Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Ninth Day of Comic-mas: Fine Ladies for Ransom!

By most standards, Claus #1 is not a really good comic book. The script is long-winded and plagued with melodrama and flat humor, the art is amateurish and lacks the dynamic inking its ambitions dimensions demand, and the digital effects are comparable to something generated in a Microsoft Publisher basics course. To its credit, the issue is published on nice paper and well bound . . .! I'm usually not this critical of comics I dislike, and in fact the negativity ends there, but I don't think the harshness is out of line since this issue is eleven years old and surely its contributors have developed as artists by now. No, just as Claus himself puts most of his efforts in the good list rather than the bad, I do want to focus on this story's strengths, because it certainly does have a few . . .

. . . namely, its contributions to the Santa Claus legend. Most comic books starring the Jolly One attempt to add something to Santa's fantastic story, from Paul Dini's creation of St. Nick's daughter Jingle Belle, to DC's latest holiday special aligning his origin to Superman's -- a rather confusing tale in its allegorical parallels, actually, because I'm not sure what doomed icy alien planet Father Christmas is really from. Thankfully, Claus opts to focus on Santa's current digs in the North Pole, specifically the fact that, if inherently good, fantasy-oriented characters like St. Nick exist, evil ones do, too, and further that those baddies would be out for Santa's powerful resources for their own ends. In this case, a band of militant orcs storm Santa's village and demand he use his mass-production resources to make guns and other weapons. Take that, Saddam!

Also, when the orcs infiltrate Santa's shop, they manhandle Mrs. Claus, who in this incarnation is not the frumpy homebody most holiday tales make her out to be. Artist John Kennedy Bowden draws every woman in this issue like a ten, from the scientist excavating in the North Pole near the Claus residence, to Mrs. Claus herself, to even an ice sculpture Frosty the Snowman tries to hit on. Interestingly, and the funniest part of the issue albeit most likely unintentionally, the missus still calls Santa "Papa," like in those cartoons of old, adding a whole new dimension to the phrase "Sugar Daddy," assuming Santa really likes his cookies. Further, the Draco Comics logo is basically a naked lady holding a gun, which reinforces the company's slogan on this issue's back cover: "The comic book your mother did not want you to read!" I can certainly appreciate an indie publisher's attempt to corner a definitively adult market, but the overtly sexual imagery is too insistent -- perhaps the butt of its own joke.

Okay, so I had one more point of criticism. Let it be recorded that I expressed this issue's potential, that the concept and story in themselves were interesting . . . and who doesn't want to see Frosty and Rudolph kicking a little tail to save Christmas? We were raised on this imagery, and while it was much more innocent when we were kids, I don't blame Draco for trying to mature the material with its audience, even at the risk of its own peril. As I mentioned earlier, I'm interested in how these artists have matured since Claus, too. Who knows? They might yet make my "nice list."

Claus #1 was published in December 1997 by Draco Comics and was written and illustrated by John Kennedy Bowden.

No comments: