The Naughty List: Five of the Worst Holiday Comics of All Time
For the past few weeks, the jolly elves here at ComicsAlliance have been offering up rundowns of our favorite holiday comics, starting with DC and then moving on to Marvel! But with 70 years’ worth of holiday specials floating around out there, they can’t all be great.
So now that you’ve had the presents, it’s time to get the coal.
For all of you who didn’t make it to the nice list this year, here are the stories you can expect to find crammed in your stocking, as ComicsAlliance contributor Chris Sims takes on five of the Worst Holiday Comics Ever!
#5: Holiday Witches – “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose” #41 (2006)
Given that “Tarot” is a book most widely known for including the phrase “you have to get out of here, your vagina is haunted,” it probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that this one, focusing on the witchity holiday of Yule, is festive in a slightly different manner than one might expect. Despite the nominal attention to Yule, anything that actually relates to the holiday is dealt with in ten captions on Page One, freeing up the book for more important things, like sexy snowball fights.
And then, of course, the entire cast gets naked on page 11, using magic(k) to pull off the mean trick of stripping while on a moving sled:
And then–if you’ll pardon the pun–it’s all downhill from there.
Once everyone, including a werecat, a vampire and Tarot’s mom — yes, Tarot’s mom — is tromping around the snow in the buff, there’s some stuff about faries and dragons, and unfortunately, the story has a happy ending.
What makes a happy ending unfortunate? The fact that they use the massage parlor definition:
What really puts this one over the top, though, is the backup story, in which a lesser-known BroadSword Comics character, Spellarella, throws a party for all her monster friends and ends up being stripped, liquored up, and almost raped by Frankenstein.
It’s done as a comedy, of course.
#4. The Gift of the Maggia – “Terror Inc.” #8 (1992)
For those of you unfamiliar with DG Chichester’s “Terror Inc,” imagine “The Equalizer” as written by Clive Barker, and then done as a Sci Fi Channel original movie: A grotesque but surprisingly erudite hitman mystically grafts parts of corpses to his own body to gain the skills those body parts carried in life, and then sets about murdering people and occasionally having a sensitive slow dance with his personal assistant. The whole thing reads like a comic book that was somehow made exclusively for VHS and shipped directly to the flea market, but to be honest, it’s not without its self-aware charm.
The Christmas issue, however, is such an aggressively stupid combination of horror and schmaltz that if it was done on purpose, it probably shouldn’t have been. Especially since it starts with a man literally pulling Terror’s fee out of his ass:
Yes, an ex-member of the Maggia (Marvel’s occasionally super-powered stand-in for organized crime) on his way to the electric chair hires Terror to give his family one last Christmas, donating his hand so that Terror will have the sense memory that lets him give the guy’s wife one last squeeze and his son one last pat on the head while he’s asleep. This, of course, is totally creepy, but we’re pretty sure that’s what they were going for.
Things start to go off the rails, however, once the kid mistakes Terror — disguised as a Salvation Army bell-ringer — for the actual Santa Claus.
Somehow we missed the Rankin/Bass special where Santa’s got a green corpse-face with foot-long whisker-tines and a submachine gun. And the one where he sets a guy on fire with a bucket of gasoline. And the one where he shanks a hobo with a broken bottle that he then uses to cut off his legs because his own were crushed by an Impala full of kidnappers.
Seriously, that’s not even on the DVDs.
3. The Fighting American – “Awesome Comics Holiday Special” (1997)
You know, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Rob Liefeld, and he makes our list this year as a writer/artist courtesy of his creator-owned Awesome Comics, which is only saved from being the most inaccurately named publisher by Neal Adams’ incomprehensible Continuity Comics.
Like the issue of “Tarot” above, this is another one that’s less “Christmas Story” and more “Story that takes place during a snowstorm that looks suspiciously like it was added during the coloring process when they realized it was going to be shipping in December.” What really brings the awfulness — aside from an absolutely hilarious opening caption that reads “Suddenly… on a U.S. army base that is classified” — is that it comes from the period in Liefeld’s career when he’d acquired the rights to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American under shady circumstances and promptly set about using him to produce what was pretty much “Avengers” fanfiction.
Included in his thinly veiled analogues was Smash, his version of the Hulk that, instead of “Hulk Smash,” said “Smash Smash“…
…and we are honestly not sure if that’s brilliant or one of the stupidest ideas we have ever heard in our lives.
Eventually things do work their way around to the holidays with dialogue that reads like it was shoehorned in purely as an afterthought, and unfortunately for any kids who unwrapped this one on Christmas morning, the Fighting American is right:
This isn’t a present you can take back to the store. Most comic shops have strict no-return policies on Liefeld.
#2. “Santa the Barbarian” (1996)
Ever go through your old notebooks or school papers and find something that you wrote down because it was absolutely hilarious at the time, but looking back on it you actually get embarrassed for your 14 year-old self because you can’t believe there was a time that you thought this could be funny for more than five seconds?
“Santa the Barbarian” is pretty much just like that.
Created by Rob Liefeld with story and art by Dan Fraga, “Santa the Barbarian” is Santa Claus as a barbarian. That’s it. That is literally all there is to it, except that when it actually came time to put it down on paper, they gave it a light dusting of the most painful jokes you could imagine, because wouldn’t it be hilaaaaaaaarious if Santa chopped off a dude’s head and then the Elves were like “You da man!” Because, see, elves don’t usually use hip slang like that. Get it?
It also ends with a pun.
Even if you haven’t read it, you know every joke that’s going to be made just by seeing the title, except that knowing they actually exist is even worse than speculating on it, which makes this one of the rare comics that is enjoyed less once you read it than before you know it exists.
So what’s worse than that? Easy.
#1. X-MAS SPECIAL – “WARRIOR” #3 (1996)
“WARRIOR,” the comic written by former WWE wrestler Ultimate Warrior, is in the running for the worst comic book of all time, and #3’s Christmas Special might just be the worst of them, although trying to figure out which issue of “WARRIOR” is worse is a lot like trying to figure out which truck stop bathroom stall is the best place to eat lunch. You get to a point where the individual differences just don’t matter anymore.
Still, there’s a special kind of terrible that comes with this one, mostly because. rather than the usual, completely nonsensical story, this one’s done as a series of pin-ups, many of which look like the immediate prelude or immediate aftermath of the Ultimate Warrior and Santa Claus just going at it in the kinkiest sex you can imagine:
Yeah, we know. We didn’t want to think about it either. Just be glad we didn’t go with the one where Warrior’s taking off St. Nick’s pants.
Even stranger, if you can believe it, are the text pieces that bookend the pin-ups, which were so eye-searingly garish that they’re almost impossible to read:
Not that reading them clears things up, as they are, without question, the rantings of a madman, with the Warrior claiming that he wrote this comic to help out Santa “in exchange for a few cases of nude Barbies.”
We don’t know.
We don’t want to know.