For over 70 years Santa Claus has been visiting the pages of comic books. Along with the times, his role in them has changed dramatically. The origin story of Santa Claus is made and remade. From Saint Nicholas of Myra known for random charity, like giving gifts of dowries to sisters, saving them from a harsher fate (probable Christian inspiration). All the way to the more recent “Annual Gift Man” who lives on the Moon (Simpson’s creation). Comic books have generally gone with the traditional red suited, reindeer driving, elf working, American invention.
Early on, superheroes were there to lend Santa a helping hand. The do gooders of the DC universe were especially useful in gift distribution, and more importantly fighting off a villain, who for whatever reason, decided to take a break from crime and just ruin everyone’s Christmas. Doing good alongside Chris Kringle was all candy canes and mistletoe, even getting our Dark Knight out delivering gifts. Until about the 70’s. Then Father Christmas and his life in comic books took a turn. Murder.
Putting Santa in mortal danger was the product of comics “growing up” in the 70’s and into 80’s. As the heroes and their adventures evolved into darker and more violent story lines, Chris Kringle was dragged along for the assault. He would be beaten, kidnapped, even hunted. The main man himself, the self proclaimed best interstellar bounty hunter in the DC universe, Lobo was after a bounty placed on his beard. But the worst was to come.
With the boundaries of what a Santa story could be, comics did their worst. Casting him and his image as the villain. Covers appeared with an armed St. Nick, firing on Iron Man in issue #254, and even smoking on the cover of Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man issue #112. Perhaps pushed too far, from the collective acts of aggression over the decades before Santa was not only fighting, but armed. Whatever growing up comics had done, the Santa Claus had come out a different icon. These stories normally had someone dressed as Santa, and the “real” Claus was still inherently the good gift giver we all know is watching us all the time. Though, he was still prone to kidnapping as in the Generation X Holiday Special #4.
Following comics and pop culture, in 2006 Santa appeared on the cover of Blade #4. As a vampire. Comic books have taken the North Pole resident from gift giver needing the occasional hand to a blood sucker.
It is unclear when or if we will ever get back the whimsical Santa Claus of those early years. Maybe there is no place for him anymore. But if the current monster vampire craze can claim him, anything is possible.