Juan Nicholas Cerone
Grimm Tales of Terror from Zenescope Comics is truly one of my favorite comic books to read. This holiday special was different from the regular issues as we had four separate short stories in the one issue. So, this WILL be a longer read. But, no worries. Still awesome stuff.
In THIS particular specialty issue we start with a buxom redhead who is obviously hosting HER holiday dinner party for the season. Along with making some rather unusual chitchat she begins telling stories…”stories among friends” she says. Ooookkkaaayyy….
So, she starts with Mall Santa, a true Christmas original, the Evil Santa horror story… Now we’ve all heard a version of this at one time or another, we’ve seen a version in a movie or in a comic book or on TV. This one works at the mall. A bad, evil mall Santa. In the first two panels we see him kill a woman while singing a Christmas tune to her and the immediately return to sitting kids on his lap and doing the whole “what do you want for Christmas?” routine.
One little boy catches his attention when he figures out that it’s just the kid, his sister and his mother at his house. Now, as Santa a kid is gonna trust him and give him the address when he says “tell me your address so I can bring your sis some coal this year, since she doesn’t believe in me”…and addy given. (Insert huge eye roll here, parents make sure your kids now Santa already knows your address, shaking my head. This IS how horror movies happen ya know?)
Anyways, this whole time the non-believer sister is talking about “Krampus”, an evil spirit that comes to life and eats you if you say his name three times and are “misbehaving”.
Fast forward to later that night, everyone is at home after see psycho mall Bad Killer Santa. He comes to break in, does so, threatens the boy and goes upstairs to have his way with the mother. The boy is left downstairs to his own devices. (Yes, I admit, this is not smart criminal, two kids in the house, doesn’t secure them or the scene, just runs on up to Mama to get some…moron.)
So kiddo is sittin' there thinking in his panic…Krampus…Krampus…KRAMPUS!!! And he says the name three times out loud. This huge disgusting gargoyle of a demon like creature (not holiday or Christmas like at all, mind you) shows up and has a simple question…”Where?” Kid points upstairs.
Our demon monster heads upstairs, confronts Evil raping murdering Mall Santa in mid swing with a meat cleaver going at the mother’s neck and scares the shit out of Santa baby. Santa begs to be allowed to repent only to be told there is no GOD here and he WILL suffer as the demon drags him from the home.
At the end of story one Red is drinking some wine and feeling pretty proud of her entertainment skills but, she wants to keep the party going. So we move onto story two, Pollyanna.
This story takes place at a small office Christmas party. We open with a bunch of judgmental; chicks gossiping in the ladies room… (I’ll withhold any stereotypical comment). They’re talking about who got who in the secret Santa drawing and how they are all creeped out by “Scary Gary”, the outcast of the office. Apparently, he gives “creepy” mirrors for presents and when the lights go out, they look in the mirror, people freak out, run away and never come back. Weird yeah?
So, at this point we are all thinking, well, what do they see in the mirror???
As the women are gossiping, the men of the office are sharing some “locker room talk” (wink wink) about who get what from who in the office and all that jazz. Some brag, some are more passive aggressive but they are all participating in the proverbial dick measuring contest. We finally get to the point where the hefty office boss, who has obviously been tipping them back since the party first kicked off, states that “the gift giving may now commence!” and an eerie silence fills the room.
Gifts are exchanged. Scary Gary gives his “creepy mirror” to our nameless female office worker. Just as she receives her mirror the lights go out, just as she was told they would. She looks in the mirror but it’s not HER reflection that scares her. Scary Gary starts coming at her with a knife. She panics telling him he doesn’t have to do this, they can help each other. She looks in the mirror again to see one of her male coworkers reflection in it behind her, He’s got the face of something she’s never seen before, something halfway between human and demon, something of this world and something beyond the realm she’s always known.
Gary lunges past her, plunging the knife into Ken, the male coworker. She starts asking Gary all kinds of questions and finds out that this “mirror” can detect incubi and succubae, both of which are demons that use sex to seduce their prey and lure them in for the kill. She’s shocked to find out Gary thought she was a succubus and they walk off hand in hand laughing about it as he tells her “everyone makes mistakes.” and she tells him she’s gonna take that as a compliment as they leave the party together, assumingly happily ever after.
Now by this time Red is getting anxious about presents and is wanting to know what’s inside the gifts that have been brought to her, questioning ‘haven’t you ever just wanted to take a peek?”
Which leads us into our third story, Sick Day. You guessed it, Christmas time, parents hide gifts for people around the house, kid plays hooky to stay home from school and snoop. This is one nosy ass kid too, practically tears the house apart looking for gifts. His silly ass should be thinking about how he’s gonna explain this mess when the ‘rents get home but, no…on a mission. And it turns out…he looks everywhere and can’t find anything, not a damn thing. NOTHING! So, where’s the last place to check? Buh, buh, buh….the BASEMENT. Which if course this ten to twelve year old is totally terrified of. But, his need to snoop for presents overrides his fear very quickly. Still finding nothing of what would be considered of regular Christmas value; he does find an old looking book with a skull on the front, which honestly would entice me to no end. Then he finds a door in his basement, one that he hadn’t seen before. When he opens it leads to is crudely bored out tunnel that leads to only what can be described as a room used for, shall we say, unholy worship. Just then two dark figures show up behind him, scaring the holy bejeesuz out of him and he throws his arms up in defense in front of his tiny face and begs for them not to hurt him.
They are his parents. They do NOT look like his parents. They are blue demons with horns and they are explaining to him that they were trying to wait until he was older but since he found the room, they WILL NOT hurt him, he IS their son and he will soon be just like them, stating the “transformation” can now begin and they wish him a Merry Christmas, hoping to him that he likes his present of demon-life ahead.
