It’s 93°F outside as I write this, so I’m going to call it: it’s officially summer. Whether you’re working, studying, or have all the free time in the world, it’s the perfect season to kick back in a hammock and get some pleasure reading done. With that in mind, here’s a few great comics to enjoy during the hot months to come:
1. The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by E. K. Weaver
A drunken pact leads two unlikely acquaintances on a road trip across the country from Berkeley, California to Providence, Rhode Island. Amal has just come out to his family and is fleeing the shambles of his life to see his sister graduate before he attempts to piece things together again. TJ has a lot of cash to blow and plenty of troubles he’d just as soon leave far behind, but needs someone else to do the driving. This thoughtful road trip romance takes place just at the summer’s beginning, and is filled with all the silly jokes, scenic views, and soul-searching that a road trip can inspire. Weaver’s black and white sketched panels are simple yet beautiful, and perfectly suit the mood of the story. Originally a webcomic, TJ and Amal still exists in its entirety online, and is also available in a collected print volume.
2. Lumberjanes, created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson, illustrated by Brooke Allen
It wouldn’t be summer without summer camp, and it wouldn’t be summer camp without a bunch of young hardcore lady-types trying to solve supernatural mysteries, right? Whether it’s three-eyed monsters, mythical beings, or dimension-jumping dinosaurs, Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley are bound to be in the thick of it, to the exasperation of their cabin mistress Jen (and the apparent obliviousness of their fellow campers). Full of humor, friendship, lady power, and wackiness, Lumberjanes is a good fun read for those who need a bit more adventure on those long summer days. The comic has been collected into three bound volumes so far, with a fourth is due to be released in July.
3. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
A story of summer friendships and becoming a teenager, This One Summer holds the rare distinction of being the first graphic novel ever to win a prestigious Caldecott Honor for illustration in children’s books. (It’s also the second graphic novel ever to be awarded a Printz Honor, the first being Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese). The book is drawn in beautiful deep purple lines and washes that are at times soothing, at other times melancholy. This One Summer perfectly captures the frustrations and unease of changing friendships and of being caught in the shifting borders between childhood and adulthood as a young teenage girl.
4. Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
What is it that’s so pure and wonderful about Calvin & Hobbes? Is it Calvin’s vivid imagination and excitement/frustration with the world? Is it the simple magic of Hobbes, the best friend everyone wants to have? For me, I think there’s definitely an element of nostalgia. Though I’m too young to have ever read the comic while it was still being syndicated, there were always a few dog-eared anthologies lying around my house, and it’s one of the first comics I ever remember reading. Although some of the most iconic strips may be Calvin’s elaborate snowmen and metaphorical sled rides, Calvin & Hobbes never really goes out of season, and Calvin’s driving desire to do whatever he wants, even nothing at all, is an urge that often seems strongest for us all during the summer. Ask around, and there’s bound to be someone in your life who has a well-worn book or two in their house somewhere, just waiting to be re-read.
5. That comic on top of your pile
You know the one I mean.That one you’ve been putting off for months because you’ve been too busy, or because you were reading something else, or because the stars simply weren’t aligned right. It’s probably sitting on top of a stack of other books you’ve been meaning to read, most of which belong to the library or to other people who eagerly pressed their personal volumes into your hands for you to read, but are really, really, hoping they’ll get that copy back one of these years soon. For me, it’s Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints, which the library is starting to doubt I’ll ever return. But now, it’s summer, and I have no excuse. It’s time to sit back porch with a cool drink and some even cooler comics to read.