2015 Comic & Geek Gift Guide

Comics Features Gift Guide
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Are you really wearing that Brooks Brothers tweed suit from last year? Are you truly enjoying that spaghetti squash Victorian steampunk atrocity that makes a heretic parody of good food? No—your’e not. But you are literate and you have immaculate taste, so why not indulge in comics this holiday season? Sure, Games may claim that digital entertainment makes for the best gifts, but sequential art is the best way to prop your legs up and get lost in provocative, pupil-dilating narratives. If you’re looking to expand your tastes, we’ve also included suggestions that encompass Aaron Mahnke’s deliciously morbid Lore podcast (it’s mostly free!) and Greatest Generation rocket-riding bombshell action figures.
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COMICS

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Batman: The Dark Knight Saga Deluxe Edition
Writer:   Frank Miller  
Artists:   Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
Publisher: DC Comics 
Price: $49.99

Frank Miller’s primary involvement in the third chapter of the Dark Knight legacy may be suspect, but his first two volumes—The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Back—respectively chart his medium-altering brilliance and bittersweet eccentricity. Collected in one handsome hardcover, Batman: The Dark Knight Saga Deluxe Edition offers a single destination for a cranky, violent Bruce Wayne and the surreal adventures that await his latter days. Miller’s shaping of the Dark Knight as an anti-authoritarian shitkicker helped sculpt a new age of comics with desperate protagonists and bleak color palettes, but his idiosyncratic, unhinged world-building rarely receives its due. Epic monster duals inhabit petri dishes, visored mutants and neo-Nazis reign havoc and a digital president deceives all. Miller and his color and ink wunderkind immerse readers in a world that couldn’t be built by any other hands, and will remain nestled in the pit of your memory whether you loved your trip or wish the Silver Age never ended. This hardback also includes the original proposal for The Dark Knight Returns and preparatory sketches with Miller inking his own work. Sean Edgar
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Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Image
Price: $9.99

If Lumberjanes is the perfect gift for younger potential readers, Bitch Planet is among the best picks for adults curious about the medium. Created with equal parts rage and hope by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, Bitch Planet turns its sexploitation premise—a prison planet for “noncompliant” women—into a biting social commentary about what it means to be a woman today and, sadly, probably in the near future, too, with a cast that’s truly diverse across age, race, sexuality, gender expression and size. The monthly series has hit a few delays, but the recent first trade comes with a discussion guide to keep readers talking while they wait for the next kickass installment. Ambitious readers can search for the Local Comic Shop Day hardcover, limited to 750 copies. Steve Foxe
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Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja Omnibus
Writer:   Matt Fraction  
Artists: David Aja, Annie Wu
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Price: $99.99

It’s hard to think of a more beloved run in recent superhero comics than Matt Fraction, Annie Wu and David Aja’s Hawkeye stint. These comics challenged just about everything in the standard superhero world. Instead of the cinematic battles that brought Hawkeye to a bigger audience throughout the Avengers movies, this series shows Clint Barton on his days off as the coffee-chugging, animal-loving, mob-battling dude that he is. And here’s an added bonus for readers just now arriving to the series: you won’t have to wait half a year to read the final issue. Tyler R. Kane

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Lumberjanes To The Max Edition Vol. 1
Writers: Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson
Artist: Brooke Allen
Publisher: BOOM!
Price: $39.99

Lumberjanes is the first choice comic nerds should be handing to their under-18 nieces and nephews this Christmas, and nothing pressures someone to pick up a new hobby like a gorgeous deluxe hardcover edition. The Eisner-winning series, created by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis and Brooke Allen with contributions from Noelle Stevenson, is inclusive, well-written, adventurous, layered and fun. Other than superstar brand ambassador Ms. Marvel, no title in the last decade has held as much potential for the next generation of comic readers, writers and advocates. Junior Lumberjanes will spend the next year waiting on their summer camp invitations instead of Hogwarts letters. The weighty Lumberjanes To The Max Edition collects the first two volumes with extras like the BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape short. Steve Foxe
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Krampus: Shadow of Saint Nicholas
Writers: Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Artists: Various
Publisher: Legendary
Price: $14.99

Director and screenwriter Michael Dougherty may have ingrained himself in the comic community’s heart through his writing on X-Men 2 and Superman Returns, but the 2008 cult gem Trick ‘r Treat and this week’s Krampus show a far more quirky and terrifying side to the auteur. While his first horror creation spawned a lush, time-spanning graphic novel last month, pagan anti-Santa Krampus gets his sequential art complement just in time for the holidays in Shadow of Saint Nicholas. A real-life Germanic myth that stuffed misbehaving children in his sack dumped them in, um, hell, Krampus stars in four frigid tales involving drunk mall Santas and snow-stranded police officers. This is the perfect stocking stuffer written by the Krampus screenwriters, and a creepy prequel for the feature film. A Fiona Staples cover never hurts, either. Sean Edgar
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One-Punch Man
Writer: ONE
Artist: Yusuke Murata
Publisher: Viz Media
Price: $9.99 per volume

