I wanted to create a curated comics list that reflected my identity through comics. These are things that speak to who I am as a creator and person (they’re one and the same), and things that inspire me as an illustrator and storyteller. First off, my identity is a complexity of many parts, but many of them are marginalized. Finding work that represents one let alone any part of my identity is very difficult. I still love a good story! But the joy of finding yourself or one of your beliefs represented in a story is so powerful. I believe that comics as a medium hold such great power to accomplish this because they can so skillfully combine narrative and visuals. I hope you pick up one or all of these!
Originally I read Your Black Friend as the one shot zine and it made me so happy to see the black experience represented in such an honest and funny matter. (To see it represented at all). I really love Ben Passmore’s work and Other Strangers improves on what I had already loved in the zine, for example queer and trans representation. Through these shorts,we are forced to acknowledge the discomfort of racism, as well as how it can happen in microaggressions by people who are supposed to be our friends or allies. I hope folks who read this can take a second and sit with how they navigate conversations with their BIPOC pals, and maybe be better!
On top of everything else, I’m a book seller at Page & Panel:The TCAF shop. Jamila Rowser came to Toronto Comics Art Festival this year and I was glad I got to meet her briefly. We were able to sell copies of Wash Day, and seeing black folks see this book and express their happiness is the best part of my job. I also love this book because I don’t think people understand the WORK that goes into maintaining black hair. To have that represented with such beautiful art is something I treasure. It took me a long time to realize I could love my natural hair, but with that came learning to take care of it. I’m happy this book exists specifically for children, or so anybody struggling with this can see themselves represented and loved.
Jeremiah by Cathy G.Johnson is a book I come back to time and time again. I was really impacted by the strong storytelling, combined with the beauty of Cathy’s watercolour work. It reminds me of a Sufjan Steven’s song in the musicality of how we sequentially see the story unfold. This book is also sad, but I can’t help wanting to read it over and over. There is such tenderness in this portrayal of longing. Content warnings for loss and family trauma. Cathy always runs a really great and informative podcast related to comics called Drawing a Dialogue with E.Jackson.
I’m non-binary, but this was something it took me awhile to figure out. There are a lot of signs and explanations that you don’t really have the language for as you’re growing up. Reading through Gender Queer, I found so many familiar aspects of myself. It’s nice when you’re on a journey that can feel really lonely, to find that recognition in another person. This is a really great memoir handled with a lot of care and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I’m grateful it exists so younger folks, or anyone really, can read this text and maybe feel a little lighter after.
Maggie Umber’s work is so beautiful and such a love letter to representations of nature. What I love about this work is how it’s completely silent, allowing the images to be the narrative. I love comics that aren’t over saturated with dialogue and words, and especially those that elevate representations of nature. This is such a skillful book and I think it relates to what I try to accomplish in my own comic work.
Junji Ito is my horror father figure. He is so skillful in his line work and the way his stories are structured are so brilliantly horrific. I love transposing body horror into my work and his line work is something I strive to accomplish with my inking. He can ink directly, without any pencil! That is such a masterful skill I can only hope to one day accomplish. I love Uzumaki as a story because it’s just so weird and really doesn’t make much sense, but it’s hard to put down. There are spirals everywhere. Your body is a spiral, your hair is a spiral, your village? A spiral. It’s such a wacky concept that he still manages to make absolutely horrific.
I hope you like my comics picks! There should be something for everyone in there. I really love to read across genres but when it comes down to it, I just love a good story or the support of own voices in comics. The Canada Comics Open Library method of categorizing their comics is such a brilliant way to discover queer and BIPOC stories, so take advantage of it at the Canada Comics Open Library @ Centre for Social Innovation, 585 Dundas St E 3rd Floor, Toronto, ON M5A 2B7.