Plan on shopping for a comic fan this year?
Let me just say that graphic novels make great gifts.
Sifting through the many, many options can be overwhelming though, so let me help simplify your holiday shopping - the answer is Batman.
‘‘Batman: Noel,’’ a Batman-themed re-telling of Dickens’ ‘‘A Christmas Carol,’’ is one of many ‘‘Bat-gifts’’ one might consider purchasing the Caped Crusader fan on your holiday list.
With the most gift-givingest time of the year almost upon us, I'm writing this month's column for the non-comic readers.
Consider this your shopping list. Whether you need a gift for a casual fan or a hardcore collector, Batman is the choice that's sure to please all this holiday season.
Forgive my partiality. Marvel fans surely get a little bit less out of this column each month than DC/Vertigo readers. And while I do try to vary my coverage, this month's column has again wound its way back to that longtime favorite of mine - the Batman.
Nerding Out With Nick Dean
Sure, I could've opted to write a more well-rounded list of gift recommendations.
I could've included details about Marvel's "Dark Angel Saga" or best bets for buying collections of "The Walking Dead."
But, man, DC's got a heck of a lot of shiny new Batman stuff out just in time for the holidays.
BATMAN: NOEL - This tie-in is just too slick and well-timed not to lead off the pack.
In stores since early November, "Batman: Noel" is a Batman-themed re-telling of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Don't let that concept sway you from picking up the book though. Sure, it's been done to death, but in "Batman: Noel," writer Lee Bermejo casts Batman as the Scrooge character to interesting effect.
Bermejo is best known for having illustrated DC's now famous "Joker" graphic novel. This is his writing debut, but the art is familiar and as impressive as ever. The edition that's out now is a deluxe hardcover and lists for $22.99. Don't wait for the trade paperback that will surely come out sometime next year. This book is well worth every penny.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE - This direct-to-DVD animated feature is based on the four-part Frank Miller story from 1987.
Check the bookshelves of the comic fans in your life. Chances are Miller's "Batman: Year One" is there somewhere. By all accounts, this translation to DVD is so impressive simply because it kept true to its source material.
The A.V. Club gave the film an A-, saying "'Batman: Year One' is a stellar adaptation, copying Miller's words and (David) Mazzucchelli's images almost verbatim at times." The reviewer also concluded that, "It all recalls what it felt like to read 'Batman: Year One' for the first time, and sense that this was a story that had always existed."
The film features Benjamin McKenzie as the voice of Bruce Wayne and Batman, Eliza Dushku as the voice of Selina Kyle and Catwoman plus Bryan Cranston as Lieutenant James Gordon.
Looking to bolster the gift box? Try packaging "Batman: Year One" with another Batman animated film, such as "Under The Red Hood" or even "Mask of the Phantasm."
ABSOLUTE BATMAN: HUSH - Here's a new release that's a revamped version of an older book.
The "Hush" storyline from a few years back gets DC's "Absolute" treatment and on Nov. 30 was released in oversized slipcased hardcover, at a list price of $99.99.
The "Hush" story collects Batman issues 608 through 619, written by a Jeph Loeb - who's probably best known for having authored "Batman: The Long Halloween" and other now classic Batman books.
In "Hush," Loeb writes a whodunnit mystery of sorts that brings in most all of the bad guys in Batman's rogues gallery. It's one of those fan-favorite books that stretches back to the beginning of the Batman mythos, adding new elements, while simultaneously working in elements from throughout the years.
Fear not, there's several other trade paperback collections of the "Hush" story out there, so the $100-dollar "Absolute" edition isn't the only way to read it.
THE BOY WHO LOVED BATMAN - Out now from Chronicle Books is a memoir by Michael Uslan.
I know, I know ... You're thinking: Who?
In his book "The Boy Who Loved Batman," Uslan writes about his longtime love of the character and traces his path from childhood fascination to his work as an executive producer on every Batman film from the first Michael Keaton movie through to the new Christopher Nolan trilogy.
This is probably the best book to get a comics and Batman fan, as it's not a comic book but is something which will strike a chord. Uslan's led an enviable life to comics fans such as myself. He's not a millionaire by day and crimefighter by night, but his tale's an interesting one to read - having lived in the shadow of the Bat so long.
BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR - While "Batman: Noel" is an original graphic novel, written separate from current and ongoing continuity, this book comes straight from the recent pages of "Detective Comics."
In "Batman: The Black Mirror," writer Scott Snyder tells a couple different stories at once - one with Dick Grayson as Batman and another focused on the secret family history of Jim Gordon's son James.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, some of my favorite Batman and Gotham-centric books don't have the Caped Crusader in them at all. There are so many other characters and elements all wrapped up with Batman that there's enough rich fodder for exceptional writers like Snyder to tackle.
