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Book Group > March 2013 - Graphic Novels

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message 1: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
Hi everyone! Welcome to our March book discussion on Graphic Novels!

Each month we'll announce the theme and you choose the book you want to read.

Graphic Novels have been popular for decades, and have also grown up a lot from their comic books days to become a respected part of the literary canon. Are you a graphic aficionado, a manga lover, or are you someone who has never given this format a chance? Well, this is your chance to branch out and read something you never would pick up otherwise! DC lovers can try something by Marvel, manga readers can pick up an American title, and maybe some readers who are new to GNs will find a title they fall in love with.

Here are a few initial questions to get you started thinking as you read:
Why is this story told in a graphic format? How would it be different if it were just text? Did you like the style of art? Did you feel that style complemented or distracted from the story?

Graphic novels encompass an incredibly diverse set of titles since the term describes a format rather than a genre. That said, we have some suggestions to get your search started.
Check out our Graphic Novels bookshelf for ideas, or pick a book from below.

History, Biography and Memoir
Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Watchmen by Alan Moore
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
Blackest Night by Geoff Johns
Kick-Ass by Mark Millar
Captain America: Reborn by Ed Brubaker

Series that become addictive (consider this your warning):
Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan
Aya by Marguerite Abouet
The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
Bone by Jeff Smith
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Standalone novels:
Habibi by Craig Thompson
300 by Frank Miller
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

Please post a comment letting us all know what you plan to read and suggesting any graphic novels you’ve particularly enjoyed or think would make for interesting discussion. While I have plenty of personal favorites, I am certainly not an expert on this format, so if I’ve left out something major, let us know about it!

message 2: by Tim (new)

Tim (timothymey) | 20 comments I've been meaning to re-read Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History and Maus, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began for years, so this topic is great for me.

I'd also like to plug two of my all-time favorites: American Elf: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries, Vol. 1 and Box Office Poison.

James Kochalka's American Elf compiles his daily journal entries in comic form over the course of five years. Some days the single panel comics are brilliantly profound, some days they are completely nonsensical, but they're always amusing, and more often than not, heartwarming as well.

As a former longtime bookstore employee, Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison will always have a special place in my heart, and anyone who's worked in retail, or even just in a job they didn't particularly love, will appreciate this one.

This month's topic should turn out to be a lot of fun. Personally, I can't wait to get started...

message 3: by Ariana (new)

Ariana | 2 comments Like Tim, this topic is great for me as well. I love manga. I don't think that I've listed even half of the manga that I have read on Goodreads, though I've listed a good bit. I have read some graphic novels to, and generally they flow a bit differently than the manga I have read. Manhwa, Korean graphic novels, also flow a bit differently as well. I have just found in general that I have a preference for the manga format. Perhaps my American GN literacy skills are just not as well-formed. Doesn't stop me from recommending things though!

Like Maria mentioned because graphic novels are so diverse there is something for everyone. When I want something light, fun and something I can recommend to younger children I can start with a title like Chi's Sweet Home or any of the Polo books. I was just recommending some of Junji Ito's other works to a horror manga fan as well as Hiroaki Samura's Brad Harley no Basha for something truly disturbing.

Speaking of disturbing, I have to admit, I had a bit of a hard time with Habibi. I thought it was a really good read, I do think that Thompson did his research and the artwork was beautiful, but the sexual violence reverberated in my head for days. There were elements that I thought were interesting and raised some questions for me as a Muslim, but I think I was ultimately disturbed by the violence. Perhaps that was the point. Hope it's not just a personal thing, it's not completely related, but I enjoyed Persepolis a lot! Maybe I'll try to read Blankets next.

In any case, looking forward to some interesting reads and recs!

message 4: by Maria (last edited Mar 04, 2013 01:51PM) (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
Ariana- I had a hard time with Habibi as well, but I included it because lots of my friends loved it and it got great reviews. But really, I thought the storyline was sort of awkward and the characters were portrayed with an exoticism that made me uncomfortable. Still, the art was SO beautiful.
That said, Blankets is one of my all-time favorite books in any genre. The art is just as beautiful as that in Habibi, and the story is great too! Definitely don't write it off because of his other work.

