This year's crop of graphic novels comes in editions from bare bones to deluxe, but there's something for everyone on your list. Collected editions of the medium's historical best—Bill Mauldin and Osamu Tezuka—bump up against clever collage and pop-up books, and oddities like a Japanese Batman manga. On the cutting edge, Kramer's Ergot #7 presents a lavish anthology of today's finest indie cartoonists. Cartoonists are covering everything from the real political turmoil of Burma to the fantasy adventure life on Tatooine. Whether as precious objects or as stories to be savored, the books on these pages show that the boom in graphic novels should continue right through to gift-giving season.
MAD About Politics: An Outrageous Pop-up Political Parody
By the Usual Gang of Idiots
(Insight Editions, $34.95)
Classic moments in political humor, from a hunting trip with Dick Cheney to Bill Clinton's Oval Office antics, get an imaginative pop-up treatment.
By Osamu Tezuka
A handsome hardcover edition collecting the stories of the hero surgeon created by the late manga master.
The Best American Comics 2008
Edited by Lynda Barry, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
(Houghton Mifflin, $22)
Memorable characters, from the real-life Bloody Benders to the hilarious Uncle Grampa, cavort through this showcase of the year's best comics.
The DC Vault
By Martin Pasko
(Running Press, $49.95)
With the added bonus of replicas of memorabilia ranging from posters to Christmas cards, the history of DC Comics is recounted in this lavish collectible.
A year-by-year history of Marvel, from the early days of Timely Comics to the present-day movie-fueled successes, with an intro by Stan Lee himself.
Will Eisner's The Spirit: A Pop-Up Graphic Novel
By Will Eisner
(Insight Editions, $34.95)
Famed paper engineer Bruce Foster captures The Spirit's shadow-drenched world of dangerous damsels and courageous crimefighters.
An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Vol. 2 (Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories)
Edited by Ivan Brunetti
(Yale Univ. Press, $34)
Brunetti takes another idiosyncratic journey through the medium with this stunning anthology of some of the best stories of the past 30 years.
Ghost World Special Edition
By Daniel Clowes
The indie classic of two girls searching for adulthood is back in an expanded edition that includes the movie screenplay, a scrapbook of sketches and a “Where are they now?” comic.
Edited by Daniel Nadel
An impressive two-volume collection of Panter's punk-infused drawings showcases his influential style and powerful design sense.
Willie & Joe: The WWII Years
By Bill Mauldin
A deluxe two-volume slipcased edition of Mauldin's famed WW II cartoons, which bring the grief and camaraderie of war to life.
Luke Skywalker: Last Hope for the Galaxy
(Dark Horse, $99.99)
Chosen from various Star Wars comics over the past 30 years, this slipcased edition tells the story of Luke, from moisture farm to Jedi master.
Hellboy Vol. 2: The Chained Coffin, The Right Hand of Doom, and Others
By Mike Mignola
(Dark Horse, $49.95)
Mignola's demonic monster-hunter's adventures are collected in a velvet-bound, oversized book that showcases his stunning art to its fullest.
Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan
Edited by Chip Kidd
An amazingly retro presentation of a Batman manga from the '60s shows the caped crusader bridging the gap between Eastern and Western comics.
Vagabond, Vol. 1
By Takehiko Inoue
The manga master tackles the iconic story of legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi. Each deluxe trade paper volume includes three of the regular manga books.
By Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
All 12 issues of the acclaimed series about a young woman who moves from city to city are collected in this weighty hardcover.
Kramer's Ergot #7
Edited by Sammy Harkham
Lovingly printed on special paper, with gold foil trim, this oversized anthology—featuring contemporary cartoonists from Adrian Tomine to Matt Groening—sets a new level for comics presentation.
I Live Here
Edited by Mia Kirshner, J.B. Mackinnon, Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons
These four slim volumes use collage, comics and words to depict four hot spots of human suffering: Chechnya, Mexico, Malawi and Burma.