Graphic novelist Sarah Laing’s self-isolation diary to go on show

Image copyright Sarah Laing.

‘Isn’t life,’ she stammered, ‘isn’t life–‘ But what life was she couldn’t explain. No matter. He quite understood.

‘Isn’t it, darling?’ said Laurie.

Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party and Other Stories

During lockdown, award-winning Wellington based author, graphic novelist and cartoonist Sarah Laing reacted to the situation with creativity — starting her own autobiographical COVID-19 diary. Fans of her work will instantly recognize the unique visual descriptions of her experience of self-isolation — the work is profound, domestic, honest and funny all at the same time and was updated daily. Done in Sarah’s own unique and wonderful style you can see all the  instalments of her COVID-19 diary by visiting her forthcoming exhibition (opening Monday 7 September) or by visiting her website.

A big thank you to Sarah for letting us re-post her work!


Mansfield and me : a graphic memoir / Laing, Sarah
“Katherine Mansfield is a literary giant in New Zealand–but she had to leave the country to become one. Mansfield hung out with the modernists, lost her brother in World War I and spent her last days in a Fontainebleu commune with Olgivanna, Frank Lloyd Wright’s future wife. She was as famous for her letters and diaries as for her short stories. Sarah Laing wanted to be a real writer, too. A writer as famous as Katherine Mansfield, but not as tortured. Mansfield and Me charts her journey towards publication and parenthood against Mansfield’s dramatic story, it examines how our lives connect to those of our personal heroes.” (Catalogue)

Let me be frank : comics 2010-2019 / Laing, Sarah
“Let Me Be Frank brings Sarah Laing’s popular autobiographical comic series together for the first time. Sarah Laing began blogging her comics in 2009 as a way to shed light on her fiction writing and to record life before it evaporated. The comics soon had a large audience, eager for the next installment about Sarah’s parenting fails and successes, writing, her obsession with Katherine Mansfield, her family’s history, pet mice, sex, clothes and more.” (Catalogue)

The fall of light : a novel / Laing, Sarah
“An excitingly contemporary and innovative blend of a beautifully written novel with pictures by a critically acclaimed author. Rudy is a successful architect, but life is not as happy as it should be. His work leaves him artistically frustrated, his wife and two young daughters have moved out of the house he designed for them, and his pushy young associate is vying for design supremacy. When a Vespa accident puts him into hospital and forces him to recuperate at home, he looks in danger of losing everything, but it is then that his repressed artistic yearnings start to make their presence felt.” (Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Dead people’s music : a novel / Laing, Sarah
“Classical is karaoke – just playing covers of dead people’s music – or so Wellingtonian Rebecca concluded at her London conservatorium. She’s sabotaged her scholarship there, but wants to keep playing the cello, like her grandmother, Klara. Now unmoored from her classical training, she’s in New York City, where Klara grew up. As Rebecca investigates her Jewish-refugee heritage, she starts to compose her own songs, but has to contend with diabetes and other burning issues- is she with the right man, or should she swap stability for lust? And how much longer can she live with a neurotic, junk-scavenging flatmate, on the verge of murdering another zebra fish?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Image Comics: The Best of a Decade of Creator-Owned Books

Unique among publishers for allowing writers and artists to keep the rights to their work, Image Comics has been a haven for teams of comic writers and artists to do their boldest, strangest and most experimental comics, working in genres outside of the usual superhero fare like horror, crime, western, urban fantasy, and science-fiction.

The works recommended below have met commercial and critical acclaim; the biggest hits for the company being the massive multimedia hit The Walking Dead and the populist sci-fi epic Saga, while others are beloved by their own dedicated fandoms, like The Wicked + The Divine. A number of long-running Image Comics series wrapped up in 2019, and with the opening of Te Awe and our off-site collections, it’s never been a better time to catch up on some of the best comics of the past ten years.

The Walking Dead
The walking dead : compendium one / Kirkman, Robert
Though it began in 2003, the post-apocalyptic zombie comic by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard continued to be a hit all through the last decade, and was one of Image Comics longest running series, eventually spawning a hit television series in 2010. The comic unexpectedly wrapped up at issue #193 in July 2019, a rare shock in the modern comic industry where each issue is planned and advertised months in advance. Pick up the compendium collecting the first 48 issues at the link above or grab the first volume here.

If you liked The Walking Dead, check out this: Invincible, Robert Kirkman’s other long-spanning superhero series for Image, also wrapped up in 2018. You begin the whole series with the first Ultimate Collection here.

