iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #125 – Autobiographical Comic Books

Show Notes

One of the thriving subsets of the indie comics scene is the autobiography. It’s hard to look at any of the end of the year “Best of…” lists without being at least a few autobiographical comic books on them – and that’s not just in the comics media, but in the mainstream media as well. Autobiographical comic books are everywhere!

What are some of the best autobiographical comic books that the iFanboys have read lately?

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel tells the tale of growing up in a funeral home. There’s a lot of awkwardness and a lot of pain, and a whole lot of accolades for this graphical novel.

Skyscrapers of the Mid-West by Joshua A. Cotter is the most unique of the entire group. A series of vignettes featuring anthropomorphized characters that focuses on growing up a lonely artistic kid in the Mid-West.

The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel chronicles a life plagued by too much alcohol, too many drugs, and a whole lot of bad choices. UPDATE: It’s NOT an autobiographical comic; it just read like one!

Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly tells the story of a guy on the cusp of hip hop stardom before drugs, guns, and gangs bring it all crashing down. This one also features a surprising and tenuous connection to Conor.

Funny Misshapen Body is the latest from autobiographical comic book veteran Jeffrey Brown. This one focuses on Brown’s artistic side as he finds his artistic voice in high school and art school.

Freddie & Me by Mike Dawson follows one man’s life from England to America as seen through the lens of unabashed love for Freddie Mercury and Queen.

Chris Staros’ Yearbook Stories: 1976-1978 by Chris Staros and Bo Hampton and Rich Tammaso tells two stories from the high school days of Top Shelf Publishing head Chris Staros. The second one must be seen to be believed.


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  1. What was that sound towards the end of this vid? Sounded like one of those ‘test your strength’ games you see at the carnival.

    Great video. I always see ‘Fun Home’ and ‘The Alcoholic’ at my Barnes and Noble. Now I know what to read when I go there next time.

  2. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, you fellas missed it. Recommend it to the Ifanbase for pick up

  3. Good picks guys! I really like Freddie and me, as well as Sentences (possibly because I am really into queen AND hiphop). Some of my others would be Stop forgetting to remember by Peter Kuper, The various peepshow collections from Joe Matt, the playboy, and I never like you from Chester Brown, The Fart Party from Julia Wertz, My friend Dahmer from Derf, Complete lowlife from Ed Brubaker, Carnet De Voyage from Craig Thompson etc. etc. Obviously I really like autobio comics.

  4. The Alcoholic is second, next to Blankets, on my list of favorite graphic novels. However, a quick google search will show that this book is not autobiographical. Quote from Jonathan Ames:

    "….As soon as I make something up, I call it fiction, which is the case with The Alcoholic. If I don’t make anything up, I call it non-fiction. I’ve always worked autobiographically, and with the fiction, even if the events have been changed or made up, the core of the emotions is autobiographically true. I named the character Jonathan A. to make myself close to him, to get at raw things, but so much is made up that it can’t be called a memoir." 

  5. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Fun Home is one of my all-time favorite books. I still need to read all the rest of these bios though!

  6. Ah cool!  I’ve been on a bit of a binge with comic-book memoirs lately (Fun Home, Blankets, Persepolis, etc –) and it’ll be awesome to have some to add to the list.

  7. The Alcoholic is phenomenal. I actually read it for the first time last week and I loved it. Amazon wish listing the rest of these so I remember to buy them eventually.

  8. Woohoo,some love for Skyscrapers of the Midwest. Its a beautiful book,right down to its packaging.It reminded me a bit of a zine I used to read as a teenager called "You Stink And I Don’t" ,which is probably still worth checking out for anyone in Australia.Although "You Stink…." is outright funny and less tasteful it also deals a fair bit with growing up.I’ve seen it in a collected form in some comic shops.

  9. great episode

    just wondering did you read ‘Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm’ ?

    and if you did , is it any good?

  10. dont answer that.i didnt read the bottom sorry!

  11. is the audio messed up? I’m only getting it in my left earphone.

  12. This is weird. I can’t get any audio for this ep on I Tunes, Rev3, or this site. Everything else is working fine. weird.

  13. @skeets: There was an encoding error with the audio that Revision3 is working on.

  14. the audio should be fixed – sorry about that – please re-download to get the balanced audio

  15. Great show, never warmed up to to fun home myself but jeffrey brown and freddie and me I enjoyed alot. I notice you didn’t mention any books by Seth, Joe Matt or Chester Brown the kings of the genre.

  16. People might also want to check out Ryan Claytor’s And Then One Day series (http://www.elephanteater.com)

  17. No love for Seth?

  18. No love for no love.

  19. So what I’m getting is that every time we do a show, we should mention every book ever.

  20. one of the cool things about the video shows is that it always sparks people’s minds – thinking about other books/authors/stories/etc – which we can then share with other users. 

  21. I just read Blankets and absolutely loved it, so I was wondering what else I should read that was similar. This definitely gave me some good ideas.

  22. @ josh~  Ha!  That would be great!  Also, if you could predict what’s going to be coming out the next 5-10 years, that would be majorly helpful as well.  🙂


  23. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    @Josh: That would be appreciated.  And hey, make sure you keep it under a half hour, alright?  😉

  24. @CaptainPrimate – Absolutely true.  I couldn’t agree more.

  25. *hands josh a 4,000 page hardcover*

    Here’s the list of all the comics ever produced. Cant wait for you 338 part series of every book discussed.

  26. I’m going to definitely check out "Skyscrapers…"

     This past week I read Dash Shaw’s "Bottomless Belly Button".  I don’t know if it’s autobiographical, but it sure feels that way.  It was a great book.

  27. @josh from a while back, yes, as the ifanbase it is our mission.  Also, I at least get a big ol’ kick when you mention a book I love.  That was all.  I was hoping for an answer along the lines of, "Like em, not enough show time", or "Hat em" or "never read em"

  28. Good show, I was wondering if you just didn’t care much for this genre, so it was good to see a show on it. I haven’t read any of the ones mentioned, so I’ll have to check some out.

  29. @skrulldave: Why would you think that we didn’t care much for the genre? Two of the books mentioned were iFanboy Books of the Month in the past, and we have had Jeffrey Brown show up in a bunch of episodes.

  30. I never read it, but I believe The Crow was inspired by the creator’s friends, a couple, dying in a car accident. His main characters are murdered in the story instead though. The guy (whose name escapes me but doesn’t warrent enough curiosity to google it) felt like he sort of created a monster after Brandon Lee died on the set of the movie adaptation.

  31. @captbastrd – it was in a video show, about comics adapted to movies I think

  32. This is what I come here for, once again guys, thanks for turning me on to something new. Great episode. 

  33. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The Jeffrey Brown book looks like it’s right up my alley. I’ve only ever read his Incredible Change Bots. That’s gonna change soon.  

  34. i wanted to share an aritst. it is an german artist calles mawil. he has released a lot here in germany. but some of his work is also available in america. his book "we can still be friends" was done while he was at art school and i love this comicbook. it´s about his relationships to girls. he never gets the girls (thats where the titel comcs from :D) but he draws this in a very funny way with a lot of humor in it!


    here is his homepage if you want to check him out http://www.mawil.net (there is a little welcome button in the left upper corner so you read it in english) 

  35. Definitely going to check out Skyscrapers now.  Great show, I didn’t realize til now how many autobiog books I have.

     And I just wanted to mention one name….. our man, Harvey Pekar.

  36. I have to say, I LOVE when you guys do these podcasts where you focus on the many types of comic books that ARE out there.  There are so many, and sometimes it seems like comic book ‘fans’ are unaware of them.

     I really am kinda grown out of the age where superhero comics are all important to me and for a while now, I’ve been focusing on the many other genres of comics, which explore all the possibilities that comic books have. I think it’s very important for people to realize that comics, good and bad, can explore ANY topic available and that is why they are so powerful and important.

     For this show, and the other shows you’ve had where you focus on things like crime books, autobio, etc, I thank you.

  37. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Having just finished THE ALCOHOLIC, I’ve got to express my thanks for you guys putting this book on my radar.  As Josh said during the podcast, even though this person’s story is very different from mine, it’s relatable.  It’s also heartbreaking.  The Sal / Jonathan relationship and the Aunt Sadie / Jonathan relationship feel very real and both are tragic in their way.

    The first half, where Jonathan is telling most of the story directly to us as he’s lying covered in sand under the boardwalk, really worked for me.  It was an odd fourth-wall breaking idea, but I found myself enjoying the visual of him talking directly to us as he’s trying to keep quiet from the cops.  It had an out-of-body vibe to it, which worked well with his trying to quickly sober up.

    But hey, thanks again for the recommendation.  Please do the occasional video like this.  I’m sure they take a lot of work and forethought, but they’re always apprechiated.

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