Books·Books of the Year

The best Canadian comics of 2019

Here are CBC Books's 20 favourite comics from 2019.

Here are CBC Books's 20 favourite comics from 2019.

Clyde Fans by Seth

Clyde Fans is a comic by Guelph, Ont.-based artist Seth. (David Briggs Photography, Drawn & Quarterly)

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.

Seth is a Canadian cartoonist who's a legend in his field. Scholars study his work with the same gravity you'd give the Bible and his first graphic novel, It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken, was so influential that the Tragically Hip named a song after it. Following the release of his new comic Clyde Fans, he describes what it was like being on the leading edge of the graphic novel movement. 22:36

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood & Renee Nault

The graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale was done by Renee Nault. (Liam Sharpe, McClelland & Stewart, Submitted by Renee Nault)

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 TaleAlias GraceOryx and Crake and The Edible Woman

Nault is an artist and illustrator based in Victoria.

Around the time she was writing The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood gathered news stories about religious cults, forced pregnancies and credit cards. 5:18

When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll

When I Arrived at the Castle is a comic by Emily Carroll. (Koyama Press)

In When I Arrived at the Castlea 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 Woodsa collection of horror comics, and Speakan adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson's YA novel, were published to critical acclaim.

The Blue Road by Wayde Compton, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne

The Blue Road is a graphic novel written by Wayde Compton and illustrated by April dela Noche Milne. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Erin Flegg)

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.

Leaving Richard's Valley by Michael DeForge

Leaving Richard's Valley is a comic by Michael DeForge. (Matthew James-Wilson, Drawn & Quarterly)

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

DeForge is a comics creator based in Toronto. His other books include Stunt, Big Kids and Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero.

This Woman's Work by Julie Delporte

This Woman's Work is a comic by Julie Delporte. (Julie Delporte, Drawn & Quarterly)

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.

If I Go Missing by Brianna Jonnie with Nahanni Shingoose, art by Nshannacappo

If I Go Missing is a graphic novel inspired by a letter Brianna Jonnie wrote to the Winnipeg chief of police. (CBC, Lorimer Children & Teens)

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).

An indigenous girl in Winnipeg has a message for police chief Devon Clunis: You can do better. 1:51

Agnes, Murderess by Sarah Leavitt

Agnes, Murderess is a graphic novel by Sarah Leavitt. (Freehand Books, Jackie Dives)

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.

"Agnes, Murderess" is a new graphic novel that fleshes out the story of a B.C. legend: the mythical gold rush serial killer Agnes McVie. 15:35

Frogcatchers by Jeff Lemire

Frogcatchers is a comic by Jeff Lemire. (Jaime Hogge, Simon & Schuster Canada)

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.

Jeff Lemire is an acclaimed Toronto comics creator who recently won an Eisner Award for the comic book series Gideon Falls. Some of his previous graphic novels include Roughneck and Essex County.

Jeff Lemire talks about the inspiration for his new graphic novel and how he feels about his work being adapted for the screen. 15:51

Creation by Sylvia Nickerson

Creation is a comic by Sylvia Nickerson. (Drawn & Quarterly)

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.

Dakwäkãda Warriors by Cole Pauls

Dakwakada Warriors is a comic by Cole Pauls. (Conundrum Press)

Two Earth Protectors are charged with saving the planet from evil pioneers and cyborg sasquatches in Dakwäkãda WarriorsThe 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.

Cole Pauls explores the world of language revitalization as a super power in his work. He speaks with Stephen Quinn. 7:00

Try Not to Get Too Attached by Robin Richardson

Try Not to Get Too Attached is a graphic novel by Robin Richardson. (Book*hug Press, sithowyouwant.org)

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.

Richardson is a poet whose books include Sit How You Wantwhich won the 2019 Trillium Book Award for poetry.

Death Threat by Vivek Shraya & Ness Lee

Death Threat is a comic by Vivek Shraya (right) and Ness Lee. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Tanja Tiziana)

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. 

Shraya is a multidisciplinary artist who sings, makes films and visual art. She is also the author of the essay I'm Afraid of Men and the poetry collection even this page is white.

Lee is an illustrator based in Toronto.

Vivek Shraya talks to Shelagh Rogers about her comic book, Death Threat. 14:33

Pass Me By by Kyle Simmers & Ryan Danny Owen

Pass Me By is a comic by Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen. (Renegade Arts Entertainment)

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 by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. (House of Anansi Press, Shawnee Custalow)

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.

Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian comics writer, contributing to Marvel and DC Comics. She's based in California. Her other books include  Skim(you) Set Me On Fire and This One Summer.

Valero-O'Connell is an American illustrator and cartoonist. 

Canadian artist and writer Mariko Tamaki talks about her new YA graphic novel, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me, and why its message about unhealthy relationships is relatable at any age. 16:28

Plummet by Sherwin Tjia

Plummet is a graphic novel by Sherwin Tjia. (Conundrum Press)

In the graphic novel PlummetAmelia "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. 

Dear Scarlet by Teresa Wong

Dear Scarlet is a graphic memoir by Teresa Wong. (Arsenal Pulp Press, Ken Hurd)

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. 

Wong is based in Calgary. Dear Scarlet is her first book. CBC Books named Wong a writer to watch in 2019.

Teresa Wong and Amanda Munday both struggled with postpartum depression, a condition reported to affect as many as 20 per cent of Canadian mothers. Both women have written books about their experiences, from their feelings of inadequacy, to difficulties breastfeeding, and even being admitted to a psychiatric ward. 25:44

Carpe Fin by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Carpe Fin is a comic by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. (Douglas & McIntyre)

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.

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an artist who blends Asian manga with Haida artistic and oral traditions. His other books include War of the Blink and Red. 

This Place: 150 Years Retold

"Some stories were told but not through an Indigenous lens, so this an opportunity for us to share and tell our stories," This Place: 150 Years Retold contributor Brandon Mitchell said. (Logan Perley/CBC)

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 CampKatherena 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.

David Alexander Robertson: author and contributor. 9:25

This is Serious: Canadian Indie Comics

This is Serious: Canadian Indie Comics is a collection of Canadian comics. (Conundrum Press)

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.

It's being called the first exhibit of contemporary Canadian cartooning by a major museum. We spoke to an award-winning graphic novelist about the exhibit he's co-curated at the Art Gallery of Hamilton 12:07

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