I always see summer reading book lists and holiday gift book guides. What I want to know is, where are the gift-giving guides for less popular times of the year? As a lover of books, I would warmly welcome such lists with a big smile and open arms. To get that ball rolling, I offer up this list of End of Summer Gift Ideas for Sci-Fi Fans and Comic Nerds!
Fair warning: most of the books I'll mention here are art books. Why? One of the reasons I love reading is that it exercises my imagination. Art fuels that imagination, as these books will attest.
For Film Buffs
Film fans are no doubt enjoying this year's summer blockbusters, but their enjoyment doesn't have to end there. Moviegoers who appreciate the hard work that goes into the eye candy of sci-fi films in particular might also enjoy the art books that further explore the visual aspects of the films that pull them to the theater. For starters, check out Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, a beautiful (and heavy) book that focuses not just on this year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but also 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This book is crammed with concept art, production stills and lots of behind-the-scenes looks at the making of the film. But authors Matt Hurwitz, Sharon Gosling, and Adam Newell don't stop there—they also write about the production of the film itself, going into interesting and eye-opening detail. Fans of these and the other Apes films will also want to check out Planet of the Apes Saga: The Poster Collection, a book that collects not only posters from the franchise reboot, but also from the original films and the Tim Burton remake.
Another summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, gets a similar treatment with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Art of the Movie. This 336-page book includes exclusive concept art, production stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, like you might expect, but it also includes in-depth interviews with the cast and crew of the film based on Marvels comic series.
Not to be outdone, the makers of Godzilla have published Godzilla: The Art of Destruction. In addition to the usual assortment of stills, photographs and concept art sketches, illustrations, and cast/crew interviews, author Mark Cotta Vaz tells the complete, fascinating story of how the film was made, from concept to screen.
It's not just new films that are currently being recognized. In 1997 Studio Ghibli released what would become an anime cult classic. Princess Mononoke, a historical fantasy set in the late Muromachi period of Japan, is the story of a young warrior and the war between forest gods and the human mining colony that consumes its resources. Directed by legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, the film won the hearts of viewers all over the world. Here we are 17 years later, and fans can finally immerse themselves even further in the film with the book The Art of Princess Mononoke. It includes hundreds of images from the film as well as presenting the story of the how film came to be.
A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
Sometimes an art book doesn't need to be anything more than that. For proof I offer up Dark Shepherd: The Art of Fred Gambino, by a skilled and imaginative artist who specializes in imagery of the fantastic. Gambino combines CG imagery with digital paintings to depict an impressive array of diverse subjects and scenery. With stunning vistas, realistic character portraits and atmospheric imagery, Gambino's art will expand your mind.
No less cool, but maybe a little less diverse (in subject matter, not style) is Nuthin' But Mech Volume 2, which includes illustrations by 40 artists. Each artist offers their own take on robots and various other mechanized creations. While the theme of the book is pretty simple, it's no less gorgeous to feast your eyes upon it.
Also offering a vast array of artists and styles is The Mind's Eye: The Art of Omni edited by Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz. It contains an incredible selection of art from the popular science magazine Omni, which was published between 1978 and 1998. As such, it serves as a kind of historical document for the art of that time period, or more to the point, how artists of that era imagined the future. The science fiction imagery presented between its covers still evokes a sense of wonder today.
Readers of fantasy, particularly dark fantasy, will want to check out the art book Substrata: Open World Dark Fantasy edited by Paul Richards. Substrata was a project that allowed the art team of a video game to come together and define their own world from their own imaginations. The end result is a shared world unlike any other. Each artist brings their own vision and style to the world, pushing it and twisting it in new, exotic directions.
For Comics Fans
It's hard not to include some comic-related titles in this roundup since art is intrinsically part of comics and graphic novels. Two recent releases in particular are tasty treats for comic lovers.
For old-school comic readers (think: newspaper comic strips), there's Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips Volume 3 (1971-1974), the third volume in the series that collects the adventures of Tarzan as drawn by American comic book artist Russ Manning. Thrill to the adventures of Edgar Rice Burroughs' jungle hero!
Readers of more modern comics will want to check out the Platinum Edition re-issue of Marvels, a graphic novel that serves as a documentary of the Marvel comics universe itself. The point-of-view character is a photojournalist who witnessed firsthand the thirty-five year history of superheroes and super-disasters. I cannot think of any artist better than Alex Ross to illustrate this. Ross' photorealistic style is stunningly beautiful and memorable; he perfectly captures the essence of Marvel's amazing, incredible and uncanny characters.