Staff picks: Top Comics of 2023

Introduction

 Another year has come and gone, and the Features Team is proud to share our favorite titles from 2023. We hope you have a chance to revisit some favorites and discover new ones! 

Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith

Boulet

Cover Image

Generations of kids have helped build the kingdom that leads to the haven known as Treeheart, a perfect paradise for kids away from adults. But then Grindle, a hater of children, invades their country and starts cleaning house and turning kids into teens. Only the heroic Bea Wolf can stand against Grindle's threat, bearing her brave face against his bold maneuvers. Yes, this is a re-telling of Beowulf set in the modern day, about kids versus adults, and yes it is as delightful as that sounds.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy tabletop games or adjacent media might enjoy Bea Wolf for the obvious heroic overtones, and the comedy of this comic can appeal to fans of sillier stories. This comic has a pretty wide range of appeal because younger kids might enjoy just looking through the pictures while adults and older kids can appreciate the story and how effectively it adapts the original poem.

Creator Identities:

French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Boys Weekend

Mattie Lubchansky

Cover Image

Sammie is trans femme and has been out to most of her friends and family for a year when she gets an invite to join her closet college friend Adam on his bachelor party trip to El Campo. At this dystopian Las Vegas-like destination, people can indulge their most hedonistic and aggressive desires with little consequences. The worst part, Adam has named Sammie his best man. Since Adam was Sammie's best man at her wedding, she feels as though she needs to be a good sport to return the favor and try to maintain one of her longest friendships. When Sammie arrives in El Campo, she has to endure rude, dismissive, and sometimes downright transphobic comments from the rest of the groomsmen. To top off an already emotionally fraught weekend, it seems like the group is all getting sucked into this weird cult holding a convention at the hotel they're staying at, and Sammie seems to be the only one clear-headed enough to see what's going on.

Appeals to

Everyone who likes their commentary on toxic masculinity with a side of eldritch horror.

Content Notes

Transphobia, Some scenes containing gore

Creator Identities:

Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Brooms

Jasmine Walls

Teo DuVall

Cover Image

In an alternate United States, people of color are forbidden from practicing magic, unless they manage to secure official permission. Yet many secret practitioners enter unsanctioned flying races, where high risks can result in a big reward. Billie Mae and her teammates Loretta and Cheng Kwan enjoy the races' community while having big dreams. When Mattie and Emma, Black-Choctaw girls who have recently accessed their magic, join the Night Storms, they all have a chance to make their dreams come true.

Appeals to

Brooms captivated me with its action-packed story following a tight-knit group ready to defy the oppressive laws that try to keep them down. The fantastic artwork and worldbuilding work together to convey a well-developed setting. There are little decisions, like using Native American sign language and including a sort of afterward for the main story, that make the whole experience immersive. If you are a fan of witchy stories, you don’t want to miss Brooms.

Content Notes

Mistreatment at a residential school; racism; some violence

Creator Identities:

Mexican-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Chinese-American |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

But You Have Friends

Emilia McKenzie

Cover Image

Emilia McKenzie writes about her relationship with her friend C, whom she eventually loses to suicide. Throughout the book, she reflects on her relationship with C, her grief, and all the baggage that comes with loss and grief.

Appeals to

I loved this book for how McKenzie built up the relationship between her and C; she has a knack for showing the little moments that make up a dear friendship and weaves them with her reflection on grappling with the loss. The simple art, which often portrays these little moments and actions, *really* works. If you pick this up, make sure you’re in a place where you can cry freely. I don’t cry much when I read, and I was tearing up!

Content Notes

Suicide; drug overdoses

Creator Identities:

British |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Buzzing

Samuel Sattin

Rye Hickman

Cover Image

Sometimes, it's hard for Isaac to hear much outside of the bees getting in his way. They tell him about his crooked face and nose, about bad things that are going to happen to people he loves, and the noise escalates sometimes. It doesn't hurt that his mom treats him like a time bomb and his sister is frustrated at being ignored while mom continually checks in on Isaac. When Micah enters his life things finally start to look brighter again for the first time in a while, but then Isaac's grades slip. He'll have to learn balance and trust to get through this, and so will his mom.

