Go-Bots

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Every day we are asked to pick a side, Liberal or Conservative, Instagram or Twitter, Coke or Pepsi. You get the idea. Back in the mid-eighties, we had to pick our favorite transforming robots, Transformers or Go-Bots. Transformers were big, flashy, and had lots of moving parts. Gobots, on the other hand, were smaller, less articulated, and nowhere near as popular as their larger competitors. Despite all that I really liked the tiny robots.

Go-Bots were marketed in the US by Tonka, who partnered with Bandai which had created the toy line in Japan. There they were known as Machine Robo. Go-Bots were about the size of a Matchbox car, maybe a little bigger, when they were in their vehicle form. When they were transformed into their robot form they were about three inches tall, with moveable arms and legs. They were so small they didn’t have knee joints so there was not much to be done when posing the figures other than to put them in a kind of Frankenstein stance with straight legs and outstretched arms.

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In the last few years, IDW publishing has really tried to capitalize on the ’70s and 80’s toy nostalgia trend producing titles like ROM, Micronauts, Transformer’s, G.I. Joe, and My Little Pony to name a few. I’ve read several of these series and enjoyed them, so when the Go-Bots comic was solicited I was pretty excited. The series is written, drawn and lettered all by Tom Scioli. I am personally not very familiar with his work but his bio notes that he was co-creator of the “Godland” comic at Image, and he drew and co-scripted the “Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe” at IDW. The later series is described “as an insane adventure that the A.V. Club called #%$^&ing awesome”. After reading the first two issues of this series I would have to say the same thing.

The first thing that is notable about the comic is the cover. It is a portrait of one of the “good-guy” Go-Bots, Leader 1. What is so striking about the image is that it looks like something that a talented artist might draw in a notebook using colored pencils in high school. You can see the line work in the shading. It is not a highly polished, heavy inked, digitally enhanced, picture that you would find on any other mainstream comic.

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When you open the comic right away you can tell you are in for something different. There is no opening splash page, instead, there are seven panels laid out unlike anything else you would see in traditional comics. The word balloons are large and plentiful, yet they don’t get in the way of anything. The lettering itself has the same hand done look that the art does and it has an almost childlike quality to it. That is not to say that it is messy, it looks like the same talented high school artist who drew the cover trying to write neatly and clearly and succeeding. The words that require emphasis are simply done with a heavier pencil line, instead of selecting the bold font on the computer. The coloring is soft and almost has the washed out look of watercolors. The ink work has a very light touch and does not take away from what I think might be colored pencils.

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Every page of the story has a different panel layout with no page having less than seven panels. There is a lot of dialog. For me, this is reminiscent of older comics where the creative teams would fit whole stories into single issues.  The entire package is unlike else being done today and I really liked it.

The story is a wild adventure. In this world, Go-Bots are the robot companions of humans. They provide transportation, protection, and entertainment. We are first introduced to Leader 1 and his pilot Condor. They are on a rescue mission to free some prisoners from an enemy jail. After that, we meet A.J and her Go-Bot companion Scooter. He’s dropping her off at school. In A.J.’s class, we get a little bit of exposition about the history of Go-Bots who were created to solve a parking problem.

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From there we meet Matt Hunter, race car driver, and his car/pal the aptly named Turbo. After that, we really get into the story. Matt and Turbo are approached after a race by a mysterious bald man in a limo who has a business proposal for the two of them. The bald man takes them to a private arena where Go-Bots are battling each other to the death for the human crowd’s amusement. As the people in the arena chant “Kill-Kill-Kill” as Go-Bot with two wheels on his shoulders beheads his opponent. This fearsome Go-Bot, named Cy-Kill, wants more challengers and eventually decides he wants to fight Turbo. Matt and Turbo are disgusted and try to leave.

The crowd is not having that and they through Matt to the arena floor to face Cy-Kill. Matt mentions that Cy-Kill’s G chip will prevent him from harming a human. Cy-kill questions that theory and Matt trys to get away. Turbo saves Matt and they escape, returning later with the police. The arena is empty except for the bodies of dead Go-Bots and now humans.

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These events kick off the whole series. From this point on there is a wave of Go-Bots “going bad” and revolting against the humans. The evil Go-Bots are led by Cy-Kill. It is an all-out revolution. Go-bots that once aided humans, like police cars, turn against them. The Go-Bots that still want to work with humans are brought together to by Leader-1. There is plenty of action and surprises throughout the next couple of issues. Eventually the Go-Bots head to outer space and to the homeworld Gobotron

The series has not been fully released but many of the memorable toys do make appearances in the comic. Screwhead, Scorp, Cop-Tur, Spacy, Zod, and the Command Center all show up. The series is dramatic and the art style provides an excellent juxtaposition for it. Because every page features a different panel layout this does not feel like any other mainstream comic. It is simply a ton of fun.

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My brother and I had a couple of Gobots that I remember; Dive-dive, the submarine, Leader-1, the F-14, and Scorp, the scorpion were a few of them. Due to their smaller size, they fit in well with Kenner’s Star Wars figures and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe line. They were also less expensive than their larger cousins, the Transformers, which helped when asking for a new toy. Of course, there was a cartoon but I don’t have any real memory of watching it. Reading about it on the interwebs these days it is not well regarded.

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This comic brought back a lot of fond memories and led me down a couple of fun rabbit holes while I researched the history of Go-Bots. As I write there is one more issue due out and I cannot wait to see what happens. Tom Sciloi does not have a huge body of work, probably due to the fact that he has an unusual style, as he writes, draws, colors and hand letters all his work. He did the backup Super Powers stories in Cave Carson has Cybernetic Eye. I have to admit I did not know what the deal was with that story and didn’t know it was Sicoli when I read Cave Carson and did not pay much attention to it. After reading Go-Bots though I’ll have to go back and check it out.

I want to close with something one of my friends said when we were talking about this comic, that I think really sum it all up very well. “He’s [Sicoli] put into comic book form what it used to be like to play with actions figures as a kid”. I could not have said it better.

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Quarter Bin Gem – Rogue Trooper

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This piece is inspired by Professor Alan from the Relatively Geeky Podcasting network and his show the Quarter Bin Podcast. I am a big fan of mining the cheapo bins for treasure, but most of the searching I do is in dollar bins. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting family in Burlington Vermont and was able to take time to visit the only store in New England with a real honest and true quarter bin, that I am aware of, Earth Prime Comics. I did not leave with very much on this visit but I did buy a copy of Rogue Trooper Classics #5 from IDW.

Rogue Trooper is a comic that first appeared in 2000 A.D. and was created by Gerry Finley-Day and Dave Gibbons. He is a genetically engineered soldier created to fight in a civil war on Nu-Earth.  Rogue Trooper’s unit was betrayed from within and everyone was killed except Rogue and the traitor. Rogue Trooper saved his buddies, Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man, bio-chips and installed them in, you guessed it, his gun, helmet, and backpack. Now Rogue Trooper wanders the wastelands of Nu-Earth searching for the traitor, and aiding the Southers who created him in their struggle against the Norts.

Rogue Trooper has mostly appeared in a serialized strip in 2000 A.D. and various Judge Dredd comics. IDW published a new story in a four-issue series back in 2014 as well as a series of reprints in Rogue Trooper Classics. This particular issue contains two full strips and a third that is part one of the story that, I assume, is continued in the next issue.

The Petrified Forest

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2000 A.D. Credit card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Mike Dorey
Lettering Robot –  Bill Nuttall

The story begins on a Nort satellite orbiting Nu-Earth. A heavyset man sits with a group of men at a large round table are discussing their troubles with Rogue Trooper. The problem, as it is put so callously, is not what Rogue Trooper does to the Nort forces, but how he inspires the Southers. He makes the Southers believe they can win this never-ending war. The fat man challenges the group to come up with a way to stop Rogue Trooper. Satellites are launched to sweep the surface of the planet searching for their target.

Meanwhile down on the planet, Rogue Trooper wanders, searching for the man who betrayed his unit. He happens to be in the petrified forest and notes that all life is gone due to the chem-strikes. All that remains are brittle dead trees. A shot from high up a tree rings out and Rogue Trooper dives to dodge the bullet. He shoots the sniper out of the tree and cuts his oxygen tubes. The atmosphere of Nu-Earth is poisonous to humans so they must wear special containment suits with gas masks tied to oxygen pumps in order to survive.

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The attack on the snipers does not go unnoticed by the men back on the satellite. They decide instead of sacrificing good Nort men they will send down a group of ape-men that were meant to serve as soldiers in the Nort army but are too undisciplined. As Rogue Trooper and his buddy Gunner (the gun) admire their handwork a group of Nort foot soldiers gets the drop on them. With the aid of gunner and an electro-flare from bagman (his backpack), Rogue Trooper is able to take out the whole squad with a few shots.

Rogue Trooper finds a bombed out farm in the forest and decides to camp for the night. Gunner is put on watch and Helm (his helmet) is put on pillow duty. Meanwhile, the Nort ape-men make planetfall. Without too much trouble they sneak up on Rogue Trooper’s camp and take Bagman and Gunner. Rogue Trooper wakes up and fights back with his only weapon, Helm. He gets away from the ape-men and leads them on a chase into the petrified forest. Eventually, the ape-men surround him.

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The ape-men do not attack all at once so Rogue Trooper tries to start a fight with the biggest looking ape who he believes must be the leader. The ape attacks Rogue Trooper who dodges several of the advances. As he is backed up to a tree he realizes he is in the same spot he killed the Nort snipers earlier and the oxygen tubes are still hanging from the branches. He fashions the tube into a bit of a noose and chokes out the ape-man. The other ape-men start howling, seemingly a show of respect for Rogue Trooper defeating their leader.

The ape-men return Gunner and Bag-man. Back in his possession Rogue Trooper activates the universal translator in Bag-man so he can understand the ape-men. Similar to Rogue trooper the apes tell him the story of how they were genetically modified to fight but were treated badly by the Norts. Soon the shuttles that dropped the ape-men off on the planet return to pick them up. When the Norts see that the apes are not returning they gas the petrified forest. Since the Rogue Trooper is impervious to chemical attacks he is able to stand and fight while the ape-men collapse to the ground.

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Rogue Trooper shoots one of the troop carrier ships and it crashes into the other ship. The men watching from the satellite monitor the situation but think the pilots have just crashed into each other and do not realize the ape-men have rebelled and that Rogue Trooper still lives. While Rogue trooper tries to help the poisoned ape-men the leader of the group comes too and grabs Gunner from Rogue. When he tries to fire on Rogue Trooper but the gun jams and the ape turns it around to inspect it. A shot rings out and the ape leader is dead, shot in the face by Gunner who doesn’t just let anybody pull his trigger.

The story ends with Rogue Trooper directing the ape-men to another part of the forest so that when more Nort landing parties arrive they do not take them back or worse. He then runs out of the petrified forest into the open area making sure the satellites pick him on their cameras and the Nort leaders know he is still alive.

War of Nerves

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2000 A.D. credit card
Script Robot – G. Finley-Day
Art Robot – Colin Wilson
Letter Robot – Tony Jacob

This story is a brief one chapter story that gives the reader an idea what the civil war on Nu-Earth is like. A group of Souther soldiers is trapped in a series of foxholes, charged with defending their position. They have been apparently been doing it for weeks. They are being bombarded with digital propaganda messages in the sky by the Nort army. Some of the messages are “Hullo, Soon it will be goodbye” and “Tonight you die Johnny”. The men are worn out and scared. One soldier who is sick of the waiting rushes out of the fox-hole and into the battlefield. He is almost immediately killed by incoming mortar fire.

The surviving men decide that it is too much and abandon their post. When they rush off they run into Rogue Trooper who, to put it mildly, is disappointed in this squad. Rogue Trooper chastises the squad and leads them against the Nort mortar encampment. They breach the mortar silo and defeat the Nort soldiers inside. Next, we see Nort reinforcements arrive at the silo only to trigger a boobie trap. A digital message appears above the silo telling the Nort soldiers to watch this space when a bomb goes off destroying the whole facility.

