Tagged: Santa

DENNIS O’NEIL: Santa or Scrooge or the Grinch?

You might be chipper, content, full of good cheer – that is, you might a person who enjoys crowds and deadlines and the giving of gifts. This is your time and I say, blessings.

Or you might feel like you’re sucking a bare electric wire, stressed and frantic because your always busy life has become a nightmare of scurrying and doubt. (Will Granny like the pajamas? What to get for Aunt Bertha, a Scientologist who’s just declared herself to be a vegan? And nephew Horatio….doesn’t he already have every comic book ever published?)

One size never fits all, in holidaying as in everything else.

Well, which it is? Santa or Scrooge or the Grinch?

Let’s eliminate the Grinch from this discussion. Dr. Seuss was a national treasure, but – let’s face it – the Grinch is fantasy and was never intended to be anything else. And the jolly old elf? Okay, there’s a vaguely historical basis for him, but the guy in the red suit with the beard? Naw. Not for anyone older than eight.

Leaving us with Scrooge. Old Ebenezer is fiction (and was never intended to be anything else) but his is a fiction rooted in some truth. Haven’t we known a Scrooge or two? Haven’t we been a Scrooge? Show of hands, please.

I’ve just put mine down.

Oh, I can, and have, justified my Scrooge attacks with sweet reason. Isn’t Christmas really a pagan holiday, a celebration of the end of winter and the coming of spring, with its brightness and warmth? An occasion for rest and renewal? Perhaps a way to reassure ourselves that, despite the darkness, we will survive? And hasn’t it morphed into something the opposite of what it once was, a festival, not of light, but of greed and showing off for the neighbors? The season of frayed nerves and bereft bank accounts? Of terror at the arrival of the Master Card envelope?

Yeah, afraid so. But we Scrooges – in the hush of our chambers, at three in the morning, we know the real reason for our sourness, don’t we?

When one’s life is flaking apart, for whatever reason, displays of cheer and the sound of song exacerbate the anguish. So the churches and the bars and the AA meetings do brisk business on the holiest of eves, because a lot of lives are flaking. Remember Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Amen, and Thoreau’s observation can be most painfully true on Christmas. So we’re not mad at the season, we Scrooges. We’re mad at ourselves for allowing our existence to become one of quiet desperation.

When the holiday is a deserted street and an empty bottle, what’s to celebrate?

We have to blame someone or some thing, and Christmas won’t argue with us.

Some of us Scrooges will awaken in the morning and, I don’t know… send a kid to buy a goose?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


MIKE GOLD’s Holiday Trauma

Holiday-themed comics have long been a tradition, along with holiday-themed… everything else. That’s cool; if you can’t make a buck pushing Santy Claus, when can you?

As far as our four-color medium is concerned, we inherited the tradition from the newspaper strips. These guys went all-out, and back when there were still a lot of continuity strips stories would be interrupted for Christmas and New Years (Hanukkah rarely, Kwanza, Ramadan and Saturnalia never) or, better still, holiday themes would be incorporated into the ongoing story. This was carried over into proto-comic book form when Will Eisner and his largely Jewish crew produced their annual “Christmas Spirit” story.

Outside of Santy-themed covers, it took a while for the comic book publishers to reliably produce annual holiday fare. The two that lasted the longest where Archie’s Christmas Stocking (with variations on that title, including the all-embracing evil “holiday” word) which started in 1954, and DC’s Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, licensed from Robert L. May, who owned the glowing streetkill. That title commenced in 1950. Dell had special Christmas editions of the various Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and before long most other publishers jumped on the sleigh.

As a child, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer confused me. That’s a statement you don’t often read, but it’s true. The original series ran for twelve years, which meant twelve issues. All were unnumbered. At some point I understood DC didn’t number their first issues (I later discovered why), but I knew Rudolph to be an annual event. A collector even as a child, I wanted to know how many issues I had missed. The title continued in various formats – giants, tabloids – until it was no longer worth the licensing fee. Yet holiday-dedicated superhero comics continued; DC was way ahead of the curve with its Holiday Special (sic) going back at least to 1980.

