The 10 Comics You Have to Read in 2014

By Jason Grimmer

<p>Celebrate Free Comic Book Day by reading up on some fantastic new graphic novels.</p>


Celebrate Free Comic Book Day by reading up on some fantastic comics. Playboy.com talked to the Retail Director of the famed Drawn and Quarterly bookstore about what graphic novels and comics are essential reads for 2014. Grimmer’s advice, below!

ANT COLONY

by Michael Deforge (Drawn & Quarterly)

In the few short years since he began his pamphlet-size comic book series Lose, Canadian comics artist and illustrator Michael DeForge has announced himself as an important new voice in alternative comics. His brash, confident, undulating artwork sent a shock wave through the comics world for its unique, fully formed aesthetic. With his debut Drawn & Quarterly title, DeForge affirms his place as a defining new voice of alternative comics. As dark and disturbing as it is endearing and cute, DeForge’s Ant Colony tells the story of a war between black and red ants rendered with humor and sensitivity. DeForge exposes a world where spiders can wreak unimaginable amounts of havoc with a single gnash of their jaws. Epic and psychedelic, Ant Colony is a black comedy of the weirdest kind.

BLOBBY BOYS by Alex Schubert (Koyama)

Hilarious and slime-filled, Blobby Boys is a series of vignettes about the scumbag, pothead punk band The Blobby Boys. The comic features such characters as Aging Hipster, Punk Dad and Cyber Surfer. In line with the ethos of punk rock, Schubert’s drawing style is spare and the comic is stoopid fun. Check out Alex Schubert’s Tumblr-based blog, Zine Police, which features excerpts from his sketchbooks and zines including The Dudes and Blobby Boys, heralded by MTV as “one of the funniest dumbest bestest webcomics we’ve come across in a minute.”

MY DIRTY DUMB EYES by Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)

My Dirty Dumb Eyes intermingles drawings, paintings, single-panel gag jokes, funny lists and anthropomorphized animals, all in the service of satirical, startlingly observant commentary on pop culture, contemporary society and human idiosyncrasies in this, Hanawalt’s first non-self-published collection. Hanawalt has made a name for herself already: her intricately detailed, absurdly funny comics have appeared in venues as wide and varied as The Hairpin, VanityFair.com, Lucky Peach, Saveur, The New York Times and The Believer. One of the funniest people on the planet right now and an amazing artist to boot, get to know her before her upcoming animated TV series Bojack Horseman airs on Netflix and makes her a household name.

JULIO’S DAY by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

One half of the legendary Hernandez Bros., Gilbert had three books published last year, Julio’s Day, Marble Season and Maria M., and of them, Julio’s Day was the craziest. The story covers 100 years in 100 pages and centers on a Mexican boy named Julio and the myriad, tangled ways that war, child abuse, insanity and thwarted dreams have shaped his life. The story is both heavy and surreal, to be sure, but it’s an incredibly compelling read.

BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is a story about a host of tiny creatures who have been displaced from their home inside the head of a young (dead) girl and must find a way to survive. Yes, you read that right. Buzzfeed called it “the best fairytale horror comic you’ll read this season.” Translated from its original French, this gorgeously drawn yet tremendously disturbing fairy tale should be considered required reading for those attracted to the darker side of comics.

LIFE ZONE by Simon Hanselmann (Space Face)

Hanselmann’s supernatural buddy-comedy comic is filled with selfish, embarrassing and generally unlikable characters whose plights veer from the ridiculous to the depressing and back again, yet this is also the exact reason you will love it. You don’t have to be stoned to enjoy Hanselmann’s gang of weirdos, but it would probably help.

KITARO by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)

Armed with his magical vest and click-clacking sandals, and accompanied by his father’s spirit (in the form of a living eyeball who rides in Kitaro’s one empty eye socket), Kitaro does battle with all manner of other yokai, and sometimes with ill-intentioned humans as well. Uh, yeah. This collection of stories brings together material from 1967 to 1969, the classic era of Kitaro in Japan. Shigeru Mizuki is a master, and there’s no better place to start than Kitaro to find out why.

LUMBERJANES by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen (Boom!)

Pay attention, now: this is the story of five teenage girls who, no joke, fight yetis. Five friends who are spending their summer in a girls-only camp find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving a disappearing bear-woman and dangerous three-eyed foxes. Skewing a bit younger and in the vein of the insanely popular Adventure Time, if issue one of Lumberjanes is anything to go by, there will be lots more to recommend beyond its delightful weirdness.

WHITE CUBE by Brecht Vandenbroucke (Drawn & Quarterly)

Belgian illustrator Brecht Vandenbroucke’s debut book is a collection of mostly wordless gag strips that follow a pair of creepy, pink-faced twins (“the aesthetic critics,” as Vandenbroucke calls them) as they attempt to understand contemporary art and the gallery world. Their reactions to the art they encounter are usually outrageous, as they paint over Pablo Picasso’s famous “Guernica” and recreate a pixelated version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” after receiving one too many emails. Lushly painted, these irreverent strips poke fun at the staid, often smug art world with absurd and often blackly comic satire.

NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH by Inio Asano (Fantagraphics)

Taking place in two separate timelines and featuring curses, sacrifices and heavy violence, Nijigahara Holograph couldn’t be described as a “feel-good” read but it is one of those rare truly original stories that you’ll want to read again and again as you try and put together the puzzle. Comparisons to David Lynch’s weirder works are not unwarranted.

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