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Tim Siftar

Tim Siftar
Librarian for Information Sci & Tech, School of Education, and Goodwin College
Hours M-F: 9am-5pm
Hagerty Library, Room 134


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Information Science & Education

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Graphic Novels

  1. Introduction
  2. African American
  3. Environmental
  4. Manga
  5. Medical
  6. Reluctant Readers
  7. Social Justice
  8. Developing GN Collections
  9. Graphic Novels, Literacy, and Education


  • Graphic novels are like comics for anyone who enjoys reading novel-length stories as a series of visual images instead of linear text. This guide showcases the results of a recent effort to develop the Drexel Libraries graphic novel collection so as to include exemplars of the best works in some key categories of graphic novels. It is made possible due to a collaboration with a Drexel iSchool alumna, author and long-time columnist for Library Journal, Martha Cornog who recently published the book "Graphic Novels: Beyond the Basics". Additional categories will be appended to this guide as new books are purchased for the collection.
  • Browse our entire collection of graphic novels here by genre:
  • graphic novels
  • Or keyword search for any books that mention comics:(note that this will retrieve items that cover the professional use of graphic novels as well as novels themselves.)
  • comics or "graphic novels"
  • Browse the stacks on the second floor by LC call number:
    • PN6727
    • --Comic books, strips, etc.

African American Graphic Novels

Children/All Ages

  • Bliss, Harry. Luke on the Loose. TOON Books. 2009. 32p. FICTION Little Luke’s enjoying a day in the park with dad, but when dad gets into that boring daddy talk with adults, Luke sees all those pigeons—and wouldn’t it be fun to catch one? Off he runs on a wild bird chase, leaving a frantic daddy far behind. He gallops merrily through traffic, pedestrians, sidewalk cafes, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally joins his prey on a rooftop where he falls asleep and is rescued by the fire department. The delightful, detailed drawings offer something for all ages. Comment: One of the few graphic novels for youngest ages that has African American main characters.

Tweens & Up

  • Davis, Eleanor. The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook. Bloomsbury. 2009. 160p. FICTION Ultra nerd Julian Calendar hopes he can hide his supersmarts at his new junior high so he can fit in, but then he meets Ben and Greta, two closet brainiacs like himself. The trio forms a secret club with a high-tech hideaway to design goofy and inventive gadgets. But then an evil scientist grabs their inventions to pull off a midnight heist. Can they foil his plot? The feisty Greta is African American. Comment: The engaging story, characters, and wildly detailed art makes this a wonderful example of how good GNs for youthful readers can be.
  • Laird, Roland Owen & Taneshia Nash Laird (text) & Elihu "Adofo" Bey (illus.). Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans. rev. ed. Sterling. 2009. 220p. bibliog. HISTORY The story of African Americans in the United States from the year 1619 through the election of Barack Obama, told in some detail and with simple, black and white art. Charles Johnson’s introduction about the history of “Blacks in comics” enriches the presentation, as do the differing viewpoints of the two elderly narrators introduced in the beginning of the book. Originally published in 1997, and unfortunately the bibliography has not been updated. (LJ 2/1/98) Comment: Most of the nonfiction GNs relating to African American history are biographies. This is not and has become something of a classic, although not universally admired.
  • Robbins, Trina (text) & Ken Steacy (illus.). Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot. Capstone. 2007. 32p. BIOGRAPHY Born to a poor family in Texas, Bessie leaves her struggling family to find a job as a manicurist in Chicago. But her dream is to fly, and so she travels to France to train as a pilot in a country with fewer restrictions on women—and African Americans—flying planes. Comment: An example of a type of GN for youth designed to convey nonfiction via comics format, chosen because it is about a woman and an African American, and also because the writer is a well-known comics artist and historian. There are a number of other biographies in this Capstone series focusing on prominent African Americans, including Booker T. Washington and Matthew Henson.
  • Simmons, Alex (text) & various (illus.). Archie & Friends, All-Stars Volume 3: The Cartoon Life of Chuck Clayton. Archie Comics. 2010. 96p. FICTION Teen cartoonist Chuck Clayton is asked to help instruct kids in an after-school program. As a part-time teacher, he faces snobbery from “real” art faculty, apathy from the kids when they find out he’s not a pro, and problems keeping the class’s attention. The tips he learns from his parents show how teaching is a skill in itself, and the whole experience is educational for him (and the reader) as well as for the students. Comment: The Archie universe has entertained tweens and teens since the 1940s, and this Chuck Clayton miniseries gives special prominence to diversity. Alex Simmons is a well-known African American educator and comics writer who founded and runs the Kids Comic Con, held yearly in the Bronx.
  • Sturm, James (text) & Rich Tommaso (illus.). Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow. Hyperion Books for Children. 2007. 96p. BIOGRAPHY Baseball Hall of Famer Leroy "Satchel" Paige (1905?-1982) changed the face of the game in a career that spanned five decades. Told from the point of view of a sharecropper, this compelling narrative follows Paige from game to game as he travels throughout the segregated South. Comment: A well-regarded biography of a major sports figure from a time before African Americans were taken for granted as stars on national sports teams. (Not part of a series.)
  • Sumerak, Marc (text) & Carlos Barberi & Scott Hepburn (illus.). Ororo: Before the Storm. Marvel. 2005. 96p. FICTION The orphaned Ororo runs with a group of Cairo street urchins, specializing in petty thievery under the tutelage of a crafty but benevolent master. Then a mysterious white-suited thug hires the master’s students for a tomb robbery job, supposedly to recover a “priceless artifact” for delivery into museum care. Actually, White Suit wants to use the mystical opal to achieve immortality and vast power for himself. But Ororo has powers of her own, as the tomb statues unexpectedly reveal to her. (Later, Ororo develops her power over the weather more completely to become a member of the X-Men superhero team who is known as Storm.) Comment: First appearing in 1975, Storm is one of the few African-heritage woman superheroes and the first Black woman character to play a major role in mainstream U.S. comics. (Her father was an African American photographer and her mother a tribal princess from Kenya.)
  • Torres, J. (text) & Scott Chantler (illus.). Days Like This. Oni. 2003. 80p. bibliog. It’s the early 1960s, and girl-groups like the Shirelles are topping the pop music charts. When teens Christina, Emily, and Doreen make a demo record in the Harmony Plaza building, the future looks rosy. But Christina’s dad doesn’t see it that way. Includes a wealth of period detail. (LJ 9/1/03) Comment: One of the few GNs for younger people featuring African American girls as main characters.

Teens & Up

  • Baker, Kyle. Nat Turner. Abrams 2008. 208p. bibliog. HISTORY A harrowing, almost wordless drama beginning with the ocean transport of a group of Africans on a slave ship. The story comes to focus on one shipboard woman and then on her American-born son, Nat Turner, who led the only effective sustained slave revolt in U.S. history. Winner of an Eisner and several Glyph awards, this suspenseful and violent work documents the slave trade’s atrocities like no textbook can. Excellent for academic libraries and curriculum support at varying levels. (LJ 5/15/07) Comment: An compelling and beautifully drawn graphic depiction of the horrors of slavery. Excellent for course support for teens through adults.
  • Carey, Percy (text) & Ronald Wimberly (illus.). Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm. Vertigo/ DC Comics. 2008. 128p. AUTOBIOGRAPHY In this sobering, self-reflective autobiography, rapper Carey cuts through the bling-and-babes stereotype of the hip-hop lifestyle to describe surviving the 1994 murder attempt that left him a paraplegic, subsequent blacklisting by record companies, descent into crime, prison term, and rebirth as a penitent survivor. A Glyph award-winner; violence and strong language. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 8/2/07) Comment: Perhaps the only available autobiography or biography of a living rap artist and one of the few mainstream graphic novels to speak to hip-hop culture.
  • David, Mark & Mike Davis. Blokhedz. Vol. 1. Pocket Books. 2007. 112p. FICTION In this inner-city supernatural adventure, gifted teen rapper Blak must discover his true self and his superpowers. On one side beckons shady rap-and-drug broker Bloko and the fly lifestyle; on the other side, the spirit of Blak's wiser older brother plus his homies, seeress Rosetta, and maybe-girlfriend Essence—herself no mean rhymer either. Then there's the seriously hazardous constellation of surrounding lowlifes—the Wild Dawgs gang, rap rival Vulture, and badass supercop Claw. The fresh, skillful take on the coming-of-age theme features vivid characters, an intense story line, and vibrantly moody and glowing colors. Comment: One of the few mainstream graphic novels to speak to hip-hop culture, here combined with superhero plot elements. Unfortunately, no subsequent volumes have been published.
  • Hudlin, Reginald (text), & John Romita Jr. (illus.). Black Panther: Who Is the Black Panther. Marvel. 2009. 200p. FICTION Young T’Challa is the latest among the warrior rulers of Wakanda, an African country with a technologically advanced civilization unconquered by any outsiders. Wakandan rulers acquire enhanced speed, strength, and agility via special training and local bioactive substances, and take the persona known worldwide as the Black Panther. Now outsiders are once again attempting to plunder the nation’s riches, led by the murderer of T’Chall’s father. Comment: The Black Panther is probably the most important and major African American superhero, first appearing in 1966. Eventually, T’Challa marries Storm, of the X-Men superhero team. The Black Panther has starred in several series of his own as well as featured in other Marvel series.
  • Landowne, Youme & Anthony Horton. Pitch Black, Don’t Be Skerd. Cinco Puntos Press, 2008. 64p. AUTOBIOGRAPHY Rejecting his youth of foster care and the hell of New York City’s shelters, Anthony escapes into the subway tunnels where he finds a home of sorts, mentors, rats—and art. A YALSA top ten pick. (LJ 1/15/09) Comment: A rare and moving autobiography of despair that’s suitable for teens.
  • McGruder, Aaron. All the Rage: Boondocks Past and Present. Three Rivers. 2007. 280p. MEDIA/COMMUNICATIONS Probably the first African American newspaper strip to attract a nationwide—even worldwide—fanbase, the multiple-award-winning Boondocks centers on two kids and their grandfather, relocating to a predominantly white suburb. Cultural clashes with their new community and also among Huey, Riley, and Granddad themselves become fodder for this satiric and amusing saga, which ran in syndication 1999-2006 and transitioned in animated form to the Cartoon Network. All the Rage includes a selection of strips 2003-2005, interviews with McGruder, and a second selection of strips that newspapers refused to print. Comment: Boondocks is THE most popular and acclaimed African American-themed comic strip, and this collection provides ample background as well as a selection of strips.
  • McGuffie, Dwayne & Robert l. Washington (text) & John Paul Leon (illus.). Static Shock. Vol. 1. Rebirth of the Cool. DC Comics. 2009. 192p. FICTION A teen given superpowers through mutagen-enhanced teargas released in a gang war, Virgin Hawkins must balance fighting villains and bullies as the electrically-powered hero Static against the usual teen concerns: schoolwork, pocket money, parental priorities—and, of course, romance and sex. Static was one of the minority superheroes introduced by DC Comics’ imprint Milestone Media from 1993 to 1997, and then Static Shock ran as an animated series on the Cartoon Network in 2001. Static has appeared in other DC series also. This volume collects the first four issues of the original Milestone series plus a four-issue DC miniseries published when the TV show became popular. Comment: A surviving title from the historic Milestone Media line-up, and an example of a popular and recurring African American superhero who is a teen. (Teen superheroes have become a sub-genre.) One of the characters in the highly regarded teen superhero series Runaways is African American, but he is killed early in the plot line. Blak from Blokhedz (see above) could be called a superhero, but unfortunately only one volume exists.
  • Morales, Robert (text) & Kyle Baker (illus.).Captain America: Truth. Marvel. 2009. 168p. bibliog. FICTION In an attempt to re-create the lost super-serum used earlier to turn Steve Rogers into Captain America, a regiment of Black soldiers are forced to act as test subjects in a program that kills all but Isaiah Bradley. The now-enhanced Bradley steals a spare Captain America costume to destroy a similar Nazi effort but is captured. Inspired in part by the infamous Tuskegee experiment where African Americans already infected with syphilis were misinformed and merely observed rather then treated. Originally published 2004 as Truth: Red, White & Black. Comment: A fascinating example of alternate history: both of real history (the Tuskegee experiments) and superhero history (the origin story of Captain America) as well as a compelling parable of African American accomplishments gone unrecognized.
  • Thomas, Corey. Watch Your Head: A Collection. Andrews McMeel. 2008. 127p. FICTION A group of college freshmen navigate life away from home for the first time, facing scholastics, the opposite sex, their families, and each other. As a Howard University student, Thomas began the strip for the school newspaper, and it now runs in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, among other papers. Wry, funny, and hopeful. Comment: A rare depiction of African American college students. (Many African Americans in comics are shown in the context of their families or as part of socially marginal activities.)

Older Teens & Up

  • Anderson, Ho Che. King: The Special Edition. rev. ed. Fantagraphics. 2010. 288p. BIOGRAPHY With over 10 years research, a wide array of graphic styles, and an ear for dialogue, Anderson recreates the life of Martin Luther King, bringing to life both the man and the civil rights movement. This special edition includes substantial “extras” about preparation and background of the work Comment: Widely acknowledged as a masterpiece, this award-winning biography invokes King’s flaws, his tragedies, and his triumphs.
  • Hiramoto, Akira. Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson. 2 vols. Del Rey. 2008. tr. by David Ury. FICTION Legend has it that enigmatic American bluesman Robert Johnson (1911-1938) gained his mastery of the guitar in a deal with the devil, and Hiramoto crafts this myth and the facts of Johnson’s life into a suspenseful horror manga with a modern feel. A School Library Journal award winner. (LJ 9/15/08) Comment: An interesting re-visioning of African American legend by a skillful Japanese manga creator.
  • Johnson, Mat (text), & Warren Pleece (illus.). Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery. Vertigo. 2008. 136p. FICTION In this 1930s crime-noir story, journalist Zane Pinchback goes undercover as white in the deep south to expose lynchings and racist atrocities for his Harlem newspaper. When he hears his brother’s been sent up for murder in Tupelo, he finds himself in an investigative gig that turns complicated and deadly. (LJ 7/08) Comment: Inspired by the real-life Walter White, later executive secretary of the NAACP, who passed as white in 1919 to investigate lynchings in the South. Fast-paced, tragic, and a good additional to curricula in history and African American studies.
  • McCulloch, Derek (text) 
& Shepherd Hendrix (illus.). Stagger Lee. Image. 2006. 231p. FICTION “Stag” Lee Shelton’s 1895 murder of Billy Lyons soon entered American folklore and inspired a series of songs. This outstanding piece of historical fiction weaves a compelling tale involving racism and political corruption, interspersed with thoughtful commentary on the songs themselves. (LJ 9/15/06) Comment: An award-winning blend of fiction and nonfiction about the African American folk tradition.
  • Knight, Keith. The Complete K Chronicles. Dark Horse. 2008. 510p. HUMOR A Harvey and Glyph award-winning print and webcomic strip that for over 15 years has married sociopolitical commentary with autobiography, retooled into sometimes outrageous and always amusingly pointed vignettes. Subversive yet lighthearted; includes references to sex and illegal substances. (LJ 9/15/08) Comment: An award-winning web strip that blends the personal with the political in a loose, scrappy style.
  • Miller, Frank (text) & Dave Gibbons (illus.). The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century. Dark Horse. 2009. 600p. FICTION An alternate future SF drama collecting several miniseries and a number of one-shots since 1990 about Martha Washington, a formerly ghettoized Black woman who joins a U.S. paramilitary peace-keeping force to fight corruption and injustice and becomes a legendary hero of the twenty-first century. Comment: A sweeping, violent, and impressive epic from comics megastars Frank Miller (Sin City; Batman: The Dark Knight Returns; 300) and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), unusual in featuring a Black woman main character. (Neither creator is African American.) Well-regarded in the African American comics community and has been nominated for a Glyph Award.
  • Trotman, Charlie. "Spike". Templar, Arizona. Vol. 1: The Great Outdoors. 112p. Iron Circus Comics. 2007. FICTION Refugee from a former life, geeky introvert Ben snags a writing job in the city of Templar and finds living quarters in a houseful of oddballs. As brassy, big-mama Reagan tries to socialize this newbie, we get a tour of Templar-style culture, a Jonathan Swift mashup of fringey and sometimes disturbing lifestyles such as might turn up in an irregular California: Wickerheads, Osiris worshipers, Sincerists, Diesel players, Jakeskins. As the characters and cliques careen off one another like bumper cars, we gradually glimpse more about Ben and why he’s in Templar. With quirky characters and uninhibited dialog coupled with skillful, detail-rich artwork, Templar teases and entertains while holding out more to come. (Note: Charlie Trotman is a woman.) Comment: A rare award-winning webcomic from a woman creator. Most prominent and/or award-winning African American cartoonists are men.
  • Tooks, Lance. Lucifer’s Garden of Verses. 4 vols. NBM/Comics Lit. 2004-2006. FICTION A sophisticated quartet of stories about the devil in different personas, with uniquely lovely black and white art. Volume 4, Between the Devil and Miles Davis (LJ Xpress Reviews, 9/6/06), ties the stories together. Winner of several Glyph awards. Comment: An excellent example of literary fiction in GN format with African American characters.
  • Vollmar, Rob (text) & Pablo G. Callejo. (illus.). Bluesman: A Twelve-Bar Graphic Novel. NBM/ComicsLit. 2008. 208p. FICTION Traveling blues musicians Lem Taylor and "Ironwood" Malcott think they’ve caught a break when a talent scout invites them to Memphis to cut a record. But love triangles, racism, and murder get in the way. An exceptional evocation of the rural south of the 1920s, where racism was pervasive but music was beginning to transmute suffering into art. Mature situations and some gore. (LJ 7/15/06) Comment: An engrossing noir drama set in a period critical to the history of the blues.

Newspaper Strips and Webcomics, Available in Collections (duplicates some of other listings)

  • Armstrong, Robb. Twins: Twice the Fun: A Bundle of JumpStart Comics That Really Deliver. Journey Publications. 2008. 140p. FICTION Police officer Joe and nurse Marcy juggle marriage, two kids, two careers, and eccentric parents, and then OMG! Twins! Running in more than 400 newspapers, the JumpStart strip offers a humorous and positive portrayal of middle-class African American life. Tweens up. See also the earlier Jump Start (Andrews McMeel, 1997), opening with the birth of Marcy’s and Joe’s first child and focused more on family life. Comment: A funny and enjoyable portrait of normality focused on an African American family.
  • Knight, Keith. The Complete K Chronicles. Dark Horse. 2008. 510p. HUMOR A Harvey and Glyph award-winning print and webcomic strip that for over 15 years has married sociopolitical commentary with autobiography, retooled into sometimes outrageous and always amusingly pointed vignettes. Subversive yet lighthearted; includes references to sex and illegal substances. Adults. (LJ 9/15/08) Comment: An award-winning web strip that blends the personal with the political in a loose, scrappy style.
  • McGruder, Aaron. All the Rage: Boondocks Past and Present. Three Rivers. 2007. 280p. MEDIA/COMMUNICATIONS Probably the first African American newspaper strip to attract a nationwide—even worldwide—fanbase, the multiple-award-winning Boondocks centers on two kids and their grandfather, relocating to a predominantly white suburb. Cultural clashes with their new community and also among Huey, Riley, and Granddad themselves become fodder for this satiric and amusing saga, which ran in syndication 1999-2006 and transitioned in animated form to the Cartoon Network. All the Rage includes a selection of strips 2003-2005, interviews with McGruder, and a second selection of strips that newspapers refused to print. Teens up. Comment: Boondocks is THE most popular and acclaimed African American-themed comic strip, and this collection provides ample background as well as a selection of strips.
  • Thomas, Corey. Watch Your Head: A Collection. Andrews McMeel. 2008. 127p. FICTION A group of college freshmen navigate life away from home for the first time, facing scholastics, the opposite sex, their families, and each other. As a Howard University student, Thomas began the strip for the school newspaper, and it now runs in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune, among other papers. Wry, funny, and hopeful. Teens up. Comment: A rare depiction of African American college students. (Many African Americans in comics are shown in the context of their families or as part of socially marginal activities.)


African American-interest comics include those with African American themes, main characters, and/or creators—“by, for, and about people of color.” African American writers and artists have had a notable presence in American comics since the 1940s and 1950s when prejudice often kept them out of other publishing and art careers. (See David Hajdu, The Ten Cent Plague, FS&G, 2008.) Pioneers whose work is recognized now include E. Simms Campbell (1908-1971), who drew glamour gals for Esquire and Playboy, and Jackie Ormes (1911-1985), the first known women African American comics creator and who penned several popular newspaper strips in the 1930s through the 1950s. George Herriman (1880-1944), creator of the widely-admired strip Krazy Kat, had Black ancestry, although this was not generally known during his lifetime. His work pushed the format, both art and content, into new directions and inspired numerous others—and still does. Today, a lively community supports African American comics creators, some working for the large comics companies and many others working with small presses, on the Web, or self-published. Increased ethnic sensitivity and interest had led to increases in mainstream titles over the last decade or so. While a great many African American comics seem to be have been written primarily for older teens and adults, more titles are now coming out for younger teens and children readers. But women creators remain rare, especially in mainstream publishing. To increase representation of minorities in comics, Milestone Media was founded in 1992 by a group of Black American cartoonists with backgrounds mostly in the mainstream superhero industry. Despite good intentions and some nine series published through DC Comics—Static was made into animated television series, Static Shock—the comic books didn’t sell as well as expected (Brown 2001, Strömberg 2003) and the company shut down its comic book division in 1997. But at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con, both Milestone and DC announced that Milestone characters would be folded into the DC Universe and appear routinely in series like Justice League of America and Teen Titans. Moreover, the old Milestone issues will be collected into graphic novels (Brady 2008). So far, only Static has reappeared. (See Static Shock, above.) Rich Watson’s blogs and the Glyph Awards (see below) are the best ways to check on trends and identify titles within and outside mainstream publishing. Mainstream African American-interest graphic novels are often reviewed by Publishers Weekly, other review journals, and the more serious fan Web sites; but Web comics and small-publisher graphic novels and comic books may not receive much coverage.


  • Black Age of Comics Convention Held since 1993 in Chicago, now annually in the fall. The 2008 convention included an exhibit, marketplace, signings, and a press conference. Seems to focus mostly on indie, small press, and self-published titles.
  • East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention (ECBACC) Held since 2002 in Philadelphia, in May. Small, intimate convention for comics creators and fans, with a special program for kids. Goals are to promote literacy, provide a venue and networking opportunities for Black comics creators, and promote “positive Black images.” Includes exhibits, marketplace, panels, and workshops. Note: There are usually African American-themed panels at the New York Comic Con and the San Diego Comic-Con International.


  • Glyph Comics Awards Recognizes “the best in comics made by, for, and about people of color.” Presented yearly since 2005 at ECBACC (see above) in ten categories.

Online Resources

  • Black Comix: The Blog A site and blog taking off from the recent book, Black Comix (see below). News and publication announcements.
  • Digital Femme Blog of Cheryl Lynn Eaton, comics journalist for Publishers Weekly and other outlets, and founder of the Ormes Society, an organization of women African American comics creators that seems to be on hiatus at present.
  • Glyphs: The Language of the Black Comics Community A blog of Rich Watson, comics journalist and founder of the Glyph Awards (which were named after this blog—see above). Posts have ceased as of May 2010, but prior posts are still useful.
  • Great Black Comic Books “A guide to the quality Black comics (read: graphic novels and trade paperbacks) and where and how to get them.” Another welcome blog from Rich Watson and very useful for librarians. Includes lengthy annotations and links.
  • The Museum of Black Superheroes Articles, gallery, list of superheroes with capsule vignettes, forum, and links.
  • Salute to Pioneering Cartoonists of Color Scroll down for the link. African American newspaper strip cartoonists c. 1920s through 1960s, listed by name of cartoonist, name of cartoon strip, and name of main character(s), with vignettes for many entries.

