Roman Dirge is a creative genius! Complain about the fact that some of his comics have been popular enough to be sold in Hot Topic and I will slap the taste of eggnog out of your mouth. Dirge is wickedly funny, and a stylish artist. Best known for his dark humor in the cult-classic comic series Lenore (which after a long hiatus he has started to produce again in the new Lenore Volume II – joy to the world, indeed!), or his staff writing stint on the epic animated Nickelodeon series Invader Zim, Roman Dirge is not only a creative genius, his work gives me hope and makes me smile. How appropriate that he would be the one to write one of the best Christmas books, EVER. Since we are currently being sucked ever closer into the dark vanishing point of the holiday vortex, I thought it would be appropriate to review one of my personal favorites, It Ate Billy on Christmas. This handsome hardback book was published by our friends Dark Horse Comics back in 2007, but nonetheless remains a classic tome for the ages. Have you read this dark Christmas tale? If not – “Merry HO HO!” – gather ’round and learn about this awesome Yuletide “must-read.”
It Ate Billy on Christmas is the tale of a young girl named Lumi and her mean older d-bag of a brother, Billy. Billy (through a series of events leading up to and including the electrocution of Lumi by the “Death Jolt 5000,” plus a series of unfortunate pet mishaps that seriously suggest a potential serial-killer) has made the life of his sister a tormented living-hell. Their oblivious parents seem to have completely checked-out mentally to Billy’s rampaging. All Lumi has wanted for the last five Christmases is a puppy, but with her terror of a brother around, this likely shouldn’t happen. She decides to ask for a plush puppy instead. Lumi contents herself by hiding in her room and putting on sketches with cardboard actors and staying clear of Billy.
All the while this tale is told in a dervish of a manner. Dirge grabs the reader by the wrist and takes them through the story in a unique way, with random turnabouts and wild asides thrown in calculatedly willy-nilly. The format of the book alternates one page of the story text written by Dirge (and usually with one of his own black and white illustrations), followed by a full page painting by Steven Daily. The result is a children’s style storybook with big pictures, but one that will make both kids and adults smile, laugh, and make any age difference inconsequential. Are you curious to know more about the story?
On Christmas night, a strange creature emerges from the well behind the children’s home and makes its way inside the house through the chimney. After gorging itself on yummy foodstuffs, the creature passes out beneath the Christmas tree. The next morning Lumi finds her Christmas “puppy” while Billy tears open the gift-wrap on a present and emerges wielding a pair of “automatic rubber-dart-firing doom pistols.” This scenario isn’t going to end well – for Billy!
[SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!] Yeah, the title of this book is It Ate Billy on Christmas and it has been out for four years! Guess what? Billy gets eaten! I don’t feel too bad about the spoiler. I have purposely left out much of the story and many of the surprises in this review, so you will still be delighted when you read the book. Oh, and if you are still worried about spoilers, don’t look at the climatic picture below. You were warned.
So what will happen from here? Will the beast’s hunger now be satiated and will Lumi live a happy Billy-free existence? It gets a bit more complicated than that, and you should definitely pick up It Ate Billy on Christmas and read what happens for yourself.
It Ate Billy on Christmas is a classic tale for the ages, and one that you should make a family tradition. I do wish that this book had more of Roman Dirge’s big, wild illustrations; but his rapier wit and dark humor are gift enough. Steven Daily’s paintings here are deep, rich, and I never tire of appreciating them, the enchanting story, or this book! It Ate Billy on Christmas is a triumph of the highest order, and I just can’t recommend it enough. Parents, please do yourselves a favor and stop by your local comic shop and pick up It Ate Billy on Christmas to read to the kids, and maybe some Lenore and Roman Dirge’s newest art book Taxidermied, and check out his awesome website “Spookyland” while you’re at it. You will enrich your lives for countless hours. Happy holidays my friends. Happy reading to all, and to all a good night!