TOP 5: CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS
Geeks of any kind can be notoriously hard to buy for. As a comic book reader I would say we are the most picky. But its not our fault. There are so many volumes of comics and variations of trade paperbacks and hardback collections. With this minefield in mind relatives meaning well in the season of goodwill can end up buying us a book we already have. The smell of Christmas is getting stronger in the air. I myself done some online shopping today and this coming weekend I will be putting up my decorations. Hopefully by reading this blog it will help spread a little joy in the lives of my fellow geeks. Now I didn’t want to do five graphic novels so have gone for five books of various descriptions.
- The Batman Handbook – Scott Beatty
I remember I got this one Easter weekend when I was going to stay in a caravan. It certainly kept me entertain and left me feeling hey maybe its not that difficult. This book is very accessible to the vaguest of Batman fan. What makes it so is very rarely does it draw on comics or movies to give an example of a certain skill set. What makes this such a good gift idea is its level of fun. Five chapters divided into sub categories no more than 2-3 pages each. They range from ‘Basics’ to the shall I say far fetched? I mean yes when reading this you may think you can assemble a ‘Bat Belt’, but could you jump a drawbridge in your car or survive a poison kiss? Even though I said it is fun the level of detail and the approach taken by Beatty is very straight laced. So before you start reading you have to get in the tongue firmly in cheek mindset. Scott Beatty himself wrote the critically acclaimed Batgirl: Year One so he knows a thing or two about Batmans world. In the acknowledgements we discover he could also call on friend and long time Batman scribe Chuck Dixon for help. Dixon provides the foreword too. Also in the acknowledgements we see the amount of research Beatty put into what would actually be required to be Batman physically and psychophysically. Then you read about one time Bat suits and novelty Batarangs and your right back to having fun. Illustrations are provided by David Hahn and they are very BTAS influenced. So immediately that increases the fan base. I would recommend this to any Batman fan. Young, old, casual, hardcore, newcomer or veteran. You will enjoy this book.
- Marvel Comics Guide To New York City – Peter Sanderson
Peter Sanderson name alone is a mark of quality. He has written countless amounts of in depth handbooks and guidebooks for Marvel. Plus adding to the mark of quality is a Joe Jusko cover. Again it is just fun and it owes a lot of that to its simple but effective approach. It starts fittingly at City Hall, then moving onto more famous landmarks both real and fictitious and ending in locations a bit further removed like Xavier Mansion. Unlike the Batman book this one does go continuity heavy. Reading this tells you how some of NYC’s most famous locations played important roles in Marvels history. From the brilliant Dark Phoenix Saga to the ridiculousness of Frog Thor. Whilst diving into deep cut continuity what makes this book enjoyable to read is that at the same time it doesn’t break stride to differentiate between the real New York and Marvels New York. The chapters are complimented with images from classic comics and real life photos all in black and white. The corner of NYC is left untouched and there is some helpful advice at the back of the book with regards to travel in the city. The last chapter is dedicated to Marvel and New York’s most famous son, Spider-Man as this book came out at the height of the Sam Raimi films. The chapter is a stop by stop guide to all key Spidey sites both comic and film related. This is a must read for any true Marvel fan. Like I said because it blurs the line between comics and reality it is actually a very useful book to have. I myself plan to take it with me when I finally get my ass to the city that never sleeps.
- Millennium Falcon: Owner’s Workshop Manual – Windham, Reiff and Trevas
I actually got this book last Christmas. It was a mark of respect for the Falcons greatest captain after the events of Star Wars The Force Awakens. First things first I’m a sucker for technical drawings and cross sections. Time for a confession. The first few times I watched Star Wars as a child I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where the cockpit on the Falcon was! I needed this book over twenty years ago. I don’t want to do it a miss justice by saying its not as fun as the previous two choices. It just takes a different approach. The book is co-produced by Haynes so it may appeal to collectors of Haynes memorabilia. It certainly goes continuity heavy. This book came out a year before the Disney take over so it is big on expanded universe. Now I’m not big on expanded universe Star Wars so I actually learnt a lot! For instance did you know there is actually a Star Wars novel where Han discovers all about the Falcons history? Part of the intense continuity comes from the two writers and illustrator who between them have over 40 years of work in numerous Star Wars projects. Despite the technical jargon I would still recommend this for Star Wars fans of all ages. Younger fans will get a kick out of the visuals on offer. Ranging from bold drawings and colourful stills from the movies. What I’ve always loved about Star Wars is the attention to detail. Back in the day George Lucas not only gave every background character not only a name but a back story too. This attention to detail extends into the technology of a galaxy far far away. They could have simply glossed over the details but they don’ t, they dive right in. Like I mentioned there are plenty of technical drawings and all are meticulously labelled with part names that sound believable. Also on offer are character bios for Lando, Han and Chewie. Always fun is a size comparison to other ships from the Star Wars universe. All in all a great read.
