The Fifth Color | How to give the gift of comics this season
Perhaps your family gathering is going to have way more kids than previous years. Maybe the moment is right for you to hand down some traditional comics reading to a son or daughter. Is your significant other a little more receptive toward your choice of literature these days? You could have even pulled a co-worker at your Secret Santa office party who likes to talk to you about the latest comic book movie. Personally, my brother gave me his comic collection when I was a kid, and I always like to try and give him a couple new ones in return, as a way of saying thank you and reminding him of his roots.
We all have reasons for giving comics and comic-related accessories this holiday season. Comics have been vetted in popular culture, can cover a dozen different interests and physical forms, and always have been a perfectly wonderful gift for any age or interest. In fact, I think we’d all appreciate a little recruitment drive to keep comics at the top of the charts and off cancellation lists!
I’m not saying it’s easy, though. Well, it might be. For some fair readers, you could be looking at a big pile of gifts already wrapped under your Christmas tree, taking a deep breath of satisfaction. Then again, you could be strapped for cash, gift ideas and time to make sure that you don’t show up somewhere empty handed. Or worse, you could be the giftee and all Grandma knows is that you like Batman. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a guide to all the best gifts this year? Well, there is, the fine folks at CBR made up a Holiday Gift Guide, while we here at Robot 6 reached out to comic pros to see what they recommended, and I could recommend no finer list made by dashing and intellectual folks.
Then again, what if this is odd gift shopping? Working retail, I meet the clueless, the frazzled, the fearful and the confused for whom a simple and eloquently put-together list would not be enough. So for you, who will still be shopping on Dec. 24, to anyone who has ever gotten two Batman toothbrushes as a gag gift, to anyone who might be sent out into the cold for the first time to find a comic book, this guide is for you.
This is your Fear Gift-self shopping guide.
1) Don’t Panic
Not you, though. You’re a dashing and fearless person, Dear Reader. Your comfort with the comics medium is so high that you’re reading an article on a comic book website. But not everyone feels this way. For some, going into your local comic shop feels a little like going into a fish cannery. “I don’t know anything about comics!” is their fearful cry, and they mostly want to buy some sort of “thing” that represents comics rather than any actual comic books themselves. If you might be receiving comics this year from thoughtful friends and family, try to remember that they will have no idea what a Jim Lee is or what issues the Bat-Mite appeared in. If you’re giving comics and it all seems a little daunting, take a deep breath and relax. The goal here is to introduce comics to new readers, not to give them a collectable worth millions someday or be honored at a speech one year for giving them that One Special Comic they’ll never forget. Keep your expectations reasonable, your budget reasonable and take a chance on bringing in some new readership.
2) Be Informed
Try to find out more about who you’re giving the gift to. Whether that’s asking around to their family and friends, or hiring an undercover detective, that’s up to you. If they really like the X-Men, try and find out why rather than leaving it there. Are they fans of the ever-changing mutant drama cycle? Did they see the movies and find Hugh Jackman dreamy? Try and get what you know down to some base elements (They like Batman because he’s totally bad ass and fights! They like Batman because he’s a detective and solves crimes and also fights! They like Batman because Diedrich Bader voices him so well!) and you’ll be better prepared for your shopping day. As a giftee, you might want to let your family and friends in on what a comic book is versus, say, a graphic novel or a trade paperback, how much they run, that some issues cost more once they’re older, etc. Big clues and basic stuff for sure, but for the uninitiated, it’s all ancient Sumerian.
3) Encourage a List
Yeah, spontaneously perfect gifts are the Holy Grail of holiday shopping, but sometimes Grandma just wants a list. Sometimes an aunt or uncle who’s kind enough to send you a little something hasn’t seen you in years, so yes. Get them a list. Put it up on Facebook, make a little Amazon Wish List, talk avidly about the new Powers hardcovers and what the new editions look like so you don’t end up with one you already have. For you gift gifters who are more comic savvy, use a list like a selection of adjectives, and try and match what movies or TV shows they might be asking for into the printed medium. Which leads me to …
4) Referential Gifting!
Best and easiest way to give something new to someone you love: match what they already like to a comic. Sometimes it’s simple (Halo is to X-Box what Halo is to a Marvel Graphic Novel), sometimes it might take some work (friend watches Community, maybe they’ll like Ghost World?), sometimes it might even take a long train of references (they watch Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wears DC T-shirts, maybe a Flash comic in honor of that one episode where they all dressed up as the Flash?). It’s not easy or we’d all get perfect gifts for Hanukkah, but it’s a place to start. Your local retailer will likely be able to help with that as well.
5) Bring Back Stocking Stuffers
Did you know that if you take a comic, lightly (I said lightly!) roll it into a tube and place it into a deep enough Christmas stocking, maybe throw in some pre-packaged candy and an action figure, you’ve essentially won Christmas? That you’ll be heralded by everyone and they’ll throw a parade in your name and give you a key to the city? Okay, maybe not, but the idea is the same: this is fantastic way to keep it on the cheap, introduce comics to a new reader and make sure they are sugar-sated enough to say thanks.
6) The Big Guns: a Comic Subscription
Okay, this is the advanced class: go to your friendly neighborhood comic shop and ask to get a comic book subscription for someone instead of a gift certificate. This way, if you know they like the Incredible Hulk (like the one in the upcoming Avengers movie?), you can pre-pay for so many issues that will belong to them on New Comics Wednesday. Heck, know someone who already has a pull? Easy gift idea, bam! For new readers, this will not only ensure that they are getting the newest of the new and will be a present that can last for months of enjoyment, but this even teaches them How Comics Work and introduces them to the monthly episodic story. Like I said, this is the advanced class: you’ve really got to know who you’re shopping for to buy something sight unseen, but the benefits could get you that key to the city I mentioned.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of stuff to buy; that would be the Robot 6 Holiday Gift-Giving Guides, part one, two, three and part four, or the CBR list. This is more of a general list of tips, some ways to shop and think that might make the holidays a little brighter for everyone. Or maybe just me as I work in retail. Excelsior!