It's the holiday season, which means lots of things to lots of people -- parties, ugly sweaters, and trying to explain why Daleks aren't robots to clueless relatives at the dinner table. But it's also a time for giving, which gets our geeky minds thinking back on all the best gifts we've received over our years as fanboys/girls. Check out our picks for our favorite geek gifts we've ever received, and chime in with your memories in the comments!
In the late 1990s, there was no greater comic book read than Preacher. Writer Garth Ennis was already at the top of his game and artist Steve Dillon could do no wrong. I was working at Fun 4 All, a southeast Michigan comic book shop, scraping by as many college students do, and we got into the shop the Jesse Custer statue, a gorgeous sculpt by William Paquet based on a design by Glenn Fabry, featuring the lead character of Preacher lighting up a cigarette. Back then, comics like this never got any kind of merchandise, and DC Direct was in its infancy compared to all the products they make now. It was on display in the store over a year and was coveted by many customers, including myself, though I could have never dreamed of affording it. At the end of our Christmas Eve rush in 1998, my boss told me before I head home to take my gift from him off the display shelf: The Preacher statue. I was floored by the gesture and have proudly displayed it prominently to this day. It would be the first of many geeky statues, but it will always symbolize a memorable period of my life while working with a cherished friend.
My favorite geeky gift was and probably always will be my Nintendo Entertainment System. I'm not even sure I was a geek before then. Sure, I didn't have any friends. Yes, I got beat up after school every day. And I had asthma. Alright, I was a geek. But I didn't reap any of the benefits until the NES came around! Mario, Link, Samus, Final Fantasy's Warriors of Light...these characters picked up the slack during my sad, dweeby childhood. When I couldn't breath outside, I'd hang around the lush, Lost Woods of Hyrule from my living room instead. When my best friend turned around one day and started punching the lunch money out of me, I'd go home and the soothing Final Fantasy theme would make it right. Eventually I realized I wasn't the only geeky kid in my situation. There were others! In my own school, even! And so, after hiding out in the tire park during lunch, we'd go home and do the one thing in life that made sense -- play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and Contra. And, lo, it was good.
My favorite geeky gift was a Princess Leia Star Wars Kenner Doll that I received in the late 1970s (it was actually released in 1977, way back when Star Wars hit theatres). I just recall getting that doll so vividly that it almost feels like yesterday (sadly, it ISN'T yesterday). In my young little girl's mind, I thought it was the very best Christmas gift ever, and I kept that doll for many years afterwards. To me, she was just beautiful and perfect and looked so much like Carrie Fisher (again, the 1970s), I just loved that awesome white dress and that great hair: you know, those beautiful, big, glossy brown buns. That doll actually marked my first descent into the wonderful world of geekdom. I never looked back.
I've been lucky enough to get a lot of really geeky gifts over the years from loved ones, many of which I still have. so I'll have to share an older one and a newer one. The older one was a beautiful, hand-sculpted and hand-painted statue of a dragon -- a really fearsome, super-cool dragon -- that was created by a private artist and purchased for me at a convention. It's incredibly detailed and something I never get tired of looking at as it glares over the top of my desk. The newer gift was the recent 50th anniversary boxed set of all the James Bond movies -- I had a lot of them in various formats over the years, ranging from VHS to laserdisc to DVD, but this collected them all on Blu-ray in one great package. As a Bond fan since childhood, I appreciated just how perfect a gift this was, and those movies will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Though I don't get to do much gaming outside of Mario with my son and a long-running NCAA football dynasty with some pals these days, video games were a huge part of my childhood. They got me interested in technology, pop culture and creative ways in which we can combine the two. Weirdly enough, I think I enjoyed video game journalism almost as much as the games themselves. The culmination of that obsession? The geekiest birthday gift I ever received: A Sega Dreamcast, hitting right in the middle of my teenage years in 1999. With games like Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Shenmue, NFL 2K and Power Stone, it was essentially the gaming renaissance for me, before I drifted away from the medium and headed off to college. It might be gone and (mostly) forgotten, but Sega's final console will always hold a special place in my heart.