- TMNT: The Ultimate Visual History – Andrew Farago
This book really has it all. Visually appealing, informative, nostalgic and fun. A must for any Turtles fan. Even if that be a fan of comics, cartoons or movies this covers it all. Yes even the singing years. I loved the original cartoon as a kid. But reading this it shows how little I remember. Same with the toys. Yeah I had the basics, but theres sooooo much more I don’t even recollect knowing about. The current IDW comic is consistently good month after month. I found it interesting to read about the early careers and influences on both Eastman and Laird. There was plenty of information on previous incarnations of the Turtles in comics. While the Image years seem very controversial, reading about it made me want to hunt it down and read it. As a casual fan what you don’t realise till you read this is how condensed those first years were for the creators. From issue one, to the first toy line, to the first movie was like three years! Also reading about that first movie is very interesting when you take into account the techniques being invented and utilised in bring the four brothers to live. The book goes in chronological order and does not miss a thing. From the early days of the comics, to the various cartoons, even some space devoted to the live action TV series and going right up to the latest cartoon, comic and first of the new films. Littered through the book are reproductions of things like Mirage Studio adverts, business cards and convention flyers. The icing on the cake for this book though is at the back. Slipped in an envelop on the inside of the back cover is a very crisp reproduction of TMNT #1. That is a very hard to find book so this added extra alone makes this the perfect gift for any Turtle fan.
- Marvel Comics: The Untold Story – Sean Howe
Again I got this for Christmas myself the year it came out. Since then it has been released in paper back so that makes it more appealing to anyone looking for cheaper gift ideas. Whilst my other choices were visual guides or took a more tongue in cheek approach this book is a 485 page epic. But with the amount of research and passion that must have gone into a book like this I couldn’t deny it the number one spot. Howe covers as much of Marvels colourful history and equally colourful characters as he can. He does so by touching on four main eras. The Lee/Kirby years, Jim Shooters reign, going into bankruptcy and the new dawn coming out the other side. As the title alludes to of course the stars of this book are the creators not the superheroes. The biggest thrill from reading this book is the anecdotes from the Bullpen. Howes writing on them is every bit as interesting as the characters they write or draw in the comics. While there were down moments it generally seemed a great place to work. Flo Steinberg gets major coverage in this book and rightfully so. She is a major part of Marvels history. What’s refreshing about this book is clearly Howe is a comics fan but as a writer he isn’t afraid to shy away from the hot topics, mainly the arguments of creator ownership. The deterioration of the Lee/Kirby friendship is heartbreaking to read. I understand it might be polarizing of me to put something only for hardcore Marvel Comics fans in the number one spot. I mean this book doesn’t even have the visuals of the others. There are a few black and white grainy photos. If you follow Sean Howe on Twitter he more than makes up for that on there. He is always posting an array of photos from Marvels past there. Yes this book is only for hardcore comic readers. In my opinion fans from the MCU may not enjoy this unless of course they want to gain the knowledge of what came before the silver screen success. I had to reread Jim Shooters Secret War after all the negative attention focused on Shooter in this book. When you think of the X-Men you think Claremont/Byrne. As it turns out that partnership was worse than I realised. Lastly what Sean Howe does with this book is put you onto comics you hadn’t considered before. The pick for me being Englehart and Brunners run on Doctor Strange. Seeing as it’s nearly Christmas fuck it I’m going to do it. Marvel Comics: The Untold Story gets 5 out of 5.
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
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Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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