Yes, we're smack dab in the midst of "crazy consumerism in the name of goodwill towards humanity" season, and while you're running around trying to find that batch of Legos on sale, the Dora The Explorer backpack or the perfect package of socks to disappoint dad, don't forget about the comic book enthusiast on your list. Chances are they've got all the superhero stuff they could ever want, as those caped folk dominate the industry. Here's your chance to surprise them by picking up a collection of stories or three that are outside the mainstream of Marvel and DC tights action. If you're lucky, it'll be something new they've never checked out before and something they might start to dig upon.
1. THE ROCKETEER: COMPLETE COLLECTION
You may have heard some hullabaloo recently about the 20th anniversary release of The Rocketeer film on blu-ray, starring Billy Campbell and Jennifer Connelly, but that should go hand-in-hand with seeking out the complete collection of Dave Stevens' original stories about Cliff Secord, the hot-headed young buck who found himself a rocket pack and tried to make a living off it. More often than not, though, Cliff either found himself fighting the good fight against no-goodniks or flipping out with jealousy over his movie-star girlfriend Betty (based not-so-subtly on Bettie Page) getting into compromising situations to further her career. It's a lot of rollicking good high-adventure fun set in the 1930s, and there are some modern-day writers pulling out some one-off adventure stories for IDW with The Rocketeer Adventures, picking up where the late Stevens left off, keeping Cliff relevant. The deluxe edition of this complete collection also gives a lot of concept art and character sketches from Stevens as well.
2. THE RED WING
You'll know you're heading in the right direction when you slap this book on the checkout counter and the comic shop guy says "Ooh, Red Wing. Good choice." Writer Jonathan Hickman is currently doing a lot of big-time superhero work at Marvel, and that may be the hook to get the comic nerd you love to check out his brain-bending science fiction story that tackles the subject of time travel in interesting new ways, with the help of artist Nick Pitarra. It's hard sci-fi, the kind of stuff he's been working into Fantastic Four, forcing us to try and comprehend the existence of time as non-linear, but rather something that happens in circular stacks, vibrating at different frequencies that you can build ships to shift around through. It's the future, it's the past, it's two sides trying to fight a war across time that neither one completely understands the reasons for. It also examines the dynamics of fathers and sons, generations past and generations new. It's heady stuff, and there are also cool spaceships and robot bug monsters.
3. NIGHTMARE WORLD
If you're shopping for someone with a taste for the macabre, you can't go wrong with the complete three-volume set of Nightmare World stories, by writer Dirk Manning and a revolving series of artists toward whom Manning's stories are geared. Each volume contains widely varying short horror/thriller tale that don't rely all that much on gore to make their scary points. Each story has a different artist and generally a very different tone, so if you don't particularly care for one, there's a good chance the next one will have something you dig. Plus, you can marvel at Manning's ability to completely change- up his style. There are through-lines that connect the disparate tales into an overarching narrative, which Manning describes as "the Cthulu mythos meets Paradise Lost," but for the most part, each one stands alone, and each one will foster unique reactions, be it laughter, sadness or a quiet, unsettling form of terror.
4. THE SIMON & KIRBY LIBRARY: CRIME
Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America, passed away last week at the age of 98, and while he's best known for giving us the heart and soul of Marvel's Avengers, his longtime partnership with Jack "King" Kirby gave us a great deal of inimitable characters and tales in a wide variety of genres, and forged the Golden Age of comic books. Quite simply, without these guys, we wouldn't be having any of these conversations today. When superheroes fell out of favor after World War II, Simon and Kirby helped keep comic books alive with these great pulp crime stories, such as A Phantom Pulls The Trigger, which you can read in its entirety right here on Crave Online. Pay honor and respect to one of the last of the greats and give the comic enthusiast in your life a history lesson they'll enjoy with the gift of nasty criminals givin' people the what-for.
5. THE MILK AND CHEESE COLLECTION
And now for something completely different. Evan Dorkin's adorably horrifying and whimsically brutal duo are a pair of alcoholic dairy products who choose something they hate and commit wanton and insane acts of violence in protest against it. Sometimes it's the Renaissance Faire, sometimes it's old people, sometimes it's Merv Griffin. It's as loud as a comic book can get, with hilariously over-the-top ranting and highly entertaining wordplay mixed with savage social satire spanning the last two decades of popular culture. This book collects everything Milk and Cheese that exists to this point - and Dorkin will be starting them up again next year in Dark Horse Presents. So get up to speed!
Here's a relevant page to get you started on your crash course in coarse comedy!
Happy holidays, kids! Buy comics!