Working in a library, you see a lot of people – mostly parents - scoff over the value of comics and graphic novels. ‘Not real books,’ they say. ‘I don’t want my kids reading those.’ Full of pictures and therefore empty of anything worth acknowledging. Well! To those people I say –
I mean, it’s my job. I’m not going to openly disagree with any patron in the library about the rights and wrongs of literature, but here – here, I can stand up for comics and my love for them. Comics expanded my world. It got me into Japanese (and I went to Japan) and drawing (I went to animation school) and webcomics (which I’m thinking of doing myself). Imagine what it could do for you? Or your kids? Or anyone?
When I was little, I drew Sailor Moon. As I got older I branched out into different styles and techniques, and most of these have been a direct result from something I've read. These are just some of the more memorable comics and manga that helped me pave my way into a world of art and magic that I will never want to leave.
Sailor Moon – Naoko Takeuchi
As I said, Sailor Moon is what got me into drawing. Now, back then it was the anime, but the manga is just as beautiful. Usagi Tsukino (Serena in the English anime) is a lazy fourteen year old who likes nothing better than playing video games and eating junk food. One day, she saves a cat with a moon on its forehead, and the cat follows her home. That night, the cat tells her (yeah, it can talk) that her name is Luna and Usagi is undoubtedly Sailor Moon, the Guardian of the Moon reincarnate. She must find the other Sailor Guardians and protect the mysterious moon princess. Cue awesome transformation scenes/panels, battles and romance. Great stuff.
Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne (or Phantom Thief Jeanne) – Arina Tanemura
This manga is for the older teen, but definitely not as risque as Arina Tanemuras other works.
Maron Kusakabe, main protagonist and lonely teenage girl meets a half-angel, Finn Fish. Finn tells Maron she is the reincarnation of Jeanne D'Arc and must save the world by capturing demons that take human hosts for God in return for a wish. Again, fancy costumes appear and battles commence. A pretty big difference between Sailor Moon and KKJ is this one gets darker and heavy, fast.
This manga is beautiful. When I first started reading it, I really adored Tanemura’s attention to detail, and I still do. Her art is stunning and emotive and it’s not easy to get that in a manga. I'm pretty sure I cried over this book. Don’t judge me.
xxxHolic - CLAMP
Clamp, who made xxxHolic (thankfully pronounced just 'Holic') is also the dream team behind childhood memories like Cardcaptor Sakura. Another magical girl thing, though? No. No no no. The lovely thing about Clamp is they're made of a group of ladies, and the art tends to vary between each different title they bring out - as well as the story. XxxHolic is not for kids, either. It’s not terrifying, and it’s not filled to the brim with sex – it’s just serious.
Yuko is a time witch who lives in a shop, where she will grant your wish for the right price - be it your money, your favourite thing or your very life. Watanuki is a teenager who runs to her shop one day and declares he's plagued by spirits, chasing him everywhere he goes. In return for stopping the spirits, Watanuki becomes Yuko's cleaner and all around maid. He becomes more important as he starts to help with the wishes being granted as well.
This manga inspired my love for black and ink work and flow. You only have to look at the detail in the cover pages to know it’s a piece of art.
The Adventures of Superhero Girl – Faith Erin Hicks
Here is where I started to read more indie comics and venture out of my comfort zone. Faith Erin Hicks has a style and humor I could only hope to emulate one day.
Superhero Girl is just that - a superhero. Having to deal with mundane things like buying new capes after her old one gets destroyed and living up to her (superhero) brothers legacy, she has it tough. This one got me into webcomics as it shares a lot in common - one liner puns, two page storylines, hilarious characters.
Very light hearted and funny, so I suggest you check anything of Faith Erin Hicks out if you need something less serious after those manga.
And last but not least...
French Milk and Relish - Lucy Knisley
A journal, rather than fiction, Lucy Knisley is a comic artist with a great simple style to boot. Knisley takes us with her as she traverses countries and navigates her life. In French Milk, she decides to go to Paris for her birthday with her mom, and stay for a month. As you get to know her, you get to know Paris and all its landmarks and foods. Especially foods.
In Relish, a more recent publication, she goes over her deep connection to food and cooking, sharing recipes from her childhood and the memory's that go with them – all with beautiful illustrative comics.
I love food. I love journals (especially reading other peoples) and of course I love comics. Lucy Knisley made me a huge fan since the first time I picked up her book and I have a feeling I'll stay a fan for a long time coming.