If you were around for last year’s round of ISB Christmas Cheer, you might recall that I celebrated my favorite holiday by throwing the spotlight on what I termed the Wildly Inappropriate Christmas Special, a theme that brought us both Tarot’s horrifying, naked romp through the snow and Batman shouting that his parents deserved to die, and I’m pretty sure those captured exactly what I was looking for.
This year, though, I decided to go in a bit of a different direction, and bring you holiday comics that I actually really love. It’s a pretty abrupt change, I know, but fortunately, I’ve found something that might make the transition a little easier.
…this one’s awesome and wildly inappropriate!
Or at least, that’s the way it looks on the surface. Given my well-documented love of Santa Claus, it might be a little surprising that one of my all-time favorite holiday comics has the Jolly Old Elf in imminent danger of swallowing a .45 caliber slug right on the cover, but that’s until you take a moment to recall that this is an issue of Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman.
Hitman, for those of you not in the know, is Ennis’s finest work, and considering the body of work that guy’s put out over the years, that’s saying something.
And besides, unless I missed a crucial scene in one of the Rankin & Bass cartoons, I don’t think the real Santa’s a shambling radioactive horror.
Come to think of it, this premise might require some explanation.
One of the recurring elements of the series that’s sadly fallen by the wayside since it ended at #60 is the way that heavy industries–usually in the form of Injun Peak Research Facility, a low-rent STAR Labs where the experiments were always resulting in the kind of accidents resulting in super-powers and an unquenchable thirst for revenge–were always giving rise to super-villains, to the point where they kept hitmen on speed dial to clean up their messes before they ended up destroying a huge chunk of Gotham City.
Thus, disgruntled janitor Bob Smurd takes a header into a vat of nuclear waste down at the power plant, and, well, see for yourself:
Did I mention that Ennis does the narration entirely in faux-Grinchian rhyme? It’s beautiful.
Anyway, needless to say, a crazed, super-powered St. Nick rolling around town blowing up last-minute shoppers on Christmas Eve is bad for everybody, so the guys at the plant do the same thing the Injun Peak boys did when they accidentally turned the entire animal population of the Gotham City Aquarium into zombies: They call Tommy Monaghan.
I mentioned the rhyming, right?
Man. I love this comic book.
So Tommy and his partner, Natt the Hat, commence tearing around Gotham on Christmas Eve, rolling up on every Santa they can find and checking them out with a geiger counter until they finally find the guy they’re looking for, which, seeing as he’s rampaging through a mall on a yuletide murder spree, isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Of course, a rampaging super-Grinch presents a whole different set of problems once you actually find him, what with all the super-strength and radioactive eye-beams and such.
Once you hit ‘em with a car, however…
…they tend to go a little more quietly.
Thus, in an ending befitting one of the greatest Christmas comics of all time, Tommy and Natt ram him through a brick wall and, despite the fact that Bob pleads for mercy–and because of the fact that his pleas are lifted from Blade Runner–they gun him down, collect their fee, and buy presents.
But that’s not really what makes this one so great. No, like all Christmas stories, this one’s got a moral, and that’s where Ennis and McCrea truly shine:
And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas.
Well, for me, anyway.