Jake Kalish | Santa vs Satan: The Official Compendium of Imaginary Fights (Three Rivers Press)

santavsatan-header.jpgHmm: 90% talk to 10% (or less) action: could there be a parody of sports-talk culture in all this?




288 pages. Three Rivers Press, 2008. $13.95 (paperback)


If you’ve been mourning Celebrity Death Match ever since it went off MTV in 2002, a new fix is available: Santa vs Satan: The Official Compendium of Imaginary Fights picks up the thread and may even go that series one better. In place of Claymation, Santa vs Satan offers mock-serious description and analysis of the matchups by Jake Kalish and illustrations by Christopher Frost. And there’s plenty of celebrities among the matchups offered by Kalish and Frost, but also historical figures (Adam vs Charles Darwin), sociological constructs (Married Gay Couple vs Divorced Straight Couple) and the never truly alive (Aunt Jemima vs Uncle Ben).

The cover to Santa vs Satan by Christopher Frost. Click for a larger image.Imaginary face-offs seem to be a source of perpetual fascination, and not just among guys. One of my favorite South Park episodes involves a boxing match between the Son of God and the Prince of Darkness (Jesus wins, but only because Satan takes a dive after placing a large bet against himself). And one of Saturday Night Live’s perennially popular sketches (check YouTube if you don’t believe me) involves a table of grown men engaged in serious discussion about questions such as whether Mike Ditka could whup the entire Miami Dolphins team by himself, or win the Indy 500 while driving the team bus.

Kalish’s ventures in this field began with a 2003 Playboy article examining the question as to whether The Incredible Hulk could paste the Terminator, or vice versa (after consultation with a military tactician, a professor of biomedical engineering and a comics editor, it was determined that Hulk would take the decision, 2 to 1). This led to a Men’s Fitness article about an NCAA-style tournament among superheroes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If this sort of thing is up your alley (and you know who you are), you’ll love Santa vs Satan.  Each match begins with descriptions of the combatants, where you’ll learn fascinating non-facts about them. What does Satan drive? An SUV, of course. Where does Ken (the doll) live? The Castro YMCA, duh. This is followed by pre-fight analysis by a series of "experts," some of whom may actually exist, a (relatively brief) description of the match itself, and the decision. Hmm: 90% talk to 10% (or less) action: could there be a parody of sports-talk culture in all this?

Never mind, it’s all entertaining and presented in bite-size chunks appropriate to reading on an airplane, or in more confined surroundings. There are 60 battles in all, plus supplemental materials designed to settle, or spark, barroom arguments: all-time combatant ratings (who’s the toughest drug addict of them all?) and more mock-academic analysis of the sociocultural significance of it all (the funniest part of the book, in my opinion, but then I’ve definitely spent too much time in grad school). And I’m hoping a sequel will be forthcoming: I’d really like to know if Fannie Mae can kick Freddie Mac around the block or if it’s the other way around. | Sarah Boslaugh

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