The 6 Greatest Comic Book Santas
Let’s get this out of the way first: Santa Claus is real. Totally real. He’s big, he’s jolly, his white beard is legend and he lives on the North Pole making toys for all the good little girls and boys of the world. He uses time zones to his advantage when flying around the world in one night, and his reindeer fly using magick. Boom, mystery solved! If he wasn’t real, why would I, a 28-year-old man, still be getting presents marked ‘From: Santa’ under the Christmas tree? Can’t explain that!
Also not every kid in the world celebrates Christmas, so that cuts down on his time considerably.
Santa Claus is such a popular guy that he’s one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, and is always appearing in movies, TV shows and more. Whether he’s selling Coca Cola, being put on trial on 34th Street or getting his testicles electrocuted by terrorists in Iraq on South Park, Santa Claus spends a lot of his free time in show business. He’s even made more than a few appearances in comic books. Back in the 40s and 50s, Santa had his own funny books. And Silver Age superheroes like old-timey Batman and Superman were always willing to lend the jolly old elf a hand. But he’s not always portrayed as quite so jolly. Or quite so non-homicidal.
And we’re not talking about stories starring a mall Santa or just a guy in a Santa costume – like the time vampire-slayer Blade had to kill a mall Santa who was possessed by a murderous demon – we’re talking the real deal Kris Kringle himself!
Read on to see the 6 best comic book appearances of Santa Claus!
6. An Ultimate Warrior Christmas
Hey kids of the 80s, do you remember the Ultimate Warrior? Of course you do!
Back then, the Ultimate Warrior was one of the stars of the World Wrestling Federation, back when it was still called the WWF and back when Hulk Hogan was in his prime. The Ultimate Warrior was all facepaint, bright colors and high-energy athletics. He was like crack to the young boys of the 80s. Well in the strange, sad world of merchandising insanity, the Ultimate Warrior got his own Christmas comic book special in which he does unspeakable things to Santa Claus.
There is no context for that picture that would make you feel anything other than icky. Warrior X-Mas isn’t even really a narrative so much as just a series of pictures of the Ultimate Warrior having his way with Santa Claus again and again. They came out in 1996, towards the end of his wrestling career. Warrior wrote the comics himself, not that there was much writing. Again, this issue is basically just a bunch of standalone pictures. Though they do form something of a narrative.
A lot of the pictures involve the Warrior dressed as Santa Claus, or at least having stolen Santa’s suit. He kills elves, chokes the Grinch, parties with some hobos and everything leads to the only real eventuality. Or at least one with as little child murder as possible.
5. Santa vs. the Seal Men
Usually when Santa Claus appeared in Silver Age comics, back when things were hokey and light-hearted, he was his jolly self delivering toys to children. Superheroes would help him out and everyone had a good time. But there was one issue back in the mid-70s that just went off the rails crazy, and that’s ‘The Seal Men’s War on Santa Claus’. Take that literally, because actual seal-people kidnapped Santa Claus and it was up to old-timey hero The Sandman to save him
This Jack Kirby classic bounced around several titles in the 70s before it was finally printed in a collected format in 1978. If you’re familiar with Neil Gaiman’s quite famous (and quite awesome) Sandman series of the 90s, then you may not know that DC Comics has had several characters call themselves ‘Sandman’, including a red and yellow superhero in the 70s. Dreams and dreaming were a big part of the book back then, so the hero Sandman actually knew and was good friends with the real Santa Claus. That came in handy when Sandman’s young friend Jed convinced a rich man to promise to donate $1 million to charity if Jed could prove that Santa Claus was real. Not sure what the rich man was going to get if Jed failed.
Sandman leads the gang up to the North Pole to meet Santa, but there’s something wrong! The dastardly seal men have kidnapped Santa Claus because they’re upset over the crappy gifts they always get. Gloves for people who have flippers? Come on, Santa! You’re better than that! So of course the best course of action is to kidnap Santa Claus.
It’s Sandman to the rescue! He and Jed head off to save Santa, only to get tricked with a decoy and knocked out. Once in lock up with St. Nick, they make their escape and try to sneak out of the Seal City Place. When they get caught again, Santa gives everyone a lesson in sarcasm.
Rather than surrender, Sandman, Jeb and Santa decide to take a stand!
When Sandman and Santa finally stop using their fists and start using their words, a deal is quickly reached where Santa explains it’s a mix-up, and he’ll guarantee that the right presents be given to the Seal Men. Sure, if you can take him for his word. Don’t trust him, Seal King!
4. Lobo vs. Santa Claus
Sometimes Santa Claus can be a real bastard. And if that’s the case, who do you call to take him out? Well in 1991, the obvious choice was blood and guts bounty hunter Lobo, the meanest bastich in outer space!
Lobo was a hugely popular character for DC Comics in the 90s. Problem was that Lobo was actually created as a parody of the very same comics he came to represent. But readers just didn’t get the parody, and instead reveled in Lobo’s over-the-top violence and hella badass attitude. So popular was Lobo that he got his own Christmas special, in which a drunk and jealous Easter Bunny hires the bounty hunter to kill old Kris Kringle. But don’t worry folks, we’re not talking about a jolly and friendly St. Nick. This Santa is one badass son of a bitch.
It was called The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special, and the Lobo vs. Santa story is part of a book read by a really freaky husband and wife team. But ignore them, the juicy stuff is with Lobo. Man, does he just reek of 90s biker charm. Grungy hair, yellow teeth, tattoos, chains, giant guns, a super motorcycle; no wonder kids loved him. But nobody likes Santa. He’s Kris ‘Crusher’ Kringle, running a slave-driving toy-making operation in the North Pole that gets smacked down by Amnesty International. Yes, it really says that. Anyway, Lobo blasts his way in, shooting past and through elf guards. It actually gets pretty graphic.
We’re talking blood, gore, ripped-off limbs, eyes popping out, brains exploding – very, very graphic! Lobo leaves a pile of dead elves in his wake before going to meet with the big man himself. The two exchange some type of banter, with Lobo being his rude self while Santa tries to sound tough. Lobo then lets Santa pick their weapons, and Santa picks blades. So we’re treated to several pages of Santa and Lobo fighting with blades. Again, it’s gruesome. Lobo punches Santa’s eye out of the socket, so then it’s just hanging there.
Eventually Lobo just straight up cuts Santa’s head off.
With the big man dead, Lobo raids Santa’s workshop. He finds the list of Naughty and Nice and decides that he’ll take over for Santa. So Lobo makes Santa’s helpers build a ton of bombs, then Lobo takes Santa’s sleigh around the world dropping bombs on everyone’s houses. That’s how it ends. A brilliant piece of satire that nobody ever understood to be satire. They just liked the blood, guts and bombs. Not Santa Claus’ best day.
3. Yes Jubilee, There is a Santa Claus
Not all 90s comics were a diatribe on attitude and highly marketable badassery. And not all appearances of Santa Claus were insane or disgusting. Sometimes Santa Claus just got to be himself and spread a little Christmas cheer. Though he did have a problem with being kidnapped, like the time a little mutant boy took him hostage, and it was up to the X-Men’s Jubilee to save him.
In the Generation X Holiday Special, Jubilee is a member of Generation X, the 90s attempt to create a team of teenage mutants for the X-Men franchise. Every decade seems to get their own team of teenage mutants. It’s like a cycle. Well this issue is all about Christmas fun, but it’s the Jubilee story that features one of the only in-canon appearances of Santa Claus in all of Marvel comics. There’s no cop out in the end. No revelation that he’s actually just a guy in a Santa costume. Santa really comes to visit Jubilee.
Or she comes to visit him by crashing down the chimney of the house where he’s being held hostage. The story is that villains Nanny and Orphanmaker are doing their thing, which is kidnapping mutant children and murdering their parents. Hence the name. Well Jubilee gets involved to try and stop Orphanmaker from doing the deed, and finds herself in the home, where the mutant kid is using his ill-defined powers to capture Santa.
Turns out the boy is scared of being a mutant, and he wanted to get back at a friend of his, so he kidnapped Santa to prevent Santa from going to that friend’s house. But Santa and Jubilee work together to convince the boy that it’s not so bad being a mutant. They’re about to make a breakthrough when the robotic Orphanmaker returns. But Orphanmaker is really just a young boy named Peter who was turned into the robot killer by Nanny. And what usually happens when a lonely boy meets Santa Claus?
Santa messes with Orphanmaker’s head. Should he be a Nice boy and do as Santa wants? Or should he be Naughty, forgoing presents, to do what Nanny wants? Orphanmaker chooses Nanny and flees. Meanwhile, the little boy has fallen asleep. With his work done, Santa easily frees himself because not even a mutant boy can really kidnap Santa. He was just staying to give the boy the help he needed. Plus Santa has some kind words to help comfort Jubilee before he leaves to continue his duties.
And with that, everyone has learned a little something about Christmas and treasuring the holidays, family and friends. Huzzah!
2. Santa Claus joins the Justice League
Of all the times Santa Claus has appeared in DC Comics, this one is the best. In a story narrated by one of DC’s resident stretchy superheroes, Plastic Man, Santa Claus became a member of the Justice League of America!
Santa Claus is the ultimate superhero, is he not? He’s got magic out the wazoo, with tons of super powers to boot. He can get around the entire world in one night, implying some kind of super speed. He’s a big fat guy, but can squeeze down a chimeny, giving him some kind of shrinking or mass-reduction power. Plus he’s got a magical, bottomless bag of holding. Total superhero. So it’s no surprise that the Justice League invited him to join!
Then they all went to Hell to battle Satan!
As the story goes, Santa is worried about Christmas because there are far too many children on the Naughty List. So he dons a sort of gizmo hat and scans the world, only to discover that children have already been given gifts by Neron, the DC equivalent of the devil. And the kids are using those gifts for mischief and general naughtiness. So Santa takes it upon himself to confront Neron in Hell! Neron has his own workshop, with his own evil elves. Neron gets the jump on him and takes Santa prisoner. This seems to be a problem for Santa.
And, of course, that little gingerbread man tells the JLA – and Plastic Man eats him. The team teleports down to Hell, and Neron is waiting for them. The JLA fight off the evil toys, some hellish monsters and those demon elves. Then they find Santa wrapped in a giant, plastic action figure package. The JLA try to break him out when Neron turns them all into coal and stuffs them into a stocking.
But that’s OK, because Santa has heat vision.
And he promptly kicks ass. Or as Plastic Man calls it, he “opened himself up a can of whoop-elf.” Because Plastic Man never passes up a good pun. Santa fights his way through the evil elves like some kind of psychotic badass. He fares much better in this fight than he did against Lobo.
Santa gets captured in the end, and presented to Neron. Santa defeats him with his secret weapon: presents! Santa gives Neron a gift for Christmas, a gift of socks and underwear. But Neron, a demon, can’t comprehend the concept of just getting a gift for the sake of giving to others. So he disappears into a burst of flame and Santa saves the superheroes. After that, Santa gladly joins the Justice League. And of course, as is the way of these stories, Santa makes another appearance at the end of the book after we zoom back to Plastic Man telling the story to a little kid on Christmas Eve. Because aaaaaawwwww!
1. Santa the Barbarian
Brace yourselves for a level of badass so awesome that it should come with a warning from the Surgeon General. In a 1996 comic produced by infamous comic book artist Rob Liefeld, I present to you the most ass-kicking, head-smashing, balls-crushing Santa Claus to ever grace imagination. If he were in charge of Christmas, all we would get as presents would be axes to the face.
SANTA THE BARBARIAN!!
Near as I can tell, this comic has nothing to do with anything, and exists as just a one-shot issue of awesomeness. I assume someone thought up the phrase ‘Santa the Barbarian’ and the comic wrote itself. Unfortunately, this comic is not as cool as I’d hoped. I was looking for a full-on semi-serious parody of Conan the Barbarian, only with Santa Claus characters. Instead, for some strange reason, we get two entirely different stories featuring two entirely different Santas. Though both of them are ass-kickers.
The first story deals with Santa discovery that his Nice List fits on a 3×5 card, while the Naughty List fills an entire room. So the only choice is to kill everyone on the Naughty List to even them up a little bit! Santa makes a few puns about pouting and crying, and then arms himself to the teeth along with his elves.
He loads up the sleigh, and Rudolph’s red nose is actually belching flames instead of just glowing. That’s pretty sweet. But then Rudolph is able to fly Santa’s sleigh all on his own using the power of his farts, because he got into some ‘bad chili’. Yep. Not just badassery, but immature and horrible fart jokes. So Santa shows up at a guy’s house and proceeds to kill everybody at the house, with the narration rhyming the entire time. Not to mention the Christmas puns. Like: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good knife!”
The second story is quicker, featuring another badass Santa and another attempt at rhyming the narration. This one is a take on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, at least as far as the narration is concerned. There’s a lot of fourth wall breaking in this comic as the writer complains about having to rhyme.
Really the story is about Santa the Barbarian going to some town, only to be confronted by his elves. They are sick and tired of his tyranny, and they want out! Santa will hear none of it, so they all get into a big brawl. The elves don’t put up much of a fight, and Santa kicks a lot of ass. But the elves have a secret weapon: a giant, Santa-killing robot named ‘Tank’! Santa doesn’t take too kindly to Tank.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the epic battle that surely took place. Because Santa Claus vs. Giant Robot, hello!? That’s pure gold right there! Anyway, Santa won, but now one of the elves has taken over for him delivering presents. Because Santa the Barbarian has got better shit to do back at the North Pole. And the story ends the only way it could, with the best interpretation of Mrs. Claus ever:
And with that, I hope everybody has a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hannukah!