Tim- Read The Complete Maus! It is just so good!

As for me, I have loved many graphic novels, and probably disliked just as many. I'm planning to read Asterios Polyp for the simple fact that it beckons to me every time I pass its shelf.
Since I pretty much failed at last month's reading of The Virgin Suicides - Eugenides and I just don't click - I'm going to try to read a few GNs this month. I've never read any manga, so I'm open to suggestions of series that the library owns that don't feature superheros or oversexualized girls (is that a lot to ask?).

message 5: by Ariana (new)

Ariana | 2 comments Maria, thanks for the recommendation. I will be sure to check it out.

You can find manga that is not full of super heroes or has oversexualized girls, though there is a large amount of that too. There is a rather broad range of stuff. It's a bit hard because I don't know what each branch has in their manga collection, but looking through the catalog...

I do love Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata. It's a very cute story of a kitten who gets separated from his family and is adopted by a human family. It's very innocent, has a warm, family feeling and is a very quick read. I think we have four volumes in the system, and it's in the children's collection. Along those lines is Baby & Me by Marimo Ragawa, about a school-aged boy and his baby brother.

While there are some hyper-sexualized females in Naruto and Bleach, but I do feel that they are good series and very representative of shounen manga, that is, manga that is characterized as typical for boys. Also, I would recommend Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue. A comic about basketball doesn't seem like it would be all that exciting, but it's really good. Others in the shounen category that we have in the collection would be One Piece, Black Cat and Shaman King. Shounen manga is usually characterized by having a male protagonist and having to do with fighting, a contest or tournament. Believe me, if it's in Shounen Jump, a tournament is in there somewhere. Actually, if you're looking for a series that has an ending, I would recommend Hellsing or Trigun. Great series, a little more grown up, but still has the manga element and tropes that entertain and are slightly campy, but it's pretty good. If you want something dark, Battle Royale is a classic, it's just extremely violent.

For shoujo...I see that we have Host Club, Fruits Basket, the Wallflower (Yamato nadeshiko shichihenge), and Vampire Knight...also Absolute Boyfriend, Cardcaptor Sakura and Otomen. This is actually pretty representative of a lot of different types of shoujo manga. Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon have a magical girl thing going on. Some of these are high school stories with some supernatural element. I think there is shoujo that is okay. I prefer josei myself, but I have read a lot of shoujo. There usually is a romance element running throughout the series. I actually really liked Card Captor Sakura and Fruits Basket. I'm just trying to think of a series that does not run for more than 10 volumes. Paradise Kiss is pretty good and I think it's 4 volumes long. It doesn't have that magical girl element though.

If you're looking for weird slapstick, Lucky Star and Azumanga Daioh are the way to go. There are four panel strips of high school girls, and it's just weird.

I think I'll stop there...I might have went a bit overboard, but looking at the catalog, I think we have some really good series. Sorry I didn't link everything.

message 6: by Maria (last edited Mar 04, 2013 05:09PM) (new)

Maria (remadi) | 1 comments We just got Captain Marvel - Volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight at Shepherd Park Library. It is already checked out to me and I will be reading it later tonight. So happy about a female superhero book and I hope they don't cancel it. (I also like the writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick.

I've been reading best picked books from YALSA's 2012 "best of" lists and I think there's still a graphic novel that I have to read, so that's also on my list.

re: manga. Ariana does a good job explaining different types of manga and giving suggestions. Keeping you in mind, Maria, you might try The Wallflower, Vol. 1 for a shoujo title. Erin mentioned Full Metal Alchemist in the poll comments and that's a good shounen one that I think you might like. I can't remember if you liked the Hunger Games, but it is often compared to Battle Royale, Vol. 1 and so you might like to check it out because of that.

message 7: by Anna (new)

Anna | 3 comments I have to add everything by Joe Sacco into the history category (ex: Palestine, Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia, 1992-1995) and Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile to the highly addictive category (now on book 17!).

