn another international note, there are numerous manga awards to help you develop a well rounded manga collection. The Shogakukan Manga Award, sponsored by Shogakukan Publishing, has been awarded since 1955. Currently there are four categories; general, shonen (books geared to boys), shojo (books geared to girls) and children. The Kodansha Manga Award is structured the same way with the same four categories and has been awarded since 1977. An interesting and relatively new manga award is the International Manga Award and was founded in 2007 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Manga has continued to grow in popularity worldwide and this award is given to a non-Japanese manga artist annually. The entry list can be rather long and the ministry awards gold, silver, and bronze award. Some of these titles can be difficult to find translations for, but the list illustrates the diversity in manga creation.

Two other international awards to keep an eye on are the Ledger Awards, which are Australian comic awards, and the British Comic Awards which has six categories; the Hall of Fame, Emerging Talent, Young People’s Comic Awards, Best Book, and Best Comic for British comic books.

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has many book and media awards. During the annual ALA conference, the awards ceremonies are always a highly and are often live streamed for those who cannot attend. The Great Graphic Novels for Teens list compiles both fiction and non-fiction graphic novels appropriate for teens and young adults, but to be honest, are also highly enjoyable for adults as well.  Be sure to check out lists back to 2007 for older titles for a retrospective collection.

Inking is one of the more specialized aspects of comic book creations. While the artist or penciller draws the initial layout of a page, the inker defines the final shape, adds shadow and texture to drawings. The Inkwell Award has several categories for different types of inking and lifetime achievement awards.

 

Many broader genre and entertainment awards also honor exceptional comics and graphic novels during their award ceremonies. Here are a few to keep in mind when doing graphic novel collection development:

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Awards nominated 10 books for their Outstanding Comic Book category.

The Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story honors  the “best science fiction of fantasy story Stoker Awardtold in graphic form and published in the prior calendar year” and has been awarded since 2009.

The Horror Writers Association awards Bram Stoker Awards annually and since 2011 have award graphic novels for superior achievement in horror writing.

Also, make sure to check out your state library association’s award list. As comic have become more ubiquitous, graphic novels have been appearing on general children and teens best book lists, unseparated into their own category. Many library associations accept submissions from all members, so even if you aren’t on the selection committee, you can suggest that comics and graphic novels be reviewed for awards.

 

 

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Happy International Tabletop Day!

International Tabletop DayHappy 4th Annual International Tabletop Day! I like all types of board games from childhood classics like 13 Dead End Drive to Scythe and play almost every week with friends. Tabletop games are a great way to bring people together around a table and have competitive or cooperative fun. Over the last 20 years, there has been an incredible Renaissance in tabletop games starting with the popularity of Settlers of Catan in 1995. Since then, you can peruse Kickstarter anytime and find people who want to make amazing games. Many libraries now have board game collections and host board game nights for patrons to try new games. As someone with a proclivity for storytelling games, I often think of comic book characters and storylines while playing tabletop games (my first D&D character was a rogue who was essentially Bandette…without me realizing until level 4!).  To celebrate, here are some comics to check out if you like board games. Be sure to check out Twitter for more suggestions throughout the day. Game On!

2017.14 gloom final

Gloom by Atlas Game, is probably my favorite game ever. It’s a storytelling game in which each player has a gothicly horrific family they are trying to make as depressed as possible and kill, while making the other characters as happy as possible. Once a player kills off their last family member, the player with the ‘lowest’ score wins. Gloom is populated by Frankensteinian scientific families, traveling circuses, and the lords of the moors. If the alliterations in the actions cards don’t kill you, “terrified by topiary,” “distressed by ducks,” “driven to drink,” etc. then the death card “was eaten by bears” will. This is a fun game with a unique style that even the most hesitant of storytellers can get into.

The world of Gloom is a straight forward, if a bit darker, interpretation of the gothic era where as The Motherless Oven by English comic creator Rob Davis is a dystopian science fiction world that feels as foreboding as the looming death of Gloom. When the weather clock says it’s knife o’clock, you better lock dad up in the shed, tuck mother away in the cupboard under the stairs, and sit down to enjoy the Wednesday Wheel safe within your home. The Motherless Oven requires the reader to accept the fact that people have assigned death dates, parents look like 3rd grade art projects and are made by the children they care for, it periodically rains knives, and the police are geriatric officers in a slow moving jalopies. Scraper Lee, a teen slowly approaching his death day, befriends Vera Pike, a new and oddly independent student, and Castro Smith, a student with Interference Syndrome who talks with the ever present gods of egg timers, can openers, and light switches. They run away to find Scraper’s escaped father only to arrive at the end of the known world. The black and white watercolor inspired art is gorgeous and adds to the ominous nature of this book. Great for a rainy, dark night.

