Comic Book Gift Guide 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

As has become a yearly tradition, the Collected Edition blog presents my top pick suggestions of trade paperback and graphic novel presents for your favorite comic book fan -- or suggestions to help introduce others to the medium. (See the 2009, 2008, and 2007 lists.)

Of course, it wouldn't be a Collected Editions gift list if I didn't help you get free shipping (nothing I dislike more than paying for shipping). My focus this year is on good gift packages -- books you can buy together or mix and match and your work's all done. And all of these gifts represent full stories or at least big chunks -- no one wants to get a present only to find they have to buy something else to resolve the cliffhanger.

Here's hoping with these suggestions, you'll be a hit!

* Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle
* DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle
* DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book

I literally wasted an unexpected hour at a bookstore the other day flipiing through the Star Wars Year by Year documentary book. This oversized tome, full of pictures, takes you through Star Wars' history year by year from before the first movie's release to Clone Wars today. I dare anyone to pick up this book, flip to the year you first encountered Star Wars, and see if you're not hooked following your own life alongside Star Wars the rest of the way through. This is my highest gift recommendation for this year -- and the price is enough that you can get it with free shipping on its own or with anything else on this list.

Of course, being a DC Comics fan, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a similar Year by Year volume for DC history; this book was not as detailed as I hoped, but I imagine it would still be a welcome gift for any comics fan. This one, too, comes with free shipping (I couldn't find a similar Marvel book, but if I overlooked it, please correct me). And if big gift books is your thing (or the thing of your favorite comics fan), DC also has a dynamic pop-up book this year that will thrill both the young and the young-at-heart (DC Super Heroes: Ultimate Pop-Up Book doesn't qualify for free shipping on its own, but mix with any other book on the list or two of the I Can Read stocking stuffers (below) for free shipping).

* Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Boxset
* Lost At Sea

* Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box of Books

As I mentioned, when I give comics gifts, I like to give full stories. If your favorite comics fan enjoyed this year's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie, introduce them to the whole Scott Pilgrim saga at once -- perfect for holiday vacation reading -- with this box set available in just a few weeks from Oni Press -- and of course, no shipping! If you want to jazz up the package a bit (and really seem in the know), include writer Bryan Lee O'Malley's Lost at Sea, a separate book he published in the midst of working on the Scott Pilgrim series.

And, still in the movie-to-box-set vein, if your favorite comics fan is a little younger try the Diary of a Wimpy Kid box of books, collecting the most recent four volumes in Jeff Kinney's series on which this year's movie was based (with a sequel movie scheduled for next year). Need I even say it? Free shipping!

* Superman: Earth One
* Luthor
* Superman: Secret Origin
* Absolute All Star Superman

Superman's my favorite superhero. Even though he's fallen out of fashion lately -- not considered as cool, I think, as Batman, nor has Superman's multimedia forays been as popular as Batman's -- I like to think that the recent excitement over the Superman: Earth One modern retelling of Superman's origin precedes a renaissance for the character. To that end, I was pleased to see four gift-worthy Superman books coming out close to the holidays; not only Superman: Earth One, but also the Luthor graphic novel about Superman's greatest enemy by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo; Superman: Secret Origin, a new in-regular-comics-continuity Superman origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank; and the deluxe reimagined story of Superman's last days in Absolute All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. All of these are popular, well known creators, and they're writing Superman. Joy!

Absolute All-Star Superman gets free shipping on its own, or mix and match any of the other free for an award-winning Superman gift package.

* The Walking Dead: Compendium One
* Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s

If scary is more your loved one's thing, I spotted Four Color Fear in the bookstores around Halloween. This is a great collection of 1950s horror comics published before the Comics Code regulations, so there's plenty of fright and gore even if the work seems a little dated. The stories come with bits of notes and history, making this more than just your everyday graphic novel and the kind of coffee table-type piece (if your coffee table likes that kind of thing) that's right for gift giving.

Four Color Fear doesn't qualify for free shipping on its own, but you can combine it with Lost at Sea, one of the Superman volumes, or a couple of the I Can Read Books for free shipping -- or get a double-dose of horror with the Walking Dead compendium collection. This massive 1,000+ page book collects eight volumes worth of the Walking Dead series, acclaimed on its own and now a major AMC TV series already renewed for a second season. The Walking Dead compendium gets free shipping on its own, so anything else with it gets free shipping, too.

* Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, Vol. 1
* The Death of Captain America Omnibus
* Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus

With all my talk of Superman, I don't mean to exclude the Marvel fans out there. Next year promises to be a big year for Marvel with the release of the Captain America and Thor movies. In keeping with our push for complete volumes, three books I've been considering are The Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker (whose work I loved on DC's Gotham Central), Thor by J. Michael Straczynski (I don't know much about Thor, but Straczynski got my attention with Superman: Earth One), and -- for those who didn't get enough Iron Man this past year, Invincible Iron Man by Matt Fraction (which Doug Glassman says well resembles the movie). Each of these books is eligible for free shipping, which gives anything else on this list that you pair them with free shipping, too.

