The GOOD Gift Guide: Gateway Graphic Novels

You don’t have to be a fanboy to enjoy these five great comics from 2014.

It’s 2014—how are you still not reading comics? While the funny pages were once just the domain of muscle men with their underwear on the outside, lasagna-craving cats, and dangerous juvenile delinquents named Dennis, those days are long gone; the comic book medium is now being used to tell pretty much every kind of story there is. Here are some suggestions for those who might not be up to date on what’s going on in the wide world of the graphic novel, a few guaranteed good reads that’ll get you and your friends hooked—soon you won’t want to read any dialogue that’s not in a word bubble. So what are you waiting for? Go be cool and read some comics.

1. Andre the Giant: Life and Legend

Today, some might only remember Andre Rene Roussimoff as Fezzick, the giant from the 1987 film, The Princess Bride, or recognize his face from Shepard Fairey’s OBEY brand of streetwear. But for more than 25 years, Roussimoff was wrestling star Andre the Giant, a complicated man known paradoxically both for his geniality and his grumpiness, his earnestness and drunkenness, (he was estimated to drink 7,000 calories of alcohol daily) beloved for his work with children, and yet himself an absentee father. Over seven feet tall, and often weighing in at more than 600 pounds, he spent his life literally never fitting in—as a child Roussimoff could not squeeze onto his school bus, and a family friend (incredibly enough, playwright Samuel Beckett) would drive him instead. Andre the Giant: Life and Legend pieces together a portrait, not always flattering, of the larger-than-life heavyweight through the personal stories of The Giant’s family, friends, admirers, and rivals.

2. This One Summer

There’s an art in taking on nostalgia; the work has to be both specific and vivid enough to really put a reader into a particular time and place, as well as general enough to inspire sentimentality in a broad audience. Mariko and Jillian Tamaki achieve these goals ideally in This One Summer, capturing an adolescent girl’s tumultuous, yet idyllic season at a lakeside cabin with her family. “We spent a lot of time spying on kids, wherever we would find them,” the authors, who are cousins, told The New Yorker in May. While Mariko’s characters are complex, engaging and eminently appealing, Jillian’s artwork is just as likely as the storyline to induce the Proustian jolt—a set of keys, seashells, an empty teacup, a half-finished crossword—a single still-life panel can tap perfectly, and often uncomfortably into the very substance of summer.

3. Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1

Saga, Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ Space Opera family drama, brings us the Romeo and Juliet tale of Marko and Alana, who, along with their half-breed child, Hazel, are fugitives of an interplanetary war in which both sides want them dead. Pursued by emissaries of their respective peoples—including a bounty hunter with a lie-detecting cat and Prince Robot IV, a member of the android royal family—they navigate the stars, fighting off hostile elements, befriending ghosts, and changing diapers. This new deluxe hardcover edition collects the first two years of the monthly series, offering the complete initial story arc and over 500 pages of comics. Coming in at under $50 this giant tome is a steal, and would make a great gift for fans of this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy or the Star Wars franchise.

4. The Best American Comics 2014

Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud’s now-classic book on the graphic medium’s strengths, foibles, and essential vocabulary, was a key part of comics’ push into respectability over the last two decades. In The Best American Comics 2014, he compiles exciting pieces from some of the biggest names in the business, (R. Crumb, Chris Ware and Jaime Hernandez) but also highlights a host of up-and-coming artists and experimental works that play with the idea of what a comic book can or should be. Not that this is just some artsy exercise or academic textbook—there’s a strong grip on narrative, and McCloud maintains a friendly, explanatory presence throughout, discussing each piece’s inclusion and merits and drawing out the themes and histories that connect the diverse group of works.

5. Sugar Skull

Something weird happened to Doug. All he knows is that it started with the irresistible, elusive, self-destructive Sarah, whose checkered past and history with violent men only drew him deeper into her thrall. Waking up with a head injury and very little memory of how he got there, he first passes the time at his parents’ house in a haze of drugs and paranoia, while his alter ego, a simple, cartoonish version of himself named Nitnit (Tintin backwards, get it?) looks for answers in a world of deformed freaks and foul-mouthed lizard functionaries. Think Memento, if David Cronenberg had directed it. Charles Burns, maybe best known for his beautiful cover illustrations at The Believer, began Doug’s story several years ago in X’ed Out and continued the hallucinogenic art school noir in 2012, with The Hive. Sugar Skull, the third installment of the series, released this September, brings the dark, maudlin tale to its finale.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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