Our final entry today in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is a pretty specific gift suggestion, since for some aging comics fans this represents a bit of a Holy Grail.

Marvel Comics Mini-Books Collectible Boxed Set: A History and Facsimiles of Marvel’s Smallest Comic Books
by Marvel Entertainment, Geoff Spear and Mark Evanier
Harry N. Abrams
ISBN-13 : 978-1419743429
$29.99 (discounted at Amazon)

You’ll have to excuse me for being old enough to remember this, but when I was just turning four years old, the idea of finding Marvel Comics in gumball machines was mind-blowingly epic. Thanks to some older fellow comic book fans I got to see some of these treasure years later, but I was not allowed to open them because they were so fragile. These were fifty-page comic books that were smaller than a postage stamp.

Being four when they were published, I literally didn’t have a dime to spare, if I’d ever have been able to find a gumball machine stocked with these in the first place, but for years I wondered what the books were like on the inside. Now I don’t have to wonder any more.

As the blurb goes…

Reprinted for the first time, the world’s smallest comic books—originally printed in 1966 and now enlarged to a more readable size—in a seven-book collectable boxed set

In 1966, Marvel printed what the Guinness Book of World Records certified as the world’s smallest comic books. Smaller than a postage stamp, and sold in gumball machines across the country, these six books told the quirky origin stories of Marvel’s most beloved characters at that time: the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Captain America, Sergeant Nick Fury, and Millie the Model.

Marvel Comics Mini-Books reproduces facsimile editions of all six books in one affordable box set—along with a seventh book written by Mark Evanier that details the history and creation of these rare, vintage collectables.

That seventh book is the icing on the cake that makes this package worth more than just a novelty. It includes an essay by Mark Evanier that attempts to identify the creators of these comics (many are clearly drawn by Marie Severin) and weaves his personal quest for these when they came out with the sketchy history of the company that made them. Also of value in this seventh book is that each of these mini comics is presented actual size as a two-page spread.

That may seem redundant, since each mini-comic is also printed much larger as one of the other six books in this small slipcover edition, but the truth is, they actually read better at the tinier size.

Each of the seven books measures about four by six inches, and each small hardcover fits into a slipcover that is nicely decorated with the gumball machine insert graphics for the mini comics.

Geoff Spear did an amazing job photographing and enlarging the printed mini comics, but as small as these books are, it looks like they’re actually presented here larger than the size they were originally drawn.

These are cute and quaint and scratch the itch for collectors who have wanted to see them for more than fifty years, but they’re also a pretty cool gift for new fans of the Marvel Universe who are curious about the early days of Marvel’s merchandising. The “comics” are mostly one-panel drawings facing a page of text, but they’re a pretty cool example of forced minimalism in comics.

You can order Marvel Comics Mini-Books Collectible Boxed Set: A History and Facsimiles of Marvel’s Smallest Comic Books from any bookseller using the ISBN code, or snap it up from Amazon for almost ten bucks off the list price.