It’s the last day of the continent-spanning, time warping PopCult Gift Guide. In this final installment, we’re going to dig into the neatest gift ideas in Art Books, Movies, and just General Weirdness. We’re all dreaming of a weird Christmas, right?
You may be wondering why a collection of comic strips is listed as an “Art Book” gift. Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo In Slumberland is art. This limited edition book collects 110 digitally-restored Sunday pages from the classic comic strip in their original size: 16″ by 21.” This is a huge, beautiful book. Comics fans today don’t realize that, a hundred years ago, people all over the country would wake up on Sunday morning and rush to the newspaper to see the surreal full-color comic strip adventures of Little Nemo. Set in a little boy’s dream world, this strip is as bizarre and delightful as anything done since. With this limited edition book, you can finally see the strip reprinted close to its original size, and in full color. You can really appreciate McKay’s craftsmanship and innovative use of color. He did things in comics that nobody else even tried to duplicate for 70 years. This book will be equally at home in a comic book collection or on a shelf for fine art books.
Going back even further than we did with Little Nemo, we find Leonardo Da Vinci, the Renaissance man. This book collects the most profound writing from Da Vinci’s notebooks, compiled and translated by H. Anna Sung and illustrated by Da Vinci’s own sketches. You not only get the incredible art, but you also get a rare insight into one of the most amazing people to ever walk the planet. With all the recent “code” hooplah, you might be able to trick a mystery novel fan into developing an appreciation for fine art. With the perfect mix of writing and illustration, this is more than your typical art book. It’s more of an illustrated philosophical treatise. Since the artwork is so striking, nobody will mind the philosophy.
Josh Agle, or “Shag,” as he signs his work, has developed his retro-post-war style into a popular look that’s become one of the most imitated graphic design motifs in years. His work can be found on cocktail napkins, lighters, and the redesigned Pink Panther, and imitators are found all over the illustration world. This book is the first collection of Shag’s paintings, wonderful time machine trips back to the days of bachelor pads, the Rat Pack, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and slumming in beatnik bars. A lot of his paintings look like the perfect illustrations for articles from Playboy Magazine, circa 1962. The 200 paintings contained here show just how much work and backstory Shag puts into his work. Many of them capture a moment, and it’s left to the viewer to decide just exactly what’s going on. This is the perfect gift for the retro hipster in your life.
There are two DVD collections of master special effects animator Ray Harryhausen’s films. You have your choice of “Legendary Monster” films, like Jason And The Argonauts and his Sinbad series in one box, or you could go with “Legendary Science Fiction” classics like It Came From Beneath The Sea, Twenty Million Miles To Earth or Earth Versus The Flying Saucers. Each set contains five films that feature Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion animation. Highlights are the skeleton swordfight in Jason, The Cyclops from The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad, and the Ymir from Twenty Million Miles To Earth. These films will make a great gift for the monster movie buff, special effects fan or sci-fi maven on your list.
Held in 1971, The Concert for Bangladesh was the first all-star charity benefit of the rock and roll era. Masterminded by former Beatle George Harrison after hearing about the plight of Ravi Shankar’s homeland, this show brought together an amazing line-up of musicians to perform in Madison Square Garden, with the proceeds going to the devastated region. Harrison called in some pretty powerful “friends” like Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Ravi Shankar, Billy Preston and a then-reclusive Bob Dylan, who hadn’t performed in public since his motorcycle crash in 1966. This was an amazing night, and it was captured in this documentary, which is supplemented in this set with deleted songs, footage from the rehearsals, and a new documentary detailing how the show came together. This deluxe edition also includes a 60-page booklet, a set of ten postcards, a cling sticker, and a reproduction of Harrison’s handwritten lyrics for the song “Bangla Desh.” Without the example of this concert, it’s doubtful that we would have seen such other all-star rock benefits as Live Aid, Farm Aid or Live 8. This is a great gift for the Beatle freak, music lover or philanthropist on your holiday list.
This is one of the greatest movies ever made! Sure, it’s bizarre, obtuse, slightly perverted, and can be used to clear Republicans out of your house, but it’s still one of the greatest movies ever made. Forbidden Zone is a labor of love, directed by Richard Elfman, and featuring his brother Danny Elfman and his band, Oingo Boingo. Danny plays the Devil, and sings a re-written version of “Minnie the Moocher.” There’s lots of nudity and goofiness, but still, this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Marie-Pascale Elfman stars as “Frenchy,” the schoolgirl who gets transported to the “Forbidden Zone,” The Sixth Dimension, through a portal in her basement. There, she is spied by the King, played by Herve Villecheze, and challenges the evil Queen (Susan Tyrell) for his affections. Things you need to know: Although this movie was made around 1980, it was shot in black and white; many nice-looking ladies run around topless for the entire film; it’s a musical, but most of the songs are from the 1930s, or earlier, with some performers lip-synching to Cab Calloway or Josephine Baker. Mixed in among the classic tunes are original songs and the first film score by the Oscar-nominated Danny Elfman. If you have a film buff with a zest for adventure on your shopping list, then this is the gift for them. It is one of the greatest movies ever made. The DVD includes deleted scenes, a short test film, a documentary, and hysterical commentary by Richard Elfman and co-writer, Matthew Bright.
Punk Rock Candles
$9.95 each from Wicked Cool Stuff.com
Sure, the idea of candles may seem somewhat at odds with the world of punk rock, but aside from the hippy-dippy connotations, candles are nothing more than tiny fires. And fire can burn and destroy. What could be more punk rock than that! Over at Wicked Cool Stuff.com, you can find these candles in tin boxes that bear the graphics of the Sex Pistols and The Ramones. They’re perfect for that intimate romantic encounter with your spiked and pierced sweetie. If you want you can save the Ramones candle to light in mourning the next time one of them kicks the bucket (there are a couple of drummers left, right? ).
Mexican Wrestling Masks
$9.95 for a set of four from Archie McPhee.com
Not quite apparel, but not purely a wrestling item, these cheap Wrestling Masks are just strange enough to land in the General Weirdness category. For ten bucks, you get four masks that are perfect for wearing to church, school or to dinner with the boss. Or you could just put one on and run up El Drunko’s bar tab at The Tank. This is a must-have item if you plan to call out El Santo for a Tijuana Cage match. And these are a great security item. Nobody will mess with you if they think you might slap the “claw of death” or the Scorpion Leg Lock on them. This is the perfect gift for the delusional psychotic on your holiday list.
Braxton County Monster book, prints, T-shirt
A variety of prices from The West Virginia Book Company
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Braxton County Monster. Our own homegrown General Weirdness has inspired books, fine art prints and a cool T-shirt, all of which can be found at the West Virginia Book Company website. Frank Feschino has a whole cottage industry going based on that night in 1952 when the strange visitor from beyond landed in Flatwoods. Of course, we now know that it was merely a time-traveler who had miscalculated. Seems he wanted to go to the FiestaWare Outlet store, stock up, and make a killing on intergalactic eBay in the year 2985. But that’s all water under the bridge. The legend of the Braxton County Monster is West Virginia’s own little Roswell, and you can delight the conspiracy theorist on your list with the book, prints and T-shirt that feature the most famous vacationer to ever take a wrong turn in the Mountain State.
That wraps up the bloated and inspirational PopCult Gift Guide. I hope you got some workable gift ideas, or at least a chuckle. Remember to keep reading PopCult every day, and check back next year for a Gift Guide that will be much, much shorter.