Part One of our annual comics gift suggestion extravaganza, courtesy of Sequential scribe Dave Hains. Please email us your own list.
Now, here’s David:
I think my family has difficulties buying Christmas presents for me sometimes because I have all these interests that are slightly alien to them.
So to them, I’m sorry for having particular interests which aren’t necessarily mainstream. But for everyone else, here’s my handy guide in reponse to Bryan’s annual call for holiday gift suggestions. Most of these aren’t from this year as I’ll save those for my year-end post.
The holidays are most exciting for kids, so let’s start there and get older:
If you’re buying for a kid who has never really got into comics, I’d recommend two classics that they will get tons of value out of from reading it over and over again.
First, you could buy any Calvin and Hobbes paperback collection. Don’t spend the $125 on the deluxe complete hardcover- you want something they can take in to school, read on road trips and will be willing to take off the shelf without being intimidated. I’d recommend one of the winter themed covers since it’s a gift around this time of year (Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons, The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes or It’s a Magical World).
If you’re willing to spend a bit extra, you could go with the collected Bone. When I worked in a bookstore this was a really easy handsell for birthday gifts and to encourage reluctant readers. With good reason too- it’s a classic fantasy story which is also a funny page-turner. You don’t have to read it from start to finish either, the stories in the middle can be flipped to and read casually and satisfyingly. If I had been aware of these as a kid when they were first coming out, I would have devoured them. So be that cool parent/aunt/uncle/secret santa and give it a look.
People sometimes bemoan the lack of choice for young girl’s comics, but there’s some pretty good ones out there. One that I think would be a great gift (but which I have not read, I am basing this on the reception it received) is Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. Released in early 2010, it generated a lot of positive press and the thumbs up from quite a few respected cartoonists. The book chronicles going through adolescence with braces and what that means for socialization and understanding yourself. While the book is ostensibly about braces, it seems like a pretty universal sentiment– dealing with an outward manifestation of being different, and how to reconcile that and feel OK about it.
While there’s more comics choices for boys in the 9-13 age bracket than girls, why not expose them to something a bit different? Chances are they won’t know or care who Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar are, but the fact is that their co-created series Dungeon is great. For kids who loved Bone and are looking for their next fantasy adventure fix (albeit a parody), this is a great choice. Plus, it has quite a few installments so if they really like it they can seek the next few.
At the Scott Pilgrim 6 launch party this summer on a packed Markham St., I was amazed to see how many teens were out for the event. I guess it makes sense- even though the series is packed with video game references older than they are and is about a bunch of twenty-somethings, at the heart of it is a story about growing up. Give the affordable box set of all 6 books plus a poster and there’s a good chance the teen on your list will wonder how you knew they would like it.
For older teens, check out Megan Kelso’s Artichoke Tales from Fantagraphics. It was a long time coming for this book (10 years). Drawn in a beautiful clear line style with a soft green colour wash, the book follows a story of love and war throughout generations. To me, the best young adult literature manages to have morals without being moralist (by having morals, I mean it has a point). Kelso succeeds in this task, and it’s worth sharing.
For a slightly different kind of romance, check out Adhouse’s Afrodisiac. Jim Rugg’s and Brian Maruca’s series of hilarious riffs on blaxploitation (and romance comics) follow the irrestible Afrodisiac, a super-pimp who no one can stop (including the police, Richard Nixon and seductive aliens). A beautifully designed book, it was the recipient of a 2010 AIGA award for book design. Great value.
For something less light-hearted but excellent, you could give Jeff Lemire’s Essex County collection. Recently selected for the Canada Reads program (with Sara Quin providing the defense), it should be a topical read and a great way to introduce someone not used to the idea of comics not having superheroes. In particular, this book should appeal to people who enjoy Canadian literature. Lemire evokes the same kind of Canadian pastoralism as writers like Munro, Proulx and Shields while using that vast backdrop to bring small, poignant character driven moments to the forefront. I loaned this book to my Dad (not typically a comics reader), and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
And then for the real comics afficianado, you can always go for the latest Chris Ware book. Acme Novelty Library 20, or Lint, is vintage Ware- so good that it’s easy to take for granted.
But for whatever gifts you receive, don’t take those for granted.