Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary














November 27, 2015


The Comics Reporter's Holiday Shopping Guide 2015

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By Tom Spurgeon

Welcome to the web site version of the 2015 Holiday Shopping Guide. These suggestions are intended to help you along if things related to sequential narratives are to be on Santa's list this year. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Anyone that thinks such a list is even possible these days, that person might be deluded or an outright fool.

Have fun in the weeks ahead. Please remember a few simple rules about comics gift-giving:
1. When it comes to gifts, comics are best for people that already like them as opposed to people that may like them someday.

2. The bigger the comics fan, the more likely that person is to be very specific about what it is they want. Be careful!

3. Comics don't have the retail saturation that other forms of media might and some of the best things are carried by specific vendors or involve an element of handcraft, so make sure you have enough time to receive the thing it is you want to buy.
All that said: gifts are gifts. It's difficult to do anything wrong when giving someone a gift!

Happy shopping, and here's to a fulfilling and safe holiday season.

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THE COMICS REPORTER BLACK FRIDAY HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE 2015, WEB SITE EDITION
or
15 GUIDELINES AND 16 (OR SO) MATCHING EXAMPLES TO HELP WITH THIS YEAR'S SHOPPING

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One thing right up top: The following strategies are all fairly complex in that they aren't simply buying many some of the latest and greatest offerings from a retailer: your area comics store or Amazon.com. Those options, that way of looking at gift-buying will be taken care of in a different post. In general, though, before we get started here, I'd like to underline that with many of these strategies local comic shops -- triply so the good ones -- can be an option or a partner in making that gift happen. One thing that many shops do or will fake if you ask them is a wish list for a customer that has specific tastes, aimed at those that buy them comics but don't have that specific expertise. Others will simply help you procure something you identified via a different method. So many of them are good retailers in the classic sense, and hopefully you'll spend part of Small Business Saturday in one. So please keep them in mind with any suggestion this site may have.

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1. Seek Out A Commission From A Favorite Artist, Like Gilbert Hernandez
Nearly all artists have a price for personal commission work, and those that don't that are nonetheless reachable I can't imagine mind too much being asked via a private message unless you're the kind of creep that won't take "sorry" for an answer.

Some artists ask for that kind of work, including recently the future greatest living cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez, an all-time talent and someone with a long history of doing fun pin-ups. Check out your favorite cartoonists' personal sites very closely (sometimes a twitter account will best lead you to what's current), inquire politely, and give these poor folks plenty of time. Depending on the artist, you might only get to put an order in for the holiday rather than getting a finished piece.

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2. Make Use Of Some Publisher's Direct Sales, Like Drawn And Quarterly Or Fantagraphics
One of the things I'm most thankful for in comics is something we take for granted. We not only have hundreds of comics-makers that approach the making of the best they can with integrity and devotion, we have entire institutions based on that model as much as the realities of capitalism allow. Two of our most vital publishers are Fantagraphics and D+Q. I can't imagine any person that isn't just being grumpy that couldn't find something to enjoy in one of their catalogs. I enjoy nearly all of what each produces. Remember with small publishers of all sizes and missions that sales are important for reducing inventory and keeping capital flowing, so you're probably doing a favorite publisher some good when they have a sale like this one.

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3. Buy A Print Or Other Reproduced Illustrative Comics Art Piece, Like Pascal Blanchet's TCAF Poster
I want to put this before original art this time out, because I'm not sure we appreciate mass-produced images in comics the way one might guess. It's rare for a comics poster to get over, and prints are usually of the very limited kind and take a while to sell out even when they're gorgeous -- like many of those Jordan Crane makes happen. So maybe keep an eye out this year for the mass-produced ones at the etsy stores and big cartel shops. For a start, I really like these TCAF posters that they do, and many are really cheap at $10 a pop.

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4. Give Up And Go With A Gift Card, Like One From comiXology
I'm all for whatever gets the burden of the holidays off of your shoulders. Nearly everyone from whom you can buy stuff in comics either carries a buy-credit option or will pretend like they do in order to get you to spend money with them. (My local comic shop did this one year with a magic marker and a comic book backing board.)

At times a gift card can be extra appropriate when it facilitates market exploration that wouldn't happen otherwise -- directed purchasing. If someone isn't inclined to read, say, digital comics, a gift card or store credit can maybe help them try something out they otherwise wouldn't be interested in doing. I know playing with house money helped me settle into some digital comics purchases, and I have a pretty healthy catalog of comics and access-to permissions as a result. I'm sure this might work with other kinds of comics purchases as well -- I know people that have purchased US comics readers first editions of short manga series and promised to complete the one the person liked best.

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5. You're Never Wrong With Original Art, Like This Robert Goodin Piece At Comic Art Collective
Original art may be the only true collectible that comics has to offer -- supplanting the mass produced object with the actual one-of-a-kind creation which someone worked on and over. It can be a cool thing to put on a wall, or a way to connect with a piece of art that was meaningful to someone in mass-produced form.

However you feel about it, there's access everywhere: The Beguiling, Heritage Auctions, any number of mainstream-oriented dealers, the artists themselves. My favorite is the artists-keep-all-the-money service Comic Art Collective, where you can find a ton of artists and a huge range of work. I've never been disappointed. Robert Goodin is an under-appreciated artist that has a bunch of different work represented there.

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6. Track Down Something From A Favorite Artist's Etsy Shop, Like The One Operated By Julia Wertz
A ton of artists, particularly younger ones, have material for sale through an Etsy shop. Many of them are like Julia Wertz in that they offer things that are not comics but because they're from the same artists feature the same "feel" or "tone" item to item. Ordering direct either from a shop or from an offer via a digital comics service means that all of the money not sunk into the object or into shipping goes to the cartoonist, and that can be a crucial thing.

