Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, December 10, 2010
      ( 12/10/2010 10:06:00 PM ) Bill S.  

“THINK OF THE FRIO KID PLAYING SANTY!” Tom Pomplun’s Graphic Classics series goes seasonal with its 19th volume, Christmas Classics (Eureka Productions), and as in earlier volumes in this well-produced series of classic lit adaptations, the new color comics anthology contains a strong blend of familiar and lesser known works by American and British writers.

After a one-page intro reprinting a Letter from St. Nicholas written by Mark Twain (more charming than satiric), the book opens with its two most familiar Christmas works: an adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” The first, adapted by Alex Burrows and Micah Farritor, proves serviceable; though the writer and artist don’t really add much to this holiday chestnut save for the image of Marley’s ghost’s jaw dropping off of his face in mid-warning. Still, the version remains true to Dickens’ vision and thankfully doesn’t stint on some of the grimmer images so essential to the story.

Florence Cestac’s big-nosed illos on the equally familiar Moore poem are wholeheartedly cartoony, though, in this case the poem’s familiarity works against the graphics in more than one panel. When our narrator is roused from bed by the rooftop clatter, for instance, the sharp-eyed reader can’t help wondering, “Isn’t this guy supposed to be wearing a nightcap? And where’s mama?” It’s okay to make the art cartoonlike, just stay true to the limited text, okay?

From there, though, the selections in Classics grow increasingly more surprising. Rich Rainey and Hunter Emerson’s “Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” takes a lightweight Sherlock Holmes adventure and reminds us that even classic literary series characters weren’t immune to the demands of a holiday adventure. British artist Emerson, who can sometimes get pretty free-wheeling in his artwork, plays it relatively straight with this outing, though doubtless some Baker Street Irregulars will take issue with the exaggerated features on his great detective.

O. Henry’s Christmas romance, “A Chaparral Christmas Gift,” is handled much more conservatively by artist Cynthia Martin, which works for this none-too-surprising western yarn. (The writer’s better known offering, “The Gift of the Magi,” has already been adapted in a Graphic Classics O. Henry collection.) Editor Pomplun, who has handed himself the task of adapting the more obscure works, handles this and the next three tales, the most visually outlandish being an adaptation of Willa Cather’s “Strategy of the Werewolf Dog,” the story of a Grinch-y attempt to destroy Christmas that amazingly doesn’t end with the villain’s reformation. Dutch former undergrounder Evart Geradts renders this tale in a heavily stylised manner, like a children’s book on acid, which leavens Cather’s dark fantasy somewhat. Definitely an odd little tale.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz age short story, “A Luckless Santa Claus,” comes across more than a little contrived in its comedy. The story of a well-to-do scion who is challenged by his girlfriend to give away $25.00 in one night to less fortunate New Yorkers, the story’s central premise may strike many readers as unbelievable in these fiscally strapped times (each time our hero attempts to surreptitiously give some money away, the recipients return it), though Simon Gane’s art captures the snow-strewn period city setting nicely.

With Fitz-James O’Brien’s holiday horror tale, “The Wondersmith,” Pomplun and artist Rick Geary end the book on a suitably imaginative note. The story of a wicked sorcerous trio who plot to send killer dolls out to slaughter Christian children, the story is rendered with wit and conviction by Geary. The artist, best known for his own series of graphic novels examining famous 19th and 20th century murders, is a master of period melodrama, and he’s definitely in his element here. At one point, when the title central miscreant gloats about his nasty plans, you find yourself wishing that his moustache were longer so he could start twirling it. The dastard’s evil War on Christmas is defeated, of course -- by a noble hunchback bookseller, a waifish organ grinder and her pet monkey -- because you can’t make a holiday story like this too grim, can you?

Often, when it comes to Yuletime entertainments, the creators count too much on the good will engendered by the season to cover half-assed careless work. That is not the case with this collection here, though, which represents Pomplun and many of his usual collaborators working to their storytelling strengths. It’s one of the solidest Graphic Classics sets to date.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter