The Most Wonderful Time?

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.


  1. This is great! I love how you refer to them as “normals”.

    This year I tried to avoid sending out a wishlist to my relatives (it just seems silly at this point…i’m 33 and don’t need them to buy me anything) but eventually I was asked and put one together. Here’s hoping I only get one Amazing Spider-Man BluRay or at least don’t have to guess which stores the duplicates came from when it comes time to exchange.

  2. I have the exact same problem. Everyone is willing to buy the DVDs on my wish list, but no one wants to touch the comics. I don’t get it.

  3. Anyone who would refer to the Calvin and Hobbes collection as a dust collector or dismisses it as a mere collection of an 80s funny strip instantly loses my attention.

    Plus the whole article had a vague sense of entitlement. If this is such an ongoing problem, make a physical list and hand it to the relatives – chances are those people aren’t exactly browsing your Amazon wishlists to begin with.

    • “Anyone who would refer to the Calvin and Hobbes collection as a dust collector or dismisses it as a mere collection of an 80s funny strip instantly loses my attention.”

      Yep. That’s where I stopped reading.

    • Gotta agree, I’d love to get the slipcover collection of all of C&H this or any Christmas… Waterson could do more with the small bit of newprint he was given that some modern artists do with a whole book…

      Pity he has seemed to pull a Ditko/Salinger since he signed off in ’95

  4. Why would you… why would you say that about Calvin and Hobbes? WHY WOULD ANYONE SAY THAT?!

  5. The year I got the complete Calvin and Hobbes for Christmas s one of the best Chistmases ever. I love that comic strip collection more than almost anything I own.

  6. I can only hope to get something as awesome as The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

    This whole article has a “first world problem” feel to it. Someone took the time, effort, and money to buy you a gift. Be thankful.

    • Indeed.

      But look: you have niche interests – even if someone goes to the store to buy me a comic trade or something – what’s the chances that I want it or already don’t have it?

    • @acebathound: Agreed. My Dad has a phrase he’s coined when it comes to gift giving and I’ve grown rather fond of it, “It’s a gift, if they don’t like it, fuck ’em.”

  7. My family and gilfriend won’t by me Graphic Novels for X-Mas because “I get comics every week”. I would happily have nothing but comics for X-Mas. Saves me shelling out £10-60 quid each time. But no.

  8. I find it a little hard to relate because Amazon wishlists work SO WELL in my family. But I also figure you are exaggerating your plight a bit for the sake of the article.

    You probably don’t really need this advice, but I’ll offer it nevertheless. When I include trades on my public wishlist, there is not a single one with a cover that features violent actions, he-man muscles, blood, decolletage, or blood-splattered decolletage. Also nothing that looks too juvenile (I am a grown-ass man) or too dark and creepy. All of this imagery is pretty standard and taken for granted by comic readers, but can be intimidating or confusing to others. Also, I don’t have things that are over $20; I don’t expect anyone to buy me an $80 book. Now the vast majority of the trades I want DO fall into the categories I just mentioned, and they are in a private wishlist just for myself.

    I also have the Simonson Omnibus and Absolute Kingdom Come on my (private) wishlist…but also the Complete Calvin and Hobbes (you HAD to know you would be getting some flak for that dis, you provocateur you).

  9. Not hating on Calvin and Hobbes at all, but the umpteenth reprinting mega-editions do seem to be mainstays of the Barnes and Noble bargain basement section.

  10. This year i emailed my christmas list to my mother.I also emailed her the Amazon links for each trade.On it I had more obscure trades (most of them WildStorm books that are nowhere to be found in comic shops).For my dad i also emailed him a list but i had his list with the trades i KNEW he could get at the comic shop or Barnes and Noble.Hopefully things pan out.

  11. What about buying trades and graphic novels as gifts for non-comic readers? I have a brother-in-law I know would love Chew, King City, or Saga, but I’m afraid I’ll just be wasting my money and the opportunity to give a gift. Any experience?? Loved the article.

