It’s almost time for Christmas everybody. So that means it’s time for some festive recommendations. There are a LOT of really great and fun comics with a holiday theme. I guess the superheroic optimism associated with comics just works well with the warm feelings of this season. So this was a hard list to nail down, but I’ve managed to get 25 different issues that I think anyone should pick up and read to get into the spirit of the holidays. It’s worth mentioning that this is by no means definitive, there’s a lot of great stuff missing here but these are just a few I love.
1. Christmas with the Superheroes #2
THE gold standard for christmas comics in my eyes. Often a lot of these Christmas anthologies are hit and miss. Some stories soar and others crash and burn. But not only is every story good in Christmas with the Superheroes #2, they’re all outstanding. The first I would even go as far to call one of the greatest Superman stories of all time. But we also get a moody tale of isolation with Deadman, a sweet story of Wonder Woman enjoying Christmas with friends and a tale of Christmas in war with Enemy Ace. It’s a perfect little comic and I can’t recommend it more.
2. Marvel Holiday Special #1
This one is right up there with Christmas with the Superheroes as a PERFECT Holiday anthology. There are a bunch of incredible creative teams doing some really fun and varied stories that are all well worth reading. You’ve got a great Fantastic Four story by Walt Simonson and Art Adams, a chilling Ghost Rider story by Howard Mackie, and the ultimate warm blanket read with a story of the X-Men hanging out with art by Dave Cockrum. A perfect package.
3. Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1
A series of stories so damn good that they were adapted for animation. Several of the stories featured in the issue were later adapted for the show’s revival with the New Batman Adventures in the episode titled ‘Holiday Knights.’ There’s a really amazing selection of stories here by various talented creators. The real standouts for me are the story with Mr Freeze as he visits his wife’s grave and the story with Ivy and Harley as they take Bruce on an involuntary shopping spree. Some of the best festive comics right here, folks.
4. Daredevil Vol 3 #7
Daredevil is a character that for some reason just always works well at Christmas. He’s got a bunch of great Christmas stories and none better, I think, then #7 of Mark Waid’s run on the character. The story follows Matt as he has to lead a group of children through a blizzard after a school bus crashed. It’s a real struggle and it shows the strength of Matt’s character and the endurance of the human spirit.
5. Marvel Holiday Special, 2005
This issue has Namor dressed as Santa, which should be enough to sell you if I’m honest. Luckily this special also has some really great stories that are well worth reading including one with most of Marvel’s core superhero community celebrating Christmas together. This is one of those issues I crack out every year.
6. The Hellboy Christmas Specials
Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is an extremely versatile character. He seems to be able to operate incredibly well in any genre, crossover, or style of story. Funnily enough, that goes for the Holidays as well. There are two real standouts I’m happy to recommend. The first is Hellboy Christmas Underground, where Hellboy takes on a creepy ghost on Christmas. The second is Krampus, wherein Hellboy fights the titular folk creature. Both great choices if you want to read something a little spookier.
7. Marvel Special, 1996
Some great stuff in this special but I’ve put it here for one story in particular ‘Not a Creature was Stirring’ by Mark Waid and Pat Olliffe. This story focuses on Spider-Man and J Jonah Jameson as they are both trapped beneath some rubble after the Daily Bugle is attacked. It’s one of my favorite stories with the two characters together and a great testament to the ways in which the holidays can bring us together.
Grant Morrison is obviously one of the big names in comics, with an extensive back catalogue of classics and masterpieces. However, fewer are aware or appreciative of their work in creator owned comics outside the big two. Case in point Klaus, a great series with another big name right now, Dan Mora. This follows a badass Santa Claus and depicts the character as a wandering Shaman. It totally rules.
9. Incredible Hulk #378
One of the funniest comics ever written. Peter David’s time on the Hulk is lauded for many things, but not often enough is it praised for its comedy. This issue is a particular standout as the Rhino disguises himself as a mall Santa which brings him to blows with Joe Fixit. A nonstop laugh machine that never fails to entertain.
10. Spider-Man Tangled Web
Probably one of the Christmas stories recommended the most, due largely to the fact that it’s one of the very rare Marvel stories by the late great Darwyn Cooke. It follows Spidey, the Fantastic Four, and J Jonah Jameson as a group of villains crash a shopping spree for Christmas. It’s so much fun and Jameson has to babysit a bunch of children, so you know it’s gonna rule.
