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Tired of reading book reviews? Burned out on lengthy literary thinkpieces? [Ed. note: sorry] Luckily, literary commentary is also available in another, more picture-heavy form: the comic strip, of course. Comics manage, when they’re good, to draw associations and conclusions in a way unavailable to either prose or other visual media, and so in a way they’re actually a natural format for commentary—and actually, for storytelling of any kind.
A digression: One of the earliest books I remember reading on my own was Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, in which McCloud (or a cartoon version of him, at least) argues that it’s a mistake to think of comics as a hybrid of image and prose, when in actuality comics allow for a completely different type of storytelling, which both gives direct impressions and requires imaginative work from the reader. At any rate, Comics can, of course, be literary in and of themselves, and graphic novels have been received into the canon, at least to some degree, ever since Maus. But here are a few artists making comics about literature, storytelling, or their relationship to books that you should definitely be reading right now.
Tom Gauld is one of my favorite artists of any kind. His work is often absurdist and generally brilliant, and his literary comics betray wide-ranging genre interests—comic strips about fairy tales and sci-fi mixed in with those about literary fiction. A cartoonist and illustrator, you may have seen his work in the Guardian, where he runs a weekly—and very book-heavy—cultural comic strip. He also writes and illustrates graphic novels, the most recent of which, Mooncop, came out in September.
Kate Beaton‘s comics will not only make you laugh, but they may teach you a thing or two. For material, she delves into history and literature, retelling and commenting on everything you’ve forgotten from high school (or maybe never learned). Her newest book, King Baby, was released in September. Also, very important: please do not miss her series on Strong Female Characters.
Grant Snider is a cartoonist/orthodontist(!) who lives in Kansas. His comics, which can be found at his website, Incidental Comics, are not all literary, but most of them touch on the joys and pains of creativity on a broader scale. A collection of his comics, The Shape of Ideas, hits shelves in 2017.
Oh yes, Margaret Atwood also dabbles in comics. She even wrote a superhero comic, Angel Catbird, which was published in September. But more importantly for the purposes of this list, she is also the creator of BookTour Comix, which chronicle a few of her own experiences as a literary author on tour, at her website.
Tumblr cartoonist floccinaucinihilipilificationa has earned much Internet notoriety for her hilariously irreverent Harry Potter cartoons. Those are well worth reading, of course, but they’re not the extent of her literary offerings, and I’m finding the above particularly relatable right now.
Sarah Andersen‘s comics are semi-autobiographical, and well, she’s a big reader, so her archive is spotted with comics about buying, reading, and being obsessed with books. Her own first book, Adulthood is a Myth, came out earlier this year.