It’s Comic Book Day and chances are you’re already neck deep in preparation for tomorrow’s Turkey Day feast. But, you’d be foolish to head into Black Friday and Cyber Monday without a game plan, so I’ve taken the liberty of curating a selection of gift ideas that will delight comic book fans of all stripes. Whether you’re into iconic characters or newfound oddities, this list has a little something for everyone, so prepare your wallets for impact and read on.
Shadow Walk by Max Brooks, Mark Waid, and Shane Davis – Legendary Comics strikes gold with their latest original comics offering, Shadow Walk, a gritty, exceedingly violent, and adrenaline-fueled journey into the literal heart of darkness. The story, dreamed up by Max Brooks, Mark Waid and Thomas Tull, supposes that a) the Biblical Valley of Death is a real place, b) it’s located near modern day Iraq, and c) it’s full of some of the most horrific monsters from across nearly every faith, pantheon, and bestiary. Framed against the eternal debate of faith versus fact, or science versus religion, Shadow Walk takes us, and a team of elite spec ops soldiers, into the Valley of Death and journeys on into Hell itself, resulting in a rollicking, highly enjoyable story.
Hawkeye, Vol 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and David Aja – One of the greatest books in the Marvel Universe has also been one of the smallest in scope. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye has been garnering accolades from every corner of the industry and for good reason: it’s a fantastic book. Honing in on what Clint Barton does when he’s not off saving the universe or stopping crime, Hawkeye has a uniquely grounded feel that still manages to elevate the mundane to the sublime. From lending a hand with Hurricane Sandy relief to the much vaunted “Pizza Dog” issue, Little Hits is a must read for any fan of Hawkguy and anyone who professes to love superhero comics.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, and Sara Pichelli – Moreso than any other Marvel Cinematic Universe title, the one that has captured my interest and commanded my curiosity is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Prepare yourself for a wild world of talking trees, gun-wielding raccoons, and interstellar action with
Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – What better way to celebrate Superman’s 75th anniversary than with this 784-page hardcover collection of the earliest Superman stories from his 1938 debut through 1940. Watch as the last son of Krypton fights against social injustices, marvel at Supes’ actual origin story, and enjoy all the old timey bluster in all of its archetypal glory.
The Black Beetle, Vol. 1: No Way Out by Francesco Francavilla – One of my favorite books of 2013 is now available in hardcover (and digitally): Francesco Francavilla’s paean to classic pulp, The Black Beetle: No Way Out. From its moody, atmospheric artwork to its electrifying, heart-pumping narrative, the four issue Dark Horse mini-series is easily one of the best things to come out of Dark Horse last year, which is saying something considering how stacked their catalog is. Murdered mob bosses, chases through Colt City’s sewers, and the glitz and grit of the 1940s – The Black Beetle has it all in spades.
East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta – Jonathan Hickman’s brain must be a wonderful place given how many expansive, twisting, turning worlds have come out of it. In his latest creator-owned work for Image Comics, East of West, Hickman dreams up a dystopian futuristic vision of America, a nation divided into seven states, where the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse walk the Earth. Well, three of them emerge as children. Meanwhile, Death stalks the wastes as a cowboy clad entirely in white, on the hunt for his wife. It’s a thrilling, fantastical sci-fi western brought to life by some staggering artwork from Nick Dragotta. Image Comics has plenty to be proud of in its catalog, so why not branch out and expand your horizons this holiday season beyond Saga and The Walking Dead.
BOOKS ABOUT COMICS
Marvel: The Untold Story by Sean Howe – Find out just how the House of Ideas grew from a two-bit operation to one of the largest comic book publishers in the world in Sean Howe’s extremely well researched, compelling history of Marvel Comics. With extensive first-hand accounts and plenty of insider baseball, Howe crafts a riotously entertaining, alternately uplifting and heartwrenching tale of a group of weirdoes that built an empire and created some of the most memorable characters around. The fact that it’s all true makes this incredible saga something that you won’t be able to put down. See you on the other side, True Believers.
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong – Wired Magazine’s art director by day, superhero fanatic by night, writer Tim Leong has turned out an incredibly informative ode to infographics with a superheroic bent. Timelines, bar graphs, scatter plots, and more – Leong visualizes the vast, expansive worlds of comic books like you’ve never seen before. Armed with a seriously deep knowledge of the subject matter and a wicked sense of humor, this is a must-buy for comic book fans and data diehards.
Superman: The Ultimate Guide by Daniel Wallace – Tackling a comprehensive guide to the Man of Steel is a daunting task no matter how you slice it, but when you factor in that it’s Supes’ 75th anniversary, then it seems positively Sisyphean. Fortunately, Daniel Wallace and DK Publishing were more than up to the task, crafting a compelling chronicle of Superman’s origins and tracing the iconic character’s evolution over the last 75 years. From the Golden Age of the 1940s to John Byrne’s 1980s reboot to the Red/Blue mayhem of the 90s to the New 52, no corner of Clark Kent’s life goes unexamined. For the diehard Superman fan in your life, you can’t do better than this.
