There are very few things I love in this world more than a story where a superhero teams up with Santa Claus to save Christmas. I mean, I love Christmas comics in general, but the ones where the Jolly Old Saint himself shows up are always just a little bit more special, especially when the hero in question is Superman. If I was in charge, you'd see Santa Claus literally every time there was a comic set at the Fortress of Solitude, because really, the North Pole has exactly three residents, and who else are they going to hang out with? But I digress.
My point is, Superman/Santa Claus team-ups are great, even when they're weird -- and folks, they do get weird. Take, for example, one of Superman's earliest team-ups with St. Nicholas, wherein they have to battle against the evil machinations of a dude who hates Christmas so much that he makes Santa Claus even fatter than he already was, and Superman has to help him lose weight.
A couple weeks ago when I was writing about why the Penguin has never been one of my favorite Batman villains, I mentioned one of my earliest favorite comics: An issue of The Brave and the Bold that was nominally a Penguin story, but was more focused on the Joker. The main point then was that the Penguin was kind of a bit player even in one of his own stories, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that there might be some subtle nuances to this story that would be worth a closer examination.
There aren't. I mean, it's a mid-80s issue of Brave and the Bold, and those things are about as subtle as a brick upside the head. But it is a pretty great issue, and as an added bonus, it features a handy guide to everything you should not do if you're running a business in Gotham City.
After a long month of obsessing over various spooks, ghouls and haints, it is finally Halloweek -- which basically means that next Monday, I start thinking about Christmas. But before I do, I wanted to make sure that I gave you a glimpse of the ultimate in harrowing horror. A story designed to chill you to the bone, to bring the fear of the dark back into your life, to remind you that there are things out there, unknowable and unstoppable, waiting for you. It would have to be a story with not one monster, not two, not even three, but five unstoppable terrors that could fill even the world's mightiest mortal with fear.
And, you know, it would also be nice if at least one of those monsters got punched in the face with a windmill while we were at it. Fortunately, I found one that fits the bill, just in time for our final trick-or-treat!
I know that we all love the Great Pumpkin, but if you ask me, Dracula is the Santa Claus of Halloween. I don't know what your family traditions are, but I always like to imagine the Lord of the Undead flying through the night of October 31, dragging bad children off to the depths of Castlevania and bringing the good children feasts of blood. It's... probably a good thing that I don't have children of my own.
Anyway, the point is that at this time of year, I'm even more into Dracula than usual, and I spend a pretty good amount of time diving back into comics featuring the King of All Vampires and looking for the best stories -- and there aren't a whole lot better than "Night of the Blood-Stalker."
For eleven months out of the year, I can take or leave horror comics. Unless it's something exceptional like Hellboy or Tomb of Dracula, they don't tend to be things that I actively seek out, Until, that is, September becomes October and the scent of pumpkin spiced coffee is on the air, at which time I promptly start scrambling like a lunatic to find as many comics about ghosts, mummies and miscellaneous tentacled horrors that I can fit into the next 31 days.
Sometimes, every now and then, that search through quarter bins brings me something amazing, like a comic where creators like Dwayne McDuffie, Ernie Colon and Gil Kane told the story of a war raging in Hell itself between every single monster from the Lord of the Vampires to Baba Yaga over who would have the right to destroy humankind once and for all. And sometimes, that story turns out to be the comic book version of Monster In My Pocket.
When you consider that I'm spending a good portion of every week recapping the '90s X-Men cartoon, you might think that I'd have my fill of '90s mutant nostalgia, but that is definitely not the case. If anything, going back through that show has made me want to go back and revisit that stuff even more. That's why I went out a few days ago and grabbed one of the most treasured artifacts of my childhood: the four-part X-Men Collector's Edition comics released in 1993 and sold at Pizza Hut.
Seriously, you guys. There was a time in this country when you could go out and get a pizza and comic books about the X-Men jacking into cyberspace in the same building. If we want to make America great again, I suggest we start there.
You know that movie, Class of 1984? If you've never seen it, the basic idea is that a new teacher comes to a crime ridden urban high school and finds that his students are murderous sociopaths, and ends up having to kill them all with a series of deathtraps while the band plays the 1812 overture. If you have seen it, then you probably thought the same thing I did when I was watching it: "This story would be way better if Superman was in it."
Well rest easy, friends, because that exact thing has already happened, in a Jerry Siegel / Al Plastino classic with the truly amazing title, "The Three Tough Teen-Agers!"
It was only a few days ago that I wrote about why Marvel's Godzilla comic was one of the most fun titles of the Bronze Age. The thing is, doing an overview of an entire 24-issue series doesn't really give you the opportunity to go into the specifics and explain just what it was that made it so great. So if anyone still has any doubts about whether they should be spending some time digging through back issues boxes to put together a run, I thought it might be a good idea to go a little deeper to one of the many high points of the run.
And by that, I mean the time that Godzilla shrank down to tiny size, had a fistfight with the Thing, and then went back in time to have a wrestling match against Devil Dinosaur.
Look: I have read a lot of weird old DC comics. It's kind of my thing. But the great thing about them is that no matter how crazy they get, every time I think I've seen the weirdest thing that comics have to offer, they always somehow manage to top themselves. Case in point: a Cary Bates/Ross Andru/Mike Esposito classic from 1968 that has somehow managed to outdo every other comic I have ever read. I realize I say this all the time, but this is, without question, the absolute balls-out craziest comic I have ever read.
Seriously, folks, I'll go ahead and tell you right now that Batman casually mentions owning a time machine in this one, and as far as weird stuff goes, that's not even in the top five.
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