Santa Claus as a Supervillain

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Adventures of the Mask #11 © 1996 Dark Horse Comics. COVER ART BY MARC CAMPOS.

Santa Claus as a Supervillain

(pop culture)
He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. Thank goodness Santa Claus is on our side! Or is he? The jolly, jumbo gift-giver has occasionally been portrayed as naughty, not nice, by writers, artists, and filmmakers. Casting aspersions upon Santa's character is his long list of aliases, Saint Nicholas, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Papá Noel among them. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, Is Santa Claus sliding down our chimney a welcomed sight? DC Comics' Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy were puzzled by the “Mystery of the Santa Claus Pirate!” in Leading Comics #2 (1942). Sailing the seven seas in a skull-and-crossboned galleon, the Santa Claus Pirate was actually corpulent sea-thief Captain Bigg in disguise, tricking pleasure cruisers into lowering their guards so that he and his band of cutthroats could steal from them. Writer Denny O'Neil and penciler Frank Miller's “Wanted: Santa Claus, Dead or Alive!” from DC Special Series #21 (1980) was future Dark Knight auteur Miller's first Batman story. Boomer Katz was its Santa, a second-story-man struggling to go straight as a department-store St. Nick, until coerced by two former crime associates into robbing his employer. Marvel Comics' Spectacular Spider- Man vol. 1 #112 (1986) concerned a shopping-mall Santa who used his disguise to trick innocent children into letting him into their homes, which he would burglarize. Billy Bob Thornton ran a similar con as the hard-boozing, sexually promiscuous Bad Santa in director Terry Zwigoff's irreverent 2003 film, and Ben Affleck played a hapless ex-con suckered into a casino heist with Santa-disguised robbers in the action movie Reindeer Games (2000). The supervillain Multiple Santa was created when a crook on the lam ducked the law by masquerading as Kris Kringle; an electrical jolt allowed him to replicate into Santa-clones, creating a nightmare for the Tick and his sidekick Arthur in a 1995 episode of the animated series The Tick (1994–1997). Stanley Ipkiss' ancient faceplate fell into the hands of his banker friend Charlie Schumacher, who commercialized Christmas as the Santa-garbed “Ma$k” in the Dark Horse comic Adventures of the Mask #11 (1996). Devilish stand-in Santas are a common theme. Horror novelist Dean Koontz's 1996 children's book Santa's Twin featured Santa's errant sibling Bob Claus stealing his brother's sleigh and delivering mud pies and cat feces to unsuspecting kiddies. Director Tim Burton's animated holiday film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) starred pumpkin king Jack Skellington holding Santa hostage and usurping his identity. The sourpuss Grinch (“whose heart is two sizes too small”), as a bogus Santa, tried to rob the happy people of Whoville of their holiday in Dr. Seuss' 1957 classic story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (immortalized in animation in 1966 and as a live-action movie in 2000). None of Santa's doppelgängers was more insidious than the Anti-Claus, from Marvel's offbeat omnibus Bizarre Adventures #34 (1983). The Anti-Claus stormed into the North Pole in a skull-embossed sleigh pulled by warthogs and killed Santa, paving the way for the Son of Santa to take over. At times Santa Claus has been cast in the role of brawler. Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #378 (1991) featured the thick-skinned supervillain the Rhino dressed as Kris Kringle, going head-to-head with the Hulk. DC's Lobo was hired by the Easter Bunny to off St. Nick in the ultra-gory, Santa-versus-Lobo clash The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special (1991); this one-shot was translated to celluloid in a 2002 fan film. Maximum Press' Santa the Barbarian #1 (1996) featured St. Nick with an attitude, riled over the growing number of naughty kids. Nothing slaughtered St. Nick's reputation more than the low-budget slasher flicks Christmas Evil, aka You Better Watch Out (1980), and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), each with ax-wielding psychos in Santa suits chopping up victims (the latter film became a franchise of five movies). Not to be outdone, artist Bill Sienkiewicz illustrated the eerie cover to Batman #596 (2001), depicting a hatchet-hoisting Santa sneaking up on the crouching Caped Crusader; this was the serial killer Santa Klaus, who appeared in the DC Comics crossover Joker: Last Laugh. Continuing this tradition is the demon-as- Santa horror/comedy film Santa's Slay (2005). Fortunately for those with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, most pop-culture portrayals of Santa Claus are kind, and at times, heroic. They can even be superheroic: Santa assisted the title star of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. vol. 1 #10 (1969) in thwarting the Hate-Monger's plan to nuke New York City, teamed up with Superman to bag the Toyman in DC Comics Presents #67 (1984), and even saved the entire world in the 1964 movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!
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