Hellboy Board Game Suggestions

There are some board games that require skill, concentration, and a whole lot of time. Many of these games have a Cthulhu theme like Eldritch and Arkham Horror, both Fantasy Flight games. These games require your character to maintain a balance of sanity, aggression, and strategy as you attempt to close portals and keep the old ones quiet in their slumber. You can be a magician, occultist, or driver, but if you get too close to the old ones, you’ll be out of the game. Can you and your teammates prevent the non Euclidean geometric figures from invading our reality, or will you have to convalesce in the Australian outback after seeing the great old one? These games are incredibly difficult, so don’t be discourage if it takes you several play throughs before figuring out a strategy to win.

One comic book character who is more close to the old gods than any other is Hellboy, the over 20 year old character from Mike Mignola. It is a historical fact that the Nazi regime was interested in occult and supernatural objects, which is the basis of Mignola’s story. A German operative, the Russian mystic Rasputin, is trying to summon an other worldly power at the height of World War II; however, a young demon appears and is taken in by an American occult team and taught to use his stone hand and incredible strength for good. While there will always be forces in the world trying to use Hellboy for evil and chaos, his light hearted nature, and love for pancakes, keeps him fighting for the good guys.

2017.14 fresh romance final

Not all games require apps, huge tables, and three hours. Some like Love Letter by AEG games, are the perfect game to throw in your backpack and play while waiting for food or having a casual drink with friends. As we’ve all learned from our high school English classes, it can be difficult for a young Romeo to get a letter to his fair Juliet to declare their love, and in this game, you are trying to get a love letter to the prince or princess and win a token of their affection. Each player has two cards of varying values and abilities. You play a card and resolve the ability in the hopes of knocking out the other players or ending the round with the card with the highest value. Many people will help you get your letter to royalty including the lowly Clown to the stately General. And for those comic fans, there is also a Batman version.

I like Love letter because it is has a simple and effective premise, love will conquer, which is also a central theme of the anthology Fresh Romance. With contributors like Kate Leth, Marguerite Bennett, and Sarah Winifred Searle, among others, Fresh Romance explores four drastically different love stories each unique and heartwarming with a fresh look at what love means. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast shows compassion and empathy, whereas Ruined is about a Georgian Era woman who is quickly married off to a stranger to save her, and her family’s, reputation. The distinct art styles for each story helps to transport the reader completely to the new story, making the anthology exciting yet cohesive. The book made me eager for more modern, romance comics featuring unique and diverse characters.

2017.14 manhattan project

One of the first modern, worker placement games I’ve played was Minion Game’s Manhattan Project. It’s the dawn of the nuclear age, and each player is attempting to make the ultimate bomb and earn the most victory points first. The board looks like an old factory cork board with all of the different moves your workers, scientist, and engineers can make during your turn. As you build factories, universities, and reactors, your workers can be deployed on your home board as well as the main board, but watch out! Other players can destroy your buildings with air strikes or send their workers to your land as spies and take up the limited spaces where you can place your workers. As you create plutonium and uranium, you can develop bombs, strap them to your bombers and earn victory points. This fun yet competitive game is well paced ensuring all players move at the same pace.

While it may seem a bit on the nose, the comic I’m recommending for the board game Manhattan Project is the Image comic Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. In the game, you have to manage your money, workers, and yellow cake; but in the comic book, you have to manage a stoic Einstein staring at an obelisk, infinite Oppenheimers, President Harry S. Truman as an orgy loving Mason, and FDR is an AI stuck in a television screen. Throw in Richard Feynman and Laika the Russian K9 astronaut and you’ve got all it takes to unlock the mysteries of the universe…maybe. Hickman’s love for infographics and the stark use of colors add science fiction elements to these historically inspired characters. Warning, this book gets weird, but in the best way possible.

Board and card games are a great way to get to know new people and spend quality time with family and friends. What board games do you like to play?

