iFanboy’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Fan Who Has Everything

With a comics news cycle that approaches the fervor of 24-hour news networks, great comic shops and online mega-retailers, and social networks keeping us constantly connected with creators, it’s easy for fans to feel like they know every book that comes out. Maybe you’ve got a plugged-in, blissed-out fan on your list that buys every book their heart desires. They didn’t even ask for any comics this holiday season – certainly, they already have everything.

Fear not. The net cast by the internet is wide, but there are still holes that titles slip through.

Here’s a handful of titles that may have managed to fly under, over, or stealthily through your favorite super-fan’s radar this year.

For the fan who always orders the sampler:

Houghton Mifflin’s Best American series, an annually published series of books across a number of genres, is always a great window into new work from established and new artists. Best American Comics 2011 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.00), edited by Fun Home author Alison Bechdel, culls recent comics from a number of sources – not just OGNs, but newspapers, magazines and webcomics as well. It makes for a collection that feels very present, and it sticks to the series’ tradition of mixing the well-known (Jeff Smith, Chris Ware) and relatively unknown (Joey Alison Sayers, Jillian Tamaki, Kevin Mutch). There’s not any superhero stuff here, and as with all anthologies there are some weaker pieces, but for the right fan this is a great window into a world of comics many never explore.


For the gamer repeatedly burned by bad comic tie-ins:

Comic fans – at least those looking for good writing and good art – tend to give licensed books the stinkeye. Hell, we’ve been trained to by years of shameless cash grabs. Valve Presents (Dark Horse, $24.99) is a welcome exception to the “tie-in = bad” rule of thumb. Made up of three distinct sections, Valve Presents has stories based on the popular games Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. Even as someone not intimately familiar with the games, the stories of a group fighting through a zombie apocalypse, warring factions in an ongoing conflict, and a lab rat at Aperture Science gave enough context for a great experience. The TF2 story, with vignettes around “Saxton Hale” (a man who practically out-Swansons Ron Swanson), was my favorite, if only because it does funny comics really well. The treat of the bookending stories is art by Michael Avon Oeming, who absolutely kills. Powers fans will instantly recognize his style in The Sacrifice, and Lab Rat has a looser, sketchier feel that crackles with energy.


For new fans of Wolverine and the X-Men and Batman & Robin:

One of the great joys in comics is finding older work from creators you’ve just recently discovered. The Other Side (Vertigo, $12.99), first published in issues in 2006, is the parallel stories of an American and a North Vietnamese soldier during the Vietnam war. It’s also an early work from Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart, a writer and artist that many people have discovered in recent years with work on higher-profile superhero books for Marvel and DC. For fans of Aaron’s grim writing and Stewart’s confident and slightly cartoony style (an interesting juxtaposition, for sure) who only jumped onto their work recently, this is a gem that they may have missed.


For the fan who always wondered if Fredric Wertham was on to something:

Holy Sh*t: The World’s Weirdest Comic Books (St. Martin’s Press, $12.95) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a collection of profiles of strange comics through the years. Like, really weird. Fatman the Human Flying Saucer weird. Hansi: The Girl Who Loved the Swastika and The Gospel Blimp weird. Hell, most of the collection makes Popeye and Personal Service Careers (also included) seem like a good idea. Each profiled book gets a description from Gravett and Stanbury, along with pictures of the cover and a panel or two. It’s a wacky book, great for trivia fans and those that think today’s indie comics are a little odd – they have no idea how strange some of the antecedents were. An unexpected bonus: some big creators like Siegel and Ditko make appearances, proving that even the best of us make the occasional bad decision (Jon Juan and Mr. A, respectively).


For Uncle Brother Friend Josh Christie, iFanboy Staff Writer:

Despite a Star Wars fandom that rivals the cast of Fanboys, I always avoided the Star Wars comics. Star Wars Art: Comics (Dark Horse, $40.00) proves what a misguided move that was. Pulling from over thirty years of work, the book collects some of the best pages and covers from Marvel and Dark Horse’s Star Wars books, along with a smattering of private commissions and pieces from personal collections. There’s no other word for the oversized hardcover collection than gorgeous. The commissions are particularly stunning, bringing Paul Pope, JH Williams III, Frank Quitely and Amanda Conner into the Star Wars universe. Original, uncolored pages from the Marvel days are a nice addition, as well. The work was all selected by George Lucas, and the book leads me to put more faith in the man’s taste than I’ve had since before the special editions. The book ends with a treat for process nerds – a transcript of a 1976 conversation between Lucas, Marvel editor Roy Thomas, and Howard Chaykin, discussing theoretical Star Wars comics before the first film even came out.


For Dad, who grew up reading MAD magazine:

I was never a big MAD magazine guy. More of a CRACKED man, m’self. The one feature that always grabbed me in Neuman’s rag was Spy vs Spy, and I was tickled to see the Spy vs Spy Omnibus (DC Comics, $49.99) appear this year. The book collects, in a lush reproduction, all 241 of Antonio Prohias’ Spy vs Spy comics, which ran in MAD for over twenty-five years. Reading the strips one after another shows not only Prohias’ artistic improvement over the years, but his boundless imagination. Black and White never run out of ways to destroy each other, and it’s amazing that there’s little repetition over hundreds of pages. Even if Dad has read every MAD, the inclusion of commentary from Prohias, sketches, and work from artists who picked up the Spy vs Spy mantle provide plenty of never-before-seen content.


