Jack Skellington and his long-term ghost friend/rival Oogie Boogie, featured on The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Battle for Pumpkin King from TokyoPopTHE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: THE BATTLE FOR PUMPKIN KING
Writer: Dan Conner
Artists: Deborah Allo & Roberto Scalia
Publisher: TOKYOPOP (print and digital)
Imprint: Disney Manga
Publication Date: 09/26/2023
Ages: 8+

If you are a fan of Tim Burton films, you most certainly haven’t missed The Nightmare Before Christmas, a beautifully crafted stop-motion animation infused with cute and gothic elements. In this gothic fantasy film, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is sick of having another fright night in Halloweentown and he takes a stroll away from town. Upon encountering nearby Christmastown, he is intrigued and wants to bring Christmas to Halloweentown. 

Even if you are not familiar with the original film, the graphic novel The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Battle For Pumpkin King does justice to the original. Dan Conner’s writing flows the story with the right amount of humour. Deborah Allo draws every line as if the environment and the characters are alive and we are there in the town with them. We can not miss the finesse in colouring that Roberto Scalia executes. My overall impression is that this story is beautifully illustrated; it has easy-to-follow, funny dialogues with cleverly placed subtexts on the importance of friendship and honesty. 

The story opens up with Jack Skellington and his long-term ghost friend/rival Oogie Boogie running toward a hill. That scene, emphasizing a friendly rivalry, sets the tone for the rest of the story. The beginning is all sunshine and playful, so readers might ask “OK, where will it get heated up? Where is the twist?”. Things start to heat up when Edgar the Pumpkin King makes an announcement about the selection of the next Pumpkin King. It’s interesting to see whether their friendship will be threatened when the stakes are raised in their usually light-hearted competitions. 

In this 1-volume tale, Jack and Oogie compete in a series of creative challenges to determine which of the two will be crowned as the next Pumpkin King. My favourite part is definitely the bone tower challenge throughout which we see many characters in one scene. However, despite the clearly defined rules, current pumpkin king Edgar does not want to give up the throne so easily for he tries to pull some tricks (well, basically does everything on his cheatsheet to help Oogie win so that he can manipulate Oogie when he becomes the next king).    

Bone tower challenge.
Bone tower challenge.

Edgar’s greed is so persistent to the extent that he desires to cover the town with tricks (no treats yes, only tricks). He wants to unleash the fear, the ultimate terror in Halloweentown. Tricks might be fun and exciting, but they can also be overwhelmingly dangerous. So, we need treats as well. Of course, we all love treats but treats alone can make life a bit dull. It is all about the balance. 

What will Oogie Boogie do with the manipulations of Edgar the Pumpkin King? Can Jack Skellington manage to protect this friendship at all costs even though he wants to be the Pumpkin King so badly?

It seems he just needs to find the balance between the two ends. 

If you love goofy and fun characters with a bit of cutesy dark humour sprinkled on them, this story is surely your cup of tea. The art style beautifully blends elements from Marvel comics, Japanese manga and French cartoons. All the characters have unique look in accordance with their eccentric personality. Lock, Shock & Barrel are my favourite triplets from now on because creepy-as-hell but cute babies are the ultimate combo in gothic comedies! 

The artist exaggerated the lines in the right places with crooked edges. Colouring is so on point, everything is so dark yet it does not feel flat and gloomy but instead feels like the dark version of whimsical aesthetic in Tim Burton’s film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Burton’s wonderful world’s unique visual charms work their magic very well in this story too.







I really loved how the story unpacks itself. The flow makes you curious about the next challenge, the next trick or the next move.

I believe any reader can enjoy the story because it seems so ordinary yet it has the edge we all need. I am not sure how I feel about the ending though, it feels a bit incomplete and there is no twist in the end but because the story’s aim is not about twisting the end so fair enough. Halloweentown invites you to its weird, quirky and funny everyday life. The question is “Are you along for the ride?” and do not worry, this slice-of-life dark comedy will certainly draw you into its wonderful world.  

Now, you want to learn how everything unravels in the end, then you’ll just have to pick up this fun one-shot Disney manga ASAP!

The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Battle For Pumpkin King is currently available for purchase on TOKYOPOP