It probably won't surprise anyone if I say that Archie Comics has published a lot of Christmas stories over the past 60 years, but you have to understand that when I say "a lot of Christmas comics," I mean a truly ridiculous amount. Just to give you an idea, there are two separate characters in the Archie universe -- Jingles and Sugarplum -- who are magical Christmas imps who use their powers to give the gang a hard time during the holidays. They have done stories like that so many times that they actually needed a spare.

And as you might imagine from the fact that I just used the phrase "magical Christmas imps," Archie's holiday stories tend to be a little weird. But none of them -- and I say this as someone with two paperbacks' worth of Archie Christmas comics -- skew quite as far into madness as the one where Little Archie meets the alien Santa Claus from Planet Peewee.

As much as it might scandalize my fellow Archie fans, I've never been a big fan of Li'l Archie, the spin-off created by Bob Bolling that focused on grade-school versions of Archie and his pals. They're commonly regarded as some of the best comics that the company has ever printed -- especially Bolling's -- and the fact that they frequently involve pint-sized gang wars and kids fighting a character named "Mad Doctor Doom," they're probably the Archiequivalent of my beloved Silver Age stories, but something just doesn't click with me.

Even though I love the grown-up parallel universes of Life With Archie, I'm pretty attached to the idea of Archie's gang as teenagers, and as long as that's in place, I'm good. I'll take Weird Mysteries and Jughead's Time Police any day of the week, but the second they roll back to elementary school, you lose me.

But after reading "A Children's Christmas" by Dexter Taylor -- originally published back in 1963, but reprinted in this month's Archie Double Digest #223 -- I'm willing to accept that I've just been missing out. Seriously, this thing is twenty pages of crazy in a seven-page story.

And it doesn't waste any time getting to the kookiness, either. Here's page one:

There's so much weirdness going on here that I'm not even really sure where to start. The strange attempt to justify this story in terms of actual science? The fact that, when left to their own devices, children will build themselves houses that look like birthday cake, hot dogs and what I am pretty sure is a wine bottle? No, I think I'm going to go with Panel 3.

Look: I was totally with you up through "planet populated entirely by kids," even with the terrifying geography that would lead a planet to look like a Christmas bauble. But when those children are shown to have kids of their own, I start to get a little weirded out. It just raises a lot of questions that I'm not sure this story is prepared to answer.

There is, however, one adult who lives on Peewee, and given what I've already said, it won't come as a surprise that it's Peewee's version of Santa Claus:

Putting aside the theological questions raised by the existence of an identical St. Nicholas and the implication that there was, at some point in Planet Peewee's past, an Li'l Jesus whose birth is celebrated every December, this is about where the story goes completely off the rails. We're less than two full pages into this thing, and Taylor's contradicting himself all over the place.

First it was that Peewee was populated only by children, then we're told that there is one, and only one, adult. But then we learn that Santa has a virtual army of helpers that all appear to be adults, so where the heck did they come from? Judging by their appearance, I'm going to guess that they might be flawed clones of Santa that he has pressed into service as mindless gift-slaves, but given how the rest of this story goes, it's just as likely that they're holiday visitors from the nearby planet Shoppingmall, populated entirely by Misshapen And Not All That Convincing Santas.

Still, the story keeps changing like a six year-old telling a story, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that we're dealing with an Axe Cop situation. Especially given that, since there are no animals whatsoever on Planet Peewee, Santa has no reindeer. Instead, he gets around on a rocketship.

This is what leads him into a little trouble, as a chatty elf accidentally makes his fuel so strong that instead of flying around distributing presents to the babies havin' babies of Planet Peewee, he ends up going all the way to Earth:

Now, I don't want to nitpick here -- or at least, I don't want to nitpick any more than I usually do in these columns -- but the houses back on Peewee still look more or less like houses. I mean, they've got doors and windows and, most importantly, they have chimneys. There's even a panel showing the Peeweeans hanging up their stockings on the fireplace, so it's not like this should be a foreign concept to him.

Also, it implies that on Peewee, Santa just straight up walks into houses through the door, which seems a little strange. Then again, it's a planet full of kids. What kid isn't going to let Santa Claus into the house with his bag full of presents?

Anyway, down through the chimney comes the old St. Nick of outer spaaaaace, where he's met by Archie, and on seeing Archie's dog Spotty, he realizes that he must be on some planet that isn't Peewee. One would think he would've come to that conclusion when he was flying down onto a planet that wasn't decorated with continent-sized red stars and white oceans laid out in perfect stripes, but, you know, the dude ain't an astronaut. I'm willing to cut him some slack.

He and Archie have a little chat about Christmas on their respective planets...

...and at this point, the fact that Alien Santa speaks perfect English is the most believable thing about this story.

It's certainly more plausible than Archie's saccharine-sweet selflessness about Christmas presents. Don't get me long, Archie Andrews has a good heart -- a Pureheart, even -- but he's also a dude who has no qualms about ruining Betty Cooper's life on a weekly basis just so he can go out with a rich girl. But to be fair, this is Little Archie. Maybe he only stopped caring about others once puberty hit.

What's important here is that we learn a little something about Christmas on Peewee, and how the Spirit of Giving is completely absent from that place, to the point where Santa is given to hollow-eyed terror at the very thought of dealing with it. Clearly, this is a problem that needs to be addressed, so Archie and Santa concoct a plan.

Maybe Santa will continue to lead by example, sharing gifts with the children of his home planet in an effort to inspire them to give to each other. Maybe he'll tell them about Archie, and what he said about how it's better to give than to receive.

Or maybe, just maybe, he'll somehow psychically invade their minds and brainwash them into leaving him the hell alone about the damn presents. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Before he leaves with his new mission to telepathically dominate the kidizens of Peewee, Santa decides to thank Archie by giving him a present to give to someone else. Archie asks for an electric shaver for one of his family members, and Santa cheerily obliges. This, of course, raises the question of just who santa was going to give an electric razor to on a planet populated entirely by children, but you know what? We're on the last page of this story, it's not like I expected it to start making sense now.

Thus, Santa heads back to Peewee with his sinister master plan for global mind control. And Archie?

Archie cuts off his dog's whiskers with an electric razor on Christmas morning.

God Bless Us, Every One.

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