Friday, December 15, 2017

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5, Episodes 1: Orientation Part 1 & Episode 2: Orientation Part 2

Welcome to the fifth (and most likely last) season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Once again the show's reinvented itself, (just like Madonna!), as the action shifts from good old Earth to outer space. That's a good thing, by the way, as it keeps the series fresh. After all, how many times can we watch our favorite S.H.I.E.L.D. agents battle HYDRA spies?

That said, toward the end of these premiere episodes, this bold new direction began to feel a bit like Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Greatest Hits. We got the return of the Monolith, the Kree and even the Framework made an encore appearance!

By the way, kudos to the producers for keeping the episode's big reveal (which I won't blab just yet) a secret. I had no idea what was gonna happen, and was shocked when the reveal played out on screen. It's not easy to keep a secret like that in this day and age of spoiler sites, so good for Marvel for somehow pulling it off!

For the past couple of years now Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has divided its seasons into two or three separate "story pods." This helps the show's pace move along at a good swift clip, and prevents the dreaded "filler episodes" that plague other shows. I'm assuming they're going to do the same thing this year, so don't expect the gang to be in space for the entire season.

AS ALWAYS, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
This is a two part episode, so this summary's gonna be extry long.


Part 1:
We begin with one of The Observers from Fringe, er, I mean an odd bald man getting ready for his day. He goes for a swim in his pool, eats breakfast and then removes his skin suit to take a shower (!). He gets dressed, looking very much like a mythical Man In Black. He then drives to an air hanger, where he boards a van filled with soldiers. They drive to Rae's restaurant.

We then catch up to the Season 4 finale. Coulson and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are sitting in a diner eating pie, when suddenly the lights go out. When they come back on, the team's surrounded by the soldiers. The Man In Black orders the soldiers to hurry. Coulson and the others are placed in some kind of stasis and carted into the van, which drives off. For some reason Fitz is the only one not taken, because "he's not on the list."

The gang wakes up in a darkened room and notice Fitz isn't with them. They see a Monolith standing in front of them (similar to the one that transported Simmons to Maveth a couple seasons back), and before anyone can say, "What the hell?" it liquefies and washes over them. 


A very confused Coulson wakes up on some sort of space station, with an asteroid field visible outside the window. Suddenly he hears growling coming from outside a bulkhead. Just then, two human men in the room with him suddenly notice he's there. Oddly enough, one of the men, named Virgil, seems to know who he is. Unfortunately the other's dragged off by an unknown alien creature. Virgil tells Coulson the creatures are Vrellnexians, but most people just call them "roaches."

Coulson asks Virgil what the hell's going on (echoing the audience's thoughts). Virgil says he's always been a true believer in Coulson, and knew he'd come someday. He's about to tell Coulson more, but just then Mack shows up and knocks him out.

Elsewhere, Yo-yo and Simmons wake up in the middle of a room piled high with dead bodies. Simmons examines them and says they've been drained of all fluids, which doesn't sound good. Just then Coulson and Mack enter, carrying the still-unconscious Virgil.

Meanwhile, Star-Lord from the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies, er, I mean a man who absolutely isn't Star-Lord at all flies through a broken window in the station. Elsewhere, May comes to and sees she's pinned to a wall by a metal pipe sticking through her leg. I guess she must have materialized around it? She manages to pull the pipe out of her leg and limp off.

Coulson and the others discuss their situation. Mack's angry that Coulson is wearing a "normal" bionic hand, and not his fancy S.H.I.E.L.D. Swiss Army appendage. Yo-yo thinks they're in a S.H.I.E.L.D. space station, but Coulson says there's no such thing. Coulson searches Virgil's body and finds a small rectangle that he hands to Simmons (Plot Point!), along with a Lake Ontario postcard in his pocket (?).

Virgil wakes up and is immediately in awe of all the S.H.I.E.L.D. members. He tells them all he's been studying them for years, and always believed the stories that said someday they'd come and save humanity. Just then a roach stabs him in the head, killing him instantly. The roach then starts chasing the agents. They run down a corridor, firing back at it, but eventually the roach corners them. Just as it's about to go pounce, Daisy appears and quakes it to smithereens.

