Happy Holidays…I guess. It’s that “joyous” time of year when friends, family and a plethora of various acquaintances have the privilege of purchasing me gifts that let me know what they really think of me. Humbug. I’m sure I sound like a big ol’ Scrooge right now (that’s his signature refrain, right?), but I can’t help it. It’s tough being a comic book fan this time of year. It seems like each and every year I’m presented with odd holiday gifts that ultimately indicate to me that the inhabitants of my world really have no idea who I am or what I’m about. As a self-proclaimed comic book geek, I feel misunderstood. Simply put, people have a tendency to get it dead wrong when it comes to getting me that perfect little comic books-related something. It’s a perennial problem and I think it has something to do with the skewed perception people have of what it means to be “into comics.”
I make no secret of my love of comics. Most everyone in my circle of friends and family knows that I’m a “big comic book guy,” which you’d think would make it easy on people looking to buy me Christmas presents. Unfortunately, the idea of a comic book aficionado means different things to different people, so there’s a lot of room for error when it comes to gift giving. I’ve got a collection of bad superhero T-shirts and mugs to prove my point. Truth be told, your average borderline alcoholic aunt or crusty old uncle doesn’t know the difference Grant Morrison and Jim Morrison, so it’s probably wrong to expect anything more than the most basic gift giving effort. Generally speaking, the items I find under my tree on Christmas morning often bring me the opposite of Christmas cheer. Very often they have me searching the box for a gift receipt instead. I’m certainly lucky to be getting gifts at all, I know, but there’s something amiss when it comes to the gifts I get from “normals.”
First off, you’ve got those people who think simply, “You like comic books…so you must want a Blu-Ray copy of Green Lantern.” Uh…I don’t. Also, Uncle Paul, I have a sneaking suspicion you picked that Blu-Ray up in the supermarket checkout line along with a carton of cigs. Or you get this: “I remember something about you liking funny books so I got you the complete Calvin and Hobbes.” Now I like Calvin and Hobbes as much as the next guy, but let’s be honest, a big ol’ Barnes and Noble edition of the complete Calvin and Hobbes isn’t going to do much more than gather dust on my coffee table. There really isn’t any more innocuous and impersonal gift than a bound collection of newspaper comic strips from the mid-Eighties. Also, for some reason people think that being into comics means that you want to draw them. On more than one occasion, I’ve been given books on how to draw manga. I can’t draw and if I could I probably wouldn’t focus my efforts on manga. Just sayin’.
I’ve tried to counter the trend toward Christmas gift misfires by a certain level of diligence when it comes to my Amazon wish list. Personally, I think the Amazon wish list depersonalizes things a bit, but let’s face it, it does allow for at least a modicum of direction and control when it comes to letting the world know what the hell one wants when it comes to gift-giving. If you were to look at my Amazon wish list right now, you would see that it is well populated with trade paperbacks, various hardcovers, omnibus editions and some other comic book-related goodies. But here’s the strange thing: despite my willingness to put comics and associated items on said wish list, I almost never receive these items as gifts. What gives? If I see that someone has put something on their Amazon wish list, I take it as a sign that the person wants that item and all doubt about what to get that person is out the window. It’s a relief to know that I’ll be getting them something they truly want, even if it’s at the cost of being a “creative gift giver.” Now if I were to put a Bruce Springsteen CD or a Brad Pitt DVD of some kind on there, the members of my family, would gladly throw said items into their virtual baskets and take the plunge. But for some reason, the giving of comics, even ones I’ve tagged as something I want, just doesn’t work for some people. Do they not want to support my habit?
Maybe it’s that people feel that giving comics as gifts is almost too personal. Maybe people think that buying someone something that falls under the heading of “collectible” is too risky, as the recipient might already have the item. Who knows? What I do know is that my Amazon list is updated and it’s a safe bet to hit the “buy it now” button on anything there. Sure, there’s some stuff on there from way back when, but I keep track of the damn thing. Ultimately, it’s a list of things that I can’t justify buying myself, but would happily accept if someone else is footing the bill. Does anyone else have this problem?
I’ve reached the point in my life where I really don’t “need” anything other than food and Amazon gift cards. But I understand that people are compelled to give during this so-called season of giving, so I feel it is my duty to offer some guidance. My hope is that we the misunderstood will somehow be a little more understood as we bring this year to a close. With that in mind, I say to my friends and family: Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on that Simonson Thor omnibus or that Kingdom Come Absolute Edition. I put them on that list for a reason, namely to make your lives easier and to make sure that we all have a merry Christmas when all is said and done.
Gabe Roth is already hitting the egg-nog pretty hard this year. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.