November 27, 2008
Black Friday Holiday Shopping Guide ‘08
Today is Black Friday 2008, the traditional first day of the hectic holiday shopping season.
Following are several suggestions for comics related gift-shopping to help spur you along if you've decided that sequential narrative presents and things related to sequential narratives are to be on Santa's list this year. I'll be adding to them from now until Noon ET.
As I have little chance of actually selecting something for your friend or loved one, please use this as a starting point. Perhaps it will give you an idea as to what's out there, or spark some brainstorming that leads to an idea of your own. I'm also quite certain I'm forgetting a list equally as long, filled with quality works and books, for which I apologize profusely. Last year we opened it up for people to recommend their own books as gifts; that turned out to be a disaster, so we won't be repeating that initiative. So please look around.
Have fun today and the weeks ahead, and please remember a few simple rules about comics gift-giving:
1. When it comes to gifts, comics are best for people that already like them
as opposed to people that may like them someday
2. The bigger the comics fan, the more likely that person is to be very specific
about what it is they want. Be careful!
3. Comics don't have the saturation of DVDs, and some of the best things are carried by specific vendors or involve an element of handcraft, so make sure you have enough time to receive the thing it is you want to buy.
All that said, gifts are gifts, and it's hard to do anything wrong when giving someone a gift. Happy shopping, and here's to a happy and safe holiday season.
THE COMICS REPORTER BLACK FRIDAY HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE 2008
183 (OR SO) REASONS TO SPEND YOUR SHOPPING MONEY ON COMICS THIS YEAR
TWELVE GIFTS FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
1. Cul-De-Sac: This Exit, Richard Thompson
One of the best comic strips to come along in years has a collection. First collections are great not only because they're probably the most user-friendly of all the books to come, but because in many cases you probably haven't read the majority of the strips. Since this collection includes material from previous Richard Thompson efforts related
, that's almost certainly true here.
2. What It Is, Lynda Barry
A clear book of the year candidate, What It Is
offers something for those that want to do comics, those that are creative in any way, shape or form, and those that simply want to luxuriate in Lynda Barry's cartooning.
3. Merchandise From Scott Saavedra
The cartoonist, designer and pop culture historian Scott Saavedra announced in November
that he's suffering from a kidney disease. He has insurance and he's not destitute, but he certainly could use a swelling in the coffers to help his family through these tough times. Luckily, he has a lot of fun stuff for sale.
4. Patrick Moberg's Presidential Print
I don't know the artist, but I thought Moberg's illustration was the
cartoon of the recently-passed election. If that's something you or someone you know wants to celebrate, it's being sold as a print.
5. Original Art From Comic Art Collective
Year after year, Comic Art Collective remains one of my favorite places to shop on-line. It's a service through which certain cartoonists can sell their original artwork and pocket 100 percent of the proceeds. One thing I personally like about it is that there's a lot of super-affordable art of the pen-and-ink illustration variety. That's Colleen Coover's work above.
6. Gary Panter, Gary Panter
A ridiculously affordable overview of the art-making portion of the great cartoonist's career. Classy and intimate.
7. Most Outrageous, Bob Levin
In The Pirates and the Mouse
(2003) and Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & Pirates
, my friend Bob Levin dug deep into comics both modern and underground with a sympathetic eye and a gift for astute cultural observation. In his latest from Fantagraphics, Most Outrageous
(2008), Levin paints his most alarming and heartbreaking portrait yet. Not for everyone, but an excellent, excellent book.
8. Kramers Ergot Vol. 7, Edited By Sammy Harkham
The buzz book of the fall and a massive, show-stopper comic to place under any tree (or, in the case of my house, a stuffed bear). Not only can I recommend this anthology of broadsheet-sized comics, I'm
getting one for Christmas.
9. The Wonder, Tony Fitzpatrick
The Chicago-based painter/printer doesn't think they're comics, either, but I assure you they are -- powerful ones, driven by poetry and organized by memory. This is a three-book set, slip-cased.
10. Willie & Joe: The WWII Years, Bill Mauldin and Todd DePastino
A staggering archival achievement, a lot of great cartooning and an important history lesson.
11. Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell
Despite an Ignatz win, Swallow Me Whole
was probably the least publicized in a group of really solid book-length debuts by newer cartoonists in 2008, and my favorite of Top Shelf's releases this calendar year.
12. Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles, Noel Sickles (Edited by Dean Mullaney)
One of those wished-for books for years finally comes true. It manages to be better than I dreamed, with a full accounting of Sickles' commercial art career and a look at both his predecessor and successor on Scorchy Smith
that allows readers to see how his talent developed. A stunning monster of a book.
FIVE BARGAIN GIFT IDEAS FOR WHAT MAY BE A TOUGH YEAR
1. Something via AbeBooks
This is the interface that I use to access used bookstores. One thing that such stores tend to have that comic shops usually don't is classic "cartoon books" from artists like Peter Arno, Charles Addams, Pat Oliphant, B. Kliban and so on. But you can frequently find all sorts of comics and comics-related books for cheaper than the standard, going price. It's worth checking.
Like most men around 40 years old, I like to make coasters out of old comic book pages. You can use just about any old coaster project description that comes up when you search on Google. I prefer the take old coasters and fasten laminated comics imagery onto the top of them technique, but I've also used old CDs and cork to assemble some pancake-style. The important thing is to get good lamination and to be careful as you attach the art. Comics art offers a lot of opportunities for such handmade gifts if you're inclined to go that way. Be creative.
3. Various Calvin and Hobbes Books -- or Something Similar -- at Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble carries a lot of the classic Calvin & Hobbes
collections at a reduced rate. That's a tricky buy for someone right now as many older fans will certainly have this material while a lot of younger fans may not know Calvin from
Hobbes. But if you have someone for whom it's appropriate, those are good deals. I have to imagine a lot of work from recent years gets processed into the discount sections of such stores, so it might pay to look around in the discount sections.
4. Amazon.com's Used Books Options
Most comics in trade collections or in original graphic novel form come with an ISBN. In most of those
cases, that means used copies can be sold on Amazon. I don't believe in selling review copies, but from the number of used books that pop up in the listings every single time there's a new comics release, I'm guessing most folks disagree with me. Not only can you find slightly older books on Amazon.com at a highly reduced rate, you should be able to find all-but-new ones at a discount as well.
5. Non-Mint, Not Super-Popular, Older Comic Books From A Shop Or On-Line Store
Most comic book stores sell discounted comics in some fashion. Ebay has given price-point noogies to many a store owner who once upon a time held onto comic books no one wanted for 15 years or more because they were certain that a dollar's worth of desire out there would someday and somehow compound itself up to $7.50. With a little effort, you can snag readable runs of unpretentious adventure comics ranging from Master of Kung Fu
to Power Man and Iron Fist
to Camelot 3000
to The Intimates
for less than $1.50 an issue. Try reliable on-line retailers like Mile High
(especially during their sales); try eBay for things like Chicago Comics' manga sales
; try Google Maps or the Comic Shop Locator
service to find a store near you.
SIX WAYS TO FACILITATE THEIR DOING THE SHOPPING
1. Gift Certificate From Amazon.com
Here's one way to let people buy comics for themselves, a gift certificate to the bookstore Amazon.com, which of course by virtue of comics' journey into the world of book sales is a prominent comics retailer just about any way you measure it.
2. Gift Card From Barnes and Noble
And here's another. Added advantage that you can use it in the brick and mortar locations of the chain.
3. Gift Certificate From Mile High Comics
I've purchased these before and had no complaints.
4. Gift Certificate From Your Local Comic Book Shop
Your shop may not do this, but it never hurts to ask. I imagine there are several that would take money from you and apply it to store credit even if there's not an official certificate in the offing.
5. Something From Someone's Amazon.com Wish List
I have an Amazon.com Wish List devoted to Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase reprint series, but most people just have a few comics on their regular Wish Lists waiting for you to purchase them.
6. Something From A Want List Someone Made At Their Local Shop
Many comic shops will let their customers leave a list of comics they want their friends and family members to buy them. If your store doesn't have a program like this, they might be convinced to do it for someone that asks nicely.
