Monday, January 05, 2009

The Seventh Day of Comic-mas: Frankensteins A' Dini!

Oh, I know what you're thinking: "Finishing your supposed '12 Days of Comic-mas' is an exercise in futility now! Christmas came and went two weeks ago! Let it go!" Ah, Christmas itself may be nothing more than a 90% clearance sale at Target now, but the 12 days of Christmas ended a mere two days ago, on the holiday known as the Epiphany, or Little Christmas. The 12 days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day and countdown to January 6, the day many religions celebrate the three wise men's arrival to that infamous manger, and their gift-giving to the little baby Jesus. So, if anybody really is keeping track, I was a good five posts early, and now just a mere six posts behind . . . which isn't really different than pivoting around December 25 anyway. Oh, just grant me the New Year's guilty pleasure of prolonging the holiday season as long as possible, okay? Who says you can't resurrect the most wonderful time of the year . . . any time of year?

Speaking of resurrection, the latest Christmas comic book I've read was also the latest installment in Paul Dini's annual adventures of Santa Claus's little known daughter Jingle Belle. Santa vs. Frankenstein is a light-hearted one-shot that takes a stab at the recent "holiday crossover" phenomenon, perhaps best known from the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas. While Halloween isn't mentioned overtly, Frankenstein is undoubtedly a mascot for the hallowed holiday, capturing its haunting spirit. Further, Jing's best friend is Polly Green, the self-appointed "official witch of Halloween," so what's a few months between pals? No, Dini was right to bring the two seemingly contrasting mythologies together. Think about the way we teach the holidays to children, the way we maintain and illustrate holiday tradition; we've essentially asserted that a realm of fantastic characters work parallel to our year, ringing in the new year, then making people fall in love, then granted folks good luck, etc. Why wouldn't these characters work in concert? Heck, we're lucky they haven't unionized and gone on strike! How would a Santa scab hit all those homes on Christmas night?

In Santa vs. Frankenstein, the real St. Nick is facing a similar dilemma, his output distracted by an anti-Santa special interest group making a successful effort to ban the jolly old elf from Christmas! If only his daughter were at her sock monkey assembly line, and not whimsically skiing, where she stumbles onto the frozen form of the Frankenstein monster! She brings the goliath home, where Santa makes the wayward weirdo feel welcome by putting him in charge of assembling goth toys. When Franky discovers the anti-Santa plot, he relates the torch-wielding conspiracy and attempts to foil it, inadvertently giving St. Nick a chance to publicly fight "a monster" and save the day. It's a win-win, as both Santa Claus and Frankenstein reinforce a world friendly to these figureheads of fantasy.

Paul Dini's writing is both jovial and poignant when necessary, and his love for old animation is obvious through artist Stephanie Gladden's traditional stylings. Paul Dini has influenced some of my favorite franchises, from Masters of the Universe to of course Batman: The Animated Series, and his ability to contribute to both the Christmas and Frankenstein mythologies is not only no surprise, but a pleasant holiday treat, to boot. Interestingly, based on his back-page essay, this issue launches his "Dinicartoons" imprint, a subset of Top Cow Productions featuring titles by Dini and his fellow favorite writers and artists. I'm actually surprised that he took this long to accept such an offer, that his ability to spearhead franchises didn't inspire him to create his own until now. Still, you know the old saying . . . and when it comes to a monster like Frankenstein finding a home or a little ol' blogger like me wrapping up a Christmas series, it certainly applies . . .

Better late than never.

Jingle Belle: Santa vs. Frankenstein was pubished in December 2008 by Image Comics and was written by Paul Dini, illustrated by Stephanie Gladden, colored by Felix Serrano, and lettered by Troy Peteri.

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