Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2018 Part 10: Graphic Novels and Books | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, December 14th, 2019  

Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018 Part 10: Graphic Novels and Books

Releases from DC, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, Quirk, First Second, Drawn & Quarterly, Image, Top Shelf, Downtown Bookworks, Scholastic, and Disney

Dec 21, 2018
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Welcome to part 10 of our Holiday Gift Guide 2018, which centers on graphic novels and other books, including some for children. The list includes a Caped Crusader, two graphic novels on jazz, some out-there sci-fi tales, a bunch of talking ducks, a Christmas-obsessed skeleton, a time travelling teenager, a middle school vampire hunter, a barefooted off-duty cop, and more.

We have previously posted part 1 of our 2018 gift guide (for video games), as well as part 2 (for board games), part 3 (for technology), and part 4 (for collectibles). Then there was part 5, for toys and other gifts for kids and parents, which was split into two parts: one on kid-friendly toys, books, and DVDs/Blu-rays and another one on kid-friendly board games and technology. Part 6 covered apparel and household items. Part 7 was the first installment of our guide for DVDs and Blu-rays. Part 8 was a drinking guide. And Part 9 was the first installment of our guide for reissues, vinyl, and music box sets.

And in the next few days will still also be posting gift guides centering on more DVDs/Blu-rays and more music box sets and reissues. And don't forget that Under the Radar subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

Graphic Novels:

Blutch: Total Jazz (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $19.99

Total Jazz is French cartoonist Blutch's love letter to jazz. It features various vignettes and short stories dedicated to the genre. Some are wordless one-pagers, others are slightly longer and feature dialogue. Miles Davis is featured on the cover, and he's included on the inside too, along with Chet Baker, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, and some other cool cats. Most of it is fairly humorous too, such as the story about two old fans at a jazz festival that grumble about every performer. "Diary of a Consumer" contrasts a record store's rather large jazz section in 1993, including imports and some more obscure artists, with the same store's much tinnier jazz section a decade later, featuring mainly the obvious artists (including two posters of Chet Baker) and a New Releases section that solely consists of Norah Jones albums. I wonder what Blutch makes of Kamasi Washington? By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Alberto Breccia and Héctor Germán Oesterheld: Mort Cinder (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $29.99

Alberto Breccia was born in Uruguay, but moved to Argentina when he was three years old. His cartooning career began way back in 1939, but his most famous work might be Mort Cinder, a collaboration with writer Héctor Germán Oesterheld that was originally published in the Argentine magazine Misterix from 1962 to 1964. The story is told from the perspective of Ezra Winston, a London-based antiques dealer who gets wrapped up in strange happenings that lead him to the immortal Mort Cinder, who comes back from the grave each time he dies. Winston's look was inspired by Breccia's own face, whereas he based Cinder's design on his friend and assistant Horacio Lalia. The black & white series has never been translated into English before, but now Fantagraphics has done so. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Youssef Daoudi: Monk!: Thelonious, Pannonica, and the Friendship Behind a Musical Revolution (First Second)

RRP: $16.99 

Play one of Thelonius Monk's records on your turntable while wrapping a copy of Youssef Daoudi's graphic biography for your favorite jazz aficionado. Brilliantly, brightly, and uniquely illustrated, Monk! is a labor of clear reverence for its subject. Daoudi claims that his illustration style was influenced by the improvisational nature of jazz. Pick up an extra copy of the book and check it out for yourself over the holidays, too. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Aminder Dhaliwal: Woman World (Drawn and Quarterly)

RRP: $24.95

An ongoing web-comic, this print edition of Aminder Dhaliwal's series about a world devoid of men is hands-down spectacular. The setup is quick and simple-due to reasons nobody really knows, humankind stops producing males. After the last man has died off, what's left is a world populated solely by women. What does that world look like? It's funny, introspective, hopeful, reminiscent, and so much more. Pick up a copy for a special someone and find out together. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.) 