Now, as we come back to Red, cutting her steak at her “dinner party”, lol, this chick, we finish out our night of Christmas cheer and merry togetherness with the last story, possibly her favorite story; the story of lonely, old, bitter Mr. Mendelsohn.
Mr. Mendelsohn seems, as we begin, the typical bah-humbug, if you will. We start in a Norman Rockwell type town with a group of children in front of his apartment joyfully singing Christmas carols and spreading good cheer and the excitement and spirit of Christmas…which our Mr. Mendelsohn WILL NOT be having.
He yells at the children, telling them to go away, to stop their incessant singing and jolliness which frankly, in his opinion, his cat screeches better than half of them. At this point, a sweet, innocent looking little blond girl walks up to him and lectures him in a very sophisticated childlike manner that he shouldn’t yell at children that way, especially some of which are his former students. (Side note, so now we know he was some sort of “teacher”.) He basically tells her that if they were former students then they should know better and sing better and tells her to bug off. (Ah ha, choir teacher, perhaps…)
Now, creepiness appears in full form as he turns to go inside. He sees a small, childlike figure standing near…but this one is different than the carolers, eerie, ghostly. Pale and drawn, as if almost floating there in his presence. Also, it’s wearing a mask. It reminds me completely of one of the Mardi Gras masks from the Twilight Zone episode ‘The Masks’…very ugly, sad, full of fear and pain, greed and disdain, just overall unsettling, if nothing else. But, like he has to all the other children tonight, he yells at this “child” to go away and get home, retreating into his home and slamming the door.
As he’s walking around trying to find his cat to feed her dinner, he hears that incessant singing again, louder this time. He walks to the door to belt out threats to the carolers once more and he sees a picture on the wall, one of him with one his top students, holding a 1st place ribbon in front of a piano. (Ah Ha!!! Piano teacher!!!!) This puzzles him; apparently this photo has been long put away for some time. He also reminds himself his doctor said there WOULD be side effects to his meds. (Side effects? Hallucinations are beyond side effects people…just a PSA.) Although…the little girl in the photo, looks a lot like his lecturer from earlier this evening. Of course, the angry old man shakes all of this off…moron.
He goes back to his living room, more old photos strewn all over his floor, same kind of pictures; him and his students, 1st place ribbons, in front of pianos.
BAAMMM! Power outage! It IS winter weather, you see…
Suddenly, as he’s stumbling around in the dark, the singing still loud and annoying him, his feet get caught in a string of red mini Christmas lights, which illuminate a framed newspaper page on the wall “Missing Child”…
He keeps telling himself it’s just his meds, that it’s not real as the lights wind around his feet, halting his movement. He turns to the opposite wall, his instrument wall, and screams in horror. His cat is pinned to the center of the wall, eviscerated, a look of sheer terror on its little furry face.
As he turns to try to run he trips and falls in the mess of lights and his piano eerily slides over, lifts up and smashes down on him causing him to cry out in pain and anguish, his bones and body crush under the weight of the baby grand. Through his screams, a child’s voice “Touchy, feely teacher…look at me...”. (Now we know EXACTLY WHAT HE IS, yeah?)
This is the masked child. The closer the child gets the more scared Mr. Mendelsohn gets. Then, just as they are face to face, the kid rips off the mask to expose a horrible, decomposing, demon-zombie like face. Of course Mr. Mendelsohn screams out begging for help and the child is much too happy to oblige.
Raising both hands, a grimy syringe with a bent, twisted needle in each hand, the child tells Mr. Mendelsohn he DOES need help, he needs more medicine and plunges the syringes into him, Mr. Mendelsohn crying out in agony as he dies.
And our little girl, our little lecturer, she’s outside at the window with a front row seat, watching every little ounce of agony and terror spew from Mr. Mendelsohn as she smiles and says, “Never again.”, and she runs off to join the other carolers.
And now we are back to Red. She’s telling us that one had a happy ending. Right on. Can’t say I disagree. She then points out that it’s somewhat disturbing to know that people like that even celebrate the holidays…”murderers, thieves, rapists and kidnappers.” And we see that her dinner guests are...dead people. That’s right, DEAD people, presumably those she has wreaked havoc on herself. And as she points out that we all celebrate equally, she wishes ALL Happy Holidays.
As always, I love Grimm Tales of Terror. They always leave me wanting more and I can’t get enough of the artwork. There are subtleties in the writing that you catch onto reading it a second time. Great strokes of genius in the storytelling and artwork. Always fun for the true horror fan.
Now a little more detail about the artwork here. Now that being said, there are a number of writers, artists, story creators, letterers, etc. for this issue. To give proper due credit to each one would take way to long. SO, I WILL say this... Each story took about five to seven pages and moved very quickly, wasting no time on a lot of needless character development or background information, yet still leaving the average horror fan satisfied with the blood and gore they were exposed to along the way. The artwork, even though there are multiple artists contributing to this issue, is the same caliber of artwork you have always received from GTT and, in my opinion, is great artwork. These artists and writers are truly talented. You can tell that each artist has their own style but they all work very well together in the issue allowing it to flow very easily for the eye of the reader as they move through the stories. Plus, it’s a nice break for each short story to have their own artists. Oh and I happen to think that it was very cool of Brusha and Tedesco to give full cover credits to the writers of the stories and that's it. Everyone gets credits inside the comic book but, to get full cover credits is really awesome when you are collaborating. As always, thanks for reading!!! Hope everyone had a great holiday. Wishing you all a Happy and SAFE New Year!!!