One last holiday treat as we put our trees and ornaments away for another year. Christmas and Marvel comic books go hand-in-hand like Pizza Pops and Queso Sauce. You wouldn’t think they’d go well together, but they do. Only, when you do put them together they cause sweaty fever dreams.
I thought I’d share my five favorite Christmas stories that have appeared in the pages of the Marvel Universe. Originally, I was supposed to team up with fellow Fandom scribe Joseph Wilbur on a Christmas-Collaboration, sadly my whacked out schedule kind of messed that up. His top 5 DC Christmas stories can be found here. Check it out! It’s mighty fine!
DC Christmas stories are kind of like that delightful elderly family member who is polite and kind. Marvel Christmas stories are kind of like your crazy aunt who will drink wine until she knocks down a Christmas tree, makes an uncomfortable pass at someone’s significant other, or both. They are the hot mess of Christmas comic book stories. So cozy up next to the Yule Log and enjoy these delightful Christmas tales:
Santa Claus: Nazi Hunter
Santa Claus is a real character in the Marvel Universe, just like everywhere else. During World War II, the Nazis were never very fond of Christmas. This is a historically accurate fact. However, in the world of comics, they took that a step further. As Marvel Age #109 tells it, in December 1943, Hitler had Santa Claus kidnapped to lower US morale.
This was 14 years before a contingency plan for someone stealing Christmas was invented, so something needed to be done. President Theodore Roosevelt did the most rational thing in the world: Send Captain America and Nick Fury to rescue Santa from Hitler. Solid plan, given that one of these guys made a career of punching Hitler in the face.
However, this is the Marvel Universe, where the greatest evils ever birthed always have a habit of coming back. Hitler regularly made come backs in the modern age as a clone called the Hate-Monger. This takes us to the events of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #10, a story where the Hate-Monger attempts to dump toxic waste across New York City on Christmas Eve, like some sort of twisted Cancer Santa (so he’s playing to type, is basically what I’m saying). The only person who can stop the Hate-Monger is Nick Fury, because this story was published in the 60s and everyone else was probably having wildly inappropriate office Christmas parties, as it was the tradition at the time.
Unfortunately, Fury fumbles the ball, and the Hate-Monger looks like he is about to succeed when suddenly….
… Santa Claus apparently killed Hitler? Wow. Cringle, you can take the year off, that’s present enough for everyone.
Santa is a Mutant!
The X-Men is a franchise that gives Marvel license to print money, so it’s not a surprise that there once was a time they went a little overboard with the whole mutant thing. Anytime they tried to drum up sales or get readers into something they’d toss in a character who happened to be a mutant. A lot of times, they were terrible.
Case in point, Marvel Holiday Special #1 published in 1991. In this story the X-Men’s mutant detecting computer, Cerebro, detects mutants that are on a rampage at Rockefeller Plaza during the holidays. One of said mutants is apparently the most powerful mutant they had ever detected.
This leads to a battle against their foes the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who are the ones responsible for the damage. That most powerful mutant ever? Santa Claus, apparently. He makes everyone stop fighting by turning the Brotherhood into toys. Then teleports the X-Men away and erases their memories of their encounter, and then makes it snow.
So the next time you get into a shouting match with your friend about who is the most powerful mutant is, you’re both wrong. It’s Santa. The answer is always Santa. Finally what we need, another mutant with Claus. What is his catch phrase? “I’m the best there is at what I do, and what I do is jolly.”
No, Santa is Odin!
No Holiday is complete without a mean-spirited argument between inclusiveness and tradition and Marvel Holiday Special fills that void in your Christmas comic book reading. Is Santa a mutant? No! Argues a different story in the same issue. Santa is actually Odin, All-Father of the Asgardians!
Thousands of years ago, Odin was challenged by a Troll named Grylak who threatened to destroy Asgard with a meteor. Meanwhile, on Earth, a fisherman named Sigurd is lost at sea during a powerful storm on the eve of the Midwinter’s Feast. His wife, Sia, then prays to Odin to make sure her husband gets home safe. What’s a sky-father to do? Well, he gathers all sorts of goodies for Sia and then orders Thor to destroy the meteor at just the right time.
