Q: What's up with Rudolph's Shiny New Year? Is it so perfect there are no other New Years specials? -- @otherhoffman
A: I've talked about my pure, unconditional love for the various Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials in past columns, but let me tell you, "what's up with Rudolph's Shiny New Year" is a question I have asked myself on many occasions. I'm not sure if I'd call it perfect, but even stacked up against Santa Claus being raised by a lioness and fighting war against the goblins and an Ani-Magic redhead trying to seduce the Lord of All Vampires, it is downright bizarre.
Q: Why does everyone hate the "Christmas with the Joker" episode of Batman: The Animated Series? -- @tekende
A: You know, I'm not sure everyone does hate "Christmas with the Joker." I certainly don't, but then again, I can't really say that I like it a whole lot either. It's definitely one of those episodes that pops into mind whenever I start thinking of the worst episodes of the series, although it misses out on being the actual worst by a long shot. But that said, I don't quite know the reason why.
Q: What superhero has the loveable jolliness/elf-oppressing fist of iron necessary to take over for Santa? -- @FrankMcCormick
A: A replacement for Santa Claus, eh, Frank? Well, that shouldn't be too hard to figure out. It really just comes down to -- wait. A replacement for Santa Claus?! Why do we need a replacement?! Did something happen to Santa?!
Oh God. Oh God. Okay. Don't freak out. We've still got two weeks. There's time to fix this before Christmas Eve. C'mon, Frank. We've got work to do.
Q: What '80s or '90s cartoon do you think has the single best Christmas episode? -- @UncannyJay
A: Given the things I tend to write about in this column, it pretty much goes without saying that I absolutely love cartoon Christmas specials. I even wrote about a few of my favorites last year for ComicsAlliance, including the truly bizarre Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, in which a visit from Santa Claus makes it abundantly clear that Pac-Man's living nightmare of eating dots and being menaced by the vengeful spirits of the damned occurs on some kind of demi-plane that exists outside of the sight of God. That one has to be in my top three.
But beyond those three, there's definitely one Christmas episode in particular that I absolutely love: G.I. Joe's "Cobra Claws Are Coming To Town!"
Q: DEAR CHRIS: I am 42 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in ComicsAlliance it's so, unless that Wolkin guy wrote it, and then all bets are off.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? -- David Lartigue, via email
A: David, your little friends are wrong, especially about David Wolkin. At least 30% of the stuff he writes is well-researched and at least partially semi-accurate. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe anything except what they read on message boards and comment threads. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, David, whether they be men's or children's, are little. Except Batman's. Because Batman thinks of everything. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect in his intellect (and not the radioactive kind that can give you super-powers), as compared with the boundless world about him.
Yes, David. There is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as Batman and Superman and Spider-Man exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no genocidal killer robots who were reprogrammed to give out presents but decided instead to murder the Avengers with hate-lasers.
Q: How do the holiday mythologies compare between Marvel and DC? -- @crcovar
A: How did you know, Crovar?! Another excuse to drop nine thousand words about the underlying differences in the structure of imaginary universes and how they've affected their storytelling over the past seventy years? It's exactly what I wanted for Christmas!
Nah, I'm just kidding. We can probably get through this one in five or six thousand. Seven, tops.
Q: Merry Ask Chris-tmas! What's the weirdest version of the Santa Claus origin story? -- @prograpslady
A: You know, it wasn't that long ago that I wrote about two different version of Santa's origin that were done as stop-motion TV specials from Rankin-Bass, and as much as I love them both, they're not exactly what you'd really expect. I mean, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town is essentially the story of a revolutionary who brings down a corrupt European government through illegal toymaking and is then hunted until he has to relocate to the North Pole, and The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus has him raised on the milk of a lioness and taught about Japanese samurai by a twelve foot tall druid who shot laser beams from a silver axe in a war against child-hating goblins.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that even for someone who's spent a lifetime getting used to origin stories with nonsense words like "bitten by a radioactive spider" and "inhaled hard water fumes," Santa's beginnings are pretty weird.
A: Folks, I have read a lot of Christmas comics. For a while, they were the only thing I actually "collected." I'd buy any Christmas story I could find, any comic with Santa Claus in it, anything that had the requisite number of sleighs and trees with lights on 'em, and as a result, I have seen some genuinely terrible Christmas stories. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good ones too, but when you're reading every Christmas story out there, you run across plenty that are overly cynical, mean-spirited, or just plain not very good.
And every now and then, you read the two-part Krampus story in Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, which is a piece of work unto itself.
Q: Why aren’t there more heroic duos or “tag teams?” -- @awa64
A: Friend, I don't usually like to start off these columns by specifically denying the premise of the question, but there are a lot of heroic duos in the world of superhero comics. I mean, even if we're just limiting ourselves to the most famous superheroes out there, the top of that list is going to include both the World's Finest and the Dynamic Duo, and you don't have to look much harder to find other pairings further down the list.
Unless, of course, you're specifically asking why there aren't more actual pro wrestling tag teams that have taken up crime-fighting when they're not busy in the ring, in which case I have no idea, but rest assured that is something I want to see.
Q: Can a setting, location, or place actually be "a character," as people often say about Gotham City or Bioshock's Rapture, and if so, what exactly does that mean? -- @Jon_Ore
A: Technically, no. No matter how well-developed or intriguing a setting is, no matter how many good stories have been set there or how characters and creators have talked about it, it's still just that: A setting. The action and development, even if they're a reaction to the setting or have effects on the setting, are all things that happen to characters. The setting just provides the backdrop.
Practically, though, they can be close enough that for all intents and purposes, they might as well be characters, with everything that comes with it.
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