Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gifts for Geeks: Comics 2009

Justice League holiday coverAs promised, today begins anew a grand Exfanding holiday tradition as we present to you the second annual Gifts for Geeks Week. Last year, as I'm sure you all (fondly) remember, we broke our list of awesome geek gifts down into five parts: Anime, Comics, Comics for the Rest of Us, Random Gift Ideas, and, finally, Gifts to Drool Over.

This year, while we won't break things down exactly as we did last year, we'll still present our gift buying guides in some kind of logical order. Today, for example, I'm going to cover--wait for it--comics, graphic novels, and comics-related merchandise. I know, I know, not much of a stretch.

And, yes, to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room, even though comics and I are not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment, I will be the bigger person in the relationship here and strive to give you all the most objective and awesome list of books and things that I possibly can.


Now, while the holidays are about spending time with those we love most, and spreading good will and joy to everyone we meet, we here at EyH Headquarters know the true meaning of the season. And it rhymes with "getting presents that don't suck."

Batman: The Long Halloween Christmas issueSo, let's start right in with the most obvious and, frankly, best choice for the vast majority of comics fans.

--Whether you're trying to figure out what to ask family and friends to get you, or you have a comics reader on your list and you have no idea what a M.O.D.O.K. is, then gift certificates are always a good, safe, and much-appreciated choice.

Let's face it. Handing over a piece of paper to someone you know and/or love is not the most personal thing you can give. However, to a comics fan--a Wednesday Warrior who budgets down to the nickel every week in order to balance rent, food, and comics--gift certificates to his or her local comic book shop mean a little bit more than an iTunes gift card.

So, the first thing you'll need to do is figure out where that comics fan on your list shops, get directions, and make your way over to the store. If it's your first time in a comics shop, don't be intimidated by what you might have heard (or what you might envision in your mind). Comics shops are, by and large, normal retail stores with friendly staff and a semi-normal customer base.

If you've never been to a comics shop, I'd suggest going in on a Tuesday, since new comics won't ship until the following day and there likely won't be a big crowd. It might make your first trip a bit less daunting. Now, once you're inside, head straight for the counter and ask the nice man or woman if they do gift certificates. They'll all say yes, I promise.

And, if you really have no idea where the comics fan shops, and you can't find out by asking his or her friends, then consider giving a gift card to an online comics retailer, such as Midtown Comics or InStockTrades.

Now the only question is, how much to give? Well, anything that fits your spending budget is great, and will be appreciated. However, if you haven't read comics in a few decades, remember that prices for single issues have...um...exploded in recent years. The typical cost of a new book is between $3 and $5 dollars, so I would suggest $10 as a good starting point.

And, if you still can't get over the fact that $10 or $20 bucks to a comics shop is just so...impersonal...remember that comics fans can (and do!) spend anywhere between $10 and $100 A WEEK at the shop, so any little bit will help out. That $10 gift card might pay for half of a trade paperback that maybe would have been put back on the shelf without the extra cash from your gift card.

So, for all you family members of comics fans, don't be afraid to give gift cards. You can never go wrong with them.

--Next up we have something for the discerning comics fan who has everything. Every year at this time, Marvel and DC publish big, oversized books about comics. Over the past couple of years, I've received some very cool books about comics history, such as Spider-Man: The Icon and Marvel Chronicle.

Spider-Man: The IconBoth titles are huge books, packed with rare photos and some great historical information about the company and its characters and creators. I'd recommend either to any comics fan.

Another cool book idea comes in the form of the "Museum-in-a-Book" series that has covered both Marvel and DC properties. These books are unique and fun, and they feature replicas of important pieces of each company's history--like promotional materials used in the 1930s, for example--that slip out of built-in protective sleeves so the reader can hold.
Marvel VaultLast year, I got The DC Vault, and the year before I got The Marvel Vault (shown above), and both books are always fun to pick up and rifle through.

This year, I asked my brother to get me The Batman Vault: A Museum-in-a-Book with Rare Collectibles from the Batcave, which is the latest addition to the "Museum-in-a-Book" library. You can find it at any Borders or Barnes and Noble store, usually on a display table up towards the front, and most often for 20- to 30% off cover price. Of course, they are all on Amazon at reduced prices, as well.

--Next, we'll mix things up a bit. Do you have an older comics fan on your holiday list this year? Maybe someone who stopped reading Marvel Comics in the 1970s or 1980s and still has fond memories of those books? Then I'd suggest Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men Omnibus Edition, from Marvel Comics.

Astonishing X-MenI've heard many people say that this series--written by the Buffy creator and with stunning art by John Cassady--is the closest thing they have ever read to the legendary Chris Claremont/John Byrne run on the characters. And, many will agree, Whedon's run is the best run on the characters since the heyday of Claremont and Byrne.