For the fan who really digs alternative comix:

The Someday Funnies (Abrams ComicArts, $55.00) is the little book that could. Er, the freakin’ huge book that could. In the 70s, editor Michel Choquette asked creators in the US and Europe to make comics depicting the mindset of the ’60s. 169 writers and artists contributed, ranging from Jack Kirby to Federico Fellini, but the original publisher pulled the plug and the project languished for decades. Finally, we get the amazing gift of The Someday Funnies, which gives us never-before-seen work from dozens of iconic creators. Eisner, Spiegelman, Kurtzman, and even Asterix author René Goscinny make appearances, railing for or against diverse aspects of the ’60s experience. If you’re buying for a fan that swears up and down that they have everything from 70s creator x, this is a great way to spring some stuff on them that only existed as rumor until now.


For the weekend Con warrior:

It would have been incredibly easy for a book like Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (DK, $24.99) to come off as exploitative, especially in the hands of a provocateur like Morgan Spurlock. Thankfully, the book is instead a loving tribute to those that venture to the San Diego Comic-Con every summer. Mixing studio and candid shots of fans, cosplayers and celebs, Comic-Con captures the passion that every stakeholder puts into comics. Alba Tull is a gifted portrait photographer, and the shots – mixed with quotes from the subjects – glow with whimsy and positive vibes. It’s as close to a portable convention as you’ll get.

While it’s technically a companion to Spurlock’s documentary of the same name, the book absolutely stands on it’s own.


For the bibliophile who owns literally every book in print:

Buying for a fan with a Wayne-esque bank account that swears they own every book in print? Fine. Get them an ereader like the iPad, Nook, or Kindle, and drop them into the world of digital comics. In 2011, comics seemed to hit the digital distribution tipping point that books did a year or two ago, and companies like Graphicly are all too willing to provide access to the goods. (Full disclosure: Graphicly is the parent company of iFanboy.) Even for a fan that buys everything available at their shop, digital distributors offer books that are out of print, published by small regional presses, or even comics that only exist digitally. We’re reaching the point that every major and most minor publishers distribute digitally, either themselves or through a content provider, and it opens up a world of books that may one day dwarf the print market. Get the fan that has everything on board, and they’ll find out they’ve still got plenty to discover.

Also, if they have everything, switching a few books over to digital might be nice for their sagging bookshelves.


Josh Christie really would like that Star Wars book. He can recite most of The Empire Strikes Back from memory, y’know.


  1. Woah, I want that Worlds Weirdest Comic Books.

  2. I stumbled across that Holy Shit: The World’s Weirdest Comic Books a while ago and yeah, it’s as weird as you say, Josh. It’s a fun little thing to flip through.

    That Spy Vs. Spy Omnibus is so up my alley too. I have about six mass-market paperback sized reprints of some of these comics, but owning that big collection would be amazing. I was also more of a fan of Cracked than Mad growing up, so high five!

    • I got that book for christmas one year. It’s pretty interesting. Even more interesting when you see some books inside that book for sale at a convention for a lot of money.

  3. I plan on getting a few SW comics this christmas..i can’t wait..

    and.. as an unrelated aside..the radio station I’m listening to was about to go to break. As I scrolled through this story, I hit the image of “The Other Side” and, at the same instant, the radio station used the Doors tune as a bumper. It was a bit freaky.

  4. I suppose if one ‘has everything’, then they would have this… but the Walking Dead compendium 1 is on Amazon for an amazing price.

    Even if you have every single issue… WD #1 is worth $200 – $300 alone… so rather than risk getting potato chip grease all over it, the compendium is a great way to re-read.

    The individual collected books, which collects around 9 issues per book, sells for around $15 (give or take). The compendium is equal to about 5 of those books. 5 x $15 = $75. The compendium’s cover price is $60, but selling for $35 brand new on Amazon. You can’t beat that. So even for the WD nut who has it all, the compendium is a good buy!

  5. “The commissions are particularly stunning, bringing Paul Pope, JH Williams III, Frank Quitely and Amanda Conner into the Star Wars universe.”

    I don’t even like Star Wars that much, but now I’m tempted to pick that art book up.

  6. The Otherside, along with John Romita Jr is the reason I got back into comics and stayed. I still don’t have my own copy though so I should probably address that. That and visit Vietnam & Cambodia.

  7. The ‘World’s Weirdest Comic Books’ book is a really good choice. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who read it.

    Plus I am so shocked that no one has tried to make a series out of Team Fortress 2 yet. The online ads, which are basically short films at this point, are hilarious and give a lot of depth to characters that don’t really even talk in the game. Maybe make it a comic series or an animated series; I’d love to see it.

  8. Check this out! It’s PERFECT for the fan who has everything… a behind the scenes tour at Legacy Effects Studios