My friend Angela wrote about her childhood favorite graphic novels on her blog and it reminded me about the kind of stuff I liked to read when I was little. I’m titling this post “My favorite comics” instead of “my favorite graphic novels” because: a) I like the term “graphic novel” about as much as I like the term “magical realism” (which is another post for another time.) and b) the majority of these are going to be comic strips from the Sunday paper.
I took an art class in seventh grade. We spent all of one day on cartooning and I absolutely loved it. I loved the big white board cartoonists worked on, I liked how expressive cartoons could be with very few lines, I loved how well they lend themselves to comedy. Newspaper Cartoonist became number one with a bullet on my “What I want to be when I grow up” lists, far above astronomer, artist and even writer. I had serious Calvin and Hobbes vs. Peanuts discussions.
Here is what little me looked forward to reading the most.
Cathy was genuinely my favorite comic for a while. When reading Cathy I thought “So this is what being an adult woman will be like.” Bikini angst. Shoulder pads. unfulfilling jobs. milquetoast boyfriends. hobbies: shoes, chocolate, nothing else. You lied to me, Cathy. I am so glad you lied to me.
Those apple-slice eyes are the bomb, though.
The Far Side
This comic has everything: an idiosyncratic art style, surrealism, dark humor, and cows.
On the rare occasions my brother and I could get our mom to buy us copies of Nickelodeon magazine, I would flip straight to the back in order to read Jeff Smith’s Bone. Why did I like it? It is weird. There are these weird things with the last name Bone, and a girl, and her grandmother, and they go on adventure, and there are these cows. Bone combines my love of oddball protagonists, humor, and sprawling fantasy epics.
I read this on several occasions, huddled up in the back of the library (where they kept the most shameful of books- comics and pulp science fiction novels.) I didn’t know what to think of this then. This book was nothing like my beloved newspaper strips. It makes the list because the narrative was so well done that I kept reading it even after I reached the conclusion that I should probably wait until I’m older to read it.
I still don’t know what to think of this one.
Great Lakes Avengers
It does say as a kid and a teen up there, so I guess I will pick a favorite from that strange time in high school when I actually read superhero comics.
I watched the old Adam West and Burt Ward Batman on TVLand with my dad. I grew up with Nipple Suit Batman. My brother and stepdad were reading all the dark, edgy comics like Watchmen and Frank Miller’s anything. My mom picked up Wonder Woman and anything by Gail Simone. I read along with them, but none of these grown ups in spandex taking themselves seriously spoke to me.
The Tick spoke to me. Justice League International spoke to me. The Great Lakes Whatevers spoke to me. It’s like Squirrel Girl opines: “comics are supposed to be fun.”
Fun doesn’t mean childish. Fun doesn’t mean meaningless. As much as I love Squirrel Girl, teenage me related most to Big Bertha. As supermodel Ashley Crawford, all anyone cared about was her looks. As larger than a house, morbidly obese Big Bertha, citizens tell her “why couldn’t I have been saved by a hot superhero?” All she wants in either body is for people to notice her for what she can do, not what she looks like. What teenage girl can’t relate?
(yes I know about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. yes I am super excited to check it out. Between that and Lumberjanes I might have to start my first comic subscription.)