Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Non-Superhero Comics

Last week I shared my top five Marvel holiday gift picks, with an emphasis on superheroes because that’s what Marvel does best. This week I want to talk about some non-Marvel comics that may interest the less superheroically inclined people on your list.

Cover of Jem and the Holograms Volume One, featuring a number of young women of various races singing and playing instruments.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS VOLUME ONE: SHOWTIME [Amazon | The Book Depository | my review], written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Sophie Campbell, is my top pick for music-lovers of all ages. Jerrica Benton and her sisters are determined to take their band, the Holograms, right to the top--with a little help from the spectacularly flamboyant AI their father developed. The comic is unabashedly woman-centric, with a strong focus on friendship and the most adorable, body-positive character designs in the entire world. Younger readers and newcomers will love it as much as the people who remember the original Jem from their own childhoods.

Cover of The Sandman: Overture, featuring a masked, black-robed figure standing in a field of red flowers with a glowing orange planet in the background.

THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE [Amazon | The Book Depository | my review], written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by J.H. Williams III, is admittedly a specialized choice. It’s mostly of interest to established SANDMAN fans, and damn, will they ever love you for giving them this prequel-slash-capstone. Set immediately before the series' opening volume, OVERTURE both answers questions readers have held close for years and expands Dream’s world in fascinating ways. It’s on my list.

If your giftee is new to the series, they might prefer volume one, PRELUDES & NOCTURNES [Amazon | The Book Depository], in which Dream (the anthropomorphic personification of his name) escapes from decades-long captivity and fights to rebuild his fallen kingdom.

Cover of Bitch Planet Volume One, featuring an off-white silhouette of a woman giving the middle finger with both of her upraised hands. The purple background features additional women in a variety of positions.

BITCH PLANET VOLUME ONE: EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE [Amazon | The Book Depository | my review], written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn by Valentine De Landro, is the ultimate comic for anyone with an interest in science fiction, feminism, and referential texts. The creators hearken back to twentieth century prison exploitation films to explore a future in which women are expected to comply, comply, comply-- and what happens to the women who refuse to do so.

It’s excellent, but there’s also a lot of brutal content that may be triggering for some readers, so give your giftee a heads up if you think this could apply to them.

Cover of Nimona, featuring a white girl with dragon wings flanked by a blonde white dude in golden armour and a dark-haired Asian dude with a cybernetic arm.

Noelle Stevenson’s NIMONA [Amazon | The Book Depository | my spoilery essay] isn’t quite all-ages, dealing as it does with themes that younger kids might not be equipped to sort through, but it's a fabulous choice for anyone in the 12+ crowd. Nimona, a young shapeshifter, is sure she has a bright future as a supervillain’s sidekick, so she sidles her way into evil scientist Ballister Blackheart’s life and proceeds to wreak havoc on the kingdom. Her antics are by turns hilarious, shocking, and heartrending, and they’ll get your giftee thinking about how we define good and evil.

NIMONA was a National Book Award finalist, too, so it's got cultural chops.

Cover of Moomin Volume One, featuring an assortment of people on a seashore. Two of them look like upright hippopotamuses.

Should your holiday list be packed with readers for whom such cultural chops are an important consideration, I want you to check out the first volume of MOOMIN: THE COMPLETE TOVE JANSSON COMIC STRIP [Amazon | The Book Depository]. Drawn & Quarterly has released the entire mid-century newspaper strip in a number of prestige hardcover volumes that look great on a shelf and provide delight after delight. Moomin and his family go on adventures both wide-ranging and domestic as they strengthen their bonds and discover how to live in the world. Serious types will love the historical relevance, with perhaps a side of nostalgia if they read Jansson’s Moomin novels when they were kids. And everyone will find the strips super cute and entertaining.

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