DailyXY’s 2011 Gift Guide: Graphic Novels

If you’re into comics — or “graphic novels,” as everyone expects you to call them — you may tend to get a little…evangelical about your hobby around yuletide. Pity the poor non-fanboys on your list, and treat your giftees to the following five fine suggestions, which might also merit a mention in your own meticulous letter to Santa. Unless otherwise indicated, all gift pricing is in (sometimes adjusted) Canadian dollars; no pricing includes S&H fees.


For anyone who wants to get psyched for the summer 2012 Avengers movie
The Ultimates, by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch/Marvel Comics (pictured)
The recent Avengers tie-in prequel movies (Iron Man and IM2, Thor, Captain America) owe a big chunk of their style and sensibility — not to mention the notion to cast Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury — to Mark Millar and Brian Hitch’s “widescreen” take on Marvel’s classic heroes. Anyone anticipating, or even curious about, the upcoming blockbuster should enjoy this harder-edged take on the classic heroes. Millar ditches decades of convoluted continuity and offers a fresh and sometimes biting version of Cap, Shellhead and the gang, heroes as egotistical as they are damaged, working in a corrupt world that fears them (and fears them with good reason). Hollywood will water down Millar’s more perverse instincts, but comics can always come through. $25, (Vol. 1 or 2), $85 (Omnibus hardcover collected edition )

For kids, or as a stocking-stuffer for anyone
Gon, by Masashi Tanaka/Random House
The last T-Rex, Gon is a tiny ravenous grouch, trapped in a world he never made: the world of mammals. Kids, they love them some dinosaurs, furry animals, and slapstick, and Gon is a sure winner on all those fronts. What’s more, Tanaka’s beautiful, wordless illustrations of the wild life and unspoiled landscapes of prehistory raise his work above far your typical munchkin fodder, and prove that Japanese manga have more to offer than your standard giant robots and love-struck schoolgirls. Seven volumes in total, but any one is a good jumping-on point. From $11

For friends, relatives, and history buffs
Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton/Drawn and Quarterly
This collection of comics by the Cape Breton native is the “bathroom book” of the year, as far as I’m concerned, deserving the coveted spot next to the Ikea catalog in just about anyone’s water closet. You can dive in at any point and never be sure what you’re going to get: Contemporary dating humour? Satirical comment on the state of women in Regency England? Fart joke? All of the above? The book collects entries from Beaton’s popular, oddball web comic (best known for putting modern spins on historical figures) and throws in some new material. Whatever subject she’s addressing, Beaton simply has the essential ability to draw funny pictures, an apparently rare quality in the modern cartoonist, which is why she earns her spot by the toilet, where all serious reading occurs. $20

For her, if she’s a relative or a platonic friend
Birds of Prey, by Gail Simone and Ed Benes/DC Comics
If you know a lady-woman of the female persuasion who loves Buffy or The Hunger Games but who has never really delved  into the giddy pleasures of four-colour action and full-on superhero craziness, Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey can make for a great introduction to both the medium and the genre. BoP follows the adventures of an all-woman team of covert super operatives (Black Canary, Huntress and former-Batgirl Barbara Gordon) working in the shadows of the DC Universe. It’s not that it’s Batman meets Sex in the City (gods forbid), it’s just that there’s some of that proverbial “female friendship” to go along with all the danger, intrigue and face-kicking. From $15

For her, if she’s neither a relative nor a platonic friend
Chester 5000 XYV, by Jess Fink/Top Shelf
Christmas means many things to many people, but to a whole bunch of guys, it means the search for just the right kind of erotica — or, as the European French say, le classy porn — to gift to the woman you love/lust after. Jess Fink’s elegant, explicit cartoons delve deeply into the sexy escapades of a neglected wife in the Victorian era. Sex and petticoats: So far, so Harlequin…you think. Except, the title character is a sex robot, a walking steam-punk vibrator with a poet’s soul, created by said wife’s workaholic husband. That may sound “out there” for some tastes, but rest assured that Fink’s friendly line drawings are the graphic equivalent of good wine and good lighting, and are always very good for a bedside giggle. $15

Image courtesy of Marvel Comics.

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