Celebrate the Winter Season with Comics

By Jason Larsen

Cover of Mouse Guard: Winter 1152

December is upon us and the Fall semester is winding down! The International and Area Studies Library is looking forward to the various activities of the upcoming season and has some comic recommendations in that spirit. As many of us observe different holidays or can find this time of year to be challenging mentally and/or emotionally, we wanted to focus on materials that everyone could enjoy. The below comic selections focus on the themes of seasonal weather, the love of food, and mental health/well-being. Our selections on mental health and well-being are meant to help readers understand that they are not alone in their struggles and may offer some additional coping mechanisms or inspiration. We hope you find a new favorite that provides some additional comfort as the weather gets colder.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 (David Petersen)

When looking for a comic that captures how Winter can sometimes feel in the Midwest, look no further than David Peterson’s Mouse Guard. This volume shows the impact a harsh winter has on the mice of the forest, and the need to keep their various communities connected. While the protagonists are mice, the series is rooted strongly in fantasy and adventure. The perfect thing to read while keeping warm as the season starts to roll in!

Snow Angels (Jeff Lemire and Jock)

In a desolate, icy world, two young girls are being taught the three fundamental rules to survive. However, when they push beyond the boundaries of what is known, they awaken something ancient. What began as a coming-of-age trip for the girls turns into a saga of survival, coping with loss, and finding triumph in redemption.

Get Jiro! (Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, and Langdon Foss)

Chef Anthony Bourdain was known for many things during his life, but one of his lesser know titles was comic writer. The story is set in a near future L.A. that takes food culture to a new extreme. Master chefs rule the food scene like crime lords, and people are willing to do whatever it takes to get a dining spot at the premiere restaurants. Follow sushi chef Jiro as he strikes out to forge a new way that food engages with people, even if he has to kill all the other chefs to do it.

Cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen (Lucy Knisley)

Lucy Knisley grew up with her mother being a gourmet chef. Through their relationship, she learned how food connects us all. In this unique part memoir and part recipe book (foodoir??), Lucy takes us through key moments in her life, what food was present during these moments, and life lessons she has learned through food and cooking in the kitchen.

Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes (Robin Ha)

While Relish examines the creator’s relationship with food, Robin Ha went in a different direction with her graphic novel. The book is an actual cookbook with Korean recipes and uses the comic medium as a way to illustrate the ingredients needed, provide information, and the steps to prepare the meals. The book covers 60 dishes and provides a great entry point for those who either are looking to make something new, or learn more about Korean cuisine.

Flavor (Joe Keatinge, Ali Bouzari, and Wook Jin Clark)

Food scientist and award-winning author Ali Bouzari consulted with writer Joe Keatinge to cook up something truly unique. This series takes us to a world where chefs are celebrated as rockstars…if they survive cooking school. A unique blend of fantasy adventure and culinary arts, this series takes readers along on a quest for the perfect ingredients to make a dish truly legendary.

Cover of Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo

Eat, and Love Yourself (Sweeny Boo)

This comic is a story about a young woman who is searching for the perfect body. Upon buying a candy bar that is the title of this book, she finds herself transported back in time to a specific moment of her past with each square she eats. Creator Sweeny Boo takes the reader on an honest and unflinching look at how we create our self-image, the eating disorders that impact many, and examines how to love ourselves for who we are.  

Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness (Darryl Cunningham)

This work examines 11 different mental health disorders that impact the lives of 26.2% of the American population daily. The stories are grounded through the creator’s time working in a psychiatric ward and provide the point of view of not just those experiencing the illness but also of their friends and family. The creator made this book as a way to try and destigmatize the common misconceptions around these mental illnesses.

This is How I Disappear (Mirion Malle, Aleshia Jensen, and Bronwyn Haslem)

Creator Mirion Malle examines how young adults cope with mental health. The story centers on the stress and trauma experienced by a young woman after a sexual assault. The comic explores how the young woman can find self-love and relief in light of the effects that depression, isolation, and thoughts of self-harm have on her life in the wake of her traumatic event. With the help of her friends, sisterhood, and therapy she begins the process of healing and discovering ways to survive and thrive.

