Look to the horizon and find yourself in a new place, it’s time for “So You Want To Read Comics”, a weekly feature where we take a look at a single topic and then offer comic book recommendations, based on that topic. This week we’re looking at travelogues.
There seems to be an accepted assumption in pop culture, literature, film, and TV, that when you need a personal awakening, a revelation, an expanded outlook, or just a bit of romance, you travel. Travelogues, both fictional and non-fictional, capture a special part of our imaginations and plays on our inherent wanderlust. Especially nowadays, when travel isn’t as easy as it once was for a lot of people, things like Eat, Pray, Love, On The Road, The Motorcycle Diaries, and all the various different traveling/cooking shows out there, act as our surrogate entries into these faraway places.
Considering the name of this feature, you shouldn’t be surprised that there are a large selection of comic books that depict the stories of people in foreign lands. Here are a couple that are great for people who may not be familiar with the medium (and everyone else as well).
An Age of License
Writer: Lucy Knisley
Artist: Lucy Knisley
An Age of License is an autobiographical account of the creators tour through Europe. Starting as an invite to a comic convention in Norway, this story then opens up into a whirlwind romance, an exploration of French winemaking, and an exploration of that stage in life (whenever it happens) where a person feels caught between the fluidity of youth and the stability of adulthood. In a nutshell, this is a light and breezy take on the type of story made popular by stuff like Eat, Pray, Love. What makes this so effective as a travelogue is how it doesn’t linger too much on any single place or idea. Rather, everything is presented as a sort of collection of independent events that are tied together only by the fact that the same person experienced all of them; A feeling that will be familiar to those who have traveled abroad before, especially if that trip involved multiple destinations. Also, while this story does have its fair share of philosophizing, which is a strong cliche in this genre, what’s here doesn’t feel self-indulgent but representative of feelings inside everyone that just happened to be coaxed out during this trip. Lastly, Lucy Knisley’s art is charming and simple art has a symbiotic feel to the story. It’s unobtrusiveness does a wonderful job enhancing the story rather than being distracting or stealing the spotlight from the narrative.
Writer: Guy Delisle
Artist: Guy Delisle
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
It’s hard to talk about graphic travelogues without bringing up Guy Delisle, so I will. Guy Delisle has made a career out of creating graphic novels depicting his travel to places like North Korea, China, and Jerusalem, oftentimes examining troubling political situations by showing how they spring up in day to day life. But, in Burma Chronicles, we have a more personal account of events. Focusing more on Guy’s relationship with his newborn child with the backdrop of a foreign country filled with interesting people to interact and learn about. What makes this so nice, is how it takes an experience that is incredibly relatable for many people and by adding something that isn’t as familiar it allows the reader to really examine something that they might not think much about. Another interesting aspect of this story is how it compares and contrasts some of the more “frivolous” complaints the author has (lack of air conditioning, dealing with red tape, a less than stellar apartment) with the everyday hardships a lot of the locals have while living under the oppressive government that controlled the country in 2006/2007. It manages to put things into perspective without preaching, everything is just laid out there and trusts the reader to draw their own conclusions. Also, Guy Delisle is wonderful at drawing landscapes and architecture, and those illustrations permeate through this whole graphic novel.
So, did these recommendations satisfy your travel bug? Do you have some suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.