This note came in from Juli Harumi shortly after Thanksgiving. Sage words for all of us to consider this holiday season:
"Hello hello hello! This is the best time of the year! It is the time to get free things that others had to pay for with their own pocket money! At Christmastime, it is better to give to Juli than receive. We all know that. But sometimes people give things like clothes. Please note that no one likes to get clothes, even little 1 year old babies. People like things like Legos® and toy cars. Also, the writer, Juli Harumi, usually lives in the future, and this Christmas she just had gotten coal. The future is a sad place. With this said, proceed below."
When I was a kid, the best gift of all was the one thing no one would give you because it was thought to represent a lack of genuine feeling: money. Sure, money doesn't give the visceral pleasure of ripping apart that wrapping paper (unless you get cute and give it in a wrapped box instead of via the more traditional card) but, let's face it, predicting other people's tastes or making presumptions about their interests is a risky business. Your sister may frown on the cash donations you put in your niece or nephew's stocking, but the kids'll think they died and went to Toys'R'Us® (or, for our purposes, their local comics shop).
But if you still think money's inappropriate, here's this year's holiday wish list:
For any true comics fan who hasn't read it yet, the graphic novel to give is still Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's FROM HELL (Eddie Campbell Comics/Top Shelf, $35). For other Moore work, I'd skip the traditional recommendations like WATCHMEN and the ABC books and head for Alan's early, brilliant V FOR VENDETTA, beautifully drawn by David Lloyd (Warner Books, $19.95), or THE COMPLETE BALLAD OF HALO JONES (Titan Books, $19.95), collecting one of the 2001 AD series, drawn by the vastly underestimated Ian Gibson, that made Alan a star. Alan and Eddie also produced THE BIRTH CAUL (Eddie Campbell Books, $5.95) which makes a nice companion piece for FROM HELL. For more Eddie material, give any of his several ALEC books (Eddie Campbell Books/Top Shelf Productions, $13.95-$14.95). Give them to X-MEN fans and tell them Eddie's drawing an X-MEN story next year. You might want to have a camera handy.
For anyone yearning for a career in comics, especially give Eddie Campbell's ALEC: HOW TO BE AN ARTIST (Top Shelf, $13.95). But for anyone who truly wants to glean the intricacies of the comics process, nothing this year beats Bryan Talbot's HEART OF EMPIRE CD-Rom (Dark Horse, $39.99). As mentioned a couple weeks back, writer-artist Bryan takes you step by step though the creation of his mini-series (it comes in penciled, inked and finished forms), reprints its groundbreaking predecessor THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT, provided a skeleton key to the series' arcane references, and is generally just a treat for anyone interested in how comics are made.
Other good books about the comics life and the comics process are Warren Ellis' COME IN ALONE ($16.95) and Larry Young's THE MAKING OF ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE ($10.95), both from AIT/PlanetLar Books. Script books like Larry's are now coming into vogue, and one that may have escaped you is Warren Ellis's STRANGE KISS SCRIPT BOOK (Avatar Press, $4.95), but don't give it to anyone squeamish. Another great bet is Mark Salisbury's WRITERS ON COMICS SCRIPTWRITING (Titan Books, ~$19.95), featuring interviews with Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and others... if you can find it.
For would-be comics artists, besides the HEART OF EMPIRE CD-Rom (ibid), there's now a wealth of material available, especially Hikaru Hayashi's HOW TO DRAW MANGA series (Books Nippan, $19.95@) and SUPERHEROES: JOE KUBERT'S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COMICS (Watson-Guptill, $19.95).
When I asked on my PERMANENT DAMAGE forum and on THE WARREN ELLIS FORUM, the other AIT-PlanetLar books that came up most often were Brian Wood's CHANNEL ZERO and its nonquel COUSCOUS EXPRESS. Both are good reading. CHANNEL ZERO t-shirts and ASTRONAUT IN TROUBLE baseball caps also seem to be widely desired gifts this year.
Of course, there are a million graphic novels and trade paperbacks for adults to choose from now. For superhero fans, my personal choice would be the trade paperbacks of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's inventive and stylish PLANETARY (DC Comics, $14.95@), which plays both faithful and loose with pulp pop culture, is wild pop comics at their finest, eschews the cliches, and, strangely (particularly for Warren) is so squeaky clean it's appropriate for damn near anyone with a brain. A lot of people want the new LONE WOLF AND CUB collections by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (Dark Horse, 14 volumes, $9.95@) and Joe Sacco's tale of the war in Bosnia, SAFE AREA GORAZDE (Fantagraphics Books, $19.95), but since it won't be out until January, a better bet is Sacco's brilliant PALESTINE (Fantagraphics Books, $24.95).
But what about comics for kids? Sadly, the American kids comics scene is rated P for pathetic. There's the BUGS BUNNY AND FRIENDS: A COMIC CELEBRATION trade paperback (DC Comics, $14.95, and more suited to little kids) but precious little else. Unless you count the bright spots on the kids' comics horizon: Viz Communications and Jill Thompson's comedy-horror triumph SCARY GODMOTHER (Sirius Entertainment, $9.95-$19.95@). Viz, of course, imports manga, and while much of its output's adult-oriented, kids love their collections featuring POKEMON, DRAGONBALL and DRAGONBALL Z – there's a reason why this stuff has a popularity that puts X-MEN to shame, and it's not just because they have their own TV shows – RANMA ½, and LUM. For some reason the Japanese successfully combine action and humor with a light touch most American comics don't even attempt. Want to get kids interested in comics? The Viz collections or SCARY GODMOTHER are the way to go.
There's a motherlode for the amateur comics historian out there too. JACK COLE AND PLASTIC MAN: FORMS STRETCHED TO THEIR LIMIT, Art Spiegleman and Chip Kidd's loving tribute to master Golden Age artist Jack Cole (Chronicle Books, $19.95). There's Nicky Wright and Joe Kubert's THE CLASSIC ERA OF AMERICAN COMICS (McGraw-Hill, $39.95). Or Trina Robbins' FROM GIRLS TO GRRLZ: A HISTORY OF WOMEN'S COMICS FROM TEENS TO ZINES (Chronicle Books, $17.95). And, of course, mountains and mountains of ARCHIVES from DC Comics (~$40@ -- I wouldn't mind the BLACK CANARY ARCHIVES myself) and ESSENTIAL collections from Marvel.
If they want something comics related but your tastes run toward prose fiction, there's always Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS (William Morrow, $26) or Michael Chabon's THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY (Picador USA, $15). But you knew that.
Gaming systems are hot this year, as competition between Nintendo's Gamecube (~$200), Microsoft's Xbox (~$300) and Sony's Playstation 2 (~$200) heats up. These suckers are all expensive, so if you're actually thinking of buying someone a gaming system, don't worry about the specs, the graphics or anything like that. If not all systems are created equal it's because of the games, not the system. Buy the system that supports the most games you think the recipient will want to play! For instance, if you want to play BATMAN VENGEANCE (UbiSoft, $49.95) you'll need a Gamecube or a Playstation 2. Best solution: buy Nintendo GameBoy Advances (~$100). The games are cheaper, just as fun, and Gameboys are portable and don't hog the TV. Players can link their units if they want to battle each other. And real men hold LAN parties when they want to play multi-player games anyway.
Finally, for the person who has everything, or for someone you don't like but have to give a gift to anyway (like your cracker in-laws): make a donation in their name to the charity of your choice. If the latter, this also provides great opportunity for amusing irony. If they're ultraliberal Democrats, any legal fund to preserve the Second Amendment will do the trick. if they're stockpiling in anticipation of attack by the New World Order's black helicopters, donate to UNICEF. Etc. As Miranda Richardson once said on BLACK ADDER, "Christmas is a time for jests and japes."
Me, I want a RioVolt S90 portable CD player with built-in MP3/WMA decoding, along with one of those connectors that lets you run the output through your car cassette player. One CD with 10 hours of WMA-compressed music would sure make those 9 hour round trip drives to Los Angeles easier. (Dunno about you, but I hate changing tapes at 75 miles per.)
Oh, and peace on earth, of course. But I never seem to get that.
And I hope no one besides Juli gets coal.
Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.
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