Zombies Christmas Carol #4-5
December 21, 2015
And, as Tiny Tim, observed... BRAAAAIIINS.
(Open on a black screen)
Linkara (v/o): Previously on Atop the Fourth Wall...
(Open on a ghostly Linkara covered in chains, like Marley's ghost)
Linkara: (ghostly voice) Pollo... This night, you will be haunted by three spirits.
Linkara: Because your soul is doomed to wander the Earth. Because of the chains you forged in life.
Pollo: I'm a robot.
Linkara: You are? Oh, sorry, my glasses didn't come with me after I died. But it doesn't matter! The spirits are coming anyway! (disappears)
Pollo: This seems really pointless.
(Pollo fantasizes about what's going to happen when he meets the Ghosts of Christmases)
Pollo (v/o): I have a perfect memory of this stuff already. I don't need to be shown this.
(Pollo is seen addressing what is presumed to be the Ghost of Christmas Present)
Pollo: No, seriously, isn't this, like, the third time this has happened around here?
(The ghost looks away, arms crossed. Then we cut to the Ghost of Christmas Future, who looks suspiciously like Darth Vader, pointing Pollo toward a gravestone cross, which bears Pollo's name on it)
Pollo: Well, that's just stupid!
(The ghost waves dismissively, then cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): And now, the conclusion.
(A Christmas version of the AT4W title sequence plays; title card "Thankful Heart" from The Muppet Christmas Carol playing in the background)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. We conclude the miniseries featuring undead beings hanging around Ebenezer Scrooge, a concept that the character has never dealt with before.
(Cut to black)
Linkara (v/o): (dramatically) Last time on "Zombies Christmas Carol"...
(A montage of shots of the previous three issues of "Zombies Christmas Carol" is shown, as Linkara gives a quick recap)
Linkara (v/o): Ebenezer Scrooge got bitten by a horse as a teenager. Therefore, zombie plague. I'm sure I don't need to explain how that works. Anyway, he accidentally infected others throughout his life with it, and now that he's a bitter, miserly old man, Ghosts of the Past, Present and Future have come to try to show him how he can fix the zombie uprising that has resulted because he never trimmed his nails and kept scratching people.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Zombies Christmas Carol #4" and "#5" and find out if Scrooge has a thankful heart or one that gets eaten.
Linkara (v/o): We open with the Ghost of Christmas Future in his deathly appearance, standing over Scrooge with skeletal hands and only a bottom jaw visible.
Linkara: Which seems to imply that either this ghost has a serious underbite problem or every other jerk he showed the future to kept stealing pieces of bone from him until that's all he's got left.
Linkara (v/o): In all honesty, though, I've always liked the Grim Reaper look of the guy. While I am an optimist, seeing that which is yet to come be viewed as a dark figure associated with the inevitability of death is both spooky and satisfying in a strange way.
Linkara: (suddenly a bit nervous) Yet, I admit, there's something about the Ghost of Christmas Future as depicted here that seems... familiar to me... as if there was some doom that I had forgotten... (brightens up, albeit slightly startled) Erm, anyway...
Narrator: There were no words that fell, no eyes that pierced his skull, not even a scent on the air that surrounded Scrooge from this final, terrible Phantom.
Linkara: As opposed to the other ghosts, who all smelled like Irish Spring for some reason.
Linkara (v/o): Actually, we're jumping the gun a bit with calling him the Ghost of Christmas Future, since, as Scrooge points out...
Scrooge: No. No, your brother named you thusly different. The Spirit of Christmases That Will Never Come.
Linkara: And thus, the Spirits of Christmas had a hostile takeover by a rival firm and were rebranded as the Ghosts of Hanukkah.
Scrooge: You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened but will happen in the time before us. By all accounts, things I play a some role in creating.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) I mean, I can't think of a single thing that I did that contributed to the apocalypse. (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): The spirit is, of course, silent, although in this case, it's because he does only have his lower jaw, so words are really not his strong suit.
Scrooge: Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any specter I've seen!
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Your shoulders are really unusually high. (leans in close to camera) Are you Stryfe under there?
Scrooge: WILL YOU NOT SPEAK TO ME?
Linkara: (as Scrooge, looking around) WHY AM I YELLING?!
Linkara (v/o): The spirit takes him, surprisingly enough, to his old home, to...
Scrooge: ...a room unkempt for many a year, by the looks of it. Have I moved on?
Linkara: (gruff voice, presumably the Ghost of Christmas Future) Ha! Moved on! You're a funny guy, Scrooge. I like that. That's why you're going to die first.
Linkara (v/o): He looks outside his window.
Scrooge: It seems by mine eyes that everyone has moved on.
Linkara: (as Scrooge, pretending to read a sign) "Leave the Bronx. Sign up for a new house in enchanting New Mexico"?
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge sees that Mr. Sands and Mr. Jeffers, the poor house owners from last time, are also in the house, taking down his bed curtains. What's more, we soon see that there are a ton of people in the house, basically refugees in the place hoping to survive the zombies outside. Although, what gets me is that the sheer number of people with head injuries, seeing as almost everyone in these shots has bandages around their heads. I'd say that it's because the zombies outside want brains, but if they were bitten on the head, thus necessitating bandages, why are they allowed to hang around in the house? Anyway, in this version, the bed curtains aren't to be sold off, but rather, they're tossed to the zombies outside. Sands and Jeffers seem to say that they're staying in Scrooge's house because he had so much stuff to give away to the zombies and that acts of charity, like giving away the bed curtains, can stave off zombie attacks for a time.
Linkara: It's an intriguing notion, especially when you consider this zombie plague seems to be built around the idea that it's not so much Scrooge's infection that really turned them into zombies, but complete and utter inhumanity towards them. Still doesn't explain the head bandage, though.
Linkara (v/o): I'm also kind of iffy on them staying in Scrooge's house because he has so much stuff to give out. See, the problem with Scrooge was never that he was richer than everybody else. It's that he hoarded his money like friggin' Smaug. He could have spent his money on things to keep himself comfortable and even given more so to the poor without ever hurting his financial standing, but that he was so miserly that he preferred to live in a cold, drafty house than be parted with any of his money. Anywho, Scrooge wonders where he is if he's not hanging out in his own house, and the spirit brings them to Bob Cratchit's place.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Hey, Bob, some squatters and zombies took over my place. Can I crash on your couch?
Linkara (v/o): And of course, Tiny Tim is infected with the zombie plague and is banging on the boarded-up door of the house. Unfortunately, being so poor, Bob probably couldn't afford very good wood, since the zombies break it down.
Tiny Tim: Father? Why can't God bless me, Father?
Linkara: (as Bob) Tim, if I said it once, I've said it a thousand times: it's because you're a terrible abomination against all things natural and good in the world. (points offscreen) Now do your chores or no dessert!
Linkara (v/o): And Scrooge makes this pose when the zombies burst through the door (...which looks like a karate pose for some reason)
Linkara: (as Scrooge, imitating his pose) Don't worry, Bob, I'll fend them off with my kung fu skills!
Linkara (v/o): And thus, we see the entire zombified family.
Zombified Cratchit family member: He won't bless us, Father. Any one.
Linkara: (as this family member) We're filing a lawsuit against him! I'm pretty sure this breaks several contracts with him.
Linkara (v/o): And still the moon continues its descent towards the Earth, so I guess the zombies aren't really that big a deal. Cratchit, now having accepted that there's nothing he can do, allows his family to devour him, much to Scrooge's horror.
Scrooge: How, spirit? How could any man allow such horror as this to transpire? If you and your kind cannot stop such deeds, then what kind of man stands a chance?
(Cut to a clip of Ghostbusters, showing the title characters on a TV)
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge witnesses the zombies eventually overrun even his old house, no offer now appeasing them.
Narrator: The Hungry Dead, the Surplus Population, had become the entire population.
Linkara: (as narrator) Unfortunately, due to gerrymandering of districts, this really had no effect on the election.
Narrator: No coffer could feed them, no fire warm them. They were beyond such things, to the point where they had become the unliving embodiments of Want and Ignorance.
Linkara: Well, at least they finally moved out of the Ghost of Christmas Present's robe. The rent was hell there.
Linkara (v/o): The zombies all converge upon a single grave, the zombie of Belle even smashing Fran's grave along the way for seemingly no reason. And the grave they approach is, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge, who does the thing most zombies tend to be known for...
(Cut to a clip of the game Altered Beast, showing the hero's tombstone rising out of the ground)
Zeus: Rise from your grave.
(Back to the comic again)
Zombie Scrooge: I hunger...
Linkara: (as Zombie Scrooge, calling out) Does anybody here know if the Perkin's is still open?
Viga: (calling back from offscreen) It's 24 hours!
Linkara: Thank you.
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge of course refuses to let this all transpire, and interestingly, we spot him in his various ages throughout the years before he suddenly spots the ghostly image of Fran, who quickly vanishes.
Scrooge: That is not to be, is it, spirit? She was my hope, at one time. Yet I missed her. Nay, worse. I missed my moment to spare her. She was the only source of light in my dark life. The only joy. And I poisoned her. My fears and lies spread like the black plague. From me, to Fran, to Dick and Belle, even Tiny Tim.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) In retrospect, I really shouldn't have smeared my arm on almost everything around me, but hey, look, it was itchy, okay?
