Holiday Gift Guide: Deluxe Edition Comics and Art Books
If you're like me, you wait until the last minute to do things (like this post) and you're a fetishist for expensive hardcover books that are available only in absurdly limited numbers and packaged in exquisite slipcases and loaded with supplemental material and artwork. With the gift-giving season rapidly winding down, people like us are looking for those last-minute gifts that are so expensive and so impressively large that they could never actually seem like you totally forgot to get your shopping (or blogging) done in a timely and responsible manner. The best sort of gift along those lines is of course the deluxe edition comic or art book, and I've put together a list of some great ones that you can still find at your local comics stores and online booksellers before the clock runs out on the season.
DC Comics / Vertigo / WildStorm Absolute Editions
Price: Usually $99 per book
A perennial holiday favorite: comic book perennials! Few comic book packages match the luxury of DC's famous Absolute Editions, which reprint beloved stories in a pristine, oversized format with thick, heavy paper and a handsome slipcase. The holidays is the best time to buy these books for your friends and loved ones or put them on your own wish lists, as most booksellers will offer the high-priced volumes (usually $99 per book) at a seasonal discount. The selection is far beyond what's reflected in the images above, of course.
Marvel Comics Omnibuses
There's no better way to read the most essential Marvel comics titles than in the publisher's high quality omnibus editions, reprinting a vast variety of stories from the Silver Age to the present. The majority of Ed Brubaker's lauded and bestselling Captain America run is available in this oversized hardcover format, as is Walt Simonson's legendary work on Thor. But in addition to those high profile books, Marvel also reprints fan-favorite titles like The Immortal Iron Fist and X-Statix in this extremely cool way. Marvel's vast collection of omnibus volumes are the best way to introduce someone to a series or character they've never read before, so check out what's available.
IDW Publishing's Artist Editions
When it comes to prestige, nothing beats the astonishing Artist's Edition series from IDW Publishing. Each contains a complete story, and are made from high resolution scans of the artist's original artwork and printed at the same size as drawn. Available now are books by Wally Wood, Walt Simonson and Dave Stevens.
Hellboy Library Editions by Mike Mignola and others
Take it from me, you haven't read Hellboy until you've read it in the Library edition format. The cloth hardcover invokes the feeling some kind of ancient tome, and the crisp, oversized pages bring Mignola and his collaborators' always brilliant work to life in a way single issues and trade paperbacks just can't. Recommended for reading by candlelight in a study full of books and trophies from your adventures.
The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga by Helen McCarthy
Already essential for its tremendously comprehensive cataloguing of the prolific work of manga and anime innovator Osamu Tezuka, this book also provides a compelling biography of the man himself. McCarthy tracks the life of Tezuka from beginning to end, detailing how his childhood experiences informed the groundbreaking work he would produce throughout his life. The book is packaged with a 45-minute DVD documentary with additional biographical information, because you will want even more by the time you're finished reading this most excellent guide to a great master.
Scott Pilgrim Box Set by Bryan Lee O'Malley
While it seems unlikely that ComicsAlliance readers haven't collected all six volumes of Bryan Lee O'Malley's indie comics opus, we wouldn't want you to forget what a handsome gift Oni Press' boxset makes for any friends and loved ones you'd like to introduce to comics. It's hard to imagine a friendlier introduction to the medium than Scott Pilgrim.
Steve Rude: Artist in Motion
Price: $39.95 / $59.95 (Limited Edition)
Available from: Steve Rude Store
A must-have for fans of ComicsAlliance's Best Art Ever (This Week) feature, Artist in Motion features 200 pages of impossibly gorgeous artwork by the co-creator of Nexus. The book demonstrates Rude's unmatched abilities and exquisite techniques in various media (including animation) and offers more than enough pretty pictures to justify the purchase, but Artist In Motion also comes with extremely personal insights into Rude's life, shedding light on why the artist has found himself at the fringes of the comic book industry.
Parker: The Martini Edition by Darwyn Cooke
This luxurious 9" x 13", 334-page slipcased hardcover exceeds the size of even DC's mighty Absolute editions, but mimics the gorgeous production techniques of the 1960s, where the story/contents/book is set. Besides Parker: The Outfit and Parker: The Hunter -- two of my all-time favorite graphic novels, I should add -- the Martini Edition comes with a massive assortment of supplementary artwork by Darwyn Cooke and a brand new eight-page story about Richard Stark's legendary score-settler.
MAD's Greatest Artists: The Completely MAD Don Martin
This beautiful slipcased set of books compiles every single piece of MAD work by the hilarious Don Martin created between 1957 and 1987. It's over 1,000 pages and was originally listed as $150, but savvy e-buyers can find it online for far less this holiday season.
