Q: Merry Ask Chris-tmas! What's the weirdest version of the Santa Claus origin story? -- @prograpslady
A: You know, it wasn't that long ago that I wrote about two different version of Santa's origin that were done as stop-motion TV specials from Rankin-Bass, and as much as I love them both, they're not exactly what you'd really expect. I mean, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is essentially the story of a revolutionary who brings down a corrupt European government through illegal toymaking and is then hunted until he has to relocate to the North Pole, and The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus has him raised on the milk of a lioness and taught about Japanese samurai by a twelve foot tall druid who shot laser beams from a silver axe in a war against child-hating goblins.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that even for someone who's spent a lifetime getting used to origin stories with nonsense words like "bitten by a radioactive spider" and "inhaled hard water fumes," Santa's beginnings are pretty weird.
A: Folks, I have read a lot of Christmas comics. For a while, they were the only thing I actually "collected." I'd buy any Christmas story I could find, any comic with Santa Claus in it, anything that had the requisite number of sleighs and trees with lights on 'em, and as a result, I have seen some genuinely terrible Christmas stories. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good ones too, but when you're reading every Christmas story out there, you run across plenty that are overly cynical, mean-spirited, or just plain not very good.
And every now and then, you read the two-part Krampus story in Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, which is a piece of work unto itself.
Q: Why aren’t there more heroic duos or “tag teams?” -- @awa64
A: Friend, I don't usually like to start off these columns by specifically denying the premise of the question, but there are a lot of heroic duos in the world of superhero comics. I mean, even if we're just limiting ourselves to the most famous superheroes out there, the top of that list is going to include both the World's Finest and the Dynamic Duo, and you don't have to look much harder to find other pairings further down the list.
Unless, of course, you're specifically asking why there aren't more actual pro wrestling tag teams that have taken up crime-fighting when they're not busy in the ring, in which case I have no idea, but rest assured that is something I want to see.
Q: Can a setting, location, or place actually be "a character," as people often say about Gotham City or Bioshock's Rapture, and if so, what exactly does that mean? -- @Jon_Ore
A: Technically, no. No matter how well-developed or intriguing a setting is, no matter how many good stories have been set there or how characters and creators have talked about it, it's still just that: A setting. The action and development, even if they're a reaction to the setting or have effects on the setting, are all things that happen to characters. The setting just provides the backdrop.
Practically, though, they can be close enough that for all intents and purposes, they might as well be characters, with everything that comes with it.
Q: What's your favorite example of a comic having an effect on the real world? -- @jamesdeleech
A: You know, a lot of the questions I get for this column, at least the ones I tend to like answering, are the ones that are open to interpretation, and it's fun to pick and choose stories to talk about that back up a particular idea that I have about how something works. This one, though, is one of those questions that's about as close to having one definitive answer as is possible. When you talk about those great times when comics changed the real world, there's really only one choice.
It's when Stetson Kennedy teamed up with Superman to bring down the Ku Klux Klan.
Q: What are your thoughts on Catwoman and how her role has evolved over time? It's unique, isn't it? -- @spudsfan
A: Here's a warning that you're about to read way too many words on what looks like a simple question: Yes and no.
It's not going to surprise anyone when i say that I love Catwoman as a character, and a lot of that comes from how adaptable she is. In her long history, she's been one of the few characters who's been able to transition from villain to hero and back again, and she has a relationship with Batman that has allowed for both characters to grow in ways that no other character has, or even could. But at the same time, she's probably the single most successful example of a cliché that bugs me to no end: The Villainous Love Interest.
Q: What's the best modern comics run that not enough people have read or talk about? -- @talestoenrage
A: It's a sad fact of the comics industry, but there are a ton of great stories out there that never really get the recognition that they deserve, to the point where every time something new and exciting comes out, I always end up thinking something along the lines of "they better not Thor: The Mighty Avenger this one up." But while there are comics that get canceled too soon and long-running epics like Usagi Yojimbo that never seem to hog the spotlight, there's only one that really comes to mind when I start thinking about the truly buried treasures.
If you want to talk about the absolute best of the best of the under-appreciated comics, then you want to talk about Paul Grist's Jack Staff.
Q: Is Garfield: Alone the best horror story in comics? -- @discord_inc
A: Even though I usually try to do an entire month of spooky questions every October, this is, I believe, the first time an installment of Ask Chris has ever been posted on Halloween, and it wasn't surprising that a lot of readers asked me about stories that scared me, or what I thought was the single most frightening comic of all time. To be honest, it's not a difficult question to answer, either. The comics I love are full of scary stuff, from the grotesque horror of Alan Moore and Rick Veitch's swamp thing to the horrific imagery that you'd get in manga like The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
But if you want to see something really scary? No question. There are six days of Garfield from 1989 that'll turn your hair white.
Q: How spooky/goofy is the Power Rangers Zeo episode “It Came From Angel Grove”? -- @aleams
A: I didn't realize it until I went back to check, but I've written about Power Rangers Halloween episodes two years in a row in my spoooooky October Ask Chris columns. At this point, that's about the closest thing that ComicsAlliance has to an actual tradition, like carving a Jack O'Lantern that then attempts to get paid to write about superhero shows from the '90s.
So let's dive into it, but I'll tell you right now, folks: I'm going to go ahead and guess that this thing ends up leaning pretty heavily towards the "goofy" side of your proposed Spooky/Goofy axis.
Q: What major superhero can be most effectively dropped into a horror plot without causing it to stop being horror? -- @KaosExMachina
A: Y'know, I don't wanna make any of the other 215 people who have Asked Chris feel bad or anything, but this is easily one of my favorite questions that I've ever gotten. It's probably obvious by now, but I have a lot of fun thinking about different genre conventions and how they work, and this is the sort of thing that you can play around with forever, and that you can ask your friends and get all sorts of different answers and justifications, something that I actually did while I was getting ready to write this article. But it's also a really difficult one to answer.
It's like you said: When you add superheroes to horror stories, they tend to stop being horror stories.
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