Missing the Target

A second quicker, and the lady might well have slapped my hand.

I was over by electronics when the Blu-ray edition of The Dark Knight caught my eye. I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, but that fact has started to gnaw at the pettiest corners of me. I’m not mad with avarice and desire or anything, but when I pop in my Netflix and they’re just a little bit dark, just a little bit grainier than they could be, I can hear my Mastercard plaintively crying out to me like a siren from the other side of the house.

“They’re getting cheaper!” it says. “You’ll probably still have a job long enough to pay it off!”

I’m ignoring its song for now. I keep waiting for an irresistible disc to come along, though, a disc that will make a convert out of me. Looking back on the year in movies (that I actually saw, which reduces the list of competitors sig-nif-i-cant-ly) The Dark Knight might very well be that disc. I didn’t see any movie– I didn’t see any thing— that I enjoyed more in 2008. Sometimes, when I am in a bad mood, I think, “I could now sit down and watch The Dark Knight any time I wanted,” and I instantly feel a little better. I am cheered up by the potential to watch it.

That’s why, even with no chance of buying the movie, I wandered over towards the shelf to see what special features it had. If there were any deleted Joker scenes included, I might have gone home with a new gadget and some explaining to do. But obviously it had been a good week for The Dark Knight, because the store I was in had only one copy left on the shelf, and as I approached it a middle-aged woman who looked like she needed it as bait to lure children into her gingerbread house saw me eyeballing it and immediately dove for it. She took one look and me and jumped on it like it was the last canned good in the bunker before scuttling off down the Housewares aisle, possibly cradling it and muttering “my preciousssss.”

And I thought, “Ah, now! Now it feels like Christmas.”

While I’m sure it would bring a hot tear to the eye of every priest whose droning about the True Meaning of Christmas ever kept me from getting home to open my presents, I’ve come to realize in recent years that Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas for me without the shopping. I know, it’s about family and friends and gathering together in a spirit of kindness and brotherhood and blah blah blah yes fine absolutely but, BUT, if you’re anything like me (I feel bad for you, and) you’ve got to admit that the gathering is that much more special when you’ve found that perfect present for your friend or loved one and gotten to see the look on her face when she opens it, that look that says, “Thank God it’s not another KISS solo album this year.”

I had a stretch of recent years when Christmas never seemed to spark for me; I found myself on the 24th scrunching up my face like Hiro, saying, “Oops, it’s here already. Get in the Christmas spirit… now! Cram a month’s worth of childlike anticipation and warm feelings into the next half hour! Go! Here we go. Any… any minute now. Oh, hey, it’s over. Never mind.” I realized that I had married an organizational titan who planned all of the family gift buying online in October like a military campaign. She was the present-buying equivalent of Danny Ocean; by the time I was even at the point of starting to think, “What should we get Dad?” her second-story man and explosives expert had already absconded from the Bellagio with a tasteful watch or something for him. Nothing was forcing me to think about Christmas, so I didn’t think about it. Now, I always make a point of braving the department stores myself at least a couple of times to force myself to think about how much I love my family, or at least how much more I love them than those parking spot-stealing a-holes at the mall.

I was on one of those adventures in commerce at a Target the other day when the crone saved her kid’s Christmas by stealing The Dark Knight from a guy who didn’t want it. Seeing a twisted harridan clutching at Batman in the name of Baby Jesus made me smile in spite of myself. For one thing, it was yet another product I’d noticed that had a comic as its daddy. I can’t walk into a store like that without noticing; it’s like I have those little Terminator readouts in my eyes as I walk down the aisles. “BOY’S IRON MAN BATHROBE. ADI GRANOV ART…. SPIDER-MAN BACKPACK. MARK BAGLEY ART…. GREY HULK ACTION FIGURE. ARTIST UNKNOWN…. SUPERMAN LOGO BOXERS. SUPERMAN LOGO CAR AIR FRESHENER. SUPERMAN LOGO GARDENING SHEARS. SUPERMAN LOGO NONSTICK COOKWARE…..”

And that’s before you even get near the DVDs. Spend half an hour wandering the aisles in a Target, and it looks like comic book superheroes are the most dominant force driving the popular culture. As long as you don’t go down the Book aisle.

I can never resist a stroll past the action figures, and this time I noticed some Marvel figures that were created with more care than some of the children they were bought for. I don’t know if it’s a wonderful life, but I do know that if I were ten again right now it would be like Christmas every day. I saw a Union Jack action figure (!!!) with more points of articulation than my actual arm. When I was ten years old, I would have burned a Target down with the sun and a magnifying glass to get Marvel superhero figures like these. Just a decent Cyclops or Colossus would have blown my mind. Now, a ten year old could get a figure of the Silver Surfer as he appeared in one random Hulk comic in 2005… if any ten year old ever laid eyes on that comic.

Sometimes I worry about the future of the medium, and some years I have let that worry seep into my gift buying. Brian K. Vaughan has bought some nice gifts of his own with all the money I’ve sent his way trying to get people hooked on Y: The Last Man at Christmastime, but I don’t know how many of those people ever cracked the spines of those books. Any time you buy a book that isn’t on someone’s wish list, you run the risk of giving someone homework for Christmas. You walk a fine line when you do this kind of gift giving: “Merry Christmas! I got you what I’m into!” It could come off as a genuine attempt to introduce them to something you know they’d love. It could come off as an attempt to have one more thing in common, one more thing to share with a loved one. On the other hand, you could come across like one of those guys handing out the Baghvad-Gita at the airport. “Please accept this copy of the Astonishing X-Men hardcover. Won’t you join us? It’s the friendliest cult you’ll ever love. We have conventions! All the ladies dress like sexy Leia!”

