Christmas Special: Santa Claus Must Die!

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.

After all…



…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.

23 thoughts on “Christmas Special: Santa Claus Must Die!

  1. God. Damn. I love Hitman.

    Once the Christmas season is over (I know. I don’t want to think about it either), how about some love for Ennis’ totally underrated, eight-kinds-of-awesome run on the Demon?

  2. That is the best Christmas issue of anything ever. I can never get enough of Hitman.

    And Tommy has a Christmas message that even my secular, atheist heart can love. Especially since, well, PRESENTS.

    Seriously, go Hitman, and go Christmas!

  3. Very minor correction. That zombiefication of the Gotham Aquarium was no accident. The mad science dude behind intentionally turned cute seals and penguins into undead seekers of the flesh of the living…

  4. Who needs “A Christmas Carol” when you can read a fine, cheery Christmas tale like that to the kids? I second Micah. That has to be the best Christmas issue of anything ever.

  5. This was my first issue of Hitman. What a way to start; loved the hell out of the Blade Runner bit, and the moral is gold. I surprise a lot of people when I tell them that Hitman was my favorite book of the 90s, but when I get them to read it they understand why. I second the motion that DC needs to finish collecting Hitman; people really need to read it.

  6. Rich Says:

    Dear DC,

    Please finish collecting Hitman in TPBs.

    What he said. Hell, do an Absolute edition — I’ll buy it. The zombie zoo, the Cauldron crowd take on vampires in No Man’s Land… There is nothing finer.

    BTW, Chris, if you’re looking for more Holiday material, how about the Christmas story from The Goon: Nothin’ But Misery collection? Though that would be 2 Goon sequences for this month; maybe ya outta save it for next year.

    “Can we eat them again then, Oh Jolly One?” “NO! IN THE BAG!”

  7. That pic of Tommy and Natt getting ready for work is one of my favorite images of Natt the Hat from the series. The sheer glee in his face is awesome.
    A shame you left out the bit with Natt and Tommy Christmas Caroling with Sean, tho. I tend to add in a “Or you and your homies will be lyin’ in chalk” to any Christmas carol I might hear.

  8. GOD, but I miss this series. Garth Ennis was at his loony best, and McCrea’s art was sublime.

    The poetry makes this even better.

  9. Anyone who doesn’t love this comic has no soul. My one complaint about this recap–the ISB has no business not putting up the panel where “Batman was kicking out seasonal teeth”.

  10. That was beautiful. Not mentioned so far: Nat busting on Tommy for dating a cop (was this before or after “Kiss Me”?) and Nat’s gift to Tommy: a pair of kiddy handcuffs. Hence Tommy’s pissed-off reaction in that last screencap. I will admit that the series tailed off near the end, but Ennis and McCrea brought the fun at the book’s peak.

  11. Why is this series not in TPB (I will ask again)?

    This is truly what Christmas is all about.

  12. I will admit that the series tailed off near the end, but Ennis and McCrea brought the fun at the book’s peak

    Really? The last few stories–also known as the stories where pretty much everybody dies in increasingly spectacular and heart-wrenching ways–are some of my favorite bits. “You ain’t no kinda dog, Sean.”

    Man. I tear up just thinking about it.

  13. Well, it just felt that the stories were going through the motions, as impressive as they could be, with the bad guys dying at the end of an arc, and one of Tommy’s friends getting killed per story. Maybe I’m just being cynical.

  14. That’s the funniest thing I’ve read since Alan Moore penned the tale of Teddy Teague Who Could Not Wait to Read His “League”:

    “…So, gentle reader, KNOW YOUR PLACE
    And don’t get on our $@&%ing case.”

  15. Yeah, I think you kinda are. :)

    Mind you, I’m as cynical as they come, but I absolutely love that last run on Hitman. Sean, I think, got me the worst, especially the way he went out before he and Tommy could have that father/son conversation. And I’m always a tremendous sucker for the Butch and Sundance thing – I really think that’s one of the best endings to any comic.

    You gotta leave your guns at the door, after all.

  16. I also love the flashback sequence from Hacken, years after the final events have taken place. (And Tommy’s revenge for Sean’s death is a single two-page panel.)

    Another point for JLA/Hitman (and it is so good in the first place) is that it fits in with the spirit and the events of the whole Hitman series.

  17. seriously fuck those buhumbuggers.
    i never thought about it before but christmas does make me want to feed squirrels…. and shoot buhumbuggers

  18. Just remembered…Bob Smurd begging for his life, and then he turns into a big sack of cash as he’s pleading for mercy.

    Y’know, Chris, I wouldn’t be opposed to any features on Tommy down the line. How about the annual where he goes out west and runs into trouble in regards to a quest for a coffin filled with dollars?