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Fanbase Press’ Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Graphics Novels & Books

Amidst the chaos of decorating the house, booking flights, or planning Christmas dinner, deciding on gifts for friends and family is liable to be the last thing on your mind this December. Fanbase Press is here to help with recommendations for the must-read graphic novels and books from the year as suggested by our staff and contributors. Give your friends and family gifts they can enjoy curled up by the fireplace, catching up or rereading their favorite comic series or a good book. Or, perhaps, introduce them to a new title outside of their regular pull lists and give yourself someone to geek out with over your favorite series. – Kristine Chester, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

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The Adventures of Superhero Girl (Geeky Parent Guide Approved)
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks
Recommended by Travis Lakata

The Adventures of Superhero Girl is a fantastic gift for your kids or friends that love wonderful, seamless storytelling that doesn’t include your standard tragic backdrop for a character looking to make a difference. This 2014 Eisner Award Winner for “Best Publication for Kids (ages 8 – 12)” received an upgrade in June 2017, with additional stories and artwork placed into a hardcover expanded edition.

This story has wonderfully colored illustrations, with witty dialogue that lets readers follow the behind-the-scenes of what it’s like to be Superhero Girl. Not only do you see her heroic adventures, you follow along as she travels to the laundromat and library, where seemingly routine tasks turn into problems for her caped crusader life.

As previously mentioned in my review of this story, “If this were the end of the year at Fanbase Press, this would make the holiday gift guide list, for sure.” Indeed, it did.

Expanded edition available in:

Hardcover print – $11.77
Digital edition – $9.99

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Akira 35th Anniversary Boxed Set
Published by Kodansha Comics
Written and drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo
Recommended by Phillip Kelly

For anyone who is into anime, Akira by Katsuhrio Otomo was most likely your entry into it or that moment in which it went from being a young adult genre (Robotech, Sailor Moon) to being full-blown, mind-bending, surreal, esoteric, visceral brilliance. It took all those anime elements and made them riveting to a degree you didn’t think was possible. If you haven’t watched Akira, now you know you have to.

And then, you found out that there was even more. A lot more! An entire comic book series worth! That two-hour visceral experience was actually an epic series! 2500 pages long!!!! More for excitable emphasis!!!! It was sincerely exciting.

In the ’90s, you could track down all the individual issues (…that 2500 pages suddenly seemed daunting…) or in the ’00s put your money into a nice hard cover collection of six volumes. For the longest time, I’ve had only the second, third, and fourth hardcover volume and a handful of the issues and have never been able to find the other hardcovers. So, I haven’t even read the series. (I’m ashamed…) They were released in these paperback volumes not long ago, but paperback. That’s kind of meh for a collector if they know there are hardcovers out there somewhere… It wasn’t until recently that I learned they never actually released volume six in hardcover. They stopped at the fifth. I was baffled! Stunned! My friend told me this at Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con. For a moment, my dream of having all six hardcovers vanished; that fire extinguished by someone who moments ago I called friend. Then, he followed his bad news up with good news…a new hardcover collection.

That’s right, kiddies. Right now, you can get your Akira, anime-loving friend or family member a beautiful 35th Anniversary Hardcover Collection of the original Akira comic books series. It looks glorious, and the separate volumes come in a beautiful encasement. A price tag of $200 means each page is a worthy 80 cents; however you break it down. This purchase is worth it and your Akira-loving, anime junkie fan will love it.

Plus, it looks like it comes with a clothing patch with a red and blue pill on it. The same Kaneda has on the back of his red jacket!!!!! For more excitable emphasis!!!!!

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Buffy Season 11 Volume 1: The Spread of Their Evil
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Christos Gage
Drawn by Rebekah Isaacs & Georges Jeanty
Recommended by Bryant Dillon

The beginning of this year’s stellar season of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, Buffy Season 11 Volume 1: The Spread of Their Evil collects the first six issues of the series. After a supernatural attack on San Francisco, Buffy and her friends struggle to live in a society where bigotry is rampant and the government is enacting seriously troubling policies.

