Having written a serious political piece just last week, I am now veering 180 degrees in the opposite direction, and barreling straight into the ridiculous. Nothing like a complete lack of consistency to really confuse anyone following this blog!
Today is Christmas Eve. Perhaps it’s because I’m Jewish, but I find aspects of the Christmas holiday to be baffling. It is intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who preached the virtues of humility, kindness, and a humble existence. Somehow two thousand years later this is commemorated by, um, a fat guy in a red suit giving expensive gifts to all the good children of the world. Wait, I thought good works were their own reward? And didn’t Jesus warn about the dangers of wealth & materialism? Hmmph, no wonder I am so skeptical of organized religions!
Obviously I am not the only one to find Santa Claus a ridiculous figure, since there are innumerable examples of people parodying Old Saint Nick. One especially prevalent trend is to have Santa as the bad guy, the jolly old fellow turned villainous. That’s especially the case in comic books. The image of Santa as a supervillain, or at least as a violent anti-hero, seems irresistible to comic book creators.
Here are ten comic book covers featuring Santa Claus gone bad. Forget jingle bells… this is more like hell’s bells.
Iron Man #254 (March 1990) from Marvel Comics features Shellhead under attack from a pistol-packing Santa, courtesy of one of the Armored Avenger’s all time greatest artists, the legendary Bob Layton. Of course, considering all of the naughty behavior that Tony Stark has gotten up to over the years, it’s quite possible that Kris Kringle actually has very good reason to be gunning for him.
As oversized black & white magazines, the horror comic books of Warren Publishing were free from the stifling standards of the Comics Code Authority, which frequently meant that they piled on the blood & guts with enthusiastic gusto. Witness this cover to Creepy #68 (Jan 1975), featuring early work from now-renowned fantasy artist Ken Kelly. Obviously this is one of those occasions when Saint Nick felt that a simple lump of coal wasn’t nearly punishment enough.
Speaking of early work, the very first job future superstar artist Mike Deodato Jr. had in American comic books was the one-shot Santa Claws published by Malibu / Eternity in December 1991. Well, everyone has to start somewhere! Only three years later Deodato was red-hot, in demand across the entire industry, so it’s not surprising that this debut effort eventually got the reprint treatment, seeing a re-release in 1998.
I tell you, nobody is safe from those seemingly-ubiquitous zombie apocalypses, not even Santa Claus! The five issue miniseries The Last Christmas, published by Image Comics in 2006, sees the once-jolly one pitted against an army of the undead amidst the ruins of civilization. It was written by Gerry Duggan & Brian Posehn, penciled by Rick Remender, and inked by Hilary Barta. The cover to issue #2, penciled by Remender’s good pal Kieron Dwyer and inked by Barta, features zombie fighting, drunk driving Santa.
The Bronze Age horror anthologies published by DC Comics often featured incredibly striking, macabre covers. One of the most prolific artists to contribute to those titles was the late, great Nick Cardy. Here’s his ho-ho-horrifying cover to The Witching Hour #28 (February 1973). I think the main reason why Santa is in such a bad mood here is because even as a skeleton he’s still fat!
The December 1977 edition of sci-fi comic book anthology Heavy Metal must be one of the very few in the magazine’s entire history not to feature a sexy half-naked babe on the cover. But, um, I’ll give them a pass on this one. It’s probably safer to do that than to argue with the very angry Santa Claus who’s glaring right at me. French artist Jean Solé is the one who has brought us this heavily-armed Pere Noel.
Has Daredevil ever had a Christmas that didn’t suck? It seems like every time December 25th approaches Matt Murdock’s life goes right into the crapper. That was never more the case than in the now-classic “Born Again” storyline by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli. His life destroyed by the ruthless Kingpin, the disgraced and destitute Matt finds himself wandering the streets of Manhattan. To add insult to industry, Matt is mugged by Hell’s Kitchen lowlife thug Turk in a Santa Claus suit. Mazzucchelli’s vivid cover for Daredevil #229 (April 1986) is just one of the many iconic images he crafted for the “Born Again” arc.
Action Lab Entertainment has published some really fun comic books, as well as some really weird ones. I will let you make up your own minds which category Sleigher: The Heavy Metal Santa Claus falls under. The cover to issue #1 (July 2016) is credited to artist Axur Eneas, who has also contributed to Action Lab’s The Adventures of Aero-Girl.
Can even the Fastest Man Alive defeat Evil Santa times three? That’s the question you’ll be asking yourself when you see the cover to Flash #87 (Feb 1994) by the team of Alan Davis & Mark Farmer. Well, either that, or you’ll be wondering why exactly this trio of Kris Kringles are clan in tee-shirts, shorts, and sneakers. Hmmmm… maybe they’re from Australia? After all, Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere takes place at the beginning of Summer. I’m sure even Santa wants to dress appropriately for warm weather.
Peter David’s lengthy run on Incredible Hulk was characterized by equal parts heartbreaking drama and irreverent humor. That was certainly the case with issue #378 (Feb 1991) which sees the Grey Hulk, aka Joe Fixit, slugging it out with none other than Father Christmas… okay, 28 year old spoilers, that’s actually the Rhino in the Santa outfit. This cover is penciled by Bill Jaaska, a talented artist who passed away at the much too young age of 48 in 2009. Inks are courtesy of Bob McLeod, one of the best embellishers in the biz.
An honorable mention goes to the infamous Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special released by DC Comics in late 1990. Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley, Lovern Kindzierski & Gaspar Saladino reveal what happens when the Easter Bunny hires the Main Man to kill Santa Claus. The brutal mercenary succeeds in offing Saint Nick… don’t worry, he had it coming. This exceedingly violent story comes to a close when Lobo decides to use the late Kris Kringle’s flying reindeer & sleigh to nuke the hell out of the entire planet.
Credit where credit is due department: This was inspired by Steve Bunche, who shared a few of these on Facebook. Steve has probably the most absolutely NSFW Facebook feed you could possible imagine, so if you want to say “hello” to him wait until you’re in the privacy of your own home. You’ve been warned.
Happy holidays to one and all. Remember to be good for goodness sake… because, as these covers demonstrate, you really do not want to piss off that Santa guy!
2 thoughts on “Santa Gone Bad: Saint Nick the supervillain”
I seem to remember reading that the modern conception of Santa Claus (white beard, big belly, red suit) comes from a series of Coca-Cola ads in the 20s or 30s; not exactly religious symbolism 🙂
That’s a pretty cool cover gallery of Bad Santas, but the first one I thought of was this: https://www.comics.org/issue/41222/
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I almost used that Spider-Man cover but I then decided to instead use something a bit lesser-known.