In terms of specific issues, "The Black Mirror" collects "Detective Comics" issues 871 through 881. A total of three different arcs are included in the collection, the "The Black Mirror" itself, "Skeleton Cases," and "Hungry City."
When it was published in single issues, each copy of "Detective Comics" included two stories - a Batman story and a piece about the Gordons. Two different artists were used for each of the separate stories. I was partial to the watercolor-looking blues and reds of Francesco Francavilla's work, but the art's likely going to be divisive for some readers. This isn't your typical straight-forward comic book. The alternating stories weave something larger together and, at least in my opinion, it makes for a much more satisfying read.
Buy this now. It's a modern classic.
FLASHPOINT - Despite having "Flash" in its title, DC's "Flashpoint" series was largely a "Batman" story.
Sure, Barry Allen is the main protagonist here (he's The Flash, in case you didn't know). However, besides his quest in the book to set the world right, there's another underlying impetus which spurs on the story - and that's the "Flashpoint" version of Batman. I don't want to spoil who he his or his motive, but, much to my surprise, Batman was a big part of this "Flash" book.
I dedicated a sizable chunk of last month's column to the series, which was collected in a hardcover edition in October.
The graphic novel collects the five issues of the main "Flashpoint" series, which leads up to the company's recent reboot.
Unlike other big event books, Flashpoint is set in an entirely different DC Universe. Because of that, new readers and old alike are coming in pretty much on the same page - which makes it an ideal gift for either the casual fan in your family or the hardcore nerd.
Regular readers of this column are surely familiar by now with DC's "New 52."
The publisher rebooted its superhero universe earlier this year, releasing a total of 52 new number one issues - taking a lot of characters back to their origins.
Scheduled for release next Wednesday is a hardcover book collecting all of the first issues from the publisher's "New 52."
Throughout the month of September, over the course of four weeks, DC staggered the release of its new first issues. Chances are though that most readers only read a couple of the issues, specifically those featuring their favorite characters or some of the interesting new titles.
Now readers can get all those first issues in one book - one giant book. Listing for $150, DC's "New 52" collection is a total of 1,216 pages and clocks in at something like eight pounds.
DC is billing the book as a once-in-a-lifetime release and I can't argue much; it's a hefty item marking a major milestone for the company.
When it really boils down to it though, the book's largely just a collector's item. Considering its size and cost, most readers aren't going to opt for this over single issues or even digital copies of the comics. Not to mention that there's really not a complete story in the whole book. As it collects all of DC's first issues, a lot of the stories told are just first installments of multi-issue arcs.
That's not to knock the book. It is everything that it promises. It's all 52 of the publisher's new first issues, not a compilation of collected editions. That will come later. Here though, you get everything from Action Comics No. 1 and Detective Comics No. 1 to lesser-known titles like O.M.A.C. No. 1 and All-Star Western No. 1.
Having read all of DC's 52 new first issues I'll add one little caveat. Beware buying this book solely because reading all those first issues will spark a desire to continue reading all the series, and that's neither a good or bad thing in and of itself - just a little bit costly, time-consuming and enjoyable.
THE WALKING DEAD
How am I supposed to live without you?
There's been little I've looked forward to more on television these last few weeks than "The Walking Dead."
Then, last Sunday, AMC concluded the first half of the show's second season with a mid-series finale. Now it's on break until February.
So tell me, Rick Grimes, how am I supposed to live without you now that I've been loving you for so long?
Seriously, anyone got any ideas? I've got an hour-and-a-half now on Sunday nights that had been reserved these last few weeks for "The Walking Dead" and "The Talking Dead." Season Two was slow to start, but the mid-season finale capped things off nicely. I'm thinking the second half of the season is going to be much quicker-paced. A number of pieces are now in place for some serious plot points to come to a head. Hopefully the second half of the season has Robert Kirkman and company knocking down the dominos, so to speak.
Also, hopefully this little blurb about "The Walking Dead" at least succeeded in putting Michael Bolton's voice in your head, or maybe even Laura Branigan.
I was going to kick off the "Assorted Etceteras" portion of this month's column with the Christopher Nolan/Batman movie news - about how "The Dark Knight Rises" is going to be set several years after the conclusion of "The Dark Knight."
But, as I started to get going, I realized just how much I'd already written for this month's column. So head on over to the blog at The Post-Journal's website for more rambling about comic books and whatnot.
More from me in a month's time.
Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month. Comments, criticisms and/or items for submission can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the newsroom at 487-1111, ext. 251.