Tag Archives: krampus

Dec. 19 – American Dad! – “Minstrel Krampus”

“Minstrel Krampus” originally aired December 15, 2013.

I’m quite surprised to have made it all the way to December 19 without resorting to The Simpsons, American Dad!, Bob’s Burgers, or some other animated sitcom that has an annual, or near annual, Christmas episode. Not that I have been avoiding such shows, and I may turn to one again before this is all over, it’s just worked out that way. American Dad! is the animated sitcom that might have the best claim to possessing the highest quality Christmas specials. They’re not an annual guarantee anymore, but the library the show has accumulated is quite good. Bob’s Burgers might be the runner-up at this point, but The Simpsons have a solid claim due largely to just having such a vast library of Christmas episodes at this point (and it could have been a lot more if not for the fact that the show was reluctant to go back to the holiday following the first, aired, episode).

“Minstrel Krampus” just might be my second favorite of the American Dad! Christmas episodes, but even that’s a tough battle. Last year, we looked at my favorite such episode and rather than go to the next in-line we’re doing Krampus. I suppose it’s slightly redundant given we already looked at a Christmas special this year featuring the beast, but if we can fit Santa into multiple specials then why not Krampus? This Christmas episode, like so many others, does tie-in with previous ones via The Smith family’s relationship with Santa Claus so it makes sense to look at this one this year. There was a Christmas episode released in between “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” and this one (“Season’s Beatings” which is excellent and likely to be looked at later), but it didn’t contain Santa so we’re not really missing anything continuity wise.

We have ourselves a festive framing device for this one.

This episode foregoes the opening credits and begins on the title screen with the sound of sleigh bells in the background. They should have brought back the candy cane font, but I’ll forgive them. The absence of an intro would seem to indicate we’re in for a slightly longer episode than usual. Normally, that’s a good thing, but when you’re writing a blog entry that has to cover the whole of an episode it’s less thrilling. Once the title is removed we’re presented with an ornate looking storybook that lets us know this is an American Dad! Christmas episode. A narrator, who is clearly Stan’s father Jack (Daran Norris), chimes in to set the mood. It’s Christmas, the time of year when children are the worst! They’ve figured out they’re getting stuff whether they’re bad or good and that just sucks.

In order for this episode to work, Steve has to be a giant brat. Just go with it.

We then find ourselves at a toy store. To apparently illustrate this point, we see Stan (Seth MacFarlane) and Francine (Wendy Schaal) pushing a cart filled with toys while their teenaged son Steve (Scott Grimes) rides in the basket. He grabs an RC car from the shelf and tosses it into the cart, which Francine removes and places back on the shelf. He immediately protests and when Francine tells him it’s too expensive he throws a tantrum. Stan reminds him he only gets what he wants if he’s good, and Steve responds by slapping his father in the face. Stan doesn’t understand what’s gotten into their son while Francine just refers to him as a mystery. This is apparently an inspirational quote for Steve who hops out of the cart and breaks into song, the first line of which is “I’m the one they call a mystery.”

This is the first of a handful of musical numbers in this one, most of which are really well done and catchy.

I think this is around the time of the show where the writers fell in love with Scott Grimes and his singing ability. And with good reason – he sounds great! Steve sings his song, which I assume is titled “Bad Bad Boy” or something to that effect, with a simple, synthesized, backing track. His vocal inflections remind me of Bad era Michael Jackson, and considering the song’s premise, that’s probably intentional. Steve basically just dances around the store plucking items from the shelf and tossing them, which Francine has to pick up. It cuts into segments of Steve dancing in hip hop attire with background dancers on top of a giant, green, red-ribboned, present with flames in the background. It’s absurd, but quite entertaining. It goes on for a half minute or so before Francine demands an end to this song and dance. Stan then laments that he can’t just beat Steve like his father used to beat him, which actually gives him an idea as he tells Steve he’s going to show him what happens to bad boys when they grow up.

Jack Smith has a little story to tell his grandson.

We switch scenes to a penitentiary. Stan’s dad, Jack, is locked-up here and Stan wants Steve to speak with his grandfather and hopefully get scared straight. When the two sit-down with Jack, divided by the usual security features of a prison, Stan demands Jack tell Steve how awful prison is, but Jack just reminisces about Krampus. Neither Steve nor Stan have any idea who Krampus is, but Jack says Steve is lucky he’s not around anymore because when he was a kid Krampus would punish the naughty. He then tells the tale of Krampus which is displayed via still images as if they’re from an old storybook. He covers the usual stuff, like how Krampus rode with Santa and beat on bad kids, but when Steve calls it a bunch of bull-jizzle (eww) Jack explains he’s not around anymore because he trapped him! One Christmas Eve night, little Jack got out of bed to get more of his mother’s strudel, but he found Krampus with his head buried in the copper pot full of the stuff. Jack slammed the lid on him trapping him forever!

You have to feel for a kid who walks in on some goat-man going to town on his mother’s strudel.

Stan and Steve don’t believe the old man’s story which is when Jack tells him to check his basement. It would seem all of Jack’s stuff is stored there, on account of him being in prison and all, and that includes the copper pot containing Krampus. He urges Stan to investigate, but the two get up and leave forcing a guard to enter to drag Jack back to his cell all the while with him screaming for Stan to check his basement (he also mentions some really fast skis he’s keeping down there too).

This feels like the setup for a B plot, but it really doesn’t go anywhere.

Back in town, Main Street is all decorated for Christmas and Hayley (Rachel MacFarlane) is out doing some window-shopping with Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), the fish. Klaus is comically riding around in a hamster ball full of water while wearing a festive Santa hat. He asks Hayley if she’s decided what she’s getting the family for Christmas and she indicates she has not. This is her opportunity to break into song. It’s not particularly funny or anything as she just needs money for Christmas (to just buy popcorn?) which leads her to Roger (MacFarlane) who demands she stop singing and just tell him what she wants. It’s a job she wants and she’s hoping she can work in Roger’s attic bar, but he gestures to the open area that he has plenty of help since he hired some collegiate water polo team. A bunch of physically fit men in red speedos are serving drinks and Roger remarks suggestively he has “more hands than jobs.”

Oh my!

Roger tosses Hayley a newspaper and tells her to check the want ads. She finds an ad for airport work and puts a circle around that. One of Roger’s waiters then walks over and he inspects the young man’s…area. He’s not satisfied with the fit of the speedo and complains that it’s too loose and that you could fit two men in it! He demonstrates by squeezing himself into the garment and the poor waiter looks rightly uncomfortable with the situation. Roger complains it’s still too loose and calls over another waiter to get in.

What are the Smiths going to do with this boy?

Later at the Smith residence, Steve is ripping open his Christmas presents and finding them not up to his standards. He pulls out what looks like a futuristic looking RC car and questions if his parents bought the floor model before emphatically smashing it on the floor. Francine comes over demanding to know, “By the power of Grayskull,” just what Steve thinks he’s doing. Stan gathers up the remaining unopened gifts and says he’s going to hide these ones until Christmas. This takes him down into the basement while muttering how Steve has him “…talking like Bernie Mac.” He tries to place the gifts on the top shelf of some wall unit, but he ends up knocking down a whole bunch of boxes which reveals his father’s copper pot.