The Merits of Dewey-ing your GNs

Cataloging comics is difficult. I know, I’ve made that comment a few times before, but it’s true. They don’t fit into the many standards that catalogers like; it’s not a novel, not a pictorial work, not really an illustrated text…it’s somewhere in between all of that. And, while I’ve explored some ways to make cataloging comics a little easier, classifying comics can still feel like the first time your Adamantium claws emerged from your knuckle. Many librarians feel stifled by the norms of cataloging all graphic novels as a genre term or in the dreaded 741.5 or what I like to refer to as the pit of comic despair.

Melvil Dewey
Public Domain

While I might dislike 741.5 a lot, it’s helpful if you understand a little of the history of Dewey Classification for some context. I found a discussion paper by OCLC from 2014 which quickly summarizes how 745.1 came to be and why it is perceived to be so restrictive.

The DDC 741.5 is for cartoons, caricatures, comics and graphic novels all together in one call number. It’s squished in between drawing techniques and graphic design and illustrations. The hierarchy is as follows:

700 Arts and Recreation

740 Drawing, decoration, design

741 Drawing

741.5 Cartoons, caricatures, comics and graphic novels

The reason that single-frame caricatures to three-frame newspaper comic strips and graphic novels are all together is because there is no good place to break the call number continuum. You can subdivide by the country of the artist or writer which was chosen over the original language because there are many graphic novels which do not have any words. This brings concerns about the collaborative nature of comics as many authors and artist come from different countries.

The notes in 741.5 follow the same rules for literature, the 800s, when it comes to looking at content and deciding whether to classify it in the subject area or literature. If a work uses the correct names, had no invented characters, and does not distort facts for artistic effect , it can be classified in the subject area. When a work includes conversations, feelings, and thoughts or speaks to the state of mind of the characters, it is classified under 741.5. In the discussion paper, it is mentioned that it is important to take into account images and text when deciding to put a graphic novel in the subject heading or 741.5. This is why Art Spiderman’s Spiegelman’s Maus would be classified in 745.1 because, while the account is a factual memoir, the people were not cats and mice.

Trinity graphic novel coverSo, libraries are given the opportunity to classify some graphic novels, like Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bombs by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (623.45119) in the appropriate subject area, yet many do not, opting to keep all graphic novels together in a genre classification scheme (like GN FETT for example). There are some reasons why a library may opt to keep fiction and non-fiction graphic novels in the same classification scheme. The line between some historically inspired graphic novels and straight non-fiction graphic novels can be difficult to separate. Some may be inclined to put The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Syndey Padua in non-fiction, but because of the narrative nature of the storytelling, it would more likely be in fiction. Another reason libraries do no separate out non-fiction graphic novels is shelving needs. Do you interfile non-fiction graphic novels in the general non-fiction collection or do you create a non-fiction graphic novel collection? As libraries continue to take on new roles, like being makerspaces, community event centers, and providers of social services, shelf space for physical collection can be a premium commodity making it difficult to segment space for a new collection.

Persepolis CoverPersonally, I am an advocate for Dewey-ing non-fiction graphic novel collections. There are so many well researched, high quality non-fiction graphic novels being created right now that you can create a sizeable non-fiction graphic novel collection. Memoirs have especially taken off after the success of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and have become routine additions to graphic novel collections. Another recent trend is to convert original non-fiction books into graphic novels like A People’s History of American Empire by Howard Zinn based on his book A People’s History of the United States and The Torture Report and The 9/11 Report, graphic novelizations of government reports by Sid Jacobsen, Jane Mayer, and Ernie Colon. If you give these graphic novels the same Dewey Number as the original editions, it will be easy to create collocation for these items. Even if you create a separate non-fiction graphic novel collection, assigning the same Dewey Numbers will create an ease for patrons and staff.

Dewey-ing out graphic novels also gives prestige and legitimacy to graphic novels. I know it seems like comic books have become ubiquitous in modern society, but there are many who still scoff at their merits as literature and art. There is something interesting about the Dewey Decimal System as a gate keeper that gives credence to an item, that it has gone through a vetting process to ensure it’s an accepted part of human knowledge. One of my favorite phrases as a cataloger is that you’ve got to make graphic novels an option. If someone who is an avid non-fiction reader searches a library’s catalog for a specific topic and, because you’ve Dewed your graphic novel collection, picks a graphic novel, isn’t that a good thing? A good way to provide access to something they may not otherwise consider. These graphic novels are well researched and thought out and can be of great for people interested in a specific topic.

