Content warning: mental illness, racism, drug use, sexual harassment
I have reviewed a few graphic novels on here that were originally webcomics. However, I don’t think I have ever reviewed a webcomic that has not yet been published and is still being updated. I first came across this artist well over a decade ago when she was creating a different webcomic called “Cheap Thrills“. “Cheap Thrills” was a story about a group of teenagers illustrated in a style the artist often referred to as humanimals but that others may recognise as furry/anthro. In 2012, the artist posted that the comic was no longer going to be updating regularly and that she couldn’t say if or when it would again. Many fans who had become immersed in the complex lives of these kids were heartbroken but understanding at the announcement. Then, in 2018, she announced something new: the same characters we all loved, but rebooted with a revitalised setting and a more sophisticated plot.
“Rigsby WI” by SE Case is a coming of age webcomic about a group of teenagers called Jeordie, Beth, Anna, Erik and Frank who live in the eponymous town Rigsby in Wisconsin, USA. Jeordie, a talented artist and basketballer, navigates small-town racism as a biracial person and explores his sexuality. Beth, his next door neighbour, is homeschooled by her aunt after a tumultuous time with her family and early school years. Her best friend Anna struggles with maintaining high grades in a dysfunctional family situation, staying over with friends and her half sister more than she does at home. The friend Anna grew up with, Erik, is trying to reinvent himself to impress a girl and pursue sports. Anna also gets to know Frank, an older student who has repeated several times, who lives in the same trailer park as her sister and is known as the go-to weed guy.
This is a hard-hitting, slice-of-life webcomic that tackles a range of social issues while paying homage to the cultural touchstones of early 2000s. Each of the three chapters published so far use a slightly different style that reflects not only the season but the overall mood of the chapter. The webcomic is extremely immersive with the characters engaging with the music, fashion and historical events of the time. I was even inspired to make a playlist of the songs referenced in the comic. Case sensitively but boldly explores issues of class, race, sexuality and mental illness through realistic dialogue and extremely relatable characters. She has a real knack for capturing both the emotionally charged interactions and sheer irreverence of teenagerhood. The characters visibly develop as the comic progresses and the whole story is infused with a sense of growth.
I’m just as hooked as I was on “Cheap Thrills” and I can’t wait to watch how this comic evolves.
Anthology of short fiction, poetry, comic art, graphic novella and spoken word
Last year, I was thrilled to win a micro-microfiction contest with this journal. I was so inspired I decided to buy one of their annual anthologies. I was looking through the store on the website trying to decide which one and I could not go past this one. The cover design is so striking (by Katrina Rhodes) and I was intrigued by the two spoken word CDs included with it, the design of which matches the Fabergé egg-shaped hot air balloons on the covers. I knew that I had to pick this for my Short Stack Reading Challenge back in December.
“Going Down Swinging No. 30” is a special 30th anniversary anthology of short fiction, poetry, comic art, graphic novellas and two spoken word CDs. Although there is an extensive contents page at the beginning, this was a surprisingly quick read. It has a really immersive feel with a very high quality selection of works. Given the number of pieces it is going to be impossible for me to review each or even most, so I will try to highlight some of my favourites.
The Clockwork Children by Felicity Bloomfield was an absolutely chilling horror short story about wanting to fit in with other children that reminded me a bit of “Slade House” or perhaps “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman. Procession by Paddy O’Reilly was a disturbing exploration of what a society with dogs who gained some sentience might be like and the humans who decide to worship them. Rhianna Boyle’s little comic Dirty Joke was a pure and humorous story about making the most of a difficult situation and reconnecting with family. Salvatore Ciliento’s ink illustrations were a beautiful and calming interlude among the written pieces. Shit Brooches by Oslo Davis was a hilarious, punchy little comic that really resonated with me given how popular brooches seem to be over the last couple of years. I thought that Retro Ryder by Robert Caporale was a really interesting take on the trauma of losing a friend when young with a bit of ambiguity thrown in to keep it edgy. I also really liked the realism of Gutted, for Carl Solomon by Luke Johnson which had a intoxicatingly urban setting and examined the ethics of thinking about violence as compared to acting on it. Midlife by Andy Murdoch was an excellent look at intimacy, queer identity and turning 30.