A Krampus moon shot! Now there’s something you don’t see in most Christmas specials.

Stan approaches the pot with trepidation, but soon hears a voice calling from inside. It’s Krampus (Danny Glover), and he wants to be let out! He mistakes Stan for Jack, but Stan corrects him by telling the demon that Jack is his father. The beast continues urging Stan to free him, but he’s apprehensive about unleashing a literal demon upon the world. Then he hears Steve screaming at his mother upstairs about his Mickey Mouse towel and it gives him an idea. He offers Krampus a deal: he’ll let him out, but he has to scare Steve straight. Krampus is more than willing to do so as he reminds Stan that’s basically his thing, so Stan removes the lid. Immediately, a black, wraith-like, being comes flying out and past Stan! We cut to Steve sleeping in his bed when his window smashes in and Krampus appears. He picks Steve up by the neck and shoves him in his sack. Stan comes bursting in just in-time to see Krampus fly out of the window riding his sack like a witch rides a broom. Before he leaves, he tells Stan to bring him Jack if he ever wants to see his kid again. On the way out, we get to see Krampus fly past the full moon – a new holiday tradition!

That’s one way to do it.

We cut to the prison and Jack is flipping out at the news that Stan freed Krampus. When he incredulously asks upon hearing the news, “You did what?!” Stan replies that he just wanted Krampus to scare Steve straight which causes Jack to scream, “Sexual orientation is not a choice!” For as shitty a person as Jack is, at least he isn’t a homophobe. Stan ignores him and just lays out his proposal: Krampus has Steve and will only return him if Jack takes his place. Stan informs his father that he can use his CIA connections to have him released if he’s willing to switch places with Steve. Jack flips up his eye patch exposing a hole where his eye once was and pulls a cigarette out from it that he must have been stashing. He inserts the filter end of the cigarette into the hole and lights it, takes a drag somehow, and then takes it out and smokes it in a more conventional sense. He then agrees to Stan’s proposal.

You just can’t trust that Jack.

We cut to Stan and Jack leaving the prison. As they do, Jack reasons that Krampus must have taken Steve to Bavaria where his castle is. He tells Stan to give him his keys, which Stan does only for Jack to punch him out and steal his car. As he does so, he shouts “See ya, sucker!” in Stan’s direction who is left sitting on the ground. He just chuckles to himself between mutterings of “Yup,” indicating he should have probably seen that coming.

They can’t all be teapots and candelabras.

At the castle of Krampus, Steve is being dragged by the leg to a holding cell. As he gets dragged by a large wooden door, it opens and some normally inanimate objects emerge and note their surprise at seeing Krampus. They are a toilet brush, bidet, plunger, and beer stein. It would seem Krampus’ castle is not unlike that of the Beast from Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Krampus then chucks Steve into a caged area all the while Steve is insisting he can’t be treated like this because he’s an American child. He even refers to himself as a treasure. He then spits in the face of Krampus and tries to threaten him, but Krampus checks him to remind him who he’s dealing with.

You get the rod!

This is Krampus’ turn to break out into song (singing voice provided by Charles Bradley) and illustrate to Steve why he’s a creature to be feared. It’s a funky little R&B number and probably the highlight of the musical component to this episode. Krampus basically dances around torturing Steve with the climax of each verse being “You get the rod!” followed by him wailing on Steve’s ass with his birch sticks. There’s a break in the middle where Krampus explains to Steve that he doesn’t know real pain like he does which leads to a quick story about Krampus being dumped by a girl named Sheila in the middle of downtown Baltimore to go with a guy named Dennis. When he goes back into his song, he sings about Sheila presenting him with a baby she claimed was is, but looked just like Dennis. That damn, Dennis! This guy has some real trauma in his past. The song closes with him holding Steve by the ankles as he spanks his bottom with the birch sticks. He leaves the boy sobbing in a fetal position in the cage telling him that’s where he’ll stay until he gets Jack.

Roger seems like he’s actually a good bartender. Terrible boss, but good bartender.

At the Smith home, Stan is nursing a beer at Roger’s bar. Roger, being the ever attentive bartender, asks Stan to tell him what he did, or who he did, was it another boy?! Stan tells him what happened and Roger surprises him by actually knowing who Krampus is. He suggests that Santa would know where to find him, but Stan reminds Roger that Santa hates him and we get a brief flashback to their confrontation from before. Plus, Stan adds, he has no way to get to the North Pole, but Roger informs him he’s wrong about that assumption and calls for his “boys.”

If you’re feeling bad for the one dead one, I’m guessing the others aren’t far behind so at least he won’t be alone.

We cut to Stan and Roger on a floating sleigh with the water polo team pulling it through the arctic waters. One of them is clearly dead while the others jump and swim like dolphins. They arrive at a frozen island with a massive, 100 foot wall of ice in front of them. Roger just asks Stan to give him a boost so he does and the scene just cuts to Roger effortlessly climbing over the edge. He then calls out for Stan to grab his hand and the shot is positioned over Roger’s shoulder so that Stan is comically too far away to reach. The scene cuts back to Stan and Roger’s hand is in-frame. I don’t know if this is a reference to anything or just something the writers thought was funny, but it is! Stan is then jumped by a group of elves obviously working for Santa. The ice beneath Roger’s feet breaks away from the side of the wall causing him to fall and crash through the ice. An elf reaches into the newly formed crater with a snare to wrap around Roger’s throat. He pops up and commands the elf, “Harder.” He tightens the snare only for Roger to respond with, “Way harder!”

Roger’s just making the best of a bad situation.

At Santa’s workshop, Stan is tied to a chair with holly and a coat-less Santa comes strutting in to smash his face with a revolver featuring a candy cane pattern. Santa (Matt McKenna) is not happy to see Stan and seems ready to kill him, but Stan mentions Krampus. Santa is really not happy to hear about the return of Krampus as he hates sharing the spotlight with the demon, plus he used to nibble on his list. He then makes Stan an offer: help him kill Krampus, and he’ll help get Steve returned safely. Stan agrees and says “Come on, Roger,” and as the camera pulls back we see Roger is tied to a chair nearby and the elves are still choking him. He tells Stan he’s “Almost there,” indicating they can leave once he…finishes.

I see nothing wrong here.

Back at Krampus’ castle, the objects come to cheer up Steve. First he’s approached by a roll of toilet paper who offers to dry his tears, then the others appear. Bidet offers Steve a drink of water from his “spout” which Steve is happy to partake in. Steve uses the opportunity to complain about how mean Krampus is, but the others disagree and tell him he has Krampus all wrong. They let him out to illustrate their point and the group finds Krampus at a piano singing his heart out.

Yeah, Krampus, sing your heart out! I am here for it!