Cover of How to be ACE: A Memoir of Growing up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess

How to be ACE (Rebecca Burgess)

Creator Rebecca Burgess’s memoir explores her life as she learned to navigate being ACE in a world that is sex focused. Whether it is discussing discovering her asexual identity during her early years, or exploring the impact on her work and her relationships, the creator provides the reader with an unflinching look at the life struggles and men

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Native/Indigenous Representation in Comics

By Jason Larsen

Image showing the covers of Moonshot and Earth Divers

November is National American Indian Heritage Month and the University Library comic collection wants to pay tribute to Native/Indigenous people by sharing our comic recommendations. We believe these selections highlight some great works that will show readers Indigenous characters that were either created by Indigenous creators and/or represented in a non-deficient way in the stories.  

The Native/Indigenous people of North America have endured a continuous cycle of disrespect and devaluation of their culture, bodies, and sovereignty so the materials below may contain subjects or materials that are uncomfortable to read and/or intense in their nature. And equally important is to recognize the Native/Indigenous people whose land we occupy at UIUC so we ask that you please read the University’s Land Acknowledgement statement here

Comics Available on the Shelf 

Deer Woman: An Anthology (Various) 

Rape and violent sexual acts are committed against Native/Indigenous women at a rate more than 2.5 times of any other ethnicity. This anthology provides an access point to learn more about the violence that targets Native/Indigenous women across North America. It contains over a dozen stories from Native women sharing stories not just about the violence itself but surviving, healing from it, and finding empowerment from their experiences. 

The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book (Gord Hill) 

Many of us have been taught that colonial settlement was some sort of natural expansion into undeveloped spaces. In reality, it was an invasion of Native/Indigenous people’s lands and cultures. Creator Gord Hill’s expanded and revised work has become a seminal testimony about the resistance of the Native/Indigenous peoples against the various colonial incursions over the last five centuries. The book examines nine different confrontation points in history beginning with the Spanish conquest of the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan empires and moving forward to the 2020 pipeline protests in Canada. 

If I Go Missing (Brianna Jonnie, Nahanni Shingoose, and Neal Shannacappo) 

This semi-fictional story focuses on excerpts from a real letter written by an Indigenous Canadian teenager to the Winnipeg Chief of Police that went viral. The story focuses on the of neglect local authorities both in conducting investigations and in notifying the public of missing Indigenous girls and women. The letter is especially chilling as it calls for them to “not treat me as the Indigenous person I am proud to be” so that she might be found if she were to go missing. 

Moonshot Indigenous Comics Collection Vol. 1 (Various) 

If you are looking to explore what types of Native/Indigenous creators are out there then this series is for you. This is the first volume of an ongoing anthology series that highlights stories created by various Native/Indigenous creators. Volume one contains 14 different stories that range from traditional stories given new form to Indigenous Futurism.    

Come home, Indio: a memoir (Jim Terry) 

Creator Jim Terry’s autobiography explores his struggles from childhood to early adulthood. Whether living in the Ho-Chunk community in Wisconsin or with his peers in the suburbs of Chicago, he struggled with finding his place in either world. Those years would lead to battling with alcoholism and finding sobriety, and eventually walking a path of discovery that ended at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Follow his struggles through these challenges as he finds hope and belief in something more. 

Image of cover of Come Home, Indio comic

UNeducation, Vol 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel (Jason EagleSpeaker) 

There was a more recent period in history that neither Canada nor the United States acknowledges very well– the Residential/Boarding School Era. This was a period when both countries forcefully took Native/Indigenous children from their families to “properly” educate them. This era ran well into the 1920s and creator Jason EagleSpeaker’s book takes true stories of this dark period and provides us with an unflinching look at the troubled history both countries have with this system and the impact this still has on generations of Native/Indigenous families today. 

Comics Available and Forthcoming in ComicsPlus 

Apache Delivery Service (Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins) 

This horror action series focuses on a pair of soldiers in Vietnam. They come across rumors of a gold treasure buried in the jungle by Japan during World War II. They decide it is time to leave the war and seek their fortune. What starts out as a treasure hunt turns into a twisting spiral of paranoia. The closer they get to the gold, the more they start to distrust each other. And if that wasn’t enough, a serial killer seems to be stalking the pair through the jungle. 

Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain: The Story of Chief Joseph and the Nez (Agnieszka Biskup and Rusty Zimmerman) 

A biographical story of a specific period of the Native American chief who wanted to peacefully exist in the West. The story follows the chief as he has to lead his people, the Nez Perce, in a fighting retreat from the US Army after violent encounters lead his people to attempt to flee to Canada and join Sitting Bull’s Lakota in seeking political asylum.   

Earthdivers: Book One: Kill Columbus (Stephen Graham Jones and Davide Gianfelice)*(coming soon) 

In the year 2112 the world has become what had been predicted, an unfixable ecological disaster. A group of Indigenous survivors find a way to travel in time and determine the pivot point in history where everything went wrong when the New World was discovered. Their plan? Kill Christopher Columbus before he sets the future in motion. But could there be different consequences to those left in the present by doing so? 

Image of cover of Earth Divers

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band (Christian Staebler, Sonia Paoloni, and Thibault Balahy) 

Redbone is a true journalistic biography, done with cooperation of the family, about two Native American brothers who created an all-Native American Rock band on their terms. Follow the brothers and the band through music history as their aspirations for rock and roll success come up against their cultural identity and pride during the American Indian Movement. And if you think you haven’t heard their music before, if you watched Guardians of the Galaxy, then you would be wrong. 

If you are unfamiliar with the ComicsPlus application, the service provides our students, staff, and patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 87 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.  

Welcome to ComicsPlus 

How to Locate and Access ComicsPlus 

Additional Resources on Native/Indigenous Comics 

If you like any of the selections above, or are interested but looking for something different to read, we encourage you to explore the links below. These will take you to additional resources about Native/Indigenous comics where you can explore the many facets of work available and find your next new favorite comic! 

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Comics to Thrill, Chill, and Scare You!

By Jason Larsen

Covers of comics mentioned in this blog post

The University Library comic collection offers an impressive array of comics between the holdings in the Main Stacks as well as those available in the ComicsPlus application! To celebrate the arrival of Fall, and the creeping approach of Halloween, we wanted to share some comic recommendations that we thought might offer up skin-crawling goose bumps, bone-chilling thrills, or dare we say… mind-numbing fear?!

6 Comics Available on the Shelf

BTTM FDRS (Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore)

An aspiring fashion designer and her vain friend move to a warehouse in a blighted Chicago neighborhood because the rent is so cheap. They soon find there is something dark and dangerous in the walls of their new home. Using the backdrops of gentrification and urban blight this book is an Afrofuturist-centered tale of horror and cultural appropriation.

The Crossroads at Midnight (Abby Howard)

 An anthology of five stories that each explore what happens when the lonely are willing (or desperate) enough to seek out connections with the things that go bump in the night. Will these creatures be the comfort or true friends they are seeking? Or are they pretending to be a friend to those lonely souls while waiting for the perfect moment to reveal their true natures?

Friend of the Devil: A Reckless Book (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips)

In the mid-1980s a former 60s radical, who happened to be a federal agent, has a career as a privately contracted problem solver. When a friend asks him to help find her missing sister, he finds himself thrown deep into the dark underbelly of Hollywood’s 70s occult movement. Will he find the truth behind the missing women or are some things best left buried?

Cover of Friend of the Devil comic

I Breathed a Body (Zac Thompson and Andy MacDonald)

A book that takes social media and influencer culture and mashes it up with body and science fiction horror! The story centers on the world’s largest influencer committing a horrific act online and follows what his social media manager is willing to do to make it a viral sensation… what could possibly go wrong?

Something is Killing the Children (James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera)

In a small middle American town, local children are going missing in a disturbing number yet the town seems largely unmoved by these events. The children who do make it home tell tales of monstrous creatures in the shadows around the town. All hope seems lost until a mysterious woman arrives whose mission is simple, kill all the monsters no matter what the cost.

