For many a comic reader, the holiday season represents the time of the year when family members shower you with ill-fitting t-shirts featuring Spider-Man and other vaguely comic-related knick knacks bought up last minute at the Target sale aisle.
Meanwhile, as today is Black Friday – the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season – millions of Americans will be hitting the streets in force to battle rabid parents at the Toys R Us, picket lines at WalMart or just general insanity at malls across America
Why not show the ones you love why they're crazy for going out at midnight for deals AND teach them a little bit about comics while you're at it? That's what CBR's "Comic Recruiter Black Friday Gift Guide is here for! Below, find a bevy of suggestions of comic items you can pick up online for low prices today and pass off to various family members – from TV heads to foodies to history buffs – to help turn them on to the amazing artform that is comics.
And from CBR Staff contributors Josie Campbell, Brian Cronin, Stephen Gerding, Ryan Ingrahm, Kiel Phegley, Dave Richards and Jonah Weiland – have a great holiday season and stay safe with the shopping mall crazies you there!
For The Friend Who Likes "The Walking Dead"
Robert Kirkman and company's AMC TV series may be a ratings blockbuster, but with millions tuning in each Sunday night to watch, it's a sure bet that there are a lot of fans out there not bitten by the comics legions yet. Depending on how much coin you're willing to drop on your friend, there are a ton of options for getting them started with "Walking Dead's" original Image Comics/Skybound form. High rollers can shell out $90 for one of the massive "Walking Dead Compendiums" whose first volume takes readers straight through the current Season 3 storylines involving the Governor as drawn by Charlie Adlard. If that's a bit too pricey, you can go with the best-selling trade paperbacks including Vol. 5, "The Best Defense," which begins the prison saga at just $10.99 in the Skybound shop.
Of course, if your friend is dead set (get it?) against jumping right into the funnybook world, you can always start them out in pure prose with Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga's own "Rise of the Governor" novel from St. Martin's Griffin. The book chronicles the pre-outbreak life of the series villain, and sets the stage perfectly for the current episodes.
Little boys who drape towels around their necks and jump off of roofs (Note: Not safe) have plenty of superhero products to help them play out their comic book fantasies. But it can be tough to find appropriate super hero toys for little girls and even more difficult for the female toddler set. Last year, Fisher-Price offered a Batgirl and Wonder Woman Little People 2-pack as well as a Wonder Woman racer, but beyond that, pickings were slimmer than slim. Well, late Summer 2012, things got a little bit awesome when FP expanded its DC Comics line with a number of playlets and vehicles, including the always popular Batcave and Batmobile. But most important for those of us with young daughters was the release of Wonder Woman's Invisible Jet, which is sturdy enough to withstand most toddler abuse, features Diana making several heroic proclamations and just looks plain incredible.
And to encourage the reading habit, check out the new "DC Comics Presents Wonder Woman Adventures" 100-pager just released by DC. It reprints a smattering of kid-friendly, animated-style adventures featuring the Amazon princess for the low price of $7.99.
For People Bummed About The Hockey Lockout/Canadians
Last year, it was NBA fans who were left out in the cold hoping players and management might figure out a deal to make a season happen by Christmas. This year, the NHL is taking a shot at pushing its games further up the cable dial as players push again for different contracts. If you've got a family member feeling the pain without a healthy does of cross-checks and slap shots in their life, Brendan Leach (creator of Top Shelf's "Pterodactyl Hunters") is selling "ice hockey portraits" through his online shop. From the sounds of it, he'll take requests and draw any sports figure if you want to expand out your original art sporting specials, and for $20 you can get your own personalized art/sports card. And why not thrown in a copy of "Pterodactyl Hunters" while you're at it?
For Politically-Minded Pals
Sure, the process of watching America choose its leaders earlier this month left many of you shambling, crying piles of human stress, and you still have flashbacks every time you hear the words "Nate Silver." But believe it or not, some people actually ENJOY reading about politics. For the family member who's always trying to start a debate about the deficit at the holiday party, why not divert their attention with a political-themed comics masterpiece. You can start with "Eagle: The Making of An Asian-American President" from manga artist Kaiji Kawaguchi and Viz or Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris' award-winning "Ex Machina"? Both books take a slightly alternative view of politics as seen through the lens of more classic genre drama, and the compelling leads in each will serve for better conversation pieces than whether Jeb Bush will run in 2016.
The family members who slave over a stove to serve up everything from figgy pudding to latkes this holiday season may still be crying over the end of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" (or maybe still laughing at his Twitter rages against product placement in the final episode). But you can cheer them up by reminding them that the celebrity chef became a comics maker this year with Vertigo's "Get Jiro" with co-writer Joel Rose and art by Langdon Foss.
And if your foodie friends swing a little more on the absurd side or the super classy side, you can pick up comics to fit their tastes as well including Image's "Chew" by John Layman and art by Rob Guillory which turns food culture into freakout crime tales (start with the Omnivore Edition) or the wine-tasting manga modern classic "The Drops Of God" by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto.
For The Friend Who Likes "Star Wars"
The big news in LucasLand may be that the House of Mouse will soon control Luke, Leia, Vader and all of "Star Wars," but in comics, Dark Horse Comics line of comics is barreling on at light speed. And while even some of the most dedicated fans of the "Star Wars" films and "Clone Wars" TV shows may not know the names of the Jedi who populate series like "Knights of the Old Republic," Brian Wood will soon be digging back into the Force that started it all with an ongoing "Star Wars" series set in the original trilogy's continuity. Start a pull list for your pal at the local comic shop, or sneak onto his iPad when he's not looking to load up Dark Horse's own digital app so he can buy the series when it launches in January.