Finally, Dewey-ing your collection can be a powerful collection development too. While every ILS provides different reports, think of what you could learn comparing the circulation and browsing of non-fiction graphic novels versus their standard book edition. You can see what types of non-fiction graphic novels your patrons are interested in. Many non-fiction graphic novels are published by smaller presses as well, so it can give you an indication of if your patrons want books from larger publishers or smaller presses.

It is important to consistently evaluate cataloging practices to see if they are best serving your patrons and library functions. Get feedback from front line staff and patrons themselves about ways to improve access to your collections. I know from experience that re-classifying entire collections are time consuming, but talk to your ILS provider and system administrator to see if there are any shortcuts which could make the process easier.

Do you Dewey your graphic novels? Why or why not? Let me know on Twitter @librnwithissues

Colossal Read Alikes

2017.12 Interview (1)While many people have been analyzing the new Thor: Ragnorok trailer frame by frame, I’ve been anticipating Nacho Vigalondo’s new film Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis out in theaters next Friday. Luckily, I was able to attend an advanced screening followed by a Q&A with Vigalondo and hearing him talk about the film only made me love it more.

Colossal is about Gloria who has been kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment because of her drinking, partying to the morning, and being unemployed. So, she moves back to her hometown where her elementary school friend Oscar has inherited his family’s bar, and offers her a part time job. After a night of heavy drinking, Gloria finds out a giant monster has attacked Seoul, and she soon discovers she might have something to do with it. Wrapped in an old style Kaiju film, Colossal deals with issues like gender politics, domestic violence, and self-agency in a way rarely seen in modern cinema. Funny, tragic, and entertaining, Colossal has it all.

In honor of Colossal, I’ve picked some of my favorite monster books for you to check out until you can see the film because, believe me, this is one you won’t want to miss.

2017.12 kaijumaxKaijumax
Written and drawn by Zander Cannon
Published by Oni Press

In a world where giant monsters are part of the norm, what do you do when you apprehend a kaiju that has destroyed a city? You send them to Kaijumax, a prison for giant monsters run by Power Ranger-esque guards who can transform into ginormous mechs. Electrogorg, one of the newest prisoners of Kaijumax, is a single father with one goal; make sure my kids are ok. But when you’ve got rival prison gangs, like the Crypts, J-Pop, Megafauna and Mechs, planning their next moves and seeking new recruits, guards smuggling in drugs, and a new big Kaiju to contend with, Electrogorg begins to lose hope of ever being reunited with his kids. While the premise may seem tame and the colorful artistic style fun, this book explores the major issues in the modern prison system in a brutally honest fashion.

2017.12 Attack on Titan Attack on Titan
Written and Illustrated by Hajime Isayama
Published by Kodansha Comics

One thing that makes giant monsters so scary is their foreignness, the grotesque nature of their physicality and their divorce from the pure human form. In Isayama’s long running manga series Attack on Titan, the monsters are unique because they are giant humanoids known as titans who mindlessly roam the world, consuming humans for no apparent reason. Humans have decided to protect themselves from the titans by living behind 100-meter-high walls, all of humanity in three concentric, circular kingdoms, each with their unique social system. Following several young recruits in the defense corps, Attack on Titan is a fun, quick dystopian read filled with intriguing characters and a unique future historical setting.

 Gronk coverGronk
Written and Illustrated by Katie Cook
Published by Action Lab

 Gronk is a bad monster, very bad! So bad that she’s left the monsterdome and has been adopted by a human named Dale, and her two pets, Kitty, a cat, and Harli, a large Newfoundland dog. Dale enjoys her secluded life in the Canadian woods of being creative, the perfect place for Gronk to hide without causing too much suspicion. Originally a webcomic, these short, four panel comics are reminiscent of the Sunday funnies, but for all ages. Gronk’s exploration of the human world and Dale’s unwavering nerdiness proves a little green monster can bring many hours of joy to readers of all ages.

Monstress cover Monstress
Written by Marjorie Liu
Illustrated by Sana Takeda
Published by Image Comics

High fantasy stories have not always been my cup of tea. Either the world is not immersive enough for me to buy into the premise or it is so removed from reality that I have no way to relate to. In Monstress, the balance is perfect as Maiko navigates the world of the Arcanic, magical creatures with animalistic elements, and the Cumea who use the Aracnic to fuel their magical powers. An Arcanic herself, Maika Halfwolf harbors an old evil within her which may be defeated if she can learn the secrets of her mother. The world building in this comic is stunning. It uses Asian centric cultures as a starting point and pulls a lot of artistic influences from that. For a more subtle, but just as scary, monster story, Monstress is an excellent choice and reminds me a lot of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy.

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

Note how I’m not putting down any specific books to represent the amazing Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Kirby, one of the comic book pioneers wrote a lot of silver age comics like Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, which contains the origins of some superheroes and villains still around today, including Magneto and Iron Man, Fing Fang Foom and Groot and other out of this world monsters like Klagg and Gorgilla. What I like most looking at his monster comics is comparing it to his romance comics, which he also pioneered. Steve Ditko, who worked with Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, worked in the pulp comics of the 60s and 70s under Eerie and Creepy Magazine. Later, he drew comic adaptations of mega monster movie characters like Konga and Gorgo. Seriously, go do a Google Image search for Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and monsters and you will see innovative creature design and an amazing gallery of covers. Then, you know, go check out some of their books.

2017.12 Interview (2)I really encourage you to go see Colossal. I don’t want to spoil too much before it’s released wide, but I’d love to know your thoughts on it! Also, do you have any monster comics you’d recommend to someone? Let me know by tweeting me @librnwithissues using the hashtag #ColossalComics.

If you’d like to check out one of Vigalondo’s shorts, I recommend 7:35 in the Morning a short film with a surprising twist.

Comedic Comics

Comic books and cartoons have been a mainstay of humorous entertainment for a long time. First political cartoons, then the Sunday Funnies, and the weekly comics have provided laughs for generations and have transformed a lot over the years. Plus, the people who work in comics are pretty funny too, just check out this amazingly coordinated April Fool’s jokes  and these awesome Image April Fool’s crossover covers. I’ve been reading a lot of funny comics lately, so in honor of April Fool’s Day I wanted to share with you a few that I’ve really liked.

2017.11 ChewChew is a long-running, recently ended series from John Layman and Rob Guillory published by Image comics, about Tony Chu, a cibopath who can get psychic impressions from the food he eats. His gift makes him an excellent agent for the FDA, the most powerful form of law enforcement in this alternative world where poultry is banned after an “avian flu” gets out of control. The premise itself is a bit outlandish and only gets more bizarre as the 12 volumes goes on, but where Chew really hits it’s comedic stride is in the attention to detail in Guillory’s art. One thing non-comics readers often state a why they don’t like comics is because they like to envision the world themselves instead of having an artist illustrate the world for them. However, Chew strikes a beautiful balance between witty dialog and richly designed, humorous world building. Details like posters in a doctor’s office that read, “Chill Pill—now a REAL thing!” or a folder on Chu’s desk reading, “Various Weird Food Crimes File 207” make reading this book only once not an option. Plus, the titles of the trades are too delicious to pass up!

I hate fairyland coverSkottie Young is one of my favorite author/artists right now. If you aren’t following him on Instagram, his sketch of the day is often the highlight of my Instagram browsing. His Image book, I Hate Fairyland, with Jean-Francois Beaulieu, is an interplay of parody and wordplay that makes it both humorous and intelligent. Gertrude enters Fairyland a wondrous child, but after decades stuck in the neon sky, talking landscape, cheerful anthropomorphic animal inhabited land, she has some slight deficiencies which make her an extremely humorous character. Imagine being a thirty year old in the body of an eight year old. What sort of things can you tell yourself to distract from your body dysphoria? Gert has never been exposed to many of the things which form an adult personality, most notably, swear words. The language used by Gert is the hallmark of the humor of this book. Variant covers title “F*ck Fairyland” juxtaposed with the innocent swear words like “Mother Fluffer,” “Muffin Hugger,” and “Fluff” make for a jarring experience. While the language used in I Hate Fairyland leads to many laughs, the parody of traditional fairy tale tropes, like unaware citizens, cruel dictators, and small, disaffected sidekicks make this book feel like the politically correct fairy tales on an acid trip that will make you rethink all the dangers children in fairy tales face.

Comics can be inherently funny. Men in spandex, crazy hairdos, and that terrible phase in the 90s when men had too many muscles for the human body and pouches galore, 2017.11 Howardgive creators a lot of material to poke fun at. Deadpool uses these stereotypes and flips them upside down, creating a polar opposite version of the standard superhero. He’s a merc with a mouth, and there ain’t no pretty face under that mask, but he uses the superhero genre as a platform for reflection, especially when breaking the fourth wall and providing direct commentary to the reader. Another comic which utilizes this writing technique is Howard the Duck. Howard is an anthropomorphic, hard-boiled detective duck who is hard to take seriously. Like Deadpool, he breaks the fourth wall to provide commentary to the reader, akin to old detective films where the leading man supplies narrative voice overs. But he is still a duck, the only one of his kind, and he chooses to come to Earth to be a detective. Doesn’t make much sense, but in Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, Veronica Fish, and Joe Rivera’s run, things get more meta than usual with Howard latest case.

