The holiday gift-giving season is in full swing, and as you may have noticed, we here at ComicsAlliance are doing our level best to point out what we think are some great gift ideas for comics readers. There's a good reason for that: At one time or another, everyone who reads comics has had that one weird present from someone who means well, but just doesn't get it. Whether it's a book about supervillains full of information that you've known since you were five ("Catwoman is a villain... but also a love interest?!") or a baseball cap with an off-model Spider-Man logo, we've been there.
That's why we've put together a list of don'ts to go along with our ongoing list of dos, as we count down ten of the worst gifts you can give to someone who loves comics.
A Stack Of Random Back Issues
I don't know if this still happens or if it's a phenomenon confined to an era when you couldn't just walk into any store in the world and buy something with a picture of Captain America on it, but there's an entire generation out there of people my age who had that awkward moment when a well-meaning relative or school chum just handed us a stack of random-ass quarter-bin comics, gave a cheery "Merry Christmas!" and went about their holiday. It's part of this weird phenomenon where we nerds geeks dorks enthusiasts tend to identify ourselves as comics readers, and the people around us who aren't into them just think that "comics" are one thing and one is as good as any other.
This, as you may already know, is not the case, and it has led to some awkward forced smiles and a longbox at the back of the closet that you probably forgot about until it was time to clean, and then started wondering if there was ever a time when you were really into that one Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series where they rode around in a time-traveling cow head. Sometimes I wonder if fans of other types of media have to deal with this same thing. Like people with really good record collections getting a stack of CDs from Rite-Aid, or cinephiles thanking smiling relatives for their copies of Chuck Norris's A Force of One. And then I remember that grandparents exist, and I know it does.
The weird thing is that back issues actually can make a pretty good gift. If you know that someone's missing a particular issue from a run they're looking for, or if there's a great story that you want to share with a friend that has some personal relevance, that's great. But with all due respect to my friend who got me in Secret Santa back in the 10th grade, it's not that I don't appreciate the effort, but there's not a whole lot I can do with a copy of Toxic Avengers #3, two parts of a four-part Star Wars miniseries and a couple issues of Richie Rich.
The Almighty Thor and Atlantic Rim On DVD
Speaking of elderly relatives with good hearts and failing eyesight, we have this pair of holiday ruiners. Considering that you're reading this on the Internet, you may already be familiar with The Asylum, a "film" "production" "studio" that seems to be built on exactly two revenue streams. The first is making SyFy Channel originals that grab attention with premises that are genuinely bonkers amazing, i.e. Sharknado, the movie about a tornado made of sharks. That's fine. The second course of action, however, is more devious: Releasing "mockbuster" movies that are basically designed to be bought by confused old people for their grandchildren, thus ruining holidays for everyone.
The two top contenders for this insidious tactic this year are The Almighty Thor (which actually came out a few years ago) and the hot-off-the-presses Atlantic Rim. You can probably guess which movies these things are trying to capitalize on, and being arranged alphabetically ahead of their big-budget counterparts isn't exactly going to help matters.
If you do end up with one of these for Christmas, well, you might still be able to wring a little joy out of it. I can confirm that Almighty Thor is nowhere near as good as you want a movie starring Richard Grieco as Loki and Big Daddy Cool Diesel Kevin Nash as Odin (with absolutely no effort made to hide his tattoos) to be, but it does feature dinosaurs and Thor with a machine gun.
You know those awesome DC Comics Converse Hi-Tops where you can customize the art you want and end up with a pretty cool pair of shoes that lets anyone looking at your feet know how much you like Batman? Well, if you tell someone you want those, and they don't write it down and only retain the information "shoes" and "Batman," here's a good look at what you might end up with this year.
Now, before I get too judgy about Crocs, The Official Shoe Of Everyone Standing Between Me And Where I Want To Go At Comic-Con International™, I should point out that it's been confirmed by multiple sources that they are very comfortable for standing in one spot, even though they look like they were designed and manufactured by a suicide cult. The aesthetics aren't really what bothers me about this.
What bothers me is that there's a whole damn line of these things based on Batman, and yet they didn't make any Killer Croc Crocs. It's right there!
