We all have a good idea what we’d like for the holidays this year. You may even have your list formally written up (if you’re like me and still want to pretend you’re ten years old). It’s a safe bet you have one or more comic books or graphic novels on that list, am I right? But what are you buying for others this season?
It’s easy to shop for your fellow comic reading pals but maybe you’re a little stumped on what to get everyone else. Well, seeing as how you’re in a comic shop every week anyway, why not try and get your shopping done at the same time? Now, I’m not suggesting you grab the first thing off the shelves, stick a bow on it and consider yourself done. I’m sure mom wouldn’t appreciate a copy of Blackest Night when she’s never even heard of Green Lantern before. What you need to look for are comics for people who don’t read comics. And there’s an abundance once you start looking. Naturally I suggest you steer clear of the superhero genre for beginners but here are a few ideas to share your favorite pastime with friends and loved ones without them shoving your gift into their closet until they re-gift it to you next year.
Let’s start with the easy stuff — comics that are based on, or became, films or television shows. We had a few very widely publicized adaptations this year and your friends or family may not have even realized they came from comic books. Scott Pilgrim, for example. It may not have had the best box office returns but it did catch a lot of people’s eyes. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s quirky love story is a perfect way to show someone how fun comics can be. On the more serious and suspenseful side of things, consider The Walking Dead. It broke all kinds of crazy records on AMC in its short six-episode season and that means more than just comic readers were watching. If you know someone who was into the show, start him or her on Robert Kirkman’s comic — they’ll thank you. For those with a childhood love for The Wizard of Oz, you may try to start them on Marvel’s Wizard of Oz series by Eric Shanower. The story is classic and Scottie Young’s illustrations are precious. Speaking of classics, it’s a staple on pretty much everyone’s lists for new comic readers but Bill Willingham’s Fables really is the perfect gift for anyone. Everyone knows fairytale characters and seeing them act like real people, with real flaws is what keeps us coming back for more.
You may not know people who like comic books, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t genre fans. Vampires, zombies, westerns are all huge moneymakers in entertainment, it’s easy to transfer those likes into certain comics. American Vampire, for example, is a vampire story with a little bit of history thrown in. Plus, besides Scott Snyder’s excellent work, you’ve also got Stephen King’s name attached and that’s sure to peak some interest. There’s another comic series I praise among all others and it just happens to come from King’s son, Joe Hill. Locke & Key is an excellent occult horror series with a mystery tied in. It grabbed me from issue #1 and hasn’t let go since. If you’re friend likes zombies but is tired of the run-of-the-mill senseless brain eaters, try iZombie by Chris Roberson. The main character has all her wits about her but needs brains to stay that way. Along with her friends the ghost and the wereterrier, she must solve the mysteries that come along with her dinner’s memories. Scalped by Jason Aaron is great for someone who enjoys westerns or crime dramas. And that it’s partly inspired by real events makes it that much more intense.
If you’re giving a gift to someone who’s into smartly written novels or thrillers, might I suggest Neil Young’s Greendale? Joshua Dysart turned Young’s album of the same name into a lesson on environmental consciousness in this day and age while giving the protagonist a family history connected to the Earth. Mike Carey’s The Unwritten may seem like a cheap Harry Potter knock-off, and certainly does take it’s inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s novels, but is truly a journey through literary history. Any well-read friend of yours will enjoy the constant references to the great books of our time. Syndrome, from Archaia Entertainment, shows us the ethical complications that go along with trying to cure evil. Hollywood is called in to create a realistic atmosphere for a sociopath in order to study his brain and believe me when I say, this one will get you, and keep you, thinking.
There are a few strange, yet awesome titles out there these days, perhaps something for your loved one who likes things a little different. Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth couldn’t be more peculiar, but it works. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where 90% of the population is dead, the story follows an innocent boy who just happens to have antlers coming out of his head. In fact, all the new children born in this world are part animal in some way. He must rely on the kindness of strangers to survive and as you may know, strangers aren’t always kind. Children’s toys coming to life and fighting to save their “boy” from the Boogeyman is the plot of The Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith. Charles Paul Wilson III’s unique illustrations bring the toys to life as easily as the words and will cause your friends to give their old toys a double take. If you think your friend can really handle it, give them John Layman’s Chew. It’s based in a world where all bird meat is illegal because of a disastrous bird flu that killed millions. Sounds fairly normal, right? Not quite. A police detective, looking for violators still selling the meat, winds up finding out he can get psychic impressions from what he eats. And what he sees can be pretty gross.
I always suggest comics as gifts for kids and the holidays are a great time to try and get them into the hobby. I still can’t praise Jim McCann and Janet Lee’s Return of the Dapper Men enough. It’s a brand new fairytale that’s an instant classic. See a world divided in two, made whole again by a mysterious group of identical men who fly with the aid of umbrellas. It makes a great bedtime story too. You may have loved Fraggle Rock as a kid like I did so why not introduce a youngin’ to the Fraggle Rock comic anthology from Archaia? Not only are they great stories but it also includes activity pages by artist Katie Cook to keep the kids extra active. The Night Owls by Bobby and Peter Timony is a kooky story that follows the adventures of a detective agency in the 1920s. The team solves supernatural crime with loads of humor and even has a living, breathing gargoyle as part of the crew. While I’ve suggested these titles for the kids in your life, they are also all perfectly suitable for adult consumption as well.
Finally, if your giving gifts of comics to folks who really aren’t into anything outrageous, scary or out of this world, try for something a little more down to earth. Blankets is an autobiographical graphic novel authored and illustrated by Craig Thompson. It follows Thompson through his young life growing up in a religious household, falling in love and all the complications that lie therein. It’s an amazing look into a person’s life told with compelling honestly. Set in World War II, Kathryn and Stuart Immomen’s Moving Pictures is another very mature story that will really stimulate the mind. An art curator is stuck between the French and Germans while tasked with keeping important works of art in French museums. Her biggest opponent is a German officer who is quite possibly the only person who understands her. For something lighter, yet just as surprisingly entertaining I suggest Castle Waiting by Linda Medley. Though it’s more fantastical in nature compared to the other two, the fairytale-esque graphic novel is both smart and humorous. It gives us the “real-life” minor players in the story of Sleeping Beauty and what happens to them after the princess lives happily ever after.
Like I said, there’s a lot out there and this really is just a small jumping off point. There are so many different types of comics out there you’re bound to find something for everyone. As always, support you’re local comic shop and if you’re having trouble finding the right comic or graphic novel for your holiday gifts this year, ask them for suggestions. They see and hear a lot and are sure to be able to help you find something appropriate once they have an idea of what your friend or loved one likes in entertainment already. Happy shopping and here’s to creating new comic fans this holiday season.
Will you be giving the gift of comics this year?