Appeals to

Since a lot of the story centers around the game Swamps & Sorcery (a parody of Dungeons & Dragons), readers who enjoy comics featuring tabletop games like Just Roll With It or Dungeon Club: Roll Call will likely enjoy Buzzing. The themes of learning trust and making friends might appeal to readers of Freestyle, and the art is so wonderful at setting scenes and showing emotion, it could also be a solid choice for readers new to comics.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

Thien Pham

Cover Image

Pham uses food, both Vietnamese and American, to take the reader through his family's journey from Vietnam to America as refugees. It begins with their boat ride out of the country and continues with the author's finally becoming a citizen in his middle age. In between is the families' struggle to learn English, get steady work, and achieve the American Dream. Along the way, the author struggles with not feeling American enough to fit in when he first arrives here, to not feeling connected enough to his Vietnamese heritage as he matures into an adult completely in America. This graphic memoir is a moving depiction of what it's like to be an immigrant in America.

Appeals to

Fans of American Born Chinese and The Best We Could Do will enjoy this food-focused take on the immigrant experience.

Content Notes

Racism and Xenophobia

Creator Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Main Character Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

In Limbo

Deb JJ Lee

Cover Image

Deb has struggled to find her place in life, feeling caught between identities and obligations. To complicate matters further, Deb's mother is controlling and volatile, sometimes lashing out physically or emotionally. By the time Deb graduates high school, she's managed to communicate her desire to do art, quit music, and learn her own way, but she's also attempted suicide twice. It takes time and work, but Deb starts to become someone she doesn't hate. In Limbo doesn't give easy answers or a neatly wrapped-up ending, but that's part of what makes it great.

Appeals to

Limited color, and dreamy art paired with heavier topics make In Limbo a solid choice for fans of Tillie Walden's work. How candidly the story handles its complexity and darkness could be a good pick for readers who enjoy graphic nonfiction, like Dancing at the Pity Party or Banned Book Club.

Content Notes

Depictions of physical and emotional abuse by a parent, discussions of depression and suicide

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story

Sarah Myer

Cover Image

Korean adoptee Sarah Myer tells their story of self-acceptance as they wrestle with their origins and their identity while dealing with difficult, often racist school and social settings.

Appeals to

Thanks to Myer’s powerful drawings that mix reality and images of their imagination and mental state, I found myself sucked into their story. Myer also frames their story well, tracing a trajectory to a better place and ultimately using their story to share a message of hope. It was a difficult read in parts, but I also appreciated the message and the fact it let me reflect on some of my own experiences.

Content Notes

Racism; homophobia; bullying; mental health struggles

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Infinity Particle

Wendy Xu

Cover Image

After moving to Mars to study artificial intelligence with her hero Dr. Lin, Clementine meets Kye, a humanoid robot and Dr. Lin’s assistant As Kye and Clem grow closer, they soon have to contend with Dr. Lin's disapproval and possessiveness and Kye's sudden glitches. As Clem and Kye rush to get to the bottom of the glitches, they find so much more than they expected.

Appeals to

The Infinity Particle is a tender and romantic story about two people finding agency together against a backdrop of questions about AI and what it means to be human. The rich setting details brought me into the story, and I adored Xu’s adorable character and robot designs. Readers who enjoy thoughtful and romantic sci-fi stories like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam and Fiona Ostby's Space Story will likely enjoy Infinity Particle.

Content Notes

Egotistical and bullying boss/parental figure; implied death of a child; abusive parent-child relationship

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Ojja-Wojja

Magdalene Visaggio

Jenn St-Onge

Cover Image

Lanie and Val are best friends, and ready to weather any storm for each other, but Val's obsession with all things supernatural leads her to find out about a local myth of the Ojja-Wojja. Naturally, they end up accidentally summoning it, and things are worse than expected. That is, until Val trusts her instincts about this creature and the host it chooses: the super popular Andrea, who used to be friends with them but lately bullies them instead. Horror but also heartwarming, there's a lot to love in The Ojja-Wojja.

Appeals to

This story's mix of small-town legends and the presence of the supernatural is likely a hit with fans of comics like The Hills of Estrella Roja, Another Kind, or All My Friends Are Ghosts. Because the main cast is queer, it's also a great choice for younger readers looking for queer horror and likely finding stories geared toward older audiences that they may not be ready for yet.

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Autistic Spectrum |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

There Is No Right Way to Meditate

Yumi Sakugawa

Cover Image

Have you read a book on meditation, or listened to a recorded guided meditation and felt like you still weren't quite "getting it"? You are not alone. Sakugawa responds to the confusion, frustration, and judgment that many people bring with them when first trying to establish a meditation practice with "There Is No Right Way to Meditate" She frames the exercises presented in the book as "offerings and invitations" that allow the reader to explore what a meditation practice might look like for them. With an artsy style and sparing use of color, reading this book feels like a meditation in and of itself.

Appeals to

Anyone who is curious about meditation but feels like self-help books are boring and stuffy.

Creator Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Staff Picks: Top Comics of 2022

Introduction

 Another year has come and gone, and the Features Team is proud to share our favorite titles from 2022. We hope you have a chance to revisit some favorites and discover new ones! 

Across a Field of Starlight

Blue Delliquanti

Cover Image

Fassen--a soldier in an intergalactic war-- and Lu--a member of a secret commune with a passion for research--become friends after a chance encounter. They use a special channel to communicate and develop their friendship. When they are finally reunited, trouble soon follows, threatening all they care about.

Appeals to

Across a Field of Starlight is a fantastic sci-fi story exploring how systematic factors shape us and how to break away. Delliquanti's rich artwork expertly captures the setting and characters, and I loved the diversity of characters and viewpoints. Fans of queer science fiction and fantasy and readers who enjoy stories that question systems will find much to enjoy here.

Creator Identities:

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:
Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands

Kate Beaton

Cover Image

Unable to find work in her home province, Kate Beaton worked two years in the Alberta oil sands in order to pay off her student loans. In this engaging memoir, she recounts the highs and lows of her experience—specifically the struggles of working as a woman in a male-dominated industry where isolation and grueling work are a key part of the workplace environment.

Appeals to

Beaton's nuanced portrait of working in a male-dominated field should not be missed; her discussion captures her and her co-workers' humanity while still exploring the bigger social forces at work. Her artwork captures the varied landscape and co-workers equally well and works to emphasize the humanizing message. Pick this up if you are interested in nonfiction about labor issues, gender, and inequality

Content Notes

Sexual assault; mental health (including a brief mention of suicide)

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Forest Hills Bootleg Society

Nicole Geaux

Cover Image

The year is 2005 and the location is a small town in California primarily known for its Christian boarding school; the situation is four friends trying to figure out all the big questions by selling bootleg anime to boys at their schools. Understandably, this goes poorly and things get out of hand. This is a story of how bleak life can be, and that maybe it's okay that things don't turn out well. It's complicated and dark, with gorgeous art in a limited teal color palette.

Appeals to

For readers who grew up encountering anime in the early 00s, this can be a solid pick for the nostalgia of it. Also readers of Squad who like a darker story of friendship, or readers of Slip that appreciated the way the story dealt with processing a changing friendship.

Content Notes

There are a lot of sad or difficult topics in this, either seen frequently or just briefly mentioned: Christian-based discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people, eating disorders, grief, depression, cheating in romantic relationships

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Frizzy

Claribel Ortega

Rose Bousamra

Cover Image

No matter what, it feels like everyone is always telling Marlene something about her isn't right: her skin's darker, she's not feminine enough, and her hair is the wrong texture. She dreads the weekly trips to the salon to have it straightened, and finally, with the help of her best friend Camila and her cool Tia Ruby, she starts to embrace her hair. Through it, she helps her mom let go of the past and embrace change as well.

Appeals to

While this is a great book to pick up for kids dealing with confidence issues around their hair, it's also a great story of a family learning to communicate better. This would be a great pick for readers of The Tryout or Miss Quinces, but also comics like the Berrybrook Middle School series.

Content Notes

Discussions of racism and colorism are kind of central to the book.

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Garlic and the Witch

Bree Paulsen

Cover Image

After conquering many of her anxieties and fears when she went to encounter the vampire who is now a friend of the farm, Garlic is faced with a new problem: she might be turning human. But Witch Agnes has been so busy, and Garlic doesn't want to bother her. So she does what Garlic does best: go on a quest. This is a perfect sequel to Garlic and the Vampire, with all the charm and sweetness as the first book.

Appeals to

The gentle nature and focus on the natural world in Garlic and the Witch is a great choice for readers of Nightlights and Pilu of the Woods, and the adventurous side of Garlic's story can appeal to fans of the Hilda series. I could see this appealing to fans of the Tea Dragon Society series, with its gentle lessons on life.

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

M is for Monster

Talia Dutton

Cover Image

In this Frankenstein re-telling, Dr. Frances Ai is determined to bring her sister back to life after an accident leads to her untimely death. When Maura's body rises she thinks she's done it. But is Maura the one who is in this reanimated corpse? And if it's not Maura, then who is it?

Appeals to

Fans of the original story will appreciate this new way to look at the same themes, what is life, and what responsibility the creator has to its creation.