Tapping into the political culture of today, Buffy Season 11 is a powerful journey for these beloved characters that, in many ways, reflects the worries and concerns many of us are facing these days. If you have a Buffy fan in your life that hasn’t checked out this season yet, this is an absolutely perfect gift.

Price: $19.99
Available here for sale.

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Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact TPB (Geeky Parent Guide Approved)
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Matt Mair Lowery
Drawn by Cassie Anderson
Recommended by Travis Lakata

This is an amazing story. Lifeformed is geared toward an audience of teens or older, because of the nature of Cleo’s loss of her father. It is not only a science fiction adventure dealing with an alien invasion of Earth, it’s about an eleven-year-old girl dealing with the heart-wrenching fact of seeing an alien become her protector, in the form of her dead father.

The art and story blend together perfectly as you race toward the ending to find out what happens. In the background, Lifeformed will have you wondering if the human race can be saved. The main emphasis focuses on learning about Cleo’s character, her alien friend, and how this new companion influences her life moving forward. All of it wraps together for you to watch Cleo learn how to move on and survive.

You can also check out an extended description of this graphic novel that I reviewed on Fanbase Press.

Available in:
Paperback print – $9.36
Digital edition – $5.99 (list of $8.99)

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Strangers in Paradise Omnibus
Published by Abstract Studio
Written and drawn by Terry Moore
Recommended by Russ Priozek

There are few things in this world as heartwarming as the Terry Moore comic book series, Strangers in Paradise. A hundred-plus issue masterwork, the increasingly complex relationship between main characters Katchoo and Francine are years of promise, new and endearing characters, and a payoff that could only come from something that was truly loved as it was being created. The omnibus collects all 2,000+ pages of one of the most beautiful stories ever written, as Katchoo and Francine orbit one another in a life full of love, heartbreak, and the inevitability of how these two best friends will spend their lives together. As one of the only true independent comic book creators the industry has left, this work is a legacy that Terry Moore will leave, and a series that will have a lasting impact on anyone who reads it. It’s the perfect gift for any comic book fan, especially those who enjoy a good love story.

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Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Omnibus
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Clive Barker & Various
Drawn by Stephen Thompson & Various
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

The new Hellraiser Omnibus is Clive Barker’s return to a long-running franchise, as he wrote the novella and directed the original film. BOOM! Studio’s Omnibus is a story told through collaborations between Barker and various writers who have each helped shape chapters in the Omnibus. The story is a development of the world of Hellraiser, drawing on characters and places that are familiar to Barker fans; the narrative centers on Kirsty Cotton, a recurring protagonist from the film series. By leaping into the mythology mid-way, the Omnibus expects a certain level of familiarity in the reader. There isn’t time taken to explain cenobites, the toymaker, or the intricacies of the Leviathan’s dimension. Instead, we jump in; the story picks up and runs along in the midst of a rich, complex world.

The Omnibus is quite beautiful, while gory, and the styling and design remains very consistent across chapters. The strong sense of stylistic horror is consistent and points well to Barker’s control of the project. The consistency makes the book easy to consume in a few sittings (or one very long one) and will be a favorite for the horror fan in your life. The recipient should be up to speed on Hellraiser and should, hopefully, be a fan of the fashionable and freakish world of cenobite priests and puzzle boxes. While it may not seem like the most festive of reads, it’s a perfect book for your horror lover to curl up with on a cold, dark night.

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The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Tara Dilullo Bennett & Paul Terry
Recommended by J.C. Ciesielski

“…that’s how it always begins. Very small.” – Egg Shen

Have you ever stumbled upon an old yearbook, one belonging to your parents or grandparents? You turn the pages delicately to see if a familiar face catches your eye. No, no, maybe… there. There they are. Faces as old as time itself for you. Some of the first you had ever seen or can remember. The past mixing with the present, all too familiar, but alien all at once. They look like younger versions of themselves, but older nonetheless, as if youth remained in the photographs, yet, at the same time, look like adults with children or grandchildren of their own. And there, there in the back of a group photo, you see him. Not time, nor life has aged his spirit or demeanor. No clue what to do when the future arrives, but ready for it all the same. A laissez-faire, yet can-do attitude, emboldened in the knowledge that he’ll survive on his wits, hoping the wings of liberty never lose a feather. That’s him there. You know when some wild-eyed maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your head up against a barroom wall; he looks you crooked in the eye and asks you if you’ve paid your dues? You just stare that big sucker back in the eye and remember what Jack Burton always says. “Have you paid your dues, Jack?” “Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.” That same man in the picture is the man you grew up with. The fun uncle who gave you your first beer, taught you how to drive and eat at the same time. The man who conveyed the power and responsibility of friendship. Ol’ Uncle Jack. This is that yearbook. 

The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China is a book that could be found on a coffee table, in a backpack or briefcase, but doubtfully on a bookshelf collecting dust. Can’t say it’ll be for everyone (Who wants to look at a yearbook containing no one they know?), but for those with a yearning for nostalgia and who know the difference between a Chang Sing and a Wing Kong, will pour over this book, page by glorious page, reeling from the slight smell of diesel, wafting from the “Pork Chop Express.”

Written by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry (who’ve previously collaborated on projects including The Blacklist: Elizabeth Keen’s Dossier and Lost Encyclopedia), this 175-page love letter is just that. It’s their “Stay cool!” note, found signed on the inside cover of the yearbook, chronicling the past, present, and potential future of BTiLC. Their work together is very complementary, as could be expected by two writers who’ve worked together over the years. With John Carpenter’s forward as a commencement speech and Kurt Russell’s afterward as the reminiscent class reunion, it feels like the pages between the two covers hold the key to unlocking the feelings in between.

The two collaborators must have made some impression on Carpenter and Russell to contribute, but it’s the people behind the scenes that have all the juicy bits to tell. The art department, costume and set designs, special effects, and so on that give realism to Chinatown’s charm. Featuring set concept art, hand-written notes, along with asides from every aspect of making the film. It’s these pieces that make the book more than a transcript of canned answers. Knowing how Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) or David Lo Pan (James Hong) felt about their outfits, make-up, and co-stars is interesting indeed, but it’s the yarns spun by the behind-the-scenes crew that really tell the story of making the film. Hearing set exploits from smaller-role performers, artists, and technicians really expounds on how you view a thing you’ve loved since the beginning. A beginning destined to fail, but a slow rise, year after year, to the status of cult classic.

Big Trouble in Little China had a rough start. Released the same summer as Aliens and The Fly, BTiLC had little chance of being the blockbuster it set out to be. It was the fans that passed around VHS copies and roused whispers of “Did you hear about this Kurt Russell movie?” that slowly, but steadily, brought it to the attention of more and more future fans.

Reading the rest of the story on a dark and stormy night is going to cost you a few yen to purchase, but as the man once said, “…the check is in the mail.” Give it a buy, especially if you know why it’s so important to find a girl with green eyes.

…you can thank me later.

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Giant Days: Not on the Test Edition, Fall Semester
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by John Allison
Drawn by Lissa Treiman & Max Sarin
Recommended by Claire Thorne

Giant Days is a slice-of-life story following the adventures of best friends Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy, and Daisy Wooton as they navigate the ups and downs of attending the University of Sheffield. The girls deal with love (requited and otherwise), sex, lectures, pubs, drugs, social media, sexual orientation, feminism, and fancy dress-up balls with a healthy dose of snark and wit.

While not a supernatural tale, I find a lot of the ensemble cast dynamic and with the smart dialogue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this series. John Allison and both illustrators in the series, Lissa Treiman and Max Sarin, tackle a wide selection of modern issues, all while creating a fun, dynamically youthful environment. The series is perfect reading for the “coming-of-age” group of late teens. It’s also perfect reading for anyone who well remembers the emotional minefield of our first years of freedom and independence.

Originating as a webcomic spin-off from John Allison’s self-published series, Scary Go RoundGiant Days was picked up by BOOM! Studios as an ongoing series. Giant Days: Not On The Test Edition collects single issues #1-8 of the Eisner Award and Harvey Award-nominated series, as well as issue one of the original webcomic in a deluxe hardcover, available from pretty much anywhere you find comics.

Labyrinth Coloring Book 139

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth Adult Coloring Book
Published by BOOM! Studios
Drawn by Philip Murphy
Recommended by Christina Brookman

Adult coloring has become one of the latest rages. You don’t have to be an artist to partake in this new art form, as images are drawn for you to color in. This year, BOOM! Studios and Jim Henson Studios have their stamp on the industry – 51 pages filled with vignettes from the fantasy, classic ’80s film, Labyrinth. This book travels through Sarah’s journey to the Goblin castle to save her baby brother Toby. Flashes of moments that bring back one’s childhood memories are sure to delight any lover of the original movie. The owl soaring with the Goblin King’s magic globe, surrounded in geometric design, Hoggle, Ludo, fairies, The Doors, Fireys, and much more. There is even an image when Sarah falls down through the door and is encircled by “the hands!” Character details and facial expressions perfectly emoted richly offer artistic opportunities for the adult artist, not to mention all of the mazes. Not just for adults either, teens would relish in bringing Sarah’s masquerade ball to life. While it’s a nostalgic treat, anyone who loves fantasy will enjoy the images Jorge Corona, Jay Fosgitt, and Phil Murphy have created. At $16.99, Labyrinth is on the higher end for adult coloring books, but you typically do not get this many pages. Labyrinth: Adult Coloring Book packs characters, fantasy and sentimentality all in one, making it more than worth the money and something your friend or family member is sure to love.

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Lumberjanes to the Max Vol. 1-3
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Shannon Watters & Various
Drawn by Brooke A. Allen & Carolyn Nowak
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

The Lumberjanes to the Max anthologies assemble the many issues of Lumberjanes into nicely bound collections, which is rather handy, because you can’t read just one. Lumberjanes is the brainchild of Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters, and Brooke Allen and is set at “Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.” The setting should tell you that this space is ridiculous, subversive, and fun.

The stories, set in and around the camp, mix five campers and their camp counselor Jen into bizarre and supernatural situations, guided by the camp director Rosie, as each of the girls (Ripley, Mal, Molly, April, and Jo) gets turns to develop as a character as the stories move along. The first issue jumps into the adventures mid-story, and the stories continue to challenge narrative convention through the many adventures of the Lumberjanes. Non-sequitors, supernatural impossibilities, time travel, and mythological creatures are the norm. This playfulness fits with the weird and wonderful world of camp.

The Lumberjanes to the Max collection sorts the stories by Lumberjane badges, and the book is designed under the conceit of being the Lumberjanes Field Manual, “For the Advanced Program,” with each badge being introduced by instructions for the Lumberjane reading it. It makes us part of the team and makes every reader a potential Lumberjane.

The cast is wonderfully diverse and opens up different character spaces through the serialized stories, broadening out the cast and bringing in the boy’s camp: “Mr. Theodore Tarquin Reginald Lancelot Herman Crumpet Camp for Boys.” The comic is truly a read for all ages; the stories are appealing and the characters are engaging for both young readers and old. A great choice for any geek with a sense of fun who loves a good read.

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Lumberjanes Gotham Academy TPB
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Chynna Clugston Flores
Drawn by Kelly Matthews & Various
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

A meeting between the casts of Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy, this cross-over is a fun connection of two worlds. The book collects the 6-issue special run that brings together the students from the Detective Club with the girls from Ronanoke Cabin at “Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types.”

The crossover is a fun way of introducing fans of one to the other and is inspired by Rosie and Professor Macpherson both being in the same spot of bother. The connections between the two worlds are drawn into more detail, as Camp Director Rosie is revealed to have attended Gotham Academy. This format is a great way of crossing franchises, but the story is also a delightful intersection of the kind of adventures each team faces. The groups are blended together effectively, and the best traits of each are highlighted to make for a fun and engaging story. As a standalone title, it takes some catching-up. The characters, relationships, and backstories aren’t given any real attention, as the focus is on the new adventure; however, the characters are articulated well enough that you can get a sense of who’s who reasonably easily.

If you have someone on your wishlist who is a fan of either Gotham Academy or Lumberjanes, this will be an entertaining expansion of their reading options. If you have someone who’s a fan of both, it’s going to be the dream treat this holiday season.


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Cold Cuts
Published by Omnium Gatherum Media
Written by Robert Payne Cabeen
Recommended by Michele Brittany

Cold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen, who also wrote/illustrated Fanbase Press’ Fearworms: Selected Poems, marks his first foray into writing a novel. Doctors Pratt and Eaton are environmental scientists stationed in the Antarctic who find themselves stranded in their underground room (known as The Pit) with very little food. Surrounded by mutant penguins with a serious hoard mentality, the men are isolated and starving. Sustaining themselves on a steady diet of television (Cable at that!), Cabeen creates a pedal-to-the-metal dark comedy horror tale that takes the reader on a journey that is just over the top.

Having admired Cabeen’s cadence and word choice presented in Fearworms, the imagery he conjures up through his fictional tone does not disappoint. Add to that, he creates an odd couple in Pratt and Eaton that provides Cabeen the freedom to explore what the effects of isolation and starvation could do. While Cold Cuts is not for the squeamish, this is will be an excellent gift for horror readers looking for a fresh take of the stranded narrative.

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The Holy Man
Published by Penguin Random House
Written by Susan Trott
Recommended by Michele Brittany

Would you walk 10 miles up a mountain and stand in line for days or weeks to see an enlightened person if you were looking for words of wisdom to resolve a problem or fill an emptiness within you? Back in 1995, Susan Trott wrote The Holy Man, a slim volume comprised of several short chapters that describe a variety of characters who are seeking answers and, in many cases, just to see the man himself. This unassuming, little book is beautifully written, peppered with wit and charm while conveying a mountain of sage advice. I have read this book several times over the years, and each time, I find something new, insightful, and inspiring. Although I haven’t read them, Trott followed up this book with Holy Man’s Journey and The Holy Woman: Book Three of The Holy Man Trilogy.

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Paperbacks from Hell
Published by Quirk Books
Written by Grady Hendrix
Recommended by Kevin Wetmore

I am a fan of old paperbacks. My spouse will tell you when we go on vacation, if there is a used book store, I am gone for an hour whilst she is stuck trying to entertain the younglings while daddy looks for lost literary “treasures:’ old sci-fi, genre magazines, and especially horror paperbacks – the cheesier the better. Now, my cup runneth over, as Quirk Press just recently released Grady Hendrix’s Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction ($24.99). This book is actually a triple threat – three books in one!

First, as the subtitle suggests, it is a history of mass market paperbacks during the gold age of the 1970s and 1980s, when paperbacks would be found not only in bookstores but on supermarket and drugstore shelves, and not just from big five publishers, but from publishers big and small and the books themselves covered a wide variety of topics and themes, all in horror and science fiction. Just lovely. Hendrix’s history is not just captivating and educational, but enjoyable to read – he blends just the right amount of love for the subject with snark for a mélange of fascinating fun. Reading this book is like having a conversation with an expert who wants you to enjoy the subject as much as he does, and has a wicked sense of humor and a way to tell the story – in short, the way you wish every professor you ever had was.

Second, it is an art book in its own right. The covers of the paperbacks are lovingly reproduced in all of their ridiculous glory. From the sublime to the downright disturbing to the ridiculous (I never knew how many skeletons worked in the medical and child-care professions!), the art is evocative and fun. For those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties, it is a stroll down memory lane. For those who came later, trust me – these are illustrations worth looking at – lurid covers (as often as not having little to do with the story inside) designed to entice you to drop $1.99 for the volume.

Third, it is a checklist for the Horror Geek’s Gift Guide 2018. It is also a geek’s checklist for ones you’ve read. I devoured this book within forty-eight hours of its arrival and realized I had read about a quarter to a third of the books listed, but was even more excited to discover so-bad-they’re-good treasures that I never knew existed. Before I even finished the book I had ordered a copy of The Bamboo Demons by Jory Sherman (an occult detective fighting aswang? Where have you been all my life?). Hendrix’s book is a delight in and of itself and because it leads you to a world of more books. It is literary crack – after your first hit you just want more – and I mean that as a compliment.




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