Christmases a long time ago have a nostalgia about them today’s highly commercialized celebrations will likely not acquire. We think of the Thirties through the Fifties as simpler times, and, in a sense, they were. Families, whole communities, seemed closer, and social media didn’t preoccupy us, nor were we bombarded with 24-hour news (factual and otherwise). The outside world didn’t intrude as much as it does now (World War II excepted). The Holiday comics of the era are regarded in the same way. The following describes a few of the most fondly remembered and sought after sought-after books of the era.
- Santa Claus Funnies.
In the mid-thirties, the first Christmas comics appeared from Publishers such as Eastern
Color, Famous Funnies, and Fawcett. However, since the books consisted mainly of news-
paper strip reprints, some issues contained little Christmas themed material. Even books
with original work, such as “Funny Picture Stories”, didn’t have much holiday cheer to offer.
In 1940 Whitman published the first all-new Christmas book with “Santa Claus Funnies”, Dell released the next issue, then made it part of their Four Color line, producing it annually between 1941 and 1961. The first eight Dell volumes are highlighted by art and writing from the great Walt Kelly of Pogo fame, who contributed such wonderful stories as ‘Albert and Pogo’s Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Comes to the Wood Land’.
The latter story concerns a rabbit and his son who live in the Southern Woods and, just before Christmas, find a lost book describing the Holiday. Joined by their forest friends, and using the book as a guide, they organize the Woods first celebration. After receiving a letter from the son, even Santa joins the party.
- Superman’s Christmas Adventure
A one-shot issue published by DC in 1940 the book contains a fifteen-page story and was produced as a store giveaway (several participated, including Macy’s). The script was by Jerry Siegel with art by Jack Burnley.
Clark and Lois are out window shopping when they encounter a boy whose parents are too poor to buy him presents. Back at the Daily Planet, Clark suggests to Perry White that the paper start a drive to collect toys for needy children and White agrees. A few days later, on his way to work, Clark passes a mansion and hears someone yelling. Using his x-ray vision he sees a spoiled rich kid throwing a tantrum to the butler about all the lousy toys he’s getting when he wanted a yacht instead (this kid thinks big).That night Superman arrives and takes the boy to visit other children who have little or nothing of their own; he then brings the now chastened youngster home saying he hopes the kid realizes how fortunate he is.
A rocket ship heads for the North Pole and Santa’s workshop; aboard are our two main villains, Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meaney (the story is geared for children so don’t expect subtlety) who hate Christmas because they never enjoyed it as children. They confront Santa and demand he stops producing free toys and turns his resources to making items for sale. Santa sics his elves on them and they chase the pair from the shop. Landing back in Metropolis the badf guys attempt to sabotage the Toy Drive, but Superman thwarts them. It’s back to the North Pole for the pair, this time with Lois as a stowaway. Knocking out an elf guard with a gas gun they begin destroying toys when Mr. Meaney hears footsteps and discovers Lois, who they capture, tie to a giant skyrocket, then light the fuse, Returning to the shop, Santa’s Toy Soldier security system (every home should have one) drives them off, while Superman rescues Lois. The never-say-die villains now plan to kidnap Santa’s reindeer and almost succeed except for the intervention of never-say-quit Superman. However, Meaney manages to gas the animals who now can’t work on Christmas Eve. Coming to the rescue once more is (you guessed it) Superman, who carries Santa’s sleigh on its’ appointed rounds. Despite their sabotage of toys, attempted kidnapping of reindeer, and attempted murder of Lois, Santa gives the baddies presents, which softens their hearts and they decide they do like Christmas. Heading home Clark spies the rich kid and his butler from earlier in the story with a load of toys for the Drive.
- Christmas on Bear Mountain.
When Dell’s Four Color 178 appeared in December 1947, Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louis were comic veterans. What sets this book apart, aside from the Christmas theme, is the debut of Donald’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck, who would later achieve fame with his own series (at first only in comics, Scrooge made his animated debut in 1967). With script and art by Carl Barks, this is a classic.
Donald and the boys are lamenting about how bad their holiday will be with little money for gifts or food. One of the boys wishes their rich Uncle Scrooge would remember them. Meanwhile, Scrooge is meditating about how much he hates the season when he gets an idea of how to have some fun with it. He sends a message to Donald, inviting him and his nephews to use his mountain cabin, which he’ll stock with food and presents, for Christmas.
Scrooge adds a PS saying to watch out for bears. “Phooey”, says Donald, “who’s afraid of bears?” “You are”, reply the boys. Despite this, they accept, which delights Scrooge, since his real plan is to test Donald’s bravery (Scrooge says of him,”That quivering waterfowl would flinch at his own shadow”). If Donald passes, he’ll get a “real present”. The gang settles into the cabin while Scrooge prepares the bear costume he intends to use for the test.
The cabin lacks one thing, a Christmas tree, and the nephews want one. Donald is reluctant to go outside, but a group tantrum convinces him. The only tree they can find is a hollow oak; however, they chop it down and drag it back. Inside the trunk a sleeping baby bear awakens and begins stealing food, managing to elude the baffled ducks for a time. They finally discover the cub’s hiding place and drag him out, meanwhile, his mother, who’s sleeping in the stump of the oak, wakes and follows the tracks to the cabin. She enters through the door and the boys exit through a window. Not wanting to freeze to death the gang charge back in.
While Donald sneaks up on the mother, who’s now slumbering by the fireplace, his nephews pursue the baby. Donald gets close, but ends up fainting on her arm. Scrooge shows up in his costume and sees Donald lying with the bear. He considers this an amazing act of bravery and invites the gang to his mansion the next day for a feast. At the dinner Scrooge presents Donald with his “real gift”; from a huge box he whips out” a genuine Siberian Silvertip bearskin”. Donald promptly faints again and the boys try to cover for him. “He must have eaten too much turkey”, they say.
- Archie’s Christmas Stocking.
Has there ever been a more iconic teenage character than Archie Andrews? He first appeared in MLJ’s Pep Comics 22 in December 1941 and took off from there (MLJ later changed its name to Archie Comics). Though not for all tastes (some find the books lame – some can’t relate to a seventy-year-old high school student) the Christmas issues of the 50’s and early 60’s are still appreciated. The first Holiday specials were part of the Archie Giant Series, which debuted in 1954, with the initial six Giants being annuals called “Archie’s Christmas Stocking”. Soon, however, other characters such as Jughead and Betty-and-Veronica began headlining Holiday and non-Holiday Giants. Christmas stories also began appearing in other Archie titles. Though the stories could be overly sentimental and formulaic, some sadness occasionally crept in, such as the one from Archie’s Giant #10 called ‘Those Christmas Blues”
Archie decides to visit Veronica instead of helping his parents trim the tree. Feeling that their family Christmases have ended, his parents reminisce about past Holidays. The story consists of flashbacks showing the characters as they appeared in the short-lived “Little Archie” series.
- #5 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Our favorite Christmas Comic here at Superworld Comics is Santa Claus conquers the Martians. Martians come to earth to capture Santa to cheer up the Martian children!
It’s a Dell Movie Classic!