TWENTY-FIVE APPEALING NEWER COMICS OFFERINGS IN THE POPULAR BOOK FORMAT, REPRESENTING A SMALL AND COMPLETELY INADEQUATE SAMPLING OF SUCH VOLUMES OUT THERE RIGHT NOW SO SHUT UP I TRIED
1. Little Nothings, Lewis Trondheim
The first English-language volume of Lewis Trondheim's remarkable diary comics in print form. Should be fun for both hardcore comics fans that can catch some of the side jokes and appreciate the context for a few of the situations, and for the non-comics fan that can relate to getting older and developing a wry and wary attitude towards life. I have to imagine the second volume is as good.
2. Too Cool To Be Forgotten, Alex Robinson
A sure audience-pleaser about a man who goes back to high school in 1980s after being diverted by a form of hypnosis designed to cure his smoking habit. I hate it when that happens.
3. The Bottomless Belly-Button, Dash Shaw
So much like a proper novel in shape and intent and texture that you want to apologize to it for describing other comics that way. I read it all the way through on my first try, which is worth noting only in that it's big enough I had to cancel a lot of appointments to get there uninterrupted.
4. Three Shadows, Cyril Pedrosa
A haunting fable about the lengths to which parents will go to to protect their children, it's one of the few comics I read this year that if I had to stop at any point and take a quiz, I would have no guess as to where it was going.
5. The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, Eddie Campbell
The latest from one of comics' greatest, and, I suspect, the last one we may say from Campbell for a while after a ruthlessly productive period.
6. Skyscrapers Of The Midwest, Josh Cotter
Another of this year's stellar book-length debuts, Cotter draws the holy hell out of this story touching on the scary intimacies of family life through inventive visual metaphor and ruthless observation.
7. French Milk, Lucy Knisley
A surprise debut from a big-time prose publisher that pleases for the author's apparent lack of a desire to tell a Great Big Story and instead concentrate on the quotidian details of life around her during an extended stay in Paris.
8. Comic Book Tattoo, Various (Edited By Rantz Hoseley)
A massive -- I mean hurt your legs to have it on your lap massive -- tome of stories taken from the lyrics of the much beloved singer-songwriter Tori Amos. Just came out in a slip-cased collectors' edition.
9. Haunted, Philippe Dupuy
Pore over the release lists from your favorite comics publishers and you'll more than likely find each one was responsible for a gem or two, such as D&Q's publication of Philippe Dupuy's intimate and introspective portrait of life as an artist.
10. The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, Various (Edited By Paul Gravett)
Drawing on what I suspect is Paul Gravett's broad knowledge of comic book and their best craftsmen, this is by far the best of the Mammoth Book series and a more than satisfactory survey of approaches to an intermittently popular comics genre.
11. The Nearly Complete Essential Hembeck Archives Omnibus, Fred Hembeck
This is a massive chunk of one of the strangest career outputs in comics history from the superhero parodist and humor comics specialist Fred Hembeck for whom many fans of the last 30 years have a quiver-to-the-touch soft spot. Just the sight of a giant tome of Hembeck's comics makes me laugh.
12. My Brain Is Hanging Upside-Down, David Heatley
The like it/lump it art comics book of the Fall, Heatley's confessional autobiography breaking his personal history down into general subjects rather than telling it in one long narrative, is one of those books I bet a lot of cartoonists emerging five to ten years from now will cite as an influence.
13. Breakdowns, Art Spiegelman
A serious book of the year candidate, Spiegelman has re-released his groundbreaking one-man anthology with new material about his life growing up, material that I believe was serialized in the University of Virginia's literary review.
14. Trains Are Mint, Oliver East
Yet another compulsively readable comics-with-a-spine debut, a collection of the first three lauded Oliver East handmade comics. There's a second volume I haven't seen yet out for Christmas.
15. The Education Of Hopey Glass, Jaime Hernandez
This is a stunning-looking book, as is most everything Jaime Hernandez does these days, and one of the most subtly harrowing works in any medium about getting your act together a few years after you probably should have paid attention to doing so.
16. Alan's War, Emmanuel Guibert
A potential book of the year candidate, a long and affecting and visually sumptuous portrait of an American life distinguished but certainly not defined by service during World War II. It's one of the few books I've read this year where -- although both impressions were positive -- I had a completely different opinion of it by book's end than I had two-thirds of the way through.
17. Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
A recent bit of awards-program controversy surrounding co-author credit for artist Jillian Tamaki shouldn't detract from the fact that this was a solid and compelling book aimed at slightly younger readers yet suitable for older ones. It was one of those books that made you reconsider the efforts done in the entire category.
18. Speak Of The Devil, Gilbert Hernandez
One of the best, impossible to categorize comic series of 2007 becomes one of the must-have hardcovers of 2008. The latest work in a long run of fascinating comics from a future Best Living Cartoonist.
19. The Alcoholic, Jonathan Ames and Dean Haspiel
The two best things about this work is the unsparing character arc of its lead, when the temptation for this kind of thing tends to go the other direction, and Dean Haspiel's art, some of the best of his career.
20. Thoreau at Walden, John Porcellino
This book just kind of slipped out there quietly, which I guess is appropriate. John Porcellino's elegant take on Thoreau's meditative masterpiece and its making provides plenty of opportunity to reflect on the various issues involved and
formal comics approaches.
21. Journey, Vol. 1, William Messner-Loebs
IDW's reprinting of the one-time, famously financially troubled creator's odd, affecting, signature work has an almost heroic aspect to it -- there wasn't really a market for frontier comics in the 1980s, and there probably isn't one now, either. The comics are quite interesting, though, with a unique tone, both resolutely serious and significantly tongue-in-cheek I'm not sure has ever been matched.
22. Omega The Unknown, Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Karl Rusnack and Paul Hornschemeier
One of the best superhero comics of the last 10 years gets the special hardcover treatment. As attested to by a brother who came and threw the last issue of the series in my lap with a sarcastic "thanks for that," it's a book that really needs to be read all the way through in one sitting.
23. We Can Still Be Friends, Mawil
There were books I liked a bit more than this one, but I enjoyed Mawil's take on romantic failure enough that I wish for it a much bigger audience than its quiet release mid-year seemed to garner for it. The cartooning is lovely.
24. An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories Vol. 2, Various (Edited By Ivan Brunetti)
The second of Ivan Brunetti's University of Yale press efforts is the best of a lot of decent, recent books to make a summary statement out of worthy alt-comics. If you had to pick one single volume to read for a satisfying, thoughtful engagement with art comics over the last 20 years, this is the one.
25. The Picture Of Dorian Gray Roy Thomas and Sebastian Fiumara
One of the quieter efforts in Marvel's broad move onto bookstore shelves; the collection of a six-issue mini-series begun late last year.
ELEVEN SUBSCRIPTIONS, THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
1. Subscription to an Archie Publication
It's like having a little piece of supermarket checkout right there in your home.
2. Subscription to Comics-Friendly Nickelodeon
No successful magazine has a better array of kids' comics and features as many likable cartoonists than Nickelodeon
3. Subscription to a DC Comic Book
This could make a nice nostalgia gift for a one-time weekly comic shop visitor. I'm not as familiar with these titles as I used to be, but I always like whatever Grant Morrison is working on. I'm told Geoff Johns is currently gaining in popularity after a long time as a mainstream comics critical punching bag, and they're certainly depending on his efforts, so his various series might be good, too.
4. Subscription to a Marvel Comic Book
It's old school, but where once this was maybe the best way to guarantee getting a comic book, it's now an equally nice way to have a recurring gift that the reader might not otherwise pick up. I'd suggest whatever books Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction are working on.
5. Subscription to a TwoMorrows Magazines
There are certainly enough of the TwoMorrows magazines that one of them at least should be worthy of your attention. You can't go on buying them at conventions forever, you know.
6. Subscription to Shojo Beat
This may be a more popular gift than a similar subscription to Shonen Jump
as Shojo Beat
seems to be on slightly fewer newsstands.
7. Subscription to Shonen Jump
I had a gift subscription this past year and it was great to see that fat little sucker peeking out at me from the mailbox once a month.
8. Subscription to The Comics Journal
The category-leading comics news and criticism magazine has not only offered subscriptions since the late 1970s, it's traditionally one of the better deals out there. It also affords you the ability to access magazine content on-line that's not generally available.
9. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Subscription
Marvel unveiled its first serious step into the world of digital comics right before Christmas last year. I'm thinking about asking for this from a loved one this year. I don't have much of a desire to read even the best Marvel Comics, although I enjoy them, but the way I figure it I might be convinced to read a few thousand if it were cost-effective for me to do so.