Bagman Blues – Part I

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2000 A.D. Credit Card
Script Robot – Gerry Finley-Day
Art Robot – Brett Ewins
Lettering Robot –  Bill Nutall

Rogue Trooper is walking through the foggy ruins of a small town on Nu-Earth. The town is littered with bodies indicating a recent battle. As Rogue Trooper explores he notices one of the seemingly dead men get up. The two fire on each other and Rogue Trooper hits and kills the man in the gas mask. The Nort soldier manages to get one shot off and hits Bag-man who starts emitting a high pitched wail. Gunner tells Bag-man to shut up but it doesn’t work. Rogue Trooper removes the bio-chip and tries to repair it.

The loud siren emitted from the damaged chip has attracted other Nort soldiers and Rogue Trooper and Gunner are forced to defend themselves before they can finish Bag-man’s repairs. Rogue Trooper defends himself against incoming forces while the “wounded” Bag-man slowly empties his contents on the ground taking inventory, all the while singing nursery rhymes. That is where this chapter ends.

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Final thoughts

I’ve been a big fan of Judge Dredd going way back to my youth. I do not remember how I discovered him but I certainly have enjoyed the apocalyptic tales of justice over the years. Back in the early 00’s several Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Rogue Trooper collections were published. Since I liked Dredd so much I thought it might be fun to look at some other 2000 A.D. characters. I liked both new series but I really got into Rogue Trooper.

The grim anti-war message combined with the stoic soldier, Rogue Trooper, and his simplistically named companions Gunner, Helm, and Bag-man all work together to make a great science fiction story. The oddly colored wasteland of Nu-Earth serves as a great backdrop for the blue-skinned hero searching for the man who betrayed him years prior. It is like a futuristic version of Stephen King’s Gunslinger chasing the Man in Black across the desert. The soldiers wearing full body containment suits and gas masks and bombed out locations are all reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.

The plots were pretty formulaic but the writing and art are really gripping. Writing a comic about a soldier talking to himself page after page has got to be challenging but guys like Gerry Finley-Day really were able to put together some pretty good stories.

At this point, I must ask myself if I think this comic was worth the quarter I paid for it and my answer is that is certainly was. Petrified Forest with the ape-men was fun, and who doesn’t love a story with gorilla soldiers? The War of Nerves had a pretty standard never give up message, but the most interesting part was the digital propaganda machine that wrote demoralizing messages in the sky for the enemy. Brett Ewins art in the final chapter was the best in the book, nice and clean with sharp lines. The story itself was short but the damaged Bag-man singing nursery rhymes is a nice call out to HAL singing “Daisy, Daisy” while he is powered down at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”. Interesting note, “Daisy, Daisy” is the first song ever performed by a computer in 1962.

Finally, I have to thank Professor Alan for his inspiration to write about a real gem of a comic that I picked up for only a quarter!

 

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Super Blog Team-up – Elfquest and the Redemption of Cutter

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I am flattered the have been invited to participate in the mighty Super-Blog Team-Up Redemption Event. Chris Sheehan of Chris is on Infinite Earths and Cosmic Treadmill fame suggested me as one of the new blogs this year and I am very grateful that he thought this blog was worthy of entry into the SBTU. Please do yourself a favor and check out all the blogs and podcasts participating this year, they will all be linked at the end of this piece.

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My brother and I came to the Elfquest the same way many fans did, the Donning Company Trade paperbacks that we bought at Waldenbooks. These were published starting in 1981, and were one of the earliest comic collections ever sold in bookstores. Wendy and Richard Pini are pioneers as comic creators but also in the independent comics business.

Elfquest is a very personal book for me. It is the first independent, as well as the first high fantasy comic I  remember reading. Having mostly read superhero, war, and Disney duck comics up until that point. Elfquest is the first comic that I read that was one continuous story and one that contained mature themes and imagery. For all these reasons it is something that I have read, re-read, and loved for most of my life.  

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For the purposes of this piece I’ll be discussing specific parts of what is commonly referred to as the Original Quest, the story that appeared in the first 20 issues of the comic. This part of the Elfquest saga covers the story of Cutter and the Wolfriders journey from their forest home to Sorrow’s End where they meet the Sunfolk, to Blue Mountain and finally to the First Ones Palace.

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The story begins with humans dancing around a fire and a stone pyre adorned with skulls. A long haired human leads the chant and the reader is provided with a brief history lesson. Long ago when man was a bit more primitive and savage there was a terrible storm. As the storm raged an unusual structure appeared in the sky and settled in a wide open area. It was unlike anything man had seen before and looked like a shining castle. When the storm calmed the humans approached the castle and the doors opened.

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From inside came several different beings, small winged fairy creatures, short stubby hobbit-like creatures, and tall slender pointy eared creatures. The tall beings approach the humans who react out of fear by smashing the stranger in the head with a club. The rest of the humans attack and all the newcomers flee into the forest. We will eventually learn that this story is the origin of how elves, trolls, and preservers came to this world.

Back in the present two elves are watching the humans. They see that the humans have captured an elf, he’s chained to the stone pyre. These humans still fear the elves and believe them to be demons. As the humans are preparing to sacrifice their captive, Cutter, the chief of the Wolfriders, leads the charge. The elves attack, riding their wolves. Cutter saves Redlance, killing one of the humans in the process. As they leave the human’s camp Cutter threatens the leader, telling him to leave his tribe alone.

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Later the elves are back at their forest home called the Holt. They are regrouping and taking care of the hurt Redlance. Cutter wanders off followed by his close friend Skywise. Cutter laments that he didn’t think humans could be killed and believes that something bad will happen soon. Skywise tries to comfort his friend when suddenly a wolf howl alerts the two elves to trouble. Cutter communicates psychically, an ability the elves call “sending”, with his wolf and the rest of the elves. The wolf is warning Cutter that the humans are approaching the Holt.

When the elves meet the angry humans they find that they come bearing torches and are threatening to burn down the elves home. Cutter cannot believe that the humans would do this as the forest is their home as well. The human leader sets the bushes and trees on fire and one of the elves quickly retaliates with his bow and arrow just as Cutter screams for him to stop.

Cutter leads all the elves back to the Holt and tells them to quickly gather whatever supplies they can and decides to lead them to the underground tunnels of the trolls. The trolls are bigger than the elves and neither group likes the other much, but they put up with each other. They do a bit of bartering with each other for goods like meat, leather and weapons. Cutter leads the elves to the troll caverns forcing their way in. Here we are introduced to the troll named Picknose. Cutter forces Picknose and the other trolls at knife point, to lead them into the tunnels.

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In the throne room Cutter is polite, sort of, as he tries to convince Greymung, the troll king,  to share some of their supplies after all the years of the elves getting meat and leather for the trolls because they don’t venture outside their caves. As Cutter and Greymung argue Skywise stumbles and finds that his metal bracelet sticks to the round rock resting in front of Greymung. Cutter tries to knock him free and finds that his sword sticks to the rock. When they ask Greymung what it is he explains it is sacred and tells the elves to get away from it.

Cutter starts to gather the tribe to decide their next action. Skywise is still mesmerized by the stone. Greymung, fed up, slaps Skywise. This angers Cutter considerably and he lunges at the troll King. Cutter, now furious, he threatens the king. Greymung, trying to save his own neck, tells Picknose to take the elves down the tunnel of golden light so they can find a new forest home. As an apology gift from the king Cutter bashes a chip of stone off the magnetic rock for Skywise. Cutter then gathers the elves and they follow Picknose to the tunnel and their new home.

As the light starts to appear at the end of the tunnel the elves tell Picknose to wait while they venture out to make sure they have not been tricked. The troll is too quick for them though, he shoves the older elf, Treestump, forward and then springs a trap to cause a cave-in. The elves are now stuck at the end of a tunnel somewhere where they have never been, a great desert.

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Cutter and the tribe decide they only have one choice and venture out into the desert. They travel at night when it is cooler and sleep during the day trying to manage as best they can but with their supplies dwindling the desert is starting to take its toll on the Wolfriders. Finally the elves come to a rocky area where they can get a little shelter and those that are the worse off can rest. Cutter and Skywise go exploring and on the other side of the rocky cliffs they find a village. And not just any village, a village filled with elves.

Cutter immediately decides that these elves are different, and does not trust them. He says they don’t have wolves, or tree houses, and they live in the sun, just like men. Meanwhile we are introduced to some of the new elves, Leetah and Rayek. Leetah is gathering water when Rayek comes up behind her and questions why she is tormenting him, dragging out her answer to his question about becoming lifemates. Leetah, playful flirting, is interrupted by the sound of howling wolves and cheering raiders.

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Cutter and the Wolfriders ride into the village like barbarians. They grab what they want and push the new elves out of their way. Rayek tries to defend his people but Cutter quickly dispatches his wooden spear and gives him a foot to the face. Cutter sees Leetah and their eyes meet in a most unusual way. Cutter snatches Leetah up around the waist and the Wolfriders leave with their spoils as quickly as they came. Rayek leads some of the other elves up the cliffs chasing after the Wolfriders with the hopes of rescuing Leetah. The weak farmers are no match for the cliffs and only Rayek can give chase. Rayek does get up the cliffs only to be captured by the Wolfriders.

Leetah, still Cutter’s prisoner, struggles against him. Cutter however is a bit off after what seemingly happened between him and Leetah when they first saw each other. As Rayek is brought to the group he uses a power the Wolfriders are unfamiliar with to hypnotize Pike. The rest of the elves spring to action and take Rayek down. Cutter tells them to cover his eyes. Rayek struggles and cries out invoking the name of the High Ones. This peaks Cutter’s interest and instead of violently forcing these new elves to his will he talks to them. After the Wolfriders explain what happened to them Leetah takes charge and tells Rayek and the rest of the tribe to come back down to the village and they will discuss everything with her father, their chief, Suntoucher.

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After some explanation the Wolfriders are welcomed to the sun dwelling elves village, Sorrow’s End. Leetah demonstrates her healing powers on Redlance. The Wolfriders are introduced to Savah a very wise and old elf, that they believe to be one of the High ones at first. Cutter knows that he and Leetah have recognized each other and are therefore meant to be together. Recognition is a powerful force, almost like love at first sight, but it really is much more than that. It is an awareness by each elf that they are soulmates. As the Wolfriders get acclimated to their new home Cutter begins to pursue Leetah, much to Rayek’s displeasure. It eventually gets to the point where Rayek challenges Cutter.

All the parties gather together and Leetah is asked to make a choice between her long time friend, Rayek, and the elf chief, Cutter. She says that she cannot pick one and cannot deny one. Since no decision can be made Savah tells them the Trial, a series of  physical challenges, will determine who will be able to court Leetah, while the loser will have to stop his pursuit.

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The first challenge is a test of strength and balance that Cutter wins. For the second challenge Rayek and Cutter must each recover a prized possession, which again Cutter wins. For the third and final challenge each elf has to face their greatest fear. The contest is that they will have to cross the bridge of destiny (how apropo) and touch the sun symbol on the other side. Cutter goes first, but in a couple of very dramatic moments he turns back, too scared to cross. He has failed. Rayek, quite confidently, heads out on the bridge and cannot help but brag how easy it is.

The wind comes up and blows Rayek off the bridge, but he manages to grab the side of the rock. Cutter seeing this and believing no elf should die this way crawls out on the bridge to save Rayek. Cutter pulls him up to safety. As he does Rayek “sends” at Cutter in such a forceful manner that Cutter is frozen and disoriented on the bridge. Rayek does not complete the challenge and goes back to the safe side of the bridge. Skywise threatens him and tells him to go get Cutter but is stopped by Savah. Cutter comes to and realizes where he is and that he can complete the challenge, which he does with a newfound confidence. Finally Cutter has won the right to court Leetah.

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Intermission

Up until this point I’ve gone into quite a bit of detail. The first couple chapters of Elfquest contain many of the elements that will be important throughout the entire story. The history of the original elves, the High ones, and other beings that came to this world in the great palace will become the focus for this story and the series over the next forty years. The loss of the Wolfriders home and search for a new one will be what drives them and is a theme that will be revisited many times.

While Elfquest is filled with numerous and wonderful characters at the heart of the story is Cutter’s journey. So far Cutter has killed a human, that lead to the destruction of the elves forest home. Cutter made the decision to go to the trolls to escape the fire, only to let his anger get the best of him, and that leads to the trolls tricking the elves into being expelled from the tunnels into an unknown desert. After the elves barely survive their desert journey, Cutter, again following his first instinct, leads a raid on the Sunfolk village, kidnapping their healer, and forever putting himself at odds with a very powerful elf, Rayek.