Krampus is in pain, and it hurts him to punish children, but it’s something he must do! Steve is touched and joins Krampus for a duet where he explains that he understands the demon now. The song is very soulful, and Charles Bradley sings his ass off. The song does devolve into Krampus singing about his love life again and brings up his ex, Sheila, once more. It gets dark when Krampus vows to kill her, but then ends by professing his love for her. He’s got some stuff to work out. When the song ends, the two have a heart-to-heart and reach an understanding about the role Krampus plays and Steve seems to have turned over a new leaf. Krampus tells Steve he just wants to see Jack so he can apologize for failing him as he blames himself for Jack turning out so rotten.

Another atypical moon shot, this one is really spoiling us!

At the North Pole, Stan, Roger, and Santa are ready to set out for Krampus. The three of them are in Santa’s sleigh which is only being pulled by six reindeer – but wait! Tagging along behind them are three additional reindeer being ridden by elves. Do we grant credit for the proper number of reindeer to this scene as a result? It’s inconclusive, but maybe. The sleigh takes off and they pass by a full moon once again and Stan even makes a comment about it. Roger adds that once you’re above the clouds the moon always looks full, but when Stans asks if that’s true Roger just blows him off. And if you’re wondering, the answer is “No,” that is not true. Santa then adds that Stan will be on the permanent Good List for helping him kill Krampus, right alongside Jesus. When Roger points out that Jesus is a Jew, Santa reacts with an incredulous, “What?!”

Ugh, let’s just forget this happened.

As the sleigh group passes over an airport, we pan down to check-in with Jack again who is trying to board a plane to Jamaica, but his flight has been delayed. He gets in a little tiff with an airline employee named Mary-Ann (Marissa Jaret Winokur) who refers him to customer service. There he finds Hayley (remember her arc?) working a customer service kiosk. She’s being accosted by a group of Jamaican men (all voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) who seem rather upset about their flight. Jack is surprised to find Hayley here and when he asks her what she’s doing she says she needs money to buy presents for her family. When Jack expresses that he doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do something for their family, she breaks into a Calypso/Rastafarian number about how family gets you high and it is just awful. It’s not even funny bad, it just sucks. It’s apparently all the convincing Jack needs though as when the song ends he’s convinced he needs to help his family so he changes his flight to Bavaria to go after Krampus.

They just couldn’t help themselves.

It’s morning at Castle Krampus and Steve comes walking into the kitchen in an oversized dress shirt to find Krampus cooking breakfast. Are we supposed to read this like the classic setup of a woman wearing a man’s shirt the next morning after a night of sex? Normally, I’d say no, but with this show I’m betting they want us to think of it in that way. Krampus serves him his breakfast and Steve is basically still apologizing for being a bad kid, but Krampus wants to thank him for reminding him how good it feels to convert bad kids to good ones. He’s made blueberry crepes, and Plunger asks Steve if he wants homemade chocolate sauce. After he asks, he drags his body across a plate of the dish leaving a brown trail behind. Yes, this is definitely a poop joke.

You’ve sauced your last crepe, Plunger.

Outside, Santa’s sleigh has been parked and we find the assault team roaming the halls of the castle. Santa signals for all to stop when he hears the sound of a toilet flushing. We see plunger using the bathroom and finishing up before the door flies open. Stan angrily storms in and grabs Plunger and drowns him in the toilet. In the kitchen, Steve is helping Krampus with the dishes. Krampus scrapes the contents of a plate into a trash bag which is a living bag that begins hopping towards the door to take itself out. Stan, Santa, and the elves burst in and one of the elves grabs the trash bag and cuts it open. Blood appears as the contents of the trash bag spill on the floor indicating it has died while Steve cries out “Trashy!”

If you smash a bidet, does it bleed? Yes.

They begin laying waste to the various objects in the kitchen. Santa chucks the toilet paper onto an open flame while Stan wrestles with the bidet. He ends up tossing it out the window where it smashes into a pile of porcelain and blood on the ground. A living table stands up on its end for Krampus and Steve to duck behind while the boy cries out for them to stop their assault. He also cries out as his friends are slaughtered and this is clearly going to scar the boy for a long time. During this sequence, we see Jack has arrived and is skiing towards the castle as the sound of gunfire filters out. The table gets shot and dies leaving Krampus exposed. Santa fires off a round and nails him in the chest. As Krampus lays on the ground bleeding out, Steve comforts him, but Santa just comes over and puts one foot on his chest. Declaring himself “Big man on Krampus,” he blasts the demon in the forehead ending his existence.

Avert your eyes, Steve!

With Krampus dead, Santa turns his attention to Stan. Drawing his gun on him, Stan tries to reason with him, but Santa lays it out in plain terms that he’s the bad guy! Steve chimes in to tell his dad that’s what he was trying to tell him, that Krampus was good and Santa evil. Santa laughs and confirms as much saying he’s in bed with “Big Toy” to make sure all kids get what they want on Christmas so that he can profit. When Roger tries to point out that this doesn’t make any sense since Santa gives toys away, he tells him to shut up and not to think about it too hard.

You were a fool to trust him, Stan. That’s twice you’ve failed!

Santa then fires off a round at Stan, but through the window comes Jack! He’s able to soar in front of his son in slow motion to take a bullet for him while simultaneously sending one of his skis to plunge into Santa’s chest. The act causes Santa to lose his revolver and Stan is able to grab it. Santa still tries to throw a knife that was on the floor at Stan, but he misses and hits the wall which we find out was alive. Santa then runs for it shouting “Every man for himself,” with his trio of elves trailing behind. With Stan kneeling over his dad, Jack takes the opportunity to tell Stan he’s a good guy and to apologize for being a bad father, but Stan corrects him and says his abuse made him what he is today. That’s the message of the episode folks, kids need to be beaten into goodness. Jack expresses regret for sealing Krampus away for all these years feeling that, if he hadn’t, the world wouldn’t suck so bad.

At least they got to have one touching moment before he died.

On the floor, the blood pooling from Krampus mingles with the blood of Jack. The body of Krampus turns to a blue apparition and gets absorbed into Jack. His lifeless body begins to float and blasts of light shoot out of him and a new Krampus is born! This new Jack-Krampus basically looks as you would expect and is quite thrilled at the idea of being alive again. Steve points out the obvious, while Stan asks him if he’s going to be Krampus all the time or just on Christmas. Jack rightly doesn’t know, but he declares it’s Christmas Eve and he has some bottoms to blister! He turns into the wraith form and flies out the window. Outside, he flies right up to the screen to break the fourth wall to tell us “You better be good, boys and girls, or I’ll beat you until blood’s comin’ from your ears and your eyes and your mouth. Merry Christmas! …and from your ass!” The scene turns into another image from the storybook that started it all. It zooms out and closes signaling that’s the end.

Behold! The new Krampus!

“Minstrel Krampus” is a thoroughly wacky tale that only American Dad! could tell. In order for it to take place, Steve needs to act like a petulant child and do things he normally never would, like slap his father. And for his part, Stan needs to act in a way he normally would not for if Steve ever struck him in another episode he probably would beat the child or inflict some kind of psychological torture on the boy. It’s also dependent upon Santa being a bad guy in this universe and that part is played up. It’s not exactly a perversion of Christmas to view Krampus in a somewhat favorable light if his punishment is deemed corrective discipline. And the observation that basically all kids get toys on Christmas, be they good or bad, isn’t exactly wrong.