Other Resources

  • Brown, Jeffrey A. Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.
  • Cartoons and Ethnicity; The 1992 Festival of Cartoon Art. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992. Published in conjunction with the exhibition, ”Illusions: Ethnicity in American Cartoon Art,” curated by Lucy Shelton Caswell, and the 1992 Festival of Cartoon Art, Ohio State University, Columbus.
  • Duffy, Damien and John Jennings. Black Comix: African Americans Independent Comics, Art and Culture. New York: Mark Batty, 2010.
  • Foster, William H. Looking for a Face Like Mine: The History of African Americans in Comics. Waterbury, Conn.: Fine Tooth Press, 2005.
  • Goldstein, Nancy. Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
  • Other Heroes: African American Comic Book Creators, Characters and Archetypes. Art Exhibition Catalog. Morrisville, N.C.: Lulu, 2007. Published in conjunction with the exhibition “Other Heroes: African American Comic Book Creators, Characters and Archetypes,” curated by John Jennings and Damian Duffy, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.
  • Strömberg, Fredrik. Black Images in the Comics: A Visual History. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003.    

Environmental Issues

Graphic narratives about threats to our environment are not new. In a 1957 Disney comic book, Uncle Scrooge McDuck finds Duckberg too smoggy and noisy, thanks—ironically—to industries he established himself. But Scrooge is oblivious to such contradictions. Instead of cleaning up Duckberg air for everyone’s benefit, he selfishly purchases a huge chunk of unspoiled countryside and decamps with his nephews for his new lake-bedecked property. Then being the wealthy ol’ moneybags Scrooge that he is, he considers exploiting the resources of this paradise for even more money. But fortunately for the lakes, the local Native American tribespeople take exception to Scrooge interfering with their homeland, and they trick the ducks into leaving. Master duck cartoonist Carl Barks’ “Land of the Pygmy Indians”—a comedy with a message—foreshadows the recent increase of environmentally-themed comics due to natural catastrophes over the past decade: the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the 2009 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Most of these nearly thirty graphic novels came out in 2009 or later. Postscript: Scrooge’s bittersweet venture into bucolic bliss will be reissued by Fantagraphics as part of the Carl Barks Library reprint series. Thanks to Steve Raiteri for suggesting some of these titles. Martha Cornog and Tim Siftar

Children and Tweens

  • Bliss, Harry. Luke on the Loose. Croall, Marie (text) & Erica Leigh Currey (illus.). Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue. BOOM! Studios. 2009. 112p. ISBN 9781608865246. $24.99. F Everyone’s favorite clownfish returns from the Finding Nemo animated film, recruiting his father fish Marlin and friend fish Dory to solve a mystery: the reef where they live is dying. Adventure, danger, and diplomacy follow, as the fish convince other underseas citizens to help find the cause of the problem and work out a solution. A story of courage and cooperation as much as about ecological concerns, in lively color art.
  • Dahl, Michael (text) & Jeff Crowther (illus.). Princess Candy: The Green Queen of Mean. Stone Arch. 2010. 40p. ISBN 9781434218937. pap. $22.65. F Princess Candy is the alter-ego of 11-year-old Halo Nightly, whose magic candy gives her superpowers. When Halo’s arch-enemy Doozie Hiss tries to sabotage Halo’s science project on pollution, Halo’s partner Flora Fawn conjures up her own Green Queen superpowers to fight Doozie. But things get out of hand pretty quick. It’s up to Halo to help Flora find a better way to handle Doozie and create a beautiful flower garden as well.
  • Dávila, Claudia. Luz Sees the Light. Kids Can Press. 2011. 96p. ISBN 9781554535811. $16.95. F (series: The Future According to Luz) Twelve-year-old Luz isn’t thrilled when energy prices skyrocket so high that power outages interrupt her life. But she wants to do something: she gets her two friends involved in turning an abandoned lot into a city garden, and she keeps at it despite community lethargy. A bonus chapter teaches kids how to make garden compost. Future volumes of The Future According to Luz will each focus on a specific area of the environmental crisis, with a step-by-step how-to project at the end. Energetic, color illustrations.
  • Eaton, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9780375964473. $12.99.
  • F Eaton, Maxwell. The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Fishy Business. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2012. 96p. ISBN 97803759964480. $12.99. F Ace loves extreme sports and brother Bub loves napping, but when bad-guy penguins bring in a gigantic refrigerator to convert Beaver Island to polar-style living, the beaver brothers must work together to save their home from environmental catastrophe. In the second volume, the brothers discover that Fish Stix Environmental Manufacturing is really just a cover for extreme corruption all around and a nasty plot threatening the island’s forests. The solution involves a hang-glider and five hundred pancakes. Plenty of green-friendly humor with two-color art.
  • Faust, David R. & John Nelson (text) & Dheeraj Verma (illus.). Jr. Graphic Environmental Dangers (series). Rosen. 2009. ea. 24p. set: ISBN 9781435825550. $143.70. ENVIRONMENT Six short educational graphic novels about different environmental issues: Sinister Sludge: Oil Spills and the Environment Global Warming: Greenhouse Gases and the Ozone Layer Energy Crisis: The Future of Fossil Fuels Collision Course: Asteroids and Earth Polar Ice Caps in Danger After Earth: Living on a Different Planet Marder, Larry. Beanworld. Book 1: Wahoolazuma! Dark Horse. 2009. 272p. ISBN 9781595822406. $19.99. F Marder’s engaging and complex saga has been compared to Krazy Kat for its surrealistic oddness. Set in a wholly original universe populated by beanlike creatures, stories follow Mr. Spook and his fellow beings as they hunt for food, work together, and confront forces and individuals that threaten their future. The Beanworld is a closed ecosystem, where all parts have their interrelationships and everyone depends on each other. Echoing concerns of our own world, major themes include ecology, environmental conservation, mutual support, and artistic expression. Several more volumes have been published, following the yearly cycle of life in Beanworld. Black and white art; appropriate for “grade school to grad school.”
  • O’Donnell, Liam (text) & Michael Deas (illus.). Food Fight: A Graphic Guide Adventure. Orca. 2010. 64p. ISBN 978155469071. pap. $9.95. F The Graphic Guide series stars a rotating multiethnic cast of kids in action-based adventures, with nonfiction content relating to how-to skills and social change. In this volume, Nadia and Devin spend summer vacation at a university camp and unexpectedly happen upon a corporate plot to take over the U.S. food supply with genetically modified fertilizer. Educators can use the story to get young people thinking about where our food comes from, how the current production-delivery system evolved, and the advantages of eating locovore.
  • Poon, Janice. Claire and the Water Wish. Kids Can Press. 2009. 120p. ISBN 9781554533824. $15.95. F Claire solves kid-mysteries with a green-friendly vibe. The first volume, Claire and the Bakery Thief, concerns natural vs. artificial baking ingredients. In this second adventure, Claire and her friends work on a group science project involving a polluted lake and have to find the source of pollution. Both books include a craft project in the back. Cheerful, attractive black-and-white art. Runton, Andy. Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer. Top Shelf. 2004. 160p. ISBN 9781891830624. pap. $10. F The nearly-wordless, charming dramas of Owly and his friend Wormy introduce the youngest children to friendship and to affection for all the natural world. In this beginning volume of the series, Owly saves Wormy’s life and then as best buddies, they befriend a couple of hummingbirds flying south. In expressive black and white art, the story comes across through characterization, action, gesture, and emotion symbols. Wonderful for pre-readers learning about how to follow stories and deduce meaning from print symbols.

Teens & Up

  • Baker, Kyle. Nat Turner. Allison, Rachel Hope. I’m Not a Plastic Bag. Archaia. 2012. 88p. ISBN 9781936393541. $15.95. F/ENVIRONMENT In the North Pacific floats the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a concentrated mélange of debris shaped by ocean currents, reportedly three times the size of Texas. With lyrical and haunting painted art, Allison imagines how such an amorphous floating mass might come to be an actual island, growing out of a genesis from discarded plastic bags.
  • Aquilina, Drew. Green Pieces: Green from the Pond Up. 2nd ed. Green Pieces Cartoon Studio. 2011. 197p. ISBN 9780983344438. pap. $19.99. HUMOR (order from Amazon.com or http://www.greenpiecescartoons.com) Slapstick and environmentally savvy, Green Pieces stars an assorted collection of animals: a turtle, dragonfly, raccoon, and frog who live in a wetlands area with numerous other creatures. Puns and gentle satire characterize this four-panel color strip with simple, cartoony art.
  • Birk, Aaron. The Pollinator’s Corridor: A Graphic Novel. Black Willow Productions/Worzalla. 2012. 108p. ISBN 978061556299. pap. $25. (order from www.aaronbirk.com) F/ENVIRONMENT In the city, isolated parks, gardens, and patches of green bring beauty and health benefits to urban life. But plants cannot thrive without the pollinators: insects and other creatures that fertilize the ecosystem. Will the pollinators cross from one green patch to another, across long stretches of barren concrete? In the 1970s Bronx, three friends work together to create a cross-town “pollinator’s corridor,” stretches of flowering greenery functioning like bus routes to allow these vital insects to spread their skill throughout the entire city. The heroes of this story don’t wear capes but come by night with bike trailers loaded with potted trees.
  • Calof, Grant (text) & Jeevan Kang (illus.). H2O. Liquid Comics/Dynamite. 2011. 72p. ISBN 9781606902271. pap. $6.99. F The year is 2250: the world has run out of water, and countries clash to tap the last known source: a lost glacier high in the Andes. Volcanologist Aaron Turner, a reluctant hero, must overcome technical and human barriers and release the unavailable water. Calof did considerable research to identify environmental trends, cutting edge technologies, and water-producing schemes that make the story a credible scenario, useful for understanding the problem of dwindling water supplies.
  • Chadwick, Paul. Concrete. Vol. 5: Think Like A Mountain. Dark Horse. 2006. 208p. ISBN 9781593075591. pap. $12.95. F Concrete, a walking stone being turned travel writer, agrees to accompany a group of radical eco-warriors so he can understand and write about their struggle to save old-growth forest from a lumber company. Neither the loggers nor the environmentalists fit easily into good/evil dichotomies, and Chadwick loads in plenty of data about the environmental debates as Concrete gradually decides to take a more active role in the struggle than that of an observer/journalist. The original comic book series was a 1996 Parents’ Choice Award winner, here collected with bonus short stories. Skillful, realistic black and white art.
  • Duin, Steve (text) & Shannon Wheeler (illus.). Oil and Water. Fantagraphics. 2011. 120p. ISBN 9781606994924. $19.99. SCI In 2010, Duin (Comics: Between the Panels) and Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man) joined Oregonians touring the Deepwater Horizon oil spill sites, aiming to measure the disaster’s impact, encourage the locals, and tell a powerful story. Wheeler’s atmospheric, ink-washed greys capture the eccentric residents, from crabbers to a pelican rescue team, and Duin’s script catches the ironic resiliency of people exploited by the very industry that feeds them. However, not much background or reference information is provided. Valuable for high-schoolers and adults as a glimpse into the crisis, and for general sensitization to environmental issues.
  • Dysart, Josh (text) & Cliff Chiang (illus.). Neil Young's Greendale. Vertigo. 2010. 160p. ISBN 9781401226985. $19.99. F Neil Young’s 2003 album Greendale has been called a "rock opera" and "audio novel," exploring the effects of crime, consumerism, and environmental issues on small-town California. In this adaptation of the album and related film, teenager Sun Green comes to discover her own unusual powers and those of other women in her family to confront mounting injustices. Adaptor Dysart, who describes his own political leanings as "left of Lenin," pegs the theme as antiwar and pro-planet. Realistic, color art with a pastel-ish palette.
  • Gonick, Larry & Alice Outwater (text) & Larry Gonick (illus.). Cartoon Guide to the Environment. Collins Reference. 1996. 240p. ISBN 9780062732743. pap. $16.99. ENVIRONMENT Using the ecological collapse of Easter Island as a case study, this guide works in the major touchpoints of green science: chemical cycles, life communities, food webs and agriculture, human population growth, sources of fuel and energy, waste recycling and disposal, urban centers, pollution and deforestation, ozone depletion, and global warming. Population dynamics, thermodynamics, and the behavior of complex systems are also discussed. While published over fifteen years ago and not up-to-date, for example, on the global warming debate, the principles of environmental science have not changed and so this guide remains useful.
  • Hayes, Nick. The Rime of the Modern Mariner. Jonathan Cape. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780224090254. £18.99. F/ENVIRONMENT (available from Amazon.co.uk) Hayes’ modern Mariner puts to sea to find whalebone as raw material for making dominoes, taking potshots at floating garbage to escape boredom. A bird overhead offers more challenging sport, so he shoots that albatross as in the Coleridge poem. Now the floating detritus surging through the waves isn’t just something to shoot at for kicks but a living nightmare showing him the consequences of human consumption. Swirling, evocative black-and-white ink with teal wash, both beautiful and haunting.
  • Keller, Michael (text) & Nicolle Rager Fuller (illus.). Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Rodale. 2009. c.192p. ISBN 9781605299488. pap. $14.99. NAT HIST Darwin foresaw that his complex work would upset millennia of theological tradition about the origin of life, and indeed, the creationism wars continue today. This lovely and multi-textured graphic novel follows Origin's original chapters, combining snippets of Darwin's text with quotes from letters, illustrative examples from his time and from the present, and occasional invented dialog. In drawings of three saber-toothed cats, for example, we can observe the "imperfection of the geological record" when the full skeleton of only one of the animals is preserved in a bog and discovered later. An afterword from Keller brings the scholarship up-to-date, from Gregor Mendel's pea plants to E.O. Wilson's sociobiology.
  • Lewis, A. David (text) & mpMann (illus.). Some New Kind of Slaughter or Lost in the Flood (and How We Found Home Again): Diluvian Myths from Around the World. Archaia. 2009. 139p. ISBN 9781932386530. $19.95. MYTHOLOGY A collection of stories based on flood myths from across history and culture, tied together through a frame-story dream experienced by the Sumerian equivalent of Noah. One of the stories depicted is not a classic myth but slice-of-life fiction about a modern woman searching for her family after a tsunami-like disaster. The dreamy, evocative color belies and yet supports the overall theme, both explaining past human visions and prophesying future watery catastrophes. A grand eco-fable focused into an evolutionary cautionary for the future.
  • Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Vol. 7. 2nd ed. VIZ Media. 2004. 232p. ISBN 9781591163558. pap. $9.95. F A complex, seven-volume saga of environmental catastrophe in a post-industrial world where humans fight for the few unpolluted resources and nature tries to heal itself. A young princess from a tiny kingdom, Nausicaä fights to create peaceful coexistence among warring nations while tuning in to the essence and purpose of the supposedly toxic fungal forest: the Sea of Corruption. The well-known and highly regarded series was originally serialized 1982-1994, and the first two volumes formed the basis for Miyazaki’s 1984 anime film.
  • Miyazaki, Hayao. Princess Mononoke. Vol. 5. VIZ Media. 2007. 200p. ISBN 9781421506012. pap. $9.99. F When a boar demon attacks Ashitaka’s village, the young prince is forced to kill it but becomes cursed in return: now superhumanly strong, he will die soon. He seeks help towards the west, eventually finding the industrial village of Iron Town. Led by the aggressive Lady Eboshi, the town is locked in a struggle with the local forest gods, which are championed by wild girl San who was raised by the wolf goddess. The back-and-forth battle kills some of the forest gods, yet Ashitaka is healed through helping resolve the crisis. It is understood, however, that civilization and nature can never be completely reconciled, and harmonious coexistence may be cyclical at best. This five-volume film comic (animanga) is based on the classic Miyazaki film of the same name.
  • Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Pantheon. 2009. 208p. bibliog. ISBN 97030737819. $24.95. HIST/ENVIRONMENT Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to millions of lives, including seven profiled in this dramatic and painful documentary: social worker Denise, young couple Leo and Michelle, convenience store owners Abbas and Darnell, high school student Kwame, and physician Brobson. Neufeld, who volunteered for the Red Cross in the weeks after the storm, originally published the story as a web comic. Strong language may limit access to adults in some libraries.
  • O’Neil, Dennis (text) & Elliot S. Maggin (illus.). Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection. Vol. 2. DC Comics. 2004. 200p. ISBN 9781401202309. pap. $15. F In one of the flagship attempts of the comics industry to address social problems during the 1970s, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) team up for a roadtrip to rediscover America and confront racism, drugs, and environmental threats. One story finds the pair rescuing a small company town from an industrial pollution disaster despite hostility from its citizens. The collection reprints issues #83-87 and #89 of the comic book series.
  • Schmidt, Tom. Bumbling Through Borneo. 2nd ed. Kakibubu Media. 2009. 112p. ISBN 9789881806659. pap. $12.95. TRAVEL Bumbling Bob is an architect at loose ends, on an uncertain journey into the heart of Borneo with a group of backpackers from other countries. River travel, virgin rainforest, runaway logging trucks, and underground caverns await the group as they learn about Borneo’s natural world and its looming environmental problems. The combination of introduction for tourists, lighthearted adventure story, and environmental primer is done in black and white art interspersed with text and take-away points. The Bumbling Traveler Adventure Series promotes environmental and cultural awareness through entertaining mysteries and adventures, with a second volume focusing on Sumatra. (Note: not actual up-to-date travel guides.)

Older Teens and Adults

  • Gaiman, Neil (text) & Dave McKean (illus.). Black Orchid Deluxe Edition. Vertigo. May 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781401233358. $24.99. F After botanist Susan Linden-Thorne is murdered by her abusive husband, her supportive botanist boyfriend revives her as a plant/human hybrid with superpowers: Black Orchid. Now she seeks her own heritage while coping with a corrupt world of humans. Gaiman integrates all the DC super-horticulturals into the plot, giving cameo roles to Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing. The limited series came out originally in 1988 and has been collected before, but with its ecological message, the story could become more popular now. Striking, orchid-toned art.
  • Hicklenton, John. 100 Months. Cutting Edge Press. 2012. 170p. ISBN 9780956544520. $29.95. F Prince Charles warned in 2009 that we only have 100 months to save the planet. In this brutally violent and richly drawn allegory of Armageddon, warrior earth goddess Mara goes all-out for revenge against Longpig, a demonic personification of capitalism whose followers look suspiciously like normal humans. The disturbingly beautiful art recalls the work of Ralph Steadman and Peter Kuper. Hicklenton was a British artist well known for his work on 2000 AD and Judge Dredd.
  • Jensen, Derrick (text) & Stephanie McMillan (illus.). As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial: A Graphic Novel. Seven Stories Press. 2007. 224p. ISBN 97815832277770. pap. $14.95. F/ENVIRONMENT Using an upcoming alien invasion as a frame story, this simply drawn satirical comic pushes the message that damage to the environment due to corporate and government policies far eclipses damage from consumer lifestyle choices. And thus even if people switched to low-energy appliances and went vegan, the earth is still on a downhill course. While not proposing any remedies, the message may inspire readers to move beyond simplistic green movement solutions and work to influence business and civic leaders. Black-and-white line art in an ironically “cute” style.
  • Moore, Alan (text) & Stephen Bissette & John Totleben (illus.). Saga of the Swamp Thing. Book. 1. DC Comics. Apr. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781401220839. pap. $19.99. F Saga of the Swamp Thing. Book 2. Oct. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9781401225445. $19.99. F Moore took over what was basically a standard “man turns into swamp monster” horror series and turned it into a frank commentary on environmental, political, and social issues—now considered a classic for both story and art. Now instead of a monster that was once the scientist Alec Holland, Swamp Thing is an elemental plant entity that somehow absorbed the scientist’s memory and personality. Heroic, powerful, and tragic, the creature uses the forces of nature and the wisdom of the plant kingdom to protect his swamp home and all the natural world from threats and dangers. These two volumes reprint Moore’s run on the series.    



This second in the series of blog entries about graphic novels in the library focuses on Japanese manga available in English translation. “Manga” is a Japanese word used for comics that literally means “whimsical pictures.” According to the pop culture watch organization ICv2, the 2008 American market for manga topped $175 million, approaching half the total for the graphic novel market in this country. But in Japan, manga have been enormously popular ever since the format took off after World War II. Earlier Japanese graphic traditions such as humorous scroll paintings and bound graphic narratives called Kibyoshi intermingled with post World War II influences from American comic books brought over by troops during the occupation. With Japanese artists needing to earn a living in the difficult 1950s and the populace hungry for cheery entertainment, low-tech manga comics filled the bill nicely. Unlike American-style “comic books,” initial manga publication takes the form of hefty comics magazines, running episodes of multiple serials monthly—even sometimes weekly. Popular series are then compiled into paperback volumes (tankobon) for resale. It has been estimated that the manga market runs about 40% of all of Japanese publishing. Indeed, manga readership permeates all ages and social classes in Japan, boys and girls, men and women, with titles to appeal to all the various niche markets. The major marketing categories are:

  • Kodamo:
  • For children
  • Shonen manga:
  • For boys tween through teen
  • Shojo manga:
  • For girls tween through teen
  • Seinen manga:
  • For college-age through adult men
  • Josei manga:
  • For older girls and women
  • BL or yaoi:
  • For teen girls up through women; stories about male-male romance and sex
  • Yuri:
  • For teen girls up through women; stories about female-female crushes, romance, and sometimes sex

Many other subcategories exist, such as manga focusing on pachinko, a game similar to pinball, but the broad categories above dominate the manga translated for U.S. readers. In Japan, manga are printed to be read left to right. Early translated manga were usually “flipped” to follow English-language reading order; but today most manga retain the Japanese format. One of the first manga translated into English for Americans was Barefoot Gen around 1978-1980 (see below), the result of a focused group effort to make the horrors of nuclear war known to more people. Over the 1980s and 1990s, gradually anime (Japanese animated cartoons) made their way onto college campuses and eventually into U.S. distribution – which helped drive U.S. translation of more manga. Manga are often based on anime and vice-versa, and enthusiasm about anime touched off fascination for all things Japanese, including manga. By the turn of the 21st century, the manga trickle had become a tsunami. Manga translated into English are nowadays widely sold in chain and independent bookstores as well as in comics shops. Most noted for appeal to teens—substantial numbers of girls as well as boys—the wide variety of series and plots encompasses content for all ages and areas of interest. One can get an idea of the American fan base by attending an anime/manga convention, such as Anime Expo in Los Angeles, where upwards of 44,000 otaku (fans) congregate in and out of costume for three days, or the smaller Otakon (Baltimore), which attracts 26,000. Because of manga’s appeal worldwide, the artistic and storytelling styles common in manga have come to influence both European and American comics creators. Manga have also become extremely popular in libraries, attracting tweens and teens especially to check out popular titles, watch anime showings, and participate in library programs based on manga and anime. The titles below (alphabetical by title rather than author) have been drawn from a number of sources: best-seller lists, best-of lists, and lists of titles recommended for library purchase. (See the resources section following the titles.) “LJ xx/xx” refers to reviews published in Library Journal. Tim Siftar & Martha Cornog

New Manga

  • Kubo, Tite. Bleach. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2004.  200p. FICTION Teenager Ichigo Kurosaki accidentally obtains the power of a Soul Reaper, a death spirit with the job of ushering the newly dead safely into the afterlife despite evil beings known as Hollows who prey upon them. As he exercises his new powers, he becomes caught up in struggles within the Soul Reaper Society as well as between the society and the Hollows. Comment: Currently at 41 volumes in Japan and 28 in the U.S., Bleach has been extremely popular in both countries and has led to derivative anime, feature films, trading card and video games, guidebooks to the series, and novels. Teens up.
  • Kagesaki, Yuna. Chibi Vampire. Vol. 1. Tokyopop. 2006. 176p.  FICTION Karin is an unusual vampire: she gives blood rather than feeding on it, and as a teen has monthly nosebleeds if she does not give blood to someone. As a result, she has problems blending into either human or vampire society, and she attracts the attention of unscrupulous other vampires, for whom Karin’s bite could reverse their sterility. Fortunately, her family and Kenta, her human boyfriend, become her allies in a major fight over Karin’s powers. Comment: The series totals 14 volumes and has been very popular in the U.S. A derivative anime and series of novels have also appeared. It has been praised for its fresh and unusual twist on the vampire mystique. Older teens up. (LJ 9/15/07)
  • Ohba, Tsugumi (text) & Takeshi Ohbata (illus.). Death Note. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2005. 200p.  FICTION Brilliant high school student Light Yagami is yanked out of his boredom when he finds a notebook dropped by a shinigami—a death god. He discovers he can deal out death himself by visualizing a person and writing their name in the notebook. With socially conscious motives, Light decides to rid Japan of its criminals. But eventually the police realize there’s a killer on the loose, well-intentioned or not, and so does the equally brilliant young detective “L” who joins with the police to try to track down Light. Comments: With derivative anime, live-action films, and novels, this 12-volume thriller has attracted considerable controversy as well as numerous readers in several countries. Excellent for classroom ethics discussions. Older teens up.
  • Takaya, Natsuki. Fruits Basket. Vol. 1. Tokyopop. 2004. 216p.  FICTION Plucky orphaned teen Tohru sets up her tent in the forest but then finds living quarters and housekeeping work with a family cursed with alternate personas: when embraced by someone of the opposite sex, each turns into a different animal of the Chinese zodiac.  As she mediates family conflicts and learns more about their secret, she slowly grows closer to Kyo, the family misfit with the non-zodiac “cat” persona, and sets about finding out how to break the curse. Comment: The series totals 23 volumes, has won several awards and inspired a derivative anime, and has been fantastically popular in both Japan and the U.S., especially with young women. Teens up. (LJ 5/1/04, LJ 6/1/07)
  • Arakawa, Hiromu. Fullmetal Alchemist. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2005. 192p.  FICTION Talented young alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric try to resurrect their dead mother. But the forbidden—and unsuccessful—procedure costs Edward an arm and leg literally, while Alphonse ends up as a soul trapped inside a suit of armor with no “body” at all. So Edward hires on as a State Alchemist with the military government, which equips him with cybernetic limbs, and he travels with his brother on state assignments while along the way seeking the Philosopher’s Stone that will restore their natural bodies. But other alliances and powers seek to use the stone for corrupt purposes, and numerous missions and conflicts complicate their quest. Comment: An action-packed adventure drama with mystical overtones that has been extremely popular in Japan and the U.S., with related anime, film novels and videogames. Up to 20 volumes in the U.S. and 23 in Japan, and continuing. Teens up.
  • Akamatsu, Ken. Love Hina. Vol. 1. TOKYOPOP. 2007.  FICTION While studying for his college entrance exam, Keitaro becomes manager of Hinata House, a girls dorm owned by his family. Now with 10 pretty girls in his life, studying becomes extra-challenging. But he thinks that one of the girls may be his childhood crush—the two children had promised to go to Tokyo University together. Over 14 volumes of teen soap opera, the two sort out their feelings for each other amidst numerous and often slapstick complications. Comments: A multi-million seller in several languages, this award-winning romantic comedy has derivative anime, novels, reference books, and videogames. An especially popular example of the so-called “harem” subgenre of manga, when a typically clueless young man becomes the object of attention from a group of young women. However, the term is a misnomer since the young man usually has no control over the women, and their attentions are not always friendly and are rarely sexual. (See also Oh My Goddess! and Rosario + Vampire.) Older teens up. (LJ 9/1/02)
  • Kishimoto, Masashi. Naruto. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2003. 192p. FICTION Naruto is a teen ninja in training, with dreams of becoming the Hokage (leader) of his village. But he has sealed inside him a nine-tailed demon fox, the demon that destroyed his village in the past, and he was under suspicion and mistreated while growing up. However, he gains comrades and friends in the course of his training and despite his impulsive and mischievous youthfulness gains mastery over his craft and over the secrets of power in his world. Comments: Naruto has been the top manga in the U.S. for at least the last year or so and has been extremely popular in the U.S. and Japan, ongoing with over 40 volumes so far plus related anime, films, novels, and videogames. It has won awards and been commended for its balance of exciting combat sequences with humor, and for its character development on the coming-of-age theme. Teens up. Ikeda, Akihisa. Rosario + Vampire. Vol. 1. 2008. VIZ Media. 2008. 192p. FICTION Poor Tsukune fails his high school entrance exams, and the only school that will take him turns out to have a student body of vampires, werewolves, witches, succubi, mermaids, and other supernatural creatures. Since it’s a secret academy, he has to hide the fact that he’s human as well as deal with turf wars and crushes coming his way as the new kid. Then he and the cute vampire Moka start falling for each other, and they discover that only Tsukune can unlock her secret powers. Comments: This series blends a number of popular manga themes in an innovative way: “harem” stories, high school comedy, magical girls who can fight, and vampire/supernatural elements. Up to 15 volumes in Japan and 10 in the U.S., and on several top-10 lists in late 2009. Older teens up.
  • Hino, Matsuri. Vampire Knight. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2007. 208p. FICTION Yuki is a class prefect at a high school with normal day classes of humans and secret night classes of vampires. She is charged with keeping the Night Class secret while caught between allegiances: her duty to the school’s head who raised her and who thinks humans and vampires can coexist peacefully, her long friendship with her co-prefect whose parents were killed by vampires and who thinks them all evil, and her growing love for the President of the Night Class—a vampire who saved her life at a child. Moreover, Yuki’s own past hides secret identities. Comment: A supernatural love triangle melodrama very popular with female readers in the U.S. and Japan. Up to 11 volumes in Japan and 8 in the U.S., the series has a derivative anime, videogame, and novels. Older teens up.
  • Azuma, Kiyohiko. Yotsuba&! Vol. 1. Yen Press. 2009 (reprint). 209p.  HUMOR Curious and delighted with everything around her, five-year-old Yotsuba creates amusing chaos in the lives of her adoptive single father, the pretty-girl neighbors, and everyone else she meets. The title, “Yotsuba and…,” references the chapter titles, which all take the form of “Yotsuba and something.” “Yotsuba” means “four leaves” as in four-leaf clover, and the little girl has green hair tied in four short ponytails. (LJ 7/1/05, LJ 9/15/07) Comments: Praised for its entertaining evocation of childhood wonder, the 8-volume all-ages series has won several awards (including YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens) and been a top seller in Japan and the U.S. All ages.

Classic Manga

  • Tezuka, Osamu. Astro Boy. Vols. 1&2. Dark Horse. 2008. 424p. FICTION A cute superpowered robot built by an inventor to replace his dead son but then abandoned as an imperfect copy, Astro Boy is raised by a benevolent professor and given a mission to defend Japan and the world from evil aliens and other robots. Comments: Originally running 23 volumes published 1952-1968, Astro Boy was the first manga to be adapted to animation and the character has become widely beloved throughout Japan with all-ages appeal. Several films have also been produced, including one in 2009. Tezuka has been dubbed the “god of manga” for his skill with art and characters, and he created hundreds of thousands of pages during his career. All ages. (LJ 3/1/03)
  • Azuma, Kiyohiko. Azumanga Daioh. Vol. 1. ADV Manga. 2003. 172p. ISBN 978-1413900002. pap. $9.99. F An off-beat comedy about the everyday lives of six high-school girls and several of their female teachers, from child prodigy Chiyo who’s much younger than her peers to the reserved and athletic Sakaki who’s clawed by the cats she tries to befriend. With almost no romantic content, the character-driven stories focus on relationships, schoolwork, sports, and leisure activities. Comments: An example of “yonkoma” or four-panel manga, a common format in Japan for humor strips. Relatively few yonkoma have been translated into English. A derivative anime is available, and the 4 manga volumes are being reissued by Yen Press (ADV ceased operations). The series is widely praised for its quirky charm and has been translated into a number of languages. Teens up. (LJ 9/1/04)
  • Nakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen. Vol. 1: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima. Last Gasp. 2004. 288p.  AUTOBIOGRAPHY One of the earliest manga to be translated for American readers, Barefoot Gen recounts the bombing of Hiroshima through the voice and perspective of a young city boy, struggling to stay alive with his family after the blast. As an insider’s view of war’s realities based on the author’s own life, this harrowing 10-volume story offers lessons in history, humanity, and compassion. Comments: One of the earliest comics to demonstrate to Americans that cartoons could tell serious and important stories, Barefoot Gen set the stage for the explosion of western enthusiasm about manga since the late 1990s. Older teens up. (LJ 7/1/03)
  • Tezuka, Osamu. Buddha. Vol. 1: Kapilavastu. Vertical. 2006. 256p.  RELIGION Manga master Tezuka interprets the life of Gautama Buddha in 8 volumes, expanding upon known incidents and historical figures and adding many fictional characters. A sweeping historical tale about fate, the consequences of violence, and the value of all life that mixes heroism with brutality and broad humor. Comments: As Astro Boy came towards the beginning of Tezuka’s rich career, Buddha comes near the end of it and is considered one of his major works as well as one of the few manga on a serious religious/spiritual theme. The Vertical edition has won several Eisner awards. Older teens up. (LJ 1/1/04)
  • CLAMP. Clover. Omnibus Edition. Dark Horse. 2009. 512p.  FICTION In this dystopian, experimental manga, the government attempts to control psychic children through the “Clover” program. The reverse-order plot involves the combined fates of the most powerful Clover, the young girl Sue, with professional singer and lesser-powered Clover Ora as well as ex-military man Kazuhiko, Ora’s lover at one time. The plotting is not widely admired but the art is among the most spectacular in manga, blending cyberpunk with art deco styles. Comments: CLAMP is a collective of women manga artists known for their beautiful, swirly art and girl-friendly, romantic stories. Clover is probably their most gorgeous work, and the page layouts and overall design match the drawings in mastery. Older teens up.
  • Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. A Drifting Life. Drawn and Quarterly. 2009. 840p. AUTOBIOGRAPHY In the late 1950s, Tatsumi founded what is called gekiga, a more realistic, slice-of-life-style manga aimed at adults. He is especially known for The Push Man and Other Stories, and Abandon the Old in Tokyo. In this fictionalized autobiography, “Hiroshi” grows up from a child reading manga to become a major figure of the industry while enmeshed in an elaborate system of artists, editors, and publishers in postwar Japan. Includes cameos of many outstanding manga artists, showing the evolution of manga styles. Comments: This long and captivating autobiography holds much about the history of manga and Japanese culture as well as about Tatsumi’s own life as a manga artist. Older teens up.
  • Toriyama, Akira. Dragon Ball. Vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition). VIZ Media.  2008. 560p. FICTION Son Goku is an incredibly strong, monkey-tailed boy who lives in the forest with his grandfather—or that’s what Goku calls the mysterious globe with suspended stars inside that he’s convinced contains the spirit of his ancestor. Then goofy gal inventor Bulma turns up, declaring that “grandfather” is one of seven Dragon Balls scattered throughout the world, and brought together the balls can grant a wish. So Goku and Bulma take off to find all the Dragon Balls in a great adventure of comradeship and daring. Gathering friends and enemies along the way, Goku grows into his own powers and trains to become a great fighter. Comment: A humorous take-off from the Chinese myth of the Monkey King, the 16-volume Dragon Ball is one of the best, most popular, and most famous “fight manga” of all time due in part to its inventive plotting and slapstick—sometimes bawdy—humor. The 26-volume sequel, Dragon Ball Z, continues the adventures of Son Goku and his son. Several anime series plus a number of films and videogames have been based on the manga. Teens up.
  • Kiyama, Henry (Yoshitaka). The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco, 1904–1924. Stone Bridge. 1999. 152p. HISTORY In these semiautobiographical vignettes, four middle-class Japanese twentysomethings seek their fortune in San Francisco. But what have they gotten themselves into? Work as houseboys, an earthquake, World War I stateside culture, and Prohibition, too. The immigrant experience writ with charm and humor—and considerable poignant commentary. Comments: Originally published as a bilingual work in San Francisco by the author in 1931 and one of the earliest “graphic novels”—and probably the first Japanese-authored comic—published  in the United States. With an introduction and extensive notes by the translator, manga expert Frederik L. Schodt. Good for curriculum support, teens and up.
  • Hikawa, Kyoko. From Far Away. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2004. 186p.  FICTION Schoolgirl Noriko gets transported accidentally to a mysterious world of magic, and eventually learns that she’s the fulfillment of a prophesy. Unfortunately, the prophesy maintains that Noriko’s coming will unleash the very dark side of Izark, the broodingly handsome young man who has rescued her. As they begin to fall in love, they vow to find a way to change their destinies. Fourteen volumes. Comments: Much romantic fantasy manga features this theme of teenage girl transported suddenly to another world or another time, where she faces new challenges and possible romance with a strange and attractive young man. Other well-known manga of this type include Red River, Crescent Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, Escaflowne, and InuYasha. The award-winning anime Spirited Away uses this theme with a somewhat younger heroine.
  • Shirow, Masamune. Ghost in the Shell. Vol. 1. 2nd edition. Dark Horse.  2004.  368p. FICTION The enhanced operatives of New Port City’s Public Security Section 9 are no ordinary cops, but then the counterterrorist cases they take on aren’t ordinary either. The beautiful Major Matoko Kusanagi is a powerful cyborg, scaling skyscrapers in thermo-optical camouflage and brain-diving her informants—all with the assistance of wired-in human teammates, other cyborgs, and intelligent armed vehicles, the irrepressible Tachikoma. Along with their hi-tech skullduggery, the Section 9 crew debate what it means to be human in a corrupt world where man and machine merge in multiple ways. Comments: Originally published in 1989 and noted for its metaphysical complexity, GITS is THE vanguard cyberpunk manga giving rise to manga sequels, novels, a TV series, and several films as well as influencing The Matrix films and much other cybercop science fiction. This edition is uncensored and includes several pages of color porn that were cut from the earlier Dark Horse edition and the 2009 Kodansha English edition. (LJ 3/15/05)
  • Ito, Junji. Museum of Terror. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2007. 376p.  FICTION This three-volume anthology of Ito’s horror work begins with the Tomie stories, about a beautiful high school tease who inspires such obsession that her suitors murder each other in jealous rage and then murder her—but she repeatedly comes back to life to torment them further. Other stories turn on making sake from corpses, infectious radio broadcasts, and murderous hair growing on bathroom walls. Comments: Horror manga is a well-developed genre in Japan, and Ito is considered a master of bizarre, creepy, and not-funny stories. Besides Tomie, he is well-known for his Uzumaki series, about a town possessed by spirals of all kinds. Another horror manga master with translated work who sometimes mixes grotesque humor in with the horror is Hideshi Hino (Hino Horror, 15 volumes). For adults.
  • Mizuno, Junko. Junko Mizuno’s Cinderalla [sic]. VIZ Media. 2002. 144p.  FICTION In this “grotesque-cute” and quite funny revisioning of the fairy tale, Cinderalla cooks and waitresses in her family’s yakitori restaurant. Everything is hunky-dory until her father dies and comes back as a zombie, taking a zombie bride as stepmother—who brings along those two horrid daughters. Cinderalla dreams of escape, but the handiest prince is also a zombie, and only zombies can attend his grand ball. Can Cinderalla pass as undead? Indeed she does, even dropping an eyeball instead of a glass slipper. Comments: Mizuno’s mix of horror themes with humor and swirly cuteness is quite unique.  A real classic embodying the successful blend of elements that would appear to westerners as quite unlikely bedfellows. Older teens up.
  • Aoi, Haruka (text) & BH SNOW & CLINIC (illus.). A Little Snow Fairy Sugar. Vol. 1. 184p. ADV. 2006.  FICTION Young Saga has her school, friends, and home life under control until she’s adopted by Sugar, an adorable apprentice season fairy. Only Saga can see the fairies, and Sugar’s crew of kiddie fairies makes up a rambunctious bundle of trouble as they try to “help” the adult fairies as well as Saga and her friends. The amusing chaos almost destroys the class play, but their powers save the day when a wayward piano careens across town in a sequence recalling Laurel and Hardy. Comments: Complete in three volumes and typical of hyper-kawaii (cute) manga designed for kids and tweens, especially girls. The derivative anime is hilarious. All ages.
  • Koike, Kazuo (text) and Goseki Kojima (illus.). Lone Wolf and Cub. Vo. 1. The Assassin's Road. Dark Horse. 2000. 296p.  FICTION An epic samurai adventure with excellent writing and stunning visuals, conveying stark beauty and viceral kinetic power. Ogami Itto has served honorably as court executioner under the Tokugama Shogunate, but he is disgraced by false accusations and his wife is murdered. Forced to flee with his young son, he travels a cursed path as an assassin-for-hire while taking bloody revenge on his enemies. The 28-volume series first released in 1970 has had strong influence East and West, the more so after the full Dark Horse edition was completed in 2002. Enormously popular in Japan, the series led to live-action television and film versions. Comment: LW&C is THE lone-hero samurai manga, with influences ranging from other samurai comics (Rurouni Kenshin; Usagi Yojimbo) to film (Kill Bill). For adults.
  • Takahashi, Rumiko. Maison Ikkoku. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. VIZ Media. 2003. 224p. FICTION In this a sprawling, 14-volume romantic comedy, pretty widow Kyoko takes over as manager for Maison Ikkoku, a run-down boardinghouse owned by her late husband’s family. Slacker student and tenant Yusaku is about to move out but falls hard for Kyoko, who first finds his attentions annoying. But despite Kyoko’s coldness and much interference from the other tenants, Yusaku persists in his affections. Then handsome rich boy Shun goes after Kyoko, and she finds that her feelings towards Yusaku weren’t quite what she thought. Comment: The series starts as mostly slapstick but develops into a masterful and emotional Jane Austenesque comedy of manners as Shun’s family presses him to marry the even more wealthy and very clever Asuna. Takahashi is one of the best-known woman manga artists in Japan. All her series have been very popular and most have been translated into English. (See InuYasha also on this list.) A number of related anime and films have been developed. Older teens. (LJ 1/1/04)
  • Urasawa, Naoki. Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 1 Viz Media. 2006. 224p.  FICTION A gifted neurosurgeon saves a boy’s life, later to learn that his patient has become a monster: a serial killer. Worse, the surgeon is accused of the murders. So he turns rogue, buys a gun, and searches for the monster while evading the police. This brilliant 18-volume thriller pits character against character in nasty and complex cascades of violence, yet we understand and sympathize with every individual. Comments: An outstanding example of how manga can excel in telling a gripping and complex story for adults. Has won several manga awards and is a YALSA pick. (LJ 7/15/09)
  • Miyazaki, Hayao. Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2004. 136p.  FICTION After an apocalyptic war almost wipes out civilization, vast tracts of strange and poisonous fungi take over the world, leading two large countries to fight over the remaining natural resources. The eco-friendly princess Nausicaä, from a smaller city-state, works to understand the environmental crisis and stop the fighting. Comments: Sometimes dubbed the “Walt Disney of Japan,” Miyazaki with his Studio Ghibli is famous for his beautiful animated films, both entertaining and moving: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and others. Serialized in Japan from 1982 to 1994, Nausicaä is his only manga and is similar to the film of the same name, but its seven volumes take the plot, characters, and environmental details much further. Teens up. (LJ 7/1/04)
  • Fujishima, Kosuke. Oh My Godess! Vol. 1. Dark Horse. 2005. 192p. FICTION It’s another boring dateless night for Keiichi, fielding phone calls for his bossy—and popular—upperclassmen roommates and ordering take-out. But his take-out call misdials and he ends up on the Goddess Helpline. Poof! There’s the goddess Belldandy right there in his university dormroom to grant him one wish. What else can the lonely guy wish for but to have her stay with him always? Zap! Keiichi’s wish is granted…but he finds that living with a goddess can be complicated, especially when Belldandy’s two nutty sister-goddesses decide to move in also. Comments: Belldandy (originally, Verthandi) and her sisters Urd and Skuld are named after the Norse Norns, goddesses of the past, present, and future. Beginning Japanese publication in 1988, this romantic comedy is up to 40 volumes (33 so far in the U.S.) and has become very popular due to the charming and eccentric characters, and blend of slapstick with serious emotional content plus lovely art. Novels, films, and anime also exist for the series. Teens up. (LJ 11/1/02)
  • Tetsu, Kariya (text) & Hanasaki Akira (illus.). Oishinbo a la Carte: Japanese Cuisine VIZ Media. 2009. 259p.  COOKING Journalist and cynical foodie Yamaoka Shiro is tasked with creating "The Ultimate Menu" for the Tozai News as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, but a rival newspaper has in mind a "Supreme Menu" and retains Shiro's arrogant gastronome father to design it. This fictional manga offers considerable information about Japanese food, this volume introducing the Japanese kitchen basics and subsequent volumes covering sake, ramen, raw fish dishes, and vegetables, all with recipe samples and copious translation notes. Comments: Fantastically popular in Japan with over 100 volumes, Oishinbo ("the gourmet") typifies fictional manga with heavy nonfiction content, an approach common in Japan but unusual (so far) in this country. (LJ 5/15/09)
  • Kannagi, Satoru (text) & Hotaru Odagiri (illus.). Only the Ring Finger Knows. Digital Manga. 2004. 208p.  FICTION When high schooler Wataru accidentally learns that his ring matches that of upperclassman hottie Yuichi, all the girls want one like it even if hostility flares between the two boys. But if they don’t get along, why does Wataru feel sad when Yuichi takes off his ring? Based on a series of prose novels; several of the novels have been translated. Comments: An example of a genre of manga known as yaoi, shonen-ai, or boys’ love (BL), which focuses on male-male romantic and sometimes sexual relationships. BL manga are usually written by women for female readers, straight or gay, although they may also have appeal for some gay men. Yaoi/BL aficionados constitute a strong fanbase in Japan, and the U.S. fanbase has been growing. An increasing number and variety of titles are being translated into English. Teens up.
  • Manabe, Johji. Outlanders. Vol. 1. Dark Horse. 1996. 184p.  FICTION A bouncy, picaresque space opera starring a winsome but deadly alien princess who falls in love with a human. The aliens have just destroyed earth, so Princess Kahm's father doesn't think too highly of her impetuous choice of bridegroom, the hapless Tetsuya. But Kahm is not to be discouraged even if a galaxy-wide war threatens. Manabe specializes in goofy and sometimes bawdy humor coupled with interstellar mayhem, sexy and loveable heroines, and spaceships that looks like very strange sea creatures. Comments: An excellent example of adventure/romance manga written for young men. Manabe has two other series in English both dramatic and amusing. Unfortunately, one of his best translated series, Drakuun (Dragon Princess) was never finished. Older teens.
  • Katoh, Tadashi. Project X Challengers: Nissan Cup Noodle. Digital Manga Pu. 2006. 205p. tr. from Japanese by Sachiko Sato.  BUSINESS Heroic manga team with fearless leader triumphs again—but here the challenge is not saving the world but creating a fast-food noodle product that can be prepared and eaten in its container simply by adding boiling water. The Nissin Cup Noodle product development team was led by the late Momofuku Ando, and the manga fittingly celebrates his innovative leadership and the team’s hard work. Earlier, Ando invented precooked instant noodles—now also quite popular in the U.S.—and is memorialized through the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka. Comments: Nonfiction manga are as common in Japan as fiction manga, and the Project X series teaches about industrial triumphs through readable and compelling presentation. This behind-the-scenes story reveals the complexities and struggles behind such routine habits as slurping noodles for lunch. (LJ 11/1/06)
  • Inoue, Takehiko. Real Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2008. 224p.  FICTION This outstanding series focuses on wheelchair basketball. Three troubled teens find themselves shooting hoops together: Togama, who lost a leg to bone cancer, Takashi, suddenly paralyzed when a garbage truck hits his stolen bicycle, and Tomomi, a high school dropout with a minor injury who deliberately handicaps himself by playing from a wheelchair as well. The three gradually learn to work together and with other players as well as begin to break through their own psychological barriers. Comments: Sports manga are quite common in Japan, and Real has won awards and been praised for its realism and character development. Inoue is known for Slam Dunk, a series about regular basketball, and Vagabond, about the life of a famous samurai. Real is up to 9 volumes in Japan (8 in the U.S.) and still coming out.
  • Takeuchi, Naoko. Sailor Moon. Vol. 1. TOKYOPOP. 1998. 200p. Ordinary high school student Usagi (“Bunny”) learns from a talking cat that she has the power to save the galaxy by morphing into the enhanced persona of Sailor Moon and recruiting eight other sailor scouts to fight evil. Eventually, she discovers that she is the reincarnation of Serenity, Princess of the Moon during the Silver Millenium, and that her real-life boyfriend Darien is the reincarnation of Endymion, Serenity’s husband/consort in both past and future. Comment: The full Sailor Moon saga as translated in the U.S. includes three successive series encompassing 18 volumes and led to a very successful anime.The fantastic popularity of Sailor Moon in Japan and, later, internationally helped establish and popularize the “magical girls” subgenre of manga. Other popular magical girl team manga include Magic Knight Rayearth and Tokyo Mew Mew. (The “bunny” association is deliberate: In Japanese tradition, the shadows on the moon’s surface form a rabbit, not a man’s face.)
  • Yoshizaki, Mine.Sgt. Frog. Vol. 1. TOKYOPOP. 2004. 188p.  HUMOR When Fuyuki wakes up to find a froglike alien in his bedroom, he's delighted—after all, he's head of his school's occult club. But poor Sergeant Keroro is now stranded without his squad in a failed invasion of Pokopen (Earth), forced to feign bonhomie as he does housework for Fuyuki’s family to earn his keep. As the sergeant replots the invasion, one by one the squad turns up -- dopey and devoted Tamama, grim Geroro, techno nerd Kululu, pacifist ninja Dororo -- and the team teeters comically between laziness and military purpose. The slapstick plots rival Gilbert and Sullivan for high-speed goofiness and incorporate numerous puns and references to Japanese pop culture. Comments: Sgt. Frog exemplifies much humor manga for young people, from the off-the-wall action to mildly bawdy elements. In Japan, 19 volumes have been released so far, and the derivative 200-plus episode anime has been licensed by FUNimation. Teens up. (LJ 9/15/08)
  • Ariyoshi, Kyoko. Swan. Vol. 1. CMX. 2004. 200p.  FICTION Teenage Masumi dreams of a ballerina career and is unexpectedly chosen for the Japanese National Ballet School. Strong on talent and passion but lacking in training, she must work hard and struggle to fulfill her dreams in the competitive world of professional ballet. Comments: Considered one of the most famous and beautiful shojo (girls) manga ever written, even touching off a boom in Japanese ballet, and still appealing even though the 21 volumes date from the 1970s. Teens up. (LJ 9/15/05)
  • Matsumoto, Taiyo. Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White. VIZ Media. 2007. 624p.  FICTION Flying hoodlum kid vigilantes, Black and White frolic through the high-rise surreality of Treasure Town in cool, urchin-chic getups. Respected and feared by both cops and yakuza gangsters, they kick butt and bust heads when threatened by other hoodlums or just dopey bystanders. Black's tough and savvy dark karma complements White's more childlike, sweetly intuitive nature, and their deep love for each other drives the plot amid gentrification-prone yakuza and neurotic cops who shift loyalties Comments: With a gritty, almost crude yet carefully crafted art, this classic and innovative manga reflects European and avant-garde comics influences. Older teens up. (LJ 5/15/08. The title has also been written as "Tekkon Kinkreet.")


