HOURS to go! Hours to go!

When the holiday shopping season morphs from casual, nog-sipping fun to some sort of “Alice in Wonderland” White Rabbit scamper for gifts, often the best rabbit-hole to seek out is a bricks-and-mortar bookstore (talk about Cheshire-like disappearing acts), if not a virtual one (“Go ask Amazon / I think they’ll know.”).

And never has the season been more bountiful for the comics fan on your list.

Last month, Comic Riffs shared its Top 10 Comics/Graphic Novel Reads of 2012 — but we were just scratching the surface of the year’s comics cornucopia. Ranging from the bendable stocking-stuffer to hardcovers large enough to make your garland-laced mantelpiece groan, here are 12 especially gift-friendly reads (plus a couple of related bonus selections) from 2012:


. ("BILL THE BOY WONDER" / Charlesbridge /.)

1. “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman” (Charlesbridge):

True fans know Batman didn’t begin simply in the mind of spotlight-loving Bob Kane. There, in the beginning, working on late-’30s Detective Comics, was Bill Finger (and soon after, Jerry Robinson). In a kid-friendly 48 pages (but a fun quick read for adults, too), Marc Tyler Nobleman and artist Ty Templeton deftly, with care, give Finger his due.


. (”CALVIN AND HOBBES" / Andrews McMeel/.)

2. “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” (Andrews McMeel):

The completist’s hardcover set of “Calvin and Hobbes” sold well, so now (at a lesser price tag of $100), in four-volume paperback, you can own every strip ever from the beloved and legendary comic about the boy and his “imaginary’ tiger. Seventeen years after Bill Watterson retired “Calvin and Hobbes,” it still stands as a work of remarkable warmth, fun — and genius.


3. “Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity” (Time Home Entertainment).

Speaking of comic genius: From screen parodies to Spy vs. Spy straight through to the Al Jaffee fold-ins, this new book celebrates the Usual Gang of Idiots that for so long was nurtured and nudged by Bill Gaines. As veteran MAD editor John Ficarra told Comic Riffs recently: “This is clearly a nostalgia trip, and, hopefully, [readers will] be transported back to their bedrooms or their cousin’s basement. . . . I want to bring older readers back to the magazine, and I want to bring MAD to a new generation of readers.”

(Bonus pick: And if you like that, definitely check out the excellent “MAD’s Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of His Finest Works” [Running Press].)





4. “How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You” (Andrews McMeel):

All the sharp-toothed satire of The Oatmeal mixed with the inherent fun of depicting mischievously evil cats. This collects some of the very best of the oft-viral Oatmeal — the webcomic nom de toon of Seattle-based artist Matthew Inman — in a deeply funny all-feline bestseller..

(Bonus pick: Although not a cartoon book, “I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats,” offers plenty of humor from “Sally Forth” cartoonist Francesco “Ces” Marciuliano, who also creates the webcomic ”Medium Large.”)



5. “The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation: Celebrating 50 Years of Television Specials” (Chronicle Books):

This engaging art book features dozens of interesting interviews, but the real treasure is all the often-seen images and little-seen artifacts associated with the five decades of Emmy-winning “Peanuts” specials. Animation historian Charles Solomon pulls it all together, with a foreword by producer Lee Mendelson.



. ("SAGA" / Image Comics /.)

6. “Saga” (Image Comics):

Are we witnessing a new comic that will eventually rival the classic “Y: The Last Man” as creative feat? From Eisner-winning “Y” writer Brian K. Vaughan this year has exploded “Saga,” featuring lush art by Fiona Staples. After eight issues, this sci-fi fantasy is flush with excellence and promise. And like such other Image Comics hits as “The Walking Dead” and the screen-worthy “Chew,” “Saga’ seems delivered already prime for Hollywood adaptation. (Bonus: The digital version features great behind-the-scenes sketches and insights from Staples.)


. ("BABY BLUES XX" / Andrews McMeel /.)

7. “BBXX: Baby Blues: Decades 1 & 2” (Andrews McMeel):

Between “Baby Blues” and “Zits,” Jerry Scott continues to stake a claim as one of the funniest “real-life” writers ever to grace the newspaper comics page. An inviting reminder is this beautiful 20th-anniversary treasury from Scott and the ever-gifted artist Rick Kirkman.

Making this collection all the more engaging is the wealth of margin notes by the creators. To wit:

SCOTT: “I do not know what it’s like to breast-feed a child, but as an embedded reporter in the combat zone of family life, this is what I saw.”

KIRKMAN: “Lesson to parents: Never touch your lips to anything your child gives you unless you’ve watched it all the way from its source. Even then, it’s 50/50 that it’s safe.”


. ("BLOWN COVERS" / Abrams /.)

8. ”Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See” (Abrams):

What began as a website by New Yorker art editor Francoise Mouly (one of the smartest illustration-and-comic-art editors working today), “Blown Covers” is a stellar collection of would-be New Yorker fronts that never actually saw the light of a newsstand. As Mouly noted in talks this year at Small Press Expo (Maryland) and the AAEC Festival of Cartooning (D.C.), “Blown Covers” has taken on a popular life of its own.

{Bonus pick: For similar visual wit, definitely check out the latest in the annual-magazine line: The New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2012, edited by New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff. From Chast to Noth to Shananhan, it’s a can’t-miss if you’re giving to a fan of the magazine.)



. ("THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2012" / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/.)

9. “The Best American Comics 2012” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt):

Speaking of Mouly, she edited this year’s “BAC” anthology (previously edited by such comics luminaries as Lynda Barry, Neil Gaiman and the late Harvey Pekar). Some regular New Yorker contributors are represented, and in a welcome new twist, Mouly spotlights some comics for young readers. Another eminently worthy addition to the “Best American Comics” library.




10. “The Creativity of Steve Ditko” (IDW Publishing):

Editor Craig Yoe returns to the scene of the brilliantly rendered crime: Following up on his “Art of Ditko,” Yoe gives the Spider-Man co-creator the hardbound care he deserves. With a foreword by Paul Levitz (and a handful of essays), plus previously unpublished art and photos, this is a great gift, especially, to Silver Age fans.



11. “I Can’t Remember If We’re Cheap or Smart (Dilbert Collections),”

(Andrews McMeel):

Like “Baby Blues,” Scott Adams’s iconic “Dilbert” remains sharply written after two decades. From Dogbert’s executive search (Ratbert!) to the perils of office relocation, to the nefarious plots of “the turnaround CEO” (evil worthy of an office tabby in The Oatmeal — similar strain of humor, that), “Cheap or Smart” reflects the strip’s consistent excellence. For the frustrated/beaten-down/clinging-to-hope office colleague in your life.


. ("THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN" / Vertigo /.)

12. “The Annotated Sandman,” Vol. 1-2 (Vertigo):

The landmark graphic novel has been bound and re-bound in seemingly endless iterations. But the creative achievement that is “Sandman” — by Neil Gaiman and a host of artists — gets an especially insightful life in “The Annotated Sandman.” The art is black-and-white here instead of color, but Leslie Klinger’s margin notes — he peels back Gaiman’s literary, social and historical references like a magical Vidalia onion — make the first two volumes (the final three volumes are still to come) deeply engaging companion pieces for the “Sandman” fans who are legion.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays — and Season’s Readings!