Episode 9: Relish


In episode 9, we discuss Relish by Lucy Knisley, fairy tale adaptations, Anime Expo, Kodansha digital comics, and, once again, trees.


Lucy Knisley

Castle Waiting (fairy tale comics)

Linda Medley’s Patreon (creator of Castle Waiting)

Anime Expo

Kodansha on Comixology

Kounodori: Dr. Stork

Casa Levene (house built around trees)



Cartooning as Catharsis: How the Process of Creating Comics Helps Relieve Psychological Stress

Comic books are an enjoyable form of leisure and entertainment, and, as we discuss on our podcast and this blog, they are an effective form of dispensing knowledge. But the process of creating comics is proving to be a therapeutic form of self-expression as well.

A program in Vermont is helping veterans create comics to process the trauma of war. The local VA medical center in White River Junction has partnered with the Center for Cartoon Studies to offer classes and seminars on comics creation. At least one vet is saying the program is helping her move away forward.

“It was scary to put myself out there, because I was vulnerable,” Frazzetta told NECN. “But it definitely helped me move past that moment in time, where I could go on and look to the future, and not be so stuck with the war.”

In Canada, comic book artists are teaming up with Syrian refugees to tell their stories in graphic art form. The project hopes to educate the public as well as provide an outlet for refugees. Mohammed Alsaleh is one such refugee. He was studying medicine when the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. He was arrested for filming the pro-democracy protests in Syria.

“I think it’s very important to, you know, share my story, other immigrants to share their stories as well,” Mohammed Alsaleh told PBS News Hour. “In order to demonstrate we have this beautiful place because we welcome others, because we are the positive example in a — in a very bad world.”

In Philadelphia, a free class for Mexican immigrants is helping children address their fears through the comics medium. The kids report they sleep better and are less afraid after attending the two hour workshop. NPR produced an excellent video on the program, embedded below:

Graham Shaw teaches people who have suffered a stroke how to draw. Sometimes, the patients are learning to draw with their previously non-dominant hand. He teaches them simple, cartoon-style drawings that can be used to depict people and even emotions. The act of drawing inspires confidence in patients who have suffered a great loss.

Cancer patients have also taken to comics to help handle the stress of their illness. Teva Harrison told the story of her breast cancer diagnosis in her memoir In Between Days.

“I started drawing to deal with the depression,” Harrison told The Globe and Mail. “On focusing on something in front of me, and drawing my experience of living with cancer and new experiences related to being sick.”

Creating comics is not just a stress release, but also a distraction from the intensity of a cancer patient’s current hardship. Matt Freedman reflected on pre-cancerous events in his book Relatively Indolent But Relentless: A Cancer Treatment Journal in order to provide context, but the process offered relief as well.

“Often in the book when I leave the narrative to recount personal memories it is because I want to give some context to the story of treatment,” Freedman told The Atlantic. “Often, though, it was a relief to escape from the present into an old story, so the line between the calculated and the spontaneous is blurry and was crossed many times in both directions.”

There’s even a clinical trial being conducted on comics creation as art therapy for cancer patients and caregivers. It’s a small study, so I’m rooting for it to be successful enough to encourage larger studies after completion.

In the meantime, anecdotes suggest that comics creation can be a worthwhile form of art therapy. If you’d like to try it for yourself, check out a class or workshop locally or at a comic convention. Also, consult with a mental health professional to see if this is a process that could be good for you.

Episode 8: Addressing Disparaging Attitudes Towards Comic Books


In episode 8, we take on the haters and the critics who dismiss comic books as a legitimate form of literature and art.


In Defense of Comics as Literature by Stephanie Hoos

Books named in this episode:

Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (listen to our podcast about this book here)

Watchmen by  Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins

Episode 7: Trashed


We discuss Derf Backderf’s semi-autobiographical comic Trashed and learn a ton about the waste disposal industry in these United States. Plus, for our random discoveries, we fangirl over Cloonan, the manga My Brother’s Husband, and the podcast Undiscovered.


Trashed (Publisher site)

Dracula illustrated by Becky Cloonan

My Brother’s Husband



10 Graphic Novels to Read for African American Music Appreciation Month

In 1979, President Carter declared a celebration of African American music during the month of June, a tradition that carries on to this day. Here’s a list of graphic novels that celebrate the contribution of African Americans to the rich musical heritage of the United States:

Hip Hop Family Tree

This Eisner Award-winning series by writer and artist Ed Piskor chronicles the inception of the genre in the 1970s and 80s. The art is designed to mimic superhero comics of the era. There are 12 individual issues commonly found collected into 3 separate volumes.

