The Best Independent Comics of All Time
While superheroes tend to be in the comic world spotlight, many comics don't feature superheroes at all. Some of them depict people living in realistic circumstances. Many of them are also autobiographical and based on true stories. While many of these stories go on to win awards or become part of required reading for college level classes, many of them disappear from whence they came, only to be regared by academics and fade into obscurity.
Art Spiegelman's Maus is the autobiographical account of the author's father as he had survived the Holocaust. In this story, stylistic liberties were taken to depict the Jews as mice, the Nazi Germans as cats, and the Poles as pigs. This groundbreaking series has won several awards for it's depiction of the holocaust, including a Pulitzer Prize.
Persepolis is the autobiographical account of a young girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution where the government was completely taken over by Muslim radicals. She ends up being educated in Europe to prevent her repression at the hands of the state and opens herself up to a realm of experiences before returning home to Iran for the last time. The graphic novel series was adapted into a full length animated film.
This is the story of an American girl finding out more about her half Mexican heritage by taking a pilgrimage to Mexico. Over time, she fits in with the culture and accepts this side, even though she runs into serious problems surrounding drugs, immigration, and even social issues. The artwork is beautifully cartoonish, but the edge in some of the serious scenes is not lost in the lightness of the panels.
American Born Chinese
Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese depicts the coming of age of a Chinese American boy as he struggles with accepting his ethnic identity. There are three subplots which seem as if they are independent of one another: The Chin-Kee Show, Jin Wang's life as he tries to fit in with white America, and a retelling of the classical Chinese story of The Monkey King. The plot twist at the end is more than unexpected as the three subplots link together to form one full story.
My New York Diary
Julie Doucet's My New York Diary depicts her life from the moment she lost her virginity to her leaving art school to live with her boyfriend in New York City. The artwork is very cramped from panel to panel. This clever paneling adds anxiety to her world as she leaves behind everything she has ever known.
Out of the entire list, Maus holds the most emotional weight. As a purely biographical experience, the constant jumps between the modern day as Art interviews his father and the jumps to Nazi invaded Poland depicting his father's stuggles add a bit of context as to how the past has, in a sense, ruined the modern day. Art's mother had committed suicide at the age of 20 years old, which undoubtedly had a profound effect on Art as he was growing up, as well as his father. The accounts his father had given as to what happened portray the desperation of the times, and remind us to never forget the millions lost during that time.