With only a few weeks until Christmas, you've no doubt finished up all of the necessary shopping and now find yourself with nothing to do except sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and wait for the big day, right?
Yeah, me neither.
If you're anything like me, you're still waiting for that ray of inspiration that will offer up the perfect gift for an uncle, in-law or colleague, and secretly dreading the inevitable last-minute shopping that will prove necessary to cross off the names on your list. Even so, part of the enjoyment really is in finding the perfect gift for someone – especially when that gift is for someone whose tastes align with your own.
And that's where this week's column comes in...
Sure, this gift guide probably won't be much help for anyone who doesn't know Doctor Doom from Doctor Who, but if you do have a favorite fanboy or fangirl who's on Santa's “nice” list this year, there's a good chance something in this week's column is just what he (or she) is hoping to find under the tree. From books that will give you an early start on next year's films, to the movies, toys and other gifts that let your special someone fly his or her fandom flag proudly, consider these suggestions my gift to you.
And hey, if nothing else, they could make for some great, last-minute additions to your wish list this year, too.
2014 Superhero Movie Prep
Captain America, Vol. 1: Winter Soldier (The Ultimate Collection) – This edition collects the entire story arc from writer Ed Brubaker's celebrated story arc that saw Captain America battling a mysterious enemy agent with ties to his past – and to one of his most tragic memories. Marvel's upcoming film Captain America: The Winter Soldier appears to draw quite a bit of influence from this critically praised arc, and that's a smart move on their part, as the story is widely regarded as a masterpiece of tense, dramatic storytelling filled with clever dialogue and intense action.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – There's going to be quite a few differences between 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past film and the 1980 Uncanny X-Men story arc that featured the Marvel mutants traveling through time to avert a dystopian future, but there were enough familiar characters on display in the recent trailer to make the collected edition of Chris Claremont and John Byrne's X-Men: Days of Future Past must-have material for fans.
For Anyone Who Likes to Read Ahead... (Way Ahead)
Sandman Omnibus - Buzz regarding a potential big-screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman's award-winning Sandman series is getting louder again. Fortunately, DC Comics recently released a brand-new version of the series in collected form. Depending on how much you want to spend, there's a beautiful, hardcover “Silver Edition” of the Sandman Omnibus signed by Gaiman that's available for the low, low price of $500, as well as two individual volumes of the Sandman Omnibus (sans signature, dustcover, and all the “Silver Edition” trimming) for considerably less. Both sets feature the same breathtaking story by one of comics' greatest storytellers and are sure to be a big hit with any comic book reader.
X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (Hardcover) – X-Men: Days of Future Past isn't in theaters yet, but everyone's already talking about the next film thanks to director Bryan Singer's recent announcement that the follow-up will have something to do with the “Age of Apocalypse” storyline from the mid-'90s X-Men comics. If you're looking for a gift that will put its owner well ahead of the curve when it comes to the Marvel mutants, the hardcover, collected edition of X-Men: Age of Apocalypse is a nice option that puts the entire story in one volume along with some great art galleries and extras.
Movies You Might Have Missed
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Deluxe Edition) – Zack Snyder hinted that the sequel to Man of Steel will take some cues from Frank Miller's 1986 series about a grizzled Batman making one last stand against Gotham's bad guys, but the grim-and-gritty story already got the animated treatment earlier this year. The two-part feature is collected in this Blu-ray and DVD set, and it's truly something to behold. Along with an all-star cast of voice actors that includes Peter Weller, Michael Emerson and Frank Welker, the film features some impressive visual sequences that do an impressive job of bringing one of the most famous Batman stories to life on the screen.
Transformers Prime: Predacons Rising – Fans of the Transformers Prime television series were sorry to see it go when the animated adventure concluded its three-season run this year, but the creators of the series capped it off in style with a feature-length animated movie that tied up loose ends and served as a fitting farewell to this particular iteration of the ol' robots in disguise. It's no Transformers: The Movie, but Transformers Prime: Predacons Rising is sure to please any Transformers fans itching for another great big-screen adventure with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and the rest of the Autobots.
