The Twelve Days of Christmas Comics…
…or “Have Yourself a Marvel Little Christmas”
(or maybe even “Do You See What I DC?”)
A (possibly) festive look at some four-color seasonal offerings by Bob “Cratchit” Reyer
With the holidays upon us (and so rapidly that I haven’t yet stocked up on lumps of coal), a certain lovely young lady wrote to me today with a question–which, I’ll have you know, was not to ask for my resignation, thank you very much–but about Christmas-themed comic book stories. There have been so many over the years (perhaps even more than TV episodes that reference “It’s a Wonderful Life”!), and in so many genres from super-heroes (with releases as early as the 1940 Superman’s Christmas Adventure!) right through to Classic Comics Illustrated versions of “A Christmas Carol” and Tales from the Crypt outings that I hardly know where to begin…or why I agreed to do this, now that I think of it!
I’m going to keep this a personal list, rather than attempt a history of Yuletide comics that would run into next Christmas, particularly considering the number of “Marvel Holiday Specials” (with last year’s Gwenpool edition and a new one this very week featuring Luke Cage & Danny Rand!) or one-shots that range from the Marvel Zombies to the Flintstones, or that at DC, not only has virtually every super-hero worth her or his cape had a holiday adventure (including Lobo and Ambush Bug!), but if you check the DC database, “Christmas” has a listing as if it’s another “event”, perhaps the “Krisis on Kris Kringle’s Hearth” or something. On top of that, there are also some Hanukkah stories from both publishers to boot, including one from Marvel in What the–? #16 featuring the satirical heroes Milk & Cookies, who are like Cloak & Dagger, but with powers related to…well, milk and cookies. (It’s all starting to make me a little “humbuggy”.)
Anyway, before my Christmas spirit (and Irish coffee) vanishes, here are a dozen that have caught my fancy over the years, although I’m not going to rank them, but simply arrange them in alphabetical order, as I don’t want to cause offense to anyone, as I’m trying to stay on Santa’s “nice” list this year.
Ant-Man’s Big Christmas (Bob Gale/Phil Winslade) Jan & Hank respond to a fan’s request for help with his family, who are a pretty awful bunch who make his life miserable. A gleefully dark tale of holiday come-uppance from the writer of the “Back to the Future” trilogy, paired with some amazing artwork by Mr. Winslade.
Captain Marvel #11 (Kelly Sue DeConnick/David Lopez) Back from space, Carol Danvers has one day to spend at home in New York, but she’s abducted from the hospital bedside of Tracy Burke by evil scientist June Covington and mad media magnate Grace Valentine! With some help, this “Christmas Carol” winds up in a quite-touching ending that leads into the wondrous series finale in issue 15.
“Fin Fang Foom Saves Christmas” from Marvel Holiday Special 2006 (Scott Gray/Roger Langridge) The hordes of Hydra try to wreak economic chaos by attacking Times Square with a giant Santa robot, and only the immortal dragon Foom (and Dr. Strange’s aide Wong) stand in the way!
Harley Quinn Holiday Special (Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti/Mauricet/Various) Trying to reclaim her pug Aboo from his new foster home , Harley over-indulges in egg nog and passes out; a Christmas blessing for young Cindy, as Harley channels her Dr. Quinzel side and fixes a family.
JLA #60 (Mark Waid/Cliff Rathburn) Plastic Man tries to convince a young boy that not only does Santa Claus exist, but that he’s a member of the Justice League!
JSA #55 (Geoff Johns/Leonard Kirk) Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Wildcat perform a holiday ritual and visit an old friend, Ma Hunkel (the original Red Tornado) and this time with some very good news that will bring her back into the Justice Society family.
Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #7 (Steve Englehart/George Tuska/Billy Graham) Luke finds himself repeatedly tested by a lunatic calling himself “Marley”, who’s looking to see if there are still good people in the world. He decides on naughty over nice, and is planning to nuke Manhattan…at least until someone comes down the chimney!
Marvel Holiday Special 2005 (Various) Although I promised not to rank these, this one-shot is amazing cover-to-cover, and might top that list! We begin with “The Mole Man’s Christmas” (Shaenon Garrity/Roger Langridge), where-in the FF have to deal with the Moloids abducting sidewalk Santas hoping to find the real one so as to ease the anguish of their missing master. Next up is “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santron” by Jeff Parker and Reilly Brown, which centers on a troubled but brilliant young woman who builds a Santa robot–the problem is that she’s used some questionable spare parts, so when her creation comes a-calling at Avengers Mansion, it’s not a holiday treat! The tale closes with a touching speech from Captain America that includes this line “Ideals are bigger than any person, and we need them. They speak to what’s best in us”, and then re-visits some of the remarks from the 1897 New York Sun editorial by Francis Church answering Virginia’s letter on the question of her wavering belief in Santa Claus. This issue closes with a lovely illustrated poem by Mike Carey, Mike Perkins, and Laura Martin that tells of a “Christmas Day in Manhattan” where a ne’er-do-well super-villain is caught red-handed–stealing Christmas presents to give to his children!
Marvel Team-Up #1 (Roy Thomas/Ross Andru/Mike Esposito, with a cover by Gil Kane) Spider-Man reaches out to the Fantastic Four for help in tracking down their joint foe The Sandman, but when they find him, they discover a side to him that creators have mined for all the years since, including the screen-writers for “Spider-Man 3”.
Sensation Comics #38 (Dr. William Moulton Marston/H.G. Peter) Wonder Woman tries to bring holiday cheer to some poor children who have lost the Christmas spirit. Diana uses her invisible plane to help her bring presents to the youngsters…
…although this doesn’t go as expected, as she ends up in the clutches of some gangsters who live in the neighborhood, and who are threatening the kids with violence if Wonder Woman won’t do their evil bidding! It all turns out well in the end, with these closing panels:
Sensational She-Hulk #8 (John Byrne) Jennifer Walters receives an odd phone call from a “Nick St. Christopher”, who promises that he can help with a tough case that she’s been working on because, as he says, “I always know who’s been naughty and nice.” Mr. Byrne would also write and draw the Christmas poem “I’ll be Doom for Christmas” in What the–? #10,
…as well as being the artist and co-plotter on the next entry on the list, which would turn out to be the final issue of his legendary run.
Uncanny X-Men #143 (Chris Claremont/John Byrne) With the rest of the team away on various Christmas “missions”, young Kitty Pryde is left alone at the school, and it’s her first Hanukkah away from home as well. Left a bit blue when she can’t even reach her Mom and Dad by phone, she takes to wandering the mansion when she discovers that something wicked this way comes! This is probably my favorite Kitty Pryde story ever, which has little to do with anything, I know, but grant your Cranky Old Uncle Bob some leeway for the holidays, won’t you?
That’s my take–what’s on your list of holiday favorites?