Thursday, December 6, 2007

HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE :: Mr Dustin Harbin Humbly Suggests--

Mm, the holidays...very stressful. If only you could just walk into a place and spend ALL of your holiday money at once--but wait! What about your local comic shop?! Presenting a holiday gift guide designed for the comics proselytizer. At $10-$15 for the cheaper items, buying comics for everybody will cut down on your stress and give you something to talk about at all the family get-togethers you'll be attending this holiday season!

Okay, let's do this quick: I think Shawn already broke her holiday suggestions up by demographic, which I think is a great idea. Isn't Shawn just the ginchiest? So I'll copy that, which will save some of my own brilliance for rejoinders in the office with Todd. Begin!

FOR THE CHILDREN OF FRIENDS OF YOURS, OR THOSE OF FAMILY-MEMBERS:
I have a lot of these--my siblings all went crazy in the baby-making department, so I have (seriously!) eleven nieces and nephews. And my friends are playing beat-the-biological clock, so it's just getting worse. Here are some suggestions for kids, as they say, of all ages
DRAGONBALL by Akira Toriyama -- Forget how sick you've gotten of hearing about Dragonball Z. Dragonball is the adventures of young Son Goku, and they're hilarious, and the art is IN-CRED-I-BLE! Maybe not for young kids--there's a lot of peeping-type humor, and people's butts are always getting exposed.
BONE by Jeff Smith -- What can I say? It's amazing! If it's for a kid, get the Scholastic color reprints, which are up to something like volume 5 or 6 now, I think. For adults, get the "one volume", which is awesome.
TINTIN by Herge -- Tintin is just the sort of book you'll read and then immediately wish you'd read it when you were 9 or 10 first. Lots of history, great adventure stories, incredible art. Be warned of occasionally iffy racial depictions, mainly WWII-era Japanese.
CALVIN & HOBBES by Bill Watterson -- I've been re-reading some of these lately. Future generations will put Bill Watterson up with Schulz and Caniff in the pantheon of newspaper strip legends.
MOOMIN by Tove Jannson-- This is probably the weirdest thing on this list. Get it for that kid who is super-creative but maybe a little quiet. Moomin is an oddly engaging surrealist kids' fantasy, but is packaged for an adult's bookshelf. This is a gift that might perplex the giftee, but most kids like to be treated like adults.

FOR OLDER GUYS, GRANDFATHERS, AGING UNCLES, WIDOWERS, ETC.:
MARVEL MASTERWORKS -- We hear this a lot: "I want to get my dad something nice; I know he read Spider-Man when he was a kid." Boom! Marvel Masterworks! For $50, you get ten consecutive Spidey issues, in living color, and in a high-quality format that'll look great on his bookshelf.
SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SUPERMAN VOL 1 by Curt Swan and various -- These aren't nearly as high end as the Masterworks or Archives, but you get over 500 pages of hilariously fun Superman comics from the fifties for ten bucks! Good for an old dude you don't know that well--maybe a crotchety neighbor or soon-to-be-downsized gaffer at your work. NOTE--also works for ironic college students and Grant Morrison fans, who will laugh at how weird most of these plots are.
SPIDER-MAN: THE ICON by Steve Saffel -- Okay, this is really a fine gift for any fan of Spider-Man, not just your uncle, but I wasn't sure where else to put it. This is a high-end coffee-table book that's chock full of pictures of Spider-Man from across his history, and across the world. If you read this blog, you probably heard us talk a lot about it when Steve appeared in our store to celebrate its release.

FOR YOUNG ADULTS, INCLUDING PRECOCIOUS PRE-TEENS AND DOWNRIGHT SNOTTY TEENAGERS:
SCOTT PILGRIM by Bryan Lee O'Malley -- You get double points for this one because a) it's kind of a manga, a little bit, and b) there are a ton of video game references. Plus it's one of the most surprisingly great books I've read this year.
MADMAN VOLUME ONE by Mike Allred -- I'm always surprised by how many people have NOT read this incredibly good book. I'm not a big fan of where the series went after this volume, but that's okay because it begins and ends, and that's all you need!
BATMAN YEAR 100 by Paul Pope -- Think of this like a hip sci-fi Batman. You don't need to know anything about all the different histories of Batman, just the basics--Bruce Wayne, Commissioner, Gotham City, etc. Fast paced and fun.
PLANETARY by Warren Ellis & John Cassaday -- This is a really great sci-fi story that will out-sneer ANY teenager. Seriously, Warren Ellis has isolated the holier-than-thou teenager attitude and extended it into a pretty impressive career of writing.

FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE NEW TO COMICS, AND WHO YOU'RE WORRIED WILL READ THE WRONG THING AND QUIT FOREVER
This is a real danger--what if your boy or girlfriend bought their first comic, but it was Youngblood? Eww! Don't let this destroy the possibility of your friends enjoying comics!
WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons -- What can you say about this classic that hasn't been said a million times already? I'll tell you what to say--warn them that the pirate sub-story can get a little boring. Otherwise, just say "this is like a superhero comic for smart people" and you'll have them.
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely -- This is maybe the best mainstream superhero comic ever, right after Batman Year One. How Grant Morrison has made an eminently fun Superman comic--that is also somehow one of his most elegant and cerebral works--is beyond me, but I think it has a lot to do with how amazing Frank Quitely is.
BATMAN YEAR ONE by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli -- My favorite comic book ever. Great for everybody. Enjoyable even those who've never EVER read a comic or even heard of Batman. For those who can't even read, the art is incredible. Also buy one for yourself: you deserve it.
HELLBOY by Mike Mignola and various -- Another movie tie-in. Hellboy is just a great adventure story, with a ton of folk tales and supernatural flavor thrown in. Anything that uses Baba Yaga as a villain is alright by me. And woo! the art! Occasionally humorous, but much less-so than that movie.
THE TRIAL OF COLONEL SWEETO by Nicholas Gurewitch -- Whether your giftee has or hasn't read the super-popular Perry Bible Fellowship webcomic this reprints, they'll LOVE this book. Laugh-out-loud funny. Warning: Lots of tee-tee ca-ca language and situations. Not for kids or animals.

