2014 Gift Guide For Comics Lovers

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The chances are that if you’re buying gifts this holiday season for a comic book reader, that reader knows exactly what he or she already wants. The seasoned comic enthusiast holds a borderline omniscient knowledge of what’s available and what’s desirable. With this in mind, Paste decided to drill deeper into some nooks and crannies that might not be quite as obvious or have the marketing reach of an international media conglomerate. Luckily, every item below is also absolutely excellent, released within the last 12 months to guarantee a fresh experience. Happy holiday reading.

For the Veteran Collector

The Complete Zap Comix


Writers/Artists: R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson
Publisher: Fantagraphics
$416.85 on Amazon


The arguable foundation of the underground comic book movement, The Complete Zap Comix collects every single issue of the seminal series in five hardbound volumes with an additional portfolio, all nestled inside a slipcase. Published in the late ‘60s, Zap gave Robert Crumb the vehicle to project his relentless honesty and social commentary alongside a rotating cast of other pioneering cartoonists. Provocative, filthy and unquestionably excellent, this collection is a crown jewel in comics history. It also includes the unpublished 17th issue and the Zam mini-comic jam. Sean Edgar

Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream


Writers/Artists: Many, Many Wonderful Creators
Publisher: Locust Moon Press
$125 on Amazon and various comic shops


There’s no way to articulate this: Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream is comically gorgeous. A former Kickstarter project, the book unites over 120 artists, colorists, and letterers to contribute original pieces (save a Craig Thompson piece published in Europe) honoring Winsor McCay’s classic strip of a young boy tumbling through his subconscious. The book’s dimensions hold at 16” x 21”, replicating original broadsheet newspaper size. In other words, this mammoth book allows contributors like Paul Pope, Bill Sienkiewicz, Fabio Moon, Charles Vess, J.H. Williams III and Michael Allred to cast hyper-detailed delight that will knock you on your ass. For anyone with even a passing appreciation of the comic strip/book legacy, this will shoot a stream of dopamine through your soul. Sean Edgar

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio


Writers/Artists: Mark Evanier, Jim Simon, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Publisher: Abrams
$42.90 on Amazon


Yes, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby are the de facto ambassadors of the Greatest Generation of comics — the pair created Captain America and the Boy Commandos after all. But these pioneers receive far less acclaim for stretching the boundaries of genre in their medium, especially in romance and horror. The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio shows the sheer breadth of two creators whose DNA informs every facet of the industry with art, comics and other historical material. Former Kirby production assistant Mark Evanier chronicles the output of two gloriously restless auteurs through 384 pages of revered history. Sean Edgar

Hip Hop Family Tree 1975-1983 Gift Box Set


Writers & Artist: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Fantagraphics
$42.87 on Amazon


Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree is nothing short of rigorous. The cartoonist streamlines a tangle of facts and figures into a cohesive history of America’s most subversive art form. The project showcases the power and versatility of the medium, channeling the era through sepia-stained pages and pulpy paper textures. This gift box collects the first two volumes in a slipcase, with an added exclusive comic that narrates the relationship between hip hop and comic books. Check out our two companionplaylists to these volumes to experience the music behind the work, featuring Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Run-D.M.C. Fresh. Sean Edgar

For the Indie Diehard

Buddy Buys a Dump


Writers & Artist: Peter Bagge
Publisher: Fantagraphics
$15.47 on Amazon


As Peter Bagge has progressed from raging against the machine in his youth to mild fussing in his middle age, his comics have become no less entertaining. Buddy Buys a Dump got a bit lost in this year’s avalanche of quality comics, but it’s a perfect choice for the crabby completist. This volume comprises Volume 3 in the complete collection of the Buddy Bradley comics that originally appeared in the classic Hate. For those suffering from the holiday onslaught of domesticity, this book will present a new level of catharsis. Hillary Brown

Saga: Book One


Writers: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image
$29.99 on Amazon