And if you're looking for something specific to put under his virtual Christmas tree, Dark Horse has plenty of reprints from their classic "Star Wars" comics too. And now that their on sale via Amazon's Kindle platform and a variety of other eBook outlets, you can prove what Disney should be doing withe "Episode 7" by buying them digital versions of seminal sequel comics "Dark Empire" and "Dark Empire II" for only $10 bucks a pop.
For The True Crime Lover
If you know anyone who creeps people out at family gatherings far to often with their insider knowledge of the great real-life slashers from history, feed their anti-social hobbies with two new comics projects set to remind you how awful humanity can actually be. First up, try Dark Horse's "Green River Killer: A True Detective Story" by Jeff Jensen and art by Jonathan Case which sheds some light on the foggiest corners of the Pacific Northwest. Or for a more personal take on madness try Derf Backderf's stunning memoir "My Friend Dahmer" which chronicles the author's real life high school friendship with the famed killer.
For The Friend Who Reads "The New York Times"
Chris Ware's "Building Stories" is a collection of Ware's overlapping stories featuring people who all live in the same building (the building itself is a major character in the story). Perhaps the key story in the volume was first serialized in the New York Times Magazine, so fans of that story will love this expansive volume, which is so large that it literally comes in a storage box containing the 14 different "elements" of the story (read them in whatever order you'd like). With each new work, Ware challenges the very notion of how to make and read comic books, and "Building Stories" is a great example of both this challenge and his talents as a storyteller. This is both a powerful work as well as one that has a good deal more sentiment than most other Ware stories, so for those of you who worry about reading a new Ware comic after his past work has been too depressing, this is the Ware comic for you (not that there isn't some depressing stuff in this comic, as well, of course).
For The Friend Who Likes The Film "Lincoln"
Noah Van Sciver delivers another side of Abraham Lincoln with his excellent new graphic novel, "The Hypo," which examines Lincoln's battle with depression during the 1830s. This is an angle of Lincoln that rarely gets seen, and Van Sciver's strong plotting and detailed artwork make this an engaging and easily accessible read to any reader.
For the Friend who likes "The Wire," "Breaking Bad" & Other Cable Crime Dramas
Crime fiction fans crave stories about bad men trying to be good and good men struggling not to be bad. For the past several years one of the best places to find these stories of hard choices, and bloody morally ambiguous action has been television. Shows like HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “The Wire;” FX’s “The Shield” and “Sons of Anarchy,” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” have given legions of fans inside looks into the worlds of illicit activities and the fascinating characters that populate them.
Television isn’t the only visual medium doing great crime stories though. The past couple of years has seen a renaissance in crime comics as well. Many of them are available in handy collections too so you can introduce a friend or family member into the compelling power of the crime story as a sequential art narrative.
Throughout the entire run of "Scalped," Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera's brilliant series following an FBI agent undercover at the reservation where he grew up, the comparison has been made to HBO dramas, in the sense that this series feels like the sort of crime series that you'd see on HBO, like the Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and the Wire. Never has this comparison been more apt than with the final volume of the series, where the characters we've been following for 60 issues (or ten volumes of the trade paperback) find their various lots in life. There is a cyclical nature to the characters in Scalped that clearly evokes the ending of The Wire. Certain roles will always have to be filled, and you'll be surprised to see which character ends up filling which role. Past readers should pick up the final volume, "Trail's End," which just came out while new readers should start this amazing series from volume one, Indian Country.
In their creator owned series “Criminal” writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips take readers inside the lives of several interconnected current and former law breakers struggling to survive on the mean streets of the fictional Center City. There’s a beautiful hardcover collected edition that collects the series first three story arcs and several trade paperbacks are also available
Fans of elaborate heists and double crosses are sure to enjoy the new Image Comics/Skybound series “Thief of Thieves” from “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman. The series has just begun and its initial story has been collected in a trade paperback The series may be headed to television soon as well because AMC is currently developing a television program based on the comic.
For The History Buff
Know-It-All History Channel types (and we mean the old History Channel like Tony Soprano watched) are the perfect targets to get into comics via the behind-the-scenes stories of the industry that birthed the funnybook medium, and there are more volumes chock full of comics history than you can shake an ultimate nulifier at.
Start with the acclaimed "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" by Sean Howe or if you're look more along the lines of coffee table books, there's Paul Levitz's "The Golden Age Of DC Comics" by Paul Levitz and its companion piece, "75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Myth-Making" from Taschen.
Or might we suggest an amusing and fascinating collection of comic book lists titled "Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia" that supplies the most obscure, wacky and surprising facts about comic book characters, stories and films? Heck, there's a bit in Brian Cronin's book about Jack Kirby's role in the CIA plot that the film Argo was based on, so "For Friends Who Like Argo..."
For fans of slasher films like “Halloween,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Friday the 13th”
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s a new sub genre of horror film emerged which followed the exploits of a group of teenagers targeted by a relentless and often supernaturally empowered serial killer. When these “Slasher” films were good they were a lot of fun and when they were bad they were even more enjoyable.
Writer Tim Seeley’s enthusiasm for these films lead him to launch his creator owned series “Hack/Slash,” which pays homage to all the fun, frights, and often unintentional humor of the best and worst Slasher films. The series has been running for awhile now and has been collected in a nice value priced series of Omnibus style trade paperbacks.
For Fans of video games like “Call of Duty” and “Splinter Cell”
In video games like “Call of Duty” and “Splinter Cell” players are immersed in the story of highly trained military operatives who have to stop dangerous crises in high tech and often realistic means. These games generally come out once a year or once every few years.
Writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerards give readers those types of stories on a monthly basis though with their ongoing Image Comic series “The Activity,” which follows the exploits of the members of a real life top secret organization tasked with carrying out missions and gathering intelligence for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The series is still in its first year and a value priced trade paperback of its initial issues is available.