This year, we continue to have holiday output from Archie – including a trade reprint of Stocking stories – and a pretty nifty tome from Marvel that first appeared as individual digital stories. This latter book is one of my favorite Marvels of 2011. But unless I overlooked a page in the Diamond catalog, nothing from DC Comics. No Christmas title, no Holiday title, nothing from the company that pretty much started it all.

At first I thought Mark Waid just didn’t need the money this year and is probably overbooked writing every seventh title published. But then it dawned on me.

Maybe Bill O’Reilly is right. Maybe there is a War On Christmas. After all, those bleeding hearts at Warner Bros. studios now have full control of the company, and Bill and his friends at the New York Post keep telling us they’re heartless bastards. I guess this is proof.

O.K. Fine. I’ve got my Marvel holiday comic, and my Archie reprints, and besides, I firmly believe there ain’t no sanity clause. But I’m sentimental enough to wish you-all a wonderful holiday season.

Quite frankly, we deserve it.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil


DENNIS O’NEIL: ‘Tis The season, continued…

According to some recent news, the sun seems to be bouncing stuff off an invisible, planet-sized object near Mercury. Of course, the smarty-ass scientists have an explanation – don’t they always? – something about how the pictures are processed. Other, more sensible, people have speculated that the invisible thing is a spaceship hidden by a cloaking device, maybe spying on us from two planets away. (Really big binoculars?) I’m afraid that misses the mark, too. The obvious answer is…Santa’s sleigh! Think about it – a cloaking device. Of course. That explains why we’ve never seen it. And the size of a small planet (which is still pretty big)? Well, it can’t exactly be tiny, not when it carries all those toys for good girls and boys.

Now, it’s true that as I look about me I don’t see many good girls and boys. None, in fact.  So maybe the invisible sleigh is full of lumps of coal to be put in the stockings hung by the chimney with care, assuming anyone hangs stockings anymore.  This could be glad tidings. If the coal comes from Mercury – and surely it might – why, we might just have ourselves a source of clean energy.

Isn’t it grand when truth meets science?


About 15 years ago, give or take, a movie-involved bearer of my DNA put a video cassette into our VCR and showed us a short cartoon that was going around titled, just a bit sacrilegiously, Jesus vs Santa. The plot was simple: the Jolly Old Elf and Our Lord and Savior duke it out to determine who’s the king of the holiday. I forget who won and that isn’t really important (and herewith I resist the impulse to launch into a diatribe). What is important, or at least interesting, is that the two young guys who perpetrated the cartoon were (and are) named Trey Parker and Matt Stone and what played in our living room was the predecessor of Comedy Central’s champion half-hour, South Park.

The story probably doesn’t have a moral, or even a point, but if you really need one, you could try, You just never know, do you?


Jerry Robinson, a man I was proud to know, is gone. Others have celebrated his achievements and accomplishments, his generous spirit, his activism, and his art. I have nothing to add.

But, thinking of Jerry, I remembered a quotation from Raymond Chandler’s Simple Art of Murder: “He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world”

That was Jerry.

RECOMMENDED READING: Jerry Robinson, Ambassador of Comics. By N. Christopher Couch.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

DENNIS O’NEIL: Christmas Gift Fun

The good news is, the Christmas gift list is shorter this year.

The bad news is, the Christmas gift list is shorter this year.

But enough gloom, for ‘tis the season to be jolly, ‘tis it not?

And judging from the number of cars in the mall parking lot, the season ‘tis jollier’n hell. Don’t these shoppers know about the mess the economy’s in?

Did I mention fa la la la la la?

