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A Graphic Novel a Day Keeps the Fall Away

French graphic novels are much appreciated in the US, with over 100 new titles published in English each year. And 2021 is no exception. 


Obviously, the indispensable modern and older classic series continue to be translated: There are for instance ThorgalGomer GoofBluecoatsYoko TsunoMarsupilamiLucky Luke (all published by Cinebook), and Old Geezers (Ablaze), which you might be familiar with. The 2021 publication list also includes many other great treasures well worth exploring over the summer and beyond. You’ll find below a selection of graphic novels we really enjoyed, but if you are hungry for more, our bi-annual article French Books in the US: Edition 2021 will provide you with more detailed information in September. 

Biopics: Lives Explored 

Biographical graphic novels are amongst US readers's favorites, and lucky for you, a few great ones are being released this year! Artemisia (Beehive Books), by Nathalie Ferlut and Tamia Baudouin —already recommended in our July newsletter—features the life of an Italian baroque painter who became the first woman admitted to the prestigious Academy of Arts in Florence. Music enthusisasts will be thrilled to read about the iconic rock star in Love Me Please!: The Story of Janis Joplin (NBM Publishing), by Nicolas Finet and Christopher Degreff, while sport aficionados should revel in the historical 'Rumble in the Jungle' boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974 (Titan Comics), by Jean-David Morvan, Séverine Tréfouël and Rafael Ortiz. We would also highly recommend Pierre Péju and Lionel Richerand’s little-known and tragic true story of psychoanalyst Horace Frink in Frink and Freud: The American Patient (SelfMadeHero) and For Justice: The Serge & Beate Klarsfeld Story (Life Drawn), by Pascal Bresson and Sylvain Dorange, an essential account of the history of the highly-respected Nazi-hunter couple. 

Literary Adaptations as a Source of Inspiration 

To see artists bring new life to literary works and great literary figures is always exhilarating. In Orwell (SelfMadeHero), Pierre Christin and Sébastien Verdier offer an intimate look at the life and work of the great English novelist and political essayist, author of the dystopian masterpiece 1984. Also of note, Alex W. Inker adapted Virginia Reeves’ novel Work Like Any Other (Ponent Mon) about a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama who struggles to overcome his past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter. If sci-fi is more your type, try The Cimmerian (Ablaze): A trilogy adaptation by different authors and illustrators of Robert E. Howard’s work, perhaps better known as Conan the Barbarian. 

Graphic Novels on Life's Hardships

In a very prolific year for graphic novels, we would like to highlight—but the choice was very hard— two touching titles that deal with the difficult subject of disease: In The Parakeet (Penn State University Press), inspired by the author's own childhood, Espé addresses mental illness, with the story of a boy whose mother suffers from “bipolar disorder with schizophrenic tendencies”, and whose only refuge from his life's harsh realities is his own imagination. In Parenthesis (Top Shelf Production), Élodie Durand delivers a gripping testament to struggle, fragility, acceptance, narrating her experience with tumor-related epilepsy. On another subject, Factory Summers (Drawn and Quarterly), by Guy Delisle, chronicles his work in a factory, and the 12-hour shifts he spent in a hot, noisy building filled with arcane machinery, highlighting the class tensions and the rampant sexism an all-male workplace.

BD-Reportages: Current Affairs 

Graphic novels have proven to be a fantastic support for exposés or reporting on current events. In Crude: A Memoir (Graphic Mundi), Ecuadorian lawyer and activist Pablo Fajardo, accompanied by Sophie Tardy-Joubert and Damien Roudeau, gives a firsthand account of Texaco’s involvement in the Amazon as well as the ensuing legal battles between the oil company, the Ecuadorian government, and the region’s inhabitants. With A House without Windows (Humanoids) Marc Ellison and Didier Kassaï create a documentary about the street children of Bangui, told in a style that mixes photo and illustration. 

Sci-Fi and Fantasy: Imagination Unbound

Looking for an escape? Filled with tenderness and humor, Karmen (Image Comics) is a gorgeously drawn series by Guillem March about a highly unconventional angel named Karmen and the young woman she takes under her wing when a case of heartbreak strikes hard. The Metabarons: First Cycle (Humanoids), by Alejandro Jodorowski and Juan Gimenez, chronicles the fascinating dynasty of the ultimate warrior and reveals the origins of their deep-seated principles, their vast wealth, their cybernetic implants, and their most brutal custom. Legends of Today (Titan Comics) brings together the first three volumes created by Enki Bilal et Pierre Christin: an endearing panorama of the generous utopias of the time, nourished by modern fantasy and a certain humor that still resonates today.

Kids Corner

In The Wolf in Underpants (Graphic Universe), Wilfrid Lupano, Mayanna Itoïz and Paul Cauuet, a community of forest animals is busy trading scary rumors about a nearby wolf. When he appears in a pair of striped underpants, it allows everyone to rethink their fears and bring a new understanding of differences. In The Magical History Tour (Papercutz), a fun series and educational journey through various time periods and events through the eyes of modern-day kids, Annie and Nico explore various facets of history and how it affects us today. Thom Pico and Karensac also released a new volume of Aster’s adventures: Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic (Random House Graphics). This lively, episodic sequel finds 10-year-old Aster and her family still settling into their new home in a rural valley. Aster's duties as the magical Queen of Summer intrude on playing video games with her older brother and making friends at her new school, whose help she’ll need to fight the valley's trickster spirit. 

Yet To Come 

All the graphic novels cited above are already published, but there are many more to look forward to with publication dates set for Fall 2021, and we couldn’t resist giving you a sneak peek:  In September, SelfMadeHero will delight us with Call Me Nathan, by Quentin Zuttion and Catherine Castro, a moving call for understanding and a powerful denunciation of prejudice. The protagonist, assigned female at birth, is finally able to begin the difficult process of claiming his true self after recognizing he suffers from gender dysphoria. In A Man’s Skin, the award-winning graphic novel by Hubert and Zanzim, to be released by Ablaze in October, Bianca, a young lady from a good family discovers that she can don "a man’s skin" that she will use to explore the world of men incognito. It brilliantly mixes religion and sex, morality and humor, nobility and outspokenness. Also in October, you can read the second volume of by Cyril Pedrosa and Roxanne Moreil's Golden Age (First Second Books), a stunning medieval saga about utopia and revolution with political intrigue reminiscent of Game of Thrones

Happy reading to all!

Written by Aloïse Denis