The MAD Fold-In Collection: 1964-2010
Al Jaffee's complete collection of fold-ins is still in print in the form of this lovely four-volume set, which you can find on sale from many booksellers. The beauty of this is of course the fact that you don't have to actually fold your expensive book to see Jaffee's amusing punchlines. Rather, each fold-in is reproduced at its original size on one page, while the opposite page contains the image as it would appear folded.
Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Collector's Box Set (Vol. 1-2)
You've read our effusive praise for the incredible cartooning and hilariously grim Mickey Mouse stories of Floyd Gottfredson, and this excellent two-volume set leaves you with few excuses for not reading these classic comics for yourself. Created in 1930, "Race to Death Valley" was hailed by our own Chris Sims as "one of the best comics of all time." It's hard to go wrong with this as a gift for your comics fan friends (or yourself), as it's a superlative example of the form from one of its greatest masters.
The Manara Library Volume 1 by Milo Manara and Hugo Pratt
As far as I'm concerned, Tumblr proved its worth by providing fans of Italian master Milo Manara with an outlet to share images from his many beautiful works, precisely none of which I have read. This new volume from Dark Horse, collecting some of Manara's most famous work like Indian Summer, is definitely on my wish list and would make a fantastic gift for anyone who's a fan of excellent comic book artwork from abroad. You'll probably be reading more about Manara's work on ComicsAlliance in the near future, and for more on this volume, check out this very special episode of Let's Be Friends Again starring CA's David Brothers and David Uzumeri.
The Love and Rockets Collection by Los Bros. Hernandez
Price: ~$15.00 per book
This indie comics mainstay has been going for nearly 30 years, making Love and Rockets as intimidating to some new readers as even the densest superhero mythologies. Luckily, Fantagraphics has made the Los Bros Hernandez saga about a massive cast of startlingly lifelike characters digestible in the form of affordable reprint volumes published in chronological order. I can tell you from personal experience that even one of these books makes a fantastic present, but to give the gift of the complete Love and Rockets is to provide your friend or loved one with a reading experience richer than virtually any other. For help with the reading order, check out Fantagraphics' convenient guide.
Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes
Few match Hughes' talents for synthesizing the sultry with the strong when it comes to depictions of comics' most fantastical heroines (or anti-heroines), and that ability is explored quite entertainingly in this collection of his DC Comics work. Hughes provides insightful and amusing commentary for nearly every image in the 200-page hardcover, which features not just his famously buxom interpretations of some of comics' best known female characters but also work from early in his career, dating back to the 1980s.
Criminal: The Deluxe Edition by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
One of CA's picks for best comics of the year, Criminal is best read in this oversized, deluxe format that collects the series' first three arcs: "Coward," "Lawless" and "The Dead and the Dying." Three additional volumes have been released in paperback and a second deluxe hardcover is hotly anticipated. However, writer Ed Brubaker tells us that such a release will not be forthcoming until existing stock has dried up. As such, we implore you to buy as many copies of Criminal: The Deluxe Edition as you can and give them to anybody you know with good taste. Even if your friends or loved ones have already read the compiled material in single issues or paperbacks, Criminal takes on new significance in this beautiful format. You will not regret the purchase.
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
One of the best and most popular newspaper comic strips of all time, Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes is honored in this uncommonly elegant set from Andrews McMeel. Three hardcover books coming in at nearly 1500 pages -- comprising every Calvin and Hobbes strip that was ever syndicated -- makes for a holiday gift that won't be soon forgotten, if only because it will take until next year to finish reading it.
The Starman Omnibus Volumes 1 -6 by James Robinson, Tony Harris, Peter Snejbjerg, Mike Mignola and others
Price: $49.99 per book
Arguably the best ongoing superhero series ever published by DC Comics and unquestionably the most line-defining of the pre-52 era, Starman is available in six high quality hardcover volumes, each with new wraparound cover illustrations by co-creator Tony Harris. These volumes contain every Starman story written by James Robinson including the 1990s The Shade miniseries, the various Starman annuals, the crossover with Mike Mignola's Hellboy and even the Blackest Night tie-in, all printed in chronological order. Telling the story of a prodigal son and reluctant hero, this collection is essential not just for fans of the DC Universe and its rich history of characters both famous and arcane, but of decades-spanning adventure, romance and drama.
Dave Stevens: Complete Sketches and Studies
Available from: The IDW Store
As part of its uniformly excellent series of Dave Stevens material (including the Rocketeer Artist's Edition listed above), IDW Publishing has compiled the legendary Dave Stevens' limited edition sketchbooks into a single hardcover volume. The book contains overwhelming evidence as to Stevens' status as one of the greatest "good girl" artists of all time, including an entire section dedicated to his muse: Bettie Page. Also found in IDW's hardcover are sketches and studies of familiar characters from the Batman family as well as genre and fantasy illustrations of all kinds. This is a great gift for fans of Best Art Ever (This Week), pin-up art, studied draftsmanship and classic illustration technique.