The large market and fan base of manga have driven creation of countless web-based sources of information, from fan communities and blogs to organized group efforts both volunteer and commercial. The resources below are widely recognized as primary, but numerous others can prove relevant and interesting depending on the information need.


  • AnimeCons.com Calendar of upcoming U.S. manga/anime conventions up through about ten months ahead, in date order, plus capsule profiles and links to convention Web sites. The largest conventions are Anime Expo (Los Angeles), Otakon (Baltimore), and the New York Anime Festival. This last is being merged into the New York Comic Con starting in 2010.


  • Comic Book Awards Almanac Extensive catalog of U.S. and international comics awards and award winners, arranged by award and then year. For manga, check under the Non-American Awards re: awards given in Japan.  Under the American awards, note that the Eisner Awards have a category, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan.” Compiled and maintained by librarian Joel Hahn.

Sales and Popularity Information

Note that the Publishers Weekly print magazine runs graphic novel best-seller lists every month or so but does not break out manga separately. Similarly the ICv2 website posts graphic novel best-seller lists monthly but does not separate out the manga as a group.

Online Resources

  • Anime News Network Large and well-regarded site for news, reviews (under the “Views” link), and reference information on manga and anime. The Encyclopedia section contains data on hundreds of titles and authors as well as a glossary (“lexicon”).
  • Gilles' Service to Fans Page Invaluable resources for librarians, educators, and others about manga and anime. Guide to the format, recommended core titles, bibliographies, and many other resources and links. From librarian Gilles Poitras.
  • Manga Life A substantive site of manga news, reviews, and features. “Our aim is to guide you through the masses of manga appearing on the shelves of your book store, to pick out THE essential books to own.”
  • Anime and Manga Research Circle (AMRC-L) A diverse community of scholars involved in the “academic study of anime and manga, their associated (sub)cultures worldwide, and (tangentially) Japanese popular culture in general. We welcome all professionals, students, and fans who have conducted anime and manga-related research, are in the process of conducting such research, and/or would like to conduct such research in the future.”
  • MangaBlog, by Brigid Alverson Features periodic reviews of manga from a parent and manga fan. A good blog for keeping up with news about the manga world.
  • The Manga Critic A thoughtful review blog with news and links from Kate Dacey, a journalist and former writer/editor for the PopCultureShock website.

Other Resources



In the 1940s before television's Marcus Welby, M.D. and Grey's Anatomy, it was "true adventure" comic books that introduced us to medical heroes: Louis Pasteur, Florence Nightingale, Walter Reed, even the first U.S.-educated woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell. (See Bert Hansen's fascinating "Medical History for the Masses" in Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2004.) Today, it is the autobiographical anguish of patients and their champions that bursts forth in comics and graphic novels, often about cancer. AIDS has entered comics through several titles, and quite a number more explore mental health issues as well as other diseases. Still additional comics concern the lives of doctors and nurses. Most are serious while leavened with lighthearted moments, yet comedy titles exist also. More than a few of the titles below resulted from a distraught patient deciding to create comics to cope with illness and treatment. Remarkable for their grim honesty, these comics give a visceral graphic reality to health concerns and make good reading for patients and health professionals alike. Librarians should add them to collections as appropriate, and consider them for book displays and for take-ones relating to health-care reform. Health professionals should consider incorporating them into training, course work, treatment, and therapy. Tim Siftar & Martha Cornog