With eight English translations on shelves this year and a satirical, action-packed, gorgeously-drawn superhero premise, One-Punch Man is an ideal gift for the Marvel and DC fan exhausted by repetitive Big Two options. Saitama is a hero for fun, and his origin story? He…picked up a pretty manageable exercise routine. Thanks to a hundred push-ups a day, Saitama can defeat any foe in a single explosive punch (almost always lovingly rendered in double-page spreads). The heroes of Saitama’s world are ranked, and Saitama’s laziness aims him toward the bottom despite his overwhelming physique. While some references are pretty Japanese-specific (and stereotype Puri-Puri-Prisoner is cringeworthy), anyone who’s ever felt exasperated, but thrilled, by cape comics will find something to like in creator ONE and artist Yusuke Murata’s parody manga. Steve Foxe
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Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz
Writers/Artists: So Many Talented Creators
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Price: $34.99

The roster of creators who turned out to honor Charles Schulz’s legendary comic strip isn’t surprising. The fact that each cartoonist retains the fragility and heart of Peanuts throughout 40 entries, however, is. BOOM! has shown that even without its haloed father, the bizarrely-aware childhood cast of Peanuts can thrive in new adventures. This collection features such luminaries as Matt Groening, Paul Pope, Raina Telgemeier, Tony Millionaire, Roger Langridge, Zac Gorman and Liz Prince contributing segments that honor that legacy. Much like Locust Moon’s Little Nemo homage, many A-list creators offer lengthy, detailed entries that defy scheduling logic. The elusive Paul Pope devotes three detailed pages to Schroeder tickling the ivories, while Evan Dorkin and Derek Charm offer a year-spanning descent into adolescent neurosis.

Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz exists at an irresistible commercial crossroads that honors its creator and Bill Melendez’ cartoon specials. If you like Charlie Brown and his rag-tag group of friends, you’ll like this. If you like any comic books or cartoons produced within the last few decades, you’ll like this. In other words, if you’re reading this list, you’ll like this. Sean Edgar
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The Private Eye Deluxe Hardcover
Writers: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Marcos Martin
Publisher: Image
Price: $49.99

There’s a hint of hesitation in recommending this book: after all, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin not only cut out the middle man with their Panel Syndicate publisher, they stood up as proud ambassadors of the comic medium, allowing readers to pay what they want. Did this grand economic experiment work, offering lower prices for newcomers and higher profits for creators? We don’t know. But we do know that all ten issues of The Private Eye are pretty damn great. Vaughan takes a far less optimistic view into the future here than in his flagship Saga sci-fi adventure, showing a world where all citizens hide their identities from invasive surveillance technology. The resulting noir revels in Marcos Martin’s claustrophobic panels, integrated into a landscape format perfect for a screen that needs no guided view. Now Image is releasing the entire affair into one door-stop hardcover, which is…a lot more than pay what you want. But Martin and Muntsa Vincente’s urban vistas and eye-popping blues, yellows and reds are sure to gleam on the printed page. To say the least, this story deserves representation in any and every format. Sean Edgar
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Scalped Deluxe Edition Books 1-3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: R.M. Guera, Jason Latour, Others
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Price: $29.99 a piece

Now that Jason Aaron is scripting four of the best and most consistent comics on stands—including freaking Star Wars—it’s time to admit you slept on his first long-form outing, the gritty, excellent “prairie noir,” Scalped. Drawn with sopping pools of ink by his current The Goddamned collaborator R. M. Guera, Scalped is dirty and twisted in all the right ways without descending into latter-day Garth Ennis misery porn. Aaron also puts in the footwork needed to flesh out his reservation setting and avoid coming off as exploitative in his look at Native American life in modern America. Vertigo’s recent deluxe hardcovers are the perfect gift for crime fans and devotees to premium TV dramas like the season of True Detective everyone actually liked. Steve Foxe
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Star Wars Trade Paperbacks
Writer: Various
Artists: Various
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Price: $20

Around this time last year, we were gearing up for full-time Star Wars mania within the comics realm. Jason Aaron’s fantastic take on the main title was just on the horizon, as was Kieron Gillen’s excellent dissection of Darth Vader. And while loyalists from Dark Horse Comics’ continuing series looked on in a little bit of horror, the comics that Marvel released over the course of 2015 have consistently been good, and for fans that missed out as the issues were released individually, now’s the time to catch them up with trade paperbacks. Though you can’t go wrong with most titles, I’d personally welcome books from the Star Wars-proper title, as well as Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Tyler R. Kane

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Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition Book One
Writers/Artist:   Jeff Lemire  
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Price: $29.99

