The Midas Flesh: Volume One by Ryan North

midas flesh The Midas Flesh: Volume One is an entertaining journey into the future, where a space crew finds themselves within the orbit of a gold gilded Earth. Flashback to how this whole shindig got started. Do you know the story of King Midas? The Midas Touch? That’s basically the gist of this book with some high-tech space flight and dinosaurs in space suits involved.

In The Midas Flesh: Volume One, one night King Midas got drunk and decided that if he had only one wish, it would be to have everything that he touched turn to gold. Low and behold a thunderbolt slashes out of the heavens and his wish is granted. Flash forward quite a bit and the entire planet Midas was inhabiting has turned to gold, BUT the kicker is that it does not show up on ANY of the space maps nor is it in any of the galaxy records. The Federation has covered up the entire existence of this planet and to prevent others from stealing anything from said planet, they have effectively covered its entire close orbit with satellites, ships, weaponry, etc. to alert them if someone stumbles and finds this place.

Somehow  Joey and her space crew, Fatima and Cooper, have managed to find this planet and are desperately trying to figure out why everything on it is made of gold. They are struggling to do so before the Federation realzies they have found the planet and before a bounty can be placed on their heads for being able to take something off the surface of the planet. Joey’s ultimate goal is to be able to harvest the weapon on this gold planet and somehow reconfigure it to be used against the evil Federation, the group who is tracking them down and the same group who was taking over planets and destroying whole civilizations. This first volume gives readers a good introduction into the Midas legend and also to the forces the crewmembers find themselves up against. If you’re not a fan of graphic novels, and even if you are, I recommend this book as there are few flash backs, the artwork is not overwhelming, and the overall story reads like a linear piece of fiction, but the graphic novel as a whole is still widely appealing. Check it out.

Online Reading Challenge – Graphic Novels

online colorWelcome to the May edition of our Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re going to explore Graphic Novels!

Now, I have to admit. I hate Graphic Novels. There, I said it. I just don’t “get” them. I find the illustrations annoying – in my experience, they get in the way of the story and are often unattractive, chaotic and full of unnecessary clutter. I have also found many of the stories to be uninteresting to me – juvenile and cartoonish and deliberately offensive, plus the predominance of superheroes has not been a draw for me. Obviously, this month is really going to push me out of my comfort zone!

[Note: Is this a generational issue? I’m willing to admit that I’m no spring chicken and I didn’t grow up reading graphic novels. Do other middle aged adults feel the same way? Or is it just me?! What do you think?]

Obviously, I’m not the right person to recommend Graphic Novel titles. Fortunately, we have Graphic Novel experts (and fans) on staff. First up is Allison, who has some great advice getting started as well as a list of titles to try.

My advice for people just starting is to start with a character they like. So, if they’ve liked the Avengers movies, start with that (where to start is another answer). You don’t have to start at the start – comic books are infamous for reboots, ret-cons and general timeline goofiness. And it’s a very novel time for superhero shows with “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Agents of SHIELD,” etc.

And It’s not just about following the character, it’s also about following a particular author/artist. I personally follow Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga) Matt Fraction (“Hawkeye” Marvel Now!) G. Willow Wilson (“Ms. Marvel” Marvel Now!)

The same goes for non-superhero comics. Like “The Walking Dead?” It’s a comic! “Doctor Who”? Heck yes! It’s not always *the* best, but it can be a start. One caveat is that if you like the show “Lucifer”, the comic book it very lightly based on is waaaaayyyyy different. It’s also good, just waaaayyy different.

Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of my recommendations. The juvenile & YA titles can be enjoyed by all ages. Some of the adult titles are TV-MA. I’ll note them in the lists. I would recommend all of those that I listed.

Juvenile/YA

  • Drama” & “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier. Growing up is hard to do.
  • Nimona” & “Lumberjanes” by Noelle Stevenson (seriously, you should try “Nimona,” it’s the BEST) . “Lumberjanes” is ongoing. “Nimona” is a fantasy-esque story, and “Lumberjanes” begins as a best friends at camp story.
  •  “Amulet” by Kazu Kibuishi. Action adventure, finding-your-destiny story. Beautifully drawn. Ongoing
  •  “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” by Ryan North (also an author to follow). Ongoing Marvel characters, lighthearted.

 Adult

  • Ms. Marvel” by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona, Marvel Now!. A great title for teens, diverse cast, coming of age, etc. Series has ended
  • Strong Female Protagonist” by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag. What happens when the masks come off? 
  • Rat Queens” by Kurtis Wiebe. Untraditional Dungeons and Dragons adventuring & sisterhood. Violence, sex, nudity. Series is on-going. I wrote a review of it: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/reference/rat-queens-vols-1-2/
  • Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. This comic had been widely acclaimed – a young family from opposing sides of an intergalactic war try to find safety and raise their daughter. There is violence, sex and nudity. Excellent title for adults. Series ongoing.
  • Sandman” by Neil Gaiman & Craig P. Russell. A member of the “comics cannon”. Excellent fantasy series.
  • Y: The Last Man” by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra. Another cannon comic, excellent end of the world story. Violence, sex and nudity.
  • Unwritten” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Really excellent story. Very literary / Harry Potter-esque. 
  • The Wicked + The Divine” by Kieron Gillen & Jaime McKelvie. “Every ninety years, twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.” Really great concept, steeped in mythology. Also violent with sex & nudity.
  • Letter 44” by Charles Soule. Obama vs. aliens, basically. Very cool first-contact story, and political satire that can be a little too spot-on. Three volumes so far.
  • The Fuse” by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood. Scandinavian noir mysteries, in space! Two volumes so far.

Biographical/Literary

  • Here” by Richard McGuire. Very cool concept, was written up in the NYT Book Review. My review here: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/reference/here-by-richard-mcguire/
  • Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. Autobiography of a girl growing up in and out of Iran. Farmer’s Market, definitely.
  • Fun Home” & “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Coming of age as a gay woman, plus family dysfuction. “Fun Home” was made into a musical and won several Tonys. Sex & nudity.
  • Boxers & Saints” by Gene Luen Yang. A two-book series, one following a rural Chinese boy in the midst of the Boxer rebellion and the other following an unwanted daughter who finds acceptance with Christian missionaries as the rebellion unfolds.

Next up is Stephanie who not only willingly reads Graphic Novels, she also orders them for the library. Here’s her list.

Here’s a list of non-superhero graphic novels. Think of it as a list of graphic novels for people who think they won’t like graphic novels or for those who think all graphic novels are superheroes and spandex.

 Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (anything by Lucy Knisley is fantastic)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker

March: Book One by John Lewis

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (this one is wordless and the art is amazing!)

Laika by Nick Abadzis

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki (this one is young adult, but it’s still good)

Blankets by Craig Thompson (this one gets a lot of love by reviewers, but it’s almost 600 pages long)

Habibi by Craig Thompson

The Sculptor by Scorr McCloud

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (young adult)

Boxers & Saints by Gene Yuen Lang (also young adult)

Whew! Lots to choose from! And there’s lots more to come – in a couple weeks I’ll list more of the titles that Allison and Stephanie gave me. In the meantime I’m going to read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and Relish by Lucy Knisley, both of which have been enthusiastically recommended to me. Wish me luck!

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

Letter 44, Volume 2: Redshift by Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque

letter 44 vol 2Previously I reviewed Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity and was instantly intrigued. As a result, I decided that I needed to find the second volume to figure out how the story progressed. Letter 44, Volume 2: Redshift goes further into the extraterrestrial life the astronauts on the space ship, Clarke, discovered in the first volume.

With President Blades struggling to deal with if and when he should alert the public to the existence of the aliens, he finds himself having to deal with other people in the government who are calling for him to tell the truth and if not, risk being impeached. This alien presence is becoming more than he think he can deal with and instead of following the plan laid out for him by the previous administration, he decides to go his own way and ends up thinking more short-term than long-term. That decision ends up costing the American people dearly.

While Blades deals with threats from inside his administration and tries to balance everything happening outside, the people on spaceship Clarke are struggling just to live day-to-day. Losing one of their own on the asteroid and with a newborn baby on board, they are trying to figure out what the aliens want and what their device is actually for. Learning what the aliens plan to do throws the crew into a state of panic, especially when it is discovered that one of their own has the ability to communicate with the aliens. This second volume is jam-packed with action, sabotage, danger, and the struggle to survive. Personally, I cannot wait for the third volume, so I can catch up the crew of the Clarke and see how Blades is doing as President.

Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral by Tim Seeley

graysonI’ve been reading tons of graphic novels lately. The main reason? I can usually get through a whole graphic novel in one sitting, usually even multiple ones in a day! It’s fabulous. Throw in a flashy cover and a high-paced story and I’m hooked. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral fits all of my necessary graphic novel markers and BONUS: It’s about Robin/Nightwing, a thoroughly over-looked DC character if you ask me.

You need to understand some basic Robin/Nightwing backstory in order to not get confused, though Seeley and King do a very good job explaining his past life. Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral covers the story of Dick Grayson, a former circus acrobat, who after his parents were tragically killed in a trapeze accident(YES, I know this sounds ridiculous, but come on, as a superhero/spy, being an acrobat comes in SUPER handy), eventually comes to live with Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. Once Grayson figures out that Wayne is actually Batman, Grayson becomes his partner, Robin. They exist in peace, fighting crime in Gotham City, but once Grayson gets older, he decides to become Nightwing and continues to fight crime. Nightwing eventually is captured and killed by the Criminal Syndicate. Or is he?

Not a spoiler: He isn’t killed or this graphic novel would be over before it even began. Instead he goes on his merry way dispensing out justice across the globe and is eventually recruited into Spyral, a top-secret spy ring that is hunting for pieces of the Paragon, a God who was killed and who had his body parts distributed all over the world. Oh yeah, those body parts all just happen to be individual weapons of mass destruction. No biggie. So to recap, Grayson is now a spy for Spyral and is hunting down weapons disguised as body parts. Oh also, he’s actually a secret agent spying on Spyral and reporting to Batman because Spyral is actually looking to discover the secret identity of every superhero on the globe. (Turns out each superhero bestowed something special on each body part, hence how they became weapons of mass destruction). This plotline is fantastic! So many twists and turns that left me eagerly flipping the pages to find out what happened next. I also really enjoyed the bright pops of color and the way the artist decided to give such a lifelike feel to each character. Be on the lookout for the next Grayson volume!

Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron

thor god butcherI have always found Thor to be very intriguing. An immortal God growing up in his father Odin’s shadow, listening to tales of war and the defeating of enemies and subsequently struggling to lift Mjolnir, his magic hammer, when he was younger because he wasn’t worthy yet. In the Marvel movies, viewers get some flashbacks of Thor’s life, but not as much as I was looking for. Instead of digging into Norse mythology, I decided to look at the graphic novels available at the library to see what background they could provide me. That was where I found Jason Aaron’s run of Thor.

