Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 10: Books and Graphic Novels | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019 Part 10: Books and Graphic Novels

Books from DC Comics, Quirk Books, Downtown Bookworks, Insight Editions, and More

Dec 13, 2019
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Welcome to Part 10 of Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide 2019. This one is centered on books and graphic novels, including books on music and film.

In terms of our Holiday Gift Guide 2019 we have already posted a guide about video games and two drinks related guides, one for coffee, beer, and wine and another for cocktails. Then we posted part one of our collectibles guide. After that we posted part 5 of our 2019 guide, which was about technology. Part 6 was the first part of our DVD/Blu-ray guide. And then part 7 was about board games. Part 8 was about toys for kids. Part 9 featured kid-friendly DVDs/Blu-rays, books, and board games. And stay tuned for more guides we'll be posting on music box sets and reissues, more collectibles, and more DVDs/Blu-rays. And don't forget that Under the Radar print magazine 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.

 

Art Baltazar and Franco: Superman of Smallville (DC Zoom)

RRP: $9.99

Superman's origin has been told many times over and in some versions his younger self goes by the name Superboy. Writers Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (who just goes by Franco) have a new take on the Boy of Steel. Like the long-running TV series Smallville, Clark Kent still lives with his parents in Smallville, Kansas, but instead of high school he's in middle school. And unlike some childhood versions of the character, he goes by Superman rather than Superboy. It also features middle school versions of Clark's first love Lana Lang and his nemesis Lex Luthor. Baltazar, who also does the art, and Aureliani were also behind the beloved Eisner Award-winning DC Comics series Tiny Titans and fans of that will also appreciate Superman of Smallville. It's recommended for ages 8-13. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Brian Michael Bendis, David F. Walker, and Jamal Campbell: Naomi Season One (DC)

RRP: $19.99

Naomi is an ordinary teenager who also works as a waitress at a local diner. Her small town is rocked when a battle between Superman and Monguel briefly crashes down onto the town's main street. Nothing ever happens in this town, so it's a big deal. Alas, Naomi misses the whole thing. This is understandable, as the event only lasts for 17 seconds, but she is still jealous of her friends who witnessed the Man of Steel and also saw him return the next day to help clean up the aftermath of his fight (which Naomi also missed). When Naomi hears rumors that this is not the first superhero event in town, that something else happened 17 years earlier the exact same day she was officially adopted, it put her on a path to become a hero herself. Naomi is written by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, with art by Jamal Campbell. It is part of DC's new Wonder Comics imprint, which is curated by Bendis and also features Young Justice, Dial H for Hero, and Wonder Twins, all comics headlined by pre-existing characters, where as Naomi is a new creation. This graphic novel collects all six issues of the comic's first season. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Tim Biskup: Tree of Life (Chronicle)

RRP: $35.00

If you're looking for an art book, you won't get much cooler than Tim Biskup's Tree of Life. The Los Angeles-based artist, whose work includes animation, painting, sculpture, and illustration, has compiled his work in this coffee table monograph that is chock full of illustrations that simply jump off the page. Biskup's artistry is boldly colorful, geometric, whimsical, and thought provoking, and one will be fascinated paging through Tree of Life. As the line drawing at the book's beginning says, "Pictures First, Words Later," and Tree of Life concludes with Biskup telling his own story of a life of creativity in art. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)

 

Sonia Bownes and Zoe Bateman: When Doves Craft (Insight Editions)

RRP: $17.99

When Doves Craft is the Prince-themed crafting book you didn't think you needed. It was written by Sonia Bownes and Zoe Bateman of the London Craft Club. There are finger puppets and scrapbooks. Learn how to make a Purple Crane and how to do Raspberry Crochet. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Amelia Davis: Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture (Chronicle)

RRP: $55.00

Jim Marshall is a rock and roll photographer extraordinaire. He has taken some of the most famous photographs in the history of music. And Show Me the Picture is the definitive document of his body of work, with over 200 photos, more than 70 of which are published here for the first time. This beautiful coffee table book is separated into eras and punctuated by quotes, annotations, and illuminating essays telling Marshall's story. Each photograph is captioned and dated, and as such, reading through Show Me the Picture tells an essential history of rock and roll. Bob Dylan. Neil Young. Jimi Hendrix. Cream. The Rolling Stones. The Who. Led Zeppelin. The Grateful Dead. Etc., etc., etc., and on and on and on. Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture is ultimately a stunning and revelatory piece of work, and a book that should be in any self-respecting rock and roll fan's collection. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.

