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Super Powered Revenge Christmas Paperback – July 14, 2014
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First, I feel the truest test of any Christmas story is NOT whether you read it at Christmas time and it makes you feel the spirit of Christmas, but rather whether you can read it at ANY time of year and it makes you feel the spirit of Christmas. Secondly, believe it or not, there isn't very much Christmas themed prose or "graphic literature" (a term which I think I just invented.) The reason for this is that truly original Christmas stories are difficult to conceive and execute. The mass quantity of Christmas media comes from film, television and popular music, mediums that lend themselves better to the themes of the holiday. Now with all that seemingly working against Super-Powered Revenge Christmas, the story, its characters and its creators emerge victorious in this funny, action-packed, and emotionally fulfilling journey.
Not to get all spoiler-y, (and for the love of God, STOP READING HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE INFECTED WITH SPOILERS, NO MATTER HOW SLIGHT OR INSIGNIFICANT! YOU WERE WARNED, DAMN YOU!) the plot goes something like this; a comic book writer and his girlfriend-artist are having creative differences regarding their current project. Desmond, the writer, thinks Christmas is outdated and is in need of a "reboot." Libby, his artist-girlfriend, helps him break the story. They come up edgier-sexier-more-comicy-er Christmas characters; Red Avenger (Santa), Caribou (Rudolph), Frostina (Frosty), Niceness Girl and Uberbrain (Mary and Joseph.) That team of heroes takes on the sinister H Corp, or H.E.R.O.D., which consists of Mr. S. (Ebeneezer Scrooge), Mr. P. (Mr. Potter), Mr. G. (Hans Gruber), Rat-Kong (whom I BELIEVE are the mice from Twas the Night Before Christmas, but I've been wrong before,) and the sinister, disgusting and utterly evil Glinch (GUESS WHO!)
The story shifts seamlessly back and forth between the creators telling the story in a bar and the actual super hero action. It's not jerky or unnatural. Both sets of characters are symbiotic, and I believe that from a storytelling perspective, one could not exist without the other. The reader invested in both stories, which is something not all story-within-a-story or parallel stories can achieve. The "valley of despair" portion of this tale centers around how Desmond wants to end the story, which is not a very happy ending, let me tell ya. Libby argues that a deliberate bummer ending will do nothing but piss off the readers. This forces Desmond to admit that he is really using the story to express his own unhappiness with his self-image. It is here where the road to redemption for ALL the characters begins.
The major themes of the book are the evolution of mythology, the temptation to retool and re-imagine old stories, even if they don't need such re-imagining, and the responsibility of storytellers as the custodians of mythology. However, the importance of love, hope, faith, friendship and victory in our lives as human beings is the theme that stands out the most and shines the brightest. Bill Corbett proves with SPRC that not only is he a great story teller, but that he damn well knows what he's talking about when it comes to these things.
A quick word about the fact that this is a graphic novel, which essentially means "long comic book" for those who don't know, and the art of Len Peralta. SPRC has the audacity to be funny in a medium and industry that doesn't really want to be funny anymore, despite the definition of the word "comic." The art is not only fun to look at, but is very crisp and stays true to the tone of the story. I would definitely like to see his art in more mainstream comics, because he knocked it out of the park on this one.
I started off by saying that the truest test of any Christmas story is being able to read it at any time of year and feeling the spirit of Christmas. SPRC takes you on a journey that starts out as ridiculous farce, takes you into forest of confusion and down into the depths of despair and defeat. Then, against all odds, climbs back up the Steps of Hope and Redemption (which look a lot like the steps of Cirith Ungol, only prettier,) fighting Scrooges and Glinches all the way, and emerges at the mountaintop of victory and happiness. If that isn't what the spirit of Christmas is, I really can't tell you what would be. It gave me the goosebumps, made me smile and laugh, and left me with that burning happiness in my soul. In its own very real way, SPRC delivers the spirit of that glorious day our Savior was born into this world. If I were a character in this book, I would have no problem giving a speech that ended with "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men," then going up to Captain Amiable and saying "that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
I think these kinds of experiments are worth doing almost for their own sake. Even if it were just a gimmmick, it'd be an entertaining one, and it's pulled off with great skill. I've been a devotee of MST3K, and since then RiffTrax, since well before Mr. Corbett was involved (though I love the direction he took the show). Fans like me will recognize Bill's comedic style here, and the comic book form shows it off well--the layout of a page in a graphic novel does things for timing that are much more difficult in straight prose, and Bill's instincts for witty asides and sotto voce gags are of course thoroughly well honed. They shine.
As for deeper meaning and/or "significance," well, I would first offer the "Sullivan's Travels" defense: By any rational standard, making people laugh is enough. And then I would go on to say that there really is a morsel of substance about this story, and that the comparison to Sullivan's Travels is fair. If it must have a deeper interpretation, this is a piece of metafiction about the proper role of festival, fiction, and faith in our lives, and its message--that cynicism by itself leaves us with hollow experiences--is certainly welcome in my own.