The best Canadian comics of 2022
Here are the CBC Books picks for the top Canadian comics of the year!
Squire, a fantasy graphic novel, follows a young woman named Aiza. She's a member of the Ornu people, a subjugated group in the crumbling Bayt-Saiji Empire. With war on the horizon, Aiza enlists to train as a Squire in hopes it will lead her to Knighthood — and full citizenship. But as Aiza navigates the social and physical rigours of military training, she realizes the Empire's plans for "the greater good" may not be what's best for her people.
Nadia Shammas is a Palestinian American writer based in Toronto. Her previous work includes CORPUS: A Comic Anthology of Bodily Ailments and Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin.
Sara Alfageeh is a Jordanian American illustrator from Boston. She's illustrated comics and picture books, including for Marvel Comics and Star Wars.
Ducks is an autobiographical graphic novel that recounts author Kate Beaton's time spent working in the Alberta oil sands. With the goal of paying off her student loans, Kate leaves her tight-knit seaside Nova Scotia community and heads west, where she encounters harsh realities, including the everyday trauma that no one discusses.
Kate Beaton is a cartoonist from Nova Scotia who launched her career by publishing the comic strip Hark! A Vagrant online. The sassy historical webcomic gained a following of 500,000 monthly visitors and was eventually turned into a bestselling book. Beaton's success continued with the book Step Aside, Pops, which won the 2016 Eisner Award for best humour publication. Beaton has also published two children's books, King Baby and The Princess and the Pony.
LISTEN | Kate Beaton discusses Ducks with Shelagh Rogers:
This graphic novel follows a 15-year-old girl named Lauren, who is a faithful member of an evangelical church. After her devout parents banish evolution textbooks from the house, Lauren goes to study and sleeps over at her classmate Mariah's house. The evening develops into something Lauren never expected, and she's left to sort out a lifetime's worth of internalized homophobia and Christian guilt.
LISTEN | Jessica Campbell discusses Rave on Q:
In Shifting Earth, botanist Dr. Maeve Lindholm finds herself stranded on a strange parallel Earth after a freak particle storm, with little hope of getting home. Her home world is on the brink of ecological disaster, but in this parallel universe nature overshadows science, children are rare and humans pay an unthinkable price when they have been deemed useless.
Cecil Castellucci is an award-winning American-born Canadian YA novelist, musician and director. Her other books include Shade, Odd Duck and Star Wars Moving Target. She has also written Batgirl for DC Comics.
Flavia Biondi is an Italian artist and scriptwriter. Her other works include La generazione (Generations) and La giusta mezura (Just Enough).
Fabiana Mascolo is a comic book artist based in Rome.
LISTEN | Why Cecil Castellucci tackles climate change action in a comic:
Geneviève Castrée: Complete Works 1981-2016 is a posthumous collection of the works of illustrator, cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée. Featuring an introduction from Castrée's widower, American musician Phil Elverum, the book collects never-before-seen illustrations, comics, album covers and more.
Castrée was a cartoonist, illustrator and musician from Quebec. Her books include the memoir Susceptible and the children's book A Bubble, which she drew as a final gift to her then two-year-old daughter. Castrée died of pancreatic cancer on July 9, 2016.
LISTEN | Why Phil Elverum put together a collection of Geneviève Castrée's work:
Birds of Maine is a graphic novel that imagines life after the demise of humankind. In this surreal and post-apocalyptic reality, birds roam freely and have constructed a new and more equitable world order. But when a new human arrives to this world, life as the birds know it changes forever.
- Michael DeForge's passion for comics and interest in utopian societies shapes his graphic novels and comic art
Michael DeForge is a Toronto-based creator who has won awards for comics like Leaving Richard's Valley, Dressing and Lose #1. Other acclaimed books include Stunt, Big Kids, Ant Colony, Sticks Angelica Folk Hero and Heaven No Hell. DeForge was a finalist for the 2021 Doug Wright Awards for Canadian comics for the 2020 graphic novel Familiar Face.
In Time Zone J, Montreal artist Julie Doucet draws from her old diary entries to chronicle a whirlwind love affair from her early 20s. After developing an intimate correspondence with a reader overseas — not unheard of in the 1980s, when comic artists often mailed their work and communicated with readers through letters — Doucet flies from Montreal to France to meet the soldier, who's on furlough for a few days.
Julie Doucet began drawing and publishing mini comics in 1988, and was featured in the anthology Heck! Comic Art of the Late 1980s. She started her groundbreaking strip Dirty Plotte in the 1990s, becoming an underground heroine and winning the Harvey Award for best new talent. Her comics — part-dream, part-diary — have been published serially as well as in collected formats. She famously quit the male-dominated comics industry in the late 1990s to focus on her other artwork. Time Zone J is her first inked comic since that announcement.
LISTEN | Julie Doucet discusses Time Zone J on Q:
Shelterbelts tells the story of a Mennonite community breaking open, as traditional beliefs and modern values collide. The schisms in the community reach a turning point when a non-denominational mega-church opens on the edge of the rural village. Shelterbelts weaves together scenes from the community — a pastor and his queer daughter contend with lost parish members, a librarian writes prescriptive notes in books for her patrons and young activists fight with a farmer over pipeline construction on his land.
Jonathan Dyck is a cartoonist from Winnipeg. He has received several provincial prizes for his illustrations, including a silver medal at the 2021 Alberta Magazine Awards and the Manuela Dias Book Design and Illustration Award at the 2018 Manitoba Book Awards.
LISTEN | Jonathan Dyck on sharing his experience in Manitoba's Mennonite community:
When a mysterious stranger named Shinobu appears in Fort Smith, N.W.T. to claim a samurai sword and suit of armour from the museum, a young Tlicho Dene boy named Sonny is eager to help in A Blanket of Butterflies. The only problem is that the sword now belongs to a man known as Benny the Bank, who won it in a poker game. Now Shinobu, with some help from Sonny, his grandmother and a visitor from the spirit world, must face off against Benny and his men and reclaim his family's honour in the process.
Richard Van Camp is a Tlicho Dene writer from Fort Smith, N.W.T. who has written over 20 books across multiple genres. His other books include Angel Wing Splash Pattern, Night Moves and We Sang You Home.
Scott B. Henderson is an author and illustrator based in Winnipeg. His other books include Breakdown and Pemmican Wars. He was also a contributor to the graphic anthology This Place: 150 Years Retold, which is now a CBC Books podcast.
Donovan Yaniuck is a comic book colourist from Winnipeg.
LISTEN | Richard Van Camp & Scott B Henderson talk to Shelagh Rogers about A Blanket of Butterflies:
A Train in the Night is the graphic novel adaptation of the Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny's nonfiction book Mégantic. The book tells the story of the 2013 summer night when a runaway train full of oil caused a massive explosion in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. The disaster claimed 47 lives and is one of the deadliest railway accidents in Canadian history. A Train in the Night connects the dots from the scene of the accident to the corporations, investors and politicians that may have played a role in the tragedy.
Anne-Marie Saint-Cerny is a writer, activist and videographer based in Quebec. Her book Mégantic was shortlisted for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.
Christian Quesnel is an author and comic, graphic novel and children's book illustrator from Saint-Andre-Avellin, Que.
W. Donald Wilson is a translator from Waterloo, Ont.
Kwändǖr collects Cole Pauls's work from comic festivals, magazines and zine-making workshops. The comics cover topics like racism, family and identity and features Yukon history and Southern Tutchone cultural practices and language lessons.
Cole Pauls is a Tahltan comic artist. He created his first comic, Dakwäkãda Warriors, as a language-revival initiative. In 2017, it won Broken Pencil magazine's awards for best comic and best zine of the year. In 2020, it won best work in an Indigenous language from the Indigenous Voices Awards. He is also the author of the graphic novel Pizza Punks.
WATCH | Cole Pauls shares his Indigenous punk comics: