I dive in and catch up on this thread from time to time. When someone asks about a "decent beginner guitar that I won't outgrow", I see the usual Ephiphone and Squier suggestions - but don't see anyone mentioning Ibanez Artcores.
Not only a great guitar for the money, but you can get a variety of configurations.
I'll never let my JD Tele go....and I've become very fond of my Schecter C-1 which for the money ($750-ish) is an amazing instrument.
It might be marketed as the ultimate shredder guitar, but with the coil tapped active EMG's you can get a soft bluesy/jazzy thing going which is more my style.
I wish I hadn't seen the Black Friday mentions.... I've wanted to pick up a Les Paul Studio for a couple years, and an Epiphone Casino. I love P90's.