Hanukkah is halfway over and Christmas is next week. Traditionally, columnists with no ideas use this as an opportunity to recommend gift ideas that, ideally, benefits themselves, their families or their friends.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know your gift-giving needs. I don’t know your friends. I don’t know your tastes, and your budget is none of my business. These are books that, if I didn’t already own them and love them, I would want to get. If they are new to you, I envy the good times you have ahead.
I want to start off with Mimi Pond because, well, I know her a little bit and this will make me seem important. She and I both freelanced for the fashion section of The Village Voice back in the late seventies and early eighties. Fashion was like the ugly stepchild at the paper, not worthy of the seriousness of purpose to which the alternative press was dedicated.
Anyway, over the years, Mimi has created a bunch of really, really funny books. Secrets of the Powder Room is laugh-out-loud uproarious. Shoes Never Lie made the jokes that were still being stolen on Sex and the City thirty years later.
This year, however, Pond went in a different direction (to me, anyway) and produced a beautiful graphic novel, Over Easy. It’s about her experiences waiting tables, and while that might seem really trite and banal (haven’t we read a million books about the shitty jobs artists take to support their art?), it’s really atmospheric and lovely. The characters are instantly distinct, the world in which they live is both exotic and recognizable. I loved just about everybody in it, and I was sorry to see the story end. We want more, Mimi!
I don’t know Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’d like to, but so far, the most I can say is that we were in the same room at New York Comic-Con and I thought about going up to introduce myself, but then she was mobbed and I didn’t want to be in that mob. She has a new book out, Bitch Planet and while it’s only one issue, it’s already hilarious.
Bitch Planet takes the “women in prison” scenario (or, as Michael O’Donoghue used to call it, “Kittens in a Can”) and takes it for a militant feminist whirl. It subverts a lot of my assumptions (you mean the skinny white woman isn’t the main character?) and the ads on the back cover are really, really funny.
There has been a minor kerfuffle on the Interwebs because a local comic book store wrote up a solicitation for the book and referred to Ms. DeConnick as “Mrs. Matt Fraction.” They also listed Mr. Fraction as “Mr. Kelly Sue DeConnick.” The joke misfired, there was outrage all the way around, and the store apologized (and, I hope, figured out why that was offensive).
None of this is a slam on Matt Fraction. I’m sure no one thinks he’s riding on his wife’s coattails. Along with artist Chip Zdarsky, he’s created Sex Criminals, one of the funniest comics ever. You can read the first issues in a trade paperback collection and you should. I haven’t been made to feel so sexually inadequate by a comic book since American Flagg.
The story and the characters are wonderful but my favorite part of the series is the letter column, which usually goes on for five or six pages. Readers send in not only commentary on the stories, but also shameful confessions, awkward questions, and unsolicited advice. Matt and Chip answer in the same tone. Here’s a brief sample of what they sound like.
I was really disappointed that the collection didn’t include the letter columns, although it does have some brand-new text pages that are also reasonably hilarious. Fortunately, Image collected a bunch of the letter column stuff, and new stuff with more artwork, and dubbed it Just the Tip < >, a cute little hard cover book that’s the perfect stocking stuffer for those of you who stuff stockings.
If you’ve read my column during the year, you know that I also recommend The Fifth Beatle and March and Sage and Snowpiercer. I don’t know if I wrote about them, but I liked them, and you should know.
Happy holidays, one and all.