Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hellraiser Dark Holiday Special!


Sometimes, things that are too good to be true, are actually true.  Case in point; the Hellraiser Dark Holiday Special comic book.  Yes, what you see above is real, not some Clive Barker fan's Photoshopped wet dream.  Pinhead himself indeed took part in his very own holiday special, back in 1992.  Tonight here on Freddy In Space, we're going to peek inside at the holiday sights that ole Pin's got to show us!

I actually never knew this existed until the other night, when I somehow stumbled upon a picture of the cover while prancing around Google.  My first thought was that it was in fact some fan's Photoshop job, but immediately upon realizing it was real, I found one on eBay and purchased it at once.  I promised myself at the start of December that I wouldn't buy anything more for myself until after Christmas, but we'll let this one slide.  It's for blogging purposes, not for my personal pleasure.  Yea, let's go with that.
Goddamn, is that cover art awesome or what?  Pinhead Claus holding Rudolph's ripped off antlers, with his iconic red nose dangling from his studded Santa belt ... is that not the very definition of badass?  Unfortunately, Pinhead doesn't appear inside the actual comic book in a Santa suit, and in fact doesn't make an appearance at all within the pages.  So that's a bummer.  But hey, it's still one of the coolest covers I've ever seen, even if its sheer awesomeness is a bit deceiving.  Not much that could live up to that, anyway!

The comic itself is an anthology of three tales, with one wraparound story starring three Cenobites I've never before met; Atkins, Balberith and Face.  These three never appeared in any of the Hellraiser movies, but from what I gather are all prevalent in the spin-off comic books, of which I've never delved into.  Methinks I should change that.


In the wraparound story, which both starts and ends the comic, as well as continues in between each of the other tales, Atkins, Balberith and Face have come upon a Christmas Eve slaughter in a soup kitchen, where torn apart bodies are strewn all about.  Their mission is to find out who's responsible for the vicious murders, since the victims didn't do anything to deserve their demise.  They fear that if they can't figure it out, the murders will be blamed on them, and the dark God Leviathan will ream their bowels with the flames of perdition for all of eternity.  Their words, not mine.

Each of the three tales is based on an item found at the crime scene, which the Cenobites try to gather information from.  First, they discover an odd looking puzzle box, which doesn't match up with any of the ones known to them.  Yes, there are more than the one we've all seen in the movies, and the Cenobites carry around a book that shows and describes each of them (now that's a book I'd actually read!).  This one wasn't made in Hell, but rather in Taiwan.

The first tale, titled Child's Play, tells us the origins of this colorful looking puzzle box, in what is a Hellraiser style jab at the toy industry and its outsourcing ways.  The story is about Steve, who works for a toy company.  Steve is captured by the Cenobites, but he bargains for his release by promising them that he'll market the LeMarchand Box to children, thus providing them access to thousands of souls, in exchange for his own.

So ole Steve gets sent back to his normal life, and he pitches the toy idea to his boss, who gobbles it up.  "This thing'll outsell Rubik's Cube", he tells him, "...each one's got a surprise inside..."  With that, they arrange a focus group, for children to test out the potential hot new toy of the year.

The following week, Steve arrives at the focus group to find that his boss has had cheap plastic knock-offs of the puzzle box made and shipped over from Korea, and that the focus group will be conducted with the bootlegs, rather than the real deal.  Doh! 

Knowing that the Cenobites will destroy him for failing to provide them what he promised, Steve finds the original puzzle box and swaps it in place of the cheap fake.  Only problem is, the kids in the focus group don't care to play with the puzzle box.  They call it "corny" and instead reach for two toys that look a whole lot like the two Cenobites Steve originally bargained with.  With that, the Cenobites appear in the flesh, and tear his soul apart.

"You forgot the cardinal rule of business," they tell him.  "Always watch out for the competition."

Child's Play is definitely my favorite story in this comic, and I love the Halloween 3 vibe it's got going for it, with the evil toy and the focus group and all.  Perfect tale of Hellraiser themed holiday horror!

Back to the wraparound.  After the Cenobites destroy the bogus puzzle box, we're introduced to the second tale, when they find a Golem statue at the crime scene (the Golem is a statue from Jewish lore that was created to protect the Jewish people).  This second story is titled Sheddim, and it's about a young Jewish boy whose father introduces him to an old family heirloom; the Lament Configuration Box.
The father tells his son to never touch the box, an order which he shortly thereafter disobeys, when his father is killed by a group of anti-Semites.  The cops don't seem to care, so he attempts to use the puzzle box to bring to life his pet Golem, to bring vengeance upon those who took his father's life.  But when that doesn't work, the boy takes matters into his own hands, and starts killing them himself.

At the end of the story, the cops find the boy holding a bloody knife and the puzzle box, and they shoot him dead, when he raises the knife in the air.  After he's gunned down, the cops reveal that a witness swore out a statement, and that the culprits were going to be picked up later that night ... if only the boy had waited, rather than trying to avenge his father.

Sheddim is really the closest we've ever come to a Hanukkah horror tale, and for that, I love it. In fact, it's a whole lot like a movie idea I've been sitting on for years now, which I should probably get around to writing.  Easier said than done, of course!
Back at the soup kitchen, the Cenobites find an old storybook, and it's time for the third and final tale; Nursery Crime.  This one's about a father, Louise, whose far more committed to his work than he is to his son, who he considers an annoyance and a burden.  Louise is a professor of British folk lore, and he's discovered a book that contains in it a nursery rhyme about crows that he's never heard before, amongst a slew of ones that are all very common.  Thinking he's perhaps the first one to ever discover it, Louise becomes consumed by his find, and is determined to find out what the nursery rhyme means.  He sees it as his ticket to stardom, and riches beyond his wildest dreams.

Louise eventually comes to the realization that the rhyme is about the Bubonic Plague, and the 'crows' are actually referring to the plague doctors, who wore creepy crow-like masks, to protect them from the illness.  Upon making this realization, the mystery of the rhyme is unlocked, unleashing Hell upon Earth.  Louise is captured by two Cenobite-like creatures, Crow and Moon Face, who banish him to a hellish abyss.  
"These are my new friends", his son says to him.  "Only they're not people anymore.  They used to be people, Daddy.  Just like you!"
We return to the soup kitchen one last time, to wrap things up.  The Cenobites make the realization that the three evil-bringing objects are the source of the slaughter, and are not in line with the way Leviathan does things.  Yes, even hellish beasts have a method to their madness.  So they decide to blow the three objects to smithereens, as a last ditch effort to make things right.

In the final page of the comic, the soup kitchen is full with living people, rather than dead bodies, and it seems that the destruction of the objects has changed the course of time, and spared the lives of the people in the soup kitchen.  The workers remark about how three gifts they had put out are no longer there, and the kids don't even seem to care that they don't have all that many gifts.  The Christmas season is about more than that, after all.  Even in Hell!
While I can't help but wish the holiday aspect was more played up in the individual stories, I had a lot of fun reading this, and my life feels a little bit more complete, now that I've experienced Christmas in Hell.  Still boggles my mind how this one slipped past me for so many years.
Makes me wonder what else is out there, just waiting for me to discover it...


MJ said...

About a year ago I was given the entire run of the Eclipse Hellraiser comics. It has a very different take on 'Hell', and those 3 Cenobites are indeed key characters.

The short of it- and spoiler free version- is that Pinhead is a General in hell's army. These 3 are trusted Lieutenants, and the main course of the book is to maintain order.

It does lead into an interesting crossover with Nightbreed, who represent Chaos'.

I prefer Barker's take but it was an interesting read and worth ebaying.

Ken Reid said...

The Epic (Marvel) Hellraiser comics that I think that special comes from were pretty great. They were anthology comics (with a few re-occurring characters)and I believe it lasted for about 20 issues or so. They can all be picked up pretty cheap. They sort of made me wish we got a Hellraiser Tales from the Crypt style anthology series on HBO. They always had great art as well.