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Comics 411: Best Comic Book Holiday Stories

December 4, 2019 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Spider-Man Christmas

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy reading or discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. I throw out a subject, you comment below. Easy. Let’s get started. 

Previously on…

Last time we discussed Comic Books We’re Thankful For. Here’s what some of you had to say:

Ken Wood: “I’m thankful for this column, it’s one of the main things I look forward to on 411Mania ever week. It’s fun to learn about stuff I haven’t read and discuss with others on things I have. I honestly haven’t read anything new. Everything I’m thankful for this year is learning about the old Essential X-men and Essential Classic X-men titles (from here), as well as the New X-men and the saga from House of M all the way through Messiah Complex and Second Coming. Seriously, the New X-men are amazing and Childhood’s End is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

I also read Spiderman’s Kraven’s Last Hunt and the Death of the Stacy’s this year. Both amazing. I finally picked up the origin of Venom. I’ve read a ton of Venom over my life but not that. I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list of things to do soon.

I also read the Blackest Night, which has prompted me to go back and start collecting Green Lantern in order.

Also been reading Y The Last Man, the new Ellis Wild Storm series, and some other miscellaneous stuff. It’s been great getting back into comics this past couple years and I look forward to learning about more good stuff from this column and in the comment section. Thanks.”

Aejhaa: “Jimmy Olsen, in a year where DC has cencelled my favorite books, Greeen Arrow, Titans and killed off Arsenal (Roy Harper), Superman’s pal has been absolutely awesome. I say this as someone who is decidedly not a superman fan at all”

Prez Gar: “The Amazing Mary Jane, finally giving her a chance to shine on her own, without being co-star to either Spider-Man or Iron Man, or any other hero for that matter.”

IpponDropkick: “The relaunch of X-Men has been absolutely delightful. I love them going like, full in on the WEIRDNESS. Also love Ennis being back on Punisher!”

Jeremy Thomas: “House of X/Powers of X/Dawn of X. Just all of it, even the one book I don’t really love yet out of DoX. It’s reinvigorated my love of current comics in a new way and my favorite characters are incredibly relevant again.

Related, I’m incredibly thankful for a couple of X-Men-related podcasts (Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men and Battle of the Atom), which are both a delight.

Outside of X-Men, I’m thankful for Doomsday Clock (even with the delays), War of the Realms being much better than I was afraid it might be, and Absolute Carnage which, while not 100% my thing (I like Venom, but not Carnage), has been carried off shockingly well. Events work when you actually make them worth following!”

Robert Stewart: “Bendis having brought back Young Justice.

Jubilee and Kitty Pryde each having a starring role in the X-relaunches.

Sex Criminals is coming back.”

Too many great comments to share. Go back and see for yourself. Also, as always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

Best Comic Book Holiday Stories

It’s December and we’re in the midst of holiday season so I thought it would be fun to sit back by the fire and fondly remember those comic book specials and stories that celebrate this time of the year.

When it comes to Christmas stories, comic book fans can usually put aside their differences and relish in a good ole fashion tale of hope, heroism, and overcoming the odds. Christmas stories always stuck out to me because the best ones usually involved our favorite heroes and villains in a situation outside the norm. And the question of Santa’s existence was always debated. To me, that was always funny because these were people dressed up in costumes with crazy powers talking about if a man in a red suit and delivers presents to kids was real. Only in comic books.

Whenever someone mentions Christmas themed comics, my first thought usually goes to Lobo: Paramilitary Christmas Special #1. This is one crazy stand-alone comic that has the Easter Bunny hiring Lobo, an intergalactic bounty hunter, to kill Santa Claus. It’s as bloody as you can imagine and the perfect gift for that “odd” person on your list.

Speaking of violent, I have to include The Goon #10. Often overlooked and forgotten, the cast of The Goon perform their version of the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. With a twist. It’s a tale about a a deadbeat dad who’s always late for work and refuses to work on Christmas to provide his invalid son with proper medical attention. It wouldn’t be a yuletide treat if it didn’t have three ghosts visit and “inspire” an old rich guy into paying for the medical expenses. In case you needed more incentive to seek this one out, it won the 2004 Eisner Award for Best Single Issue.

‘The Santa Contract’ from Hitman #22 from the minds of Garth Ennis, John McCrea, and Steve Pugh is told in Dr. Seuss Grinch prose. Violent, twisted, and filled with Ennis humor. The perfect issue for those who want a non-traditional Christmas story.

Speaking of non-traditional, if you’ve ever wanted to see Santa Claus take on Darkseid, seek out the DCU Holiday Bash II from 1998. It’s only two pages but it’s better than a piece of coal in your stocking. If you’re looking for a story that’s always overlooked, pick up Starman #27 and enjoy ‘Christmas Knight’ by the fire.

