Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2015 Part 1: Graphic Novels and Books

From Batgirl to Mad Max to Grace Jones

Nov 25, 2015
Bookmark and Share

Christmas is still a month away, but it's also only a month way. And Hanukkah is even closer. But when does Festivus start again? Whichever holiday you celebrate, chances are you'll have an occasion to give some gifts in the coming month and we're here to help you make some smart purchases. Welcome to the first part of Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2015. This first post concerns books and graphic novels. We've kept the focus mainly on graphic novels and music books. This is but a small sampling of ideas, but hopefully it will be of aid. And later we'll be posting separate Holiday Gift Guides for DVDs and Blu-rays, music box sets, collectibles, and gadgets, before hopefully collecting it all in one big post. 

Graphic Novels and Books:

Alternative Movie Posters II: More Film Art From the Underground (Schiffer)

RRP: $27.95

"Stunning artwork not coming to a theater near you," reads the back of this book. Author Matthew Chojnacki has collected 200 movie posters from 100 artists based in 20 countries. These are not the original official posters but rather are new modern artworks that pay homage to the original films. Movies range from the classic (2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, The Godfather, Night of the Living Dead) to the more current (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Her, Django Unchained, World War Z). Each double page spread features two posters from one artist and an interview with the artist about the posters and his or her inspirations. One restyles the original Star Wars poster to feature the Guardians of the Galaxy. A High Fidelity poster consists solely of the spines of vinyl record sleeves on a shelf. An ad for Stay Puft Marshmallows doubles as a Ghostbusters poster. The Incredibles and The Matrix become the covers of cheap and worn 10-cent paperback novels. This supremely cool coffee table book will appeal to any film fanatic. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Batgirl Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside (DC)

RRP: $24.99

It could have gone so wrong. Trying to update a classic female superhero for the social media age, turning her into a hipster of sorts (Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon, moves to Burnside, the Brooklyn of Gotham City, for example), should have been a recipe for disaster, a soon to be dated comic book. But somehow writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr pulled it off, turning Batgirl into a surprisingly relevant character and her comic series into one of the best superhero books of the year. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Chapter and Verse by Bernard Sumner (Thomas Dunne)

RRP: $16.65

One year after Peter Hook's memoir about his time in Joy Division, Bernard Sumner gives his perspective in Chapter and Verse. More than a memoir, Chapter and Verse traces Sumner's life from childhood to (almost) the present day. He goes deep into his upbringing with his handicapped mother, absent father, grandparents with whom he lived, where he was raised, how his creativity was crushed both in school and at his first job, and how this pushed him to pursue music. What Sumner seems to have spent a lot of his time doing is being in dance clubs-in New York, London, and of course, Manchester at the famed Hacienda, where he was co-owner. He makes connections between these experiences and New Order's move toward more electronically generated sounds. Much like Hook's book, the coming together of Joy Division-a group seminal to the landscape of music-is explained, but so casually that the impact of the foursome on the world is hard to be believed. What Sumner does not do, thankfully, is use his pages to bash Hook, something that got very tedious in the latter's tome. Sumner does address when things started to get weird with his former bass player, but only in a few pages of one chapter, and mercifully leaves it at that. (Buy it here.) By Lily Moayeri

DC Comics Collection: 6 Graphic Novels, 6 Animated Movies (DC)

RRP: $108.74

Marvel may have gotten a head start launching a shared cinematic universe, but DC has them beat when it comes to great direct-to-DVD animated movies and each year have been releasing several such well-received PG-13 movies based on famous DC graphic novels. This new box set collects some of those movies along with the original comic book/graphic novel that inspired it. Each paperback book includes the movie on both DVD and Blu-ray. Included is Frank Miller's iconic and influential Batman: Year One (from 1986) and the movie adaptation of the same name and 1992's The Death of Superman (touted as the "best selling graphic novel of all time") and its adaptation Superman: Doomsday. Also included are Batman Black and White Volume 1 + the Batman: Gotham Knight movie, JLA: Earth 2 + the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths movie, Justice League: Origin + the Justice League: War movie, and Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals + the Wonder Woman movie (which featured Keri Russell as the voice of Wonder Woman). This is a fantastic collection for any DC fan that doesn't already own most of these graphic novels and movies. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Hip Hop Family Tree Book 3: 1983-1984 (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $27.99

Ed Piskor's graphic novel history of hip-hop continues. This volume tackles 1983 and 1984 and focuses on Run DMC, Whodini, The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, and Beastie Boys. It also chronicles the formation of Def Jam Records by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. It's a valuable music history lesson that's also cool as hell to look at. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Top Shelf)

RRP: $17.60

At this point, Hunter S. Thompson's drug-fueled excursions are a sort of American mythology on their own. Troy Little's graphic adaptation of his seminal 1971 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas portrays Dr. Thompson as cartoonish and larger than life, which isn't much of a leap from the source. There are, naturally, plenty of ink-splattered homages to Thompson's friend and collaborator Ralph Steadman's famous work, but the art is not dependent on Steadman's grotesque style. Instead, Little's illustrations are friendly and colorful, a perfect juxtaposition to the dangerously reckless gonzo narrative. Similarly, perspectives are reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's film, without directly knocking off that adaptation. Fans of either the novel or film, or of Thompson in general, will appreciate this homage to his legacy, crafted as though comic panels were where this story was destined all along. It is a delightful read, cherishing each hallucinatory detail of the original book. (Buy it here.) By Cody Ray Shafer

