So for this week’s Question Time over at ye olde Trouble with Comics, we were asked about the greatest comics gift we’d ever received. (You can read Alan’s response, posted separately as a Stan Lee’s Birthday special). As per usual, I delved into the inquiry at length, relating a gift I received when I was but a young Mikester. But it got me thinking about the number of comic book gifts I actually have received over the years.
As I say in my excessive preamble to the response over at TWC, I usually didn’t get comics as gifts because either 1) I bought what I wanted during my trips to the comic shop, or 2) I bought what I wanted during my work hours at the comic shop. I sorta feel funny asking other people to buy me comics, a habit that continues to this day as I was recently admonished for not informing a certain significant other that a book set I’m thinking about buying for myself could have been a good Christmas gift for her to get for me.
That said, there have been a couple of comic book presents I’ve received over the years. The most recent were a handful of Starman trade paperbacks, catching me up on the James Robinson series I’d just started reading, but that was some years ago.
A few years prior to that (which may have been just before my entry into comics retail) was a massive tome that caught my eye after being drawn back into world of Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics in the mid-1980s. It was Don Rosa (whose work I’d enjoyed in various fanzines) that got me back into the Disney books, but that got me to rediscover Carl Barks, and boy, when I saw this book on the shelves at the comic book store:
I had to have it. Several classic Barks stories, fully recolored, in a nearly 400 page volume that stands 13 inches tall. It’s something else. One thing I remember is that my mother, who used write inside any books purchased as gifts “to my son, Christmas ’82” or whatever, told me that she specifically didn’t write anything inside this book if I ever decided to resell it. Well, fat chance of that happening…even having nearly all the stories inside reprinted elsewhere, this is a special enough item that I don’t want to let it go. There’s even an introduction by George Lucas, with whom some of you may be familiar.
And earlier than that, I received this book as a gift for my 12th birthday:
This extensive encyclopedia helped put some of the pieces together on Superman’s early adventures, which I was only getting here and there in assorted reprints. It certainly helped explain who, say, the Ultra-Humanite was, after I read his reappearance in a Justice League/Justice Society crossover event. And they’re not kidding about the “book length biography of Superman” — Superman’s entry, and nearly every other character’s entry, is essentially a chronological summary of purt’near every appearance of that character. I spent many hours perusing this book, and it wasn’t so long ago that DC reprinted this in softcover, so you can check it out yourself if you’d like. This is a precursor, in a way, to the Marvel Universe/DC’s Who’s Who comics, though the Great Superman Book is a little more convenient in giving specific issue numbers for story events beyond just first or last appearances.
One thing I found odd at the time was that the cut-off date for materials referenced in the book was, with few exceptions, the mid to late 1960s despite being published in 1978, but now that I think about the amount of time that had to be spent researching this book (i.e. the “seven years” they mention right on the cover), they had to draw the line at some point. Still, sort of odd to have no entries for “Morgan Edge” or “Darkseid,” but this is still a wonderful reference book for the Golden and Silver Age adventures of Superman.
There were others in this series, covering Batman and Wonder Woman (and also reprinted by DC in the last few years) but I don’t think I ever saw them in the wild when I was a kid. Which is just as well…just one of these volumes kept me busy enough.
And I think that was it for funnybook presents. I mean, I did keep bugging Santa for a Yummy Fur #9, but I ended up having to buy it myself. Which is just as well, since I was beginning to get odd looks at the mall whenever I sat on Santa’s lap to ask for it.