And now a quick trip into the Chamber of Curmudgeons, significantly emptier since Andy Rooney’s gone. But (entering the chamber) I am the guy who once commissioned a magazine cover depicting a skeleton in Santa Claus garb holding an empty sack, so my curmudgeon cred is intact. And I proclaim:

It used to be so much easier, dang it!

Buying gifts for comics geeks, that is. Because there really wasn’t much choice. Back in the Pleistocene, when I was reading my first comics, Batman or a Superman might serve as an also-gift, what’s called a stocking stuffer, but even a not-too-bright gradeschooler knew that a comic cost only a dime and there had to be something else under the tree.

Later, much later, after the first Batman hardcover graphic novels turned out to be good sellers – best sellers in the limited world of comics – an editor or two was yearly tasked with producing a hardcover for the holiday trade. It was sometimes difficult for the editors, but a good deal for people seeking a present for that snotty nephew who always had his head in them funny books. A couple of sawbucks and – problem solved.

Now… big changes. As a stereotype, that kid with the buried head no longer exists. Comics have attained full parity with other forms of story delivery. You’re not expected to be dumb if you read the stuff. You can, with good conscience, buy a graphic novel for almost anyone you know who likes to read. Or use something comicy to introduce a reader to something he/she hasn’t yet discovered, and might enjoy. You doubt? Hey, Maus won a Pulitzer.

But your choices aren’t limited to Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece. Lordy, no. The monster book mart in the aforementioned mall has a wall full of comics stuff: manga, hardcovers, paperbacks, reprints, originals…that’s not counting the novelizations of movies over in the science fiction section and…that’s not counting the growing list of books about comics.

Cost? All the way from four-five bucks to – brace yourself – four hundred American dollars for the deluxe edition of Star Wars comics published by Abrams and also available in a more modest edition. (Okay, I wrote the introduction. But I don’t get royalties. We’re honest curmudgeons here in the Chamber.)

My recommendation? How about, all of the above? Or: if you’re a book person, you probably like to browse. So browse, on online or off. If you’re likely to be the gift recipient, drop hints. You know how to do that. You’re smart. You’re a comic book reader.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

Review: ‘Monster Christmas’

Review: ‘Monster Christmas’

image CR Review: Monster Christmas
Creator: Lewis Trondheim
Publishing Information: Papercutz, hardcover, 32 pages, 2011, $9.99
Ordering Numbers: [[[9781597072885]]] (ISBN13)

CR received this holiday effort from NBM kids’ line Papercutz in late August, meaning that any number of North American writers-about-comics will have likely written a review between the time this was written (early September) and the date it was posted (early December). It’s hard for me to imagine it won’t be generally well-received, and that many of you out there reading it won’t have some sense of it by now. This is a funny, sweet and gently unhinged story about a pre-Christmas rolling encounter with monsters and Santa Claus by characters representing what seems to be the Trondheim family, told from the vantage point of their then (it was created in the late ’90s) young children.

Santa vs. Superman

Santa vs. Superman

Man, they’re weird up in Nova Scotia.

If only they had the budget for that climactic battle at the Fortress of Solitude.

Related: this essay as to who’s faster: Superman, the Flash, or Santa Claus:

Even moving at an amazing 1 million miles per hour, Santa simply is no match for Superman or Flash, yet the latter two don’t stuff their faces with sugary cookies and whole milk 2,700.6 times per second.

‘Doctor Who’ Tidbits Emerge

‘Doctor Who’ Tidbits Emerge

Fans around the world are eagerly counting down the days until Santa Claus comes bearing gifts. They also eagerly anticipate the annual Doctor Who Christmas Special, which debuts on the BBC Christmas Day.  No domestic airdate has been given for this or the four 2009 specials.

