A Holiday Shopping Guide for the Unemployed Comics Fan
Maybe it's the final shreds of my Judeo-Christian upbringing, or the cumulative mass of thousands of Christmas Special messages, but as we get closer to the holidays, I find myself thinking about the less fortunate more and more. And if you're dumb enough to swallow the tripe the liberal media is feeding you, you know that the unemployment rate in America is nearly ten percent.
With numbers like that, there have to be at least a few thousand comic nerds in desperate need of vocation. Being unemployed at Christmas is hard enough – through in a complete lack of geek sustenance and you have the very picture of hardship. One is reduced to over-the-shoulder reading, troglodytic message boards, and (shudder) the local library.
Having once been an unemployed comic lover at Christmas, I'd like to think I can provide a unique insight into what your formerly-solvent friend really needs to guide him or her through these murky times. So if you happen to know any comic lovers in need of a little hoilday generosity, take it upon yourself to brighten things up a bit. Believe me, they'll be so grateful they sob like a mentally retarded witness to his own mother's murder.
I know from personal experience. Sigh. It felt good to say that.
On the morning of the first day of unemployment, depression kicks in like an afterburner rocketing you toward a meaningless existence. You poke at the snooze button over and over, lapsing in and out of a confused half-sleep until 3 o'clock and stumble out of bed with the sad knowledge that your day is already over and there's no point in getting dressed. In these lean days, your friend needs any practical gift they can get. Thus: Sadpants. I recommend something dark and durable, because they get washed once a week and pick up a lot of stains.
DVDs and Video Games
As anyone who has gone through a prolonged period of unemployment will tell you, the biggest battle is the one with time. Eight to ten hours of regimentation suddenly disappear, like someone unseen hand shook the Etch-a-Sketch of your life. You tell yourself that you'll make good use of it – work on that novel, learn to play piano – but constructive efforts are ultimately fruitless because nothing matters and we're all already dead.
Even the slightest bit of brainless entertainment can keep the unemployed from going off the deep end, so help your friend out with a copy of "Batman: Arkham Asylum", or the ridiculously cute "Super Hero Squad." Again, time is the enemy, so when it comes to DVDs, TV series like "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season" are better than movies. Whatever you buy, your friend will watch it over and over in obsessive repeats, eventually waking to the sound of the main menu booting up again and again at the corners of awareness, ghost mantras. So make it a good one.
Another major area of impact on the unemployed person is social life. Not having money tends to hamper one's options. Nice dinners, movies, bowling night, drinks at the bar and concerts are strictly off the table. Even free entertainments like a get-together at a friend's are in jeopardy because the unemployed has to seriously wonder if they can afford the gas. The bad news: forced seclusion doesn't really do a lot to help with boredom, shattered confidence or depression. The good news: when you're a recluse, you're in surprisingly good company. Pick up your friend a copy of "Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives" or "Looking for Calvin and Hobbes" to help eat away at those shut-in blues. Because you never know, with the right role models and proper encouragement, your buddy could blossom into the next Henry Darger.
As time goes on, the odds that your friend needs to make a change in living situation increase dramatically, and nd there's about a three-in-five chance that he or she is going to ask if they can crash at your place. Being the kind-hearted person imbued with the Christmas spirit that you are, you can gladly welcome your wayward companion into your home in style in this decadent Tauntaun Sleeping Bag from ThinkGeek.
Suddenly this burden becomes a source of joy as life becomes a sleepover that never ends, complete with midnight pranks, arguments about who would in a fight between Superman and The Hulk, and awkward sexual encounters. If it turns out that you're a cold-hearted bastard who simply can't spare the floor space, this plushy miracle of geekvention can still serve to swaddle and protect your apparently not that close friend when he or she is forced to live on the streets, kicked into the gutter like an errant hackysack. Yes, it does smell worse on the inside. A litter of dead kittens ain't exactly potpourri.
You know your pal is out of work, and you're genuinely bummed for him, brah. But why come he's always gotta be such a downer? Waa waa waa. They shut my heat off. Becky left me for a guy with a job. I haven't eaten in days. I no longer feel like a man. I have looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back. Waa waa waa. There comes a point when your friend needs a good swift reminder that "whydonchacryaboutit?" Others have had it worse.
A stiff shot of Joe Sacco's "Footnotes in Gaza" will let him or her know that yeah, things are bad, but at least you're not surrounded by abject poverty and firefights. Also, remind the unemployed that jobs aren't that awesome anyway. Jeff Nicholson's lost classic "Through the Habitrails" has been out of print for a while now, but cheap copies can be found in all the usual places. As the title suggests, it's as hopeless and existential as they come, and with the removal of all the workers' mouths, genuinely creepy.
Lastly, every unemployed comics lover should be given a copy of Joshua Cotter's sketchbook narrative "Driven by Lemons," and if you buy it directly from Adhouse Books, you can get it both cheap and signed. Because there's no better way of saying "hey man, at least you're not crazy."