Content Notes

Death, ghosts

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Mamo

Sas Milledge

Cover Image

Jo goes looking for a witch to help with a situation in her home and finds instead Orla, granddaughter of the former village witch Mamo, who is adamant she's not the new witch for this village. As they work together to figure out why Mamo's death caused so much chaos, Jo and Orla learn more about their needs and the world around them. It's a beautiful comic full of vibrant landscapes and a realistic view of small village life.

Appeals to

Mamo is fantastic for readers of comics like The Well, Coming Back, or Tidesong that have small quiet magic and long moments of reflection, as well as dealing with the consequences of someone else's actions, and sometimes that turns out to be unprocessed grief.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Messy Roots

Laura Gao

Cover Image

This graphic memoir, with the color pallet of the beach sunset postcard, is a heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding your place in the world when the country you were born in is vastly different than the country you grew up in. That journey becomes even more complicated for Gao when they start to realize they aren't straight. Then COVID-19 happens and suddenly the place Gao and her family are from becomes the center of the world's attention, most of it negative.

Appeals to

This timely graphic memoir will resonate with anyone who is struggling to find their place in the world, especially if part of that journey involves reconciling two or more cultural identities within oneself.

Content Notes

Discuss of the COVID-19 pandemic

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Other Ever Afters

Melanie Gillman

Cover Image

A princess falls for the goose girl but is stymied when her prestige and wealth do not influence her crush. A young woman enlists the help of a trickster to escape an unloving marriage. An individual's dead name starts to burn them when they are unable to tell everyone in their village their new name. These are just a sampling of the wonderful fairy tales you will find in Melanie Gilman's newest graphic novel.

Appeals to

These beautiful fairy tales filled my heart—they were warm and thoughtful, giving comfort and visibility and provoking thoughts about how things are. Gilman's amazing colored pencils bring the stories to life. Young and adult fairy tale lovers and misfits will find much to enjoy here.

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide

Mone Sorai

Cover Image

Uptight Asahi and easygoing Mitsuki can seem like an odd couple, always at opposite ends of things, but one thing they agree on is taking a trip around the world as a test of their relationship. If they can make it, then the two will get married! But first, they have to find their hotel. And somewhere to eat. It's part explainer manga, with tidbits of info about each country they visit, part romance as we see Asahi and Mitsuki learn to work together and communicate their needs, and all gorgeous art. Of course, this is a new series with only two volumes so far, so who knows where it will go from here.

Appeals to

While this is billed as boys' love because it is a relationship between two men, readers expecting sex scenes will be disappointed; this series will appeal more to readers of slower stories like Restart After Coming Home or I Hear the Sunspot, especially as this focuses on adults rather than high school students. So pick this up for readers who want more grown-up relationships with less pining and quiet shared moments of happiness.

Content Notes

Some discussion of discrimination against LGTBTQ+ people, but generally this is more to look at how different countries treat the community

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Space Story

Fiona Ostby

Cover Image

In a story that skips between the past and present, Hannah and Leah fall in love and start a family. However, their present is a struggle; Hannah is on a space station while Leah and their child Bird are stuck on a rapidly dying Earth. Leah and Bird are not about to give up though. Will they be reunited?

Appeals to

Space Story was a bittersweet yet comforting story that I wanted to read again immediately after I finished. I love Ostby's storytelling decisions in the artwork, their character designs, and the fact that they include a variety of body types. Readers looking for a warm, ultimately hopeful queer story will find much to enjoy here

Content Notes

Brief nudity but in contexts where it makes sense to be naked

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Supper Club

Jackie Morrow

Cover Image

Senior year can be tough. Classes, prepping for college, and extracurriculars, it can be hard to find time to just...hang out. Nora, Lili, and Iris come up with a solution. A supper club for a select group of their friends, held once a month so that they can make sure that they see each other before they all go away to college. But when life's demands get louder for all three girls, will they put supper club on the back burner?

Appeals to

If "sharing food with friends" is your love language, this book is for you.

Content Notes

Family member with a serious illness.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Swim Team

Johnnie Christmas

Cover Image

Bree was not excited about moving to Florida, but she was hopeful she'd be able to join the math extracurricular at her new school. Instead, she has to take a swimming class! Thanks to her kind neighbor's help, Bree discovers a new interest and joins her school team. With the team facing the potential loss of their pool, can Bree help them win a championship?

