Dec 18, 2014

A Christmas Miracle #1: Bizarre Adventures #34

You know what I love? Christmas. You know what else I love? Comics based on Christmas. So, to that end, how about we do a little series on Christmas themed comics?

 My comic database program got deleted, so I'm afraid you're going to have to wait until next year for me to pull out specific Christmas comics that I want to cover because I love them.

This year you just get to see the Christmas books I've been saving. These were all bought... nearly two years ago, and have been waiting on my shelves to be read -- waiting for a special occasion. And what more special occasion could there be than Christmas?!

None. None more special.

 So let's start this series with Bizarre Adventures #34!

Bizarre Adventures #34 is the final issue of Marvel Preview Magazine. Marvel Preview Magazine was a black and white magazine format book, which was an anthology with different themes to each issue. You can tell they were getting desperate towards the end -- first with the title change and then with #34, which has a complete format change -- it's not a Magazine, it's a full-colour comic.

This stuff is all pretty obscure because it's creator owned. That means that it can't casually blend into the regular Marvel universe -- so most of these guys have only ever showed up in Bizarre Adventures (or Marvel Preview) itself.

The comic features six stories -- only four of which are of any real interest. So let's look at them. First up is Son of Santa, by Mark Gruenwald and Alan Kupperberg.

This is a really unfortunate title to give the story -- because it gives away what's going on immediately, despite the fact that the story itself plays it like an unfolding mystery. Well... since the title already spoiled the twist, I might as well really spoil it. So basically this guy, Nick Norris, is accosted by an elf and taken to the north pole where he finds out he's Santa's heir -- and he has to fight the Anti-Claus.

The next story is a Howard the Duck tale by Steve Grant and Paul Smith. It's only of interest because it's Howard the Duck. Here's a sample:

Yes, seconds later he gets saved by an angel and goes through a standard It's a Wonder Life storyline. Just from that description you can probably already guess the joke they do that reverses the premise of the original story -- I certainly guessed it immediately while reading it.

Oh well. What else do we have?

The next thing I wanna talk about is Dr. Deth with Kip and Muffy, owned by Larry Hama and drawn in this issue by Bob Camp. This is actually Dr. Deth's second (and last) appearance, he also appeared in Bizarre Adventures #31. This story is only very thinly tied into Christmas, and I suspect that the references to Christmas were a last-minute addition. Here's the first page, it basically tells you everything you need to know about Dr. Deth.

Now here's the interesting part: this comic got optioned for a movie. It doesn't seem that the movie is going to get made, mind you, but here -- check out this article:

Here's the choicest quote from the article:
"As a long time fan of Dr. Deth with Kip and Muffy since their first appearance," states Framelight's Co-President, Robert Robinson, "I could not be happier than to have Larry's creation come to life via Paul Soter's pen. He'll bring the adventure, chaos and humor that this story has waited for."
 "Since their first appearance"? You mean Bizarre Adventures #31... which was also their only other appearance at all? This is freakin' wonderful hype talk. It's sad to me that this movie seems to have gone the way of the dodo, since this article is from 2011.

We're going to go downhill a bit with the final story I want to cover -- Slaybells by Mike Carlin. This piece of work is basically an over-the-top revenge fantasy piece where a kid goes on a Santa-killing rampage, that ends with him finally facing off against the real St Nick and killing him once and for all. The art is enjoyably expressive and energetic, but it's pretty unremarkable otherwise.

 And that's it. Like I said they're two more stories -- Santa Bites the Big Apple by Al Milgrom, and Bucky Bizarre by Steve Skeates and Steve Smallwood. But both of these stories aren't worth firing up my scanner for. Bucky Bizarre is a time-travel story about someone witnessing a crass version of The Little Matchgirl. Santa Bites the Big Apple is a cynical story about New Yorkers being mean to Santa.

Bizarre Adventures #34 is not the best Christmas special out there. I mean... it's a bit mean-spirited and anti-Christmas for my tastes. There's even an editorial in the back talking about how the three wise men from the nativity would really hate the crass commercialised modern Christmas. The best part of this book was definitely Son of Santa, which means that all the best stuff is front-loaded in the book, unfortunately.

Oh well... next time we'll have something even worse in store for you. But that's Christmas for you! I guess...

--Andrew S.

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