Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett looks at the latest news on kids comics, and then takes a look at comics for Christmas.

Right after I'd written that what Marvel was doing with their kids comics was better than nothing, but not by much (see "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Books of Kids Comics Vs. Kids Comic Books"), we're suddenly faced with the prospect of literally nothing.  In case you hadn't heard, Marvel's only two all-ages superhero comics, Spider-Man and Super Heroes (what a wonderfully generic title; it's a little amazing it hasn't been used more often), are ending with #24 in March.  The end of what previously been known as the Marvel Age and Marvel Adventures line was caused some consternation among pundits who are assuming this is just some more low selling titles getting the ax (like Alpha Flight, Iron Man 2.0, Herc, All-Winners Squad, X-23, Ghost Rider and Daken: Dark Wolverine -- with no doubt more to come).

Which of course is entirely possible; cutting expenses in a tight economy is standard operating procedure for major corporations, but I think the smart money would bet against a synergistic youth entertainment conglomerate completely abandoning the youth market.  No, it's entirely more likely this is just the prelude to yet another line relaunch, one that will undoubtedly include Disney material (see "Marvel Does 'Toy Story'").  I hope of course the classic Disney characters will be included, done in a way to appeal to actual kids instead of, well, guys like me, though it undoubtedly makes sense to start with the Pixar ones.  And of course I'm hoping Marvel will start reprinting the comics material from the bi-monthly Phineas & Ferb Magazine.  I used to feel a little sheepish about enjoying a kids cartoon the way I do Phineas & Ferb, that is until I went into a Walmart and found adult sized Perry the Platypus shorts.

So, once again it's Christmas week and I'm thinking back on the twenty-two Christmases I spent working in the retail sales trenches, one of the side effects of which being a severe aversion to going anywhere near a mall, especially during this magical time of the year.  And now that I am finally free of that daily grind... I still avoid them like the plague.  The other day I just barely managed to deal with the stress of going to the local Kroger's*; the traffic, the holiday music competing with the Salvation Army bell ringer and the red and green color scheme was so severe it seemed to strobe.  I was half-afraid it was going to induce a seizure.

Back when I was a kid one of the great conundrums of life was when older people would tell me, in all seriousness, that they didn't want anything for Christmas.  It just didn't seem physically possible but now that I am myself a person of a certain age it sadly makes sense.  I know this might make me a bad American but I can't honestly say I've benefited all that much from the metric ton of crap, junk and stuff that has slipped through my hands over the course of roughly half a lifetime spent wanting and accumulating.  At the moment I find myself in the unsettling position where I need little and want for even less.

Except, of course, for comics; I mean, I'm not a Bolshevik or something. One of the great things about comics is there's always more and no matter how many there are there's never enough, especially when it comes to Christmas comics and comics for Christmas for that matter.

Of course when it comes to Christmas comics I'm hopelessly old fashioned.  I want sentimental slop; superheroes taking a break from the never ending war on crime to deliver presents to orphans, help ex-cons trying to go straight or teach a lesson to a suspiciously familiar seeming miser.  I've accepted in my heart that I'm not likely to get that anytime soon, but I still wasn't prepared for Lee Bermejo's Batman: Noel, in which Batman terrorizes a small-time crook on Christmas Eve.

It's not bad, exactly.  The story and art are both top-notch, but ultimately it’s as dismal (in the truest sense of that word) as its color scheme.  By gutting the heart out of Dickens' A Christmas Carol it ends up an empty exercise; if nothing else it offers still further evidence how dangerous it is to attempt your own "take" on a classic work of literature.  More often than not it can only pale in comparison to the original.

* I know this sounds like life imitating a bad comedian's routine but I swear Kroger already had their Easter candy out!  I mean seriously, what the hell?

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of