It was a bit hard for me to separate each piece of spoken word on the CDs (let alone find something in my house that would play them!) but the effect of voice over music and ambient noise was very compelling and they definitely added to the overall experience of this book.
A really enjoyable collection and I am keen to get my hands on some more issues of Going Down Swinging.
Graphic novel of dragon stories inspired by Jim Henson’s The Storyteller
I really enjoy graphic novels, and knowing this, my partner bought me this book quite a while ago. I’m going to be honest with you right though, there was a very particular reason why I picked up this book to read towards the end of last year. It was December, I had one month left to reach my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 80 books, and I was in big trouble. Whenever I find myself in this situation, there is really only one option: to read the shortest books on my to-read pile.
I took this at The Copper Dragon, a fantasy-themed bar in Tuggeranong, ACT. Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but I really want to visit!
“Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Dragons” is a graphic novel with stories and art by Daniel Bayliss, Nathan Pride, Hannah Christenson and Jorge Corona with some script and colours by Fabian Rangel Jr., Cassie Kelly and Jen Hickman. There are four stories told in the style of the television series: Son of the Serpent, The Worm of Lambton, Albina and Samurai’s Sacrifice. Each explores the well-known theme of dragon and hero in different cultural and gender contexts.
Also speak of dragons, my city currently has a fire right next to it and I took this immediately after taking the photo above
I think my favourite of the stories is the first, Son of the Serpent. Daniel Bayliss, a graphic novelist and artist from Mexico, draws on mythology and graphic art from native cultures of North America, and his bold, colourful designs are breathtaking.
Probably one thing that made this book a little hard for me was that I actually had never watched Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Each of the stories is clearly inspired by the format of the television show, with the dog interjecting while the Storyteller tells a tale, and it felt like there were quite a few in-jokes that went over my head. The art on the front cover is gorgeous, but unfortunately it didn’t reflect any of the stories within, and I wasn’t as captivated by the other three as I was the first.
A fun graphic novel for nostalgic fans of the TV show (or of dragons) but might miss the mark for graphic novel aficionados.
I had been waiting for the right time to read this book, one that I had gotten by way of a Kickstarter some time last year and that came with a gorgeous signed bookplate sticker, and finally the time had come. After days of heatwave, the evening had cooled down enough that I could snuggle in bed with a cup of tea and one of my bestie’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’d just come back from seeing the new Disney movie Moana, my dog was coming in occasionally to say hello to me, and in the background was the white noise of a fan and my boyfriend admonishing his randomly assigned teammates in Overwatch over voice chat. The mood was well and truly set.
“The Secret Loves of Geek Girls” is an anthology compiled and edited by Hope Nicholson. The book contains non-fiction stories, comics and essays by over 50 creators (including Margaret Atwood) all about being a geek girl in love.
You never really know what you’re going to get when you back a Kickstarter project, but the final product of this book was much more than I had hoped for. It is a real celebration of women’s creativity, passion, intelligence and eloquence. I was really impressed at the diversity of voices that emerged from these pages and I felt their heartbreaks as my own heartbreaks. As somewhat of a geek girl myself, I knew about a lot of the fandoms (though the Dr Who references and any game that wasn’t a single player RPG was a bit lost on me). Some of the stories were much stronger than others, and I loved Minas Tirith, Fanfiction, F/F, angst, Cherry and Montreal, 1993 the most. Some of the artwork in here is spectacular, and some a little less so.
This is an inclusive, well-considered collection of stories by geeky women for geeky women who are looking for everything from something nice to flick through through to dating advice and, most of all, solidarity.