Unlike the old Krampus, this one doesn’t seem to be transferring his own trauma onto bad kids. I think he’s just going to like wailing on children.

Where the episode takes it further is by introducing the message that capital punishment is the best form of punishment for children. That’s obviously made in jest and I don’t think the show intends for us to take it literally, it’s just there for the sake of humor. Steve encountering a group of magic, talking, objects is a direct parody of Beauty and the Beast and the episode makes certain to select the most unsanitary of objects for its characters. Most of these wouldn’t have existed in the Beast’s castle, but imagine if Belle encountered a magic, talking, chamber pot? I’m actually a little surprised they went with the comparatively less disgusting bidet, but they got their poop joke in via the plunger so it’s not as if the episode didn’t “go there.”

The only weakness I find with this one is in the B plot, if you can even call it that. We get a very brief scene at the beginning of Hayley looking for a job which only happens so that Jack can encounter her at the airport and have a terrible song come from her that changes his perception of family. For this to work, we basically have to ignore Hayley’s usual character as she’s not likely to feel this kind of pressure to get her family anything for Christmas. In that, it’s similar to Steve acting as horrible as he does which is just as out of character for him. It’s just not a rewarding plot and the whole scene at the airport is easily the weakest moment. They could have cut the whole thing and just had Jack witness something at the airport that changed his heart. Maybe a parody of Home Alone with Kevin’s mom declaring she’s getting home to her son for Christmas could have provided a comedic way to turn things around. Basically anything would have been better than the scene we got.

The storybook pages are a lot of fun, and I’m always down for more Krampus stories!

Aside from that one song, the others are quite entertaining. This episode is almost a musical. I don’t think there’s enough music to really call it that, but it doesn’t matter as it’s just semantics anyway. The songs are pretty great though and I really loved the opening number with Steve at the store and both songs involving Krampus. Scott Grimes and Charles Bradley give terrific performances and the delivery of their songs are very earnest, with the lyrics sometimes being ridiculous. This is the type of episode I recommend watching with subtitles on at least once so you can get all of the jokes. That last song with Krampus sure takes things to some dark places by the time it’s over.

Ultimately, this is just a funny Christmas episode. It’s not as bloodthirsty as the previous one we looked at, so some that found the battle between the Smiths and Santa’s minions distasteful might actually prefer this one. It certainly has that American Dad! spirit as the show was well into its life at this point to know how to do a proper Christmas episode to the point where it feels automatic. And if you’re wondering, yes both Santa and Jack-Krampus return in future Christmas episodes so you might not want to stop here. And if you do want to watch it, and any other American Dad! Christmas episode, Hulu has you covered. Cartoon Network is also sure to show it and the rest all month long, though by now the number of viewings are likely dwindling so act fast!

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 19 – Krazy Kat – “Krazy’s Krismas”

One of the most celebrated comic strips of all time is Krazy Kat by George Herriman. Krazy Kat debuted in the New York Evening Journal in 1913 and concluded its run in 1944. It contained a fairly simply premise where a cat named Krazy pined for a mouse named Ignatz, only the mouse hated the…

Keep reading

Dec. 19 – Christopher the Christmas Tree

We look at a lot of Christmas stuff pulled from every day cartoons, for the most part. On occasion though, I suppose we should throw the Christians a bone and look at something a bit more secular. Yes, I think most people know Christmas was basically co-opted by the church many years ago, but it’s…

Keep reading

Dec. 19 – The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives

Every year I do this I am reminded at how surprising it is that so few Christmas themed Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes shorts exist. Disney put out several memorable ones over the years featuring their characters, but Warner Bros. mostly stayed away. Bugs Bunny would eventually get a Christmas television special in the 70s,…

Keep reading

Dec. 12 – A Very Venture Christmas

Original air date December 19, 2004.

This one has been a long time coming. One of my all-time favorite television shows is The Venture Bros., but it’s a show I really haven’t spent much time discussing on this blog. I guess because I view it as contemporary, even though the pilot premiered almost 20 years ago now. For most of this blog’s life it has been considered ongoing, but the eighth season of the show ended up being a COVID casualty, or whatever Warner Media wants to blame it on, so it has come to an unceremonious end. As of this writing, a finale is said to be in the works that will someday air on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, but with how things have been going with Discovery and Warner that finale seems to be very much in doubt. Hopefully, I won’t have to update this to say it’s been cancelled, though it would be nice to have to update it to say it has a release date.

The Venture Bros. began life as a Johnny Quest spoof. Doc Venture, his bodyguard Brock, and his twin sons Hank and Dean travel the world in their high-tech jet and go on adventures. Only with the Ventures, Doc is basically a huge failure who is often just after a quick buck. He gets by on selling his dead father’s legitimate inventions and sometimes to the wrong people. The central theme of the show is failure as Doc Venture isn’t a real doctor of anything who basically fell backwards into the role his dad played (he was a boy adventurer and basically his world’s version of Johnny Quest, though there’s also a character named Action Johnny, it gets confusing) when he died suddenly before the events of the show and he’s basically just treading water. Because of his name and reputation, he has a bodyguard in Samson issued by the government to keep an eye on things. The show’s lore would expand exponentially as it went along and the Johnny Quest spoof was essentially dropped as a result.

This is the rare Christmas special that has two title cards. I couldn’t decide which I liked more.

The show’s first season ended its broadcast back in October of 2004, but waiting for Christmas of that year was a special: A Very Venture Christmas. Cartoon Network had (has?) a notoriously tight checkbook when it comes to its original content and especially so with Adult Swim. They were able to get by with very cheap, but also very entertaining, shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Sealab 2021 in the early days and that basically had a ripple effect on everything that follows. The Venture Bros., being a more traditionally animated show, was also scrutinized by the network due to its costs relative to those other shows even though its animation budget was nothing compared with Saturday morning cartoons or even primetime ones like The Simpsons. It would get better, but that first season especially didn’t look that much more impressive than the rest of the original content airing on Adult Swim.

This one begins with an almost perfect recreation of the old CBS Special Presentation animation.

Because of that, the budget for the special was small and it was so small that it remains the only episode that’s 11 minutes, basically half the length of a standard episode. This made it more like a standard Adult Swim original and there’s another reason for that. Originally, series co-creator Jackson Publick (real name Christopher McCulloch) conceived of the special as being part of a block of Christmas originals to air in 2004. Making this one shorter than usual made sense since it could slot in with the other shows to form an hour or a half hour’s worth of content. He thought he had the network and the other shows onboard, but it apparently all fell apart and the only episode of TV to come of the whole thing is the one we’re about to talk about. It was even supposed to be shorter, but Adult Swim wouldn’t be able to find time for a 7 minute thing and by filling a quarter of an hour it at least worked well enough for them. Partly because of that, Publick doesn’t seem to think much of this episode because it ended up being rushed and the unique running time only adds to that feeling. Other series co-creator, Doc Hammer, is even less complimentary of it saying “I hate that fucking Christmas special.”

