Six Graphic Greats

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The NYRB Classics series makes clear French literature is full of overlooked gems, and NYRC shows us French comics are no exception. Letter to Survivors, by the Charlie Hebdo contributor Gébé, is a post-apocalyptic satire complete with hazmat suits, bunkers, and uncanny parallels to our present moment. “This book bursts at the seams with lessons as relevant to the current state of the world as when it was first published in France over 35 years ago,” says Publishers Weekly. Edmond Baudoin’s Piero, a beautifully sketched, quietly moving memoir of childhood and coming of age alongside his brother, has garnered comparisons to Proust. And The Tenderness of Stones by Marion Fayolle, shortlisted for the 2020 Cartoonist Studio Prize, is a newer classic about contending with the painfully protracted death of a parent. You may recognize Fayolle’s distinctive style from her illustrations for The New York Times.

This collection also includes two masterpieces of Japanese alternative comics from a pair of brothers who pioneered the genre. In stories about street fights and crumbling motels, Tadao Tsuge’s Slum Wolf lays bare the gritty undercurrent of postwar Japan. Another tale of life on the margins, Yoshiharu Tsuge’s The Man Without Talent follows a former cartoonist who turns to a string of failed get-rich-quick schemes to support his family. Comics legend Chris Ware calls it “comics fiction at its most humane, literary, and poetic,” and it’s garnered a best-of designation from The Guardian as well as praise from The New York Times. Return to Romance: The Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney, another NYT and Guardian favorite and with an introduction by frequent New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck, is a lost classic that’s closer to home but no less captivating. Whitney’s midcentury American romance comics are funny, brutal, and true.