I missed this issue when it came out a couple years ago, but on a recent excursion to the comic store, I saw it on the shelf and picked it up. I always enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because I love the more mysterious folklore associated with the holidays, as well as winter ghost stories. These are the usual inspirations for the annual release.
This issue contains three short tales:
The Miser’s Gift
The Longest Night
The Beast of Ingleheim
I enjoyed all the tales, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose “The Miser’s Gift.” It is a ghost story about a young man who encounters the spirit of a miser, struggling to drag along his sack of money. The young man assists the restless spirit, who in response gives the person a gold coin. The young man then seeks to return the coin to the spirit, claiming:
“You don’t have to pay me. I was doing you a favor. I want to give this back.”
The act of kindness and charity has a healing effect on the spirit, and while the fate of the spirit is left open for the reader to interpret, the implication is that the selfless act of the young man resulted in the tormented soul finally finding peace.
This is such an important message. The spiritual value of unconditional kindness cannot be measured. One seemingly small act can have a rippling effect, which is something I try to keep in mind with all my dealings with others.
I hope this fable has inspired you as much as it did me. May you and your loved ones be blessed. Thanks for stopping by.
For me, what made the “Stranger Things” series on Netflix so engaging was the sense of nostalgia that it evoked. This comic, based on the series, does the same thing for me.
The premise of the story is that Eleven is celebrating her first Christmas with the gang. Since she is unaware of the customs and traditions associated with the holiday season, the boys suggest watching holiday specials which they had recorded on VCR tapes. Each one describes his favorite show in a way that is truly endearing. For example, Dustin begins his explanation of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as follows:
There’s this kid, and he’s always kind of sad and a little lonely, even though he’s got lots of friends around him all the time. But his best friend is really his pet dog, who walks around like he’s people. Anyway, all the kids at school are going to put on a Christmas pageant…like a kind of play…and this guy’s job is to go pick out a Christmas tree for it. But the tree that he brings back is just, like, a stick. It’s completely hilarious.
When asked how her first Christmas was, Eleven replies: “Being together. With family, and friends? That’s the meaning.”
That succinct reply really sums it up for me. The holidays are about connecting with those you care about, sharing joy, and looking forward to a better tomorrow. While it is easy to get caught up in the negative hype that media outlets love to bombard us with, I genuinely feel that there is a lot of love and good which is getting overlooked. Personally, I am going to focus my attention on the things that make me happy this season.
May you and your loved ones be blessed with happiness.
If heaven were to do again, And on the pasture bars, I leaned to line the figures in Between the dotted stars,
I should be tempted to forget, I fear, the Crown of Rule, The Scales of Trade, the Cross of Faith, As hardly worth renewal.
For these have governed in our lives, And see how men have warred. The Cross, the Crown, the Scales may all As well have been the Sword.
Season’s Greetings, fellow readers.
2020 has been a challenging year, for sure, and I think this poem reminds us of something important.
We have experienced a lot of tension resulting from differences in religious beliefs, social ideology, political leadership, and feelings of fear and inequity. At this time of the year, Frost’s poem reminds us that the spiritual values which are supposed to guide us all too often become twisted and distorted into something destructive.
I have one sincere wish for 2021, and that is that we collectively lay down the Sword and begin to treat our fellow humans with… well… humanity. It really is high time we abandoned our habits of vilifying those who do not agree with us, of harboring fear and distrust of others simply because the news media tells us that they might do something that could possibly cause us some imagined inconvenience.
May you and your loved ones have a safe and happy holiday season. Thank you for sharing my reading journey this past year. Keep reading interesting stuff, and help spread some much-needed kindness.
I enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials, particularly because I like winter ghost tales, and the Specials usually contain several stand-alone vignettes that make for a fun read. This issue has three stories. The first two I liked; the third, not so much. But I wanted to share a passage from the second vignette entitled “Lost Ones” which I liked.
“We are gathered here, in the core of the woods, in the dead silence of the coldest night of winter… to guarantee the fertilizing of Nature and the birth of new life… and to protect our land from the evil spirits that might come to possess and poison our crops. The winter has been long and harsh, but with our help it will give place to the abundance of spring.”
I liked this passage because it draws on the imagery of the Solstice. On the longest night of the year, I like to shift my spiritual focus to the coming of spring, to the shift from darkness to light, and from death to regeneration. It marks a somber time of the year, but one that holds the seeds of promise.
May you have a blessed holiday in whatever tradition you embrace.
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Tis the season: lights, decorations, Yule logs, nativity scenes, mistletoe, holiday cheer, and of course, Krampus.
One of the things that I love about the Hellboy series is the way that the creative team incorporates myths, legends, and the occult. Myths are such powerful forms of storytelling and they convey profound wisdom and insight into the human condition that they are able to be re-imagined with each new generation. And that is exactly what this issue does—it presents the story of Krampus in a way that resonates with the average American reader.
You’re going to have to bear with me. I’m an American. Over there we’ve got Santa Claus and the elves with toys. Over here… you’ve got Saint Nicholas and his monster sidekick, the Krampus. While Nick’s handing out toys, Krampus–that’s you–hits the bad kids with sticks and rides them around in a basket.
Toward the end of the tale, Hellboy and the professor discuss the possible origins of the Krampus legend.
Professor: Well, I wonder what old Harry Middleton will make of this. I’ll have to call him in the morning… For years he’s maintained that the Krampus was actually the demon goat of the witches’ sabbath, done up in fancy dress for the holidays. And I’ve argued that it was just a slightly nastier variation on the Scandinavian Yule Goat.
Hellboy: “Yule Goat.”
Professor: Yule Goat. Joulupukki. The pre-Christian goat-man version of Father Christmas.
I had never heard of Joulupukki before, but a quick search online provided me with some background on the myth.
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name “Joulupukki” literally means “Christmas goat” or “Yule Goat” in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English “buck”, and means “billy-goat”. An old Scandinavian custom, the figure eventually became more or less conflated with Santa Claus.
Pagans used to have festivities to honour the return of the sun and some believe Joulupukki is the earliest form of present-day Santa. The Yule Goat was thought by some to be an ugly creature and frightened children while others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule.
Most theorists believe when Christianity began incorporating Pagan ways into their festivals in order to justify the action, they merged the Pagan figure with an already existing Catholic legend known as Saint Nicholas to create Santa Claus.
While the holiday season is a time of celebration throughout cultures and traditions, there is also a touch of the mystical associated with it, and this is often conveyed through ghost stories related to the season.
There must always be ghost stories at Christmas, Elizabeth.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you have a blessed holiday season and a joyous New Year.
Tis the season for the annual X-Files X-mas issue, and this one was mildly entertaining. It is basically an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” where Mulder is visited by ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Overall, it’s pretty silly and not really worth the $7.99 I spent on it, but the smoking man as Jacob Marley (Morley – ha ha) almost made it worthwhile.
There was one quote that I found interesting:
I find encouraging one’s imagination often leads to a purer understanding of the reality that informs it.
Many people look at fantasy and imagination as an escape from reality, but I do not see it that way. Imagination allows us to perceive the fabric of the universe, which reality rests upon. There are some things that can only be glimpsed through the imagination, but that does not make them any less real than what we perceive with our ordinary senses.
Anyway, that’s all I have to share about this graphic novel. It’s pretty mediocre, but if you are a die-hard X-fan like myself, you might find it entertaining.
So this issue is pretty good, but if you have not been following the comic series, you’ll be totally lost. Basically, this special issue wraps things up about as neatly as can be done with the X-files, and also sets the stage for new adventures. It’s a little goofy, kind of fun, but nothing groundbreaking. But it was something at the very back of this issue that caught my attention.
The issue includes a bonus, which is an excerpt from an upcoming X-Files anthology entitled The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There. The book is supposed to be about 400 pages and will contain a rich collection of short stories featuring our friends Mulder and Scully. I did a little research online and here is some info I found out:
Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are back in a chilling collection of all-new tales of dark secrets, alien agendas, terrifying monsters and murderous madmen. Featuring original stories by bestselling authors Rachel Caine, Hank Philippi Ryan, Kelley Armstrong, Kami Garcia, Greg Cox and many others. Edited by New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry (V-WARS).
The book is due out on March 10, 2016. I’m fairly certain I’ll be reading it.
Anyway, this X-mas Special includes one of the stories. It was pretty good, although I did have to overlook some typos which made the editor in me cringe. But typos aside, it was a nice bonus and piqued my interest in regard to the book.
Well, that’s about all I have to share on this one. I’m looking forward to the “X-Files Reopened” which should be starting up very soon. Hopefully I will be able to stream it on Hulu.
I awoke this morning to the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm here in the Appalachian Mountains. It dawned on me that it was Christmas Eve and that I generally like to read and write about something appropriate for the holiday. But with the stresses of my relatively new job and being engrossed in reading the very long and dense Infinite Jest, I failed to look for something to read that was seasonal. So I gave it a little thought and decided that I would read the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs and analyze it as a poem.
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin’s birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire
They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve
What I find most amazing about this poem (yes, I will refer to it as a poem instead of a song) is the expression of contradictory emotions. On one hand, there is disillusion and a touch of sadness, yet this is contrasted by feelings of hope and optimism at the possibility for happiness and spiritual joy. And it is done in such a way that I cannot say which side of the emotional spectrum is most strongly expressed. The result is that you connect to this poem based upon your own emotional state when you engage with it. So if you are feeling sad, you connect with the sadness but then get touched with a sense of hope. Conversely, if you are brimming with joy and happiness, you get that from the poem too, but tempered with the knowledge that there is still sadness in the world and that all things, even the joyous, will pass.
We have all heard the old cliché, that we create our own Heaven and Hell. I believe this, and I love the way it is expressed at the end of this poem. The choices we make and the thoughts that we choose to latch on to directly impact our feelings and the reality around us. If we choose the path of spirituality and happiness, then we deserve the blessings that accompany those conscious decisions and should celebrate those blessings. But if we choose to focus on the negative and the path of hate and fear, then we also deserve the life that we are burdened with and must accept responsibility for the reality which we helped create.
I wish all of you many blessings for the holidays and New Year, regardless of which holiday you observe or whether you observe a holiday at all. For myself, I am going to focus on my family and spreading more happiness, love, compassion, and understanding, because I think the world could use a little more of that right about now.
So I picked this up a while back but have just gotten around to reading it, so I apologize that my review has missed the holiday season.
This issue contains two stories: one featuring Mulder and Scully, and the other featuring Ellinson and Ohio from the Year Zero series. I have nothing to say about the first tale with Mulder and Scully. Honestly, I thought it sucked. It was dull, poorly written, and I just felt like it was thrown together for the purpose of filing pages. Thankfully, the second story was a little more interesting.
The second tale finds the original X-files agents, Bing Ellinson and Millie Ohio, investigating sabotage by a suspected Russian spy. It comes out, though, that the sabotage is being carried out by a gremlin. The interesting twist in the story is that they incorporate Krampus into the tale, since gremlins are dark elves and Krampus is the lord of the dark elves. I like the Krampus myth and this issue does it justice.
Think of him as the anti-Santa. Hairy, horned, carries switches to beat bad children with, sometimes takes the worst tykes away, never to be seen again. I am not making this up. He’s usually out and about the first week of December, but I’m sure we could summon him tonight. What’s Christmas without Krampus, after all?
As much as I love the X-Files, I can’t help but wondering if the series is beginning to lose its steam. I hope not. Hopefully, this issue is just a fluke and Mulder and Scully will return strong. I suppose we’ll find out soon. Cheers, and thanks for stopping by.
Although this is a somewhat lengthy poem, I feel it is worth including here.
The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”
“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”
“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”
He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
As I read this, I couldn’t help feeling so very grateful that I live in a place where I can purchase a single tree from a local farmer who grew it himself. I had to order and pay for the tree in advance, then pick a date when I would meet the farmer. When the day came to pick up the tree, the farmer told me it had been cut that morning. The smell of the fresh pine filled the inside of my station wagon and brought back memories of Christmases as a child.
This poem made me feel a little sad for the people who live in congested places and are out of touch with nature and her cycles. I thought about the exploitation of rural folk and the consumerism that has come to define our society, a consumerism that culminates at this time of the year. And again, I felt grateful and fortunate that I live in a place where I can buy locally grown food directly from a farmer, where I can purchase handmade items from artisans who are my neighbors. I don’t mind spending a little extra for these things. For me, it’s worth it.
The last image that haunted me from this poem was the farmer’s vision of his hills stripped bare for the sake of a pittance. For me, this time of the year symbolizes the promise of rebirth, of light overcoming the dominant darkness. The evergreen tree is a living symbol of this rebirth, surviving through the dark, cold winter, promising the green growth of spring. I suspect that Frost also considered this when he included the subtitle, “A Christmas Circular Letter.” The Christmas Tree symbolizes the circle of life that is renewed after the winter months. The lights represent the warmth and sunlight that will coax the plants from the soil. The round ornaments symbolize the circle of the year and the seasons, as well as the fruits which will reappear in the warmer months.
May you and yours have a blessed holiday and New Year!
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