Oh no, not another Christmas Carol parody…

This one begins with a spoof on the old CBS Special Presentation graphic. According to Hammer, he got it so close to the original that they had to make some changes because it looked too much like it. This homage has certainly been done a lot since, but this is one of the first I can recall seeing (I think South Park beat them to it). After that, we’re taken to a cemetery in an obvious parody of A Christmas Carol. Doc Venture (James Urbaniak) is being shown his own grave by the Grim Reaper-like Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and he’s obviously in some distress. When he asks the ghost to confirm it is indeed his grave, despite the tombstone being clearly marked, he throws back his hood to reveal himself to be Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton), Venture’s bodyguard, and responds to him sarcastically since the grave is obvious.

Nah! This isn’t a straight parody of anything, but it is front-loaded with a bunch of quick hits to more famous Christmas specials.

Venture wails and begs on his knees until he wakes up grasping an orange husband pillow in his own bed. He is delighted to find he has woken up and declares he will live in the past, present, and the future. As he says that, we get an X-Ray shot identical to the one from How the Grinch Stole Christmas that shows his heart growing in size until it breaks through the frame. He goes into the Scrooge routine of jumping around and declaring his glee before running out onto a balcony to call out to a boy. The boy is his son, Hank (Jackson Publick), who is clearly dressed to resemble Charlie Brown and is even carrying a sad, little, tree. Venture asks the kid what day is it and Hank responds, “Duh. It’s Christmas Day!” which just further delights this Scrooge-Venture.

Why if it isn’t old Hank Brown and his pathetic little tree!

Suddenly, Venture’s nose glows red and his pajamas disappear as he starts to float. He then soars over the Venture compound like Rudolph wishing a “Merry Christmas!” to all he passes over like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. He passes by Dr. Orpheus (Stephen Rattazzi), a necromancer who rents an apartment on the Venture compound, who returns the greeting by calling him Mr. Venture. I love that he refuses to acknowledge Venture’s phony doctorate. He also wishes a merry Christmas to the family robot, H.E.L.P.eR., which is dressed as Tiny Tim. After he passes the camera pans over to son Dean dressed as a clown who wonders why his dad didn’t wish him a merry Christmas. The camera zooms out further as Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas) declares “No one wants a Dean-in-the-box!” and we see he is dressed as Charlie from the Rudolph special.

You’re right, son, no one wants a Dean-in-the-box.

The image then dissolves into static and we see Dr. Venture waking up yet again. It would seem he fell asleep on his TV remote causing the channel to just keep changing. At it does, we hear lines from famous Christmas specials like the ones we just saw depicted in the dream. Some of the lines are modified slightly, while others are left completely unchanged. Most sound like they’re voiced by Publick and I do really like his “Thirty-nine and a half foot pole!” chant. Venture then sits up and rubs his head and says “Oh thank God, I thought I turned into a complete [censored],” It’s bleeped out even on the DVD release, but I think he just said “asshole,” but I’m not certain. We then smash-cut to a festive rendition of the traditional show opening. There’s snow falling and jingle bells playing and there’s wreaths and a new red-green color scheme and other festive stuff inserted. It’s very corny and silly, but what can I say, this stuff works on me!

This is extra funny because the Sears Wish Book really would hang around for years. It was as big as a phone book and must-read for kids year in and year out.

When the credits end we find Doc heading down the stairs to the kitchen with a cup of coffee in-hand. It’s apparently no good as he winces when he takes a sip. Brock is on the phone with a store of some kind and he can be heard asking if they have the Joker Mobile in-stock. The voice on the other end of the phone tells him they haven’t had that in-stock for years and he hangs the phone up with disappointment. Doc smiles and asks if he’s still shopping for the boys and Brock confirms he’s all set with Hank, but Dean is proving to be a challenge. When Doc suggests it’s because he’s too feminine, Brock just says he’s hard to shop for, which is sweet of Brock. Doc points out that Dean has been not-so-slyly leaving some Sears catalog laying around for a month and Brock encourages him to check the date on the cover as he holds it up. It’s a Sears Wish Book from 1976, which explains the Joker Mobile thing, and Doc just grumbles that the Green Machine he ordered probably isn’t showing up too as he walks out.

Old man Venture sure enjoys some novelty Christmas pornography.

Dean enters the kitchen to see if Brock is done with the phone. As Brock exits, Dean sees the catalog and asks if anyone misplaced it in a cheeky fashion. His question is ignored, but he doesn’t seem too disappointed by it as he starts dialing a number on the phone. It’s for some Christmas story hotline. As Dean settles in for a Christmas story from Holland, Hank can be seen snooping in a closet. Brock catches him and tells him his present isn’t in there, but Hank tries to dismiss the accusation by saying he was just looking for the Christmas videos. He then pulls out a stack and reads off some of the titles: Miracle on 69 Street, Jingle Balls, and my personal favorite, Frothy the Blowman. We get a quick look at the box art for some of them and it’s rather bawdy. For some reason, Frothy looks like the Pringles guy with a top hat. Brock interrupts him and takes the obviously X-Rated novelty films and tells Hank he needs his help hanging up the lights and hands him a staple gun. Hank twirls it like a revolver and holsters it somehow on his belt as Brock returns the tapes to the closet. As he does, Hank asks him “What were those elves doing to that lady?” and Brock just replies with “They’re called dwarves, Hank.”

Quick! Get out of there, Tiny Joseph!

As Hank goes to head outside he says, “Oh! Baby Jesus is out of the manger!” Brock reacts by checking the fly on his pants, then realizes that Hank was actually talking about the Baby Jesus porcelain doll which is just laying beside a manger scene on-top of a shelf. Hank goes to put the baby in the cradle, but Brock stops him and tells him the baby doesn’t get put in there until midnight. It’s apparently a Venture tradition that Hank forgot about, or just never knew. They head outside and the baby Jesus rolls over to reveal some wiring. The camera cuts to the manger and then to a bunch of C-4 under it!

You must have known we’d get a Monarch sighting in this one.

We immediately hear the voice of the arch nemesis of clan Venture – The Monarch! Monarch (Publick) orders Tiny Joseph, which is revealed to be the Joseph statuette in the display, to get out of there! He mops some sweat from his brow and returns the real Joseph statue to its place as he bails. Monarch is relieved they didn’t lose an agent on this mission, though he does concede that his specialty is rather limited.

He is good at these villain speeches.

In the background, Dr. Girlfriend (Doc Hammer) can be seen trimming a tree with a pair of henchmen. She’s dressed in a festive, girly, Santa suit, and questions Monarch about what he’s up to. Monarch tells her it was supposed to be a surprise, but she’s irritated that his surprise for her is killing his arch enemy on Christmas. Monarch tries to assuage her by saying he has stocking stuffers too, but it’s not working. Dr. Girlfriend, ever the understanding partner, asks him what the plan is since it’s obvious he’s dying to tell her. Monarch then walks over to a model of the Venture compound and explains how at the stroke of midnight during Venture’s annual Christmas party, the baby Jesus will be placed in the manger which is wired with C-4. At that moment it will explode decking the halls with bowels of Venture! He’s really into it, but Dr. Girlfriend just tosses her hat on the floor in anger and says “That model was supposed to be a surprise!” which forces the Monarch to respond in a meek voice, “I peeked.”

