Buy Someone A Comic For The Holidays This Year

Buy Someone A Comic For The Holidays This Year

This is probably the angriest Holiday Gift Guide you’ll read this year. I’m leaving ugly full URLs up cause I’m in a “people are stupid and won’t understand what to click through” mood.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard: I heard “The Walking Dead was a comic book first!?!? too many times recently both at work and at family gatherings for Thanksgiving. Neither the show, nor the book is my cup of tea anymore (But Paul, you LOVE zombies and you used to like this book, you flip flopper! Shut up. I don’t like either anymore. Go get me a drink.), but if someone you know is into this, buy them the first volume or two to check out. They’d read almost any prose book that a show or movie was based on, right? So why not put a comic book in front of their face and show them that comic book doesn’t always mean “funny.”

Buy it in print: http://www.amazon.com/The-Walking-Dead-Vol-Days/dp/1582406723/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1353888562&sr=8-13&keywords=the+walking+dead

Gift it digitally: http://www.comixology.com/The-Walking-Dead-Vol-1-Days-Gone-Bye/digital-comic/FEB041347

Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples:

I’ve written about Saga a bunch of times here. It gets me most of my site hits, as this is a popular new series, and people are looking for intelligent places to discuss it. Sadly, when they land here, they get me yelling at people to read a series, while barely being able to write about it coherently. “It’s awesome, Star Wars, Fantasy, blurghrgargle of enthusiasm” – Paul DeKams But, yes, if you’ve got a friend or family member on your gift list that is into epic tales that blend genres, buy the first volume of Saga for them.

Buy it in print: http://www.amazon.com/Saga-Vol-1-Brian-Vaughan/dp/1607066017/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353888769&sr=1-1&keywords=saga+volume+1

Buy it digitally: http://www.comixology.com/Saga-Vol-1/digital-comic/AUG120491

Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: For those who are into crime and or pulpier stuff. I should stress this is NOT for your Sue Grafton/James Patterson mystery enjoyers. This is for folks who have enjoyed anything made by creators like Tarantino, Chandler, Leonard, Hammett, or Ellroy.

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Coward-Criminal-Vol-Ed-Brubaker/dp/078512439X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353889092&sr=1-1&keywords=criminal+volume+1

Digital: http://www.comixology.com/Criminal-Vol-1/comics-series/868

Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido, Matt Hollingsworth, Chris Eliopoulos:

YES. I am recommending Hawkeye yet again. Because it is great. This is for anyone who enjoyed Joss Whedon’s Avengers. For anyone who is into detective-y folks getting punched in the face repeatedly while trying to solve a mystery. It’s probably got some crossover with the people who would enjoy Criminal.

Buy it in print at your local comic book store.

Buy it digitally: http://www.comixology.com/Hawkeye/comics-series/8445

Special Batman section!

Christopher Nolan’s Batman series had some serious cred with mainstream audiences for being so serious…so…real (I disagree with both simplistic mis-readings of the films, but enjoyed them immensely). Well, here’s some Batman books that are in a similar “real-worldy Batman” vein.

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli:

The definitive origin for Batman. An obsessed man who achieves his physical and mental peaks through practice and hard work, beginning a mission to root out corruption in Gotham City. Nothing super hero-y about this tale.

Buy it in print: http://www.amazon.com/Batman-Year-One-Frank-Miller/dp/1401207529/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353890220&sr=1-1&keywords=batman+year+one

Digitally: http://www.comixology.com/Batman-Year-One/comics-story-arc/52

Catwoman by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke:

This is a good buy not only for those who have enjoyed the Nolan films, but also the animated series from the 90s, as Cooke’s artwork is very similar to that show. Another simple concept series: a former criminal (Catwoman), seeks to do right and live a better life.

Buy it in print: http://www.amazon.com/Catwoman-Vol-1-Trail/dp/1401233848/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353890365&sr=1-1&keywords=catwoman+brubaker

Buy it digitally: http://www.comixology.com/Catwoman-2002-2008/comics-series/201

Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark:

The Wire with Batman.

Buy it in print: http://www.amazon.com/Gotham-Central-Book-Line-Duty/dp/1401220371/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353890597&sr=1-1&keywords=gotham+central

Buy it digitally: http://www.comixology.com/Gotham-Central/comics-series/3035

I’ll probably follow up with some more holiday gift recommendations, including…books about comics! WHAT?  So, spread some holiday and comic cheer, and stay tuned for more. If you’re reading this, and think none of these recommendations really apply to the people in your life, drop a comment about what you’re looking for, and I’ll see if I can come up with anything.