Scrooge: I am that man in the grave. And have been for quite a many year. This is the secret which festers my heart. That a simple bite from a creature I tried to save as a youth so hardened my resolve to believe no one man can ever help his fellows.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Admittedly, it's kind of a petty reason to not believe in being compassionate, but hey, (points to camera) I really liked that horse.
Scrooge: That he can only starve them of love, affection, wealth, comfort. That man can only kill.
Linkara (v/o): What we're really getting from this is that it's not so much the bite itself that spread the zombie plague, but the callousness of Scrooge's heart. The bite may have started him down that road, but his inhumanity festered and mutated, creating something that desperately needed love, affection, charity, and all that. But there wasn't enough to give, as the situation just got worse and worse without anyone to temper it. Sure, Sands and Jeffers tried, but people only have so many resources and so much emotion. If there's any chance to save humanity, he needs to change who he is on a grand scale, and he's uncertain of whether he can, since he felt that Fran had more of that kind of love, and when she died, he lost that. However, he's also smart enough to realize that the spirits wouldn't be showing him all of this if there was no hope and demands the spirit reaffirms this conclusion, ripping at the inky darkness of the ghost until he stares at its face in utter horror.
Linkara: (as Scrooge, shocked) Black Pete?! Well, I guess we are owned by Disney.
Linkara (v/o): And what did he see? Well, he wakes up in bed and promises to honor Christmas, that he must keep that feeling alive in him in the past, present and future...
Scrooge: Or all will die.
Linkara (v/o): ...covering his head to only reveal his jaw, meaning that the Ghost of Christmas Future, the specter of death... was himself.
Linkara: I'd say that was kind of obvious, but then again, Scrooge is kind of slow on the uptake in most adaptations, so it's probably best he got that reminder.
Linkara (v/o): Our final issue begins with Scrooge getting out of bed, hoping that his change of heart will affect change in the streets, but upon looking out the window, he sees the zombie masses still out in force. However, this is still just a vision. In reality, while there are zombies roaming the streets, most of them are obscured by the strange fog. He tosses his cap on the fire since he doesn't know what to do, but seeing the fire crackle and burn up the cap gives him an idea.
Scrooge: The spirits have done it all in one night. Old Scrooge has but the day.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Time to party like it's (raises fist in air) 1699!
Linkara (v/o): He cleans himself up and heads out, first locating Mr. Sands and Jeffers, who are in the process of boarding up some zombies in a house. He of course whispers his donation to them.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Oh, and if you both should happen to end up trapped in my house, the good silver is in the basement. Just FYI.
Linkara (v/o): He also has a second request, but we hear only that it's at a certain place in time. Scrooge arrives at the Cratchits' house, where Tiny Tim is in bed, slowly becoming a zombie. Fortunately, Scrooge has a plan and invites the family to come with him right to Fred's house, evading the growing amount of zombies within the mist. And once he arrives at Fred's house...
Scrooge: It is I. Your Uncle Scrooge. Will you forgive me, Fred?
Fred: There was never anything to forgive.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Well, in that case, I should probably tell you that I've been evading paying my taxes for ten years now by pretending to be you.
Linkara (v/o): The two hug and the door closes. Aaand then there's a bright light from all the windows. Wow, did they explode? Or rather, it turns out that Scrooge is Jesus or something, since he has healed the sick. They throw open the doors again, with a cured Tiny Tim emerging with him. Scrooge invites the people who have begun to gather to show love and compassion for their fellow man, dancing with joy alongside Tim. Sands and Jeffers arrive, carrying bags of money.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Excellent! Now we need to find a boy from the future to give these to. Just, uh, tell him he captured a criminal or something.
Linkara (v/o): No, of course, the group dances in the streets, spreading food and wealth wherever they went, Jeffers and Sands apparently also having released all of the formerly captured hungry dead.
Narrator: The goodwill that poured forth from Scrooge's hands and the very light that grew in his warming heart seemed to abate the hunger that had plagued the poor souls following him.
Linkara: So, you think Scrooge and the Grinch both belong to the same support group for former Christmas haters? I bet Skeletor organized it.
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge leads the masses, turned and unturned, to the cemetery, where he arrives at Fran's grave.
Scrooge: A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy new year to all the world!
Linkara: Uh, Scrooge, if you're hoping to talk to the entire world, you might want to go a teensy bit louder. I don't think anybody in the South Sandwich Islands is hearing you.
Scrooge: Those words have scarcely passed my lips, and certainly not in a good many year. That is mine own shame. As is the miserly way I have treated all of you. My fear, my secrets and my hatred have brought us all to this place. I have been shown the error of these ways, given one last, divine chance to correct this path, and I swore I would not squander such a gift.
Linkara: Unfortunately, Scrooge's heartfelt speech was doomed, due to the arrival of zombie hecklers.
