Canadian graphic artists tell you what to read

Canada Writes is celebrating the richness of Canadian comics culture with a month-long exploration of writing and reading comics. And why not? Canada is so full of great graphic literature that it can be tough to know where to begin -- so CBC Books turned to a few experts for some suggestions. Discover your next great graphic read below.

Jillian Tamaki is the illustrator of the award-winning graphic novel Skim.

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She says: "One of the books that inspired me to try comics was Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati. I really love the specificity of time and place in Rabagliati's work. I think Canadians are still dominating the indie comics scene with [publisher] Anne Koyama, Michael DeForge, Patrick Kyle, Ginette LaPalme, etc. And, of course, Drawn and Quarterly. There is something in our water. Or maybe we're just weirdos?"

Seth is the author of several acclaimed graphic novels and comic collections, including Wimbledon Green, George Sprott and The Great Canadian Brotherhood of Northern Cartoonists.

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He says: "From my generation -- anything by Chester Brown. Canada's greatest cartoonist. Anything by David Collier as well. I have always admired David Boswell's book Heartbreak Comics. Martin Vaughn-James' The Cage is about to be reprinted by Coach House Press with a new foreword by myself. It is a work of great sophistication and complexity.

From the younger generation I'm very enthusiastic about Michael DeForge's work. Ethan Rilly as well. Both extremely talented. Geneviève Castrée's Susceptible is a very moving first graphic novel. It just came out."

Chester Brown is the author of an acclaimed and award-winning graphic biography of Louis Riel, among many other books and collections.

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He says: "This is a bit awkward because my favourite Canadian graphic novels were created by friends of mine. My friend Seth (who only goes by the one name) has several books out, but the one I think is best is George Sprott. It's a sympathetic character study of a deeply flawed man. The fractured narrative focuses on the death of the main character, but branches out to explore other aspects of his life.

My friend Joe Matt isn't a Canadian citizen, but he lived here illegally for about a decade. His books were created in Canada and they're set here; they should count as Canadian. (I don't care where you were born or what your passport says or even if you have a passport, if you live in Canada, you're a Canadian to me.) He moved back to the United States in 2003, almost immediately developed a creative block, and he hasn't been able to work since. (Incidentally, now that he's back in the U.S., I wouldn't consider him a Canadian any more. But the books are still Canadian.) His best book is probably his most recent one, Spent, which is about his pornography obsession. Joe's willingness to be autobiographically open and honest about his life was inspirational to me.

There are also a lot of younger Canadian cartoonists emerging who are doing terrific work: Ethan Rilly, Nina Bunjevac, Michael DeForge, Jason Kieffer, Nick Maandag, Kate Beaton. It's a really exciting time for cartooning in this country."

Nina Bunjevac's latest book is Heartless, which was recently nominated for the Doug Wright Spotlight Award.

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She says: "Joe Ollmann's Mid-Life, Chester Brown's Louis Riel, Michel Rabagliati's Song of Roland, and Dave Lapp's Drop-In."

What great Canadian comic writer do you think others need to check out? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

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