Batman: The Ultimate Guide by Scott Beatty – Prefer your comprehensive character histories a little bit darker? Well, you’re in luck because Batman: The Ultimate Guide is your one-stop shop for all things pertaining to the Dark Knight. With over 700 illustrations and a timeline following Bats’ creation in 1939 through present day, this would make a great centerpiece on any coffee table in your personal Batcave.
Great Showdowns: The Return by Scott C – The Internet’s favorite geek artist, Scott Campbell, better known as Scott C., brings back his adorable anthology of the most iconic on-screen showdowns for Great Showdowns: The Return. Featuring a foreword from Edgar Wright, this is pop culture perfection that runs the gamut from Charlie Chaplin vs. the potato to Ripley vs. the Alien Queen and beyond.
The Wolverine: Unleashed Blu-ray – While the rest of the world got to enjoy James Mangold’s unexpurgated vision the first time, we get to enjoy his bigger, better, adamantium-and-adrenaline-fueled vision in the comfort of our own homes. This isn’t just a few deleted scenes either. According to our own Brian Walton, “This new cut organically tells a fuller story by humanizing the love story, giving the supporting cast more screen time and ratcheting up the action with a couple of stellar fight scenes.” Snikt!
Captain America Blu-ray – Sure, we love Chris Evans as Captain America, but there will always be a special place in our hearts for Albert Pyun’s ill-fated early 90s attempt to bring Cap to the big screen. And now, at long last, it’s finally available in a format other than an unlabeled VHS you bought from some guy’s trunk behind your hotel at Comic-Con! If nothing else, this is an interesting look back at where comic book movies were and how far they’ve come. Next up: freeing Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s black site.
Man of Steel Collector’s Edition – On his planet, that symbol means hope. On our planet, that symbol means a multi-disk combo pack featuring the film on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet digital and a limited edition metal Superman “S” symbol with acrylic glass stand. Whether or not you were distracted by the millions of casualties aside, Man of Steel was a decidedly fun flick and worthy of a place on any fan’s shelf.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray – Wes Craven’s 1982 big screen version of DC’s resident badass botanist Swamp Thing is finally available on Blu-ray thanks to the horror hounds over at Scream Factory. It may not reach the horrific heights of the comic, but the effects, acting, and direction hold up nicely, offering up an enjoyably campy thrill ride of a superhero flick. Plus, it’s got Adrienne Barbeau, and I mean…come on.
Akira 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray – Neo Tokyo is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E. and so is my brain when I try to process the fact that 2013 is the 25th anniversary of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Based on his seminal manga of the same name, Akira is, perhaps, the quintessential anime film, a darkly apocalyptic cyberpunk classic that channels Japan’s post-war frustrations and paves the way for future sci-fi masterworks. For many, Akira was their entry point into the ever-expanding world of Japanese animation, proving that it was so much more than mere child’s play, and this Blu-ray is a fitting tribute to one of my favorite films.
Kotobukiya Deathstroke ARTFX+ statue – Slade Wilson is a crotchety, unrepentant, murderous asshole, but now he can be your crotchety, unrepentant, murderous asshole thanks to this gorgeously sculpted statue from Kotobukiya. Imported from Japan, this killer statue stands nearly 12 inches tall and is guaranteed to keep your desk free from those pesky Teen Titans.
Dark Horse Hellboy with Horns 5″ Mini Qee – Mike Mignola’s horrific Hellboy universe meets the cute collectible world of designer vinyl toys. Hong Kong’s Toy2R is back with their second wave of Hellboy Qee figures, and this Hellboy with Horns is just what you need to add a little paranormal flair to your home. C’mon, how can you say no to that little face?
Sideshow Collectibles Life Size Batman bust – Prefer your comic book collectibles to be eerily lifelike? Hate Batman from the shoulders down? Sideshow Collectibles has the perfect solution in their 29 inch tall, 22 inch wide Batman bust. You may have spotted him lurking in the background of our Nerdist News videos, and he looks even radder in person. If you’re a playboy billionaire like Bruce Wayne, this will make a fine addition to your personal Wayne Manor.
Kotobukiya Hulk Fine Art statue – The perfect complement to your handmade Mark Ruffalo figure, it’s Kotobukiya’s insanely detailed Incredible Hulk fine art statue. With rippling muscle and his signature purple cutoffs, you can practically feel the gamma radiation and rage seething under the display box. Plus it’s a great way to scare the shit out of your pets. Except your cat. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
Aardman Shorts DC Nation action figure set – DC Collectibles continues to kill it with these adorably warped Aardman Animation versions of classic DC characters based on Cartoon Network’s DC Nation animated shorts. Standing a fair sight taller than one might expect, this 5-pack comes with Batman, Robin, the Joker, Catwoman, and Superman in all of their hilariously detailed glory.
What else is on your list this year? Let us know in the comments below or tell me on Twitter!