It's been over 1600 years since St. Nicholas of Myra first punched someone out for heresy right in front of the emperor, and in that time, he's mellowed out from a surprisingly violent theological hard-liner to the jolly old gift-giver that we know today as Santa Claus. He's beloved by children all over the world, owns a set of flying reindeer and has an origin story more complicated than most X-Men, but there's one area where Santa Claus is truly lacking: action figures.
Seriously, with the possible exception of Robin Hood, there has never been a character so beloved that is so dreadfully underrepresented in posable plastic. There are, however, a few options, so for those of you in dire need of something to fill that vacant spot in your miniature Christmas village, we're making like elves and doing our best to rank the 10 best Santa Claus action figures! Or at least, you know, the ten that actually exist.
'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer' Santa Claus
A few years ago, the alarming dearth of Santa-based toys was alleviated a little bit when a few companies started putting out figures based on the classic Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas specials. Like Santa himself, they vanished just as quickly as they came, but not before they left us with the standard for yuletide action figures.
You know how toy companies have this weird fetish for neon colors, so when you were a kid and you went looking for Batman, you had to find the one version of Batman that actually had the right colors and wasn't, like, a bright green Jungle Hang Glider Assault Batman or something? You know, Combat Belt Batman? Well, this version of Santa is basically the Christmas equivalent of Combat Belt Batman: He's the base-states, default Santa Claus as we all know him, from removable hat and bag of toys right to the bowl-of-jelly figure that makes him pretty impossible to actually pose. That might seem like a problem, but really, do you need knee joints on your Santa action figure? What are you going to do with Santa Claus, make him fight the Joker alongside Batman? Okay I am realizing as I type this that yes, that is exactly what you should be able to do with a Santa Claus action figure. Still, it's pretty good to have a nice, basic representation out there.
Incidentally, this is the only Santa Claus figure that I actually own myself, and he's on display year round, on a bookshelf right between Chun-Li from Street Fighter and Beta Rey Bill. Where's that crossover?
Rating: 10 Lords-a-Leaping out of 12
'Year Without A Santa Claus' Santa
On the off chance that you ever need to make me cry -- hopefully because my tears are the only thing that can disarm a bizarrely specific bomb, not because you're just being cruel -- and the series finale to Kamen Rider Fourze is not available, the easiest way to get my otherwise stoic façade to crack is to bust out The Year Without A Santa Claus. I'm fine through the Heat Miser and Snow Miser's songs and you won't catch so much as a lip quivering when Vixen the Reindeer gets sent to the pound, but the second "Blue Christmas" kicks in and that little girl writes about how it's okay if Santa needs the year off because he's always been there for all the kids of the world? Sobbing. Just sobbing.
That said, the action figure based on TYWASC -- released by NECA back in 2006 as part of a box set with the Snow Miser -- is more of a curiosity than anything else. I mean, I get that you can't go around just putting out Regular Santa once there's already one on the market, and he does look dapper as heck in that oufit, but it's not quite as Christmasy as you want it to be. A bowler hat and pinstripe pants are a bold fashion statement, but I get the feeling that unless your guests are as familiar with Rankin Bass stuff as I am, you'll be spending your Christmas party explaining why you have an action figure of a friendly pimp.
Rating: 6 Geese-a-Laying out of 12
'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' Kris Kringle
We've always felt that the biggest barrier for readers who are interested in Santa Claus was the complex continuity that often gets in the way of telling good stories. What readers want is a more accessible version of Christmastime's most iconic character, updated to reflect today's modern sensibilities! That's why we're proud to welcome Santa Claus into the universe of The New (December) 25 as a younger version that's only been operating for five years! It's a bold storytelling choice that will change everything you think you know about Kris Kringle!
Note: Artwork not final. Completed version will feature armored suit, high-collar, realistic "movie style" seams and reindeer-shaped kneepads.
Rating: 4 Colly Birds out of 12
The Muppets Swedish Chef Santa
Here's an interesting fact that you might not be aware of: The Swedish Chef has human hands.
It hasn't always been that way. They used to be the same Muppety material as the rest of him, but at some point, when none of us were looking, they became... human. Alarmingly human. It's just the hands for now, but who knows how slow this evolution is going, and what the end result will be, or if this eyeless, cleaver-wielding, human-handed horror is doomed to remain in some undying half-formed state, unable to properly voice its horror at what it has become. Also, if you watched the recent Lady Gaga and the Muppets Christmas Special, something that I cannot possibly recommend at all, you might notice that the Swedish Chef's human hand is sporting a wedding ring. There are so, so many questions.
