We’ve covered the games, now here’s everything else that you might buy for the Critical Hitter who’s expecting a little something special this holiday season. We start with the comics, then move into a miscellaneous pile of stuff that we recommend you buy right away!
Shazam! and the Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the classic character of Captain Marvel (always referred to as Shazam on covers due to legal-weirdness), there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this mini-series re-imagining done by Bone creator Jeff Smith. Smith does a great job of balancing emotional topics with old school fun to create a wonderful standalone superhero story that can be enjoyed both by kids and adults.
Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil can be found at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.
Wanted by Mark Millar
Next year, Wanted will become a major motion picture starring Morgan Freeman and OMFG Angelina Jolie. While I’m looking forward to the movie, it’s definitely going to be a departure from the source material. So do yourself a favor and pick up the TPB collection of the series to check it out in its super-villain loving glory. For the fan of gritty crime and superheroes alike, this is a great work (and funny as hell.)
Wanted is available from Amazon and bookstores everywhere.
The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke
DC Comics gave Darwyn Cooke the task of reinventing classic superhero the Spirit (the creation of the late, great Will Eisner.) Cooke brought his trademark retro-style and made the Spirit all his own, while staying true to the roots of the character. I’m a huge fan of Cooke’s art style, and it fits perfectly with the type of stories the Spirit was involved in, while simultaneously letting the world he lives in exist in modern types. If you’re a fan of the Batman Animated Series, this is highly recommended for you.
The first collection is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.
Mouse Guard Volume 1: Fall 1152 by David Peterson
The best epic fantasy of the year also happens to be the smallest. The brave knights of the Mouse Guard struggle against giant predators to foil a plot against the territories that they protect. This hardcover collection is absolutely gorgeous, reproducing all the vibrant colors (and unique size) that made this series so interesting to look at. Just reading it gave me all sorts of ideas for D&D, so even if you’re not generally a fan of comics but you are looking for some good old fashioned fantasy, check this out. While a little intense at times, it’s appropriate for children too.
Available at Amazon and bookstores everywhere.
Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
Warren Ellis has definitely made a name for himself in mainstream comics in recent years, doing the excellent series NextWave and exploring super-villain team dynamics in Thunderbolts. For his first full length novel, Ellis has not held back. Pure undiluted filth streams from every corner of the world Ellis creates here, and infuses the cynicism you’ve come to expect (and that he became famous for in Transmetropolitan) into his characters. While these may sound like negatives, Ellis has a unique talent for making you love every single bastard that comes across the page and in every obscenity they utter.
Available at Amazon and most bookstores.
Big Squishable Animals
Who wouldn’t want a giant, squeezable shark? Only dirty, cold-hearted communists, that’s who. This selection of cute stuffed animals may seem odd to recommend to the hardcore gamers out there, but trust me, they’re quite charming… order one, and if you don’t like it, you can always give it to the manga-loving geek girl on your list.
Available direct from the manufacturer.
According to Bartoneus, this brand of putty (it’s not silly, it’s thinking!) has become a huge hit at his office. With a wide selection of types, colors, and patterns (my personal favorite being the glow in the dark shown above), it’s easy to see why this putty is the stress toy/absent-minded plaything of choice.
Available from the manufacturer.
My Little Cthulhu by John Kovalic
You’ve seen the plush versions of the Great Tentacled Old One. You’ve seen the massive HorrorClix figure ready to rip the head off Superman. But what collection would be complete without the vinyl figure of My Little Cthulhu? We may be reaching a saturation point of R’lyeh-related merchandise, but the design of this is just too awesome to ignore- my favorite of the 3D (or is it more than 3D?) Cthulhus.
What better way to tell the gamer in your life “you stink!” by giving them a d20 encased in soap? In order to reach the soap and make their attack rolls, they’ll have to use the soap. And it will leave your dice smelling sweet!
Available from Paizo.
Meeple People Merchandise
It was too difficult to pick just one product from this fine store specializing in eurogame products. The Meeple pint glasses above are a personal favorite, but the wide selection of geek apparel is also great for showing your gaming style…and yes, they even sell the Meeples themselves, for bringing your own personal color to your next Carcassonne match.
A great default gift is to ask the nerd in your life “what webcomics do you like?” The big webcomics all run their own stores with tons of associated merchandise. There are usually t-shirts, but you can usually find artwork from the series and book collections there too. Here’s a short list of recommended stores, along with a recommended product:
- PVP (Han Shot First Tee)
- Penny Arcade (Roll for Initiative Tee)
- Overcompensating (The Case of Mars collection)
- XKCD (Map of the Internet)
- Toothpaste for Dinner (Movie Quote Tee)
And that wraps up another year of products recommended by Critical Hits for this annual gift-giving season. But remember, for the gamer in your life, there’s no bad time to give and receive gifts!