Review: “Scary Christmas” (American Mythology Productions, Jolly Jinglings Special)
Welcome back to Jolly Jinglings, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things merry and bright!
Today, we’re going to take a look at Scary Christmas issue 1, a black and white anthology comic published by American Mythology Productions in 2019. It covers all kinds of joyous and cheerful Christmas themes, such as ultra-violence, naked ladies, cannibalism, you know – wholesome shit.
We’re going to get into a few light spoilers below if you care, so read on, if you dare!
Scary Christmas features three stories illustrated by three separate artists, but all written by the same writer, one Mike Wolfer. It seems as though European Christmas lore is filled with far more frightening and bizarre tales than is the saccharin stories told in the United States, so part of Wolfer’s intention with Scary Christmas was to introduce American readers to some of these legends from the Old World.
The first story is titled The Prowler in the Woods, which features artwork by Carola Borelli.
This story is a play on an Icelandic tale known as Jólakötturinn, or the “Yule Cat.” It seems that all good kids traditionally get new clothes for the holidays, and the Yule Cat is a savage beast that wanders the countryside on Christmas in search of children who are wearing old clothes (you know- bad kids).
The Prowler in the Woods follows two young children living in Elsemere Orphanage. The institution is run by a particularly harsh master named Mr. Vandercoot, and the wily kids are planning their escape – and plotting their revenge – by harnessing the ferocious, supernatural feline, the Yule Cat.
The Prowler in the Woods was indeed a unique story, and fully realized even with the short page count of only eight pages. It’s also the best story of the bunch, or at least it was my favorite. Borelli’s artwork is a good match for the youth-focused tale, as the clean lines and expressive faces slightly resemble those of an animated movie or anime. Things got surprisingly gruesome at the very end, but it was a fun read.
The second story in Scary Christmas is titled The Feast of All Sinners, featuring artwork by Vincenzo Carratú.
The inspiration this time comes from the tale of Hans Trapp, the “Christmas Scarecrow” from the French/German border region of Alsace Lorraine.
The Feast of All Sinners opens with a young man and woman traversing a snowy countryside. As it turns out, they are also fleeing the scene of a crime, as the couple intended to rob the home of an old woman, but things didn’t go as planned and they ended up murdering the unfortunate woman in the process. The two spot an unsettling scarecrow in their search for refuge, and eventually break into a nearby home, which they mistake for being abandoned.
Once inside, it becomes very clear that the home is not abandoned. They are caught by surprise when a sultry brunette femme named Bettina greets them, inviting them to stay with her during the winter storm. It’s soon after this point that Bettina reveals her true, violent nature, but it’s also where the plot runs out of steam (and pages). The finale feels both rushed and confusing more than anything else. However, Carratú’s artwork was easily my favorite of the book, and not just because Bettina gets naked like crazy before the end (didn’t hurt, though). I have a fondness for well done black and white art, and in The Feast of All Sinners, Carratú deftly uses positive and negative space to create shadows, separation, and a haunting sense of space, all without muddying up the panels too much.
The third story in Scary Christmas is titled Neat as a Pin, wherein Mike Wolfer takes on both writing and illustration duties.
This third story is inspired by an Austrian folk tale about Frau Perchta, a mythical Christmas witch who will disembowel you if your home is too messy.
Neat as a Pin is told as a Christmas poem, similar to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. As such, it’s a little bit hard to follow. The story is about a man hiring a hitman, but things go terribly wrong, resulting in a bloody one-on-one fight between the two. They predictably make a huge mess in the process, and you can guess who comes calling for whomever is left standing.
Neat as a Pin is easily the most violent of the three stories. However, some of the artwork is fairly flat, and the black and white tones aren’t used to their full extent. Add that to the confusing story narration, Neat as a Pin is the weakest of the three stories, making for a fairly lackluster conclusion to the Scary Christmas anthology.
If Scary Christmas looks interesting to you, it’s not an expensive pickup for a back issue. There’s also a second issue coming later this December, too, as I’m sure that there are still several other disturbing European Christmas tales that aren’t widely known in the US. Can I recommend it? If you are interested in lesser-known folklore and don’t mind the short, 8-page format for the stories, then Scary Christmas isn’t a bad holiday read. I don’t know that I’ll read it again, but I may track down issue two and give it a shot when it’s released.
Thanks for reading!
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