Meanwhile, May hides while Not Star-Lord enters the room and examines a dead body. He pulls a black disk off the man's wrist and pockets it. Just then he sees May and says he's been looking for her. She attacks and they have an impressive fight. Suddenly he slaps a gadget on her torso that alters gravity and pins her helplessly against the wall. Not Star-Lord then pulls out a knife and painfully attaches the black disk (called a "metric") to May's arm.

Coulson suggests they all split up to look for answers, but Mack says that's just inviting the aliens to pick 'em off one by one. The team then decides to stick together, slowly moving down the corridor. Simmons notices the station seems designed to support human life. Coulson says that a place this large would have had to start construction back in the 1980s, which is impossible.

The group enters a room and finds blood on the floor, along with May's coat. Daisy spots a computer, starts it up and discovers they're on a station that mines water from asteroids. She also finds a ship docked with the station. Simmons says if they could get a ship above the asteroid belt, they could send a distress signal back to Earth, wherever it is. Just then two blue-skinned Kree soldiers burst in and knock them all out.

Coulson, Daisy and Simmons wake up in an unknown location. Suddenly the door opens, and Not Star-Lord and May enter, followed by a Kree guard. For some reason, Not Star-Lord pretends he knows Coulson and the others, telling the guard that Virgil must have stolen their metrics. He tells the Kree guard he'll assume personal responsibility for the humans, The guard grunts and walks away.

Not Star-Lord reveals his name is Deke. He asks about Virgil, who was apparently his partner, and Coulson says he didn't make it. Deke grunts and says Coulson and the others are on their own, as he's leaving in his ship. Coulson tells him he's not going anywhere until he gives them some answers, and May uses Deke's gravity device to pin him to the wall. Coulson interrogates Deke, while May and Simmons look for his ship, and Daisy searches for Mack and Yo-yo.

Meanwhile, Mack and Yo-yo are in a separate location, chained to the ceiling by their hands. One of the Kree guards begin torturing Mack. A second guard examines him and says Mack would make a nice gift for Kasius, who's apparently the leader of the station. The first guard agrees, and begins torturing Yo-yo instead. Suddenly Daisy bursts in and quakes the guards.

May and Simmons look for Deke's spaceship, and realize the station is much, much larger than they thought. They eventually find the space trawler and enter it. May, who's never flown a spaceship before, can't figure out how to turn it on. Simmons feels in her pocketses and pulls out the object Coulson handed her earlier. She wonders if it might be a key, and inserts it into the dash. The ship immediately starts up (told you it was a Plot Point!).

As the ship slips out of its hangar, they see the vastness of the station. Simmons says it's not an outpost, but a staging ground for an invasion. Apparently she's now an expert on alien invasion staging grounds.

Coulson questions Deke, who explains that the Kree didn't build the station. Deke's confused as to why Coulson doesn't seem to know anything about station life or how it functions. He mentions that the station is ninety years old, and now it's Coulson's turn to be confused. He asks how something this advanced could have been built in the 1920s. Deke begins to realize what's happening, and asks Coulson what year he thinks it is.

In the space trawler, Simmons wonders why she can recognize all the constellations if they're in deep space. Just then a wrecked school bus floats by the ship, and they see the remains of the shattered planet Earth in the distance. Simmons says there's no point in sending a distress call to that, and says they should turn around.

Coulson realizes he and the others didn't travel through space, but time. They're ninety some years in the future!

Daisy, Mack and Yo-yo come to the same conclusion. Mack flips over the Lake Ontario postcard and sees a message on the back that reads, "Working on it. Fitz."

Part 2:
The space trawler's stuck by several asteroids (actually chunks of the shattered Earth!), which knock out the engines. May struggles with the controls, as the ship drifts toward a huge space rock. Simmons uses her sweet I.T. skills to restart the ship and save them. With nowhere else to go, they return to the space station.

