In the 17 years since Harley Quinn co-creator Paul Dini first introduced Jingle Belle, the story of Santa Claus's spoiled daughter, in an issue of Oni Double Feature, the title has journeyed all over comics.
After five years of periodic stories at Oni, Dini took the property to Dark Horse Comics, where it ran as a pretty consistent feature in the "series of miniseries" mold that Dark Horse has often had success with (ask Hellboy creator Mike Mignola). Three years later, though, it followed Dini to Image Comics, where it was published under the Top Cow imprint along with some other work he was doing.
And finally, Jingle Belle: The Whole Package, an omnibus collection of every story up to this point, was just released through IDW Publishing, who hope you'll take this last-minute opportunity to get it for somebody you love (maybe a comics journalist?) for Christmas.
"I've been very lucky to have worked with some very good publishers over the years, very generous publishers who have been willing to publish the character, which is sort of the ongoing challenge with it because it is a character that has a very strong niche appeal, but it's hard to find a publisher who is willing to sign on to publish something which is basically a once or twice a year book," Dini explained when he spoke with ComicBook.com recently. "It's not like I can bring her out every month and have her be relevant. I tried it: With Dark Horse, I had more of an extended series with her, more of a longer story, but I think that even if I was doing her on a monthly basis, I would have to find different ways of taking the concept and doing that."
It isn't just about her obvious seasonal ties; after all, BOOM! Studios had a big hit recently with Grant Morrison and Dan Mora's bloody Santa Claus origin story Klaus. It's the tone of the book that's a bit difficult to nail down, Dini told us.
"It's a struggle in today's market to do humor books," the award-winning comics and animation writer explained. "There's a growing market for young readers and there'll always be readers for things like MAD Magazine and The Simpsons. Jingle Belle falls into a weird category where it's really not all ages because it's more teen humor. If anything, it seems to fit into more of where the Archie books are going now with their revamp under Mark Waid."
He praised Archie's recent attempts to modernize their line, saying that it was clear the publisher had taken stock of what is appealing about their properties and found some innovative and entertaining ways to make their line must-read material.
"I never thought I'd be living in a world where I'd be excited about reading Jughead again," Dini told ComicBook.com. "I think what Ryan North is doing with that book is absolutely brilliant. It's hysterically funny. The idea that Jughead was dating Sabrina the Teenage Witch, running around disguised as a giant hamburger, I love that. I just think it's absolutely great. [Archie as a whole,] what they've done with the characters, and the whole horror line with Afterlife With Archie and Josie and the Pussycats being these immortal vampires and everything. It's tremendous fun. I really like it and I love to see they're having fun with their characters like that."
In terms of the niche Jingle Belle occupies in the comics landscape, Dini says he believes he can turn to another of his creations -- Harley Quinn -- for a sense of where his audience could grow.
"I think that Jimmy and Amanda are doing a great job with Harley Quinn," Dini said. "I would equate that more to a humor book than a superhero book, although it straddles the line certainly. I think the audience that currently likes the Harley Quinn book would find things to like in Jingle Belle as well....Obviously, I would love to continue telling stories with the character in some form or another, it's just a matter of how do I do it and how do I find ways to keep that niche audience, that very loyal audience engaged."
He described Jingle Belle, which was also featured in a set of animated shorts online, as "my annual Christmas card to the world, and to readers who like Jingle Belle and that sort of humor. I really enjoy doing it and I love the characters and I love that I have this little universe, which is sort of somewhere between the Archie Universe and the Harvey Universe, grown up."
At the moment, you can also pick up Jingle Belle: The Whole Package digitally on ComiXology for $6.99.