Author: Allie Brosh
Title: Hyperbole and a Half
Publication Info: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013.
The deliberately crudely-illustrated comics from Allie Brosh’s classic Hyperbole and a Half blog are collected here in book form. Brosh’s writing and drawing based on her life is both hilarious and poignant. Her works on depression and motivation (or lack thereof) are particularly brilliant, and make me feel that she gets me. She also writes a lot about her dogs and their lack of intelligence and a particularly belly-guffawing story of her house invaded by a goose. The colorful pictures also attracted my two-year-old daughter who kept picking up that book whenever I wasn’t reading it. This book should be read by one and all.
Recommended books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2010)
Summary/Review: The Tenth Doctor’s adventures from Fugitive continue with his new companions Emily and Matt heading on divergent paths. Emily becomes a stronger character driven to action while Matt consumed by jealousy is drawn to evil. There’s also a 5D spaceship, Martha Jones and UNIT, and Greenwich Park under attack by trees. As I noted on the previous volume, the comic format allows for a visual imagination that would not likely be convincing in a televised format but on the other hand the dialogue seems spare and simplistic.
Author: Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle, & Mike Konopacki
Title: A People’s History of American Empire
When I was a kid I inherited my uncle’s Mad magazine collection which had some comic books mixed in including a three-part series about the Civil War. This was a hagiographic history where all the soldiers called one another “Billy Yank” and “Johnny Reb” done in the style of Classics Illustrated.
A People’s History of American Empire is a very different comic book history. Based on Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as well as Zinn’s own life this is a graphic depiction of the times in American history where the nation failed to live up to the standards of liberty and equality for all. Mainly this involves the repression of people within the United States (Indians, blacks, immigrants, and labor), wars in foreign lands (Phillipines, Vietnam, and Iraq) and intervention into the autonomy of other nations (Iran, El Salvador, and many more) for the benefit of powerful and wealth American elite. A comic version of Zinn narrates the book frequently turning over the story to characters contemporary to the events described. Interspersed in this narrative are stories of the social movements in America such as Civil Rights, labor, and anti-war.
I particular found it interesting in the parts that covered events I’d only heard of or knew nothing about, such as:
- The Black 25th Infantry who fought valiantly at San Juan Hill but were denied credit.
- The Jitterbug Riot
- The counter-cultural protests of R&B fandom in the 1950’s.
- The Diem Regime and South Vietnam “essentially a creation of the United States.”
- The Second Battle of Wounded Knee
- Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
This is a good introduction to the other side of American history in a brief and well-illustrated manner.
Recommended books: Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen
Around The World For a Good Book selection for: Côte d’Ivoire
Author: Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie
Publication Info: Drawn and Quarterly (2007)https://othemts.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel is set in Yop City, a working class neighborhood in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in the 1970’s when the nation was prosperous and chic. Abouet deliberately sets out to tell a story about Africa that is not about poverty and warfare. The story is centered around the daily lives and flirtations of three young women. <SPOILER> Of course there is some heavy stuff here when one of the young women becomes pregnant and is forced into marriage with the son of a wealthy Boss, but Abouet plays if off for comedy with the grown-ups as comic caricatures. </SPOILER>. Oubrerie vibrantly illustrates this book bringing out the beautiful colors of the clothing and the city as well as the humanity of the characters. I learned about this book via The Hieroglyphic Streets, where you can find more reviews, and apparently there are sequels that are worth checking out too.
Recommended Books: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Pride of Baghdad (2006) by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichom is a graphic novel based on a true story of four lions escaping the Baghdad Zoo after an American bombing raid. Unfortunately the premise is better than the execution. Mind you, the illustration for this book are gorgeous in their detail, even in the grim and gory parts. In my little experience with graphic novels it seems that more time spent on the art the less the story is fleshed out in an interesting way. That seems to be the case here as the anthropomorphic big cats head out on their adventure into somewhat contrived situations and corny dialog. It’s not as bad as all that, it’s a great story, I just think it could be better. I don’t want to give things away but the most moving part for is simply the words imposed over the last two page spreads.
Marjane Satrapi returns with another harrowing, introspective, and funny graphic memoir in Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (2004). Picking up where Persepolis left off, one can forget any preconceived notions of the difficulties of adolescence. Sure Marji is facing mood swings, sudden changes in her body and unpopularity among her peers. She’s also coming-of-age in a foreign country and she’s all on her own. Her family is still in Iran in the midst of a bloody war and repressive regime.
Sent to live in Austria, she soon finds herself unwelcome at the home of relatives and in a convent where she was sent. So she finds a room to rent and begins study at a French Lycee. At school she befriends a group of punks and anarchists but never fits in even with these marginals. She slowly descends into loneliness, depression, drug abuse, and life on the streets of Vienna.
And so she returns home to her family and friends in Iran. Of course this is not the expected panacea as people of Iran have been living with war, repression and martyrdom. Marji has difficulty relating her own troubles in such context, and yet they are still vividly real to her. Always the rebellious youth, and even more reckless due to learning Western ways, she mouths off to authority but manages to scrape by without punishment. Her life becomes one of study by day and illegal parties by night. Despite the obstacles she is able to attend university for art studies and marry the man of her choice, although neither work out as well as she hopes. At the end, after her divorce and realizing once again that there’s very little opportunity in Iran, Marji leaves Iran once again.