The Good Comics for Kids 2012 Gift Guide
It’s holiday time, and our bloggers have you covered with suggestions for everything from stocking stuffers to gifts for nieces and nephews to that One Big Thing you know the comics fan in your life would like.
I’ll start things off with some ideas for books that really feel like something special. When I was growing up, I loved getting big, fat children’s anthologies with titles like “A Treasury of Children’s Literature,” and several notable editors have resurrected that tradition. The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, came out a few years ago, but that just means it’s a good deal on Amazon right now. Craig Yoe’s Golden Collection of Krazy Kool Klassic Kids’ Komics is another, slightly zanier, book in the same vein. Both feature short stories by well known creators like Walt Kelly (Pogo), John Stanley (Little Lulu), Jack Kirby, and others, reprinted from older comics in a deluxe, oversize format, and both include introductions that put their subject into perspective. Yoe has several other books that focus on single comics but have the same deluxe format and attention to history and detail: The Carl Barks Book of Barney Bear, featuring comics by the creator who made Donald Duck a classic; Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails, which I reviewed here; and two great books for Archie fans, Archie’s Madhouse, which contains the best of Archie’s venture into surrealism and satire, and Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenagers, a history of the franchise with plenty of comics added in.
For kids who like a familiar face
Comics based on licensed properties are always fun, even for non-readers, because the familiar characters and settings have an apeal all their own. You really can’t go wrong with the Papercutz Ninjago and Disney Fairies graphic novels, and they launched a Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series. Viz has a couple of appealing series in their VizKids line, including the lively Winx Club and Mr. Men and Little Miss comics. For kids who like something a little more exotic, I recommend their Mameshiba comics, smartly written stories about little bean-dog hybrids.
For the Disney Fan
I really have enjoyed Fantagraphics’ reprintings of the classic Disney comic books by Carl Barks. His work has inspired so many comic book creators for decades, especially creators like Jeff Smith and now readers young and old can revisit the adventures of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and Louie, Hewey, and Dewey in fantastic hardcover editions. There have been three volumes published so far: Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes, Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Man, and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown.
Love to play video games and feel like you’re a part of the magic of Disney? Epic Mickey 2 (Playstation 3/Xbox 360/Wii), the sequel to the charming 2010 Wii exclusive game, is out, and now Disney fans can play as both Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit as they try to save the Wasteland from destruction.
For the Super Hero Fan
Are you a fan of all things Batman? You can’ go wrong with the Dark Knight Rises Blu-Ray. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the epic trilogy by director Christopher Nolan. The movie comes out in a deluxe edition with Batman’s cowl for collectors.
One of the best video games ever made, Arkham City: Game of the Year (Playstation 3/Xbox 360), is now available in a special Game of the Year edition. Play as Batman as he must outwit the Joker and the rest of the Dark Knight’s Rogue’s Gallery when Gotham City is under their control. With writing by Paul Dini along with fan favorite voice actor Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (The Joker), it’s a comic book come to life. The success of the game has also spun off into tie-in graphic novels published by DC Comics as well as a whole series of fantastically detailed action figures.
There are plenty of great gift ideas for the younger Batman fan as well, including the great tie-ins with LEGO Toys. This year LEGO has reintroduced Batman back to their current line of toys with their DC Super Heroes line-up of toys. My personal favorite is the Batcave, but you can find a complete list of toys here. The fun continues for gamers with the LEGO Batman 2 (Playstation 3/Xbox 360/Wii/3DS) game. The follow-up to the original 2008 action game for 10+, the game lets players play as Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more as they must defeat the combined might of the Joker and Lex Luthor. LEGO Batman Visual Dictionary, recently published by DK Publishing, is an attractive collection of all things LEGO Batman-related and comes with an exclusive LEGO minifigure of the Dark Knight found nowhere else. It’s a must have for any fan of LEGOs and Batman
For the Marvel Comics fan, you can’t go wrong with the Blu-ray of the hit The Avengers movie directed by Joss Whedon. The movie was great fun and partially filmed in my hometown of Cleveland, so there’s a lot for me to be proud of in it. What Avengers fan Christmas wouldn’t be complete with a graphic novel? There are some fantastic Avengers stories collected by Marvel Comics, including The New Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, or The Avengers Omnibus Vol. 1 which collects the original stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Gamer fans should also be sure to check out Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. The Kinect game for the Xbox 360 lets you feel like an Avenger as you play as heroes and villains including Black Widow, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Doctor Doom, Hawkeye, Hulk, Human Torch, Iceman, Iron Man, Loki, Magneto, Phoenix, Queen Veranke, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Storm, Super-Skrull, Thor, Venom, and Wolverine.
