Thee Comic Column #16: The Xmas Buying Guide

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In honor of the consumer frenzy and gift-buying insanity of the season, I thought I’d throw up a little guide to some of the collections and graphic novels that I feel would make great gifts for any discerning fan of graphic fiction. I figured to help you match like-minded material with potentially varied interests of those on your lists I’d break them up into three categories.



The Super Hero/action fan – defined as those who may or may not be familiar with comics but are fans of big budget movies based on them, ie – Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Christoper Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy or flix like Kick Ass, Super or the brilliant Chronicle.

The Darker Lean – these are folks that are probably a little bit (or a lot) familiar with comics who have had their fill of the mainstream, super hero stuff. Also would be good for those who might not really be into comics but LOVE AMC’s The Walking Dead and have been feeling a sparkle of interest in comics because of it.

The Beginner – Whether younger or older, these folks are just looking for a good time.

So, now that we have our criteria, here’s Thee List:

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The Walking Dead, Compendium One – SO MUCH GOOD READING!!! Seriously, this is a Walking Dead fan’s dream. This picture shows you exactly how much goodness you’re getting for your money. At regular retail of ~$49.99 this is a pricier “comic book”, however it is also the first forty-eight issues (or four years) of the book that inspired the extremely popular AMC show. Compendium One takes you from the beginning of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard’s zombie apocalypse human drama, through the harrowing twists and turns that dog former-officer Rick Grimes’ group of survivors as they try to carve out a safe haven in this horrible new world, all the way up through the infamous “prison” arc which AMC’s show is currently adapting (and doing a great job). If you or your potential giftee have not read the book I must warn you that while both the show and its source material are fantastic representations of not just how great a monthly comic book can be, but also the heart-breaking human drama of a potential zombie apocalypse, the book is different. It’s darker (hard to imagine, right?) and offers both characters you will not recognize as well as leaving out some you’ve grown to love.

For: The  Darker Lean



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Saga  – One of the first editions of Thee Comic Column was my very favorable review of this fantastic new monthly book by Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and Fiona Staples. Several months later the book is even better and I’m telling everyone I know to jump on board. And that’s easy as the first arc is now available collected into a nifty trade paperback. Saga is both wonderful and strange. For someone like myself who really isn’t all that into space adventures or fantasy, with Saga it is done in a refreshingly new and different way. Spaceship forests and intergalactic war with tv people – this is oversimplification but you get the point. Want a fantasy comic done right? Leave it to Brian K. Vaughn, eh?

For: The Darker Lean and maybe the Superhero Action/Fan – especially if they’re looking forward to a film like the hobbit.


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Did someone on your list just absolutely LOVE Dark Knight Rises? If so, this trade collecting Grant Morrison (before he became the revered, rock-star comic writer of the last decade) and Klaus Janson’s (colorist on another of the greatest Batman stories ever, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) epic story of mystery, murder and the occult should definitely make them happy. Originally published as a six-issue run in the short-lived Legends of the Dark Knight series from the early 90’s this is not only Batman at his darkest but also Gotham at it’s darkest . The story ties mafia-type crime into a truly gothic situation as a thankfully robin-less dark knight is drawn to help figure out who is killing off the mob in gruesome fashion. Reluctant to help those who have defiled his city, Batman changes his tune when it becomes apparent that the killings are the revenge of a long-dead child murderer who goes by the name Mr. Whisper and has ties to a plague-ridden, 17th century sunken Monastery. Sound ridiculous? It’s not. Morrison’s words and Janson’s art are dark and noir-ish, coating the supernatural elements of the story in enough Gotham city grime to harden it out and make it go down like a shot of rotgut whiskey.

For: Beginners, Superhero/Action fans and The Darker Lean.


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If you know someone who loved the movie X-Men: First Class then the trade paperback collection of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin’s Days of Future’s Past storyline from the early 80’s Uncanny X-men monthly comic might be of interest because it is – by all current reports – the inspiration for First Class’s forthcoming sequel. The story sees one possible future version of Kitty Pryde – then youngest member of the team – come back to the comic’s present and possess that version of herself in order to warn the other X-Men about the divergent outcome that would follow a particular Senator being assassinated by a group of evil mutants. The story cuts back and forth between the then-present and said distopian future, where giant robot sentinels hunt mutants and have in fact already killed many of the X-men.

For: Beginners, Super Hero/Action fans and The Darker Lean might even dig this if they have any interest in super hero stuff done a little darker than usual.

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Severed – Scott Snyder, author of DC’s current Swamp Thing, Batman and Vertigo’s American Vampire delivered one hell of a horror story with this year’s Severed – the tale of a young boy named Jack who runs away from his adopted mother and takes to box cars and hitchhiking in search of his real father.  It’s 1916 and said boy encounters some harsh realities on the road, not the least of which is an ancient monster masquerading as a man; an ancient monster who tortures and eats children and who now has young Jack in his sights. Great pacing, great tone, great characters and the art by Scott Tuft and Attila Futaki is top-notch. Add in the wonderful hardcover treatment and this is a great present for horror movie fans and comic fans alike.

For: the Darker Lean

Okay, those are some of the more timely recommendations I’d give out this year, based on what’s crossing over into the more mainstream, non-comic book areas of pop culture. The entire point of  Thee Comic Column is to not only talk about my favorite thing to talk about (well, besides music), but also to try and capture some of those comic newbees out there who might be interested in dipping their toes in to see if they’d be into reading graphic fiction. The above should work nicely to bring those who wish to gain our secret knowledge firmly into the fold. And incidentally I’ve tried not to list retail prices because with the popularization of online retail and holiday sales they will no doubt be all over the place. You can amazon the stuff, but my advice is to find a brick and mortar comic shop and give them your money. If you don’t know where the nearest one is, just call 1-800-comic-book and find out!


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #16: The Xmas Buying Guide
  1. [...] sick this week so I thought I’d take this opportunity of diminished stamina to do as I did last ye...

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