Geeky Gift Suggestions For Black Friday

Actually, we don't do Black Friday. In fact, we're not even doing Thanksgiving.

Julie and I had so much fun last year running away to Whidbey Island and hiding out for the holiday that we're doing it again. By the time you read this my wife and I will be sequestered in an Undisclosed Location on the Oregon coast, loafing around and reading and maybe doing a little bookscouting if the mood strikes us. Far away from the madness that seems to grip every shopping mall in the country the day after Thanksgiving.

But even though we are skipping Black Friday, it's an excuse to bring some cool things to your attention that have crossed my path the last few months. Most of these are discounted books, comics or movies I picked up as impulse buys and they were so delightful that I think they're worth recommending.

So.... If you have a geek in your life that's hard to shop for, that tends to acquire books and DVDs so quickly that you are afraid to even try to get him (or her) a book or a movie, these are far enough off the beaten path that there's a good chance he (or she) might not have gotten to it yet. Or-- more likely-- if you are that hard-to-buy-for fan that gets kissed off with a gift card and a snarled "I never know what to get for you" every year, here's a couple of suggestions for what you might blow that gift card on, down the road.


DVDs: It seems like every week brings the release of something so obscure I could have sworn we'd never see it on home video.... for example, we now live in a world where The Invisible Man: The Complete Series is going to be available on DVD early next year.

[caption id="attachment_93996" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="Despite David McCallum's unfortunate hairstyle, this was nevertheless a pretty cool show."]


Between Claude Rains in 1933 and Vincent Ventresca in 2000, we had this 1975 version of H.G. Wells' see-through scientist, retooled as a bionic-era superguy in the wake of The Six Million Dollar Man. David McCallum starred as Danny Westin, who was working on teleportation for the Klae Corporation when he accidentally turned himself permanently invisible. So he and his hot wife Kate went on industrial-espionage sorts of missions in return for Klae bankrolling Westin's search for a cure. (Here's a clip, on YouTube.)

Since Westin was permanently invisible, he had to wear a lifelike rubber mask and gloves that duplicated his own face and hands, along with a lot of turtleneck sweaters; so when Westin wanted to become invisible, he simply disrobed. The show was canceled after twelve episodes, allegedly because viewers were turned off that Westin was running around naked-- invisibly naked, but still, y'know, naked-- while he sneaked around corporate offices and foreign embassies.

[caption id="attachment_93999" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="I think it probably bothered conservative viewers more that the scripts clearly implied at least once an episode that the Invisible Man was having great sex with his superhot wife, daringly braless Melinda Fee. No wonder he's smirking."]


But it was a smart, fun series while it lasted, with clever scripts from Harve Bennett, James Parriott, and a young Steven Bochco. For years the only proof the show ever existed was Michael Jahn's novelization of the pilot-- which is actually a very cool book, and recommended-- but the show itself is coming on DVD next February and right now you can pre-order the entire set for less than twenty-five bucks on Amazon. Such a deal.

Also now available on DVD for the first time ever is Irwin Allen's 1971 science-fiction epic, City Beneath the Sea.

[caption id="attachment_93996" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="If you liked Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, you'd like this. Squint a little at the sub in the back and you'll see it's a re-purposed SEAVIEW."]


This was actually a pilot for a follow-up series to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, about the adventures of the citizens of Earth's first underwater settlement, Pacifica. But it didn't sell. So it got released theatrically instead.

[caption id="attachment_93996" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="On the left, Stuart Whitman is doing a great impression of Serious Captain Kirk. On the right, the science team at Pacifica tries to figure out how to divert the planet-cracking asteroid hurtling toward them."]


It's got that goofy Irwin Allen SF style, but it's also got a great cast and a fast-moving plot. I've always liked it.

Anyway, it's out now from Warner Archive, the fine folks that also brought you George Pal's The Man of Bronze and Gene Roddenberry's Planet Earth. Warner Archive movies are no-frills, burn-on-demand DVDs, but generally I am so happy to have these movies available that I don't really care about extras.

City Beneath the Sea holds up pretty well for an Irwin Allen movie... the interior logic is considerably better thought out than, say, the later episodes of Voyage or almost any episode of Lost In Space. Faint praise, I know, but we like having it around. Trailer here.

Books and Comics: For the pulp-hero aficionado, here's a couple of stealth releases from DC that hardly anyone noticed, but that I was very glad to see.

[caption id="attachment_94031" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="These are both cool but I favor the SHOWCASE book, if you only get one."]


DC has collected the complete run of Marvel's 1970s Doc Savage titles, both the color comics from Steve Englehart and Ross Andru in a trade paperback titled The Man of Bronze and the black-and-white magazine stuff from Doug Moench and Tony DeZuniga in Showcase Presents Doc Savage. Both are fun but the Showcase stories are all originals-- the color comic from Marvel adapted four of the Doc novels over its eight-issue run. The magazine stories reprinted in the Showcase edition are, for my money, the best Doc Savage anyone in comics has ever done, but either collection is more entertaining than the First Wave version of Doc, if you ask me. (Although DC's collected that in a trade too, along with the O'Neil-Kubert Doc four-part miniseries from the 1980s. But I can't recommend those two. Just not good.)

There's also the DC Comics full-cast audio dramatizations from Graphic Audio. I've loved every one I've tried so far.

[caption id="attachment_94031" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="DEAD WHITE and TRAIL OF TIME are my favorites, but your mileage may vary."]


Great for listening to while you're driving. (We've got Batman: Dead White cued up for our road trip.) You might nose around other areas of the Graphic Audio web site while you're there, too; I found some interesting other titles alongside the DC stuff. (It tickles me that they've got Mack Bolan novels available as audio plays.)

I've run across some terrific deep-discounted Marvel hardcover collections, for those on a budget-- of those, I think the most entertaining were Captain America: America First from Knauf and Chaykin, Beyond! by McDuffie and Kolins, and Giant-Size Hulk from a bunch of different folks including Roger Stern, Peter David, and Jeff Parker.

[caption id="attachment_94031" align="alignnone" width="620" caption="Waiting a few months for the discount really pays off."]


I found each of them remaindered in hardcover, brand-new books, for less than the price of a new single-issue comic book. Can't beat that.

Anyway, that should get you started. In the Comments section below, feel free to chime in with suggestions of your own-- cool stuff you've seen that you think has been overlooked, or that's suddenly available again, or maybe even just a wish list item of your own. Anything that falls into our particular little pop-culture neck of the woods is fair game.

I hope all our stateside readers had a great Thanksgiving, and that no one gets trampled today. The mall crowds are already starting to look a little scary out our way, and it's only Wednesday as I write this. Personally, I'd try to get as much of my shopping done online as humanly possible.

See you next week.

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