FERNDALE — Brian Kelly isn’t a stranger to doing things a little differently.
After growing up on the east side of Detroit and working in the movie business for years as a rigging electrician, Kelly wanted to mix things up. So, he opened a comic book store in the middle of an economic recession.
“I was working in the movie business and I was getting burnt out at that with a lot of traveling, so I really wanted to open up a comic book store because there weren’t really any and I knew comics pretty well,” Kelly said. “We started Detroit Comics from scratch at the worst time ever, in 2007, right before everything went downhill. We survived by the skin of our teeth.”
It should come as no surprise that when Detroit Comics holds its annual Christmas party every year at the store, located at 23333 Woodward Ave., in Ferndale, Kelly doesn’t go with the traditional Santa Claus for entertainment.
Kelly will be holding his sixth annual Christmas party Dec. 7 at his store, and in attendance will be Metalliclaus, Kelly’s artistic take on Santa Claus.
“One of my friends that I have been pretty close with since college, we would always dress up as some particular version of Santa Claus, and he had a biker outfit Santa that people liked the most,” Kelly said. “When I opened my store, we started doing Metalliclaus as an alternative to the crappy mall Santa Claus, and we wanted to mix it up.”
During the event, Metalliclaus will take pictures with children and adults for $7, with 100 percent of the money raised going to Children’s Hospital of Michigan, based in Detroit. Last year, Kelly said he raised $320, but he is hoping to continually break the previous year’s record.
This year, Metalliclaus will also a host a trivia game in the same vein as “Jeopardy!” with prizes for the winners.
The man who plays Metalliclaus, Jason Elliot, may be intimidating in his costume, but Elliot has a kind side. When he isn’t playing Metalliclaus, Elliot, 34, is a kindergarten teacher in Pontiac.
“Brian thought I must come by and sit down in a chair in his comic book store and have folks come in and sit on my lap, and I thought, ‘Anything to help out an old college chum,’” Elliot said. “I have played a gig as the neighborhood Santa in the past, and the children in the hood were disenfranchised with Santa because I didn’t get them what they wanted for Christmas, and the eggnog smelled sour in my beard.”
“I thought what Santa needed was an anti-hero, a Dirty Harry of the Santa world. (Metalliclaus) came about out of spite of the greed Christmas can yield,” he said.
When Elliot was coming up with the look for Metalliclaus, he bought a denim vest with black marker on it for 50 cents from a value market. Combined with the black beard and wig, Elliot tops off the costume with a pair of boots that are held together with duct tape.
Despite the obvious difference between Elliot as Metalliclaus and Elliot as a kindergarten teacher, the 42-year-old teacher said there are some similarities.
“I carry a ukulele around with me on a daily basis in the classroom, and I do the same as Metalliclaus,” he said. “I think Metalliclaus has the same approach to children, I would have to say. He is happy they are around, and he is wanting to help them out as much as he can. It’s all about the kids.”
Ultimately, Kelly said all the fun during the party is to benefit kids in need.
“We were looking for some charity we could donate to, and we did some random ones in the first couple of years, but we wanted to do more for the kids,” he said. “A lot of families come in here, and we wanted to make it a communitywide thing. I think Ferndale is pretty open-minded, and they won’t think it is too horrible to have a different Santa Claus.”
For more information on Metalliclaus and the Detroit Comics party Dec. 7, call (248) 548-2669. The party is free and open to the public.