  • Kubo, Tite. Bleach. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2004. 200p. FICTION AGING Farmer, Joyce. Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir. Fantagraphics. Sept. 2010. c.208p. ISBN 9781606993811. $26.99. MEMOIR In this lightly fictionalized and unflinching account of the author’s parents, Lars and Rachel stumble towards the end of life with unpredictable successes, set-backs, and flashes of joy. As both gradually lose physical and mental function, parents and daughter cope as well as they can: well-intentioned, but also seemingly careless and naïve. An excellent alert for those new to the path (for themselves or for relatives) and a validation for those already familiar with this normal yet seemly so abnormal life stage. General collections.
  • Fischer, Lucy Rose. I’m New at Being Old. Temuna Press. 2010. 80p. ISBN 978-0615335193. pap. $19.95. MEMOIR Fischer is a PhD gerontologist who made her sidelined artistic passion into a second career late in life. In this “picture book for women,” brief text blocks accompany luminous multi-media illustrations and collages about her journey into age. As she joins the World of Older Women, she ponders her wrinkled face, increasing memory gaps, and sleeplessness, and wonders who will care for her if her mind “wanders off forever.” Striking and sometimes fanciful imagery distinguish Fischer’s musings: she paints aging as a trip to an alien universe, where those already there wear spacesuits, and glues cascades of colorful yarn to her forehead in a painting suggesting that her mind could be unraveling. General collections AMPUTATION
  • Inoue, Takehiko. Real. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2008. 224p. ISBN 978-1421519890. pap. $12.99. F A bad boy kicked out of high school and several handicapped peers find meaning and uneasy comradeship through wheelchair basketball. Togama lost a leg to bone cancer, Takashi became suddenly paralyzed when a garbage truck hits his stolen bicycle, and high school dropout Tomomi deliberately handicaps himself by playing from a wheelchair as well. The three gradually learn to work together and with other players as well as begin to break through their own psychological barriers. Sports manga are quite common in Japan, and Real has won awards and been praised for its realism and character development. Up to 10 volumes in Japan and in the U.S. and still coming out. Teens up.
  • Leka, Kaisa. I Am Not These Feet. Kaisa’s Diary 5. 5th edition. Absolute Truth Press, Mouse Zine Empire. 2008. 58p. ISBN 952-91-6023-2. pap. $15. AUTOBIOGRAPHY. (order from Kaisa Leka, ATP, PL 356, 00151, Helsinki, Finland; kaisa@absolutetruthpress.com; kaisa@kaisaleka.net ). Leka was born with malformed feet, and when incurable and painful arthritis developed in her ankles, she elected to have both feet amputated at age 24. In this simple, surprisingly lighthearted comic book diary, she tells the story of her operation and learning to walk again with prostheses. Drawing most characters with Mickey Mouse ears or bird heads, she shows learning to bind an amputee stump, training with temporary inflatable prostheses, and getting used to her springy new carbon fibre feet. For the first year anniversary of the operation, she and her boyfriend have a party, and in honor of her feet she makes a cake shaped like a saw. Tweens up.
  • Trudeau, G.B. The Long Road Home. Andrews McMeel. 2005. 93p. ISBN 978-0740753855. pap. $9.99. F When a cartoonist with the skill and fan-base of Gary Trudeau injects one of his Doonesbury characters into the life trajectory of a wounded veteran, the result attracts a foreword from Senator and former Republican nominee for president John McCain. B.D. starts out as Michael Doonesbury’s college roommate and captain of their school’s football team. A more conservatively-minded counter to his liberal strip-mates, he serves in the Gulf War and then in the California Highway Patrol. Called back into the military after 9/11, B.D. ships off to the Iraq War in 2003 where a rocket grenade destroys his Humvee and takes off his leg. Slowly and painfully, B.D. makes his way through triage, medical rescue, and the even slower and also painful physical and psychological rehabilitation stateside. General collections.
  • Ware, Chris. Acme Novelty Library #18. Drawn & Quarterly. 2007. 56p. ISBN 978-1897299173. $price varies (out of print). F A lonely young woman with a prosthetic leg relates the story of her life and ruminates about it. In an unrewarding dead-end job as a florist, she chronicles previous failures as a nanny, artist, and writer. Her sole love affair ended badly. Ware’s detailed, meticulously crafted color drawings and geometrically stunning layouts make his heroine understandable and sympathetic. General collections.
  • Cunningham, Darryl. The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield. Webcomic. 2010. 15p. http://darryl-cunningham.blogspot.com/2010/05/facts-in-case-of-dr-andrew.... MEDICINE Cunningham relates the true story of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a British former surgeon who claimed from his study based on twelve children that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) was linked to autism. But as revealed by journalist Brian Deer, Wakefield had been paid to discredit the vaccine by a lawyer specializing in clinical negligence. Wakefield’s conclusions did not follow from his data and moreover were not replicated in other research. The British General Medical Council accused Wakefield of fraud and misconduct and forbade him from practicing medicine. The Lancet, where Wakefield’s original paper had been published, subsequently retracted the article.
  • Karasik, Paul & Judy Karasik. The Ride Together: A Brother and Sister's Memoir of Autism in the Family. Washington Square Press. 2004. 208p. ISBN 978-0743423373. pap. $14.99. MEMOIR Judy, a former editor at Holt, and Paul, a New Yorker cartoonist, alternate prose chapters with comics chapters in this story of their life with an autistic brother. The title refers to a road trip, of which Judy comments that “David himself was part of the country I needed to see,” and thus a metaphor for their family life shared over half a century. For Paul and Judy, maturing meant understanding the responsibility that David represents while knowing they will spend much of their time as adults apart from him. For David, now living in a special community for those with autism, maturing meant living with dignity and endurance despite his siblings leaving home. Teens up.
  • Tobe, Keiko. With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. Vol. 1. Yen Pr. 2007. 527p. tr. from Japanese by Satsuki Yamashita. ISBN 978-0-7595-2356-2. pap. $14.99. F Sachiko and Masato delight in their first child, but Hikaru cries too much, shuns hugging, doesn't talk, doesn't respond to people, and loves repetitive behavior. “Bad parent” accusations ricochet around the family until they learn that Hikaru has autism. With the Light won an award from the Japan Media Arts Festival for its sensitive yet sturdy portrayal of a family surviving the stigmatism of disability and growing together through difficulties. The family surmounts each obstacle by working together and finding helpful others, showing readers what to expect with autistic children and how to raise them. (Hikaru means “light” in Japanese.) The fifteen volume story is up to seven volumes in the U.S. Teens up.
  • Batiuk, Tom. Lisa's Story: The Other Shoe. Kent State University Press. 2007. 246p. ISBN 978-0873389525. pap. $18.95. F Batiuk has been drawing the newspaper strip Funky Winkerbean since 1972, and this story arc follows one of the regular characters, Lisa Crawford, in reprints from 1999 through 2007. A lawyer married to high school teacher Les, Lisa beats back breast cancer once and is able to resume her law practice where she defends a disabled client. But the cancer recurs years later in a more serious form, and a medical mistake ensures that her condition is terminal. Lisa’s treatments and last efforts to survive are intercut with her farewells to friends and family as well as testifying before Congress about the need for cancer research. Teens up.
  • Engelberg, Miriam. Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person: A Memoir in Comics. Harper. 2006. 144p. ISBN 0060789735. pap. $14.99. MEMOIR Diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s with a four-year-old, Engelberg took up cartooning as a simple coping strategy. With a blend of offbeat black humor and seriousness, she chronicles diagnosis, surgery, chemo, support groups, doctor relationships, and related personal dilemmas like buying a wig. The art is simple but effective. Engelberg has since succumbed to the cancer, but her memoir will speak compellingly to other patients and readers, and entertain as well as inform. General collections.
  • Fialkov, Joshua Hale (text) & Noel Tuazon (illus.). Tumor. Archaia Studios. 2010. 225p. ISBN 978-1932386820. $14.95. F A dying private investigator takes a last case: find a drug boss’s missing daughter. But the daughter looks like Frank’s late wife, murdered by her own father. Does this drug dad have murder in mind also? Frank decides to save the girl – but his metastasizing brain tumor keeps scrambling his sense of reality. The black-and-white art switches from fine line and wash to cruder brush work as Frank’s consciousness fluctuates. A hard-boiled thriller with tie-in to medicine. Older teens up.
  • Fies, Brian. Mom’s Cancer. Abrams. 2006. 128p. ISBN 978-0-8109-7107-3. $14.95. MEMOIR Fies’s Eisner Award–winning webcomic began as a visceral response to a family crisis and describes the diagnosis and treatment of his mother’s terminal illness. This grave and courageous account reaches beyond one individual and one family to become a support story for others living with cancer, and a real classic. Tweens up.
  • Fussell, Rosalind (“Tucky”). Mammoir: A Pictorial Odyssey of the Adventures of a Fourth Grade Teacher with Breast Cancer. AuthorHouse. 2005. 188p. ISBN 978-1420874785. pap. $17.95. MEMOIR A loose and discursive stream-of-consciousness account of Fussell’s experience with breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, reconstructive surgery, and life afterwards. Wildly whimsical yet intense, this uninhibited pen-and-ink memoir stars her breasts Igneous and Metamorphic in supporting roles, plus an imaginary lab rat as sidekick and nemesis. Similar in some ways to Cancer Vixen, but more over-the-top eccentric and covers different treatment procedures. Older teens up.
  • Mack, Stan. Janet & Me: An Illustrated Story of Love and Loss. Simon & Schuster. 2004. 176p. ISBN 978-0684872780. pap. $14. MEMOIR/BIOGRAPHY
  • A Village Voice cartoonist, Mack met love-of-his life writer Janet Bode, and they spent over a decade of unwedded bliss together until she developed breast cancer. Mack’s hybrid memoir – part prose, part comics – commemorates his partner’s struggle, the medical details, and the contributions of friends. Bode retained her zest for life and feisty enjoyment of the world right up until her death. General collections.
  • Marchetto, Marisa Acocella. Cancer Vixen: A True Story. Knopf. 2009. 224p. ISBN 978-0-375-71474-0. pap. $16.95. MEMOIR Living the fabulista life as a New Yorker cartoonist, the 43-year-old Marchetto is about to be married for the first time when she finds a lump in her breast. "Listen, Cancer, ya sick bastard," she exclaims, "now is not a good time!" Poignant and hilarious, Marchetto’s masterful use of graphics conveys her emotional turmoil throughout diagnosis, chemotherapy, and wedding. This is the graphic novel to give to women who have never read one before. Older teens up.
  • Matsumoto, Mio. My Diary. Random House UK. 2008. 200p. ISBN 978-0224084437. $24.95. MEMOIR Matsumoto was a young multitasking advertising/fashion artist, living in London while working on her Masters at the Royal College of Art. When what appeared to be an ulcer on her tongue proved to be oral cancer, her art tutor encouraged her to continue with the diary drawings she was doing and to submit them as a Masters project in lieu of coursework. The quirky line-drawing diary tracks her five months of treatment in Japan with insight and sometimes painful humor: fears, feelings, therapies, boredom, hospital food, other patients, and the doctor she gets a crush on. General collections.
  • Patterson, Michael. Blam! Arcana. Aug. 2011. 80p. ISBN 978-1926914046. pap. $15.95. F Bodyguard and best friend to the mayor, Elon Solomon learns he has cancer. Curiously, the chemotherapy leads to him seeing invisible demons he calls echoes, from which he learns of bad things about to happen. Sometimes he can help, sometimes not. So Elon fights the echoes by reversing their foretellings if he can, and also just by fighting them mano-a-mano. A compelling metaphor for the disease experience, in realistic black-and-white art. General collections.
  • Pekar, Harvy & Joyce Brabner (text) & Frank Stack (illus.). Our Cancer Year. Running Press. 1994p. 252p. ISBN 978-1568580111. pap. $19.95. MEMOIR Since the late 1970s, Pekar has documented through comics the dailiness and drama of his everyman life. In 1990, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent the all-too-usual nightmare of doctors, chemotherapy, pain, and paranoia. Brabner, for her part, had to help her husband manage his treatment as well as oversee purchase of the new house that the couple had chosen before Pekar’s diagnosis. Love and determination saw them both through the crisis, and Pekar lived another twenty years. Sketchy black-and-white art. General collections.
  • Rostan, Andrew (text) & Dave Valeza & Kate Kasenow (illus.). An Elegy for Amelia Johnson. Archaia. 2011. 128p. ISBN 978-1932386837. $14.95. F An insightful and charismatic poet, dying of cancer, asks two friends to render her last message to her loved ones into a film. Now writer Jillian must work closely with filmmaker Henry, and the sparks and jabs fly between them. But they do have more in common than just knowing Amelia: both have never committed to long-term love and both have reached career stalemates. In this bittersweet story, the mutual film project puts them on the right track in both areas. A good title for caregivers and those interested in grief work. General collections.
  • Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. Norton. 2009. 344p. ISBN 978-0-393-06857-3. $23.95. MEMOIR "Stitches" refers to the clumsy sutures on 14-year-old David's neck after a cancer operation he wasn't supposed to know was cancer—an operation that renders him mute for a long time. This only compounded David’s growing-up problems in a dysfunctional family: a furious and carelessly cruel mother, a distant father, and a cranky crone turned lunatic for a grandmother. Only a developing allegiance to art kept the youngster going, ultimately to become a successful illustrator, success that shows in the grace and precision of this compelling graphic account in simple black-and-white wash. Older teens up.
  • Brown, Jeffrey. Funny Misshapen Body. Touchstone: S. & S. 2009. c.314p. ISBN 978-1-4165-4947-5. pap. $16. MEMOIR Brown is known for sometimes hyper-candid, sometimes funny autobiographical stories drawn in a rather ungainly style mirroring real life's awkwardness. Here he turns to his artistic career: copying comics as a kid, finding a mentor in the manager of his comics shop, going to art school, painting wooden shoes part-time, and trying to focus his life. After encouragement from cartoonist Chris Ware, he decides to draw comics. The story concludes with Brown's joy over his first graphic novel, the self-published Clumsy. But success hardly comes easy, and the compelling Crohn's disease episode will resonate with anyone having a painful and embarrassing body problem. Older teens up.
  • Humberstone, Tom. Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Crohn’s Disease. 2007. 24p. Webcomic. (http://ventedspleen.com/blog/category/comics/crohns-comic/ http://www.ventedspleen.com/24hr.html). MEMOIR “Perhaps using this exercise as a cathartic release, I can get over that,” says Humberstone’s avatar in this brief and wryly funny show-and-tell. “That” is his embarrassment about having Crohn’s disease, and “exercise” is the 24 Hour Comic challenge in which creators sign on to draw and write a 24-page comic in 24 hours. Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease of the intestines, and Humberstone must take medication, endure periodic cramps, and dash for the restroom whenever an unpredictable attack hits. But the inconveniences in his now relatively normal adult life are far easier to manage than the isolation and pain he experienced as a teen when his condition was first being diagnosed. A British artist, Humberstone printed this as a minicomic in 2008, but the store site of his website, www.ventedspleen.com, reports it sold out.
  • B., David. Epileptic. Pantheon. 2006. 368p. ISBN 978-0375714689. pap. $18.95. MEMOIR Growing up in France, David B. finds his whole world consumed with the illness of his brother as their parents search desperately for a cure and the brother’s life deteriorates unpredictably. Through telling the story in both realistic and striking symbolic imagery, B. develops his art as an escape from the chaos. One of the classic graphic renditions of illness. Teens up.
  • Chilman-Blair, Kim & John Taddeo “What's Up with Bill?” Medikidz Explain Epilepsy. Rosen. 2010. 40p. ISBN 978-1-4358-3533-7. bibliog. glossary. index. Library Binding. $29.25. (Superheroes on a Medical Mission Series) HEALTH This informative UK kids series runs to at least 19 volumes and as many diseases, and the two founders of the original company are both MDs. To explain epilepsy, the superpowered Medikidz take Wendy and her friend Andy on a tour through the four lobes of the brain to demonstrate what causes an epileptic seizure and what treatments are available. The five Medikidz, of diverse ethnicity and body shape, live on the human-shaped planet of Mediland. And since Mediland resembles the human body, it’s an ideal tour site for impromptu medical explorations. Tweens up.
  • Luke, Andy (text) & Stephen Downey (illus.). Absence: A Comic Book About Epilepsy. OxyComics. 2011. 20p. http://absencecomic.com. Print copies free by request to drew.luke@gmail.com. Luke describes discovery of his epilepsy as a child, how seizures happen and their effects, how he learned as an adult to greatly reduce the frequency and severity of his seizures, and how to help someone who is having a seizure. Both creators are Irish, and the text includes some localisms such as “shandy,” a low-proof half beer, half soda mix. Tweens up.
  • Armstrong, Robb. Twins: Twice the Fun: A Bundle of JumpStart Comics That Really Deliver. Journey Pbns. 2008. 140p. ISBN 978-0-9798171-1-3. pap. $17.95. F Police officer Joe and nurse Marcy juggle marriage, two kids, two careers, and eccentric parents, and then OMG! Twins! Running in more than 400 newspapers, the JumpStart strip offers a humorous and positive portrayal of middle-class African American life. Tweens and up. See also the earlier JumpStart (Andrews McMeel, 1997), opening with the birth of Marcy and Joe’s first child and focused more on family life. Tweens up.
  • Potts, Phoebe. Good Eggs: A Memoir. Harper. 2010. 272p. ISBN 978-0061711466. $23.99. MEMOIR Potts and her husband are trying to conceive a baby, but it isn’t easy. Doctors, family members, pets, and insurance reps all get involved in her quest for parenthood, which she intercuts story-wise with flashbacks about organizing uncooperative union workers, considering becoming a rabbi, and suffering crippling depression at her parents’ home. Although basically a tale of frustration and sadness, Potts’ account incorporates plentiful humor and quirky life detail into an enjoyable and deeply human memoir. General collections.
  • Rabagliati, Michel. Paul Goes Fishing. Drawn & Quarterly. 2008. 187p. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. ISBN 978-1-897299-28-9. pap. $19.95. F Paul and Lucie look forward to parenthood, but Lucie miscarries several times. Despite repeated problems, they persevere with the support of friends, family, and a gynecologist with a sense of humor. High school and up. Older teens up.
  • MENTAL HEALTH (Substance abuse and suicide are listed separately, below)
  • Baker, Bobby. Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me. Profile Books. 2010. 224p. ISBN 978-1846683749. pap. $22.95. MEMOIR Overcome by mental illness, British performance artist Baker resolved to create one watercolor painting for every day spent in treatment at London’s Pine Street Day Centre. The 158 paintings included here are drawn from over 700 total and document her journey towards recovery, day by day. A thoughtful summary accompanies each section and explains her mindset at the time. These full-color representations of Baker’s mind were featured in an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London. Baker has said that her friends at the day centre liked the paintings, especially the horrific and funny ones. But more importantly, her art also became a useful way of communicating with the mental health professionals involved in her care. General collections.
  • Brick [sic]. Depresso, Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Being Bonkers. Knockabout Comics. 2010. 256p. ISBN 978-0861661701. pap. $27.00. MEMOIR When Tony Freeman develops an ache in his testicles, he of course fears the Big C and puts off visiting a doctor. But no, it’s the big D: clinical depression, which engulfs him with curious symptoms: moods, fears, anger, and a six-foot white lizard following him around making snide comments: “The pins that hold your life together have been dislodged.” In semi-realistic yet manic cartooning Brick/Tony manages to draws on anger and comedy together to get the best of his illness. General collections.
  • Clell, Madison. Cuckoo: One Woman's True Stories of Living with Multiple Personality Disorder. Green Door Studios. 2002. 291p. ISBN 978-0971182202. pap. $18.00. MEMOIR In savage, dramatic black-and-white brushstrokes, Clell recalls the story of her life-long struggle with Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly termed Multiple Personality Disorder). As she receives therapy and gradually integrates, her various personalities all come to light and the underlying traumas behind her illness show themselves. General collections.
  • Cunningham, Darryl. Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness. Bloomsbury. 2011. 160p. glossary. ISBN 978-1608192786. $15. MEMOIR/HEALTH Cunningham spent years as staff in a psychiatric ward, and in deceptively simple art he relates some of his memories from that time in his life. Each story focuses on a different mental illness, such as depression and schizophrenia, with vignettes about patients he worked with. In concise, lay language, he talks about causes, treatments, and stigmatism relating to mental illness from the perspective of patients and families. The collection concludes with Cunningham’s reflections on his own mental health problems and how his life was affected before he found treatment. (Note that Cunningham is British, so his stories are not set within the U.S. health system.) General collections.
  • Green, Justin. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. McSweeney’s. 2009. 64p. ISBN 978-1934781555. $29. F/MEMOIR Raised in a strict Roman Catholic household, young Binky Brown flounders in obsession and guilt when he hits puberty. Binky has suffered with obsessive compulsive disorder since childhood, and now his new testosterone-enhanced persona fixates on the Virgin Mary with fantasies and rituals that engulf his life. Green’s lightly fictionalized memoir was first published in 1970s underground comics and influenced Art Spiegelman (who wrote the introduction to this reprint), Robert Crumb, and Harvey Pekar, among other well-known comics luminaries exploring autobiographical approaches. Adult themes and explicit imagery.
  • Johnstone, Matthew. Living with a Black Dog: His Name Is Depression. Andrews McMeel. 2006. 48p. ISBN 978-0740757433. pap. $9.99. HEALTH In more of a picture book than a graphic novel, Johnstone personifies depression as a large black dog, following Winston Churchill’s habit of referring to his own recurring fits of despondency with that expression. Images with captions show how the “black dog” interferes with the happiness by, for example, pulling down a kite by sitting on the string, chewing up one’s brains, casting a huge shadow of darkness, sitting heavily on one’s body at night, and putting its paw in one’s dinner. Suggestions are also given for taming the ominous animal and finding help among friends and mental health professionals. The title is confusing: In England, this 2006 book was published in 2007 under the title I Had a Black Dog. Also available in England (and via www.amazon.uk) is a follow-up book titled Living with a Black Dog of images and suggestions for helping another person deal with depression (Robinson Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1845297435). General collections.
  • Leavitt, Sarah. Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me. Freehand Books. 2010. 132p. ISBN 978-1551111179. pap. CDN $23.95. MEMOIR When Leavitt’s Harvard-educated mother developed Alzheimer’s, she lost her personality, living skills, and dignity. To care for her, the whole family had to confront a new range of harrowing emotions as well as build new relationships with this familiar stranger. Spare, fine-line black-and-white art. Teens up.
  • Martini, Clem & Olivier Martini. Bitter Medicine: A Graphic Memoir of Mental Illness. Freehand Books. 2010. 264p. ISBN 9781551119281. pap. CDN $23.95. MEMOIR Artist and writer brothers alternate comics and prose insights about their family’s efforts to cope with mental illness. Thirty years ago, Olivier and a third brother Ben were diagnosed with schizophrenia. A frustrating national health care system, imperfect medications, and unhelpful relationships all complicate the brothers’ struggles to get treatment. While leavened with wry humor, the layered family memoir is designed to reveal the helplessness and hopelessness of those afflicted by this frequently misunderstood condition. General collections.
  • Perry, Philippa (text) & Junko Graat (illus.). Couch Fiction: A Graphic Tale of Psychotherapy. Palgrave Macmillan. 2010. 156p. bibliog. ISBN 978-0230252035. pap. $25. F This fictional psychotherapy case study is designed to demonstrate the therapy process and impart confidence that relief from psychological problems is possible. The patient here is a well-off executive with a habit of compulsive stealing, and he wants to get rid of his kleptomania despite his tendency to scorn his therapist and her likely success in helping him. Extensive notes throughout and in the back explain to the reader what could be happening in the therapy and why. In addition, extensive thought balloons as well as speech balloons from both characters show the multi-levels of the process. General collections.
  • Powell, Nate. Swallow Me Whole. Top Shelf. 2008. 216p. ISBN 978-1603090339. $19.95. F A poignant and sympathetic story about two teen step-siblings with psychological disorders. Ruth suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and hallucinations, thinking she can hear insects speak. Perry must deal with a tiny wizard who keeps appearing and pestering him to draw. This exploration into the dark corners of adolescence won Eisner and Ignatz awards and was a pick for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novel for Teens. Black-and-white semi-realistic art with moody overtones and lettering intertwined with images. Older teens up.
  • Swados, Elizabeth. My Depression: A Picture Book. Hyperion. 2005. 176p. ISBN 978-1401307899. $16.95. MEMOIR While the multiple award-winning Swados has authored numerous books and music works, she has struggled with severe depression much of her life as well as having a similarly afflicted mother and brother commit suicide. Her sometimes-comic, sometimes-sad memoir charts the course of symptoms and treatment in scribbly black-and-white sketches suggesting the work of Cathy Guisewite or Shel Silverstein. General collections.
  • Tan, Shaun. The Red Tree. Hodder Children’s Books. 2010 32p. ISBN 978-0734411372. pap. $price varies. F A picture-book fable illustrating images of depression, moving towards an outcome of hope. The mixed media images include fantasy and dream elements as a young, red-haired girl moves through wild, nightmarish surroundings to emerge in view of a glorious, blooming tree. The artfulness and sophistication of the imagery broadens the appeal from grade 3 up through older readers.
  • White, Tracy. How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story. Roaring Brook. 2010. 160p. ISBN 978-1596434547. $16.99. MEMOIR Lightly fictionalized seventeen-year-old “Stacy Black” faces treatment in a psychiatric hospital for her mental problems, compounded by bulimia and drug addiction. Views of Stacy from friends intercut with her own experiences and with images of actual doctor and therapist reports. Graceful, spare line drawing with a wry humor. Tweens up. SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES
  • Burns, Charles. Black Hole. Pantheon. 2008. 368p. ISBN 978-0375714726. pap. $18.95. F In 1970s suburbia, teens enmeshed in post-puberty’s social obsessions encounter a grotesque disease spread by sexual contact. The afflicted kids develop bizarre mutations, like a second mouth opening on the neck or other extra body parts appearing unexpectedly. “The bug,” as it’s called, symbolizes both AIDS and teen sexual awakening gone horribly wrong, while Burns’ surrealistic black-and-white art suggests a nightmare vision. A well-known classic.
  • Dahl, Ken. Monsters. Secret Acres. 2009. 208p. ISBN 978-0979960949. pap. $18.00. F In self-flaying humor run amok, Dahl renders his affliction with genital herpes as fuzzy and gooey giant disease cells, creeping over everything and reshaping his reality into a walking disaster. As time goes on, his social life and psychological state go downhill until hitting a reality check from a more level-headed friend. Probably the most hilarious and graphic STD educational tract ever written. Adult collections.
  • Peeters, Frederik. Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2008. 192p. ISBN 978-8190624138. $18.95. MEMOIR Fred is smitten by Cati and her joie de vivre, and love sparks between them. But Cati brings with her two surprises: a young son and their mutual HIV-positive status – the blue pills keep them both alive and relatively healthy. The couple's deepening intimacy despite the hovering viral ghost carries the plot, as a sympathetic doctor counsels them with skill and frankness. Realistic and touching, by turns amusing and yet romantic. Older teens up.
  • Winick, Judd. Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned. Holt. 2009. 192p. ISBN 978-0-8050-8964-6. pap. $16.99. MEMOIR/BIOG Pedro Zamora was a Cuban immigrant who became an AIDS educator after diagnosis with HIV (he died in 1994 in his early twenties). He became a public figure because of his health battle and appearance, along with cartoonist Winick, on MTV’s The Real World San Francisco. Winick’s memoir tells the story of their friendship and has become a memorial to a man who made the most of the life he had. This title has won a number of awards, including a YALSA top ten, and is fine for teens up.
  • Wojnarowicz, David (text) & James Romberger (illus.). Seven Miles a Second. DC: Vertigo. 1996. 64p. ISBN 978-1563892479. pap. $price varies (out of print). MEMOIR Wojnarowicz, a self-taught artist and confrontational gay activist, died after a painful battle with AIDS. One of his last projects was this graphic memoir of his life as a teen prostitute, AIDS patient, and artist. Colorful, multimedia art evoking symbolism and fantasy as well real events. Seven miles a second is the speed that an object needs to achieve to break free of the Earth’s gravity. Older teens up. SUBSTANCE ABUSE
  • Ames, Jonathan (text) & Dean Haspiel (illus.). The Alcoholic. Vertigo. 2008. 136p. ISBN 978-1-4012-1056-4. $19.99. F/MEMOIR Fictionalizing one’s excesses can render them more colorful, even picaresque, but here writer Ames (Wake Up, Sir!) omits none of the seedy mornings-after or waking up god-knows-where on the down side of a good thing gone bad. Neither hero nor put-upon victim, Ames amply demonstrates that no answers to pain come easy before he finally accepts that nobody gets everything they want in life. Haspiel’s effectively angular black-and-white art more than does his subject justice. Adult collections.
  • Batiuk, Tom. My Name is Funky... and I'm An Alcoholic: A Story about Alcoholism and Recovery. Hazelden. 2007. 152p. bibliog. ISBN 978-1592853779. pap. $13.95. F Like Lisa’s Story (see above), this title follows a regular character and plot arc from the Funky Winkerbean newspaper strip. A teen when the strip began, titular character Funky grows up and finds himself sliding into alcoholism. The story shows how Funky’s marriage, friendships, and work begin to suffer, and how his friends stage an intervention to get him into Alcoholics Anonymous. Teens up.
  • Conway, Gerry (text) & various artists. Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy. Marvel. 2002. ISBN 978-0785110262. pap. $price varies (out of print). F This collection includes three 1969 Spider-Man comic books that were not approved by the Comics Code Authority because they depict drug use. The subplot involves Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s roommate Harry Osborn, who escalates his addictions to include cocaine and LSD after his relationship with his father falls apart. Father Norman, on his part, reacts to Harry’s drug crisis by resuming his Green Goblin villain-persona and killing Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Teens up.
  • Kalesniko, Mark. Alex. Fantagraphics. 2006. 250p. ISBN 1560977450. pap. $19.95. F Disaffected former animator Alex spends his days drinking, watching reruns, and working on drawings only to tear them up. Depicted with a dog’s face to underline his alienation from other people, Alex is a train-wreck of a man, desperately unhappy with everything about his life and without hope for his future. This exploration of depression, futile escapism, and the healing power of art has been described as a difficult read but very funny. Spare, fine-line black and white art. Older teens up.
  • Michelinie, David, Bob Layton, John Romita & Carmine Infantino. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle. Marvel. 2008. 176p. ISBN 978-0785130956. $24.99. F After his super-armor malfunctions, Tony Stark must make amends for accidentally killing a foreign ambassador. Turns out it’s corrupt billionaire-businessman Justin Hammer who’s been sabotaging Stark’s armor, and now Tony must escape Hammer and his entourage of supervillains. Along the way, Tony’s personal demon just gets stronger: his attraction to booze. Fortunately, Stark’s girlfriend Bethany Cabe helps him get control over his drinking. The story ran originally in 1979 comic books, and despite its datedness it has been praised as a classic Iron Man story that humanizes the superhero and injects a needed realism into the character. Teens up.
  • Paley, Bruce (text) & Carol Swain (illus.). Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life. Fantagraphics. 2009. 136p. ISBN 978-1606991626. $19.99. BIOG/MEMOIR Thought the 1960s and ‘70s, wannabe hipster Paley walks, tokes, and drugs out on the wild side, from Disneyland to the Black Panthers, the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention, and Times Square brothels. Hanging out here and crashing there, Paley narrates vignettes of debauchery and dailiness in a Woodstock version of American Splendor. Partner Swain’s smudgy, black-and-white drawings carry his grimy, nostalgic account. Adult collections.
  • Pope, Paul. Heavy Liquid. Vertigo. 2009. 256p. ISBN 978-1401219499. $39.99. F Everybody’s got an agenda for “heavy liquid,” a mysterious substance that can be used as art form, explosive, or ingested psychoactive drug. “S,” a former drug agent turned petty criminal, is addicted to the substance and double-crosses the mob to grab his next stash. But other ruthless characters besides the mob are trailing him, and he finds that heavy liquid’s mindbending high has unexpected side effects. Described as a moody thriller of urban culture, in punkish color art. Adult collections. Shaw, Dash. BodyWorld. Pantheon. 2010. 384p. ISBN 978-0307378422. $27.95. F Chasing a new high, a burned-out botany professor discovers a plant in the nearby woods that, when smoked, allows telepathy among smokers. When local youth discover the drug, unexpected problems develop and then a forest fire sends the plant-group-think throughout the whole town, heralding the end of individualism. Angular, evocative color art with innovative layouts and drawing styles to depict the drug’s effects. Adult collections. SUICIDE
  • Hornschmeier, Paul. Mother Come Home. Fantagraphics. 2009. 128p. ISBN 978-1560979739. $23.95. F After his mother dies, young Thomas retreats into a fantasy world, while his father gradually goes insane has both struggle to fill the hole in their hearts and lives. Only Thomas survives – his father commits suicide. An exquisitely written and beautifully drawn exploration of grief. Older teens up. Linthout, Willy. Years of the Elephant. Ponent Mon. 2010. 184p. ISBN 978-8492444304. pap. $18.95. F/MEMOIR Lithout’s own son, Sam, committed suicide at the age of 21. In this lightly fictionalized treatment, Carl learns that his son Bart has just jumped off the roof, and subsequently careens from colleagues to friends to therapists in attempting to deal with his pain and emotional haze. Linthout is a Belgian artist, and this story was originally published in Dutch. His colleagues and the original publisher convinced him to leave the art in rough pencils to depict Carl’s unsettled state. Older teens up.
  • Ursiny, Tim (text) & Nick Dragotta (illus.). Captain America: A Little Help. Marvel. 2011. 12p. e-comic available free at http://marvel.com/comic_books/issue/38864/captain_america_a_little_help_.... Also included in I Am an Avenger #5, Marvel, 2011. No ISBN. $3.99. F In despair at bad grades and a chaotic life, Zak McKenzie heads to the roof of his tenement to jump off. But over on the next building, Captain America faces off against a nasty bunch of enemies, including a powerful mecha warrior. When the mecha tosses aside Cap’s protective shield, Zak slings it back and saves the day. Then encouraged by a thumbs-up from the superhero, the teen goes back downstairs to call a suicide help line. Tweens up.
  • Davison, Al. The Spiral Cage. Active Images. 2003. 144p. ISBN 978-0974056715. pap. $13.00. MEMOIR (available through www.amazon.co.uk) Born with spina bifida and suffering also from chronic fatigue syndrome, Davison refuses to let his disease dictate his future and successfully confronts unhelpful doctors, school bullies, and low expectations. Teaching himself to walk, he finds a life with Buddhism, karate, and the graphic arts. The title alludes to the spiral helix of DNA, since some genetic basis for spina bifida seems likely. A series of vignettes in black and white, with an introduction by Alan Moore. Older teens up.
  • French, Renee. H Day. Picture Box. 2010. 216p. ISBN 978-0-9820947-0-9. $30. MEMOIR/F H is for headache, as in migraine. In black and white pencils, French draws out a wordless drama about a migraine-sufferer trying to sleep, coupled with a parallel fantasy evoking the sufferer’s tortuous dreams of ants overwhelming a fog-shrouded city. General collections.
  • Seagle, Steven T. (text) & Teddy Kristiansen (illus.). It's a Bird. Vertigo. 2005. 136p. ISBN 978-1401203115. pap. $17.99. F/MEMOIR Semi-fictional memoir about a comics writer meditating on the symbolism and meaning of Superman, the subject of his current writing assignment, while dealing with Huntington’s Disease and a messed-up personal life. The ink and watercolor art has an Expressionist feel. See excerpts here [http://1foe.com/its-a-bird/]. General collections.
  • Telgemeier, Raina. Smile. GRAPHIX. 2010. 224p. ISBN 978-0545132053. $21.99. MEMOIR In a minor accident at age twelve, Telgemeier lost two front teeth, not a minor predicament. Following came years of dental surgeries and remedial orthodontics involving implants, false teeth, and headgear far beyond the more usual “braces.” Treatment complications interacted with the complications of teenagerdom and puberty, leading to social as well as medical turmoil. Yet Telgemeier’s early career choice as an animator grew out of this difficult period. With lively color art, an entertaining and helpful read for tweens and teens facing dental complexities of their own. Tweens up.
  • Czerwiec. M.K. Comic Nurse. Lulu.com. 2006. 49p. ISBN 978-1411697140. pap. $19.36. MEMOIR Quirky episodic comics dawn by an HIV and hospice care nurse. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and always reflective, the simply-drawn color strips comment on her career, her daily life, and universal experiences. Czerwiec has been recognized as one of the first medical practitioners to publish comics. General collections
  • Czerwiec, M.K. Taking Turns: A Medical Tragicomic, by Comic Nurse. Webcomic. http://web.me.com/comicnurse/MKCzerwiec/Webcomic.html. MEMOIR Personal experiences, oral histories from other real people, and a composite fictionalized story about an individual patient combine in a narrative about caring for HIV patients earlier in Czerwiec’s career. Inpatient hospital unit 371 carried a patient load of about 50% intensive care and 50% hospice, and the medical staff “somehow got the empathy thing that we are all just people taking turns being sick.” A doctor or nurse today could be a patient tomorrow. Eight of a total of eighteen chapters have been posted to date. General collections.
  • Ferrier, Thom. Fear of Failure. Episode 1. Graphic Medicine. 2010. 40p. ISBN 978-0-9566601-0-07. pap. £3.50. F (also: http://www.thomferrier.com/#/fear-of-failure/4543812966) A partner in a small-town general medical practice, Dr. Lois Prichard has seen her share of just about everything, mental and physical. Her own mental health could use a tune-up, however, when she takes her stress and resentment out on a sanctimonious colleague. A rare look at medicine from a practitioner’s viewpoint; Episode 2 continues Dr. Prichard’s story on the Web. Thom Ferrier is a pseudonym for a general practitioner living in Wales. Older teens up.
  • Hastings, Chris & Benito Cereno. Adventures of Dr. McNinja: Night Powers. Dark Horse. May 2011. 232p. ISBN 978-1595827098 pap. $19.99. HUMOR As a doctor, he can heal…as a ninja he can kill. He rides a dinosaur, his nurse is a gorilla, and he hangs out with a clone of Benjamin Franklin. Other characters include Death, who runs the Purgatory Restaurant where you eat your sins in order to cleanse your soul. This satire-of-the-absurd webcomic has three volumes in print from TopatoCo, and now this fourth volume from Dark Horse. Older teens up. For the webcomic, see http://drmcninja.com/. JTK.
  • Madtown Hospital. Vol. 1. NETCOMICS. 2006. ISBN 978-1600090257. pap. $9.99. HUMOR Slapstick, black humor about a hospital staffed by cartoonish lunatics. Physicians such as the aptly named Dr. Don Juan perform off-the-wall operations like transplanting a hamster head onto a patient to save his life, and doing surgery on a Yeti. Adults themes and unsophisticated black and white art. Four volumes are available. Older teens up.
  • Lefèvre, Didier & Frederic Lemercier (text) & Emmanuel Guibert (illus.). The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. First Second: Roaring Brook. 2009. c.267p. tr. from French by Alex Siegel. ISBN 978-1-59643-375-5. pap. $29.95. MEMOIR/INT AFFAIRS Lefèvre was photojournalist for this adventure, a three-week march with pack animals over the mountains to staff M*A*S*H-style clinics. His photos tell stories of the Afghani people and their magnificent country, while Guibert’s drawings tell the story of Lefèvre. And somehow it seems right that Afghani life comes across as more real than Lefèvre’s. Winner of an Eisner Award and numerous other honors. General collections.
  • Schauer, Mitch (text) & Mike Vosburg (illus.). RIP, M.D. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2010. 88p. ISBN 978-1-60699-369-9. pap. $12.99. F While messing in the graveyard behind his house, 11-year-old Ripley rescues a tiny bat. It turns out that he’s just saved the “unlife” of a vampire! Word spreads, and pretty soon paranormal critters from around the world are begging him for help. So RIP, M.D. means Rip, Monster Doctor. A "full-color, all-ages adventure" with an animated cartoon series in development, and a promising bet for reluctant readers.
  • Tezuka, Osamu. Black Jack. Vol. 4. Vertical. 2009. c.304p. tr. from Japanese by Camellia Nieh. ISBN 978-1-934287-43-9. pap. $16.95. F A mysterious, scarred surgeon charges outlandish fees for fantastic operations like body transplants, but he usually operates for free and also administers justice. Yet everything has a cost, psychic or financial, and both to patient and to doctor. Black Jack is no saint, and while he can deliver medical miracles, he cannot find peace himself. In Volume 4, Black Jack rehabilitates a beloved teacher gone on the skids, bullies a high school radio personality into silence to let her throat heal, and enlists residents of an apartment building to save the life of a militant who had tried to blow them up. Tezuka was known in Japan as the “god of manga,” and these quirky parables with twist endings show his mastery of cinematographic storytelling. A total of 17 volumes were published in Japan, and the last ones are due in English in the summer of 2011. Teens up.
  • Tezuka, Osamu. Ode to Kirihito. 2nd ed. Vertical. 2010. pap. Part 1: ISBN 978-1934287972. 480p. Part 2: 978-1-934287-98-9. 352p. $14.95 ea. F Investigating a mysterious disease, young physician Kirihito falls prey to it himself. Once infected with Monmow disease, victims transform into dog-like beasts and then die within a month. But Kirihito as well as the disease have become pawns in a dark medical conspiracy as other physicians jockey for power and prestige. It’s up to the young physicians together with his friends and allies to solve the mystery of the disease and expose the conspirators. Tezuka, a doctor himself turned manga creator, published Kirihito in the early 1970s before beginning his much longer and better known medical manga, Black Jack. Older teens up.
  • Urasawa, Naoki. Monster. Vol. 18. Viz Media. 2008. c.256p. ISBN 978-1-4215-1840-4. pap. $9.99. F A gifted neurosurgeon saves a boy's life, but the child grows up to be a serial killer and the surgeon is accused of the murders. He decides to turn rogue: quits the hospital, buys a gun, and searches for the monster while evading the police. Urasawa's brilliant thriller pits character against character in nasty and complex cascades of violence, yet we understand and sympathize with every individual. A total of eighteen volumes, for older teens up.
  • Yang, Gene Luen (text) & Thien Pham (illus.). Level Up. First Second. June 2011. 160p. ISBN 978-1596437142. $19.99. Dennis Ouyang’s parents want him to go to medical school, but he just wants to play video games. And he’s good at it, too. Then a quartet of cute and bossy angels intervene to get the reluctant teen back on the path to healer-in-training. With simple and engaging art, billed as a whimsical yet serious look at a classic coming-of-age conflict: my own dreams, or my parents wishes? Tweens up.
  • Gruber, Jonathan (text) & others (adapt. & illus.). Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works. Hill & Wang. Fall 2011. paging to come. ISBN to come. $price to come. HEALTH Since the original health care reform law runs to thousands of pages, this welcome nonfiction tutorial is designed to explain its complexities in a more understandable format. The content will be based on a concise text prepared by Gruber, Professor of Economics at MIT and former advisor to President Obama. RESOURCES
  • http://www.sts.psu.edu/events/the-sts-workshop-series-presents-comics-an...
  • http://www.susanmerrillsquier.com/rx-cx--comics-and-the-arts-of-medicine...
  • http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/collections/archives/asearch/afinding_ai...
  • (Michael Rhode) Polite Dissent: Comics, Medicine, Television, & Fun! http://politedissent.com/fav_med.php Detailed and sometimes funny commentary about medical and health-related matters as depicted (or mis-depicted) in comics. The more up-to-date blog, elsewhere on this website, comments on medicine across pop culture media, including comics and television. Authored by “Scott,” a former Air Force doctor now a family practitioner in the Midwest. Here’s an article about Scott and his site: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/530706. Comics with Problems http://www.ep.tc/problems/ Web-readable vintage educational comics from the 1940s to recent years about health and medical issues, many released by government organizations. Some titles deal with social issues or are classic “bad news” advice tracts. Not for casual, entertaining reading, but important for researchers and others tracking social and medical attitudes. Graphic Medicine.org www.graphicmedicine.org A comprehensive website maintained by Ian Williams, MD, a general practitioner in Wales who obtained an MA in medical humanities and wrote a dissertation on medical narrative in graphic novels. “It is my contention that comic/graphic fiction could be a useful resource for healthcare professionals, patients and carers [caregivers]. In this site I list and briefly review all the graphic novels and comic books that I have found to be relevant.” He also maintains a Graphic Medicine page on Facebook, which functions as a blog for news.
  • Conference: Comics & Medicine: The Sequential Art of Illness June 9-11, 2011 at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL www.graphicmedicine.org; click on the Conference 2011 link Conference: Comics & Medicine: Medical Narrative in Graphic Novels June 17, 2010, at the School of Advanced Study, Institute of English Studies, University of London http://ies.sas.ac.uk/events/conferences/2010/Graphic/
  • Cornog, Martha. “In Sickness and in Comics.” Library Journal, July 15, 2009, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6668999.html.
  • Green, Karen. “Doctor, Doctor: Gimme Your Views.” Comic Adventures in Academia, March 5, 2010, ComiXology, http://www.comixology.com/articles/362/Doctor-Doctor-Gimme-Your-Views.
  • Green, Karen. “A Wrinkle in Time.” Comic Adventures in Academia. ComiXology, December 5, 2008, http://www.comixology.com/articles/164/A-Wrinkle-in-Time.
  • Green, Karen. “Back to School? Again?” ComiXology, May 7, 2010, http://www.comixology.com/articles/378/Back-to-School-Again-
  • Green, Michael J. & Kimberly R. Myers. “Graphic Medicine: Use of Comics in Medical Education and Patient Care. BMJ 340, issue 7746, pp. 574-577, March 13, 2010, http://www.bmj.com/content/340/7746/Analysis.full.pdf.
  • Hansen, Bert. "Medical History for the Masses." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 78(1): 148-191, spring, 2004. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/bhm/summary/v078/78.1hansen.html.
  • O’Luanaigh, Clan. “My Favourite Medical Graphic Novels.” The Guardian, Science Blog, July 16, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/jul/16/favourite-medical-gra....
  • O’Luanaigh, Clan. “Comics Put Patients in the Picture.” The Guardian, Science Blog, July 14, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/jul/14/medical-comics-patients. Shrink Rap Press www.shrinkrap.com.au A small comics company composed of two Australian psychiatrists, dedicated to producing books using cartoons and simple text to talk about psychiatric and emotional problems. Some of the books are for kids; some are for adults.