Appeals to

Swim Team is a heartwarming story about never giving up and discovering new passions. Readers who like the coming-of-age and realistic challenges of stories such as New Kid, Roller Girl, and Click will likely enjoy this one.

Creator Identities:

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Staff Picks: Top Titles of 2021

Introduction

Another year has come and gone. Even though this has been a challenging year, some fantastic graphic novels were published! The Features Team here at No Flying, No Tights would like to share their top picks from 2021.

Boys Run the Riot

Keito Gaku

Cover Image

Just about the only time Ryo is happy is when he goes out into the city, dressed how he likes. Not only is Ryo pretty sure he's trans, he's also really into street fashion. He's not out to anyone, not at school, or even at home, and it makes life lonely. When Jin transfers to Ryo's class, he's struck by how Jin lives how he wants. The two end up working together to create a clothing brand, bonding over their mutual fashion interests.

Appeals to

Great for manga readers who remember Paradise Kiss and are looking for more fashion-centered stories that also grapple with gender norms and societal expectations, or for fans of Our Dreams at Dusk looking for slice of life stories with LGBTQ+ themes.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
  • Gender Identity: Trans

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
  • Gender Identity: Gender Nonconforming, Trans
Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Bubble

Jordan Morris

Tony Cliff

Cover Image

Based on the podcast by the same name, Bubble is a near future satire of the gig economy where everyday citizens use an app to take job killing dangerous alien creatures that penetrate the bubble like dome protecting the city. This graphic novel is full of humorous quips, lovable characters, and a healthy dose of self aware jabs at podcasting.

Appeals to

Fans of the podcast will love seeing the story brought to life in a new format, but lovers of sci-if and satire who are new to Bubble will also find something to love here.

Content Notes

drug use, language, and overt sexual scenes

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5366
Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms

Crystal Frasier

Val Wise

Cover Image

This graphic novel flips the classic head cheerleader dates the quarterback trope on it's head when the head cheerleader falls for the newest addition to the squad instead. This is a sweet story of two friends reconnecting and figuring out that their feelings may go a little deeper than friendship.

Appeals to

Fans of Heartstoppers, Check, Please!, and Fence will love this sapphic take on the sporty queer romance sub-genre.

Content Notes

Transphobia

Creator Identities:

  • Gender Identity: Intersex, Trans

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5363, 5366
  • Gender Identity: 5929
Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Himawari House

Harmony Becker

Cover Image

Nao was born in Japan but grew up in the US. She decided to take a gap year in Japan to reconnect to her roots and find a sense of belonging that she felt she was missing in the US. During that year she shares lodging with two other young woman who are also searching for their place in the world and their identity. A bittersweet story about growing up, finding the place you belong, and the people you belong with.

Appeals to

Shojo and slice of life manga lovers will love this western love letter to Japan.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6778

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5975, 5454, 5736
Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Life of Melody

Mari Costa

Cover Image

A fairy and beast raise a baby human girl in what starts as a reluctant partnership but becomes much more.

Appeals to

I’m a huge fan of the humanoid creature trying to be human trope and Life of Melody delivers. With its bright, colorful artwork and touching, often humorous, story, Life of Melody is a delight to read.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6733, 6933

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5362
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Nubia: Real One

L.L. McKinney

Robyn Smith

Cover Image

Nubia's moms have always made sure she knew she was special, not just to them, but to the world, and that specialness needed to be kept secret. It's why they've moved so many times after Nubia accidentally shows her abilities. But now, Nubia has friends and a cause she wants to fight for. It's time for Nubia to shine.

Appeals to

It's an easy pick for fans of Wonder Woman (and particularly Nubia), but its themes of standing up against injustice and speaking truth will resonate with just about every reader.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Black, Jamaican

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Black
Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Salt Magic

Hope Larson

Rebecca Mock

Cover Image

Vonceil has had trouble reconnecting with her brother ever since he returned from the war and decided to marry a girl from town. A witch appears asking for her brother, and when he refuses to go with her, the witch turns Vonceil's family's well water to salt water. Vonceil makes a deal with the witch: she will find a way to resurrect the witch's true love in exchange for her brother's freedom and the restoration of her family's water.

Appeals to

I'm a sucker for fairy-tale inspired fantasy, and this historical fantasy-fairy tale was a treat. With its vibrant illustrations and an engaging coming of age narrative with distinct Studio Ghibli vibes, Salt Magic will appeal to readers who loved The Magic Fish.

