SCC Get Your Comic On : 10 Graphic Novels You Should Check Out from the Ray Howard Library

Emerald City Comicon this year included sightings of Stan Lee, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from the “Harry Potter” movies), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from “Stranger Things”) and SCC librarians Lauren Bryant and Chloe Horning.

Comicon is a comic book and pop culture convention March 2-5 that Bryant and Horning attend for professional development. While there, Bryant says her plan was to talk with artists and publishers to find out what new and exciting things are in store for comic book readers. Bryant says she wants to make sure that SCC’s graphic novel collection is amazing.

The Ray Howard Library was recently approved for a graphic novel budget of $2,000 over a period of three years. Horning says that although she’s happy to have this budget, it will not go far when buying books, so they will have to choose their selections very carefully.

The plan is to increase the collection, which filled about half of a bookshelf a year ago, to three bookshelves front and back. Many of the books have already been purchased, and Bryant says they will begin trickling out soon.

According to Bryant, evidence shows that people who read graphic novels are more comfortable reading other books. She seems to view them as gateway books and she is excited to see how many graphic novels are checked out at SCC.

With several students who are learning English as a second language or who are working on reading skills, Bryant feels a great graphic novel selection at SCC is important. When reading graphic novels, she says, students who are in ESL can connect written words with pictures in a way that builds vocabulary.

Another aspect that Bryant appreciates about graphic novels is that they tackle adult themes. They provide framework that makes content easier to understand without making plotlines childish.

In addition to being great learning tools, Bryant says that graphic novels can just be fun for everyone. She is a fan of Batman, and wants to make sure that in addition to literary comics, the collection at SCC also includes fun superheroes.

In growing the collection, Bryant says the library would like to diversify the selection to include protagonists who are female, people of color and LGBTQ, as well as those who belong to other underrepresented groups.

Bryant points out that the library’s collection now includes “Ms. Marvel,” who is a young Muslim woman who wears a hijab, and “Kindred,” a novel by Octavia Butler (the inspiration for SCC’s Community Read, “Octavia’s Brood”) put into comic form.

With more graphic novels rolling in, I’m excited to get my hands on some of them. Note to the person who has checked out Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates, please turn it in as soon as you’re finished because I want to read it next. 🙂

For anyone who isn’t sure where to get started, here are some of my favorite graphic novels that you can find in the Ray Howard Library:

“Saga” Vols. 1-6 by Brian K. Vaughan

Bounty hunters, people with computers for heads, space travel, drugs, pro wrestling — “Saga” checks all these boxes. Hazel’s mom has wings and her dad has horns. They are from warring species and should hate each other. Hazel narrates the complicated story of how they how they met and the trouble that surrounds them. SCC’s library has six volumes in this series, and you should read all of them.

“Jessica Jones: Alias” Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

She has super powers, but she’d rather not use them — Jessica Jones is a complicated character. She swears a lot, goes on dates with Ant Man and kicks a bunch of ass. Watch “Jessica Jones” on Netflix, and when you want more, check out this graphic novel and Netflix’s “Luke Cage.”

Adorable Badassery
“Nimona” by Noelle Stevenson

As an apprentice super villain, teenage Nimona is even more excited about evil than her mentor, Lord Blackheart. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the book and the odd couple relationship between Nimona and Blackheart add levity to her ruthlessness. Expect twists and turns.

Mental Health Memoir
“Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me” by Ellen Forney

Local cartoonist Ellen Forney wonders about the relationship between mental illness and creativity. She tells her story of trying to manage bipolar disorder without destroying an essential part of herself. She looks at the lives of historical creative people and their experiences with mental illness.

A Bit Little Sci-Fi, A Little Bit Rock ‘N’ Roll
“Black Hole” by Charles Burns

The setting is an alternate reality where 1970s Seattle is plagued by an STD that causes unpredictable mutations — a tail for one person, a mouth growing out of someone else’s neck, etc. The story follows four teenagers and how the disease impacts their lives.

“Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened” by Allie Brosh

This book compiles bizarre, embarrassing and sad autobiographical stories by webcomic-er Allie Brosh. Drawn in a charmingly childish way with a simple computer program, Bosh has managed to create something that is tragic-larious.

Feminism FTW
“Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machines” by Kelly Sue DeConnick

In a dystopian future, noncompliant women are sent to live on a prison planet. As a team from Bitch Planet is formed for a popular televised fighting program, readers are introduced to an interesting handful of inmates. Storylines are inspired by exploitation films of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Wacky Premise, Fun Story
“Sex Criminals Vol. 1, One Weird Trick” by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Suzie realizes from a young age that when she has an orgasm, it stops time for everyone but her. As an adult she learns that she is not the only one with this ability, considers the benefits of stopping time for committing crimes, and meets a nemesis who she calls Kegel Face.

Feeling Like an Outcast
“El Deafo” by Cece Bell

Inspired by her own childhood, Cece Bell tells a story of a girl who goes deaf at the age of 4. Her mission throughout the story is to find a friend who does not treat her differently because of her deafness. Cece imagines herself as a superhero, crushes on the cute neighbor boy and is able to hear her teacher peeing. Plus everyone in the story is drawn as a rabbit.

Live Girl + Dead Girl = Antics
“Anya’s Ghost” by Vera Brosgol

Anya is a high schooler who is trying to shake her Russian heritage and appear “normal.” When she meets a ghost, she has some good times and some bad times, and she learns a lesson or two. It’s a little like someone added a ghost to an after-school special — which might not sound cool, but it is.

If you want more ideas on what to check out, Bryant and Horning are easy to find in the library and more than happy to give suggestions. You can also visit the Ray W. Howard Library Youtube channel, where Bryant and Horning have posted a series of short videos recommending graphic novels called “Books for Busy Students.”

-Coral Nafziger