Zombies Christmas Carol #1-3
December 14, 2015
A classic tale of ghosts, death, and zombies– wait, isn't this Christmas?
(The room is decorated for Christmas and Linkara wears a Santa hat over his regular hat, along with a red scarf)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Okay, we're two weeks into the month. It's time to Christmas it up in here with the most festive of things: (spreads his arms wide) ZOMBIES! Although, first, let's clarify something about this one: the name of the comic.
(Cut to a shot of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Spoilers: I'm reading from the trade, which is listed as "Zombies Christmas Carol", but the original miniseries was not called that. It was specifically called "Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol".
Linkara: "Marvel Zombies", in case you missed the massive overview last summer by that guy who annually takes over my living room...
(Cut to Moarte, who cackles, then cut back to Linkara)
Linkara: Yeah, that's the one. ...is a dark comedy horror series by Marvel about zombie superheroes. And that's the reason why this comic wasn't talked about during that overview. In spite of the name, this is not a Marvel Zombies comic.
(Cut to a montage of covers of the Montage Zombie series)
Linkara (v/o): There are no zombie superheroes in this, no interdimensional travel, not even the friggin' Apes universe is involved in this. It's "A Christmas Carol", but with zombies. Labeling it "Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol" was nothing short of a cheap marketing gimmick to try to get people to buy it, although even then, I don't get it. The heyday of Marvel Zombies stuff was in the mid-to-late 2000s. This was 2011, a year after the last numbered Marvel Zombies comic. It wasn't exactly astounding readers anymore. I don't know, maybe they just thought at the time that since it was Marvel and zombies-related, they had to have that title. But yeah, that's the weirdness we've got going for us today.
(A new montage is shown, this one of zombie comics that don't feature Marvel superheroes, starting with one reading "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic", published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services")
Linkara (v/o): You know, people say that they're tired of zombies, and there's such an oversaturation of them in the media, but I don't think that's the problem at all.
(Cut to another comic with zombies: "Tales of the Zombie")
Linkara (v/o): In the end, it all comes down to story. After all, stories about Frankenstein and werewolves and vampires have endured for almost a hundred years, and there's no sign of slowing down there.
(Now cut to a shot of yet another zombie comic: "Infestation #1")
Linkara (v/o): The problem is not the monster. The problem is the story. Of course zombie stories will seem boring to you if it's the same schlock told over and over. Like any story, you need a hook, the right trappings, the right kind of characters, and you're invested in it all over again.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Zombies Christmas Carol #1-3" and see if this twist on a classic makes it a whole new classic of its own for a different genre.
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Reading from a trade, so no looking at the covers, although considering we have to go through three comics today, that's probably for the best. All I'll say about them is that they're good, depicting scenes from "A Christmas Carol", but with zombies in them, including that classic moment in the story where all the ghosts showed up at once and it was really awkward for them.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open at the Hospital for the Poor, which has either been X'd out or somebody thought a bloody cross would be a good idea. Also, why is the sign bleeding?
Linkara: Poor thing got into a fight with Scrooge and Marley's sign and it's still treating its wounds.
Narrator: Death had lost its grip, to begin with. There was no more denying that.
Linkara: (as narrator) In retrospect, "Death" was not a good choice for our baseball team. There's no more denying that.
Narrator: Whatever the reason, Death had, for lack of a better explanation, left this world.
Linkara: Well, sort of. He's just filling in for the Hogfather. Don't worry, just give it a day or two, and he'll be back.
Narrator: It was a cold, biting winter. The city clocks had just chimed but three, yet it was already quite dark, inside and out. The fog came pouring in at every crack and keyhole, so dense that although some could be standing opposite of you they would appear as a mere phantom.
Linkara: (as narrator) And from that phantom of fog came a voice: "Have you seen a little girl, just turned seven?"
Narrator: One might have thought that Nature was brewing something sinister on a large scale. Such a person would be correct.
Linkara: Well, at least they're providing us with all-natural zombies. (holds up hand) No antibiotics or preservatives.
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, a zombie plague has hit this hospital. You know all those prisons and workhouses that Scrooge was inquiring about? Yeah, apparently, they're beginning to overflow with the zombies now that Death has taken a holiday. The two gentlemen who had come to Scrooge seeking charity, identified here as Mr. Sands and Mr. Jeffers, apparently ran this place and realized just how utterly screwed it is, so they haul ass out of there, chaining up the institution doors as best as they can.
