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A Black Friday Consultation

I don’t know if this happens to you, but I get this ALL THE TIME during the holiday season.

I teach comics and cartooning, which means that most of the people I encounter in the workplace are aware that I’m pretty geek-literate in all sorts of quirky areas, and I get questions all the time. But never more than this time of year.

Basically, it boils down to this: I have no idea what to get (significant person) who’s a big fan of (some nerd thing)… do you have any ideas?

I sympathize. Truly, I do. We are hell to shop for. Not so much because our interests are obscure, but because we tend to treat ourselves before anyone else can get a shot in.

Here’s a typical conversation from this week.

“Okay, I know you’re into this stuff, I have a question.”

“Sure. What?”

“I gotta get a present for a friend of mine, he loves comics and stuff. He really likes Robin. And Nightwing.”

“Dick Grayson, you mean… the original Robin.”

“Huh? How many are there?”

“Oh, God, you so don’t want to know.”

“Oh, well, okay. Anyway, he likes Robin. The Dick Grayson one. I was thinking maybe if there’s a book…”

“There are lots of books. Not too many that are just Dick Grayson, though. There’s hardcover collections of the forties Robin solo series. That would be a nice gift if he doesn’t already have them, and they’re way cheap on Amazon right now.”

“I don’t know…”

“There’s a big paperback collection of the solo Robin stories from the sixties and seventies, too. Chances are he’s probably got that one, though, if he’s a Dick Grayson Robin guy.”

“I don’t know. Are there Nightwing books? I mean, Dick Grayson ones?”

“Believe it or not, there are probably more Nightwing books than there are Robin books…. at least, Robin books that are about Dick Grayson.”


“Really? That’s fucked up.”

“I think so too, actually.”

“Anyway. It’s gotta be Dick Grayson. I know that much for sure.”

“Um…well, if he’s a Dick Grayson guy, he might like the Titans. There’s a book called The Judas Contract, that’s the story of how Dick actually gave up being Robin and became Nightwing.”

“No, no, I know he has that one. He likes the Titans.”

“Hmp. Well, what about the cartoons? Would he like DVDs? The Titans cartoon? Or, hey, what about Young Justice?”

“What’s Young Justice? He’s never said anything about that. That might be good.”

“It’s a cartoon… a lot like the Titans one, but a little more serious. This is more like a junior version of the Justice League. The sidekicks form their own team. It’s actually kind of like what the Titans started as, back in the day.”

“Oh yeah! That’s it! And you say there’s DVDs?”

“Uh-huh. It only ran a couple of years. With Black Friday sales, you probably could get him both seasons for under thirty dollars.”

“Awesome! Thanks so much!”

Twenty-four hours later:

“What the hell was the name of that thing you were telling me about yesterday? The Dick Grayson DVD thing?”

“Young Justice. What, did you strike out?”

“….oh. Oh, hell. I thought it was called Junior Justice League. I looked all over. No wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“Let me use your computer for a second. Here you go. Right there. On Amazon. This one, the set of three. They did that asinine thing where they broke it up into ‘volumes,’ but this is the whole season, I think… no, wait, there’s one more set. But these two together should cover it. That’s what you want.”

“Oh, hey, thank you. Are there Young Justice books? Maybe I–”

“You’d probably have to dig. I’m not sure what’s out there in paperback. There’s two different print versions and one of them is a lot more slapstick, and there’s no Dick Grayson in that one. The other one is a direct tie-in to the cartoon, I don’t know a lot about it. I’d start with the DVDs and see how those work out for you. Save something for next year.”

“Okay. Anyway, he should really like that.” Pause. “I can’t believe you just carry all this stuff in your head.”

Snort. “Batman stuff is easy. Captain Triumph or the Black Hood or Dagar the Invincible, that I probably would have to look up.”

“Uh… who?”

“It’d just bore you… honestly, the fact that I had those names so handy is kind of weird in itself.”

She considered it for a moment, and then gave me a great big smile. “Well, we’re glad to have your weirdness here.”

And she left.

Considering that very same weirdness used to get me beaten up more or less weekly when I was a kid, I was happy to take the win.

I just hope to God her friend hasn’t already torrented the thing…. or at least has the grace to lie about it if he has. We’re hell to shop for but at least most of us know it.

*

See you next week.

19 Comments

Your recommendations are horrible.

My fiancé has this problem. Every year, during the holidays, she tries to find movies, games or comics I don’t own, so she can buy them as gifts for Christmas. I normally leave her many hints to know what I want. I know it is kind of hard to find the perfect gift for a “geek.” You have two options: 1) You go too mainstream or 2) You go the more obscure way.

Does anybody else always have someone buy them one of those ’50 years of superheroes’ kind of not-quite-coffee-table-books? I always seem to get those. That and Batman underwear or socks… I have a whole swathe of in-laws who seem to know nothing about me other than “oh yeah, he likes comics”

Always nice to see a practical, everyday use for that arcane knowledge so many of us carry in our heads.
Otherwise, yes, it’s definitely true us geeky comics/SF guys are hard to buy for, especially since (in my case at least) that thing we *really* want changes every few weeks. However, there is a simple solution: gift certificates. I think they’re far from being tacky or an easy out for the giver, because the gifts I’ve appreciated most in the recent past were the few times someone gave me a gift card for Amazon or some other online store – usually I end up getting some really expensive book or whatever that I’d never otherwise buy.

At work, we were discussing the new Thor movie. My colleagues are all bank professionals in their 40s and 50s, so they struggle with the jargon. Anyway, one of my colleagues really liked the movie and tried to tell other people about it, and I had to keep correcting him. It was like “So, Thor is like an alien god…”
“Regular god.”
“Okay, and they live on Aslan…”
“Asgard.”
“Whatever, and he likes two girls, Jane and the other one…”
“Sif.”
“Right! And they’re fighting the dark elfs on some planet….”
“Svartalfheim.”
“….okay, why don’t you tell the story and I’ll just sit here quietly.”
I was only trying to help….

