Monday, December 15, 2003

Looking To The Stars: Holiday Hilarity!

We get a lot of thematically appropriate stories about the holidays this time of year. And I can remember quite a few good ones.

Take for instance the most recent JSA, where an old team member in a Santa suit kicks butt in a department store as some Grinches try to make off with a lot more than trees and tinsel. A sweet Christmas story on its own, it also brought back an oft forgotten and more often ignored hero of the Golden Age and assured them a permanent place in the book. It was a nice continuation of last month’s JLA/JSA Thanksgiving team-up story, which was one of the best bits of comedy written in recent memory.

Then there’s one of my favorite Green Lantern stories of all time. Printed in one of the DC Universe Holiday Specials, Kyle Rayner steps in to recover a gold Menorah stolen by neo-Nazis from a friend’s Synagogue. The story behind Chanukah is told, and how the festival memorializes the Miracle of the Oil in the Temple and how despite having only enough oil to last a day, the oil needed for the burning of candles as part of the Temple rededication ceremonies lasted for eight days. A similar miracle blesses Kyle, whose ring runs out of energy in the middle of the fight only to miraculous come up with a final burst of energy as defeat seems eminent.

And I shouldn’t have to mention Sandman #50 and the glorious story “Ramadan”. The single best-selling issue of the series and a fan-favorite, the story only briefly touches upon the significance and history of the month-long religious festival. It does detail the ceremonies and the traditional fasting from dawn to dusk quite well and makes for eerie reading some ten years hence as it details the squalor of modern Bagdad.

Yes, these are all good stories, representing the respective faiths well. And yet, the best Christmas comic story I have ever seen wasn’t in a comic; it was in a superheroic role-playing game that was run some years ago over a MUSH I played on.

The exact details escape my memory but one thing is clear; the whole thing was, in part, a rip-off of the infamous Lobo Paramilitary Special. Several of the city’s heroes (“The City” being a New York-esque big city where Marvel, DC and indeed nearly any comics universe heroes could be applied for and played.) were contacted by an elf, and told that the North Pole was currently under siege by the heavily armed forces of The Easter Bunny, who was out to bump off the more popular Herr Klaus.

What followed was a battle unlike any other, with my original character “Cavalier” fighting alongside some of the Gen-13 kids and Batman (yes, Batman) against a platoon of rabbits with rocket launchers; indeed, the most lethal bunch of bunnies this side of Sluggy Freelance or Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”.

Indeed, the Knights of Ni made a quick appearance after The Easter Bunny began to use his powers to alter reality (Well, how ELSE could he get all those eggs around the world in one day?) and manifested a pair of knights to deal with Cavalier and Batman. As everyone became paralyzed by the shrieking of the word “Ni”, it was Batman who struggled to stand and slowly began to whisper and shout “Stop IT… Stop IT!” and set the Knights of Ni (who cannot stand the word “it”) to screaming in pain.

As everyone recovered, Cavalier was overheard to say “I never figured you for a Python fan.” Batman looked embarrassed for about one second before saying “Robin made me watch ‘The Holy Grail’ once,” and returning to his usual stone-faced self.

But it all ended happily, with the Easter Bunny caged and Santa granting one present to all the heroes who saved Christmas. Cavalier got an acceptance letter to the local Med School (his secret identity was an undergrad working towards a Doctorate)… and Batman got a small picture which nobody else saw, of a certain six-year old boy with his parents at Christmas.

I admit, this all sounds a bit silly and sappy. And it was. In fact, the story above is quite possibly the silliest story ever written and would certainly get black-stamped by the Batman editorial staff today, even ignoring all issues of copyright violation.

It is also, in spite of itself, one of the most fun times I have ever had playing an RPG and one of the most enjoyable Christmas memories I have. Indeed, it reminds me of a lesson that many comic creators today could stand to learn; that first and foremost, these stories are supposed to be fun.

Comics, like the holidays, are about enjoying the amazing in all aspects of life, be it plausible or fantastic… whether it is in mundane bits of amazement such as the smile of a kid or the spectacle of reindeer flying and an immortal old man bringing toys to all good children. And it is easy in these days of grim-and-gritty, gun-totting, vinyl-bodysuit wearing heroes to forget that wonder as some strive to make books more realistic and less fun. Much like many of us have forgotten the simple child-like joy that comes from seeing the miraculous in everything around us, like the first snow falling to the ground each winter or the sense of joy in running down the steps and seeing what the jolly fat man left for you in the middle of the night.

Here’s hoping that we all get a little more of that wonder in the next year, be it on the comics page or in our own lives.

Happy Holidays from everyone at 411 Comics!

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