Reluctant Readers


There’s a wonderful story about a Latvian war orphan, bright but subliterate and an emotional train-wreck, learning to read from cookbooks when his foster mother hit on the one thing that would motivate him. (See Anna Perrott Rose’s The Gentle House, Houghton Mifflin, 1954.)  Immediate feedback helps—in Tinchy’s case, something good to eat. Graphic narrative excels with instant feedback. Much of the plot comes via the pictures, and readers need only small increments of word-learning to fully understand the story. Since the reader is halfway there already from the graphics alone, motivation rises to understand the rest: a little reading brings a lot of understanding.  And so increment by increment, vocabulary and comprehension increase. The 20+ pages of a typical comic book contain an average of about 2,000 words, and a typical graphic novel would total at least five times that. (Reference 1.) A lot of comics can add up to a lot of reading. Most of the titles below have strong appeal outside the targeted age range, and to devoted bibliogeeks as well as to reluctant readers. Parents can enjoy reading them with or in parallel with their children (LJ xx/xx” refers to reviews published in Library Journal.) Tim Siftar & Martha Cornog

Younger Children

  • Baltazar, Art & Franco Aureliani. Tiny Titans. Vol. 1: Welcome to the Treehouse. DC Comics. 2009. 144p.  FICTION Short, gag vignettes in cute art about the kids at Sidekick Elementary School: tot-size versions of DC superheroes, mostly from the Teen Titans series. Includes games and posters. Comment: Two more volumes are in print and several additional in press. While the jokes touching on DC Universe continuities may work better for older readers, younger ones can understand enough about the characters to get most of the humor. Ages 4-9 up.
  • Davis, Eleanor. Stinky. TOON Books. 2009. 40p. FICTION Stinky the monster has his delightfully yucky swamp to himself until a neighborhood boy sets up a treehouse. Stinky’s afraid of kids, so he tries to scare the interloper away, but nothing seems to work. Then he discovers this human isn’t so different—they both like toads and muck—and the two become friends. Comments: Stinky is goofy rather than scary, and story is told with humor and simple vocabulary with ample word repetition. Ages 4-8 up.
  • Hoena, Blake A. (text) & Steve Harpster (illus.). Eek & Ack vs. the Wolfman. Capstone/Stone Arch. 2009. 33p. FICTION  (Graphic Sparks series) Two goofy aliens come to conquer earth, and fortunately, it’s Halloween—no one suspects they’re real aliens. But a very real werewolf shows up to attack the town, so they have to think fast. Comments: Mild gross-outs, plenty of humor, and comedy monsters make this appealing without being really scary. A short resource section at the end has glossary, pronunciation guide, discussion questions, writing prompts, Internet sites, and further information on werewolves. There are several more books in the series. Ages 4-8 up.
  • Holm, Jennifer (text) & Matthew Holm (illus.). Babymouse: Queen of the World. Random House. 2006. 96p.  FICTION Sassy young Babymouse has the usual challenges of elementary schoolers: math, friends, leisure activities—but all enhanced with wild adventure and drama through Babymouse’s hyperactive imagination. In this opening story, Babymouse pulls out all the stops to wangle an invitation to Felicia Furrypaws’ party and has to decide if it’s worth it. Comments: The series is up to 13 volumes—the latest is about a soapbox derby race—and with cute pink-tinged art and plenty of humor, has strong appeal for girls. Ages 9-12 but also appeals to younger ages.

Tweens and Up

  • Amano, Shiro. Kingdom Hearts. Vol. 1. Tokyopop. 2005.  FICTION (may be out of print but available through used book sources online) A young teen teams up with Disney’s Donald and Goofy to search for the missing Mickey and face an enemy known as “the Heartless.” Comments: Kingdom Hearts is a series of popular videogames, with spinoffs in comics and prose novels. There are four manga series: Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, and Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, and several of the volumes have made bestseller lists. Age 9 up.
  • Azuma, Kiyohiko. Yotsuba&! Vol. 1. Yen Press. 2009 (reprint). 209p.  HUMOR Curious and delighted with everything around her, five-year-old Yotsuba creates amusing chaos in the lives of her adoptive single father, the pretty-girl neighbors, and everyone else she meets. The title, “Yotsuba and…,” references the chapter titles, which all take the form of “Yotsuba and something.” “Yotsuba” means “four leaves” as in four-leaf clover, and the little girl has green hair tied in four short ponytails. Comments: Praised for its entertaining evocation of childhood wonder, the top-selling series is still coming out in Japan and has won several awards. A YALSA Great Graphic Novel for Teens (GGNT). All ages. (LJ 7/1/05, LJ 9/15/07)
  • Flight Explorer. Villard. vol. 1, 2008-. ed. Kazu Kibuishi. Irregular. F (See Flight under teens, below)
  • Horowitz, Anthony & Antony Johnson (text) & Kanako Damerum & Yuzuru Takasaki (illus.). Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel. Penguin/Philomel. 2006. 144p.  FICTION Horowitz’ Alex Rider novels pit a highly trained 14-year-old against British mega-criminals in James Bond-style adventures. When Alex’ uncle and guardian is killed suddenly, Alex learns of his relative’s secret espionage career and is recruited by British intelligence to take his place, eventually foiling a killer who plots to destroy all England’s schoolchildren with a deadly virus spread through donated computers. Comments: This graphic novel adapts the screenplay to the first of the novels, which was made into a film. Color manga-style art give an anime-like feel to the breathless pace and cliff-hanging chapters. Several others of the novels have been adapted also, and the second one, Point Blank: The Graphic Novel, was a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (QPRYAR). The nine original YA novels have sales over $10 million. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Indiana Jones With four films since 1981, a TV series, numerous videogames, and slew of novels and derivative books of all kinds, it should not be surprising that hundreds of pages of Indy comics exist. Marvel Comics had the license originally and adapted the first three films as well as publishing new adventures. Currently, Dark Horse handles the series, adapting the fourth film, republishing some of the Marvel comics, plus creating more new stories. The two titles below give convenient entry into the Indy universe and represent some of the range available. Good crossovers from the films.
  • Gelatt, Philip (text) & Ethen Beavers (illus.). Indiana Jones Adventures. Vol. 1. Dark Horse. 2008. 80p. FICTION Set in a timeline before Raiders of the Lost Ark, this adventure finds Indy hunting for a monument in Northern Europe amidst a blizzard, where he must untangle the monument’s secrets before the Other Side beats him to it. Comments: This series presents new, kid-friendly Indy adventures, tailored for a younger audience. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures. Vol. 1. Various creators. Dark Horse. 2009. 368p.  FICTION For teens up. See below.
  • Kibuishi, Kazu. Amulet. Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper. Scholastic/GRAPHIX.  2009. 192p.  FICTION After their father’s death, Emily and Navin move with their mother to a peculiar and dangerous family house. When the trio investigates the basement, they inadvertently cross a threshold to another world where the children must rescue their mother from sinister monsters. Emily has become owner of a powerful Amulet, which she must learn to master. Comment: Adventurous family drama in a strange land, with gorgeous, compelling color art. Two volumes are available, and several more are in progress. A YALSA pick for Best Books for Young Adults. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Kinney, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons. 3rd ed. Amulet Books. 2007. 224p. F Greg Heffley’s just trying to get through the usual mine-field of parents, school, and other kids. But his bravado intentions always overshoot his efforts and self-destruct, with hilarious results. The book is part handwritten text and part cartoons, supposedly by Greg. Comment: Three sequels are in print and another on the way. The series is noted for its appeal to pre-adolescent boys and include gross-out humor. As of February 2010, the Wimpy Kid books have stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books for a full year. Ages 8-13 up. A film is being released in March 2010.
  • Lemke, Donald (text) & Douglas Holgate (illus.). Zinc Alloy vs. Frankenstein. Capstone/Stone Arch. 2010. 40p. FICTION (Graphic Sparks series) Zack Allen gets bullied at school big time, but he can morph into Zinc Alloy, superhero. Sounds cool—until his exploits go haywire. In this adventure, his mess-ups get him run out of town, where he meets and bonds with Frankenstein since they like the same comic books. Comments: Exaggerated action art plus in the back a list of characters, glossary, discussion questions, writing prompts, background on Frankenstein, and Internet sites. There are several more Zinc Alloy books. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Marvel Adventures Spider-Man Vol. 1: The Sinister Six. Various creators. Marvel 2005. 96p.  FICTION Up to 14-plus volumes, these simpler, more playful Marvel Adventure titles take the enormously popular Spidey and other Marvel heroes into exploits suitable for younger readers with humorous banter, minimal violence, and plenty of action. This adventure includes Spider-Man’s origin story and pits him against a crew of dangerous villains assembled by super-villain Doctor Octopus. Related series focus on the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, and the Avengers. Comments: A teen superhero never relegated to sidekick status, which was unusual in the 1960s, Spider-Man with his self-doubts and uncertainties has always resonated with all ages. Since the first appearance of the character, Spider-Man stories have appeared in all media, and his image sells products from toys to underwear. A good cross-over from the films. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Selznick, Brian. The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Scholastic. 2007. 533p.  FICTION An orphan living in the walls of a Paris train station, Hugo steals food to live while carrying on his missing uncle’s job: tending to the station’s many clocks. But his obsession is the mysterious clockwork man poised to write a letter, owned by Hugo’s late father. If the letter were actually written, could its message help Hugo survive? Comments: An artful blend of copious pictures plus text—it has been likened to a silent film on paper, Hugo Cabret won the Caldecott Medal in 2008 for its captivating graphics married to an inventive, twisting plot. A film is reportedly in production. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Smith, Jeff. Bone. Vol. 1: Out from Boneville. Scholastic/GRAPHIX. 2005. 144p.  FICTION No cousins could be more different than the courageous Fone Bone, fun-loving Smiley Bone, and scheming Phoney Bone. After Phoney’s scams get them run out of Boneville, they find themselves in a strange, magical country and must help a princess regain her throne. Originally created in black and white, but the newer and excellent color version is recommended. Comment: A 9-volume action-rich saga often compared to Lord of the Rings but for a wider age-range of readers—and much funnier—while still retaining a subtext about power and evil. Bone has won several dozen awards and been the toast of the comics world for over two decades. Ages 9-12 up, and adults love it also. (LJ 11/1/04)
  • Soo, Kean. Jellaby. Vol. 1. Hyperion. 2008. 160p. Ten-year-old Portia is trying to adjust to her new school as well as life without her father—and then she meets a huge purple monster in the woods who wants to be friends. After she and schoolmate Jason try to find out where the creature’s home might be, clues turn about Portia’s missing father. Comments: Simple, clean art, bright colors, and a very cute Barney-ish monster make this award-winner appealing. A sequel came out in 2009 to complete the story arc. Ages 9-12 up.
  • Star Wars. Various creators. Dark Horse. 1997-. pap. F At least four different types of Star Wars graphic novels exist: American-made adaptations of the seven Lucas films, multivolume Japanese manga in English translation for the first four films, adaptations of Star Wars spin-off novels, and a huge number of comics-original stories and series taking place in the Star Wars universe before, during, or after the events depicted in the films and animations. See Michael Pawuk’s Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide (Libraries Unlimited, 2007, pp. 201-210) for descriptions and lists and Wikipedia/”Star Wars Comic Books” for more lists. Comments: Star Wars has remained the 1,000-pound multi-media gorilla of pop culture for over 30 years, with strong appeal for all ages. All titles suitable for tweens up.
  • Trondheim, Lewis (text) & Eric Cartier (illus.). Kaput & Zösky. First Second. 2008. 80p.  FICTION This pair of power-crazed aliens wants to rule the universe, but they’re as incompetent as they are bloodthirsty. With every planet they attempt to conquer, something goes hilariously wrong. Comments: This imported work of humor with a caustic edge is translated from the French, and an animation has been televised in both France and the U.S. Trondheim is a leading figure in French comics and author of A.I.L.E.E.E.N. and Tiny Tyrant, also republished in the U.S. A YALSA QPRYAR. Ages 11-15 up.
  • Van Lent, Fred. Power Pack: Day One. Marvel. 2008. 104p. FICTION Adventures of four superkids, brothers and sisters each with different powers left to them by a dying alien. The plots feature plenty of humor and action as well as kid-relevant themes. Other Marvel superheroes often drop in as guest stars. Comments: This series reworks for younger readers the characters and concept originally set up in 1984: a child superhero team operating without adult supervision. Ages 9-12 up.

Teens and Up

  • Abadzis, Nick. Laika. First Second. 2007. 208p. bibliog. FICTION Triumph and tragedy comingle for the Russian space program and for Earth's first living space traveler, the lovable mutt sent around the world in the Sputnik 2 satellite. Comments: This fictionalized history won an Eisner and was a YALSA GGNT. Teens up. (LJ 1/15/08)
  • Black, Holly (text) & Ted Naifeh (illus.). The Good Neighbors. Vol. 1: Kin. GRAPHIX. 2009. 144p. FICTION Black, Holly (text) & Ted Naifeh (illus.).
  • The Good Neighbors. Vol. 2: Kith. GRAPHIX. 2009. 144p. FICTION After her mom has been absent for three weeks, Rue Silver find out that her mother is a faerie and has gone to join her nonhuman family. Soon Rue is tangled up among her own plans to rescue her mother, her father’s conflicting allegiances, and the faeries’ schemes for dealing with humans. The dusky, black and white art nicely captures Rue with her Goth punk friends and the mysterious changes taking over her life and community. Comments: A YALSA QPRYAR and an Eisner nominee. There are two more volumes to this urban fantasy series, forthcoming. Teens up.
  • Chmakova, Svetlana. Nightschool. Vol. 1. Yen Press. 2009. FICTION An ordinary high school during the day, Nightschool holds special classes at night for witches, vampires, and werewolves. Alex and Sarah, paranormally skilled sisters, become involved with Nightschool: Sarah with her new job as Night Keeper and teenaged Alex as a student after Sarah—who has been homeschooling her sister—disappears mysteriously. Comments: Attractive, manga-style art and a complex cosmography about the occult make this appealing to teens fond of vampire films and TV. A YALSA GGNT and QPRYAR.
  • Davis, Mark & Mike Davis. Blokhedz. Vol. 1. Pocket Books. 2007. 112p.  FICTION In this inner-city supernatural adventure, gifted teen rapper Blak must discover his true self and his superpowers. On one side beckons shady rap-and-drug broker Bloko and the fly lifestyle; on the other side, the spirit of Blak's wiser older brother plus his homies, seeress Rosetta, and maybe-girlfriend Essence—herself no mean rhymer either. The fresh, skillful take on the coming-of-age theme features vivid characters, an intense story line, and vibrantly glowing colors. Comment: One of the few mainstream graphic novels to speak to hip-hop culture, here combined with superhero plot elements. Unfortunately, no subsequent volumes have been published. A YALSA QPRYAR. Teens up. (LJ 7/3/07)
  • Flight. Image (vols. 1-2), Ballantine (vols. 3-). 2004-.  ed.
  • Kazu Kibuishi. Annual. F Flight Explorer. Villard. vol. 1, 2008-. ed. Kazu Kibuishi. Irregular. F Full color anthologies of short works designed to showcase young and innovative artists and writers, currently up to volume 7. The wide variety of material, tending to emphasize art rather than wordiness, makes the series a good introduction to graphic narrative for those less comfortable with lengthy text and allows a wide choice among attractive, high-quality selections. Flight  is for young adults and adults, but is kid-friendly. Flight Explorer is designed expressly for children, ages 9-12. Comments:  Volumes of Flight have won a Harvey Award, been nominated for an Eisner, and been a YALSA QPRYAR.
  • Ganter, Amy Kim.  Sorcerers & Secretaries. Vol. 1. Tokyopop. 2006. 192p.  FICTION A sweet romantic story about Nicole, a university student/secretary bored with real life but engrossed in her imaginative daydreams, and Josh, the next-door-neighbor bad boy who falls hard for her. Volume 2 follows their new relationship and how Nicole integrates her fantasy life into her real one. Comments: A light romantic comedy with simple, manga-like art, and a YALSA GGNT. Teens up.
  • Kishimoto, Masashi. Naruto. Vol. 1. VIZ Media. 2003. 192p. FICTION Naruto is a teen ninja in training, with dreams of becoming the Hokage (leader) of his village. But he has sealed inside him a nine-tailed demon fox, the demon that destroyed his village in the past, and he was under suspicion and mistreated while growing up. However, he gains comrades and friends in the course of his training and despite his impulsive and mischievous youthfulness gains mastery over his craft and over the secrets of power in his world. Comments: Naruto has been the top manga in the U.S. for at least the last year or so and has been extremely popular in the U.S. and Japan, ongoing with over 40 volumes so far plus related anime, films, novels, and videogames. It has won awards and been commended for its balance of exciting combat sequences with humor, and for its character development on the coming-of-age theme. Teens up.
  • Lancett, Peter. Dark Man: Danger in the Dark. Saddleback. 2010. 34p.  FICTION The Dark Man series presents allusive and gritty vignettes about an enigmatic adult hero who lives in the shadows, fighting the Shadow Masters who spread evil throughout the city. Comments: Designed for young adult struggling readers and nonreaders, the stories consist of short text placed opposite to full-page dusky drawings. The first six titles are written at the 1.0 to 2.0 grade level; the second six at the 2.0 to 3.0 level. Download free samples at http://www.sdlback.com/t-free_samples_dark_man.aspx. Teens up.
  • Sakai, Stan. Usagi Yojimbo. Vol. 1: The Ronin. Fantagraphics. 1987. 144p.   FICTION A lone samurai for hire, Miyamoto Usagi wanders the countryside of 17th century Japan, looking for bodyguard gigs and getting involved in adventures. The types of stories and details are faithful to Japanese history and folklore in considerable detail—except that the characters are skillfully drawn anthropomorphic animals. (Usagi means rabbit.) While there’s plenty of humor, Usagi and his fellows are not “funny animals” and the overall saga drips with treachery and revenge. Comments: Up to 23 collected volumes, volume 8 on from Dark Horse. The new Yokai volume (2009) is an original graphic novel, unnumbered. Winner of multiple awards and a YALSA GGNT, the series incorporates considerable historical content as well as references to Japanese cinema. (Note: Sakai is American.) Ages 9-12 up.
  • Shakespeare, William & Richard Appignanesi (text) & Sonia Leong (illus.). Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet. Abrams. 2007. 208p. FICTION In this attractive manga-style adaptation, the Montagues and the Capulets become rival yakuza gang families in modern-day Tokyo. The dialog is from the original Shakespearean text, abridged. Comments: A blend of pop culture and classic literature that appeals to many young adults. A YALSA QPRYAR. Teens up.
  • Shan, Darren (text) & Takahiro Arai (illus.). Cirque du Freak: The Manga. Vol. 1. Yen Press. 2009. 208p.  FICTION Teenage Darren Shan loves spiders, and he steals a poisonous spider from a traveling freak show run by vampires. But the spider bites Darren’s friend Steve, and to save him Darren must join up with the freak circus and become a half-vampire himself. Comments: This manga-style adaptation of the popular 12-volume series of novels is up to three volumes with more in production. The novels have been distributed in numerous languages and countries, and the first three were made into a film. A YALSA GGNT and QPRYAR. Teens up.

