Gateway Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Starter recs to new fans of DC Comics, Stephen King, Star Trek: TNG

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Apr 12, 2019, 4:03 PM EDT (Updated)

“But where do I start?” No doubt there is a giftee in your life who is interested in delving into a new fandom, yet is simply daunted by the task of how to begin. We can’t blame them; after all, when something has a history going back for five decades (or even five seasons), it can be quite overwhelming. And let’s face it, even our favorite fandoms have those story arcs or characters that don’t show it off in the best light.

Hence this gateway to fandom gift guide. The entries below offer up some advice on how to introduce your loved one to Stephen King, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Archie Comics, Wonder Woman, horror restorations and more so they can go from intrigued to “into it” in a few easy steps.

And don't miss our gift guides of lifestyle items, toys/games/replicas, and special edition books/Blu-ray/albums. (Also, if you want even more suggestions, check out our two previous gateway guides, for suggestions to Star Trek, Doctor Who, The X-Files, and other great suggestions.)


Intro to Archie Comics

If you haven't been paying attention the past few years, you could be forgiven for thinking Archie Comics are still those cute, little 'books at the grocery store checkout counter. But, they're so much more these days. The Archie line is enjoying a renaissance, complete with its own undead alternate universe, and a modern day reboot from an all-star creative team. Oh, and there are also spinoffs and crossovers galore. So if you're looking for a comic gift with retro charm and modern sensibilities, consider an Archie collection. You can go with the Afterlife With Archie collected volume (which is fantastic), the new-look Archie series (which is also great), Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which is a witch-y good time), Jughead Volume 1, the Best of Archie Comics deluxe set (for the purist), or the Archie Meets Ramones crossover ($12.99-$18.99). -Trent Moore



Get your tiki on
Geeky and tiki go together like rum and pineapple juice, and in recent years, the fandoms of both have joined together in excellently colorful clothing, cups, and more. With that in mind, and as a proud tropical nerd, may I suggest a few items for the tiki-curious on your gift list? First up, you need to subscribe your giftee to the quarterly MugCrate box.

Each box ($55) will contain a different themed tiki mug, along with art pieces, recipe books, syrups, bitters, bar tools, coasters, swizzles, or matchbooks. Moreover, each quarter will have a different theme that pulls the mug, While you’re stocking up, grab a glacial blue Cthulu horror tiki mug ($45) where we hear this Hyporborean creation hails from the frozen wastes, where "Eskimo diabolist" cults revere Cthulhu as Torngarsuk, and Ithaquaa and wendigo haunt the winds. Or, so we hear.

So you want more? Then say aloha to the exclusive Star Wars tiki mugs ($14.99 each) for perfect gift bundle. Each ceramic, 14 oz. mug (in the tiki kitsch forms of Vader, Chewie, Artoo, Yoda, Boba Fett, and a Stormtrooper) is crafted with attention to detail, and come in vibrant colors, inside and out.

Round out the introductory geeky tiki set with the proper attire, namely a Deadpool Hawaiian print shirt ($50), where the Merc with a Mouth lingers amongst a jungle pattern, and with faux wood buttons. If Wade Wilson is a bit loud for the fan in your life, opt for the more subdued Captain America pindot button-down shirt ($33), where the Sentinel of Liberty is like a Sentinel of Refreshment charging in for a Marvel-ous Mai Tai.

Finally, no tiki set is complete without some of the rummy stuff, so throw in a bottle of my favorite: Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. A reasonably-priced bottle goes a long way in livening the spirits of your fan. And with all these goodies you’re giving them, they’ll have the tools to make you a great drink. - Aaron Sagers


Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook
If you know someone who is interested in trying out tabletop games or a gamer who loves RPGs and is looking to try something new, you should buy them a copy of the Player's Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons. I fell into both those categories and after browsing through a copy of this book and poring through one of my own, I was hooked. The handbook is a great way to learn about the classic game and everything it offers. Between the information about character creation and combat, and beautiful illustrations, it won’t be long before you want to create a character and jump into this epic world! ($29.74) —Lisa Granshaw


