Christmas Special: Yes, Virginia!

Since this is our third Christmas here on the ISB, it’s probably become pretty apparent that I’ve got something of a soft spot for holiday specials. In fact, along with Abe Lincoln covers, Christmas comics are one of the few things that I’ll actually go out of my way to collect regardless of quality, which is why I’m the proud owner of both Dan Fraga’s Santa the Barbarian and the bottomlessly awful Warrior Christmas Special, by the ex-pro wrestler / lunatic of the same name.

But it’s not all bad, and it’s in that spirit that tonight, I’m throwing the spotlight onto what is, without question, my favorite Christmas comic of all time.

Is it the best holiday special? Well, that’s still up for debate, and for sheer beautiful storytelling, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano’s “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot,” starring Deadman, from 1988’s Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2, which never fails to bring a tear to the eye on its annual reading. It’s fantastic, and if you don’t already own it, well, there’s still a couple of days left to experience it at the proper time of year.

But it’s not my favorite, and if this one’s not the best, it’s certainly a close second.


Coming from the pages of 2005’s Marvel Holiday Special–reprinted for your convenience in handy digest format–this story isn’t just my favorite Christmas comic, it’s my favorite Jeff Parker comic. And considering that that guy knocked out Agents of Atlas AND the best Avengers story ever in the same year, that’s saying something.


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…





And with a title like that, how could it not be awesome?

So here’s the rundown: It’s the Avengers’ annual Christmas party, and seeing as it takes place between the start of New Avengers and the beginning of Civil War, everybody who’s anybody (plus the eternal hanger-on that is Wonder Man) is in the house. Specifically, it’s Dr. Strange’s house, and despite the fact that everyone and their manservant are being total jerks to Greg “Gravity” Willis…



…the party’s in full swing, complete with radio-controlled mistletoe steered over Spider-Woman’s head so that she’s obligated by holiday tradition to make out with every single male member of the team in turn.



Man. Remember back when Iron Man used his powers for petty mischief and good-natured sexual harassment, before he embraced crypto-fascism as a means to solve his problems? Ah, the good ol’ days.

Also awesome: Luke Cage’s (Sweet) Christmas Sweater. Nothing more need be said about its wondrous majesty.

Meanwhile, across town, there’s a young woman named Virgie Hanlon–an electronics genius who had been emotionally traumatized when she was eight by classmates who told her there was no such thing as Santa Claus–has just finished working on a project of her own that will keep other children from experiencing such a horrible fate:





And right there is the moment this comic officially becomes awesome. But it only gets better from there.

Unfortunately, once Virgie activates her ersatz Kris Kringle, there’s a slight bug in the programming that she didn’t anticipate:



Thus, Robot Santa, complete with rocket-sled and holographic reindeer, sets off to kill the Avengers. This story could stop right here and be in the top ten holiday comics of all time, but Parker and Brown still have seventeen pages to rock.

Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the cybernetic Father Christmas to track the Avengers down to the Sanctum Sanctorum and start blasting everyone with a neural disruptor, which is slightly more severe than getting a lump of coal in your sock. Of course, once Wolverine shows up to stab Santa Claus with his adamantium claws–thus proving that Canada holds nothing sacred–the truth is finally revealed, and the fact that we all probably figured it out from the story title alone doesn’t keep it from being awesome:



For you see, Santa… is actually Ultron, the megalomaniacal robot bent on genocide that has somehow yet to get Hank Pym booted out of the Avengers once and for all.

Thus, the Avengers throw down with their deadliest enemy in Dr. Strange’s living room–all while Aunt May is baking in the next room with Mary Jane and Jessica Jones–until Spider-Man figures out Santron’s one secret weakness…



…and once again, the day is saved… with SCIENCE!

Under normal circumstances, the story would end there, but once the heroes figure out what Virgie Hanlon was doing with one of Ultron’s bodies in the first place, they find her, stop her from turning herself into the police, and bring her to the party. And that’s where this story truly becomes great

Virgie’s pretty bummed out by the fact that she was brainwashed by an evil robot that took advantage of her childlike faith in Santa Claus, and ask if the Avengers think she’s nuts for holding onto the idea for so many years. And what follows is a sequence that, well, you probably oughtta just read for yourselves:


(Click for larger images)



Oh man. You guys’ll have to excuse me for a minute, it’s… uh… a little dusty in here.


Merry Christmas, everybody!

39 thoughts on “Christmas Special: Yes, Virginia!

  1. Hey, Merry Christmas to you too, Chris!

    Thanks for another awesome year of amusing posts and thoughtful reviews! Hope you enjoy your holidays, and I hope you have a great 2008!

  2. At all the forums I frequent, around Christmas time I put up a christmas time (avatar, signature, etc.)

    Last year it was The Punisher Santa Hat Edition.

    This year it’s Santa Doom! (Thank you, Chris)

    And next year?

    Clearly it must be SANTRON.

    …Well, that or Bat-Santa.

    I have a year to decide, after all.

  3. I need to have Ultron’s head at the top of my Christmas tree next year. Need, I tell you.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. You know what’s really great? Wolvie wiping away a tear in that last image. Hehehehe.

    Of course, now that I pointed that out, he’ll come and deliver some adamantium claws in my stocking…

  5. malakim2099: that move is called ‘Stifling manly tears’. It is, in fact #9 on the list of top 10 things a guy can do and still not be a sissy.

  6. The world is poorer for not having Steve Rogers around anymore to rattle off hokey stories that come off as awesome just because HE said them.

    Merry Christmas, all.

  7. You’d think a computer programmer would’ve seen enough episodes of Futurama to know that a robot Santa is a very bad idea.

  8. Oh my god, I’ve never read that, but just from what I’ve seen that may be the greatest Christmas Special ever.

    Merry Christmas!

  9. That was truly wonderful and makes me miss Steve Rogers.

    Thank you Chris Sims for all that you do here at the ISB. You give out little bits of joy so greatly needed in this world.

    Bless you Sims and MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

  10. Man, even knowing what’s really going on the thought that Robo-Santa just veers off-course to kill the Avengers for no conceivable reason is fantastic.

    Also awesome: Spider-Man tagging in ‘Cap for the moral message of the week. This is how a superhero team should operate.

  11. Danicus could not be more right. Also, Mr. Sims? Marvel now owes you some sort of commission for the digest I just bought off of Amazon. Two days before Christmas and knowing it won’t be here until after the Big Day, mind you. Such is the senses-shattering power of Santron.

  12. If Santa Claus did not exist, we would simply have to invent him.

    Though I guess we could leave the “The Avengers must DIE!” bit out of his software.

    Mr Sims, I have laughed a lot since I found your work, and that is the best gift any of us can give one another. Merry Christmas mate.

  13. I hate Christmas issues of anything but this is mind-blowingly awesome.

    Also this gadgeteer girl is adorable.

  14. It’s a toss up between Dave’s Long Box and you for my favorite read, but if you keep pulling gems like this out of your butt…

    Thanks for all the great entertainment!


  15. While the Deadman Christmas story is one of my favourite DC tales ever, I can’t see it having the same impact if you didn’t read it at the time (he said, being pointlessly vague for spoilery reasons). Anyway, Chris: I have bought myself three Marvel digests for Christmas – a Parker Marvel Adventures: Avengers, this Christmas digest, and Megamorphs. Feel free to glow smugly. Oh: thanks for another excellent year of the ISB.

  16. So, do cookies work on She-Ultron, too? I thought not.

    Hope the holiday finds you kicking back and relaxing, Chris. Thanks for the steers towards quality books, and bringing hilarious insanity to the forefront.

  17. It really is a terrific and inspiring moment, but… uh… what the hell are the guys in the back row (Shulk, Gravity, Wondie, Black Panther) standing on? Looks like nothing.

    The panel is saved by Power Man’s noogie.

  18. No, the awesome part is that the moral message is delivered with Santron’s head atop the tree like a gruesome robotic trophy looking on in the background.

    And yes, the world is poorer without Steve Rogers. C’mon, Marvel, pull your heads out of your butts, bring him back, and give Tony Stark his lobotomy!

  19. Also, I agree. My weakness is cute girl gadgeteers. We need a Virginia mini-series.

    Merry Christmas, Chris!

  20. Justin over in post 1 is right about reprogramming Santron to be an Avengers member. If Santa Claus in DC is a card carrying JLA member then why can’t Santron be a registered Avenger?

  21. Truly. We need Santron reactivated. Then Marvel needs to make a Virgie and Santron Mini.

    Merry Christmas, Sir Christopher of Sims. And may the upcoming year have twice as many face-kicks and Aparo effects as this one.

  22. As part of the 50 States Initiative, Santron gets Alaska. (C’mon, it’s perfect!)

    Just as this is one of the best things Marvel’s put out in recent years, this is one of the best blogs on the internet. Merry Christmas, Sims!

  23. I need this Christmas story. Badly.

    I had to go check and see how closely Jeff Parker stuck to the source material. Pretty close, as it turns out, for the parts that he used. For anyone who wants to go see the original “Yes, Virginia” column,

    My apologies. I don’t know how to make the links.