Hey, thinking of brightening up someone’s holiday season with the awesome gift of comics?
Yes, do it! the gift of fresh sequential art gives more imagination and thought in your presents, better than gift cards and lame boring doorbuster junk. Give the gift of a graphic novel, or trade paperback volume, as the best gift form of comic stories. Such captures the visual attention, looks good on a shelf, invites literary curiosity, and can give a lasting impression on the creative senses.
To help choose, I put together a shortlist of great and fresh current shelf reads that I either read myself and enjoyed, or heard much through peer reviews (and checked out for myself). Some are new critically acclaimed work, with some reformatted reprints of older deeply appreciated but lesser-known work.
These are mostly currently obtainable through major retail book chains, comic book stores, and wherever new books can be at least ordered. NOTE: Book info below is for the US and Canada retail shelves release.
So, dig in and consider perhaps gifting any of these for yourself as well.
Writer / Artist: Jeff Lemire
Published by: Gallery 13
Format: 112-page hardcover
A man wakes up alone in a strange room with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. The padlocked doors and barren lobby reinforce the strangeness of this place. This is—as he reads from an old-fashioned keychain beside his bed—the Edgewater Hotel. Even worse, something ominous seems to be lurking in one of the rooms. But when he meets a young companion—the only other soul in this vast, enveloping emptiness—his new friend begs him not to unlock the door. There must be something behind it…but what? A haunted hotel on the edge of reality, an endless bridge spanning an infinite ocean, and a man and a boy looking for a way out. This is the setting for a boundary-pushing, genre-defying new work of fiction by one of comics’ master storytellers.
Get this for… Someone who loves the art and story of great moments, and not some overall story. Jeff Lemire is brilliant at this emotional expressionist style, focused on the beauty of the moment, pacing, movement of character leading to some haunting and melancholy moments. For those not familiar with his work, they will be after reading this (and then move to his bigger masterpieces like Sweet Tooth and Essex County).
Bird Brain: Comics About Mental Health, Starring Pigeons
Writer / Artist: Chuck Mullin
Published by: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Format: 144-page softcover paperback
Bird Brain is a collection of brutally honest, brilliantly weird comics exploring what it’s like to live with mental illness . . . using pigeons. When Chuck Mullin began experiencing anxiety and depression as a teenager, she started drawing comics to help her make sense of the rollercoaster. Eventually, she found that pigeons—lovably quirky, yet universally reviled creatures—were the ideal subjects of a comic about mental illness. Organized in three sections—”Bad Times,” “Relationships,” and “Positivity”—and featuring several short essays about the author’s experiences, Bird Brain is a highly relatable, chuckle-inducing, and ultimately uplifting collection of comics for anyone who has struggled to maintain their mental health.
Get this for… Someone quirky, with a diverse sense of humor, and perhaps dealing with or know someone dealing with mental illness. Great for the coffee tables too.
The Complete Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Vol. 1
Writer / Artist: Don Rosa
Published by: Fantagraphics
Format: 230-page Hardcover
From his shoeshine stand as a plucky young lad to his globe-spanning quests for long-lost treasures as an adult, Uncle Scrooge McDuck has lived a life of legend — a legend founded by Scrooge’s creator Carl Barks and rocketed to new heights by Don Rosa in his signature series, “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck!” Now you can read all 12 chapters of Rosa’s internationally acclaimed and Eisner Award–winning series, completely and meticulously restored under Rosa’s own supervision.Join Scrooge, a very young Donald Duck, the Beagle Boys, Flintheart Glomgold, and more for Scrooge’s epic life story — with plenty of guest stars along the way, including P.T. Barnum, Buffalo Bill, Geronimo, Jesse James, Jack London, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Annie Oakley, Robert Peary, and President Theodore Roosevelt!
Get this for… Ducktales, Disney Duck fans of course….but really, get this for someone who loves a good epic story that is both a character study and a true hero’s journey kind of long life adventure that tugs on the heart of what it means to live. Also, Don Rosa’s art is glorious.