Older Teens and Adults

  • Abel, Jessica & Gabe Soria (text) & Warren Pleece (illus.). Life Sucks. First Second: Roaring Brook. 2008. 192p. FICTION The vampire clichés were 100% wrong, realizes Dave when unwillingly bitten by his unscrupulous boss. Now a wage-slave employee with a forever contract, Dave works the night shift at the Last Stop convenience store, subsists on plasma, and pines for Rosa, a human hottie who still thinks vampires live beautiful and elegant lives. Comments: A funny and poignant re-visioning of the vampire myth, infused with empathetic drama about relationships and just plain coping with life. A YALSA GGNT and QPRYAR. Older teens up. (LJ 7/15/08)
  • Carey, Percy (text) & Ronald Wimberly (illus.). Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm. Vertigo/ DC Comics. 2008. 128p. AUTOBIOGRAPHY In this sobering, self-reflective autobiography, rapper Carey cuts through the bling-and-babes stereotype of the hip-hop lifestyle to describe surviving the 1994 murder attempt that left him a paraplegic, subsequent blacklisting by record companies, descent into crime, prison term, and rebirth as a penitent survivor. Comment: A Glyph award-winner and YALSA QPRYAR; perhaps the only available autobiography or biography of a living rap artist and one of the few mainstream graphic novels to speak to hip-hop culture. Older teens up. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 8/2/07)
  • Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures. Vol. 1. Various creators. Dark Horse. 2009. 368p.  FICTION This series reprints Marvel’s Indy comics from the 1980s, presenting new stories as well as the film plots. This volume includes the full Raiders of the Lost Ark, Volume 2 The Temple of Doom, and Volume 3 The Last Crusade. Classic Indy, for older teens up.
  • Marchetto, Marisa Acocella. Cancer Vixen: A True Story. Knopf. 2009. 224p. AUTOBIOGRAPHY Living the fabulista life as a New Yorker cartoonist, the 43-year old Acocella is about to be married for the first time when she finds a lump in her breast. “Listen, Cancer, ya sick bastard,” she exclaims, “now is not a good time!” Comments: Poignant, hilarious, and a masterful use of graphics to convey Acocella’s emotional turmoil. This is the graphic novel to give to women who have never read one before. Older teens up. (LJ 7/4/06)
  • Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Pantheon. 2009. 208p. bibliog.  CURRENT EVENTS Hurricane Katrina brought devastation to millions of lives, including seven whose stories are told here, from Abbas who stays to guard his convenience store and ends up on the roof to Brobson the doctor who sets up a make-shift clinic. The simple and realistic art features color wash in different tones. Comment: An effective and moving model of comics with a social consciousness, winning considerable praise and chosen for numerous “best of 2009” lists and a YALSA GGNT. Older teens up. (LJ 7/15/09)
  • Steinberger, Aimee Major. Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan. Go!Comi. 2007. 180p.  AUTOBIOGRAPHY A charming, lightly humorous travelogue from an American professional animator and lover of all-things-Japanese who tours Japan with two friends. Comments: This account of Aimee’s experiences as an oversized gaijin otaku (foreign fan) has been praised for its detail about Japanese culture and locales. A YALSA GGNT and QPRYAR. Older teens up.


Unfortunately, no group or website focuses specifically on graphic novels for reluctant readers. However, there are quite a few sources from which content can be mined for suggestions. Not all suggestions will be appropriate for all libraries, and selectors are advised to read descriptions on publisher and bookseller websites plus check out sample pages where possible.

  • Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) YALSA makes available annual “best” lists in several categories. (See “YALSA's Booklist & Book Awards” on the left of the YALSA homepage.) One YALSA list is Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Of the 101 titles on the 2010 list, 5 are graphic novels. There are 7 on the 2009 list. Another YALSA list is Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and many of these titles would appeal to reluctant readers.
  • Graphic Novels in Libraries e-group This e-group periodically discusses graphic novels for reluctant readers and will respond to requests for suggestions. Anyone can read the posts online, but you must join the list to post. Most members are public and school librarians.
  • Graphic Sparks Series
  • Capstone/Stone Arch Books Graphic Sparks is a series of lively, funny graphic novels especially designed to attract G1-3 level readers and kids roughly age 6 through tween. Subseries include Buzz Beaker (lightweight science content), Jimmie Sniffles (allergies and sense of smell) Time Blasters (history/time travel) Eek and Ack (stupid aliens – see above), Tiger Moth: Insect Ninja (superhero for truth and justice), Princess Candy (superheroines and schoolgirl rivalries) and Monster and Me (monsters as pets and companions).
  • Sue Nevins, Bookseller of Children’s Literature Nevins is a bookseller in Nebraska, and she maintains a Reluctant Reader section of her website that includes some of the titles above but also other worthy suggestions that include graphic novels. Unlike many websites, this one seems to be kept up to date.
  • The Graphic Classroom "Promoting the use of high quality comic literature in the elementary, middle school, and high school classroom." Numerous reviews and critical commentary, plus success stories.
  • ComicsResearch.org/Academic and Library Resources Scroll down to Comics in Primary, Middle & Secondary Schools. See also the next section, Library Approaches To/Uses of Comics.
  • School Library Journal's Good Comics for Kids Click on the appropriate blog from the list to the right of the home page. New titles lists, pet picks, commentary, and interviews.


1.    R. Anderson, P. Wilson, & L. Fielding, “Growth in reading and how children spend their time outside of school,” Reading Research Quarterly 23:285-303, 1988. See also Stephen D. Krashen, “Light reading: Comic books,” in The Power of Reading, Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004, pp. 91-110.   *************

Social Movements and Economic Justice


"There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." Those lines from the classic Crosby Stills Nash & Young song "For what it's worth" seem to fit the times we are currently living through with popular uprisings as diverse as the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and protests against discredited elections in Russia, just to name a few. It seems fitting to honor these current popular movements with a brief guide highlighting the history of social and economic justice movements captured in the popular format of graphic novels. Contemporary long-form comics with sequential artwork got started in the USA partly as a result of the US Army seeking to influence the behavior of US GI's during World War II in this intuitive, highly appealing format. Perhaps reading some of these historic depictions will help to clarify what exactly is happening. Thousands of graphic novels and comics could qualify for this description, including story arcs in superhero series such as X-Men as well as historical titles referencing the Holocaust or minority struggles. For displays, libraries may want to enhance the selections below with additional staff and patron favorites. Thanks to those posting on the GNLIB-L Graphic Novels in Libraries e-group for some of these titles. Tim Siftar & Martha Cornog

Younger Children

  • Laird, Roland Owen & Taneshia Nash Laird (text) & Elihu "Adofo" Bey (illus.). . Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans..rev. ed. . Sterling. 2009. 220p. bibliog. ISBN 9781402762260. pap. $14.95. HIST The story of African Americans in the United States from the year 1619 through the election of Barack Obama, told in some detail and with simple, black-and-white art. Charles Johnson’s introduction about the history of “Blacks in comics” enriches the presentation, as do the differing viewpoints of the two elderly narrators. Teens and up.
  • McGruder, Aaron & Reginald Hudlin (text) & Kyle Baker (illus.). Birth of a Nation: A Comic Novel. Three Rivers Press. 2005. 144p. ISBN 9781400083169. pap. ~$35. (out of print) HUMOR After a voting scandal disenfranchises the virtually all-Black East St. Louis, the disgusted residents secede from the United States to form the Republic of Blackland, throwing the Bush-lookalike administration into chaos. Political satire that reworks the Florida ballot snafu from the 2000 Presidential election into a pointed and funny fable.
  • Moore, Alan (text) & David Lloyd (illus.). V for Vendetta. Vertigo. 2008. 296p. ISBN 9781401208417. pap. $19.99. F In an alternate future, a fascist government has taken over England with absolutely corrupt absolute power. In this land without personal or political freedom, only a lone revolutionary in a white porcelain mask fights back with terrorism and acts of random absurdity. The mask is meant to represent a stylized depiction of the actual seventeenth century Guy Fawkes, who plotted to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate King James I but was captured and condemned to death. Lloyd’s version of the mask has been adopted by real-life protestors, most recently from the Occupy movement.
  • Origen, Erich & Gan Golan (text) & Ramona Fradon & others (illus.). The Adventures of Unemployed Man. Little, Brown. 2010. c.80p. ISBN 9780316098823. pap. $14.99. HUMOR In this double spoof of superheroes and U.S. economic politics, a self-help superhero is ejected from his superteam and finds himself jobless. As he makes his way through the ranks of his fellow superhero outcasts, he meets indebted student Master of Degrees, single mom Wonder Mother, and numerous others among the well-intentioned who have been stymied by various supervillains and dastardly plots to control the nation’s money. Includes bogus ads and homages to comics notables.
  • Pekar, Harvey & others (text) & Gary Dumm & others (illus.). Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. Hill & Wang: Farrar. 2008. 224p. ed. by Paul Buhle. bibliog. ISBN 9780809089390. pap. $16. HIST From 1960 to 1969, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held out to young people an invitation to change America into a more activist, peaceful, progressive, and egalitarian social order where the "military industrial complex" would no longer have central power. Sidetracked by external roadblocks and internal chaos, the organization stumbled and splintered early on. Yet many of its goals did move into the mainstream. (A new SDS was established in 2006.) This account begins with a historical overview, followed by "we were there" stories from SDS veterans and observers from the period. Older teens and up; good for high school libraries.
  • Pekar, Harvey & others (text) & Ed Piskor & others (illus.). The Beats: A Graphic History. Hill & Wang. Hill & Wang. 2010. 208p. Ed. Paul Buhle. ISBN 9780809016495. $15.95. HIST Forerunners to Woodstock, the so-called Beat Generation of artists and writers helped create the climate for the 1960s explosion of transgressive cultural diversity. There are profiles of Kerouac, Ginsburg, Burroughs, Ferlinghetti, Corso, the Fugs, and many lesser-known men and women. Teens and up.
  • Rudahl, Sharon. A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman. New Pr., dist. by Norton. 2007. 128p. ISBN 9781595580641. pap. $17.95. BIOG Radical heroine "Red Emma" crusaded for free speech, free thought, birth control, sexual self-expression, and the right of workers to organize—all largely taken for granted today even if still imperfectly realized in America or anywhere. A charismatic public speaker and champion of the oppressed, she attracted crowds, newspaper attention, and police surveillance. Indeed, Goldman spent time in prison for anarchist speech, promoting birth control, and protesting conscription for World War I. Rudahl's swirly, crowded pencils convey well the electric tumult of Emma's life and times, and the culture-bending courage of Goldman and her friends that underlays many of our freedoms today.
  • Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Pantheon. 2007. 341p. ISBN 9780375714832. pap. $24.95. MEMOIR Growing up during the Islamic Revolution, Satrapi rides out repeated cultural rewrites as the conservative regime coming to power attempts to rule much of modernity and westernizing influences off-limits to Iranians. Supported by her loving family who themselves rebel privately, she escapes as a young teen to boarding school in Europe where she comes of age in a freewheeling social and intellectual ambiance. Then deeply longing for her parents, she returns home to readjust anew to political upheaval and study for a masters degree. Then after marrying and several years later divorcing, she leaves Iran permanently. The One Book, One Philadelphia selection for 2010, Persepolis is one of the most widely acclaimed graphic memoirs of recent years, blending the personal and political into a compelling coming of age story.
  • Shahin, Tarek. Rise: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution as Written Shortly Before It Began. Alkhan Comics/CreateSpace. 2011. 132p. ISBN 9781461120544. pap. $12.99. F/POL SCI Omar has left a freewheeling life in Paris to take over his grandfather’s publication, Al Khan. Now he’s up against firebrand reporter Nada and progressive photographer Yunan, even as his traditional friend Anwar takes a second wife and everyone confronts an increasingly unsettling political climate. This is Cairo on the eve of revolution. Taking Doonesbury as inspiration, Shahin ran his English-language strip, “Al Khan,” in the Daily News Egypt from 2008 to 2010, using his loveable and complex characters to plot deftly around Muslim-Christian-Jewish interactions, political earthquakes, and marital conflicts (that second wife turns out to be an undercover journalist), not omitting rape and murder. A superb immersion in recent Middle East affairs delivered with a light touch.
  • Sinclair, Upton (text) & Peter Kuper (illus. & adapt.). Classics Illustrated #9: The Jungle. Papercutz. 2010. 56p. ISBN 9781597071925. $9.99. F The Jungle is the classic muckraking novel, exposing in filthy detail the horrific and health-sabotaging practices of early twentieth century Chicago’s corrupt meat-packing industry. Reactions to the novel led ultimately to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration. Kuper’s adaptation, while brief, has been praised for drawing on several different artistic approaches to add vividness to this story of an immigrant Lithuanian family who lose all they have in a merciless new world where industry rules all and workers have no rights.
  • Sowa, Marzena (text) & Sylvain Savoia (illus.). Marzi: A Memoir. Vertigo. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9781401229597. pap. $17.99 MEMOIR Sowa/Marzi grew up in 1980s Communist-occupied Poland. Her vignettes of a childhood behind the Iron Curtain describe a daily life colored by shortages of food and staple goods, the sense of an ominous Big Brother, confusion about what the adults aren’t telling her, strikes and political debates, and eventually the transition of Poland away from Communism. This volume includes four collections first published in Belgium. Several more are available in French. Tweens through adults can find this compelling.
  • Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World. Various creators. Verso. 2005. 299p. Ed. Paul Buhle & Nicole Schulman. ISBN 978-1844675258. pap. $29.95. HIST The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), is an international union that took a major role in the labor rights movement early in the twentieth century. A grassroots organization that fought for equality and safe working conditions, the Wobblies also had ties to women's rights and socialism. The major tenet was that all workers, regardless of trade, should organize and together take back control of the workplace from the employing class through revolutionary struggle. Overthrowing capitalism was to be part of the process. This collection highlights the rich history of the movement and its stars, which included Margaret Sanger and “Mother” Jones.
  • Zinn, Howard (text) & Mike Konopacki (illus.). A People’s History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation. Metropolitan: Holt. 2008. 288p. bibliog. ISBN 9781439598696. $26; pap. ISBN 97808050-87444. $17. POL SCI The dark side of American independence glossed over in mainstream media—the ugly American empire that leaves tire treads all over cultures, countries, and dissenters. But Zinn ends by noting that while imperialism persists, progress has come through bloodless revolutions and progressive approaches. Adapted from Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. *************  

Collection Development: Graphic Novels and Libraries

  • Comics and librarians had an uneasy and sometimes hostile relationship until the 1970s. (See Cornog & Perper, 2009; Ellis & Highsmith, 2000; Nyberg, 2010.) Whereas in 1955 arch-critic Fredric Wertham spread his anti-comics message through an article in Wilson Library Bulletin, in 1974 the late celebrated cartoonist Will Eisner published a positive article about comics in Library Journal. With the surge in manga paperbacks and the flowering of other graphic novels converging at the end of the century, librarianship officially took possession of the medium in 2002 when YALSA held a preconference about graphic novels and teens at the annual ALA meeting. Enthusiasm grew to the extent that now best-selling cartoonists make a point of publicly thanking librarians every chance they get. For instance, at the 2008 Book Expo America conference, well-known Bone creator Jeff Smith commented that “it was really the librarians who were doing all the heavy lifting” in getting comics accepted as legitimate literature. Why have librarians embraced comics and graphic novels? Because people want to read them—typically, graphic novels and manga circulate more than prose books—and because many comics-format titles are recognized as artful, quality products of culture in their own right. “Popularity” and “quality” are the twin drivers of library collection development, and comics offer both. A third and unexpected benefit has emerged relatively recently. As reading comics became more acceptable for normal people of all ages, anecdotal accounts began to surface about learning to read with the help of comics. The typical story went something like this: I (or my husband/brother/kid) hated reading until my friend (or parent or uncle) gave me some comics. I couldn’t stop reading them, and now I’m a writer/librarian/teacher/editor/other respected professional. One former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief told how he won a first grade spelling bee with the word bouillabaisse, encountered originally in a Disney comic book (Krashen, 2004, pp. 91-92). Last year, the nonprofit organization Reading with Pictures (www.readingwithpictures.org) was founded to identify, publicize, and encourage research about comics vis-à-vis reading. So far, a major point has been that comics are good for reading because they make reading enjoyable. People who learn to enjoy reading will voluntarily read more, improve their skills, and be able to read successfully a wide range of texts—comics or not. A second point has been that by providing visual context, comics make new words easier to learn, and thus comics can expand vocabulary. Interestingly, research suggests that comics contain more unusual words than TV shows, children’s books, or normal conversations (Krashen, 2004, p. 104). Note that literacy has become recognized as more than just a buzzword beloved by librarians and teachers. Study after study show that better readers are more likely to be employed, attain better professional positions and higher salaries, volunteer more in their community, and even vote more. Reading correlates to almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed—including exercising and playing sports (National Endowment for the Arts, 2007). “Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy that we’re living in today.... Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible, from complex word problems and the meaning of our history to scientific discovery and technological proficiency.” (Obama, 2005) Books for librarians about comics in the collection first appeared in 1983 with James Thomas’ Cartoons and Comics in the Classroom: A Reference for Teachers and Librarians (see below). This must have also been one of the earliest books to talk about comics in teaching, although positive articles about comics doubtless showed up much earlier in the education literature, as they did in the library literature. Only two books appeared in the 1990s (Scott and Rothschild), but after then, books have come out at greater rate, first for librarians and in the last couple of years, increasingly for educators. (LJ xx/xx” refers to reviews published in Library Journal.) Tim Siftar Martha Cornog **    **    **    **    **    **    **    **    **    **    **

