Paper World

Zonzo / Stuck in the Middle

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 14

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


by Joan Cornellà
2017, 56 pages, 6.7 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches, Hardcover

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I don’t think there’s going to be any middle ground here. You’re either going to love Joan Cornellá’s comics, or you’re going to despise them. I’d first seen his work popping up here, and there, on the internet; and immediately fell in love. His comics are evocative, disturbing, and deviously funny.

I remember seeing a Robert Crumb comic for the first time, I was shocked. The very act of reading the comic felt obscene. I’ve read some pretty controversial comics since then, but none of them came close to giving me that same feeling, none of them except Zonzo. Without using any words, Cornellá pushes the boundaries and makes you uncomfortable, in the best way.

This is a small book, but there’s a lot of cringe inducing panels packed in. I also think that it might be best to experience Cornellá’s work in small doses, reading too many in one sitting might bring on some sort of psychosis. Like a good stand-up comedian, after finishing the book you definitely ask yourself, “why am I laughing at this?” The work makes you reflect on yourself, or you might just appreciate how dark the humor gets. Either way if you’re a fan of Cornellá or looking to see how provocative comics can get, I’d recommend picking this up.

– JP LeRoux


Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age
by Ariel Schrag (Editor)
Viking Juvenile
2017, 224 pages, 8.5 x 0.7 x 11.0 inches, Paperback

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Can we all just agree that middle school and censorship are the worst? Stuck in the Middle wasn’t out when I was in jr. high, but I sure wish it was. This is an anthology that tells different stories from a challenging time. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about this book until I heard that parents were trying to get it banned from school libraries, and that people were attacking it on Amazon by giving it unjustified 1-star reviews.

Read the book for yourself, and you’ll see it deserves a lot more than 1-star. It’s an excellent collection of comics, and does a wonderful job telling difficult stories, that most people can relate to. Being an anthology, some stories will strike more of a chord than others, but all the stories are worthwhile. My only wish was that there was an update, a Vol. 2 filled with even more tales from the depths of middle school.

I know the type of people who would find this book obscene, because they’re the type who will find anything obscene. But they’re kidding themselves if they think kids aren’t already exposed to far worse than what you’ll find in Stuck in the Middle. When I was in jr. high, South Park was gaining in popularity, Eminem just released the Slim Shady LP, and parents, teachers, and students were trying to cope with the Columbine Massacre. The world’s only gotten crazier, so I can’t imagine what kids today are dealing with.

Parents want to ban this book because it has some adult situations and curse words? Fuck them. The issues presented in the book are the issues kids are dealing with. A thoughtful parent would want to share this with their child, to show them that they’re not alone. Fight censorship. Support artists. Buy this book, and leave a review on Amazon.

– JP LeRoux


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