Sunday, November 26, 2006

Number 59

A Humbug Christmas Carol

Ho! Ho! Ho! Only five weeks until Christmas, boys and girls! Have you got your online shopping done yet? It can be exhausting going to website after website, typing in your credit card number, can't it?

Just think of those poor folks out in the stores trying to elbow each other for the last of this year's fad toys, the ones your kids have just gotta have, the ones they'll have broken or discarded before Christmas brunch. Remember, those desperate shoppers all have tired feet from walking the shopping malls, you have tired fingers from keyboarding.

So while taking the occasional break from your online shopping, check with me. For the next five weeks I'll be presenting a different Christmas offering every Sunday until Christmas Eve. First up, a really off-the-wall retelling of an old Christmas chestnut, "A Christmas Carol."

Harvey Kurtzman and his friends started Humbug magazine when their other venture, Trump, was killed by publisher Hugh Hefner after two issues. Humbug was a great magazine, killed by low sales and spotty distribution. It was printed and distributed by Charlton Comics in the same size as comic books. It was priced a nickel more than comic books, and printed in a duotone format. It was also the sort of adult humor that Kurtzman had tried originally with the magazine issues of Mad he had edited. Because of Humbug's size it was most often put with the comic books on a spinner rack, where adult readers weren't likely to find it.

"A Christmas Carol" was published in Humbug #6, January 1958. It was drawn by Arnold Roth, whose work always reminded me of the British Punch magazine cartoonists. A perfect cartoonist to reinterpret Charles Dickens. No writing credit is given, so I'm guessing Kurtzman, who had a way of finding the core silliness of any subject he was lampooning. Nothing was safe from him, not even a maudlin but beloved Christmas story like "A Christmas Carol."

Jack Davis autographed my copy at the 1985 San Diego Comicon.

.…and anyone who doesn't find this story funny will be boiled in his own plum pudding and buried with a sprig of holly through his heart.


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