For the 1980s Are Back Fans
Nickelodeon has a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series which has appealed to fans young old. I highly recommend IDW Publishing’s reprinting of the original black and white stories from the 1980s published by the co-creators of the Turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Collection. They’re collected in a handsome hardcover collection. The first three hardcover volumes are out now and the final two volumes are due out in early 2013.
For those of you who like giant robots, you can’t go wrong with the excellent IDW Publishing line of Transformers graphic novels. My favorites feature the classic Generation One heroes of Autobots led by Optimus Prime and the villainous Decepticons led by Megatron. Plus I’m a big fan of the Dinobots. And while you’re reading about the Transformers, be sure to check out the amazing Transformers: Fall for Cybertron game for the Playstation 3/Xbox 360 that lets you play as your favorite Transformer—including Grimlock, a Transformer who can change into a robot T Rex who breathes fire.
For the Star Wars Fan
The Force is still strong as ever, and there’s never a shortage of collectibles from Hasbro, LEGO, Gentle Giant, and Sideshow Toys, to name a few, for that special someone who is a Star Wars geek. Dark Horse Comics continues to publish some amazing graphic novels. I’ve highlighted my top 20 stories/collections of them this week. You can find it here. For fans of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, Season 4 has just come out on Blu-ray and features the return of fan-favorite Darth Maul. for the ultimate Star Wars gamer, I love the exclusive Star Wars-themed Xbox 360. It comes with authentic Star Wars sounds when you turn the console on and it includes an exclusive C-3PO controller and R2-D2-designed body, plus a copy of the game Kinect Star Wars.
I haven’t actually seen this edition yet, but based on the previous 2 volumes, I’m sure the Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special! by James Sturm will be a surefire hit for the 8+ crowd.
And I’ve been getting 3-4 requests a day for Raina Telgemeier’s Drama. This is a perfect read for the middle grade reader. If they haven’t yet read them, go back and buy some of her older titles, such as Smile and the Babysitter’s Club graphic novels. These will be a surefire hit with middle school girls.
My guy students love the subscription to Sonic Universe. They can’t get enough of it. They’re familiar with the game and cartoon. It’s action packed, but perfectly okay for the younger readers. And while we’re in the Archie Universe, Mega Man is also a hit with my middle schoolers. I’m sure any of them would love a year’s subscription!
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of manga, but aside from the usual titles that don’t stay on the shelf—Yu Gi Oh, Naruto, and Bleach—other titles that make my students salivate are the Maximum Ride, Daniel X, and Witch & Wizard adaptations, all by Yen Press. These are popular with both middle school boys and girls.
For your hiding-in-a-corner-with-their-nose-in-a-book reader
Hope Larson’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is an accomplished, absorbing adaptation of a classic novel that hooks generation after generation of young readers. Everything’s here, from Meg’s refreshing bluntness to the nurturing Aunt Beast, and fans of the original and those new to the story will be equally enchanted.
For your laughter fans (and who isn’t?)
Try AAAA! A FoxTrot Kids Edition. I’ve always appreciated FoxTrot, since I was a wee one, and these new editions are just the right size for young fans to giggle through family hijinks.
For your fantastical adventure fans
Scott Chantler’s Three Thieves series continued in its latest installment, The Captive Prince, this fall, so why not pick up all three volumes in the ongoing series of this energetic and engaging fantasy adventure?
For your what-are-these-BOOKS-I-only-like-online-stuff teens
Send them on over to the new serialized webcomic Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen with art by Faith Erin Hicks. The print version of the book won’t be out untl May 2013, and it will make a fine gift then, but fans can dive in to the first 100 or so pages right now. Plus, the interactivity of the comments and connection with the creators is an added bonus.
For your older, hipster teens
We all know Scott Pilgrim is and continues to be a favorite, but now you can get color editions. Hardcover and with new full coloring by Nathan Fairbairn, volumes 1 and 2 would be a great gift for your Scott Pilgrim fans.
I was also trying to think a bit outside the box (or, well, book) with this gift guide, so I wanted to give a few heads up to comics-related gifts that aren’t comics themselves. As a kid, I adored books that invited me to pore over every page, so I’m recommending a few excellent art books for young fans.
For your superhero fans
The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers
The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy
Both of these blockbuster movie franchises display an epic level of skill in visual flair and design, and these two art books are just the right way to dive in to the inspiration and craftsmanship dedicated to creating both the Marvel and DC universes on film.
For your animation fans
The Art of Brave
I know just how much I want to know the inside scoop on how they managed Merida’s hair, and this art book will make a beautiful gift for any young Pixar afficiando.
The Art of the Secret World of Arietty
For all your Miyazaki lovers, this latest look at their Borrowers-inspired work is a great look into Studio Ghibli’s magic.
Avatar the Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series (along with Avatar: The Last Airbender The Promise, volumes 1-3 by Gene Luen Yang!)
