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Comics/Graphic Novels

Three Novels for Comics Lovers (other than Kavalier & Clay)

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

Ok, so when people find out you’re a comic person, do they immediately ask you if you’ve read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay? People who find out I love comics always ask me if I’ve read Kavalier & Clay. And don’t get me wrong: Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is wonderful, and a must read for comics folk the world over. But it’s not the only novel that talks the language of us panel-loving folks. Here’s a top three of other suggestions for when you’re feeling less graphic, more novel.

amazing-absorbing-boy-coverThe Amazing Absorbing Boy by Rabindranath Maharaj tells the story of Samuel, a boy from Trinidad who, at 17, finds himself mourning his mother and winging his way to live with the father he doesn’t know at all in Toronto. As a way to cope with the alienation he feels in “this big mall of a country,” he imagines himself into his favourite comicswith a superpower to absorb everything he touches — a very useful power in a world where every cultural practice seems so very alien.

Death of a Superhero by Anthony McCarten is a story from New Zealand about a 14-year-old who doesn’t want to die of leukaemia while he’s still a virgin. Instead of dealing with the real world, that kind of sucks after all, he disappears into a world of comics, where superheroes and vixens replace doctors and nurses. Everyone know he absolutely has to snap out of it to get better — or does he?

road narrows as you goThe Road Narrows As You Go by Lee Henderson is a brand-spanking-new Canadian title about Wendy, a cartoonist from Victoria whose comic strip “Strays” goes from underground darling to mainstream super hit. Chock full of cameos from people like Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Gary Larson, it’s got a lot for the comics historian. And the scope of the novel and all of its cultural references are super good fun, too.

How about a few honourable mentions, too? The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem could fit on this list, too, as could some great recent non-fiction like Grant Morrison’s Supergods or Sean Howe’s (immensely readable and utterly delightful) Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

What titles would you add to my list?