5 graphic novels to give as Christmas gifts

Funny books aren’t just for kids anymore. Whether your friends and loved ones love an action-packed superhero story, an illustrated biography of a favorite president or a spooky tale about impending fatherhood, there’s something to stuff in every stocking this year. Here are a few graphic novels that are sure to please even the pickiest reader in your life.

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln
Author and Artist: Noah Van Sciver|
For: History buffs

Fans of Abraham Lincoln whose appetite was whetted by Spielberg’s recent “Lincoln” biopic will love this look at our 16th president back when he was a down-on-his luck 20-something. A string of failures puts young Lincoln into a depression that, by most accounts, seemed to follow him around like a dark cloud for much of his life. “The Hypo” combines exhaustive research and an endearingly bleak black-and-white, crosshatching-heavy art style into an engaging portrait of a great man, and a reminder that even said great men get bummed out every now and then.

The Ultimates, Vol. 1 (hardcover)
Author: Mark Millar
Artist: Bryan Hitch
For: Fans of “The Avengers” movie who don’t follow the comics on which they’re based

Whip smart super-misfits teaming up to save the world from aliens? No, this isn’t “The Avengers,” which your resident comic book nerd has probably already bought for themselves this Christmas. This is “The Ultimates,” the edgy, controversial reinvention of Marvel comics’ greatest heroes for the 21st century. Those who love the Marvel characters on the big screen but are lost when it comes to finding a hopping-on point in the comics will be relieved to hear that “The Ultimates” is a self-contained story, so an encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel superhero history is not required. What’s even better, besides the witty banter and jaw-dropping art by Bryan Hitch, is how the modern Marvel movies are clearly inspired by this new take on classic heroes. Tony Stark as a self-obsessed ladies man? Nick Fury as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson? It all started here.

Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. Crumb and A. Crumb
Author and Artist: R. Crumb and A. Crumb
For: Those who like a little naughty with their nice

Funny, erotic and truly strange, this volume captures the entirety of infamous underground cartoonist R. Crumb’s collaborations with his fellow cartoonist and wife, Aline. The Crumbs are not afraid to poke fun at their self-absorption, their weird nocturnal proclivities or even the disparity between the level of success of each other’s careers. This brutally frank, yet loving, look back at their marriage and their life in comics is a must-have for any fan of R. Crumb or anyone who likes a comic that has a (dirty) sense of humor about itself.

Author and Artist: Craig Thompson
For: Fans of poetic and heartbreaking epics

Epic in both scope and length, “Habibi” is a harrowing, moving story about a concubine and a eunuch in a mythical land inspired by ancient Arabian fairy tales. The often heart-wrenching story is made beautiful by stunning, exotic backdrops and lavish explosions of lines and detail that evoke the elaborate stylistic flourishes of Islamic art. Indeed, there is something spiritual and provocative about the sheer scale and depth of the story presented in “Habibi,” and it makes a perfect gift for a reader who loves books that are both haunting and beautiful.

Underwater Welder
Author and Artist: Jeff Lemire
For: Twilight Zone fans, expecting parents

Nova Scotia-native and deep-sea-welder Jack Joseph is used to working under pressure. After all, one mistake so far below the ocean’s surface could spell disaster. However, the impending birth of his first child sucks him into an abyss of self-doubt as he recalls his own less-than-ideal relationship with his father, who was also a diver. As if this wasn’t enough to worry about, a mysterious happening at the bottom of the sea drives Jack further and further from his pregnant wife and into a world of confusion. The story is like something out of “The Twilight Zone,” and the sketchy, scribble scrabble art gives “Underwater Welder” a sense of rough, blue-collar beauty, even as it dives deeper and deeper into the murky waters of the mind.

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