Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Late 90's Christmas

It hit -7 degrees today here in Chicago so what better time to sit on the couch in some warm clothes and read comics. Not just any comics though. With Christmas less than week away, it is time to break out the egg nog and the Christmas-themed funny books. I have been saving a handful of books specifically for the Christmas season in order to get me into the holiday mood. Whenever I see Christmas or Halloween books in the quarter bins, I always grab them and put them in a special box and save them for their particular season. It works out to be a real money saver too since new issues are so overpriced. Honestly, $5.99 for a Christmas one-shot is a little outrageous. My older Christmas issues for 50 cents a piece will do just fine, thank you.

I ended up reading three hoilday specials today. The first two books I read were both special Christmas anthologies: DCU Holiday Bash III & Hellboy Christmas Special. Since I read the DC book first, I guess that is the place to start. The DCU Holiday Bash III (from 1998) is a collection of seven holiday stories set in the DC universe. It had the obligatory stories of Superman saving people with a smile on his face while Batman stays in the shadows and Wonder Woman not fully grasping the ideas behind the holiday. We have all seen stories like this either in the comics or the many DC cartoon series. Even though we get stories like this practically every year, I don't feel like I have been cheated or anything. Actually, it wouldn't be Christmas without them. It is like watching A Christmas Story. I know they show it continuously all day on TV but I watch it because it is tradition. Reading about Superman and Batman arguing about the holidays is the same thing for me; it is tradition.

The story that really got to me though was titled "Home for the Holidays." It follows some of the superpowered inmates of the DC universe on Christmas Eve, specifically Shrapnel, a C-level villian that I had never heard of before that has a body made of metal. We follow Shrapnel as he plans his escape from jail. His only reason for trying to escape is to see his daughters. Though he does have a dangerous ability, Shrapnel is just a low level thug who steals to keep food on the table for his family. The last two pages of the story just got to me when he succeeds in escaping only to get home after his daughters have fallen asleep and he can only look at them for a moment before the cops come to pick him up and bring him back to jail. Thanks a lot DC, now I feel depressed. Maybe I should move on to the other anthology I read.

Now I know Hellboy so I should have known that reading the Hellboy Christmas Special (December 1997) probably isn't the best idea when I want to pull myself out of a funk. The whole anthology dealt with Christmas horror stories. From demons to giant spiders to possessed children, this one had it all. Aside from the Hellboy story at the beginning of the book, I had never heard of any of the other properties in the book. I think that kind of prevented me from really enjoying this as much as other people since I had never heard of Steve Purcell's "Toybox" characters featured in the second story or Gary Gianni's "Corpus Monstrum" of the third story. They were solid stories but I got the feeling that they were meant for readers that were more familiar with the characters. I did really enjoy the Hellboy story though, don't get me wrong. It was classic Hellboy with some good old demon fighting. Also, I have to mention the Geof Darrow pinup in the middle of the book with a giant floating killer Santa. Now that is how you say "Merry Christmas!"

I am going to save the third book since I actually have a lot to say about it so keep an eye out Tuesday night. It will be like a early Christmas gift from me to you (and no, you can't return it.)

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