christmas comic cavalcade: extreme super christmas special (image comics)

This week, we’re looking at Extreme Super Christmas Special, published in 1994 by Image Comics.

Cover price was $2.95.

I was a bit leery of jumping back into the Image Comics waters after last year’s dreadful Gen 13: A Christmas Caper, but it’s the holiday season, right? It’s a time for making peace and moving on. I figured it was worth a shot… even though just typing the name of this comic makes me want to punch someone in the face. Extreme Super Christmas Special? Give me a break!

At least I knew I’d be getting a somewhat competent story this year, as Extreme Super Christmas Special was plotted with layouts from Keith Giffen. Giffen’s most well-known for his work at DC Comics, where he helped bring Justice League International into popularity in the 1980’s. Giffen also created Lobo for DC, one of their most popular characters in the 1990’s. I was also interested in seeing early pencil work (breakdowns) from cartoonist/illustrator Todd Nauck.

I know next to nothing about the Image/Extreme Comics roster. I know Extreme was the playground of Rob Liefeld and that Liefeld used the platform to create a universe teeming with ultra-violent super “heroes” with very little to no characterization. The most popular of these titles was Liefeld’s own Youngblood. Extreme Super Christmas Special stars Troll, a character who is a card-carrying member of Youngblood. Like literally, he flashes a Youngblood card in this comic. As with most of the Image Comics’ stable of superheroes, Troll has a super derivative look. He’s basically a tiny Wolverine with a more playful attitude.

The story begins and already I’m just about lost. Here’s the first page, and then I’ll tell you my problems with it.

…so my problem is the weird placement of word balloons. The old Greek guy shaves the lamb. The lab goes off to “frolic” and then explodes or something (complete with “Bamf!” sound effect, directly lifted from Marvel‘s Uncanny X-Men)… but then there’s that final word balloon! I would assume from having read on in the story, those words should be coming from the lamb… but the word balloon is weirdly situated, so as to make out as if there was someone else off panel, perhaps standing near the old Greek guy. If the lamb’s the thing that’s exploding, how is it talking off panel? Should I be thinking this much about something so stupid?

As it turns out, the lamb was the goddess Circe. She had been trapped in lamb form by Troll in “Ye Olde Ancient Greece” many years ago.

Circe is now bald, fat, and looking for revenge. I guess it wasn’t enough to just TAKE revenge, she had to give Troll the chance to stop her. Troll has to go out and collect every item referenced in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If he can’t do it in 12 hours, every man on Earth will be turned into a warthog.

Again, there are a LOT of problems with this premise. Christmas as we know it didn’t exist in “Ye Olde Ancient Greece.” Even presuming it had, the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” wasn’t written until the late 1700’s. Presuming Circe has been trapped as a lamb all this time, how did she know Christmas was a thing and why is she using it as her tool for revenge? Should I be thinking this much about something so stupid?

Troll now has to head off to collect the various and sundry from the lyrics to the song. Giffen’s plot makes some references to Troll being “a collector” and there’s shilling for Wizard: The Guide to Comics

…but that really doesn’t have anything to do with the story.

Some of the items Troll has to find are are easy to procure

..some are not so easy. Giffen’s always been able to craft a funny mainstream superhero comic and this one has its’ moments. I enjoyed this sequence (however stereotypical it might be) of Troll trying to get his hands on six “pregnant geese” by traveling over the Canadian border.

Todd Nauck’s artwork is pretty rough, but he’s at the beginning of his career and I can forgive some of his excesses here. What it pretty unforgivable is the inking on this comic. SIX inkers are credited with this book: Marlo Alquiza, Larry Stucker, Rob Liefeld, Stephen Platt, Jeff Matsuda, and Chap Yaep all worked over Nauck’s breakdowns. The book is pretty damn inconsistent looking as a result. Page 22 looks great, with lots of detail work

…and then page 20 looks like something drawn by a kid in middle school!

I should also say: technically, this is a double-sized, 48 page comic… but 16 of those pages are pin-ups and house ads for other Extreme comics and products. It’s still oversized when compared to a traditional 24 page comic story but damn, there are a LOT of ads in this sucker.

Extreme Super Christmas Special is kind of a train wreck… but there’s some competency within the mess. Todd Nauck has gone on to bigger and better assignments and Giffen’s still putting his unique stamp on the DC Universe books published today. They’re popular creators with a lot to offer… but I VERY much doubt this one makes it to the top of their resumes.

EDIT: Dude, I just realized they misspelled Connecticut in that last panel. Definitely something I should have mentioned back in 2012.

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