Thor: God Of Thunder, Volume 1: The God Butcher is the first volume in Aaron’s run that gives readers an insight into Marvel NOW!’s interpretation of Thor. I found this graphic novel to be confusing, yet ultimately rewarding because it filled in many of the wholes that I had about Thor’s upbringing and his motivations for behaving the way that he does.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: The reason I found this graphic novel to be confusing is because of the story line. In this first volume, Thor is on the hunt for the God Butcher after discovering floating body parts of a God in a river after a fight. The horror in the eyes of the deceased God catapults Thor on a hunt that defines his actions for the entirety of his life. This graphic novel is a prime example of why you MUST pay attention to the artwork in order to follow the storyline. This volume is essentially three Thor stories being told at once: past Thor, present Thor, and future Thor, all on a quest to hunt down and kill the God Butcher who has made it HIS mission to kill all of the Gods across all of the worlds. Differentiating between past Thor and present Thor is a little difficult, but there are wardrobe and art style clues that will help key you in to what Thor you are actually looking at. This first volume of Thor is perfect to set up the rest of the series’ run because it introduces a villain that even Thor has trouble defeating, the idea that gods are vanishing and no one is aware or really even cares, and that this is a problem that has taken thousands of years to solve, yet still hasn’t been fixed. (Bonus: There is a Lord Librarian who has WINGS and who Thor goes to for help!) The back stories of both Thor and the God Butcher are exquisitely thought through and Ribic’s artistic descriptions of Thor’s struggles really show the darkness of this seemingly eternal fight. Check this out and let me know what you think!

Black Widow: Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson

bw finely woven threadWhen I watch any of the Avengers movies or really any movie about a superhero, I get really excited because it gives me more of a chance to understand each of their backstories. Sadly, one of the Avengers doesn’t have her own movie and it’s the one that I have the most questions about: the Black Widow. I’ve had to exhaust other sources to learn more about this infamous former KGB assassin and why she is on a mission to atone for her past sins.

My newest Black Widow source of information is Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmonson. (This is currently part of a series, so stay tuned for my review of the second volume whenever I can get my hands on a copy!) In this first volume, readers are introduced to the mysterious Natasha, who is known to her friends and enemies alike as the Black Widow. When she’s not helping the Avengers or on missions as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is working to make up for her past as a KGB assassin. She still utilizes the tools and tricks she learned as an assassin, but is now able to pick and choose the missions that she goes on. In this volume, she finds herself thrust up against the “Hand of God” on an undercover mission in Russia. With the mention of Chaos, she quickly finds herself entangled in a deadly plot that has wrapped its web across the globe. No one is safe from Chaos’ grasp, not her close friends or even her employers.

This first volume mainly introduces readers to the sorts of missions that Natasha goes on and the people that are closest to her. She’s still cold-hearted, but as you follow Natasha through her missions and through her interactions with the stray cat by her apartment, you realize that she is working to better herself the only way she knows how. It gives a little more depth to the character of the Black Widow that Scarlett Johansson plays in the Avengers movies. This volume gives you enough information about present day Natasha to understand how she operates and gives you very little information about her past, just enough to leave you curious and hopeful that the subsequent volumes will explore more about her past.

In Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Edmondson has written an introduction into the Black Widow that allows for the truly artistic work of artist Phil Noto to shine. Throughout this graphic novel, Noto varies the colors used and the way he draws to highlight different scenes and the many different places where Natasha travels. The mysterious nature of Natasha as the Black Widow is elevated by the dark colors and stylized way of drawing the Noto employs. Edmondson’s words serve to add another layer of depth to Natasha’s character, since she’s primarily alone and spends a lot of time thinking out her next actions in her head.

 

From Beginning to End, Part 2: “The Unwritten”

13677_900x1350Welcome back to Part 2 of my retrospective review of two graphic novels that have recently ended! Earlier, we looked back at  “Fables” by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham. Now, as promised, we’re on to  “The Unwritten” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Much like “Fables,” I was introduced to “The Unwritten” by a fellow librarian. As he remembered it:

This week a co-worker came up to me with a crazed look in her eye and said “Yesterday I was shelving some comics and started flipping through the first volume of The Unwritten. Before I knew it I’d read all five volumes the library owns. When will there be more?” It’s always great to watch someone enjoy something I liked a lot. It’s even more fun when their excitement borders on the maniacal. – Andrew, “No Flying No Tights”

Like Fables, Unwritten originates in the story-telling world. Instead of the fairy tales of old, Unwritten beings in a modern age fable of Tommy Taylor. The Tommy of the title is the main character in a highly popular series of books written by the reclusive author Wilson Taylor. The Tommy Taylor series is modeled on the Harry Potter books (with Tommy as Harry) complete with wizards, wands and made-up Latin spells.

