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OK, it’s the last weekend before Christmas. This is it: Time to gird your loins and brave those last-minute gifts for friends and family you’re just not sure about. Or heck, maybe you were invited some place and you feel like you should bring a gift along. A Secret Santa deadline? Unexpected company who doesn’t have anything under the tree? Did you just get something practical and want to supplement it so you’re not just the Sock Giver? Don’t worry, comics are here to help!
“But Carla,” you cry, “not everyone likes comics! I want to be cool and hip, not just the nerd who foists other nerd stuff on people!” “Well,” I reply, “comics are for everyone, even those who have no interest in the medium.” There are just so much comic influence in the media right now, from TV and movies to games and other visual aesthetics, it’s hard to escape comic culture entirely. Trust me, even those who have never picked up a comic in their lives and have sworn off the idea of ever looking at words and pictures together in a sequence have a little bit of comics in their lives somewhere and, this Christmas is a good time to capitalize on it.
If you can, please try and make it in to your friendly neighborhood comic shop for some of these goodies. They’ll be glad you did! Otherwise, Amazon has their last minute shipping dates here. All right, let’s do this …
Notoriously hard to shop for, if you have older family members like grandparents, some parents and friends of the above who like to drop by on Christmas, it’s not like you go can go grab the latest issue of Superior Spider-Man for them. Instead, try coffee-table books about the history of comics, like The Golden Age of DC Comics by Paul Levitz. These show off the early days of the medium to now that hearken back to yesteryear in a rich, documentary style. Slip a bookmark next to pages where they discuss comics from your giftee’s childhood and it can be a nice touchstone between the past and present.
Let’s call this what it is: It’s an excuse. But still, I hear it a great deal from people who seem to at least feign interest in comics but are either overwhelmed or just plain lazy to go and grab a comic to jump into. Here’s where you come in: everyone needs a fresh comic to start with and I can’t think of a better intro book for everyone ages 14 and up than Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja. It’s lighthearted but dramatic, stylized and clear, requires little to no prerequisites to start on and comes in easy-to-digest short stories. Do your best to explain to them about how it’s won awards and is touted by the author as having a Rockford Files style, but don’t oversell it. The book practically does that for you. I wouldn’t go for the hardcover, not yet; try the first trade paperback on for size. If they like it, there’s second volume within easy reach and if they don’t, then it’s an easy book to pass along to someone else.
This one needs some delicacy; there are people we’ll run into in our lives who seem super hip … or at least want to be seen as super hip. They’re artisans and foodies who subsist on green living and music you’ve never heard of. They need a foot into the door of comics that seems like they discovered it and that’s where T-shirts come in. Something simple like a Captain America logo shirt or a black on black Batman shirt is subtle enough to be a stylish gift without being so nerdy that they wouldn’t wear it. Plus, there’s the added bonus of knowing something other people don’t know. Is that a lightning bolt on a shirt or a subtle Shazam reference? Only the truly cool will know …
Comics don’t exactly have their best foot forward when it comes to welcoming diversity to the outside world. People who read comics know that there’s a wide world out there of comics to suit every taste and style, but for most it’s a whole lot of white dudes in capes. It’s hard to change popular opinion, but you can help at least one person broaden their view of the comic medium by getting them a copy of Rachel Rising by Terry Moore. Now, normally I would recommend Echo, as it has a nice complete volume that can show off a solid, done in one story, but there’s a #SaveRachelRising hashtag going around on Twitter, so both are fascinating works by an incredible artist. No capes, no tights, just realistic drama steeped in mystery and thrills. These are moody and evocative stories, and Moore’s art is cinematic in its pacing and incredibly dramatic in his rich facial expressions. We have lead female protagonists and antagonists, small doses of humor and great trials to overcome. Mystery, intrigue, it’s all there and can be incredibly refreshing to those who aren’t expecting either in comic book form.
Behind the counter, I get asked a lot by parents of really young children who adore Iron Man but are both too young to read and too young for a toy. If your two year old really loves Iron Man, yes you can grab a t-shirt or find some cartoon DVDs, but why not edge those tiny toes into the world of comics? Yes, I know, too young to read but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy being read to. Try something like the Marvel Origin Story series; these are big picture books that can teach your little ones about how the Avengers were founded or how Iron Man got his armor. The pictures aren’t that cartoony and feel more like a Little Golden Book to me and the book itself is large enough for lap reading and spreading out on the floor.
So it’s not a perfect list, just some ideas to help you find something for the difficult to gift in your life. I hope this helps and wish you the best in that last minute rush to wrap!