22
Dec
10

Classic EBI #142: Christmas Comics From Duckburg to the Watchtower

It’s the last Wednesday before Christmas, my friends, and that means it’s time for my annual look at all this year’s Christmas Comics! There are plenty of ’em — a Larfleeze special, a Night of the Living Dead one-shot, an appearance by Dynamo 5 and Jingle Belle, the usual offerings from the Simpsons, Disney, and Archie, and more! They’re all right here:

Everything But Imaginary #379: The Christmas Comics of 2010

But here at the ‘realms, we’re going back to December 14, 2005, and one of my early Christmas round-up columns… let’s take a peek…

Everything But Imaginary #142: Christmas Comics From Duckburg to the Watchtower

Less than two weeks until Christmas, gang, and the comic shops are swarming with Christmas issues this year. There have been Christmas comic books for as long as there have been comic books at all, and if I’d been alive then, I would have been a fan of them for just as long. As everyone who’s been following along with the Christmas PArty testify, this is the one time of year that I lean more Clark Griswold than Clark Kent.

I decided a few weeks ago to get my hands on every Christmas comic book that was put out this year – or at least all those I could find, and share my thoughts on ‘em with you guys here in Everything But Imaginary. Comic books, after all, make the perfect stocking stuffer – if you’ve got kids that you’d like to see get into the habit, what better way than to give them a dose of four-color jollies under the tree? I was surprised, however, at how many I managed to find this year. Perhaps there’s just more Christmas spirit in the air, I don’t know, but I’m in favor of it. So rather than doing one monster of a column, I’m going to break it up into two, and I’m going to begin this week by taking you down to visit the gang in Duckburg.

Since the classic Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade published by Dell back in the 50s, Disney comics have been some of the biggest boosters of Christmas in print, and I’m happy that the current licensee, Gemstone, is continuing the tradition in its third year of publication. This year’s Walt Disney’s Christmas Parade #3 is a ginormous collection of comics both old and new, kicked off with the Carl Barks classic “The Golden Christmas Tree.” Donald Duck’s nephews announce that they want a golden tree this Christmas, but when the tree turns out to be cost-prohibitive, the boys fall into a trap left by a witch concocting a potion to eradicate Christmas forever. It’s a grand adventure in classic Barks style.

Next up is Mickey Mouse in Romano Scarpa’s “It’s a Wonderful Christmas Story,” a familiar tale in which the world-famous mouse falls down on his luck and wishes he’d never lived in Mouseton. When a special guest-star (okay, it’s Santa Claus) shows him what the world would be like without him, he changes his tune. “Sentimental Energy,” by Marco Rota and Tony Isabella, is another gem, in which a group of aliens crash in Duckburg on Christmas – and need very special fuel to get back into the air.

The book also features stories with the Big Bad Wolf, Pluto and Grandma Duck and another Barks classic, “Silent Night,” focusing on Donald’s everlasting feud with his neighbor. It’s a fantastic package that any kid would gobble up.

But the Christmas Parade wasn’t enough for Gemstone. They gave Christmas themes to all four of their regular monthly Disney comics as well, starting with Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #663. Now this issue starts with a non-Christmas tale, Don Rosa’s “The Magnificent Seven (Minus Four) Caballeros,” a fantastic story in its own right, but I’ve already reviewed that one. Mickey Mouse, on the other hand, is featured in two Christmas stories this issue. In “The Spirit of Christmas,” that old crumb Pete is at it again, stealing an experimental virtual reality machine. Mickey makes a play to get the device back, but the real change for Pete comes in the form of three visions of the past, present and future. Yeah, it’s the old Dickens formula… and it still works.

In “Miracle on Main Street,” Goofy gets a job as a department store Santa, but when a little girl sees him changing out of his costume, she loses her faith in Santa Claus. Mickey and Goofy set out to prove that he exists – and have a little help. The issue also features great winter (if not specifically Christmas) stories with Chip and Dale, the Big Bad Wolf and Donald Duck.

In Uncle Scrooge #348, we get a great old-fashioned Scrooge adventure, “The Hunt For White December.” The richest duck in the world makes a bet with his old rival, Argus McSwine, that Duckburg will have a white Christmas. When McSwine realizes he’s going to lose the bet, he calls on Magica DeSpell to help him win. The witch double-crosses him, using the bet as a pretense for her latest effort to get her hands on Scrooge’s number-one dime. It’s really a great adventure.

