Sometimes readers want to read a biography or a history book, but don’t necessarily want to look at hundreds of pages of just tiny little words. Sometimes, readers also need a break from the tights and capes. Why not combine the best of both worlds and read a comic that focuses on a subject you enjoy, illustrated by someone incredibly talented? In today’s article, I take a look at the Best Reality-Based Work category, which consists of graphic memoirs and historical non-fiction. I have noticed while writing these articles that World War I has come up quite frequently this year, so maybe it’s the hip new war to write and illustrate? Hopefully it doesn’t become oversaturated like the sequel.
Keep in mind I cannot vote for who wins (nor can you, probably), as per the rules. However, that’s not keeping me from being vocal regardless!
Who is eligible to vote?
Comic book/graphic novel/webcomic creators (writers, artists, cartoonists, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists
All nominees in any category
Comic book/graphic novel publishers and editors
Comics historians and educators
Graphic novel librarians
Owners and managers of comic book specialty retail stores
Who is not eligible to vote?
Comics press or reviewers (unless they are nominees)
Non-creative publisher staff members (PR, marketing, assistants, etc.)
Before I get back to my graphic memoir Funner Home so I can be eligible for next year, let the games begin!
Best Reality-Based Work
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
Review copy unavailable.
Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories, by MariNaomi (2d Cloud/Uncivilized Books)
Told as a graphic memoir, the reader gets to know MariNaomi inside and out, spanning over several decades. Glimpsed in short little vignettes, Naomi shares with the reader who she is and where she came from, and how difficult her journey has been ever since. Dealing from bad boyfriends to her own sexuality, it’s a fascinating look at what made her who she is today. Incredibly relatable, Dragon’s Breath is refreshing and enticing, making it feel like you’ve known Naomi as a friend for years.
El Deafo, by Cece Bell (Amulet/Abrams)
Cece Bell lost her hearing when she was 4-years-old, and had to rely on a bulky Phonic Ear hearing aid growing up. While the chords were unsightly and she felt people were constantly staring at her, she managed to make good friends along the way while trying to fit in at school and in the neighborhood. A fascinating look at a severely deaf girl’s world during the 1970s, El Deafo encourages kids to be true to themselves in a heart-warming way. Wonderfully illustrations to accompany an equally wonderful message.
Hip Hop Family Tree, vol. 2, by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
Piskor returns to cover the early years of hip hop (1981-1983) on East and West coasts in his second volume on the subject. In volume two we see Afrika Bambaataa’s success with Planet Rock, the fury of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the evolution of the Beastie Boys, and the rise of Run-DMC. Educational as it is entertaining, you don’t have to be a fan of hip hop (but it helps) to enjoy the best history lesson being illustrated in the medium by Piskor.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, by Nathan Hale (Abrams)
A look at World War I with kid gloves, Hale dutifully breaks down the war and makes it understandable for not only younger readers, but older ones as well. Replacing the different participating countries with different animals to avoid confusion, readers experience the events leading up to the war, during, and the aftermath. The running commentary by the Hangman character borders on irritating, but the spy/narrator Nathan Hale comes across as incredibly informative.
To End All Wars: The Graphic Anthology of The First World War, edited by Jonathan Clode & John Stuart Clark (Soaring Penguin)
Focusing on The Great War and why it wasn’t necessarily so great, Clode and Clark assemble 27 comics taking place during World War I based on actual events and people. The artwork ranges from beautiful and raw (“Between the Darkness,” “Die and Become”), to what feels like not ready for print, with one comic even being lettered with Comic Sans. Includes looks at the war from the perspectives of air, sea, and land, To End All Wars shares content for those looking to learn more about the often overlooked war. Introduction by Pat Mills.
When the first volume debuted, it was a groundbreaking collection that invited music lovers to really get to know their hip hop roots. Volume two picks up immediately where volume one left off, continuing to educate how hip hop originated at block parties, and evolved to radio play and record deals. The major players from the first volume are either redefining themselves or evolving, while simultaneously making way for the next generation of up-and-comers. Piskor is the Ken Burns of hip hop history, and makes sure that every major event on each coast is covered.
I highly recommend playing Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force’s Planet Rock album on a loop when reading it.
Who I think will win:
Hip Hop Family Tree, vol. 2, by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
I don’t consider myself a hip hop aficionado by any stretch, but I’ve always been of the mindset to know where you came from. So while the average reader may not be a fan of rap or hip hop, they should at least be aware that several of the artists that they listen to today are, and were influenced by a cacophony of 80’s beats.
Piskor has an army of fans in both music and comic industries, making him the popular choice. Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 1 may not have won last year in this category, but this year Volume 2 is definitely going to win.
Who I think should have been nominated:
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, by Box Brown (First Second Books)
Seeing how a lot of comic book fans are also wrestling fans, Andre the Giant is a great read for wrestling fans and comic book readers alike. Being a biography, it does offer a plethora of information on the legend while still remaining entertaining. The drinking stories were especially riveting, everything from flipping cars to causing sheriffs to come and try to arrest him for unbuttoning his shirt at a bar. Andre may have been a towering colossus of a man, but his giant heart definitely matched his giant personality.
Who do you think should win / been nominated?
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