With the growing popularity of comic books in the mainstream, just about everyone has a comic reader on their gift list these days. And the question, however, is what do you get them? There are definite staple books you will always hear people mention the likes of The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, Watchmen, Maus and so on, which can make it difficult for you to find something they don’t have.
We’re here to help. We’ve pulled together 10 trade paperbacks which have a fairly solid chance of not already being in your friend or loved one’s collection. We based this mainly on obscurity or age of the book, and it should give you a good chance at surprising them when it comes time to exchange gifts.
Civil War as a Marvel storyline, is a bit more mainstream than I wanted to take this list, but with the announcement that the third Captain America movie will tackle this topic, it seems fitting that a lot of people will be intrigued by it now.
When a fight between heroes and villains goes horribly wrong, one has to wonder what gives these so-called “heroes” the right to do what they want? Shouldn’t they be answerable to someone? The government passes a new law to that effect, and the hero community is divided with some surprising consequences.
The landscape of the Marvel Universe is changing, and it’s time to choose: Whose side are you on? A conflict has been brewing from more than a year, threatening to pit friend against friend, brother against brother – and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse! As the war claims its first victims, no one is safe as teams, friendships and families begin to fall apart. The crossover that rewrites the rules, Civil War stars Spider-Man, the New Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the entirety of the Marvel pantheon! Collects Civil War #1-7, plus extras.
Green Arrow – The Longbow Hunters
Following the success of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, DC was anxious to see what other characters it could bring back into the spotlight. The company turned to Mike Grell to retool Green Arrow, and it worked. What had become a bit of a joke character was handled with seriousness and love. Without this series, I really don’t know if the Arrow TV series could have ever worked because there is a lot of this mini-series flavor in what you see on your television.
Oliver Queen gives up his trick arrows and settles down in Seattle with Dinah Lance. But Ollie’s world collides with one of unspeakable violence involving the beautiful and mysterious archer known as Shado.
While I’m trying to keep you away from being too much in the mainstream on this list, due to its age, Infinity Gauntlet makes the cut. This was a big storyline for the Marvel Universe, and with the movies moving in this direction, now is a good time for anyone who hasn’t read it before to catch up. The movies are for sure going to diverge from the comic a bit, but it will still give you some idea of what is to come.
It’s the Avengers, the New Warriors, the X-Men and more against the omnipotent Eternal, Thanos! The Mad Titan has become the most powerful being in the universe, and enslavement or destruction may be the only choices he gives it! The successive Starlin sagas that shook space and time start here!
Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
Every so often comics will attempt to tackle real world issues. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but the Demon in a Bottle story arc from Iron Man very much worked. This is the story that causes all the comic book geeks in a movie theater during a Marvel movie to get excited when you see Tony Stark take a drink. This storyline turned Stark into a full-blown alcoholic and it was pretty darn amazing how it worked out. It’s a great read if a bit depressing.
Iron Man faces his most untouchable foe in criminal industrialist Justin Hammer and his literal army of super-villains! But can the Armored Avenger overcome an even more implacable personal demon, invulnerable to technology or wealth? Guest-starring Ant-Man and the Sub-Mariner! Collects Iron Man #120-128.
Jon Sable, Freelance: Omnibus Volume 1
Jon Sable is one of those characters where you try to explain him and eventually go, “Seriously, just read the book.” He’s intriguing, layered and can go from killing bad guys in the evening and the next morning he’s working on his latest children’s book.
No… I’m not kidding.
It was one of the books from the massive independent movement of the 1980s, and it was one one of the best.
The original stories of Mike Grell’s Jon Sable are re-presented in Omnibus format for a whole generation of new readers! Follow Sable as his for-hire exploits take him from New York City to the plains of Africa as his nose for intrigue, espionage, and beautiful females entertains.
Judge Dredd: Complete Case Files 01
Despite there having been two movies – though many of us try to forget the Stallone one happened – it’s amazing how many people don’t know that Judge Dredd is a comic book character. A character that has actually been appearing in the pages of 2000 A.D. in England weekly since 1977.