Mr. Jeffers: As our records indicate, one of the first victims to contract this hungry death fell into our halls seven years ago this very day.
Linkara: Wow, that is the slowest zombie plague spread ever. This is less "Day of the Dead" and more "Decade of the Dead".
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, since it was evidently Marley who was patient zero, their only hope is to go to his old business partner, one Ebenezer Scrooge, and see if he can help. Naturally, as you saw earlier, there are excerpts from the original story littered throughout this one, just with a bit of flourishes added for the zombie narrative, and this is no different. The general description of Scrooge is as the Muppets once sang, but with this addition...
Narrator: And so with Scrooge's laying as mankind's last hope, Humanity might as well have extinguished its final fires this very Christmas Eve.
Linkara: Considering the zombie plague apparently took seven years to take over (holds up index finger) one institution, humanity actually has some time to do some knitting and file their taxes before then.
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge's nephew stops by and invites him to Christmas dinner, we get the humbug and whatnot, though with the addition of explicitly stating that Fred's mother died in childbirth to him. Otherwise, the only related addition is that Bob Cratchit asks about him still opening his doors to all, even though there are deadly rumors that the streets are no longer safe.
Linkara: Oh, I know they're not safe. Some butterfly dude is fighting a guy with a scarf over his face (points upward) overhead. I'm in for the evening.
Linkara (v/o): Sands and Jeffers arrive to ask Scrooge for help, but he of course presumes that when they speak of the poor and forgotten, that they're asking for charity and throws them out.
Mr. Jeffers: I suppose we gave our best efforts.
Mr. Sands: So shall this counting house be marked.
Linkara (v/o): And thus Mr. Jeffers takes some berries from a wreath, squishes them and smears their juice over Marley's name on the sign in an X.
Linkara: Or maybe they were just anticipating the next big crossover: "Scrooge and the X-Men".
Mr. Sands: And now we go, I suppose, doomed to become a part of the surplus population, sentenced to this by another man's greed.
Linkara (v/o): Wait, they wanted money to solve the zombie problem?
Linkara: Typical government workers: expecting the problem to be solved by throwing money at it.
Linkara (v/o): With the end of the workday, Scrooge does notice that the streets seem emptier than usual, with even the bartender at the local tavern encouraging him to go home because of the terrors in the streets. And I guess the fact that he couldn't enjoy Baconalia now just made him hate Christmas more and not recognize everybody warning him about this stuff.
Narrator: So intent was he that Christmas Eve had ruined his rigid daily life, he failed to notice the fog that enveloped the streets parted before him as he walked. It was as though even Nature feared to touch Ebenezer Scrooge.
Linkara: (as narrator) Nature was not fond of (pointing to screen) "Does this bug you? I'm not touching you!" jokes.
Linkara (v/o): On the way home, Scrooge notices that a lot of the doors were boarded up and the usual Christmas decorations weren't around, but he just figures that people wised up about the season.
Scrooge: Who would've taken these fools as being smart for once? Well to guard your homes from the hooligans going door to door, singing without invitation.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Next thing you know, they'll be naming a story after the practice. Humbug! They should name a story after what I do: a Christmas eating gruel in the dark.
Linkara (v/o): After the ghastly face knocker encounter, Scoorge enters his home, which apparently has more ghosts than usual, since the first thing he sees is a phantasm of a skeletal carriage driver with two demonic horses riding down the stairs before vanishing when they get to him.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Well, look at that. I seem to have humbugged my pants.
Linkara (v/o): What's more, this apparition has sent a chill down his arm, towards a bite wound on his wrist. Actually, the ghostly carriage is something in the novella; it's just it's only one sentence, saying Scrooge thought he saw it, which is usually why it's not featured in adaptations. And thus, after he changes into his pajamas, Marley's Ghost arrives with a weird metal gimp mask over his head that has a bell on it. Weird.
Marley's Ghost: In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.
Scrooge: And in--in death?
Marley's Ghost: There is no death!
Linkara: (as Marley's Ghost) It's a video game, Scrooge! We just keep respawning!
Marley's Ghost: It is required of every man to walk abroad, living among his fellowmen.
Linkara: Yeah, it turns out The Proclaimers weren't walking 500 miles because of love, but rather because of contractual obligation.
Marley's Ghost: And if the spirit goes not forth living in life, it is condemned to do so without the comfort of the grave.
