Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays,everyone! So with the countdown to Christmas already in full swing, your resident geek helper to Santa, Andy Larson, is here to deliver what could be a really useful post for any friend, family member, significant other, co worker, or complete stranger of someone that’s into comic book culture that might need a little special under the tree this season.
I know for some shopping for a geek can be a very daunting task. We are extremely picky people for the most part, with usually our finger on the pulse of what’s new and exciting out there in the market for us to buy. I mean nothing chafes our britches more than getting a generic Superman coffee mug as a gift, when Superman is probably our least favorite superhero. Or opening up a present to find a duplicate copy of a trade paperback of a comic book that we already have in our collection, and immediately looking for the receipt in hopes there’s enough credit to trade it in for something better.
Yes, that makes us sound like spoiled children, and I won’t lie, that’s what most geeks are. Kids that never really grew up, so while others might love a new power drill or cookware set for Christmas, we hope and pray that there will be at least one “toy” hidden still among all those practical sweaters and such, to make our Christmas worthwhile.
I did lay some ground rules for this article though:
1) No gift over 100 bucks. I was almost tempted to set the limit at 50 bucks, but there was one item I found that I thought was so neat it had to be included. I mean I feel like that’s a fair price this day and age for a loved one’s Christmas gift. Unless this is for a significant other and you are hoping to get laid, that’s the only reason you should spend more than a Franklin on anyone.
2) No video games. Not because there aren’t great video games out there for comic book geeks this Christmas, but mainly there are probably too many and I could take up the entire list just talking about them. That any video games are worthless without a video game system to play it on. And although most self respecting geeks wouldn’t have some way to play video games in this day and age, I don’t want to make assumptions about what systems everyone has and that whole mess about whether it’s compatable or not. So long story short, if you need something else to enjoy this gift, it’s not on here.
3) No gifts that you need other accessories or purchase other things to help you enjoy the gift. I know I just said that in the previous rule, but it bares repeating. Nothing and I mean nothing annoys me more at Christmas time than getting a gift that requires me to go out and buy something else with it . Whether it’s an expansion pack, memory card, a previous book so I know what’s going on, an adapter, a whole game system, whatever. It’s bollocks. So unless you are including a 50 dollar gift card for me to get whatever I need and driving me to the store, don’t bother.
4) Finally, this is not exactly my Christmas list. I’ll be honest, some of the items on this list are also on mine, but also some of the things on this list, I already own. So if my wife is reading this post and using it to get ideas, that’s good. But as I always say, double check with your geek. Poke around a bit, ask friends to poke around, see whether your geek has a real interest in these gifts or whether they have them already. Save yourself that slightly dirty look or that sigh/groan. A little extra reconnaissance can make all the difference.
And with that, away we go!
We kick off the comic book section of the list with one of our more recent releases, the Hardcover collection of Sean Murphy’s breakout series Batman: White Knight. An “Elseworlds” tale of sorts in which we are presented with alternate universe versions of the Batman characters we know and love, this story tells the tale of an alternate version of the Joker who decides to finally make amends for all the destruction he’s caused by becoming a hero himself and ridding Gotham of a more corrupt and totalitarian version of Batman that roams the streets with the cops in his pocket.
However, as the Joker’s well crafted public crusade again the Dark Knight continues, the lines between what is good and what is evil blend, bend, and ultimately break under the pressure of what truly is in people’s best interest and the role that mental illness plays in drawing such deep divides in what who we consider the heroes vs. who we consider the villains.
It’s a remarkable re-imagining of the classic Batman mythos that we have all become accustomed to, told with a bite and originality that is refreshing to new and old comic fans alike. It’s definitely among the books I’ll be reviewing in my articles officially next year, so take my recommendation that the special geek on your shopping list will love it too (Link: Amazon)
It’s one book all of the Ghosts of the Stratosphere members can agree on in terms of being one of the best comic book runs of the past decade, if not of all time.
Tom King’s post modern commentary and deconstruction of the American Dream told through the eyes of Avengers member, The Vision, has pretty much everything you’d want from a comic. It touches on the roles of race, gender, morality, and family dynamics within our modern society while exploring such powerful emotions such as betrayal, revenge, true love, infatuation, self sacrifice, fear of the other, etc. all masked in this simple story about what would happen if The Vision just wanted to be a normal person for once with a normal family in the suburbs.
If you haven’t read it yet, please please please, take it upon yourself to do so. It will most likely be on the list of books our podcast will cover in a Read Pile in 2019, so beat us to the punch by doing your homework ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged in picking it up thinking that you won’t know what’s going on because you don’t know who the Vision is or you’ve never read the Avengers. Tom King already thought of that for you and took care of it…trust me. (Link: Amazon)
Ed Piskor made his bones in the comic world with a downright delicious illustrated history of hip hop culture. Now he brings that same passion to schooling us all on the worlds most famous band of mutants, the X-Men, in this wonderful oversized throwback to the Marvel Treasury books of the 70s.
But don’t take my word for it! Read my fellow Ghost, Chad Smith, and his review from this past summer on this book and see for yourself what kind of wonderful treat that special X-man fan in your life will get from this book as a present this year! (Link:Amazon)
Okay, including this book on the list is just a shameless plug for one of the best ongoing comic series on the face of the planet. And despite, the Ghosts of the Stratosphere reviewing it on our show, going on and on about it on other shows since, and thinking the world of Brian K. Vaughan as one of the best comic book writers out there today, there are still a ton of people that have not read this series.
Well NO MORE! Here’s your chance, people! Pick up a copy of this omnibus today not only for your loved one, but a copy for yourself as well. It’s just that good! Don’t let the science fiction setting turn you off either. Good Sci-Fi is always a metaphor for the trials and tribulations of our own real world, and with clever writing and an insane amount of heart, you can’t go wrong with this series! (Link:Amazon)
Toys, Games, and Other Stuff
If I said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times. The decision to make classic Masters of the Universe characters in the same scale and style as Kenner Star Wars figures was absolutely brilliant. Super7 is pretty much is scratching two nostalgia itches with the same line hitting us adults over the head with a 2×4 of greatness given most of us loved both the MOTU and Star Wars action figures back in the day. Besides, who here didn’t want to see He-man pilot the Millennium Falcon growing up?!? Now through the magic of this toy line, you can finally dig out your old Star Wars toys out of moth balls and make it happen!
Of course, the whole set will cost you more than 100 bucks, but I feel like with a ton of figures still available, you can definitely cherry pick some of your favorites for some great stocking stuffers. Plus, they are small enough for most office cubicles, so that the war for the peace of Eternia and the universe can continue even while you are finishing those Friday reports. (Link: Super7)
What Christmas list for the geek in your life would be complete without a decent board game to play in those hours following the madness of unwrapping and the joy of Christmas dinner. Given everyone under the sun either saw or has heard about Avengers: Infinity War, I thought this particular game is super relevant and one that nearly everyone can enjoy regardless of whether you like the comics or not.
However, if your fear is that this game is just a shameless movie tie-in, au contraire mon frère! This cooperative dice/card game pits your team of Avengers in a race to stop Josh Brolin’s purple faced monster from collecting the Infinity Stones and assembling his Gauntlet. The game requires skill, critical thinking, and good teamwork as you leverage each other’s strengths in a frenzied race to defeat the game, not each other. That cooperative aspect might make your geek even more excited to play as they can take a leadership role in helping coordinate your team around their knowledge of the MCU characters!
Plus since it’s 2 to 4 players, there’s no need for a huge game night party worth of people to enjoy. It’s a perfect game to play just one on one with your special geek this holiday season, as the two of you try to stop Thanos, the Mad Titan, from taking over the universe! (Link: Amazon)
Whether your geek is a man or a woman, a simple handy man tool kit for those small minor repair jobs around the home, dorm room, or apartment should be pretty much an essential of life. And when you can meet that essential, with something completely bad ass, that’s always a plus. This fantastic collapsible tool kit from ThinkGeek, not only has everything you might need to tackle all of life’s little fixes, such as a screwdriver set, pliers, ratchet set, and of course a HAMMER!
And that notion of a hammer goes two ways as not only do you get this beautiful handled nail pounder, but it also doubles as the handle for the actual case, which is modeled after the most famous tool in all of pop culture, The Mighty Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir! Yes, friends now the next time your geek need to hang that new Marvel print on your wall or fix your toaster so you can enjoy a batch of Spider-man Eggo Waffles, they can do it like the Asgardians in style with this godly tool set! (Link:ThinkGeek)
Coffee Table Books
Another hot item around Christmas time is the coffee table book. Y’know those things that aren’t exactly comics that some geeks like to show non geeks to help them score some points in the culture department. That or often times they are chalked full of interesting little nerdy tidbits that can be used in trivia contests at local bars and the like.
