When some of the biggest names in sequential art gather Friday for the Eisner Awards, the so-called “Oscars of comics” held during San Diego Comic-Con, the ceremony will unofficially kick off the industry’s season of plaques and plaudits.
While authors ranging from Tom King (the ex-CIA agent turned superhero-writing star) to Nick Drnaso (who recently scored a trailblazing Man Booker Prize nomination) have garnered headlines and secured front-runner status, there are other creators whose eligible recent titles shouldn’t be overlooked.
Here are seven books that deserve a share of the spotlight:
“All the Answers: A Graphic Memoir,” by Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)
If the attention paid to recent “Jeopardy!” record-setter James Holzhauer seemed excessive, imagine that same treatment lasting years — for a contestant who is 7 years old. That’s the fascinating true story of 1950s “Quiz Kids” star Joel Kupperman, the father of Eisner-winning cartoonist Michael Kupperman, whose sense of rich detail and retro-aesthetic art make this book a thoroughly winning read.
“Come Again,” by Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
Powell, the artist for the National Book Award-winning “March” series, continues to be a master of evocative chiaroscuro that deepens the texture of his storytelling. His style befits this bewitching tale of 1970s-era secrets nestled in the Ozarks.
“Woman World,” by Aminder Dhaliwal (Drawn and Quarterly)
More than a decade after the epic androcide comic “Y: The Last Man” ended, Dhaliwal plays with the concept of men meeting their expiration date in this collection of slyly thoughtful strips that form a mosaic of humorous and insightful world-building in which women shape their post-dude civilization.
“The Goat Getters,” by Eddie Campbell (IDW)
Campbell, the eclectic “From Hell” artist, achieves a feat of archival archaeology, digging up the roots of daily newspaper comic strips and tracing them back to the sports cartooning world of early 20th-century San Francisco. Such legendary creators as Rube Goldberg, George Herriman (“Krazy Kat”) and Bud Fisher (“Mutt and Jeff”) leap from news clippings and vintage illustrations as upstart cartoonists who “reinvented comics” while also covering gritty stories of sociopolitics, race and crimes of passion for Bay Area papers.
“Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World,” by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second)
Bagieu, the French graphic novelist (“California Dreamin’ ”), here creates a YA-friendly pastiche of 29 bio-comics, ranging from female performers turned politically minded stars, such as Hedy Lamarr and Josephine Baker, to such warrior spirits as 19th-century Apache shaman Lozen and the 17th-century African queen Nzinga. The stories share Bagieu’s warm lines and inviting palettes — yet the power of purpose that ripples through these lives is always the boldest stroke.
“Puerto Rico Strong: A Comics Anthology Supporting Puerto Rico Disaster, by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz and Neil Schwartz (Lion Forge)
This charitable anthology, released in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s destruction, is a deep dive into Puerto Rican culture with tales ranging from “Taino warriors taking a stand against colonization and Puerto Rico’s ugly history of forced sterilization to Puerto Rican pride and even space exploration,” The Washington Post’s David Betancourt wrote last year. The artistry and authentic knowledge make this a standout.
“Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists,” by Martha Kennedy with Carla D. Hayden (University Press of Mississippi)
Treasures from the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division get put on display in this scholarly work, which traces the journey of American women who overcame obstacles to create art that pushed against the expectations of their era. From West-venturing 1890s artist Mary Hallock Foote to Alison Bechdel (“Fun Home”) and the New Yorker’s Roz Chast today, this is an illuminating tome and an overdue showcase.