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Joel Grineau
by: Joel V. Grineau
Christmas Comic Book Specials
Like any other capitalistic enterprise, comic book companies attempt to release products aimed directly at the motherload of all consumer dollars, Christmas.

After all, you might have a niece/nephew about 10-14 years old, and if you want to give them something entertaining, that encourages reading, is not that expensive, and is about Christmas, then hey, a comic book that deals with Christmas is just the thing.

Right? Maybe.

There are two types of Christmas comics on the market every year: the Christmas theme issue, and the truly special Christmas Special.

First off, you will often come across an issue of any regular comic book series that contains a Christmas theme. The two predominate themes are, 1) the heroes help Santa, or become Santa and deliver gifts, or, 2) the heroes help someone less fortunate than themselves, or a pitiful villain, and thereby discover the 'true meaning of Christmas' for themselves, and others.

I have no idea how long comic book companies have been doing this. Superman met Santa at least as far back as 1946 (Action Comics #93). As for the 'true meaning of Christmas' storylines, well, they're not very satisfying. Even the revered James Robinson could barely pull this off for this seasoned comic book reader (Starman #28).

Now, the 'Christmas Special', which is written right on the title to attract our attention, also generally follows the same two themes. However, they usually contain more pages and are often anthologies; thus they're more expensive. For example, DC's "Christmas with the Super-Heroes" #2 (1989) contained stories starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Deadman, Green Lantern, the Flash, and Enemy Ace. It cost $2.95, while a regular comic book cost $1.25, back then.

I still remember the Superman story. While flying across the plains, Superman comes across a car stuck in a snow bank. The occupant is a middle aged man who feels he's a failure and is happy to lie back and die. Supes of course digs him out and sends him along, saying that just a few miles down the road lies a farmhouse, where an older couple, the Kents, would be happy to give him a piece of pie on Christmas Eve. Yippee.

But what if that guy in the car had actually been Hector Hammond or Lex Luther in disguise? Image the repercussions! Evil villains at the Kent homestead!

To be fair, the Enemy Ace story was excellent, and mirrored history, in that during WW I, enemy troops did declare a cease fire and met each other on Christmas Day.

However, (thank the deity of your choice) in the last decade, a third theme has emerged, the parody Christmas special. Comic books which mock the above two themes. Four in particular come to mind.

  • The "Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer"(1986) had the hero searching for his dead sidekick, Cheeks the Toy Wonder.
  • Who could forget "Lobo's Paramilitary Christmas Special"(1991), where Lobo killed Santa in a knife fight at the North Pole?
  • Of course, there was the "Trencher X-Mas Bites Holiday Blow-Out"(1994), where we learned all about Trenching during the holidays.
  • And last, but not least, "Howard the Duck's Holiday Special"(1996). Yes, I said Howard the Duck, who helped Santa get rid of some Hydra interlopers by suping up Santa's Elves with some S.H.I.E.L.D. hardware.

So, yes, it's not that difficult to find a Christmas comic book for yourself or someone else. And the first two types: Santa and the 'true spirit' are suitable enough I guess. But be aware that the lameness factor is substantially higher in these comics. If you're looking for a sure thing, the seasoned reader really appreciates the parody specials. 'Nuff Said.

Joel Grineau is a former Writer/Contributing Editor for "Chaos" Magazine. "Iron Man" 146 (purchased in the spring of 1981) was his first comic book, and time has not worn down his enjoyment of them. Joel holds a BA from the University of Guelph and an MA from the University of Saskatchewan. He is currently an officer with the Canadian Forces.

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Text © Joel V. Grineau, 1997,1998.
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