With the Holiday Season comes Holiday-themed comics. And the Spirit of the Season has inspired me to go into the vaults, dig out some back-issues and share with you some of my favorite comics. Comics that have something to do with the many festivals we celebrate around this time of year and the sense of optimism and hope that we all share.
#5 “Merry Christmas, Justice League – Now Die!”
As seen in JLA #60 (Jan 2002). Written by Mark Waid; Pencils by Cliff Rathburn; Inks by Paul Neary; Colors by David Baron
Did you know that not only is Santa Claus real but he’s a card-carrying member of the Justice League? Woozy Winks’ young nephew is skeptical but Plastic Man swears it’s the honest truth. More, he tells the young lad the tale of how Santa Claus not only saved Christmas but how that right jolly old elf saved the Justice League and the whole of reality from The Demon Neron!
Enhanced by the playful artwork of Cliff Rathburn, Mark Waid’s story is gleefully silly in all the right ways, coming off as the sort of tall tale a wacky uncle might tell a bored child at Christmas-time. Yet at the same time it fits within the rules for how demons in the DCU operate, and surely Santa having heat-vision is no more ridiculous than the idea that he can visit every good child in the world in just one night? Of course it isn’t! Plus, its twist ending is a real hoot.
#4 “The Vessel”
As seen in DCU Holiday Bash #1 (Jan 1997). Written by Michael Jan Friedman; Art by Roger Robinson & Phyllis Nowlin
Fresh from helping clean up an oil spill, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner decides to skip going home to recharge his ring, lest he be late for an invitation to join his friend Nathan for a Hanukkah service. When it’s discovered that neo-Nazis have vandalized the local synagogue and stolen the golden vessel that holds the oil used in lighting the menorah, Kyle is quick to chase after the criminals. But when the Green Lantern’s light fades, will a miracle save the day?
There aren’t a lot of mainstream comic stories based around Hanukkah and this one – while obscure – has always stuck with me. The conceit of using Green Lantern in a parable about the miracle of Hanukkah is a brilliant one, and making the open-minded Kyle Rayner the point-of-view character helps to explain the holiday to uninformed readers without the educational bits seeming forced. Plus, you have to love any modern-age story that legitimately works a fist-fight with Nazis into the plot.
#3 “Batman: Noel”
As seen in Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo
It’s Christmas Eve but Batman is in no mood to celebrate. The Joker is on the loose and Batman’s only lead is a poor man named Bob, who has turned to running packages for The Joker. Bob has a sick son at home, but Batman is in little mood to be merciful to anyone who would help The Joker, no matter how desperate their circumstances. As the night progresses, three visitations will remind Batman that being a hero is just as much about protecting the innocent as it is punishing the wicked.
Mixing Batman with A Christmas Carol sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially with Batman in the role of Scrooge! Yet, Lee Bermejo makes it work without forcing the characters to fit the story. Catwoman is a perfect Ghost of Christmas Past as she tries to remind Batman of better, more care-free days, and Superman – our proxy Ghost of Christmas Present – carries Batman around his city to remind him of the goodness inherent to most people.
The best part of this book, however, is Bermejo’s artwork. Every page is breathtaking and the few scans I’ve included here do not do justice to the greater portion of the book. Not only can Bermejo’s art stand alongside that of Alex Ross, I believe he’s surpassed Ross as an artist with this work.
#2 “Christmas Knight”
As seen in Starman #27 (Feb 1997). Written by James Robinson; Pencils by Steve Yeowell; Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger; Colors by Pat Garrahy
Jack Knight is en route to a Christmas party when he sees something that would give him pause even if it weren’t Christmas Eve – a crying Santa Claus on a park bench. Thankfully, Kris Kringle hasn’t been sleigh-jacked but this Santa’s story is no less tragic. And as Jack’s loved ones make merry and wonder what’s keeping him, Starman wanders the streets of Opal City on a quest to save one old man’s Christmas.
Starman is one of my favorite comic series of all time and this issue – while being a good Christmas special – was something of a turning point for the book as well. While the series regularly dealt with the idea that traditional heroism and altruism are not necessarily the same thing and the book oversaw Jack Knight’s transformation into both a hero and a better person, this issue was one of the first places where we saw Jack being a good person independent of his being a hero. Faced with homeless people who turned to theft as a desperate act of survival, Jack opens his heart (and his wallet) to see them properly cared for rather than playing the lawman.
#1 “Lord Of The Dance”
As seen in Hellblazer #49 (Feb 1997). Written by Garth Ennis; Art by Steve Dillon; Colors by Tom Ziuko
It’s tea time on Christmas Eve and John Constantine has yet to pick out a proper gift for his girlfriend, Kit. But all thoughts of shopping are put on hold when John senses the presence of a rather sad spirit. Of course, John is used to being followed by ghosts, but even he is surprised to find that this specter is actually a forgotten god – The Lord of The Dance. And it will fall to John to put the holiday spirit back in the heart of The Holiday Spirit.
How unlikely is it that John Constantine would help out a god and play the hopeful hero at Christmas time? About as likely as Garth Ennis being sentimental, some might say. But Ennis – like Constantine – does have a sentimental streak and it’s front and center in this one-shot story. Much of Ennis’ work has a reoccurring theme of outcasts and screw-ups bonding through the power of friendship and that ideal is strongly featured in this story. John proves – through a crowded pub on Christmas Eve – that the ideal of strangers coming together and bonding over a drink and a song is just as powerful today as it was thousands of years ago.
What are some of your favorite Holiday-themed comics? Drop us a line in the comments below!
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year from all of us at Kabooooom!