Creator Identities:

  • Gender Identity: Gender Nonconforming
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Shadow Life

Hiromi Gato

Ann Xu

Cover Image

Kumiko flees her nursing home in order to live independently in the time she has left. Kumiko will have to fight to hold onto that time--in addition to the usual frailties of aging, she also has to contend with a shapeshifting shadow of death! But Kumiko is not willing to give up without a fight.

Appeals to

Ann Xu’s striking black and white illustrations and Hiromi Goto’s compelling narrative made this a treat to read. Kumiko is an awesome character-she reminded me a bit of Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle--and the story is full of adventure, humor, and love.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6756, 7130

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5927, 5397
  • Sexuality: 5364
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Girl from the Sea

Molly Knox Ostertag

Cover Image

Morgan is facing her parents' divorce, her brother's anger, her friends' lack of support, and her own secret, but everything will be fine because she has a plan to get off the island before anyone has to know. Then Keltie comes into her life. She's wonderful and Morgan feels less desperate around her. But Keltie's own secrets could cause problems not just for them, but for so many others. This won't end in a happily ever after, but that's one of the worst things about growing up.

Appeals to

This is a great choice for fans of selkie myths, as well as fans of books like Snapdragon or Mooncakes.

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: Queer

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: Canadian
  • Sexuality: Lesbian
Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

This is How I Disappear

Mirion Malle

Cover Image

Clara struggles to maintain her mental health as she juggles a challenging job and suffers from writer's block for her book of poems.

Appeals to

This book made me cry. Malle perfectly captures the challenges of balancing life while you’re struggling with your mental health.

Content Notes

Depression; discussion of sexual assault

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6802

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5877
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Wake

Rebecca Hall

Hugo Martínez

Cover Image

Historian Rebecca Hall documents her quest to research women-led slave revolts in this compelling graphic novel.

Appeals to

I quickly found myself engrossed in this compelling mix of memoir and history. Hugo Martinez’s powerful black and white illustrations capture Rebecca’s physical and emotional journey as well as the interpretations of her research. This is a great read if you’re interested in historical nonfiction that challenges conventional narratives.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6704

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5974, 5357
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Yummy

Victoria Grace Elliott

Cover Image

This graphic novel is a colorful exploration of the history of some of the world most popular deserts. Food sprite Peri with her friends Fee and Fada look into the origins of cakes, cookies, ad other confections with science lessons and recipes throw in the mix.

Appeals to

Anyone who loves sweet and is interested in how those treats came to be.

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Staff Picks: Megan’s Top 10 of 2020

Introduction

2020 was a challenging year for many of us, yet the comics world kept chugging and published some great titles. Some on this list may be obvious picks, but I hope I’ve introduced you to a few that weren’t on your radar.  

Bake Sale

Sara Varon

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This truly bizarre world where food bakes food and eats food is also a super cute story about friendship. Cupcake is getting tired of baking for his shop every day and would love to go on vacation to Turkey with his friend Eggplant and meet his hero chef Turkish Delight. Can Cupcake sell enough baked goods to buy a plane ticket?

Appeals to

Anyone who loves cupcakes and friendship.

Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Bloom

Kevin Panetta

Savanna Ganucheau

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Ari helps out in his family’s bakery, but he feels that his true calling is making it big with his band friends in the city. When Hector, a culinary school student who finds strong connections through food, starts working at the bakery, Ari finds his viewpoints shifting. This is a sweet story of food and family that will be sure to warm your heart.

Appeals to

Fans of coming of age stories such as Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me and LGBTQ romances such as Heartstopper.

Main Character Identities:

  • Sexuality: 5362
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Cook Korean

Robin Ha

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This graphic novel cookbook will teach you to cook real Korean recipes. The methods are portrayed through pictures that will help you know what to look for and how it should look at the end. The illustrations are fun, vibrant, and make you want to head straight to the kitchen-or to call for Korean takeout!

Appeals to

Cooks, fans of cooking shows, and those who enjoy exploring cultures through food.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6858

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5871
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Initiates

Etienne Davodeau

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A comic artist visits a wine artisan and learns what it's like to make wine for a living, while the wine artisan learns about comics. The reader benefits from this exchange through their journey learning about each other's work. You’ll learn plenty about comics, terroir, building barrels, manure, and of course drinking wine.

Appeals to

Gourmets, comics lovers interested in the creative process, and documentary-style memoir comics.

Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Kitchen Princess

Miyuki Kobayashi

Natsumi Ando

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Najika is a great cook and loves to make food for others. She’s just started at the prestigious Seika Academy and she doesn’t fit in, but she’s determined to stay. She thinks she will find someone from her past at the school and is determined to find the boy who touched her heart and gave her a silver spoon with the school’s crest on it. Is the boy one of the handsome students at the school? There are plenty of delicious things to eat in this romance manga.

Appeals to

Fans of romance and cooking will eat this up!

Content Notes

There is some bullying and one of the major characters has an eating disorder.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Laid Back Camp

Afro

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This comic about camping spends lots of time showing and talking about what to eat when out in the wilderness. From hot soups to grilled meats and more, much of this manga centers on the delicious foods the campers eat to keep themselves warm and energized on their adventures. This slice of life comic will have you taking your food outside to dine al fresco.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy slice of life stories that are slower paced and focused on enjoying life's experiences.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Meal

Blue Delliquanti

Blue Delliquanti

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Yarrow moves from California to pursue an opportunity cooking in a new restaurant focusing on insect cuisine, but she offends the owner Chanda during her interview. Yarrow has one chance to convince her culinary hero that her interest in entomophagy is genuine. Can she do it and possibly win over her crush Milani? Find out in this sweet queer romance!

Appeals to

People who like sweet LGBTQ romances; people who are interested in food culture and history

Content Notes

Brief discussion of cultural erasure and the Khmer Rogue

Creator Identities:

  • Gender Identity: Nonbinary

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: African-American, Japanese-American, Multiracial
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Measuring Up

Lily LaMotte

Ann Xu

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Cici loves grocery shopping and cooking with A-mả, but she has to give that up when her family moves to Seattle from Taiwan. Determined to reunite with her grandmother, Cici enters a cooking contest in order to raise money for a plane ticket to bring A-mả to America for her seventieth birthday. The only catch is: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food. Can Cici overcome the odds? This is a heartwarming story about family, food, culture, and self-discovery that will have you smiling and thinking about your own family cooking memories.

Appeals to

Fans of Raina Telgemeier and readers who might be too young for some of Gene Luen Yang's work

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6983

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6644
Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Moonstruck

Grace Ellis

Shae Beagle

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Magic, drama, and coffee feature in this love story between two werewolves. Mythical creatures are everywhere as Julie and Selena begin dating at a café where Julie works with her centaur bestie Chet. The dreamy illustrations will draw you into this caffeinated, inclusive world of fantasy romance.

Appeals to

Appeals to those looking for LGBTQIA romance, body positivity and magical creatures.

Creator Identities:

  • Sexuality: 7031

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5357, 5421
  • Sexuality: 5363
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Our Dining Table

Mita Ori

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Yutaka has always felt alone, but when he meets a young boy named Tane and his big brother Minoru they start cooking together and he starts feeling happy for the first time in his life. As Yukata and Minoru spend more time together they become close friends, until their friendship becomes something more. They all get to know each other through sharing meals together and from the pictures you'll want to pull up a seat next to them and dig in!

Appeals to

Fans of slow-burn romances, cooking, and those who think kids are cute.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
  • Sexuality: 5362
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Relish

Lucy Knisley

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Cartoonist Lucy Kinsley shares her key memories as a member of a food-loving family and community. From sautéed mushrooms to croissants, this is a heartwarming collection of food and love. Readers will also enjoy the recipes scattered throughout the narrative!

Appeals to

Foodies; fans of memoirs

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Restaurant for Another World

Junpei Inuzuka

Takaaki Kugatsu

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Nekoya is a restaurant that looks normal at first, but every seven days, doors open from the restaurant into many other worlds and all manners of fantasy beings such as elves, demons, and dragons come to eat the delicious food the chef makes. The illustrations of each visitor eating and enjoying their food will make your stomach rumble and your mouth water.

Appeals to

Some implied nudity and fan service.

Content Notes

There is also a light novel series with the same name that preceded the manga which is still publishing new volumes.

Creator Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

Main Character Identities:

  • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
Recommended by

Martha Boksenbaum

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef

Eric Colossal

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Rutabaga and his magic pot set out on adventures through a fantasy world where you never know what creature you’ll meet next. They join a quest to defeat a dragon, cook for their fellow travelers, and search for new and exciting ingredients-and even save the day with cooking!

Appeals to

An adventure story for those wondering what travelers eat on their epic journeys.