There is another Tommy in the story, however, the “real” one (perhaps). Tom Taylor, son of Wilson and on whom the character was modeled (or maybe not). Tom has grown up in the spotlight and shadow of his father’s fame. With his father’s mysterious disappearance after the release of his last book, Tom travels the convention circuit reluctantly, having failed as a musician, actor and author. It is at one of these “TommyCons” that a young woman calling herself  Lizzie Hexam publicly casts doubt on Tom’s identity and whether or not he is Wilson Taylor’s son.

the-unwritten-13The notion that Tom is a fraud creates an explosive amount of controversy, with a level of emotion only devoted fans can muster. Tom becomes a pariah, and on his way into hiding, is kidnapped by a crazed attacker pretending (or is he?) to be Count Ambrosio, the Lord Voldemort to our Tommy. With all of the internet watching, Tom survives and is suddenly elevated to  messianic status, something that turns out to be nearly as bad as being universally reviled.

But Tom’s fortunes are about to change, again. Tom – now doubting his own past – begin looking for answers of his own. The search takes him to his childhood home of Villa Diodati in Switzerland (not coincidentally, this is also where Mary Shelley wrote  Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus – the novels are filled with these bits of literary trivia and seeming coincidences.) Tom, joined by Lizzie, finds more questions than answers, though, along with a map, a crystal doorknob and more than a few dead bodies. It seems that Tom’s activities have caught the attention of some very dangerous people who don’t seem to be fans of Tommy Taylor.

Accused of the murders and thrown into a French prison, Tom find himself sharing a cell with a reporter named Savoy, who bribed his way into the prison to report on Tom’s activities. Lizzie shows up to break them out and thwart a hit on Tommy, ordered by the prison warden Chadron whose children are fans of the Tommy Taylor series and, tragically, are killed in the escape. Maddened by grief, Chadron becomes Count Ambrosio.

The trio of Tom, Lizzie and Savoy – now mirroring the fictional threesome of Tommy, Sue and Peter – embark on a journey that crosses time and space crossing the thinning barriers between the fictional and real worlds. They uncover something has gone very wrong in the fictional worlds and confront Tommy’s reclusive father, who might be both the cause the solution.

Throughout the series, we travel a vast literacy landscape. The epic poem Song of Roland, the Nazi propaganda film Jud Süß, Moby-Dick (of course), The Canterbury Tales, the Golden Age of Comic Books, the French operetta Orpheus in the Underworlda world that seems to be a mix of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Rabbit (with a very, very bad Peter)  the world of Fables and many, many more, not to mention what is happening in our own world. With so many stories running parallel to each other with multiple intersections, the series finds itself, at times, bogged down in its own mythology. In the later volumes, some of the most enjoyable aspects of the series – the seek-and-find of clues drawn into the panels – is dropped entirely. Lizzie Hexam’s story devolves from a real-life heroic and confident Hermonie character, to a damsel in distress, living, loving and dying at the whim of Tom’s father. Even 4572712-11the art is plainer, with simpler lines and little dimension.

In the final two volumes, War Stories (#10) and Apocalypse (#11), some of the threads are drawn together, building up to the final, final conclusion. Carey and Gross have created a very deep world, and it’s probably inevitable that some story lines are dropped. The morals of the stories can be heavy-handed, with the big bads a little too bad. While Unwritten tries at telling a universal creation story, ultimately, this is a story of a father and a son and the age-old question of who creates whom.

