OFF THE RACK COMICS: Marvel Comics “Bizarre Adventures” Number 34

I can still vividly remember when I bought this particular comic book. I had never followed the Bizarre Adventures line by Marvel Comics but looking back, I bet I would’ve enjoyed it. I was instantly drawn to the beautifully painted cover by artist Joe Jusko of a skeletal Santa Claus. Who wouldn’t want to buy this? Though my original copy eventually was lost, I always remembered the cover, but not the title of the series.

Recently, while doing research on my OFF THE RACK COMICS: Howard the Duck Magazine (1979-1981), I found the issue that I had missed so very much, since Howard has a story in it. Thankfully, even though this came out in February of 1983, it is not commanding high collectors’ prices and I found one on Amazon. Reading this again was like stepping back in time, to when I was a teenager. There are six stories in this issue, running from really good to eh.

The first story, “Son of Santa,” was written by Mark Gruenwald with art by Alan Kupperberg. This is definitely the strongest story in the book. A man, who could be homeless, is persuaded to go with a very short gentleman to the North Pole on false pretenses, only to find that he is the son of Santa. The North Pole has been destroyed by the Anti-Claus, the villain of this story. They fight to reclaim the right to have Christmas every year with Santa Jr. winning. It’s a fun story that brought me right back to when I first read it and it was just as good now as it was in 1983.

The second story, “Howard the Duck’s Christmas,” was written by Steve Grant with art by Paul Smith. This is a take on “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Howard in the role of George Bailey. Howard has had it and wants to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. His guardian angel appears to show him how much better the world is with him in it, only to find that it actually isn’t. It is a twisted take on the classic story that is interesting to read, though I think would’ve greatly benefited if Steve Gerber was involved.

Story three is “Dr. Deth” by Larry Hama and Bob Camp. Though the artwork is good, the story leaves a lot to be desired. It has no substance or depth. It’s one of those stories where after you read it you wonder what the author was thinking and why was it in a Marvel comic.

Next up is “Slay Bells” by Michael Carlin. This revenge story is really good with the artwork being in black and white except for Santa’s suit and blood. Ray, who’s father was killed four years ago accidentally by Santa is out to get the jolly old elf back. He starts by killing mall Santas but on Christmas Eve he gets his revenge. After being in jail for 10 years Ray is released and visits his mom on Easter, only to have her killed by a giant Easter egg.

Story five is called “Santa Bites the Big Apple!” and is by Allen Milgrom. On Santa’s big ride on Christmas Eve he arrives in New York, only to find it is more difficult to give out presents then he thought it would be. Every attempt he makes backfires and he is then thrown in jail as a bum. After escaping up the airshaft, as only Santa can, he finds that his slay has a parking ticket, has been stripped and the reindeer are gone. In frustration of not being able to deliver presents, he opens a store where all of the unappreciative can go and get their gifts, at “prices so low we’re literally giving things away!” When questioned about how good these people really are, he says that for New York, these are the good people. It’s a sad story but does have a lot of truth behind it.

Lastly is “Bucky Bizarre” by Steve Skeates and Steve Smallwood. Though the artwork is decent in this two page story, the writing is anything but. The story is written very clearly but is missing something. I think one more page would’ve wrapped it up nicely, rounding the story out much more.

All in all this is a fun book to read at Christmas, despite the negativity of some stories. It is definitely not for kids and it does warn of that fact on the cover. If you would like to order your own copy, just click on the image below. Make sure to check out my entire series of OFF THE RACK COMICS!

~David Albaugh

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