Scrooge: It is my failings that have brought such ignorance and want upon you; a disease that leaves the soul hungry for more than this life can possibly offer.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Fortunately, it's all-you-can-eat night at the Sizzler, (raises fist) and I'm buyin'!
Scrooge: This hungry death has robbed you of both life and the grave. Know this: I am truly sorry.
Linkara: (as Scrooge) Hey, no hard feelings for turning you all into wretched terrors that murder and feast upon the souls of those around you, eh?
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge swears that he will keep the spirits of Christmas in his heart, and thus declares that everyone will hunger no more, radiating a bright light seen even by the ghosts that Scrooge had encountered. And just look at how surprised the Ghost of the Future is. His jaw is hanging down from his mouth! And then there's Marley, who I guess is still hungry, given how wide his mouth is. But yeah, this does the trick, as the people are quickly cured. What's more, Belle has been unzombified and embraces Scrooge, but still dies in his arms as leaves fall around them.
Linkara: Yeah, they kind of blew all their budget on the zombie makeup effects, so they couldn't afford cherry blossom petals.
Linkara (v/o): For the rest of the day, Scrooge worked on the recovery from all the terrible things that have happened, helping spread cheer to those alive and helping to bury the dead. It also makes me wonder if his light melted all the snow. This is the sunniest, warmest-looking Christmas since that "Archie" comic I reviewed one time. I fully expect someone seeking revenge on Scrooge to shoot him and yell, "Garbage day!" As the day wanes and night approaches, Scrooge ends things with a grand feast for the whole town, with decorations to boot. I guess a revised outlook on life makes you super-speedy, too.
Narrator: Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh.
Linkara: (as narrator) After all, he got the last laugh when they discovered the laxatives he put in their food. A Christmas jape from the new Scrooge!
Narrator: It is said that a good heart can give joy, but a good sacrifice is eternal.
Linkara: (as narrator) At least, that's what we keep telling all the human sacrifices, but (shrugs) they don't seem to be convinced.
Linkara (v/o): Scrooge asks Fred and the Cratchits to help him to bed, telling them also to let the people in his home enjoy the festivities year 'round if it so pleases them. After recalling the Ghost of Christmas Present mentioning that his kind lasts but only a day, he gives final instructions to them, that the people who run the hospitals and workhouses will be provided with all they need, that Bob will inherit his house, and that Tiny Tim should always sing and laugh and be merry. And so, our comic ends with Scrooge passing away and the final page shows him reunited with Belle, Fran and the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Linkara: Wait a second! His kind only lasts one day! (points at camera) ZOMBIE!! (closes comic and holds it up) This comic... is actually pretty good, in my opinion.
Linkara (v/o): The conclusion has got a bit of a magical contrivance in its ending, especially since we saw how widespread a problem like this was, but since the entire story itself is based around a supernatural resolution, and everything working out for everybody anyway, I think that can be forgiven. There are little things here and there that kind of make me scratch my head or it might just be me reading too much into it, but really, my only actual complaint is the art in a few places; in particular, the flashbacks to Scrooge's childhood and young adulthood. Otherwise, the artwork is nicely moody, and despite the ending suddenly getting very not wintry... Yeah, yeah, some areas don't get snow during Christmas, (voice turns sour) like Minnesota right now... (normal again) it felt like it captured the spirit of the holiday pretty damn effectively. I started these reviews by talking about how I felt the problem was not that zombies had become oversaturated, but rather that the same kind of zombie story had become oversaturated. But much like how "A Christmas Carol" was social commentary at the time it was published, the most classic and remembered zombie stories, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, existed as social commentary of their own periods as well. Combining the two in the way they did actually makes a twisted bit of sense, and it's very well handled here, with the ultimate foe of the story being, of course, Scrooge's inhumanity and rejection of compassion. When he accepted his part and continuing to support the method by which people were becoming needy, poor, abandoned and without hope, and did his damnedest to make amends wherever he went, he was able to overcome. His death, while not really necessary in the original story, is, as I joked, a rather Jesus-like sacrifice to save his fellow man. A bit heavy-handed, but it works, considering the redemption of the character throughout, and he was content in the end, reunited with the people he loved while ensuring that those left behind would do well without him.
Linkara: Next time, like "A Christmas Carol", we will be looking back on my past... to see what other things I could have said and done. (smiles)
(End credits roll)
I like to imagine the Ghosts of Christmas all get together when they're done scaring people into not being jerks and play cards. Yet to Be has the best Poker Face.
So that whole "death was on vacation" thing really went nowhere... or maybe he just got back and lied on his time card about how long he was gone.
(Stinger: Pollo and Viga in the Darth Vader mask are seen again)
Pollo: You know, I don't get paid all that much doing this job. I bet I could do a Ghost of Christmas on the side thing. You guys hiring?
Viga: Horse joke.
(Pollo nods as Viga is heard giggling)