Storm: Make it Rain by Greg Pak

stormStorm, aka Ororo Munroe, goes by many different names, but this X-Man has the ability to control the winds and the weather. In this first volume, Storm: Make it Rain, people not familiar with Storm are introduced in part to her origin story and how she got to where she is today. She’s the windrider, the Princess of N’Dare, the former Queen of Wakanda, and the headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the place where she met Wolverine and the other X-Men, and the place where she is struggling to control, help instill, and foster a sense of belonging amongst the young mutants attending.

With the help of Henry McCoy, also known as the Beast, Storm is able to work to better the world around her and to keep both the mutants and humans around her safe from harm. Ororo finds herself helping a small village before a giant tsunami hits, chasing down missing young adults, and dealing with tyrants who are trying to control the world. This graphic novel doesn’t disappoint as we’re introduced to Storm’s connection to Wolverine, her former lovers as well as her nemesis, and to her origin story in general.

Storm is shown and drawn as a strong, independent hero who has matured from when she was a small child to a mutant who knows the limits that her body possesses and, most importantly, how to use those powers to help others. This graphic novel is a combination of Storm (2014) #1-5 with each issue bringing to light an extra layer of Storm and the reasons why she does what she does.

From Beginning to End, Part 1: “Fables”

This summer, I had to say goodbye to two of my favorite graphic novel series (aside from Marvel’s Secret Wars, which I’m still trying to process) “Fables” by Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham and “The Unwritten” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I discovered both series in the middle of their publication. Happily, I had a several volumes already published to get me started until I began the grueling wait for new installments.

(Since this post is talking about an entire series, there may be spoilers. Look out for Hawkeye* – he’ll let you know.)

Part 1: Fables

2347555-fable_new_edition_coverThe first TP (trade paperback) of Vertigo’s Fables, “Legends in Exile” was published in 2002, and began with the murder of Rose Red, Snow White’s sister. We learn that the characters in classic fairy and folk tales are alive and (mostly) well and living in exile from their magical homelands, having been driven out by the malevolent “Adversary.” Now, they live in our world (the “mundy” as in “mundane”) using magic to protect their fantastical origins. Now, Old King Cole is the mayor of Fabletown, Snow White is the capable Operations Director and The Big Bad Wolf (or Bigby, as he is called in his human form) is the head of security. Those who do not have human form live on The Farm, mostly free to do what they please. We meet many, many other fairy tale characters through the series, with most carrying some semblance of their personalities we know from the story books. But, as we learn, they are far more complex than we mundies know them.

The first plot arc follows the resistance of and eventual all-out battle against The Adversary to regain the Homelands. Smaller plots are intertwined, introducing us to the motivations, conflicts and loves of the Fables. New and deadlier threats rise, war ensues and families are made (and broken). With such a rich source of characters, Willingham takes many liberties developing their personalities. Heroes are cads, cowards prove themselves to be kings and unlikely romance blossoms.

Issues #1-75 (volumes cover the first story arc of the war against The Adversary. There are also spin-offs and diversionary stories that focus on characters like Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk, who ends up getting his own comic “Jack of Fables”), Cinderella and the Frog Prince among many others.  Some of these stories serve as good character development, other are complete stories. On the whole, most are entertaining, but as the series went on, I found myself skipping entire sections and skimming the rest.

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Banned Books Week: Graphic Novels

Last year, the American Library Association, along with the Banned Books Week planning committee, announced that Banned Books Week 2014 would have a thematic focus on comics and graphic novels. Even though we are now in Banned Books Week 2015, it is still important to focus on graphic novels and the censorship that happens to them because they are often clouded in an aura of mystery by those who don’t understand and those that don’t read them.

Some of you may be wondering what the difference is between a comic book and a graphic novel. I encourage you to think of a graphic novel as a format and not a genre, meaning that graphic novels encompass the same thing that the format of a book does, but just in a different format. A very simplified definition of a graphic novel can be found at the Get Graphic website where they say that graphic novels can be of any genre for any audience, but with all to most of the comic being done with pictures. Graphic novels can be fantasy, romance, horror, westerns, superheroes, fiction, non-fiction, and anything else you could possibly think of as a genre. Some people may like to interchange the phrase “comic book” for graphic novels, but that can conjure up the image of superheroes. Let’s just stay simple. Graphic novel = format.


