Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Guilty Pleasure Gifts For Geeks

Shopping for your nerdy pals is an easy task, especially if you yourself identify with "nerd" culture. Buying for these like-minded companions ends up feeling like shopping for yourself ("I would love to have this Indiana Jones bust, thus such-and-such will love it, too!"). There in lies the challenge to find the perfect present, the overlooked specialty item that your Doctor Who loving friend didn't notice. You could go for the obvious Sonic Screwdriver, or you could get the light up Tardis USB hub, with sound effects to boot. It's about finding a gift that isn't just what your loved one would buy for themselves; it's finding something they didn't even know they wanted, and perhaps would be a bit embarrassed to purchase in person. Below are a few items that will surprise even the most devoted fans, and guarantee that the recipient will be more than grateful for your inspired choice.

For the Spider-Man Fan:
The Spider-Man Snuggie
Where to Find It: This item was offered in Previews a few months ago, so expect to see it at your local comic book store if you are lucky. If not, several stores are offering it online as well.
Let's be honest, any Snuggie is a guilty pleasure. Frequent thrift store trips have shown that this novelty item has made its way through the gift and re-gifted cycles the past few years. Now that they come in colors other than United Airlines Blue and Leopard print, they are worth keeping around for decorative purposes as well as snuggle times. This Spidey Snuggie is too good to pass up! It will also make a great companion gift with Spider-Man coffee mug / hot chocolate combo. (If your friend is more of a DC fan, you can opt for the "Superman Comy Throw Blanket With Sleeves"). 

For the Star Wars Fan:
Star Wars Deluxe 3D Kites
Where to Find It: Amazon may be your best bet, and their supplies are limited!

I genuinely flipped out when I saw these, but guess what? I never ordered one for myself. As an impulse buy they are kind of expensive, especially for an item that has a good chance of getting stuck in your neighbor's tree. But as a gift it's the perfect excuse to fly a kite and mumble to curious passers-by that "I got it for Christmas".

For the Batman Fan:
Adult-size Batman Underoos
Where to Find It: Target, Kohl's, various online vendors
Would I be caught dead buying these in person? No. Would I be caught dead wearing these? More than likely.

For the Scott Pilgrim Fan:
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Video Game
Where to Find It: Currently for download only on PS3 and Xbox 360
This shouldn't really be on the guilty pleasure list, but I'm putting it here just because so very few people seem to appreciate this gaming gem, especially fans of the Scott Pilgrim books. I can see where some may be turned off by the meta aspect of the game-inspired-comic-turned-movie-turned-video-game, but this is one tie in that goes beyond sharing titles. It's as much fun as any great Super NES game from your childhood (think Zombies Ate My Neighbors), and just as challenging, too. Reluctant fans are missing out on a very unique entity by avoiding this downloadable game for PS3 and Xbox 360 (it's truly unfortunate, or rather just plain shitty that this is not available for download on Wii considering how many Nintendo references were in the books). Save your pals the trouble and download it for them; they'll thank you after the countless hours of enjoyment they will receive.

For the Hello Kitty Fan:
The Hello Kitty Personal Massager

Where to Find It: Ebay. Maybe.
Get it? Guilty? Pleasure? I don't think they'd turn you down, but it may be hard to get this rare item since the unintentional vibrator didn't stay on shelves very long. Here's an archived image from when it was still on sale at Amazon.

For the Doctor Who Fan:
Tardis USB Hub
Where to Find It: You'll have to special order it from your comic book store. Otherwise look for it overseas or online (even Sears has it on their website).
I was serious! This UK import would be pretty amazing on just about anyone's desk, even if they aren't a huge fan. If you want to go for a twofer, throw in the 11th Doctor coffee mug!

For the Fan Who Has Everything:

Why, a donation to your favorite nerd related charity, of course! Despite all of the "Digital Monday" shopping madness, giving to a well-deserving charity is a sure fire way to give the best gift of good karma for Christmas. Read more about The Hero Initiative, Can't Stop the Serenity, and the CBLDF at this link.

If you are still looking for the perfect gift, many of these items and several hundred other awesome presents can be found at Sci-Fi Genre. Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charities For Nerds

During tough times, the holidays are when we all throw our budgets out the window in order to show our friends and family a little appreciation. It's also the time of year when those in need are most deserving of that something extra. It's easy to forget that despite the stress from my current job and the lack of funds I face from time to time, I still have a job, something 1 in 10 adults in this country don't have. Many of those people don't have the luxery of cutting back on purchases in order to pay for Christmas presents because there is no budget to cut.

Fans of comic books are no strangers to charity. Many of our most beloved characters give of themselves selflessly year round, serving as role models for us all to aspire. We may not be able to save lives in the heroic manners that Supes and Spidey do, but the faceless charity donor makes a difference in lives, too. Since this is a blog in appreciation of all things nerdy here is a list of some of the best charities for comic book fans:

The Hero Initiative
"The Hero Initiative creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. Since inception, the Hero Initiative has been fortunate enough to benefit over 40 creators and their families with over $400,000 worth of much-needed aid, fueled by your contributions! It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment." 

Straight from their website, the Hero Initiative helps creators in an industry that doesn't provide health or retirement benefits for the hardworking individuals behind the scenes. I have previously written about this organization's charity auctions at conventions, which often benefit specific creators. My purchase of a life-size Batman cardboard cut-out helped a creator in need. You can help in many ways, whether it is donating directly via pay-pal, signing up to be a volunteer at one of the convention booths, or if you are a creator that would like to donate artwork for auctions they will gladly accept that too! This is a perfect opportunity to give back to the creators that have given us all so much to love.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

"Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals."
You know that jar of change sitting next to the register at your local comic book store? The one you see every week but don't always bother to drop change into? That jar is what helps protect the First Amendment rights of the creators that made the comics you just purchased! It's worth donating for that reason alone, but they do more than fight outdated censorship laws. Comic book creators up against Goliath-like corporations who don't know the difference between copyright infringement and parody, store owners facing criminal charges for selling adult content to other adults, even individuals facing the entire US government for owning manga; all of these individuals have received help from the CBLDF in what would otherwise be hopelessly daunting cases. Your donations keep the scales of justice balanced and fair in a country that has a looong way to go in appreciating the art form of comic books.

Can't Stop The Serenty / Equality Now
"We are here to support equality. We hold true to the the ideas that people should “aim to misbehave” if it means doing the right thing, that a government shouldn't destroy the rights of its citizens, and that anyone can make a difference even if they don't believe it. We support our causes and do what we do because we live in countries that give us the freedom to do so. But there are other people out there who can't do what we do. So, once a year, we hold Can't Stop the Serenity: a charity screening to raise money for Equality Now."
Fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly may already be familiar with this annual event that combines love for the short lived television series with charity. Proceeds from screenings of Serenity which happen all over the world, go toward Equality Now, a foundation that raises awareness for women's rights. Joss Whedon knows a thing or two about strong women, and his fans are more than happy to help make our world a little more Whedonesque. You don't have to wait for the next year's screenings to help out; donate today!

These are only a few of the charities one can choose to contribute to this year. Whomever you decide to give your time and money, be sure that that they are legitimate representatives of a charitable organization; comic books aren't the only place you'll find diabolical individuals looking to take advantage of the giving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Headscratching Headlines in Comics

Syke! Marvel does not plan to roll back any current titles to $2.99. Expect to see minis, one-shots, and the horrible 90's sounding "Point 1" comics at the lower price. I guess everyone feels pretty dumb for believing those Marvel editors when they claimed otherwise at recent panels. The timing did not help either considering these (now retracted) announcements came hot on the heals of DC's promise to lower all $3.99 titles back to $2.99. Well played, sirs. Dirty, but well played.

Grant Morrison appears in the new My Chemical Romance music video! I saw this a few weeks ago when the video premiered after an episode of Jersey Shore (don't judge me) and I thought maybe I was  imagining things, but a quick trip to the internet has since confirmed the cameo. His appearance isn't that surprising since Morrison is a fan of The Umbrella Academy, singer Gerard Way's awesome Dark Horse book (Morrison wrote an intro for the trade). It is possible that Grant Morrison also wrote the script for the video considering that it is an incomprehensible hot mess. It's been so long since MTV has shown videos on a regular basis, I think people have forgotten how to make good ones. I'd rather see Way working on a new comic.

Batwoman 0 will be released November 24th. Not really a headscratcher, but I thought I'd throw it in here because I can't freaking wait for this book to come out. Stupid delays from the other 27 Batman titles pushed back the release of this book, which is perturbing to say the least. No doubt it will be worth the wait!

Our Valued Customers is a pretty amazing blog, especially for anyone who has ever worked in a comic book store / visits one on a weekly basis. (Seen on Comics Alliance)

That's all I've got for now folks. Stay tuned as the barrage of end of year posts begin, and boy does this year deserve a lot of reflection....