Influential cartoonist Daniel Clowes has made an enviable career out of misanthropy. He’s earned awards for introducing readers to a well-meaning kidnapper, a superhero whose powers are activated by cigarettes, and a teenage girl with a penchant for hearses. Sunday marks the release of The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, featuring rare material from the Ghost World creator’s 25-year career.
As Daniel Clowes continues to produce top-quality work, it’s easy to overlook the rising talent in alternative comics. There are many young artists who share his storytelling skills, interest in surrealism, and eye for biting observations. Discover some of these cartoonists below.
Ten years in the making and over 600 pages long, Nilsen’s epic Big Questions focuses on a group of thoughtful birds as they try to make sense of unexplainable circumstances. The two-time Ignatz award winner has made equally profound work in the comics Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, Dogs and Water, and Monologues for the Coming Plague.
Though many seek a fresh start in a new city, the path to reinvention often yields several uncomfortable moments. Cartoonist Gabrielle Bell knows this all too well and began illustrating her experiences as a new Brooklynite in the ongoing comic Lucky. In 2006, the series was collected by Drawn and Quarterly, and later this year her comics will be gathered once more for the new book The Voyeurs.
Glidden’s graphic memoir How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is an introspective look at her Birthright tour to Israel. The book deals with the author’s assumptions about Israel and her challenging experiences on the trip. Since the completion of this book, she’s launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project Stumbling Through Damascus, which will combine her watercolor comics and interest in international journalism.
Norwegian cartoonist Jason receives international acclaim for his brilliant storytelling. Using little to no dialogue in his works, he lets his cinematic-like visual style tell most of the story. Like Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus, Jason also uses anthropomorphic characters to express emotional complexity. His books The Left Bank Gang and I Killed Adolf Hitler earned him much-sought-after Eisner Awards.
Emily Flake has shown versatility as an illustrator for The New Yorker and creator of the alt-weekly comic strip Lulu Eightball. Equally hilarious is her 2007 book These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves, a candid account of her journey to quit smoking by age 29.
Nicole J. Georges
For the past 12 years, Portland, Oregon-based cartoonist Nicole J. Georges has been mining the city for inspiration in her ongoing comic Invincible Summer. In past issues, we’ve seen Georges wade through awkward relationships, get bullied by the elderly, create an aerobics class for queer punks, and raise pet chickens. Recently, she’s collaborated with the Portlandia team to illustrate other people’s memorable experiences. In her upcoming graphic novel Calling Dr. Laura, Georges will momentarily depart from her Portland-centric musings to share her story of unlocking family secrets through — what else? — talk radio and psychics.
Last year, he got our attention for his disturbingly brilliant graphic novel Monsters, a paranoid tale about living with herpes. Dahl, who sometimes works under the alias Gabby Schulz, has gone on to create a similarly unnerving web comic series titled Sick. As in Monsters, he uses disease as a means for the main character to isolate himself. While in bed, the character ponders the choices he’s made with his life and becomes increasingly anxious about the state of mankind.
Cristy C. Road
Documenting rebellion one thick, black line at a time, Cristy C. Road uses her art to fight social injustice. Her images of youth puking, bleeding, and protesting illustrate how tough growing up with a heart filled with revolutionary hopes can be. At age 17, she began her artistic career by self-publishing zines. Since then, she has released the autobiographical works Indestructible and Bad Habits. Currently she is at work on the coming-of-age graphic novel Spit and Passion, relating the coming out story of a tween protagonist.
Hanawalt’s most popular work is comprised of clever illustration for publications. Last year, she drew a series of hilarious costume enhancements for Ryan Gosling’s character from the film Drive, proving that the only thing cooler than a satin scorpion jacket is a saxophone, skateboard, and talking parrot combo. Besides illustration, she also creates comics, including the two-volume work I Want You.
Though he’s pretty early into his career, Michael DeForge’s distinctive, surrealist style is one to watch. Favoring melting faces, junk-filled dystopias, and teenage mafias, DeForge consistently creates unpredictable and very funny comics. The pairing of these strange images with everyday dialogue makes his work even more intriguing. His comics have been collected in the anthology Lose, which saw its third installment last year.