Whether you’re scrambling of last minute Christmas, Festivus, or Hanukkah gifts or trying to figure out how to spend gift money, we’ve got some really solid suggestions for that comic book enthusiast in your life.
Collections and Trades
I’m a bit of a history/ science nerd, so I’m going to start by recommending everything published by G.T. Labs. Jim Ottaviani’s graphic novels tend to gravitate toward the people and events around the Manhattan Project, but don’t let that dissuade you. He weaves a good narrative without being dry. He finds the heart in all of the people involved, often taking side trips into interesting anecdotes. As important, he typically has really solid artistic talent backing his stories: Steve Lieber, Gene Colan, Jeff Parker, Colleen Doran, Ramona Fradon, and Guy Davis to name a few. The most recent of G.T. Labs’s releases is a look at the career of that eminently entertaining physicist: Richard Feynman. These are well put together stories even if you’re not that into comics but maybe a fan of science and history.
We’re pretty big fans of Michael Kupperman here, so I was thrilled to get a copy of Mark Twain’s Autobiography (1910-2010), but also a bit concerned. Kupperman’s writing style is uniquely suited for his cartooning, but I was worried about how it would translate to prose. I need not have worried, though, as his tight prose is as full of madcap ideas as his best cartoons. Whether it’s working in an ad agency after World War II, shrinking down to ant size with Albert Einstein, or writing mobster porn, Twain’s adventures are guaranteed to be unlike any other book you’ve read. While I suspect Kupperman’s work won’t mesh with everyone’s sense of humor, if you put this book in the right person’s hands it will be a revelation.
On the topic of Kupperman, Fantagraphics recently released a volume collecting several issues of Tales Designed to Thrizzle. Jesse and I have both written on the surreal humor and brilliance of this book. It’s also still pretty easy to get your hands on the Kupperman’s first collection of strips Snake ‘n Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret.
In addition to this awesomeness, Fantagraphics has also been releasing some great collections of newspaper comic strips. Personally, I can recommend the two volumes of Mickey Mouse as well as all of the Dick Tracy. They’ve also got Bloom County, Peanuts, Little Orphan Annie, and Walt Kelley’s Pogo. These are well put together hardbacks that are designed to display the strips as they would have appeared in the papers.
It’s not new at this point, but since Watchmen makes every list and I’ve just finished rereading it, I’ve got Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics fresh on my brain. A treatise on the logic, form, and function of cartoons, I enjoyed it when I read it in college but found even more to appreciate with a little more time and reading under my belt. This is a great appreciation for the new or longtime reader. Without question, this book will make you look at comics in a new light.
Mainstream-wise there isn’t much either of us would recommend, but there are a few things worth mentioning.
By the accounts of those reading DC’s New 52, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man and Frankenstein have been standouts. As always, we recommend seeking out creator-owned comics whenever possible, so for the DC fan in your life, try pointing them to Sweet Tooth or Essex County, his Vertigo and indie work.
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World work spanned multiple titles and a couple decades; it’s always been fairly tough to track down the whole run without spending hundreds of dollars. DC was kind enough to put the entire run in chronological order in the omnibus format several years ago, but it has sadly fallen out of print. The first volume was just re-released in paperback, and is perfect for tbe Kirby fan or space-epic lover in your life.
I found this next one in the bargain section of a chain bookstore. DC put out a pretty nice collection of some of their covers from the last 75 years. The collection is roughly tabloid size and the pages are perforated with the suggestion that they are suitable for framing. Outside of the covers you’d expect, there are some truly bizarre gems from the 50’s and 60’s that don’t see the light of day much. Whether you frame them or not, it’s a neat book to flip through.
Capitalizing on the release of the Tintin movie, Shout! Factory is releasing season one of The Adventures of Tintin. This was a really good Canadian series that aired on Nickelodeon back in the mid nineties. It’s a good translation of Tintin from paper to screen.
2011 was a good year for comic book movies also. As it turns out, they’re all on Blu-Ray and DVD in time for the holidays. If you didn’t catch them in the theaters, it would definitely be worth it to at least pick up Marvel titles.