I am on the verge of becoming legit. Paycheck legit. Not sure when: maybe a year, maybe two. But soon, I'll be able to buy worthless crap again. A return to collecting! But in the meantime, I must satisfy my collecting urges vicariously. So until I can spend way too much money on old comics and skateboard decks, these will have to do.
For the nerd who wants original EC horror/sci-fi comics: There's no reason to dash this nerd's fond memories of reading the Gladstone reprints of Vault of Horror and Weird Science. Let your friend cherish those memories: Don't buy him or her a collection of actual EC Comics (because in retrospect they're not that good). What is good, and what we really remember, and what turns us on when we think about these books is the art. EC's stable of artists was beyond anything out there at the time -- and the work still holds up today. Plus, you don't have the money to shell out on the originals, whether as gifts or for yourself. For you, for us, there's a solution: artbooks. And you don't have to buy them all because only a handful of EC's artists were any good. IDW's Best of EC: Artist Editions are quite nice, as are the individual volumes dedicated to the art of Jack Davis and, my personal favorite, Wally Wood. (No Johnny Craig? Graham Ingels?) IDW's books are beautiful, but a touch pricey. A bit less high end are the offerings from Fantagraphic's EC Comics Library. But there are two problems with this collection: it's in black and white and it collects full stories. Remember, these comics aren't great reads. You're not 13 anymore. (Nor are you 23, but that's a different post.) Plus, if you're going to read these, wouldn't color be better? IDW's books are focused on the art, so there's a bit more of a justification for their use of black and white. Then again, there's the matter of price. You just can't win. [Buy a copy.]
For the nerd who wants first edition copies of classic noir: A friend of mine is now, in his thirties, after a life of neglect, getting into novels. Pretty much any kind of novel. He's a criminologist, but he's thus far avoided the world of crime fiction. He asked me for some recommendations. I told him to start with the classics: Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Thompson. This naturally got me in the mood to reading these old timers once more. (A yearly event.) But I no longer have copies of the classics, and the ones that I have owned have either been worn secondhand paperbacks of the Black Lizard reissues. Then I got to thinking: I should own a collection of first editions of my favorites. Which got me thinking: You're too poor to even fantasize about first editions, what about some nice hardbound copies? I have always liked omnibuses -- not only do they look good on a shelf, but they're convenient if a bit daunting in terms of counting pages until finished. The Library has a few collections that are perfect for those looking to get into the classic world of noir and hardboiled fiction. For the novice, the two-volume American Noir, a set of 11 classic novels by the more important of the old school authors: Thompson, Himes, Cain, Highsmith, Woolrich, Willerford, etc. Or you can get more specific and buy the Library's editions of the work of Chandler and Hammett. The Library of America editions have that generic look we all know well, the Stratocaster of reprinted classics. But like the Strat's, it's an elegant, simple design. Perfect for the novice, but I'll gladly take my own copies. [You absolutely must purchase this.]
For the nerd who has no business getting back on a skateboard: I spent most of my formative years in Bakersfield on a skateboard. A few months back, my buddies decided to surprise me with my very own custom deck. After a few drunken spills and a sober collision with a car, I decided there has got to be a less painful way to relive those halcyon days of youth. There isn't. But you can still admire the wonderful (and woefully disposable) artwork of the golden age of skating. Depending on when you date the Golden Age. Sean Cliver's Disposable Skateboard Bible remains the best and most comprehensive of the growing selection of old school skate books. Another worthwhile collection is The Art of Mark McKree, known for his World Industry decks. Honorable mention, The Skateboard Art of Jim Phillips. [Buy all of these now.]