Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China
By Guy Delisle Drawn & Quarterly, 2005–2008
"With time blocking out the bad, memory is always bound to be a bit naÃ¯ve and stupidly optimistic."
Canadian animator Guy Delisle is in no danger of becoming stupidly optimistic, as he thought he had been early on in his book "Shenzhen." Delisle may be disciplined, or perhaps he simply had nothing else to do at night during his long stays in North Korea, China, and Burma (Myanmar)—he worked diligently on–site, producing the best travel graphic novels to date without allowing the filter of time to sentimentalize his trips.
In his first two books, Delisle is sent abroad to oversee animators, first in North Korea and then in a Chinese Special Economic Zone near Hong Kong. Delisle puts the "comic" back in comic book as he deftly, expertly skewers dictatorships without direct criticisms. He's essentially under house arrest in Pyongyang, where he is always accompanied by a minder or translator, and lives in a nearly empty hotel on an island. His jail is larger in Shenzhen, but he quickly realizes that there too, he is in a region cut off from both Hong Kong and mainland China by barbed wire, armed guards, and the need for visas.
Delisle's art is gray and darkest when he is in Shenzhen, depressed and bored in this industrial region. He lightens up in Pyongyang, but once he gets to Burma, the gray cast is gone from the images, which are lighter and more fun. This matches Delisle's mood and story—by the time he gets to Burma, he is married and has a baby, and instead of working in the country, he's privileged enough to be in the more glamorous world of the NGO expat. His wife, an administrator for Doctors Without Borders, has access to embassy parties and expat sports clubs. But the Burmese makes the most sense to us of all the residents that Delisle has met. They are cynics who hear international news on Thai radio and know how to circumvent Internet censorship. After reading about brainwashing in North Korea and Delisle's struggles to communicate in Shenzhen, Burma Chronicles reads as a cheery, happy book, even as we consider issues of censorship and discrimination. The Burmese know their situation, manage to joke about it, and still convey joy even as they express resignation.
By Lucy Knisley Touchstone, 2008
This travel diary about the 22–year–old author's month in Paris offers nothing new or insightful about traveling, but what saves the day here is the storyteller's cute drawing style and naïveté. Her optimistic, big–eyed surprise at French food, bookstores, and rich milk would not bear mentioning by a more experienced traveler, but her openly enthusiastic embracing of the most minor cultural difference disarms the reader, giving a simple "We ate this, we saw that" travel narrative a charm that a more cynical author could never offer.
Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992–1995
The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo
Notes From A Defeatist
War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995–96
Joe Sacco is in a class by himself, part journalist, part traveler, and all cartoonist.
Harvey Pekar, Heather Roberson, and Ed Piskor produce a graphic novel about how Roberson sets out to prove that a country can avoid war.
The Venice Chronicles
Storyboard artists Enrico Casarosa uses watercolors to illustrate his trip to Venice.
True Travel Tales
A comic book series where illustrator Justin Hall draws stories told to him by travelers
Misadventures from the Diaries of Marco Solo
Shannon Brady self–publishes comics about his trips.
Ten Foot Rule
Shawn Granton draws comics about biking around Portland, OR, and the US.
Cartoonist Mats!? has illustrated his Southeast Asia trip in this collection of travel comics.
Tom Hart self–published a comic about 5 months in Morocco.
Tales from the Heart of Africa
Cindy Goff wrote a series of creator–owned comics about her time as a Peace Corp volunteer in Africa.
Marie Javins, author of Stalking the Wild Dik–Dik: One Woman's Solo Misadventures Across Africa, Best in Tent Camping: New Jersey, and 3–D World Atlas & Tour, is a comic book creator, traveler, and blogger who alternates between roaming the planet by public bus, editing Kuwaiti comic books, teaching comic book coloring at NYC's School of Visual Arts, and writing stories entirely unrelated to her day job. In 2001, she circumnavigated the world by public transport live on MariesWorldTour.com. See her travel comic on a week in Nairobi here.
Marie is sorry if she overlooked your graphic novel.