Inside, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents reunite and discuss the fact that they're in the future, at some point after the Earth's already been destroyed. Deke gives them all metric disks to insert in their wrists, so they'll blend in better. Just then a human woman named Tess arrives, looking for the ever-popular Virgil. Deke tells her Virgil's dead. He says Virgil hired him to hide these S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that he was always yammering about. Deke says he's done his job and is cutting out, but Tess offers him double pay to stay and help protect Coulson and the others.

Coulson questions Tess about what happened to Earth. She says it was torn apart by a massive force, which seems pretty obvious. Shortly afterward the Kree showed up, destroyed all records and took control of the remnants of humanity. She takes Coulson and the others to the Lighthouse, a crowded section of the station where the last remaining humans in the galaxy live. It's not a nice place, as the humans dress in rags, scramble for food and aren't allowed to use any technology.

Tess says the Elders used to tell stories about how some day S.H.I.E.L.D. would come to save them all. Unfortunately the Kree executed them to shut 'em up and keep them from spreading such tales. Virgil, god rest his super important soul, was the only one left who still believed. Just then Tess is 
stopped by a fat, greasy human named Grill. He asked why Virgil's space trawler was taken out for a spin. Tess tells him Virgil's dead, and lies and says they're training a new pilot.


Tess takes Coulson to Virgil's quarters, which is filled with all kinds of old Earth artifacts. Coulson finds a journal filled with flight log info or something, which I'm sure will become a Plot Point later on. He asks Tess if the Earth is still inhabitable, but she says no. I would think not, since all that's left is a small sliver of the surface. She says the only ones who live there now are the Vrellnexians.

Simmons and May wander around the Lighthouse. Suddenly a female Kree named Sinara enters with several guards. An Avox from The Hunger Games, er, I mean a human slave, er, I mean a human Servant dressed all in white announces that Kasius has decided to feed them. Suddenly what looks for all the world like dog food pours out of a pipe, and the humans scramble to grab it.

A fight breaks out over the food, and one of the humans accidentally stabs the Servant in the gut. The filthy, hungry human realizes what he's done and takes off running. Sinara, who apparently has the same powers as Magneto in the X-Men films, telekinetically sends two giant ball bearings sailing through the air. They smash the human's head and fly back to her. Simmons runs to the injured Servant, grabs what looks like a hot glue gun from a kiosk and cauterizes his wound. The Kree guards drag the Servant away, and take Simmons with them as well.

Simmons is taken to an upper level of the station, which is clean and luxurious. Several Servants order her to clean up and give her new clothes to wear. She's then taken to meet Kasius, the Kree leader of the station. He asks Simmons where she learned her medical knowledge. She lies and says from her mother. 


He notices she's not wearing a metric, and asks what happened to it. She claims she removed it, but since she doesn't have a huge scar on her wrist, Kasius is skeptical.

Meanwhile, Deke leaves the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang, and Daisy tails him. She follows him through a secret door, where she sees several people lying comatose on beds. She finds Deke lying on a bed as well, and when she gets too close to him, she passes out too. When she wakes up, she's seemingly back on Earth before it was destroyed. She realizes she's in a Framework program! Apparently Deke's running a virtual "opium den," only instead of drugs, he charges people to hook up to his own personal Framework.

Coulson and the others decide they need to get their hands on one of the forbidden Kree iPads, in order to find out what's going on or something. Coulson creates a distraction while Yo-yo uses her superspeed to grab one. Just then a group of Kree guards appear to perform a routine metric inspection on the humans. Since Coulson and the others still haven't installed theirs, they're forced to hide. They offer their iPad to Grill, in exchange for a hiding place and installing their metrics. He says he now owns them until they work off their debt to him.

Inside the Framework, Daisy meets Deke inside a bar. He says he found the remains of the Framework and rebuilt it, and has turned it into a little business for himself. He claims the Kree know about it, but leave him alone because the Framework keeps the locals docile.

In the Lighthouse, Tess realizes the Kree are scanning metrics because they're prepping for a "Renewal." Apparently they discovered the Kree guards the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents killed, and demand restitution from the humans. Anyone whose metric turns red will then have to give up their own life or kill someone else. A couple of humans see their metrics change color, and a riot immediately breaks out.