Saga
Saga. Compendium one / Vaughan, Brian K
Frequently cited as the comic book that got people into comics, Saga follows Alana and Marko, two soldiers on the opposing sides of a space war who decide to marry and raise a child together. They hop from planet to planet, trying to find a spot of peace while dodging bounty hunters, sentient planets, and their own in-laws. Written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, Saga went on a hiatus in 2018 after hitting the midpoint of its story in issue #54, so now is the perfect time to catch up. Pick up the compendium with the whole series to date at the link above, or grab the first volume here.

If you liked Saga, check out this: Image Comics has become a haven for science fiction comics in the 2010s, including the Hugo-nominated Bitch Planet, Invisible Kingdom by the creator of Ms Marvel, gender-flipped mythological space epic ODY-C, the watercolour-painted robot adventure Descender, and the dimension-hopping Black Science, to name a few.

Other Image books by Brian K. Vaughan include the Hugo-nominated Paper Girls with Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson, about a quartet of paper girls from the 1980s who travel through time, and We Stand on Guard with Steve Scroce and Matt Hollingsworth, which depicts a war in the future between Canada and the USA.

The Wicked + The Divine
The wicked + the divine. Vol. 1, The Faust act / Gillen, Kieron
Every 90 years, twelve gods return to Earth to inspire humankind and gain followers, only to die after two years. In 2014, this ‘Pantheon’ of gods return as popstars. The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv to its fans) follows Pantheon super-fan Laura as she becomes embroiled in the god’s inner conflicts and tries to attain godhood for herself. Coming to a close with issue #45 in September 2019, The Wicked + The Divine has been praised for its nuanced portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters and its themes on fame, death, history, religion, and the purpose of artists.

If you liked WicDiv, check out this: Gillen and McKelvie’s foray at Image Comics begins with Phonogram, set in a world where ‘music is magic’ that explores similar themes to The Wicked + The Divine. You can read the complete collection here.

Gillen has recently started a new series, DIE, with artist Stephanie Hans, about a group of adult tabletop RPG fans being forced to return to the game they were trapped in as teenagers, Jumanji-style. Reserve the first volume here.

East of West
East of West [1] / Hickman, Jonathan
Written by Johnathan Hickman and drawn by Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin, East of West is an alternate history that marries the political intrigue of Game of Thrones with the “slap leather” cowboy action of the Dollars trilogy, set in a futuristic United States of America. In this world, there are only seven states existing in an uneasy peace. Unbeknownst to their citizens, the leaders from each state secretly meet in neutral territory to try and bring about the end of the world. Meanwhile, three horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the land, seeking the son of their missing horseman, Death.

If you liked East of West, check out this: For another Hickman-penned alternate history, there’s the The Manhattan Projects, which reimagines the real scientists who helped build the atomic bomb as amoral dimension-travelling jerks in the vein of Rick Sanchez. Start with the first volume here.

Fatale
Fatale. Book one, Death chases me / Brubaker, Ed
Writer and artist team Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips have been doing crime comics together for years, transferring dime store pulp stories to the world of comics, while also updating, humanising and deconstructing the character archetypes and tropes for a modern genre-savvy audience. After the success of their Icon Comics series Criminal, Brubaker and Phillips began their first Image Comics series Fatale in 2012, featuring a supernatural take on the ‘femme fatale’ archetype. Lasting 24 issues, the series was collected in five volumes, the first of which you can read at the link above.

If you liked Fatale, check out this: Criminal is the series that really put Brubaker and Phillips on the map; each volume is a self-contained crime story from the perspective of different characters within one city, making it incredibly accessible. My particular favourite is Last of the Innocent, which puts the classic Archie Comics characters into a lurid murder mystery, six years before Riverdale did it on television.

Chew
Chew : the omnivore edition. Vol. I / Layman, John
In a world where the FDA is granted greater judicial powers following a deadly bird flu, detective Tony Chu is brought in to crack down on illegal chicken dealers. Fortunately, he has one advantage that his fellow investigators lack; he’s a cibopath, a kind of food psychic who can gain mental impressions from anything that he eats. Written by John Layman and drawn with cartoony panache by Rob Guillory, you can take a big bite out of Chew with the first ‘Omnivore Edition’ (collecting the first ten issues) at the link above.

If you liked Chew, check out this: Chew’s artist Rob Guillory recently started a new comedy-horror series called Farmhand, which follows a family who grows replacement human body parts on their farm.

We also have the first two volumes of writer John Layman’s newest haunted space adventure series Outer Darkness with artist Afu Chan.

StayAtHomeFest: Comic Creators #1!