10. DailyInk.com Subscription
It may eventually go the way of the Dodo as more and more syndicates choose the strategy of "free," but for the conceivable future there's DailyInk.com from King Features, a site that features old and new material at a size that actually rewards your reading it on a computer screen. A solid gift for your friend that knows which strips run on the Houston Chronicle
web site as opposed to which run on the Seattle P-I
11. A Subscription to Modern Tales
is one of webcomics' premier sites when it comes to gathering quality material under one virtual roof; it's also one of the few with a lot of pay-for added features, which I would imagine might make a nice gift for a dabbler or someone who's expressed interest in a couple of the offerings.
FIFTEEN SUGGESTIONS NOT ALREADY OFFERED FOR YOUNG PERSON-FRIENDLY GNS AND/OR KIDS BOOKS WITH CARTOONIST HOOKS
1. A Kids Book From Toon Books
The new line spearheaded by Francoise Mouly employs a staggering number of talents familiar to older comics readers, from Frank Cammuso to Eleanor Davis to Art Spiegelman to Dean Haspiel.
2. Chiggers, Hope Larson
I picked up a copy of this sweetly-told summer camp story for the 12-year-old daughter of a friend and she was thrilled by it.
3. One of the Kids-Focused Books From First Second
A number of the graphic novels in the First Second line are aimed at kids at a range of ages, including the successful Sardine
series (up to six volumes I think) for very young kids and the award-winning Laika
for slightly older ones.
4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2007
Although a couple of years old, it's a book I'm asked still asked about by friends. Noted illustrator Selznick's solo effort has lovely comics sections that strengthen the work's focus on silent film.
5. Bow-Wow Books
Formalist comics master Mark Newgarden co-authors this line of children's books that count on subtle visual effects and bright, funny plotlines. I've given these to a couple of families with really little kids and they've liked them enough to keep them in the heavy rotation for the several months since then.
6. Something From Shaun Tan
The success of The Arrival
may open up all of the Shaun Tan-illustrated books for reading by comics fan interested in how he employs imagery.
7. One of Richard McGuire's Children's Books
Richard McGuire's children's books -- What Goes Around Comes Around
, Night Becomes Day
, What's Wrong With This Book?
and Orange Book
-- are full of the sharp visuals and formal play that distinguishes comics like "Here."
8. One of Lorenzo Mattotti's Children's Books
Mattotti provided book illustration as idiosyncratically colorful as any of his more famous comics albums on works like Eugenio
. If they're not still on the shelves where you are, they're pretty easy to find on-line.
9. The Usagi Yojimbo Series, Stan Sakai
Oh, to be ten years old right now and have all of these solidly-crafted, cartoony violent and engrossing comics ahead of me to read.
10. All-Ages Superhero Comics Efforts
and DC Comics
have comics they publish aimed at younger readers, and many of them are quite a bit more fun to read by readers of all ages than a lot of today's continuity-obsessive, clenched-sphincter, standard comic books and collections.
11. The Johnny Boo Series, James Kochalka
James is practically a kid himself, and his expressly-for-kids books have an undeniable power to them. The first volume
is out and the second volume
12. The Amphigorey Series, Edward Gorey
Although I've focused mostly on current books for kids, I can't let the comics-related books I loved most as a child go without mention. Although I could be wrong I believe there are four books in this series now -- Amphigorey
, Amphigorey Again
, Amphigorey Too
and Amphigorey Also
-- all collecting various morbid and ookey stand-alone by the late cartoonist. I can't find a dedicated site, but they are not hard to track down.
13. The Diary Of A Wimpy Kid Series, Jeff Kinney
This list wouldn't be complete without this publishing phenomenon on the list.
14. Tintin, Herge
Any comics list for kids also need this classic series, just waiting out there for kids to discover. There may be a smaller window for kids to enjoy these comics the way kids have for a few generation now, but it's still there. Also not hard to find at all through a variety of standard methods. According to Amazon.com, they seem to be selling these in really cheap omnibus-style hardcovers.
15. Various Manga Series Out There For Kids
A ton of manga out there is certainly suitable for kids, just as a ton of it may not be depending on the household rules that ap
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