Graphic novels and memoirs are WAY more than comics. They are sweet, funny parables of our times, panel by panel; they are unflinching first-person testimony of horrific experiences, true as well as fictional, expressed with images drawn to deliver every word with maximum impact.
Alison Bechdel and Lynda Barry have set a high bar for women creating graphic books of all types. This article highlights five outstanding recent examples of this genre, all by women:
* My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris (2016)
* Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung (2017)
* The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg (2016)
* Last Things: A Graphic Memoir of Loss and Love by Marissa Moss (2017)
* My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris (2018)
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
Emil Ferris’ main character is a monster-obsessed young girl who longs to “get the bite” and then bite her brother and mother so her mother can beat the cancer she’s dying of, and they can all live forever together in their own world – all while investigating the death of a mysterious neighbor. The drawing is incredible, some of the best anywhere by anyone (think MC Escher or R Crumb), and the story is deep, wide, rich and long – much longer than most graphic novels – and yet will leave you yearning for more.
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung
Subtitled An Introvert’s Story, this is the most understated of the bunch – much of it is not funny nor intended to be. It’s what many memoirs are – stories of how a person deals with certain situations and how they function – or don’t. This is a sweet story that lots of shy people will identify with and appreciate, with a very cute black and white graphic style.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
This epic tale is made up of many tales, mostly about sisters and lovers and the power of stories – the central characters being women in love with one another, living in a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia, who must cleverly stave off a suitor with one hundred nights of never-ending stories. This fresh take on the One Thousand and One Nights Scheherazade story has a gorgeous small palette of colors and fun, inventive linework as well as a bold, empowering message about women not taking any shit.
Last Things: A Graphic Memoir of Loss and Love by Marissa Moss
This grim, gripping graphic memoir details a woman’s loss of her husband (and father of her three sons) to ALS (Legionaires Disease), the same illness that crippled and then killed Stephen Hawking. She is up front about all that she wishes she had been told about the “treatment”, and how her story is not a fairy tale about people growing closer in such circumstances – it’s about them falling apart and then picking up the pieces after the inevitable finally happens.
My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris
This is the only one of the lot written and illustrated by two different women, but both of these do their jobs SO well, you can see why they hooked up together. Lighthearted, wry and laugh-out-loud funny, this sweet, beautifully illustrated tale will leave a smile on your face and a tear in your eye. Bears have never been so lovable, or so handsome, and you can’t help but root for the smitten, well-drawn protagonist and wonder why her friends and parents don’t seem to understand.
Susan Parker is an editor and writer living in Asheville, NC.