“When, what to my wondering
eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.”
–The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore
Conspicuously missing from last week’s survey of Christmas covers was Santa Claus, the beloved harbinger of Christmas whose mythic stature easily outranks the relative “rookie” folklore status of the superhero. Yet, despite Santa’s towering legend, his appearances with superheroes have always felt natural, as if he lived only a few blocks away in the public’s collective imagination.
This is especially true of his appearances in simpler, less cynical times…such as the cover of Comic Cavalcade #5 (1943), where a Jabba The Hutt-sized Santa laughs it up with Green Lantern, the Flash and Wonder Woman (the permanent stars of the title). Though they couldn’t come from more disparate backgrounds, Santa and the colorfully costumed threesome just seem right together, don’t they?
This wasn’t the only time the JSA Trio would cross paths with the Jolly Old Elf, as it became somewhat of an annual tradition for them to lend him a hand. Comic Cavalcade #19 (1947) finds them giving the high sign to the Big Man, as they deliver the goods…on triple tandem skis, no less!
The very next year on the cover of issue #25, the gang cranks out the remaining toys for an ailing Santa. Wondering why Green Lantern was using an old-fashioned hand drill instead of his magical ring? Because his ring was powerless against anything made of wood, silly!
Waitaminute…why would Santa need the help of superheroes to build toys when he’s supposed to have a legion of elves?
Well, here’s your answer on the cover of More Fun Comics #39 (1939).
I guess that makes Green Lantern, the Flash and
Wonder Woman low-down dirty scabs!
On the cover of Adventure Comics #113 (1947), it’s not clear whether Superboy is helping Santa or about to hurl him into the crowd of children below. I’m going with the first option.
As a grown-up Superman, it’s still not clear whether he’s helping Santa…
or cruelly upstaging him on Action Comics #117's cover (1948).
Er…looks like it’s the second option this time.
Continuing the mildly jerky behavior is Batman #27 (1945), as a “hands-off” Batman lets his child sidekick and old Santa lug the massive load of toys all by themselves.
Rest assured, Batman #239 (1972) finds the Darknight Detective making it up to Santa by delivering the loot himself. With that white beard, the kids'll never know the difference!
Unlike Batman, the wholesome Marvel Family
always pitched in to help St. Nick.
Cap and his sister Mary Marvel subbed for eight (presumably ailing) reindeer on the cover of Captain Marvel Adventures #19 (1943)….
…while Captain Marvel Jr. #19 (1953) finds the title's star assisting a sharp-dressed SANTA MARVEL.
Over in DC Comics Presents #67 (1984), what better
villain to face off against Santa than the Toyman?
In the spirit of a classic Norman Rockwell painting, Wildcat overstays a weary Santa’s welcome on the cover of JSA #55 (2004).
Another, much larger Santa’s Helper shows up in The Incredible Hulk #378 (1991). The villainous Rhino stumbles into the unlikely role of a shopping mall Santa Claus, but quickly blows his cover when the greedy kids trigger a temper tantrum. A nearby Bruce Banner “Hulks out” and the two proceed to trash the mall, but decide to call a truce when a little girl asks Santa (the Rhino) why he’s beating up “the grey man”. All together now: “Awwwwww!”
Santa (as played by Danny DeVito) hosts Christmas With the Superheroes (1975), a tabloid-sized collection of classic Christmas-themed reprints.
By the mid-80’s, lighthearted Santa Claus covers became something of an endangered species after the one-two punch of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns ushered in a grim, cynical era of storytelling (which continues to this day). The Santa Claus of this period typically suffers (or inflicts) great pain, a distortion of the Santa myth that never gets old to the joyless and jaded.
But enough of that dreary stuff…let’s end our Santa cover sleigh ride on a high note. What better way to do that than with the Jolly One’s own comic book title Santa Claus Funnies #1 (1952)?
“…He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”