20th Century and Contemporary, Graphic Fiction, Graphic Novels

Staff Holiday Picks: Indie Comics and Graphic Novels

Seven Perfect Gifts for the Lover of Indie Comics & Graphic Novels

For several years, Yale University Press has been building a distinguished list of books about comic art and “art comics” of various kinds. Here are a few favorites especially suited for gift-giving to lovers of indie comics.



Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, by Ivan Brunetti

One of this year’s best-received YUP titles, Cartooning was an instant success: hailed by fans, acclaimed by reviewers, and embraced by beginning and professional cartoonists alike. Precise, concise, and filled from start to finish with the wise, funny, and insightful teachings of New Yorker cover artist and indie comics cult favorite Ivan Brunetti, this book is like a pocket-sized master class for moving up the evolutionary arc from absentminded doodler to thoughtful artist. Ideal as a little gift or a large stocking stuffer.


Chris Ware, by Daniel Raeburn

Jimmy Corrigan and Acme Novelty Library mastermind Chris Ware, much heralded and justly celebrated, has given his fans plenty to enjoy, but even some of his most devoted followers may have missed this terrific, compact book from 2004, in which author Daniel Raeburn looks closely (and eloquently) at Ware’s career, work methods, and artistic innovations. Whether read as an introduction to Ware’s work or as a celebratory guided tour, this is a delightful window into the mind and creations of a truly phenomenal cartoonist.


Jim Nutt: Coming Into Character, by Lynne Warren; with contributions by Jennifer R. Gross and Alexi Worth

Earlier this year, the Museumof Contemporary Art, Chicagopresented an incredible exhibition of the works of the legendary Jim Nutt, whose wildly original, fantastical work has obvious affinities with the underground comix of the 1960s. This book details 70 of the artist’s works from 1966 to the present, focusing on his meticulously executed portraits of women, the distorted features of which blend the comic, the poignant, and the ambiguous in wondrous ways. In these works, what at first glance seems a straightforward cartoon at second glance may put one in mind of the Mona Lisa. The perfect book for sailing past the illusory boundary between pop culture and fine art.


Masters of American Comics, Edited by John Carlin, Paul Karasik, and Brian Walker

In this gorgeously produced history of American comics from Little Nemo to Jimmy Corrigan, the essays feature brilliant matches of author and subject: Jules Feiffer on E. C. Segar’s Popeye, Raymond Pettibon on Will Eisner, novelist Glen David Gold on Jack Kirby, Françoise Mouly on R. Crumb, Jonathan Safran Foer on Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening on Gary Panter, and many others. Dave Eggers’ concluding essay on the genius of Chris Ware, in which he compares Ware to Nabokov and Bach, is a standout. A gift to be cherished, and easily one of my favorite Yale University Press titles of all time.


In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, by Todd Hignite

A personal trip into the studios of nine great cartoonists (Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Charles Burns, Jaime Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, Seth, Chris Ware, and Ivan Brunetti), each of whom unveil their works, quirks, obsessions, habits, and sidelines. For anyone who ever wondered what never-seen items these artists draw in their sketchbooks, where they get their ideas, or what odd little things they create when not making comics, this will be a revelatory book. Makes a great gift on its own or as a companion to any of the books listed above or below.


An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, Volume 2, Edited by Ivan Brunetti

These two hefty volumes are packed to overflowing with irresistibly vibrant, profound, and audacious selections exemplifying the best indie comics of the past three or four decades. Critically acclaimed cartoonist Ivan Brunetti—himself no stranger to that which is vibrant, profound, and audacious—masterfully assembles a crazy quilt of brilliant cartoonists ranging from familiar masters (Crumb, Spiegelman, Seth, Clowes, Panter, Burns, et al) to rising younger artists like Kevin Huizenga, Gabrielle Bell, and David Heatley. For a truly magnificent gift, buy both volumes, wrap them together, and give your comics-lovin’ loved one an instant library of brilliance.

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