Dredd was one of the earliest examples of the “anti-hero” in comics. While he does indeed believe in the law, he can be a bit too literal at times as there is no gray areas in his view. The comic launched many careers, and it also became a leading source of satire as the over-the-top nature of the book allowed the authors to become more and more subversive.
You certainly don’t expect everyone to read every Dredd story out there, but everyone should give the character at least a try at some point.
The iconic character Judge Dredd finally received the graphic novel platform he deserved in the Case Files editions.
Since 1977, one man has dominated the British comic scene. He is judge, jury and executioner; a merciless farfuture lawman delivering justice with an iron fist on the mean streets of Mega-City One. He is Judge Dredd! US readers can discover the roots of this legendary character in this vast a thrill-packed series of graphic novels, which collect together all of Dredd’s adventures in chronological order.
Letter 44 Volume 1: Escape Velocity
This series is the newest on this list, and it’s one I don’t think is getting enough attention. It deals with a lot of different themes, but one of the most intriguing to me was about what if all those “unpopular” decisions by a president were to conceal something much bigger, and it was then dumped in the lap of the incoming man for the job? I was hooked immediately and I can’t wait to see where this story ends up as it is still ongoing.
On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination. Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet!
Mage: The Hero Discovered Vol. 1
Mage: The Hero Discovered was one of those 1980s series that kind of bent your mind. While it dealt with super powers of a sort, it wasn’t your cape wearing type hero, and Kevin Matchstick was about a reluctant hero as you could hope for. And when you realize who he really represents, it is very much a, “how did I not see this sooner?” moment.
A great book with unique art, it’s something every comic lover should give a shot.
Kevin Matchstick was a lonely, disaffected everyman until events beyond his control conspired to prod him into becoming the hero he never wanted to be. Accompanied by a mysterious wizard and a crew of loyal friends, the reluctant hero must discover the courage to accept his true power and defeat the dark forces that threaten reality itself.
New Teen Titans Vol. 1
In the 1980s you fell into one of two camps when it came to reading comics: X-Men or The New Teen Titans. While the X-Men have gone on to mainstream success, DC took a different tact with the Titans and made them more kid friendly.
The first 8 issues of the groundbreaking 1980s NEW TEEN TITANS now available for the first time in years!
When the series launched, writer Marv Wolfman (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) and artist George Perez (FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS, Avengers) crafted a timeless story starring Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Cyborg, Changling, Raven and Starfire – a group of young individuals with great powers and strong personalities who learned their way in the world through the strength of their friendship and the adventures they shared.
Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 1
Alan Moore is considered one of the greatest comic writers ever, and with good reason. You don’t write something such as Watchmen or V for Vendetta without making a name for yourself. But when DC hands you a throwaway character that hardly anyone cares about, what do you do with him? That was the case with Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, and it was pure genius from beginning to end.
Moore raised Swamp Thing from being a second tier monster comic to being one of the most powerful characters in all of the DC Universe. He posed questions of the limits of love. He made Batman even take a step back and realize that the Swamp Thing was not to be trifled with.
When it comes to character reinventions, which I am always intrigued by, this one should be considered the blueprint.
Before WATCHMEN, Alan Moore made his debut in the U.S. comic book industry with the revitalization of the horror comic book THE SWAMP THING. His deconstruction of the classic monster stretched the creative boundaries of the medium and became one of the most spectacular series in comic book history.
With modern-day issues explored against a backdrop of horror, SWAMP THING’s stories became commentaries on environmental, political and social issues, unflinching in their relevance. SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING Book One collects issues #20-27 of this seminal series including the never-before-reprinted SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #20, where Moore takes over as writer and concludes the previous storyline.
Book One begins with the story “The Anatomy Lesson,” a haunting origin story that reshapes SWAMP THING mythology with terrifying revelations that begin a journey of discovery and adventure that will take him across the stars and beyond.