That’s right, Odin risks his entire kingdom so some guy who is bad at fishing can make it home in time for Viking Christmas. When Thor smashes the asteroid it causes a bright flash so that other sailors find Sigurd and pull his sorry self back to shore. While all this is happening, Odin decks himself out to look like a weird knock off Santa and delivers the gifts. Then he flies off in his sleigh, pulled by his two goats, wishing all a Merry Midwinter’s Feast.
Howard the Duck Magazine #3, paints a horrifying look at Christmas that reads like a Breitbart scare piece. When the ASPCA prevents Santa from using reindeer to pull his sleigh he goes for the next best thing: carbon-heavy energy sources. With a gas powered sleigh, and a nuclear reactor on the North Pole, Santa falls victim to the villains Greedy Killowat and the Pinball Lizard.
Because there is a topical fuel crisis going on, Santa’s sleigh runs out of gas and he crash lands in Cleveland because I think this story might also be about seasonal depression.
Santa then enlists the aid of Howard the Duck to save Christmas which also involves preventing a nuclear meltdown that will cause the extinction of all life on Earth. Don’t worry, this duo manages to save the day and presents are delivered to all the good boys and girls. Anyone who might have read this story likely ended up asking Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick for Zoloft for Christmas because, man, what a depressing story.
In the guise of Nick St. Christopher, Santa moonlights as the “world’s greatest detective”. Using his ability to determine who has been naughty or nice, he apparently likes to solve crimes. When She-Hulk is working on a case to convict a serial killer, she has a tough time ahead of her because all of the evidence against the accused is circumstantial.
Enter, Nick St. Christopher, who offers his talents to help She-Hulk win her case. Since our private lives are all at the scrutiny of this Jolly Ol’ Elf, Santa knows the location of the serial killers home. Although She-Hulk warns him about illegal entry onto the premises, Santa uses his magical powers to get them down the chimney into the apartment. Also, way to taint a crime scene!
Still, they can’t prove that the killer lived in that apartment because it’s not in his name. I get that this story was written in the 1990s and forensic science wasn’t that great, but I think if you murdered seven women in your apartment and leave evidence laying around for a green skinned amazon and Father Christmas to find, the jig is most certainly up.
Still, they learn that the apartment was rented by the killer’s ex-girlfriend who had since moved back home to Australia. Santa teleports She-Hulk there so they can convince her to be a witness. This allows She-Hulk to win the case, but Nick St. Christopher gets into hot water with his wife and is dragged back home to the North Pole.
Moral of the Story
Every time a serial killer gets convicted an angel gets its wings. I think.
Christmas Bonus: The Nativity Scene
For some, the holidays are all about the birth of Jesus Christ. Marvel usually strays away from the more religious aspects of Christmas in their books so as not to offend. But let me tell you, when they do, it’s really, really weird.
Case in point: Marvel Two-In-One #8. Where do I even start with this one?
Well, the villain of this piece is an early, and forgettable, Fantastic Four villain named the Miracle Man. A former stage hypnosis, he eventually learned the power of “mind-over-matter” from the spirits of an ancient Native American tribe. One year on Christmas Eve the Miracle Man wanted his nom du guerre to be as literal as the Bible itself.
Using his powers, the Miracle Man reconstructs an entire Native American reservation into a recreation of Bethlehem with the Keewazi tribe as stand-ins for the most culturally intolerant version of the Nativity ever put together. His plan was to out-immaculately conceive God by creating his own Nativity and somehow this would let him rule over all mankind because… Reasons?
He copied every detail down to a star shining over the city, which prompted the Fantastic Four’s Mister Fantastic to send the Thing to investigate. If you think sending the Thing out on a mission on Christmas is insensitive, it gets worse. See, the Thing is Jewish and the Fantastic Four ignored his cultural heritage for years before finally recognizing it. So, really, it’s kind of a jerk move.
When I think “War on Christmas”, I think of drone strikes on mangers and soldiers wearing necklaces out of elf ears, because my imagination is a horrifying thing. Never once would I picture it as Native Americans being forced into recreating the story of another religion by a white guy. only to be saved by a pawn of Satan and a Jewish man made of rocks.
I guess if there is any take-away from all this is next time you cross paths with someone who claims that there is a “War on Christmas” going on, show them this comic. This is basically their argument and it illustrates how their idea is stupid and offensive.
That all said, no matter what you believe in, belated Happy Holidays, I bid you good tidings to you and yours.