I'll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones, As Told to Paul Morley (Gallery/Simon & Schuster)

RRP: $16.99

Even if you've never heard a note of Grace Jones' music, if you've seen a single photo of her you've likely never forgotten it. And for those who wondered what the backstory was on the person behind those striking, sometimes feral images, she's defied the declaration of the title and done just that, announcing on the first page, "There will be blood." That's to be expected when your memoir includes tales from Studio 54, an association with Andy Warhol, the modeling life, and appearances in Hollywood films. But fans of Jones's music can also follow the progress from her disco days to breakthroughs with the Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing albums at the dawn of the '80s and beyond. Let's say you're on the stage of a Paris nightclub and someone tears off your tiny outfit and sprays mace in your eyes. What would you do? Just ask Grace. (Buy it here.) By Hays Davis

The iZombie Omnibus (Vertigo/DC)

RRP: $75.00

Fans of the well-received CW TV show iZombie might be taken aback when diving into the source material. Whereas AMC's The Walking Dead pulls many characters and plot points from the original comic books, The CW's show deviates significantly from its origins. In the show Rose McIver brilliantly plays Liv Moore, a zombie who works in the Seattle medical examiners office and feeds on already deceased human brains to help her maintain her humanity. She gets visions of the murder victims whose brains she eats and helps the police to solve their murders. In the original comic, created by artist/writer Michael Allred and writer Chris Roberson, the main character was named Gwen Dylan and she was a zombie in Eugene, Oregon who works as a grave digger and eats brains and gets visions (but doesn't help the police). The comic book is much crazier than the show; Gwen's best friends are a mod ghost who died in the 1960s named Ellie and a were-terrier named Scott and the story goes to some very weird places you couldn't imagine flying on The CW. The comic book only lasted 28 glorious issues and all are collected in this beautiful new hardcover book that also includes the storyboards for Allred's animated opening to the TV show. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

The League of Regrettable Superheroes by John Morris (Quirk)

RRP: $24.95

Jon Morris' knowledge of comic book history is immediately and readily apparent in his delightful-and insightful-accounting of some of the medium's most "half-baked heroes." In The League of Regrettable Superheroes, Morris wittily breaks down the shortcomings of a hundred different caped and costumed vigilantes whose collective kryptonite proved to be the test of time. The book is divided into three sections-one for each major age of comics (Golden, Silver, and Modern)-with a preface explaining the zeitgeist of the genre at the time. Through these chapters, and under Morris' erudite guidance, the trends, current events, and social dictates that molded the art form over the past 80 years spring to life, as do the heroes whose creators sought (and failed) to capture readers' evolving tastes. Modern fans have likely never heard of 711, a lawyer wrongfully imprisoned who springs himself free each night to fight crime and then dutifully returns to his cell the next morning. Or Mr. Muscles, who should have used a spotter to make it to his third issue. Thanks to Morris' unmatched comprehension of comic books and his natural, flowing, and quite often hilarious writing style, neither these, nor 98 other heroes need remain forgotten. (Buy it here.) By Zach Hollwedel

Mad Max: Fury Road (Vertigo/DC)

RRP: $12.33

Writer/director George Miller spent years working on Mad Max: Fury Road, the critically acclaimed summer blockbuster and long awaited fourth movie in the series. Along the way Miller came up with full back stories for the film's characters and those were adapted into four prequel comic books by Vertigo/DC which have been collected in this one book. More than just a movie cash-in, these stories come directly from creator Miller and are adapted by writer Nico Lathouris and writer/artist Mark Sexton (who was a storyboard artist on the film). Fans of the movie will appreciate the greater depth this comic gives to the experience. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Peanuts Every Sunday: The 1950s Gift Box Set, Snoopy vs. The Red Baron, and Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $79.99, $24.99, $9.99

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the other Peanuts characters came back in a big way this year, with this fall's critically well-received hit, The Peanuts Movie. Fans young and old might get a kick out of checking out Fantagraphics' three recent Peanuts books. Peanuts Every Sunday: The 1950s Gift Box Set collects all the Peanuts Sunday newspaper strips from 1952 to 1960 in glorious color (often they've been reprinted in black & white). Snoopy vs. The Red Baron collects all the original newspaper strips (both the daily and Sunday ones) that chronicle Snoopy's dog house plane battles with the infamous World War I German flying ace The Red Baron. Finally there's Charlie Brown's Christmas Stocking, which collects two Christmas stories Peanuts creator Charles Schulz wrote and drew for national magazines. "Charlie Brown's Christmas" was created in 1963 for Good Housekeeping and features the entire Peanuts gang. "This Christmas Story" was produced for Woman's Day in 1968 and features Lucy and Linus explaining the meaning of the holiday to Snoopy. Good grief, all three combined equals a whole lot of Peanuts fun! (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive (IDW)

RRP: $9.99 - $19.99

It's Star Trek + Planet of the Apes. What more do you need to know? Okay, well Captain Kirk (the William Shatner version) and the original Star Trek crew from the 1960s series follow the Klingons through a portal and end up on a parallel Earth ruled by apes. The Klingons have teamed up with apes and so our Star Fleet heroes band together with the humans, including astronaut Colonel George Taylor (played by Charlton Heston in the original Planet of the Apes movie), to stop their evil plans. It's a nice mash-up of retro fun that captures the characters and tones of both fictional worlds well. (Buy it here.) By Mark Redfern


Submit your comment