FOR DISCERNING READERS, OR NEWBIES WHO LOVE TO TALK A LOT ABOUT WHATEVER THEY'RE READING:
You know the type: yada yada yada. A lot of these were made into movies that are nowhere near as good as the books (surprise!), so appeal to their snobbier side by pointing out how Hollywood just can't get anything right.
SIN CITY by Frank Miller -- A lot of people liked this movie, but I didn't. However, a lot of people have forgotten what a total stud Frank Miller is when he's hitting on all cylinders. Give this to anybody who likes violence and interior monologues--it's really, really good.
PALOMAR by Gilbert Hernandez -- Great for college professors. This is arguably one of the most critically acclaimed works ever in the world of literate comics--I enjoyed it so much I would only read it in little chunks before bed each night, so I could think on it throughout the day. Great book, and worthy of all that praise.
EPILEPTIC by David B. -- The fact that humans speak different languages is a great crime. If we didn't, then all of David B.'s prolific body of work would be available in a language that I am able to read. But it isn't. Epileptic is an INCREDIBLE memoir by an EXTRAORDINARY artist, and is one of the very few books to really employ the comics language to make something new and amazing, rather than just tell a story with some pictures. Also very sad. Give to people who prefer the really bitter Starbuck's coffee--they'll love it!
ICE HAVEN by Daniel Clowes -- I've been reading Eightball for a long time, but it wasn't until this issue that I really got excited about it. Ice Haven reprints Eightball #22 or #23 in a nifty little book--it's a complete story that's unrelated to anything else. If they saw Ghost World and liked it, then this is a shoo-in. Really work the "Hollywood-Sucks-But-This-Doesn't" angle, if they didn't like the movie.
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill -- I don't want to give the impression that I think all comics-based movied are terrible, but this one really makes it hard. So a reader of the book will be pleasantly shocked to find that it is incredibly literate, surprisingly subtle, and all-in-all one of the more enjoyable comics out there. Alan Moore, as always, is the master of his doman, and his doman is comics, whether he likes it or not.

EXCELLENT FOR RABBIS, OR ANYONE STUDYING THE TALMUD:
THE RABBI'S CAT
by Joann Sfar -- This is a great book, although as someone who was raised Baptist, a lot of the Talmudic humor and references goes over my head. But you have to love anything with this level of ambition. I also really loved all the France Vs Algeria stuff; which, again, is what makes this book so beloved of journalists writing "BIFF! BAM! POW! Comics Aren't Just For Kids!" articles for the New York Times.

FOR ENTHUSIASTS OF NEWSPAPER STRIPS, OR JUST REALLY INCREDIBLE COMICS THAT CAME OUT A LONG TIME AGO--SEE "OLD PEOPLE" ABOVE:
PEANUTS
by Charles Schulz -- more than anything else, I think Peanuts is the comic most deserving of the incredible praise it receives. Never has someone seemed so obviously decanted to be a cartoonist. The hardover collections from Fantagraphics are INCREDIBLE!, both as an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and as a gorgeously well-made ornament for any bookshelf.
POPEYE by E.C. Segar -- This one, of all the books on this list, is the most overlooked. I heard for years how incredible the old Popeye newspaper strips were, and poo-pooed the idea, thinking of the so-so animated cartoon. Wow! Volume 2 of the new Fantagraphics reprint series--which are HUGE!--is easily the book I'm most excited about for all of 2007. I mean easily, too--way out.
WALT & SKEEZIX by Frank King -- While these strips lack the pure power of Peanuts, and the rollicking adventure of Popeye, they are singular in that they're incremental: finishing a volume of Drawn & Quarterly's beautiful reprints of the complete original Gasoline Alley strips is like saying goodbye to an old friend who's been in town the last couple of days for Thanksgiving.

I've left out a ton of stuff, but I think this is plenty long--feel free to add or argue in the comments section. And Happy Holidays to everyone!

3 comments:

Andy Mansell said...

I think there are no comments to this blog because you nailed it. That list is perfect snapshot of the last few years of the best of the mainstream. You could argue about what you left off, but few could argue about what is included.

I just wish we could get everyone to read Popeye...ah, well give it time!!

Dustin Harbin said...

That's what I like about you, Andy--you always take the high road.

I cannot say enough about how fun Popeye is to read. Not to mention how gorgeous the art is. Why can no one draw like this anymore?

Angela B said...

Watchmen is definitely one of the best of all time. The movie is coming out next year, but I don't think there is anyway it can be as good as the book.

Batman Year One is also one of my favorites. This is really the only Batman story arc from the last 20 years that I ever bother rereading.

You should add Akiko to your kids section. It comes in manga and text versions so you can even use it to get them to read. For girls who might think comics are all for boys, here is one with a girl who acts girlish but also saves the day. The art is very anime style also, which might appeal to some a little too young for most manga.