Does Your Boy/Girlfriend Like Geeky Stuff? Is it Christmas? READ THIS!
For those of you aren’t aware, I’ve been involved in comics professionally in some capacity or other since 1995. There has not been one single year that I haven’t seen a variation of the following scene. (Please note, I have seen Men do the following at Christmas, also. I’m not singling out the ladyfolks as bad shoppers, it’s just something I’ve seen more women than men do in my experience.)
Setting: A comic shop.
Cast: Comic Shop Counter Person, some customers, Fashionable Lady.
The comic shop at Christmas, The Stand Up of Spider-Man wears a Santa hat. Tinsel adorns the new comic shelves, a mix of dust and the smell of mulled wine hangs in the air.
Enter, Stage Right, A lady. She is fashionable in a way that most of us who bag comics for a living can never conceive of nor afford. Her heels clack as she enters, She looks confused. She glances at the new comics, at the men in Flash & Green Lantern t-shirts arguing whether King Kong or Godzilla truly won their fight at the end of the 1963 movie classic ‘King Kong Vs Godzilla’.At the new books section. At the person behind the counter. At the Manga. At the Back Issue Boxes. At the person behind the counter. At the toys. At the costumes. At the high-end comics up on the wall. Finally, one last time, at the person behind the counter. She walks forward, looking confused. A dread fills the heart of the person behind the counter as she opens her mouth to speak.
Please don’t say it.
FL: ‘Excuse me…’
No, no, no.
FL: ‘Um, I’m looking for a present for my boyfriend.’
Please, don’t say it.
FL: ‘He likes Comics. What should I get him?’
Argh. She has spoken the unholy.
CSCP: ‘Okay, Madam. Do you know which characters or writers he likes?’
FL: ‘Nah. I just know he likes comics.’
In the name of Uncle Ben Parker, I will never make another joke about Tony Stark’s drinking or Norman Osborn’s hair if you save me from this.
CSCP:’Okay. So does he like Spider-Man? Batman? Do you know which of the films he’s liked this year?’
FL: ‘The Marvel Ones?’
I get it. I do. People have seen Kick-Ass, or The Big Bang Theory. It’s a fair assumption to make that the world of comic shops is a close-knit community. We’re a small group. We all know each other, there’s very little new product and we all read roughly the same thing. Heck, your boyfriend? The guy in the Superman; Kingdom Come T-Shirt? Sure I know him. He was just saying the other day that what he really wanted was the Batman: Hush Hardcover. I’ll go grab you a copy now. I’ll even gift wrap it for you.
Nope. Not even.
Imagine this. You’re working in Waterstone’s at Christmas. You’re rushed off your feet, nobody has had a lunch break all day and they’re all getting a little bit cranky. There are at least three deliveries of new stock that needs processing now. The queue to pay has been five customers deep all day long and your lunch is basically going to spent trying to catch up with the 20 new books that have come in that week as well as being up to date with whichever offers, reductions, discounts and such your branch is offering and what your sales targets are. Deep in your heart, you pray the punters haven;t done too much damage to the shelves as you haven’t been able to spare the staff to go clear them up for at least three hours.
And then someone catches you just as you’re running off the shop floor because you’ve been dying to go to the loo for the last 30 mins and says ‘Oh, Excuse me, Can you help?’
You try not to do the leg trembling dance as your bladder aches and you reply ‘Of course.’
‘I’m looking for a book for my girlfriend.’
‘Okay. Which type of book would she like?’
‘Um…anything more specific? Romance? Horror? Any writers they like in particular?’
‘Yes. Fiction Writers.’
This, in essence, is what you’re doing when you walk into a comic, record or a video game shop. I could probably do a ten minute talk on Joe Strummer’s recording career, from the 101ers through The Clash to The Latino Rockabilly War to The Mescaleros because I’m quite knowledge about that field also. This does not mean that I have any idea if your girlfriend wants the new Florence & The Machine record or not. I’m really not trying to be an anti-customer smartarse here. What I’m telling you is that I, and all of us behind the counters of shops each Christmas, can only work with the information you give us coming in. If you tell me ‘they like music’, I can sell you anything from Bat For Lashes to Beethoven to The Butthole Surfers to Bananarama. If you tell me, however, that they like Nick Cave, I can move onto early Birthday Party albums, Grinderman, Live DVDs, The Jeffery Lee Pierce Project, the films he’s done. Someone into the Call Of Duty games might appreciate a copy of Battlefield 4 for their Xbox 360 this Yuletide. That kind of thing.
What I’m saying is probably the most useful advice I can think of in any life situation: Before you do anything, do your research 1st. Look at the book shelves, at the stacks of comics sitting about the house. Are there names of writers or artists who keep coming up? Is there a healthy sized stack of Spider-Man or Wolverine there? If so, you now know that your loved one might be totally up to date with every issue of Amazing and Superior Spider-Man, but they’d probably appreciate a Spidey doll or poster. If her bookshelf is full of Neil Gaiman, then any comic shop staff will be able to point you towards more obscure works like Violent Cases or Mr Punch that someone who’s got into his work via Coraline or Anasi Boys might not be aware of. More modern couples may want to try out the gift of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which allows you to buy access to Marvel’s online catalogue of thousands of comics. Check here for more.
If all else fails, I’m reliably informed that Waterstone, Amazon and Forbidden Planet all do Gift Vouchers. Possibly not as exciting on Christmas Day itself, but certainly appreciated on the days afterwards. In all situations, keep the receipt. It could be that you’ve done your research and found that your loved one is well into Frank Miller, bought them a copy of Daredevil: Man Without Fear only for them to have a different printing of the book. New printings with different cover art happens all the time in comics,They’ll be able to take the book back for store credit or a refund, depending how nice the retailer is.
And if you’ve gone to that much trouble and your significant other still gives you crap for buying the wrong thing, you might want to consider who you spend next Christmas with.