Writer / Artist: Lynda Barry
Published by: Drawn and Quarterly
Format: 200-page softcover
Hello students, meet Professor Skeletor. Be on time, don’t miss class, and turn off your phones. No time for introductions, we start drawing right away. The goal is more rock, less talk, and we communicate only through images. For more than five years the cartoonist Lynda Barry has been an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison art department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, teaching students from all majors, both graduate and undergraduate, how to make comics, how to be creative, how to not think. There is no academic lecture in this classroom. Doodling is enthusiastically encouraged. Making Comics is the follow-up to Barry’s bestselling Syllabus, and this time she shares all her comics-making exercises. In a new hand-drawn syllabus detailing her creative curriculum, Barry has students drawing themselves as monsters and superheroes, convincing students who think they can’t draw that they can, and, most important, encouraging them to understand that a daily journal can be anything so long as it is hand-drawn. Barry teaches all students and believes everyone and anyone can be creative. At the core of Making Comics is her certainty that creativity is vital to processing the world around us.
Get this for… Someone who not only is an aspiring creative but looking to think outside the norm on being creative. It’s inspiring, and great for those looking into the more cartooning direction of comics, and adapting their own style while appreciating the unique way Lynda Barry goes about this (see her other work).
Kabuki Omnibus, Volume 1
Writer / Artist: David Mack
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Format: 400-page softcover
Celebrate 25 years of David Mack’s Kabuki and immerse yourself in the inspiration for Sony’s upcoming Kabuki television series! A young woman, code name ”Kabuki”, struggles with her identity in near-future Japan. Working as an operative for a clandestine government agency known as ”the Noh,” Kabuki neutralizes dangerous individuals before they become national-level threats, but when the agency she works for, is compromised, Kabuki’s personal quest sends her down a difficult path to her own self-discovery, that may bring her in direct conflict with the powers she formerly served. The origin, the foundation of the story . . . the very beginning of the acclaimed series created by David Mack. This edition collects the first two original Kabuki volumes, Circle of Blood and Dreams, in an easy-to-read trade paperback . . . the perfect book for fans of Mack and Kabuki, and brand-new Kabuki readers! Note: set for release on December 11, 2019
Get this for… someone who enjoys black and white well-inked art, action, character development, and cultural inspiration. David Mack has an awesome art style, which developed further through his well-known painted work later on. This is also great for long-time comic readers who appreciate his current work but maybe missed out on his very underappreciated older work.
Monstress: Book One
Writer / Artist: Marjorie Liu / Sana Takeda
Published by: Image Comics
Format: 528-page hardcover
A teenage girl struggles to overcome the trauma of war in an alternate, matriarchal 1900s Asia that’s brimming with arcane dangers. This task is made all the more difficult by her mysterious psychic link to an eldritch monster of tremendous power—a connection that will transform them both, and place them in the crosshairs of both human and otherworldly powers. Creator/writer Marjorie Liu (who made history as the first woman to win an Eisner Award for Best Writer) and creator/artist Sana Takeda present a deluxe, oversized hardcover edition of their beloved breakout comic in MONSTRESS, BOOK ONE. This massive edition features a striking new cover and includes never-before-seen sketches, script pages, and more for over 500 pages of award-winning content. Collects MONSTRESS #1-18
Get this for… Someone who is interested in fantasy, and enjoys comics…yet, looking for a new world to get lost in, with amazing colorful, rich art rooted in a mix of old cultures, ideas, and civilization.
Writer / Artist: Jerry Craft
Published by: HarperCollins
Format: 256-page softcover
Seventh-grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade. As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Get this for… Any pre-teen reader who loves comic art with a creative soul, and being socially different (or for someone like myself, looking back) from being a person of color or coming from a very different cultured background. This story as a lot of heart from its creator, and that will be felt throughout its well-rounded story of early growing up.
