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No Superheroes

Graphic Novels for Adults and Young Adults

Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon (2003)
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
This illustrated autobiography of a young woman growing up against the backdrop of Iran's Islamic Revolution is an outstanding work of nonfiction. Satrapi's minimalist drawings effectively communicate insightful truths about politics, ideals, class-consciousness and youthful uncertainty in a charming and engaging style. Despite the grim realities and historical complexities Satrapi's story addresses, Persepolis abounds with humor and thoughtful observation. Winner of the Alex Award.
 
Joe Sacco
Drawn & Quarterly (2003)
Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo
Reporter and comics artist Joe Sacco presents and illustrated novella about the tragic and complex events that took place in Bosnia during the early 1990s, when rebel Serb nationalists armed themselves against a vulnerable, multi-ethnic Sarajevo. Telling his story through a "fixer" by the name of Nevin, a resident Serb who helps foreign journalists find the types of stories their editors are looking for (for a nominal fee), Sacco narrates the sad, bloody, and fascinating recent history of this war torn republic. Brilliantly illustrated.
 
Adrian Tomine
Drawn & Quarterly (2003)
Summer Blonde
Summer Blonde is a collection of emotionally charged, illustrated short stories by twenty-something comics artist Adrian Tomine. Exploring feelings of alienation, dissatisfaction, uncertainty, and our own neurotic impulses, Tomine crates familiar situations that seem both personal and universal. Readers will instantly appreciate Tomine's keen ability to effectively scrutinize his contemporaries, as well as his hip artistic style.
 
Seth
Drawn & Quarterly (2004)
Clyde Fans: Book 1
Those acquainted with Seth know of his fascination with the past, and the banal events and decisions of daily life that ultimately define who we are. In Clyde Fans, Seth once again explores these pensive themes trough the story of Abraham and Simon Matchcard, two brothers who attempt to suppress their unsociable dispositions to master salesmanship for the sake of their modest family business. The story is simply and beautifully illustrated, creating a perfect mental landscape for the quiet self-reflection it inspires.
 
Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly (1992)
The Playboy
This short story, from gifted writer and comics artist Chester Brown, is a hilarious study in hormonally charged awkwardness and erratic self-loathing; two themes nearly inherent to the coming-of-age process. In this story, Brown travels back through time, to his own teenage years, and narrates autobiographical scenes and sketches while incarnated as sarcastic fairy-like observer. As his younger self becomes increasingly obsessed, enchanted and tormented by the tawdry contents of Playboy magazine, Brown comically comments on the embarrassment he felt about his own fascination and the persistent paranoia that his growing collection would be discovered. Highly amusing and perfectly ridiculous.
 
Seth
Drawn & Quarterly (2003)
It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken
Seth once again explores his dissatisfaction with the present and obsession with the lessons of nostalgia in this autobiographical story. While growing increasingly apathetic to the needs of those around him, Seth engages in a seemingly futile quest to collect all of the published gag cartoons penned by a single obscure cartoonist of the 1940s. As Seth's unique obsession grows, questions arise about the cartoonist's long-forgotten triumphs, failures, and life decisions, which ultimately inspire Seth to engage in a quest to track the man down. This melancholy story is smart and extraordinary.
 
Daniel Clowes
Fantagraphics Books (1998)
Ghost World
An engrossing story about uncertainty and alienation, Ghost World addresses issues of self-identity and outgrowing adolescence in ironic, cynically pleasing style. Enid and Rebecca are high school friends who become increasingly alienated from one another as graduation looms and Enid becomes increasingly reluctant to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood and uncomfortable realities of impending change. Clowes is a snappy writer that employs wit and subversive social commentary to create hip and sweetly sad storylines.
 
Craig Thompson
Top Shelf (2003)

Blankets: An Illustrated Novel
This outstanding illustrated novel, weighing in at some 592 pages, couples familiar teen issues such as self-discovery, isolation, and tests of faith, with extraordinary drawings that brim with charm and emotion. Thompson, the acclaimed author-illustrator of 1999's Good Bye, Chunky Rice, presents an autobiographical coming-of-age story that explores his fundamentalist Christian upbringing in rural Wisconsin, his complicated first experiences with love, and his uncertain relationship with his brother. Highly personal and emotionally honest.
 
Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly (2003)
Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography
This groundbreaking "biography" by comics artist Chester Brown, is a true testament to the evolving nature of comics - and a notable achievement for an author-illustrator previously concerned with more personal such as unrequited love and sexual frustration. This is the story of Louis Riel, a controversial revolutionary who led a brief insurgency against the Canadian government in the 1800s, opposing its designs to forcibly annex land belonging to Manitoba's half-Indian/half-French population, the Métis. Oh, and all of this while believing he is a chosen prophet of God. An amazing read.
 
Joe Sacco
Fantagraphics Books (2002)
Palestine
This timely work, based on the artist's own experiences traveling through Israel and the Palestinian refugee camps of the West Bank, is an absolute triumph. Sacco's observations and illustrations make the war weary people he encounters in this troubled land come to life, while exposing all-to-common misconceptions and underscoring the profound suffering born out of the region's infamous, ongoing conflict. His humor, honesty, and disarming artistic ability make this graphic novel an enlightening and engaging read. Critically acclaimed and highly praised.
 

Updated:09/17/2009