Christmas Comics Cavalcade: Beetlejuice Horror-Day Special

ChristmasComicCavalcade

Here’s holiday funny book I’ve been trying to track down for awhile… The Beetlejuice Horror-Day Special, published by Harvey Comics in 1991.

img_4574

Before I get into the comic, let’s talk for a minute about how Beetlejuice the animated series was surprisingly good!

beetlejuice-animated_7506.jpg

Considering the source material, it doesn’t seem like a natural fit when you think about it, but Tim Burton’s 1988 film had a hugely devoted crowd of young fans… as a kid, I definitely numbered myself among them. While there were some hugely questionable movie-to-cartoon jumps made in the ’80’s and ’90’s (Robocop? Police Academy?) Beetlejuice had the same kinds of things going for it as Ghostbusters did: Creepy milieu, unique visuals, and above all else… it didn’t take itself too seriously. That’s kiddie catnip, right there.

Obviously, some changes had to be made: The structure of the cartoon (and the comic, which I promise I’ll get to in a second) moves Wynona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz into the protagonist role, ditching Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis’ Maitlands completely. BJ and Lydia have a very clearly defined “best friends” relationship that wisely never references the movie’s third act “Beetlejuice must get married” plot thread. There are a few passing references to the film in the cartoon but they are very tenuous. Beetlejuice: The Animated Series focuses more on wacky adventures in “The Neitherworld”, the crazy/creepy afterlife which is more of a funhouse in the cartoon than the bureaucratic nightmare of the film.

Despite those changes (or perhaps directly because of them) it was an entertaining cartoon and wildly popular! 

Now putting that aside, my real reason for wanting a crack at this comic is the creative team of Michael Gallagher and David Manak who handle writing/art chores on the first, more Christmassy half of this comic. Gallagher and Manak are also the creative team on most of the issues of my childhood favorite comic series, ALF. As ALF was a huge, hobby-defining comic book in my past (I’ve written about it before here) and I was curious to see their take on another property.

The first story, “Get Me To The Church on Slime” begins with Lydia being bummed out that Beetlejuice hasn’t got her a Christmas present

img_4575

Somewhat strangely, the story shifts away from the holidays and doesn’t really touch on them again aside from a few background flourishes on the Manak’s part and a “wrap it up” three panels where the creators seem to remember this is supposed to be tied into Christmas. The rest of the story deals with Beetlejuice accidentally getting engaged and having to have a “shotgum” wedding to a rather normal looking denizen of the Neitherworld.

img_4576

Maybe this was a normal story slightly rejiggered with a few holiday references for a holiday-themed special? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d wondered that about a Christmas book.

Besides my general frustration for comic books that sell themselves as Christmas-themed and then barely touch on the theme, Beetlejuice is a PERFECT fit for the creative team of Gallagher and Manak. Honestly, Beetlejuice is so close to the ALF formula, it’s a no-brainer: You have a “normal” character (here Lydia, there the Tanner family) reacting to the singular weirdness of the main character (Beetlejuice/ALF). That main character comes from a world somewhat like our own but with stranger rules and weird pun-like differences that inevitably drive the story.

Manak sticks to the style of the cartoon although some of the coloring lets him down. I thought it was kind of cool to see him draw in the shrunken-head man as a character, a special effect creature that was prominently featured in the movie but who I don’t really remember making the jump over to the cartoon series.

img_4577

As a kid, I always thought it was a shame that the creators behind the cartoon didn’t bring over more of the film’s weirdly designed ghosts and demons in favor of some more corny recurring character.

img_4580

There’s also a ton of Manak’s somewhat-signature “eye-poppers”: Iittle puns and jokes thrown into the panels that the more eagle-eyed youngsters would enjoy. I’ve never been sure to whom to assign credit for that bit of fun because it was one of the things that most defined ALF to me as a child as a book worth my money. Gallagher worked for MAD Magazine for awhile and those jokes are sort of MAD’s stock and trade. Suffice to say, if you like those kind of gags, you’ll find them here aplenty.

This second story, “Never a Doll Moment” was written by Angelo Decesare and drawn by Howie Post, two guys who know their way around creating comics out of licensed properties. It deals more with some of the recurring characters from the animated series, Jacques and Ginger… and a story about BJ getting a birthday present for Lydia.

img_4581

Why make it a birthday present and not a Christmas present so as to better tie in with either the first story or the supposed theme of this book at all? I do not know. I will say, as a kid and today today, I find Jacques (a French skeleton obsessed with exercise) and Ginger (a tap-dancing spider) to be boring and not good motivators for story. img_4582.jpg

It all ends with a fun “cut it out” card. No artist credits on that one, but I think I can safely say it was Dave Manak who drew that one thanks to his inclusion of an 8-ball, one of his little visual signatures.

img_4583-1

The Beetlejuice Horror-Day Special is one for the record books, but as a fan of the creators and the cartoon on which it’s based… a cool oddity. Beetlejuice has one of the weirder publishing histories in comics if this Wiki page is to be believed so it’s nice to have seen a little bit of that.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: