Going Around: Desert Island Comics

Wait, shouldn’t it be deserted island, not desert island?  Wikipedia says that “desert” used to refer to any “desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied” place.  Whatever; times change, language is mutable, we all face the looming inevitable–but until then, comics!  Our panel of contributors shares their picks for absolute must-have comics for an island getaway/shipwreck scenario.

Scrivener: I haven’t read a ton of comics, but I read Transmetropolitan in high school and it improved me as a human being. Spider Jerusalem’s acrimony and mania captured my attention, and the city itself, frothing with personal expression, hooked me utterly. But it’s the clash between the two, the fetid politics of it all, the journalist cussing out the city’s boot heel and refusing to be crushed, that elevates this comic to my list of forever favorites. There is crass, hell-in-handbasket tarnished idealism amidst the scum and villainy of Transmetropolitan, and if you can see beyond the shock, it will give you fire in your soul enough to change the world–if only you had a bowel disruptor. Honorable mentions: Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, Fiona Staples & Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, James Stokoe’s Orc Stain.

Nagi: Okay, so I’m probably gonna cheat a bit, but it’s a deserted island right? Folks’ gotta do what they gotta do to survive. First of all I’m somehow bringing the webcomic Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida. It’s a sunday-funnies style 4-panel comic that the author started in his college’s newspaper, and has updated every single day for the past 16 years. That’s a hell of a backlog, one that encompasses the wide stratum of religious, gender, and moral archetypes commiserating and conflicting  in a reflection of the entire human condition. Or sometimes you get Barack Obama chilling with the personification of corporate America and Zen Buddhism. Also, I’m picking a couple manga series because screw you purists I’m not getting into this argument right now but anyway, I’m bringing Yotsuba&! and Ran and the Grey World, because they’re both gorgeously illustrated in ways that help you find wonder in the everyday world around you.

Miki: I’d be caught smuggling a trove of comic treasures in my highly fashionable break-away pants before leaving for a deserted island with just one comic book. There is, however, one comic in my (ever-growing) collection that, even on my worst days, has never failed to put a smile on my face. Enter: “Lucky Penny”.

“Lucky Penny” has had a special space in my heart since the moment I spotted it in my local comic shop. As a major fan of the “Johnny Wander” comic series, I couldn’t wait to see what Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh had in store this time. Behold!: Penny Brighton, our protagonist, and her seemingly infinite streak of bad luck. Living out of her friend’s tiny storage unit, we see the story of a human disaster unfolding into a functioning, and responsible adult. Talk about relatable, right?

With golden one-liners like “You have an ass of gold, and a heart that won’t quit”, it’s hard not to have fun romping around with Penny! She tries her best (at at times, miserably fails) to balance a perpetual onslaught of the obstacles that adulthood presents, while giving it her all to win the heart of local gym receptionist/full-time nerd, Walter Erickson. In short, Penny’s just like us– another scrappy millennial, seeking to establish a life and purpose outside the confines of her dead-end day-job at the laundromat. 

“Lucky Penny” has it all: action, romance, humor, heart, a dash of mystery, and incredible charm.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Johnny Wander” Books 1-3, by Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh: sweet, simple, slice of life comics that will leave you giggling. Fun Fact: this body of work was what inspired me to begin writing comics!
  • “Nana” by Ai Yazawa: Two young women with the same name discover what it means to follow their dreams in Tokyo. One leads a life on stage, as singer and front-woman to a rising punk band. The other seeks to find a balance between love, work, and self-discovery. This comic has the killer, iconic fashion typically found in Yazawa’s work. However– reader, be warned: “Nana” has no official ending, so don’t pick it up with hopes of tying up loose ends, pick it up for the love of the journey.
  • “Saga”, by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This. Comic. Does. Not. Disappoint. The art style is breath-taking, and the writing is an emotional rollercoaster. Saga is an ongoing series, focusing on one family’s intergalactic struggle to stay alive, and together.
  • “Nimona”, by Noelle Stevenson: A colorful, quirky story about the trials and tribulations that come with finding the bravery to be your truest self.“I’m not a girl, I’m a shark!”, our hero boldly states. Me too buddy, me too.
  • “Through the Woods”, by Emily Carroll: five gorgeously drawn, and horrific, bone-chilling short stories (perhaps better suited to a seasonal bonfire than a deserted island).


Feryx: My desert island pick would be  Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, partly because I can’t imagine any other scenario in which I have the time to read twenty years of weekly manga.  i’ve only dipped my toe into this series in the past, but it has a distinctive and delightful style to it, and seems to have a level of consistency beyond the reach of most long running manga. The simple basic premise, a crew of pirates search for legendary treasure, sets the stage for countless adventures and detours across an intricately detailed and whimsically rendered world. Oda reportedly has been writing the story and world of One Piece since he was eight years old doodling in his school books, and this shows in the intricate intercharacter connections and densely detailed locations. Take a quick look around the wiki if you don’t believe me. The end result is an enormous and still-growing work that one could spend ages not just reading but pouring over. I really think that if I had taken the time to get into Once Piece when I was a teenager (maybe… instead of Bleach…) it would have become an ongoing favorite of mine. And you know, the pirate theme would just fit the desert island situation so nicely.

Some honorable mentions that haven’t come up yet: Mike Mignola’s Hellboy,  Brian Clevinger’s Atomic Robo, Alan Moore’s Promethea, and Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim.