Monday, December 10, 2007

Graphic Lit: Holiday shopping guide

With so many graphic novels to choose from, finding the perfect gift for your favorite comic book geek can be tough.

To aid in your travails, I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some of the more notable big-ticket items out for the holidays this year, along with some (comparatively) cheaper suggestions, all broken down according to genre. No need to thank me.


Pricey: “Mad’s Greatest Artists: The Completely Mad Don Martin” (Running Press, 1,000 pages, $150) collects every single cartoon, cover, sketch and parody the floppy-footed cartoonist ever did during his venerable run on the magazine (roughly 1957-1987), wacky sound effects and all, packaged lovingly in an immense two-volume slipcase. For many, Martin’s goofy, black sense of humor is synonymous with the magazine itself,

Less expensive: “The Mad Archives” (2 volumes so far, DC Comics, $49.99 each) collects the “classic” Mad era from the early 1950s when Mad was a comic book. For many fans, this material, edited by the great Harvey Kurtzman, beats anything “the usual gang of idiots” came up with afterward.


Pricey: Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley” celebrated the fleeting joys and sorrows of American life in its daily strips, but the Sunday pages were another thing altogether.

Here, King experimented with color, art styles and form, spinning out a variety of lavish dream sequences and ruminations on nature.

The best of those pages are now collected in “Sundays With Walt and Skeezix” (Sunday Press Books, 96 pages, $95). What’s more, they’re printed at the gi-normous size they originally ran in the newspaper back in the 1930s. That means you’ll have trouble fitting the volume on your bookshelf, but the beautiful production values more than make up for the space considerations.

Less expensive: Just about every significant comic strip is getting its due in snazzy hardback collections these days, including “Peanuts,” “Popeye,” “Dick Tracy,” Dennis the Menace” “Terry and the Pirates,” “Moomin” and much more. But if you’re looking for something contemporary, “The Best of Mutts” (Andrews McMeel, 256 pages, $24.95) provides some choice samples from the first 10 years of Patrick McDonnell’s wistful funny animal strip.


Pricey: Assuming you haven’t gotten hooked into Naruto’s clutches yet, Naruto Shadow Box Set (Viz, $189.95) offers you a classy way to do so. It comes complete not only with the first 27 volumes of the series, but also a wooden bookcase to store them, as well as some assorted stickers, posters and whatnot.

Less expensive: A number of popular series such as “Battle Royale,” “Azumanga Daioh “ and “Princess Ai” have been collected into chunky “Omnibus” or “Ultimate Editions,” putting a number of initial volumes together in one. My pick would probably be the “Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition” (Tokyopop, 434 pages, $14.99), as it’s one of the most popular series out there now.


Pricey: Marvel and DC have a number of big-ticket, hardcover collections to choose from, from the “Captain America by Ed Brubaker Omnibus” to “Absolute Kingdom Come.” My pick, however, would probably be “The Absolute New Frontier” (DC Comics, 462 pages, $75) which, according to the experts, is the best way to read Darwyn Cooke’s elegant homage to the DC superheroes of the ¤’50s and ¤’60s.

Less expensive: DC and Marvel’s ongoing black-and-white “Essential” and “Showcase” reprint compilations (about $16.99 per volume), provide some satisfying old-school thrills to those on a budget.


Pricey: Last year, acclaimed cartoonist Chris Ware provided a number of covers and strips for The New Yorker’s Thanksgiving issue. Now, these covers, which form a complete story when read in order, are being offered by the New Yorker as a packaged portfolio of 15x20 prints for the whopping price of $350. If you need extra inducement, the package also includes some of Ware’s notes and a strip that was previously available only online.

Less expensive: You can buy the same package as “Acme Novelty Library 18.5” from Drawn and Quarterly for $32. The prints come folded in half though.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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