The holidays are officially in full swing and you have no idea what to get that friend or loved one who loves comic books? Let me help you out! With a few exceptions, I’m sure that if you know your friend reads comics they’ve already got the latest Spider-Man or Batman saga in some format. There are several fantastic choices for you to get for your friend that they’ve heard of but not yet purchased.
1. Dog Man is three books, and counting, from Dav Pilkey, the creator of Captain Underpants, is published by Scholastic. Any of Dog Man’s adventures are perfect for elementary school readers, containing fun stories, engaging visuals (as if drawn by someone the reader’s age), flip pages, and how to draw the character pages.
2. Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag is a graphic novel for ages 8 – 12 published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, tells the tale of a boy who wants to practice magic that only girls are allowed to do. The story is fantastic and the visuals great, with a strong, but subtle, message. Excellent debut book.
3. Groo: Friends and Foes by Sergio Aragonés published by Dark Horse Comics. This is the latest collection of the misadventures of a brainless barbarian and his dotty dog. Think a clueless Conan. There’s violence, but of the bloodless/cartoony kind. Groo has been a comic book for over 30 years and these tales, available as two paperback collections or a complete hardcover, feature Groo meeting with each of his long time supporting cast while a little girl tries to figure which character is her father.
1. Rough Riders by Adam Glass and Patrick Olliffe published by AfterShock Comics. There are two collections featuring the teaming of Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Annie Oakley, Jack Johnson, and Thomas Edison thwarting an alien invasion or anarchists. Both collections are exciting “What If” tales with strong visuals.
2. Lobster Johnson by Mike Mignola, published by Dark Horse Comics. The classic 1930s daring-do of cinema serials versus supernatural, criminal, and Nazi threats. Any collection is worth picking up and complete unto itself. Perfect for action lovers and those who enjoy a good mystery and scare.
3. Red Sonja: Worlds Away Volume 1 by Amy Chu and Carlos Gomez, published by Dynamite Entertainment. I’m stretching the category here, but it’s worth it. This contains the first issues of the currently ongoing series of Sonja transported to the present day to stop an ancient foe. Sonja in modern New York is something to see and read, with some amazing action sequences and some wonderful characters. I can’t get enough of this story.
1. Animosity by Marguerite Bennett and Rafael de Latorre & Juan Doe, published by AfterShock Comics. Every animal and insect on Earth instantly has the intelligence and speech of human beings. Riots, uprisings, wars, and chaos ensue. Against this backdrop a girl and her loyal dog try to cross the United States to safety. The zombie apocalypse is turned upside down with an animal rebellion. Thrilling, touching, and terrifying reading. There are two collections that should be read in order.
2. The Birth of the Black Flame by Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, and Christopher Mitten, published by Dark Horse Comics. This is set in the Hellboy universe, but can be read and enjoyed without any additional readings. A major, future foe of Hellboy is created in this moody, dark piece involving missing English girls and cults in Siam. Creepy and beautiful.
3. Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder by Mike Mignola and other creators, published by Dark Horse Comics. There are five collections to be had, so far, with any being a fine starting point. These stories are also set in the Hellboy universe, but in the 1800s. The stories follow a man hired by the crown to investigate and stop any supernatural occurrences. The setting are gleefully gothic, the characters superb, and the horrors surprising.
4. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, published by Dark Horse Comics. There are seven collections currently and the series should be started with the first volume. This visually rich story is a dark fairy tale set in the American South where a teenage girl begins to question who she is. Equal parts wonder, beauty, and ghastliness. This series has been optioned for television, so get a jump before it hits the small screen!
5. InSEXts by Marguerite Bennett and Ariel Kristantina, published by AfterShock Comix. Two volumes of this Victorian horror story of women trying to make their way in a world run by men. Beautiful, horrific, and erotic. Hold on to something because you’ll be in for a wild ride!
1. Invisible Republic by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, published by Image Comics. This is smartly written science fiction involving strong characters and politics on a planet told in the present and through flashbacks. There are three collections and should be started with the first volume. If someone thinks that comics are for kids, give them this to show that there is something for the hard sci-fi fan. The visuals are cinematic.
2. Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez, published by Benetiz Productions. There are four volumes, including a recent hardcover collection of the first series. I’m only a recent follower of this comic and I’m playing rapid catch up with this Steampunk Science Fiction masterpiece. A strong female lead becomes an unwilling sleuth in a variety of cases. The stories are smart and fun and the visuals are spectacular; detailed is too pallid a word to describe the look of this book. One could spend hours getting lost in this amazing world.
3. Replica by Paul Jenkins and Andy Clarke, published by AfterShock Comics. There’s only one volume of this hilariously bad ass human detective who has the brilliant idea to clone himself so he can get his work done more quickly. An error at the facility results in him being copied over several times, with each clone having a unique personality. The story is devilishly fun and the visuals off the chart.
4. World Reader by Jeff Loveness and Juan Doe, published by AfterShock Comics. This is also one volume, but it’s a complete and unforgettable story. A woman who can read alien worlds to hear the stories of its dead inhabitants sees a deadly pattern in each world’s demise. A good creeper of a story with visuals that echo the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Black light not included for reading.
Movies and Television
1. Angel: Season 11 and Angel & Faith by several contributors, published by Dark Horse Comics. There are two volumes, with another to follow, for Season 11 and five volumes for Angel & Faith. If you have a friend who likes Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then they’ll enjoy the further adventures of Angel. These tales begin with him and Faith on several outings and currently have him in his own title. They’re best read in the order of the seasons, but the previous season doesn’t have to be read to be enjoyed. Supernatural drama with excellent visuals.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer by several contributors, published by Dark Horse Comics. There are four seasons comprised of several different volumes; it would be best if one were to begin with the first volume of any season. Previous seasons don’t have to be read to be enjoyed. Creator Joss Whedon oversees this series, with him writing several of the early issues. If one is a fan of Buffy or vampires, these are absolutely must reads. Consistently one of my favorite monthly comics.
3. Star Trek: New Visions by John Byrne, published by IDW Publishing, with five volumes available so far. Three issues of Byrne’s exceptional new adventures of the original crew are the focus, with each volume capable of being read in any order. Manipulating photographs and captured scenes from the original series and creating his own originally created characters, each story looks like a missing episode from the 1960s. Each story marvelously fits seamlessly into the classic series and is like a love letter to fans. Mandatory reading for every Star Trek fan.
4. Star Wars: Darth Vader by several contributors, published by Marvel Comics. These are available as paperback collections and hardcovers. These are incredible untold tales of the Dark Lord of the Sith with fantastic stories and incredible visuals. They are all ages reading, and are must own books for Star Wars fans.
5. Star Wars: Kanan by Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz, published by Marvel Comics. Available as two trades or one hardcover. This spotlights the early life of Kanan from the Star Wars: Rebels television series as a padawan. They are flat out awesomeness that, like the Darth Vader collections, are must read and must own books for Star Wars fans. These are also all ages appropriate.
1. Green Lantern: Blackest Night by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, paperback and hardcover. This was published in 2011 but can still be found online and in stores. This is the epic tale of the Green Lanterns, and other lanterns, fighting the rising dead. Beautiful, scary, and perfection.
2. Superman: Action Comics Rebirth Deluxe by Dan Jurgens and several contributors, published by DC Comics. This hardcover contains the rebooting of Superman in his current incarnation and it’s a fantastic read for all ages. The story is easy to follow and the visuals are powerful.
3. Superman: Rebirth Deluxe by several contributors, published by DC Comics. This is also a hardcover chronicling of Superman’s latest incarnation. Just as good as the Action Comics Rebirth and doesn’t require reading of that collection to enjoy. Again, all ages reading.
4. Thor by Walt Simonson, published by Marvel Comics. In the 1980s Simonson took over this failing title and reinvented it to epic status, becoming the basis for much of what’s appeared in the God of Thunder’s films. There’s a paperback collection containing the first 9 issues of his run and, for the gift giver with deep pockets, an Omnibus hardcover of the entire run that retails for $150. This monstrous collection sold out years ago and was recently reprinted.
5. Monsters Unleashed! by Cullen Bunn and various artists. This is a $50 gigantically oversized hardcover at 14″ X 21″ that spectacularly showcases various giant monsters confronting every Marvel super hero on every continent. It’s all ages appropriate and will delight its readers.