@Gavin Bell,

A few years ago my in-laws gifted me the DC and Marvel encyclopedias. I flipped through them, looking up characters or events I was only vaguely familiar with. My son was a different story; he’s looked through the DC book several times (the Justice League cartoon made him a DC fan). It’s made for a nice bonding experience.

Edo Bosnar’s right, though: gift certificates are the way to go.

Shoot, you could have just recommended that issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold where the Phantom Stranger has all the Robins in history team up. Dick, Jason, Tim, Stephanie, Damian AND Carrie Kelly. It was awesome.

Your recommendations are horrible.

If by some chance you are referring to the illustrations, they are illustrations. Not endorsements. Anyway, go ahead. Dick Grayson-as-Robin books or DVDs. Let’s hear it. Dazzle us with your genius. What’ve YOU got? Name it and I’ll pass it along. Assuming you’ve actually got anything and aren’t just drive-by trolling.

I don’t like gift certificates to places like Amazon or big stores because I have a hard time choosing plus it puts all the effort of the present on me. In the last few years I have put together an Amazon wish list and just add things to it on occassion (of varying amounts and interests)and let that guide the buyer. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful since presents are fun but the surprise is always one of the fun parts. I think I’m a better gift giver instead of a gift taker.

I don’t like gift certificates to places like Amazon or big stores because I have a hard time choosing plus it puts all the effort of the present on me. In the last few years I have put together an Amazon wish list and just add things to it on occasion (of varying amounts and interests)and let that guide the buyer. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful since presents are fun but the surprise is always one of the fun parts. I think I’m a better gift giver instead of a gift taker.

I used to get gift certificates from my relatives but they always came with a passive-aggressive eyeroll and a disgusted, “I have NO idea what you like, so HERE.” Kind of sucked all that holiday familial good feeling right out of it.

Julie and I always try to get each other real gifts and people usually know to consult her about me. I occasionally get a clunker, like one of those DK Publishing hero-history hardcovers– not sure if that’s what Gavin was talking about before, but they show up on big-box bookstore discount tables a lot– but I’m always moved at the fact that they made the effort. I think I’d rather get something like this Batman book that I probably could have written myself than a gift certificate with the accompanying “screw it, I give up, here’s your gift and go away” that I used to get from my mother and brother.

Of course, I should add that the real problem there was that we didn’t much like each other in the first place… if I’m really honest about it, I have to admit that the best gift me and my relatives ever gave each other was the decision to stop faking it for the holidays. We do much better now that we avoid each other.

That’s exactly what I meant, in fact I think I own that Batman book! I know what you mean, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

Your recommendations are horrible.

Well, so was your comment, Anonymous, so I guess you two are even.

Well, when I made my comment about gift certificates, I was operating on the assumption that it would be from someone who actually wants to get you something.
The thing is, I’ve had the opposite situation a few times in the past: someone actually went to considerable effort to find just that right thing but ended up getting me something I was largely uninterested in. Always touched by the gesture, every time I then felt bad for days afterward that I was unexcited by the gift. Like Tim, I tend to be a better giver than receiver…

I guess I’m the guy that DKR makes those coffee table books for, ’cause I love ‘em. I’ll read right through those suckers. It’s often a fairly handy way to get caught up on characters, since I don’t get too many of their monthly titles — I can’t keep up with 12 Batman titles and 6 Superman titles, or however many there are now (not to mention the fact that the nu52 hasn’t managed to capture my interest at all) (the main characters, that is — there are some of the other titles that I read).

i feel your pain greg for too many times myself relatives have asked oh what do i want . oh batman what batman book here a gift card instead for one of the drawbacks of geek culture it makes those loved ones who are not find it hard to shop for that perfect gift for any one including if like your story they never heard of dc or marvel

I just give my wife and family a list every year of what I want. That way I don’t get something I don’t want or already have. And I always give way more ideas than I’ll actually receive as gifts, so there’s still the element of suprise to what I’m going to get. Considering my Amazon wishlist is 9 pages long or something like that, it’s pretty easy coming up with a large list.

I guess I’m the guy that DKR makes those coffee table books for, ’cause I love ‘em. I’ll read right through those suckers.

I shouldn’t be snarky about them, because they ARE good books. Especially when they can usually be had for DEEP discounts. The CONAN one is by Roy Thomas and it’s a very nice, thorough art-book-style look at the Cimmerian and his world. (That one I actually bought myself– I think it set me back five dollars or so.)

“Huh? How many are there?”

“Oh, God, you so don’t want to know.”

Hey, at least this was about Robin, which is freaking simple compared to say, The Green Goblin

This used to be a big problem people had buying gifts for me too, but for the past decade it’s ceased to be an issue, as I can just direct everyone to my Amazon.com wishlist. I still get an occasional dud from someone who goes off the reservation and either gets something I’m not too interested in, or duplicates something I already have, but even then I don’t mind because I appreciate the fact that they thought enough of me to bother getting me anything at all. And of course, I don’t mind gift cards a bit. the only gift cards i ever get are for amazon.com, and I don’t think I’ll ever have trouble finding plenty of things I want on there.
I’ve picked up a few of those DK books over the years, and while I have yet to come across anything in the ones I have that I didn’t already know, I like them for all the technical diagrams and cutaways, and they’re great to lend to people to get acquainted with a character they’re not too familiar with. I’ve hooked many a person on Robert E. Howard after loaning out the Conan one and piquing their interest in his work.

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