I haven’t looked in this forum in a while, and I was surprised to see my book mentioned here. I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it. About the best thing an author could hope for is that his work have even the barest of residual effects on a reader’s experience, so I’m very grateful for that. And also, despite my regular presence on these boards, I hope you’ll let me know any criticisms of the book you might have, because any constructive feedback is good feedback.
As to your question about other graphic novels worth reading in a similar vein, I can recommend a few off the top of my head:
EPILEPTIC, by David B. The story of the author’s family as he grows up in France in the 70s, centered around his older, epileptic brother. It can get pretty grim and bleak at times, but contains none of the irony or cynicism that seems to pervade popular American culture. Brutal and ultimately, I think, enlightening in its honesty.
NAUSICCA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, by Hayao Miyazaki. Probably my favorite graphic novel of all time, and among my favorite narratives in any medium. If you know Miyazaki’s films, then you’ll know what to expect in terms of theme and content. The difference here is that it’s truly epic in breadth an depth, going places his movies can’t reach within the confines of a 90-minute running time.
LOUIS RIEL, by Chester Brown. Chester’s work was a huge influence on me when I was learning the ropes of the medium. I credit him with being the first person to really “slow down” comics, stretching out scenes and altering pacing in a way that has profoundly affected the medium at large. Louis Riel is his fascinating and highly idiosyncratic account of the man who led the Métis people in their resistance against the Canadian government in the late 1800s.
PAUL HAS A SUMMER JOB, by Michel Rabgliati. Too easily written off as light entertainment, this is the understated, heartfelt story of the personal growth a young man undergoes as a summer camp counselor in Canada.
There’s also a young upstart by the name of Kevin Huizenga who is among my favorite cartoonists working today. His stories are scattered among various hard-to-find anthologies, but there’s good one in DRAWN AND QUARTERLY SHOWCASE #1.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the last three books are all put out by my publisher, Drawn and Quarterly. Also, Epileptic and Louis Riel may not come across as “hopeful” narratives at first, but I think their cumulative effect is a positive one.
If you like any of these, come back and let me know, and I’ll recommend some more. I should warn you, though, that you will be able to run through the entire library of the greatest “alternative” graphic novels in a fairly short time, so try to savor them.
Have you read much Haruki Murakami? I love his stuff to death, and it’s not comics, but he strikes a tone that seems to be along the lines of what you’re looking for.