All last month we were putting out holiday gift guides—and now it’s time for some graphic novel gift ideas! This one took me the longest because I take gift-giving (all times of the year) very seriously and love, love graphic novels. Therefore, it is hard to narrow all these suggestions down. Graphic novel memoirs are literally my favorite genre of stories, and if you mix in a little fantasy or horror, I’m sold.
Below are graphic novels that were released in the last year or so and would make great gifts for friends, co-workers, and loved ones. These are mostly for general audiences and adults, but they range in maturity level, so these are organized from the safest for work to the least safe for work.
As a 2021 National Book Award Finalist in the Young People’s Literature category, this isn’t exactly a hidden find. However, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a great gift, especially for those interested in folk tales and American history. This story follows a young girl and her family working at a logging camp in 1880s Nevada as tensions are getting worse for the immigrant community following the Chinese Exclusion Act. One way the main character, Mei, and others process these transitions is by telling stories—like her take on newly forming folk heroes.
The premise of this story is relatively straightforward: a recent high school grad finds herself in a high-profile fashion magazine internship the summer before she starts college. While it hits the expected beats suggested on the cover regarding body image, social media, and advertising, it doesn’t feel as preachy as it could be. Instead, the story leads with empathy and honesty. It’s also a much needed update on how media-induced body dysmorphia has changed in the last 10 years. This is a great gift for those who shudder when they look at their screen time.
If you want a sneak peek at the comic, check out this interview I did with Szamosi.
Inspired by the author’s childhood, The Magic Fish features three overlapping stories that center on identity, family, and magic. In between reading fairy tales together, Tien is struggling to tell his mother that he likes boys, and his mother is grappling with feeling disconnected from her homeland in Vietnam. Between the coloring and creative storytelling, The Magic Fish is easily one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s one of those books I will obnoxiously put in people’s faces because it’s that good. The book is often found in middle-grade parts of stores and libraries, but is great for all ages.
This is for that person who loves mythology and love stories. Or, better yet, one of the hundreds of thousands of Rachel Smythe fans enthralled by her retelling of Hades and Persephone. In this version, the young goddess is training on Mount Olympus to be a sacred virgin. However, plans go awry and promises are at risk of being severed once she meets the King of the Underworld. If you’re feeling extra giving, volume two was released earlier this year.
I could just tell you to look at the cover, and there’s all the reasoning you need because it’s mesmerizing. This is an all-in-one Fantastic Four story in which parasites invade the Baxter building. With traces of Negative Energy, the group decides to travel to the Negative Zone, putting their lives and the universe at risk to find who—or what—sent these creatures. Although the story is a licensed sequel (produced outside of Marvel), it feels like it’s totally part of the 616 Fantastic Four. While the story is not too intimidating to newcomers, the psychedelic art and paneling are a little experimental.
Speaking of this year’s faves and books where the creators were interviewed at TMS, Wash Day Diaries is a must-consider book. The story follows four best friends during a wash day as each one is dealing with issues of family, love, and mental health. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but certainly perfect for those that like slice of life narratives, stories about friends, and self-love. This book will make you smile and might make you cry.
This entry into the Smut Peddler catalog features 13 stories of erotic historical fiction spanning thousands of years. Many at TMS have been fans of different Smut Peddler novels and anthologies (like this book) for years. After reading Patience and Ester, I joined the chorus, too! While you can get this on Bookshop, it’s also available on the publisher’s website as a DRM-free PDF (meaning you actually own it) for a discrete and eco-friendly reading experience.
This is a very violent story, so it’s going below the fun erotica. While Simon Says is making the list because it’s a genuinely thrilling story of a Nazi Hunter right after the end of WW2, I’m also adding it because I’m selfish (I know, the opposite of the holidays). This graphic novel was released in 2019, and there’s been no part two—even though it had a wild cliffhanger! If more people read it, they will also want to ask the publisher to invite the artist back to continue the series. Or, at the very least, bring us some closure and tie up loose ends. This is a great gift for those into detective stories and history, especially entering the Cold War era.
(featured image: Penguin Random House, Harry N. Abrams / Marvel, and Iron Circus Comics)
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(she/her) Award-winning digital artist and blogger with an interest in art, politics, identity, and history—especially when they all come together. This Texan balances book-buying blurs with liberal Libby use.
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