The moment has come. You know what we’re talking about: your secret dream of writing and drawing a graphic memoir of your childhood, full of precise, personal details, bright, expressive imagery and a bold title that sums up the first 18 years of your life in a single sentence. It won’t be easy. Many have tried, and many have failed. But we believe in you. You can do it! Just take that work notepad and scribble out all those old meeting minutes; steal the felt-tip pens from your child or flatmate’s bedroom. Then settle down and get started–we’re waiting to read it!

(You could also check out these interviews with some of our favourite cartoonists and associated resources first, if you need inspiration–or a distraction…)


JILLIAN TAMAKI

Most cartoonists have a FAQ section on their website, but not all FAQ sections have the question “What is it like to have a banned book?” But that’s exactly what happened to Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, a coming of age story of two teenage girls that was one of the most challenged books of 2016. It’s also been called an “emotional tour-de-force of a comic, a perfect snapshot of the strange purgatory that lies between childhood and adulthood.” Enjoy!

Overdrive cover This One Summer, by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (eBook)
“Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad…” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Discover More:

Overdrive: Did you know Jillian Tamaki grew up reading Archie comics, and is a big fan of Riverdale? Have a look at Archie–and the Riverdale comic adaptions–through Overdrive!

RBdigital: As well as her illustration, comic and blogging work, Jillian Tamaki also does embroidery. Take up your own crafting via RBdigital’s craft magazine selection.


THI BUI

Cartoonist and lecturer Thi Bui was born in 1978, just three months before the end of the Vietnam War. Bui and her family fled to America, and it is this story of escape, as well as the difficulties faced upon arrival in the States, that became the focus of Bui’s acclaimed 2017 graphic novel The Best We Could Do. The Best We Could Do has been described as “one of the first great works of socially relevant comics art of the Trump era.”

Overdrive cover The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui (eBook)
“This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Discover More:

MasterFILE Complete: Thi Bui recently went to the island of Lesvos in Greece to learn about the refugee situation there. Follow her at her website, and learn more via MasterFILE Complete.

Story Box: Did you know that Thi Bui has also illustrated a children’s book, Chicken of the Sea, with her son? Check out more children’s stories via Overdrive and listen to readings via Story Box Library!


EMIL FERRIS

Reviews can be important for writers and illustrators; who doesn’t want to hear that people have engaged with–and like–your work? But author Emil Ferris took this a bit further when Forbes declared that her debut work, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, was of such quality that it was not only “one of the most profound, ambitious and accomplished creative works to appear in any medium this decade” but would transform graphic literature! (For more info, check out ‘I didn’t want to be a woman – being a monster was the best solution’.)

Discover More:

Oxford Art Online: Are you inspired by art galleries as much as Emil and Karen? Visit Oxford Art Online through our eLibrary!

Kanopy: Classic horror movies have also had a distinct impact on Emil Ferris’ work: watch them for yourself on one of our free film streaming services.


LYNDA BARRY

When Lynda Barry received her MacArthur fellowship in 2019, not one but two strands of her career in comics were highlighted: the groundbreaking work she’s produced since Ernie Pook’s Comeek was first released in 1979–including The Good Times Are Killing Me and One! Hundred! Demons!–and her ongoing role as a teacher. Her celebrated workshop on writing and creativity, ‘Writing the Unthinkable’, has been described as “freaky, vivid, and a lot of fun”–and also a lot of hard work!

Discover More:

Lynda.com: Did you know Lynda Barry has a course on Lynda.com? It’s true! Have a look via the link!

RBdigital: In 1991 Lynda Barry’s essay on the Gulf War (entitled “War”) was published in Mother Jones. Read the original essay here and check out the latest edition of Mother Jones via RBdigital.


DAVE MCKEAN

If you found yourself having nightmares after seeing the dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you have one person to blame: Dave McKean. Designing dementors is in fact a very small part of McKean’s output, which has included the distinctive covers for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, illustrating the most successful graphic novel ever published (Arkham Asylum, 1989), producing the graphic comic Cages, directing three feature films and much, much more!

Overdrive cover The Sandman (1989), Volume 1, by Neil Gaiman (eBook)
“NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Discover More:

Lynda.com: Whether you love McKean’s films, illustration, photography or writing, Lynda.com has a tutorial to match!

Naxos Jazz Library: Did you know McKean founded the jazz label Feral Records? For more jazz–including iconic works by Chet Baker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane!–visit our premiere jazz streaming service.

Talent filled graphic novels

The graphic novels collection has some great new and classic reprints appearing on the shelves. The complete collection of the cyberpunk manga classic Battle Angel Alita contrasts the gritty Japanese world of Tado Tsuge in Slum WolfYoung warriors also feature in Wood and Chater’s Sword daughter, where brutality brings a father and daughter to gritty resolve.  

