Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Comics & Graphic Novels for the Readers
It can be tough to figure out which comics and graphic novels are popular from year to year if you’re not a reader yourself – and even if you are, there’s plenty out there that you might have missed! – so we’ve put together a list of gift suggestions for this holiday season, all personal favorites of ours.
Check out our picks and shout out in the comments section if you’ve got any great suggestions that we may have missed!
If you’re stumped on what to get your favorite nerd, but you know they love comics, there are a few subscription services out there that allow you to give the gift of comics, while allowing your giftee to pick exactly what they want to read.
The classic option for the geek who attends every midnight Marvel movie premiere is a Marvel Unlimited subscription, which gives subscribers access to the backlog of Marvel titles. Another option is the Comixology Unlimited subscription, which offers a wider range of publishers and more first trade paperbacks. Both options are digital comics delivered right to your giftee.
Physical subscription boxes are another option to look into, with Funko having a Marvel and DC Comics subscription that includes Funko POP!s and other comics inspired items. Nerd Block has a comic-specific subscription box that includes exclusive comics, collectables, and apparel from various publishers. Skybound just launched its Megabox, which offers four exclusive boxes a year with items you can’t get anywhere else.
Try Something New
James Bond: Vargr: James Bond is a franchise that’s always profoundly out of time, but Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ Vargr series balances ’60s cool with a modern sensibility in a way that the Daniel Craig Bond never quite managed. Sexy and shady, exploitative and cool under pressure, Vargr has Connery attitude in spades and the balletic fight sequences viewers have loved from the franchise over the last decade.
DC Universe: Rebirth Omnibus: More often than not, I tend to prefer recommending readers try out a whole storyline of a superhero comic rather than a single issue, but DC’s Rebirth initiative was such a strong creative reinvention for the company that nearly every series is worth a try. This is a great sampler of just that, keeping the original DC Universe: Rebirth #1 one-shot as well as the first issues of 21 of the initiative’s series. It’s impossible to find a book you don’t love in this collection or a charater that you wouldn’t want to see more of.
Arcadia: It’s no secret that we’re unabashed fans of Alex Paknadel’s work and Arcadia was readers’ first taste of his work. With nostalgia for the 80s at an all time high and frequently described as Matrix-esque, this series explores the aftermath of a worldwide devastating plague that forced humans to go digital. It’s high-concept, thought-provoking science fiction at its best that demands to be read more than once. For a double-dose of Paknadel’s work, and a Blade Runner-esque series, also pick up Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat series from your local comics shop.
Angel Catbird: Margaret Atwood ventures into her first graphic novel with Angel Catbird, working with Nature Canada to include a conservation element to keep pet cats and wild birds safe – every few pages there are factoids and statistics to educate readers. It’s a pun-filled adventure that blissfully lacks the dark, gritty edge that is all the rage in current comics. For the cat lovers and comics readers in your life, you can’t go wrong with this first volume in the series.
Papergirls Vol. 1: Even though the series technically started in 2015, the first volume wasn’t collected until earlier this year. If you haven’t checked it out, Papergirls is an incredible experience and perfect for fans of Netflix’s recent hit series, Stranger Things. The comic follows a group of twelve year old girls as they experience some incredibly strange and dangerous phenomena on Halloween 1988. The book ends on a pretty serious cliffhanger but don’t worry. The second volume will be out soon.
Original Graphic Novels
Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored: One of the most controversial British comics of all time, The Cursed Earth sees Dredd leave Mega City One only to find an American Midwest ravaged by nuclear devastation. It’s a comic that sees Dredd face off with the Jolly Green Giant, Ronald McDonald and waves of irradicated Nebraskans. This is the first time in decades readers could get their hands on this comic legally and it’s a classic piece of British comics and outsider, anti-capitalist art in mainstream media.
Bartkira: Nuclear Edition: Akira is one of the most essential pieces of sequential art ever published, so, obviously it needs to get the Simpsons treatment. Bartkira: Nuclear Edition sees all six volumes of the manga classic edited down and remixed by a host of indie artists to tell the story of Bart and Milhaus in Neo-Springfield. It’s perfect for the manga and anime fan, Simpsons fanatic and remix fan in your life and it helps to know the profits from the book are going to a host of great causes.
The March Trilogy Slipcase Set: The third and final installment in Congressman John Lewis’s autobiographical graphic novel series, March, was released this year and was just recently became the first graphic novel to win a National Book Award. The series chronicle’s Lewis’s years working alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and championing the Civil Rights movement. It’s an incredibly powerful, moving series – and timely, too, considering the current political climate. It’s a great gift for readers of all ages.
Tetris: We can’t say enough nice things about Box Brown’s graphic novel history of the world’s favorite puzzle game. The book starts out by introducing the game’s creator and exploring the game’s humble, Soviet beginnings before beginning a fast-paced explanation of it’s journey to superstardom. Tetris doesn’t just focus on the actual game but it also provides a brief history of the major players and events throughout the history of video games. It’s a great choice for video game fans – and it’s one of our top original graphic novels of the year!
The Nameless City: Another one of our favorite graphic novels to be released this year, The Nameless City is a great choice for the young adult fans on your Christmas lists. The book follows the budding friendship between Kai – a member of the conquering Dao nation – and Rat, a girl a native to the ancient, nameless city that they both now call home. Despite their differences they come together to save the day in this first volume of what’s set to be an epic trilogy. If you pick it up, I recommend going with the hardcover version! It’s just a couple of dollars more and way more sturdy than a paperback edition.