In “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t,” Gyro Gearloose loses Helper, his lightbulb-headed assistant, while delivering decorations for Daisy Duck’s Christmas party. Gyro calls on his friends to track Helper down, but he may be too late. This is a really unusual story for Gyro – it doesn’t rely on a screwy invention to drive the plot, but rather on his faith in his friends, making it one of the best Gyro stories ever. The book also gives us the Beagle Boys in “The Christmas Gathering” – the notorious crooks call up all their family for a Christmas crime spree. It’s a funny tale that rounds out this issue’s holiday offerings nicely.

Mickey Mouse and Friends #283 continues the yuletide offerings with “Mickey’s Christmas Trees.” Pete is at it again (man, that guy gets around), this time using the Christmas shopping rush to hide a shoplifting spree. Goofy decides to go “undercover” to sniff him out, leading to a hysterical confrontation in Mickey’s Christmas tree lot. Come on, if you’re gonna tell me you don’t find cross-dressing cartoon characters funny, I’m calling you a liar. Later in the issue we get “Songs of the Season,” in which Mickey and Horace Horsecollar go head-to-head in a Christmas song competition – after all, anything would be better than the “Silver Bell Rock” that keeps bludgeoning their ears. It’s a short, quick story about the spirit of Christmas, with a great punchline.

Wrapping up (no pun intended) the Gemstone offerings for this year is Donald Duck and Friends #334, with another Barks story. In “Santa’s Stormy Visit,” Donald has taken on yet another job, this time at a lighthouse, but his nephews are concerned that Santa Claus might not be able to find them there. Desperate, the boys attach a letter to Santa to an albatross and send him off to deliver it, but a hellacious storm blows him off-course. This being a Disney comic, of course, there turns out to be a happy ending after all. “Santa’s Helpers,” by Lars Jensen and Marco Rota, is actually a sequel of sorts to an earlier tale featuring (of all people) the Easter Bunny. When Santa sprains his ankle making his delivery to Donald’s house, he summons the Easter Bunny to finish his rounds for him, asking Donald to tag along. The Bunny soon discovers that Christmas deliveries are a bit different than hiding eggs, and Donald is in way over his head. Out of all the stories I’ve read in these comics, this screwy little tale may just be my favorite.

If Disney comics aren’t your thing… well, you’re kinda reading the wrong column, aren’t you? But let’s finish up this week’s installment with a couple of non-Disney comics. First up is Justice League Unlimited #16. I’m on record as saying that the JLU cartoon is one of the best superhero cartoons ever made, and the comic book is a great extension of a great TV show. This issue it’s Christmas Eve, and the JLU (displaying flagrant ageist policies) has a rule that the junior members are on monitor duty. So Supergirl, Power Girl, Stargirl, Atom Smasher and Firestorm (along with a volunteering Hawkgirl) are holding down the fort at the satellite when the call comes in – Girder has broken out of Iron Heights. The team scrambles to capture him, but Atom Smasher discovers that his motives may not be evil for once. This is a strong Christmas tale that’s also notable for pointing out the diversity of the cast – it’s Atom Smasher, the lone Jewish member of the JLU, who remembers what the season should be about.

And finally, let’s talk about the debut product from a new company, Taylor Comics, I Gotta Catch Santa Claus #1. This comic actually came out in October, although Taylor promises to follow it up with more one-shots, I Gotta Catch the Easter Bunny and I Gotta Catch the Tooth Fairy. This is a rather different sort of story – a grade school chess team finds a rather unlikely contest – a $25,000 chess scholarship for anybody who can provide proof of the existence of Santa Claus. Drawing on their strategic skills, the children lay traps for him at each of their houses… but c’mon. Santa has been at this for centuries. Do they really have a chance? It’s a cute story – not quite a classic, but entertaining enough if you can find a copy for your kids.

Am I kind of a nut for Christmas? Well heck, of course I am. And I make no apologies for that. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glance at some of this year’s holiday offerings, and come back next week when we’ll visit the gang from Riverdale High School, a Christmas party at Dr. Strange’s, and more!

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: December 7, 2005

Just two issues in, I’ve already completely been won over by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s resurrection of the classic western hero Jonah Hex. A hard-ridin’ western hero who has no qualms about killing wrongdoers, or even leaving them to face their own horrible deaths. This issue, when a priest is murdered, Hex rides off for some vengeance. Like this first issue, this is a simple done-in-one story that works wonderfully. The western is back, and DC has got it!

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

 

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