Mixing new school storytelling techniques and hip, realistic dialogue with a nostalgic take on fan-favorite characters like Kitty Pryde, this series took comics by storm (ha!) when it came out several years ago. Now, the entire 24-issue run (plus the giant-sized Annual) is collected in an oversized omnibus. And, while the book is expensive--it retails for $75--Amazon has it for under $50. It might just be the perfect present to ignite a long dormant flame in an old school comics fan's heart.

As a less expensive way to give the gift of old comics, you may want to consider picking up a Marvel Essential or DC Showcase Presents collection, which packs in tons of old stories for a tiny fraction of the cost. These books use newsprint paper (cheap, black and white reprints) to collect twenty or so issues at a time of some of comics' most beloved characters, and the prices range from about $10 to around $18, depending on where you find them. Amazon has tons of them, and your local comics shop will have tons of them, as well.

One caveat, though. Some of the earlier releases--like Amazing Spider-Man: Volume One, for example--are long out of print and finding them might be difficult and expensive. Still, there are literally hundreds of great reads out there, just waiting to be wrapped up and thrown under the tree.

These books collect entire runs, split up into several volumes. Some can't-miss (and usually in-stock) highlights include: Essential Amazing Spider-Man: Volume Three, Essential Fantastic Four: Volume One, DC Showcase Presents House of Secrets: Volume One, and DC Showcase Presents Green Lantern: Volume One.

DC Showcase--Sticking with the whole oversized collections thing, Marvel's Omnibus Editions and DC's Absolute Editions, while not cheap, are always great gifts for even the hardest of the hard core fan.

This year, the big release is Absolute Justice, from DC, featuring stunning Alex Ross art. This bad boy just came out, so the chances that the fanboy/fangirl in your life has it already are slim.

In that same category is the September-released Absolute V for Vendetta, the ultimate version of Alan Moore's and David Lloyd's brilliant examination of power and freedom in modern society. Perfect for the most literary of comics fans on your list.

Absolute V for VendettaThere are, of course, many more of these editions out there, and some of the older books have become insanely expensive collector's items. But, books like Absolute Kingdom Come and Absolute DC: The New Frontier can usually be found for far below their cover prices.

The series that, I think at least, fourishes under the Absolute Edition line is Neil Gaiman's seminal comics masterpiece Sandman , which is collected into four such tomes. Buying the four book run will be...um...incredibly expensive, and if you're not sure if that Sandman fan has one or more of the books in the series, I would suggest you ask him or her in advance. I know it kills the surprise of the gift, but finishing off (or continuing) someone's Absolute collection is very thoughtful.

Another suggested buy for the Sandman fan is the recently released Absolute Death, by Neil Gaiman. Starring the fan-favorite sister of Dream, this collection compiles every one of Gaiman's Death stories along with about a hundred pages of extras.

Absolute DeathSome fans complained that this volume is light--and, comparitively speaking, it is--and that the amount of material doesn't warrant the high price tag. They're probably right, but the stories included are all classics (among them the first appearance of the character from the historic Sandman, issue 8) and the extras make up for the lack of story pages. Plus, it's on Amazon right now for right around $60.

--And now for some comics-related goodness for buyers with both shallow and deep pockets. Comics fans love stuff, and more specifically, comic-related stuff. Like action figures, posters, t-shirts, and statues, for example.

There are, of course, a plethora of all such things out there, and finding the right thing can be difficult. As it always does with a comics fan, finding that one thing he or she doesn't already have can be tricky, but here's a list of some very unique items that should go over quite well.

Oh, and if you're looking to add a few items to your own list to Santa, read on, because there are some doozies.

--First up, we have some awesome products from Graphitti Designs. Green Lantern fans have plenty to be thankful for this year, and they can rejoice this holiday season with a full line of apparel based on all the rings from Blackest Night.

How about a Red Lantern Rage t-shirt?
Red Lantern Rage t-shirtOr a Blue Lantern hoodie?
Blue Lantern hoodieAnd, if you're on the lookout for something completely different, how about a poster of Jay and Silent Bob's blueprint plan to take down Mr. Svenning's game show stage in Kevin Smith's Mallrats?
Mallrats blueprintsGraphitti Desogns has all three, and there's plenty more where they came from. I've bought geek-centric gifts from their Web site for years now, and recipients have never been dissapointed. Check out their site, and you'll see what I mean.

--Speaking of Jay and Bob, Kevin Smith's Secret Stash online store has everything (seriously, every. single, thing.) a die-hard Askew-niverse fan needs this holiday season. Signed DVDs, books, comics, posters, and figures fill up the site, and there's something there (at every price point) for every Smith fan.

MallratsI've ordered from them in the past--and I've gotten gifts from others who have ordered from them--and I have always been happy with the result. They have a Christmas Sale going on right now, so check it out!

--Next, we have statues, statues, statues. It's a long standing tradition for comics companies to create highly detailed and (sometimes) highly collectable statues based on their most popular properties. Marvel and DC lead the way, and the massive selection of statues available online and in comics shops is staggering.

