Holiday Gift Bag: Showcases and Essentials

Time for one more check into our Holiday Gift Bag, with my gift recommendations for comics fans and non-comics fans alike. Today, we’re going with something I recommend every year: Marvel’s Essentials and DC’s Showcase Presents.


These are old favorites around here because they’re some of the best, easiest gifts you can get for someone who loves comics, especially older comics. They’re very thick collections of old, usually out-of-print comics — usually over 500 pages long, black and white printing, on inexpensive paper. They’re sometimes called “phone books,” ’cause they’re about as thick as a big city phone directory. DC and Marvel sell ‘em cheap, too — usually between $15-20 each. Yes, it’s just in black and white, no color, and the paper isn’t the best quality — but if they published these in color or on fancy paper, they couldn’t afford to make these so affordable, and that’s a trade-off you should feel pretty comfortable with.


These collections can be divided between early works, like the first appearances of Spider-Man, the Flash, the Fantastic Four, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, and rarities that haven’t previously been collected because they’re not in high demand, like Rip Hunter, the Rawhide Kid, the Losers, or X-Factor. There’s a huge variety of comics offered this way — superhero comics, war comics, Westerns, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and more. You can even find a few romance collections out there now. You get major characters and minor ones, and some of the greatest artists and writers in comics history.


People are still looking for good gifts that won’t cost a fortune, and that makes these perfect — they’re extremely affordable, especially when you consider how much comics material is stuffed between the covers. And while Christmas is almost here, this is something you won’t have to put on special order — most comics shops and large bookstores are going to have quite a few of these on hand, so you can stop in, spend a little green, and walk off with an easy last-minute gift. Comics shops and bookstores don’t always have the older editions of these, so if a particular phone book was released more than a year or two ago, you may have to hit up the used bookstores. Still, I try to save this particular recommendation for late in the season every year — it’s a fast, easy gift that’ll go easy on your checkbook while still giving the comics fan on your list some classic stories they’d never get to read otherwise.


Marvel’s Essentials and DC’s Showcase Presents. Go pick some up.

And hey, looking for some of my older recommendations? Check out my archive of Holiday Gift Bag recommendations — there’s six years’ worth of ’em at this point!

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