Now that the description has been given, let’s delve into the fun part: figuring out what graphic novels have been banned and for what reasons. Every year, the American Library Association, also known as the ALA, releases a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books for that year. Further down on that page, there are more lists of banned books and the reasons why they are banned. (Check out this list put out by the CBLDF for Banned Books Week 2015 that lists 12 Challenged & Banned YA Graphic Novels.) In these descriptions, you will find references to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the CBLDF, a non-profit organization that posts cases on their website of comic books that have been challenged, censored, banned, etc.


the complete maus

In Maus, Art Spiegelman writes about the struggles of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s regime, and his son, a cartoonist who is struggling to work with the story of his aging father. Going on around the backdrop of guilt and survival are also the things that happen in normal day-to-day life: the stories of unhappiness, routine, and squabbles that we all live through. In one part, the son is interviewing his dad about his experiences. In another part, Spiegelman is interpreting his father’s life as a graphic novel, which each different race being depicted as a different animal. This Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel has been challenged for being “anti-ethnic” and “unsuitable for younger readers”. It has also been removed from shelves in foreign countries for having a Nazi swastika on the cover.


captain underpantsThe Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is a frequently banned/challenged series(the cover shown being the first in the series), so much so that it is number 13 on the top 100 list of banned/challenged books for 2000-2009. It has even been number 1 on the top 10 lists for many years. It is often challenged and/or banned for offensive language, anti-family content, sexually explicit, violence, or being unsuited for age group. In this book, Harold and George often get into hijinks that include turning their principal, Mr. Krupp, into Captain Underpants, so that he can defeat some kind of nefarious evil-doer that has descended upon the school. In case you are wondering why this book is featured on the graphic novel list, this book is filled with pictures and the boys are also working on their own comic strip, which sometimes takes up chunks of the book.


boneJeff Smith created Bone, a series of graphic novels, which, in the first of the series shown to the left, chronicles the lifes of three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone after they are run out of Boneville, their home, and are forced to find their way in a desert and then a subsequent valley. Smith spins humor, mystery, and adventure together into this story that people who have left home for the first time, people reminiscing, and especially kids will relate to as the Bones realize that everything now around them is totally different, overwhelming, and, of course, strange. The Bone series found itself on the top 10 list of frequently challenged books in 2013 for the following reasons: “political viewpoint, racism, and violence”.


dramaRaina Telgemeier has written many graphic novels that center around this age, but the one that causes the most issues in terms of banning and challenging is Drama. In this graphic novel, Callie, the main character, loves theater, but to her chagrin, she can’t sing. She is made set designer for this year’s production and has decided that this set for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi is going to look amazing! As she is dealing with everything to do with the play, Callie also finds herself having to deal with the offstage and onstage drama generated by the actors that are chosen for the play. All around her relationships begin and end, while some fail to even start. This award-winning graphic novel was recently on the top ten list for 2014 for being “sexually explicit” and has also been challenged because of the inclusion of two gay characters.


stuck in the middleWhile the following book has yet to crack the top ten frequently challenged book lists, it has been pulled and challenged in libraries across the country. Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age is a collection put together from a wide variety of cartoonists detailing their own times in middle school. The point of this book is to show that while middle school and being thirteen is incredibly awkward and unpleasant, you will survive! The authors in this graphic novel are not afraid to deal with the nitty, gritty, uncomfortable topics that happen throughout middle school. This book has been pulled from two South Dakota middle schools and has been challenged in other towns as well for the following reasons: objectionable sexual, language, drug, and alcohol references. A few libraries allowed the book to be retained, but placed it in the professional collection, which requires students to obtain parental permission before they are allowed to check it out.