 

James Diaz: Star Wars: A Merry Sithmas Pop-Up Book (Insight Kids)

RRP: $15.99

Star Wars: A Merry Sithmas Pop-Up Book isn't a traditional pop-up book that tells a story. Instead it's craftier. The Christmas-themed book has festive Star Wars characters—such as gingerbread versions of C3PO, Chewbacca, Princes Leia, and Han Solo or an Imperial Walker with a red nose, antlers, and Christmas lights—that you can either color or pop out and turn into a make-your-own pop-up book. It's recommended for future Jedis aged seven and up. As it says in the book, "Merry Hothmas!" By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Ian Doescher: William Shakespeare's Get Thee... Back to the Future (Quirk)

RRP: $12.99 

Ian Doescher has already turned various Star Wars movies into Shakespeare plays. Now he has set his sites on Back to the Future. Since we will never get any more Back to the Future movies, it's left for fans to check in with Marty McFly and Doc Brown in other mediums. Doescher maintains the same plot of the 1985 film, but turns it all into Shakespearean prose. Following are some sample famous lines from the film, as adapted by Doescher. "Pay heed: preserve the tower of the clock!" "When thou dost see thy mother, wish her well." "If ev'ry calculation is correct, when this—my baby, source of all my hopes—doth hit upon the speed of 88, in miles per hour, then Marty, verily, thine eyes shalt witness stuff most serious." "Be ready for audacious episodes—wither we go, we have no need of roads." Marty has two particularly long speeches in the book and they are both purposefully 88 lines long. Depending on their patience for reading Shakespeare, this book would be an amusing gift for Back to the Future fans. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre: Batman: The Definitive History of the Dark Knight in Comics, Film, and Beyond (Insight Editions)

RRP: $75.00 

This is one helluva beast of a Batman book. For once a book labeled "definitive" is just that. In honor of The Dark Knight's 80th birthday, Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre chart the history of Bob Kane and Bill Finger's crimefighter creation. The heavy book includes a foreword by Michael Keaton, who of course played the title character in 1989's Batman and 1992's Batman Returns. Then there's a preface by noted comic book writer Dennis O'Neil (who had a famed Batman and Detective Comics run in the 1970s). And on top of that, there's an introduction by Kevin Conroy, who has done the voice of Batman for years, starting with 1992's beloved Batman: The Animated Series, and just played an older and angrier Bruce Wayne on the Batwoman episode of the CW's big Crisis on Infinite Earths five-episode crossover. Batman: The Definitive History of the Dark Knight in Comics, Film, and Beyond covers all the films and TV shows featuring Batman, as well as the notable comic runs. But it goes further than that, with mini books within the book, such as reproduction of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman; fold out blueprints of the 1940s Batmobile; script pages from Frank Miller's Batman: Year One comic book; Bob Kane's proposed treatment for a Batman film in the 1980s (insisting that it be a dark and serious take, unlike the campy 1960s series); concept art for Batman Returns, Batman and Robin, and TV's Gotham; behind the scenes photos from The Dark Knight Trilogy; and much more. This is truly the ultimate Batman book. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Jennifer Hackett: DC Super Hero Science (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $12.99

Downtown Bookworks' excellent series of DC Comics kids books continues with Jennifer Hackett's DC Super Hero Science. As its title suggests, the book uses DC superheroes and villains to illustrate various scientific principles. Krypto the Superdog is featured in a section on whether dogs can talk. Hawkman is used to discuss how birds fly. How do Green Arrow's arrows fly? How can Martian Manhunter phase through walls and other solid objects? How hot is heat vision? How does The Flash run on water and can some animals do the same? This educational book is recommended for tweens. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Hergé: Tintin on the Moon (Little, Brown and Company)