Reviews and commentary have started to sprout up on the web and here are some samples:
Digital Spy delivers ten spoilers for the Christmas special:

    1. The mysterious Cybershades can jump quite high.
    2. Neither the Doctor nor the Other Doctor recognizes each other. But the latter doesn’t remember much anyway.
    3. There are two words that the Doctor never refuses.
    4. The Other Doctor has a TARDIS – and it’s magnificent.
    5. For a while Rosita becomes the Doctor’s companion (but then you’ll know that already if you’ve read our interview with the lovely Velile Tshabalala).
    6. The script includes the customary line "what about the children?"
    7. At least one previous incarnation of the Doctor makes an appearance.
    8. Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan) is a very special lady.
    9. The Other Doctor’s fobwatch is a very important clue.
    10. "I suppose ** *** ***, **** ***** ** *****."

Apparently, clips will allow fans to see previous Doctors, perhaps all of them.

They also report that the Doctor’s companion, Rosita, is a prostitute who is attacked by Cyberman and is rescued by the other Doctor (David Morrissey) before encountering Tennant’s Doctor.

The TARDIS apparently figures largely in the story and may well be the catalyst for the four 2009 specials.

L. Frank Baum’s Santa Claus Coming to the Screen

L. Frank Baum’s Santa Claus Coming to the Screen

It’s nice to see people remember that L. Frank Baum wrote stories featuring characters other than the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  In fact, he also tackled someone even more impressive: Santa Claus.

Variety reports that Hyde Park Entertainment will team with Toonz Entertainment to adapt The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus as a CGI-animated film, similar to the just-announced John Boorman-directed interpretation of Oz. And like the oft-adapted Oz, this one will be coming for Christmas 2010.

Tom Tataranowicz, president of Gang of 7 Animation, will direct alongside Rich Arons, and Dick Sebast. Tataranowicz co-wrote the script with animation veteran Mark Edward Edens (Hot Wheels, Sonic, Young Hercules). The film is being produced at the Toonz Animation Studio in India.

The trade describes the story as following “Santa’s formative years, including a battle against the heart of evil that establishes the Santa mythology.” There’s a lot more to it and was a personal favorite to read the kids in days gone by.

The 1902 novel has previously been adapted less often than Oz, beginning with the 1985 Rankin-Bass production. Japan, in 1994, tried their hand with Shounen Santa no Daibôken (Young Santa’s Adventures). America folded it into The Oz Kids’"Who Stole Santa?"  In 1996. Gen Hill also did an animated version in 2000.  Michael Ploog also turned it into a graphic novel, published by Tundra in 1992.

‘Zat You, Santy Claus?, by Elayne Riggs

"Childhood is the time of man’s greatest content," said Ak, following the youth’s thoughts. "’Tis during these years of innocent pleasure that the little ones are most free from care."

One of the promises I made to myself during my temporary unemployment period was to finally read and reread all of the Oz books that I own. It’s a pleasurable if somewhat daunting goal, as L. Frank Baum wrote 14 volumes in all, then Ruth Plumly Thompson carried on with 19 more, and although I had my period of fanatic Oz collecting and I did make it through all of Baum’s volumes I believe I stopped somewhere after the third or fourth Thompson book.

[As you might be able to discern from the photo above, my last four Thompson volumes aren’t even out of shrink-wrapping yet (hence the glare from the flash), and that out of many, many other "official" Oz books I also own tomes by Eric Shanower (Giant Garden, Salt Sorcerer and all his Oz graphic novels which are shelved elsewhere), Eloise and Lynn McGraw (Rundlestone), Edward Einhorn (Paradox) and Rachel Cosgrove Payes (Wicked Witch). Of those I’ve only read Eric’s comics, so I have a lot of great reading still to come!]

But I digress; for now I’m still working my way through Baum, and I’ve just started his seventh book. Despite the fact that he was hardly what you’d call ahead of his time (he advocated the extermination of American Indians, his work contains a fair amount of assumptions about gender roles), I’m finding his Oz books a real comfort, not only because he wrote of a time and place with which I have absolutely no first- or even second-hand experience (my grandparents were all immigrants and I’ve never lived in the middle of the country), but because he understood what it meant to write for children.