They included almost everyone from Season One as a background character for this party.

Back at the compound, it’s night time and the party is in full swing. In the background are basically all of the guest characters from the first season with the exception of Jonas Jr, who was revealed in the season finale. This thing takes place sometime before that. The Impossible family is there, including Sally who looks pregnant, Sasquatch, the old Team Venture, and even one of the lucha libre guys from the first episode. H.E.L.P.eR. is serving drinks in a festive apron and reindeer antlers and some of the guests have different attire, including Triana Orpheus (Lisa Hammer) who is in a crimson dress with holly in her hair. Lurking behind her are Pete White (Publick) and Billy Quizboy (Hammer) as the two eye Triana. It’s rather gross since both of them are adults, and Triana is a minor. Pete is extra gross since he’s wearing a mistletoe headband. As he tells Billy he’s going to talk to her, Billy just tells him he has no chance because he’s 1. Totally gay, 2. She’s hot and he’s an albino, and 3. He’s totally gay. He’s not really gay, but he has a feminine cadence to his voice which makes him the target of gay jokes. This was made in 2004.

You deserved worse, Pete.

Pete and Billy then venture over to the couch and sit on either side of Triana. Pete tries to impress her by saying he was one of the first DJs at his college radio station to play The Bauhaus which causes Triana to say “Wow, you must be, like, 60?” clearly not impressed. Pete ignores the sass and tries to make use of the mistletoe on his headband but it immediately goes up in flames. Dr. Orpheus is the reason for that, and Pete makes a hasty retreat as Triana tells her dad she can take care of herself. He responds in a calm manner with understanding, but drops the façade quickly and declares dramatically to the rest of the party goers that “My pumpkin’s maidenhood is not a prize to be,” further embarrassing the poor kid.

Probably shouldn’t just leave that laying around, Dr. O.

Orpheus leaves his daughter to sulk on the couch and encounters Venture coming down the stairs. Venture remarks that he’s surprised to see a necromancer like Orpheus attending a Christmas party. Orpheus responds that Christmas is about as real as Kwanzaa or the Wookie’s Life Day, but that he finds it charming. Me too, Byron, me too. In the kitchen, we see Dean on the phone yet again listening to another story as Hank enters, sporting a white and green sweater that I think depicts a reindeer, to warn Dean that the “Gay albino is hitting on your not girlfriend.” Dean can’t be bothered as he’s maxed out their dad’s credit card and still doesn’t have a good story. I think the implication is they’re being counted on to tell a Christmas story at this party? Either way, the problem appears to have a solution sitting on a nearby table: Dr. O’s Necronomicon!

The beast approaches!

The boys open the foreboding book and immediately a black cloud emerges. They think nothing of it and start flipping through it and Dean finds an entry that intrigues him: Krampus! He starts reading it aloud and it’s written in another language, which looks like German and would make sense given a joke to follow. As he reads it, we cut back to the party and a bored looking Orpheus is stuck listening to Venture talk about a book he’s writing. Some creepy chanting has been added to the background music as the rest of the sounds of the party fade out. Orpheus’s face then changes to one of worry and he springs into action. A first person shot of something running towards the compound is shown before we cut back to the kitchen where Dean declares this book makes no sense. A lock appears over his mouth as the door slams shut and Orpheus is revealed to be the source of this magic, but he cries that they’re too late!

This dude looks ready to party!

The front door gets blasted in and the Krampus enters! He’s mostly faithfully depicted as a brown-furred demon with a long tongue and a basket of children on his back. This version has very pronounced nipples and we get a sequence of quick cuts of people reacting to the entrance, including Monarch who is watching a video feed. He demands to know who this guy is, but pauses to admire the costume. As Krampus stalks the party, everyone just looks on. Doc asks Orpheus what the thing is and he informs him it’s Krampus. He describes him as a demonic spirit that once rode alongside Saint Nicholas dishing out punishment to bad children. Doc is confused since he though Santa was fake, but Dr. O tells him he was real up until 1963 when a plane took him out. He adds that Krampus hasn’t been seen since the Pope banished him to Purgatory during Vatican II.

Everyone seems rather calm about the whole demon in the room thing.

Hank and Dean, who still has the magic lock over his mouth, emerge to proclaim their innocence in this whole mess when Dr. O tells their father that it was they who released him. As Hank blames Dean, we see Krampus licking the face of Triana. Hasn’t the poor girl suffered enough tonight? Doc asks Dr. O what kind of kinky spirit this thing is and he responds “Well, it is Germanic in origin.” Doc then asks Orpheus if he can “magic” it away and his response is “No more than you can ‘science’ it away,” He then explains it will merely punish those it deems wicked and be on its way.

Now there’s a Christmas card for ya!

Doc insists there’s no one wicked in this house, which is just the cue for Krampus to grab him! He starts flaying him with his reeds with a look of delight on his face as Doc hangs upside down in the grasp of Krampus. The rest of the crowd gasps as Krampus slams Doc’s head into the floor then drops him on all fours and starts dry-humping him from behind. Doc has no idea what to do aside to call for Brock who soon enters dressed as Santa Claus. He informs Krampus that he’s been naughty and promptly swings his sack of gifts at the demon. He knocks him from Doc and begins pounding on him. Krampus gives as good as he gets and the two are locked in fisticuffs when the clock strikes midnight.

He didn’t even get a chance to put his beard on.

Suddenly, Krampus stops and Brock backs off. Dr. Orpheus informs him that it’s now Christmas and the Krampus is done for the night. Krampus very calmly walks towards the door, but pauses when he sees the baby Jesus figurine still sitting on the shelf. He picks it up and we cut to Monarch who was covering his eyes in terror, but immediately perks up when he see Krampus pick up the porcelain baby. He places it in the manger, and we cut to an external shot of the compound exploding.

That’ll wake you up.

Doc Venture, once again, awakes from a dream. Brock is telling him to wake up and we see his head is wrapped in bandages and they’re aboard their supersonic jet, the X-1. He’s relieved that everything is all right, but Brock informs him that they’ve crashed in hostile territory, but the boys are excited because it’s the town of Bethlehem. Doc also presently has no pants on and H.E.L.P.eR. has a thermometer inserted into his anus because it’s funny to wake up with something in your bum. The boys declare this the best Christmas ever because they got to see where Jesus was born and Hank tells their dad that there was magical god-fire shooting out of it. Brock then tells Doc he thinks they hit a gas line, then explains their situation further to be that if the Israelis get there first, they should be fine, but if it’s the PLO then they’re in trouble. Doc doesn’t seem dismayed as he reminds Brock their plane runs on plutonium and declares that the PLO will love them! Dean gets in a “And that’s what Christmas is all about,” before we smash-cut to another title card and the credits roll as this one is over and it’s the rare episode to not feature a post credits scene.

