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A worldwide apocalypse has destroyed civilization, but you still better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout and I’m going to tell you why. Because, even though society may have been wiped out, Santa Claus is still coming to town and now instead of bad boys and girls getting coalm they get doses of hot lead delivered fresh from the barrels of Santa’s guns. This is the premise of “The Last Christmas” a six-issue mini-series beginning in June from Image Comics by Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan, with art by Rick Remender and Hilary Barta. CBR News spoke with Posehn and Duggan about the series, which mixes humor, holiday cheer and huge helpings of post-apocalyptic action.
Posehn is probably best known for his work on the HBO show “Mr. Show” or his stand up comedy work on tours like “The Comedians of Comedy” and Duggan has worked primarily as a television writer on shows like G4 TV’s “Icons,” but the duo are huge comic book fans. They first met at a comic store where Duggan was working. “I came out to Los Angeles to do some writing and that’s where I met Brian and Patton Oswalt,” Duggan told CBR News. “I worked at Golden Apple and those guys did a pilot for Comedy Central, now a long time ago, called ‘Super Nerds.’ I was a writing consultant on that.”
Posehn was thoroughly impressed by the writing skills Duggan displayed while working with him and Patton Oswalt on “Super Nerds.” “It took place at a comic shop and this guy had worked at a comic shop and we never had,” Posehn explained. “He just totally got the world and was hilarious.”
Posehn and Duggan’s first collaboration was in Television, but the two dreamed about breaking into the world of four-color funny books. “We’ve both talked about doing other comic projects over the years,” Posehn said. “I’ve talked with people at DC and had an idea years ago with a ‘Simpsons’ writer that we got a lot of people to like, but it never ultimately happened. It was kind of too crazy. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I’ve studied it. I’ve read a lot of scripts from guys I really respect like Steve Niles and Bendis.”
“I learned to read by reading comics,” Duggan said. “It’s part of what I’ve been doing forever and ever. So this certainly is a dream come true.”
The dream come true that is “Last Christmas” was born from a discussion Posehn and Duggan had while were playing “Halo.” “I feel I had a kernel of an idea that Brian made crazier by making it post apocalyptic,” Duggan stated.
“He had a film noir idea,” Posehn explained. “It was about Santa and it was kind of a dark noir thing. I was listening and I liked the idea. I had just watched ‘The Road Warrior’ for like the fiftieth time; I’m still fuckin charmed by that movie. I just blurted out, ‘What if it was Santa and ‘The Road Warrior?’ and he laughed. We literally kept laughing at the idea and then we pretty quickly got to writing it. We wrote it as a screenplay originally.”
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The duo’s friend writer/artist Rick Remender also found the idea hilarious and was instrumental in setting up “The Last Christmas” at Image Comics. “Rick introduced us around at WonderCon last year,” Duggan said. “We gave them an outline of what we wanted to do. We wanted to wait for Rick and Hilary Barta’s schedule to free up.”
“By the time Comic Con rolled around we were for sure going to do it with Image,” Posehn added. “We met everybody we had to meet at Image and started rolling forward with it.”
When “The Last Christmas” starts rolling with issue #1 in May, readers will be taken to a world savaged by the recent apocalypse; a world where Santa Claus naively believes he can continue business as usual. “Santa keeps on trying to be Santa and then the apocalypse really does visit him in a way that changes him forever,” Duggan explained. “He tries to keep going. In the opening of that first issue, he’s giving baseball bats to kids who need to keep zombies at bay.”
The bulk of “The Last Christmas” takes place a few years after the apocalypse personally visits St. Nick and he went into exile. “Santa’s been away for a little while and he doesn’t seem to belong in this new world,” Duggan said. “But our story has the last good boy who believes in Santa Claus. He’s sort of the kid in every Christmas story, the kid who saves Christmas. Hopefully we’ll be able to turn that on its head a little bit.”
The last good boy lives in one of the remaining outposts of humanity in the post-apocalyptic world. “This story takes place in Chinatown in San Francisco which is more of a walled city now,” Duggan explained. “That’s where Santa is going to make it or break it for himself.”