What are your favorite comedic comics? Here are some other favorites of mine right now.

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Comic Book Club – Women’s History Month

March, Women’s History Month, has brought out a lot of great information about women comics creators and women comic book characters. While we are rounding out Women’s History Month, it is still important to feature female characters and creators all year around. For this month’s Comic Book Club, I’m featuring three comic books which would be excellent book club picks for kids, teens, and adults which feature well rounded characters and intriguing, complex stories.

For Kids
DC Superhero GirlsDc Superhero Girls Cover
Written by Shea Fontana
Art by Yancey Labat
Colors by Monica Kubina
Lettered by Janice Chiang
Published by DC Comics

In the world of high school aged DC Superheroes, it is important for those with great power to learn how to use and control their powers. At Super Hero High School, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, among others, learn how to be the best they can be under the tutelage of principal Amanda Waller and vice-principal Gorilla Grodd. In Finals Crisis, readers are introduced to our superhero cast and what makes them unique among this elite group of individuals. In Hits and Myths, Wonder Woman tries to balance her demi-god, do-it-all status while planning a sleepover on Themyscira and trying to find their missing demon teacher, no he’s not evil, just a demon, and the Batplane… Balancing school and life is difficult for any teenager, but when you also feel responsible for rescuing people, it can feel even more daunting. Even though these books are about pretty rote comic book characters, the stories are incredibly relatable and are a good jumping on point for kids who may venture into the teen area for more standard superhero texts. Plus, there are several novels in the DC Superhero Girls franchise, so this might be a good way to get novel readers to read graphic novels and vice versa.

Possible Discussion Questions:
Which character do you relate to the most? Wonder Woman is pretty self-conscious about her role as a demi-god. Harley Quinn is always up for a party. Supergirl is fairly shy and homesick. Do you feel like any of these characters when you are at school?

What issues do you deal with at school and at home? How do you think the students at Super Hero High School deal with the same issues as you?

In Hits and Myths, the artist uses two different art styles, one for the main storyline and another when the students are reading The Odyssey. Do you like this storytelling technique? Have you ever read a book that seemed to be exactly like what you were going through in your life?

For Teens
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina coverChilling Adventures of Sabrina
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack
Lettering by Jack Morelli
Published by Archie Comics
Please note this book does contain nudity

One staple of the teenage sleepover is popping popcorn, turning off all the lights, and watching a scary movie. Touchstones from my childhood include The Candyman, The Exorcist, and Child’s Play; The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another spooky story to add to the staples of a good teenaged horror story. Many you people have some notion of who Sabrina the Teenaged Witch is, she’s been in a live action and animated television series along with a novel series, but her character is much older than Melissa Joan Hart. Originally appearing in 1971, Sabrina is a character in Archie Comics, living in the nearby town of Greendale with her spinster aunts, Hilda and Zelma, her cousin Amboise, and her familiar Salem, a warlock who has been permanently transformed into a cat. The daughter of a Warlock and a mortal, Sabrina is learning the magical arts from her aunts until she must commit herself to the craft at 16 by performing a ritual and signing the devil’s book. She must also keep her identity secret from her mortal boyfriend Harvey, which becomes much more difficult when a woman from her father’s past, Madam Satan, meddles in Greendale’s affairs. This incarnation takes a much darker look at the Sabrina origin story mashing together numerous tropes from 60s and 70s horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and Halloween. Sabrina’s teenaged curiosity and hesitation causes her to make half decisions which lead to huge problems.

Possible Discussion Questions:
What horror movies did you think about while reading Sabrina?

How was Sabrina’s relationship different with her aunts, her cousin, and Harvey?

Being a teenaged witch gives Sabrina a lot of power. Do you think that’s something she thinks about when deciding to become a witch or not?

This is Robert Hack’s first time drawing interiors for a comic. What do you think of his art style? The panel layout? The colors?