    Graphic Novels in Libraries

    These books were written by librarians unless otherwise indicated.
  • Brenner, Robin E. Understanding Manga and Anime. Libraries Unlimited. 2007. 333p. illus. bibliog. ISBN  978-1591583325. pap. $40.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE Extensive background about manga and anime visual conventions and prevalent genres, Japanese versus American cultural expectations, plus working with fans and patrons. Briefer coverage of collection development and recommended titles with annotations and age levels. Comments: While many of the other books in this collection development category briefly describe manga (and in some cases anime) from a librarian perspective, this book provides a thorough, one-stop place to gain a more complete understanding. Nominated for an Eisner award. (LJ 9/15/07)
  • Cornog, Martha and Timothy Perper, eds. Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries. Libraries Unlimited. 2009. 281p. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1591584780. pap. $45.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE This anthology from various contributors explores topics in depth that are not commonly discussed elsewhere in books for librarians, including international comics, comics in academic libraries, girls and women as comics readers, censorship, collection maintenance, comics as relating to gaming, superheroes vs. manga vs. other American comics, and special interest resources for four groups: African Americans, Latinos, gay/lesbian readers, and those interested in religious-themed content. Comments: The collection aims to complement more than update previous books about graphic novels in libraries. (LJ Xpress Reviews 12/25/09)
  • Crawford, Philip Charles. Graphic Novels 101: Selecting and Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy for Children and Young Adults; A Resource Guide for School Librarians and Educators. Hi Willow Research & Publishing. 2003. 76p. ISBN 978-0931510915. pap. Price varies (out of print). LIBRARY SCIENCE Recommends an assortment of G3–12 titles for school librarians, with annotations and age levels, and briefly covers background, collection development, and processing issues plus comics in the classroom. Relatively little coverage of manga. Comments: A briefer treatment for school librarians focused primarily on key titles and collection development. Compared with Gorman’s teen book, below, it covers less ground while annotating about the same number of titles.
  • Goldsmith, Francisca. Graphic Novels Now: Building, Managing, and Marketing a Dynamic Collection. ALA Editions. 2005.  113p. illus. index. ISBN 978-0838909041. pap. $42.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE Broad if concise coverage of background, collection development, processing, programming, and promotion, across age groups and library types. Some recommended titles with annotations but no age levels and virtually no manga. Comments: A wide variety of topics are covered in few pages, more briefly than Miller, below. However, Goldsmith covers more thoroughly collection development policies as well as censorship and challenges.
  • Goldsmith, Francisca. The Readers' Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels. ALA. 2009. 136p. glossary. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0838910085. pap. $45.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE Goldsmith addresses how to advise comics-savvy readers of all ages as well as nudge those not comics-inclined toward graphic novel options and graphic novel readalikes linked to films and gaming. Background includes annotated lists of sample titles by genre and type (e.g., wordless, adaptations, anthologies) as well as a varied if brief list of professional resources and an excellent "Graphic Novels 101" appendix for advisors new to comics. Comments: This focused approach expands on a topic not much discussed previously and supplements more broadly-based books such as Serchay’s, below. (LJ 1/15/10)
  • Gorman, Michele. Getting Graphic! Comics for Kids. Linworth. 2008. 84p. glossary. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1586833275. pap. $24.95. LIBRARY SCIENCE Collection development/readers advisory resource: recommended titles with annotations and grade levels for ages 4 through 12. Covering over 270 recommended titles, this is much more a “genre guide” than comprehensive overview. Comments: Very useful for book selection and readers advisory, and as a resource when working with parents. Complements the more broadly-based books such as Serchay’s, below. Gorman’s guide covers only collection development—and fewer titles than Serchay’s—but with longer annotations and lower price. (LJ 3/15/08)
  • Gorman, Michele. Getting Graphic! Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy with Preteens and Teens. Linworth, 2003. 100p. glossary. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1586830892. pap. $36.95. LIBRARY SCIENCE In relation to preteen and teen readers in both public and school libraries, offers broad, concise coverage of comics history, role and value in the library and classroom, collection development, collection maintenance and bibliographic control, promotion, programming, and recommended titles with annotations and grade levels. Includes suggestions for integrating graphic novels into the classroom curriculum. Comments: A focused introductory guide and the first comprehensive work on the topic for teen service librarians across institution types. Crawford’s book, above, addresses primarily collection development for school librarians, and the Lyga book below also focuses on school librarians.
  • Kannenberg, Gene. 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. Collins Design. 2008.  528p. illus. bibliog. index ISBN 978-0061474514. pap. $25.95. GRAPHIC ARTS Collection development/readers advisory resource: lavishly packaged collection of plot summaries together with reviews, ratings, color cover images and sample panels, age-grading, and “further reading.” Arranged by genre with indexes by age level, creator, title, and publisher. Comments: The author is a PhD-level comics scholar rather than a librarian and is director of ComicsResearch.org, a highly useful Web resource for comics scholarship and information about work in comics formats. Updates Pawuk’s work (see below) and provides images of the art but covers far fewer titles.
  • Lyga, Allyson A. W., and Barry Lyga. Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide. Libraries Unlimited. 2004. 200p. illus. bibliog. glossary. index. ISBN 978-1591581420. pap. $40.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE A longer treatment for school librarians: covers how comics work, collection development, processing, working with comics shops, lesson plans for grades K-12 using comics, censorship, and recommended titles for elementary through high schools with grade levels. Includes sample pages and annotations from 27 titles plus a longer list with subject terms only and has a section of testimonials as well as interviews about partnerships with comics shops. Comments: Covers younger children up through teens in one book. Because of the background information, lesson plans, and testimonials, good as a “first read” for school librarians and teachers less familiar with comics.
  • Miller, Steve. Developing and Promoting Graphic Novel Collections. Neal-Schuman, 2005. 130p. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1555704612. pap. $49.95. LIBRARY SCIENCE Broad if concise coverage of background, collection development, processing, programming, and promotion. Some recommended titles with very brief annotations, all-ages and teen. Comments: One of the earlier and more comprehensive guides to address collections across reader age-groups and library types, and somewhat longer than Goldsmith’s. Annotations are shorter, however, and there is little coverage of manga, censorship/challenges, or collection development policies.
  • Pawuk, Michael. Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More. Libraries Unlimited. 2006. 633p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1591581321. $65.00. GRAPHIC ARTS Collection development/readers advisory resource: extensive guide to more than 2,400  titles organized by genre, with annotations and age levels K through adult. Awards and media tie-ins are also indicated. A brief introduction in comics format reviews background, collection development, processing, programming, and promotion issues. Comments: This extensive guide exceeds Kannenberg’s in the number of titles covered and also contains awards information, annotations,  and age levels. However, the illustrations are fewer, smaller, and in black and white. Note that Pawuk does not “rate” titles or include ratings from others. An updated edition is due in late 2011. (LJ 7/15/07)
  • Rothschild, D. Aviva. Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics. Libraries Unlimited. 1995. 246p. illus. glossary. index. ISBN 978-1563080869. $37.00. GRAPHIC ARTS One of the earliest graphic novel guides for librarians. Mainly a collection development/readers advisory resource and guide to over 400 titles organized by subject/genre, with long annotations and age-levels. Comments: Dated: many titles may no longer be available, but interesting as a list of what was available at that time. Scott, Randall W. Comics Librarianship: A Handbook. McFarland. 1990. 188p. index. ISBN 978-0899505275. Price varies (out of print). LIBRARY SCIENCE For academic librarians: covers background, collection development, and processing issues for comic book collections, with passing mention of compilations, graphic novels, graphic albums (meaning European bande dessinée), and manga. Comments: The earliest book to devote full-length treatment to comics-format materials in libraries. A classic, even if quite dated and focused on comic books.
  • Serchay, David. The Librarian’s Guide to Graphic Novels for Children and Tweens. Neal-Schuman. 2008. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1555706265. pap. $55.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE Comprehensive coverage of background, genres, collection development, processing, programming, and promotion of graphic novels for patrons roughly ages 8 through 12. Part 1 provides historical and genre background, Part 2 covers the whys and hows of building the collection, and Part 3 reviews ways to manage, promote, and maintain the collection. One appendix annotates around 230 recommended titles and series, while additional appendixes list book and online resources. Comments: This is "Graphic Novels 101" for newbies but also likely to offer new information to many GN veterans because it is longer and more comprehensive than prior books, including such details as racial diversity in comics and what GN-related services are offered by specific library vendors. Gorman’s “kids” guide covers only collection development—and fewer titles—but with longer annotations and lower price. (LJ 9/15/08)
  • Serchay, David. The Librarian’s Guide to Graphic Novels for Adults. Neal-Schuman. 2009. 320p. bibliog. index ISBN 978-1555706623. pap. $65.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE A companion book to the Serchay children/tween title above, and a rich source of information for those new to graphic novels as well as the experienced. Comprehensive coverage of background, genres, collection development, processing, programming, and promotion of graphic novels for adult patrons. Part 1 provides historical and genre background and Part 2 covers the whys and hows of building the collection as well as ways to manage, promote, and maintain the collection. One chapter addresses academic libraries, one appendix annotates over 600 recommended titles and series, and additional appendixes list book and online resources. Comments: This comprehensive work is the first book addressing graphic novels for adult readers, an area not well addressed in the library literature as of 2010. (LJ 1/15/10, 3/15/10)
  • Thompson, Jason. Manga: The Complete Guide. Del Rey/Ballantine, 2007. 592p. illus. glossary. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0345485908. pap. $19.95. GRAPHIC ARTS Collection development/readers advisory resource: comprehensive list of over 1000 series and stand-alone volumes that have been available in English (in print or out-of-print), with annotations, age levels, and quality ranking. Separate sections for yaoi and adult (that is, erotic) titles. Sidebars throughout address genres and background issues. Comments: Annotates and rates more manga titles than any other work. The meaty annotations are uneven in quality and viewpoint but do give a good feel for each title. Not a librarian, the author has long-term experience as a manga editor at VIZ Media and has written widely about manga. Useful for patrons as well as librarians.
  • Weiner, Robert, ed. Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives: Essays on Readers, Research, History, and Cataloging. McFarland. 2010. 276p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-7864-4302-4. pap. $45. LIBRARY SCIENCE Collection of 29 essays over a broad breadth of topics, offering much that is new and intriguing. Highlights include a history of manga in Japanese libraries, results of teen reader surveys, an account of a student-produced library guide in comics format, and an introduction to webcomics. Comments: More data, more coverage of academic libraries, and more Canadian perspectives are collected here than in previous books on graphic novels in libraries, and the work as a whole opens a wide vista of case studies, opinions, and hard data about comics in libraries.
  • Weiner, Stephen. The 101 Best Graphic Novels. 3rd ed. NBM, 2005. 80p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1561634439. $15.95. GRAPHIC ARTS Collection development/readers advisory resource: concise annotations with age-grading, arranged by author. Includes cover images, occasional sample panels, bibliography, and title index. Comments: This first edition of this “best-of” list was published in 1996, before many librarians recognized the value of graphic novels. The Publishers Weekly review commented that “Weiner seems more interested in reflecting the range of graphic novels rather than listing the best book-length comics available in print,” so perhaps this resource should not expected five year later to serve as a definite indicator of high critical acclaim in retrospect. The Kannenberg work, above, comes closer to being authoritative about quality in a more recent context.

Graphic Novels, Literacy, and Education

  • A 2010 report from the Canadian Council on Learning has endorsed comics for their value in advancing literacy, especially for boys. As word about the benefits of comics in teaching spreads throughout the education community, we can see the effects in the increasing number of sessions about graphic novels at conferences of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and in the recent surge of books on teaching with comics, below. For librarians, many of these approaches may be adapted for graphic novel book discussion groups and teen programming. Moreover, these books supply excellent background for times when patrons, administrators, other library staff, or the media ask why on earth the library is collecting comics. They also may help with writing grants to start or enhance a graphic novel collection.
  • Bitz, Michael. Manga High: Literacy, Identity, and Coming of Age in an Urban High School. Harvard Education Press. 2009. 196p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1-934742-18-1. pap. $29.95. EDUCATION Bitz argues that while comics constitute a valid literary form and can be a motivational bridge to reading, a third perspective to comics in the classroom delivers a more intense and comprehensive educational experience. His Comic Book Project is designed to give underserved elementary, middle, and high school students a voice in the learning process by creating original writing and art about important issues in their lives. Manga High describes a detailed case study: The Comic Book Club at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Manhattan. Comments: Includes profiles of educators and students, including nine student minicomics, as well as guidelines for setting up similar clubs.
  • Carter, James Bucky, ed. Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels; Page by Page, Panel by Panel. National Council of Teachers of English. 2007. 164p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 978-0814103920. pap. $30.95. EDUCATION An anthology of case studies and practical suggestions for using graphic novels in the classroom to enhance reading ability and enjoyment, primarily for middle and high school students and undergraduates. Useful as background for school and academic librarians serving these age groups. Chapters pair graphic novels thematically with selections from prose works and explore the connections between the two formats. Comments: The contributors who share their own experience with these creative lesson suggestions are professors or teachers themselves. The approach is designed to engage students of varying ability, from reluctant to advanced readers.
  • Cary, Stephen. Going Graphic: Comics at Work in the Multilingual Classroom. Heinemann. 2004. 218p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0325004754. pap. $32.50. EDUCATION Background, tips, and ideas for comics-based activities that may be used by teachers working with elementary school through adult levels where students are learning a second language. Useful for librarians serving multilingual patrons. Comments: Provides data and references to research in support of using comics in the classroom to assist language learners from beginners to advanced, as well as copious resource lists.
  • Frey, Nancy & Douglas Fisher, eds. Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills. Corwin Press. 2008. 195p. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1412953122. pap. $33.95. EDUCATION Collection of essays discussing the importance of visual literacy beyond text alone and how to use other media to increase critical abilities and broader engagement with learning. Chapters address classroom use of graphic novels, comic books, anime, political cartoons, film, and illustrations in picture books. A special chapter covers the special case of using visual and other supportive techniques to teach students with autism, learning disabilities, and impaired hearing or vision. Focus is on grades K-12. Comments: Chapters are media-based rather than case-study-based, but each provides suggestions and stories about ways to work with students.
  • Hart, Melissa. Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom, Grades 4-8. Teacher Created Resources. 2010. 96p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 978-1420623635. pap. $8.99. EDUCATION Concise guidelines with lesson plans/exercises for teachers to lead middle school students in exploring graphic novels as a genre, analyzing a specific graphic novel, and creating an original graphic short story. Comments: A good starting point for teachers of this age group, especially those unfamiliar with comics. However, the bibliography and suggested list of comics titles are very abbreviated.
  • Jenkins, Richard, & Debra Detamore. Comics in Your Curriculum. Pieces of Learning. 2008. 128p. illus. bibliog. index ISBN 978-1934358153. pap. $18.95. EDUCATION A guide for G3-6 teachers for integrating comics into lessons about language arts, math, science, social studies, and other topics. Lessons involve research via the internet relating to comics, understanding structure and messages of existing comics and comic strips, creating comics, and creating comics to explain and express stories and nonfiction content. All lesson plans are correlated to national education standards, and handouts and supporting information for each are provided. Comments: The draw of comics as a medium appealing to kids, and the reinforcement of a visual sequence, are used to pull students into intellectual activities involving reading comprehension, research, writing, and drawing with specific learning goals.
  • Krashen, Stephen D. The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research. 2nd ed. Libraries Unlimited. 2004. 199p. bibliog. index ISBN 978-1591581697. pap. $27.00. EDUCATION Summarizes a large number of academic studies on the benefits of reading and how to encourage reading, especially in connection with “free voluntary reading” (FVR), that is, reading for pleasure. Krashen argues that FVR improves second-language learning, vocabulary acquisition, and cognitive development. One section discusses studies addressing effects and benefits of reading comics. Comments: Described as “a major cannon in the reading research wars” that is helping establish the value of comics for literacy. Building on the studies mentioned, organizations like Reading with Pictures (www.readingwithpictures.org) are working with academics to cultivate further research.
  • Monnin, Katie. Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom. Maupin House. 2009. 256p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1934338407. pap. $24.95. EDUCATION. A detailed guidebook offering English language arts (ELA) teachers classroom-based and curriculum-relevant lesson ideas for teaching the graphic novel to middle and high school students. Strategies often pair graphic novels with all-text works and are designed to teach text and image literacies through both reading and writing/drawing. Includes numerous worksheets, handouts, classroom activity exercises, and reference lists. Comments: The detailed descriptions of techniques, interactive approach, and the pairing of graphic novels with all-text resources should appeal to teachers and administrations new to the idea of comics in the classroom.
  • Rourke, James. The Comic Book Curriculum: Using Comics to Enhance Learning and Life. Libraries Unlimited. 2010. 189p. bibiog. index. ISBN 978-1598843965. pap. $35. EDUCATION Rourke presents superhero comics as an entertaining conduit for teaching wisdom and positive values at the high school level, linking their stories to the great myths and to works of philosophy as well as other texts. Part 1 includes 19 brief essays for the instructor, introducing individual heroes, their narrative contexts, and take-home messages. Part 2 contains teacher tools for using specific superhero comics in the classroom, with vocabulary lists, curriculum tie-ins (such as to history, civics, literature, and ethics), lesson plans, and exercises. Comments: Comics are presented as an additional educational tool, not as replacement for “traditional” resources. All the superheroes discussed in depth are male, which lends value to the book for use with disaffected and reluctant reader male students. Rourke suggests that his approach can be adapted to younger students.
  • Tabachnick, Stephen E., ed. Teaching the Graphic Novel. Modern Language Assn. of America. 2009. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1-60329-061-6. pap. $22. EDUCATION A collection of 34 widely diverse essays about using comics in the university curriculum, mostly detailed case studies. Approaches range from the predictable (Maus for a Holocaust class) to the crafty (introducing anime and manga into humanities courses to lure in sci-tech majors), and faculty departments range from literature through art, media, history, and area studies. Comments: Good for academic and public library education collections; suggestions can be mined for teaching younger ages. For librarians, teaching approaches may be adapted for graphic novel book discussion groups and teen programming.
  • Thomas, James L., ed. Cartoons and Comics in the Classroom: A Reference for Teachers and Librarians. Libraries Unlimited. 1983. 181p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0872873575. Price varies (out of print). EDUCATION Ideas, strategies, and case studies relating to using graphic novels in classroom work primarily G3 through high school, for subjects including history, English, foreign-language learning (including Latin), and science. Many of the approaches could be adapted for use with college undergraduates. Some information is dated, but most of the essays remain useful and interesting. One chapter is titled “Spider-Man at the Library,” where adding Spider-Man comics to a Missouri high school library almost doubled overall library circulation, partly due to noncomics materials circulating 30% more than previously. Comments: One of the first books addressing the positive place of comics formats in libraries.
  • Thompson, Terry. Adventures in Graphica: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2–6. Stenhouse Publishers, 2008. 188p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1571107121. pap. $18.50. EDUCATION Background, tips, and ideas for elementary school teachers for using comics to teach reading skills to grades 2-6, including bridging to prose texts. Especially focused on reluctant readers, English language learners, and visually-oriented children. Comments: Good as background for elementary and middle school librarians as well as public librarians working in children’s services. Several chapters in books designed for librarians address graphic novels in education: O’English, Lorena. “Comics and graphic novels in the academic library collection.”
  • In Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries, ed. Martha Cornog & Timothy Perper, pp. 163-192. Libraries Unlimited. 2009. ISBN 978-1591584780. pap. $45.00. LIBRARY SCIENCE (see the section above about graphic novels in libraries) Serchay, David. “Graphic novels in the classroom.”
  • In The Librarian’s Guide to Graphic Novels for Children and ‘Tweens, pp. 124-127. Neal-Schuman. 2008. ISBN 978-1555706265. pap. $55.00. GRAPHIC ARTS (see the section above about graphic novels in libraries)
  • Eisner, Will. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. Norton. 2008. (original edition: 1985) 164p. illus. ISBN 978-0393331264. pap. $22.95. GRAPHIC ARTS Eisner, Will. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. Norton. 2008. (original edition: 1996) 164p. illus. ISBN 978-0393331271. pap. $22.95. GRAPHIC ARTS A widely-acclaimed cartoonist, Eisner based this pair of texts on a cartooning course that he taught at New York’s School of Visual Art. Comics and Sequential Art presents Eisner’s view of the basic building blocks of the medium and how it works to tell a story. Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative teaches how to craft and control a story effectively. Comments: These were perhaps the earliest comprehensive discussions of the comics medium as a medium before McCloud’s work, below, and are still considered classics. McCloud takes more the reader’s point of view, whereas Eisner is more concerned with the creative process.
  • McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper. 1994. 224p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 978-0060976255. pap. $22.99. GRAPHIC ARTS A primer about comics as a medium or format, itself in comics form. Explains how comics work and how they are designed, perused, and understood. Delivers much on the larger theme of visual language in general. Especially valuable and interesting is a section tracing picture narrative back to Egyptian tomb paintings c. 1300 BCE. Comments: Considered a classic introduction to the medium, together with his Reinventing Comics (trends in the medium) and Making Comics (drawing and storytelling approaches).
  • Versaci, Rocco. This Book Contains Graphic Language. Continuum, 2007. 237p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0826428783. pap. $22.95. LITERATURE A close comparative analysis between comics and other media that are traditionally assigned literary value: memoir, journalism, film, and classic literature. Versaci aims to show that comics constitute a unique and sophisticated representational medium that can express formal, thematic, and political issues in ways comparable to other widely-respected forms of expression. Comments: A well-developed and persuasive effort useful to librarians and educators for understanding the potential range and serious enduring value of graphic narrative.
  • Comic Adventures in Academia A monthly column on academic and educational ramifications of comics from Karen Green, Columbia University's Ancient/Medieval Studies Librarian and Graphic Novel selector. The May 2010 column describes her experience introducing high school classes to comics with substance abuse themes, and the March 2010 column describes leading a medical school class in a discussion of illness narratives in graphic novels. Comics in the Classroom Lesson plans, blog entries, webcomics (including one about how to play chess), reviews, and miscellaneous content from Scott Tingley, an elementary school teacher in Canada.
  • ComicsResearch.org: Academic Resources The Academic Resources section of ComicsResearch.org, a large website on scholarly approaches to comics, includes links to subsections on Comics in Primary, Middle, and Secondary Schools; and Comics in Colleges and Universities
  • Daryl Cagle's Teacher Guide Lesson plans and suggestions for elementary, middle, and high school teachers relating to editorial cartoons.
  • Diamond BookShelf for Educators and Librarians Includes a variety of resources: reviews, lesson plans, links to articles in the media, and Katie’s Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools and Libraries that include teaching suggestions and lesson plans. “Katie” is Katie Monnin, PhD, an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (see above).
  • Gilles’ Service to Fans Page Invaluable resources for librarians, educators, and others about manga and anime. Guide to the format, recommended core titles, bibliographies, and many other resources and links. Scroll down on the home page for a link to Teacher’s Companion to the Anime Companion. From librarian Gilles Poitras.
  • The Graphic Classroom Chris Wilson’s blog to help teachers and librarians “stock high quality, educational-worthy, graphic novels and comics in their classroom or school library” to help young people learn to read and enjoy reading. Included “recommended” lists for emerging readers through age 15 up. Wilson is a graduate student  in education who is writing his thesis on using comics and graphic novels in the elementary school classroom.
  • GraphicNovelReporter Wide coverage of the comics format with news, reviews, interviews, blog, and newsletter. Considerable content of interest to educators and librarians as well as to comics industry professionals and educated fans. Part of the Book Report Network along with Bookreporter.com and several other Web sites.
  • National Association of Comics Arts Educators (NACAE) Designed to serve as “a resource where the growing number of educators in comic art/sequential art can get and share ideas. It is also hoped that educators who work in other disciplines can use comics as a way of furthering their own objectives.” Most of the site’s content relates to teaching cartooning as such rather than using graphic novels in other coursework.
  • Professor Garfield An interactive online learning portal where children at levels K to 8th grade can explore, learn, and creatively express themselves. Professor Garfield and the Professor Garfield Foundation originate in a partnership between Paws, Inc., the world headquarters of Jim Davis’ Garfield the Cat cartoon character, and Ball State University. Content ranges from traditional subjects, such as reading, writing and arithmetic, to career goal exploration and art as well as activities created expressly for kids with learning disabilities. All of the content has been reviewed by educational experts and tested in classroom settings.
  • Reading with Pictures A nonprofit organization that advocates the use of comics in the classroom to promote literacy and improved educational outcomes. Collaborates with academics to cultivate research into the role of comics in education, with cartoonists to produce quality graphic novels for scholastic use, and with educators to develop a system of best practices for integrating comics into the curriculum. “We get comics into schools and get schools into comics.”
  • SANE Journal: Sequential Art Narrative in Education A Web-based journal edited by James Bucky Carter (see book above) that publishes research- and practitioner-based articles covering all intersections of comics and education, from pre-kindergarten to post-secondary studies, from a variety of disciplines. A call for papers was issued in the spring of 2010; no issues have yet been published as of July.
  • Secret Origin of Good Readers A lengthy resource guide from 2004 for teachers on using comic books in the classroom. Discusses the relationship between comic books and reading skills, provides lists of recommended comics and graphic novels for children and teens, and offers ideas for classroom activities using comic books and comics concepts. Much of the information is dated but the suggestions are still useful.
  • Anime and Manga Research Circle (AMRC-L) A diverse community of scholars involved in the “academic study of anime and manga, their associated (sub)cultures worldwide, and (tangentially) Japanese popular culture in general. We welcome all professionals, students, and fans who have conducted anime and manga-related research, are in the process of conducting such research, and/or would like to conduct such research in the future.”
  • Comix-Scholars Discussion List Academic forum about research, criticism, and teaching as related to comic art. Open to theoretical and critical approaches from all disciplinary perspectives. Includes scholars in academia, other institutional frameworks, and working independently.
  • Graphic Novels in Libraries (GNLIB-L) Forum for discussion of graphic novels and comics, primarily by and for public and school librarians, with some academic librarian participation. Membership is open to librarians, industry professionals, and creators to share reviews and resources for graphic novel collections.
  • Cornog, Martha & Timothy Perper. 2009. "Introduction: Origin Stories." In Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries, ed. by Martha Cornog & Timothy Perper. Santa Barbara:  ABC-CLIO/Libraries Unlimited. pp. xv-xxx.
  • Ellis, Allen & Doug Highsmith. "About Face: Comic Books in Library Literature." Serials Review 26(2): 21-43, 2000. National Endowment for the Arts. To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence; Executive Summary. Washington, DC: NEA, 2007. (Research Report #47, also available at www.arts.gov)
  • Nyberg, Any Kiste. 2010. "How Librarians Learned to Love the Graphic Novel." In Graphic Novels and Comics in Libraries and Archives, ed. by Robert G. Weiner. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010, pp. 26-40. Obama, Barack. 2005, August. “Bound to the Word.” American Libraries, pp. 48-52.
  • >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Acknowledgements: Some of these resources were suggested at “Reading and Teaching with Graphic Novels: Navigating the Resources,” a panel moderated by educational consultant Peter Gutierrez at the June 2010 annual conference of the American Library Association in Washington, DC. Our thanks to Peter and his panelists.

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