Holiday Special: Superman Teamed Up With Santa & Saved Christmas
This week on Extremely Uncanny, I want to look at some comic holiday specials. What started with a curious look into an issue of Hawkeye and a couple Superman stories quickly turned into me reading hundreds of pages in research finding my favorite stories.
These are stories I found interesting in this journey. This is by no means a definitive exploration of the topic, but a sampler of stories I found to be fun and/or interesting. We will be looking at several stories over the next couple posts. This edition of Extremely Uncanny we will be taking a look at a couple Superman and Santa adventures
The Beauty of Holiday Specials
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. I mean it’s a lot of people’s favorite time of the year. That doesn’t make me special. What is special for me is the plethora of holiday specials that are available this time of the year. The corporate product holiday special is the one place where the schmaltzy and Capra-style tendencies of the world come to fruition and I love it.
Holiday specials are media with a definitive consumption time that just don’t work any other time of the year. Much like holiday songs, only a handful of holiday specials get canonized in the cultural landscape. It is difficult for a special to have any sort of staying power outside of its release but when they do, they rarely leave.
Now, comics have been around since forever and as such they have had their fair share of holiday specials (mostly Christmas, though the occasional Hanukkah or even Kwanzaa special has shown up over the years).
Superman’s Christmas Adventure
First up I want to talk about the delightfully bizarre Superman’s Christmas Adventure from 1940.
Story- Jerry Siegel
Art- Jack Burnley
I will admit my knowledge of Golden Age Superman is limited at best. It is just not an era of comics I read from in general. The Golden Age has a lot of good stuff, but the format was often super condensed with difficult to read art and text. That said the stories often moved at break-neck pace and Christmas Adventure is no different.
Superman’s Saves Christmas
It opens with Lois and Clark covering the shopping malls at Christmas and realizing there are hundreds of children that will not have anything for Christmas (note this comic does take place right in the Great Depression). Lois and Clark decide to start up a service to refurbish old toys to give to needy kids. The idea is so great that even Santa supports it.
Meanwhile Clark discovers a spoiled brat of a child throwing a fit over a toy while others are doing without. Superman being the man of the people (remember Golden Age Superman was the hero of the worker, women, and children) decides to teach that brat a lesson by showing him all those that are less fortunate. Shattering the child’s world view and changing his ways.
Superman’s Greatest Foes: Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meaney?
Meanwhile, at the North Pole a duo named Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meaney arrive in their Blimp Spaceship to basically browbeat Santa into creating a capitalistic society all at the north pole.
Santa being the defender of the proletarian, tells the duo to step off and the elves run them out of the North Pole. This doesn’t stop our Golden Age Villains. Instead, they vow revenge on Jolly St. Nick by attacking the Daily Planet’s toy refurbishment drive. This goes as well as one would expect considering Clark Kent is there.
Their attack draws the attention of the investigative Lois Lane who stows away on the spaceship as Grouch and Meany fly back to the North Pole to rush the operation and send Lois into space. Santa repels the offensive and Superman manages to save Lois from the rocket launch.
The dastardly duo still haven’t stopped in their malicious attempt to ruin Christmas. Turns out while ransacking the North Pole, they managed to kidnap Santa’s Reindeer and Lois (again). Santa panicked by the deer’s disappearance calls for Superman over the radio. Like AM Radio.
Which of course gets Clark’s attention, and he takes off to find the missing deer (and Lois, I guess. No one knows she is gone). Superman finds the deer but not before they are taken out of commission by a gas gun. It’s the 40’s, everyone was getting gassed. With the deer out for the night, it is up to Superman to save Christmas by flying Santa’s sleigh around the world.
The issue ends with Santa giving the two jerks presents because Christmas is about redemption and forgiveness. Also, Lois is saved. Still not sure anyone noticed she was missing.
Overall, Superman’s Christmas Adventure is a ripping 16 pages of story. A lot of crazy hijinks occurs, and we get some wonderful bits involving Santa. The treatment of Lois is sadly emblematic of the era. Superman does contribute to the story with some fun moments, but the real star is Santa and the villains Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meany. They are comical in their presentation and their interaction is delightful.
Is it a perfect comic? No, but this is from the era where you were likely to read this book and throw it away days later. If you have ever watched some of those bizarre Christmas cartoons from this time, you will see a lot of similarities there. The storytelling parallels that era of animation perfectly. It is like Fleischer’s Superman and Rudolph cartoons merged into one. It’s superb.
Continue to the Next page for DC Comics Presents #67: Superman and Santa Claus