This art book is not as new, but given the Avatar the Last Airbender’s continuing popularity, I think it’s a good bet it will still be exciting for any young fan of the Avatar universe.
For your schematics fans
The Leviathan trilogy is not a comic, but Scott Westerfeld and artist Kevin Thompson built a lush world in the hit Leviathan novel trilogy, with each novel beautifully illustrated in the style of a book from 1914. Their Manual of Aeronautics: An Illustrated Guide to the Leviathan Series is the most in-depth book of schematics and designs you could ever hope for. There’s a level of detail that Thompson hits in these drawings that lets you get lost for hours, and I know so many fans of the series that would adore seeing the fold-out visions of the giant airships and walkers.
Building off Mike’s recommendation for Disney fans, I can’t say enough good things about Fantagraphics’ collections of Mickey Mouse strips by Floyd Gottfredson. I took the first two volumes for myself to read on a recent, extended-family trip to Disney World, but my ten-year-old son completely took over the books. Every spare minute that we weren’t in a theme park, restaurant, or pool, he was hungrily devouring 80-year-old comics. I caught him laughing to himself several times and he loved sharing his favorite gags with whomever was there to listen.
A serendipitous result of the attention those books got was the opportunity they presented to talk about creators rights issues. Just having the books around with Gottfredson’s name on them sparked several conversations about why he and Mickey’s co-creator Ub Iwerks aren’t household names. Fantagraphics fills the collections with tons of background details like that, so in addition to being highly entertaining, the collection is also a wonderful discussion-starter.
In manga, magical girl fans will want to check out the Sailor Moon boxset which includes volumes 1-6 from Kodansha. Older teens who want something a little less sparkly and a little more gritty should pick up Puella Magi Madoka Magica from Yen Press. At only three volumes long, with the final volume coming out in December, it perfect for under the tree. Twilight fans will want the Twilight Collector’s Edition, a compilation of the two graphic novels released earlier this year. For the emerging readers, check out Sara Richard’s Kitty and Dino for beautiful art and a sweet and funny story. Pokemon fans can catch up quick with the Pokemon Red and Blue and Pokemon Black and White box sets from Viz Media.
For the 8-year old just getting into comics
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is huge and rightfully so. These books are authentic and hilarious and will make an avid reader of any child. Luckily there are two boxsets—Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box Books 1-3 and Diary of a Wimpy Kid Box Books 4-6—that will hook your kids fast and make you look like the best gift-giver ever.
For the non-fiction pop culture enthusiasts
Fans of the Ninjago toys and graphic novels will love discovering more about the many characters in the Lego Ninjago Character Encyclopedia. And If your child is clamoring for more Spider-Man after seeing the Amazing Spider-Man this past summer, introduce them to the complete history of the webslinger with Spider-Man Chronicle. Both of these titles are from DK Publishing, which is known for its high quality books.
For beginning readers who love animals
Andy Runton has just released a second Owly picture book called Owly and Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights. This large format, full-color wordless picture book is perfect for bedtime reading and delivers the same brand of sweetness and friendship as found in Runton’s first picture book.
For the teen with an off-the-wall sense of humor
Released earlier this year but definitely worth a second look is Teen Boat, by Dave Roman and John Green. With a tagline like “The angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat,” readers should prepare for laugh-out-loud situations.
For kids who like to read non-fiction, the graphic novel format lends itself beautifully to memoirs. Two really good books came out this year that will appeal to kids who like to read about the lives of other kids. The first is Little White Duck, by Andres Vera Martinez and Na Liu. Told as a series of short vignettes, it’s Na Liu’s story of growing up in China right after the death of Chairman Mao. Second is A Game for Swallows: To Die, To Leave, To Return, by Zeina Abirached. In this black and white memoir, Abirached tells the story of the night she and her brother waited for her parents to return home after visiting their grandmother on the other side of war torn Beiruit, Lebanon.
For non-fiction lovers who want to stand up and cheer, I can’t recommend enough Nathan Hale’s book Big Bad Ironclad! Set during the Revolutionary War, it is the story of the Civil War (this will make sense when you read the book), specifically the two navies, the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, and the huge amount of fun William Cushing seems to have had during the war. It’s not every day that a history book will make you laugh out loud, but this one sure will.
And I’d like to second Esther’s recommendation for comic book subscriptions as a great holiday gift. Subscriptions are the gifts that keep on giving, after all, and there are plenty still to choose from, even in a world where magazines close up shop faster than we have time to discover them. In addition to the Archie comics Esther listed, Marvel and DC Comics also have subscriptions for comics suitable for younger readers, like Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Superman Family Adventures, and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? KaBoom! Studios offers Adventure Time and Garfield comics for subscribers, and the information on how to sign up for home delivery can be found on the respective websites.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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