Christmas is everywhere this time of year, and even comics cannot escape the Yuletide cheer. Many embrace the season with Christmas-themed stories, celebrating generosity and all its glories. But for every heartwarming Christmas comic merrily read, there's one that turns the holiday (and poor Santa) on its head. Here are 12 Christmas comics – both naughty and nice, guaranteed to entertain or, at least, suffice.
Raymond Briggs, 1973
In this children's graphic novel, which won Britain's prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, Santa Claus (or Father Christmas, as he's known in Britain) isn't the jolly figure surrounded by elves at the North Pole, but instead a somewhat grumpy old man who lives in a house with his cat and dog and treats his annual delivery like a regular job. A sequel, Father Christmas Takes a Holiday, was published in 1975, and a short animated film based on the two books was released in 1991.
DC Universe Christmas
Over the years nearly every major superhero has had an adventure or two with Kris Kringle, and in 2000 DC collected 17 of the most memorable, including "Superman's Christmas Adventure," originally published in 1940, and the Batman story "Wanted: Santa Claus – Dead or Alive!" from 1980's Superstar Holiday Special. The stories, while bordering on the absurd, are nonetheless an entertaining tradition.
The Smurfs Christmas
When Christmas goes awry it's up to the Smurfs to save the day in this collection of holiday stories. Trouble includes dragons, bears, and of course the malevolent Gargamel, who seizes upon a sickly Santa to commandeer his reindeer and attempt to destroy the Smurf village.
Donald Duck, "Christmas on Bear Mountain" and "A Christmas for Shacktown"
Carl Barks, 1947, 1952
Two Christmas classics from the legendary Donald Duck cartoonist Carl Barks. In "Christmas on Bear Mountain," Donald and his nephews visit uncle Scrooge McDuck (in his first ever appearance), where he attempts to test Donald's courage by dressing up as a bear. Mishaps including actual bears ensue. In "A Christmas for Schaktown," Donald, Daisy, and his nephews try to raise money to give the impoverished Shacktown a proper Christmas, again seeking the help of Scrooge.
The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories
Various, Edited by Chris Yoe, 2010
A trove of Golden and Silver Age Christmas comics by creators including Walt Kelly, John Stanley, Dan Noonan, and Al Fago. Editor Craig Yoe left out the myriad superhero Christmas stories from the era and instead focused on more humorous tales, as well as adaptations of works like "A Christmas Carol" and "The Night Before Christmas."
The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special
Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, Simon Bisley, 1991
There are always those who fail to get in the Christmas spirit and loathe the holiday in all its merriment. Enter Lobo, the intergalactic bounty hunter with a kill list that rivals Santa's list of naughty and nice children. In this special, Lobo is tasked by a bitter Easter Bunny with killing Claus. DC also released a live-action short film based on the comic.
Fables #56, "Jiminy Christmas"
Bill Wilingham, Mark Buckingham, 2007
In the Fables universe, Santa is just another Fable (albeit a particularly powerful one), who is confronted by young Ambrose (son of Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf) on Christmas Eve. The wolf cub forfeits his presents in order to ask Santa the one question every curious child wants to know: how he delivers all those toys in just one night.
Hellboy Christmas Special
Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, Steve Percell, 1997
Dark Horse editor Scott Allie and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola are joined by Gary Gianni, Steve Purcell, and Geof Darrow for this Eisner Award-winning anthology of spooky Christmas tales featuring characters from Hellboy and Gianni's Corpus Monstrum.
Sweet Rein (a.k.a. Yoroshiku Master)
Sakura Tsukuba, 2003–2008
A girl named Kurumi is unexpectedly forced into the role of Santa when she meets a magical reindeer who takes the form of a young man. He explains that there are others like him all over the world, each serving their own Santa. As the two work together though, their relationship begins to become romantic, which is taboo for a Santa and his or her reindeer.
Adventures in Cartooning Christmas Special
James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost, 2012
When Santa is dismayed at kids only wanting high-tech electronics instead of toys, he requests help from a knight and a magic cartooning elf to make a Christmas comic book that will pull kids away from their screens. Young readers get a fun and funny crash course on storytelling and comic creation, from three accomplished cartoonists.
Little Nemo's Christmas Adventure
Windsor McCay, 2011
This standalone e-book contains three Christmas stories from Windsor McCay's beloved newspaper strip. In them, Nemo visits Santa at the North Pole after some trouble getting to Slumberland, but not without a few mishaps including breaking Santa's sleigh.
Brian Joines, Dean Kotz, 2014
The Krampus, the malignant Christmas figure that doles out punishment instead of presents, stars in this offbeat take on Christmas lore. After the Secret Society of Santas lose their magic, it's up to the newly freed Krampus to trot the globe and save the holiday.