Looking back at the past decade of the best Canadian comic books and graphic novels

canada sign
To celebrate Canada’s July 1 holiday, here’s a look at the best Canadian comic books and graphic novels from the past decade as recognized by the Will Eisner Industry Awards, Canada Reads, USA Today, The Montreal Gazette, Creative Bloq, Vulture, and CBC Books.

The Will Eisner Award for Best Humor Publication was Scott Pilgrim vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
As reviewed by iFanBoy.com: “What’s amazing to me is that this series has grown along with Scott Pilgrim and his friends. What started out as a fun and funny story about a bunch of friends in their very early 20s trying to make their rock band work while navigating the complexities of adult(ish) love has grown much more complex. And as a result with this newest volume, Scott Pilgrim has become a much more brutally honest work.”
scott pilgrim vol 5

The People’s Choice in Canada Reads was Essex Country by Jeff Lemire.
According to the Tegan and Sara blog: “i am so excited to be supporting both the book and a genre that i admire greatly! i read Essex County last year in what i remember being one sitting (i was actually laying down in my bed, in fact). I was moved, often as much by the illustrations as by the stories and words. It’s a truly haunting collection, and resonating deeply with me long after i had finished it. perhaps the storylines of siblings and hockey and cold winters in Canada are something that so many of us would find easy reflection in. there is a patience and cinematic pace to it that i found remarkable and would recommend this book to anyone, even those of you out there who don’t read graphic novels!”
essex county

USA Today suggested Saga: Volume One by Fiona Staples and Bryan K. Vaughan among one of the best of the year.
USA Today wrote: “Saga is the best comic book series to come out in 2012. This is why younger fans fall in love with the genre and why older fanboys are always holding out hope for the next big thing. It is, at once, a tale of love, adventure, war, and magic. Narrated from the perspective of the daughter of two love-stricken, pacifist soldiers from opposing armies (and races), each issue in this six-installment opening run was better than the next. Pairing Vaughan (Ex-Machina) with Staples (North 40) is one of the best creative moves in recent memory. This story has it all: mercenaries, lovers, ghosts, rocket ships and a villainous prince with a TV for a head. Well worth the purchase, but definitely for the mature audience.”

The Montreal Gazette reviewed the best graphic novels of the year including The Spectral Engine by Ray Fawkes.
The review stated that the book “takes a series of documented spectral sightings connected to accidents and disasters throughout Canadian history (the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in the St. Lawrence, the deaths of labourers on the Canadian Pacific Railway) and arranges them into a kind of secret alternative national narrative.Fawkes’s expressionist style and melancholic disposition make him a spiritual cousin to Jeff Lemire of Essex County fame; anyone who enjoyed that Canada Reads-shortlisted classic can invest in The Spectral Engine with full confidence. Note: A glow-in-the-dark cover provides added spookiness.”

the spectral engine

Creative Bloq recommended Shoplifter by Michael Cho as the best graphic novel of the year.
The article stated: “This graphic novel will strike a chord with any designer or illustrator who’s felt trapped in a job that seems to be going nowhere. Telling the story of a young woman who’s stuck in a rut creatively, Michael Cho’s debut graphic novel has garnered rave reviews, and for good reason. Its story is compelling, the dialogue authentic, its red and black artwork instantly engaging. There are plenty of characters that anyone who works in the creative world will recognise, although that’s not always a comfortable sensation… All in all, though, a near-flawless read.”


Vulture included SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki among the top 10 best graphic novels of the year.
According the article: “There was a time when full-page comic strips were the dominant form of American sequential art, but they’ve been in steep decline for decades. Thankfully, we have the brilliant mind and pen of Jillian Tamaki to revive it to awe-inspiring effect. SuperMutant Magic Academy is a series of strips about a school that’s part Hogwarts and part Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but nothing about it feels like stale parody. The lockstep rhythm of charming setups and surreal punch lines aggregates into a lengthy, funny work about growth and confusion.”
supermutant magic academy

The 2016 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Humor Publication went to Step Aside, Pops!: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton.
According to Quill & Quire: “Nova Scotia–based Kate Beaton was awarded Best Humor Publication for Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection (Drawn & Quarterly), also a compilation of comics originally published on the web, lampooning various historical figures and events.”
Step Aside Pops

CBC Books offered many selections for best Canadian comics and graphica. The first was Hostage by Guy Delisle
“Guy Delisle tells the true story of the kidnapping of Christophe André, a Doctors Without Borders administrator who was taken by armed men and held in solitary confinement for three months in 1997. Delisle interviewed André extensively for this book and ultimately delivers a gripping graphic novel on one man’s harrowing experience in captivity.”


CBC Books selected Young Frances by Hartley Lin
“Hartley’s Lin’s stunning book follows a young, work-obsessed law clerk named Frances Scarland, struggling to find balance and meaning in her life and career. Her best friend and roommate is Vickie, a talented actress looking for her big break. Young Frances is an extension of Lin’s award-winning Pope Hats series, and marks his first full-length book under his real name.”
young francis

CBC Books selected Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
“Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian comics writer, contributing to Marvel and DC Comics. She’s based in California. Her other books include Skim(you) Set Me On Fire and This One Summer.
laura dean

This list is by no means exhaustive and there’s plenty more books to consider. But it definitely proves that Canadian comic book creators continue to produce a wealth of great reading. As they say, ‘there’s lots more where that came from.’ That’s Canada, eh?

Additional recommended reading:
Sequential Magazine’s Best of the Decade

Indigo’s Top 10 Canadian Graphic Novels

Good Reads Canadian Graphic Novels & Comic Books


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