Cynthia Clark Harvey's List of Graphic Novel Must-Reads (Before You Check Out This Year's Bestsellers)

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Book covers from Amazon.com
Welcome back to Explicitly Graphic, a monthly column by Cynthia Clark Harvey (who's working on a graphic novel of her own). From time to time, Harvey will review graphic novels, talk to artists, and dive into the scene of all things explicitly graphic. Today, she talks about a few novels she's catching up on before she tackles this year's list of best sellers.

Two months into 2013, I'm still tearing through books from 2012. With my teensy little OCD tendencies, I can't quite embrace the 2013 crop of graphic novels until I've made an attempt to get at some of the most interesting from the year before.

Here are five books, which are recent arrivals to my library and/or attention. In the order in which I read, which is the order in which I got them from the library, they are:


See also:

- Ellen Forney Talks Mental Health, the Life of a "Crazy Artist," and Her latest Graphic Novel, Marbles
- A Soldier's Daughter's Heart: A Conversation with Graphic Novelist Carol Tyler

5. Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary Talbot (script) and Bryan Talbot (illustration); Dark Horse Books
An autobiography -- remember that quaint term, before everything written about oneself was a memoir? -- paired with a biography.

Mary, a noted academic with several books in print, writes in her first graphic novel about a difficult relationship with her father, a noted Joyce scholar, and parallels her own story with a history of Lucia, James Joyce's only daughter. Mary is ably accompanied in this work by illustrator/husband Bryan, an award-winning graphic novelist.

I found Mary's notes pointing out Bryan's mistakes in visualizing her text charming evidence of their collaboration. I'm looking forward to each of these authors' next comics, either alone (Bryan is working on the third volume of his Grandville series of steampunk detective thrillers) or together (Mary is now scripting a historical graphic novel).

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My Friend Dahmer -- Derf Backderf, Abrams
4. My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf; Abrams.
Wow, wow, wow. Stunning. Disturbing. Chilling. I felt that if I were to read it in public, I'd have to put a brown paper cover on it. When we are currently asking ourselves how the profoundly disturbed can live among us and no one questions or seeks help for them, Backderf's story about his high school friend, Jeffrey Dahmer, is even more uncomfortable to read than any other story of a real-life cannibal and necrophiliac might be.

Derf's drawing style, which I was familiar with from his political cartoons, brings an unsettling sort of hyper-realism to a surreal topic -- how that weird kid you knew in high school really did turn out to be a mass murderer. In the epilogue, when his reporter wife calls to say that a guy he went to high school with is accused of being a serial killer -- Derf's second choice guess is Dahmer -- which is disturbing and telling all at once.

Now I want to go back and read Derf's 24-page comic about the same topic in 2002. Yeah, it's disturbing -- I know, I repeated that word three times -- but it's compelling, too.


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