11. The Goon: A Christmas Story
I absolutely love the Goon, but man it is not for everyone. It’s black comedy to its core with a lot of dark, cruel, and gross humor. So don’t expect to get any Christmas cheer from this one. What you can expect though if you’re interested, is a hilarious Christmas issue as Goon and Franky chase down some Christmas critters. This one particular moment with Santa pictured always gives me a good laugh.
12. Green Lantern #59
Kyle Rayner’s Green Lantern crosses over with the Titans and beats up Doctor Polaris for a bit. A comfort food comic that’s just a classic fun superhero story with a great Christmas backdrop.
13. Hawkeye #17
You may have been watching Hawkeye on Disney+ which takes place during the holidays. Well that show mostly pulls from the Hawkeye run by Matt Fraction, David Aja and many others. #17 focuses on Clint protecting his community on Christmas. It’s an incredible story that really highlights the ways in which the holidays can draw people together.
14. Batman #219
One of the more iconic Christmas comics is ‘The Silent Night of the Batman’ in Batman #219. It’s just Batman hanging out with Gordon and the GCPD as they run around caroling. A bit of copoganda to be sure, but you kinda have to include it on a Christmas comics list. It’s just too iconic.
15. Detective Comics #826
A really entertaining story by Paul Dini. The premise of this is an all-timer. Tim Drake has a patrol go terribly wrong and escapes into the car of a seemingly kindly stranger. Only for that stranger to be The Joker. He takes him on a festive drive by murder spree while the Boy Wonder tries to escape. An ingenious story that just never seems to get old.
16. Uncanny X-Men #230
Now I’m of the belief that the best era of Claremont’s X-Men is when the merry mutants lived in the Outback. One of the really early stories for this era was Uncanny X-Men #230 which featured the X-Men settling into their new Outback home. In doing so, they found a bunch of looted treasure left from the previous residents and decide to deliver them around the world on Christmas.
17. DCU Holiday Bash #2
A lot of great stuff in this anthology, including a fun Kyle Rayner/ Connor Hawke story and a wonderful little exploration of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s relationship. But really the draw here is the Darkseid Santa story. Look it’s only two pages but those two pages also happen to be two of the best ever put into a comic book. It’s Ty Templeton’s two page story following Santa as he makes his delivery to Darkseid on Apokolips. Just a hilarious idea executed to perfection.
18. Ambush Bug Stocking Stuffer
This one’s pretty much just what you expect from Ambush Bug. It’s Keith Giffen just riffing on the holidays for a whole issue. It’s the usual sketch comedy madcap looney tunes nonsense that comes from the character but it’s a lot of fun.
19. Jonah Hex #34
DC’s western bounty hunter, Jonah Hex, is hardly the first person you would think makes sense in a Christmas story. But you’d be surprised how well it works with Jonah Hex #34. The story follows Hex as he tracks down a gang of criminals who murdered a Santa Claus. It’s really fun set up and is a great festive twist on the usual Hex formula.
20. Daredevil #253
Look, I just really love Daredevil, so old Horn Head gets another go around with #253 by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. This is a great little story that parallels the Christmases of Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk. Matt aims to help his community both as his mild mannered self and his heroic alter ego. He fights to keep children out of gangs and donates Christmas trees. Fisk meanwhile plots to take out Matt. It’s a simple but really sweet story.
21. Flash #87
There are a ton of fun stories with the Flash for the holidays. My personal favorite might just be #87 of Mark Waid’s run with Mike Wieringo on art. Wally West goes up against a bunch of criminals disguised as Santa as he tries to keep everything together for Christmas. The holidays can be stressful so if you wanna live through someone else’s stress for a bit to take the weight off, look no further.
22. Starman #27
I’m a huge fan of James Robinson’s Starman, so the Christmas special in #27 had to be included. Jack Knight helps a homeless man on Christmas Eve. It’s really charming and bittersweet. One I return to every year since I’ve read it.
23. Journey Into Mystery #632
Volstagg becomes a mall santa, nuff said.
24. Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special
This one is essentially Lobo vs Santa. It’s really crazy, zany, and bonkers. But it’s also a ton of fun. If you’re a fan of Lobo and all of the 90’s extreme parody that he represents, you’ll probably get a kick out of him tussling with St. Nick for a while.
25. Fantastic Four #361
Yet another Fantastic Four story, this time with #361 by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan. This story mainly follows The Thing as he teams up with the Yancy Street Gang,of all people, as Doctor Doom threatens the son of an old friend of his. It’s a really underrated neat little story.