Friday, December 3, 2010

Gifts for Geeks 2010 Part the First: Comics!

Holy Santa Claus' socks, Batman!

It's holiday time again, and that means your friendly neighborhood Exfanders turn into your friendly neighborhood holiday elves and provide you with one-stop gift ideas for that special geek in your life.

It's no secret how...finicky...a geek can be, and especially when buying for one, things can get difficult. That's where we come in.
[Image courtesy of the excellent Great Geek Manual]

As we've done for the past two years, EyH will provide ideas--from the smallest of stocking stuffers to the biggest, pie in the sky-iest mega gifts--and we encourage you all to chime in with your own recommendations.

We'll try to cover a wide range of gifts--in a wide range of prices--in a short amount of time. Since we've been down this road before, we encourage you all to check out past Gifts for Geeks entries.

You can do this one of two ways--first, by clicking on the hyperlinks above for a sampling, and second, by typing in "Gifts for Geeks" in that search bar to your right.

We'll try not to repeat gifts from years past, especially since we have a bunch of, "Hey! Here's what you should buy someone who is just getting into [fill in the fandom blank]."

So that's the rundown. Today's installment will feature (what else?) comics, and I'll try to focus on product from the past year. We'll cover everything from actual, floppy comic books to hard cover collections, from books about comics to statues, toys, and clothing.

I'll start by saying this--it's almost impossible to buy a comics fan something he or she doesn't have without asking very pointed, specific questions.

So don't run out to the local comic book shop looking to nab a handful of back issues before first checking what your geeky gift receiver already has. Or, at least, what he or she probably already has.

Sure, the thought is what counts, but if you're really not sure what that fanboy already has stashed away in his fortress of geek, it might be a better idea to stick with a gift certificate to his local comics shop.

If the whole gift certificate thing isn't personal enough for ya, you might try going to the fangirl's local comics shop and taking a moment to talk to the owner. He or she might be able to give you a head's up on what the giftee is reading, or what she may have expressed interest over.

Another idea for the comics fan is to buy comic book collecting supplies--bags, boards, etc--because every fan needs them, but doesn't like spending money on them. Just ask the LCS proprietor what you'll need, and he will hook you up.

On that note, comic book display frames and frames for original comics art are another cool gift idea that your typical fanboy might not think of buying for himself.

So, now that we have a good place to start, let's get into the nitty gritty. The real, down and dirty comic book fan gifts. Our first category will be comic collections from this past year, and as we go along, we'll split each category into two sub-categories: For the Newbie and For the Hard Core Veteran.

Collected Comics 2010

For the Newbie: All Star Superman, Volumes One and Two, from DC Comics. A repeat from last year, but with a few significant differences. First, both collections are now (finally) available in cheaper, less intimidating trade paperbacks, and they're on Amazon for $10 and $9, respectively.

Volume One:This series has been heralded as one of the very finest Superman stories ever told, and its accessibility for new readers makes it the perfect choice for someone who has either just gotten into comics, or for someone you'd like to get into comics.

Volume Two:While each trade is self-contained, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quietly's story is 12 issues long, and anyone who has Volume One will certainly want to see how the whole thing ends in Volume Two.

Luckily, the paperbacks are inexpensive, and together they make a heck of a gift.

For the Hard Core Veteran: All Star Superman, Absolute Edition, from DC Comics. Simply put, DC's Absolute Editions are amazing. They're huge, oversized, leatherbound, slip-cased monstrosities that include the highest paper quality and a slew of additional features not seen elsewhere.

And this year's biggest [pun kind of intended] Absolute Edition is All Star Superman.
The big pages allow readers to experience Frank Quietly's stunning linework the way it was meant to be seen. Plus, you get the entire 12-issue story in one place.

The drawback, of course, is the price. At retail, these bad boys will cost you $100, so you'll really, really have to love the person for whom you're buying this thing. Amazon has it for considerably less, but still expect to pay over $60 for the book.

Books and Things About Comics

For the Newbie: Books about comics are always a great gift for comics fans. Why? Well, because typically, a fan won't buy such things for himself. They're usually more expensive than the average trade paperback--in some cases, they're way more expensive--and that money cuts into the weekly comics budget.

And anything that cuts into the weekly comics budget (and doesn't provide life-giving sustenance, like food) is anathema to a comics fan. Even so, there are so many cool comics-related books and, especially this year, documentaries, on the market that you'll have a wide variety from which to choose.

For a newer fan, I'd suggest starting with the recently released Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics documentary. You can check out a longer review that I wrote right here. I enjoyed this quite a bit, and even though I didn't learn too many new things from the doc, it was still well worth the time.
And for someone just getting into comics, it might be a nice gift idea to introduce them to the history of the medium.

For the Hard Core Veteran: On the opposite end of the history of comic spectrum is the November-released 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking, written by longtime DC editor, writer, and all around comics guru, Paul Levitz.

This thing is massive.

And I don't just mean page count. It's literally a massive book--clocking in at a ridiculous trimsize of 11.4 x 15.6 in. (!!!) and 720 pages, this thing is a monster. Don't have any clue as to how large a trimsize that is? Well, take a look at the photo, below. That's Paul Levitz, and that's his book.
And, before you ask--yes, Mr. Levitz is a normal-sized human being.