Star Trek: The Next Generation
Over and over again you're giftee has heard that Star Trek: The Next Generation is kind of a goofy show that spends way too long figuring itself out. They kept saying they'd evenetually make it so, and make time for this show, but never knew where to start. The key? Understanding that TNG's episodic nature means you don't have to worry too much about the order you watch. That's exactly why I'm recommending you start your giftee with Season 5's "Darmok" which is emblematic of everythign TNG is about: triumph over adversity through intellect, and just a hint of action. Especially if they just fell in love with Arrival, "Darmok" is the perfect place to start. And to give a great sense of who these characters are, the android morality play "Measure of a Man" is a must. The Next Generation is great for morality plays, and that classic Data story is maybe the best example of how Picard et al can teach you a lesson. Complete the understanding of TNG's world with the Klingon 101 episode, "Sins of the Father." This is the chance to get into to how the High Command works, the impact of Romulans on the Federation and their allies, and, of course, it's just a great Worf story. Obviously, though, if we've heard one thing about TNG, it's those creepy zombie cyborgs, The Borg. And with good reason: the Borg represent the highest stakes and some of the best action TNG ever musters. So why not offer up the unofficial trilogy of "Q, Who" and "The Best of Both Worlds I and II." Wrap it all up with "Inner Light," one of the greatest and most emotionally powerful episodes of any show ever, and you'll be more than ready to go back and start from the beginning (about $21 to assemble an iTunes playlist of these eps). - Dany Roth


Doctor Strange Omnibus
If Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the Sorcerer Supreme piqued your interest in one of comics’ most intriguing characters, Marvel just released a tome with his first 35 adventures worth checking out. Living legend Steve Ditko co-created the good doctor with Stan Lee, and his psychedelic art suited Strange perfectly. Many of the incredible visuals in the movie owe a lot to Ditko’s work. This deluxe hardcover collects Strange Tales #110-111 and 114-146, as well as The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, which had Strange meet Ditko’s most famous creation. ($67.50) - Henry Hanks


Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Box Set
In honor of Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary, DC Comics released this box set collecting a number of the superhero’s stories. Featuring the work of writers like Gail Simone and Greg Rucka, this set would not only please comic book fans that already love the hero and want to add these unforgettable tales in this sleek new slipcase to their collections. It can also act as a great introduction to the Amazon’s world if there’s someone you know who has yet to read any of Wonder Woman’s comics. ($49.99) —Lisa Granshaw


Absolute Preacher Vol. 1
Whether your giftee is just looking for something to kill the time until Season 2 of AMC’s Preacher arrives in 2017, or to read some excellent comics, you can’t go wrong giving this collected edition of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s seminal Preacher run. The comic follows a troubled Texas preacher, his gun-toting girlfriend and a hard-drinking vampire, who set off on a literal search for God. It gets much crazier from there. This “Absolute” collection brings together issues 1-26 of the series, bundled with a fancy slipcase and some brand new bonus materials in a gorgeous hardcover package. ($129.01) -Trent Moore


Stephen King: The Short Stories
Getting into the work of Stephen King at this stage, 42 years into the man's legendary career, is doubtless a formidable challenge: His bibliography contains 54 novels and some 200 or so shorter pieces, ranging from short stories to novellas. Pointing out a few signature novels -- The Shining, The Stand, Pet Sematary, It, Under the Dome -- is relatively easy. There are even some key novellas to start with, like "The Mist," "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" and "The Body." But if you know someone would rather start slow before plunging into King's lengthier works, picking out just a few short stories is hard work. But we'll try. King's first collection, Night Shift (1978), contains some early gems, chief among them the sci-fi tinged "I Am the Doorway," about an astronaut who brings back an unusual menace from a space mission. The book also features the classic "Sometimes They Come Back," about a teacher's retribution against three hoodlums who haunt him from beyond the grave. One of King's scariest tales is "Gramma" (found in 1985's Skeleton Crew) about a young boy who is terrified of his grandmother, and with good reason. Just as effective is "1408" (Everything's Eventual, 2008), the tale of a haunted hotel room and the man who tries to debunk it. These and many others will whet anyone's appetite for the macabre. - Don Kaye


DC Comics Rebirth Omnibus
The DC Comics line is enjoying a ton of success this year, fresh off the ambitious Rebirth relaunch that brought back fan favorite elements and retooled parts of the New 52 era. Fans are loving it, and it all started with an ambitious slate of Rebirth tie-in issues across pretty much the entire DC line. Now, DC is putting all those issues (and the excellent Rebirth miniseries itself) into a massive hardcover omnibus, just in time for the holidays. If features stories from pretty much every great DC hero, and serves as a cohesive whole for what Rebirth is all about. If you’re buying for a longtime fan, or someone just looking for a good jumping on point for the DC pantheon, this is the perfect collection. ($75) -Trent Moore


