Spinning by Tillie Walden review – portrait of adolescence on ice

An intimate graphic memoir of competitive skating feels like a coming-of-age classic

Spinning, the fourth book in two years by the Ignatz award-winning cartoonist Tillie Walden, is surely her best to date. A memoir of the decade Walden spent as a competitive skater – having taken to the ice as a small girl, she did not abandon it until shortly before she graduated from high school – it conveys brilliantly not only the dedication involved in mid-level competitive sport, but also the occasional (and sometimes more-than-occasional) loathing. In a longish afterword, Walden, the acclaimed author of The End of Summer, insists that her latest comic “ended up not being about ice-skating at all”. But I disagree. Yes, Spinning touches on bullying, her complex relationship with her parents, and her sexuality (for which reason it would, I think, make a brilliant Christmas present for a teenage girl). Nevertheless, ...

Rachel Cooke’s best graphic novels of 2017

There were fine memoirs and a deluxe life of Chris Ware, but the year belonged to Joff Winterhart’s moving portrait of masculinity

If it were down to me, every person in Britain would get a copy of Joff Winterhart’s graphic novel Driving Short Distances (Cape £14.99) for Christmas; I simply can’t see how this marvellous, moving book about men – meet Sam, a gentle former student who is recovering from a nervous breakdown, and his employer, Keith, a boastful hairy ball of a fellow whose work seems mostly to involve sitting in his car eating pasties – could possibly fail to spread joy. But since it’s not down to me, I’ll just quietly note here that Winterhart’s book is undoubtedly my favourite comic of 2017 – and that this is really saying something, given the competition.

What a bumper year this has been for graphic books of all kinds. ...

Fun Home creator Alison Bechdel on turning a tragic childhood into a hit musical

The acclaimed graphic novelist, who gave the world the famous movie equality ‘test’, on exposing her family, appearing in The Simpsons and why comics are her Trump therapy

Last summer, Alison Bechdel returned to the small Pennsylvania town where she grew up (population: 700) to see a production of the musical based on her 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home a comic that, to sum it up rather brutally, tells the story of how her closeted gay father killed himself a few months after she came out as a lesbian. “It was super-surreal,” she says. “It was the same theatre where my mother would do her amateur dramatics and my father was on the board. I was a little afraid. I felt anxious, like, oh my God, I’m going to see all these people and they’re going to be pissed off with me. Because there were people in my hometown ...

‘I was in shock!’: all the winners of our graphic short story prize interviewed

On the 10th anniversary of the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize, we talk to previous prizewinners from Isabel Greenberg to Julian Hanshaw, and to 2017’s star, Tor Freeman

No one can remember exactly how, 10 years ago, we came to start the graphic short story prize. Naturally, I would love to take the credit. But in truth, the idea must have come originally from Dan Franklin of Jonathan Cape, publisher of the UK’s most prominent list of graphic novels.

In 2007, comics were finally beginning to take off in Britain: the animated film of Marjane Satrapi’s memoir Persepolis was just about to be released; Guy Delisle’s travelogue, Burma Chronicles, and Rutu Modan’s novel Exit Wounds, set in Tel Aviv during a period of bomb attacks, had both been critical hits.

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Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard – review

In tracing the roots of misogyny to Athens and Rome, Mary Beard has produced a modern feminist classic

This book is a mere slip of a thing: at 115 pages, small enough to fit into the most diminutive of bags or even (should you be in striding out mood) the pocket of an overcoat. But size, in this instance, is irrelevant. There are two things you need to know about it. The first is that what Mary Beard has to say is powerful: here are more than a few pretty useful stones for the slingshots some of us feel we must carry with us everywhere we go right now. The second is that most of its power, if not all, lies in its author’s absolute refusal to make anything seem too simple. Even as she tries to be concise and easy on the ear – the book is adapted from ...

Of Women: In the 21st Century by Shami Chakrabarti review – tell us something we don’t know

This essay on global gender inequality professes to be the product of long rumination but feels like the opposite

In an interview earlier this month, Shami Chakrabarti insisted that her new book about global gender inequality should not be seen as an attempt on her part to scramble back on to safe liberal ground following the trouble of last year – when, as you will recall, her report into allegations of antisemitism within the Labour party was widely condemned as a whitewash (in an act that brought her integrity into further doubt, she accepted a peerage from Jeremy Corbyn just a few weeks later). It’s not only that she stands by the work she did then. Such a volume has, she said, been “coming for some time”.

She is in favour of female quotas, sometimes, and wishes children's clothes and toys could be less gender-bound

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The Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica graphic short story prize 2017 – enter now!

The annual award for aspiring cartoonists offers the chance to be published and win a cheque for £1,000, with past winners going on to further success The brilliant and inspirational Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic short story prize, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, is now open for entries. All entrants must do (all!) is draw and write a four-page comic designed to run over a double-page spread in the Observer New Review. Our guest judges this year are the writer (and comics fan) Philip Pullman, and the cartoonist (and a former winner of the prize) Stephen Collins. Continue reading...