RRP: $29.99

Tintin, the young detective created by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé, turned 90 this year. It's also the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Thus Little, Brown and Company have reissued two classic Tintin adventures that take place on the moon: 1950's Destination Moon and 1952's Explorers on the Moon. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Doogie Horner and JJ Harrison: A Die Hard Christmas Gift Set (Insight Editions)

RRP: $24.99 

It's easy to forget that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, even though it actually came out in July. John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a lone off duty New York City cop who battles terrorists in a Los Angeles office tower on Christmas Eve. It's one of the all-time greatest action movies and the bloody film is not the likeliest candidate to be adapted into a picture book. Author Doogie Horner and artist JJ Harrison have done just that, taking Die Hard and turning it into a riff on the poem The Night Before Christmas. The story is thus all told in rhyme ("When what to his wondering eyes did appear—HOLY CRAP! THERE ARE TERRORISTS HERE?!"). The A Die Hard Christmas Gift Set includes the book and an exclusive John McClane plush, styled to when he jumps off the exploding roof at the end. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank: Doomsday Clock Part 1 (DC)

RRP: 24.99

HBO's new Watchmen show is one of the most acclaimed TV series of the year (or perhaps even the decade). It's plot was shrouded in mystery for a while, but it was eventually revealed to be a sequel to 1986's graphic novel/comic book series (written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons), taking place in an alternate present, 34 years after the events of the graphic novel. But Damon Lindelof's TV version was not the first continuation of the world of Watchmen. In 2012 DC Comics put out Before Watchmen, a series of nine prequel comics. And 2017 saw the first issue of Doomsday Clock. It is not only a sequel to Watchmen, but brings the characters into the world of DC Comics. The characters exist in alternate universes, where the heroes in the DC universe are considered fictional in the Watchmen universe and the reverse in the DC universe. Characters from both universes attempt to track down the all-powerful Watchmen character Doctor Manhattan. Interestingly, in both Doomsday Clock and the HBO series Robert Redford is the current president. Geoff Johns is the writer behind Doomsday Clock and Gary Frank has done the art. Part 1 collects issues 1-6 in a hardcover graphic novel. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Morris Katz: DC Super Heroes Who's Who (Downtown Bookworks)

RRP: $11.99

Downtown Bookworks' DC Comics board book series has a nice new addition in DC Super Heroes Who's Who. This book is recommended for babies and toddlers and it has a simple concept: each double page spread features a different superhero and when you lift the flap it reveals their secret identities. The book features The Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Shazam, Supergirl, Batgirl, Bumblebee, and the John Stewart version of Green Lantern. Trying to get a young kid into DC Comics? This would be a good place to start. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Tom King and Clay Mann: Heroes in Crisis (DC)

RRP: $29.99

The title Crisis has been apart of various DC event comics since 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, which has just been adapted as five-part crossover on the CW's various DC superhero shows. The latest is Heroes in Crisis, written by Tom King, with art by Clay Mann. It's a bit more personal than your usual superhero epic and is also a murder mystery. Sanctuary is a refuge for superheroes, a secret facility created by Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in which heroes can anonymously confide in an artificial intelligence, speaking to a camera, to help with their PTSD-type symptoms. Soldiers in real life have to deal with the psychological ramifications of going into battle, so it makes sense that the super-powered would have similar issues. But things go awry when several heroes are murdered at Sanctuary and the prime suspects are Booster Gold and Harley Quinn. Meanwhile the private session videos have been leaked to the media. Heroes in Crisis humanizes the superhuman in a way that few mainstream comic books do, while also being a compelling page-turner. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Aaron Lupton and Jeff Szpirglas: Blood on Black Wax: Horror Soundtracks on Vinyl (1984 Publishing)

RRP: $34.95 

As its title suggests, Aaron Lupton and Jeff Szpirglas' Blood on Black Wax: Horror Soundtracks on Vinyl celebrates the album covers of horror movie soundtracks. It starts with all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, but also includes classics from the 1930s to the 1960s and stretches to more modern films, such as 2018's Hereditary. But it's not just about the cover art, each film also has a write up about it and how the score was made. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Marisa Polansky: If Keanu Were Your Boyfriend (Little, Brown and Company)