Back when we were dating, my husband Peter gave me frozen lightning, that is, a piece of acrylic that had been bombarded by electrons in a particle accelerator, then discharged. The heat generated by the passage of high-energy electrons resulted in the feathery pattern inside the plastic; individual electrons created the finest filaments at the edges. Whereas some people would give flowers, he gave me physics. When Peter, who is English, was passing through U.S. Customs, the agent asked him what the object was. Rather than use the words "particle accelerator" at the border, he simply replied, "It's a paperweight."
I wanted to be a combination of two people when I was little: Princess Leia and Wonder Woman. My much older brother was a Star Wars fiend, and I coveted every single one of his toys but was never allowed to touch any of them. But Wonder Woman was solely my thing. So, naturally, my most prized possession were my Wonder Woman underoos. Mock if you will, but I think any kid that owned superhero underoos in the '80s is better off for it. I strutted around in those bad boys as if I were channelling Wonder Woman's powers. Even long after I outgrew my WW underoos, that superhero strut was forever in my DNA. They may not have come with an invisible plane or lasso of truth, but there was definitely some magic in those skivvies.
Rising with justifiable superiority amid the massive crater of toys and presents beneath our tree at Christmastime 1977 was the cosmic awesomeness of Micronauts' Baron Karza and his sinister black stallion, Andromeda. Part of Mego's Micronauts line of space toys and action figures, the evil Baron Karza was twice the size of the frail Space Glider, Acroyear and Time Traveler 3.75-inch spacemen, and held together via sturdy magnetic ball-and-socket appendages. The Vader-esque Karza was meant to be taken apart and joined together with other Micronaut pieces and playsets, even melding his tyrant's torso with his horse to form a wicked centaur and other abominations. Weeks before Christmas I had singled this toy out in Sears and J.C. Penney holiday catalogs and hid my wishes from the prying, jealous eyes of my younger brother. Besides his magnetic joint system, Baron Karza was also equipped with fireable spring-loaded fists and a chest cannon to bombard nosy cats and relatives with plastic missiles. Long before New Years Eve, several vital parts of my beautiful Baron Karza and his maniacal mount mysteriously disappeared, my brother proclaiming his innocence with a slight smirk. I knew better.
Somewhere around age 6, my love of Star Wars and my love of Micro Machines merged into a fleet of tiny spaceships and an army of even tinier Stormtroopers. For a while, every Christmas and birthday featured new Star Wars Micro Machines, but the capper was the Christmas when Santa delivered a model of the Millennium Falcon that opened into a massive Micro Machines playset. It had the black and white "Let the Wookiee win" table, a cockpit that sat four tiny figures, a fighter bay, and even the compartments Han used as a hiding place. I must have reenacted the entire trilogy with that toy.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to receive an embarrassment of riches of awesomely geeky gifts. But the one that leaps to mind as having a special place in my heart was a Hallmark Spider-Man Keepsake ornament I received from my mom in 1998. I did not collect ornaments, but I love Spidey, and there wasn't a lot of webhead products out there at that time beyond mass market action figures and comic book shop collectibles. The detail on him was great, and he had two Christmas tree hooks connected to a web-line coming from each fist, so it looked like he was swinging through New York City (or a Fraser Fir) in a cool action pose. The ornament had been around for a few years, but I could never find it. So, when my mom gave it to me as a pre-Christmas gift, it filled me with joy. Spidey became the most valuable possession hanging from the rearview mirror in my crappy college car, and has journeyed with me for many years, across a dozen states, a couple countries and countless offices and apartments. Its resale value may not be high, but it is priceless to me.
I spent a lot of time sifting through the memory banks on this one, remembering every action figure, video game system, and graphic novel I ever received from a friend or family member, and having the devil's time picking between them. Then, I realized that, this year, I had received the greatest, geekiest gift of all: The opportunity to helm Blastr. If you had told 13 year-old me that, in the future, his job would primarily consist of talking about the Avengers, Star Wars, giant robots, and Tolkien all day, I think his head would have exploded like Louis Del Grande's in Scanners. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that, but it's still a hell of a gig, and I'm grateful for the crew of writers with whom I have the privilege to work and to you, our readers, for making it all possible. Happy holidays, everyone.