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A Smorgasbord of Influence

A recommended reading list by author of new graphic novel Death and Sparkles.

Book Cover Death and Sparkles

Hey there lovely 49th Shelf readers!

Author. Illustrator. And all around nice guy, Rob Justus here. I’ve been asked to put together a humble but mighty list of Canadian creators who influenced my work, but more specifically influenced me when I was writing (and drawing!), what I can only assume is your new favourite graphic novel, Death and Sparkles.

I draw inspiration from all over the place. From television and movies, to toys and video games, but these books and graphic novels just left such an imprint on me that their awesome story powers will seep into my work for the foreseeable future.

This list is pretty all over the place, but I’d argue that Death and Sparkles is a little all over the place too. It’s a little bit of something for everyone!

So without further adieu, here’s my list.


Book Cover Hark a Vagrant

Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

What can I say that hasn’t been said about the comics in Hark! A Vagrant? Probably not much, I’m not that clever. Regardless, this book is absurd and hilarious. I don’t even know half of the historical people she references, but it all works. Her comedic timing, along with her facial expressions are just spot on. If you haven’t read any of these I highly recommend checking this book out or it’s partner in crime Step Aside Pops!


Book Cover Through the Woods

Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

I can’t quite remember how I came across this graphic novel a few years back, but I absolutely love it. It’s a collection of five creepy stories that, to me, are great slow-burns in the best possible way. "His Face All Red" just lingered with me well after I put the book down. That first line, “this man is not my brother”—hooked me right away. Spook factor through the roof, with masterful storytelling from panel to panel. Someday I’d love to create something on this level.


Book Cover This One Summer

This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

If you haven’t read this graphic novel yet, you should stop reading this and just go out and get a copy ASAP. I’ll wait here….you’re back! Awesome! This book is so good eh? It captures the nuances of growing up and the challenges that accompany finding yourself and where you fit. I can only strive to someday write something with such emotion and heartbreak. Great book. Great emotion. Great pacing. Great writing. Great art.


Book Cover Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth, by Jeff Lemire

Sure we’ve just spent what feels like a bajillion months living in a global pandemic, but if you’re not tired of reading about them, well do I have the anthology for you! When I first came across Jeff Lemire’s Essex County and The Nobody, I instantly became a fan. Then he came out with Sweet Tooth, and what an odyssey for a young hybrid deer-boy! A grand dark, brutal, but beautiful adventure that will give you all sorts of feelings.


Book Cover Louis Riel

Louis Riel, by Chester Brown

 A classic Canadian historical graphic novel. This book helped show me the storytelling possibilities that graphic novels can present. Recounting key episodes from the life of Louis Riel and his battles with the Canadian government to gain rights for his people. Following a simple six panel per page structure, Chester Brown masterfully pulls off Reil’s epic life and battles with an amazingly simple style of storytelling. I learned a lot from this book.


Book Cover Generation X

Generation X, by Douglas Coupland

Not a graphic novel, but one book that I return to from time to time. I personally feel a lot of this book is still relevant in today’s modern society. I’m not even a Gen-Xer (just a humble Xennial). A book that keeps you coming back is the sign of a great story! Specifically these couple lines concluding a story that one of the protagonists tells just lives in my head and heart: “And that’s that…it’s all over: kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn’t you day?” Oof! That just hits me on so many levels.


Book Cover Death and Sparkles

Learn more about Death and Sparkles:

Adventure Time meetsThe Good Place in this zany-yet-philosophical graphic novel buddy comedy about the unlikely friendship between Death, a grim reaper who's never had a friend, and Sparkles, The Last Unicorn, a celebrity influencer who is somehow immune to Death's touch.

Being Death is no way to live.

Sure, you're all-powerful, but collecting souls involves a ton of paperwork, and it's impossible to have friends when everything you touch instantly dies.

Being Sparkles the Last Unicorn isn't as fun as you'd imagine, either. Maybe it seems like the whole world wants to be your bestie, but really people just want you to pose with them for selfies, or use you to help them sell stuff.

Everything changes when Death and Sparkles meet and realize they might just be one another's first chance at a real friend. But before they can even enjoy the bromance, the whole world starts freaking out about this unlikely pair. Will fame or BFFdom prevail?

Laugh-out-loud hilarious, gently philosophical, and full of delightfully zany exuberance, this buddy comedy turns friendship on its head—literally—and will have readers believing in the power of cupcakes for breakfast and cosmic camaraderie.

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