And so this is the Christmas season.
There will be no Scrooges from this corner of Silver Bullet Comic Books this month of December, not with what I’ve concocted for my column over the next few weeks. For on display will be nothing but Christmas comics. Christmas with super-heroes. Christmas with EC Comics. Christmas with a battered Santa Claus and a Santa with a gun in his mouth. Even a Christmas comic with none other than Scrooge himself.
While I am by no means in a Bah! Humbug! state, I am not quite in the Christmas spirit. I want to be there, I plan to get there, but, honestly, my heart’s in Steinbeck country, Monterey and Salinas, and my head’s still on the road, out there on Highway 101, heading north, on the California mission trail, across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, deep into Napa Valley wine country, deeper into the Northern California redwoods, and on the beach at Crescent City, almost at the tippy-top of northwestern California.
That’s where we’ve been, the wife and I, and although we’ve been back for the better part of three weeks, that’s where my spirit remains. While I’ve enjoyed returning to home and work, celebrating Thanksgiving, seeing and highly recommending No Country For Old Men (which may keep me out of the roadside motels if I think about it too much), putting up the Christmas tree, adding lights and applying new and old ornaments, I’m still a heavy stone’s throw from feeling Christmas.
Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas (once, twice, three times) certainly helped, though, as does admiring the decorated Christmas tree each night.
But personally paramount in attaining the Holiday spirit has been locating and perusing a multitude of Christmas comics.
So here is the first round of covers, the preliminary round, with no real scheme of sub-divided themes, it is simply Christmas. However, I kick off with a nod to Thanksgiving, because while Christmas comics are as plentiful as snowflakes in the east on a wintry December day (well, that’s what I’ve been told; this Southern Californian has no experience with the falling rate of snowflakes in December), it is rare to find a comic book celebrating Thanksgiving.
The cover of Green Lantern/Green Arrow #93 (February-March, 1977, and published in late November of 1976) gives no indication that the reader is in for a Thanksgiving treat, not to mention a pretty inane story by writer Denny O’Neil, fortunately saved by nice Mike Grell/Terry Austin artwork. Nasty aliens from another planet come to Earth to transport our world’s homeless to another world to be used as slave labor. GL saves the day for his fellow Earthlings. However, a few of the homeless decide to stay on their new home because they feel they have a better chance at being happy than they do on Earth, and Green Lantern, who is alright with this idea, is invited to join them in a Thanksgiving feast. It’s not as moving a story as I may make it appear to be. The next issue, GL/GA #94, is actually a lot worse!
We kick off the Holiday spirit with Nick Cardy’s cover from the tabloid-sized Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-34 (February-March, 1975): Christmas With The Super-Heroes. My scanner isn’t large enough to scan the entire cover so I had to crop the illustration down a bit, but it still retains its essential gist, and that’s Santa Claus, Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Robin, Wonder Girl, Aqualad and Kid Flash greeting you with warm smiles and Holiday cheer. The back cover didn’t require as much cropping, and if this doesn’t start to get you a little bit into the Christmas spirit then I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The contents of the book are: The Batman in “Silent Night, Deadly Night” (by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, originally published in Batman #239, February, 1972); the original Captain Marvel in “Billy Batson’s Xmas” (by Otto Binder and Pete Costanza, reprinted from Captain Marvel Adventures #69, February, 1947); The Angel & The Ape in “The $500,000 Caper” (by John Albano, Bob Oksner, and Wally Wood, an all-new, then six-year-old, unpublished Holiday yarn originally scheduled to appear in the oddball detecting duo’s late, lamented mag of 1968-1969); The Teen Titans, grooving to their own Dickensesque moves in “The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol” (by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, originally published in Teen Titans #13, February-March, 1968); and Superman in “Christmastown, U.S.A.” (by Alvin Schwartz and Win Mortimer, originally published in Action Comics #117, and given a very intense Vince Colletta makeover to give it a more modern look). Plus: a Christmas quiz, a Santa guessing game, a 1975 calendar, and more!
Up next is Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-43 (February-March, 1976): Christmas With The Super-Heroes, another tabloid-sized magazine. Again, I’ve had to do some cropping to the front and back covers. The artwork is by Curt Swan and Bob Oksner, and once again Santa Claus and his band of merry DC super-heroes (and Cain!) are all smiles and waves.
Inside, Superman (from a 1940 Superman Christmas Adventure Macy’s giveaway) and Wonder Woman (from Sensation Comics #14, February, 1943) appear separately in untitled Christmas tales from the Golden Age of Comics. The Batman stars in “The Silent Night of the Batman” (by Mike Friedrich, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano, originally published in Batman #219, February, 1970), The House of Mystery presents a “Night Prowler” of the nicest kind (by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson, reprinted from House of Mystery #191, March-April, 1971), and Simon and Kirby’s Sandman and Sandy appear in “Santa Fronts For the Mob!” (originally published in Adventure Comics #82, January, 1943). Plus?season’s greetings from your favorite DC super-heroes and the DC editors of that time (Julius Schwartz, Murray Boltinoff, Joe Orlando, Joe Kubert, Gerry Conway, Denny O’Neil, and E. Nelson Bridwell), and more!
Next is a 100 page super holiday spectacular in digest form, which makes the front and back covers a whole lot easier to scan! The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #22: Christmas With The Super-Heroes (March, 1982) includes The Teen Titans in “The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” (reprinted for the second time in seven years); The Batman in “Merry Christmas” (by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano, originally published in Batman #247, February, 1973); Captain Marvel, Jr. in “Freddy Freeman’s Christmas” (reprinted from Captain Marvel, Jr. #46, February, 1947); Batman and Robin in “A Christmas Peril!” (by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, reprinted from Batman #27, February-March, 1945); Robin in “Robin’s (Very) White Christmas!” (by Bob Rozakis, Jose Delbo, and Vince Colletta, reprinted from Batman Family #4, March-April, 1976) and the Justice League of America in “The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus!” (by Len Wein, Dick Dillin, and Dick Giordano, originally published in Justice League of America #110, March-April, 1974).
There is also a bonus tale: The Sandman in “The Seal-Men’s War on Santa Claus,” an all-new, then six-year-old, unpublished Michael Fleisher and Jack Kirby story originally scheduled for The Sandman #7 (May, 1976), which would have hit the comics racks one month after Christmas 1975. But the book was canceled with issue #6. Also, the Seal-Men would not have been out of place in Kirby’s Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth (actually, I have read that this Sandman story was going to be integrated into Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth #61, but that book was canceled with #59 in 1978).
So are you feeling the Christmas spirit yet!!?? The Seal-Men taking on Santa Claus finally did it for me!
If you’re not, take heart. Even the most cynical, Scroogiest of you will find some solace when next week Christmas gets violent, as Santa gets hurt and in turn does some hurting of his own, and more!