Top Shelf Graphic Novels
Price: $29.95 - $39.95
Just in time for the gift-giving season, Top Shelf has in print deluxe editions of some of its most famous publications. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's classic From Hell is available in hardcover for a limited time. The winner of Eisner, Harvey and Ignatz awards, Craig Thompson's Blankets has recently been reissued in a deluxe hardcover format that makes a great gift. While the hardcover edition of Jeff Lemire's excellent Essex County saga is out of print, Top Shelf offers a handsome softcover edition.
Complete Narbonic Perfect Collection by Shaenon K. Garrity
Available from: Couscous Collective
Shaenon Garrity recently compiled the entire run of her popular mad science webcomic Narbonic in a cool two-volume collection.
OBJECT 5: Works by Killian Eng
Available from: Floating World
This collection of artwork by Killian Eng makes a great gift for anyone who's a fan of old school illustration. Eng's work invokes masters like Moebius in depictions of fantastic worlds and exotic, unreal environments. OBJECT 5 is limited to just 1,000 copies.
The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Todd Hignite
Like Abrams ComicAts' great Tezuka book, The Art of Jaime Hernandez offers compelling insights into the life and work of the Love and Rockets cartoonist. Even those who haven't dived into the vast L&R saga will enjoy this exquisite book.
Vertigo Deluxe Editions
Price: ~$30-$50 per book
The many creator-owned series from Vertigo offer a special gift-giving possibility: a complete, finite series from beginning to end. Lauded titles such as 100 Bullets, Preacher, Y: The Last Man and Fables (which is ongoing) are available in this slightly oversized and high quality format, which reprints two or three trade paperbacks' worth of material in each volume. Alan Moore's celebrated run on Saga of the Swamp Thing is also reprinted in this helpful and prestigious fashion.
The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross
One of comics' most popular artists, Alex Ross' work with the DC Comics and Marvel icons has become so ubiquitous that may have lost some of its impact. The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross is a good attitude for that, as the hardcover book presents an eoeuvre of pulp adventurers and forgotten relics of the Golden Age of comics that will be entirely new to anyone whose Ross appreciation is limited to his DC and Marvel work. Ross is an artist who has definitely improved with age, and Dynamite Entertainment has put together a truly excellent collection of his most recent work (which does include the Avengers/Invaders series produced for Marvel).
BONE: 20th Anniversary Full Color One Volume Edition by Jeff Smith
One of the most deluxe editions of all, this collection of Jeff Smith's legendary indie comics series is the most perfect gift I can imagine. Fully colored and presented in an oversized format, there can be no better way to get lost in the rich fantasy world of Smith's creation, which has won all sorts of awards for cartooning and in multiple countries.
AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo
Price: ~$25-$30 per book
With Warner Bros'. ominous AKIRA adaptation coming ever closer to reality, now is the perfect time to invest in Dark Horse's essential collection of phonebook-sized reprints of this most beloved manga series. Reading AKIRA will make you a better person and also give you all the necessary fuel for the nerd rage that is sure to come in the very near future.
Chew Omnivore Editions by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Price: $34.99 per book
These are a couple of items that I would love to receive as gifts. I've yet to taste this much acclaimed Image Comics series about a detective who gets psychic message from the things (or people) he eats. Everyone I know who's read it loves Chew, and what better way to read it than in the Omnivore editions, oversized, collecting two complete storylines and stuffed with bonus material? Image's hit The Walking Dead is also available in a similar format.
James Jean Art Books
As something of a collector of art books, I can tell you that few illustrators put out books as gorgeous as former Fables cover artist James Jean. And I don't just mean gorgeous with respect to his artwork (although gorgeous it unquestionably is), but the books themselves are incredibly high quality for what they cost (typically around $50). Jean's collection of Fables covers is of course a great gift, full of unobscured work and lots of process material that will only enhance your appreciation for this prolific illustrator. But he's got loads more besides, and you can check out the selection in his store. I personally recommend Rebus and Process Recess Vol. 2.
The Metabarons Ultimate Collection by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez
Oversized, slipcased and coming in at 544 pages, The Metabarons Ultimate Collection is an impressive volume to say the least. Limited to just 999 copies, this edition reprints in English all the essential material from Alexandro Jordowsky and Juan Gimenez's hit spinoff of The Incal (the hardcover collection of which would also make a nice gift, by the way, if you can find a copy for less than several hundred dollars).
The Complete Peanuts Collections by Charles M. Schultz
Price: $28.95 per book, $49.99 per slipcase set
Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang are often associated with the holiday season (also with Halloween, and that counts), so there's no better time to give to yourself or your loved ones one or all of Fantagraphics' hardcover collections of Charles Schultz's beloved cartoon strip. Reprinted in chronological order with the highest production values, any one of these books would make an auspicious addition to any bookshelf.