Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Gift Guide
Last week, we looked at a gargantuan gift idea for comics fans: Taschen’s 75 Years of DC Comics, a hefty, attention-consuming tome that carries a justifiably steep list price. While it’s an incredible package, there are plenty of other gifts out there that will please the tough-to-shop-for comics reader in your life. What follows are a few suggestions that hopefully cover a medium as diverse as its readership.
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s award-winning All-Star Superman is a natural choice for the Absolute treatment: Quitely’s grand artwork is matched only by Morrison’s oversized ideas. Presented in this deluxe format--complete with a new dust-jacket by Quitely--this self-contained, timeless portrayal of The Man of Steel’s last days will win over even the most jaded of readers. We sang its praises in a previous post and named its second half one of our Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2009, but on this enlarged scale, Jaime Grant’s colors take on a greater role; Quitely’s occasionally sparse backgrounds are full in tone and evocation thanks to his contributions (the first double-page spread in Chapter One is so bright that it serves as a fine juxtaposition to the featured sun’s later role in Superman’s fate). Absolute All-Star Superman comes in a readily iconic slipcase and features an introduction by Chip Kidd and an insightful supplemental section annotated by Morrison--a partial script is even included and is a must-read.
Far on the other side of the comics spectrum lies the first manga collection from publisher Fantagraphics: Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. In typical Fantagraphics fashion, A Drunken Dream is presented in a gorgeous, golden-hued, and hardbound package. From the front to end papers, it is packed with stories, artwork--both black and white and in color--and an interview with the influential artist that’s just as engaging as her stories. For me, “Iguana Girl” was the standout tale, full of emotional and psychological twists. It’s sophisticated and defies expectations.
If the aforementioned 75 Years of DC Comics is a bit unwieldy, then DK’s DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle will be a welcome, smaller scale substitute. DK published a similarly handsome and impressive take on Marvel two years ago, and DC’s rich history is equally well-represented and documented here. Before diving in, spend some time with the hardcover underneath the slipcase. Artist Phil Noto stuffs an impressive assortment of heroes, villains and watershed moments into the collage (look for Mike Mignola’s Batman circa Gotham by Gaslight!)--and it morphs from pencils to inks to spot varnish. Inside, each year of DC’s publishing career is covered, highlighting pivotal and trivial-but-fun books and moments alike. It’s comprehensive enough to even devote a corner to 1988’s Hawk & Dove #1, a personal favorite and a sign that there’s something for just about everyone included herein.
If that comics fan in your life is a horror buff, then The Walking Dead Compendium will provide hours of entertainment now that the hit, albeit abbreviated television series’ first season is over. It collects the first eight volumes in all their gray-toned gory glory. It’s a more affordable option than collecting the individual trade collections, and it’s the size of a brick--a hefty gift that’s worth its weight.
But if that special someone prefers crime in his or her comics, then be sure to consider Dark Horse’s newly repackaged editions of Frank Miller’s Sin City series. The new covers by Miller match the stark interiors--a singular black and white face adorns each volume in various stages of agony and allure. They even feature a few pages of supplemental material--not too shabby for affordable paperbacks.
While I’ve yet to see a copy, Fantagraphics’ Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition finally released this December, and it clocks in at 1,200 pages. The 25th Anniversary of Stan Sakai’s rabbit ronin is celebrated across two hardcovers housed in a slipcase. The set promises plenty of extras, and its delayed publication has been lamented loudly enough to make this holiday publication cause for plenty of raised glasses of eggnog.
And a perfect stocking stuffer comes from Drawn and Quarterly: Nipper: Classic Comics from 1963-1964 by Doug Wright. It’s a thin, horizontally printed paperback, the opposite of all of the above suggestions. Its strips are silent but full of expression and gags, although the latter are far from simple; the illustrations are complex and made with obvious care. Don’t be surprised if this book becomes a favorite over far larger packages. The pitch-perfect design is by Seth, of course.
How about you, Omni readers: what’s on your wishlists?