Neverland: The Life and Death of Michael Jackson

One of three books on our list by writer Jim McCarthy, this book, illustrated by Brian Williamson, explores everything from the Jackson 5 to the moonwalk to the King of Pop’s marriage with the King of Rock n Roll’s daughter, Lisa Presley.

Billie Holiday

Writer Carlos Sampayo and artist Jose Muñoz employ the storytelling construct of a reporter delving into Holiday’s life on the 30th anniversary of the singer’s death. The black and white book takes a look at the glamour, hardship and scandal that followed one of jazz’s most unique voices.

Voodoo Child: The Illustrated Legend of Jimi Hendrix

Described by some as “speculative fantasy,” this mesmerizing book by Martin I. Green and legendary illustrator Bill Sienkiewicz features hazy, hypnotic art depicting the beautiful yet turbulent life of the innovative guitarist. Oh, and the hardcover comes with a 6-song cd.

Death Rap: Tupac Shakur – A Life

Another installment by McCarthy, this time teaming up with another writer, Barnaby Legg, with art by Flameboy, the book examines the successes and ultimate tragedy of a hip hop star whose life was cut way too short.

Louis Armstrong: Graphic History

Geared towards kids aged 8-14, this book by author Terry Collins and illustrator Richie Pope follows Armstrong from his youth in New Orleans through the obstacles he faced in becoming a professional musician in a racially divided America.

Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm

This Eisner Award-nominated autobiography illustrated by Ronald Wimberly is a frank look at the childhood and young adult life of Percy Carey. Gang wars, rap battles, struggling to make a living, hustling to make it as an artist – it’s all here in gritty detail.


Writer and artist Paolo Parisi takes a look at the life of this jazz legend, including his childhood in North Carolina, military career, performing with Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and going on to be a standout musician in his own right.

Wake Up and Live: The Life of Bob Marley

Bob Marley was Jamaican, but there’s no mistaking his influence and impact on the American music scene. Yet another book by Jim McCarthy, this time teaming with artist Benito Gallego, the book employs Marley’s dialect, with footnotes to define words and Rastafarian beliefs.


This ongoing comic book series was created by Darryl McDaniels himself. It’s set in an alternate universe where he never met Run and formed one of the most famous hip hop groups of all time. Instead, he is a hero with superpowers. The first volume is set in New York City during the 1980s.

While this list of African American music graphic novels is impressive in an industry that puts so much focus on heroes and fantasy, I’d love to see even more books on artists such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross – the list goes on and on.

Our reality-based and informational Comic Book Directory now has over 500 books!

We recently unveiled our comic book directory, which is an effort to help readers find comic books and graphic novels that are nonfiction, academic or educational, reality-based or informative in some way.  At the time, we had over 400 comics on the list, but we’ve been working to add more and we now have over 500.

Below are the titles that have been added since the announcement:

7 Miles a Second by David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger, and Marguerite Van Cook (AIDS)

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollmann (journalism, alcoholism)

The Adventures of Herge by Jose-Louis Bocquet, Jean-Luc Fromental, and Stanislas Barthélémy (biography of Tintin creator)

Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso, Age 17+ (family during civil war, fiction)

The Artist by Anna Haifisch (fine art satire)

Aya series by by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie (Ivory Coast in the 1970s, fiction)

Bannock Beans and Black Tea: Memories of a Prince Edward Island Childhood in the Great Depression by John Gallant and Seth

Berlin series by Jason Lutes (Weimar Republic)

Beta Testing the Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski (capitalism, communism, utopianism, fiction)

Bright Eyed at Midnight by Leslie Stein (diary comics)

Chicago: A Comix Memoir by Glenn Head (coming of age, semi-autobiographical)

Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps by Art Spiegelman

Cosplayers by Dash Shaw (fandom, fiction)

Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw (tragicomic, childhood, death, sex, drug use)

Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Drechsler (domestic abuse)

Denys Wortman’s New York: Portrait of the City in the 30s and 40s by Denys Wortman, James Sturm, and Brandon Elston

The Envelope Manufacturer by Chris Oliveros (hardship of owning an independent small business)

