Baseball came back this past Sunday, and to celebrate the new season, here are a dozen comics inspired by the sport's history, personalities, and drama. The result is a surprisingly strong list of memorable stories, from the real—Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente—to the imaginary—a barnstorming team faces an opposing team made of monsters. Batter up!
Jesse Lonergan. NBM, 2014
Everything's always come easy for Carl Carter, a high school senior and baseball phenom in rural Vermont who seems destined for greatness. But just when Carl thinks he has it all figured out, life throws him a curveball, forcing him to rethink his future. Lonergan, who grew up in Vermont, provides an authentic look and feel with spare, yet effective contours and relatable characters and problems.
21: The Story of Roberto Clemente
Wilfred Santiago. Fantagraphics, 2011
21 is the story of Baseball hall of famer Roberto Clemente, from his childhood in Puerto Rico to his dominance in the MLB throughout the 1960s, and his life off the field, where he overcame racial prejudice and was a renowned humanitarian. Santiago delivers a biography worthy of Clemente's extraordinary life that captures his poise and prowess with inky and sumptuous brushwork.
Mark Andrew Smith and James Stokoe. Self-Published, 2012
A friendly game in a sleepy town becomes a real-life nightmare for Coach Casey Sullivan and his grizzled minor league team after a swarm of monsters invade in Smith and Stokoe's sports-horror smackdown. Non-stop action and Stokoe's abundantly detailed artwork bring Smith's frenzied plot to life for one heck of a wild ride.
Mitsuru Adachi. Shogakukan, Viz Media
Neighbors and childhood friends Ko Kitamura and Aoba Tsukishima play for their school's second-string baseball team as well as each other’s affections in Adachi’s baseball-themed romantic comedy. The series has been widely praised for its honest and engrossing plot, and received the 54th Shogakukan Manga Award in 2009. It was also adapted into a 50-episode anime.
Mitsuru Adachi. Shogakukan
Before Cross Game, Adachi wrote and drew H2, another baseball rom-com that revolves around a group of friends on and off the field. Middle school teammates Hiro, Noda, and Hideo's paths diverge when they attend different high schools and play against each other in the annual Koshien tournaments. In addition to their sports rivalry, Hiro and Hideo also vie for the hand of mutual childhood friend Hikari. Although popular in Japan, it has never been published in English.
The Golem's Mighty Swing
James Sturm. Drawn & Quarterly, 2001
Already a curiosity to many of their spectators, the Stars of David, a traveling team of Jewish baseball players, begin to incorporate Kabbalist elements into their games in order to boost attendance. But their newfound notoriety also stirs up the underlying antisemitism of 1920s America. Sturm's acclaimed graphic novel uses bold and stark imagery to explore baseball's spotted past and is a reminder of the era's xenophobia and cultural upheaval.
James Sturm and Rich Tommaso. Hyperion, 2007
Sturm revisited America's racial history through baseball by focusing on the life and times of pitcher Leroy "Satchel" Paige and his decades-long career during the mid 20th century. Already a star in the Negro Leagues by the time he entered the Majors, Paige gained national fame for his powerful pitching and larger-than-life persona, and helped bring equality to the sport. Sturm, aided by Tommaso's minimal and affecting visuals, presents Paige's legacy through the eyes of a poor black sharecropper and his experiences in segregated Alabama.
Nunzio DeFlilippis, Christina Weird and Jackie Lewis. Oni Press, 2012
Star softball shortstop Heather (though she prefers to go by her middle name, Dashiell) Brody enters a new school with hopes of joining its baseball team, but faces social barriers and expectations because of her gender. DeFilippis and Weird question common stereotypes with real and emotive characters, brought to life by Lewis's accessible art.
Batter Up, Charlie Brown!
Charles Schulz. Fantagraphics, 2014
Despite trying his best as manager and pitcher of the neighborhood team, Charlie Brown is (not surprisingly) hapless when it comes to baseball. Three stories of his endearing, but routinely fruitless, outings are collected in this handsome booklet, perfect for Peanuts and baseball fans alike.
Archie's Grand Slams
Various. Archie Comics, 2012
What could be more American than Archie and baseball? This digital exclusive brings together two quintessential American institutions, collecting all the hardball hijinks from Archie and the gang, from cheering in the stands and coaching from the dugout, to stepping up to the plate themselves.
Bottom of the Ninth
Ryan Woodward. Downloadable App
Animator and storyboard artist Ryan Woodward's self-produced iPad app blurs the line between comics and cartoons with a truly unique storytelling experience that integrates sound and motion. The story takes place in a future where baseball has evolved into a physics-defying arena spectacle and follows pitching progeny Candy Cunningham as she navigates the high-stakes world of "New Baseball."
Willard Mullin's Golden Age of Baseball Drawings 1934-1972
Willard Mullin. Fantagraphics, 2013
This collection of Mullin's award-winning cartoons, which were printed in over 20 syndicated papers and magazines continuously from the 1930s to the 1970s, is a perfect time capsule of baseball's golden era, when legends like Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio reigned. His rhythmic forms convey the dynamism and dignity of the game and its players, as well as its humor, most notably in the "Brooklyn Bum," a slapstick character that personified the then ailing Brooklyn Dodgers.