Until I started pulling this post together, I hadn’t registered how far behind I’d fallen on this endeavor. The weather here still feels like springtime as often as it does winter, so Christmas seems forever away. But Christmas creeps closer, so here are some more recommendations of my favorite bits of media for your last minute gift giving and requesting needs:
Day 16: Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga is quite possibly the best thing I picked up in the last couple months. After putting off buying any of the trade paperbacks for monetary reasons, I was able to take the plunge and buy the Saga Deluxe Edition, Book 1 (the picture on the left). The Deluxe Edition collects the trade paperback volumes 1-3, and it is well worth the cost even if you have not yet been exposed to this beautiful work of art and literature. Volumes 4 and 5 have also now been released. Warning though: this series is definitely not kid-friendly. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples join forces to tell an intergalactic saga of family and survival, featuring some of the most flawless characterization and development I’ve ever gone starry-eyed over. Fall in love with the Lying Cat and discover how the main characters can be both badass warriors and shameless dorks, then realize you’re obsessed with bizarre space politics. With the massive return of Star Wars into the pop culture hive mind, Saga is the perfect space epic to feed the hype.
Day 17: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
Noelle Stevenson broke into the comics universe with Nimona, her popular webcomic-turned-graphic novel sensation about villain Ballister Blackheart and his shapeshifting sidekick Nimona in their fight against Ambrosius Goldenloin, glorified hero of the Institution of Law Enforcement. The progression of both the art and narrative are a delight to witness, each becoming more polished and refined in a way that you just don’t get from a project conceived for professional publication from the beginning. Nimona chronicles Stevenson’s growth as a creator as much as it narrates a heartwrenching tale of friendship and betrayal and the constant threat of government conspiracy. This graphic novel is much more kid-friendly than Saga and needs to be read by everyone.
Day 18: The Hamilton cast recording, courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda
If you haven’t heard of Hamilton yet, where have you been? It’s the hottest musical on Broadway right now, but even if you don’t live in New York (I feel your pain) you can still enjoy the story by checking out the cast recording. Since Hamilton is sung through, listeners still get the whole story (minus one short scene that you don’t realize is missing until you find it online) for much cheaper than travel expenses and a ticket that costs as much as a dragon’s hoard. But rewind cause you need to know that Hamilton is a biographical musical relating the legendary brawls, flame wars, and scandals of founding father and progenitor of the American financial system Alexander Hamilton (based on this masterpiece biography which would make a perfect gift for established Hamilton trash). Fun facts: The music is various styles of rap and hip hop. The founding fathers (and mothers too, cause they are CRUCIAL) are all people of color. Writer of the musical Lin-Manuel Miranda describes the show as “a story about America then, told by America now.” The lyrics are catchy and layered so deeply that you’ll be making connections even after listening for a month. Educational and inspiring, get this music and narrative into your favorite person’s hands immediately.
Day 19: The Princess Bride, “abridged” by William Goldman
The Princess Bride is a cinematic classic. If you like movies, you like The Princess Bride. Despite the cult adoration of the film, however, the book is less well known. This ignorance is a massive shame because the novel is a gem. You know how the movie has everything good in the world? Humor and romance, adventure and epic names, witty one-liners and puns? The book has them too, but different. Honestly, the film might just be the best adaptation of a book ever because they are entirely separate experiences. Sure you’ll recognize characters and plot, but the book gets to explore a bit more, have a few more adventures, and play around with some different types of humor. Many adaptations struggle with too strong a reliance on the text; they attempt a 1:1 transferral and the audience ends up needing to know the book just to understand the movie. Meanwhile, both forms of The Princess Bride are freestanding and deserve all the love.
Day 20: The Sandman: Overture, from Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III
The Sandman was my exploratory foray into comics two years ago. Stemming from my love of Neil Gaiman, I figured it would give me a feel for the medium and inform my decision to take a look around. Turns out comics can tell incredibly engaging and powerfully thematic stories with art that can leave your jaw dragging on the ground. I could build a shrine out of the moments from The Sandman alone that settled themselves into my mind and soul. Overture, a prologue to the series the trade paperback of which came out just last month, is thus perfect for both newcomers and fans. The eponymous character is Morpheus, also known as Dream, one of the seven Endless, personifications of the nebulous forces that drive life. His siblings are Death, Despair, Delirium (formerly known as Delight), Desire, Destruction, and Destiny. Overture is actually one of my own hoped-for Christmas gifts, so I can say nothing about it specifically, but the original series is sweeping, taking place over thousands of years with a keen eye on what makes humanity tick. The content is not always safe for work though, so be careful if you’re reading around family with delicate sensibilities.