Thursday, March 1, 2012

Janet Lee's Desert Island List of Graphic Novels

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 10:30 AM

If I were the type of person who said things like, "This book changed my life," or, "Nothing was the same after that moment," I would tell you that reading Art Spiegelman's Maus when I was 19 changed my life, and nothing was the same after that. Naturally, a big chunk of my interview with Janet and Mike Lee for this week's People Issue was spent geeking out about comics with the two of them. Not only did Janet illustrate Marvel's adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, but her debut, Return of the Dapper Men, won the prestigious Eisner award. That put her and co-creator Jim McCann in league with Daniel Clowes, who they tied with, as well as past winners Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, to name only a few.

Janet made a list of her favorite graphic novels just for Country Life. If you're a comics-novice or just looking for some fresh material, read on — it might change your life.

1. Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Anthropomorphic animals in a film noir mystery? Illustrations that won an Eisner last year for the best painted/multimedia art? Sign me up, please! This one isn't for kids, though. Adult violence and situations.

2. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen
Little mice with swords protecting the byways of the forest from dangerous creatures? I LOVE it! Beautifully illustrated in and almost woodcut style; a marvelous story for kids and their parents. Fans of the Redwall series of books will love Mouse Guard — but be aware: When the mice do battle, there is blood.

3. Road to Perdition (Vertigo Crime) by Max Allan Collins
Before it was a movie starring Tom Hanks, it was a wonderful, black-and-white graphic novel about a prohibition-era mobster who's son becomes as target of the mob — and the lengths he'll go to to save his boy.


4. Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets was the graphic novel that made me want to start drawing comics. Poignant and beautiful, this is the story of the rivalry between two brothers growing up in isolated Wisconsin and the discovery of love in this beautifully illustrated coming-of-age tale.

5. Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
Like the ABC series Once Upon A Time? Well, Fables is like that — only better. All the inhabitants of fairy tales have been driven from their native homes and have settled in a magical, hidden neighborhood in New York City. Fables is a very long-running series with more than a dozen collected volumes. But if I had to choose just one, I'd start with the first.

6. Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill
Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, and has inherited all of his father's brilliance. Locke and Key is the story of the Locke family who, when violence claims the life of their patriarch, move to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, Maine. There they discover danger, mystical secrets, and ancient, undying evil. And keys ...

7. From Hell by Alan Moore
Much as I love Johnny Depp, the movie version of From Hell is a pale shadow of this complicated graphic novel. The artwork is in black and white — which is good for me, since the depictions of Jack the Ripper's kills are painstakingly accurate. Throw in a mystical conspiracy that encompasses the very fabric of British society, and you have a gripping read, dense and worth every one of its 572 pages.

8. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel writes a brave and tragic memoir of her life growing up and her relationship with her father, Bruce. Bruce was a small town English teacher and ran a funeral home, where the family also lived. Alison comes out as a lesbian in college only to return home to confront the revelation that her father was also secretly gay.

9. Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen) by Winsor McKay
I ADORE Winsor McKay, and his Little Nemo strips are the magic dust of which dreams are formed. Classic, turn of the century comics. I'm lucky enough to have an enormous, collected volume, but they can also be purchased in volumes.

10. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is the autobiographical story of Marjane Satrapi's life in Iran at the time of the Islamic Revolution and her subsequent flight to France, leaving all she loves behind. A moving glimpse at the dangers of theocracy, and the strength of a woman's will to be free.

11. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson
This one's for all of us who have worked in crappy jobs, dated the wrong person, gotten "that" call from Mom ...

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