Drawn from personal experience

Comic book lovers and graphic novel enthusiasts should be on the lookout the first week of October for Best American Comics 2008. This year’s edition of the annual series is filled with cutting edge work by talented comic strip authors and cartoonists. The anthology, which contains several award-winning authors, is further proof that comics can be smart and literary.

The 2008 edition is guest edited by 52-year-old Lynda Barry, best known for her weekly comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek. The author of the graphic novels Cruddy and What It Is, Barry tells her memoirs cartoon-style about family life from a young female perspective.

I’ve been a fan of Lynda’s since I was a teen. I got hooked on her comic books Come Over, Come Over and My Perfect Life for their refreshingly awkward portrayal of childhood. To my delight, Barry kicks off the anthology with a strip of her own, then taps the talents of an array of cartoonists, both famous (like her pal Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons) and up-and-comers.

Barry picked several female cartoonists whose work, like hers, is informed by their real lives, like well-known lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, author of the strip Dykes To Watch Out For and the critically acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2006. Alison’s features include several strips about childcare, politics, and the war in Iraq.

Portland cartoonist Sarah Oleksyk’s contributes “Graveyard,” the story of Gilly, a young woman working the graveyard shift at a copy shop and develops a relationship with a customer who comes to the store to sleep. (Is it just a coincidence that Oleksyk worked at a Kinkos when she was younger?)

The anthology also includes a funny piece called “Seven Sacks” by 25-year-old cartoonist (and illustrator of the anthology’s cover) Eleanor Davis, (who often works with boyfriend, artist Drew Weing) as well as an excerpt from The Monkey and The Crab, the popular mini-comic by Brooklyn duo Sara Edward-Corbett and Shawn Cheng.

Of course, the book features about five times as much work by men, but I applaud Barry’s choices. Let’s hope even more women make it into the annals of comic books in the future.

Are you a fan of any of these talented women? Do you know of another lady cartoonist whose work is tops?