The PopCulteer
December 7, 2012 

I know I did graphic novels yesterday when we focused on Vertigo, but there’s more to the world of comics than moody immortals and muck-monsters. Today, we’re going to look at a wide variety of collected comic books and graphic novels. These can be ordered through almost any bookstore and some comic book shops, or you can find them at the usual online retailers. Whenever possible, we’ll provide a link so you can order directly from the publisher or creator.

Billy Tucci’s A Child Is Born
Apostle Arts (ISBN-13: 978-0983835240)

Billy Tucci is a comic book artist primarily known for his work on action series, such as his original creation “Shi,” the Samurai Babe and his work for DC Comics on “Sgt. Rock.” With this project, he decided to apply his artistic talents to a subject of great importance to him. Billy Tucci’s A Child Is Born is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the story of the Nativity. It’s clear that this is a labor of love by a man expressing his deeply felt, sincere faith.

Check out some of this wonderful artwork…

Billy Tucci’s A Child Is Born is a sublime, respectful work of religious art and would be a wonderful addition to the library of anyone on your list who still feels strongly about the true meaning of Christmas. It is the PERFECT Christmas gift.

A hardcover edition of this lovely comic book can be ordered directly from Apostle Arts website.

Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby
DC Comics (ISBN-13: 978-1401234744)

Jack Kirby, the legendary comics creator, is held in nearly as high esteem as the subject of the previous entry by most comic book fans. Kirby was the heavy lifter responsible for the creation of Captain America (with Joe Simon) and The Fantastic Four, Thor, the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, The Hulk, and The Avengers (with Stan Lee) as well as The New Gods, Kamandi, and The Demon (by himself). That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of comic book characters created by Kirby, the walking idea factory.

Challengers of the Unknown by Jack Kirby collects Kirby’s lesser-known work on this DC Comics series that pre-dates his heyday at Marvel Comics. From 1957 to 1959, Kirby, with an assist from writers Dave Wood and Francis “Ed” Herron, launched DC’s team of adventurers, who were “living on borrowed time” before bailing to go work with Stan Lee at what was then Atlas Comics. This volume includes eight stories that showcase Kirby’s collaboration with inker Wally Wood, considered by many to be the most striking deliniator of Kirby’s pencils.

The premise of the series is four men who survive a plane crash and band together to travel the world in search of adventure. The seeds of what would become The Fantastic Four are clearly evident here, especially when Kirby sends the Challengers into the cosmos for their encounter with the Space Circus. This is pretty much a blueprint for how adventure comics should be done.

The Carl Barks Library

Carl Barks was a master at comic book storytelling. His Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics still resonate over six decades after they were first published. Fantagraphics has been collecting Barks’ work into affordable hardcover volumes with new coloring and meticulously restored art, three of which have been published to date.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost In The Andes (ISBN-13: 978-1-60699-474-0) The first volume in the series includes stories from when many critics feel Barks reached his peak, 1948-1950. Highlights include: The title story, “Lost in the Andes” (Barks’s own favorite). Donald and the nephews embark on an expedition to Peru to find where square eggs come from only to meet danger in a mysterious valley whose inhabitants all speak with a southern drawl, and where Huey, Dewey, and Louie save Unca’ Donald’s life by learning how to blow square bubbles!

There are also Two stories co-starring the unbearably lucky Gladstone, including the epic “Race to the South Seas,” as Donald and Gladstone try to win Uncle Scrooge’s favor by being the first to rescue him from a desert island.Plus there are Two Christmas stories, including “The Golden Christmas Tree,” one of Barks’s most fantastic stories that pits him and the nephews against a witch who wants to destroy all the Christmas trees in the world. In addition to those stories, there are enough to pump this volume up to over 200 pages of primo comic book coolness.

Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man (978-1-60699-535-8) starts off with “Only a Poor Old Man,” the defining Scrooge yarn (in fact his first big starring story) in which Scrooge’s plan to hide his money in a lake goes terribly wrong. Two other long-form classics in this volume include “Tralla La La” (also known as “the bottlecap story,” in which Scrooge’s intrusion has terrible consequences for a money-less eden) and “Back to the Klondike,” a crucial addition to Scrooge’s early history, which is famous for a censored bar brawl that was restored in later editions. The bar fight has been called “Jack Kirby with ducks.” Also in this volume are the full-length “The Secret of Atlantis,” and over two dozen more shorter stories and one-page gags.

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown (SBN-13: 978-1-60699-574-7), is the most recent volume in the series, and it includes, from 1951, “A Christmas for Shacktown,” one of Barks’s masterpieces: A rare 32-pager that stays within the confines of Duckburg, featuring a storyline in which the Duck family works hard to raise money to throw a Christmas party for the poor children of the city’s slums (depicted by Barks with surprisingly Dickensian grittiness). There’s lots more classic Barks work in this volume, which features both the “The Golden Helmet” (a quest off the coast of Labrador for a relic that might grant the finder ownership of America) and “The Gilded Man,” about a hunt for a rare stamp in South America. Those classics make up less than half this volume.

The Creativity Of Steve Ditko
Yoe Books/IDW (ISBN-13: 978-1613772768)

Ditko is, along with Jack Kirby, one of the Marvel Comics artists that gets the short shrift when it comes to doling out credit. Ditko was the artist who created Spider-man and Dr. Strange with Stan Lee, and part of the blame for him not getting his deserved credit is due to his own fiercely independent sense of privacy. It’s been almost fifty years since he’s given and interview, and he prefers to work for less money in exchange for being free to create what he chooses without editorial interference.

Steve Ditko’s most creative comics are lovingly reproduced in this beautiful large format hardback book, The Creativity of Steve Ditko, a companion to Craig Yoe’s previous The Art of Ditko. Featuring a Foreword by Paul Levitz with revealing essays by Mike Gold, Jack Harris, Mykal Banta, and Amber Stanton, The Creativity of Steve Ditko showcases a plethora of unpublished art, sketches, and many never previously printed photos of Ditko.

It’s an essential addition to your comics library.