So here we go with the graphic novels Graphic Content has loved most this year. How many have you read? And what have we missed out?

10 The Pillbox, David Hughes, Jonathan Cape

When this came out back in July I was mostly taken by its seaside setting and the scratchy malevolence of Hughes’ line drawings. But this strange, chilly graphic novel has stayed with me. By turns playful and shocking, it’s a ghost story of sorts that jumps back and forth in time. The result is nastily beautiful. Or maybe beautifully nasty. Either way is good.


9 The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua, Particular Books

A little overlooked in all the end-of-year round-ups, Sydney Padua’s smart and sassy steampunk science graphic novel is a delightful mixture of research and invention, dressed up in Padua’s bouncy cartooning. If nothing else, it is one of the best introductions to its real-life heroine, proto-computer programmer Ada Lovelace, you could wish for. If only all science lessons could be this much fun.

8 Poetry is Useless, Anders Nilsen, Drawn & Quarterly

Maybe more a sketchbook than a graphic novel, but Nilsen’s gather-up- of strips and sketches reveals an obsession with death and God (or the lack thereof). The result is a kind of comedy of despair. It will make you laugh and fill you full of existential fears at the same time.

7 First Year Healthy, Michael DeForge, Drawn & Quarterly

A minor (and short) entry after last year’s epic Ant Colony, but this acid trip of a story is once again proof that DeForge is already a fully-formed cartoonist with a unique vision. And he’s still in his twenties. Show off. First Year Healthy is a graphic novella that fuses mental illness with catlike creatures. Full of dread and fear and beauty, it is a sort of Christmas fable. SO it would go down well on Boxing Day when you’ve sickened of Quality Street and festive cheer.


6 Trash Market, Tadao Tsuge, Drawn & Quarterly

Bleak, bleaker, bleakest. This compilation of strips by the alternative Japanese cartoonist Tadao Tsuge from the 1960s has a baleful weight to it. It is full of student riots, domestic violence, depression and the selling of blood. Tsuge’s pencils are artfully crude and potent. But why pursue perfection when the world you describe is so imperfect?

5 Trashed, Derf Backderf, Abrams

Derf Backderf’s memoir of his days as a bin man are full of grungy humour and felt experience, but it’s the way he couches it in research into the way we deal with the waste we produce that ticks in the brain like toxic waste.

4 Drawn & Quarterly, 25 Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics and Graphic Novels, Drawn & Quarterly

A monster of a book. This celebration of the Canadian publisher’s quarter-century of publishing comics – without it we might not have heard of Seth or Chester Brown or Adrian Tomine – has, perhaps inevitably, an air of back-slapping to it. But it’s not excessive and in between the essays there are page upon page of very fine cartooning from some of the greats and soon-to-be greats of contemporary comics.

3 Melody, Sylvie Rancourt, Drawn & Quarterly

This 1980s graphic memoir of Rancourt’s years as a stripper in Montreal in the 1980s is full of basic art and base emotions, and yet it throbs with the messiness of lived experience. Expect drug-taking, nudity, orgies and egregious examples of ugly male uselessness. The fact that Rancourt seems so matter-of-fact and non-judgemental about it all somehow gives the whole thing an extra punch.

2 Supermutant Magic Academy, Jillian Tamaki, Drawn & Quarterly

Another D&Q title (they’ve had a very good year), Tamaki’s rough and ready Harry Potter-meets-superheroes-as-told-by-Woody Allen comic strips make it into the list because they will make you laugh like a drain. The fact that they are also wonderful and acute on teenage angst is just an added bonus.

1 Sacred Hearts, Liz Suburbia, Fantagraphics


Yes, yes, yes you can see all the influences on the page (Los Bros Hernandez most notably) but this is easily the most satisfying and complete graphic novel of the year. A post-apocalyptic High school movie in comic-book form – expect drink, drugs, dancing, sex, murder - as the book’s teenage characters find their way in a world that is out of kilter. Suburbia’s rubbery line is hugely attractive and her pacing is immaculate. The result is a bold announcement of a fresh talent.

Plus: Five more that almost made the cut.

The Red Shoes and Other Tales, Metaphrog. Papercutz

I wonder sometimes if the limpid clarity and childlike (but never childish) simplicity of Sandra Marrs’s artwork rather fools people about the dark depths of Metraphrog’s work. Marrs and partner John Chalmers can mix light and shade adroitly as this collection of fairy tales suggests. It’s full of eerie violence and Dickensian sentimentality and it has a potent kick to it. Perfect Christmas reading.

Killing and Dying, Adrian Tomine, Faber

I am conflicted about this book. It deserves much of the praise it has received since it was published because it is beautifully crafted, its lines are simple and clean and the book’s emotional territory – the failing lives and loves of ageing Gen Xers – is rendered with stiletto sharpness. And yet, and yet … Does anyone else find it all a little too sour? No? Just me then.

Step Aside, Pops, Kate Beaton, Jonathan Cape

The only reason it didn’t make the top ten is that Supermutant Magic Academy elbowed it out at the last minute. Beaton’s literary and historical cartoon strips are laugh-out-loud funny. A delight.

4 Ofelia, Gilbert Hernandez, Fantagraphics

A compilation of post-Palomar Luba strips by Hernandez can feel like diving into a raging torrent of story but if you can catch your breath he remains a protean cartoonist.

5 Filmish, Edward Ross, SelfMadeHero

Ross makes film theory fun. A delight.