Fanboy gift guide for 2008
In December of 1977, all I really wanted for Christmas was a lightsaber, just like the ones that the Jedi Knights used in "Star Wars." I did find one waiting for me under the tinsel-covered tree that year but, sadly, instead a fearsome weapon, it was a black flashlight with a flimsy plastic tube stuck on top. The disappointment, even for an 8-year-old, was a bitter one.
I’m guessing that the person who spent $240,000 at a Calabasas Hills auction last week to take home the lightsaber prop used by actor Mark Hamill in "Star Wars" possesses a similar childhood memory… and a much bigger bank account. But you don’t need to be a millionaire these days to get your hands on quality fanboy treasures; we live in the golden era of gadgets and geeky totems and if you need the perfect gift for a fan of sci-fi or comics, well, I have the droids you’re looking for.
R2-D2 aquarium: You have to ask yourself: What took someone so long to think of putting tropical fish inside of a sleek, 20-inch tall replica of everyone’s favorite astromech droid from "Star Wars"? Hammacher Schlemmer has this beautiful bleeping fish tank for a mere $129.95, and it’s more than just a barrel-shaped novelty: The domed head rotates upon verbal command, there’s a built-in periscope to spy on your gourami and the LED lights morph change from red to blue to green. Now if they would just make a Boba Fett birdcage…
Captain Kirk’s chair: Want to add command presence to your living room? Worried that the world doesn’t know how passionate you are about Starfleet? Then this is the chance to take your home decor where no reasonable man has gone before. This $2,700 replica of Capt. Kirk’s chair from the bridge of the USS Enterprise is part of a big push by CBS Consumer Products to sell more items related to the original show, from Enterprise-shaped golf putters to Mr. Spock PEZ dispensers. They say the chair will be on sale any day now, ready for any mission you or your green girlfriend can dream up. It will be on sale through Diamond Select Toys and, according to its makers, the deluxe swivel chair is built to last, makes numerous sound effects and even recites William Shatner’s entire monologue from the original series. Put it in your den and set your neighbors on "stunned"…
"Battlestar Galactica" toaster: You can worry about the future of humanity but with this sleek ebony kitchen appliance you won’t have to worry about burning your bread! The $65 toaster available at the Sci Fi store burns two messages into your breakfast slice: "Cylon" or the ever-delicate "Frak Off!" The toast tastes especially good with, ahem, Starbucks coffee.
Graphic novels: If you want to buy something a little less gimmicky, there are some great graphic novels on sale all major booksellers this holiday. For someone who enjoyed "The Dark Knight" film, try Brian Azzarello’s grim and gruesome "Joker" (it’s not for kids) or one of the many new re-issues of "Watchmen," which will be arriving in theaters in March, the nicest being the $75 "Absolute Edition Watchmen," which has be re-colored and comes with lavish packaging that pays homage to the 1986 landmark book. For something really unexpected, get "The Happy Warrior," ($38) on sale through Levenger, which collects the 1950s biography of Winston Churchill that ran in the weekly issues of Eagle Comics in the U.K., or "The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics," ($18) a hefty anthology with gritty gangster tales both vintage and modern.
"Bat-Manga": If you need a gift for someone with a slight ironic distance from their fanboy (or fangirl) roots, don’t buy them a comic book, buy them a book about comic books. You won’t find one more fun than "Bat-Manga: The Secret History of Batman in Japa.," by Chip Kidd with Geoff Spear and Saul Ferris. The Pantheon Books release (hardcover, $60; softcover, $30) collects and pays homage to Jiro Kuwata’s short-lived and long-forgotten Japanese take on the caped crusader.
Harry Potter Final Challenge Chess Set: Plenty of sci-fi and fantasy fans like to keep their treasures locked up and not just for reasons of security. Here’s a great heirloom-quality gift that you can actually leave in your living room without embarrassment. Based on the chess scenes from the first film about the boy wizard, the zinc pieces are appropriately gothic and the sleek Plexiglas board is a step-removed from the more obvious memorabilia from the movie. It’s on sale through website merchants such as Barnes & Noble, usually between $375 and $400.
"The Umbrella Academy" umbrella: Here’s an understated and stylish tie-in for the award-winning comic book series which is a sort of loopy hybrid of "Harold and Maude" and "X-Men" and is written by Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. The black-and-white umbrella is $30 and from Dark Horse Comics, along with Academy coffee mugs, buttons and, of course, several versions of the comics. You can get more product info at Dark Horse’s website and the you can buy the gear at several easy-to-find spots on the Internet.
The Lego Death Star: The granddaddy of you-build-it "Star Wars" toys is available from Lego directly as well as major merchants. It’s $400 but the true cost is the weeks of meticulous labor putting its 3,803 pieces together so you can reenact the rescue of Leia from the detention block or choke back a tear during Obi-Wan Kenobi’s fateful clash with the Dark Lord of the Sith.
DVDs and Blu-rays: It’s been a historic year for fanboy movies and there’s hardly a better gift for superhero fans that one of the many editions of "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man," now available everywhere on DVD and Blu-ray. If you’re looking for a less obvious choice, try "The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series," the handsome $150 box set that collects all 82 episodes of Kenneth Johnson’s forlorn and underrated CBS show starring the late Bill Bixby. If that’s too steep, three-disc special edition of "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" ($35) has great extras (and a way-cool hologram cover) and may be getting overlooked as a gift with some other superhero fare hitting shelves at the same time.