A Merry Comics Christmas!

As we discussed on our last episode, Christmas and comics aren’t an easy fit.  Your friends and family are unlikely to go anywhere near the sordid shopping ghetto we know as the local comic shop, so you can’t expect to get comics.  And unless you have a comics lover on your gift list or you’re willing to shamelessly pimp your hobby on your loved ones, there’s rarely an opportunity to give comics.  

So you can imagine my excitement when we drew names for our annual Christmas pollyanna (that’s ‘Secret Santa’ for those of you who don’t live in Pennsylvania) and I pulled my cousin Scott, the only true and devout comics reader in our family.  Last year, I had Scott’s brother Nick who I love dearly, but Nick wanted a winter coat for Christmas and let’s face it – that’s not a very fun shopping trip.

This year when I opened the envelope and saw Scott’s name, I could think only one thing: “Oh yeah, baby, he’s gettin’ comics!”

Now Scott is aware of our comics podcast and blog, but for the sake of our readers, I’m going to assume that he won’t be visiting the site in the next couple days.  But Scott, if I’m wrong and you are reading this…well…SPOILERS AHEAD! It was tough to come up with something that a) I didn’t think he’d read and b) were worthy of this rare opportunity for comic gift-giving.  But after much debate, I settled on three hardcovers which should look pretty nice on Scott’s very impressive bookshelf.  Here’s what I picked:

Joker (DC, 2008)
Written by Brian Azzarello
Pencils by Lee Bermejo

Scott is a HUGE Batman fan, so I’d be surprised if this wasn’t on his radar. But he’s also a poor college student so given its recent release, I’m hopeful that this passes the “hasn’t already read it” test.  If you listened to Episode 007, you’ve already heard me gush about Joker.  This 128-page original graphic novel absolutely blew my doors off.  Azzarello gives us a chilling vision of the Joker as seen through the eyes of henchman Johnny Frost while Bermejo hits it out of the park on art, using two different art styles to spotlight moments when Johnny sees the world through Joker-colored glasses.  This is, for my money, the single best Batman story of the last decade and a must-have for any fan of the clown prince of crime.

Ex Machina – Deluxe Edition Vol. 1 (Wildstorm, 2008)
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils by Tony Harris

My man-love for Brian K. Vaughn knows no bounds and since I think that Scott has already read Y: The Last Man, I decided to go with my other BKV favorite, Ex Machina. This is the story of Mitchell Hundred, a former superhero with the power to talk to and control machines, who has hung up his tights to become mayor of New York City.  While there’s a healthy dose of supernatural intrigue and super-heroics in this book, it’s really a story of civil politics, full of all the plot-twists, cliffhangers and rich character development that Vaughn does so well.  Tony Harris (probably most famous for his work on Starman with James Robinson) has a very distinctive style that gives this book a unique look.  The 272-page Deluxe Edition hardcover collects the first 11 issues (originally published from August 2004 – July 2005) of the series which just reached issue #40.

Pride of Bagdad (Vertigo, 2006)
written by Brian K. Vaughan
pencils by  Niko Henrichon

Assuming Scott will latch on to BKV the same way I have, I decided to push my luck and go with Pride of Bagdad, another original graphic novel, which tells the story of a pride of lions emancipated from the Baghdad zoo during the first salvo of US bombing in 2003.  The story is wrought with symbolism and satire as Vaughn serves up his own cleverly-disguised commentary on the Iraq conflict, but it works on a surface level too.  Niko Henrichson’s art turns lions Zill, Nafa, Noor and Ali into completely believable characters that you’ll quickly latch onto.  And even if anthropomorphism isn’t your thing, Pride of Baghdad delivers a story that The Lion King could only dream of.

So there you have it.  Merry Christmas, listeners.  Merry Christmas Scott and thanks for letting me give the gift of comics.

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