Do you know what used to a real ‘moment’ for me on Christmas day? That indulgent half an hour when I’d sneak off from the chaos of the wrapping paper detritus, overwhelming wafts of pigs being cooked in blankets and the raucous sound of Morecambe and Wise to take a quick breather in the quiet haven of my childhood bedroom. After sitting back on my continental quilt and taking stock of both the quality and volume of this years present haul, I’d then reach for that year’s annual. Usually a Christmas compilation from either Victor!, the Beano or the Dandy that was guaranteed to be chock full of chuckles, chortles and the odd tale of derring-do. Now as a fully grown up, turkey roasting Dad I still long for that feeling of total immersion and escapism that reading those wonderful comic books provided back then. Each annual containing the perfect balance of words and pictures, that were ideally suited for those of us with the kind attention span that meant Treasure Island was never gonna happen. In recent years I have discovered the graphic novel and can think of no better Christmas present for those of you who still yearn for something cartoon based to read on the big day. So listed below are my top ten recommendations for all your graphic goodness, it’s a varied bunch but they’re all brilliant and guaranteed to re-live that Christmas thrill of opening the annual.
Krent Able’s Big Book of Mischief (Stool Pigeon)
This irreverent compilation of Krent’s comic strips from music mag Stool Pigeon makes Viz look like a Church newsletter by comparison. Brilliantly drawn and equally as hilarious, it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud but this book managed to make me do so on pretty much every page. If you like laughing at Kanye West’s massive head and/or would enjoy seeing Lily Allen in the hands of Satan then this one’s definitely for you.
Hip Hop Board Book (Martin Ander)
Do you ever worry that your children will grow up not knowing who Flavor Flav is or that they’ll leave the house one day and forget their Kangol? Make sure your kids always know what time it is by buying this cute and sturdy board book that’s full of B-boys, block parties and absolutely no biatches. I say buy it for your kids but we all know who it’s for really don’t we? Yeahhhh boyyyy.
The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song (Frank M. Young & David Lasky)
This is one of the nicest looking (and sounding) books I’ve read this year, the story itself reading like one long Carter Family folk song and made for an ideal bed-time read on many a dark autumn night this year. The accompanying CD that sits inside one of the pages is a nice touch too. I just hope they do a Johnny & June follow up as hinted at in the last few pages of this most American of musical tales.
Journalism (Joe Sacco)
If you’ve read Safe Area Gorazde and/orPalestineby Joe Sacco, you’ll know that his work is essential reading for those of us interested in world politics but easily baffled by the bombardment of The Day Today style news bulletins. Joe reports with warmth and wit from the front line having no other agenda than putting across the human cost of the various conflicts and scenes of injustice he encounters around the world. Journalism is a collection of some of his most powerful work, including an unpublished account of his time with the American army inIraqthat will stay with you long after the Christmas tree has been taken to the tip.
Jerusalem (Guy Delisle)
Given that it’s Jesus’ birthday, it seems only fitting to have his old stomping ground represented here. As with Guy’s previous books, he takes an open and honest look at a place and culture somewhat out of his comfort zone via his easy going and humorous travelogue style. If you can’t afford an exotic winter holiday then this is the next best thing.
Paris (Erika Raven & Peter Moerenhout)
Though this might look like one of those free books you get with a summer edition of Bella that’s been written by some frazzled advertising exec lazily scribbling away the rest of their bolly bloated days in the South of France. I assure you it’s nothing of the sort ‘Paris: The Dark Side of Glamour in the City ofLights’ is a genuine graphic novel albeit with trashy aspirations. Just like a Jackie Collins novel this satirical story evolves around three girlfriends living in Paris and en route to fame via the worlds of fashion, music and sleeping around, and unlike a Jackie Collins book the sex scenes are there to see in black and white. Don’t be fooled by the pink and sparkly cover, just like a French poodle this book has a deceptive and snappy bite.
Lost Girls (Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie)
Though I tend to stick to the factual side of things literature-wise, Alan Moore is my exception to the rule when it comes to graphic novels. In fact graphic is a pretty good word for this heavyweight book as it transports the reader into the lives of three women who have all converged in an Austrian Hotel at the end of the Belle Epoch. These are no ordinary women though, Wendy from Peter Pan, Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ and Alice(no longer) in Wonderland are the lost girls in question and what a dirty trio of buggers they are. This book is not one to be read in front of nanna or the kids as its page to page filth of the most fantastical, opium smoking order. Just like Moore’s immense Jack the Ripper book From Hell the reader is quickly immersed into an incredibly detailed, semi-supernatural world quite like no other.
Cycle of Violence (Grayson Perry)
Staying with the kinky theme, one of my favourite artists of recent years Grayson Perry has a rather risqué book out too. If you’ve ever spent time gazing at Grayson’s work you perhaps won’t be surprised or shocked by the images and storylines in this masterpiece of pen and ink. Inspired by comic strips he drew whilst growing up Grayson’s Cycle of Violence reflects its title quite literally being based on (fictional) Tour De France winning cyclist Bradley Gaines and his descent into serial killing madness. Don’t leave this book lying around if you have kids/philistines on the premises.
Dante’s Inferno (Hunt Emerson & Kevin Jackson)
Like a Horrible Histories for grown ups, the classic renaissance tale of Dante’s Inferno is given the comedy cartoon treatment by Kevin Jackson and Hunt Emerson whose work readers of 80s porn mag Fiesta may well remember from their filthy Firkin the Cat comic strip. After reading about Dante’s hilarious travels through the various rings of hell I not only had a good laugh but now feel like I actually know more about this story than I would if I’d attempted to read the actual book itself. Ideal for those of you currently studying for a beer degree.
Drawn Together (Robert R Crumb & Aline Crumb)
Not being a full on cartoon geek I’m pretty ignorant to the work of Robert Crumb and his wife Aline despite his/their legendary status within the genre. Though I was quite impressed by this hikerdelic snowboarding jacket that whose pattern is made up using a variety of Crumb illustrated objects which really remind me of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brother comics I collected as a teen. This autobiographical book documenting their kooky couple-dom seems a good place to start, though that’s as much as I can tell you as I’m saving this for the Queen’s Speech.