Published by Taschen, this book promises to be the definitive history of DC Comics, and for the price, it better be. At retail, expect to shell out $200. On amazon, expect around $125.
Still, looking at it (somewhat) rationally, the price is to be expected, considering the production value. Check out the solicitation information from the publisher:

In 1935, DC Comics founder Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson published New Fun No. 1, the first comic book with all-new, original material—at a time when comic books were mere repositories for the castoffs of the newspaper strips.

What was initially considered to be disposable media for children was well on its way to becoming the mythology of our time—the 20th century’s answer to Atlas or Zorro. More than 40,000 comic books later, in honor of the publisher’s 75th anniversary, TASCHEN has produced the single most comprehensive book on DC Comics, in an XL edition even Superman might have trouble lifting.

More than 2,000 images—covers and interiors, original illustrations, photographs, film stills, and collectibles—are reproduced using the latest technology to bring the story lines, the characters, and their creators to vibrant life as they’ve never been seen before.

Telling the tales behind the tomes is 38-year DC veteran Paul Levitz, whose in-depth essays trace the company’s history, from its pulp origins through to the future of digital publishing.

Year-by-year timelines that fold out to nearly four feet and biographies of the legends who built DC make this an invaluable reference for any comic book fan.

So, yeah. Certainly lots of good stuff and so far, the buzz about the book is fantastic. I've convinced a family member that I need this book, and I think I might actually have a shot at getting it. Yay.

A Little from Column A, a Little from Column B: This one can go either way, I think, and both a newbie and a grizzled comics vet will appreciate the gift. From director Patrick Meaney, we get the (happy) surprise documentary of the year in Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods.
I know this list is starting to get Morrison-heavy, but hey, he's been the most prolific mainstream comic book writer this year, and his contributions to DC have triggered line-altering changes to established characters.
I've read interviews with Morrison about his writing process, his childhood, and his theories on actual, real life magic. Needless to say, his is a fascinating life story, and this film delivers the goods.

Another comics-related item that's perfect for both the new reader and the longtime fan is Icons: The DC Comics & Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee.
This hardcover collects hundreds of illustrations, original pages, sketches, and paintings from one of comics' greatest pencillers. This one works on two levels--it's a great item for the casual Batman fan, as Lee's art is nothing short of stunning. And Lee devotees will be all over this book, as it's the first career retrospective of one of the most important creators of the past two decades.

I haven't seen the book pop up in any of the comics shops that I haunt, so there's a good chance the fanboy/girl on your list hasn't gotten his/her hands on this bad boy yet.

And the Rest

Leaving our sub-catagorizations in the dust, let's now focus on some of the ancillary comic book stuff that's available. And awesome.


Every month, comics shops are flooded with cool, new product. Some of it is your standard, everyday fare, while other stuff is just flat out cool and unique. Falling into this category are comic-inspired statues.

These little pieces of art are amazing, and every year the product lines get better and better. Prices range from the modest to the truly obscene, and everywhere in between, and it's the not-so-secret desire of every fanboy to throw a statue or three up on their bookshelves.

Here's a quick rundown (with prices) a few of the best from 2010.

From Kotobukiya, the Iron Man Mark IV ($90-$119):

From Dark Horse, the 60th Anniversary Classic Peanuts #2: Snoopy ($49.95):

From DC Direct, the Batman Black & White Arkham Asylum statue ($80), available in stores Decemeber 22:

Everything Else!

Obviously, we're just scratching the surface of what's out there. But there are only so many hours in the day, and so many words to type before I fall over. So, moving briskly along, let's get into another quick hits category of other, random stuff available at all price points. is a veritable treasure trove of all things comic book-y, from awesome retro t-shirts to iPhone cases to coffee cups.

Great, unique gifts at good prices--be sure to check them out.

And, finally, we come to my favorite category of comics-related stuff. Original comic book art--in my opinion, the pinnacle of comic book "collecting," because each and every page is its very own limited edition of one.

The nice thing about buying art for a fan is that, no matter what page you purchase, that fan does not already own it. Because, like I said, there's only one piece of art for every page produced. The not so nice part about buying art is that it can get amazingly expensive.
Now, don't get me wrong--there are literally thousands of pages out there in the $50-$75 range. You'll just have to do some digging to locate them.

When buying art, it's always a safe bet to concentrate on the fanboy/girl's favorite character, and try to find a page with him or her on it. Even if that character is only in a single panel.

There's no need to sek out specific artists--just focus on characters. A non-art collector who reads comics will be thrilled to own something so new and different, and any collector will appreciate the new page.

There are tons of venues to purchase art, but luckily for you, we've already done the work and compiled the best of those retailers. You can check out the two posts on original art here and here.

-- -- -- --

And with that, this little elf is about ready to fall asleep ont he keyboard. Not to fear though, for we shall be back tomorrow with another installment of Gifts for Geeks. Until then, Happy Friday!

1 comment:

Scott said...

You could try to grab this for yourself, if it appeals to you. It's at 10.50 as I write this!