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When it comes right down to it, Santa Claus is pretty much a forerunner of the modern-day superhero. Think about it — he has powers and abilities beyond those of mortal men (Getting around the planet in one night alone requires some kind of super-speed, and that’s before you get to the kind of shape-changing needed to ensure he can fit down the chimneys) and a special costume that’s recognizable the world over. All he really needs is to team up with Superman and he’s practically guaranteed a cameo in Man of Steel 2 at some point.
Oh, wait. He’s already teamed up with Superman — and the Justice League. In fact, Ol’ Saint Nick has gotten around a fair amount when it comes to superhero comics throughout the years. Here are some of his superheroic highlights — and at least one low point, as well.
Action Comics #105 (1947) What kind of disaster would make it necessary for the Man of Steel to help the Man of Jolly deliver gifts on Christmas Eve? Well, in “The Man Who Hated Christmas,” it truly is a problem most dire: Santa Claus is too fat to get the job done, thanks to drugged candies from a particularly unseasonable soul. Thankfully, Superman’s around to help out with deliveries — and also help Santa lose some weight while they’re at it. OK, so it’s not necessarily saving the world from certain destruction, but as the first team-up between Santa and Superman, it’s definitely a good start.
Ambush Big Stocking Stuffer #1 (1986) As might be expected of a series as cynical as Ambush Bug — a spot-on parody of comic book culture as it existed in the mid-1980s, as contradictory and self-loathing as it had already become — the question of whether Santa existed in the DC Universe was one that went unanswered, but midway through the issue, there’s a great one-page advertisement for a grim-and-gritty reboot of the Santa concept as a superhero that remains as wonderful today as it was back then: “He sees you when you’re sleeping! He knows when you’re awake!” Someone clearly got coal in their stocking as a kid.
The Sensational She-Hulk #8 (1989) On a far more traditional note, the eighth issue of Marvel’s Sensational She-Hulk addressed a common question when it comes to the man with the Santa suit — what does he do the rest of the year? The answer, apparently, is that he uses the same powers that help him know whether people have been naughty or nice to solve crimes as the World’s Greatest Detective, Nick St. Christopher. As the occasional Avenger and part-time lawyer asked the reader on the cover to the issue, “You’re kidding, right?” (Spoiler: Yes.)
Lobo Paramilitary Special #1 (1991) Poor Santa didn’t come off too well in this 1991 spinoff of the then-popular Lobo franchise, which saw the eponymous bounty hunter take on a job on behalf of a jealous Easter Bunny ending up in a vicious knife fight between Lobo and Kris Kringle that doesn’t finish well for the fat guy with the white beard. To make matters worse, Lobo then decapitates Santa and shoots Rudolph, before taking the Naughty or Nice list for his own (amazingly destructive) ends. The cover of the issue contained two different warnings for sensitive readers. A third might not have gone amiss, all things considered.
JLA #60 (2002) After that, “Merry Christmas, Justice League — Now Die!” seems positively old-fashioned. Well, to be fair, it would seem old-fashioned no matter what; it’s a purposeful throwback to simpler times, with Santa teaming with the Justice League as part of a story told by Plastic Man to a friend’s nephew on Christmas Eve. In an era where superhero comic books were self-consciously trying to go toward more “adult” themes, it was a welcome visit from a Ghost of Christmas Past — and one of the last times that Santa Claus has shown up in a mainstream comic book in connection with superheroes. Between the movies and the whole “delivering gifts to the world’s girls and boys” thing, the scheduling has proven too hard to work out in more recent years, it seems …
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