This is a word association exercise. Are you ready? Say the first thing that comes to mind when I say : “Comic book”.
If your answer was “Superhero”, you are not alone. Most people believe that comics are only about disproportionately muscular man and buxom women in next-to-no clothing fighting dastardly villains bent on world destruction and/or domination. And while this type of story is historically well established, it is by no means the only one available to readers.
Furthermore, many people who don’t read sequential art identify it as a genre, but this is a misconception. The themes and subjects related in illustrated narratives are as varied as any other medium. One can find a plethora of titles to choose from in any category of stories. You prefer space operas? Boom! Read Fear Agent! Your love monsters? Bam! Take a gander at Hellboy! Your tastes are more “refined” and you prefer more serious “literature”? Biff! Then look no further than My Top 5 Autobiographical Comics.
5. Fun Home How well do we know our parents? We live with them a great portion of our lives, but still, they remain a mystery to most of us. We tend to forget that they have dreams and secrets of their own, that they are human, just like us. As we grow up and become adults ourselves, we may come to understand them a little better. This is the crux of Alison Bechdel’s poetic coming-of-age memoir centering on her relationship with her distant father.
4. Maus The granddaddy of them all. It’s the go-to illustrated novel that proves that comic books are literature too. It won a Pulitzer for cryin’ out loud! What more do you want? Art Spiegelman’s anthropomorphic biography of his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor will leave you breathless.
3. Persopolis One of the many joys of reading is being able to be transported to exotic locals from the comfort of your favorite couch. Or in this case, to the repressive and menacing country of Iran during the Islamic revolution. Marjane Satrapi’s depiction of her childhood during these troubling times will enthral you. I was especially taken by the author’s defiance as a young child in the face of such oppression. Makes me glad I live in a “boring” but safe country.
2. Stitches Be warned. This is a sad tale about a very dysfunctional family and its effects on our main character. But I couldn’t put this downer down (bad puns are my speciality). Part of it may lie in the fact that it’s easier to detach oneself from reality when the story is illustrated. It somehow makes it less real. After all, how terrible is it to see a drawing gets sick or be emotionally alienated by his parents? Oh, who am I kidding. It’s still gut-wrenching.
1. True Story, Swear to God After all the happy fun-times reading my previous picks, you’ll need to find an antidote to all the sadness and misery that seem to permeate most bios. For that reason alone, I highly recommend this sweet and light-hearted romantic tale of a budding cartoonist who meets his soul mate. Or maybe I’m recommending this simply because I’m a romantic at heart, not that my wife would believe it.