Linkara: (as Marley's Ghost) Mind you, these chains are... surprisingly comfortable actually. (holds up hand hastily) But-But I would prefer the grave.
Marley's Ghost: Doomed to wander, and to spread among those without basic solace and needs!
Linkara: So zombie plagues are just the universe's crappy welfare system?
Linkara (v/o): Marley says it's all Scrooge's fault, which he's confused by how he could be responsible for all this when he's tried to stay away from humanity, while Marley was a good man of business.
Marley's Ghost: Mankind should have been my business! Now... it is my feast.
Linkara: (as Marley's Ghost) I've put on so much weight, Ebenezer, but I can't afford a gym membership!
Linkara (v/o): After Marley says they're responsible for spreading this plague to the poor, Scrooge actually offers to pay Sands and Jeffers, but Marley doesn't believe him, instead telling him about the three spirits. The spirits will reveal to him how he's responsible for this mess, and if he needs a reminder, Issue 1 ends with the two looking out the window and seeing the zombies parading the streets.
Scrooge: God help us, every one.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) The Christmas zombies are way early this year.
Linkara (v/o): Issue 2 begins some time later, with Scrooge looking out his window again, but only seeing fog this time and declaring it to be a humbug. Aaand then a crow at his window.
Linkara: Aw, great, Scrooge already has to deal with the zombies, but now Eric Draven is stopping by?
Linkara (v/o): However, what appears behind the bird is of more interest: the Ghost of Christmas Past, although admittedly, she looks a little more deathly than usual. What's more, the being dies and reforms several times, each time with a veil covering its corpse-like face.
Narrator: It settled upon a form as it reached as close to Scrooge as I am now to you, and I am standing in the dark, past the corner of your eye.
Linkara: (looking around, confused) Get the hell out of here before I call the cops!
Linkara (v/o): She's also a bit more forceful than the ghost usually is, grabbing Scrooge and insisting he come with her. Also, I think she turns into the crow... but the crow is with her, too...? What? Erm, anyway, time for a trip down memory lane. They head to the schoolhouse, as in the story, but things switch up a bit. A young Ebenezer Scrooge, who frankly looks like a young adult with this art, but whatever, is tending to an injured horse. He's desperately trying to treat the animal for fear of what will happen if he's found out.
Ghost: What is it that made a young boy struggle so to save another life?
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Well, to be perfectly honest, I was planning on selling the thing.
Linkara (v/o): However, the horse bites him on the arm. He bandages the wound, but it soon starts to turn a bizarre green color.
Ghost: What was it; a disease? A daemon? What crossed your mind when you first looked upon that wound?
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Hmm, mostly, "Man, I could really go for some green jello right about now."
Linkara (v/o): The spirit claims that he's lied to himself about that injury ever since. His sister Fran arrives to bring him home, but then spots not only the wound, but the horse, which has now started rotting away, completely dead.
Linkara: This is the weirdest episode of Gary and the Horse yet.
Linkara (v/o): Fran died in childbirth, although apparently, according to this panel, she sweated Ecto Cooler when she did so. However, Scrooge was not present for that, since he had of course gone on to work for Fezziwig. At his party, we spot a younger Scrooge angrily ranting about how this is a waste of money, and for some reason, he's really decided to grow out his nails, since he waves his hand and scratches the arm of a friend of his. He apologizes, but the damage is done, as it creates a nice, green wound. The ghost speeds things along to another Christmas. He had left to pursue his own fortune... and apparently, his friend ate the Fezziwigs. And said friend was not alone, having spread the zombie plague to a bunch of others. The Fezziwigs cry out that they have no more money to give the zombies.
Linkara: So... is it like that South Park episode with the homeless? They just need to give them change?
Linkara (v/o): And then of course, there's the scene with him and Belle breaking up. I've got to say, the artwork has been fairy stylized in how it draws people, and for the most part, it's worked fine... but, yeesh, this part! Apparently, at some point, Scrooge grew into a giraffe-neck dude, with a chin that could cut meat. And then there are the eyes.
(Cut to a clip of Halloween)
Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence): The blackest eyes... The devil's eyes...
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Belle tells him that she releases him from their marriage, but in this version, he grabs her arm, apparently hard enough to scratch it.
Linkara: Seriously, Scrooge, trim your nails! (looks up in thought, stroking his chin) Or is this not really about Scrooge, but Howard Hughes?
