The best books for expanding your idea of what visual storytelling can be

Iván Brandon Author Of Viking Volume 1
By Iván Brandon

Who am I?

I grew up in the weird world of a nerdy immigrant single mother, surrounded by comics and stories of every kind. I was attracted to writing (and drawing) from a really young age. Like a lot of 80s kids I was a latchkey, so there wasn’t really anyone around to tell me what was age-appropriate. I just grabbed books at random. Most of all what appealed to me were unique voices, when the books surprised me I didn’t care what they were about. When I finally started writing comics I got obsessed with trying not to repeat myself, keeping myself surprised. These books really helped me see the freedom I had in making comics.

I wrote...

Viking Volume 1

By Iván Brandon,

Book cover of Viking Volume 1

What is my book about?

Viking is a story about 2 young grifters in the 9th century struggling under the impossible and epic weight of their idea of what being a Viking is. These are 2 men doing all the wrong things to make a name for themselves, causing inadvertent consequences to themselves and their family and eventually taking on a caper that is so far over their head it might kill them both.

The books I picked & why

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Garage Band

By Gipi, Spectrum (translator),

Book cover of Garage Band

Why this book?

For my money, Gipi is the best living comic book storyteller in the world right now and while it’s incredibly hard to pick a single book, I went with Garage Band, which elevates the drama of a very simple situation, teenagers escaping the turmoil of their lives through music who have to figure out what to do when their only amp dies. It reminds me of how every teenaged moment felt like an opera of life or death. In his art, in his stories, in his characters, Gipi gives simple things an impossible depth. 

Tekkonkinkreet / Black & White

By Taiyo Matsumoto, Lillian Olsen (translator),

Book cover of Tekkonkinkreet / Black & White

Why this book?

Tekkonkinkreet has more raw energy than any comic I’ve ever read, like in my own book it’s the story of 2 brothers who think they’re invincible and make a lot of mistakes in the heat of the moment. The book is relentless and breaks every possible rule and is just an absolute marvel of comic storytelling.

Why I Hate Saturn

By Kyle Baker,

Book cover of Why I Hate Saturn

Why this book?

This story really covered a lot of ground for me, it sorta collapsed my idea of how to present visual information, it’s “novelistic” in structure, snippets of a woman’s messy life told mostly in the equivalent of subtitles, the visuals sometimes tracking the emotions rather than a string of actions. It was also published by the publisher of Batman but there was nothing even remotely supernatural about it, it wasn’t edgy or dark beyond how any of our lives are.

Elektra: Assassin

By Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz (illustrator),

Book cover of Elektra: Assassin

Why this book?

This book spoke early to me as a kid on form and presentation, it played with visual scale and pace on a level you still very rarely see. Sienkiewicz tells a sort of elaborate impressionist visual poem through paint and graphic design. And Miller layers text almost like a melody track, playing with texture and emotion, speeding things up and then slowing them all the way down, playing with time in a way that changed the whole game for me.

Love and Rockets: The Covers

By Los Bros Hernandez,

Book cover of Love and Rockets: The Covers

Why this book?

The Hernandez Brothers burned down almost anything I thought about comics. As a young Latin kid I hadn’t seen stories that referenced Latin characters in anything but a really heavy-handed way, the idea that we were allowed to be these flawed weird characters seemed impossible to me. I connected pretty heavily with Jaime’s work especially and when I’m stuck on almost anything I revisit these pages as a sort of hard reset on whatever I think my process is.

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