The holidays are upon us – with all their tinsel and glamour, noisy malls and Christmas carols. Whether this is your favorite time of year or the calendar months you loathe the most, one thing holds true – it is better to give than to receive. This is our November issue and if you’ve been with us for awhile you know that this is the time when we highlight indie artisans who are making stuff that speaks directly to your geeky little heart! (We send out this issue in November because most small businesses don’t have warehouses of inventory. They make things one at a time, just for you.) Our intention is to help you find gifts that are as extraordinary as the people you care about because making someone feel special is always in season.
All Indie. All Awesome.
The 90s were a different time for MTV, and I’m not simply talking about their music videos: the Liquid Television showcase was ambrosia for insomniacs, and MTV Animation became a bastion for some of the most challenging and medium-pushing experimentation across a variety of genres. Peter Chung’s Æon Flux first premiered on the showcase as a series of shorts before evolving into a full-fledged series which would contain many of Chung’s signature animation aspects: emphasized sexuality, expressionistic detail, and a kind of elongated and kinetic style of movement and human anatomy. Since MTV Animation folded, Chung has worked in and around a variety of other properties — fans of The Animatrix might recognize his touch in its phenomenal closing short, “Matriculated” — but Æon Flux persists as one of the most thrilling, out-of-left-field animated series, focusing on the titular assassin in a hyper-surveilled cyberpunk world, locked in a conflicted tryst with nemesis/paramour Trevor Goodchild. Aside from the iconic visual design of the series, it presents such an impressive range of content and color: humor, tragedy, sexual depravity, body horror, spy games, political critique, bondage. Forget the Charlize Theron movie and find this superb and feature-rich box set for a loved one who’s never seen it, and they’ll truly wonder how they ever lived without it. And, if they already own that set? If you’ve got the money to spare, consider Chung’s cult-favorite Reign: The Conqueror, a lesser-known imaginative sci-fi animated spin on the story of Alexander The Great. The box set is long out-of-print, light on bonus features, and usually a bit pricey due to its rarity (individual volumes can be tracked down much more easily, though).
If you know me IRL, you probably also know that my favorite living filmmaker is Korean auteur Chan-Wook Park, a formidable genre-spanning maverick who is perhaps best known for his Revenge Trilogy and, specifically, the international hit film Oldboy in 2003. Disturbing, perverse, meticulously framed, and possessing one of the most memorable action sequences in cinematic history, Oldboy came close to the head of the Korean film renaissance, prompting distributors like Tartan to stimulate other Korean international disc releases like A Tale of Two Sisters to North American and UK viewers. Beyond a typical box set, the Oldboy Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in a beautiful tan ombre tin case with plentiful extras for the fans: a lengthy slate of English-subtitled special production features across 3 discs, the first volume of the manga which inspired the film and–that particularly luxurious piece of nerd catnip–a 35mm frame, taken at random and set on cardstock. It’s a perfect and attractive package for this masterpiece and remains reasonably affordable to this day, though I wish a similarly loving treatment was granted to my favorite of the trilogy, Lady Vengeance. For a bonus surprise, you can also wrap up Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, the novel which was adapted into Chan-Wook’s hit sexually-liberated grifter film, The Handmaiden.
There’s an exceedingly bizarre sketch series that aired in the UK and remains one of my most insistent recommendations to friends of a certain taste. I’m speaking of the inimitable The League of Gentlemen, first airing in 1999 and exploring the increasingly lurid and layered tales of the village residents of Royston Vasey. Somehow, some way, the 70 or so multi-gendered characters in the show are all played by three astounding actors: Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, and Mark Gatiss (the latter of whom is the most recognizable, and has since featured in shows like Game of Thrones and Sherlock). It’s the absolute grimmest of comedy experiments, and rarely subtle or politically correct in its construction; characters include a ghastly butcher with questionable market wares, a fumblingly lethal veterinarian, and a urine-obsessed shut-in with evil twin daughters right out of The Shining. Certain aspects of the show may or may not have aged as well as others; for instance, a transgender cab-driver is possibly played for laughs at first, though their story evolves into a nuanced and intimate journey as the show goes on. “Story evolves, on a sketch show?” you may ask? The League of Gentlemen’s greatest trick is that all of its dozens of narratives build and develop as the show continues, forming a conflagration of supernatural secrets, romances, manipulations, and legitimately haunting resolutions. It eventually even sheds its laugh-track, transforming into a straight-faced, sublime drama rich with pathos, vulnerability, and satisfying moments of character growth that feel well-earned. There’s nothing to compare it to, though fans of David Lynch and the general artistic realm of the uncanny will find themselves unable to look away. There’s a box set which includes the original three seasons, as well as its British-television-required Christmas Special and other extras, but the recipient of this set will have to track down the feature film separately. And, if your friend happens to already be familiar with the League (bless them), consider the even darker and spookier Psychoville box set, a lesser-seen follow up whose first season stars an early-career Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out and Black Panther fame.
Brighten up a young one’s ride to their Grandparents with a fun series by writer-artist Javier Cruz Winnik. Having completed its third successful Kickstarter, this series is for kids of all ages who like positive stories about young kids finding adventure in the beauty of life just under the film of everyday life. The first two books of A Reason to Smile comes in several formats; hardcover, softcover and digitally. You can generally catch Javier at most NYC cons, and book three should be out soon.
This isn’t exactly a stocking stuffer, but if you want a nice way to say “I love and understand your nerdiness and want to keep you warm”, a personalized scarf by Regine Sawyer will help convey that sentiment. Not only is Regine a talented writer and publisher, she’s also a beast with them knitting sticks! Need an X-Men hat or a Doctor Who scarf, she’s got you. Prices vary with the complexity of the pattern, so for more information contact her at StitchesandYarn (to see her work) and then DM her to get on her production list to arrange a design before the holidays hit.
Picnic Time serves up geek fun with food and drinks
I stumbled across this California based company at New York Comic Con slinging geeky fun for that adult-ish nerd you know. Spice up that romantic outdoor picnic with a Star Wars picnic basket; need a Punisher cooler for that outdoor concert? Or at your next wine party maybe you can serve that cheese up on a Captain America or Ratatouille cutting board?
Sires Eyewear is another California-based company that I came across at NYCC that does licensed work for your glasses. The extra cool thing about them is that they also do custom eyeglasses. You go to the website and they provide templates for you to upload your artwork which they then fuse to the frames.
Be it Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, your nerdy person(s) will love these gifts.
OneKIN is on a mission to turn mindless consumerism into a vehicle for change, renewal, and connection. The entire site is designed to make purchasing as easy as Amazon, but that is where the comparisons end. Instead of large suppliers, each click on OneKIN is linked to an indie creator of color who is making something you need with a purpose and intention that goes beyond mere dollars and cents. There are artists on this site from the US and all over the world, bringing their unique culture and traditions into every stitch and label so that you can share in the experience, too. As an artist and a consumer, I’m proud to be a part of the OneKIN family. You can check out the experience here.