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For many years, cartooning in the District seemed only as exciting as the latest Herblock collection. These days, the DMV illustration scene offers far more diversity than editorial cartoons or newspaper strips, and this year produced worthwhile volumes from surprising people, including a congressman, a millionaire, and an NPR commentator.
March: Book One By Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell March, Georgia Rep. Lewis’ autobiographical account of growing up black in the South and joining the Civil Rights movement under the tutelage of Martin Luther King Jr., is one of my favorite graphic novels—not just this year, but ever. It debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times graphic book bestseller list, and it has spent 16 weeks on it, with the first printing just about sold out. It’s a story everyone should know.
The Tumbleweed Came Back By Carmela LaVigna Coyle and Kevin Rechin This work showcases the zany art of an under-recognized Washington cartoonist, Kevin Rechin. His talent tends to go unnoticed because his output is usually confined to unsigned, humorous illustrations for books, games, and magazines. Last year Rechin, son of Crock cartoonist Bill Rechin, started and then chose not to continue his father’s comic strip (and, full disclosure, he also illustrated a story I wrote for the local history collection District Comics). In this children’s book, his art jumps off the page.
Magic Bullet This local free comics newspaper, a product of the DC Conspiracy comics co-op, produced its sixth and seventh issues this year. Copies are distributed around town, and picking one up is an easy way to sample a big chunk of the local comics scene.
Bloop: Part One By Steve Conley Conley’s been doing science fiction comics for a long time, beginning with Astounding Space Thrills in the 1990s. He returned to the same satirical universe this year with a Kickstarter-backed self-published collection of his Bloop Web comic. Bloop, of course, is a green space monkey whose planet is under siege by an interstellar conglomerate. Bloop is printed about the same size as Washington City Paper, and the art is beautiful.
Superman: The Unauthorized Biography By Glen Weldon This compulsively readable look at the evolution of Superman, written by NPR contributor Glen Weldon, is pleasantly snarky. Outside of the recent hamfisted Man of Steel movie, Superman has been a lot of different, and often goofy, characters in his 75 years.
Mission in a Bottle By Seth Goldman, Barry Nalebuff, and Sungyoon Choi A business book done in graphic novel format, Mission in a Bottle tells the story of Bethesda’s Honest Tea from its beginnings as a business-school idea to a full-fledged drink company to a Coca-Cola product. The art is clean and not flashy, and injects some style into what could have been a dry story.