Fearscape, Book 1
Writer / Artist: Ryan O’Sullivan (Author), Andrea Mutti (Artist)
Published by: Vault comics
Format: 160-page softcover
The Fearscape is a world beyond our own, populated by manifestations of our worst fears. Once per generation, The Muse travels to Earth, discovers our greatest Storyteller, and takes them with her to the Fearscape to battle these fear-creatures on our behalf. All has been well for eons until The Muse encounters Henry Henry-a plagiarist with delusions of literary grandeur. Mistaking him for our greatest Storyteller, she ushers him into the Fearscape. Doom follows. Collects issues #1-5.
Get this for… Someone who loves to write, but struggling and maybe not taking it as seriously…but still loves writing. This is a weird journey about the heart of the craft of ideas and story, with some interesting twists and turns, through a bizarre landscape that terrifies and delights.
Little Bird: The Fight for Elder’s Hope
Writer / Artist: Darcy Van Poelgeest / Ian Bertram
Published by: Image Comics
Format: 208-page hardcover
Award-winning filmmaker Darcy Van Poelgeest teams up with Angoulême nominated artist Ian Bertram to bring you the highly acclaimed, dystopian sci-fi, Little Bird. With the same limitless scope as Star Wars, and the social-political explorations of A Handmaid’s Tale, Little Bird tells the story of a young resistance fighter battling against an oppressive American Empire while searching for her own identity in a world on fire. A gorgeously illustrated epic where one girl risks everything to save her people, their land, and the freedom they so desperately deserve. Collects LITTLE BIRD 1-5.
Get this for… Someone who loves very a mix of dark fantasy mixed with post-apocalypse, social commentary involving indigenous identity, great storytelling if they don’t mind some occasional violent imagery. The art is also amazing.
Marvel Masters of Suspense: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1
Writer / Artist: Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko
Published by: Marvel Comics
Format: 688-page Hardcover
Before Stan Lee and Steve Ditko revolutionized comic book super-heroes with the Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, they applied an incomparable storytelling mastery to taut suspense-thrillers. These chilling stories were cast with nervous-eyed dreamers and sweaty-palmed schemers, none of whom make it out with getting theirs. They were parables of wrenching psychological tension, expressed by two of comic book’s most unique creative minds, and they will leave you curled up and screaming for more — whether you like it or not! Marvel is honored to collect Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s complete stories of suspense in this, the first of two beautifully restored volumes. From Ditko’s very first Marvel work in 1956 through to his last five-page masterpiece, every iconic Silver Age short is collected in these incomparable Omnibus editions.
Get this for… For someone who loves the Marvel Comics movies, the characterization, maybe interested in learning more about humble beginnings of Marvel Comics, and what made them great that is far more about emotional storytelling than colorful heroic melodrama, all leading to imagination barrier breakers that build the House of Ideas.
The Often Wrong
Writer / Artist: Farel Dalrymple
Published by: Image Comics
Format: 360-page softcover
The Often Wrong is a meaty collection of new and old comic stories, paintings and illustrations, “behind-the-scenes” concept art for The Wrenchies, Proxima Centauri, Pop Gun War, It will all Hurt, and over 100 sketchbook drawings by comic book creator Farel Dalrymple.
Get this for… Fans of his work for sure, but also those who enjoy a stylish mix of moods, colors, complexities that made his art award winning and in a surreal world of its s own. Get this who enjoy a wide variety of art in comics, looking to expand on ideas for sequential telling, as this I feel inspires and expands.
Choke Gasp! The Best of 75 Years of EC Comics
Writer / Artist: Various
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Format: 528-page hardcover
A premiere collection of the best stories of EC Comics, curated in a deluxe hardcover, just in time to celebrate the legendary publisher’s 75th anniversary! This volume collects stories from EC Comics’ most famous titles, featuring classic stories from the hands of legendary creators Al Feldstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, and more! Collects material from issues of Crime SuspenStories, Frontline Combat, Haunt of Fear, Impact, Shock SuspenStories, Tales from the Cry. (NOTE: Schedule for release on December 17, 2019)
Get this for… Someone who loves horror stories, and can appreciate the influence EC brought from its bold beginnings to many generations forward.
That’s all for now. I tried for a wide variety, yet not beyond my own reading interests. After all, it’s my personal list. But, if you have something you would like to add to that list, post it in the comments below.