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Not, NOW! Then! Not THEN, Now! (Oh, and Hawkeye is still awesome)

Not, NOW! Then! Not THEN, Now! (Oh, and Hawkeye is still awesome)

Marvel NOW!

Well. It’s maybe slightly better than DC’s New 52 as far as stupid marketing names go, but it’s mostly a stupid marketing name that’s been slapped on a number of good comics.

Last year, DC Comics relaunched their entire superhero line by canceling every title it was publishing, and launching 52 series starting at #1. They also made all the heroes younger and restarted their histories and made me type this goddamn stupid sentence explaining it all.

Now (haha, now), while I have been trumpeting comics that are outside the super hero genre, I am still susceptible to stupid marketing names, and on top of that, Marvel does seem to be pushing this as a creative-team focused relaunch, rather than a “everything you know about the characters is different” approach. This week, I bought a couple issues of from this venture, and I think most of them are pretty good entry points for people looking to check out some good comics.

Fantastic Four seems to offer a continuation of what has come before. That was my first reaction anyway. The challenge presented for a creator on any of these titles is maintaining a faithfulness to the concept while also making it interesting and relevant and interesting for readers new and old. Simply parroting out the core concept of a character or characters without adding anything to it…well, what you get in those instances are forgettable comic books, or memorably shitty comic book films: Fantastic Four, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Amazing Spider-Man…I could go on, but that would not help anyone.

Upon re-reading this issue, I feel like it’s a great re-introduction of The Fantastic Four. Writer Matt Fraction (yes, I know I’m all “Fraction, Fraction, Fraction” lately, but, well, Shut up.) and artist Mark Bagley are so far presenting a great looking family adventure comic.

Fraction’s got a pretty good grasp on each character dialogue-wise. In this first issue Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny and the kids all stand out from each other, and the premise for this run is laid bare: the adults are bringing the kids with them on adventures to be closer to them…and because their powers might be killing them.  While some of Bagley’s “normal” looking people have very similar faces and expressions, he’s really bringing his best work to the bigger, weirder moments and characters, so I can’t wait to see him cut loose on more adventures as the series continues.

Deadpool offers a fast paced and funny comic book, with Tony Moore’s art offering as many visual gags as there are one-liners uttered by Deadpool and almost every other character in the book. Said one-liners are written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, and while the supporting characters seem to get the better material in the first issue, by issue two nearly every joke by the wise-cracking mercenary is landing, too.

The second issue offers a battle with Teddy Roosevelt (I LOVE TEDDY ROOSEVELT AND ILLUSTRATED CARICATURES OF HIM!!!) that is sprinkled with a few Looney Toons-esque moments. And this slapstick filled smackdown is just a small portion of the greatness that is this issue. There’s also Electricity Ghost Ben Franklin. Let that sink in, then go buy these comics.

X-Men: Legacy is something that didn’t interest me as a concept. “Professor Xavier’s crazy son goes off on his own to fulfill his father’s zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.” But I heard some good buzz about it, so I decided to check it out. Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat have created a book that embraces and rejects the X-Men concept at the same time. Or maybe it doesn’t. I honestly don’t know yet, because in the first issue, these two creators build two worlds and then shatter them, leaving me curious as to what will come next. I honestly think this comic would be even better for someone with almost ZERO knowledge of the X-Men, so if you’ve never read an X-Men comic before, but are interested in exploring the trials and tribulations of a powerful and extremely unstable young man, check out X-Men: Legacy.

And, as my title said, Hawkeye is still running strong. It also technically fits into Marvel’s NOW! initiative of pairing fantastic writers, though it is thankfully free of that silly red all caps branding. This story arc has Javier Pulido subbing in for regular artist (and cover artist) David Aja. According to the letters page, Pulido and Aja will be swapping on story arcs, and after this excellent issue, I am more than OK with that. I’m not going to go into the plot of the issue. Just imagine me projecting you a slideshow of some awesome panels.

THIS

THIS

THIS

and THIS.

Awesome panel slideshow aside, this is shaping up to be a great book that will define Hawkeye as more than “the dumb guy with a bow and arrows.”

So, I’m pretty impressed with Marvel’s…ugh…NOW! efforts that I’ve read thus far. I bought these all on Comixology, and you can too if you’re someone who has been looking for an entry or re-entry point into some Marvel Comic Books. Both the creator focused marketing and the quality of these comics gives me some hope that Marvel isn’t just churning out books soullessly in support of other media endeavors, but is going through a period of experimentation again as they did in the early 2000’s.

