Thursday, December 03, 2020

Booksteve Reviews: Holly Jolly by Mark Voger


If ever there was a year where we needed a little Christmas, right this very minute, this would be it. Thankfully, Mark Voger, author of Holly Jolly—Celebrating Christmas Past in Pop Culture, has been able to provide it!


You’ll recall Mark as the pop culture maven who previously delved into all the details of the 1960s monster revival in one book and the groovier aspects of the 1960s in general in another. Here his present to the reader is, as promised, a good, old-fashioned Christmas.


The author is also credited with the book’s design as well and his decorations are lovely, with nearly 200 beautifully designed pages of mostly color photos and art on quality paper (no doubt responsible for the book’s somewhat steep—but well worth it—price).


Mark’s own Christmas memories are shared throughout but since so many of us encountered the same things back in the day, he’s sharing our own memories with us, too. It isn’t all just nostalgia, though. He also gives us some informative history lessons on Christmas from both its religious and its secular backgrounds. Both Jesus and Santa get their due as part of the ghosts of Christmas past. We also learn the stories behind the traditions of trees, lights, cards, elves and most aspects of holiday decorations.


Each turn of a page is like unwrapping a new brightly colored box as we are treated to Christmas cards, Christmas carols, Christmas ads, Christmas books, trees, toys, comic books and strips, records, movies, TV shows, and specials.


Writing in an informal style as if he’s just sitting in the room with you reminiscing by the fire on a snowy night, Mark offers background and trivia every step of the way. He also knows when to talk and when to let the perfectly chosen pictures do most of the talking.


All the holiday classics are here—White Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and even Santa Claus Conquers the Martiansand the infamous Mexican Santa Claus. All are given equal treatment with the knowledge that when it comes to Christmas, even the lumps of coal are very much a part of the season.


A lot of classic TV sitcom holiday episodes are revisited, with some like The Honeymoonersand The Andy Griffith Showgetting more in-depth coverage while others are relegated to single paragraph summaries. Variety shows and annual Christmas animated specials aren’t ignored, either. 


Along with the pervasive presence of Santa Claus, other pop culture personages whose very names can evoke the holiday are, of course, here: Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Mr. Magoo, Charlie Brown, Darlene Love, David Bowie, Alistair Sim, Jimmy Stewart, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges, and Boris Karloff (!). Bing and Bowie even get a two-page comic strip based on their unexpectedly iconic holiday team-up from 1977.


You’ll find many of the great 1960s toys in these pages as well—Captain Action (my personal favorite), Monster Magnet, GI Joe, and Hasbro’s Frosty Sno-Man Sno-Cone Machine—which I never got! What was up with that, Santa?


Anyway, that’s really only a fraction of what you’ll find in Mark Voger’s Holly Jolly. The book may be published by TwoMorrows but inside, it’s all about yesterdays, and it’s the most heart-warming, heart-tugging, and enjoyable holiday present I’ve gotten in many a year. As we get deeper into one of the darker Decembers in our lifetimes, we all need to treat ourselves to a present, and what better way to have yourself a merry little Christmas, now, than Holly Jolly


Booksteve recommends with a “Ho, ho, ho!”


  1. As someone who enjoys reading "Retrofan" magazine, I see this advertised a lot. However what I really want to read is Mark Voger's book "Groovy". Twomorrows Publications Rock!

    1. I reviewed GROOVY and interviewed Mark about his experiences writing it over on FORCES OF GEEK back when it came out 4 or 5 years back.

  2. Ok I found it. One thing I don't understand from your interview. What is a DC Go-Go check? And my library was able to borrow a copy from another library. Will be picking it up in a few days.

    1. In 1966-67, DC ran a bar with black and white checkerboard squares at the top of every cover of every comic they put out, the theory being it would make their comics stand out on racks where only the top portion of a cover could be seen. Many love them (myself included) and many more hate them with a passion. The "go-go" was added by someone at DC as part of their continued attempts at looking hip.