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Christmas through the Decades: Bizarre Adventures #34, 1982

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Christmas 1982… and the final issue of Marvel’s Bizarre Adventures magazine lived up to its titular remit with a morbidly amusing special “Hate-the-Holidays Issue”. In the ten issues of its existence the former Marvel Preview had never really found an identity, jumping from the likes of X-Men spin-offs to horror revivals, movie adaptations to themed issues, sci-fi to barbarians, and so on.

With #34 the book was published for the one and only time in both comics and magazine format and offered a dark banquet of eclectic festive feasts, all of them linked by a self-indulgently cynical but blackly amusing approach to the holiday season. Of all the tales in this Christmas anthology the one that really stands out in the memory is Mike Carlin’s ‘Slay Bells!’ – the story of one boy’s lifelong revenge obsession with Santa after the rotund chimney botherer accidentally fell on his father and crushed him to death one fateful Christmas Eve.

Elsewhere, amongst a number of strips between #34's covers, Mark Gruenwald provided an amusing spot of self-parody with Son of Satan send-up ‘Son of Santa’, Steven Grant sent Howard the Duck off on an It’s a Wonderful Life kinda riff and Al Milgrom gave jolly Saint Nick his worst Xmas ever navigating the streets of New York in ‘Santa Bites the Big Apple!’. While Denny O’Neil was almost consumed by his own pessimism in his anti-Crimbo edition of the From the Warp of Dennis O’Neil column.

Despite a largely forgettable run for Bizarre Adventures this finale was not without merit. Not quite as cutting in its delivery as it thought it was but bleakly funny in places nonetheless. And it had a skeleton in a Santa costume on the cover. You can't go far wrong with the exquisitely disturbing imagery of a skeleton in a Santa costume after all…

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