Linkara (v/o): And yeah, the scratch instantly infects her arm, and present-day Scrooge is naturally bummed by all of this, but there is, of course, one more visit to make. Now, the next part is supposed to show Belle as she was around the time Marley died: married and with a crap-ton of kids. I'm glad most versions seem to omit that scene, since I really don't get the point of it. Sure, happy family life and all that, but that's not really the kind of thing that would turn Scrooge from his ways when you have a dozen frickin' kids. However, in this version, the ghost takes him to the walls of an asylum, where Bella's housed in a room and her boyfriend stops by with a Christmas present. And most of her face has rotted away. Upon the mention of him passing by Scrooge's business, she rises up and attacks him.
Scrooge: What is this unholy trick? Spirit, surely this is a mistake, a divergence where nature has lost all sense of control!
Linkara: Turns out this isn't the Ghost of Christmas Past, but rather the Ghost of Parallel Universes.
Linkara (v/o): In his anger, Scrooge pulls off the veil on the ghost, revealing an older, half-decayed Belle.
Scrooge: No. You cannot be! My Belle would never become such a creature!
Linkara: (as Scrooge) She wanted to be a vampire, not a zombie!
Linkara (v/o): Issue 2 ends with him putting the cap over the ghost, which unleashes more crows.
Linkara: (slightly confused) So crows are winged messengers of heaven, and horses are harbingers of the apocalypse? (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): Issue 3 begins with Scrooge once more in bed, awaiting the next spirit.
Narrator: Without much difficulty, I don't mind calling on you to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances. And that nothing between a baby and a rhinoceros would have astonished him much.
Linkara (v/o): Aaaand we see a ghost baby and rhinoceros.
Linkara: (as ghost baby, holding up his fingers in a spooky fashion) I am the Ghost of Baby New Year! (as ghost rhinoceros) And I am the Ghost of Rhinoceros Poaching! (beat) Yeah, nobody calls on us this time of year. You mind if we hang out here?
Narrator: Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing. And Nothing had been his silent companion for some time now.
Linkara: (as narrator) When he finally evicted Nothing for not paying his rent, Nothing went on to attack Fantasia.
Linkara (v/o): And then the Ghost of Christmas Present appears: big and huge and surrounded by food.
Ghost: You have never seen the like of me before!
Linkara: (as Scrooge, looking up) Well, no, but actually, I'm in shock because you're sitting on my cat.
Linkara (v/o): The ghost of course mentions his 1,800 brothers.
Ghost: Year after year it was such, until you, Ebenezer Scrooge. Now I am quite possibly the last of my kind to walk this Earth, save one brother yet to come.
Linkara: (as ghost) You're welcome to the little brat, frankly. He keeps stealing my food.
Linkara (v/o): He invites Scrooge to touch his robe like normal, but instead, the visions of food and merriment melt away into a dark street. Scrooge takes this to mean that he has convinced his fellow men that Christmas is a humbug.
Ghost: Will your eyes never see beyond that crooked nose?
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Well, actually, no, my giant nose has been a kind of a problem for me all my life. Really can't see much past it.
Linkara (v/o): We see a group trying to flee into a church, but the Reverend warns them that it's full and there is no refuge.
Ghost: This is no Christmas, nor is this a moment of pride!
Linkara: (as ghost) This ain't no disco! This ain't no foolin' around! (as Scrooge) What's disco? (as ghost) Well, thanks to you, nobody will ever know!
Linkara (v/o): A massive swarm of zombies descend upon the poor people.
Ghost: This is horror. And this, Ebenezer Scrooge, is no humbug.
Linkara: (as ghost) Admittedly, maggots will be involved, so there will be some bug in this, but still...
Linkara (v/o): From here, we see Bob Cratchit searching the streets for his son before Scrooge and the ghost are teleported to Cratchit's house. The family is setting the table for dinner, commenting that Martha won't be coming this year, seeing as she has been struck by the hunger plague and now resides at a hospital. They spot something coming, and the family gathers, hoping it's Bob.
Mrs. Cratchit: Bob? God bless me, have you Tiny Tim?
Tiny Tim: (being held in Bob's arm) God bless us...every... one...
Linkara: (as Bob, pretending to hold Tiny Tim) Tim, we've gone over this. It's okay to not bless the zombies.
Linkara (v/o): Holy crap! Bad enough that we've got the zombies, but apparently the moon is about to crash into the Earth! The family clears off the table to lay Tim on it and get some clean rags, Bob explaining how he found the boy.
Bob: He was near the church. That's where I found his crutch. I heard him, then, his little voice, singing. He was trying to lull these creatures with a choir song.
Linkara: Good try, Tim, but if the zombies wanted to hear Christmas songs, I know how they'd listen to them...
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Simpsons, showing the Simpsons listening to the radio in the car)
Radio announcer: KZMB, all-zombie radio! (sounds of moaning zombies are heard)
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge asks the ghost if Tiny Tim will live.
Ghost: I see a vacant house, save one lone figure at the table, broken as the crutch that lies before him.
Linkara: (as ghost) After you die, Cratchit inherits your business, gets rich, and they can afford proper health care and a better house! (beat) The lone figure is the real estate agent.
Ghost: Bob Cratchit will die. And Tiny Tim... Tiny Tim can never die!
Linkara (v/o): And yes, we see the silhouetted figure of Zombie Tiny Tim, with a lightning flash for emphasis. Gotta love that imagery, especially as the ghost in foretelling these events become partially zombified himself. From there, the ghost takes him [Scrooge] on a little tour of the world: zombies marching through Stonehenge, the walking dead at coal mines and on boats.
Linkara: On the plus side to all this, Christmas shopping should be easier this year.
Linkara (v/o): They settle upon a house unfamiliar to Scrooge with its lights shining brightly and attracting the zombies. One in particular approaches the house whispering for help, and when the door opens, a light shines out and seems to cure the zombie. It's of course the home of Fred, who now is dressed like the Eighth Doctor. No wonder the dude keeps so merry at Christmastime.
Narrator: It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious and healing as laughter and good humour.
Linkara: So the cure for zombies is stand-up comedy?
Ghost: Perhaps his offer of warmth and merriment on this night was extended to all who need such nurturing in their souls.
Scrooge: But, how, Spirit? If I am to witness these events and have hope of changing them, I must understand the exact means by which this change can occur.
Ghost: The light of your sister is in him...
Linkara: (announcer voice, as commercial music plays in the background) When you've got zombie-ism, nine out of ten doctors recommend Sister's Light, the new medication that removes any symptoms of the hungry dead.
Announcer (v/o): Warning: Side effects include light emanating from your extremities and increased urination.
Linkara (v/o): From there, the two end up on a hill, the sky red in the distance. Scrooge says that his sister was the most precious of all and there shall never be another like her. But the ghost warns him that if that's the case, they're all doomed. The ghost unveils Ignorance and Want as usual, with the ghost also telling him that they are the surplus population.
Ghost: ...searching for that which we possess, and those that do, can't seem to part.
Linkara: (as ghost) Newspaper subscriptions.
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge wonders if his burden has to fall solely on his own shoulders.
Ghost: Ebenezer Scrooge, this began with you and on your shoulders it must end. You will decide if all shall live, or all men shall die.
(Cut to a clip of the MST3K gang, who have decorated their space for Christmas, with Crow T. Robot wearing a red Rudolph nose)
Crow: I want to decide who lives and who dies.
Joel: Oh, I don't know.
(Cut back to the comic)
Ghost: AS I DIE NOW!
Linkara (v/o): And Ignorance and Want are devouring the guy.
Linkara: (as Want, making eating sounds) Ignorance, is it just me or does this guy not have a lot of meat on him? (as Ignorance) I know what you mean, Want. Seems to be more fat on him than anything else. (makes a disgusted face) Ugh, that bit tasted like grape jelly and mustard.
Linkara (v/o): And so, the third issue ends with Scrooge fleeing that sight as the fog rolls up again, heralding the arrival of the third spirit.
Narrator: Here was not a Thing in which to seek comfort.
Linkara: (as narrator) The ghost had brought him a Snuggie. (closes comic and holds it up) I'm actually gonna reserve judgment on this until next time, so come back next week for the final two issues. (leans in close to camera) God save us, everyone.
(End credits roll)
Yeah, I didn't remember until editing that "Want" was actually a little girl. Whoops on the voice, then.
So why does only the Ghost of Christmas Present have Ignorance and Want around him all the time?
(Stinger: The panel showing Young Scrooge bandaging his horse-bitten arm is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): I love how Scrooge just looks mildly confused by his arm going gangrenous. (as Scrooge) What an inconvenience. (makes a huffing sound)