I’ve spent the past week with the nasty and naughty side of Christmas comics. And what could be nastier than this scene depicted on the front of The Vault of Horror #24 (Gemstone Publishing edition, originally published as The Vault of Horror #35, February/March, 1954 by EC Comics)? Look at that casket with the big red ribbon tied around it, isn’t that the gift? Take a gander at the astonished, concerned look on the wife’s face; boy, you know she wasn’t expecting that. Then there’s the charming, alarming pose of the husband right behind her, ax up and poised at the right level, just ready to whack her head off. Ahh, those loving couples at Christmastime. What music they make. Just warms the Holiday heart, doesn’t it? Finally, there are our beaming hosts in their little circular frames, The Vault-Keeper, The Crypt-Keeper, and The Old Witch. What comfort and joy for all!

I can just imagine those U.S. Senators back in the mid-1950s shuddering over this illustration and exclaiming, “Wertham’s right, men, the kiddies are going to be indefinitely corrupted by this!” I don’t see how anyone could’ve been threatened by the advent of rock n’ roll while this kind of putrefaction needed to be dealt with.

Moving right along, here’s the battered Santa Claus I promised you last week. Somebody kissed his eye to make it feel better and missed and hit his cheek, but it’s the thought that counts. This is from the now completely forgotten Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children series, Volume 16, 1990, by writer Dave Louapre and artist Dan Sweetman. So how did Santa wind up with that imposing shiner? Well, first of all, that’s not the real Santa, that’s Iggy Valentine. Because Iggy was so small, he had always played a dwarf come Christmastime at the Retail Pit, the town of Scaulderville’s biggest discount department store. But this particular year was different as the store had run out of Santas, so Iggy, in a personal moment of transcendence, got the Santa job! Unfortunately, he also got an unruly mob of Holiday shoppers and irate Santa worshippers, and when they snapped and attacked poor Iggy, he didn’t stand a chance. The story is told in prose and black and white illustrations. BS For UC was published by Piranha Press, an imprint of DC Comics that had its hey day in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Piranha morphed into Paradox Press a few years later.

Actually, Beautiful Stories For Ugly Children isn’t completely forgotten. It has its own website and a Wikipedia entry. I still have the entire series and feel a big distraction coming on as I want to peruse them right now, but I must remain focused and continue to subject you to more Santa-related violence in Christmas comics.

You can’t get more violent than this! That is indeed Santa Claus with a loaded gun in his mouth, and that ain’t Holiday cheer sweating from his eyes, I can guarantee you that. This insult to Christmas tranquility graces the front of Hitman #22, January, 1998. But don’t pass up “The Santa Contract” by Garth Ennis and John McCrea, ’cause it’s terrific. In fact, don’t pass up Hitman at all. It was a great series, the best thing to come out of the truly wretched Bloodlines crossover saga of 1993.

Obviously this kid on the cover of Panic #1 (Gemstone 1997 edition, originally published as Panic #1, February/March, 1954 by EC Comics) really pulled the wool over Santa’s eyes. A young individual this naughty would never get a visit from Saint Nick. Inside this issue, Bill Elder does his take on the classic perennial poem “The Night Before Christmas,” twisting and improving on it as only the creatively warped folk at EC could. Also in this issue: the startling truth about Little Red Riding Hood is revealed (it has nothing to do Christmas, but it sure is a great story)!

That’s Santa Claus, Santa Simpson, to be precise, lying face down in the cold December snow, dead, murdered, while members of the Justice League and Justice Society look on indifferently (Justice League of America #110, March-April, 1974). You really put your life at risk wearing a Santa costume in the DC Universe.

Can you make out that big old crease down the middle of the comic? Subscription comics used to be delivered in a brown envelope, folded in half!! Those were the days when I used a stack of World Book encyclopedias (preferably the large volumes, like “M” and “S”) to flatten down my Justice League and Superman subscription comics, but the creases remain permanent. Fortunately, DC started mailing their 100 Pagers flat in February of 1974, and their standard-sized comics followed suit at the end of 1975.

Ah, there’s nothing like the bad guys disguising themselves as Santa Claus, seen here on the cover of Batman Family #4 (March-April, 1976). There’s Santa Clausette shooting at Batgirl at very close range, mind you. The middle Santa Claus has just taken a dandy whack out of Robin with a bag full of stolen loot. And the driver has decided to remove his Santa mask in the middle of a crucial escape!

In the lower left hand corner is the beaming “Fatman,” who nowadays would be the more politically correct “Obeseman.” But in 1958, Fatman met Batman. Fatman was actually a circus clown dressed up as “Fatman” to poke fun at the Caped Crusader and amuse kiddies both young and old. He impresses Batman and Robin, gets to ride in the Batmobile, and even helps the Dynamic Duo apprehend the Red Mask Gang! You’re not gonna see that kind of old-fashioned fun in the pages of All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder!

There’s a dead Santa on the porch on the cover of Jonah Hex #34 (March, 1980), and as we peer inside the warmly lit cabin we can see the smiling nun and the happy kids anticipating the arrival of Saint Nick. Jonah Hex will not allow them to be disappointed as he gently chides his pa to go in and spread the holiday cheer. The superbly titled “Christmas In An Outlaw Town” is by writer Michael Fleisher and artist Dan Spiegle.

Okay, that’s enough of the naughty side of Christmas. Next week I’ll be leaving Santa pretty much alone and spotlighting the nicer and more inspirational aspects of the Holiday season.

 

 

© 2004, Jim Kingman


 

About The Author

Jim Kingman

Jim Kingman is a writer for Comics Bulletin