One of the "red" humans finds the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and decides to kill them, but Tess shoots him first. Grill covers for the agents with the Kree.

Inside the Framework, Deke figures out that Daisy is actually THE Daisy Johnson of S.H.I.E.L.D. He tells her she's the one who used her powers to tear the Earth apart (!).

Elsewhere, Kasius has the Servant that Simmons saved brought to him. He notes that the Servant is now marred, as he has a scar on his stomach and temple. He says any Servant who represents him must be perfect. Simmons tries to tell him she can minimize the scarring, but Kasius silences her. He orders Sinara to use her powers to kill the Servant.

Kasius says Simmons will become his new Servant. He slips a liquid metal blob into her ear, and she's led away where she's dressed and painted. She's then presented to Kasius, and discovers his voice is now the only one she can hear. He tells her she's just in time to welcome his guests, as a spaceship pulls up outside the window.

Thoughts:
• OK, we might as well get this out of the way right now. Time travel is hard! And writing good time travel stories that actually make some sort of logical sense is even harder!

At the end of Part 1, we find out that the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have been abducted from the present day and transported about a hundred years into the future. At the end of Part 2, Deke tells a horrified Daisy that she used her powers to literally shake apart the Earth and destroy it at some point in the past. 


How the hell could she do that? She disappeared sometime in 2017, and reappeared a century later in the future. How could she possibly destroy the Earth in the past if she wasn't there to do it?

I'm assuming future episodes will eventually attempt to answer this question, but for right now it's a pretty darned big plot hole.

• What's the deal with the Observer-esque guy at the beginning of the episode? I doubt he's a Kree, as they'd wouldn't bring the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to the future so they could overthrow their own Empire. Plus when he removed his skin suit, his silhouette looked a bit Gray Alien-y. Maybe he's from a race that's trying to defeat the Kree and save humanity.

Whatever he is, he seems pretty acclimated to life here in the present day, as he really enjoys his morning routine. Is he from the present day? Or is he from the future and stationed in the past?

Again, I'm assuming these are all questions that'll be answered in later episodes.

• As the Man In Black gets ready for "work," we see several closeups of a child's drawings pinned to his refrigerator.


Note that these are all very deliberate shots of the drawings, that fill up the entire screen. Shots like this don't just happen on TV. Every second of a network show costs thousands of dollars, so obviously these images wouldn't be onscreen if the director didn't want us to look at them.


That means they have to mean something. But what?

The first drawing's not much help, as the camera's too close for us to see everything that's going on. As near as I can tell, a man appears to be either helping or punching a lady with black hair (Daisy?), while maybe standing in water. Oh, and something green's jutting in from the upper right corner.

Could this be a drawing of the day Daisy shook the Earth apart?

Next up we have a drawing of what is obviously a school bus, and... the Moon? A comet? Some sort of astral body flying overhead.

Later in the episode there's a shot of a school bus floating past the ruins of the shattered Earth. Was this drawing just some simple foreshadowing?

The last drawing features an entity who seems to be made up of multiple persons. Now were have we seen something like that before? Remember Hive from Season 3? He, or I guess It, could possess dead bodies and reanimate them.

Could this drawing mean we may see the return of Hive, or another Hive-like entity?

As I said, these drawings have to mean something, but just what that could be isn't yet clear.

• After Coulson and the others are abducted, they wake up in an empty black room. The only other thing in the room is a Monolith like the one that zapped Simmons across the galaxy. 

This one's white though, where the other one was black. And instead of transporting them across space, it appears this one flung them through time.

So I guess this means there are different Monoliths with different functions? Sort of like the Infinity Stones?

• At one point Simmons & Yo-yo find a room full of roach victims. Simmons starts examining the bodies, and Yo-yo asks if it's safe to touch them. Simmons immediately dismisses her concerns, saying the dead bodies are perfectly harmless. Well, unless of course they died of some horribly contagious alien disease, but go ahead and rub your hands all over them, Simmons! I'm sure you'll be fine.

• 
Yo-yo makes a S.W.O.R.D. joke in this episode!


When the agents all wake up on the station, no one's quite sure where they are. They then have the following conversation: 


Simmons: "Fury never said anything about deep-space outposts being developed, did he?"

