Tag Archive for raina telgemeier

2014 Comics Superlatives

As I started rounding up the comics I liked this year, I saw a pattern, so I made a joke:

And then I just decided to go with it.
This is not a definitive list but these are all comics, creators, events and projects from 2014 I want to recognize. I think we can all agree that 2014 was a pretty remarkable year for comics.

Review: The Best American Comics 2014

best-american-2014I am not going to go into my thoughts on The Best American Comics  since I’ve already covered that pretty well (I flipped through but did not read either the 2012 or 2013 editions). They are what they are, honestly, and that’s more of a good thing than a bad thing.

Except this year, it’s only a good thing. The Best American Comics 2014 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) is a masterful collection of where the medium of comics is right now. If you need a primer, this is it. If you just want to have all these amazing comics in one volume you can take with you, this is it. This has set the standard for what all the following The Best American Comics books need to be.

Under the guidance of new series editor Bill Kartalopoulos (who, among many other things he does, always puts together incredible programming for Small Press Expo), it does feel like the direction of what these books should be has changed. While I have no problem with what former series editors Matt Madden and Jessica Abel were doing, Kartalopoulos brings a curator’s eye to this collection, seeking out the new and the different, and wanting to highlight new creators alongside the legends. It all goes into a wonderful pool to choose from.

This year’s editor is Scott McCloud, and his background as a comics creator, teacher and thinker shows through. He is obviously excited about comics all the time and his enthusiasm shows through. He organizes the comics here into categories and provides context for each section. It gives the volume a structure and flow that has been lacking in previous ones. Even as much as I know about comics (and many of these creators), I found this to be insightful and informative.

Yes, you’ll still find most of the usual suspects here — the book starts selections from Jaime Hernandez, Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine and R. Crumb — but that’s dispensed with quickly (and wisely). Other than an extended look at Chris Ware’s Building Stories, the rest of the collection is full more recent legends and unknown creators — from Raina Telgmeier (it’s a delight to see Drama highlighted here) to Michael DeForge to Sam Alden (whose gorgeous Hawaii 1997 is included here).

Even crossover favorites like Brian K. Vaughan’s and Fiona Staple’s Saga and Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads get nods here. Instead of coming across as “I too like popular comics” on the part of McCloud, it feels more like “These are really great comics and I wanted to share them!”

Did anything surprise me here? I certainly loved that Allie Brosh’s “Depression Part II” is put with all these great comics because it deserves to be there. It’s fun to see an excerpt from Lale Westvind’s Hyperspeed to Nowhere #2 and selections from Richard Thompson’s Cul de Sac in this book, too. I appreciate that McCloud didn’t shy away from including more experimental comics from Aidan Koch and Erin Curry.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read most or none of these comics before. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to discover new creators or just want to enjoy some old favorites. Whether you know nothing about comics or that’s all you read, The Best American Comics 2014 is for you.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Briefly noted:

I’m still going through my stack of comics from Small Press Expo (and the comics I bought afterward), but I just wanted to highlight a few I’ve read lately and have enjoyed.

  • Weird Me Vol. 1 by Kelly Phillips – Phillips tells her tale of her days managing a Weird Al fansite. It’s hilarious and sweet. Her art carries a good sense of setting and emotion and her page layouts are dynamic. I am looking forward to Vol. 2 way too much (in fact, after finishing this, I immediately went online to ask when it was going to be done.)
  • The Secret of Angel Food Cake by Hannah Lee Stockdale – I have read this comic way too many times and after I failed to see her at SPX, she kindly sent me the print version. There is just something so lovely and quiet about the storytelling. And I like the way Stockdale draws dogs. If you draw good dogs, I like your comics.
  • Hair by Matt Lubchansky – This minicomic is basically just a punchline you can guess from the beginning, but it’s still a good one. Lubchansky’s comic is funny and playful — characters are all wide-eyes and exaggerated movements — and things that could be horrifying just come across as silly. Also, great use of spot color.

Library Con at Petworth Neighborhood Library & Comics by Women

library-conYesterday, I was a speaker at Library Con at the Petworth Neighborhood Library. It was a small, mostly family-oriented event but well-organized and fun. I am always going to be a fan of events that make comics — of all genres and styles — more accessible to more people.

I first saw Jacob Mazer of Animal Kingdom Publishing discuss his work and the anthology of comics, prose, poetry and criticism he edits. It’s still a young publication, but I definitely think there’s room in the world for more things like this, allowing comics to reach audiences they may not otherwise. Not everything in the second issue is to my tastes, but there is some thought-provoking work in it.

Then I saw Gareth Hinds, whose adaptation of Romeo and Juliet came out last year. He talked about always loving to draw as a child and comics ended up coming naturally to him. He worked in video games for a long time before quitting to create graphic novels full-time. He broke down his process for each book and I was interested to hear he changes techniques and styles for each specific book. He also spoke about the challenges of adapting classic literature.

After that, it was my turn. I talked about comics by women (what else?) and I think it went well for it being such a big topic. My concept was not to give history but offer up titles that people can buy right now. I had a good discussion with the attendees too.

You can download my PowerPoint presentation or a PDF of it, but I’ve also created a list of the creators and titles I discussed below (with links to their websites where appropriate).

