Gifts for the comic enthusiast
Need a gift for the Nerd or Nerdette in your family, but every store clerk tells you these aren't the droids you're looking for? Then shop like Captain Comics, using his handy-dandy Holiday Gift Guide!
Let's begin with happy news: It's Batman's birthday! The Dark Knight of Gotham debuted 75 years ago, in "Detective Comics" #27. As a result, it's Batmania all over again at your local comic shop, bookstore or online — especially at the DC Entertainment website (shopdcentertainment.com).
Let's start there with the origin of the term "Batmania," the camp "Batman" TV show that ran from 1966 to 1968. After years of legal wrangling, "Batman: The Complete TV Series" is now available on Blu-ray ($239.99) and DVD ($199.99). You know you want it, old chum.
Too pricey? Scroll through the other retro Bat-offerings, from the "Batman 1966 Glow-In-The-Dark Bat-Signal Boxer Shorts" ($19.95?) to the "Batman 1966 Catwoman Barbie Collector Doll" ($59.95, and yes, it looks just like Julie Newmar).
Not that the site is all Batman all the Bat-time. DC's other characters — including Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Superman — are represented in products from Kryptonian cufflinks to power rings.
Still, it is the Gotham Guardian's dodranscentennial — it is so a word, I looked it up — therefore the Gift Guide at DC Comics proper (dccomics.com) is replete with Bat-birthday books. In addition to the self-explanatory "Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years" and "The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years" ($39.99 each) look for:
■"Batman 75th Anniversary Commemorative Collection" ($39.99): Collects three of the best trade paperbacks starring the Darknight Detective, "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," "Batman: Hush" and "Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls."
■"Batman: Arkham Asylum 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition ($19.99): Spiffies up fan-favorite writer Grant Morrison's 1989 classic, wherein Batman's sanity is tested in a grueling contest with The Joker on the Clown Prince of Crime's home turf.
Weirdly, Marvel Comics is also celebrating a diamond anniversary — not for one character, but for the entire company! The publisher's first comic book, "Marvel Comics" #1, starring the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, debuted the same year as Batman; 1939 was a lousy year for Poland, but a great one for comic books.
But Marvel didn't really break though until the early 1960s, when an entire superhero universe jumped out of the foreheads of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, as if they were some sort of three-headed Zeus. And, boy, does Marvel have you covered in that department.
"Marvel Famous Firsts: 75th Anniversary Masterworks Slipcase (2nd Edition)" weighs in at 33.4 pounds, contains more than 3,000 pages and comes in an illustrated slipcase that measures 19"-by-16.8"-by-13.5" — large enough for Ant-Man and Wasp to set up housekeeping. Sure it's expensive at $500, but a bargain when you consider it contains 11 hardcover Marvel Masterworks editions that retail for about $70 each. That includes the early 1960s adventures of the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and X-Men. A bonus 11th book collects all 13 double-size issues of Marvel's late 1960s "MAD"-like parody of comics, "Not Brand Ecch," plus similar satirical material culled from various annuals.
Speaking of satire, Dark Horse/Kitchen Sink has done the world a favor by releasing "Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book" ($24.99) on Dec. 10. Few people are aware that early "MAD" was originally a one-man show — written, edited and largely drawn by a genius by the name of Harvey Kurtzman. And, of course, "MAD" had a huge influence on not only comics, but also comedy, movies, TV and the snappy one-liners your friends are forever repeating. Kurtzman also published "Jungle Book" in 1958, a brilliant satire of 1950s media cliches, which is famous for its influence, but infamous for being forever out of print. That error has been corrected.
And that book is just one of the more highbrow offerings on the Publishers Weekly "Have We Got a Comic for You: Graphic Novels as Gifts, 2014" list. For more, go topublishersweekly.com.
Salon.com has their own gift bag of sorts, titled "The Best Graphic Novels of 2014." There you'll find another group of mostly literary material, including "Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through Science" ($24.95, Abrams ComicArts). French artist/illustrator and world traveler Philippe Squarzoni presents an extremely well-crafted book that is virtually a visual documentary on climate-change science and effects, interwoven with personal reflections and a call to action. Part informational presentation and part diary, "Climate Changed" will reach most readers on one level or another.
And while we're being so very adult, why not sip a fine, full-bodied Klingon Bloodwine while you read?
That's right, CBS Consumer Products has somehow produced the famed celebratory drink of Star Trek's most aggressive race, some 200 years before we're destined to meet them. A medium-bodied red blend of Malbec, Syrah and Petit Verdot from Paso Robles AVA in California, this vintage is thankfully toned down to a mere 13 percent alcohol by volume, instead of the traditional Klingon version, which is twice as strong as whiskey.
Klingon Bloodwine is available from vinport.com at $19.99 a bottle, and is best served with Heart of Targ. Remember, "yllop! Wa'leS chaq maHegh!" (Celebrate! Tomorrow we may die!)
Finally, it is the holidays, which for most of us means toys. Maybe grown-up toys, but toys nonetheless. For that we turn to ThinkGeek.com , the most comprehensive collection of cool stuff on the planet.
How about an Uhura satin bathrobe (in Communications red, of course). Or maybe a Batgirl bathrobe? Naturally, there's a hood with bat ears to flip up over your eyes when you want to be anonymous — or just to give your significant other a Bat-tingle. Both are available for a frugal $39.99.
Got a bit more cash to spend? Then get a Flux Capacitor Wristwatch ($49.99). Yes, it shows time and date. Yes, it looks like the Flux Capacitor on the time-traveling DeLorean in "Back to the Future." No, it doesn't function on garbage. But, hey, you can't have everything.
Meanwhile, Diamond Comic Distributors Inc., which distributes most of the comics and related product in North America, also has a Gift Guide (previewsworld.com). And while the comics, games, gadgets and gizmos were interesting, I jumped straight to the top of the catalog — mainly because I couldn't believe my eyes.
Presenting: The Star Wars Life-Size Vintage Stormtrooper Monument! Essentially a six-foot action figure, this authentic, articulated Gentle Giant-sculpted Trooper comes with a Certificate of Authenticity and a hand-blaster accessory.
Given the $2,300 price tag, it should have a real trooper inside.