Meet the Lobo of Christmas
Writer – Brian Joines
Artist – Dean Kotz
Letterer – Charles Pritchett
Colorist – Ron Filey
Here’s a fun little series to peruse as you sip mulled wine by a nice toasty fire this Christmas Eve. It stars over a baker’s dozen of Santa stand-ins as well as that nasty-to-top-all-Christmas-nasties. NO, I am not talking about that damn Elf on the Shelf.
I mean Krampus, you Johnny-come-latelies. Certainly, he’s grown in popularity in the last few years, what with that big budget movie affair a few years ago. Mostly though, he still is thought of as a European only kind of thing.
His legend has it that Krampus is one of the companions of Saint Nicholas (the original Santa Claus) who was in charge of punishing the wicked children who misbehaved during the year. I love how Central European is a study in absolutes: either children are good and get presents or they are bad and get coal/swatted with Ruten bundles (birch branches or, in some versions, a whip). There’s no middle ground embodiment that gives kids socks like the ones grandparents always provide.
Krampus in myth is a sort of goat in human form. He has the typical goat head, and hindquarters and forelegs of a goat, while maintaining an upright human posture and hands. In all, he looks most like the old images of the devil and I’m pretty certain was the inspiration for some of that shared mythological vision.
As for the Krampus we are about to meet in this first of five issue miniseries comic, he’s pretty much the same as my long-winded intro. However, in the story he was deemed too out of control by the powers that be, namely a counsel of the various national aspects of Saint Nicholas (more on them in the review), and thus had to be imprisoned. That’s where our tale begins.
We start in Bari, Italy, with this fella. Meet Belsnickel, a crotchety, fur-clad Christmas gift-bringer who ran with Saint Nicholas back in the day. He originated out of southwestern Germany along the Rhine and is popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch communities.
Belsnickel has come here to meet someone, it seems. But now that he is here, it appears he’s under attack.
And while the person springing the trap many remain a mystery, here are the minions serving under him or her…those dancing, dangerous sugar plum fairies.
Belsnickel tries to drive them off, but the fairies are intent on claiming their prize from inside the tomb. Under that lid they are lifting is a very special corpse. As he is overcome by the flying nuisances, the lid finally pops free.
Notice a couple-a-three things here: 1. The fairy queen mentions that they are working for a “boss.” Wonder who that could end up being? 2. The hand that reaches over the fairy queen and into the tomb isn’t that of a fairy. It’s even more evident in the next shot as it holds up the skull.
3. That sleeve isn’t their boss either, apparently. That makes at least three groups involved in this heist and the hit on Belsnickel. And as to the treasure they are stealing? To find that out, we turn to the North Pole as this figure dress in fur-trimmed red watches a newscast.
The bones were Saint Nicholas, himself! And from the exclamation from Father Christmas, the United Kingdom’s embodiment of Santa Claus, it appears this is grave news, indeed.
An elf comes in to tell him that “the last ones” have arrived. This Father Christmas (United Kingdom) has called a gathering, and not a festive one. Appears he and his guests are quite distraught over the theft of St. Nick’s bones. And who are these guests you might ask?
I give you…the emergency session of the SECRET SOCIETY OF SANTA CLAUSES! (love this panel)
What makes it so special is that the back of the comic is a “users guide” to who goes where and many of these names I hadn’t heard before. Joines really did his homework, is all I can say, adding some historical depth to his fanciful tale of desperate Santas. See the chart here:
I love that we have a surfer Santa and a very salaryman Santa and … It’s just a wonderful inventive idea. But, beyond the look of these fellas, each of them have a distinctive personality. Like Sinterklaas (Netherlands)there in front being all “end of days” gloom and doomy. Also AgioVassilis (Greece) telling Sinterklass that his schtick is pretty much played out.
But back to the problem at hands, which may be as bad as Sinterklass portends. He explains how the magic of the bones is what gives all of them their Santa powers.
Not believing this is so (or being crafty enough not to try it himself), Mos Craciun (Romania) proposes that one of them test their resistance to fire by scrambling up the lit chimney. He puts the test to Baba Chaghaloo (Afghanistan), who gamely gives it a try…
…but Baba fails utterly as his Santa powers are no more.
This causes much consternation among the gathered throng, especially since they are in a remote part of the world without access to food. At least Kris Kringle (United States) is worried about food.
The motion is made to escape back to civilization using the reindeer, but…
…their magic is tied to the Clauses as well. That means no sleigh flights out for this group. Luckily, Hoteiosho (Japan) has a plan: get the elves to start working to build a solution to get them back to better climes. He also states that there are other types of magic they could access, looking specifically at an imposing tower like building outside of Father Christmas’s domicile.
This, of course, is the place where Krampus is imprisoned. Come a few moments later and four of the Clauses traverse the tens of yards from Father Christmas’s house to the austere rectangular building. Their intent is to parlay with Krampus, as his powers would be untouched by St. Nick’s bones being stolen. However, not all of the four are convinced this is such a great ideal. Namely Sinterklaas, who has had years of experience dealing with Krampus.
Okay, so we can take a step back with the Clauses unlock Krampus’s cell door and talk about the book. So far this story hits enough high points that I want to keep reading it and perhaps invest in the rest of the series. The differences between the Clauses are intriguing enough to warrant a close look at those other four issues. All this aside from having met the main character yet. Joines has done a great job on the story and Kotz is doing marvelous at crafting differences between Twenty different itineration’s of Santa Claus.
Now back to our story in progress, as Father Christmas approaches a slit in a huge sealed door and lays it all on the line.
Of course, Krampus wouldn’t fit the “reluctant hero” type if he didn’t tell them to shove off when first asked to help.
And with good reason. The Clauses have keep him imprisoned for centuries. I love this bit here about Kris Kringle, the United States' embodiment.
Father Christmas doesn’t give up easily, pulling on Krampus’s affection for Belsnickel and his desire for freedom. Dangling that last little reward appears to get Krampus’s attention.
Over the objections of Sinterklass, a deal is struck. If Krampus gets back the bones, he is free to do as he pleases. He hastily agrees.
If he fails, his agreement is voided, though. And the only way to ensure he doesn’t go back on his word is through this little device Hoteiosho dreamed up called “The Naughty Bomb.”
And so, thus shackled and with a communication device added to his ear, Krampus calls for his trusty wolf Stutgaard who pulls him in a sled out across the sky.
Which is fortunate, because soon after the Clauses learn that the elves’ magic was affected as well and they can no longer make anything that works.
And with the Elves so dumb they can’t even work an iPad…
…that means that…
It appears that isn’t such a bad thing, as Krampus finds Belsnickel’s hospital room and at once determines the Sugar Plum Fairies involvement.
In fact it appears all is going too well, right up until Krampus hears two children roughhousing in the hallway outside the room and…
Whew! That was close. Christmas almost lost it’s last hope. But in doing so, he discovers Belsnickel’s hospital chart and an pseudonym used on his health insurance. Off Krampus goes to check it out.
Meanwhile, a bit of intrigue is brewing as one of the Clauses appears to be communicating with the big-bad we haven’t seen yet via magic snowglobe. He’s spying on the Clauses and specifically points out that Krampus is on the case. To which the evil on the other end, plots to send agents to stop Krampus dead in his tracks.
As these events take place, Krampus has made his way to Belsnickel’s alias’s listed home address, which appears to be a storage shed…
…filed with enough crackpot notes and string-tied theories to choke out Pepe Silvia.
Before Krampus can check any of this out though, it appears he’s going to have to take on the Nutcracker…but all that will be done in next month’s issue.
Loved this issue. The inventive use of many different embodiments of Claus and the mystery elements have drawn me in like a cat to a tinseled-up Christmas tree. Great job everyone! Looks like I will be hunting the rest of these down.