Big Bang Theory Merchandise
Listen, I've seen enough "bazinko" t-shirts at conventions that I know some of you are into this garbage, and I'm not judging you. I mean, I am, that is literally all I do all day every day, but for the sake of argument, let's just agree that we're all into different things and that's okay. I own and cherish a full run of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, so really, I don't think either one of us has a leg to stand on here.
Point being, even if you aren't a fan of the witty comedic minds that brought you Two and a Half Men, this is another one of those gifts that you're likely to run across from people who stop at "they like comics" when they're trying to think up a gift, and end up with this because you may have also owned a Green Lantern t-shirt at one point in time. And really, negligence is the best case scenario. If some uncle buys this because he saw it and thought "hey! These socially stunted, smarmy, infinitely punchable sad sack a-holes definitely remind me of that person I need to buy a gift for!" then you might need to leave town, change your name, and start over with an entirely new family.
If you know someone who's really into action figures, then bootleg toys can be a pretty funny gag gift. That one set where Batman, Mr. Incredbile and that kid from Naruto are all identified as "Avengers?" Always worth a laugh. If, however, you actually meant to buy one of those pricey Japanese S.H. Figuarts toys that we've been so excited about lately, then getting one of these by mistake is probably going to put a damper on your gift-giving.
Above, at left, is the actual Figuarts Vegeta. At right, via tomopop.com, a "Figuarts Vegeta" from one of thirteen sets sold on eBay. If you look closely, you might be able to spot a few differences.
"The Mona Lisa of Comic Art"
We've covered this one before on ComicsAlliance, and as the song says, it's truly one of my favorite things.
Imagine that you suddenly find out that you have a wealthy relative that wants to reconnect after years of being estranged. This relative knows that you like comic books, and has even decided to follow our suggestion on how original art makes a great, unique gift for any reader. So then, this relative cruises over to eBay and, in an attempt to make your season bright, drops $48,766.00 on "the Mona Lisa of comic art," a painting by long-time Catwoman artist (and current Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose creator) Jim Balent and Joe DeVito.
Unless you are me, this will probably seem like a waste of money that you could've used to buy, say, a house, or 25% of a Batmobile.
A Tom Hiddleston Sex Pillow
All right, look, I realize that there are plenty of people out there who would definitely want a Tom Hiddleston sex pillow. I'm on Tumblr. I know what's up. But that said, is it really the best idea for a holiday gift?
I mean, really kissable furniture might be one thing when it's exchanged between friends, but do you really want to unwrap this in front of Grandma? I wouldn't think so -- I imagine it would involve a lot of awkward explanation -- but on the other hand, ain't no reason grandmas can't appreciate those piercing blue eyes, I suppose.
Remember earlier when I was talking about how weird it was to get a random assortment of comics as a gift? Well, when it's a stack of back issues, you can at least see how the person who gave it to you got to the conclusion that it was a good idea. They didn't know there was any difference, and since they were all cheap, all that really mattered was that there were a lot of them.
Now, imagine that someone actually put a bunch of random, completely unrelated comics of various quality together on purpose, in a hardcover, and then charged about a hundred and seventeen bucks for it. That is DC's New 52 Omnibus, a collection of the first issues of the 52 titles that launched DC's new universe. I honestly cannot imagine anyone actually wanting this. It's not that all the comics are bad -- there are a few in there that I actually like a lot -- but this is a book with fifty-two first chapters, done by wildly different creative teams, many of which don't relate to any of the others and exist in pure isolation. Who's going to read this thing start to finish when they could just grab the actual collections of the individual titles, which reprint actual stories?
On the off chance that you were gifted one of these massive paperweights last year, you might want to brace yourself: There's one for 2012's zero issues out now and one for this year's Villain Month one-shots on the way just in time to ruin Christmas.
Finally, we have not just the worst present on this list, but the worst present that it is actually possible to give to another human being. We can all agree that Monopoly is in the top five worst things that we, as a species, have ever created, right? I hate Monopoly. You hate Monopoly! Everyone hates Monopoly! And yet, it continues to exist, and has metastisized from a terrible, family-ruining board game into something that exists only to take on new pop cultural forms and be given out as a gift that no one likes.
If you are giving someone a game of Monopoly that has been themed around something they like, I am going to go ahead and guarantee that that person secretly holds resentment in their heart, if not outright hatred, and you owe them an apology.