Christmas Countdown: Indie Comics Inspiration Party!

There is nothing more Christmas than comics! All of these shows were created by indie comics creators and/or had indie comics creators work on them or are close enough to being indie comics creators that we’re going to count them. (I’ll be doing a superhero animated series Christmas episodes post a bit later.)

Adventure Time: Holly Jolly Secrets (Season 3, Episodes 19-20)

Title screen from Adventure Time: Holly Jolly SecretsIf you haven’t seen Adventure Time, just go with it (this show has a lot of that anyway). There’s a boy named Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and shape-changing dog named Jake (John DiMaggio) who live in a magical, post-apocalyptical land and they find a box of videotapes. They decide to watch them on their sentient video game console, BMO (Niki Yang). The tapes feature the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a creepy older wizard, who tries to break in and watch the tapes with them. Finn and Jake are convinced the tapes have the Ice King’s evil plans

Not much happens in the first half (each part is only 11 minutes, to be fair) and even for most of the second, it’s just a lot of shenanigans by the Ice King (there’s an army of snowmen). The tapes go far back enough and reveal the Ice King used to be a man named Simon Petrikov, who became corrupt after he bought a magic crown. Up until this point, the Ice King had mostly been a creepy annoyance but it shows him to be a tragic figure (as well as being a creepy annoyance). Finn gives the Ice King the tapes back and they decided to do this again every year.

Like much of Adventure Time, it’s funny and oddly moving. This show packed a lot into tiny 11-minute segments. I have no idea how much it works outside of the context of all the rest of the show, but I think it’s fun and beautiful.

Adventure Time is streaming on Hulu and HBOMax. Individual episodes can be purchased elsewhere.

Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-Max Ever (Season 2, Episode 1)

Invader Zim: The Most Horrible X-Mas EverJhonen Vasquez made a comic called Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and clearly Nickelodeon thought it was going to be a great idea to give him a children’s cartoon (well, one aimed at preteens and young teens, but still).

Invader Zim follows Zim (voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz), an inept alien sent to conquer earth; his robot, Gir (Rikki Simons); and his neighbor, Dib (Andy Berman), who is the only one who knows Zim is an alien.

This show is absolutely not for everyone but I’m still amazed it was made. It’s not particularly violent (it was on Nickelodeon, after all) but it’s fairly bleak in places. It’s also incredibly funny.

Bascially, Zim decides he can take over earth by pretending to be Santa. And he almost does it. Except things also go wrong because this show is mean.

I have confused so many people by making them watch this. It’s mean and wonderful. I don’t really use “nihilistic” lightly, but …

We all need an “X-Mas” episode that is this weird. I love it.

Invader Zim is streaming on Paramount+ and episodes can be purchased elsewhere.

Pepper Ann: A Kosher Christmas (Season 3, Episode 6)

A screenshot from Pepper Ann: A Kosher ChristmasMore people should talk about Pepper Ann.

Pepper Ann was based on a comic by Sue Rose, who was co-creator of Fido Dido (with Joanna Ferrone). The animated series was co-executive produced by Nahnatchka Khan.

Pepper Ann (voiced by Kathleen Wilhoite) is a 12-year-old girl dealing with all the awkward ins and outs of adolescent life. The show is funny but also manages to deal with a lot of deeper issues. Such as this one.

Pepper Ann is struggling to reconcile two sides of her heritage and whether she enjoys celebrating Christmas with her father or Hanukkah (her parents are divorced and given that her father is a pilot, she doesn’t get to see him a lot). This, on the surface, doesn’t seem like it should be a major issue, but Pepper Ann’s anxiety is relatable and sweet. I think we all know what it’s like to try to balance the demands of family and friends during the holidays.

Pepper Ann is streaming on Disney+ (Episode is listed as episode 22 of Season 3).

The Simpsons: Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (Season 1, Episode 1)

Santa's Little Helper and Homer SimpsonSince The Simpsons is such a huge part of the culture now, it’s odd to think that it did have its roots in underground comics. Matt Groening originally self-published his comic, Life in Hell, before it was picked up by alternative newspapers.

After several shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, The Simpsons was spun off into a half-hour series and debuted with this episode, billed as a Christmas special. It’s also the only episode written by Mimi Pond.

I don’t know if I have to explain anything about The Simpsons or this episode to you since you’ve seen it, but it’s a wonderful and loving introduction to this messy family of misfits. For me what shines through here is underneath the dysfunction and hijinks, this is a family that truly loves each other. If you haven’t watched in a while, please watch it again. If you have watched it recently, watch it again anyway.

It is — and I will tolerate no arguments to the contrary — the best episode of The Simpsons. There have been many other great ones, but nope, this is still the best one. It peaked early.

The Simpsons is streaming on Disney+ and individual episodes can be purchased elsewhere.