The tree has been trimmed, the lights hung with care, and all about your household good cheer is abundant. This time of year is rife with reflection on time with family and loved ones, perhaps a chance remembrance of good times passed. Sometimes, it's also good to reflect on the darkness that makes us yearn for these little glimmers of joy and goodwill. Join us as we explore three of the best forays into the more macabre nature of the holiday season.
Hellboy: A Christmas Underground
It's Christmas Eve, 1989. Hellboy has been summoned by a priest to visit a dying old woman at her English manor. Mrs. Hatch won't last long, according to the cleric, and he wishes he could have done more for her. The house, it seems, has a cemetery where "there are stones older than any Christian grave" where Mrs. Hatch's favorite daughter, Annie, had disappeared four years prior.
Red goes and talks with the ailing widow, who tasks him with giving a gift to Annie. She also mistakes him for Father Christmas, which Hellboy thinks is pretty cool. H.B. takes his leave of the dying woman, leaves instructions with the priest, and enters the cemetery.
Annie lives beneath one of the crypts, and is happy to see Hellboy. She has been "visiting" her relatives and bringing them one by one to dwell with her beneath the earth. To go on would ruin the fun, friends. Suffice it to say that there is plenty of mayhem, destruction, and re-purposed mythos to go around here.
A Christmas Underground is typical for Mike Mignola's earlier Hellboy stories, with bold, crisp linework and a minimalist color palette. The script takes on a fairy-tale quality and has a gentle sweetness that overlies the grim nature of the narrative. Originally published in 1997 as part of the Hellboy: Christmas Special, A Christmas Underground can be found in Hellboy Volume 3: The Chained Coffin and Others.
The Goon: A Christmas Story
Eric Powell is a demented genius. The opening two pages of this story have two kids talking about what they're going to get for Christmas, a conversation that is interrupted when they hear a noise outside that they think is Santa. They are very wrong.
Cut to Goon and Frankie, who are getting ready to go to Norton's bar for some Christmas cheer. Goon loves this time of year because all the zombies in town tend to be frozen and explode nicely when you hit them with your car. They pass a couple of homeless gentlemen who are complaining about the cold, and don't you know it? They get snatched by a gang of giant-headed monsters with Amish beards.
There's a mystery afoot, and Goon, Frankie, and Merle the Werewolf end up joining forces with Saint Nick himself to get to the bottom of it. There's some good old fashioned monster punching, bartering with pig heads, and some very productive vomiting. Oh, and did I mention Saint Nick is in it? Yeah, he has a whip. And he swears a bit.
The Goon: A Christmas Story is packed with Powell's trademark humor, lots of monsters, and great art. First published by Albatross Funnybooks in 2002, you can now find this classic story of holiday mayhem in The Goon Library: Volume One from Dark Horse.
While not a book about the holiday season, Frankenstein does encompass themes of death and rebirth that permeate this time of year. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's book has seen many printings, but not a single one of them compares to the volume that the late Bernie Wrightson illustrated.
Wrightson is a legend in the realm of horror comics, having cut his teeth in titles like House of Mystery and Chamber of Darkness. His distinctively intricate pen work breathed life into Swamp Thing for DC Comics, and influenced generations of comic illustrators, including Hellboy's Mike Mignola.
Wrightson's work on Frankenstein is the absolute pinnacle of an already stupefying career, with not a single stroke wasted on any image. With over 40 illustrations bound within it's pages, Frankenstein is the perfect stormy afternoon read for any fan of horror literature.