A colorful cast of yuletide related characters will accompany Santa on his journey to San Francisco, including Gary the Snowman. Like the narrator voiced by Burl Ives at the beginning of the old Rankin Bass Christmas specials, Gary sings songs that often set up scenes. However Gary isn’t as wholesome or harmless as he may appear. “He’s very traditional and then when push comes to shove . . .” Duggan hinted.
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The other supporting cast members include Santa’s elves, his reindeer, and a woman. “There’s the hot lady. You have to have one of those right? We like hot ladies so we like to put them in things we think up,” Posehn said. “There’s a girl named Karen that lives in Chinatown and takes care of the kid, who we don’t name actually.”
Some readers might be wondering about the fate of another woman in Santa’s life, Mrs. Claus. “That’s a good question. You’ll have to read the book,” Posehn cryptically hinted.
Standing in the way of Santa Claus and his mission to bring Christmas cheer to Chinatown is a horde of angry mutants. “The mutants don’t want to hear about it,” Posehn said.
“There are mutants and marauders,” Duggan explained. “There are guys that still have their brain left and know how to drive and shoot and there are sort of CHUDS.”
The tale of Santa’s battle to bring the holiday spirit to Chinatown in “The Last Christmas” will be packed with action and hilarity. “We always looked at it as kind of an action movie with funny dialogue and a couple of funny set pieces,” Posehn said. “Mostly it’s action. We love old Eastwood movies and we love fart jokes and that sort of stuff. So we just kind of threw everything in a blender. Whoever created Santa Claus, or the myth of him, already knew that midgets were funny. We’re just going, ‘Yes we agree.’ And we’re going to give them more funny business to do. There’s a lot of little people humor.”
“Santa was already halfway there before we got our hooks into him,” Duggan said. “He’s flying around in a sleigh above the Earth and dropping down chimneys. We just gave him some hardware and a mad on for some guys.”
“The Last Christmas” may be a holiday tale packed with violence and twisted humor, but at its heart it’s still a Christmas story. “In some reactions to the story, words like depraved have been thrown around,” Duggan said. “But we redeem everything. To us it makes perfect sense and I think it will find an audience.”
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“We were always looking at the big picture,” Posehn added. “We always knew the end. A lot of people, when they just hear the concept, they’re like, ‘You guys are going to hell.’ But it goes all the places a Santa Claus story has to go. There’s gunplay in the middle of it and throughout, but things are redeemed to a satisfying conclusion.”
Both Posehn and Duggan have been amazed by the work of their artistic collaborators on “The Last Christmas.” “It’s just really great,” Duggan stated. “Both Rick and Hilary and the guys doing our covers. Geoff Darrow agreed to do a cover for us and we’ve got a great Kieron Dwyer cover coming for the second issue.”
“All these guys are doing some of their best work for us,” Posehn said. “Both Kieron and Rick are guys we’ve been good friends with for about five to six years and I think they’re both doing some of their best stuff. The first couple of pages Rick sent in, I was in the middle of New Mexico shooting a movie and I was getting pages at the hotel. We were freaking out. It really surpassed my expectations.”
Posehn and Duggan were also immensely pleased with their collaboration with Image Comics on “The Last Christmas.” “Image has been great,” Duggan stated. “We’ve been really happy with all the attention, especially for two rookies like us who maybe didn’t need our hands held through some stuff, but just walked through some of the basics of self publishing a book through them.”
The title of their series might be “The Last Christmas,” but Posehn and Duggan have plenty more tales of Santa’s post apocalyptic adventures that they would like to tell. The duo have ideas for both prequel and sequel stories. They also have plans for other comic projects. “There’s more creator owned stuff, but we also definitely would love to write for the big two at some point,” Posehn explained.
“We do have some stuff that we want to do with Image, but if things happen the way that we hope they’ll happened I’d love to be writing comics for a long time,” Duggan said. “I know Brian feels the same way.”