Giving graphic novels as gifts to non-comics readers can be hard — after all, there are only so many copies of Watchmen one can give before they stop being books and start becoming the construction materials for an Alan Moore-themed play fort.
But don't fret! Here are a bunch of easy-to-pick-up, (mostly) affordable, crackerjack graphic novels that run the gamut of science fiction and fantasy. Give out any of these graphic novels, and your loved ones will be praising your exquisite taste in funny books.
1.) RASL: Pocket Book One ($20)
For Fans Of: Jeff Smith's Bone
Smith's lush fantasy cartoon epic Bone makes a tremendous gift — indeed, you can buy the entire run in black-and-white paperback for $25 and color hardcover for approximately $100.
But for those Bone fans looking for more, the first half of Smith's universe-hopping noir RASL can be picked up for give or take two sawbucks. It's a gripping, adult read about a physicist-turned-art thief who steals Picassos from alternate universes. The series is still ongoing, so you'll sadly have to wait a few years for Pocket Book Two.
($30 for the first two trade paperbacks)
For Fans Of: Garth Ennis' Preacher
Jason Aaron's done a wonderfully perverse job on this "real world" Punisher comic, which was once Garth Ennis' purview. Continuity's not a problem here — all you need to know is that the Punisher kills lots of nasty people.
In his first two pick-up-and-go arcs, Aaron has introduced a brutal and calculating take on the Kingpin and an absolutely twisted interpretation of the hitman Bullseye. The pencils by Preacher artist Steve Dillon will seal the deal for fans of Jesse Custeresque excess.
3.) The Incal
($100 on secondary market, despite being reprinted a year ago)
For Fans Of: Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan
I have absolutely no clue why The Incal: Classic Collection is so damn expensive, but I'm guessing the 2010 print run flew off the shelves. But if money's not an object, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius' seminal science fiction comic (which was almost an animated movie) is a classy buy.
The Incal is as tripped-out as El Topo and twice as pretty. If you're going to splurge, pick up Stan Lee and Moebius' Silver Surfer: Parable ($50) while you're at it. Why the hell is that out-of-print too? Anyway, for something Transmet-ish, much cheaper, more dystopian, and less psychedelic, there's also Paul Pope's fantastic standalone book Batman: Year 100 ($16).
4.) Chew: Omnivore Edition,
Volume 1 ($20)
For Fans Of: 2000 AD police procedural weirdness
In this eccentric cop book by John Layman and Rob Guillory, the cibopathic Tony Chu — a man with the power to relive the entire life of whatever he eats — is forced to put all sorts of unsavory stuff in his mouth in the name of justice.
Also, chicken is a black market commodity because of a massive bird flu plague! Zippy and strange. The second Omnivore Edition hits stands in late December.
5.) Top 10
($40 for the three Alan Moore-penned books)
For Fans Of: Watchmen, V for Vendetta
Quite possibly the funniest (and most heart-felt) comic Alan Moore's ever written, Top 10 is a sea change from his more famous, grimmer works. The high concept tag line? It's a story about cops in Neopolis, a city where everyone is a superhero.
As a result, Neopolis' 10th Precinct operates in a perpetual state of organized chaos. Illustrators Gene Ha and Zander Cannon are at the top of their game here. You can pick up the first two volumes plus the prequel (Top 10: The 49ers) for cheap. Moore's out-of-print spin-off book Smax is also recommended, but it'll set you back a good $35.
6.) Batman: The Black Mirror ($20)
For Fans Of: Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns
Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics was so enjoyable it's no surprise he was tapped to pen Batman for the New 52 relaunch. This new graphic novel takes place in pre-New 52 continuity, but it works well as a standalone read to boot.
In a nutshell, Dick Grayson is wearing the Batman cowl and he solves a bunch of crimes. Artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla make this book look Gotham gorgeous. Bread-and-butter Batman in the best way possible.
PS: Batman Vs. Predator may be out-of-print, but it's cheap and makes a great stocking stuffer. 100% serious here.
7.) Hark! A Vagrant ($15)
For Fans Of: Comedy writ large
Kate Beaton's historically tinged webcomic Hark! A Vagrant was recently collected in hardcover. Her vignettes have equal time for drunk Nancy Drew, historical analyses of Canadian political history, and Batman covered in Vaseline.
($20 for both graphic novels)
For Fans Of: Scott Pilgrim
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's pristine and clever fantasy miniseries — which is about a bunch of occasionally insufferable music snobs with the power to cast spells using pop music — ran over the course of two graphic novels: Rue Britannia and The Singles Club.
Both Gillen and McKelvie are currently blowing up over at Marvel Comics, so it's definitely worth checking out the book that put them on the map.
($50 for the three in-print volumes)
For Fans Of: Futuristic scifi beyond the Wars and Treks
Dark Horse Comics has recently been republishing volumes of Carla Speed McNeil's addictive "aboriginal science fiction" webcomic series, which has won a crap-ton of awards and has been running since 1996. Fortunately, the first two graphic novels — plus the original graphic novel Voice — make it easy to pick up and read.