Comics You Should Be Thankful For: Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg

Comics You Should Be Thankful For: Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg

I meant to get this out pre-Halloween, but I was all weird sorts of crazy-pants during the time home from work during the hurricane. Basically I accomplished nothing. I went to an amazing wedding, but in terms of feeling like I did something towards my goal of becoming a working writer? No, I did not do that.

But I re-read some Sandman comics, and while I was going to tie them into a Halloween/Horror theme, I will instead create a new theme for November that is Thanksgiving-specific. I’ll call it “Comics You Should Be Thankful For!” Because you should be goddamn grateful that these amazing comic books exist.

So, for our first installment: The Sandman. This is a series that people often present as a gateway comic to people who don’t read comics. It is a great comic for that. It blends fantasy, horror, and a smidge of super heroics. It is also about stories. But there are also people who don’t give a crap about ANY OF THAT. Do not recommend it to them. This is for your friends who LOVE TO READ. Not your friends who read to pass the time while traveling. Sandman is for people who want to get lost in a world not their own. For those who want to visit the worlds of Tolkien, Rowling, King or Lee and Kirby, because they’ve been there so many times through reading that they know they’re real. It’s for people who get lost in dreams and nightmares. And for those who let their imaginations run wild (like Hulkamania). If any of those things ring true to yourself, or someone you know, then you should read Sandman if you haven’t already.

As I mentioned, I was going for a horror-themed post, so I selected the issues “24 Hour Diner” and “The Collectors” to re-read. They did not disappoint. These are stories about monsters. Each is an intermingling of the real-life monsters and the ones that we imagine in order to either warn others of the real ones, or to take away some of their power. Both stories are written by Neil Gaiman (who created and wrote the entire series) and drawn by Mike Dringenberg (who drew many of the early issues and is credited as co-creator on the series). One of the selling points of The Sandman is that any of it’s trade paperbacks can stand on their own. This is also true of many of the individual issues. Would it help to read more of the series to enjoy “24 Hour Diner” or “The Collectors”? Yes. But they also work as stand-alone stories.

“24 Hour Diner” is about the inhabitants of a diner who are used as playthings for a man with the power to control them. A waitress, a trucker, a young woman anticipating reconciliation with her girlfriend, a young man waiting for an interview, and a long-term couple who hate each other are manipulated by Doctor Destiny into revealing themselves, while also playing the roles he’s picked for them. He can do so through the use of a magical gem, but he’s not any different from a crazy person that has taken a group of people hostage of a confined area. Gaiman’s narration provides insight into all of the character’s points of view, making it all the more scary as each loses control over their own will.

Dringenberg’s art blends dark fantasy and reality, making great use of negative space and shadows, helping the reader to believe that such an event could be sprung upon them at any moment. His framing in the above panel also proves the horror rule of “sometimes it’s what you don’t see that’s truly scary,” but helps you to see what you’re imagining a little better with the blood dripping down the frame.

“The Collectors,” while just as dark as “24 Hour Diner,” blends in a bit of humor. It’s built on the premise that serial killers get together for conventions to discuss their trade. The chairman tells a reaping/raping joke; there’s a panel for women serial killers…it’s like the US Weekly “Stars…they’re just like US” of serial killing. Gaiman and Dringenberg introduce a number of distinct killers in 22 pages, some getting only a panel to half a page of introduction, but they paint some pretty vivid pictures.

Each killer is introduced differently, but every one has at least one single panel of their true self, colored entirely in shades of red and black as they pose over their victim. Artist and writer are truly in sync here, presenting both the mundane public personas with humor while revealing the horrific true faces of these men and women.

Ultimately though, the authors strip away the facade. Both the one presented to the reader that they’re “just like you and me,” and the one the killers tell themselves, that “they are the heroes of their own stories.” Morpheus, the titular Sandman, the personification of Dream, reclaims a rogue nightmare, while making sure that the serial killers of the world will never sleep again.

I recently read a disturbing, yet well-written book called The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum. In the afterward, Ketchum writes of his disgust for the monsters of real life. The serial killers. The torturers. The people who willfully inflict pain on others and find justification in it. Both the book, and Ketchum’s afterward which expressed a desire to de-power these people reminded me of “The Collectors,” and the attempt of Gaiman’s Morpheus to take away the power of the killers. Because we can’t deny or stop these people from existing, but we can try and take away their reason to. Or at least hope to identify them better through these stories. Or something.

I don’t know. But I know that these are damn good comics. I’ve read and owned The Sandman in two formats, both in trade paperbacks, and in deluxe hardcovers. The hardcovers are beautiful, but if you’re trying out this series for the first time, you’re probably better off on Comixology, or by picking out a volume for $10 on Amazon.