If you are like the rest of America, you probably already took advantage of holiday sales to buy gifts for your friends and family. Then again, if you are like most Americans, you probably ended up -- on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- with more of the items you desperately wanted rather than the ones on someone else's wish list. It's not too late, though, to get them something great. Here are some amazing graphic novels to get you started.
For Fans of Queer Classic Comic Strips
Jane's World Vol. 11: Jane's World started out as a syndicated comic strip (the first LGBT one to land online distribution by a mainstream media outlet), and since then, Jane's creator, Paige Braddock, has gone on to helm Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates as creative director (even designing the 2001 Snoopy stamp for the U.S. Postal Service). But even if you've never come across Jane or Braddock's work, it's not too late. Jane's World Vol. 10 took the intrepid lesbian into outer space but when she makes it back to terra firma in Jane's World Vol. 11 (Girl Twirl Comics), she discovers things have seriously changed while she's been gone. Corporate America has turned zombies into the latest cubicle drones (sort of the opposite of what we see today).
Jayson Does Christmas: Like Jane's World, Jayson originated as a comic strip, but now that Jane is surrounded by zombies, Jayson is bent on world domination. Jayson Does Christmas (Ignite Entertainment) -- a traditional comic book with both classic and new stories -- makes a great stocking stuffer. But it is just phase one. In his effort to become "queen of all media," Jayson's creator Jeff Krell is also releasing a new animated short, creating a full length feature film, reviving the 1998 off-Broadway Jayson musical, and releasing an accompanying album (the latter two of which feature songs written by Romanovsky & Phillips, the popular gay duo who released a string of albums in the 1980s and '90s). Jayson, your EGOT awaits.
For Young Fame Seekers The Hockey Saint: Howard Shapiro's The Hockey Saint (Animal Media Group) is about friendship, the cost of fame and the way we idolize sport stars. The graphic novel for teen readers follows the acclaimed Stereotypical Freaks as Part Two of Shapiro's "Forever Friends" trilogy. College sophomore Tom not only meets his sports idol, Jeremiah Jacobson, but he becomes friends with the hockey star and gets to know Jeremiah as a real, and flawed, human being.
Skandalon: Although it also examines the high cost of fame, Skandalon (Arsenal Pulp) is a much darker, more adult tale. The follow-up to French creator Julie Maroh's highly acclaimed graphic novel, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Skandalon follows a rock star, Tazane, who -- like Hockey Saint's Jeremiah -- hates the media attention/intrusion that has come with professional success. But if Jeremiah is flawed, Tazane is downright damaged. Being idolized by fans pushes the charismatic lead singer into a spiral of addiction and sexual violence. Selfish and egotistical, the bisexual Tazane loves how "grateful" a boy looks after giving him head and later, when he has come to despise his fans, sexually assaults a young woman he thinks is hot for him. Maroh's colorful illustrations tell most of the story and keep it from growing too dark Although emotionally taxing, Skandalon is well worth the effort.
For History Buffs and Military Enthusiasts Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I, in Poetry and Comics: Thisis a remarkable anthology edited by Chris Duffy that pairs art of modern cartoonists with war poetry written in (and about) the trenches of World War I. It may sound like an odd combination but the result is a moving and compelling tribute to lives, and minds, lost along the Western Front (birth place of the term 'shell shocked' later known as PTSD). Above the Dreamless Dead (First Second) includes notes from the artists (Eddie Campbell, Kevin Huizenga, George Pratt and more) about the poems they illustrated.
Secret Agent Moscow: Part One--Goodbye, Natasha: Set during the Cold War, Secret Agent Moscow (Walkabout Designs LLC) follows a Russian American spy as she leaves behind the woman she loved and lost in San Francisco for a secret mission in Moscow's sexual underworld. In it, author/illustrator Jennifer Jigour provides a glimpse into the lives of LGBT Russians following World War II, while also attempting to look beyond typical queer stereotypes.
For Anyone Seeking a Boundary-Busting Look at the LGBT Vanguard 100 Crushes: While Secret Agent Moscow looks back to demonstrate the historical diversity in the LGBT community, these next books provide insight into the right-now and up-and-coming sexual and gender pioneers. Toronto-based artist Elisha Lim (whose preferred gender neutral pronoun is "they") creates works celebrating being neither straight, nor white, nor cis-gendered.. The anthology 100 Crushes (Koyama Press) compiles five years of Lim's queer comics. It includes new work along with excerpts from Sissy, The Illustrated Gentleman, Queer Child in the Eighties, and the cult series 100 Butches. Less a graphic novel than an illustrated series of profiles, interviews, memoirs, and gossip that documents the glorious global diversity that is expressed in today's queer vanguard.
Qu33r: Last year's wonderful anthology No Straight Lines reviewed 40 years of LGBT comic history. Now, with new comics from 33 established and emerging creators, the anthology Qu33r (Northwest Press), edited by Rob Kirby, provides a glimpse at where comics are going in the future. Polished and rough, parodies, true life, and super hero stories offer divergent (and often conflicted) perspectives on sex and love, gender and sexuality, life and heartbreak, belonging and alienation -- and so much more.
For Fantasy and Adventure Lovers The Legend of Bold Riley: The Talking Bone: Leia Weathington's 2012 graphic epic adventure, The Legend of Bold Riley, introduced readers to a beautiful Indian princess who has abdicated the throne for a life of freedom, adventure, and the pursuit of beautiful women. Now the sword-wielding lesbian warrior-princess returns in a monthly comic book format, beginning with The Legend of Bold Riley: The Talking Bone (Northwest Press, illustrated by Jonathon Dalton).
Fearful Hunter: Few artists/authors are able to create the kind of fully realized alternative worlds like the one Jon Macy provides in Fearful Hunter (Northwest Press). The story of a young Druid initiate who falls in love with a wolf boy, Fearful Hunter mixes Celtic rituals, Native American shape-shifting animal/people, and very modern punk rock ethos into an engaging adventure of star-crossed lovers being torn apart by other's expectations and demands. Bonus: lots of naked men, gay sex, and outsized phalluses -- you know, just in case you're into that kind of thing.
For Butches and Moms-to-Be Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag: Pregnancy, like puberty, is one of those times hormones can override our control and take us on a physical and emotional rollercoaster ride. It can be hard enough for baby-obsessed women, but for a butch lesbian more at home under a car than at a baby shower, it can be downright horrifying. That's the premise behind Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag (Soft Skull Press). It makes A.K. Summer's graphic memoir a welcome relief from other (often schmaltzy) pregnancy stories, even before you sprinkle in Summer's unique sense of humor. And you don't have to want kids, or even be female, to enjoy it. (Hint: it's a hilarious gift for baby showers, too.)
Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe: After reading Pregnant Butch you may want to practice your breathing techniques. Actually, considering the study-validated positive impact that meditation has on health, we may all want to. If so, pick up Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One With the Universe (Adams Media) in which Yumi Sakugawa takes you on a visual journey of self-discovery and connection with the universe. And while you're at it, pick up copies of Sakugawa's other awesome little book, I Think I Am in Friend-Love With You, which makes for a great hostess gift.