Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus…

Adapted by Mike Ploog…

Hi Guys,

Well here we are again and, as promised, here is another little missive partly concerning a Christmas Tree.

I first bought this book back in 1993, on the run up to Christmas, whilst I was out in New York working for Defiant Comics. I had never heard of the book before, But Joe, knowing I was a big fan of Mike Ploog’s work, took me along to a comic shop, in Greenwich Village and pointed it out to me.

Well without hesitation I bought the book and what a wonderful story with some lovely artwork to boot it is.

It really was a labour of love for Mike and I have spoken to him personally since about the work. Rendered in watercolours it is a lovely adaptation of the 1902 book by the same name written by L. Frank Baum of “The Wizard of Oz” fame.

There are some changes made to the graphic novelisation, but in the main it stays true to the spirit of the original. The real major change for me with this version is the addition of a monkey character that he adopts and names Toy, in lieu of the cat character from the book named, Blinky.

In Mike’s version the character of the aptly named Toy is quite a poignant addition to the storytelling. Without telling the whole story, the basic premise behind this additional character is one, which serves to add an essence of sadness into the tale and create a potential new reason for one of the legends of Christmas.

After he is given the little monkey by old Pogan, the younger Santa Claus begins to make gifts for all his friends in a new house built by all the faerie folk for him.

Soon afterwards the Awgwas, nasty pig-like creatures find out about his gift making and decide to stop Santa making any more, so the leader of the Awgwas, Swine, can control the children once again.

Despite a warning about the impending attack on his sleigh with a view to stealing all the toys, Santa decides to delivery this shipment to the children. He is duly attacked and the toys are taken from the sleigh. Once recovered from the attack he returns home to see his house and workshop burnt to the ground, all his toys taken and his monkey friend Toy taken by Awgwas.

Again without giving too much away the consequence of this and other events leaves Santa to eventually find Toy, but sadly he is dead. He is told “I am very sorry Claus. He loved you very much. He hid here with the toys and waited for you to come for him.”

Santa is obviously too late and I remember thinking to myself, this is great stuff, but very sad, especially for a kid to read. The consequence of this moving moment though is a sequence, again not in the original book, but one, which Mike has set up perfectly here, is to explain how we got our first Christmas Tree.

Toy’s body is laid to rest beneath a young fir tree around, about, which is placed a garland of winter flowers and candles.

Eventually another sequence takes place with Santa and one of the reindeers sat in the snow beside the once more decorated fir tree reminiscing about how he wishes Toy could be with them on this, their first Christmas eve.

The upshot of the sadness of this tale comes as Santa and his Reindeer turn and walk back to the sleigh and the other Reindeers and Santa says, “But I know in my heart that Toy knows he has become an important part of every child’s life.”

The hard-backed book is a favourite of mine and is a wonderful story to boot, not exactly the same as the original, but a great adaptation and re-telling.

The book was published by Tundra Publishing Limited by arrangement with Guy DELCOURT editions in 1992, so if you haven’t already bought this book here is the ISBN number:

ISBN 1879450-76-3

It’s a great gift for Christmas, but so good, it can be read and appreciated all year around…it certainly is for me…especially as mine was signed by Mike a few years ago, when I visited him and his family at their home in Dingly Dell…

Until next time have fun!

Tim Perkins…
December 16th 2009


jon haward said...

beautiful book and a pleasure to read at christmas :-)

Tim Perkins said...

Yes it is Jon and all-throughout the year too!
Have a great one!