Not all comics books are about superheroes and aliens. Some writers and illustrators, like Chicago’s own Lucy Knisley, combine the paneled, visual mode of comic books with memoir, satire, and other creative nonfiction. Perhaps best known for her New York Times-bestselling graphic memoir Relish, a celebration of our relationship with, Knisley’s next book, Something New (May 3), is about her adventures planning a DIY wedding: a feminist vs. the American marriage-industrial complex.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved fictional character—Detective Sherlock Holmes—has been adapted and modified by countless writers, filmmakers, theatre directors, and TV execs over the past century. But until Brittany Cavallaro’s YA novel, A Study in Charlotte, Sherlock had never been a teenage girl.
Finally, more than 75 years after the comics industry as we know it was born in New York City, female writers and artists—while still underrepresented—are becoming more prevalent at major publishers. As a result, fans are seeing new kinds of stories and art that they never would have experienced in the 1980s or 1990s.
12-year-old boys have enough problems without waking up one morning to find themselves the last human being on Earth. Especially not when the world has (literally) gone to pieces. The Only Living Boy—about a New York City tween who teams up with an insect princess and a mermaid warrior in a fragmented, “patchwork” version of Earth—is a wildly inventive, young-adult graphic novel from David Gallaher and Steve Ellis, last seen as co-creators of DC Comics’ werewolf/Western mashup High Moon.
It’s not often that an “existential sci-fi noir” comic book from an indy publisher gets optioned for a major motion picture. But that’s exactly what happened to Roche Limit, a trippy, trailblazingly original cross between Alien, Chinatown, and Lost, about a distant colony of humans orbiting a black hole.
The most compelling, most beautiful, most bad-ass comic book series of 2016 doesn’t feature Iron Man or Batman or any of the infinite versions of Spider-man. Angela: Queen of Hel is the story of Thor’s long-lost sister, on a Dantean quest to rescue her lover Sera from the depths of Hell (or, in Marvel’s reappropriation of Norse mythology, Hel).
In the 25 years since he “stormed out” of the Marvel Comics office in New York, Mike Mignola has created his own shared universe of occult-themed, Gothic-toned characters at Dark Horse Comics. Perhaps the most beloved of those characters, Hellboy, became a household name in the 2000s thanks to Guillermo Del Toro’s kickass movies starring Ron Perlman in the sawed-off horns.
Even if you’ve never opened a comic book, you probably know John Constantine. Co-created by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) in the 1980s, John’s a cynical, chain-smoking occult detective in a trademark trenchcoat, star of Vertigo’s Hellblazer for 15 years before moving over to DC Comics in 2013.