Sorry I forgot to do this last week - when I start writing I get completely carried away sometimes! Anyway, I thought I would start with my favourite Minx graphic novel Emiko Superstar by writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Steve Rolston.
Emiko is the kind of girl who drifts through life. Bad things happen but she's always too scared of the repercussions to ever try to shake things up...that is until she sees Poppy, a beautiful, alternative teenage performance artist, at the mall. She is faced with a choice: attend young executive summer school with her 'safe' frenemies (but the closest she has to friends) or explore an alternate side of herself at the not-so-legal performance venue 'The Factory'. At first Emiko is fine just watching the performances but soon finds herself performing pages from the diary of the young mother she babysits for. She is an instant success but soon finds all that glitters isn't gold when 'The Curator' of The Factory (and Poppy's sleazy older boyfriend) comes on to her.
I think out of all the Minx heroines Emiko is the one most appealing to the intended readership. She is an everyday, intelligent, slightly introverted girl (much like the average Minx reader) who decides to leave a world and friends that dissatisfy her and reinvent herself for the summer as a character with no restraints on her freedom of expression (probably the biggest angst a teenage girl has) . Because The Factory is not some alternate world, just a hidden place on the other side of the tracks, it makes the idea that anyone can explore a different side of themselves much more accessible. Mariko doesn't try to over glorify the alternative scene though. Yes Emiko makes good friends there, but she also finds parts of it unnatural to her nature / personality and is especially unsettled by the motives and pushiness of The Curator. Mariko and Steve depict life at The Factory as beautiful but transient with those unable to move on paying the price. The biggest example of this is Poppy. Poppy is Emiko's idol and appears to revel in her role at The Factory and with The Curator but is also the most unhappy. She is like a butterfly trapped in her chrysalis with the lifestyle that created her slowly suffocating her and her life's full potential.
The art is also very likeable. Everything has a gentle roundness to it like the character designs for Lilo and Stitch. The panels are characterful and detailed without being crowded. Emiko is also a refreshing character design being short and curvy rather than tall and skinny or massively out of proportion like a your usual DC female.
The only niggle I have with Emiko Superstar (and it is a small one) is that Emiko refers to her school friends as being geeks (and she does not mean the cool kind like yours truly ;-) ). I'd say the people she hangs out with aren't geeks but friends of convenience (we've all been in that situation where you haven't managed to make any real friends so hang out with the first group willing to take you). Mariko somewhat assumes that if you're a geek you're uncool and unpopular (therefore lumping the three together) but that really depends on what circles you move in. I'm happy being a geek and *shocker* I have friends who *bigger shock* think I'm cool(ish). Being a geek doesn't necessarily make you uncool. Being a douchebag does. I think the best way to perceive it is that Emiko is a geek AND unhappy with her position in life. Throughout the story she remains herself (therefore remains a geek) but comes to understand herself and her needs better.
You'll like Emiko Superstar if you like:
Andy Warhol and his Factory, Kids on the Slope, Adventureland and modern American poetry and prose such as the work of Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg etc
Also by Mariko Tamaki:
Cover Me, True Lies: The Book of Bad Advice, Fake ID, Skim and Set Me on Fire.
Also by Steve Rolston:
Jack Spade and Tony Two-Fist, Queen & Country, Pounded, Mek, One Bad Day, The Escapists, Tales of the TMNT #28, Degrassi: Extra Credit vol. 4, House of Mystery #4 and Ghost Projekt.