I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. Like many of you, I’m not a huge fan of too much mental downtime, and as this whole shelter-in-place thing has stretched into its second month I’ve felt an increasing need to fill some of the empty spots between my ears. I’ve done so, at least in part, my giving myself little challenges that feel productive, if only to me. I’ve improved my bread baking skills. I’ve taken on knitting projects for which I had to learn new stitches. I made my first soufflé. I wrote a horror novella.
Some of these challenges have gone well. Some have been less successful (why does this lace pattern scarf suddenly have 107 stitches? I don’t…damn it). As I was contemplating the sum total the other day, however, I realized I hadn’t yet done any sort of comics challenge.
And thus Comics A–Z was born.
I’m going to pick a topic and then I’m going to find y’all a book for (hopefully) every letter of the alphabet under that general umbrella. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inundate you with 26 recommendations at once; we’ll go with 4–6 per post.
Since we’re all (rightfully) very much in our feelings at the moment, let’s start with EMOTIONS.
Sometimes being kind is difficult, even when the person who needs that kindness is your best friend. In Jen Wang’s Stargazing, Christine doesn’t expect the artistic, spontaneous Moon, who loves K-pop and paints Christine’s toenails in secret, to be the sister she’s always longed for, but the two come to share that bond nonetheless. When Moon starts making other friends, though, and isn’t always available when Christine needs her, Christine does something that isn’t very kind at all. And when she finds out that not all of Moon’s “magic” comes from a happy, imaginary place, fear makes it hard for her to her way back to giving of herself.
Once, he was the Immortal Dragon and the fiercest members of the Yakuza trembled at a mere whisper of his name. Now, all he wants is be a househusband to his beloved, hardworking wife. He wants to out-dust the robot vacuum, remove the most stubborn of stains from white shirts, find the best deals on cabbage, and craft Instagram-worthy bento box lunches. Those who feared him, however, mistake longing for softness and think they can now come for him with impunity.
Kousuke Ono’s The Way of The Househusband is absurd and delightful and surprisingly moving in Tatsu’s quest for a new life, in his devotion to his wife, and in his utter and absolute joy in the every day. Of course, watching him handle would be assassins is pretty spectacular as well.
Kim and Kim are space bounty hunters. They really love killing people. I stan a trans woman and her queer girl partner running among the stars, getting into trouble, and getting out of it together. While they may, at times during This Glamorous, High-Flying, Rock Star Life, be 100% outmatched, they are never outwitted and they never lose their extremely neon “fuck you” sparks. Right now, we have to follow the rules to keep ourselves and those we love safe. So let your imagination go on an extremely out there and oh-so joyful galactic Winnebago ride.
We all tell little white lies. For the most part, they aren’t intended to harm anyone. “We’re out of M&Ms” isn’t something I say to be mean to my kids; it’s something I say when we’re almost out of M&Ms and I know I’m going to need that remaining handful later because we’ve been trapped in the house for two months and Jesus Horatio Christ give me some damn chocolate.
Morimoto, protagonist of Kodama Naoko’s I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up, has no intention of hurting her parents when she tells them she’s married her best friend. It’s a white lie, a naughty lie, one she can undo with some paperwork and a nominal fee in the future. If they weren’t pressuring her to find a man, she wouldn’t have to lie at all! But she likes her job and her life and she doesn’t need anyone to complete her.
No one does ornery like Geralt of Rivia and, if you’re very lucky, you can read all about it in two languages. Alas, I don’t speak or read Polish or even Yiddish, which would probably come close to squeaking me by (Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin have failed me). Lament not, though, friends, because Dark Horse has put out two The Witcher mini-series in English, each comprised of four issues, and CD Projekt RED has posted four additional strips to their Facebook page as part of a separate series. There was, at one time, a plan for a graphic novel series that would cover the events of the 17 billion Witcher novels (okay fine, six and 2 short story collections); that plan was scrapped but I wouldn’t be shocked if, with the immense popularity of the Netflix show reviving interest in the property, we heard plans of its resurrection or for other in-universe comic projects.
Fifteen down, 11 to go! Where to once we’ve conquered emotions? I’m thinking heroes, but if you have another idea you can hit us up on Twitter at @BookRiot!