4 better graphic novels

The Good Neighbours: Kin
Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
Graphix 2008

Written by the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles and drawn by the co-creator of Gloomcookie, The Good Neighbours has impeccable fantasy credentials. The story is straightforward: girl’s mother vanishes, girl discovers mother is a fairy, girl gets drawn into machinations of previously-unseen fairy world. So far, so Gaimanesque. What distinguishes this from every other faerie-inflected Labyrinth variation is that it’s very, very well done.

The Beats
Harvey Peckar, Ed Piskor, et al.
Hill and Wang 2009

An illustrated biography of the leading figures of the Beat scene, primarily written by Harvey Pekar and illustrated by Ed Piskor. It concentrates on the Big Three (Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs) with another series of essays on the minor figures. Pekar’s writing is fairly dry and obviously it doesn’t cover as much ground as a written biography, but it’s still an interesting story. Piskor’s bleak artwork reminds me of Dan Clowes in the ’80s, but the subjects aren’t exactly pretty either. The final section is extremely interesting, produced by a wide variety of writers and artists on more specific subjects, like the creation of Jay Defeo’s painting The Rose, and the life of Tuli Kupferberg from The Fugs.

Red Rocket 7
Mike Allred
Image 2008

This handsome book is a reprint of the famous mid-nineties comic by Madman creator Allred. Basically a Zelig or Forrest Gump for the rock set, it tells the story of an glam alien clone who is present at every iconic rock movement throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies, and provides the inspiration for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.

This edition claims it’s been reprinted exactly as Allred intended, but it was originally printed at record album size. This is much smaller, which seems a shame. Also, unfortunately, The Dandy Warhols make a cameo appearance as the epitome of nineties cool, which made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Oh, and there’s an afterword by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, but that’s forgivable because he’s actually quite a good comics writer.

The Imposter’s Daughter
Laurie Sandell
Little, Brown and Company 2009

A chunky hardback relating the story of Sandell’s complicated relationship with her father. Sandell brutally recounts her discovery in her twenties that her father, a Phd and former Green Beret, was actually a fantasist who defrauded many of their family friends. Sandell examines how the character her father created for himself coloured her own attitude towards men, and how the revelation nearly destroys her family. This is the sort of story that graphic novels tell rather well.

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