Sometime last year I followed a link and ended up, entranced, in the middle of Dicebox:
Dicebox, an online graphic novel by Jenn Manley Lee, tells the story of an eventful year in the lives of Griffen & Molly, a couple of itinerant factory workers in a space-traveling future. Currently on Chase, Book Two of Four. Wander, Book One, can be read online in its entirety here.
When I had the chance to buy Book One as a PDF I grabbed it, and am about to enjoy the book all over again on my iPad.
What they didn’t teach me at school
I grew up a reader, of books. I loved the study of English and did a University degree in English and German. Mostly what we did in both languages was read and analyse novels, plays and poetry.
I’m no great scholar though and by the time I had a Bachelor’s degree I was tired of University and sick of analysing literature.
One category of fiction that was entirely overlooked in the curriculum was graphic novels, and somehow I’d never really come across them growing up.
As a small child I read The Beano comic books, and as an adolescent I guess I’d run into Classic Comics that retold literature in graphics. But that was it.
And perhaps that was a good thing as it meant I came to Dicebox without preconceptions.
Beautiful scifi about interesting women
I guess any snippets of graphic novels I had come across were generally dark, grotesque, violent and definitely had strange ideas about women, their clothing, and the size of their breasts.
Dicebox combines sci-fi with absolutely beautiful drawings and strong, independent, interesting, realistic women.
Seeing is a new experience
I just love reading these images.
Perhaps all graphic novels do what Dicebox does — I wouldn’t know.
I’ve learned to see details that normally I’d never notice. In the first image above, for example, the scene opens with one view of a courtyard. But in the next frame the viewer has moved around and closer to zoom in on Molly as she sits on a bench.
I’m not a visual person, and am surprised I even noticed that detail. The images are so beautiful I guess I look at them more carefully than I usually would.
The frames of the novel are rich, textured and subtle. I ask myself why they are placed as they are, staggered or overlapping, some wide, some narrow, some bleeding to the edges of the page.
As migrant workers Molly and Griffen travel about from one planet to another. The locations they visit are creatively imagined. Mostly we see human interactions, but high tech slips in from time to time, with tracking pins, stasis for spaceflight, holographic computer displays, flying cars, and even a space elevator.
If you like scifi, Dicebox has the elements you enjoy. If, like me, you’ve never read a graphic novel, this is the one to start with.
And remember to thank Jenn Manley Lee for her work by buying a hard copy book or the PDF — the PDF is a ridiculously cheap US$5. I have a copy and can vouch that it’s gorgeous on an iPad. We need to support those who produce and publish their work independently.
Have you read Dicebox? Do you regularly read graphic novels? Can you recommend other graphic novels about scifi with strong and realistic women as lead characters. Please tell us about it in the Comments.