Shelf Life: Celebrate Free Comic Book Day

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 marks the 16th year that the comic book industry has celebrated Free Comic Book Day. It takes place on the first Saturday of May and Polk County Public Library is participating this year! Come by either the Columbus Library or the Saluda Library starting on Friday, May 5 to pick up your free comic book, while supplies last.

“American Born Chinese” is the first graphic novel I ever read and spurred my love of the format. A New York Times bestseller, the book intertwines three stories: Chinese-American middle school student Jin Wang struggling with his identity, a white American boy Danny whose Chinese cousin Chin-Kee visits every year and embarrasses him, and the legendary folk tale of the Monkey King. Author Gene Luen Yang has also written the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” trilogy series that serve as a continuation of the television series as well as the popular companion graphic novels Boxers and Saints.

Another graphic novel I love is “Anya’s Ghost” by Vera Brosgol. It also deals with an immigrant struggling with her identity, as Anya is desperate to distance herself from her Russian heritage. One day she falls into a hole and meets… A ghost! The story is entertaining and unpredictable and the illustrations are amazing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brian Selznick’s historical fiction graphic novels are quick, delightful reads. Don’t balk at the thickness; half the pages are black-and-white pencil drawings. “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was awarded the Caldecott medal in 2008, which surprised many as it is not a traditional picture book. It is a magical tale of an orphan boy who maintains the clocks in a Paris train station while working to put back together a robot his father had been working on before his death. The author weaves historical facts with a story that inspires readers to follow their dreams.

I realize that as a children’s librarian, I’ve been recommending graphic novels written for youth so far. While I’m sure many adults will enjoy them, I’ll also suggest a few titles written specifically for an older audience. I previously discussed “Maus” by Art Spiegelman in my column about non-fiction reads. This book offers a unique view of the Holocaust, drawing the Nazis as cats and the Jews as mice.

“March” is a graphic novel trilogy written by civil rights legend and Georgia congressman John Lewis and author Andrew Aydin. The books explore many events that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, including the Selma to Montgomery marches on “Bloody Sunday,” the Freedom Riders, and the Birmingham church bombing. The final book in the trilogy won a host of prestigious awards this year.

My coworker Cameron Langford recommends “The Wicked + The Divine,” a contemporary fantasy comic book series by Kieron Gillen. The series follows the main character Laura as she interacts with the Pantheon, a group of 12 people who are actually reincarnated deities. Members of the Pantheon are granted fame and supernatural powers; however, the catch is that they will only live for two years or less. “The Wicked + The Divine” won Best Comic at the 2014 British Comic Awards and has been applauded for its diverse portrayal of ethnicity and sexuality.

In addition to getting a free comic book at the library this weekend, you can also read a graphic novel to participate in the Polk County Public Library 2017 Reading Challenge. Pick up a challenge form at the library and return it at the end of the year for a prize!

Jen Pace Dickenson is the Youth Services Librarian at Polk County Public Library. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit or call 828-894-8721.