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7. Facilitate Comics-Related Travel, Like A Pilgrimage To Billy Ireland
An enormous amount of our energy seems to involve going places, primarily conventions. That's fine with me, I like to get out of the house and visit new locations. It never occurred to me that this could be a gift until one year when I skipped some shows and noting this a family member stepped up with a hotel room for a festival I routinely attend. That was a lovely thing for them to do, and it got me thinking that this could certainly be a gift other people entertain. SPX hotel rooms are open now, after all, and you can buy airline tickets to just about any place in the world that has a show from now through Halloween. It's also possible to do a trip or two not tied into a festival, perhaps to attend a class at CCS or SAW, or to see my new hometown comics centerpiece: the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

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8. Directly Support A Working Artist, Like Derek M. Ballard
If you're buying for an artist, one way to show your love is support their Patreon. Patreon is really bad about pushing people forward and showing them off, so you might have to pay attention to a specific artist's social media presence to know if they start doing a patronage-style crowd-funder. At some point I think the contributions will catch up across the board with the talent that's out there; I think we're still taking babysteps that way. We're also going to see more artists shape their career in the direction of their monthly payment platforms. Surely there's someone in whose career -- and in whose bonus items -- a friend of your might have a specific interest. There are so many good ones out there.

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9. Back One Of Comics' Charities, Like The CBLDF
This is sort of the equivalent of giving out toothbrushes at Halloween, but as we're all adult here we know how important keeping your teeth is opposed to consuming an extra few pieces of chocolate, so I hope you won't mind. Not only are there traditional charities with a variety of ways to support them like the Fund (free speech) and Hero Initiative (older creators in need), but many comics institutions (or their backers) are also non-profits that can take and use donations: a few of the cons/festivals out there, the schools, the libraries. If like me you make charitable decisions part of your year-end process, this is a gift to keep in mind not going in anyone's name but as the right thing to do, maybe a gift to yourself.

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10. Indulge In A Prestige-Formatted Book, Like White Boy
There is a ton of material out there that sells for prices that would have crushed my soul back in 1979, except perhaps in an aspirational sense of wanting to own such items someday. The Artist's Editions and their related formats at IDW are justifiably well-liked; it's fascinating to look at certain comics that way. Prestige houses like Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly do high-end projects as a matter of course, and Fantagraphics in particular has done a lot more of them specifically targeted to high-end consumers in recent years. Sunday Press is a particular favorite of mine, and White Boy is a dream come true. I probably put this one on here because I hope someone buys it for me.

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11. Go Partridge In A Pear Tree A Christmas-Related Comic Gifts, Like This Book Of Christmas Stories
I don't like a lot of Christmas comics, and I'm not sure I'm a fan of holiday-themed Christmas gifts more generally. I did like this book of Christmas comics that Craig Yoe did with IDW a few years ago, and I enjoy some random comic books that have Christmas themes, like the Dead Santa issue of JLA. I'm guessing it wouldn't be too hard to track down a bunch of Christmas reading for a friend or family member that really goes to town during the Christmas holiday. And what a cool basket of things to dig a bunch of comics would be for a well-stocked holiday home that does a lot of entertaining.

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12. Clothe Them In Some Comics Apparel, Like The Katie Skelly Bon Bon Shirts
It's more than a year old, but just last week I saw someone somewhere extolling the virtues of their brand-new "fuck this and fuck you" t-shirt. Apparel seems to be something that folks coming from the recent webcomics tradition do extra well, so I might start at the creators section of TopatoCo along with the personal sites and etsy stores of one's favorite cartoonists.

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13. Invest In The Future With A Kids Book Work By Your Favorite Cartoonist, Like The Princess And The Pony
Enough cartoonists to fill a delightful theme park also work in the words-and-picture cousin of kids' books. In fact there are comics lines devoted to reaching this audience: Toon, at Scholastic or Nobrow, and a big chunk of First Second as well as significant portions of just about every publisher going. But you can also find all sorts of comics artists at kids-book publishing endeavors themselves, such as this year's Kate Beaton effort and Patrick McDonnell's illustration and authorship efforts in this category of the last few years. Sometimes it's good to do a regular book search on a favorite artists to see if they have work of this type out there.

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14. Indulge Their Nostalgia With Some Old Comic Books, Like Thriller
I never thought we'd get to a point where old comic books would make a pretty good point. The Overstreet generation's insistence that people really wanted to pay $9 for a random old comic book that didn't sell new, and that rare undergrounds and alt-comics weren't to be valued that way, allowed comics to sidestep the kind of no-value offerings that make up the bulk of really dig-into-a-box gifts. Sheer volume since the 1990s has created such a market, and you should respond accordingly.

It's not only fun to buy people comics you think are good from the past, but Christmas is a time for shameless nostalgia, and most people, particularly those over 65, only remember comic books as items that had power and pull over them at a certain age. Presenting someone with a copy of Police Comics that they can only describe the cover of but remembered leaving it when they moved in 1949, that can be an awesome thing.

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15. Remember The Past Via Old Books With Comics Content, Like A Charles Addams Classic
There didn't used to be a thriving bookstore section filled with graphic novels and comic-strip collections. What you had was an assortment of strip reprints and magazine-type comic collected in hardcover form, usually as "humor." Abebooks.com is your 1958 comic book store, with loads of works from just about any cartoonist you can name and pretty much the prime home for the 20th Century New Yorker and Holiday crowd. I love all of the James Thurber, Peter Arno and Charles Addams books I've purchased this way. There's a really good Al Hirschfeld book out this year but all of his old ones are pretty good, too. And of course I'm a fiend for Saul Steinberg.

This is a pretty hardcore option, but sometimes people ar ready for the hardcore shopping methods even if they don't all the way realize it yet.

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