Near Mint Memories: Holiday Hints

Holiday shopping for friends and family is never a simple task. If you factor in that they are comics fans, it gets even tougher. Do they have this trade paperback or DVD already? Will they like the book I’m buying for them? As we head into the final weekend before Christmas, Chris Delloiacono and I have put together some gift ideas for your last minute holiday shopping.

DC Trade Paperbacks

Chris’ Pick: Transmetropolitan – Back on the Street

Spider Jerusalem brings “smash-mouth journalism” to the level of high art. That’s exactly what the series creators Warren Ellis and Darrick Robertson produced on a monthly basis for five years. This is the first trade in the series, and almost the entire run is now collected. This is uncensored political and social commentary at its roughest. The characters and situations only get better as the series progresses.

This is one of the best Vertigo series ever produced. It’s violent, and altogether filthy; so don’t come home with this as a Christmas gift for mom!

John’s Pick: The Golden Age

This “alternate reality” post WWII tale explores post-war McCarthyism paranoia. In that exploration, readers get to peek behind the curtain and understand “who” the heroes behind the colourful masks and costumes. Writer James Robinson crafts a very human tale that adds a depth to DC’s super-heroes of the 1940s that was lacking at the time.

Paul Smith’s pencils really convey the emotions of our heroes coping in a post war world that may not be quite so golden as they remember.

While this book is clearly super-hero escapist fantasy, it is an interesting exploration of America coming to grips with its lost innoncence through the eyes of its heroic icons.

Marvel Trade Paperbacks

Chris’ Pick: The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (the team behind Preacher) link up to reinvigorate the Punisher. I’m not a huge fan of the Punisher as a character. In fact, in my opinion he’s really nothing more than a big joke. Yet, I think Garth Ennis gets it too. A guy running around gunning thousands down doesn’t work anymore when it’s played 100% straight. There’s a lot of ancillary stuff to keep you amused as the bloodbath unfolds.

Like all of Ennis’ work, Punisher, in my opinion, is more anti-violence than anything else. It goes about a strangely violent path to prove the point, but to me that’s the idea.

John’s Pick: The Amazing Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt

This is one my all-time favorite Marvel productions. Writer J.M. DeMatteis brings a whole heap of realism to the Spider-Man mythos with this epic. Kraven The Hunter had been a joke of a Spider-Man rogue for years. I mean, how can one take a loin-cloth garbed villain seriously? As is traditional comics fare, the villain loses after confronting the hero. However, this book looks at what happens to the villain after being humiliated time after time. In Kraven’s case, he slowly lost his mind and is determined to go on one last hunt…

The pencils of Mike Zeck are brilliant. He remains one of my all-time favorites and really delivers some powerful and emotional moments in this story. You will be moved.

This an epic Spider-Man tale, with our hero in his infamous black costume days, that really adds a depth to both Peter Parker, the man behind the costume, and a seemingly disposable villain. The ending of this tale had the industry and beyond up in arms. See what all the hype was about!

Wildcard Trade Paperback

Chris’ Pick: CrossGen – Route 666: Highway of Horror

Route 666 is Tony Bedard’s (writer of Negation) attempt to bring the horror genre back to mainstream comics. This horrific road trip through a world patterned after 1950s America, has never failed to please me. The initial trade introduces the reader to Cassie Starkweather, her amazing powers, and the villainous forces she must battle.

Great characters and a very interesting underlying concept are at the heart of this series. This is one CrossGen’s best, and it’s one of the only ones to survive, thus far!

John’s Pick: Astro City: Life in the Big City

Writer Kurt Busiek crafts a tale about the unreal world of super-heroes. Not just the colourful mid-air battles, but how these same heroes interact in a world that is different. Busiek embraces the absurdity of super-heroes and takes it to the nth degree. This is not a grim desconstruction to make heroes “real”, but is a look at how these characters live and feel in their supernatural surroundings.

Artist Brent Anderson brings an element of realism to his pencils which compliments Busiek’s squarely-in-the super-hero genre tale. Anderson’s facial expressions really convey emotions and his backgrounds have many hidden gems for the initiated – the equivalent of DVD “easter eggs”.

This book should be on everyone’s “must have” list.

Comics-Related Book

Chris’ Pick: The Standard Catalog of Comic Books – From the Editors of Comic Buyers Guide

An exhaustively researched book that is really invaluable to any comic collector. Listed within are more than 145,000 comics. Sales figures, pictures, writers, artists, CGC information, and a vast array of data about the comics is included. This is the single best comic research source I have seen.

John’s Pick: Curt Swan: A Life In Comics

Readers get to explore the history of DC comics through one of its greatest artists: Curt Swan. This gentleman penciller’s life is explored in this illustrated biography which also contains quotes from the best and the brightest in the comics industry. Its the best behind-the-scenes work I’ve read about about a comics creator. This is a fitting tribute to the man who drew and visually defined Superman for decades.

Comics-Related DVD

Chris’ Pick: Mystery Men

Much like Men in Black, Mystery Men is based on a comic book that not too many people read. Unlike Men in Black, Mystery Men is a film that most people did not watch. In a similar vein to the Tick, this is an utterly hilarious look at the superhero genre, and some not-so-super heroes. Ben Stiller, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, and Geoffrey Rush are only a few of the amazing talents that made Mystery Men one of the best comic movies ever!

John’s Pick: Comic Book Villains

This is a dark comedy that looks at the world of comic book fandom. It centers around rival comic book store owners in their over-top and law-breaking pursuit of an ultra rare collection of comic books worth millions. While this does perpetuate some of the stereotypes about comic book aficionados, it is a really funny romp with many recognizable, but no-name B-grade actors delivering memorable over-the-top performances.

Seasons Greetings

Chris Delloiacono and I would like to wish you and yours all the best over the holidays. Take care and thanks for tuning into another edition of NMM.