By Matt Petras
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Every family and friend group has its share of geeks. And around the holiday, these people can be very difficult to buy for because they want things that only other geeks probabl know about. I remember one day, my grandmother told my mother that I, the geek in the family, am easy to get gifts for – “just get him a comic book!” she’d say.
“But what comic book does he want?” my mother rebutted. “It’s not easy!”
Thankfully for you, dear reader, I’m here to help you get holiday gifts for the geeky Pittsburghers in your life.
Pittsburgh is filled with talented comic book writers and artists putting out wonderful books. Earlier this month, Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca put out Street Angel: Deadliest Girl Alive ($20), a paperback book that collects every Street Angel comic ever, including Street Angel Goes to Juvie and Street Angel VS Ninja Tech, in addition to extra content. Street Angel follows the adventures of a badass teenage skater-girl, which looks dynamic, blunt and cool thanks to Rugg’s great artwork.
Marvel Comics also put out the third collection of X-Men: Grand Design comics, X-Tinction ($30), written and drawn by Pittsburgher Ed Piskor, last August. With Grand Design, Piskor is condensing and retelling the story of X-Men with his unique, retro art style and dense page layouts. The first two collections of Grand Design should also be easy to pick up for the geek completist on your list.
If you want to get someone a comic indicative of the holiday season, the hardcover collection of Klaus ($35), a wonderful, comic booky retelling of the Santa Claus mythos comes highly recommended. Legendary writer Grant Morrison and artist Dan Mora reimagine Santa Claus as a hero of the working class with plentiful dashes of the sort of ridiculous fun one usually finds in a superhero comic.
Local comic shops like New Dimension Comics at the Waterfront and Phantom of the Attic in Oakland should carry all of these comics.
Cash-In Culture, a local chain of retro-themed stores with lots and lots of secondhand geeky goodies like video games and toys, sells a game made by the Pittsburgh developer Retrotainment Games called Haunted Halloween ‘86 ($60). This is a classic-style 2D platformer produced on actual Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges played on original or reproduced NES consoles. You can also check out the first game, Haunted House ‘85.
If you’re willing to splurge, the Nintendo Switch ($300) or Nintendo Switch Lite ($200) are both great for seasoned or casual gamers. The standard model can be played both on-the-go or on a television, and the cheaper model is slimmer but cannot be played on a television. Conveniently enough, Retrotainment put out a digital version of Haunted Halloween ‘86 that can be downloaded on the Switch for $10.
Otherwise, consider The Outer Worlds ($60), a game released in October for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. It is a massive science-fiction role-playing game developed by Obsidian, the makers of the beloved-yet-buggy Fallout New Vegas. The studio decided to make a game apart from its former publisher, Bethesda, which has become infamous among gamers for rushing its games. Want proof of that? You can probably get a used copy of Fallout 76 for just a few bucks.
Comic shops often have lots of table-top gaming supplies for sale, and some have space dedicated to gaming in the store. Also, across from the Phantom of the Attic comic store in Oakland is a store dedicated to gaming supplies, Phantom of the Attic Games. For friends or family members who love gaming, it’s never a bad idea to pick up some extra dice, miniatures or table mats.
If you’re looking to get someone a game to play, Wizards of the Coast put out a new campaign sourcebook for Dungeons and Dragons called Eberron: Rising from the Last War ($50), complete with a new setting and fantasy race options for characters. For something more casual, Catan ($50) is always good. This year, the makers of this beloved table-top game rereleased Catan Starfarers ($100), a science fiction-themed spin-off of the series.
If you’re looking for something inexpensive and fun to get the geeks in your life, you can never go wrong with Funko Pop Figures. You can find figures of just about every pop culture character you can think of, across franches like Avengers, Star Wars, Cheers and Sour Patch Kids.
Some figures have a Pittsburgh flavor to them. Consider the figures of the Pirate Parrot, Mister Rogers, and the version of Spock played by Pittsbugh-native Zachary Quinto. You can find multiples of Jeff Goldblum, including one of him posing sexily on his side in the role of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park.
For someone you want to really splurge on, we recommend a smartwatch. The new Apple Watch Series 5 (starting at $400) features an always-on display and is perhaps the most premium smart watch on the market. For android users, there are a bevy of Samsung smart watches, several priced from $300 to $400. FitBit smartwatches, while not as feature-rich as the products from Apple and Samsung, offer a cheaper alternative. Cheap options include the FitBit Inspire Activity Tracker, which runs from $70 to $100.
Wireless charging pads have become popular and are pretty convenient and inexpensive. The Insignia 10W Qi Certified Wireless Charging Pad runs for $25 at Best Buy and will wirelessly charge just about any iPhone or Android phone you place on it.