Redeeming Monsters: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris. Fantagraphics, February 2017. 386 pp. Paper, $39.99. Adult.

Chicago comics artist Emil Ferris deems “monster” an “honorable title. It represents struggle and wisdom bought at a high, painful price. . . . I make a distinction between good monsters―those that can’t help being different―and rotten monsters,” she told “The Comics Journal” in 2017, when her multiple award-winning masterpiece “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” was initially released. How do you define a “rotten monster”? “[T]hose people whose behavior is designed around objectives of control and subjugation.”

This gorgeous and complicated book teems with monsters, both good and rotten. Among the good monsters are the protagonist Karen, an elementary school student who portrays herself as a werewolf detective, with surprisingly luxurious eyelashes,

Franklin, her gay black friend,

and Deeze, her wise but troubled older brother, who teaches her how to see and appreciate art, how to draw, and especially, how to “draw [her] way through” difficult events and emotions—like the overt racism of 1960s Chicago:

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“March: Book Three,” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Re-posted from February 2018, in honor of MLK Jr. Day tomorrow. See links below for reviews of Book One and Book Two. If you haven’t read any of these yet, look for the Top Shelf boxed set of the whole trilogy.

“March: Book Three,” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. 192 pages, Top Shelf Productions, Aug. 2016. Paperback, $19.99, 8th grade and up.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.

U.S. Representative John Lewis, who narrates the conclusion of his civil rights journey in “March: Book Three,” has been arrested at least 45 times, most recently in a 2013 rally for immigration rights. As one of the founders of the Civil Rights Movement and the last surviving speaker of the 1963 March on Washington—which culminated in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—Lewis remains an advocate for getting in trouble. He calls this type of trouble “necessary trouble,” imperative when something in society is “not right, not fair, not just.” Continue reading ““March: Book Three,” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell”

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

“Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World,” by Penelope Bagieu. Trans. Montana Kane. 296 pp. First Second. Cloth, $24.99; paper, $17.99. Ages 13+.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

“Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World” is a powerhouse collection of 29 biographical comics about women from around the world who got things done—or, in some cases, are still at it. Comics bios can be difficult to pull off: I’ve seen a lot of clunky ones that fail to use the genre to its best effect, and get squashed by the weight of wordy exposition. Penelope Bagieu, however, is a master of the genre. Her instinct for the arc of a life is spot-on, well-balanced by emotionally dense visuals that keep the story moving, while also conveying humor and compassion.

Take for example, the first three panels of the book, which introduce Clementine Delait, a bearded lady born in eighteenth-century France:

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