Manuele Fior: Blackbird Days (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $22.99

Blackbird Days collects various comic stripes and short graphic stories by Italian cartoonist Manuele Fior. "Class Trip" centers on an older female high school teacher co-leading a school trip to Paris. All the students hate her, but we get a window into how that affects her. In "Help! Hilfe!" a father searches for his lost five-year-old son in Berlin. "Grandma and Grandson" is about immigrants from Laos, who fled that country during the Vietnam War and ended up in Paris, told from both the perspective of the original immigrant and her grandson, who was born in France. The title story, "Blackbird Days," is a strange tale that takes place in the future and chronicles weird happenings in a mine. Some of the stories end without true resolution and others seem more like graphic poems. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

Jeff Lemire: Black Hammer Library Edition Volume 1 (Dark Horse)

RRP: $49.99

Just in time for the holidays, Black Hammer Library Edition Volume 1 collects the first two volumes of Jeff Lemire's masterful, Eisner Award-winning, Golden Age superhero throwback. After a climactic final battle with an arch foe, a team of superheroes find themselves trapped on a farm in a middle-of-nowhere rural community. How and why they're stuck there remains a mystery to them, but they try to cope with their new realities as best they can. Frankly, we could recommend that literally everything Jeff Lemire produces belongs on our gift guide, but this library edition is an amazing way to get introduced to his world of Black Hammer. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Sean Murphy: Batman: White Knight (DC)

RRP: $19.99

Sean Murphy's eight-issue mini-series (the first collected edition under DC Comics' recently branded DC Black Label imprint) is a must-have for any Batman fan. Heck, even the most casual superhero fan will be thrilled to find this under his or her tree. In White Knight, the unthinkable happens. Joker reforms, and as he tries to make up for his past atrocities, his apparent altruism shines a very negative spotlight on Batman. With their public perceptions flipped, the Caped Crusader finds himself a wanted fugitive, while Joker runs for City Council. There's a lot of Batman out there, to be sure, but Batman: White Knight is not to be overlooked. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Erin Nations: Gumballs (Top Shelf)

RRP: 19.99

Important, timely, and impossible to put down, Erin Nation's collection of short comics about his gender transition is fantastic. Told through a series of shorts, Gumballs is a pointed look at what it means to fit in-with society, with your family, and with yourself. It is endearing and introspective and one of the best books of the year. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell: Infidel (Image)

RRP: $16.99

Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell delivered one of the year's most terrifying graphic novels. Infidel tells the story of an American Muslim woman who is being haunted by the ghosts that have inhabited her apartment building since a bomb destroyed a floor, killing a number of residents. In the age of terrorism, the xenophobia she faces from the other tenants threatens to be just as horrifying as the spirits pursuing her. Be sure to read this one with the lights on. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.) 

O. Schrauwen: Parallel Lives (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $24.99

Parallel Lives is a bizarre science fiction tale by Belgian cartoonist Olivier Schrauwen. It's kind of like a sex-obsessed Black Mirror episode on acid. In the opening story the author claims to have been abducted by aliens. In the second tale a man from the past attempts to communicate with a future society via a TV signal. The longest story is about a male and female duo of space explorers who get stranded on an uncharted alien planet. It's mind-altering stuff, to be sure. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Nick Thorburn: Penguins (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $24.99

Nick Thorburn is known to indie music fans as the frontman of The Unicorns and Islands, but the Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is also a cartoonist. Penguins is a 285 page book that collects some of his strips. Most are in black & white and wordless, although some are in color and/or feature dialogue. In one strip a happy monster holding an ice cream cone melts away while the ice cream doesn't. In another, a basketball is thrown but it turns square just as it is about to make it through the hoop. A lot of Penguins seems to be about the futility of life, but told in an absurd and humorous way. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.) 

Carol Tyler: Fab 4 Mania: A Beatles Obsession and the Concert of a Lifetime (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $29.99

Carol Tyler was a teenager when she discovered The Beatles. Like many Americans, she was first turned onto the Liverpool band thanks to their 1964 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, where they performed "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to a then record 73 million viewers. Fab 4 Mania is a facsimile of the diary Tyler kept in 1965 as a 13-year-old. It chronicles her obsession with John, Paul, George, and Ringo, building up to a trip to Chicago to finally see The Beatles perform. It really does feel like you're reading a young girl's personal diary, while also telling you something about The Beatles. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Noah Van Sciver: The Fante Bukowski Trilogy (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $39.99

Noah Van Sciver's trilogy about the aspiring-yet talentless-great American novelist, Fante Bukowski, concluded earlier this year with Fante Bukowski Three: A Perfect Failure. Now, for the first time since Fante Bukowski first debuted in 2015, the complete trilogy is available for literary (and literary humor) lovers everywhere. Lambasting literary pretention, the Eisner Award-nominated series is as sure to delight as it is to make you laugh aloud. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.) 

