The Doug Wright Awards were founded in 2004 to recognize and promote Canadian comics, and their promotion is definitely working on me. Before seeing the list of nominees, I had only heard of This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, which I had read and adored. If they had the smarts to pick an awesome book like that as one of the five nominees, what else could be in store for me with the others?
Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs
A newlywed couple hires a guide to take them on a safari, but this is beyond any safari or world you can imagine. All of the plants and animals are abstractly shaped with too many appendages, not enough eyes, and vicious teeth. Plus everything is poisonous and is trying to find its way into you however it can. Mouth, ears, or anus, it doesn’t discriminate. I loved the way it combined all that strangeness with humor and interesting characters, and it makes me really curious about what is going on inside Jesse Jacobs’ brain.
Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac
After immigrating to Canada, Nina Bunjevac’s mother fled with her and her sister back to Yugoslavia to keep the family safe from Bunjevac’s father, who was involved in a terrorist group working to create bombs and overthrow the communist leaders of Yugoslavia. Part memoir and part history of Yugoslavia and the Serbian-Croatian conflict, her story is fascinating. While the almost pointillistic shading of the art is not suited to my personal tastes and I thought the pacing of the story was a little off, I am glad I read it and learned more about the area, and I would still recommend it for fans of graphic nonfiction or graphic memoir.
The People Inside by Ray Fawkes
12 different couples are concurrently followed in their relationships over decades in this groundbreaking format. Each couple has their own panel on every two pages, so you get to see one couple falling in love in one panel while another is breaking up in the panel next to it while another is having a baby, etc. The format and poetic language took me a little bit to get into, but as a newbie to comics, this really opened my mind to the different ways the medium can be used.
Ant Colony by Michael DeForge
In this dark comic, black ants are at war with red ants; one young ant has an earthworm that’s so attracted to him it becomes part of him; and another ant is having an existential crisis about his relationship with his boyfriend. The drawings are fascinatingly surreal and colorful, but this one was a little too weird for me. I think it lost me at the scenes where all of the worker ants would line up to walk into the giant queen (who seems pretty sexualized for an ant) and, uh, present their offerings, if you know what I mean. But I’m sure that’s exactly weird enough for some people.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
I’ve written about this before, and there was an Oh, Comics! episode dedicated to it, so you may have heard enough already. But basically, if you want friendship, complex female leads, the perfect summer atmosphere, the memory of what it’s like to be not quite a teenager, and stunning art and colors, read this.
The winner of the Best Book Award, as well as the Spotlight Award and Pigskin Peters Award winners, will be announced on May 9th as part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.
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