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.
Q: What's your favorite example of a comic having an effect on the real world? -- @jamesdeleech
A: You know, a lot of the questions I get for this column, at least the ones I tend to like answering, are the ones that are open to interpretation, and it's fun to pick and choose stories to talk about that back up a particular idea that I have about how something works. This one, though, is one of those questions that's about as close to having one definitive answer as is possible. When you talk about those great times when comics changed the real world, there's really only one choice.
It's when Stetson Kennedy teamed up with Superman to bring down the Ku Klux Klan.
Q: What are your thoughts on Catwoman and how her role has evolved over time? It's unique, isn't it? -- @spudsfan
A: Here's a warning that you're about to read way too many words on what looks like a simple question: Yes and no.
It's not going to surprise anyone when i say that I love Catwoman as a character, and a lot of that comes from how adaptable she is. In her long history, she's been one of the few characters who's been able to transition from villain to hero and back again, and she has a relationship with Batman that has allowed for both characters to grow in ways that no other character has, or even could. But at the same time, she's probably the single most successful example of a cliché that bugs me to no end: The Villainous Love Interest.
Q: What's the best modern comics run that not enough people have read or talk about? -- @talestoenrage
A: It's a sad fact of the comics industry, but there are a ton of great stories out there that never really get the recognition that they deserve, to the point where every time something new and exciting comes out, I always end up thinking something along the lines of "they better not Thor: The Mighty Avenger this one up." But while there are comics that get canceled too soon and long-running epics like Usagi Yojimbo that never seem to hog the spotlight, there's only one that really comes to mind when I start thinking about the truly buried treasures.
If you want to talk about the absolute best of the best of the under-appreciated comics, then you want to talk about Paul Grist's Jack Staff.
Q: Is Garfield: Alone the best horror story in comics? -- @discord_inc
A: Even though I usually try to do an entire month of spooky questions every October, this is, I believe, the first time an installment of Ask Chris has ever been posted on Halloween, and it wasn't surprising that a lot of readers asked me about stories that scared me, or what I thought was the single most frightening comic of all time. To be honest, it's not a difficult question to answer, either. The comics I love are full of scary stuff, from the grotesque horror of Alan Moore and Rick Veitch's swamp thing to the horrific imagery that you'd get in manga like The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
But if you want to see something really scary? No question. There are six days of Garfield from 1989 that'll turn your hair white.
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