I grew up reading comics, though for a while it was limited to flipping through my brothers' collections of X-Men and hoarding editions of Betty and Veronica. That changed when I was introduced to ElfQuest 1: Fire and Flight when I turned 13. I've been a huge fan of the unique storytelling and brilliant artistry of graphic novels ever since.

message 8: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
So many good reviews and recs! I love this group because everyone is so generous with their knowledge :)

Ariana and Maria thank you for the detailed explanation. I want to give both categories/different series a chance to catch my interest, so I'm placing holds on Battle Royale Vol 1 (the darker the better), Wallflower Vol. 1, and Fruits Basket (b/c the premise sounds really funny).

message 9: by Anna (last edited Mar 21, 2013 05:32PM) (new)

Anna | 3 comments OMG. So I stopped by MLK Library the other day to pick up an amazing collection of works from Irish authors (thanks Maria!) and peruse the graphic novel selection.

1. I think that section has doubled since I last visited. Kudos to whoever is curating those shelves. They are doing an amazing job. Which leads me to...

2. I discovered Zahra's Paradise and read it in one night. I couldn't put it down. My list of favorite graphic novels is long, and this one just jumped to the top. I know for a fact that there is at least one more copy available. You should go pick it up asap! For more, you can check out my review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

message 10: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
Well, I read Asterios Polyp, which I had picked out solely because of the cover and probably would not have read if I had known it was about a upper middle class straight white American man having a mid-life crisis. I've read a few too many books with that theme lately and am absolutely sick of it. That said, the story was actually told in a really cool way (by an unborn twin of the protagonist), and I loved the art. The characters had different fonts for their speech which matched their personalities, and even the speech bubbles and the frames surrounding the panels were varied to match the emotional feel of the scene.

My manga holds have come in so on to those now, starting with Battle Royale!

Anna, I'm glad you liked the novellas!

message 11: by Tim (new)

Tim (timothymey) | 20 comments Maria, it seems like mid-life crises are hard to avoid for you right now, was this trend started by Dave Egger's A Hologram for the King, or has this been going on longer? I was considering Asterios Polyp for my next graphic novel, but with your heads-up I'll avoid it for now. Though it is good to know that the author managed to take a tired theme and make something memorable out of it.

I did go back and re-read Maus after ten years, and I think it was even better than I remembered. I didn't recall how stark the scenes involving Art and his father were; in fact, I'd almost completely forgotten about the complex relationship between Art and his father (and the unique interplay that comes about when they must deal with Anja's suicide). I think being a little bit older (and, arguably, more mature) helped me appreciate the book more than I did as an undergrad.

I'm almost done with Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, so I'll let you all know how that one goes soon.

message 12: by Maria (new)

Maria | 159 comments Mod
I wanted to take a moment to promote our very own Graphic Novel Club. It meets on the first Thursday evening of the month at the Georgetown Library, usually at 7, and there is always free pizza and soda.
When I've attended, I've found that the attendees are incredibly knowledgeable and I learn a lot from them.
This month they are reading the graphic interpretation of the Kite Runner, and you can learn more here: http://dclibrary.org/node/34749

message 13: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie (abrakebarbara) | 17 comments I know it is not March anymore...but I thought I would chime in anyway! So I read graphic novels every month no matter what time of year it is....some highlights! I recently read Life With Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier and I loved it so much I put every other GN we have by him at the library on hold and read them. I didn't like any of his other title's as much as Life With Mr. Dangerous, whose main character I identified with an unhealthy amount. Another awesome GN I read this month is Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole Georges. Unfortunately I do not believe DCPL owns it but I will double check. I have always been a fan of Nicole Georges' Invincible Summer: An Anthology comics/anthologies so I was eagerly anticipating her graphic memoir. It does not disappoint - family relationships, animal relationships, death, deception, queer identity, portland, karaoke, etc etc. Of course I loved it. Also her illustration style is the best.

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Books mentioned in this topic

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (other topics)
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (other topics)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (other topics)
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (other topics)
My Friend Dahmer (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

James Kochalka (other topics)
Alex Robinson (other topics)
Kelly Sue DeConnick (other topics)
Joe Sacco (other topics)