The best Canadian comics of 2019
Here are CBC Books's 20 favourite comics from 2019.
Seth's Clyde Fans illustrates the quiet desperation of two brothers struggling to keep their family's increasingly irrelevant business afloat. As homes adopt air conditioning, selling oscillating fans proves challenging — and less than fulfilling — for Simon Matchard, who struggles to shake off his dutiful brother's criticism.
Seth, who hails from Guelph, Ont., has contributed to publications like The New Yorker and New York Times Magazine. He has twice won the Doug Wright Award for best book.
Published to acclaim in 1985, Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale continues to resonate with audiences around the world. Adapted for television, film, ballet, opera and more, the classic dystopian novel is now a graphic novel, adapted by Renee Nault. The book tells the story of a Handmaid known as Offred, who is trapped in a society where her only purpose is to conceive and bear the child of a powerful man. The original novel won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.
Atwood, 80, has won several awards for her work including the Governor General's Literary Award, the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Man Booker Prize. Her other books include The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace, Oryx and Crake and The Edible Woman.
Nault is an artist and illustrator based in Victoria.
In When I Arrived at the Castle, a young woman determinedly makes her way to the Countess's castle, where many have gone but never returned.
When I Arrived at the Castle is a gothic horror comic from Stratford, Ont.-based artist Emily Carroll, whose first two books Through the Woods, a collection of horror comics, and Speak, an adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's YA novel, were published to critical acclaim.
The Blue Road is the first graphic novel by poet and writer Wayde Compton. In a swamp made of ink, a girl without a past or family lives alone. Lacuna decides to travel the storied and perilous Blue Road in hopes of finding others like her in the Northern Kingdom. With the help of a will-o'-the-wisp named Polaris, Lacuna faces a series of treacherous obstacles on her journey.
Compton is a B.C.-based author and creative writing teacher. Artist April dela Noche Milne is also from B.C. and The Blue Road is her first graphic novel.
Michael DeForge collects his Instagram comic Leaving Richard's Valley in book form. It follows the fates of Omar the Spider, Neville the Dog and Ellie Squirrel as they risk the wrath of a beloved but tyrannical leader in order to save their friend, Lyle the Raccoon. When exposed, the three friends are kicked out of the only home they've ever known and make their way to the big city for a fresh start.
Leaving Richard's Valley won the Slate Book Review and Vermont's Center for Cartoon Studies's Cartoonist Studio Prize for best web comic in 2018.
This Woman's Work offers a string of memories that explore Julie Delporte's experience of womanhood. Throughout the book, the Montreal artist challenges gender assumptions and looks at how rape culture and sexual abuse has shaped her life and the world of women around her. In cursive writing and coloured pencil drawings, This Woman's Work is a personal and contemplative inquiry into femininity and feminism.
Delporte's previous work includes the book Everywhere Antennas, for which she was nominated for the Doug Wright Spotlight Award.
When Brianna Jonnie was 14 years old, she wrote a letter to the Winnipeg chief of police, asking him what he would do if she, a young Ojibwe woman, went missing. Would she get the same treatment as a young white boy who went missing? Or would her disappearance be ignored? The letter went viral online and sparked an important conversation about missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
If I Go Missing is a graphic novel adaptation of Jonnie's letter, featuring artwork by Nshannacappo, a poet and artist from Ditibineya-ziibiing (Rolling River First Nation).
Agnes, Murderess is inspired by the local legend of serial killer Agnes McVee, a 19th-century roadhouse owner from British Columbia who allegedly killed miners for gold during the Cariboo Gold Rush. The tale of Agnes McVee has never been verified, but in this graphic novel, her life is imagined as one filled with ghosts, betrayal, passionate love affairs and, of course, murder.
Sarah Leavitt is a Vancouver comics creator and writing teacher. Her first book was the comic Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me.
