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3 Best Biographical Comics of 2018

A Designer’s List of Favorites

If your strongest attraction to comics is for the most visually exceptional ones, then there’s a chance that you just might be me. And if you also find yourself reflecting on the most memorable and engaging graphic narratives you’ve encountered this year, then you – a.k.a. I – also might feel compelled to share your findings with printmag.com readers. So let’s get started then, with three outstanding biography comics.

icon artist: Elsa Charretier

Femme Magnifique: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World

editor: Shelly Bond (Black Crown)

In Femme Magnifique, Michelle Obama is quoted as saying, “We’ve got a responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who come before us by doing all that we can to help those who come after us.” And that, in a nutshell, is what this book is helping to accomplish. Appropriately subtitled 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed The World, it includes biographies of Michelle and of Hillary Clinton, Harriet Tubman and Margaret Sanger, Disney’s Mary Blair and Brenda Starr’s Dale Messick, Björk and Laurie Anderson, Ursula K. Le Guin and Elizabeth Cady Stanton… you get the idea.

With each profile limited to three or four pages max, Femme Magnifique serves as a quick sampler of worthy role models who have made, and are still making, significant differences in our world. The diverse international array of a hundred-plus artists and writers include Gail Simone, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gilbert Hernandez, Elsa Charretier, Ronald Wimberly, Jill Thompson, Sonny Liew, Annie Wu, and Hope Nicholson.

The best way to wrap up this write-up would be to wish the best for the admirable goals of Femme Magnifique’s editor, Shelley Bond: “We want it in every bedroom, boardroom, and library to educate and empower.”

artist: Teddy Kristiansen

artist: Jen Hickman

artist: Jason Shawn Alexander

artist: Dan Parent

artist: Rob Davis

artist: Gilbert Hernandez

artist: Bill Sienkiewicz (click to enlarge)

artists: Shawn McManus and Marguerite Sauvage (click to enlarge)

artist: Lee Garbett

• • •


author: Thierry Smolderen, illustrator: Jean-Phillipe Bramanti (Titan Comics)

Winsor McCay’s life alone is rich enough to fill a solid, straightforward graphic novel. Just for starters, he was a legendary comic strip artist, a pioneering animator, a vaudeville showman, and a political cartoonist. And with his Slumberland, sneezing Sammy, and rarebit fiends, he was a Surrealist for the masses decades before André Breton even dreamed of such a movement. And hey, McCay was investigating nightmares even before Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams made it to America’s shores. So it’s only fitting that Thierry Smolderen’s McCay script indulges itself in hallucinatory flights of fantasy and becomes a meditation on dreams and realities, on being and non-being.

Jean-Phillipe Bramanti’s art is equally ambitious, as it combines Little Nemo and McCay’s other vintage newspaper funnies with photographic realism, and expands these vivid visions into soft-focus reveries of the fourth-dimensional kind.

Smolderen and Bramanti’s McCay is the stuff that dreams are made of… and magically, much more.

• • •

The Provocative Colette

writer/artist: Annie Goetzinger (NBM Comics Biographies)

Annie Goetzinger took full advantage of her experience as a set designer and fashion illustrator in creating her graphic novel biographies. From Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen’s France during the 18th Century and the 1930s to the excellent Girl in Dior’s midcentury Paris, she’s unparalleled in evoking each setting in all its stylish, sumptuously elegance. Her latest and sadly, last work, The Provocative Colette, takes us from the Belle Époque into the early 20th Century with first-rate flair and finesse. The book is a sumptuous feast, from the subtle, sophisticated scenic details and stage lighting to her delicate, sensuous fabrics and hairstyles.

Goetzinger’s subject, the proud, defiant author and journalist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, may not be familiar to American audiences, but France has long respected and revered her as a national treasure. Her 1944 novella Gigi was made into a musical that garnered nine Academy Awards, but Colette herself received many honors in her lifetime, including a Nobel Prize in Literature nomination. Goetzinger focuses on her evolution from a country girl into a determined, liberated woman who scandalized Europe with her racy novels, risqué theatrical performances, and promiscuous lifestyle.

In summary, The Provocative Colette is a glorious, lovingly rendered, well-deserved celebration of one of the past century’s most outstanding literary figures.

(click to enlarge)

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