The Omega Men: The End is Here: One of the best comics of the year and the most provocative series DC has published in half a decade, Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s biting, pessimistic take on religion and faith, terrorism and rebellion, fanaticism and opportunism has been collected in one volume.
It’s one of the most essential stories on the War on Terror ever published and it’s almost unbelievable to see it published at one of the biggest comics publishers in the business. The Omega Men is a story that could only be told by King and has an attitude and image that could only be established by an artist as idiosyncratic and iconic as Bagenda. It’s a story that demands the special edition treatment it receives here and deserves a place on any comics lovers’ shelf.
Punisher War Journal by Carl Potts and Jim Lee: At the height of the characters’ popularity, Carl Potts and an up and coming artist named Jim Lee set The Punisher on a new course, closely connected to the greater Marvel Universe with Punisher War Journal.
These stories show off Lee at a transitional time as an artist, established as a rising superstar but not yet the genre redefining artist he would become on X-Men in 1992. These stories haven’t been in circulation in decades and, if nothing else, show one of comics’ most iconic artists become the creator who would redefine the industry. For Marvel historians and Punisher fans alike, it’s worth picking up this extra-sized volume based on those qualifications alone.
The Secret Loves of Geek Girls Anthology: Started as a Kickstarter project for Editor Hope Nicholson’s Bedside Press, she thought the stories and comics about relationships were too important not to reach a wider audience. Dark Horse Comics picked up distribution and now the female-written, relationship-centric anthology series is available everywhere! For the shy, introverted geek girls, the questioning nerds, those just coming into their own, and everyone in between, we can’t recommend this anthology series enough for how important it is to making relationship questions feel normal and okay. Check out our review of the anthology here, as well as part one and part two of our interviews with some of the contributors.
Gotham Central Omnibus: Batman fans who missed it the first time around can get the full forty issue run of Gotham Central in a nice, hardcover omnibus. The series focused on the GCPD and introduced a number of characters – some of whom were already important to the Batman canon and some who would appear again periodically even after the series ended.
Gotham Central offers a really intriguing look at the day-to-day lives of the other people in Gotham City. You get a chance to see how things work in the GCPD from the inside and how living in a city overrun with maniacs and costumed vigilantes effects their ability to do their job and keep people safe. There are some really great arcs and this omnibus is a great way to get the whole story in one piece.
The Fade Out – Deluxe Edition: One of Image’s best on-going titles of the last year or so, the full twelve issues of The Fade Out have finally been collected in hardcover. If you were waiting to check out this series until it was finished then now is the time to dive in. The Fade Out is a classic noir crime story set in Hollywood in the late 1940s.
It’s full of intrigue, debauchery, intriguing characters, and engaging storylines. They fit a lot into just 12 issues and you’ll want to read through every single one right up until the end. It’s a great choice for people looking beyond the usual superheroes and big name titles – and it might even make a great gift for crime and mystery lovers who otherwise wouldn’t have considered picking up a comic book.
All Ages Comics Suggestions
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: Probably the best all-ages books to come out of the Marvel universe since Ms. Marvel, we absolutely love this new series which just released it’s first volume recently. Your young reader is going to love the precocious Lunella Lafayette and her new best friend Devil Dinosaur. Officially the smartest character in the Marvel universe and an Inhuman to boot, there’s so much potential for this series. By the end of the book your young reader is going to be scrambling for Volume 2 – which luckily comes out in January.
Mighty Jack: Set vaguely in the same world as Ben Hatke’s hit series Zita the Spacegirl, this new adventure is a twist on the classic Jack and the Beanstalk story. Except this time around Jack is a boy tasked with taking care of his nonverbal, autistic sister; the peddler selling beans is an intergalactic vagabond; and the beanstalk is actually a slew of strange, alien plants and creatures that turn out to be pretty dangerous. Basically it’s an epic adventure specifically geared towards the elementary school and middle school-aged crowds. It’s one heck of a read!
Dream Jumper: Greg Grunberg is stepping off the big screen for a second to try his hand at graphic novels. This particular book is the first in a series that’s perfect for reluctant readers. It’s action packed and fast paced with all kinds of fantasy and magic. The main character, Ben, can travel through dreams and when all of his friends start going into strange comas it’s up to him to save them all with a little help from some new friends. The artwork is really good and the story moves along really well. It can be a little stereotypical at times but hey – it’s a kid’s book! They probably don’t mind so much.
Ghosts: When I was working in youth librarianship a couple years ago we couldn’t keep Raina Telgemeier’s books on the shelves and I doubt that’s changed much. Ghosts is her latest graphic novel and it’s a very hard-hitting, emotional journey for kids of all ages. It focuses on the relationship between Cat and her little sister Maya who has cystic fibrosis.
While Maya maintains a pretty upbeat outlook on life she also knows the reality of her disease. When they discover their new home is host not only to a major Día de los Muertos celebration but actual ghosts, Maya becomes determined to learn what might come next while Cat has to come to terms not only with her fear of ghosts but her fear of losing Maya. I’m telling you, it’s an incredibly deep book.
Goldie Vance Vol. 1: Great for older kids, Goldie Vance is a brand new hero in a fantastic all-ages book from BOOM! Studios. Goldie is a spunky girl with big dreams to become a private investigator in her own right. The book is set in the 1960s and Goldie works at a resort with her father as a valet. She manages to get herself mixed up in all kinds of Cold War-era inspired antics alongside her friends and her mentor, resort detective Mr. Toomey. It’s a super fun series and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves smart, determined female characters!