It probably goes without saying, but given that I try to update the ISB every day, I rarely have any idea what I’m going to be writing about until I actually sit down to do it. Tonight, though, things are a little different.
Yes, with Christmas Eve finally upon us and the magic of the season in full swing, it’s time for something that I’ve been planning on covering since December 26th of last year. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for all-out awesome, because tonight belongs to…
THE SEAL MEN’S WAR ON SANTA CLAUS!
…by Michael Fleisher and–wait for it–Jack Kirby.
Originally created to be the story in 1976’s Sandman #7, this one was shelved when the series was canceled and eventually saw print six years later as part of the all-Christmas Best of DC Digest #22, and while that issue predates my own birth by about eight months, I think it’s safe to say that this comic was made for the ISB.
I mean, just look at that opening panel: It’s a Christmas comics starring Santa Claus where someone’s punching out an animal while being menaced by bears, and it’s drawn by Jack Kirby. With the exception of a car battery, that’s everything I like about comics all thrown into one!
So here’s how it all happens: It all starts on Christmas Eve morning, when young Jed’s sent out into a blizzard by his reasonably horrible guardians so that he can try to get a contribution to the Christmas fund from alleged miser Titus Gottrox. As it turns out, though, Gottrox–who at first appears to be a villain in the classic tradition of Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life–isn’t all that bad of a guy, and once Jed explains his position…
…Gottrox offers to donate a cool million bucks to the charity on the condition that Jed proves the existence of Santa Claus before midnight.
Despite the fact that Gottrox is pretty confident that Jed won’t be able to deliver–although he mentions as an aside that he’ll make some sort of contribution anyway–the fact that Jed’s so eager to run off and return with the proof spooks his nephew Rodney, who resolves to follow Jed and keep him from endangering his future inheritance.
Jed, however, has a bit of an ice up his sleeve to ward off any of Rodney’s shenanigans, and with one toot of his magic whistle, the Sandman appears to help out!
And this, for the record, is where it starts to get crazy.
So, fortunately for Jed, the Sandman and Santa are pals “from way back,” and one quick trip through the ejector tube sends them straight for the North Polar region of the Dream Stream, where the Nightmare Wizard loans them a flying sled, and seriously, you guys? That’s the craziest sentence I’ve ever typed.
Meanwhile, Rodney stumbles across Jed’s whistle and uses it to trick the Sandman’s dimwitted sidekicks, the aptly named Brute and Glob, into helping him follow. Owing to the fact that he’s almost devoured by the Nightmare Wizard’s man-eating tree Samantha, however, he’s unable to catch up with them before they finally reach Santa’s workshop.
And that’s probably for the best, considering that Jed and the Sandman are immediately set upon by highly aggressive, hammer-toting elves, who are a bit on edge because–get ready for it–Santa has been kidnapped by the Seal Men.
Clearly, this aggression cannot stand, and after deciding that they are in fact bad enough dudes to save Santa Claus, Jed and the Sandman set off to the land of the Seal Men, where they’re promptly bonked on the head and thrown into a dungeon. It’s pretty much exactly what they expected to happen, so once they find Santa, the Sandman quickly melts the wall with his magic whistle.
Just how the Sandman’s magic whistle melts the wall is never satisfactorily explained, but honestly, if we’re going to start nitpicking here, we’ll never get anywhere with this one.
Oh, and as it turns out, Santa’s kind of a jerk:
…but I think we can chalk that up to his extended imprisonment. Regardless, he quickly gets back to his jolly old self once he gets the opportunity to out his aggression on his captors:
Of course, seeing as it’s Santa we’re talking about, he’s happier talking his problems out than fighting over them, and the reason for their aggression is finally revealed after the Sandman just comes right out and asks the Seal Men “What’s wrong with you people, anyway?! Why are you so determined to sabotage Christmas?”
They’re mad, of course, because they’ve been denied a Merry Christmas, thanks to a series of truly horrible gifts:
I think we can all sympathize.
Of course, as Jed points out, it’s all just a misunderstanding, and when you’re dealing with an operation designed to deliver toys to every child in the world in one night, these little mix-ups are bound to happen. Santa promises to correct the problem and exchange the gifts, the Seal Men promise not to be so mean anymore, and everyone resolves to have the Merriest Christmas their little hearts will allow.
Well, everyone except Rodney that is, who’s holding Mrs. Claus at gunpoint back at the workshop, but since it takes the Sandman and Santa all of three panels to deal with that little threat, I think we’re safe skipping right over it. Besides, we’ve got to get back to the original point which, if you’ll remember, was proving Santa’s existence to Old Mr. Gottrox! And what better way to do that than with a visit from the Big Guy himself?
And remember he does! Thus, Jed gets the million for charity, the Seal Men get their presents sorted out, Gottrox gets to fly Santa’s sleigh…
…the Sandman gets one last issue before he’s kicked back to cancellation, and, perhaps most importantly, we all get exactly the kind of Christmas special you’d expect from the man who brought us all those wonderful stories and horrible dreams.
And really, aren’t those what Christmas is all about?