I have reviewed some of these books and written more about some of these creators. You should be able to find what you need through the tags.


 lumberjanesMainstream: Superheroes

Mainstream: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Children and Young Adult Comics



  • Kyoko Okazaki: Pink, Helter Skelter
  • Moto Hagio: A Drunken Dream, The Heart of Thomas
  • Takako Shimura: Wandering Son
  • Moyoco Anno: In Clothes Called Fat, Insufficient Direction

UK, Europe and Around the World

  • Mary Talbot: The Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, Sally Heathcoate: Suffragette
  • Isabel Greenberg: Encyclopedia of Early Earth
  • Julie Maroh: Blue is the Warmest Color
  • Marguerite Abouet: Aya series
  • Rutu Modan: Exit Wounds, The Property

strong-femaleOnline comics

Minicomics & cutting-edge creators

Through the WoodsPublishers, groups and events

Top Picks of Comics by Women for 2014

Special Guest Review: Molly on Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Note from Eden: My friend Molly is a huge Raina Telgemeier fan, so when her father, Dan, told me they had found an advance reader copy of Sisters (Scholastic/Graphix, 2014) in a charity shop and Molly wanted to review it, I asked if I could post it when it was done.

They kindly said yes. I was delighted. It’s truly better than anything I would write about it and Molly even made a video!

sistersRaina Telgemeier’s new book, Sisters, is truly extraordinary, great and awesome. It tells the reader another story from Raina’s past. Raina always wanted a sister, but when she finally got her wish it was not as nice as she thought it would be. Raina and her sister, Amara, were very different and liked different things, which made things difficult between them at some points. Raina had wanted someone to play with, while Amara was the kind of girl who wanted to play by herself a lot. But they both loved drawing. Most of the story is about the family’s road trip and has several flashbacks.

The story kinda reminds me of me and my brothers. One of brothers and I do not get along that well and fight a lot (like Raina and Amara). One of my other brothers thinks that I steal the spotlight all the time, just like Amara accuses Raina. My brothers say things sometimes to get on my nerves, so reading this book kind of reminded me of me and them.

If you read Raina Telgemeier’s new book, you are going to love it. At the end you might still have some questions left about this or that, but you will still love it. I am a fan myself so you can trust me, Molly.

Buy Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Sisters! Coming soon.

Molly, 11, lives in Virginia with her brothers and parents. She likes to draw and make comics.

Comics & Medicine Conference 2014: From Private Lives to Public Health

comics-medicineI heard it a few times when I mentioned I was going to the Comics & Medicine Conference 2014 — “I’m surprised there’s enough about that for there to be an entire conference.”

I would always happily point out that one of the top-selling graphic novels in recent years is an autobiographical tale about a girl’s experiences with dental trauma.

I am, of course, talking about Raina Telgemeier’s Smile.

And after mentioning that, people do begin to realize just how huge the topic of comics dealing with health, illness and medicine can be.

In so many ways, comics are uniquely suited to communicating about health, whether it’s personal stories or instructive information. After all, comics marries visual elements with words and it becomes more effective than either one could be alone.

I attended Comics & Medicine as a guest of Small Press Expo (we were one of the sponsors) and while I was only able to attend on Saturday, I was so thrilled I got to go.

To be clear: This was, at its core, an academic conference. While many comic creators were involved, the focus was on presenting papers and sharing knowledge. This was absolutely reflected in the sessions I attended.

The presenters from Shared Experience: Time, Transformation and The Unknown

The presenters from Shared Experience: Time, Transformation and The Unknown

The first featured Nicola Streeten discussing a project she was involved in where she told a story from the perspectives of both the doctor and the patient. Army Capt. Joshua M. Leone presented his paper about how comics can help servicemembers heal from trauma through the closure they can provide. MJ Jacob shared personal insights into how creating comics — or being unable to — helped her deal with her depression in unexpected ways. (Henny Beaumont was scheduled but unable to attend.) All three presenters were discussing personal stories — whether they were their own stories or someone else’s — and how comics could provide different perspectives and connection to the world in an intimate and powerful way.

I then attended most of the Health Education and Accessibility presentations, which brought up topics I hadn’t thought much about. Two from Research Triangle Institute International discussed their process of creating two comics in partnership with Naval Health Research Center and Headquarters Marine Corps to help servicemembers with psychological stresses. Dana Marlowe then discussed accessibility issues when it comes to online comics.

Ellen Forney

Ellen Forney presents Marbles

The outreach to military servicemembers — both in terms of creating comics for them and helping them create their own comics — seemed to be a small focus of the conference. I was unable to attend it, but James Sturm did discuss some of the work he’s done with a VA medical center in Vermont. Overall, the therapeutic aspects of comics is one most people there seemed very excited about exploring further.

Ellen Forney was the final keynote speaker for Saturday. She presented in abbreviated form the first two chapters of Marbles, her honest, emotional and informative account of learning she had bipolar disorder and then learning to cope with it. It was book I’ve read and loved (it’s a tough read in places but also fun and often funny) but I didn’t quite realize until Saturday just how educational it was. She outlines not only her personal experiences with bipolar disorder but also offers a great deal of factual information about it and its treatment.

And I think that was really the best part of this experience — I certainly felt like I knew about the connection between comics and issues of health, illness and medicine, but I began to realize just how much comics had taught me about these subjects. Reading Marbles, I didn’t realize how much about mental illness I was actually learning. And I know that Smile often gets passed between young friends when they first get their braces. I also think about the delightful work people like Cathy Leamy (who it was great to see briefly!) when it comes to issues of women’s health (Mindful Drinking was one of my favorite comics from last year, period!).


Attendees shop in the marketplace after the conference presentations

I think more so than anything else, comics offer an easy point of connection. Maybe you don’t want to watch a graphic video of a surgery; maybe a medical text is too dry; but a comic can find the right balance of personal, informative and entertaining.

As someone who is not in the field of health or medicine, or even someone who really creates comics, it was incredibly inspiring to see what wonderful work all these people are doing. I know I left wanting to know more and how I can contribute to this field somehow.

(Special thanks to conference organizer Lydia Gregg and John Hopkins University for hosting.)