Of course, it does sometimes pay off. Everyone I’ve ever given Scott Pilgrim to has ended up ravenously addicted to Scott Pilgrim. That doesn’t mean my Bush-voting mom is getting a copy of DMZ or Persepolis this year. If it’s not too late for your own shopping excursion (and I sort of hope it is; you’ve got three days!) you might want to take a moment to consider your audience. Maybe start with the Superman cookware and build from there.

Happy holidays!


Jim Mroczkowski is convinced, now that the DVD is out, that Warner Brothers Photoshopped those promotional stills to make Heath Ledger’s hair look green, and nothing you say will convince him otherwise. The undaunted may give it a try at Twitter or Jimski.com.


  1. Got the wife Fables for Christmas.

  2. I went to Target the day after Thanksgiving and saw a Transformer that turns into Wolverine.  I didn’t buy it, but knowing it exists makes the world a better place.

    I did get a Spider-Man toothbrush for my 3-year-old nephew, who has developed an obsession with the webslinger, despite his parents swearing they have never exposed him to Spidey in any medium.  I have a feeling there will be comics in this child’s life, in some form or other.  There’s something in the air.  I did refrain from buying him the Iron Man pajamas, mostly because I didn’t find a size small enough, but also because his father might have threatened my life if I suggested Tony Stark as a role model for his child.  On the plus side, there should be Captain America movie tie-in PJ’s by the time he’s big enough to wear them. . .

  3. I want a transformer that turns into the baxter building.

  4. @RoiVampire

    I don’t know, Tom Hanks makes a pretty good case against Robots that transform into buildings in "Big."

  5. lol glad someone caught that, i was hoping for "Whats fun about playing with a building?"

  6. who needs to buy a bluray copy of Dark Knight for $10+ more than the reg. DVD version

    Ok Blurays have 27 gigs of data, but WHY?(extras, better sound, pic?) …meh……

  7. A few years ago I bought a comic curious friend a copy of Watchmen for Christmas.  She loved it and asked for more.  For her birthday the next year, I got her the first Powers trade and she loved that even more.  Every birthday and Christmas since then, I’ve continued to buy her Powers trades.  She’s also started buying Sandman and a few other things that have caught her eye.


    Last week we went out for lunch after not seeing each other for almost a year(life happens).  She told me that her comic curious brother had been over, seen the Watchmen trade sitting out and asked to borrow it(based on seeing the trailer before Dark Knight).  He read it and loved it and asked her for more.  She has since given him all the Powers trades and started him on Sandman.  The kicker is that her non-comic curious sister-in-law, someone who mocked me endlessly for loving "those kiddy things", read Watchmen after her husband raved about it and loved it.  She’s since started with Sandman trades and is trying to track down copies of Persepolis and A History of Violence.

    With one Christmas present, I started 3 people on the comics bandwagon and that is a pretty bad ass feeling.

  8. I was hit with GI Joe fever this year! These new figures in the vintage packaging are FANTASTIC! I’m 31 and grew up with GI Joe, so seeing them made all my fond childhood memories flood back. One of my friends just turned 30, and being cursed with a December brithday meant that no one got him any gifts, just diner. On a whim, I picked him up a Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander, figuring he should get SOMETHING. After diner, we went back to the house and he opened them up. All of the guys (28-31) had our jaws hit the floor and we started acting like we were 10 again.

    "Holy crap! He’s got a holster for his glock!"

    "His knife is serrated… No F’en way!"

    "Cobra Commander’s gun sticks to his back just like I remember, and what the hell’s the pink stuff in the tube? Some form of biological terrorism?"


    We spent the next hour or two counting articulation, posing the figures, and retelling tales of epic battles and "firecracker incidents" from our youth. It was a blast!

    Everyone on my list is getting a Joe for Christmas.

  9. I picked some of those G.I. Joes myself and they are sweet. My 7 ear old nephew always wants to play with them when he comes over and they look great on the trades book case.  The stands they come with were a cool idea.

  10. "Sometimes, when I am in a bad mood, I think, "I could now sit down and watch The Dark Knight any time I wanted," and I instantly feel a little better. I am cheered up by the potential to watch it."

    I have experienced the same feelings – especially having the digital copy on my ipod, just knowing it’s there is cool.

  11. I buy people comics or toys at every gift-giving opportunity. It’s like being a dealer; the first hit is free, but then they’re hooked.

  12. I lol’d in rl at the ‘burn down target" line. Good stuff Jim.

    My little 11 year old brother asked me a month or so "so…Zach…do you have any comics you think I could read?" I had already loaned him Tommysaurus Rex and Iron West, and le thim read my old Spiderman Adventures (based off of the awesome cartoon in the 90.s) He was already an avid Calvin and Hobbes reader and really dug the other stuff too.

    Me: "Eerhhuhmm….no. I don’t think I have anything else that’s age-appropriate."

    Sam: "Ah, okay. Well…I guess that gives you ideas for Christmas then, doesn’t it?"

    Me: "Totally."

    The new Marvel Adventures line have really impressed me. Well done line and inexpensive. I picked him up a couple of those for Christmas gifts.

  13. tiny titans is an awesome book for the kiddies.

  14. Have they traded that yet? I looked for some Johnny DC stuff to get him, but couldn’t find anything at IST or (I think) Amazon.

  15. Not yet but mini marvels is out in digest size for only $9.99

  16. aw yeah, Tiny Titans is hilarious.

    I always try to get people hooked on comics too.

  17. Been to Target like…3 times in my life. Dreadful everytime.

  18. I saw a rat in a target once….I’m sure they are loving this advertisement right now 🙂

  19. Target is awesome.