Children's Books:


Kim Smith: Back to the Future: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

Quirk, the company behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other amusing titles, have a series of illustrated storybooks based on classic movies and TV shows, all illustrated by Kim Smith. Last year in the gift guide we featured Smith's adaptations of Home Alone and The X-Files. This year she has taken on the beloved classic Back to the Future, which was originally written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. The gold standard of time travel movies, the 1985 film also spawned two well-liked sequels and was recently voted as a franchise current audiences would like to see brought back (which is unlikely to ever happen, at least not with the original actors or creators). The film's plot is understandably condensed in picture book form and made even more kid friendly (there's no Libyan terrorists and the teenaged version of Marty's mom falling in love with him is toned down). But the basics are there and the artwork is vibrant and simply wonderful. Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite films and my nearly six-year-old daughter loves it to. This is the perfect book to expose young kids to the Back to the Future story if they aren't ready for the film yet or to relive the story with those kids who are already fans. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

Kim Smith has also taken on Joss Whedon's cult classic TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Instead of doing a straight up adaptation of one episode, she does what she did with The X-Files and images what Buffy was like as a kid. Buffy and her friends Willow and Xander are in elementary school in this version and encounter monsters during a sleepover. As with The X-Files, most elementary aged kids are too young to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so this is a good way to ease them into the mythos of the show. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

Based on the beloved 1982 film written by Melissa Mathison and directed by Steven Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook tells the story of Elliott, a 10-year-old boy who befriends a stranded alien on Earth. Like Smith's other storybooks, it's the perfect way to introduce young kids to E.T. (or if they've already seen the film, then they'll enjoy it even more). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Disney Masters Collectors Box Set #1 and Disney Masters Collectors Box Set #2 (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $59.99 each

Fantagraphics have been lovingly collecting and reissuing classic Disney comic books for years. These two box sets each collect different volumes of the Disney Masters line, featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics from the 1950s and 1960s. Box Set #1 collects volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1, The Delta Dimension, centers on Italian comics creator Romano Scarpa and his Mickey Mouse work. Volume 2, Uncle Scrooge's Money Rocket, features the work of fellow Italian artist Luciano Bottaro and a story in which Donald Duck gets stranded on an asteroid. Box Set #2 collects the third and fourth volumes. The Case of the Vanishing Bandit (volume 3) features the Mickey Mouse work of American cartoonist Paul Murry, where as The Great Survival Test features 18 Donald Duck stories by the Dutch and Danish team of Dann Jippes and Freddy Milton. Some of the comics collected in these volumes have never been published in the United States before. By Mark Redfern (Buy Box Set #1 here. Buy Box Set #2 here.)

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library Vols. 9 & 10 Gift Box Set (Fantagraphics)

RRP: $49.99

Uncle Scrooge has been back in a big way of late thanks to the successful reboot of Ducktails, where he's been voiced by former Doctor Who star David Tennant. This gift box set collects volumes 9 and 10 of The Don Rosa Library series. Rosa is an American comic book artist and writer who has been creating Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck comics since the 1980s. These volumes collect stories from the late 1990s and early 2000s, including The Three Caballeros Ride Again! and The Old Castle's Other Secret. Ducktails fans young and old would do well to seek this one out. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

My Miniature Library (Laurence King Publishing/Uncommon Goods)

RRP: $20.00

Ever dreamt of being miniaturized Honey, I Shrunk the Kids style? Well if you ever did, this would be the perfect gift for you. But really, it's a darling product for kids of any size. The kit includes 30 doll-sized books that kids can cut out and make. The box turns into a library play-set, complete with a bookshelf to put all those little books on, making it suitable for The Borrowers or Ant-Man, as well as a great staging ground for dolls and action figures. The illustrated books themselves are very real children's tales that can be read, including such classics as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Jabberwocky, The Owl and the Pussycat, and, fittingly, Thumbelina. There are also 10 blank books that kids and parents can draw, write, and make themselves, further adding to this handsomely designed creative gift. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Matthew Reinhart: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: A Petrifying Pop-Up for the Holidays (Disney Editions)