Stray Dogs (Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner)

Find out what happens when Silence of the Lambs meets the artistic style of All Dogs Go to Heaven. Sophie awakens to find herself in a strange place with fragmented memories of something horrific. As she starts to figure out where she is and what happened, she also realizes she must find a way to survive. Oh, did we forget to mention that Sophie is a dog?

6 Comics Available in ComicsPlus

Abbott (Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivelä)

Meet Elena Abbott. She is the toughest tabloid reporter in the city and is recovering from a deep loss. She is on a mission to investigate a series of gruesome crimes the police are ignoring. Not only does she plan to expose the crimes, but also to destroy the dark forces behind them in search for the truth.

Ghost Tree (Bobby Curnow and Simon Gane)

The story of a man seeking shelter from the storms of life in his ancestral home. He discovers a tree on the property that seems to draw in the souls of the dead. Can he find some solace for his troubles by helping the souls of the tree resolve their own traumatic pasts? Or will he find that the unliving can be just as cold as those who remain behind?

Cover of Ghost Tree Comic

Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession (Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell)

New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell explores why as a society we are so into enjoying true crime stories. In this memoir, she explores several facets of the genre like armchair sleuthing and high-profile murders cases. And while she does focus on the thrilling aspects, she also takes time to examine the cultural criticism of the genre and the most often forgotten part of these stories, the victims and their families.

The Neil Gaiman Library Volume 1 (Neil Gaiman and Various)

While many readers may be familiar with Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic work The Sandman, many may not know of his other horror/thriller works that he has created outside of his prose novels. This library edition collects four of these smaller graphic novel works into one collection. This volume contains stories ranging from Sherlock Holmes imagined in Lovecraftian terms to an unheard-of murder in heaven and the consequences it brings.

Trese Vol #1: Murder on Balete Drive (Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo)

The debut series from Filipino comic creators Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo focuses on the creatures in the dark and other things that go bump in the night in Manila’s streets. When crimes involving these occur, the police turn to Alexandra Trese for help. Follow Alexandra as she battles these and other terrors of the night in the quest for justice.

Your Turn to Die: Majority Vote Death Game, Vol. 1 (Nankidai and Tatsuya Ikegami)

Life ling friends Sara and Joe are kidnapped and awaken locked to strange tables. As this nightmare world unfolds it becomes clear death is coming. Sara has always known Joe to be selfless and would be willing to take a bullet for her. However, as the disturbing game unfolds, it becomes clear that Joe has the means to save only one of them. Is their wit, trust, and friendship strong enough to save them both?

Cover of Your Turn to Die

6 Comics of Honorable Mention

The below comics, while amazing, just didn’t quite make the…cut. Check them out if you dare!

While the above are our favorite picks, there are many more to choose from between both the catalog and the ComicsPlus application. Some wonderful features about the ComicsPlus Application are it can be viewed on any computer or mobile device and the content is free to all university faculty, staff, and students. We encourage you to not only try out our picks but to explore and find your next new favorite comic.

If you are unfamiliar with the ComicsPlus application, the service provides our students, staff, and patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 86 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.

Welcome to ComicsPlus

How to Locate and Access ComicsPlus

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Ten Great Comics to Celebrate Black History Month

By Jason Larsen 

A screen capture of the Comics Plus app featuring their Black History Month selections.

The Comics Plus app is a great way to read comics online. This month they are also featuring comics by Black creators in honor of Black History month.

The University of Illinois Library maintains a diverse offering of comics not only in our main stacks but also through our Comics Plus application. A couple of the wonderful features about the Comics Plus Application is that you can view it on any computer or mobile device and the content is free to all university faculty, staff, and students.

In celebration of Black History Month, we wanted to share some of our comic recommendations that we feel highlight Black creators or history in comics. We encourage you to check on the works below in the application and/or explore to find your own new favorites.

Anthology – Black Comix Returns (Damien Duffy, John Jennings, Various)

This offering is the second in the series and not only highlights work from various independent Black creators in different genres but also has a direct connection to the University of Illinois. The series is in part compiled by our own alumnus, Dr. Damien Duffy. If you are looking to get a sampling of the types of comic materials out there then look no further than this series.

Biography – Fame: Lil Nas X (Darren G. Davis and Victor Moura)

Lil Nas X is an award-winning rapper whose rise to fame in the last several years has earned the notice of national magazines like Time and Forbes who note he has become an influential force in today’s music scene. This recent release is the story of Lil Nas X’s early years in Atlanta to his breakout hit “Old Town Road”.

Comic Strips – The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper (Aaron McGruder)

This groundbreaking strip took newspapers by storm with its unique art style and no holds barred take on social topics we are still struggling with today. It also spawned a successful, if not equally controversial, animated cartoon that ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. While there has been no new Boondocks material for some time, you can still enjoy it from the beginning with this first collected volume of the newspaper strips.

Comic Studies – Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books (Ken Quattro, Alvin Hollingsworth, E.C. Stoner, and Matt Baker)

The tapestry of American comic books is composed of stories created by a multitude of creators. However, much like other fields, the early contributions of Black creators were omitted from the narrative in favor of names we are all familiar with today. This book is the culmination of 20 years of research that explores the Black pioneers of early American comics that should not be missed.

The cover of "Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books" by Ken Quattro, Alvin Hollingsworth, E.C. Stoner, and Matt Baker

Fantasy – Djeliya (Juni Ba)

A fantasy graphic novel set in a world inspired by West African folklore and cultural stories going back centuries. Creator Juni Ba takes us on a wild and winding quest that not only touches on trying to save a dying world but also learning the deeper secrets to myths and traditions that make up a culture along the way.

Historical Fiction/Mystery – Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (Mat Johnson)

A unique and chilling suspense mystery set in the early 20th Century American South era of public lynching. African American men who could “pass” as white and attempt to expose these atrocities were known as going “incognegro”. A New York reporter goes to the South to investigate the arrest of a black man for the murder of white woman before they become the next victim of a lynch mob. Can this reporter successfully expose the truth about the murder and the secrets he uncovers while “incognegro” when the accused is his own brother?

History/Biography – Billie Holliday (Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz)

Billie Holliday’s song “Strange Fruit” brought the lynchings in the South to the forefront of US culture in 1939. Yet despite her career being tied to this powerful protest song, her life was marred by controversy and addiction. This biography explores her life and seeks the truth in an attempt to correct the record about the singer’s life and legacy.

LGBTQ +/Romance – The Sacrifice of Darkness (Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, James Fenner, and Rebecca Kirby)

Bestselling author Roxane Gay takes her short story and expands it into a full-length graphic novel. Set in a dystopian world forever covered by darkness there is little light to be found. Follow one woman’s journey that explores the boundaries of family, identity, love, and survival while discovering if light can exist when the world is nothing but darkness.

Cover of "The Sacrifice of Darkness" by Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne Oliver, James Fenner, and Rebecca Kirby.

Nonfiction/Comic Reference – The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community (2020-2021) (Dimitrios Fragiskatos, George Carmona 3rd, Joseph Illidge, and Various)

A guide that will serve all readers and fans who are new to comics, those who are experienced comic readers, and everyone in between. The guide is a collection of publishers, stores, and other similar resources that provide the reader with a plethora of information to help them navigate and further explore of the Black comic book community.

Cover of "The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community (2020-2021)" by Dimitrios Fragiskatos, George Carmona 3rd, Joseph Illidge, and Various.

Science Fiction – LaGuardia (Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford)

Set on an Earth that has become a destination hub for aliens this story explores themes of immigration, refugees, and equal rights through the lens of science fiction. Follow Nigerian-American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka and her illegal plant alien as they flee to New York. They will not only find themselves navigating the worlds of activism but also of impending parenthood in a country that is historically anything but welcoming to those who are different.

While the above are our favorite picks, there are many more to choose from on the Comics Plus application. We encourage you to not only try out our selections but also to explore the application and find your next new favorite comic. If you are unfamiliar with the Comics Plus application, the service provides our patrons with access to over 20,000 comics from 86 different publishers in a digital format. Check out the video links below as they provide additional details on the application.

Welcome to Comics Plus

How to Locate and Access Comics Plus

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