Simply put Cutter is a young, quick tempered elf who in a short time has put his tribe in danger pretty often. He goes with his first instinct and it costs him. He’s a young leader, whose tribe looks up to him and follows him loyally. Despite his best intentions though the Wolfriders are hardly safe when Cutter’s temper and wild side get the best of him.

And now back our story

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Seven years have past. Cutter and Leetah have become life partners and have had to two children. Rayek has left the Sunfolk village. The Wolfriders and Sunfolk have learned to live together, each tribe sharing their skills with the other. The elves seem to have made a pretty good life together, but life is never quite that easy.

Savah uses her psychic abilities to search for other elves. One time when she is going through this exercise she “touches” something and gets an ever so slight response. On another occasion the elves home is visited by a weary human family that has somehow survived the desert journey. After some very tense moments Cutter lets the humans leave, much to consternation of Strongbow, a very angry elf who only communicates via the psychic sending ability.

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After the visit from the human family Cutter is convinced that if one human family can find them then more will follow. After talking with Savah he comes to believe there may be other elves out in the world. He decides that he must leave his home, Leetah, and his children in order to find a new home for the elves where humans will never find them. Thus begins Cutter’s quest!

Cutter is joined by his constant companion Skywise. The first stop on their quest takes them back across the desert to the giant wall they first entered the desert from. They find another cave that leads them back to the trolls tunnels and throne room which have been abandoned. Eventually they make their way back to their old forest to find it has barely started to recover. Here they are taken prisoner by the crafty troll Picknose. While they are Picknose’s prisoners and servants Cutter and Skywise learn that there is another kingdom of trolls that live off in the mountains.

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These mountain trolls are vicious, more violent trolls than Picknose’s group. They invaded Graymung’s kingdom, killed the king, and took the rest of the trolls prisoner. Only Picknose, his female companion and her mother were able to get away. Picknose also tells Cutter and Skywise about the master smith, half troll, half elf, named Two-edge. He tells them that Two-edge has a fabulous treasure, the key of which is in the hilt of Cutter’s sword. All of this, the fact that there are other trolls, and Two-edge’s treasure, re-enforces Cutter’s belief that there may be more elves out in the world.

Cutter and Skywise eventually free themselves from Picknose and continue on their quest. They meet a human couple that doesn’t fear them, but instead worships them, believing elves to be wise, benevolent creatures. This couple, having been ostracized from their tribe just want to return to their home. Cutter and Skywise agree to help them do this. This will eventually bring them to the Forbidden Grove and the Blue Mountain. It is here that they will meet a new tribe of elves and the fairy like creatures, the preservers.

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While Cutter and Skywise are off having their adventures all is not well at home. Savah went out on one of her psychic journeys and did not return. Just before this happened she said that there was evil out there and it was something that Cutter should never find. With Savah catatonic and no more details about Cutter, Leetah, her children, and most of the Wolfriders decide to try and find Cutter.

Cutter is reunited with Leetah and his children when he frees them from the preservers cocoons, only to learn that the rest of the Wolfriders are prisoners in the Blue mountain. Cutter, Skywise, Leetah, the children and one the preservers, Petalwing, set off to find the Wolfriders. They meet Winnowill, a cruel and powerful elf who is keeping the Wolfriders as slaves and prisoners. They meet elves that can fly and ride giant eagles. And finally they meet Lord Voll, a very wise and old elf, that believes they are a dying race because there are no elf children. That is all true until he meets Cutter’s children, the only elf offspring he has known in hundreds of years.

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Cutter and the Wolfriders eventually work out their differences with the elves of Blue Mountain and become their guests. Cutter believes that the Wolfriders are safe in Blue Mountain. Cutter and the Wolfriders learn much more about their history from Winnowill and Lord Voll. They learn that elves, trolls, and the preservers all came to this world from the stars together, in a palace that lands on a mountain. The rest of the story we already know, they leave the palace and are attacked and killed by humans. The remaining elves, trolls, and preservers scatter trying to find a home on this new world. They also learn that the first chief of the Wolfriders was the offspring of a wolf and one of the High ones who could shape shift.

This will all eventually blow up in Cutter’s face as Winnowill will kidnap his son and have the Blue mountain elves attack the Wolfriders when they feel the safest. The Wolfriders defeat Winnowill and rescue Cutter’s son. After all that has happened to the Wolfriders Cutter decides that the best thing for them is to return to the forest instead of pursuing the quest for the palace of the High ones, more elves, and some place that humans will never find them. Things don’t Cutter’s way, as usual, and when Lord Voll asks to take the Wolfriders for one last flight before they leave, he kidnaps them. He and his eagle riding elves fly for a long time, with the Wolfriders giving chase on the ground. They are headed to where he believes the high ones palace is.

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Trolls attack the flying elves and kill Lord Voll and his eagle as they approach the mountain that is their destination. There is a battle and the Wolfriders are saved by another tribe of mountain elves. This new tribe of elves take the Wolfriders back to their home to give them shelter and heal their wounded. Once everyone is safe an old friend makes his presence known, and Rayek reveals himself. Rayek tells the tale of his journey. As Cutter and the other Wolfriders recover they find that they indeed are very close to where the palace of the High ones is. The only problem now is the mountain Trolls lie between them and their ancestral home.

The finale of the story features the Wolfriders, Rayek, and band of Trolls lead by Picknose all working together to defeat the mountain trolls and finally get to the High ones palace. We finally meet Two-edge and see what his treasure is. We learn that Leetah cannot heal all wounds. Cutter and Rayek, once bitter enemies, will work together towards their common goal. Cutter will guide the elves to victory and safety. They learn even more of their history as the enter the palace of the High ones. Feeling safe and empowered Cutter leads the elves back to the forest, presumably ready for their next adventure. It is a wonderful chapter and instead of going into all the details I would encourage you to read for yourself.

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Conclusion

Elfquest, the original quest, is a wonderful fantasy story and a beautiful work of art. It is an extremely important independent comic. It is the story of heroes, tragedy, and triumph. Simply put it is just an amazing story that I love very much.

Cutter, the hero, continually leads his tribe into and out of danger. He makes poor decisions and is continually having to fix problems he might have been able to avoid had he not been so headstrong and impulsive. He kills a human which in turn angers the humans enough for them to burn down the forest they all live in. He leads his people to the trolls who send them out into a desert and their doom. He invades another elf village and acts like a barbarian. He continues to put his trust in those who will end up betraying him. In the end and through all the adversity he leads the Wolfriders to their ancestral home and safety, finally redeeming himself.

I want to thank you for joining me for this tale of adventure and redemption. I also want to thank the Super Blog Team Up team for inviting me to participate. Please visit the rest of the team sites, read and listen to their offerings, you won’t be sorry. They are all wicked awesome blogs and podcasts that are worth your time to visit and explore.

separation banmer

Coffee and Comics Green Lantern #100 https://coffeeandcomicspodcast.blogspot.com/2019/01/episode-31-green-lantern-100.html

Two Staple Gold: Just a Pilgrim
twostaplegold.blogspot.com

Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU Presents – Redemption/Coming Home: Shredder https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/super-blog-teamup-redemption-the-shredder/

The Superhero Satellite: The Walking Dead: “Redeeming Negan”
https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/super-blog-team-up-redemption-redeeming-negan

Longbox Review: Nightwings Redemption
http://longboxreview.com/2019/01/23/the-redemption-of-nightwing/

Between The Pages Blog:  The Secret Origin Of Spider-man https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2019/01/the-secret-origin-of-spider-man.html

The Unspoken Decade: What If V2 #46 and 47.
https://theunspokendecade.com/

Black, White and Bronze: The Redemption of Red Sonja, Savage Sword of Conan #1 https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2019/01/super-blog-team-up-redemption-of-red.html)

The Daily Rios: Thanos: Samaritan (Issues 7-12 2004)
http://thedailyrios.com/

Chris Is On Infinite Earths: The Pied-Piper Reforms!  Flash (vol.2) #31 https://www.chrisisoninfiniteearths.com/2019/01/flash-vol2-31-1989.html

Crapbox Son Of Cthulu: Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle http://crapboxofcthulhu.blogspot.com/

In My Not So Humble Opinion – The Other Side of the Wind: The Redemption of Orson Welles
https://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/

The Retroist Via Vic Sage:The Redemption Of Magneto
https://www.retroist.com/

The Source Material Comics Podcast: Penance – The Redemption of Speedball – https://www.spreaker.com/user/10409169/sm-sb-final

The Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu: Iron Man: Alcoholic, Part I
https://crapboxofcthulhu.blogspot.com/2019/01/iron-man-alcoholic-part-i.html

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Year end review

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I read a lot of comics this year, listened to a lot of awesome comics related podcasts,  and went to a bunch of great conventions and shows. There were certainly more high points than there were low points and I thought it might be fun to look back at them now.

Highlights

Black Hammer

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Some of the consistently best titles that I read are Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer comics. This year the story was renewed with Black Hammer: Age of Doom with Lucy finding the missing heroes. We also got the Doctor Starr and Quantum Age mini series and the announcement of a new mini series next year, Black Hammer ‘45, that he’s doing with Ray Fawkes and Matt Kindt. While Black Hammer is a love letter to classic DC comics stories and characters, it is much more that than. It is a gripping story that is an excellent example of how superheroes can be so much more than powerful beings who save the world week in and week out.  I would highly recommend this comic to anyone whether they are a superhero fan or not.

Fear Agent

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I think what makes a great artist is that they can evoke an emotional response when viewing their work. For me that makes Rick Remender a great artist. Every single issue of his comics that I have read has sparked big time emotional reactions. When I first read Seven from Eternity I was so blown away I read it again immediately. It was one of the things that inspired me to start this blog. Black Science has been a wonderful journey across time and space that has complexity and cliff hangers so exciting that it is thrilling when a new issue arrives.

This year Image released new collected editions of Fear Agent in softcover trade paperbacks. I read the first two volumes on two different plane rides, finishing each one just before landing. While I am really a huge fan of buying single issues and collecting back issues, there really is something to be said for trade paperback collections and being able to read a story in one shot. It is hard to describe how I felt after reading these stories. I was so excited it was all I wanted to talk about. I felt like I had been on an emotional roller coaster with the main character Heath Hudson. Even as I write this I find it difficult to put emotion to keyboard. Anyway, it is a great comic and Image published some very nice trades that were priced just right. I would recommend this series to any fan of science fiction or pulp style stories.  

#JLAMay2018

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Back in May a group of podcasters got together for what I believe was the third or fourth annual JLAMay event. This year they were going to revisit the Mark Waid lead event JLA Silver Age from 2000. I had a few of the issues already and picked up the rest online. I read the series and followed along with all the podcasts. The series was okay, the podcasts were much better. I was a lot of fun reading the comics and then listening to the podcasts. I hope they do another event year.

Superman

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It was a big year for Superman. Action Comics 1000 was released, Peter Tomasi finished up his wonderful run on the Rebirth Superman series, and Brian Michael Bendis was brought on to helm both Action Comics and Superman. I was quite disappointed to see Peter Tomasi leave. He wrote some great stories over the last two and half years including the Dinosaur Island tribute to Darwin Cooke, the country fair issue, the Manchester Black “Black Dawn” story, and the touching “BOYzarro Re-Death” story in issues 42-45. Brian Michael Bendis kicked off his run with a story in Action comics 1000, that continued into the Man of Steel mini-series. From there Superman and Action comics were re-launched as monthly series (previously bi-weekly).

The Man of Steel mini series was only so-so. The story could easily have been released as a 64 page giant as the lead in to the new series, but I’m not an editor at DC and no amount of fan mail is going to change that. Superman kicked off with a new number 1, Action continued with the legacy numbering, and both series have been very good. All the hand wringing and fret over Tomasi and Jurgens (Action Comics) being booted was for naught.

The arson and murder mystery going on in Action Comics has been very interesting with some clever details, like criminals knowing not to say Superman’s name out loud because he’s always listening. I’m a couple issues behind on Superman but I’m excited to see how the Phantom Zone story wraps up. Both series have featured some fantastic art; Joe Prado & Ivan Ries (Superman) and Patrick Gleason & Yanick Paquette (Action). Each series has been fun and as far as I know have been released on time. Again, I would recommend each.

Comic Conventions

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I was fortunate enough to be able to attend several conventions this year. I went to the Connecticut convention, TerrifiCon at Mohegan Sun, for the first time. It was very well done convention with a lot of dealers selling all kinds of stuff, including plenty of comics to search through. There was a lot of fantastic talent too, Jim Starlin, Christopher Priest, Jerry Ordway, Mike Zeck to name just a few. The main reason I went though was to get Roy Thomas’s autograph. I don’t think he does too many conventions and I wanted to ask him to sign some issues of my favorite comics of all time, All Star Squadron. He was a super nice guy and a pleasure to talk for the minute or two I was able to while he signed my books.  

I also made what has become an annual trip to the Baltimore Comic Con with my brother and a couple of friends. Baltimore is a convention primarily for people who still read and invest in comics but there is plenty of Cos-play and kids stuff for families to enjoy. This year I spent the bulk of my time collecting autographs and met quite a few creators. I was most excited to meet Wendy and Richard Pini and ask them to sign some Elfquest comics. They were awesome and seemed to appreciate every fan that they meet.

Finally I went to the Northeast comic con and collectible extravaganza a couple of times. This show appears every few months in different parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There are a usually a good amount of dealers selling comics, at least enough to spend a couple hours digging through bins to find a few gems to make the afternoon trip worth my time. This year I picked up lots of good stuff but the real story was the issue of DC Comics Presents #47, the first appearance of He-Man that I found. I paid a price that was very much in my range due to two stamps that had been pressed into the cover. The stamps are barely noticeable and I was able to get one step closer to completing my collection of DC Comics Presents. I plan on doing a post on it next year.

Not So Highlights

I don’t want to write too many negative things about this past year (you can get plenty of that in the real world and elsewhere on the interwebs). Instead I’ll just touch on a couple of things that were either disappointing or did not work out too well.

Metal

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Zack Synder and Greg Cappulo’s big event book. It was a crazy story and was fun. Kicking everything off with Challenger mountain showing up in Gotham to the final defeat of the Dark Universe Gods it was a thrilling ride, but not without its problems. There were plenty of delays, which in my opinion, has been a big problem with DC events for years. A story that could have been nice and tight with cliffhangers making the reader look forward to each consecutive month really suffers when the first three issues come out on time and the rest suffer from delays. The delays really deflate the anticipation for the reader.

The other problem was that the tie in books were only so so. Some of the books were pretty good, while others were not (I’m looking at you Murder Machine and The Devastator). I know tie in books are just done to sell more comics but these were a little flat and with the release delays of subsequent issues brought only more of a let down.

Finally the New Age of Heroes books, that were launched from the Metal story, really had nothing to do with the events of Metal or only loosely did. I liked most of these titles, but other than The Terrifics, I don’t feel that any of them are “must read” books.

Doomsday Clock

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Truth be told I am really enjoying Doomsday Clock. I love Geoff Johns story, and feel it is a worthy sequel to the original story, or is at least the best use of The Watchmen characters since the original maxi series. Gary Frank’s art is breathtaking, I cannot remember ever being disappointed by his work. None of that is bad. Where the problem lies are the delays.

The twelve issue story that is supposed to move the entire Rebirth story to the next stage and what started in November of 2017 is now scheduled to finish in the summer of 2019. What should have taken a year to finish and now will take almost two and is just causing all the other story lines to have to wait. The kick off issue with Wally West and the Button stories were super exciting when released and unfortunately we fans are now spending more time waiting to see what happens next as the issues of Doomsday Clock trickle out.
DC’s Hanna Barbera comics

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(The above issue of Future Quest presents was not a disappointment, it was just the first Hanna Barbera comic I found for a photo)

I have enjoyed almost all the Hanna Barbera comics. The Jetsons was fantastic and touching. Future Quest presents were fun stories featuring classic characters. The Supersons & Blue Falcon story is what all the crossovers should aspire too (I thought it was even better than the King’s Elmer Fudd story). What I think they need to move away from is having all the series try to recreate the magic of Mark Russell’s Flintstones series.

Most of the series; SnagglePuss, Rough & Ready, etc. all seemed to force beloved cartoon characters into stories with heavy social commentary. I liked them well enough but they felt very formulaic, heavy handed, and trite all at the same time. These characters are classic characters and I think that the first thought should be “what can we do that’s fun?” and then add whatever themes might work and not the other way around.    

This Blog

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a ton of fun writing this blog and the reaction to it has been more than I could hope for. What’s disappointing is that I had more plans for it than I was able to carry out. I had an planned for an ambitious read through of the entire Micronauts series in the summer but when I took a trip for work and spent every day working close to 16 hours I did not get to read much and fell behind. I’m not looking for pity, I just need to have better expectations for what I can get done and cannot when life gets in the way. For 2019 I’ll try my best to get a couple posts a month and be happy with that.  

Final Thoughts

There are certainly lots more great things that I read in 2018, Margaret Atwood’s Warbears, the conclusion to  Mister Miracle, the new Shazam comic, Daredevil vs the Beast and Mayor Fisk stories, and Plastic-man to name just a few. I discovered the seventies humor / weird anthology Plop! and was able to complete almost the entire run. I got a fantastic deal on Thanos Quest #2 (first printing), 50 dollar comics with Thanos Quest thrown in for free. I got to spend a weekend discussing nothing but comics with my brother and friends in Baltimore. And probably best of all I have almost finished converting all my long boxes to short boxes.

All in all 2018 was a pretty great year where my comic collection was concerned. I want to wish that everyone who happens to read this post a happy and prosperous 2019. I would also invite you to comment on the comics that you liked and didn’t like this year. Thank you for visiting. I’ll close out with one of my favorite variants for Action Comics 1000 by Patrick Gleason. 

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The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories

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The earliest Christmas comic I can recall reading was in the Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book comics. It was the Carl Barks story “Letter to Santa” featuring Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck. Over the years I’ve read plenty of good Christmas stories, the Bark’s classic “Christmas in Shacktown”, Denny O’Neil’s “Wanted: Santa Claus – Dead or Alive”, or even “Last Christmas” featuring Firestorm from this year’s DC Nuclear Winter Special. Almost all the Christmas stories I’ve read feature either Superheros or the Disney Ducks.

This Treasury of Christmas Comics is filled with comics with Santa Claus, funny animals, and little kids. It also has a version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” drawn by Mike Sekowsky and the biblical story of Christ’s birth drawn by Alberto Giolitti. For this piece I want to focus on the story that was the reason I ordered the book, Walt Kelly’s “How Santa Got His Red Suit”.

Walt Kelly (1913 – 1973) was a world famous cartoonist who created Pogo and all his wonderful friends. He also worked for Disney and Dell Comics. Over the years I have really become enamored with his work and was eager to read this Christmas story. I just love his art with his wonderful characters and the amazing details. There is a softness to his work that is very comforting. I could gush on and on about his abilities but instead let’s get to the Christmas story.

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This Treasury is a soft cover comic published by IDW Publishing and edited by Craig Yoe. It features twenty stories from the Gold and Silver ages. There is a introduction from Yoe where he says that one of the best things about Christmas was the new Christmas comics that he received as gifts when he was a kid because they featured some of the writers and artist’s best work. I appreciated the brief introduction as it lets the focus be on the comics themselves. Some historical info might have been good but I think the book was designed for the young and the old and I know when I was a kid I didn’t pay much attention to introductions or any of that kind of thing.

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The story begins with an introduction informing the reader that Santa didn’t always wear red. In fact he wore everything from green trousers to yellow cloaks, and sometimes even blue. In this story Santa is wearing yellow pants, a green coat, and an orange cape. He does have his familiar black boots and red gloves. One interesting note is that when Santa is leaving the North Pole his little friends are called gnomes, not elves as they are commonly referred today.

Santa’s trip takes him to the forest of St. Nicholas, where there is nowhere to land his sleigh. He parks on a cloud and climbs down a rope. All this time he is being watched by Jack Frost, a mischievous looking elf if I ever saw one. Jack Frost leaps to Santa’s sleigh and takes off while Santa is on the ground. Santa shouts at Jack who replies that he always wanted to drive his team. Dejected Santa decides there is nothing to be done and starts to look for shelter.

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Santa comes across a tiny house at the base of a tree and knocks on the door hoping that whomever is home can direct him to some shelter. A naked pink elf with two antenna answers the door, wishes Santa a Merry Christmas and invites him in. While Santa finds the prospect of someone his size entering the tiny house humorous the elves all start to help him in. Several push from the rear and the rest pull his beard. Eventually the elves get him in doors.

Once inside they ask him who he is. Santa, surprised they don’t know who he is, replies with the question, “Who am I?” The elves respond, “You mean you don’t know either?”. It really is a great gag for a kids comic.

At first the elves don’t believe him because he has no gifts, sleigh, or reindeer. Santa tries to prove his identity by telling them that he can tell them what they each got for Christmas the year before. One snappy elf replies that everyone knows elves get clothes for Christmas. An older grey haired elf with a pipe starts to give Santa the business saying sure, the real Santa always drops presents down the chimney, knocks over the tree and leaves feeling pretty proud of himself.

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Santa starts to catch on and recognizes the old elf as someone who worked in his toy workshop. He identifies the old elf as Bundlecrunch and they have a happy old time. Eventually everyone settles down and they ask why Santa is there and not out delivering toys. Santa explains that Jack Frost stole his sleigh and now he has no toys for the children of St. Nicholas forest. Not wanting to hear all the crying children on Christmas morning the elves all decide to make new toys.

As the elves start churning out toys made from things around their house, Santa realizes he has no clothes to give the elves this year. He decides to make them new cloths from the clothes he’s wearing. Sitting in his boxers and t-shirt, he cuts up his pants, cape, and sweater to make new clothes. As he starts to make the clothes he feels tired and decides to take a brief nap. The elves find Santa asleep and see that he was making them clothes, but pretty awful ones. It turns out Santa is not a tailor. The elves decide to finish the clothes themselves and when Santa wakes up he’ll think he did it.

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Santa eventually does wake up and Bundlecrunch tells him that he made all these wonderful clothes the elves are now wearing. Santa is surprised with them turning out so good because he’s never sewed a stitch before. He also realizes that he’s got no clothes to wear to deliver all the toys the elves made. The elves have got an answer for this problem as well. They know their friend Timbertop the giant will be coming by very soon and they chase him down when he does. The elves tell the giant they need to make clothes for Santa from his red coat tails.

The elves then make the familiar red coat and pants with white fur trim. Santa is worried he won’t look good in red, but the elves tell him that everyone looks good in red. I’m not sure that’s exactly true but we’ll go with it. The elves have saved the day and Timbertop helps Santa deliver the presents to all the children of St. Nicholas forest.

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Final Thoughts

I thought this was a really great story because it was not typical Christmas fair. Right off the bat there are the gnomes and elves. The gnomes that appear in the first couple of panels are tiny people with cute hats and long noses. They are identified as Santa’s friends, while later on we meet the elves in St. Nicholas Forest who are then identified as toy makers that have worked for Santa. I find it odd and amusing to have the characters differentiated this way.

Also the elves are sort of naked little cherubs with antenna, like aliens, but if Santa gives them clothes every year why aren’t they wearing them now? Why are they naked? They can clearly make clothes and like the presents Santa gives them, so there is no reason for them to be naked now, and yet here we are. Finally the elves are sarcastic little buggers who really seem to enjoy teasing Santa. They are not the typical work horses that sing all day and make toys for kids.

It’s also not the typical story because the original problem of the stolen sleigh is never resolved. Santa gets the toys to the kids of the forest but we never see Jack Frost, the sleigh, or the reindeer again. Santa really does come off as a bit of a dope. Between not being able to park his sleigh, not recognizing one of his previous toy makers, and then believing that he made all the clothes after sleeping away the night, it seems rather improbable that this guy could get it together to give toys to all the children of the world.

All in all it is a wonderful story with some dynamite Walt Kelly writing and art work. It has good humor and that warmth I mentioned previously with its soft colors and detailed pencils. The story alone is worth the price admission in my opinion but there are plenty of other wonderful stories in this treasury. This is something I will definitely pull out next year to revisit. I’ll wrap the piece up with a one page gag from the inside front cover that I am pretty sure is also Walt Kelly. And to you, the reader, I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy and Safe New Year!

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