Welcome to the next entry of this Yuletide Points of Light. Last week, I divulged into A Christmas Carol and mentioned its many adaptations. Today’s entry is one of them, a recent comic adaptation of the last few years. However, this version adds in one of the more recent modern literary trends, with frightening results. With that, I present Marvel Comics’ Zombie Christmas Carol.
While this story follows the basic outline of its source, it adds many new elements. England is in the grip of a zombie plague, with the people attempting to barricade and placate the ‘Hungry Ones,’ inside hospitals and workhouses. Unfortunately, the endless hunger of the zombies has drained resources, causing those in charge to beg for funds from Scrooge. He of course, recants, but is later visited by the zombified remains of Jacob Marley, who says Scrooge has a hand in both starting and ending the plague. The Three Sprits (suffering from the zombified world) show Scrooge how his past actions have played in the zombies creation, the current horrors, and the dark future that awaits. Scrooge eventually realizes that his abandonment of basic human kindness and belief in his fellow man is the very source of the ‘greed’ that infects the world, and it is only be reigniting that belief that he can save it.
What Writers Can Learn: Morality, Horror Elements
To begin with, I want to stress that this version DOES exist, and is not a fanfiction. Second, that despite what could be a rather gory and ludicrous story, this version still manages to capture the overall theme of Dickens’ novel. Of course there still IS gore and violence, but it serves as the backdrop for Scrooge’s redemption. The writers still use them well however, as they emphasize the darker nature of greed and selfishness that Dickens wrote against. And just like the novel, the comic shows Christmas under attack by these dark forces, not only through the zombies, but through the very Spirits themselves.
As I mentioned, each of the Sprits is affected by the horrors affecting their holiday. Christmas Past retains a feminine form with a connection to Scrooge, but is presented as a ragged corpse bride constantly dying and returning to life (a nod to the past itself, always leaving but never fading). Christmas Present begins much the same, but as he travels with Scrooge, his joy is slowly changed to melancholy and madness, as he shows Scrooge the happy world he should have entered into, and the world of death and endless hunger he is in. This version also contains the often-cut scene of Ignorance and Want, who literally spell the end of Christmas Present. Christmas Yet to Come, already a fearful specter, is little more then robe and jawbone, as he shows Scrooge a horrific zombie apocalypse where Bob Crachit’s beloved family devour him whole, Tiny Tim is damned to wander the earth, forever hungry, and Scrooge himself is shown a grave with a not quite dead occupant. Because of all these horrific twists, the often worn message of the story gains new and frightful resonance, even more so when Scrooge sets out to correct the world
Scrooge himself is shown with far more moral dilemmas then money. We see that his greed comes from an early misfortune of his youth, that hardened him to believe that man can never help his fellows, only starve them of love and life. As such, he has spread this sickness to other men and women, causing the very zombie plague his world is engulfed. This is an intriguing mix of Dickens’ original character and modern zombie elements, made more so by the revelation that Scrooge also carries the cure within him. His nephew Fred, originally a minor character, is given a major life, as he seems to carry a cure as well. (Spoilers Ahead!). It is through him, and his deceased mother, Scrooge’s beloved sister, that we learn the light of kindness and generosity is the only way to cure the zombies. When Scrooge ignites that within himself, we are again shown Dickens’ morals, but in an entirely light. For now, that basic human kindness and belief in goodness is enough to bring rest to legions of unhappy, hungry wanderers and save the very world. There are few who could read such a story and not look at their actions a bit differently as the holidays roll around.
Zombie Christmas Carol is a unique twist on a classic story, which would appeal to any who enjoy zombie gore and violence. However, it still retains the high minded ideals that Dickens originally set down, along with the requisite darkness and horror a good zombie story should have. The idea of love and goodwill restoring the dead is also a fresh, if slightly heavy handed spin, which seems to have gained ground in Hollywood (the film and novel Warm Bodies explores similar ground). While this is cannot be recommended for children, adults and teenagers looking for a fresh version of a Christmas classic should certainly pick up this volume.
Last week, I discussed how to bring an established literary character into your work. However, I neglected to mention perhaps the best example of this process to date, which I plan to rectify today. This work comes from the mind of British comic writer Alan Moore, who achieved tremendous fame with both his licensed work (Batman: The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing, For the Man Who Has Everything) and his original stories (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell). However, he has also done an intriguing mix of the two, merging classic characters of largely British literature, with stories and plots that could easily be part of any modern comic. This is that tale, the story derived from so many others- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Beginning right in the aftermath of Dracula, the graphic novel begins with Mina Harker, now divorced and disgraced, being recruited into the British government by Campion Bond (grandfather of Ian Fleming’s James Bond). She is assigned to recruit a team of literary characters- Allan Quartermain (from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mine), Dr. Jekyll (Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Hawley Griffin (H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man), while being guided by Captain Nemo (Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Once assembled, the League must do battle with Fu Manchu for a deadly substance, only to unknowingly hand it to their dishonest employer, Professor Moriarty (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes). The Leauge is able to wrestle the substance back, with Mycroft Holmes taking over as employer, just as meteorites fall towards London (hinting at H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds).
What Writers Can Learn- Adaptation, Revival, Character Study
While some may be familiar with this title through the disastrous film adaptation (which Moore has decried, along with all other adaptions of his work), the source material is truly amazing. Moore’s stories wisely focuses on very well known novels, but throughout the volumes (the above story is only volume 1), he sprinkles in various characters from Dr. Moreau to John Carter, making this comic a tremendous grab for literary minded readers. And rather then simply name drop, Moore makes sure each character has value- the members of the League each bring something special to the team, John Carter forces the Martians from Mars and onto Earth, and Dr. Moreau has knowledge of a compound needed to stop the Martian takeover.
However, Moore also works to portray these established characters in their original light. Captain Nemo is portrayed as Indian, a detail from the original text usually ignored, and is, true to form, quick to leave the League upon a seeming betrayal. The Invisible Man, who suffered from anger and madness in the novel, is shown with the same issues, being found in a convent where ‘immaculate conception’ is occurring. He proves to be a traitor in later volumes, where he attacks Mina, and hands over Britain to invaders. These traits are also expanded as the story progresses- Hyde, for all his savagery, is shown to be capable of civility and heroism, and becomes friends with Mina (who, as in Dracula, shows quiet intelligence as leader and is desired by ‘monsters’). Quartermain, the rugged hero, has aged and while still of value, is generally underplayed and seems aware of his age. There is even a stab at modern works, with an unnamed take on Harry Potter that is likely to shock fans. But at the same time, seeing these characters together in a group is a true treat for readers. Plotting a group story means making sure that the characters are strong enough to stand alone, but bring value to a group. Here, we have an established group that has never before worked together. Readers are familiar with the names, but are able to see new takes and look at how such a ragtag group might both succeed and fail to work together.
LOEG is a worthwhile read simply because of the strong writing of Alan Moore, but it offers a wealth of literature as well. Writer can learn about expanding upon established characters, and with luck, find new sources to draw upon for their work. At the same time, they will see strong group dynamics, some rather dark twists, and strong character devolpemtn for iconic heroes and villains. Simply put, this is a not to be missed literary tool that will open doors for newer and stronger writing from anyone who reads it.
Before I go, a Happy Thanksgiving to my readers, and remember that my giveaway will end after the holiday, so be sure to register if you haven’t already. And finally, I will be appearing at the Cranford NJ Library next week, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Happy Turkey Day!