Christmas shopping for the pop culture fanatic in your life? It's impossible to go wrong with any of the revered titles on this list.
LEGO Architecture: The Visual Guide
A gorgeous art book that's a must-have for LEGO enthusiasts and architecture nuts alike, LEGO Architecture: The Visual Guide is as educational as it is entertaining. It's written by Philip Wilkinson, the man who dreamed up the product line before he ever went to work for LEGO.
DK Publishing's over-sized volume goes into great detail, describing not just each set but how each one was designed to look as much like the real building as possible. There are images galore, including detailed photos of every model, pictures of Wilkinson and the minds at LEGO working on crafting the Architecture sets, and even visuals that show how each piece of each model fits together.
The World According to Batman/Spider-Man/Wolverine/Joker
These fantastic little books make perfect gifts because they won't break the bank. Their conceit is that they're written in the subject's own words, so it's a kick getting to hear not only how these famous characters think but their own thoughts on how they do what they do. As such, most of them are quite humorous, though the Batman one is a more serious -- appropriate, given his brooding nature.
Chock full of instructions, anecdotes, illustrations and even pull-out memorabilia, they fully live up to Insight Editions' reputation for quality. If the person you're buying for has no favorite, it's hard to go wrong with the Joker. It's just so dementedly deranged, it can't help but be funny. You know, in a twisted kind of way.
You've probably seen DVDs and Blu-rays with the "Criterion Collection" label on them in stores. It's a symbol of distinction, of specially detailed home videos that feature high-end digital transfers and loads of behind-the-scenes materials, with an eye toward the "art" side of the film business. Criterion has a thing for commissioning new artwork to go with its releases of popular movies, and for the first time ever, Criterion Designs collects all of that incredible art in one volume.
Aside from every last piece of cover art ever put out by Criterion, the book also includes early sketches and concepts that preceded those gorgeous works, as well as additional art used in some of those DVDs and Blu-rays.
It'd be snooty if it wasn't so darn cool.
Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art
Clear a lot of space on the coffee table, 'cause this one is humongous. Not to mention heavy — it could take out a small child. Seriously, to heft this thing you may have to lift, bro.
For true Marvel aficionados, there may be no more important collection in the world. Hundreds — maybe even thousands — of Marvel comic book covers are inside these beautiful pages, presented in full color glory, many of them over-sized like the book itself. In a nutshell: if it's a rare comic book cover or a famous one from Marvel's history, it's in this DK Publishing collection. But it doesn't stop there. Every single cover has anecdotes about the artist or captions about public reception, along with dates of publication. A pair of lithograph covers are included, suitable for framing: Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spider-Man's famous introduction) by Jack Kirby and 2005's Iron Man #1 by Adi Granov.
Batman: A Visual History
As one of the most enduring figures in pop culture, Batman very nearly defines the history of DC Comics. Guide books and retrospectives about Bruce Wayne's alter ego are a dime a dozen, so why this one?
Because you won't find a more exhaustive, devoted guide to Batman anywhere on the planet. Tracing chronologically the Bat's full history from his debut in 1939 to this year's 75th anniversary, DK's massive Batman: A Visual History is the whole story. And it's about much more than just Batman. Virtually every other DC Comics character in existence is highlighted along the way, along with the writers and artists who've shaped Batman, complete with thousands upon thousands of illustrations taken straight from the comics.
Watch as Batman's appearance transforms from his simplistic early appearance to the intricate battle suit he wears today. Trace his Golden Age alacrity to the darker and more sophisticated character he is today. You could spend a hundred hours poring over this massive tome and still have plenty left of material to consume. You simply won't believe how obsessively detailed it is. For the DC faithful, this is manna from Heaven.
LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary (Updated and Expanded Edition)
A comprehensive compendium of all things LEGO Star Wars, DK Publishing's The Visual Dictionary chronicles every set ever produced with loads of details like set numbers, total pieces and Minifigures included. Hundreds of images provide a tangible history of the entire product line, while anecdotes and descriptions explain each set's purpose and why it was created.
For AFOLs (that's "Adult Fans Of LEGO"), the most engrossing part is the all-too-short Chapter 4, which takes you behind the scenes at the LEGO Group, where all of the Star Wars sets (and every other LEGO theme's sets) are designed. There's an interviewer with the lead designer heading up the Star Wars team, Mr. Jens Frederiksen. It's full of fascinating insights on how much thought and testing goes into the making of each set.
No corner of the LEGO Star Wars universe is unturned, with branded merchandise (key chains, watches, magnets, etc.), rare promotional items, video games and even fan builds getting their moment in the spotlight. LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary scores bonus points for its 12-page gallery depicting every Star Wars Minifigure ever.
DC Comics Supervillains: The Complete Visual History
From Doomsday to Parasite, from Solomon Grundy to Sinestro, every major (and semi-major) supervillain from DC Comics history gets their 15 minutes of fame in this gem from Insight Editions. Not as thick as others on this list, DC Comics Supervillains: The Complete Visual History is nonetheless every bit as valuable and unique. It's printed on high-quality paper, sports a wraparound dust cover, and comes with a fold-out poster featuring the book's exclusive cover art drawn by Phil Jimenez.
The art is fantastic, but the real draw might actually be the text. Rather than encyclopedia-style entries describing each villain, the book instead features insights gleaned from new interviews with the likes of Jim Lee and Chuck Dixon who take you under the skin of these iconic characters. Motivations, designs, personalities and more are explored in this treasure trove.
The Art of Big Hero 6
If you can't get enough of Disney's latest hit animated movie, why not learn all about how it was made from this over-sized volume. It's full of concept sketches and art, as well as loads of details straight from the filmmakers. There are storyboards, photos of sculpted maquettes, and interviews with directors Don Hall and Chris Williams, along with anecdotes from the great John Lassiter, Disney's head of animation.
It's always fascinating to learn how a character or a location was designed, how so much thought went into what it all turned out to be, and in this case there's added significance since Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel Comics property. Wondering why Disney made such major changes to the source material? The book explains it all.
And of course it's lavishly illustrated the way all The Art of books are. From Chronicle Books.
75 Years of Marvel Comics
This is another that could break your back if you're not prepared. We're talking 700+ pages filled with some 2,000 images, as well as text that tells the whole story, the complete, exhaustive history, of Marvel Comics. Taschen's gigantic book follows the biographies of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, John Buscema and many more, as they create the most popular superheroes of Marvel's pantheon.
Jam-packed with so much detail, it's overwhelming. It's also stunningly beautiful. 75 Years of Marvel Comics comes with a timeline that folds out to four feet long. But it's the contents of these endless pages that you'll want to drink in for hours upon hours.
The perfect, most ultimate gift for any Marvel Comics fan. It's also the most expensive item on this list, at $200 retail price, but if money is no object, this is the one you're looking for.