guttergeek the discontinuous review of graphic narrative

December 2009

Guttergeek Gift Guide

If you have been, like us, catching up on the stack of comics by the bedside table, you probably (like us) forgot all about holiday shopping. Well, you’ve come to the right place for your last-second shopping needs. Some of our favorites of the year are to be found here or in our pre-TCJ archives at, but there are some especially fine, big, beautiful books just right for gifting that we never did review in 2009 (we were too busy salivating all over them):

Robert Crumb’s Genesis (Norton, 2009). $24.95, hardcover.


The most (at first) boring book Crumb ever did is also probably his masterpiece–and without doubt his most giftable book ever. My kids, who had just sat through my somewhat idiosyncratic reading of Genesis, were somewhat disappointed by how literally Crumb towed the line on his graphic adaptation. But while delivered with a gentler touch than my decidedly scatological improvisations, Crumb’s Genesis delivers all the punch-lines one might be hoping for: the look on Eve’s face when Adam tries to lay all the blame on her is worth a galaxy of dirty puns. And Crumb’s art has never been better, or more moving. Fingers crossed that he will turn his attention to illustrating Leviticus next!

R. Sikoryak, Masterpiece Comics (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009). $19.95, hardcover.


To fully appreciate the wit and genius of this mashup masterpiece, it helps if your recipient has a deep and abiding love of both classic comic stripsand classic literature. But frankly either one will do, as Sikoryak has both sources deep in his bloodstream and gets them with a deadpan so perfect they are absolutely hysterical. My favorites: “Little Pearl in Red Letter Days” (Little Lulu meets The Scarlet Letter) and “Action Camus” (The Stranger meets Superman done in a series of comic book covers). Sikoryak’s ability to nail the style and rhythms of classic comics from Little Nemo to Mary Worth still has me wide-eyed with admiration. The perfect gift for the tweedy English professor in your life. Or the smacked-out junkie.

Justin Green, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (McSweeney’s, 2009). $29.00, hardcover.


If you haven’t read Binky Brown yet, then… well, hurry up! This is the granddaddy of autobiographical comics, and one of the most important works of the underground comix movement. Plus, if you’ve had rays of light spontaneously emitting from your genitalia, this book will likely have the answers you’ve been looking for. If you have read Green’s 1972 masterpiece before, it was likely in a 1990s paperback edition from Last Gasp (publisher of the original comic) which relied on the 1972 comic for its images. McSweeney’s beautiful new oversized edition is the first time we’ve had a chance to see the work in its original glory, and it is roughly the equivalent to getting to hear The Beatles in stereo after a lifetime of listening to them on an old transistor radio. A perfect gift for the special someone who is, shall we say, a bit “special.” My kids love it!

Bill Willingham, Peter & Max: A Fables Novel (Vertigo, 2009). $22.99, hardcover.


One of the happiest surprises of the year was that Willingham can write novels. No, not as well as he scripts Fables, but no one around my house was complaining at the opportunity to explore the Fables universe with the kind of loving detail the economies of the comics form do not afford. While Peter & Max is not a comic, but a real, live novel, Steve Leialoha lovingly illustrates the book throughout and concludes with a short comics afterward that will hopefully encourage the reader new to Fables to seek out the trades of the ongoing series. The perfect gift for that person who has been holding out against your many appeals on behalf of Fables: theywill be yours!

Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, Criminal: Deluxe Edition (Marvel, 2009). $49.99, hardcover.


That my love of crime comics knows no bounds is no secret by this point, but I have been strangely shy about expressing openly my deep love of the work Brubaker and Phillips have been creating together over the past several years. The publication of this luscious, oversized edition collecting the first three books of their ongoing project, Criminal, gives me at least an opportunity to begin to rectify that. Their earlier Sleeper will always have a special place in my heart, but the interweaving stories of Criminal clearly have their hearts, as the love and care pored into this edition demonstrates. This is the book to get for the comics geek who has everything, because if they already have Criminal 1-3, they probably think they don’t need this. They are wrong, and they will be kissing your feet after they see all the reasons why this edition blows the earlier trades out of the water–including artwork and articles from the serial comic that did not make it into the trades. And the cover alone is a masterpiece worthy of framing. Seriously: can you frame a book?

{originally published @}