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Comics Reporter's Black Friday and Beyond Shopping Advice For Sophisticated Comics Fans 2004
posted November 26, 2004
 

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I never suggest comics as presents.

When it comes to shopping, one rule applies: the bigger the geek, the closer together the mines. Those who love comics and thus wish to receive them as presents generally have a very specific idea of what things they want, a list of particulars that is easily screwed up in some imperceptible way by even the well intentioned. Those who love comics and therefore wish to give them as presents run the risk of satisfying their own desires vis-a-vis comics instead of those held by the person they're hoping to please, and giving gifts that they appreciate way more than the recipient ever could.

This can sometimes be circumvented by filling out a wish list of some sort at the local comic book shop or through an online bookseller like Amazon.com, not exactly falling in with the romance of the season. For those of you who insist on plunging ahead, bravely, or who might consider a side trip into comics gift madness, here are a few ideas you might be able to work into your shopping list.

Original Art -- If you know someone is a fan of a specific artist, original art is a great gift. I would generally go by artist before character or title -- many (but not all) fans at the point they want to own original art tend to be fans of an artist before they are fans of what they draw, in the way a certain kind of invested film fan may like a specific director or an actor more than a character like James Bond or Eliza Doolittle.

I've purchased original art from both comicartcollective.com (a free service where the money goes directly to the artist) and The Beguiling, and recommend both. I'm also certain there are mainstream comics art equivalents you can find by searching the name of the artist you like and the phrase "original art".

You can also buy original art from artists and dealers at comics conventions, through services like eBay, or even through the individual web site of the creator in question. The prices may surprise: some of the best comics pages I've ever seen up close are from Roger Langridge, like that one up top, and they are easily worth three or four times what he asks for them.

For older art, I think most people stick to eBay, although I've had people tell me they've gone to Stuart Ng.

imageOn-Line Comics Access -- A subscription that gives someone access to on-line comics content might make a pretty good gift, particularly in the "I would never try this on my own" sense. Many people, including a huge number who love and read comics, continue to resist purchasing access to comics material via the Internet. King Features' commitment to Daily Ink might make it appealing to a different group of people than usually go for homegrown on-line comics sources like Seralizer.net, while Michael Jantze is still trying to make a subscription model work for his The Norm and would be a natural gift for any fan of his work.

Pure Nostalgia Buys -- If like me you tend to read comics as art rather than hoard them as collectibles, it may be hard to remember they can also function as powerful objects. A very specific old comic book or a short run from a fondly remembered series can make a great gift for someone you've overheard waxing rhapsodic over a dimly recalled story from a summer long ago. Some people aren't even aware that comics books are still available, and will be shocked by the flood of memories. This is very definitely advanced gift buying from a selection standpoint, and you really have to know the recipient, but if you have that taken care of just about any comic shop or mail order service accessible from the front page of this site (left-side column) is likely to be able to help.

Gigantic Books -- It's probably worth mentioning that with the mini-surge of interest in comics from bookstores there are a number of offerings that feel less like your typical high-end book releases and more like special publishing events, making them more likely to function effectively as gifts.

imageIn this category I'd place Locas, by Jaime Hernandez; The Golden Age of DC Comics: 365 Days, by Les Daniels and Chip Kidd, Playboy: 50 Years: The Cartoons, and The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker -- all of which should be easy to find in any book store or through any major mail-order service. The one-volume edition of Bone is a pretty irresistible package, too, particularly the hardback if you can still find it. Rarities are good: even the hardcore alternative comics fan in your life might not have the scratch to afford the 96-page Chris Ware piece that Egonlabs reports accompanies a PBS pledge giveaway DVD. There was also a nice paperback set of the Nausicaa books that was either to be released or was released early this year, which are great comics even if the person in your mind has their heart set on this.

Commissioned Art -- It might be too late for this year -- although you never know -- but commissioning original art can make for a fine one-of-a-kind gift. Astonishingly, the legendary Gary Panter advertises this service on his web site (and the results thus far will soon be their own book). In most cases, discreet and serious-only inquiries through a cartoonist's web site should suffice.

If everything else fails, and you're out of ideas, and the gift exchange looms, never forget the comic book industry's equivalent of a warm and necessary sweater. You could do much, much worse, and in another sense, little of more value.