One type of literature I’ve always been fascinated with is comic art. In fact, I even considered becoming a comic book artist before I decided to become a librarian. IU East has a modest collection of graphic novels – some famous, like Persepolis and Barefoot Gen. Some aren’t, and I’d like to tell you a bit about a few of them.
We3 by Grant Morrison (PN6727.M677 2005), describes a trio of animals – a dog, a cat, and a rabbit – that have been converted by the army into efficient living weapons for combat situations too dangerous for humans. But a visit by a bureaucrat unnerved by their rudimentary language and sentience orders them destroyed. A scientist, unwilling to see her life’s work destroyed, sets them free. And the killing machines that are also lost and lonely animals look for home, unwittingly a danger to everything around them. It is a story about animal cruelty and science ungoverned by moral restraint, but it never stoops to lecturing about these themes – they emerge naturally from the fast-paced narrative and surprising emotional depth of the animals.
Pride of Baghdad by Brian Vaughan (PN6727.V387 2006), is loosely based on the true story of a group of lions freed accidentally from the Bagdad Zoo in the April 2003 bombing of Iraq. The animals are anthropomorphized, but not unreasonably so – as they wander about Bagdad, starving and unsure of what to do, they talk and debate their needs and course of action in a manner somewhere between lion and human. The book takes no overt stand on the rightness or wrongness of the war. It just follows the lives of a family affected by it, who have no ability to control the situation around them, and their powerful personal dignity.
Chosen by Mark Milar (PN6728.C465 M55 2005), follows a twelve-year old in modern small-town America who survives a tractor-trailer crashing into him unscathed, and slowly comes to realize that he has the powers of Jesus – healing the blind, turning water into wine, bringing a dog back to life. A unique apocalyptic narrative; it focuses on the small details – the boy’s fascination with his powers and destiny, the reactions of his friends and the adults in the community, the hostility of his agnostic priest. It presents the Biblical apocalypse, not as a ham-fisted sermon of the author’s beliefs, but one of destiny and growing up – all the way to its gut-wrenching but inevitable ending.
Fables by Bill Willingham (PN6727.W52 F22 2003 v.1), is an imaginative story about fairy tale characters living in the modern world. The lands of Snow White, Cinderella, the Big Bad Wolf, and Prince Charming have been conquered by a power-mad adversary, and these mainstays of folklore have escaped, living quietly in exile in New York. They’ve set up a sometimes dysfunctional society – Fabletown – for the ones that can pass as human, while the Three Blind Mice, Chicken Little, and other monsters and talking animals hide out at an upstate New York farm. Willingham’s characterizations are very rich, crafting full personalities for characters known to us by only a few lines of rhyme. IU East has the first four volumes of the ongoing narrative.
If comic literature is your thing, or if you’d like to try it, IU East has a number of interesting works – feel free to stop by and browse the shelves. The ones I’ve described are just a sample. All comic art books in our collection have a red sticker on the spine that says “Graphic Novel” for easy identification, and many are on the shelves in the PN6700 range. Or, try an Advanced Keyword Search in IUCAT – put “comic books” in the subject line.