For Adults
Barbarella CoverBarbarella and the Wrath of the Minute-Eater
Written and Illustrated by Jean-Claude Forest
Adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Published by Humanoids

I lived in France for a semester and read a lot of French comics. Their style and storytelling techniques vary greatly from the American superhero staples. I have been a fan of the film Barbarella since I first saw it in my teenage years and had always been interested in reading it and I think a lot of women are interested in reading it because it’s a sexual revolution classic. Barbarella is a 41st century astronaut who travels the galaxy looking for adventure. She does what she wants, when she wants, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. This book contains the story which the 1968 Jane Fonda film is based on in which Barbarella finds herself stuck on the planet Lythion in a prison labyrinth with strange creatures and a cruel ruler. The Wrath of the Minute-Eaters follow’s the Circus Delirium, Barbarella’s traveling circus, as they enter into a battle for the planet Spectra at the manipulation of the new circus act, an aquaman named Narval.

Possible Discussion Questions:
Think about this book in the context of the 1960s and 70s. Do you find the situations Barbarella gets herself into to be liberating or demeaning? Do you have a favorite pun or witty remark?

Barbarella is an incredibly independent woman. She travels were she wants to, saves those she wants to, sleeps with whomever she wants to. How do you think Barbarella got to be this way?Barbarella is often compared to Red Sonja, Vampirella, and Jodelle, cornerstones of sexual revolution portrayed in comics. Can you think of any other comics, contemporary or historical, which represent the sexual revolution like Barbarella?

How do you think first wave (gain women’s right in the political realm through suffrage and property rights), second wave (workplace, sexuality, family and reproductive rights), third wave (further diminish the separation of men and women and deconstruct stereotypes and language used to describe women) would react to Barbarella?

What would you do to update Barbarella for a modern audience?

Trade Watching – Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys #1

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys #1
Author Anthony Del Col
Artist Werther Dell’Edera
Colorist Stefano Simeone
Letters Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite

Famous literary characters and works have been adapted into graphic novels and single issue comic books for quite some time and have covered a wide span of classic and contemporary literature. Marvel Illustrated, an imprint of Marvel Comics, started in 2007 and adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Eric Shanower & Skottie Young’s Wizard of Oz series. As licensed properties have increased in popularity, there has also been a rise in old characters making new appearances.

Last week, comics saw the resurrection of childhood literary classic characters Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. At over 85 years old, there are reasons why the teenaged detectives still resonate with contemporary readers. Their original, post-depression era perspectives on the prosperity of the United States was far from the plucky, wholesome teens of the 1960s and show how their characters morph to the current socioeconomic and political climate. While they have made appearances in graphic novel form from the children’s graphic novel publisher Papercuts, this new rendition of the classic detectives is not for the young of heart.

The first page of this issues hits full force with nostalgia featuring the sleepy New England town of Bayport, which may be a friendly place to live if you are not Frank and Joe Hardy. Their father, a corrupt cop taking bribes, had disgraced his family and their town and pitted Frank and Joe against each other in regards to their father’s innocence. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Comic Cover #1As the Hardy Boys soon learn, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children because they are quickly taken into custody in their father’s perhaps not-so apparent suicide. The story quickly moves from a nostalgic driven narrative to a hard-boiled police procedural with a good cop/bad cop dichotomy when a mysterious birdie emerges from a clock, and an old friend  returns with a plan to find who really killed their father.

This book is a collaboration of Anthony Del Col, co-author of Kill Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes vs Harry Houdini, and Assassin’s Creed and artist Werther Dell’Edera of G.I. Joe and Detective Comics. Del Col’s experience morphing established characters into new forms lends itself well to the Hardy Boys. These brothers, who obviously love each other, are being torn apart over the controversy surrounding their father, a story told in many classic tales. Use of heavy narration by the Hardy Boys is overwrought and doesn’t lend itself well to the comic book medium because the art at times became ignorable because it is not integral to the storytelling. Also, the title is Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, though we aren’t introduce to Nancy properly in this issue.

Colors also play an important part in this issue. As the timeline shifts from the interrogation room to the past and present timelines, shadows are used for their intensity and chaotic nature in the integration room while brighter, matte colors are used for present day scenes of teenage life. The overall tone of the book is darker that many readers would expect from a nostalgic title.

For readers who enjoy a good femme fatale, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys may fit the bill in a lighter tone than Ed Brubaker’s Fatale and Fade Out. These teen detectives deal with hardcore issues in a serious manner. I’m excited to see where this book goes over the next few issues and think it will be a hit for adult fans who grew up with these teen detectives.