Suddenly, getting assaulted by Krampus doesn’t seem so bad.

And that is how the Ventures celebrated one Christmas. Or, how they didn’t? I guess it was all a dream, though Brock mentions he’s giving Hank his old bass guitar for Christmas and Hank will be shown with that bass in future episodes so I guess some of it came true. It is weird to rely on the dream trope for more than one gag in an episode, especially an 11 minute one, but given that this thing came together so quickly I guess it can be forgiven. Though maybe they could have just written Monarch’s bomb to be a dud to avoid having to play the dream card again? Interestingly enough, the bit at the end with the gang in Bethlehem is actually how the special was originally conceived and it’s one of the few things that survived the change from a 7 minute thing to an 11 minute one.

There’s a solid amount of laughs in this brief special and definitely some quality visual gags.

As a Christmas special, and one that lampoons others, I think this one is fine. I don’t really get why Doc Hammer hates it so much, but he has a very specific sense of taste so I guess I can see him just not being at all onboard with a Christmas special. Especially one he had very little input on. There are certainly moments I don’t like, such as the adult characters hitting on a minor. I suppose it’s not that bad to see such a thing in here because part of the show is that many of these characters aren’t of strong, moral, character, but I feel like Pete deserved more punishment than what he got. Plus, Billy was basically an accomplice and he gets nothing. A lot of the stuff with Krampus and the pornography joke earlier is a bit lewd, or crass. It definitely dates this one as it feels very much like something that aired on Adult Swim in 2004. A lot of the jokes here aren’t something they would have done in later seasons. The gay jokes are the most cringe-inducing, but they’re not as bad as some jokes from that era are.

The animation for this one is pretty much on-par with the rest of the first season. It’s perhaps a bit simpler with some of the character movements, but the effort in presenting a lot of them in different outfits is certainly something to commend. Some of the character animation also saves the more bawdy scenes, like just how happy Krampus looks as he’s violating Dr. Venture. The demon is just so joyful in his work, it’s infectious! The little we see out of The Monarch works too and I enjoy that early series dynamic he has with Dr. Girlfriend.

Part of me wishes they didn’t blow up the compound so that the continuity was more clear, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much in the end.

This special from The Venture Bros. is perfectly fine for what it is. It would have been great to get something longer with a bit more effort put into it, but they did what they could with it. There’s enough humorous lines and visuals and at this point in the season I think the character voices were pretty well established too which helps carry it. The Christmas parody stuff this thing is front-loaded with is also fun and a bit clever as it would have been easy to assume they were just going with a full-blown parody for their special, since many shows have gone that route. If you’re into The Venture Bros., I think there’s enough here to make an effort to watch this one. If you’re not, well you’ll probably be lost since the show is very reliant on the viewer being familiar with it. And if you do want to watch it, the special was included on the Season One DVD release and is also streaming on HBO Max. There’s also a chance Adult Swim runs it at some point this month so you have options.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 12 – Bob’s Burgers – “The Bleakening”

All right, we’ve been at this for a few years now so you probably don’t need much of a primer on Bob’s Burgers, right? The animated sitcom which is shockingly in its 12th season (shocking because it still feels new to me) has become a reliable spot for Christmas fun each and every year. The…

Keep reading

Dec. 12 – Teen Titans Go! – “Halloween vs. Christmas”

  It’s a battle for the hearts of children around the world! What is the superior holiday:  Halloween or Christmas? Today’s entrant is founded on the premise that Halloween is the only holiday to rival Christmas as far as what children look forward to most. This feels more or less on point as a kid…

Keep reading

Figura Obscura – Krampus

Oh shit, look who showed up for Christmas!

Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a few action figures designed by the good people over at Four Horsemen LLC. They’ve been designing figures for companies for awhile now. My first exposure to the company was via NECA’s inaugural line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based on their appearance in the Mirage Studios comics. Lately, I’ve been enjoying their work with Super7 as they have designed most (all?) of the figures in that company’s Ultimates series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The company has become well known as a result in the action figure community, and while sculpting work for other companies is probably satisfying work, 4H always wanted to do its own thing, so it did. The company launched an in-house line of toys called Mythic Legions. As the name implies, most of these characters are taken from myth and given a new design which is then turned into a rather impressive looking piece of plastic. Just how impressive they are I can’t say because I’ve never gotten into the line.

He even comes with a Christmas card!

My exposure to Four Horsemen changed this month, when the company did a surprise drop in a new, subline, of figures called Figura Obscura. And the chosen character to kick things off is the infamous Krampus, the demon of Christmas! Krampus has long been a character associated with Christmas largely in European countries. In the US, he’s not particularly well known, but he has seen his profile rise somewhat recently. I knew of the character as a kid, though I don’t recall ever seeing him in any pop culture setting until The Venture Brothers included in him in their Christmas special. That was back in 2003 and since then the character has shown up in American Dad! and has had his own movie. In the US, it definitely feels like some companies focus on his appearance and draw from that making him some kind of horror monster when the traditional Krampus is really just someone who punishes bad kids at Christmas. It makes sense that Santa Claus would reward the good and that there would be an entity that punishes the wicked. In many settings, Santa and Krampus are like a team, but over the years that seems to be less the case.

The 4H version of Krampus defined.

Either way, I personally think Krampus is pretty neat and his design (often fawn-like) lends itself well to toys. Obviously, I’m pretty into Christmas and I’ve always wanted to do more with Christmas action figures and when I saw this Krampus go up for sale on December 5th of this year I pounced. It was a surprise drop that I don’t think anyone was aware was coming outside of the people at Four Horsemen. The figure was offered through 4H’s Mythic Legions website twice that day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It was smart on their part as it kept the figure from selling out quickly before most people knew it even existed. I personally found out about it in between drops so I was able to grab one in the evening timeslot. It didn’t sell out super fast, which was nice, and it was an in-stock sale which is unusual for 4H as they usually follow more of a made-to-order model with their releases. The company must have felt secure that this particular figure would sell out without much issue given the seasonal nature. I also understand there’s a lot of parts reuse at play here which obviously reduces costs. Just how much, I can’t say, since this my first dip into 4H’s catalog.

Pardon my flash.

Krampus arrived about two weeks after I ordered it in resplendent packaging. He comes in a window box made of very thick cardstock that’s wrapped with a magnetic, cardboard, outer sleeve. It’s well constructed and durable, more durable than a normal box as it’s laminated. The front of which has a neat Krampus logo of sorts with a story about him on the rear and the rest is covered in blue and white and it’s a snowy scene. When you take it off, the reverse side features the artwork that also adorns the box. It’s a snowy setting at night in the wilderness where a lone cottage sits rather perilously on a cliffside. You can use this wrap as a backdrop for your figure which is a really neat idea and should serve me well as I accumulate Christmas figures.

To flash or not to flash? I’ll be mixing in photos with and without, to try and present this figure as fairly as possible.