RRP: $13.99 

"Before we go further, I must confess, Keanu Reeves is not my boyfriend, and probably never will be either," author Marisa Polansky warns in the introduction to her book If Keanu Were Your Boyfriend. In the book she takes 16 quotes from interviews the John Wick actor has given over the years and expands on them. Quotes include: "It's fun to be hopelessly in love. It's dangerous, but it's fun." "Grief changes shape, but it never ends." "Life is good when you have a good sandwich." "Is reading a hobby?" "I don't get out much." The book includes illustrations by Veronica Chen, Dirty Bandits, Mary KateMcDevitt, and Jay Roeder. Do you have a friend who wishes Keanu Reeves was their boyfriend? Then this is the gift for them. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Sara Quin and Tegan Quin: High School (MCD)

RRP: $27.00

Tegan and Sara Quin's joint memoir explores the musical origin story of Tegan and Sara. In chapters that find the sisters taking turns writing, the book chronicles the twins' experiences coming to terms with their personal and sexual identities while also navigating their adolescent years. The pair stumble through drug-filled searching and various relationships before finally finding who themselves in music. Once the Quin sisters find the guitar, their musical awakening begins, and the rest is history. High School ends as the sisters are beginning their journey as professional musicians. All in all, High School is a harrowingly honest tale of growing up, which is a story relatable to all, young and old alike. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)

 

Bob Shea and Zachariah Ohora: Who Wet My Pants? (Little, Brown and Company)

RRP: $17.99

In Who Met My Pants? Reuben, a bear, shows up with donuts for his entire Scouting troop to discover his pants are wet in the crotch. Reuben sets out to discover who wet his pants, accusing each of his friends. Bob Shea (Ballet Cat) writes and Zachariah Ohora (Read the Book, Lemmings!) does the colorful art on this delightful picture book. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

 

Kim Smith: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

In the last few years Quirk have had a wonderful series of picture books based on classic movies and TV shows, all illustrated by Kim Smith. Previously she has done The X-Files, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are kid-friendly takes, such as in The X-Files book Mulder and Scully are childhood best friends having a sleepover when a UFO crashes behind Scully's house and in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy, Willow, and Xander are in elementary school and confront monsters in Buffy's closet (who turn out to be friendly).

The first book in the Pop Classics series was 2015's take on 1990's Home Alone. You probably already know the story: eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left home alone when his whole family goes to Paris for Christmas and he has to fend off two burglars known as The Wet Bandits (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Now Smith has turned her talents to adapting 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which like the original film was written by John Hughes and directed Chris Columbus. In the film and book, Kevin, now nine years old, accidentally gets on a plane to New York City when the rest of his family goes to Florida for Christmas and once again finds himself up against The Wet Bandits, who have escaped from jail. As implausible as the film's plot is, Smith's take is still delightful. We wouldn't advise she adapts Home Alone 3, however, as it featured all new characters and a new cast (including a teenaged Scarlett Johansson in one of her earliest roles) and was poorly received by critics. If Quirk are looking to do sequels to some of the other Pop Classics books we would humbly recommend Smith sets her sights on adapting Back to the Future Part II and Part III. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Kim Smith: The Karate Kid (Quirk)

RRP: $18.99

This year also saw Quirk's Pop Classic series adapt the 1984 film The Karate Kid, which was written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John G. Avildsen. Once again Kim Smith illustrates. This story of a bullied boy who is trained in karate by a wise old Japanese man still resonates in storybook form. We're also excited that coming next May will be a Pop Classic version of Doctor Who, also from Smith, that features Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor and is entitled The Runaway TARDIS. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Marc Sumerak and JJ Harrison: Back to the Future Race Through Time (Insight Editions)

