If there’s one thing we know that the holiday season is about, it’s comics. I mean, sure, kindness and giving, I guess, but the real reason for the season is obviously reading comics about the holidays, right?
Lucky for you, We're here to give you a rundown of five great holiday comics you should check out. These comics perfectly split that difference between weird and heartwarming, just like that knitted sweater you told your aunt you love. So get comfy in your PJs, make yourself a mug of hot cocoa (or a hot toddy, if you’re feeling real spicy), and kick back by the fire with these classics!
From 1976 (one of the first years when Spider-Man comics were about the same age as their average reader), comes this offbeat holiday story by Len Wein and Ross Andru. In it, Spidey chases the Lizard halfway across New York, but not for the usual reasons! STEGRON THE DINOSAUR MAN has captured Curt Connors’ son, and so Connors must once again become the Lizard in order to rescue him. Spidey handily brings along a cure for Connors’ Lizard-form, returning him to his human state, then chases Stegron to rescue the kidnapped child. It’s a simple, sweet tale from a bygone era, and it wraps up so neatly that you might almost forget that it consigned Stegron to freeze to death.
Don’t worry! He gets better.
In the late 90s, as part of a practice DC Comics has become well known for these days, DC released several short tales in a holiday special anthology. The third of these is one of the more entertaining, a short Wonder Woman story titled 'Heathen Ways' wherein she beats the snot out of Artemis in someone’s backyard, because it was exactly the perfect gift for Artemis’ hard-edged, constant thirst for battle. Apparently, the winter solstice tradition on Themiscyra is a combat tourney! It’s funny, charming, and just a little off-kilter.
The Steve T. Seagle run of Uncanny X-Men in the late 90s was a strange time. After a lot of 90s excess, the team was pared down to something resembling the Claremont/Byrne era team, with a few updates to account for the times. But even so, the book had a hard time attracting readers back. As such, the run is generally considered solid, if a little underrated, which is why this Christmas-themed issue from 1998 might have just flown under your radar.
Rather than an overly saccharine special, 'Ghost of X-Mas Past!' a Dickensian ghost story in which Colossus reunites with the memory of his dead sister for a short time. It’s a little sweet, a lot melancholy, and features Marrow stealing Colossus’ art in order to write stories on it, as well as Kitty Pryde explaining to the man that she dated for years that yes, sometimes Jewish people do partake in the more secular Christmas festivities, because it lets them spend time with loved ones. Somehow this was not a thing he knew prior to that conversation.
If those features aren’t enough, Uncanny X-Men #365 is also a strange artifact of a transitional phase in comics coloring, where digital techniques were a bit more raw than they are today, leading to way too much reflective flare on Colossus, as well as this spread of dead X-Men portraits on Xavier’s desk that features three different, non-matching art styles, including Changeling’s art from the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe and a stretched out scan of Rusty Collins from a print copy of X-Factor #18. Xavier broods over these faces as mutants he’s failed over the years, despite having never actually met Rusty Collins.
Sometimes, what’s truly heartwarming about a Christmas tale is seeing a character given the opportunity for a little cheer, and rejecting it utterly. There’s comfort in a known quantity, and sometimes that means a jerk’s gotta be a jerk.
Prog 2004 is 2000AD’s annual holiday issue, and the lead tale in it is a great one. After capturing a mutant, Dredd has to shelter from a winter blizzard in a secluded community of other mutants, led by a human they know only as “Doc.” Doc is not actually a doctor, mind you, just the closest thing they have to one, and he does a lot of work trying to keep the folks under his charge in their best help, knowing the system has and will fail them utterly.
Over the course of the tale, Dredd manages to place the guy as a former back-alley surgeon who’d fled when two people died on his operating table. Dredd informs Doc that he’s taking him in, to which Doc asks for mercy on account of it being Christmas. In a heartfelt moment, Dredd tells Doc he believes he truly has reformed.
Then he arrests him anyway. What a big softie!
Speaking of big softies, we can’t let the season slip by without the biggest and softest of them all.
Like Dredd, there’s an easy comfort of familiarity in the Hellboy Christmas Special. Big Red visits a dying matriarch on Christmas Eve to investigate the doom that’s come to her household ever since her daughter disappeared five years ago.
Hellboy Christmas Special is a fun, short little jaunt that delivers all the Hellboy standbys—you know, ghosts, demons, punching demons, a traumatized priest. It’s one of those stories that doesn’t really have a happy ending, but still feels like it has a correct one, you know?
That’s the list, folks! Hopefully, after sitting down with these issues, you’re feeling the spirit of the season, and maybe a bit of irreverent love for our favorite storytelling medium. If not, well, that’s fine, it’s not like I’m some sort of vengeful holiday spirit here to give you coal or steal your presents or anything. Or am I?!
'Tis the season to watch and read holiday stories. Here's our recommendations for timely favorites ranging from Christmas horror, Christmas action, Christmas comedy, and Christmas anime, Christmas sci-fi, and even five weird Christmas specials from comics. And if that's not enough, wait until you learn about Netflix's Christmas movies cinematic universe.