Getting Weird With St. Nick

For its most recent three issues an alternative weekly in my home town of Birmingham has been showcasing a bent Christmas tale about a world overrun with weirdly twisted Santas and more Christmases than a single planet can be expected to handle, thanks to the unwise wish of one greedy kid. The story is called "Destroy All Santas."

The author of this three-installment yarn is the paper’s regular contributor J’Mel Davidson, who moonlights locally as a Magic City improv performer.

To enhance the publication of J’Mel’s story as an event, three different Birmingham artists (Christopher Davis; Tim Rocks; and yours truly) were invited to create illustrations linked to "Destroy All Santas." These illustrations, created separately with no inter-artist consultation (or at least without any consultation between me and my counterparts down south) were displayed as cover art for the three issues of Birmingham Weekly that contained the holiday serial. My art (seen above) appears in the December 21-28 issue — the one that available as I write this.

You’ll notice that, out of a touching desire to include me in the project, The Weekly‘s editor Glenny Brock has hewn to an expansive definition of the term "Birmingham artist." In other words, she has graciously ignored the fact that I’ve lived in Massachusetts for three years now and was a resident of New York City for the 27 years prior. Christopher and Tim, by contrast, are participants in Birmingham’s cultural scene right now, so their standing as true Birminghamians may be viewed by some as more solid than mine.

Nevertheless, Glenny knows that "you can take the kid out of Alabama but you can’t take the Alabama out of the kid" (to bend a colorful old saying to my will). My bare feet have squeezed Southern mud between their toes while I picked wild blackberries on the hillsides of Springville; I remember in which direction on Archedelphia Road we Birmingham-Southern students were instructed to run should nuclear bombs start falling on us during the Cuban Missile Crisis; and I know which way the bare butt of Vulcan faces. These are things that you can’t take away from a fellow.

So I feel entitled to continue calling myself a Birmingham artist, however much I may dally in my dotage amid the stirring mountains of New England. I’m pleased that I was sought out across the miles to pry bizarro Santa Clauses out of my warped subconscious in the service of J’Mel’s humorous verses (which you can read from the beginning by clicking here and following the story issue by issue).

Like the UAB Public Health cover art gig I told you about back in November, it’s the kind of thing that makes an Alabama-born cartoonist feel like he’s not all that disconnected from his younger self.

Above: the work of my two cover-art predecessors in the Destroy All Santas illustration parade. The first interpreter of J’Mel’s story was Christopher Davis (above left); a week later came the cover by Tim Rocks (above right).

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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