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan (Israel, terrorism, fiction)

Goddamn This War! by Jacques Tardi (World War I)

The Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm (1920s Jewish baseball team, fiction)

Goliath by Tom Gauld (Goliath’s point of view)

Growing Up in Public by Ezequiel García (struggling artist memoir)

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver

I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason

Invisible Ink: My Mother’s Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist by Bill Griffith

It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi (World War I)

Jack Jackson’s American History: Los Tejanos & Lost Cause by Jack Jackson (Texas-Mexican conflict, Texans’ violent reaction to Reconstruction)

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle

Kafka by Robert Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz

Kaspar by Diane Obomsawin (the mysterious life of Kaspar Hauser)

King: A Comics Biography by Ho Che Anderson (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The Klondike by Zach Worton (Yukon gold rush)

Late Bloomer by Carol Tyler, Age 18+ (relationships, parenthood, child development)

The Late Child and Other Animals by James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook (aftermath of World War II)

Marble Season by Gilbert Hernández (semiautobiographical novel about the Hernández brothers’ childhood)

Market Day by James Sturm (Old World marketplace just before industrialization, fiction)

Masterpiece Comics by Robert Sikoryak (parodies of classic literature)

Melody: Story of a Nude Dancer by Sylvie Rancourt, Age 18+

A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross (sequel to Escape from Special, adolescence, anxiety, drug use, and anorexia)

Michael Jordan: Bull on Parade by Wilfred Santiago

Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier (grief)

NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki (memoir about childhood belief in spirits)

Oil and Water by Steve Duin and by Shannon Wheeler, Age 15+ (aftermath of Deepwater Horizon oil-spill)

One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry (“autobifictionalographic” slice of life)

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki (Japanese infantry unit at the end of WorldWar II)

Over Easy by Mimi Pond, Age 18+ (1970s, California, drug use)

Paying for It by Chester Brown, Age 18+ (prostitution)

Perfect Example by John Porcellino (coming of age)

Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen (imagining Poseidon in early 21st century)

Real Deal Comix by Lawrence Hubbard and H.P. McElwee (satire of urban life)

Reunion by Pascal Girard (high school reunion, semiautobiographical)

Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (planning a wedding)

Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China by Guy Delisle

Shigeru Mizuki’s Hitler by Shigeru Mizuki

Soldier’s Heart: The Campaign to Understand My WWII Veteran Father: A Daughter’s Memoir (You’ll Never Know) by Carol Tyler

Southern Cross by Laurence Hyde (post-World War II atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific)

Temperance by Cathy Malkasian (conflict’s impact on society, fantasy, fiction)

Terms and Conditions by R. Sikoryak (graphic adaptation of iTunes Terms and Conditions document)

To Have and To Hold by Mary Johnston and Graham Chaffee (adaptation)

Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust (a European hitchhiking trip remembered 25 years later)

Trash Market by Tadao Tsuge (post-World War II Japan)

White Cube by Brecht Vandenbroucke (contemporary art, galleries, wordless)

Wimbledon Green by Seth (comic book collecting, fiction)

Wrinkles by Paco Roca (Alzheimer’s)

Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore (race, friendship)

Searching for Reality-Based Comics at HeroesCon 2017

If you’ve ever been to a comic book convention, you know that science fiction and fantasy tend to be the focus. There’s nothing wrong with that. But at this year’s HeroesCon, I was on the hunt for reality-based and informational comics, the kind we read for our podcast and write about on this blog.

It took quite a bit of combing through vendor comic boxes and shelves, but I was able to find several books from our comic book directory, including: 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago, Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey by Nick Bertozzi, Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists by Jim Ottaviani, How the World Was: A California Childhood by Emmanuel Guibert, Muhammad Ali by Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane.

I also found a book that was not yet in our directory called XOC: The Journey of a Great White by Matt Dembicki. It follows a great white shark on a 2,300 mile journey through the Pacific Ocean, encountering prey and predators along the way.

At the AdHouse Books table, copies of the Eisner-nominated Your Black Friend by Ben Passmore were available as well as the travelogue The Venice Chronicles by Enrico Casarosa.

I knew there was potential for a reality-based comic or two in Artist Alley, but I was pleasantly surprised to find 4 different artists selling reality-based work.

First up, Rachel Ordway was selling copies of Chain Mail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers at her table (she’s one of the contributors). I’d just featured it in my list of 7 books to read about gamers and gaming, so I was happy to see it at the con. (Her contribution to the book is really good, by the way).

I also picked up a copy of Abby Howard’s self-published autobio Junior Paleontologist Power Hour chronicling her field work during a paleontology course in Saskatchewan. Her book reminds me a lot about Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, which we read for episode 6 of our podcast. If you like reading about scientific field work as much as we did, you’ll enjoy her book.

High school chemistry teacher C.A. Preece was repping his new book CheMystery, which uses a fictional construct, two cousins gaining powers due to a radiation accident, to teach chemistry principles. Similar to Cells at Work, there are science factoids featured throughout the book that are fun to read and don’t interfere with the story. Here’s a trailer for the book, which officially releases July 1st.

Last but not least was kindergarten teacher Jon O’Briant. He’s self-published a series of books called Public Education. They are cartoons based on the things his students say and events that happen in his classroom. It’s a slice-of-life look at kindergarten. He also provides humorous teaching tips under each cartoon strip.

An honorable mention is the book Portraits by Dave Wachter. It’s a sketchbook of portraits of inspirational progressive and historical figures, as well as endangered animals. It’s not a comic, but I was thinking ahead of the con how I have a lot of art of fictional characters but very little art of real people who have inspired me. A portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which made picking up this gem all that much greater.

All in all, I was able to come home with a heavy haul of books to read and add to my library.

7 Graphic Novels about Games and Gaming Culture

Right now, E3 is taking place in Los Angeles and it’s one of gaming’s biggest weeks of the year. There’s no better time to take a look at the comic books and graphic novels about games and gaming culture. While E3 is dedicated specifically to video games, we expanded our list to include a couple of tabletop games as well.

On our list, we include reality-based comics about the history of two of the most popular games ever and then a handful of books on the lives of gamers and gaming culture.

Tetris: The Games People Play 

It’s the book we read for the pilot episode of our podcast! Author and illustrator Box Brown brilliantly takes the reader through the extensive history of Tetris, from its humble Russian roots to its expansion around the world.

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

Similar to Brown’s Tetris, this book byDavid Kushner and Koren Shadmi examines the origin story of the most popular tabletop rpg: Dungeons and Dragons.

Level Up

The passion for video games is pitted against parental pressure to complete medical school in this coming of age gem from Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham.

Chainmail Bikini: The Anthology of Women Gamers

Forty creators contribute to this book, edited by Hazel Newlevant. As the title suggests, it’s about the love of games by a demographic that is often ignored by the industry.

The Guild

This comic is the prequel to Felicia Day’s famed web series, about the offline lives of an online gaming guild who meet in real life. The series was inspired by Day’s own experiences playing World of Warcraft.

In Real Life

Another fictional look at online gamers, this one by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang examines what happens when one gamer befriends another who is profiteering off the game.


Hikaru no Go

A sixth-grade boy discovers a haunted Go board in his grandfather’s attic. After merging consciousness with the ancient ghost trapped inside the game, the boy goes on to face tough Go matches and attempts to free the ghost in this manga by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata.


Episode 6: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

We discuss Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, pondering women in science and field research. For our random discoveries, an unexpected love of a monster prison book, women in fandom and a comics cultural minister.


Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas


Looking for Leia

Macron Has Appointed A Comics Publisher As France’s Culture Minister

Introducing the Naturally Curious Comic Book Directory, 400+ reality-based and informational comics

Comics are great for entertainment, but they’re also a great medium with which to learn, if you’re a reader, and inform, if you’re a creator or educator. That’s what the Naturally Curious podcast and blog are all about.

It will take us awhile to build up a catalog of podcast episodes and blog posts dedicated to these types of comics. So, we’ve started a Comic Book Directory to help you find comics related to your interests or to help you grow beyond your current comfort zone.

Many of the comics approach their topic from a reality-based or non-fiction point of view. Others employ fiction and fantasy to explore important stories.

You can access the directory from the top navigation menu on our site, available from any page. Once you arrive at the page, you’ll see links to 27 topic pages. Click on the ones that interest you and you’ll find the list of books.

This is not yet a comprehensive list. We have many more comics to add. How many? We’re not sure yet! In the meantime, browse the list and then head to your local comic shop, library or favorite online vendor to read these books and expand your horizons.