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IFC.com’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

IFC.com’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide (photo)

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Whether you’re a fan of superhero action, absurd humor, or heart-wrenching drama, it’s a great time to be reading comics – but it can be a little intimidating to shop for the comics fan on your list if you’re not exactly a regular reader. And with that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of books you might want to add to your holiday shopping list.

The list below features some great mainstream books, indie darlings, a television tie-in or two, and even some collections of popular webcomics that are finding a new audience in print. In fact, all you need to do is match the book with the person you’re buying it for, and your shopping is done – aside from the gift-wrapping, that is. Consider it our holiday gift to you.


Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1-3

batman.jpgFor the mainstream superhero fan on your list, next year will be a big year for Batman. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” hits theaters in July, and the film will introduce one of Batman’s greatest enemies, Bane – who famously “broke the Bat” in the now-classic Batman: Knightfall storyline.

Anyone looking for a refresher course on why Bane is one of the Dark Knight’s most dangerous foes need only pick up the collected editions of the Knightfall arc (“Broken Bat,” “Who Rules The Night,” and “KnightsEnd“) to get all the back story on the brilliant behemoth Tom Hardy will play in the film. This is must-read material for any Batman fans out there.


Ultimate Comics Avengers, Vol. 1: The Next Generation

avengers.jpgWith Marvel’s massive team-up movie looming on the horizon, now’s as good as time as any to get caught up with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Marvel recently relaunched many of its most popular characters in the Ultimate Comics line, offering up a more modern, gritty take on the heroes that’s frequently cited as one of the chief inspirations for its recent (and upcoming) movies.

The first volume of Ultimate Comics Avengers features a story scripted by Wanted creator Mark Millar, and introduces readers to the team dynamic by throwing the cast of characters into yet another world-threatening catastrophe – or in this case, multiple catastrophes. While it’s certainly not recommended for children, Ultimate Comics Avengers goes a long way toward reminding older fans why the Avengers are not a team to mess with.


DC Comics: The New 52

dcnew52.jpgDC Comics made headlines a few months ago when it rebooted its entire universe and launched 52 new series in the span of a month. The first issues of all of those series are collected in this impressive hardcover volume, and it’s no exaggeration to say that there’s something for everyone in this book.

From Superman and Wonder Woman to Swamp Thing and Aquaman, this collection has all of DC’s new line of characters, and provides the best jumping-on point you can ask for when it comes to the DC universe. Oh, and on a side note, I highly recommend Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man – it’s one of my favorite of the bunch.


The Walking Dead: Compendium One

walkingdead.jpgSure, everyone loves the AMC television series, but Robert Kirkman’s post-apocalyptic zombie saga has been rolling along for years now and steadily building a shambling legion of fans. This massive tome collects the first 48 issues of the series, and includes some of the most memorable moments from the first few years of the comic. Despite its size, it’s also a bit more manageable than than the beautiful-but-heavy hardcover “Omnibus” editions, so it’s an easier (and cheaper) way to get caught up with the hit series.

It’s also worth noting that the comic book series and television series differ quite a bit in some areas, so if you know someone who’s a big fan of “The Walking Dead” tv series, they’ll find plenty of surprises in this collection.


Doctor Who: The Dave Gibbons Collection

doctorwho.jpgAlso spinning out of a fan-favorite television phenomenon is IDW Publishing’s Doctor Who: The Dave Gibbons Collection, a hardcover collection of Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons’ celebrated run on the series. The popular artist had a lengthy, memorable run on the series, which took the BBC’s science-fiction hero from the television to the printed page for some wild adventures.

This particular collection follows the fourth iteration of The Doctor (played by Tom Baker in the television series), and brings together all of Gibbons’ work for the very first time. If there’s a “Doctor Who” fan on your list – and there seems to be a lot of them these days – this collection could send him or her into a fandom-induced frenzy, so consider yourself warned.


