Review: Contemporary Krampus


By Steven Biscotti

Mike Drake, the “curator of curiosities” as Time Out New York magazine once named him is an interesting fellow.  Not only is he the director of special projects at Mezco Toyz, but he’s also an accomplished writer.  His current and most timely work can be found within “Contemporary Krampus: A Modern Look At An Ancient Legend.”  Admittedly, I wasn’t too familiar with the Krampus until a year or so ago, but with his “Contemporary Krampus”, I now feel as if the “Anti-Santa” has been a figure I’ve long known about, but have been too afraid to speak of… until now.

Mike Drake opens “Contemporary Krampus” with a forward introducing the reader to when the Krampus first entered his life.  “This is what my holidays have been missing!” Drake exclaims and he tells us of his long, passionate, and arduous road to bringing the Krampus into mainstream consciousness.  Despite many quote unquote “failed” attempts at which at this point only seem as if they were stepping stones in a much greater effort, Krampus is now a more household urban legend known throughout the world and no longer relegated to European Christmas stories.

Reading “Contemporary Krampus: A Modern Look At An Ancient Legend” is more akin to walking through one of the best exhibits currently not on display at one of New York’s finest of museums and art societies as opposed to just flipping through a curated book featuring diverse artists.  Mike Drake is truly a Krampus aficionado and has published a title which is not only frightening, but also compellingly endearing in several surprising ways.  “Contemporary Krampus” reflects more than fifty artists and their take on “Satan’s Little Helper.”  Each piece of art featured in “Contemporary Krampus” and curated by Mike Drake is nearly different as it is radical in how much the Krampus’ look could change based on the interpretation.  The Krampus, as depicted by Angus Oblong (Adult Swim’s The Oblongs) is rather friendly and cartoony whereas Lincoln Benefiel’s is more demonic in a classically scary way.  There is a Krampus for everyone within “Contemporary Krampus.”

The Krampus is a wonderfully entertaining Christmas character and a wildly striking monster with great visual appeal.  While he’s appeared on television and in film, it would appear as if Mike Drake’s “Contemporary Krampus” is one of the greatest efforts in offering the world an opportunity to learn more about a legend who we should be speaking of.  Sure, Santa Claus has his appeal, but just like Zwarte Piet or Black Peter, the Krampus is the mythological character that deserves his much needed attention and place during the holiday season.  The Krampus is the one coming for all the naughty children, those who gleefully misbehave and throw caution to the wind.  Beating, shackling, and shoving those into a basket?  “You better be good.”

“Contemporary Krampus: A Modern Look At An Ancient Legend” by Mike Drake is available now.  You could find it on Amazon –

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