The Art of the Box Set
Man of Steel Limited Edition Gift Set – No matter how you feel about the movie, it's hard to argue with the appeal of a box set that includes bookend figurines of Superman and General Zod. Of course, there's a distinct possibility that they'll decide to brawl at some point and make rubble out of your home, so you should evaluate the risk-reward factor there.
Marvel Phase 1 Box Set – It's all six films from the first phase of Marvel Studios' cinematic universe in one set, contained within a S.H.I.E.L.D. briefcase that opens to reveal a replica of the Tesseract, as well as a cornucopia of other Marvel movie merch. For fans of the the Marvel movie-verse, this is the stuff that dreams are made of.
X-Men: The Adamantium Collection – Sure, it has all six movies from the X-Men franchise (everything prior to X-Men: Days of Future Past), and that's great and all, but it also comes in a package with a massive Wolverine claw. It has a claw, people. 'Nuff said.
The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector's Edition – Now that Christopher Nolan's trilogy of Batman movies is complete, it was only a matter of time before the studio put everything together in one set, threw in a bunch of exclusive extras and collectible swag, and packaged it all up in a fancy box that will not only look amazing on the shelf, but look even better spread out for fellow Bat-fans to ogle. This is that time, and this is that set.
Star Trek/Doctor Who: Assimilation 2: The Complete Series - It was the crossover that fans of Doctor Who and Star Trek alike never expected to see, but when it happened, well... Let's just say the universe will never be the same. This edition collects the entire run of the series, which brings together the famous Time Lord and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise to fend off an alliance between the Cybermen and the Borg that threatens the very fabric of reality (as is often the case in these situations). Got a fan of either of these franchises on your list? Here's the gift you should be giving.
Star Wars: Frames – There's been no shortage of behind-the-scenes books that claim to offer a new perspective on George Lucas' beloved sci-fi saga, but this immense, sturdy, hardcover set does a nice job of giving fans something fresh. The book is a collection of 1,416 frames from the six Star Wars films, hand-picked by Lucas himself, arranged over two volumes (one for the original trilogy and one for the prequels) in meticulous, beautiful form.
Focus on Fantasy
The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel – If there's a Game of Thrones fan on your list, this graphic novel adapts a George R.R. Martin story set 100 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire (the source material for Game of Thrones). The story follows a young squire as he assumes the mantle of his fallen master and attempts to become a knight.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Chronicles: Art & Design – The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings visual design studio Weta publishes one of these books for each of the films in the Middle-earth franchise, and every one of them is a fantastic item for fans and of J.R.R. Tolkien's celebrated stories and the movies based on them. Each book is jam-packed with early sketches, designs and various other imagery that may or may not have found its way into the film, as well as commentary from the designers, cast, and even Jackson himself. With The Desolation of Smaug arriving in theaters soon, you can bet this volume goes heavy on the dragon pics – which is always a good thing.
If nothing has caught your eye so far, how about one of these random items culled from some of my favorite geek-friendly merchandise hubs:
R2-D2 USB Car Charger – Luke Skywalker always kept R2-D2 close during missions, and you can do the same with this cupholder-mounted charger that lets the famous little 'bot be your copilot while you drive around the galaxy (or just your neighborhood). Along with whistling and beeping as only R2 can, your robot pal charges any two devices with USB connectors (once you plug him into your vehicle's cigarette lighter).
Comics for Tots – If you're looking for a truly unique gift that will also give you a warm, fuzzy feeling when you buy it, check out the list of ongoing auctions benefitting “Comics for Tots.” Every year, veteran comic book writer Ron Marz collects tremendous amounts of original comic book art, signed issues, and other one-of-a-kind items to put up for auction (via eBay), with all proceeds from the auction going to the Toys for Tots program. There really is something for everyone in the auction, and the ability to take home something unique while helping to make someone else's holiday better is a double shot of awesome.
So, what's on your Christmas list this year? Let me know in the comment section and we can compare notes!
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.
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