Anyway, enjoy pondering those as you lay awake at night wondering if that noise you heard was this toy slipping off its gloves to reveal tiny human hands and crawling out from under your tree.
Rating: 1 Partridge in a Pear Tree out of 12
LEGO's line of blind-bagged minifigures has given us some pretty amazing stuff over the past few years -- there's a pink-haired rocker girl who's basically the closest I'm ever going to get to a Jem and the Holograms LEGO set -- and in 2012, they added Santa to the roster. As welcome as it is, I have to admit that it's a little disappointing, too. Having the same body as every other minifig means that he doesn't have that same jolly silhouette, and as much as they're sticking to the canonical outfit, it seems a little flat. I mean, when they did a Christmas version of Yoda for the Star Wars LEGO Advent Calendar, they at least had fun and stuck a candy cane in his belt in place of his lightsaber.
On the other hand, he's probably the only version of Santa that fits perfectly in scale with Batman, Captain America, J. Jonah Jameson, Harry Potter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that's pretty rad.
Rating: Fiiiiiiiiiive Gooooooolden Riiiiiiiings out of 12
Fisher-Price Little People Santa
This, on the other hand, is fantastic.
Look, when it comes to blocky toys for tiny children, I'm a die-hard LEGO partisan -- even the siren song allure of Destro himself hasn't been able to lure me over to Kreo yet -- but they lost this round hard. Fisher Price doesn't just give you Santa, they throw in the sleigh, an elf, a sack of toys, a copy of The Night Before Christmas, the North Pole, and all nine reindeer. Admittedly, they made Rudolph's nose black instead of red -- c'mon, guys, it's in the name of the friggin' song -- but considering the sheer volume of what you're getting, that ain't bad.
Step your game up, LEGO. Seriously, you think this is a f**king game?! Get us a LEGO Krampus next year, or you're done, son.
Rating: Nine Ladies Dancing out of 12
'Gremlins' Mogwai Gizmo Santa Claus Ultra Detail Figure
Remember how Gremlins has a scene where a girl talks about how she found her father dead on Christmas morning because he broke his neck climbing down the chimney to surprise his children?
Well, here's a toy to make sure you don't forget. Merry Christmas!
Rating: Two Turtledoves out of 12
I'll be honest, folks: I don't really care for Futurama. For me, having this San Diego exclusive around would just be a reminder of the roughly eight thousand times I saw the "Xmas Story" episode in reruns on Comedy Central, during which it pretty thoroughly wore out its welcome. And obviously, this was the show's fault. What was I supposed to do, change the channel?
Still, if you're a fan of John Goodman, this is probably the best option to represent him on Christmas, since his other most prominent role as St. Nick came from the amazingly abysmal 2006 live-action Year Without A Santa Claus, a TV movie that managed to be the least necessary piece of entertainment in a year that gave us X-Men 3, Bloodrayne and Superman Returns.
Rating: 6 Geese-a-laying out of 12
'Rise of the Guardians' Nick St. North Plush Doll
CA contributor Benito Cereno mentioned this not too long ago, but the Rise of the Guardians movie was both totally awesome and perfect for a line of action figures. For Pete's sake, it stars a barrel-chested, utterly charming Santa Claus who fights evil with two cutlasses and an army of yetis at his command! And yet, nothing. The closest we got to action figures was a line of Happy Meal Toys, and the North in that was represented by a snowglobe.
Seriously: They had PIRATE COSSACK DUAL-CUTLASS SANTA CLAUS AND AN ARMY OF YETIS and they gave us a plastic snowglobe. This is truly a fallen world.
Anyway, the consolation prize is Mezco's swordless plush doll. It's okay, I guess, but let's be real here: This is just a soft, huggable reminder of the figure we should've gotten out of that movie.
Rating: Negative 12 Drummers Drumming out of 12
Diamond Select Santa Claus Pirate Ship
Now see, this is what I'm talking about. Sure, it doesn't have the reindeer or the toys or, well, anything that really says "Santa" aside from the cap and color scheme, but it's actually more appropriate than you might think! See, in addition to children, St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of pirates and sailors, and that whole thing where he punched a dude right in the mouth probably explains why he's got eight broadside cannons ready to go on what is usually a peaceful journey of gift-giving. The only real problem is that I don't think he's going to get very far without sails, but if you can hook those Little People reindeer up here, you might just end up with the perfect Santa toy.
Rating: Eleven Pipers Piping out of 12