  12. Nobody in my family ever gets me the stuff I actually want, which is part of the reason my family doesn’t do gifts much anymore. I think I got one comic for x-mas, “Green Hornet: year one”, and a few for my birthday. I think part of it is they either think you already have it, or just don’t know how to shop for comics. If they don’t have an amazon wish list or any kind, how can they know what comics you want? I don’t mind tho, no gifts are better than bad gifts. I thought about it the other day, and beside individual issues I’m missing I can’t think of anything I actually want for Christmas. Another relatable article.

  13. I firmly believe if you get something you already have, or something you don’t want, there’s no shame in exchanging or returning it. You’re not obligated to sleep with someone’s gift under you pillow until the day you die. You might as well have what you want or need. Two helpful rules go along with this:

    1. If possible, always give a gift receipt with any gift you give.
    2. If possible, always request a gift receipt with any gift you receive.

  14. Oh, and for the last… 10 (?) or so years, my wife and I each just buy ourself what we want, and say it’s from the other person. That way you get what you wanted and nobody gets their feelings hurt (“What do you mean you don’t LOVE the cat sweater I got for you? You LOVE cats!”). Then we buy a few small personal gifts that are surprises.

  15. Love this article, I thought I was the only one. I tell people I want trade paper backs for Christmas and they just roll their eyes. They can even buy them at Barnes and Noble so they don’t have to be ‘seen’ at a comic book shop if that is their problem. I don’t get it either.

    I know some people don’t like to buy things off of a wishlist because then there is no thought put into it. But if you really want to buy something that the person wants it is the only way to go. I’ve gone the route of just asking for Barnes and Noble gift cards now so I can just go and get the trades I want. But I fear I will be getting that set of 4 ‘DC Comics’ Superhero drinking glasses that are always on clearance at Target instead. 🙁

    Oh, and I do have that collection of Calvin and Hobbes books and love them. 😉

  16. This article could easily have been written more from the outside looking in, expanding on the point that Amazon gift lists can make gift buying an easier, less risky thing and shrinking the amount of whining about gifts that never get used. I see the point he was trying to make but he missed the mark. If someone from the intended target (non-comic reading gift givers) read this I fully believe it would egg on the stereotype of comic fans being weird man-children. A simple “I’m thankful for receiving gifts at all, but here’s how to give a present that won’t collect dust…” would do wonders.

  17. Hey, if you’re not using that Calvin & Hobbes collection, can I have it? I’ll gladly pay the shipping…

  18. I have this same problem. I’m definitely the easiest person to shop for in my entire family. All I want is comics. When someone asks what I want, I saw “comics!” But, all that said, I almost never get any comics for Christmas. The only person who will get me a comic is my wife, but even she tends to want to buy me Green Lantern T-shirts and Justice League posters.

  19. So basically the purpose of this article is to say that people in your family took the effort to get you something they thought that you would like, but because they aren’t actually into what ou are into, the don’t have th knowledge to get you something you want, so that makes them assholes? Be grateful somebody actually cares enough about you to make the effort.

  20. I have both ends of the spectrum. I have a comics want list. I have a sister who is willing to dig through to find me comics for Christmas and my birthday. All I have to do is make sure that I refer to the title of the book the same way they do on so that she knows for sure that what she’s buying is what I want.

    On the other hand, I’ve got some people who refuse to shop online for me, they want to go to a store. So then they go to a bookstore with a list of 7-8 trades or graphic novels I want, and it’s just a sea of color to them. If I ask for Ultimate Spider-Man TPB #5, there are probably a zillion books there with Spider-Man on them. If I ask for the Amazing Spider-Man DVD, there is only going to be one item in the DVD section with Spider-Man on it.

    I’ve even been told I’m difficult to shop for, even though I think I’ve gotten the message out there:

    1. Look for everyday object (mug, t-shirt, whatever) with a super-hero on it.
    2. Buy it.

    I did eventually figure out that really even I can’t shop for comics-stuff effectively at the bookstore. By the time you sort through all of the stuff I either don’t want because I’ve already got it in singles or don’t want because it’s volume 5 and I want volumes 1-4 first, or that I don’t want because I simply don’t want it, I can get out of Barnes and Noble and only spend about $100 at any given time.