* Blueberry Girl

A little something different on the list now. Amidst Coraline and Graveyard Book and Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, I admit I missed Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's Blueberry Girl, an affirming story mostly intended for young girls or mothers-to-be. Gaimain apparently wrote it originally for Tori Amos before the birth of her daughter, and that alone catches my attention as I remember clearly Amos's great introductions to Gaiman's Sandman and Death collections. For your favorite Gaiman fan (or someone you want to interest in Gaiman) or young reader, this is one they might not already have. Pair with Lost at Sea and one of the I Can Read books, and get three titles for about $25 and free shipping.

* How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
* Footnotes in Gaza: A Graphic Novel

* Berlin: City of Stones: Book One
* Berlin: City of Smoke: Book Two

Sarah Gidden's How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less just came out from Vertigo, and I've found it interesting that the book is a travelogue created from a trip the author took for the purpose of creating the book -- it makes the book part memoir, part reportage. My holiday wishlist is often the time I break from superheroes to see what else the graphic novel genre has to offer, and Giddens's book is on my list. In considering what to pair it with, I thought of Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza, more illustrated reporting told here from the Palestinian perspective -- if you want to get serious with your gift-giving, or maybe have a non-comics-reading loved one interested in current events, these two books together give a broad range of perspectives on the situation in the Middle East (and fit together for the all-important free shipping).

Another of my recent finds (and I know, I'm probably way late to the game) is Jason Lutes' Berlin series. The first two volumes, collecting issues published by Drawn and Quarterly, came out over ten years, and information is spotty (help, anyone?) but I'm eager for the third to arrive so I can start reading them all together. Berlin, which Time named one of its ten best graphic novels ever, apparently follows the citizens of Berlin as conditions in the city get rapidly worse in the run-up to World War II. For another option off the beaten path, and maybe for a loved one interested in history but who hasn't read a comic before, both Berlin volumes together arrive with free shipping.

* Troublemaker: Book 1
* Troublemaker: Book 2

Mystery/romance author Janet Evanovitch's Troublemaker series of graphic novels have made me smile every time I see them in the stores, because they're such a blatant attempt at grabbing a cross-over market -- and yet, as a trade and graphic novel fan, I'm rather hopeful that they'll work (also still looking for someone interested in seriously reviewing these for me). Just like the history graphic novels above, maybe you have someone on your list that you're trying to entice to graphic novels who might know or like Evanovitch's work or her Alex Barnaby mystery series -- and both books plus one of the I Can Read titles equals free shipping.

* Superman: I Am Superman (I Can Read)
* Batman: Meet the Super Heroes Team-Up (I Can Read)
* The Dark Knight: I Am Batman (I Can Read)
* Wonder Woman: I Am Wonder Woman (I Can Read)
* Spider-Man: Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin (I Can Read)

I'm glad to see it seems DC and Marvel have upped their output of kid-centered superhero books of late, all the better to start the next generation of comics readers early. The above Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man books all cost under five dollars, and they're perfect for rounding out a comics order in order to achieve that all important free shipping. Even if you don't have a kid around who might enjoy these books, if it'll help you get the free shipping, consider buying one and donating it to a local hospital or shelter.

To all -- good comics reading!

(Lots of bloggers, by the way, have Amazon links like the ones above, and when you make a purchase after clicking these links, the blogger gets a few cents. This holiday season, if you're buying gifts through Amazon, consider clicking on someone's link before you buy -- I have and continue to do so. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there [see blogroll], and this is a great, easy way to support them.)
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  1. Couldn't agree with you more about Star Wars: Year by Year, and the Invincible Iron Man Omnibus is absolutely fantastic as well.

    Two childrens books that I'd add to your list above are Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight and Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel by Ralph Cosentino. These books have fantastic art, they look retro, as if using art from the original comic story origins for these two heroes. My kids both loved these books (and they've read the ones on your list as well).

    Thanks for the gift guide.

  2. Excellent list! A lot I want to check out there!

    Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 - this isn't quite a full story unless you have a copy of secret invasion to hand, or want to read secret invasion half way through as 2 paragraphs on a single page :)

  3. If anyone loves good crime stories and Batman, I suggest any of the Gotham Central hardcovers.

  4. Gotham Central and the Thor omnibus by JMS are fantastic reads. I am reading the omnibus now it is great storytelling at its best. It has one of my favorite sequences in all my time reading comics - when Thor is confronted by Iron Man. I get chills every time I read it. JMS really makes you see and feel how badass Thor can be when angered.

    I just read the Iron Man omnibus and it was fun. I agree with you, John, that after the first arc things are turned completely around and if you haven't read SI it can be confusing. But at least there's a page that attempts to let you know why Tiny Stark is now the most hated man in the U.S.

  5. The Marvel book is simply titled Marvel Chronicle and came out in 2008 - it is about what you'd expect from a DK book - there are factual errors and such, but really only true geeky fanboys would catch them. The weirdest element, however, is that they re-lettered everything with a computer font, which just looks wrong. i don't think it's comic sans, but it's close.

  6. I just treated myself to an early x-mas gift. I just picked up Blitz and Crossfire off Amazon. It was a little pricey but not anywhere near what they used to go for. Plus I had a $25 gift card so I ended paying $60. That's not too bad; I remember when they were going for $100 each.

    I know next summer if the release of Johns omnibus but I don't think I have the patience to wait for them all to come out. Plus, I already have his other Flash trades.