Christmas is almost here, which means two very important things. First, hurry up and finish shopping before you’re throwing punches at Target on the 24th. Second, it’s time to collect some top-notch reads to enjoy with eggnog in a cozy spot while home for the holidays. While there are plenty of classic poems, plays, and stories to be shared around Christmas time, comics seem to be a bit underrepresented. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of five of the absolute best superhero stories with which to celebrate the season.
All five of these comics are Christmas stories in their truest sense. Stories like “Demon” in X-Men #143 have been left out because a story about fighting a demon at Christmas is still a story about fighting a demon, albeit with some additional snow and mistletoe. These superhero stories provide some of the great protagonists of the genre a chance to celebrate the spirit of the season. They range from the silly to the somber, but they all contain some heartfelt lessons and truths about the holiday spirit that ought to brighten any reading session.
We hope you find a few undiscovered Christmas comics in this list to enjoy in the weeks to come, and may you too have a merry Christmas.
Li’l Gotham #3
Written by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Li’l Gotham was always a comic about sincerity and all of the best themes within superhero stories. Nguyen and Fridolfs managed to make every character that came into contact with their vision of Batman likable without removing any of their essence. That’s true of Mr. Freeze in this story set at Christmas where the villain attempts to kidnap a busload of children in order to protect them from loss. Freeze places them all together in a massive snow globe to ensure they never endure his loneliness, before Batman wins him over by pointing out that every child ought to spend the holidays with their parents.
It’s those words from a hero who understands them well that convince Freeze to turn himself in, but that’s not the end of the story. Some people like Freeze don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with and his good intentions are honored by Batman and the children with some very merry caroling. While the setting is pure, it’s a heart-warming reminder of how we can all make the holidays better for those unable to go home or without family to see during the cold winter months.
“Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santron”
Marvel Holiday Special #1
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Reilly Brown and Pat Davidson
Colors by Christina Strain
This story is one of three within the 2001 Marvel Holiday Special, and it’s by far the best. In this funny take on Miracle on 34th Street, Virginia is an introverted genius obsessed with making Santa Claus real. She is hypnotized by a pummelled Ultron-6 to rebuild his form -- and also reprograms him with the spirit of the season. The resulting mashup is a version of Ultron that both appreciates Christmas and wants to kill the Avengers. Luckily, his new tendency to distinguish between naughty and nice provides at least one Avenger a chance to stop Ultron and save the day.
Much of this story is farcical, but it provides an opportunity for Captain America to give a rousing speech about the nature of Santa Claus and Christmas at the end. The lunacy of Santron makes the melodrama of the “real Santa speech” work much better than it might otherwise, transforming the maudlin into a warm reminder that we can all make the world a bit better and more like the one that Santa would create if he were really riding across the starlit skies.
Written by James Robinson
Art by Steve Yeowell and Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors by Pat Garrahy
If you can only check out one story on this list, then make it “Christmas Night”. While this issue falls midway through the sprawling Starman epic, it works perfectly as a one-shot. The tale takes place on Christmas Eve and weaves between two different settings. In one, the O’Dare family prepares dinner along with the extended cast of the novel. In the other, Jack Knight helps a homeless mall Santa Claus find his last memory of the family he lost.
The two narratives contrast the very different circumstances people endure all on the same night that we believe is for warmth and sharing. It is sad and scary at times given the mundane reality of the Santa’s story, but this is ultimately a story about hope. While the two stories are disconnected at the start, it just takes one hero like Jack Knight to make them both better. The final pages are an immense relief and one that offers us all an idea of what we can do to make the holidays better for those that may be less fortunate.
“A Christmas Underground”
Hellboy: Christmas Special #1
Words and Art by Mike Mignola
Colors by Dave Stewart
This isn’t just the best Hellboy Christmas story, it’s one of the best Hellboy stories. This short tale lives right alongside “The Corpse” as a perfect example of how Mignola can carry so many different elements in relatively few pages. “A Christmas Underground” combines classic folklore, an old world Father Christmas, and some truly horrifying scenes into everything you could hope for from a Hellboy Christmas tale.
The story is simple, as Hellboy grants a dying woman’s wish by seeking out the spirit of her long-deceased daughter on Christmas Eve. Things aren’t as easy to resolve as he might hope and the ending is bittersweet. The moral of the story is that small acts of kindness are their own reward. There’s no easy way to fix broken things, but Hellboy was able to earn his misperception as Father Christmas by simply doing the right thing and lending a hand.
“The Silent Night of the Batman”
Written by Mike Friedrich
Art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano
Colors by Jerry Serpe
This eight-page holiday backup is a Silver Age concept that holds up just as well today. Batman is present throughout the story in two forms. He spends his time caroling on Christmas Eve through a peaceful Gotham City without crimes. The story weaves with other incidents of people who narrowly avoid tragedy or bad decisions when they think they see Batman. Even though he doesn’t take any action, Batman’s presence across the city ensures a silent night.
It’s a beautifully drafted story that quietly slips between a variety of tales, all of them deftly told in just a few panels. Adams and Friedrich also remind readers that the good we do around the year often goes unremarked or is missed altogether. While Batman might imagine he just enjoyed a night to himself, his dedication has still saved lives and averted crimes. We may celebrate good deeds at Christmas, but “The Silent Night of the Batman” serves to remind us that it’s what we do for all 365 days that allow us to enjoy the holidays.