this one summerJillian and Mariko Tamiko created this New York times bestseller, Printz award Honor Book for excellence in young adult literature, and Caldecott Honor Book in 2014. This One Summer is about the story of Rose, whose family has vacationed at Awago Beach for as long as she can remember. There she is able to escape all of her troubles and truly slip into her refuge and summer getaway spot. Windy, her friend, is there as well, filling in as the little sister that Rose never had. Everything is perfect until this summer when Rose’s parents keep fighting, Rose notices that Windy is childish, and rose and Windy get things entangled in the drama of the older kids on the island. This graphic novel has been challenged for “age-inappropriate content”, an ultimate misinterpretation of the age requirements for the Caldecott Award, which is for books aimed at kids 14 and under, while This One Summer is aimed at kids 12+.


blanketsCraig Thompson wrote Blankets, a semi-autobiographical journey into his relationship with his brother, Phil, who he had to share a blanket with when he was younger, and his first girlfriend, Raina, who he also shared a blanket with. This graphic novel works to tell two entwined stories by flashing back to early experiences in Craig’s life while also pairing them with things that he is experiencing right now. This book dives into Craig’s upbringing in a religious family, how he handles his first love who he meets at a church camp, and also how he comes to terms with his religious beliefs as his life makes a whole bunch of changes. Raina’s family brings the added complication of Down Syndrome to their relationship while her parents are also dealing with a divorce. This book has been challenged because of allegedly obsence illustrations, depictions of sex and human body parts, inappropriate subject matter, and that the comic artwork would attract children who would then see the “pornographic” images.


the complete persepolisMarjane Satrapi wrote the award-winning graphic memoir, Persepolis, about her struggles growing up in Tehran. Marji spent most of her childhood growing up in a family not short on live during the Islamist Revolution. She quickly had to learn how to manage her private vs. her public life in Tehran. As her family encouraged her to speak her mind, she often landed in trouble, forcing her parents to ship her off to school in Austria. In Vienna, Marji dealt with her adolescence away from her family, only to return home to face both the good and the bad. In the end, she self-imposed an exile upon herself when she became a young adult. This graphic memoir was number 2 on the top ten list of 2014 and has been banned and challenged for many reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions, and also politically, racially, and socially offensive.

Here are some news articles that talk about Persepolis being banned. Many more are out there as well.


fun home

Now we’ve arrived at the graphic novel that has been ripping up the headlines recently in terms of people trying to ban it. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is an autobiographical memoir that deals with Bechdel’s everyday life in an unnerving and darkly funny story about her family. Alison’s father, a man of many different talents and jobs, is a distant parent and a closeted homosexual. Alison yearns for her father, but as the stories or her brother and her running rampant through the “fun home,” also known as the funeral home, can attest, their relationship works through their sharing books. This book has been banned/challenged for LGBTQ themes and morality themes.


saga

 

 

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a sort of modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Alana, a winged soldier from planet Windfall, and Marko, a horned former prisoner of war from Landfall’s moon, are both on the run from their respective militaries. They escaped to give birth to their daughter, but now everyone wants them dead. Sheer luck seems to be the only way the family has survived and managed to escape into the galaxy. The Saga series is number 6 on the list of top ten most frequently challenged books of 2014 and was banned for the following reasons in 2014: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.


 

killing jokeYou may be wondering why there aren’t any superhero graphic novels on this list. Let me introduce to you Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke with Brian Bolland as the illustrator. This graphic novel was released as a a stand-alone by DC Comics in 1988. In this graphic novel, Bolland depicts the Joker’s brutal torture of Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara. The psychological and physical damage done upon Gordon and Barbara are illustrated perfectly in this graphic novel and prove to forever alter the continuity of DC’s Batman universe as the shooting of Barbara Gordon leaves her paralyzed and ultimately leads her to becoming the Oracle. Alan Moore has had many graphic novels challenged/banned and Batman: The Killing Joke followed for the following reasons: it “advocates rape and violence”.