First on the list in this category is this remarkably original book recently released from Insight Editions, which takes a very “behind the scenes” look as to what it means to be a super hero…literally. Told from the point of view of Batman who is studying his fellow super-humans and what makes them tick from a biological perspective, this book is half medical text book, half engrossing comic book story with all the scientific jargon brought to full bear on this illustrated dissection of some of the most famous superheros around such as Superman, Aqua man, Cyborg, Swamp Thing, and Martian Manhunter.
Given my wife’s background as a Physician Assistant as well as a newly found comic book fan, I think I might be picking this book up for her as a special little Holiday treat this year…ooops…I hope she’s not reading this and I just spoiled the surprise. 🙂 (Link: Amazon)
Another recent release in terms of beautiful books to bring a little class and interest to your geek’s coffee table is this wonderful long awaited companion book to Alex Ross’s Mythology book that he released back in 2003 with all his artistic renderings of DC Characters. The Marvel Heroes take center stage this time, with all the power and uncanny realism that you only get from the one and only Alex Ross.
Often called the Norman Rockwell of Comic Book illustrators, fans and non fans a like will find plenty to enjoy in this beautiful hardcover art book with the best paintings an images he’s made of the Marvel pantheon of characters such as Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and many more! Trust me, I’ve seen Alex Ross’ work in a real art gallery before and there’s nothing quite like it.
Like the Anatomy of the Meta Human above, this book is definitely one you can feel proud of delivering to your geek this Christmas and one they probably won’t mind showing to all of their friends. (Link: Walmart)
Definitely a book on my wish list this year given all the funny and unusual talk me and my mates from the GotS staff get into while talking about comics history, IDW’s almost encyclopedic account of some of the strangest super humans comics has ever seen is nothing short of hilarious! Wonderfully well researched, bursting at the seams with unusual and obscure characters from all of comic books illustrious ages, this book will be treasured by your comic book geek as a quality reference dictionary that they will go back to again and again.
In fact, if I do receive this for Christmas, don’t be surprised if we don’t talk about some of the entries from this book on some of our future podcasts. I mean who here doesn’t want to find out about the shirtless superhero known as “Kismet, Man of Fate” or the unusually jolly mustached marvel “Kangaroo Man” or the gun totting “The Kitten”. Meow! (Link: Amazon)
Batman: The Complete Animated Series Deluxe (Remastered Blu-ray + Digital + Funko Pocket Pops + Collectible Cards)
If you have never heard of Batman: The Animated Series before, you need to start living under a rock and join the rest of society! Either that, or at least listen to yesterday’s podcast here on Ghosts of the Stratosphere in which we talked extensively on the majesty that is this cartoon show.
For many, this is their definite version of Batman and his adventures, and to now have this collection finally on Blu Ray complete with wicked sweet mini Funko pop figures should be under every comic book fans tree this holiday season. That is unless they already bought it, at which point again, you should have climbed out from underneath that rock and beat them to the punch! (Link: Amazon)
I know at times this list must feel like it’s just a rehash of a lot of the things the Ghosts of the Stratosphere have been talking about in blogs all year, but the holidays are the perfect time to revisit the wonderful things we like and add them to our collections.
Back in June, I did a review mini review of Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 as part of one of my articles. Although I don’t want to rehash all of what I wrote, I still feel that the Incredibles franchise is fantastic way for kids and adults a like that may not be into comic book culture to embrace it. It’s down to Earth, its accessible, it touches upon on the wonderful tropes and gimmicks that the comic book universe has developed over the past 80 years in a way that doesn’t demean or camp it up, but instead celebrates it. I do understand that this sequel wasn’t spoken of as highly as the original, with comments that it lacked some of the heart of the original, but still I think it’s a great movie that every self respecting comic geek should have in their collection. (Link: Amazon)
This really doesn’t count as a real Christmas item, as at a hefty 799 bucks, there’s little chance anyone reading this article will actually get one. However, I guess if this was really a wish list for Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick with his unlimited resources, then this would be the top of it in terms of something that I wish for.
There’s no doubt that I’ve been in love with the entire idea of these ball/pod/egg style chairs since first seeing them on the classic TV show “The Prisoner” back in high school. So much so that there were many times when I was single that I thought about just chucking a wad of cash at it and be damned with the consequences. But time after time something bigger or more pressing came up. And now that I’m an adult with a wife and child, I would be probably more talked into getting a leather reclining sofa for the same amount of money.
But a man could dream couldn’t he? Truly this chair for me, like an Arcade cabinet, is the apex piece of furniture of a geek. There are even ones you could get with built in speakers and a cell phone dock. It should come with a fridge and microwave oven, cause it I owned one I’d truly live in it. (Link: Kardiel)