Though Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen may be exploring another lost soul searching for a new family in Descender, Lemire cemented his grasp of adrift children in Vertigo’s Sweet Tooth, a post-apocalyptic yarn that combines The Road with YA Gary Paulson survivalism. Deer/human hybrid Gus ventures into the world following his father’s death, encountering potential allies and desperate survivors eager to find benefit in a new race of animal amalgams. Lemire recaptures the pastoral purity and peaceful emptiness of Essex County, freezing a world in stillness after civilization has all but burned out. This first Deluxe Edition collects Sweet Tooth’s first twelve bittersweet issues, establishing a devotion to these fragile characters that guarantees you’ll purchase the next two books. Sean Edgar

GEEK

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Disney’s Limited Edition Ewok Plush Set
Price: $149.99
Oh, come on! Disney’s vice grip on the buttery, nostalgic part of me has reached a fever-pitch this year, and stuff like this limited edition Ewok plush set isn’t helping. It’s being dubbed the Ewok Celebration set, which is drawn directly from the closing scenes in Return of the Jedi. The set includes six Ewok plush toys, which is good for celebrating the downfall of the Empire…or just your kids’ bedtime. Tyler R. Kane
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LEGO Star Wars Kylo Ren’s Command Shuttle DVD
Price: $119.99

So is Kylo Ren—the big bad from JJ Abrams feverishly-anticipated The Force Awakens—an incognito Luke Skywalker or that walking buzzkill who plagues Lena Dunham in the first few seasons of Girls? Either way, he sports one helluva ride. Before this Command Shuttle storms the big screen with a few proton torpedoes, all 1,005 pieces of it can be yours for some deft assembly courtesy LEGO. As with previous constructs inspired by the Star Wars Universe, this kit ingeniously flaunts George Lucas’ vintage sci-fi aesthetic, even when comprised of thousands of cylindrical pegs on shiny plastic bases. And those towering wings are just plain cool. It’s a smart choice for young fans who desire more cerebral engagement than half-baked video game nostalgia cash-ins, um, action figures. Check back for Paste’s What It’s Like on building this towering piece of post-Sith engineering. Sean Edgar
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Aaron Mahnke’s Lore Patreon DVD
Price: A minimum of $5 monthly

100% of the Paste Comics Crew has listened to every episode of Aaron Mahnke’s addictive Lore podcast, usually on long runs when these macabre nonfiction tales make our hearts beat faster than our oxygen-deprived circulation systems. A horror novelist, Mahnke digs deep into the history books for the hidden events that helped inform various modern horror tropes, and the truth is far, far more strange—and terrifying—than fiction. In these 20-25 minute trances, Tuberculosis victims convince a town that vampires are feasting on their loved ones and pot-belly trolls attempt to lure horrified dog walkers into foreboding swamps. All delivered in Mahnke’s subdued, logical rhythm, this podcast transports childhood bonfire yarns straight to your ear every two weeks. Though the main podcast is free, contributing to Lore’s Patreon will snag you transcripts, bonus episodes and even signed books. Either way, prepare to spend many a night wide-eyed without the reassurance that “it’s just a made-up story.” Sean Edgar
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Magic: The Gathering, Commander 2015 Decks
Price: $30

Despite my best efforts, I still love Magic: The Gathering. I go to draft events most Fridays, play various formats with my friends, smack down as many people as I can in the online format. But my most favorite way to play Magic in the world is the Commander format—a long-winded, multi-player singleton format that will create, grow and potentially destroy friendships. I love these new decks, too: the 2015 edition of Commander plays with a new mechanic, dubbed “experience counters,” which advances the game to new levels completely. My personal favorite is the blue/green Swell the Host deck, which can be customized on the cheap to be completely devastating. Grab a couple of these and prepare to fall down the Magic rabbit hole. Tyler R. Kane
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Over the Garden Wall DVD
Studio:   Cartoon Network  
Price: $9.19 on Amazon

Cartoon Network  is flush with excellent animated programming that’s entertaining for kids and adults alike, but nothing quite as off-kilter, creepy and ultimately uplifting as the emotional wringer that is Over The Garden Wall. The network’s first event mini-series, Over The Garden Wall follows two boys lost in the woods, and ends up landing somewhere between Spirited Away, Mark Twain Americana, Alice in Wonderland and Stand By Me. Starring Elijah Wood, Tim Curry and Thomas Lennon with original music performed by Chris Isaak and Jack Jones, pair this with a box of tissues for the inevitable sobbing caused by the one-two gut punch of the final two episodes. Steve Foxe
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Batman The Animated Series Roxy Rocket Deluxe Action Figure DVD
Price: $39.99

What do you get for the (Bat)man who has everything? (Yes, we know that’s a Superman joke, just run with it.) DC’s recent animated line, while confusingly split between Batman: The Animated Series and the more stylized The New Batman Adventures seemingly without pattern, contains the best-looking 3D realizations of Bruce Timm’s iconic style to date, and nowhere does his sleek design sense pop better than this deluxe figure of his WWII bombshell-inspired character, Roxy Rocket. Complete with her trademark rocket for optimal desk display, Roxy is the perfect deep-cut Bat-gift for the cave-dweller in your life. Steve Foxe

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