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Making Your Holidays Super!

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We are in the middle of the holiday season and, if you’re like me, comic books and graphic novels are a big part of your gift-giving plans. But what if the people on your list are not comic readers? Well, don’t let that stop you! The comics related present you give the uninitiated might just bring them into the fold.

Sometimes, it’s easy. If they are a Star Wars freak, you can get them any of Dark Horse’s output. Are they a fan of Joss Whedon? Give them a Buffy the Vampire Season Eight or Astonishing X-Men trade. But here are some outside-the-box ideas for those names on your list that might be a little harder.

FOR YOUR YOUNG NIECES AND NEPHEWS: I am a firm believer that if you want to bring new readers into comics, you have to grab them while they are young. That’s why I support giving the youngsters on my list any thing from the Johnny DC and Marvel Adventures line. The digests collecting the prior issues are inexpensive—they run between $4.99 and $7.99. And a 12 month subscription will set you back anywhere from $19.99 to $23.99.

I got my best friend’s son a subscription to Marvel Adventures Spider-Man when he was first starting to read. He recently started school and his mother reported to me that his reading level is above the rest of the class. She credits this to the comics I bought him. So, not only would you be promoting comics to a new generation of readers, but also a joy of reading and overall literacy in the child.

FOR THE TV ADDICT: The TV show Heroes has made a big splash with all viewers and has already made the world of comics more palatable to those unfamiliar with it. Therefore, the perfect gift for the non-comics reading Heroes fan is the Heroes, Volume One hardcover.   This volume collects all 34 “issues” of the online comic and fleshes out the first season of show a little more. It features art by comics veterans such as Alex Ross, Phil Jimenez and Michael Turner. The words “must-have” is overused in this day and age, but this book comes close. A no-brainer for any Heroes fan.

FOR THE ART-HOUSE MOVIE FAN: One the films that has the biggest buzz this awards season is Persepolis, the coming of age story of a young girl living in Iran at the time of the Islamic revolution. The film has already earned numerous awards, including the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and seems to be a lock for an Oscar nomination.

If you have a friend that is a cineaste and can’t stop talking about the movie, buy him or her The Complete Persepolis. This paperback collects both volumes of the graphic novel that inspired the movie. They can then spend hours of enjoyment comparing the movie to the original books.

FOR THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER MOVIE FAN:   One of the biggest comic related movies of next year is The Dark Knight. But everybody already knows everything they need to know about Batman. But if your friends were oohing and aahing over the Iron Man trailer, you could get them the Essential Iron Man, Volume 1 or   Iron Man: Extremis trade paperbacks. Both act as a primer to the character, although the latter might be closer to the movie in plot and tone.

And if you really want to be proactive, you can buy them a copy of the Watchmen trade. The movie is not set to come out until 2009, but they might appreciate the extra time. Arguably the most literary of any graphic novel featuring people wearing costumes, the excellent story warrants multiple readings.

FOR THE “I USED TO READ COMICS WHEN I WAS A KID” PERSON: This might take a little work. Worse than that, it might involve math. What you need to do is calculate when this person was reading comics. Once you get a date range, track down a Marvel Essentials or DC Showcase volume that falls into that time period. Chances are, if they weren’t fibbing, they might have read the stories contained within. They would appreciate the feeling of nostalgia and love the effort you put into it.

These are just suggestions and may not be right for everybody. But I fully believe that there is a comic or graphic novel out there for everyone. So, spread the love of comics this year, and have a happy holiday!

Out this week:

Exiles #100:

They say all good things must come to an end, especially, when that good thing is set to be restarted with a slightly different title and a new number one the very next month, as is the case with Exiles.

The fact that the title reached the “century” mark is a wonder in and of itself. For going on seven years, the title has been exploring the alternate realities of the Marvel Universe. I’m sure the folks over at DC looked to the success of this title when they were planning the events of Countdown.

This issue acts as a clearing house of sorts because when it returns next month as New Exiles, it will have a reshuffled cast and a brand new focus.

Chris Claremont (W), Tom Grummett (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99.   Last Issue.

Birds of Prey #113:

It’s been several months since longtime scribe Gail Simone moved off the book, leaving big shoes to fill behind. After Tony Bedard’s multiple month placeholding assignment, this title is ready for its new regular writer—Sean McKeever.

McKeever is a writer on the upswing, scoring well with both fans and critics. And he’s no stranger to writing women. He has put time in on Marvel’s Mystique, Mary Jane and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series’.   He is also a writer on DC’s Countdown series. Rumors abound that DC is curtailing the extracurricular projects that Countdown’s writers engage in. So it remains to be seen how long McKeever will be the control the Birds’ destiny.

Sean McKeever (W), Nicola Scott (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Hero by Night Ongoing #1:

It started out as proof that dreams come true. D.J. Coffman, comic fan, blogger and webcomic creator, wins Platinum’s first annual Comic Book Challenge. The prize? He got to see his idea hitting the store shelves in a four-issue miniseries. It was something millions of fans dream of one day achieving, and it came true for Coffman.

Well, the dream continues to come true as it turns out that the miniseries is popular enough to garner an ongoing series. This time, Coffman is joined by co-writer James Patrick as the world of Jack King is further explored. The miniseries was only the beginning, and his journey continues here.

D.J. Coffman and James Patrick (W), D.J. Coffman (A), Platinum Studios, $3.95. Ongoing Series.  

Robert E. Howard's Conan: Frost Giant's Daughter:

On the surface, this might seem like just a reprint of Dark Horse’s Conan #2. But, in reality, it is far more than that. It is the beginning of the celebration for Conan’s 75th Anniversary. And fitting the occasion, they reunite the world’s most famous barbarian with a legendary artist from his past.

The cover for this reprint is provided by legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Entitled “The Frost Giants”, it originally appeared as the cover for the 1969 edition of Conan of Cimmeria. More reprints of classic Conan stories will be paired with classic Frazetta artwork in the future. It is Dark Horse’s small way of honoring the character’s history by giving us special glimpses at his past.

Kurt Busiek (W), Cary Nord (A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. One-Shot.

Incredible Hulk #112:

This issue is the last issue of the Incredible Hulk. It is also the first issue of the Incredible Herc. Confused?   Don’t be.

After the events of World War Hulk, everyone’s favorite green-skinned monster is presumably gone forever. Since it is hard to have a Hulk book without there being a Hulk (unless you create a red Hulk for the occasion, more on that next month), the focus of the book shifts to the Jade Giants fellow Avenger and frequent sparring partner, Hercules.

Hercules, and the teen genius Amadeus Cho, are in big trouble for the aid they gave Old Greenskin during his invasion. Their only choice? To start running. But S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t intend to let them off the hook. The result? A swath of destruction across the U.S.A. and a hard-travelling adventure for our heroes. 

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (W), Khoi Pham (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99, Ongoing Series.

The Cryptics III:

This is going to sound like a broken record, but Steve Niles is a master of modern horror. Not just any horror, but cringe-worthy, nausea-inducing, sick and twisted horror. You like gore? He does it well. Blood and guts? Ditto. Are you a fan of dark and creepy suspense? He’s an expert.

But he also does the lighter side of horror as well, as witnessed in his superb Cryptics series. Child versions of monster film standbys—a vampire, a werewolf, a sea creature, a Mr. Hyde—engage in a series of Our Gang-style adventures. He replaces the gore with giggles, the blood and guts with slapstick humor, and the suspense with cuteness. Family friendly, too, if your family name is Addams or Munster.

Steve Niles (W), Benjamin Roman (A), Image Comics, $2.50. One-Shot.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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