Locke & Key, Vol. 1-4

locke.jpgAlso from IDW Publishing – and also with a television connection – is Locke & Key, the award-winning series written by Joe Hill, the son of novelist Stephen King. Hill clearly inherited his father’s talent for telling a scary story, as Locke & Key manages to be both terrifying and compelling, and keeps readers guessing from one page to the next. The series tells the story of a family that inherits a mysterious mansion in which magical keys unlock all sorts of wonderful – and occasionally nightmarish – secrets.

The series was optioned a while back amid much fanfare, but the pilot episode of the series was never picked up. Nevertheless, the episode received heavy praise from fans when it was screened during this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego. The four volumes of the series (“Welcome to Lovecraft,” “Head Games,” “Crown of Shadows,” and “Keys to the Kingdom“) will show you what the fuss is all about and – I’m betting – make you a fan, too.


Wednesday Comics

wednesdaycomics.jpgThis oversized, hardcover collection of DC’s critically praised Wednesday Comics series features 16 different stories by some of the best-known writers and artists in the comics industry. Originally published as weekly newspaper-style strips, the series assembled an impressive cast of characters from all across the DC universe, including Batman, Adam Strange, Metamorpho, Wonder Woman, and Sgt. Rock.

Even more impressive than the characters featured in the series are the creative teams the publisher assembled for the project – an eclectic list that includes everyone from Neil Gaiman and Paul Pope to Walter Simonson and Joe Kubert. While the book isn’t likely to fit on your comic fan’s shelf (it’s slightly smaller than an unfolded, standard newspaper), it will definitely occupy a place of honor in his or her collection.


Morning Glories, Vol. 1 Deluxe Collection

morningglories.jpgOne of our favorite new series, Morning Glories is what would happen if you set the “Lost” television series inside a mysterious prep school. Filled with shocking cliffhangers, multiple layers of brain-tingling mysteries, and characters faced with more questions than answers, the series is a no-brainer for gift guides and “Best Of” lists – mainly because it feels like a great television series in comic book form.

This hardcover edition of Morning Glories collects the first 12 issues of the series, and is filled with lots of extras and exclusive content that fans will certainly appreciate. If you end up thumbing through the series while you’re waiting in line, don’t be surprised if you end up buying one for yourself to accompany the one you’re giving away.


Twenty-Seven, Vol. 1: First Set

27.jpgYou know all of those stories about why so many musicians and other artists died at age 27? Well, this series from Image Comics tackles that very subject, and crafts a fascinating mythology out of the “27 Club” that you’ll need to read to believe.

From Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain and – most recently – Amy Winehouse, the “27 Club” has sparked no small amount of speculation and urban myths. This book is an easy pick for the music-loving comic fan on your gift list, and collects the first four issues of the series in one place.


Infinite Kung-Fu

kungfu.jpgIf you know someone who’s a fan of old-school martial arts films – or the modern-day homages to them – Kagan McLeod’s Infinite Kung-Fu needs to be on your shopping list. The critically praised graphic novel follows a former soldier who must master the greatest kung-fu techniques in existence in order to save the world from the evil emperor’s diabolical plans. Not only is it a great story, but it’s the sort of epic tale that will have readers cheering along each stage of its hero’s quest.

This 464-page book collects the entire story in one bookshelf-worthy novel, and you’ll realize in no time why it’s regarded as one of the year’s best books.


The Homeland Directive

homeland.jpgIf the comics fan on your list is the sort who appreciates a tense drama peppered with high-octane action (a la the “24” television series), this story by the writer of The Surrogates will scratch that itch quite nicely. Robert Venditti’s The Homeland Directive follows an expert researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who’s caught up in a massive conspiracy that threatens the lives of millions of Americans.

At times feeling like an edge-of-your-seat thriller straight off a movie screen, The Homeland Directive should appeal to anyone who wants a little more than capes-and-tights superhero fare, and appreciates a fast-paced story with real-world danger and implications.


Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Books 1-3

fables.jpgIt seems like faery tales are all the rage these days on television, but comic book readers have been privy to years of edgy spins on Snow White, Pinocchio, and the rest of the faery-tale world in Bill Willingham’s Fables. The award-winning series chronicles the adventures of popular characters from folklore who were forced to hide out in modern-day Manhattan after being driven from their homelands by a mysterious adversary.

The series reached its 100th issue earlier this year, but these hardcover collections each take you through 10-12 issues of the series and offer lots of great extras that other editions are missing. If you like what you read, you can decide to catch up with the more frequently published paperback collections or even the single issues – but these editions are a great way to begin this thrilling series that somehow manages to get better with every story arc.


Scenes From A Multiverse: Book One

multiverse.jpgJonathan Rosenberg had everyone guessing what was next when he ended his long-running, wildly popular webcomic Goats, but his follow-up series Scenes From A Multiverse has more than lived up to expectations. Chronicling the weird science and alien cultures of a variety of fictional planets, Scenes From A Multiverse manages to be both hilarious and thought-provoking – and the perfect gift for the comics fan on your list who doesn’t mind a few jokes about advanced physics and the trouble with time-travel drugs.

Scenes From A Multiverse: Book One is the first (obviously) collection of Rosenberg’s popular new series, and features an introduction by Skepchick.org lead writer Rebecca Watson.


Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn

brooklyn.jpgMore than just a love letter to the urban experience, Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie is a wonderful story about two women trying to figure out how to make the best of life in that uncertain time after school ends and the rest of your “grown-up” life begins. The first two years of Gran’s poignant, funny, and occasionally very personal webcomic were collected in this treasury published by Villard Books, which also includes a bonus story available only in the collection.

As with all webcomics, if your intended recipient enjoys the book, he or she will find plenty more comics to read on the Octopus Pie website – so there’s a good chance you’ll be giving a gift that keeps on giving.


The Abominable Charles Christopher: Book One

snowman.jpgKarl Kerschl’s beautifully detailed webcomic about an adorably naïve sasquatch and a forest full of talking animals was named the best digital comic of 2011 at this year’s Eisners – the comic industry’s most prestigious award ceremony. A respected artist already known for his work on various superhero comics like Teen Titans: Year One and the aforementioned Wednesday Comics #1 (as well as a well-received comic based on the Assassin’s Creed video game series), Kerschl has made a nice home for himself in the online world among the wise-cracking creatures of Charles Christopher.

Kerschl self-published this first print collection of the series in a nice paperback edition that deserves equal space on any comic fan’s bookshelf. Simply put, if you don’t find yourself grinning while reading Charles Christopher, you might not have a soul.

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The Break-Up

Watch Bill Hader and Other SNL Favorites Break Character

Catch Bill Hader on the new season of Documentary Now! premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: NBC/YouTube

Aw, Friday. A day of happy hours that begin at 4PM and “too rotten to miss” movies like Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey on IFC’s Rotten Fridays. A truly magical day where the possibilities are endless and the regrets are just around the corner. So as we partake in the pre-weekend, sit back and enjoy another gaggle of funny videos to run out the clock.

From a despondent croissant to unintended giggling on SNL, here are the five best videos of the week.

1. SNL Cast Breaks Up

Saturday Night Live head honcho Lorne Michaels famously decries ad-libbing during the live runs — though with hilarious folks like Will Ferrell and Documentary Now!‘s Bill Hader, there are bound to be some unscripted moments that cause the cast to lose it during a sketch. Some of the greatest SNL moments involve the players or guests breaking character, as this compilation clearly shows. (Fortunately, the shame of ruining the scene has been replaced by video viralbility.)


2. Croissant Man

Pity the breakfast pastry, for its existential ennui is too much for this world. In this short courtesy of the NY Television Festival, our favorite light and flakey morning pal waxes melodramatically to his therapist and compatriots regarding the hopeless, Sartre-level gloom that hangs over every search for Life’s purpose. (Click here to see more great shorts from the NYTVF.)


3. That Time Ray Charles Beat Willie Nelson in Chess

For your guaranteed smile of the day, here’s the tale of a game of chess between crooners Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. Turns out ol’ Ray was a bona fide chess master on par with Bobby Fischer — or maybe he was just good at evening the field by making them play in the dark. As Willie puts it, “He kicked my ass three games in a row!”


4. Why Jump Scares Suck

Ever since primitive man leapt out of a bush to scare his friend, jump scares have been employed as a cheap and easy way to jolt your audience. As YouTuber Jack Nugent explains in the latest Now You See It video, it’s far more difficult to instill a growing sense of dread and suspense than just simply having a cat screech across the foreground of a dimly lit basement.


5. Best Supporting Weirdo

“Here’s to the crazy ones,” Steve Jobs famously said, paying homage to the oddballs and misfits who stand out from the pack and, more often than not, define their surroundings. In this rapid-fire supercut, some of our favorite nutjobs (like Beetlejuice, Cameron Frye and Death) are paid homage for keeping pop culture protagonists on edge and the audience entertained.

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Rotten Journey

5 Reasons Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey Is Too Rotten to Miss

Have an excellent time with Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey tonight at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

We live in an age of unimaginative sequels. Filmmakers know the easiest way to cash in is to trot out the same plot and characters and hope we don’t notice. Which is why what we need now more than ever is Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, airing tonight at 8P as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays.

Sure, the 1991 sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (coincidentally airing on IFC tonight at 6P before Bogus Journey) scored a meager 54% on the Rotten Tomatoes. (Even before the “Tomatometer” was a thing, Bogus Journey was the definition of a lackluster sequel.) But its mix of head-scratching craziness (Robots! Aliens! William Sadler as Death!) and solid gags (“You sunk my Battleship!”) have earned the flick a cult following among fans of oddball sequels. Before you tune in tonight, check out some reasons why Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earns the coveted title of being one of IFC and Rotten Tomatoes’ movies that are “too rotten to miss.”

5. It’s Visually Most Triumphant.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

The first movie may be a classic, but there’s no doubt the look of this scorned sequel took things to a whole other level. Instead of resting on Excellent Adventure‘s laurels, new director Peter Hewitt decided to go for broke creatively, offering up a vivid visual style that highlighted the film’s themes of life, death, failure and regret. While it may not be the popular opinion, there’s no doubt that as pure eye candy Bogus blew the first flick out of the water. Just ask Michael Wilmington, who wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “Bogus Journey is better than the original: more imaginative, more opulent, wilder and freer, more excitingly visualized.” Righteous review, dude!


4. Evil Bill and Ted Robots? Excellent!

Bogus Journey robots
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Bill and Ted have to be two of the most loveable doofuses to ever grace the silver screen, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that seeing them go full-on bad guy is a real treat. The evil robot clones of Bill and Ted still have their sleepy-eyed, stoner outlook on life — they just also happen to be bad to the bone. This fun twist brings new life to the franchise, another example of how screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon really mixed things up. Plus, they rock!


3. Bill and Ted Go To Hell. Outstanding!

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

If Tim Burton ever directed a Freddy Krueger movie, it might end up looking something like Bill and Ted’s journey to Hell. While the sequence is righteously funny — with an unending descent into Hades going from terrifying to boring in the blink of an eye — it also has a dark, nightmarish quality that’s like an M.C Escher painting that knows your deepest, darkest secrets. Alex Winter’s turn as young Bill’s toothless “Granny Preston” wanting a kiss still gives us nightmares.


2. The Grim Reaper is Bodacious.

Bogus Journey
Orion Pictures

William Sadler, who’s played everything from a badass terrorist in Die Hard 2 to a loveable convict in The Shawshank Redemption, kills it as, well, Death. Heavily influence by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Sadler plays the Grim Reaper as a stoic force of nature who learns to loosen up thanks to some righteous new friends. The scene where Bill and Ted best him in a batch of board games may seem a bit broad at first blush, but what are Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. supposed to do? Play chess?


1. The Dudes Truly Become Wyld Stallyns.

Bogus Journey Wyld Stallyns
Orion Pictures

One of the few shortcomings from the most unrivaled first film is that we never really get to see the boys become rock legends. Thanks to some time traveling shortcuts — and a 16-month sabbatical of guitar lessons and baby making — Bogus Journey ends with the Wyld Stallyns finally living up to their righteous reputation, ready to make the music that will put an end to war and poverty and align the planets into universal harmony. Also, it’s excellent for dancing.

Catch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this Friday at 8P on IFC’s Rotten Fridays!

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Choose or Lose

The Funniest Political Comedies From the ’90s

Documentary Now! tackles '90s politics with "The Bunker," premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

While this election season seems like the greatest source of political comedy ever, it’s got nothing on the ’90s. During the original recipe Clinton Era, there were a large number of films that shined a light on the dark humor of politics.

As we gear up for the September 14th premiere of “The Bunker,” the season premiere episode of Documentary Now! that takes a look back at the tumultuous 1992 Ohio Governor race, let’s flashback to a simpler time when Donald Trump was just a rich guy happy to be in Home Alone 2. It was the time of flannel shirts, Beavis and Butt-head and politicians with their heads up their own butts. Grab some Crystal Pepsi and check out the funniest political comedies of the ’90s.

10. My Fellow Americans (1996)

Legendary actors James Garner and Jack Lemmon play two politically opposite ex-Presidents thrust together in an attempt to prove that the current President (played by Dan Aykroyd) is behind a bribery scandal that Lemmon’s Pres. Kramer is being framed for. My Fellow Americans was supposed to star Lemmon and his Grumpy Old Men costar Walter Matthau, who backed out of the project due to health problems. As great a duo as they were, James Garner seemed like the perfect choice for Pres. Douglas — with his natural Southern charm, his character is like an older Bill Clinton.


9. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)

The Distinguished Gentleman might be the last movie you would shout out if you were ever on Family Feud and “Eddie Murphy movies” was a category, but it’s still a fun comedy with Eddie bringing the cool factor that made him a huge star in the ’80s. Here Murphy plays a con man who decides to run for a Florida Congressional seat because he shares the same name as the congressman in his district up for re-election who just died of a heart attack. After getting the backing of a Florida seniors organization (the Silver Foxes), Murphy’s appropriately named Thomas Jefferson Johnson runs as the “name you know” and ends up winning. He starts out buying into the idea of “playing the game” in order to get paid by lobbyists but eventually ends up changing his con-man ways. Hey, it’s a ’90s Eddie Murphy comedy. Things tended to work out in Eddie’s favor.


8. Black Sheep (1996)

The second buddy road trip comedy starring Chris Farley and David Spade suffers from being compared to the much funnier Tommy Boy, but there are still some hilarious moments here. Farley, in one of his final roles, plays Mike Donnelly, a well-meaning but goofy mess who manages to repeatedly muck up his brother’s campaign for Governor. Casting Tim Matheson, of Animal House fame, as the smarter and handsomer brother was a great choice and Farley and Spade get into plenty of shenanigans including encountering Gary Busey as a crazed Vietnam Vet. The scene where Farley takes the stage at a “Rock the Vote” concert will have you snorting Crystal Pepsi out of your nose.


7. The American President (1995)

Before he created The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin honed his presidential speech writing skills with the screenplay for The American President, a romantic comedy where Michael Douglas’ single Prez romances Annette Bening’s plucky environmental lobbyist. Directed by rom-com master Rob Reiner, the movie is loaded with sweet and funny moments, like when Pres. Shepherd (Douglas) calls Sydney (Bening) to ask her out the first time and she hangs up thinking it’s a prank call. We even get a sneak peek of President Bartlett, as Martin Sheen turns up as Shepherd’s no-nonsense his Chief-of-Staff. Sorkin claims he wrote the screenplay during a time when he smoked a crack. If that’s the case, every screenwriter should be give that method a try.


6. Wag the Dog (1997)

Before Dustin Hoffman joined Robert De Niro’s “circle of trust” in Meet the Fockers, the legendary actors co-starred in the David Mamet-scripted dark comedy Wag the Dog. You can’t capture the era of ’90s politics better than a film dealing with the cover-up of a Presidential sex scandal. Oddly, the movie actually came out before Monica Lewinsky and her dress entered the minds of Americans. Today, the plot of Wag the Dog might be an episode of Scandal, but if you look back to 1997, it was a biting political satire of what goes on behind-the-scenes of power and politics. De Niro plays D.C. spin-doctor Conrad Bean, who hires a Hollywood producer to stage a fake war in Albania as a distraction to help insure the President’s re-election. In a stellar cast that also includes Anne Heche and Woody Harrelson as a psychotic ex-soldier turned war hero, Hoffman stands out as a Hollywood bigwig who has a strong resemblance to Godfather producer Robert Evans. (Look for Bill Hader’s take on Evans in the new season of Documentary Now!.)


5. Bulworth (1998)

Warren Beatty was born with the looks of a guy who should run for Senate, and in Bulworth he plays a veteran senator who has lost his way and hires a hit man to kill him. Faced with his impending death, Senator Bulworth has an almost religious conversion to honesty and starts railing against the corruption of corporate money in politics. (We imagine Bernie Sanders has this one in his Netflix queue.) Like a lot of ’90s movies comedies, there is a gimmicky scene where Bulworth raps during a speech. Still, the film is so sharply written, the scene is both hilarious and a prescient look at the way white establishment types would go on to co-opt hip-hop culture.


4. Bob Roberts (1992)

If you love a good mockumentary with conservative folk songs (who doesn’t?), Bob Roberts is the movie for you. Tim Robbins wrote, directed and starred in this underrated comedy, which was inspired by a SNL sketch he had appeared in a few years earlier. Bob Roberts is a folk-singing, conservative self-made millionaire running for Congress in Pennsylvania who appears to be 100% All-American. Robbins is great at using his wholesome grin to mask the fact that his character is a drug smuggling tyrant with fits of rage. Look for everyone from Alan Rickman as Roberts’ campaign manager to a young Jack Black (see above) as a scarily enthusiastic fan.


3. Dick (1999)

Before the Watergate scandal informant was revealed, there were plenty of theories over the years as to who “Deep Throat” really was. The 1999 comedy Dick posits a possible alternate history of Nixon’s downfall as it follows two adorably upbeat and politically clueless teenage girls (energetically played by Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) who randomly become “Tricky” Dick’s dog walkers after ending up meeting him on a White House field trip. Over the course of the rollicking disco-fied comedy the girls come in contact with every player in the infamous White House scandal, including a hilarious Woodward and Bernstein, played by Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall fame. (The duo’s ’70s hair alone is worth watching for.) Dan Hedaya is perfectly cast as Nixon, showcasing a softer side of the infamous president after he unwittingly eats some pot cookies. An underrated comedy, Dick is a blast of ’70s fun and a great showcase for its cast of rising stars.


2. Dave (1993)

Dave is a classic everyman-turned-hero story with a winning Kevin Kline as an affable guy who just happens to be a dead-ringer for the leader of the free world. When Pres. Mitchell has a stroke while fooling around with his mistress, his Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) hatches a plan to temporarily have Kline’s Dave fill in for the President. Langella and Kline are great together, and the scene where Dave calls his accountant friend (played by Charles Grodin) to come over to the White House and balance the budget is just one of the sharp ways director Ivan Reitman and screenwriter Gary Ross (Big) poke fun at politics. Look for Sigourney Weaver, reteaming with Reitman after the Ghostbusters movies, as the First Lady who slowly begins to realize something is off about her Husband-in-Chief.


1. Election (1999)

If you think national politics is cutthroat, just wait until you meet high school president candidate Tracy Flick. Tracy, as played by Reese Witherspoon, is like a teenage version of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope, but without the likeable personality. Mathew Broderick hits all the right notes as the teacher who starts off being respected but finds his whole life falling apart while overseeing the election. A dark comedy that shows the downside of driven political candidates, Election is a film that remains topical with every new voting season.

Watch MTV’s Tabitha Soren covering the heated 1992 Ohio Governor race below. To find out who wins, catch the season premiere of Documentary Now! September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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