Who should you buy Saga: Book One for? Well, probably not your southern Baptist grandmother or your preteen niece, but damn near everyone else can read it and fall for its many charms. It’s got a Romeo and Juliet thing going on, but there’s also plenty of action. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing has remained consistently snappy panel-by-panel, while his big-picture storytelling has created an engrossing wave of coalescing story arcs. There’s a good reason Saga has attracted plenty of attention and awards its way, and this fat volume that collects issues 1 through 18 perfectly shows why. Hillary Brown


What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Writer: Randall Munroe
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
$14.40 on Amazon


This collection from xkcd Randall Munroe doesn’t quite stick to the comics template — it’s mostly prose, with Munroe’s characteristic stick-figure drawings thrown in here and there. Close enough. The book also features universally-appealing-if-frivolous content (e.g., ponderings on what exactly would happen were you to drain the Earth’s oceans, or the results of every person on the planet jumping up and down at the same time) make it a perfect fit for your dad. He also won’t have heard of it, meaning he won’t already have bought it for himself. Score! Hillary Brown



Writer: Simon Hanselmann
Publisher: Fantagraphics
$24.68 on Amazon


Cartoonist Simon Hanselmann has been having a very good year; Fantagraphics printed this handsome collection of his acidic web series, leading to an event where he married the concept of “comics.” Profane though it is, the narrative of three 20-something roommates casually tormenting each other mixes an intelligent understanding of depression and anhedonia with its crudeness. Presumably, if you are reading this list, you know plenty of people who smoke weed, some of whom you owe Christmas presents to. They’ll appreciate this book, but so will many others. Hillary Brown


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir

Writer: Roz Chast
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
$17.71 on Amazon


Roz Chast is best known for her New Yorker cartoons, but she made it onto the list of contenders for the National Book Award with this graphic novel about dealing with her aging parents. It’s humorous and touching without being corny in either realm, and if you’re thinking about starting a conversation about advanced healthcare directives, it’s a subtle way to crack the door. Hillary Brown

For the Young Reader

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal


Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Publisher: Marvel
$10.51 on Amazon


We may be slinging Ms. Marvel under our YA category, but G. Willow Wilson’s magnetic tale of a young Pakistani girl discovering her identity/shape-shifting powers is the most innovative book Marvel has released in years. The series establishes such a core of humanity where the journey of a muslim superhero-in-training resonates with just about anyone who was once 15. Also: massive brawls with mechanical dinosaurs. This belongs in the hands of anyone who doesn’t hate joy. Hopefully daring books like this become the new normal. Sean Edgar

The Ghost of the Grotto: Starring Walt Disney’s Donald Duck


Writer & Artist: Carl Barks
Publisher: Fantagraphics
$8.95 on Amazon


Talking to hardcore comics enthusiasts as they rave about the genius of Carl Barks can be a bit intimidating, but this nice little collection is a great place to get started. There’s plenty you may have to explain to your kids (or look up for yourself), like kelp harvesting, but the stories here are so engaging and the art so lively that you won’t get distracted by its dated qualities. Fantagraphics has smartly sized it down to fit easily into little hands, and there’s a fine mix of longer stories (like the title one) and shorter ones, should bedtime approach. If it’s a hit and you’re looking for something a tad longer, we’d recommend this holiday gem. Hillary Brown

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl


Writer & Artist: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
$11.52 on Amazon


The concluding volume of Ben Hatke’s Zita trilogy provides a good opportunity to buy all three for your kids. Action-packed and full of smartly drawn, well-rounded, unpredictable characters, the series is a delight to read and should capture the attentions of the 8-to-12 set. Its protagonist is spunky and clever, a great role model for girls and boys who need to learn to appreciate female main characters. Hillary Brown

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey


Writer & Artist: Nick Bertozzi
Publisher: First Second
$13.18 on Amazon

Nick Bertozzi’s bio-comic not only charts the adventures of an explorer with a conscience (apart from the dog eating…), but also serves as a fine and subtle introduction to all the things comics can do. It’s not explicitly educational in that way, but Nick Bertozzi’s varied panel structure and adept use of stark black and white is like a mini-class in possibility. If you don’t have a kid in your life who wants to draw her own comics, just about any younger reader who likes reading them should enjoy this neatly plotted tale of derring-do. Hillary Brown