Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Every December (and sometimes November), The A.V. Club fills its waking hours with obsessive list-making: Bests, worsts, weirdests, things we remember, things we forgot. But amid all of that high-risk (for external and internal arguments) and high-reward (for the satisfaction of a job well done) work, we like to include at least one year-end index that’s no-risk, all-reward. And here it is: our annual effort of running an old Sears Wish Book and an Oprah’s Favorite Things through the filters of The A.V. Club staff’s personal preferences and impeccable tastes in entertainment and popular culture. Suggestions from and for multiverse-traveling role-players, exacting kaiju enthusiasts, and record collectors who are into ’90s R&B and loving parodies thereof—consider them our gift to you.


Dungeons & Dragons Vs. Rick And Morty ($20.91)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

In a pairing that becomes more complementary and obvious the longer you think about it, Dungeons & Dragons Vs. Rick And Morty combines the thrills of saving throws with the chills of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s tragicomic animated series. This starter set makes it easy to dive right into tabletop gaming, even as the campaign and rule books—which are primarily written from Rick Sanchez’s sardonic perspective—guide you and deride you on your quest. The game comes with pre-made character sheets for all the members of the Sanchez-Smith family (with bonus barbarian), but you can also explore the boundaries of The Lost Dungeon Of Rickedness: Big Rick Energy with your own PCs. Start a session to tide yourself over until the next season of Rick And Morty, drown out the voices of your visiting family members, or, as Rick puts it, to “get a little taste of what it’s like to be me, all the time.” [Danette Chavez]


The Batman Who Laughs ($19.38)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

If you’re one of the many who digs the shenanigans of DC’s Dark Multiverse, then The Batman Who Laughs should be a given for your stocking this holiday. The handsome graphic novel is a compendium of the seven-issue series (plus a special one-off) following the story of one of the bleaker “What if?”s: The titular villain, birthed when alt-verse Batman was turned into a new Joker. Reuniting writer Scott Snyder with artist Jock (All-Star Batman), Bruce Wayne’s twisted nemesis unleashes an even nastier threat known as the Grim Knight—and in case the name doesn’t make it obvious, fans of Dark Nights: Metal will be very pleased. It’s a graphic novel that makes the case for the solution to “dark and gritty” being “even darker and grittier, and also super creepy.” [Alex McLevy]


Mary J. Blige, Herstory Vol. 1 ($109.98)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

When Mary J. Blige debuted in the summer of ’92, she heralded and set the standard for the hip-hop soul boom, the influence of which can still be heard at the top of the charts almost 30 years later. Herstory Vol. 1. is a celebration of those momentous early years, a re-pressing of Blige’s biggest original singles from What’s The 411? and My Life alongside rare remixes. The collection is available in multiple formats, but we recommend the 45s for revisiting these tracks one by one. They feel as vibrant as they ever did: Blige is so expressive and in the pocket across the muscular beat of “Real Love” and the jazzy staccato synths of “Love No Limit,” a streetwise vision of R&B’s future. [Kelsey J. Waite]


Chet Baker, The Legendary Riverside Albums ($149.99)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Legendary Riverside Albums, Craft Recordings’ reverent look at Chet Baker’s 1958-59 run at the East Coast label, is as tasteful and intentional as a melody from the man himself. These five LPs—including It Could Happen To You, Chet, and Chet Baker In New York—glimpse a rich and precarious moment in Baker’s catalog, just before tragedy would find him in Europe, in which he is maturing as vocalist and trumpeter, and especially in the space between the two. The box set’s well-designed packaging matches the sublime audio quality (cut from the original analog recordings), making these Riverside Albums so nice to come home to in the long winter evenings. A worthwhile rediscovery for longtime fans and a great entry point for new ones. [Kelsey J. Waite]


Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping vinyl LPs ($35)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Lonely Island’s deliriously inspired Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is perhaps a touch too lewd to enjoy with the family this holiday season, but the film’s stellar soundtrack remains a miracle in and of itself. Mondo is serving up the first-ever vinyl release of its blush-worthy batch of singles, which find the likes of P!nk, Adam Levine, Michael Bolton, and Seal joining Andy Samberg’s Connor4Real and the Style Boyz for cuts like “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song),” “Equal Rights,” and the ever-enduring “Donkey Roll.” Better yet, the release manifests in a handful of different editions featuring album art for the Style Boyz’ cult classics or Conner4Real’s (unfairly) panned sophomore album, Thriller, Also. [Randall Colburn]


Parasite Family T-shirt ($25)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

Did you see one of the year’s best films, or have you merely infiltrated the upper echelon of fashionable cinephiles by receiving this wearable celebration of Bong Joon-ho’s taut Palm d’Or winner? Only you and the Kim family know for sure, their anonymized images from the film’s promotional materials obscuring how they feel about anyone who dare question your knowledge of “Jessica”’s credentials and biography. (Only child; Chicago, Illinois—classmate Kim Jin-mo, he’s her cousin.) No product specs listed, so we can’t say for sure if it’s safe to give anyone with a stone-fruit allergy; lucky/cursed scholar’s rock not included. [Erik Adams]


Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954-1975 box set ($179.95)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Criterion Collection has a reputation for only releasing films that feel like homework. That distinction has never been entirely fair, but Criterion’s newest showstopper box set, Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, should put it to rest entirely. Packaged in an oversized art book emblazoned with a pop-art illustration of the Big G spewing eyeball-singingly bright blue fire over a neon pink background, the set is as fun to flip through as it is to watch—and has a lot less filler. The films include 15 balsa-stomping adventures spanning two decades, ranging from the original, relatively serious Godzilla (1954) to the very silly All Monsters Attack (1969). These come packaged along with your usual audio commentaries and video interviews, along with essays and film notes from cinema historians who know their Kumongas from their Kamakuras. And if Criterion is out of your price range, Mondo also just dropped a collection of Godzilla T-shirts, hoodies, and enamel pins that should satiate the kaiju nerd in your life. And don’t forget about those Barnes & Noble 50% off sales! [Katie Rife]


The Eve Babitz bundle from NYRB Classics ($52.85)

Graphic: Natalie Peeples

The Eve Babitz revival continued apace in 2019, following a steady stream of reissues over the past five years. This January saw the publication of Lili Anolik’s bestselling biography of the writer known for chronicling a glamorous, hedonistic subset of musicians, actors, and artists in 1960s and ’70s Los Angeles. And in October, NYRB released I Used To Be Charming, Babitz’s collected criticism, journalism, and sundry other writing. For the best representation of Babitz’s bawdy humor and breezy prose, we recommend pairing Charming with modern classics Eve’s Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company. With their complementary covers, the books make for a handsome trio. [Laura Adamczyk]

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