The holidays are perhaps the best time to bring a couple of new works of graphic literature (aka comics) into your bookstore, even if you don't emphasize them the rest of the year. Most of these titles are priced comparably with traditional words-only books, and they look special and beautiful in your displays and in the hands of a lucky gift recipient. Here are a dozen titles I think are among the best graphic lit bets for bookstores for the holidays, with a "shelf talker" style description of what makes them great and notes to booksellers following. I'd love to hear from you about the graphic novels you're reading, recommending and selling in your store!--Jessica Stockton Bagnulo
For kids and teens:
The Mice Templar, Vol. 1: The Prophecy by Bryan J. L. Glass (Image Comics, $29.99, 9781582408712/1582408718)
Swords and the supernatural abound in the ongoing saga of the young mouse Karic, whose destiny is to restore the fallen order of the mice Templar. This collection of the first six comics in the Mice Templar series is perfect for kids and young adults who love stories of adventure and magic.
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip, Book 3 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299555/1897299559)
This third volume of beloved Norwegian author Jansson's work to be reissued makes for a lovely set of stories about the gentle hippo-like Moomin and his friends and family, drawn and written as whimsically as children's books, but full of awkward, hilarious, even dark situations that adults will find familiar.
Also available: Moomin Book 1 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781894937801/1894937805) and Moomin Book 2 (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299197/1897299192)
Aya of Yop City written by Marguerite Abouet, art by Clement Oubrerie (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781897299418/1897299419)
The second volume of lively adventures with Abouet's young protagonists is as contemporary as the Gossip Girls, though it takes place during the prosperous period of the 1970s in a rural city in the African country of Ivory Coast. Unwed motherhood, infidelity and rampant flirtation may give some parents pause, but Abouet deals with the subjects with honesty and subtle observations of class and gender, and the responsible, ambitious title character is a true role model.
Also available: Aya (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95, 9781894937900/1894937902)
Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez (Vertigo, $19.99, 9781401203689/1401203663)
Gilbert, one of the hugely talented Hernandez brothers, tells a poignant and surreal story of teenager Miguel Serra, who wakes from a coma to find himself moving in slow motion. As he figures out his relationship with his girlfriend and his best friend and chases down the mysterious Goat Man in the lemon orchard, Miguel's trip through suburbia is compelling, insightful and dreamily strange, perfect for a teen audience.
Best American Comics 2008 (Houghton Mifflin, $22, 9780618989768/0618989765)
Houghton Mifflin does it again, with a collection that truly represents the best of the last year in comics. From the gorgeously textured cover by Eleanor Davis to works by everyone from Alison Bechdel (Fun Home) to Matt Groening (The Simpsons), this book offers incredible comics bang for your buck.
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon, $27.50, 9780375423956/0375423958)
A fantastic retrospective from the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Maus, this oversized volume contains a reprint of Spiegelman's classic 1970s collection, Breakdowns, surrounded by his contemporary reflections on his journey in the world of comics.
Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-1966) by Jules Feiffer (Fantagraphics Books, $28.99, 9781560978350/156097835X)
As seen on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, this is a collection of the grown-up work of Jules Feiffer, also a children's book author. Talky, satirical, politically and psychologically astute, Feiffer's strips influenced future comics writers from Gary Trudeau to Art Spiegelman, and this beautiful hardcover is a perfect reintroduction--or introduction, for the uninitiated--to a great cartoonist.
Comic Book Tattoo by various artists (Image Comics, $29.99, 9781582409641/1582409641)
Tori Amos is the kind of musician who inspires fierce loyalty, and that's especially true among comics artists. The anthology collects often beautiful visual stories based on Amos's song lyrics by more than 70 well-known names in comics, and the introduction is by Tori's close friend Neil Gaiman.
Also available: Comic Book Tatto hardcover slipcased special edition (Image Comics, $75, 9781607060314/1607060310)
Omega The Unknown written by Jonathan Lethem, art by Farel Dalrymple (Marvel Comics, $29.99, 9780785130529/0785130527)
Omega the Unknown was a quirky superhero comic that had a brief run in the 1970s, when it found a fan in author-to-be Jonathan Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn, etc.). Lethem teams up with talented artist of awkwardness Dalrymple to reimagine the story of a mute superhero and the teenage boy with whom he shares a strange destiny.
Local written by Brian Wood, art by Ryan Kelly (Oni Press, $29.99, 9781934964002/193496400X)
This is a collection of poignant stand-alone stories about 12 years in the life of one character: Megan McKeenan, who hops from city to city across the U.S. in a search for identity and home. Wood and Kelly extensively researched their locations, from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn, N.Y., and local landmarks from 12 very different cities feature prominently in the stories.
This celebration of American local culture wouldn't be out of place on a "shop local" display, especially if your town is one of those featured! Link to Wikipedia entry listing all 12 locations.
Collector's Editions: Willie & Joe: The WW II Years by Bill Mauldin (Fantagraphics, $65, 9781560978381/1560978384)
Homely, irreverent, perpetually muddy, Bill Mauldin's classic GIs Willie and Joe dealt with their lot with a hilarious skeptical stoicism that seems uniquely American. This slipcased hardcover collection is a great gift for a dad, uncle or granddad who enjoys a wry laugh at the expense of the muckity-mucks who got us all into this mess.
The Adventures of Tintin: Collector's Gift Set (Little, Brown, $150, 9780316006682/0316006688)
The adventures of boy reporter Tintin, his dog, Snowy, and his friends Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and the rest are some of the greatest classics in the world of comics (I received one or two volumes every Christmas as a kid, and they kick-started my love of reading). This boxed set is a big gift, but it does represent a significant savings over buying all 21 volumes separately, and it's an investment in years of joyful reading.
A note on distribution. If you'd like to get any of these titles into your store, all are typically available through major wholesalers:
Image, Marvel, and Oni are distributed by Diamond Book Distributors
Vertigo and Pantheon are distributed by Random House
Fantagraphics is distributed by Norton
Little, Brown is distributed by Hachette
Drawn & Quarterly is distributed by Macmillan