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I’ve been drawing comics before I knew they were called anything. Instead of writing in my diary, I drew a dramatized account in panel form, with lines of dialogue and characters from my life. They were kind of like what I saw in the funny pages of my mom’s Cincinnati Enquirer, kind of like the panels I saw in my neighbor’s manga books, but also kind of something else, too. I didn’t think they “counted.” The drawings were too crude, the subject matter too trivial.

An excerpt from my childhood comics, circa 2009. (Hannah Good)
An excerpt from my childhood comics, circa 2009. (Hannah Good)

I kept drawing comics, but it wasn’t until I started at The Lily nine months ago that I found out my specific craft has a name: autobiographical, or autobio, comics. True, personal stories told in pen and ink.

The Lily has been publishing comics of all genres since its launch in 2017. Led by design editor and comics cheerleader Rachel Orr, our contributors have told hundreds of stories about mental health, body image, identity and so much more. Rachel often says comics are the most perfect form of storytelling, and looking at our archives makes it easy to see why. Comics tell stories in a way that makes it hard to look away. Distilled into square panels, they make complex ideas accessible, raw emotions tangible and everyday experiences delightful.

Now, alongside Rachel and art director María Alconada Brooks, I get to help bring these stories to life. As comics editors, we reach out to artists we admire, read pitches from prospective contributors, proofread scripts and tweak art direction. Then on Sunday, we deliver the final panels to you on Instagram, where you often respond with thoughtful, energizing conversation. It’s truly a dream job.

As another turbulent year draws to a close, we rounded up 10 of our favorite comics that captured it. When anti-Asian racism spiked across the country, Tenzing Lhamo Dorjee reflected on how she learned to fight back. As the pandemic entered its second year, Christine Suggs captured how isolation empowered them to come out as nonbinary. Sharee Miller shared what it’s like to become a new mom in a time of so much uncertainty, and Hyesu Lee reevaluated her work-life balance.

Spend some time with them to start your new year. We hope they bring you insight, joy and, most of all, that magic feeling of connection only great art can inspire.

P.S. We’re always looking for comic artists to join our roster. If you want to pitch us, or have questions about how comics work around here, send me an email. Plus, I’d love to hear what you think of our comics, what you’re loving in the world of graphic storytelling and what you’d like to see from us in the future.

I created an emergency kit for when I’m feeling down. Here’s what’s in it.

In this comic from May, comic artist Brittany Long Olsen details the contents of her “in case of emergency” kit to help her through her worst days. We loved how it inspired readers to make their own kits. What would be in yours?

I used to laugh off anti-Asian jokes. Now, I will stick up for myself every time.

The Atlanta-area spa shootings in March made Tenzing Lhamo Dorjee reflect on racism she’d experienced in the past — instances she’d previously tried to laugh off. “Not anymore,” she writes. “Stick up for yourself. Be loud. And never, ever forget what happened in Atlanta.”

As a new mom, I was inundated with advice. Here’s how I’m gaining confidence in my decisions.

When artist Sharee Miller had her first child this year, everyone had advice. Some of it was helpful — and some of it, not so much. In this comic from September, she explains how she figured out what works best for her and her family.

I used to think there was one way to have a relationship. Then I discovered polyamory.

Growing up in a conservative family in Thailand, Book Karnjanakit assumed she would fall in love with someone, get married and stay with the same person for the rest of her life. In this comic from October, she explains how she found other options that suit her needs and desires.

Our culture fetishizes youth. I want to celebrate my successes at any age.

Comic artist Pepita Sándwich turned 35 this year. The milestone wasn’t particularly remarkable for her, but it made her question why our culture prizes youth so much, enforcing arbitrary milestones for success at each age. “I want to let go of the ‘life timeline’ society has created for me and trust the timing of my own experiences,” she writes.

On my worst mental health days, my 3 dogs get me out of bed

This comic about Gemma Correll’s three dogs — Mr. Pickles, Zander and Bean — was a crowd favorite. Many of our readers could relate to the way taking care of them helps her take care of herself, too.

My double mastectomy made me reevaluate: What do my breasts mean to me?

When comic artist Susannah Hainley tested positive for the BRCA2 gene six years ago, she began considering a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of developing cancer. The procedure, which often involves complete removal of both breasts, led her down several lines of inquiry: Why do humans even have breasts? Could a surgeon preserve the sensation in her breasts? And most of all: What did her breasts mean to her?

The pandemic empowered me to realize I’m nonbinary

The isolation of the pandemic allowed many people to explore their gender identity in a way they may not have done so before. In one of the most poignant comics we published this year, longtime Lily contributor Christine Suggs detailed the journey of how they discovered their nonbinary gender identity. “I feel like I’m meeting myself for the first time,” they wrote.

I’m hard of hearing. The pandemic has introduced unique challenges — but I’m learning to overcome them.

The pandemic introduced new barriers for people with disabilities. In this January comic, Shan Horan explains how they navigate those challenges as a person who is hard of hearing.

My life is work, sleep, repeat. What happened to balance?

The last few years have encouraged — and sometimes forced — many people to reevaluate their relationship with work. In this comic from May, Hyesu Lee questions the outsize importance work had begun to take in her life.

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