Gift Guide 2013: Comics for the Funny Book Addict in Your Life
Comic book nerds are impossible to shop for — I should know, because I am one, and people constantly strike out by gifting me with things that I either already have or have no interest in. Why, oh why must I be the Rubix cube of people!?
Anyway, because I want to spare all others that pain, here is a list of five gift items (sorta) that are either under the radar or simply perfect for comic book fans. Also, there is a list of resources and tips for first time comic book buyers that only sounds vaguely condescending. Merry whatever-the-hell!
If you listened to our interview with writer/artist Ryan Browne on The BastardCast, you know that he is a purveyor of miraculous weirdness. God Hates Astronauts is one of the funniest and funnest comic books that I have read in the last five years and it speaks to those of us who only speak in the language of pop culture references.
Easter eggs abound, but the real selling point (apart from Gnarled Winslow and his gorilla arms) is the bouillabaisse of awesome that Browne constantly dips his ladle into, giving us bank robbing owls, a guy whose life goal is to kick the shit out of muggers, a down and out ghost cow headed hero whose original head popped like a zit, a pugilist and his bear army, and Montel Williams.
I want to write poems for this book on lavender scented paper. Honestly, the brilliance of this book erases all the bad that Jack Black has put into the world since Heat Vision and Jack. It is that good, and after a six year journey from comic to web comic to Kickstarter and finally Image Comics and this bonus feature filled edition, Browne deserves your patronage.
I had a chance to pour over this impressive and deep comic book art interpretation of The Gettysburg Address from Jonathan Hennessey (writer) and Aaron McConnell (artist) a few months ago, and the book really impressed me. I’m a great big child, so I’m still resistant to mature pursuits like reading about history, but this book hooked me with the way that it branches out from Lincoln’s vital speech to soberly discuss the struggle that came before and after it. This is an impressive work that deserves to be considered if you’re shopping for someone who has a hunger for knowledge or an interest in the civil war era.
This is a big sucker that will cost you more than $100, but it is also a legendary modern comic arc that blends Whedon’s usual breezy wit and ability to write kick-ass lady people with the best of what the X-Men can be.
A mostly stand-alone story, Whedon drops us into the Xavier School post-Charles Xavier. Running the school in his absence is Emma Frost (who is sex with claws), a somewhat tortured Scott, a gruff Logan, Beast, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as the ex-ex-part that ties it all together.
There is a lightness to this book — even in dire times, like when the Danger Room transforms into a sentient killer — that will feel foreign to those who have come accustomed to the more recent turn toward the dark and gritty, but I refuse to believe that the power of Whedon (unleashed and doing what he is honestly best at — writing comics) and John Cassaday’s art work can’t melt the heart of any cynic.
Speaking of cynicism, the ending still feels overcooked to me, and I honestly think that they have everything but kitchen sinks in cape and cowls in the collection of superheroes that gather in the last throes of the thing, but I can’t rage against something brilliant for a misstep on its way out the door. Unless it’s Lost, then I can totally do that.
I know it feels impersonal, but to a certain degree, the point of the thing is to make the person that you are shopping for happy, not prove that you are an awesome gifter. Besides, there are just so many more amazing comics and graphic novels that I could point you towards, and I really don’t want to pick just one.
Off the top of my head: Saga, Manhattan Projects, Trillium, Hawkeye, Daredevil, The Wake, and older books like Y: The Last Man, Jeff Lemire’s heart shredding Underwater Welder, Warren Ellis’ Supergod, Sean Gordon Murphy’s ballsy Punk Rock Jesus, and so many others deserve a place on a list like this, but its possible that your comic fan has already checked these out, as they are among the industries most well regarded books.
A gift card to ComiXology or even your local comic shop (if available) tells the recipient that you want them to take some time to explore, get something they’ve been meaning to catch up on, or fall into something entirely new and unexpected. How cool would it be if your gift pushed someone into getting what winds up becoming their new favorite book?
THAT Book/A Starter Guide on How to Shop for Comics (Just in Case)
This last one is a biggie because I want to both stress the importance of trying to understand comic collecting before shopping to feed that monster, and I also want to go over a few tips for those who have never shopped for comics before.
Step one, though, is to have a conversation and sneakily decipher if there is a book that your friend/loved one is really, really desperate to find. In other words, ask them about their “White Whale”.
I believe all comic collectors have one of those; a book that maybe we held in our hands, but which we couldn’t buy because we wouldn’t spend so lavishly on ourselves. Maybe we had it and lost it, saw it get tattered, had to sell it out of desperation or relinquished it during that one period in almost every collector’s life when we trick ourselves into thinking that we want or need to kick the habit.
For whatever reason, they possess a need to possess that special book, and if you listen, and if it is realistic (and not, you know, Detective Comics #27), you can pick-up the ultimate gift.
Here’s the thing, though, you don’t want to get screwed in the pursuit of gift giving mastery. Unfamiliar with what the market price should be for the book you’re looking for? Go to Atomic Avenue (an online comic marketplace) and peruse the listings to get a ballpark idea of what you should be paying (with the understanding that you will likely see a markup at a store). If you want to skip the store and buy it online, the sellers on Atomic are rated like eBay sellers, so you should be able to find a good match with little risk. MidtownComics.com and MileHighComics.com are two other large and reputable sellers.
Personally, if I was going to pick up a higher priced book for a collector, I’d want to see it with my eyes before buying it. It’s not that these online vendors don’t often offer return policies should a miscommunication occur (but check on that, because some don’t), but the clock is ticking down toward Christmas (or Giftmas or Hanukkah or, or, or…) and the processing time can be a pain in the ass.
Local comic shops should be your first stop if that’s where your head is at, and you can locate your local shops by going here.
I also advocate iVerse Media’s Digital Comics Reader app. Despite the name, I use it because of the tremendous mobile comic shop locator feature. Use your phone’s GPS or enter in a zip code and it tells you what shops are nearby.
By the way, if you are unfamiliar with comic book grading and you want to be sure that you aren’t paying a Near Mint price for a book that is merely in Good condition, check out this basic grading guide.
If you can’t find a local shop that has what you need and you absolutely want to visually suss out your purchase, go to a smaller comic book show. They can be hard to find (though, ConventionScene.com lists a ton of them on their calendar and you can always ask the folks at the local comic shop about shows in the area), but you should be able to find what you are looking for there. If you still can’t find this apparently ultra rare and annoying comic book, you can always chat up the vendors and see if they have any leads.
If you still have no luck, use the money to buy yourself something. After all that effort, you earned it.