Plus, it's easy to tell which statues (if any) a comics fan already has, as they tend to be displayed somewhere in a room or apartment. And, if they're not displayed and are instead kept in boxes in a closet somewhere, then any statue will do, really. because, if he or she already has it, it'll be all wrapped up in mint condiditon in said closet, and he or she could always use a "display" copy.

So, here are a few of my own personal favorites, listed by price in increasing order.

Batman: Black and White Series. Based on art by some of comics' greatest creators (including Jim Lee, Neal Adams, Bob Kane, and Tim Sale), these mini-statues are great for desks and bookshelves. Some of the early statues are long sold out--and thus command insane prices online--but the newer pieces are just as cool looking. Take a look at just a small sampling of these little icons!

Matt Wagner:

Batman: Black and White($60)

David Mazzuchelli:

Batman Mazzuchelli($80)

Frank Miller:

Frank Miller($65 to $100)

For the Marvel Zombies, some great mini-busts from Bowen Designs.

Bowen Daredevil Orignal Bust (Yellow Costume):

Daredevil Yellow($50)

Bowen makes tons of these things--seriously, there are hundreds of different characters available--and they can be found at local comics shops and online.

As we creep up a bit in price, where would any Gift Guide be without something Goon-related? How about a full-size Goon statue, from Bowen Designs:

The Goon($120)

Climbing higher now, here's a classic, full-size statue released earlier this year by DC Direct--Batman Vs. The Joker:

Batman and Joker($195)

Bowen and other high end companies such as Hard Hero and Sideshow Collectibles produce amazing full-size statues of characters from different media, and if you're looking to drop some serious cash on that someone special, any of the three companies is a good place to start.

Just as an example, from Sideshow, here's a Wolverine/Shadowcat diorama:


Okay, enough with the statues. I've got two more comics-related items that I think any comics fan will get a kick out of. First, we have the perfect gift for techies and iPhone users--GelaSkins! They're protective covers for iPhones, laptops, and mp3 players. Brought to you by Dark Horse Comics and GelaSkins, Inc., these artistic renditions are pretty cool. Check out a few examples.

Buffy GelaSkins
Hellboy GelaSkinsAnd, finally, the end of the list for today. I'll leave you all with something...um...let's say...for the fan that has absolutely everything.

From Supercapes.com...personalized superhero capes (and a bunch of licsened ones, too). I first read about these on Geoff Johns' Twitter page. These capes are handmade to order, and range from pet sizes to adult sizes. They make great gifts for kids...um...of all ages.

And, well, if you know someone who would like something like this...I really can't think of a better present.

Lou capeAnd, with that, I'll leave you to go forth and shop!

We'll be back tomorrow with a Waiting for Wednesday, then on Thursday with more of our Gifts for Geeks Guide.


Scott said...

I feel like I wrote a comment on the other gift post, but I don't see it there, so I'm going to try rewriting it from memory. I must have forgotten to post it or something...

Christmas presents were always kind of annoying for me; I ended up getting either things I didn't want/need (more socks!) or duplicates of things I had (oh, my tenth copy of Imzadi!). I really just wanted money or gift certificates so I could buy the things I wanted when they came out, but I finally settled on a compromise later -- SW:CCG or M:tG booster boxes as a present from multiple relatives who teamed up.

It took a lot of bargaining, though.

The problem with buying for a geek is that the good presents often end up being expensive (or overpriced) because the geek has already gotten all of the things within his/her normal price range. So I usually end up not getting anything at all and then splurging on the occasional "wow" present when it comes by.

Two of the most expensive presents I've ever given were an autographed TNG "Hero" phaser and a custom-painted Les Paul-style guitar. Pricey, but certainly worth it since they were presents that were gladly accepted and appreciated.

Maybe I'm just picky and have picky friends, though. >.>

By the way, I saw this -- I don't have much hope for a good Deadpool movie if it happens (what are they going to do, erase Origins from the timeline like they did with the first Hulk movie?), but it would be nice.


AJG said...

I know what you mean. I'm one of those people who doesn't like asking people for things, and I don't especially like getting gifts.

I mean, sure, the gift itself is nice and I appreciate it, but I don't like the thought of someone else going out, taking their free time to go searching for something, then spending their own hard-earned money on me. It makes me a little uncomfortable.

So, with family especially, I used to say something like, "eh, whatever you feel I'd like from the comics shop or Borders will be fine," expecting to recieve a trade or a gift certificate.

Instead, almost every time, it was something fairly expensive, and something I had already purchased long ago.

So, now I'm at the point where I just ask for things, and even send links to people in emails to make their lives easier. For example, this year I asked for a Goon GelaSkin for my phone, and the Batman "Museum-in-a-Box." In both cases I sent links to places online where they can be purchased easily, and at the lowest possible cost.

Sure, it takes the surprise out of things, but it also makes things a heck of a lot easier on everyone.

And as for the Deadpool movie--that would be good news. But I share your trepidation--that's a character that can be screwed up beyond recognition very easily...