RRP: $29.99 

The Back to the Future trilogy is an enduring classic. Even though no new films in the series have been made since 1990's Back to the Future Part III and creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have wisely said the films can never be rebooted or remade in their lifetimes, new generations of kids continue to discover the time traveling adventures of high schooler Marty McFly and his older scientist friend Doc Brown via their parents showing the films to them. Marc Sumerak and JJ Harrison's Back to the Future Race Through Time is aimed at younger readers, but would also appeal to Back to the Future fans of any age. It starts with a history of Hill Valley, the fictional California town where the movies take place, as written by Sumerak. The subsequent pages are Harrison's illustrated maps of Hill Valley in three different time periods: 1885 (from Back to the Future Part III), 1955 (from Back to the Future), and 2015 (from Back to the Future Part II), with trivia and fun facts about various locations on the maps. What makes the book unique is that it comes with a little wind up DeLorean time machine and each map has tracks that the car can travel along, grooves in the board book pages that the a fifth wheel underneath the car easily fits into. This DeLorean doesn't quite go up to the required 88 miles per hour, but the book is still fun nonetheless. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh: Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass (DC Ink)

RRP: $16.99

Here's a refreshing new take on Harley Quinn's origin. In this Young Adult graphic novel Harley is a 15-year-old high schooler. Harley's single mom gets a job on a cruise ship and so sends her to live with her grandmother in Gotham City for a while, having sent a letter ahead of time. Alas, Harley arrives to find that her grandmother has died. A drag queen named Mama, who runs her grandmother's apartment building and the local drag club, takes Harley in. Harley's new best friend is the future Poison Ivy and together they take on Millennium Developments, who are buying up a lot of the local property to gentrify the neighborhood, including knocking down Mama's drag club. Then a Joker-esque anarchist comes into Harley's life as a bad influence. Mariko Tamaki wrote Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, with art by Steve Pugh, and it's probably the most grounded take on the character yet. Also available from DC Ink's Young Adult graphic novel line are Batman: Nightwalker, Teen Titans: Raven, and Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

G. Willow Wilson and Cary Nord: Wonder Woman: The Just War (DC)

RRP: $24.99

Did you see the recent first Wonder Woman 1984 trailer? It was quite a thing to behold and hear, expertly cut to New Order's "Blue Monday." I must have watched it at least 10 times already. The Amazon Princess is still going strong in comic books as well, ever since her New 52 relaunch that played up the Greek mythology of her background and supporting characters. Wonder Woman: The Just War, written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Cary Nord (and various other guest artists), collects issues 58-65 of the current Wonder Woman series. It sees the return of Ares, the God of War (the main villain in the first Wonder Woman movie) and finds Wonder Woman intervening in a civil war in the country of Durovnia, at first to rescue her beloved Steve Trevor. It tackles interesting topics of whether or not a war can ever be considered "just," but also has moments of humor as various mythical characters are cast out of their magical home and try to adjust to regular American society. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

 

Amy Wolfram and Yancey Lambat: DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High (DC Zoom)

RRP: $9.99 

When the DC Super Hero Girls launched in 2015 with a toy line, graphic novels, an animated web series, and various straight-to-DVD animated movies, it was a breath of fresh air. Finally young girls and teen girls had their own action figure line, as well as dolls that weren't overly sexualized. They were strong female characters that didn't need their male counterparts to save the day and supported each other. They were great role models. But the web series and movies did sometimes feel a bit too much in the service of selling toys.

This year DC Super Hero Girls was relaunched with a new regular animated series on Cartoon Network and some corresponding new dolls. Lauren Faust, the creator of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, was behind the reboot and gave the characters a new energy and grounded the setting a bit more. Instead of the characters all attending Superhero High, a high school just for superheroes, they now go to Metropolis High, interacting with non-powered students and keeping their secret identities hidden. In the original version, Supergirl was a real goody two shoes, in the reboot she's a rebel who rides a skateboard and is into punk rock. DC Comics also have a new graphic novel tied to the reboot, DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High. Amy Wolfram wrote the graphic novel and Yancey Lambat did the art. It starts with our heroines (Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Bumblebee, Zatanna, and the Jessica Cruz version of Green Lantern) being forced to join after school clubs after being late for school one too many times. Meanwhile, Lena Luthor is out to prove that she's a better super villain than her older brother Lex. Lambat's artwork accurately matches the Cartoon Network show (which is now on Netflix too), but has its own verve. This would clearly appeal elementary and middle school kids who are fans of the series and the toys. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

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