Switching things to a more traditional take, The DC Special Series #21, ‘Wanted: Santa Claus: Dead or Alive’ may be my personal favorite. Actually, this makes a lot of “Best Lists” and with good reason. Not only does Batman knock a dude out by throwing a Christmas tree at him (Seriously), this was Frank Miller’s first time working with Batman. Frank was 23 at the time but you could see the seeds of his future here. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

Superman: Peace on Earth is a beautiful read that’s set during the holiday season and Clark Kent reflecting on the poverty suffered by so many throughout the world and decides to use his vast power to feed the starving and impoverished masses. But as Superman sets out to accomplish the impossible, he encounters unexpected resistance to his humanitarian efforts. Great stuff.

Another personal favorite of mine is 1995’s The Batman Adventures Holiday Special. It’s a simple tale from Paul Dini and Ronnie Del Carmen and was even made into an animated episode. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn get into some shenanigans when Ivy hypnotizes Bruce Wayne with a poisoned kiss. Which seems to happen a lot to poor Bruce. Batman saves the day but not before a massive shopping spree is committed on his credit card.

The only thing I have to say about the story ‘Yes, Tyrone, There Is a Santa Claus’ from the DC Infinite Holiday Special is: Batman with a jetpack and Bat-Santa.

Batman’s had a number of adventures during the season and it’s hard to pick just a few but back in 1970, Batman #219 is a feel good tale of joy. No, really. ‘The Silent Night of Batman’ is about the villains in Gotham take a break from robbing and committing crimes so Batman can enjoy some peace and quiet. Commissioner Gordon and Bats spend Christmas Eve together and the Dark Knight goes caroling. A far cry from Batman Returns.

Speaking of movie sequels, when I saw Spider-Man 3 back in 2007, the Sandman story ringed familiar with me. That’s because it was very similar to the very first issue of Marvel Team-Up way back in 1972. Spidey and the Human Torch team up to take up Sandman. It’s pretty basic: The heroes fight Sandman, he gets the upper hand and escapes, they find him…but wait. What’s this? He’s visiting his mother on her deathbed and asks the heroes to help him save face in front of her since she doesn’t know he’s a bad guy. Spider-Man being Spider-Man gives Sandman’s mom the present he bought for his girlfriend. A feel good moment, to be sure. Sandman agrees to go peacefully but escapes while Spidey and Torch talk about doing good deeds in the hall. They aren’t too concerned because it’s the holidays and all.

Seek out a short Spider-Man story from Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Annual #1 called ‘Leah’. A touching story of a young, sick homeless girl that has a lot of love for Spider-Man. The ending will stick with you long after the holidays are over.

I enjoy the simple tales. Like ‘T’was the Fight Before Xmas’ from Spider-Man’s Tangled Web #21. Peter Parker goes to the mall on Christmas Eve to get something for J. Jonah Jameson’s wife. Crystal, Wasp, and Invisible Woman are also shopping at the mall and Mr. Flash Thompson is there dressed as Spider-Man, selling Spider-Man action figures. Looks like a recipe for Christmas trouble. Puppet Master controls Medusa and Flash and starts causing chaos at the mall (as if he needed them to do that! Christmas Eve at the mall is crazy enough!) and this gets the attention of the Fantastic Four. Bottomline, it’s a light-hearted and cartoonish fun.

The Hulk was involved in a few well done stories, one of them being 1990’s ‘Rhino Plastered’ that ran in Incredible Hulk #378. The creative team alone is enough to get your interest with Peter David, Kurt Busiek, Bill Jaaska, and Jeff Albrecht. It’s a flashback tale starring the grey Hulk and the supervillain Rhino. Who’s taken a job as a mall Santa. It has bratty kids, a cool fight between Santa-Rhino and Hulk, and a cheesy ending. Just what you need from a Christmas Special.

You’d think the X-Men would have plenty of Christmas classics (Same thing with the Fantastic Four) but the only two can really recall enjoying is Uncanny X-Men #230 and Uncanny X-Men #340. I wasn’t a big Longshot fan but did like this story in #230 about how he could tell the story of any object he touches. Once he proves it to his teammates by using some stolen merchandise, the team makes it their priority to return the items to the rightful owners. And it happens to be on Christmas. Aww.

In issue #340, Joseph is able to give Rogue a Christmas kiss with the assistance of some power-dampening tech.

Finally, it just isn’t holiday cheer with the Ultimate Warrior’s Christmas Special. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if I’m being serious or not.

Well, I could sit here all day but I’ll turn it over to you all. What holiday tales warm your heart?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!