Noteworthy Graphic Novels by Women: Recent, Upcoming, and One That I Cannot Friggin' Believe!
That may be changing. Last summer, at The Center for Cartoon Studies, nearly half of my fellow students were not fellows. On those "Best" lists, most of the women's entries are recent, books published in the last 7 to 8 years. In award nominations, women have been steadily gaining.
That's not to say that all the recent award-nominated graphic novels by women are from younger artists. Last year, three of the Eisner Award nominees were Picture This: The Nearsighted Monkey Book by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly), Special Exits: A Graphic Memoir by Joyce Farmer, who we interviewed last February, (Fantagraphics) and You'll Never Know Book 2: Collateral Damage by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics).
Of upcoming graphic novels, the three that I'm most excited for are:
1. You'll Never Know Book 3: Soldier's Heart by Carol Tyler (Fantagraphics)
2. Are You My Mother?:A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
3. Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons by Flannery O'Connor (Fantagraphics)
The first two installments of Tyler's wonderful trilogy, a memoir about her father's WWII soldiering and its effects on her family, were on best and award lists. I liked Book 1 and loved Book 2, leaving me on tenterhooks for Book 3, which is due out July 17.
Out May 1st, it's been reported that Are You My Mother? will have a first printing of 100,000 books. That's a BFD for a hardcover graphic novel; it's a BFD for a second effort by a literary writer. So, I call it a BFD for female graphic novelists.
Lastly, can you imagine Flannery O'Connor as a cartoonist? Can you imagine Wise Blood as a graphic novel? Neither could I, until today. Checking out the Fantagraphics site, I saw Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons. (Whuh???)
According to the publisher, O'Connor "did not set out to be a fiction writer, but a cartoonist." Further, "Her cartoons are a creative threshing floor for experimenting and trying out techniques that are deployed later with such great success in her fiction."
I won't have to wait long to get my hands around this one; it's coming next month. But, as I look at O'Connor's early cartoons, I'm sure I'll be thinking: What if she were working today? What if she'd been able to fully express her literary vision with her first love, comics? What if Flannery O'Connor wrote Wise Blood as a graphic novel? Imagine that.