In Frogcatchers, a man wakes up without his memory in a strange hotel room with an old-fashioned keychain. He thinks the building is empty, until he comes across a young boy, who begs him not to use the key for fear of releasing whatever else is locked away. What unfolds is a journey that reflects on memories, aging and what we lose when we get older.
Sylvia Nickerson's autobiographical comic, Creation, is a story of transitions. Set roughly between 2008 and 2013, Nickerson explores the experience of becoming a mother and of moving as an artist through a rapidly changing city. The book reckons with gentrification in Hamilton, Ont., and the art community's role within that process, as well as the many ways motherhood has disrupted Nickerson's perspective on life, relationships and neighbourhood.
Nickerson's illustrations have appeared in publications like the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Washington Post.
Two Earth Protectors are charged with saving the planet from evil pioneers and cyborg sasquatches in Dakwäkãda Warriors. The comic, translated into two dialects of Southern Tutchone, serves as an allegory for colonialism.
Cole Pauls is a Tahltan comic artist. He created Dakwäkãda Warriors as a language revival initiative. In 2017, it won Broken Pencil Magazine's Best Comic and Best Zine of the Year Award.
Robin Richardson illustrates a series of brief, poetic meditations on the nature of being human. Drawn with felt pen and pencil crayon, Richardson explores the acuteness of loss, fear and euphoria throughout Try Not to Get Too Attached.
In Death Threat, Vivek Shraya collects the transphobic hate mail she received from a stranger in the fall of 2017. These disturbing letters, along with her responses, are accompanied by illustrations from Ness Lee, culminating in a surreal and satirical comic book about the spread of hatred and violence, and the dangers of the internet.
Lee is an illustrator based in Toronto.
Described as a "romantic tragedy," Pass Me By tells the story of a man's decline after being diagnosed with dementia. Ed is a retired resident of a rural town in northern Canada and often spends his days fishing and meeting his friend Rory for a meal at the local diner. As Ed loses touch with the present, he finds himself reliving a period of his youth spent touring the country with a glam rock band in the 1970s.
Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen are both visual artists from Calgary.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is a YA graphic novel about a teenage girl named Freddy who can't seem to quit her girlfriend, the popular, enigmatic Laura Dean. Though they keep breaking up and getting back together, Freddy frets over whether to forgive Laura's many indiscretions — all the while taking her friendships for granted.
Valero-O'Connell is an American illustrator and cartoonist.
In the graphic novel Plummet, Amelia "Mel" Eichenwald wakes up to discover that the Earth has disappeared and left her in an endless state of freefall. Surrounded by falling knick-knacks, homes and a few other humans — some friendly and some not — Mel must figure out a way to survive in this strange gravity-centric reality.
Sherwin Tjia is an illustrator from Montreal. Plummet is his 11th book.
Teresa Wong pens an honest and emotional letter to her daughter in Dear Scarlet. The comic describes her experience with postpartum depression — how feelings of sadness, loss and guilt consumed her — and her many attempts at healing.
Set in the near future, Carpe Fin begins as a community grapples with a fuel spill that destroys the marine foods they planned to harvest. With food supplies diminishing, a group of hunters embark on a late season sea lion expedition. An unexpected storm forces the group to abandon a hunter named Carpe on a rock, where he faces an angry Lord of the Rock.
This Place is an anthology of comics featuring the work of Indigenous creators as they retell the history of Canada. Elements of fantasy and magical realism are incorporated throughout the book, telling the stories of characters like Jack Fiddler, an Anishinaabe shaman facing murder charges, and Rosie, an Inuk girl growing up during the Second World War.
Contributors include Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp, Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel, Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk and Alicia Elliott.
This is Serious celebrates contemporary Canadian comics, surveying the work of 40 artists making substantial contributions to the field today.
Edited and curated by Joe Ollmann, Alana Traficante and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, This is Serious includes artists like Seth, Julie Doucet, Fiona Smyth, Chester Brown, Jillian Tamaki, Michael DeForge, Hartley Lin, Ho Che Anderson and Kate Beaton.