Main Character Identities:

    Recommended by

    Martha Boksenbaum

    Seconds

    Bryan Lee O'Malley

    Cover Image

    Katie is a successful restaurateur, opening a second restaurant after the first became successful. But the second restaurant is taking too long to get ready to open and her love life is not going well at all. When she discovers instructions for a do-over that involves eating a mushroom and going to sleep, she gives it a chance, and suddenly the bad things in her life never happened and she’s got a chance to do it over. But what happens when something seems too good to be true? Things go wrong.

    Appeals to

    Appeals to fans of stories where protagonists try to fix the past and surreal and creepy situations.

    Recommended by

    Martha Boksenbaum

    Stepping Stones

    Lucy Knisley

    Cover Image

    Jen’s parents get a divorce and her mom moves Jen to the countryside where she is forced to learn about farm life, including caring for chickens, waterproofing the path, and working the farmstand with her mom’s boyfriend’s daughters, Andy and Reese. This is a sweet story about getting a new family, adjusting to life on a farm, and growing up.

    Appeals to

    Fans of Raina Telgemeier's slice of life and coming of age stories and similar authors

    Content Notes

    The boyfriend can come across as extremely difficult, which might be frustrating or upsetting to some people.

    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Tea Dragon Festival

    K. O'Neill

    Cover Image

    In an isolated mountain village, Rinn is trying to become a cook’s apprentice, yet they also find great joy foraging in the mountains. During one of their trips, they find Aedhan, a guardian dragon who has been asleep for eighty years! Aedhan feels guilty for missing so much of the village’s history, but Rinn has an idea for the upcoming tea dragon festival to make him feel welcome! You’ll fall for this sweet story about discovering new loved ones, all connected together with food and love!

    Appeals to

    Fans of O’Neill’s other work; fans of cute fantasy stories

    Creator Identities:

    • Gender Identity: Nonbinary

    Main Character Identities:

    • Gender Identity: 5370
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    The Lunch Witch

    Deb Lucke

    Cover Image

    Ok, so this comic won’t make you hungry, but it will make you laugh and might be a good one to read if you have to wait a while until your next meal. When Grunhilda’s potions store goes out of business she gets a job as a lunch lady whose food you really don’t want to eat. In fact, she would rather cook children than be nice to them. Because witches should never be nice! Lots of creepy cooking in this one, with a pinch of magic, some bats, and a dog to serve up a disgusting concoction.

    Appeals to

    Drawings of bugs, bats, potions, scary witches, and strange-looking stains, this book is for those with strong stomachs who like scary and gross stories.

    Content Notes

    Some scary and icky images you might expect to see with a witch about.

    Recommended by

    Martha Boksenbaum

    Umma's Table

    Yeon-Sik Hong

    Cover Image

    This story follows a Korean artist who moves to a house in the country with his wife and new child, excited to start a garden and a new life. We learn about him through the food he grows and cooks for his family, as well as the food his mother cooked for him as a child. He hopes to make enough money to move his sick parents out of a basement apartment in Seoul, but his mother’s many trips to the hospital create bills he has to pay making that dream harder. The characters are depicted as cats with black and white panels that create a stark contrast between the clean sketched detailed happy times and the harder ones shown with great swathes of black and blocks of darkness. The food is detailed and looks delicious, and will make you want to cook a meal for your family.

    Appeals to

    Fans of memoir, cooking, and history.

    Creator Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 6857

    Main Character Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 5454
    Recommended by

    Martha Boksenbaum

    What Did You Eat Yesterday?

    Fumi Yoshinaga

    Cover Image

    Shiro Kakei is an uptight lawyer, who also happens to be a closeted gay man. His passion is cooking for himself and his boyfriend Kenji. Enjoy this sweet story as Shiro and Kenji navigate their lives and meals. Be ready to learn recipes as you read!

    Appeals to

    People who really like learning about new food;

    Content Notes

    some homophobia; some implied night life entertainment

    Creator Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese

    Main Character Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: Japanese
    • Sexuality: Gay
    Recommended by

    Megan Rupe

    Yakitate Japan

    Takashi Hashiguchi

    Cover Image

    Kazuma’s never gone to school to learn how to make bread, but he has magical bread making hands that make everything he bakes taste delicious. He joins a competition for a job at a famous bakery chain with only one goal- to make a Japanese bread so delicious that it becomes world famous like those from France and Germany-and he’ll call it Ja-pan! Can he keep up with others who have been formally trained? Can he make his Ja-pan world famous?

    Appeals to

    Fans of baking shows, school competitions, and bread of all kinds.

    Creator Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 6849

    Main Character Identities:

    • Race and/or Nationality: 5397
    Recommended by

    Martha Boksenbaum