Dear Magical Spirit of X-mas,
You've taken many forms over the years -- chatty ghosts in A Christmas Carol, Clarence, the adorably tipsy angel of It's a Wonderful Life, Charlie Brown's little tree, etc. You always have a way of popping up at the last minute, just before all hope is lost and Christmas goes down in flames, to hand out the missing presents that just turned up, or inspire a tired uncle to dress up as Santa just when it seems like Ol' St. Nick isn't going to make an appearance this year. That kind of thing touches me, it really does. You really have a knack for both shape-shifting and dispensing handy advice about how to enjoy life's pleasures.
But this year, I'm not in need of guidance so much as STUFF -- a few more of those little pleasures in the form of books and comics so I can bury my nose in stories, and forget my troubles. I'm easy -- no big miracle on my street, no need to send some precocious child outside my window asking me what day it is. Just take these gift suggestions and hit the mall.
1. Tales Designed to Thrizzle #3 by Michael Kupperman, published by Fantagraphics Books. Ever since 2000's Snake and Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret, I have been enchanted by these bizarre, hilarious, and completely addictive comics. I don't know if the right words exist to describe Kupperman's ludicrous humor or his clunky drawing style, but he manages to make everything -- from the repetition of a punch line to the way all of his characters' eyes seem to cross -- a complete crack-up. There's really nothing better to keep me laughing during holiday stress, and I think working the word "thrizzle" into my family gatherings will only make them better. "Why, Aunt Gladys, I'm thrizzled to see you, and ABSOLUTELY THRIZZLED by this reindeer sweater you've knitted for me!"
2. Speaking of inappropriate delights, there's The Rejection Collection, a new book of all the cartoons deemed too lewd, too crass, or too weird to grace The New Yorker. That's right, all those words are just other terms for hilarious. Plus it's heartening to see that New Yorker cartoonists actually do have jokes that don't involve lawyers, therapists, cocktail parties, or dogs doing any of the above.
3. Which leads me to my next request: a donation to my favorite blog: Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke in 500 Words or Less. I know you love charity, Magical Spirit, but you might be a little skeptical about this one. True, Mathlete mercilessly mocks Brad Anderson's bizarre/confusing attempts at comedy. True, making fun of people really isn't your style. But while this might not be a glowing treetop star in town square, lighting up the rapt faces of small children with wonderment... surely you can see the benefit to humanity in supporting public mockery. We love it! It makes us feel good. Did I mention that this is a daily blog, too? That's a big commitment to a terrible comic -- like eating a McRib sandwich every day just to make sure that, yep, it's still completely disgusting. This intrepid blogger deserves the money to buy himself a nice fat steak dinner, which he can savor, bite by bite, while contemplating his own brilliance.
4. Next up, a membership to San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum. I can't decide which is the best part of going to this always-amazing gallery -- the art or the shopping. I love seeing original Winsor McKay's and Disney cels, but picking up the latest comics publication is good, too. Thankfully, a museum membership not only grants free admission, but gets you a handy 10% discount in the store. Now I no longer have to feel guilty about having to bring along "the big purse" when I go to check out the latest show.
5. Actually, on second thought... here's one ethereal form you can take. It seems like Chris Ware needs some cheering up. Did you see his Thanksgiving series of New Yorker covers? It's official -- the man hates people. An idealized comparison of 1940's family unity (complete with the serving of fruit) versus today's depraved family who -- gasp! -- watches TV? And what about those dang-blasted teenagers and their cellphones? I haven't seen anything this cranky since Larry King tried to wrap his mind around the internet. "Happy @#!$ Thanksgiving," indeed. Please take the form of Paris Hilton (ironically, he seems to like that) and visit Mr. Ware to remind him that the American family is NOT going to hell, that all teenagers are NOT pushy and stupid, and that everything was NOT better and more pure 50 years ago. In fact, throw in the Battlestar Galactica DVDs and a Nintendo Wii to rekindle his love of the 21st century. No mortal could resist that.
6. Speaking of Battlestar Galactica, a.k.a. my favorite show, how about some of the BSG comics from Dynamite? I know it's like nerdiness squared to read a comic about a sci-fi TV show, but I just can't get enough of Apollo, Starbuck, or that steamy Dr. Baltar. These monthly installments offer storylines that complement the ongoing show, so we can all enter 2007 with the Cylon intrigue, taut political drama, and of course, laser-shooting spaceships -- our hearts desire. Plus the dark plight of the Colonial fleet's search for Earth is bound to make even Tiny Tim think his lot in life looks pretty good in comparison.
7. Here's another task you can perform: morph into the internet and make it so my Gmail doesn't pop up with ads for Cathy or Dilbert whenever there's a mention of the word "comics." Let's ignore the sad fact that my personal correspondence contains the word comics. Let's focus on the sadder fact that in the vernacular of the internet, comics = middle aged women "Ack!"-ing over the same polka dot bikini for the last 15 years, and middle aged men and snotty animals who JUST CAN'T SEEM TO GET that darned toner to work for their printer or their punchlines. Maybe I should have made this number one...
8. And finally, in the true spirit of the season, here's one gift idea that will actually give back: any of the collections from Post Secret. This amazing blog publishes anonymous mail sent in from people all across the country, with one condition -- it must contain a secret never told to anyone before, and the secret must fit on a postcard. The images and thoughts that result are truly inspiring, with heartfelt testimonials to prove it. From the simple human need to seek forgiveness and acceptance, to the beautiful creativity that often illustrates the secrets, Post Secret is one of the best sites on the web. But something about the personal nature of the postcards always makes me want to hold the objects in my hands. Happily, creator Frank Warren has gathered the phenomenon into a few artful books. If you follow the links on the blog to Amazon, 10% of the proceeds will be donated back to the blog.
Well, I'll be waiting, Magical Spirit. Between the gift ideas and the plots to improve the general state of comics/humanity, I'm counting on a pretty great holiday.