Yippie-ki-yay, Father Christmas.
Philadelphia’s comedy scene lost a good one in 2013 when comedian Doogie Horner, 36, moved to New York. But now, the 2010 “Philly’s Phunniest” winner is back in town, and he has a new project coming out this week that’s as much yuletide greeting as love letter to John McClane.
Dubbed A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, Horner’s new book mashes up the 1988 Bruce Willis action flick Die Hard with the classic Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, complete with illustrations by JJ Harrison. Out Tuesday, the book arrives just in time for the holidays, whether you’re battling terrorists in Los Angeles or not.
If you don’t see Die Hard as a go-to holiday classic — believe it or not, some don’t count its Christmastime setting as fitting for the holiday — don’t bother telling Horner. As the Die Hard book’s author, he has already made up his mind.
“I didn’t realize it was up for debate,” Horner says. “I think those people would also say that Gremlins isn’t a Christmas movie, even though it is.”
Horner, who moved back to Fishtown several months ago to return to his gig as art director at Quirk Books, has a point. For all its violence and gunfire and action, Die Hard not only takes place during the Christmas season, but it also highlights traditional holiday elements like family, as the author puts it. “The whole reason John flew out to L.A. is to reunite with his wife and children,” the Bethlehem, Pa., native says. “I think that’s a good theme to have at Christmas — considering what’s really important in your life. That’s an important story line that happens to dovetail with him defeating the terrorists.”
It was his love for Die Hard that inspired Horner to create this book — his second, behind The Die Hard Coloring Book, which he released last October. This time around, however, Horner got poetic, aping the anapestic tetrameter of Moore’s poem, and infusing it with a Christmasy, Die Hard-fortified theme.
As he worked, Horner began to identify some similarities between the poem and Die Hard’s story, like the terrorists in Die Hard and Santa Claus both serving as unexpected visitors in their respective stories, or Santa and McClane both being covered in ashes and soot through each tale. He even bought a rhyming dictionary.
“I probably put more work into it than I should have,” Horner says of the project.
All that work, however, led to an initial early viral pop for the book, which shot to No. 2 on Amazon’s best-seller list after it was announced last month. The only book ahead at the time, Horner says, was Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened. In some circles, that’s an accomplishment, but Horner was just embarrassed.
“I feel like if Hillary Clinton had any faith left in the American people, it disintegrated when she looked at Amazon” that week, Horner says. “I’m glad it didn’t go to No. 1. I was like, ‘Please, don’t.’ ”
Horner has yet to show Die Hard to his 18-month-old son, Kirby (as in comic book great Jacky Kirby), but he does plan to read him the book. He wrote it as a way to share the story, even though it might be a little R-rated for a toddler in its original form.
Horner might, however, consider starting Kirby off with It’s a Wonderful Life — which he refers to as his “favorite Christmas movie.” As he says, the Jimmy Stewart film regularly tugs his heartstrings, which makes it tough to beat, even if Die Hard has a lot more action.
“It’s a little bit like Die Hard in that it’s a perfect movie,” Horner says. “I’ve watched it almost as many times as I’ve watched Die Hard, and it gets me every time.”