Krampus himself sits in the window box and once removed he has immediate presence on any surface he’s placed. He stands about 7″ tall with skin featuring this deep, satin, black, paint that is really rich and cool to look at. He’s covered in it too and it’s applied cleanly. His head is quite ferocious looking as he has what I consider the traditional Krampus facial expression of an open mouth with a giant tongue flicking out. He’s quite angry looking and has two gnarly horns coming off of the back of his head. There’s a lot of sculpted fur on and around the head basically forming a mane that runs down the middle of his back. The only clothing he wears is a skirt with a leathery texture to it and some greaves and gauntlets. The armor bits have a nice, worn, metallic, texture with sharp ridges sculpted into them. His feet end in hooves and they’re fringed with fur and look terrific. Some assembly is required as he has a tail that needs to peg into his rear. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass (pun intended) to insert it as the hole is really tight (I should have bought him dinner first). I had to heat up both ends with hot water to finally get it in and when I was done I was actually surprised to see the sculpted fur on the tail cut into my thumb. Damn!

Gene Simmons wishes he had a tongue like the one on Krampus.

The look of Krampus is going to be this figure’s main attraction and 4H did a great job. I think of Krampus being covered in fur, but I like the look of the bare chest here, probably owing to the fact that I love that black paint that’s in use. His fingers are clawed, but not dramatically so, and the details on his face are incredible. Each tooth is sculpted individually and the paint is remarkably clean. The only issue I’ve run into with this figure from a presentation aspect is some paint chipping. To my surprise, it looks like the figure is cast in a white plastic and then painted, because there are some spots where the paint chipped off. Most of which is in the inner thigh by the joint so it’s not noticeable when the figure is displayed. There’s also a small one near the armor on the left leg that’s probably only noticeable when handling the figure. I don’t know why the figure wasn’t just cast in black plastic and then painted, but I’m ignorant on the costs of figure production when it comes to color choices. Obviously, white can be used for anything and then easily painted over so it could be as simple as that. Other than that one small flaw, I’m pretty pleased with how he turned out.

I guess he kept those kids in his basket too long.

Krampus needs stuff, and if you’re familiar with the legend, you know he has some specific needs at that. This figure comes with a set of loose gripping hands attached in the box, and tighter gripping hands he can swap to. The loose hands work fine with his weapon of choice, a bundle of sticks or switches, as they just rest in place. They look pretty awesome and are well-painted as they’re wrapped with sculpted tape to hold them together. I don’t know if the tighter hands are for anything specific, or just for down the road if you want to give him a weapon from something else, but they won’t hold the sticks unless you heat them up to make them more pliable. He has a pair of cuffs that can fit around his wrists and are attached via real chain. The plastic is softer so it’s not too difficult to slip them around the wrists, but if you’re concerned about breaking them you can also just pop his hands off first.

This is one demon who is going to keep his trusty basket!

Krampus also has his trusty basket. The character is supposed to wear this on his back and some versions of the character toss bad kids in there. It’s sculpted to resemble a woven basket and it has some muted green and red accents. The top is removable, and 4H loaded it with other stuff. There’s a pair of skulls, one with an articulated jaw and one without, two skeletal hands, and a leather strap. The strap seems to serve no purpose on its own and I was advised by fans of the Mythic Legions line that it’s likely included for customizers. If cut and then glued, it could be used as a belt or a shoulder strap for the basket. By default, 4H included a piece of rope with the consistency of hemp. It can be used to string the basket and then hang it off of Krampus. I ran the rope through the included slot on the basket, around each arm of Krampus, and then back through the slit. This made it tight enough to hang just fine, while also leaving room for adjustment without the need of a knot. Krampus, despite being hooved, stands fine on his own and continues to stand well even with a loaded basket on his back. The last accessory 4H included is a loop of red thread with some miniature bells strung on it. You can drape this over the head of Krampus, put them on the basket, around his waist, or even through his teeth! And they really jingle, plus the red thread adds a dash of color and is a really nice touch.

Oh you silly boy!

With all of that stuff in the box, you may be wondering how Krampus moves around. I was rather curious, myself, as I’ve wondered what 4H’s approach to articulation was. With the figures the company does for Super7, there are certain joints some consider standard that Super7 disagrees on. Namely, double joints at the knees and elbows. 4H might share the same philosophy as Krampus has single hinges at both places with swivels, but he does do something many Super7 figures don’t and that’s include a ball-joint at the waist. This gives the figure the twisting motion many want while also providing for some forward and back and a little tilt. And it’s well-engineered, as those who got the recently released Casey Jones from Super7 were treated to such a joint, but it turned out rather unsightly as the figure doesn’t sit deep enough on the ball-peg. Aside from that, Krampus is fairly typical with a ball joint at the head, ball-hinges at the shoulders, horizontal hinges at the hands, ball-jointed hips, and hinges with rocking action down at the ankles. Lastly, he has a ball-hinge at the tail. The tail is sculpted and rigid, so there’s not a lot it can do, but it has enough range to get it out of the way when posing. The amount of fur around the figure’s neck limits his head movements a bit, but he can look up and down a little and twist. The ankle rockers are also a little limited, likely owing to the fact that he has hooves, but there’s enough to support his weight and give him a wider stance, if desired. The only true shortcoming is the lack of vertically hinged wrists. I would have preferred that to horizontal, if I could only have one, though both would have been preferable. Krampus isn’t as dynamic as some figures in my collection, but I find what’s there is enough and it at least works well.

Some comparisons. First up, we have a RED Soundwave and a Super7 Leonardo, another 4H design.

Krampus is a pretty wicked design that’s going to look good whether you display him with Christmas stuff, monsters, or your Mythic Legions. He poses well enough, and best of all, he can hold his accessories without toppling over. The backdrop is an awesome little bonus too, and the only drawback I have with him is that returning him to his box would be a challenge. I really have no desire to unthread the basket nor do I want to remove that tail to get him back in his bubble. With my seasonal figures, I usually put them away after the holidays, but Krampus will likely find a new home on a shelf somewhere. And that’s not really a bad problem to have as this is a figure I want to look at year round. And if my kids start acting up, maybe I should just convince them Krampus operates like that cursed Elf on a Shelf and start moving him every morning. That will probably give them nightmares though, so maybe it’s best that I don’t.

And here he is with another fantasy character in Drizz’t from Hasbro’s very short-lived D&D line and a fellow hooved character in NECA’s Groundchuck.

If you wish to get a Krampus figure of your very own, well, I’m afraid it’s sold out. Four Horsemen made it sound like this is just the first Krampus they’re doing, so maybe he comes back next year in another form. If this is the Krampus you need then you’re going to have to pony up some extra money on the secondary market or hope someone that got one decides they don’t need it. The figure retailed for $50 which is already pricey for a 7″ action figure. While I like it, I definitely wouldn’t have much of an appetite to pay much more than that. Good luck if you’re in the market. As for the rest of you, hopefully this is the only Krampus that visits your house this Christmas!

Merry Christmas, pal!

%d bloggers like this: