The great thing about nerdy cultural items (sci fi, fantasy, comic books, etc.) is that they are alternatives: alternative visions, futures, ways of life – and maybe that’s what we need these days. Courage, character, teamwork – hell, even just coherence – are some of the values we get out of the well-told, heroic stories we find in popular movies, games, and books. Folks complain that they’re not “realistic”. Partly true, maybe, but they don’t have to be. A signpost is not the destination. Humans have always conveyed real experience through made-up stories and cut through despair with imagination. So don’t let anyone throw shade on your fave superheroes, spaceships and magic spells.
Anyway, here are some big books for big nerds – as gifts or just for yourself, since it’s been a very long year. (Most of them you can get from our very own, brand new on-line store, just click on the link. That is, if you don’t want to come in and say “Hi” in person.)
Adventure Time The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! Translated from the Scrolls of Ooo by Martin Olson & Olivia Olson
This massive (so massive not even the pages are numbered – I’d estimate over 100, and they’re satisfyingly thick) compendium of Adventure Time knowledge includes both a guide for heroes, a guide for wizards (called collectively The Enchiridion), and Marcy’s handwritten scrapbook, upside down in the back, which was accidentally fused to the Enchiridion by her dad, Eternal Incarnation of Evil. It includes such essential chapters as “Meet Your Sword” and “The Four Principles of Magic” This world surely rivals those of Tolkien and Martin, especially for 10 year olds/acid freaks. (I’ve never even seen the show, and I think this book is amazing.)
Halo: Warfleet – An Illustrated Guide to the Spacecraft of Halo illustrations by Hans Jenssen and John R. Mullaney
Man, I miss Halo. I played it so much with my gang back in the day that I had dreams where I was running around in the maps (dying over and over again because I really sucked). This oversized but thin collection includes cross-sections of Human, Covenant and Forerunner ships and stations. There are notes on the various planets, size comparisons, specs on armament, and other deep-dive details.
Bad Dads: Art Inspired by the Films of Wes Anderson by Spoke Art Gallery
For films that already seem like art projects, you might not think much space was left for riffs, but the interpretations and reinterpretations in this book are super fun. From giclée to charcoal, from sock puppets to custom printed playing cards, it’s all still fresh but somehow still fits in Anderson’s unique world.
Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies by Andrew DeGraff with essays by A.D. Jameson
If you like maps (we do, or I do, anyway) you’ve maybe occasionally wanted to spatially chart the comings and goings in your fave movies. DeGraff did that with the illustrations in Cinemaps, in a similar vein to that of the old Family Circle comic strip. Some are bafflingly complex and surprising choices, like Rushmore. Others are no-brainers, like The Lord of the Rings. The tiny illustrations of the locations are often just as interesting as tracing the movements of the characters. This is the kind of book you pick up and 2 hours later realize the sun’s gone down and you’ve missed 3 calls.
We take animation for granted, I think. They say that animation is the perfect film school, because since drawing (or animating) every frame is so labor intensive, you learn how to strip the storytelling down to the essentials. The Art of Coco tracks every step in the process from concepts to finished, digital product, with a lot of side explorations, like storyboards and maquettes. If you love the movie or you want to work in animation, then this is your cup of tea… or champurrado, which is about 10 times better than any tea I’ve ever tasted.
They finally made a good Thor movie, Black Panther looks amazing, and the next Avengers movie is looking pretty good too – plus, DC still can’t quite figure it out. (Except for Wonder Woman and the Nolan Batmans.) So, Marvel is still killing it. Speaking of Thor, there’s a massive Thor Ragnarok: The Art of the Movie book. Since this thumper is shrinkwrapped, making it tough to browse before laying out the cash, PreviewNow did a flip through (featuring the exact music (sort of a metal Jan Hammer) that plays through my head every time I look through an art book.) There is the development and variations on the characters, ships, and locations – huge double layouts and details. It’s gorgeous. Look at the flip through for yourself.
And you might want to get your Deadpool fix before Disney cleans him up. (Or not.) Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth sounds like it’s a how-to, a la How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (the sine qua non for ambitious, young, artistic hopefuls), but nope – it’s actually the collection of his bizarre evolution, thru all the art and writing, since 1991. Deadpool is different from other characters, sort of meta, sometimes like a Shakespearean chorus – flexible enough to be squished into different shapes and sizes in ways more straight-forward characters can’t be. He’s a weirdo. Also, he’s a fascinating and totally unique creation.
While we’re on the Disney train here: Muppets. Or Jim Henson, anyway.
The Dark Crystal holds a special place in the hearts of many of us [ahem] of a certain age, but surely you younger folk have not whiffed on its non-digital, non-CGI brilliance. If you prefer the original Yoda to the prequel Yoda, then you know what I’m talking about. The good news is that you’ll be able to see it again in theaters this February. The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History has all the concept drawings, character development, behind the scenes photos, interviews, etc. I haven’t seen it in awhile, but I’m awash in emotional flashbacks over here.
And the only thing better than Jim Henson muppeteering is Jim Henson mupeteering with David Bowie. Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History is just like the above book, interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, concept art, and so on – but with Bowie, Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, and David Bowie. AND David Bowie.
The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia is not new, but if you love all things Link, then you should grab it while it’s still in print. It’s the backstory & timeline of easily one of the most popular video game series of all time. You’ve got the timeline, a manga, game art, etc. The companion book is The Legend of Zelda: Art and Artifacts. It’s newer, longer and focuses more on the art. Also, there is The Legend of Zelda: Encyclopedia. It’s… an encyclopedia.
Speaking of which, last year’s Playing With Power: Nintendo NES Classics is both an homage to the game system and a meticulous breakdown of 17 classic Nintendo games. This is your childhood, level by level. Zelda, Super Mario Bros, MegaMan – everything.
There are so many Harry Potter books available besides the novels, it’s kinda like its own genre. Out last month, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them illustrated editions come in the UK and US varieties, with two completely different cover designs. These are beastiarys, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill, featuring the magical critters from the stories. Also, proceeds from sales of these specific books benefit one of a few charities (either Comic Relief or Lumos) – this is Rowling’s deal, not ours. Pretty amazing.
The new The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline, from Jeff Bond, covers the 3 latest Star Trek movies… though not quite thoroughly. So there is great material, like a close-up look at Yorktown, the floating space metropolis (where I want to live so bad it hurts), BUT if you have the earlier version, then you don’t need this one, as it doesn’t add enough to make it worth buying twice. If you don’t have the earlier one, then this is a good bet, as there is not much else out there.
Man, there is nothing like space art.
Though most books on this list are relatively inexpensive, when you get to the apex of the space art hierarchy with Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie you’re looking to lay out a little more cash. Keep the kids and their blue milk away from it. This is 800 pages of classic images, never-before-seen art, interviews – it just has everything. This is Star Wars.
The Dark Tower: The Art of the Film is from Daniel Wallace. By now, we know that a great book and great cast was wasted on a meh movie. Well, the movie had an amazing look, and the art in here documents it from conception on, plus – here’s the thing – a bunch of great stuff didn’t make the final cut of the film… but it’s in here. If you’re one of the many crushed fans, maybe you can put together what went wrong.
Here’s some weird shit we sell, though I’m not 100% sure why. Prob because someone thought you might buy it.
Not actually weird weird, just… we’re a bookstore, and these are jigsaw puzzles, so..?
The Lord of the Rings Middle Earth 4D Puzzle is a regular puzzle with the added feature of, like… topographic pieces that give it an actual 3 dimensional look: mountains, the various locations like a little Minas Tirith city, and so on. I’m guessing the 4th dimension is the time it takes you to put it together? Anyway, it could actually be some good family fun for the holidays. Everyone likes to get drunk and do puzzles.
There is also a Game of Thrones Mini Puzzle of Westeros. Same deal, but smaller. Again, family fun. You let the kids watch GOT, right? Just the books? Okay, good call.
Alright, those are some big books for big nerds – could be for you, could be for someone else. If you’re not on the same page nerd-wise, maybe those puzzles can bring you together. Puzzles you got from a bookstore.