RRP: $65.00

The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn't directed by Tim Burton (Henry Selick helmed it), but Burton came up with the story and characters and produced the film and it very much felt like a Burton creation. The film was praised by critics on its release 25 years ago, but was only a modest box office success. Its stature as a holiday classic, however, has only grown over the years. Its characters and themes still appeal to both kids and the Hot Topic crowd. It's also a flexible holiday film, you could watch it at either Halloween or Christmas (or anywhere in between). I showed it to my daughter when she was around 4 years old, via my old Laserdisc copy (yep!), and she loved it. Now Disney has put out this intricately prepared pop-up book based on the film. New York Times best-selling author Matthew Reinhart put it together and the book is a wonder to behold, with pop-ups within pop-ups and beautiful artwork. Pop-up books like this must be hard to mass-produce, as they seem so handmade. My daughter is going to adore it. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Sarah Parvis: My Girl Power Journal (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $16.99

Downtown Bookworks have a great line of young kid-friendly DC Super Heroes books. Sarah Parvis' My Girl Power Journal is a wonderful book for elementary and middle school girls (or boys) who can read and write (it's recommended for ages 8 and up). It's filled with prompts and questions to get the kids writing and thinking about themselves, mixed with an array of female DC superheroes. For example, did you know that in the comic books Wonder Woman once ran for president, way back in 1943? One section in the book asks the reader to imagine running for president. What would be the five most important things on their platform, what would their campaign slogans be, and what would their campaign logo look like? There are pages about creating businesses, donating to charity, being a reporter like Lois Lane, standing up to bullies, favorite quotations and movie lines, friendship, and more. The reader is meant to write in (or draw) their responses in the blank lines. While superpowers aren't a thing in real life, this book can help inspire girls to embrace their inner girl power and be whatever kind of person they want to aspire to be. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Morris Katz: Super Heroes Say Please (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $10.99

Downtown Bookworks have a lovely line of DC Comics themed board books aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. The books each have different themes, using retro art from classic DC Comics. There are books for learning the alphabet and teaching kids to count, one about opposites, another about colors and shapes, and ones that give easy introductions to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Super Heroes Say Please teaches basic manners, it's a guide for how to be kind and polite. Youngsters can learn about greetings as Wonder Woman and Mary Marvel shake hands and say hi; about showing interest in your friends as Batman and Superman ask how the other is doing; about saying please, thank you, and you're welcome; about taking turns and sharing; about giving compliments; and about saying sorry. The book is recommended for ages 0-3, but having a five-year-old I've found that these are lessons that even older kids could do with being reminded of. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Julie Merberg: The Big Book of Girl Power (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $16.99

As well as journals and board books, Downtown Bookworks DC Super Heroes line also includes several bearing the title The Big Book of.... These are larger hardcover books dedicated to various subjects. The Big Book of Girl Power is about many of DC's female superheroes. The big three, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl, grace the cover and are each granted four pages. The other characters get two pages each. Each entry includes a brief biography of the character, info on their powers, and artwork pulled from their comic book appearances. The Big Book of Girl Power also features Hawkgirl, Bumblebee, Catwoman, Raven, Mera, Starfire, Katana, and Black Canary. It's recommended for ages 3 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Morris Katz: The Big Book of Superpowers (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $16.99 

The Big Book of Superpowers highlights the powers of various DC Comics heroes, using artwork from their comic book appearances over the years. Some might be obvious to parents and kids, such as Superman's flight and X-ray vision powers and Batman's gadgets. Others might be less known, such as the abilities of Martian Manhunter, who can read minds, shape-shift, and walk through walls and other solid objects. The book also features Supergirl, Batgirl, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Plastic Man, and shrinking hero The Atom. It's recommended for ages 3 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Morris Katz: The Big Book of Super-Villains (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $16.99

The Big Book of Super-Villains, as its title suggests, focuses on many of the DC Comics baddies. The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Harley Quinn grace the cover and the book is heavy on Batman and Superman foes. Each bad guy gets anywhere from a half-page to two pages to briefly explain the character's origin and powers, as well as which hero they fight. For Batman there is The Joker, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Two-Face, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman (who has actually turned over a new leaf and was engaged to Batman in the comics recently). For Shazam it's Black Adam and Dr. Sivanna. Flash villains Grodd, Captain Cold, and Captain Boomerang make an appearance. Then there are archenemies for Aquaman (Black Manta), Green Lantern (Sinestro), and Wonder Woman (The Cheetah, Giganta). And finally, many a nemesis of the Man of Steel close out the book: Lex Luthor, Mr. Mxyzptlk, General Zod, Bizarro, Brainiac, and Darkseid. It's recommended for ages 3 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Other Books:

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games Trilogy (Special Edition Collection) (Scholastic)

RRP: $38.97

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, the first in a trilogy, turned 10 this year. It was followed by two sequels: 2009's Catching Fire and 2010's Mockingjay. The first film adaptation, starring Jennifer Lawrence as rebel archer Katniss Everdeen, arrived in 2012. In terms of young adult novels of the last 20 years, the trilogy's success is only rivaled by the Harry Potter books. Scholastic have collected all three novels in paperback form in a nice box set. Perhaps you've only seen the films and never read the original novels, or maybe there's a teenager in your life you can gift them to. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Jon Morris: The League of Regrettable Sidekicks (Quirk)

RRP: $24.95

Jon Morris follows up 2015's The League of Regrettable Superheroes and 2017's The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains with The League of Regrettable Sidekicks. Like its predecessors, it chronicles various silly comic book characters from over the years, with each getting a two- to four-page entry. As you can guess from its title, this book focuses on superhero sidekicks and is split into different eras (Golden Age, Silver Age, and Modern Age). And we're not talking about obvious ones such as Robin here, these are of the more obscure variety, even to diehard comic book fans. For example, did you know that in the Star Wars comic books of the 1970s Han Solo had a walking, talking, human-sized rabbit named Jaxxon as a sidekick? Similarly, one of The Doctor's companions in Doctor Who comic books in the 1980s was a talking shape-shifting alien penguin named Frobisher ("I'm staying as a penguin for a while for...personal reasons," he explains). There's Billy the Bumper, a goat mascot of The Defense Kids, and Blargo the Lawless, who aids the beautiful Earth woman Futura, who is stranded on the water-covered planet of Oceania. The T-Force helped Mr. T solve crimes in the 1993 comic book Mr. T and the T-Force. There are also special entries devoted to the many sidekicks of Superman, Captain Marvel (aka Shazam), Captain America, and Richie Rich. Comic book fans will delight at reading about the often very amusing adventures of these forgotten second fiddle characters. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

James Mottram and David S. Cohen: Die Hard: The Ultimate Visual History (Insight Editions)

RRP: $50.00

Die Hard is not only the most action-packed Christmas movie of all time, it's also a strong contender for one of the greatest action movies of all time. The highly influential film inspired many knock-offs, including "Die Hard on a plane" (Passenger 57) and "Die Hard on a boat" (Under Siege), as well as four sequels of varying quality, but nothing tops the 1988 original about a barefooted off duty NYPD cop up against a group of terrorists in a Los Angeles office building on Christmas Eve. James Mottram and David S. Cohen's book chronicles not only the making of the first film, but all the sequels too. I'm not sure how many people really want to read about the truly terrible fifth film in the series, 2013's A Good Day to Die Hard, but luckily it has the least amount of pages devoted to it. Die Hard: The Ultimate Visual History starts with a forward from John McTiernan, who directed the first movie. The book includes insights from various people involved in the films, a ton of behind-the-scenes photos, storyboards and script pages (some that are presented as actual pieces of paper stuck inside the book), photos that flip out of the book, concept art, and more. It also comes with a folded up poster that is the blueprints for Nakatomi Plaza, the skyscraper in the first film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

James Siciliano: The Art of Rick and Morty (Dark Horse/Adult Swim)

RRP: $39.99

Who knew that Rick and Morty would become such a pop culture phenomenon, spawning plenty of merchandise, especially as it started as a parody of Back to the Future. Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, it features the weird adventures of mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith as they travel to different dimensions and planets. James Siciliano's book includes character sketches, images of technology from the show, drawings of various alien environments, and more. It starts with a forward by Roiland. Earlier this year Rick and Morty was renewed for a whopping 70 episodes, so there's a lot more craziness to come. We once interviewed Harmon and Roiland back in 2013 when the show first debuted and you can read that here. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

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December 24th 2018
12:59am

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