Death Note Complete Series Omega Edition Blu-Ray
Haunt anime newbs and hardcore otaku alike with the ultimate evil vs. evil battle. Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s killer whodunnit about a privileged and possibly psychopathic high school kid who can’t resist the lure of a fatal notebook will send them on the ultimate psychological thrill ride. This is a one-way ticket straight to a dystopian neo-Tokyo rife with murder, scandal, ulterior motives and Shinigami death gods who will do a Cirique du Soleil contortion act just for an apple from the human world. The Omega Edition not only includes the entire chilling series on discs with artwork of that notorious apple, but also the spinoff movies Re-Light #1 & #2 and an exclusive art book all in a metallic black box burning with Ryuk’s demonic red eyes. Warning: supernatural forces will make this detective journey though classified files and paranormal homicide impossible to turn off at 3 a.m. ($62.99) –Elizabeth Rayne

DC Super Heroes Little Library
It’s never too early to introduce kids to the great fictional heroes of our modern age. That said, long before they’re ready to face the bleak violence of The Dark Knight Returns or dive into the knotty allusions in All-Star Superman, you’ll want to start them out with this colorful boxed set containing 10 board books suitable for children ages 0 to 3. The series uses classic artwork from the DC archives — in fact, most of the images are by José Luis García-López, the artist who defined DC’s clear and crisp stylebook in the 1980s. In simple language, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and other classic DC characters teach kids about shapes, the alphabet, and the basic values of right and wrong that are at the heart of all our superhero stories. ($50) —Denny Watkins


Agent Carter Shirt Dress
Cosplay can seem like an intimidating area to jump into if you’re interested in trying it out but don’t know where to start. For the Marvel fan facing such a debate, you might want to get them this stylish Agent Carter shirt dress available at Hot Topic. Part of Her Universe’s latest Marvel fashion collection, this dress was inspired by the iconic look of Peggy Carter and offers a simple way to cosplay as the character whether you wear it on its own or add an unforgettable red hat. It’s a fun everyday cosplay piece that offers an easy way to try cosplaying before you start creating your own looks! ($50.91 to $54.31) —Lisa Granshaw


Intro to Collecting Classic Horror Movies
2016 was a great year if you were getting into new horror movies -- The Witch, Green Room, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Lights Out, Don't Breathe, and a host of other enjoyable, albeit frightening, distractions all saw theatrical releases. But what you may not have realized is that classic horror movies have also seen an incredible increase in 2k restorations this year. So if you're discovering the genre (or realizing again how much you love it) this is the year to dig into the back catalog of classic and schlocky horror movies thanks to companies like Scream Factory, Arrow, Lion's Gate, and Vinegar Syndrome. Feeling like the world's gone mad? Validate your fears with the '70s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Love zombies, but tired of the overly serious The Walking Dead? Pick up Scream Factory's re-release of the grandaddy of the brain-eaters, The Return of the Living Dead (Part III, also got a stellar re-release through Lion's Gate if you just can't get enough living dead.) Still thinking of that awkward Thanksgiving where it felt more like the turkey was eating you than the other way around? Watch The Stuff and feel demonstrably less alone. And speaking of food, check out Blood Diner, which Lion's Gate lovingly restored for all the vegetarian cannibals out there. Trust me, it'll make you laugh. And if you want to keep laughing, watch Vinegar Syndrome's new 2k scan of Deathrow Gameshow, a movie that's sort of like The Running Man, but if Killian was the hero of the story. Those will get you started, but be sure to keep an eye out, month-to-month: you never know when an old movie you loved but completely forgot about will get the blu-ray treatment. --Dany Roth


Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection
There’s no better, more comprehensive way to get someone hooked on Star Trek: The Original Series than this collection. Its 30 Blu-Ray discs feature every episode of The Original Series, The Animated Series, and all six movies with the original cast from The Motion Picture to The Undiscovered Country. The gift set also includes a new multi-part documentary, bonus features, interviews, as well as extras like a Starfleet insignia pin for the anniversary and six new beautiful mini-posters for the films with art by Juan Ortiz. It’s a set that will make resistance to enjoying Star Trek futile! ($167.77) —Lisa Granshaw