More translated work features the talented French graphic novelist Edmond Baudoin’s childhood, in his visually eclectic memoir named for his brother, Piero. Also translated from French is Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval. This beautifully illustrated tale is a dark fantasy of female warriors magically residing in the teeth of a beautiful ghost who bewitches a young bored holiday maker, it gets weirder, with dream battles with skeletal wolves and an ancient octopus king. But beautiful! So beautiful!

A twist on Fables, the emotional journey in Wolf, and all the back story you could wish for in the first installation of Dirk Gently’s the Salmon of doubt round off this selection of our new adult comics.

Slum wolf / Tsuge, Tadao
“A gritty collection of graphic short stories by a Japanese manga master depicting life on the streets among punks, gangsters, and vagrants. Though virtually unknown in the United States, Tadao Tsuge is one of the original masters of alternative manga, and one of the world’s great artists of the down-and-out. Never before available in English, this new selection of his stories from the late sixties and the seventies depicts the lives of punks, vagrants, gangsters, and other lost souls with gritty lyricism. It is a raucous, exhilarating vision of street brawls and dive bars, shantytowns and brothels, and an unsettling portrait of postwar Japan” (Catalogue)

Sword Daughter. Volume 1, She brightly burns / Wood, Brian
“A father and daughter seek revenge against the ruthless Vikings that destroyed their lives, discovering that their fierce purpose can mend the bonds of family. One thousand years ago, a murderous clan known as the Forty Swords burned a village to the ground, leaving just two people alive: a shattered father and his teenage daughter. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry. Sword Daughter is a visually stunning, emotionally poignant story of parental guilt and acceptance of loss.” (Catalogue)

Piero / Baudoin, Edmond
“This English translation of Edmond Baudoin’s most intimate and inviting book, his graphic memoir of growing up with his beloved brother, Piero.  They confront Martians, battle octopuses, stage epic battles between medieval castles, and fly high over the earth. Inevitably, they begin to grow apart, and their shared artistic life is replaced by schoolwork, romance, dances, motorcycles, and the struggle to decide what sort of people they want to be.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Battle Angel Alita. Deluxe edition, volume 1 / Kishiro, Yukito
In a dump in the lawless settlement of Scrapyard, far beneath the mysterious space city of Zalem, disgraced cyber-doctor Daisuke Ido makes a strange find: the detached head of a cyborg woman who has lost all her memories. He names her Alita and equips her with a powerful new body, the Berserker. While Alita remembers no details of her former life, a moment of desperation reawakens in her nerves the legendary school of martial arts known as Panzer Kunst. (Adapted from Amazon.com)

Fables [13] : the great Fables crossover / Willingham, Bill
The Great Fables Crossover features appearances from Fables favorites such as Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Rose Red, Jack Frost, Beauty and The Beast. All nine issues of the long awaited crossover between Vertigo’s two popular series Fables and Jack of Fables are collected here.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Watersnakes / Sandoval, Tony
Three-time Eisner Award-nominated writer/artist Tony Sandoval presents a wondrous world of secret places and dreamlike magic hidden in the everyday corners of our sleeping imagination. Mila is a solitary teenager ready to put another boring summer vacation behind her until she meets Agnes, an adventurous girl who turns out to be a ghost. And not just a regular ghost, but one carrying the essence of an ancient fallen king and a mouth full of teeth that used to be his guardian warriors.” (Catalogue)

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency : the salmon of doubt. Volume 1 / David, Arvind Ethan
“Dirk Gently, created by Douglas Adams and currently the star of his own television series from BBC America returns to comics in The Salmon of Doubt, brought to you by executive producers of the show Arvind Ethan David and Max Landis with artist Ilias Kyriazis. Plagued by nightmares about a childhood he never had, Dirk returns to Cambridge University to seek the advice of his former tutor, the time-traveling Professor Reg Chronotis. There he discovers that an holistic detective can have more than one past, and his adventures have only just begun!” (Catalogue)

Wolf / Ball, Rachael
“Hugo, the youngest child of three, is walking with his father in the woods. There, he comes face-to-face with a wolf–and from that moment on, his life will never be the same again. Soon after, a tragic accident leaves Hugo desolate and disoriented. The family, now grieving and incomplete, moves to a new home. Among Hugo’s new neighbors is the Wolf Man, a dangerous recluse, according to the boy next door. Spellbound by the movie The Time Machine and desperate to return to the days before the accident, Hugo draws up plans to build a contraption that will turn back time. But only the Wolf Man has the parts Hugo needs to complete his machine, and that will mean entering his sinister neighbor’s house. Beautifully illustrated in pencil, Wolf is a captivating and poignant graphic novel about confronting childhood grief and overcoming the loss of a loved one.” (Catalogue)