Tech & Media
10 Funny, Surprising And Poignant Comics About Being A Parent
By Erik Missio
Mar 19, 2019
From intensely personal autobiographical stories to sweeping epics, there’s a lot of range in terms of art styles and storytelling approaches in this short list, but they all have a focus on parenting. In other words, in their own way, all these comics look at what it means to be responsible for kids and its effect on how you think, how you act and who you are. Some of them are funny, some of them are heartbreakingly heavy and at least one of them has winged soldiers and goat-horned magicians visiting strange planets with their daughter.
Like movies and music, taste in comics can be an extremely personal thing. If any of these recommendations sound interesting to you, search around online for some reviews or preview images, or head to a good comic shop, bookstore or library. Of course, this isn’t a complete list. If you’ve read any particularly poignant or fun comics about being a parent, share them in the comments below to spread the word (and so I can go check them out).
Guy Delisle’s Parenting Series
Lots of newspaper comic strips use families for comedy (Bill Amend’s Fox Trot forever!), and Quebec-born cartoonist Delisle’s series takes a similar approach, looking at the dynamic between a dad and his two kids. His next one, The Handbook to Lazy Parenting, comes out this summer. Delisle made his cartoonist name on travelogue memoirs in Jerusalem and North Korea, as well as retellings of tense hostage escapes in the Caucasus, so it’s kind of weird to see him telling short, snappy, irreverent anecdotes about being inept at helping his son with homework — but it works.
Alison McCreesh’s Norths: Two Suitcases And A Stroller Around The Circumpolar World
Based in Yellowknife, McCreesh recounts a recent six-month voyage where her family lived in smaller towns in Finland, Russia, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. Her format isn’t a traditional comic: she draws daily postcards that share her experiences, along with those of her partner and two-year-old. It’s pretty and a really effective way of telling a story — you feel like you’re right there with them, being slightly stressed out, occasionally lonely and cold, but overall on an adventure. Despite the locations, it’s a really universal story of parenting, one that’s about finding ways to keep your little one happy and healthy, balancing work with family life and figuring out where are the best pools, libraries and playgrounds to stop your kid (and yourself!) from getting too bored.
Keiler Roberts’ Sunburning
Roberts’ autobiographical comics can be really funny without relying on punchlines and gags. She’s more about deadpan absurdity and observation, sharing snapshots from her life — conversations with her husband and parents, playtime with her daughter and her own worries, from mental health to how to respect her kid’s anonymity while making comics about her. These stories can be really mundane (in a good way!); they’re sometimes sad, sometimes awkward and frequently familiar.
Mike Dawson’s Assorted Web Comics
Mike Dawson has two kids about the same age as my two kids, which means I’m probably biased, but I love the comics about his family. (Are we friends on Facebook? I’ve probably shared them with you.) There’s his thoughts on how he’ll approach his daughter dating (she was six at the time) or how his kids’ drawings make him think about bigger things, or this comic that somehow manages to bring together social media, parental crankiness, existential ennui and the all-too-familiar messy family room. He’s also had a collection of comics (the self-aware Rules for Dating My Daughter) and has stuff regularly appear on The Nib — a non-fiction comics site publishing a collection of comics about families this year.
Jeffrey Brown’s A Matter of Life
If Jeffrey Brown’s name (or art) sounds familiar to you that’s because he wrote and drew those Star Wars books you bought for “your kids." He’s also done a lot of autobiographical comics, including this one where becoming a father makes him revisit his own relationship with his parents and a religion he had left behind.
Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga
So this is a completely unfair comparison, but you know how everyone loves Game of Thrones because it’s high fantasy mixed with sex and death and profanity? This is kind of like that, but with more sci-fi elements and snappier dialogue. Saga, drawn by Calgary’s Staples, is a long-running series about star-crossed lovers in an interplanetary war and their daughter. There’s a lot of parenting scenes (like getting your kid ready for daycare or how emotional it can be when you’re reunited after a brief separation). Also: several explosions. A lot of people really, really like this comic, but — in full disclosure — I gave up around Volume 5, because I got tired of watching my fictional friends continually go through heartbreak and cataclysm.
Teresa Wong’s Dear Scarlet
I’ve read a press review copy of Wong’s first long-form comic, and it’s really good. Out in April, the memoir explores her struggles with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. But it’s more than that — it’s also about how partners come together to support each other, the stress of being responsible for a baby and how you can find yourself relying on your own parents.
Related Reading: Finding The Right Comic For The Right Kid
Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband
This two-volume manga series from Japan explores how a single dad (and his ex-wife and their daughter) are impacted by the arrival of a Canadian man who was married to his deceased, estranged brother. I like these books because they’re honest, open and well-drawn (Tagame’s other, decidedly more adult, comics feature a similar linework, but very different subject matter). But they’re also particularly notable because they show another kind of family dynamic — a less-conventional unit that finds love and support in each other — along with that cliché about how parents can learn from their kids.
Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
This book by illustrator and New Yorker cartoonist Chast won a whole bunch of literary awards and hung out on the New York Times bestseller list for a while when it came out. It’s a different kind of parenting story; it’s about what happens when your own parents get old and, eventually, how your roles reverse as they approach the end of their lives. You’re probably expecting it to be sad — and it definitely is, at points — but it’s also really smart, funny and hard to put down.
Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning
Honestly, anything I write about here will be unable to capture this comic’s sense of poignancy, hope and irreparable loss, but here goes: The two-year-old daughter of Hart and Leela Corman (also a cartoonist) unexpectedly passed away. This is the story of her life and how it impacted them and how it forever will. So much of it is about the power of love and the ways people grieve. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and I completely understand why people would find this a difficult comic with which to sit down, but it’s such a profound work, and one that gets at the very core of what it means to be a parent.
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