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Ho ho ho!

No friends, that’s NOT yours truly inexplicably chortling at one of his own jokes (though such a thing HAS been known to happen) - that’s just my way of pointing out the obvious:

Christmas time is here again!

And today I want to talk a little bit about a personal holiday tradition that we launched over at my home site, Hembeck.com, two Decembers back:

The Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, Many, MANY Faces of Santa Claus!

(Pardon me while I catch my breath…)

What is it? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like - about as many depictions of good ol’ St. Nick as I could rustle up. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a lot of them come from my extensive comics collection, but there are also more than a handful scanned in off of Christmas cards, record album covers, catalogs, and even the odd sheet of wrapping paper! While you’ll surely recognize such characters as the Hulk, Spider-Man, Daffy Duck, Dilbert, Ambush Bug, Metamorpho, Hellboy and so very many others (hence the title), you’ll also find festively festooned - and familiar - Santas extracted from the pages of several old issues of Playboy magazine, most of which were bought specifically not only to read the articles, but also in anticipation of one day using these colorful illos (with, you should be relieved to hear, none of the naughty bits in view) for this project - honest!

Heh.

Ahem - yes, well. You’ll find such noted cartoonists at Neal Adams, Jack Kirby, Mort Walker, Al Wiseman, Frank Miller, John Forte, Terry Austin, Will Eisner, Jack Davis, Frank Cho, Mike Kaluta, and so very many, many more - including my own personal favorite - Johnny Craig…

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My good golly gosh, when I first got a glimpse of that gaudily garbed maniac’s kisser back in the early days of August 1965 (via Ballantine Books’ Tales From The Crypt paperback), I didn’t sleep a wink - and it sure wasn’t dreams of sugar plums dancing in my head THAT awful night! Luckily, I recovered from the shock (if only barely) by the time December 25th rolled around a few months later. But I mean, just LOOK at the guy!…

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Whew!

Well, anyway, he’s just one of many (there’s that word again), but he’s far from being the ONLY homicidal Father Christmas! You’d be surprised how many four-color Santas brandish themselves a weapon! But then again, if you read comics with any regularity, perhaps not…

This whole thing all started innocently enough back in 2004. I was looking for something to post on my site that would be seasonal, and I got the idea to cobble together a nice variety of Santa heads. It went over surprisingly well with the rest of the folks out there on the net - hey, hey, I got me links! - so I immediately began planning to add on to it for the following Christmas.

Which I did.

And now, it’s that time again, and I’ve gone all out - you’ll find over 150 (!!) new Santas taking their place on this ever increasing honor roll, the grand total now surpassing 350!(My apologies to those of you with slow Internet connections - it’s gonna take a while to load, I’m afraid. But once it does, and you’ve checked ‘em all out, I find it’s way fun to run the scrolling bar up and down real, real fast! Suddenly, there they are - a bounty of St. Nicks flashing right before your eyes! Woo hoo - trippy!…)

Um, did I call this a tradition? How about an obsession?…

It’s true. All year long, whenever I stumble across a Claus, my first thought is, “I GOTTA scan that in!” And sometimes I do - but when that nasty computer virus came along this past July and ate up everything that wasn’t already posted on my site, well, you might say heads rolled - right off my hard-drive! So, I had to start up all over again last week - luckily I only lost a couple of dozen, and I THINK I replaced most (if not all) of them. Any I encounter after today, well, as the Brooklyn Dodger fans usta say about their Bums, “Wait’ll NEXT year!”…

What qualifies as a Santa? Simple - anyone wearing the proper headgear! The REAL Santa doesn’t have to, natch, but if, say Heathcliff wants to be counted among the many, no two ways about it - he’s gotta have the hat. I try my best not to have too much duplication of either artists or characters, but as my parameters have broadened, I’ve loosened those self-imposed restrictions a tad. I figure, hey, there CAN be three different Gene Colan illos included if they all look totally dissimilar, right? And a trio of Hulks won’t hurt anyone either, as long as they’re illoed by three different cartoonists, dig? Photos are mostly verboten, but several did sneak through - either pics of masks or other non-human guises, or some heavily touched up portraits (like the pair, right near the end - you’ll recognize ‘em as two of Jolly Jim Salicrup’s closest buddies…).

Also, whenever possible, I went for the silliest poses possible. A lot of these were taken from a well of one, and so that wasn’t possible, but in those instances where Jolly Ol’ Santa appeared frequently in a single comics story, I tried my durndest to pick out the best - and goofiest - pose. Couldn’t hurt to provide you folks with a chuckle or two along the way, I’m thinking.

And just to fit the format, each scan needed to be as squared up as best possible - AND show as little lettering as I could manage. Mostly, I kept things dialog free, but a few choice bon mots snuck through.

Of course, that meant some really nifty pieces didn’t make the cut. Like this rectangular one…

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The new stuff has been added on to the existing art, meaning it’s a ways down. Can’t hurt to renew your acquaintance with Santas of season’s past, though - after all, you’ve been watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol every December for the last forty years, right? So go, take a look - and I ho ho hope you enjoy it! The link is included up top, in that sentence with the many “manys” in it.

Well, we here at “The Fred Hembeck Show” wish you only the best of holiday seasons, WHATEVER your choice of holiday may be! We’re going off on our well-deserved Christmas break, but we’ll be back with more goodies for you early in 2007! In the meantime, you can always find the occasional blog entry over at Fred Sez to tide you over.
And if anybody knows the whereabouts of a Steve Ditko Santa Claus drawing (or knows of where to access a printed piece with SpongeBob in a Santa hat), please let me know - that’d be the BEST Christmas present EVER!! (Okay, okay - I’m exaggerating, but still, clue my in if you know anything along those lines, okay? Thanks!)

Happy Everything, everybody!

-Copyright 2006 Fred Hembeck

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