Comic books, oddly enough, are somewhat lacking in comedy. As I recently discussed in McSweeney’s, The Superior Foes of Spider-Man—a book about some bumbling costumed villains—is a rare exception and a breath of fresh air in the usually stuffy world of comics. Another example is Krampus! This Image Comics series, written by Brian Joines and illustrated by Dean Kotz, puts holiday lore in a ridiculously enjoyable blender.
Why is this series funny? In fact, why is it so funny that you should be reading this holiday-themed book every month, even though Christmas is many moons away?
For starters, the premise is gold: someone has stolen the bones of St. Nicholas, which deprives members of the Secret Society of Santa Clauses—gift givers from around the world—of their powers, such as the ability to quickly dispense gifts and slide down a chimney unscathed. They must turn to the Krampus, the German demon known for stuffing misbehaving children in a sack, for help. The Santas have kept Krampus prisoner for 60 years, but they turn him loose to investigate the stolen bones.
Here are 10 reasons this series is funny and awesome:
1) There are many preposterous lines like “Get away from the casket, you confectious vermin!”
2) In the weird world of this comic, the Sugar Plum Fairies are vicious stooges for even worse bad guys.
3) To keep the Krampus in check, the Santas saddle him with a Naughty Bomb that will explode if he thinks thoughts that are, well, naughty. In this world, a group of Santas aren’t afraid to blow somebody up.
4) The Krampus’ German accent is written for maximum ridiculousness.
5) The Secret Society of Santa Clauses is a political cesspool on the edge of a coup.
6) Stutgaard, the Krampus’ flying wolf, is a classic comic book pet, in the spirit of Krypto the Superdog, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Saga’s Lying Cat.
7) To the Santas and Krampus, "The List of Nice" is a sacred text akin to the Bible or Dead Sea Scrolls.
8) The art is consistently lively and action-packed. The facial expressions of the often perplexed Krampus are worth the prices of admission.
9) If you’re as tired of winter as I am, you’ll get much pleasure from seeing Old Man Winter suffer.
10) As silly as all of this may sound, it’s all life and death real to the characters. There’s a real mystery and real stakes for the Krampus and all the Santas. The lack of winking to the audience adds to the humor.
If you like Christmas mythology, absurd humor, vibrant art, and/or anti-heroes, you'll dig this comic. Even if you've never stuffed a naughty child in a sack.