Coulson: "There was nothing like this in his black box."
Yo-yo: "So, wait, S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't have a space division called S.P.E.A.R. or something? Really? I always thought you guys had people hiding on the moon!"

In the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has a space division called S.W.O.R.D., which was created to protect Earth from alien invasions. In the very end of Season 4, we saw a brief scene of Coulson inside what looked like a futuristic station, gazing out a window at a field of asteroids floating in space. Most fans took this to mean the show would introduce S.W.O.R.D. in Season 5. I guess not!


By the way, Yo-yo's line about "hiding people on the moon" might have been an Inhumans joke. Let's just skip over it though, shall we? The less said about that awful and disappointing show, the better.


• Deke likes to wear a face mask with glowing eyes (that magically retracts behind his head), along with a reddish-brown leather jacket. He's very obviously designed to remind us as much as possible of Star-Lord. He couldn't look more like him if Chris Pratt himself played the character!

To take the Guardians Of The Galaxy similarities even further, when Deke takes off his little helmet he's a dead ringer for Bradley Cooper, who voices Rocket Raccoon! I'm honestly surprised he didn't have a little sentient tree friend with him!

• When we first see May, her leg has apparently materialized around an iron pipe, which causes her to limp for the rest of the episode.


I'm betting this injury was written into the script because actress Ming Na Wen was recovering from recent knee surgery when the episode was filmed.


• Deke slaps his high-tech belt buckle onto May, which somehow alters gravity and pins her to the wall. Somehow she's still able to kick Deke in the chin when he gets too close to her. Yet for some reason she can't reach down and shut off or remove the gadget from her body. 


Seems like if she can move her legs, she oughta be able to move her arms.


• The alien "roaches," aka Vrellnexians, that infested the station looked pretty good for a TV budget.


Believe it or not, the Vrellnexians are actually from Marvel comics. They're pretty obscure though, as they appeared in exactly one issue of Thor (#122) way back in 1973. They looked much different in the comic as well. The comic versions also were intelligent, where the ones seen here appear to be little more than animals.

• Apparently in the future, you start up your spaceship with a key. Sure, why not.

What's odd about this is that newer model cars seem to be phasing out keys in favor of push button starting. I guess maybe at some point in the next hundred years keys make a big comeback.


• There were some very awesome effects shots in this episode, particularly when the space trawler departs the station.

And when we see the remains of the shattered Earth. Well done, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Maybe if the Marvel's Inhumans series had looked more like this instead of a cheap 1980s TV show, it wouldn't have been the abject failure it was.


• Back on the station, Tess takes the gang to the Lighthouse, a cramped section where the remnants of humanity live. She tells them that back when Earth was round, the Lighthouse was an underground survival bunker.

An underground bunker? Does that mean the space station isn't really a space station after all, but a big hunk of Earth that was blasted into orbit? I'm confused.


• The Kree Captain who tortures Mack is played by Derek Mears.

Mears is a prolific character actor who's starred in dozens of sci-fi-fi and horror films, including Men In Black II, Star Trek: Enterprise, Zathura, The Hills Have Eyes II, Friday The 13th (the remake), Predators and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (among many, many others). He's your go-to guy when you need a large, intimidating bald character.

• This episode gives us something we've not seen before— Kree with hair! I'm pretty sure every time we've see a Kree in the past, they've always been completely bald. 

I think Sinara may be the first Kree female we've seen too.


• Kasius likes to keep a stable of loyal, obedient and "perfect" humans as personal servants. There's no way to look at these servants and not think of the Avox from The Hunger Games movies.

• In his luxurious quarters, Kasius gazes out the window at the remains of Earth and says, "Even Hala doesn't have a view like this."

In the comics, Hala was the homeworld of the Kree and the plant-like Cotati. The Kree eventually spread out and began conquering other planets, forming the vast Kree Empire. Hala then became the Empire's central world.


• When Coulson learns the Earth's been destroyed, he asks Tess if the surface can ever be habitable again. Um... based on the fact that there's just a small sliver of it left, I'd say that's a big NO, Phil.

To be fair, it's possible he just hadn't looked out the window at that point to see how little was left. If he had, then he wouldn't have asked such a stupid ass question.


• When Tess finds out Coulson's from the past, she asks him all about Old Earth. The two then have the following conversation:


Tess: "What about all the dangers Earthquakes, floods, sharknados? Feels safer inside, no?"

Coulson: "Okay, hold up. The whole sharknado thing that's just entertainment."
Tess: "Who would put a shark inside a tornado?"
Coulson: "They wouldn't. It's fiction. A movie."
Tess: "Like I said, we have pieces. It seems like it was nice."

OK, I get that this is supposed to be a funny scene, but Jesus Christ! Does Tess honestly believe there used to be tornadoes filled with sharks? No one could be that stupid. And if she is dumb enough to believe that, then I wouldn't want he helping me escape a futuristic space station.


• I honestly didn't think we'd be seeing the Framework again this season. So far it looks like it's gonna play a minor role, not be the focus of the entire season.

• About halfway through Part 1, Deke learns Daisy's first name. At the end of Part 2 he finally pieces things together and realizes she's Daisy Johnson, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who destroyed Earth. 


OK, so knows from restoring the Framework that someone named Daisy Johnson blew up the Earth. Later he meets the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and seems to know they're from the past. He finds out one of the agents is named "Daisy." Even armed with all that info, he doesn't put two and two together until the final seconds of the episode!


Maybe there's a gas leak inside the station that's dulling everyone's senses.

This Week's Best Lines:
Boy, were there a lot of them!

Virgil: "You're here. Agent Coulson of S. H. I. E. L. D. You've come to save us!"

Coulson: "Yeah, just to clarify, where is here, who is us, and from what?"

Mack: "Where'd that rock send us?"
Coulson: "Well, I don't have many details, but I do know we're in space."
Mack: "Yeah, that makes sense. That's the one thing we haven't done yet."
(Meta humor!)

Simmons: "Any idea which part of space we're in?"
Coulson: "Uh, outer?"

Mack: (to Coulson) "Look, I'm just saying, what good is it having a state-of-the-art robotic hand if you don't have it on you when you're kidnapped by Martians?"
Yo-yo: "Looks like he's got both hands to me."
Mack: "Ah, that's his civvy hand. It's just a prosthetic without all the cool doodads. It should've been a hook. At least you can stab things with a hook."
Coulson: "Thought I was gonna be arrested."
Yo-yo: "So, wait, that one doesn't have the blowtorch or the laser gun or anything?"
Coulson: "First of all, I'm not Inspector Gadget. And second of all, the authorities would've confiscated it. Prison's bad enough without being down an appendage."

Simmons: "Let's apply scientific principles and consider the evidence we have."

Mack: "Look, this is magic, okay? Can we all agree there's some magic at play?"
Simmons: "Magic is just science we don't understand yet."
Mack: "Ah, please. We just got zapped through space by Stonehenge, and we're trying to rule out the involvement of a flame-headed demon from east L.A.? Science my ass."
(sounds like Simmons is a fan of Arthur C. Clarke!)

Daisy: (after blowing up one of the roaches, and looking at Coulson as if she's not sure she should have done so) "Right?"

Coulson: "Yes. That was right."

Coulson: "We should split up."

Mack: "Aw, hell no! No, no. Yeah, let's not do that. We are sticking together 100 percent. Haven't you ever seen an alien movie?"
Daisy: "Mack, it's the best way to cover the most ground."
Mack: "Okay, you see, you see, that's exactly what they say before they get picked off one by one, and you know who the first one will be!"
(sounds like Mack's seen one too many sci-fi movies!)

Coulson: (as the entire team huddles together, inching down a corridor on a space station) "This has to be the coolest we've ever looked."

Simmons: "Have you ever flown a spaceship?"

May: "You know the answer to that question."

Simmons: (trying to restart the space trawler before it crashes into an asteroid) "First rule of I.T. Turn it off and turn it back on again!"
(sounds like Simmons is also a fan of The I.T. Crowd!)


May: "So we'll have to find our own way back."

(the agents all turn to look at Simmons)
Simmons: "Well, I'm a biologist, but sure, I can invent time travel. Just give me a minute."

Simmons: "I only did what I thought would make you happiest in the end."

Kasius: "That is the superior answer. To any question, really."

Yo-yo: (seeing their hands are all magnetized to the wall) "Where's an axe when you need one, huh?"

Coulson: "Still too soon!"
Mack: "That's not something to joke about!"

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's Time For My Annual "Ghosts Of Christmases Past" Repost!

Hey, Christmas is almost here! That means it's almost over too! Huzzah!

Please note that I'm not some kind of Scrooge who hates the Yuletide season, I just hate what it's become. I don't need all the frenzy and shopping and the stress of spending money you I have on things people don't need.

But I digress.

Here's a compilation of some of my personal favorite Christmas bloggings from the past few years.


Mrs. Claus was in the kitchen baking cookies, when she heard a commotion coming from outside. She looked out the back door and saw a shirtless and drunken Santa staggering around the grounds, shouting incoherently at no one in particular and swinging his fists ineffectively at the crowd of elves that had gathered to watch.

"Not again," she thought, as she steeled herself to go out and hurry him back inside yet again. "Thank God those idiots from Inside Edition aren't here to see this." It had taken a fortune to hush them up the last time this happened.

"Is Santa sick?" asked Jingle the Elf as he helped Mrs. Claus wrangle Santa into bed. "No dear," she lied, "He's just overworked. It's nothing to worry about. Now be a good boy and help me lash him down so he doesn't... fall out of bed."

The next morning Santa delicately made his way downstairs and flopped into his chair at the kitchen table. "Oh, I feel terrible," he said. "My head is pounding like crazy."

"Maybe it was something you drank, dear," said Mrs. Claus, in a tone that could cut glass.

She fixed him a cup of coffee, making as much noise as she possibly could. "Doesn't everyone always say poinsettias are poisonous?" she thought. "This place is lousy with the stuff. It would be too bad if a sprig of it were to fall into his cup. Accidentally, of course."

I made this card way back in 2000, and it perfectly sums up my feelings toward the holiday season... or rather what the holiday season has become.

It was drawn in pencil and inked. Then it was scanned and imported into Photoshop, where I added color. I added the text and border in Photoshop as well.

Many have asked me about the puddle under Santa; whether it's booze or urine. I prefer to let the viewer decide…


Don't have a lot of money to spend on gifts this year? Don't be embarrassed! Just print, cut out and hang this special Economic Meltdown Christmas Gift gift tag on your presents, and your friends and family will be so impressed they won't notice the chintziness of your gifts!

Do you love Christmas Carols? Me neither! Here are a few of my least favorites:

• Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
My all time least favorite carol. If this grim, dirge-like tune doesn't make you feel like sticking a shotgun in your mouth during the holiday season, nothing will.

• Baby It's Cold Outside
A cheerful Yuletide duet that's an ode to date rape!

• Santa Baby
Ah, nothing says "Christmas" like this salute to greed, capitalism and whoring yourself for high-ticket gift items.


• No Spanish Nativity scene is complete without El Caganer, a charming figure of a little man taking a huge dump.

• Kids in Spain (again with the Spain) love the Tio De Nadal, a hollow anthropomorphic log that they beat with sticks until it craps out gifts. No, that wasn't one long typo.


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As you've probably figured out by now, I've retired from creating my annual Christmas Card/Books.

It's not that I didn't enjoy making them, you understand. The were fun to draw, but they're an enormous amount of work. Every year they took longer and longer to create. Literally months. I'd start one in August, work on it every single day and still barely get it done in time for the holiday. They're just way too much work and I don't think I have another one in me.

One of these days I ought to look into selling a collection of these stories.

Since there won't be a card/book this year, enjoy this look back at previous efforts.



This is the first card I did, way back in 2008. This one actually is a simple greeting card rather than a book, consisting of a single sheet folded in half.

Obviously the front is based on vintage boxing posters, the kind you'd see in the early 1900s. I had a lot of fun writing the old-time copy.

Anti-Claus' choice of weaponry still bugs me. Why a crowbar? I still don't know. Maybe I was trying to find a weapon that kind of looked like a candy cane? I should have painted stripes on it to sell that idea better. As you can probably tell I'm never satisfied with my own work.

I guess the aging effects were successful. I sent one to my boss at the time, and when he saw it he accused his wife of bending the corner when she took it out of the envelope!


Gronkoor, The Monster Who Hated Christmas And Stomped On All The Shoppers He Saw

A terrifying tale of man vs. nature in the style of Gozilla and other kaiju films. Or maybe it's just a story about a monster who's not all bad, I don't know.

This was the first card/book that I did, in the style of Little Golden Books. It's the shortest of all of the books, consisting of a scant eight pages.

Originally it was going to be just a card like the Anti Claus one, and I was going to draw the cover only. Then I thought up an actual story and it grew into an actual book.

I burned off a week of vacation days at the beginning of November 2009 (I always end up with a surplus of time off at the end of the year) and spent the whole time working on this card/book. Those eight pages took a long time, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing. I learned to streamline the process in subsequent years.


Gronkorr Paper Craft Model

I also made a paper model of the Gronkorr character, which you can print and assemble. This was my first attempt at such a thing.



An unsettling and unflinching look at body horror and mutation, as Santa Claus transforms himself into a half human, half reindeer chimera.

This is my favorite of all the cards/slash books I've done. The story and art really came together this time, if I do say so myself. 

Looking back, I honestly have no idea how I was able to finish this one in time for Xmas. I didn't even start on it until midway through November! This one was bigger than the previous card/book, clocking in at twelve pages. It was also much more complicated, featuring more characters and detailed backgrounds. 

And to top it all off, I had a second job in 2010 and was working around sixty hours per week. Somehow I managed to write and draw the entire thing in a month! 

Maybe it came out well because I didn't have a lot of time? I couldn't afford to screw around and had to make art and writing decisions quickly. Quite often stress fuels creativity.

I wish I had the time and resources to make an animated holiday special of this story, like the Rankin-Bass shows.


It's Xmas meets technology in this wacky story of irresponsible science nerds run amok!

Like Santataur, this one started out life as a drawing, and I later wrote a story around the characters and turned it into a card/book.

Unfortunately I had way more story than space. The original version clocked in at twenty pages. I had to do a lot of slashing and condensing and rewriting to get it down to a more manageable twelve.

I was also going through a downsizing trauma at the time, which kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm for the project. But I started on it anyway, and it turned out to be good therapy. Working on the Space Dweebs kept my mind off my job woes.


An apocalyptic account of Man vs. Nature, as the Earth is doomed by one man's hubris.

I sound like a broken record, but this was another card/slash book that was finished at the last minute. It's a well known law of graphic design— a project will always expand to fill the available time. 

Adding to the lengthy production time was the fact that I went on a family vacation in the middle of it, in addition to working on a massive freelance project at the same time.

I remember I started drawing the pages before I had all the details nailed down, so a lot of elements were created on the fly. Things like the hot young version of Mrs. Claus, the violent Elf names and the Yetis' ability to shoot ice rays.

It's dangerous to work that way, but it all turned out OK this time.


A sordid saga of revenge and brinkmanship as two powerful titans battle to the death as the rest of the planet looks on helplessly.

Last year's card/book was a massive twenty four pages, the longest I'd ever attempted. I knew it was gonna be a whopper, so I started extra early. Didn't matter. I still barely finished it by Xmas.

This story is based on classic Looney Tunes cartoons, the kind where the characters try to kill one another in an ever-escalating series of attacks. Even with the extra page count I still had more ideas than space, and had to pare down the number of attacks. Ah well.


I also made a Dr. Killdeath paper model. It's probably the most complicated one I've done so far. I'll probably make one of Count Gothula one of these days, as soon as I figure out how to construct a decent round head.

So there you go, a rundown of all the Xmas Card/Books I've made the past few years. Apologies to anyone who was expecting a new one this year. Who knows, maybe after I've had some time away from them I'll get the itch to create some more.
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