Comics Television

Cliff Steele And Gender Identity In Doom Patrol

The Doom Patrol has an interesting history among DC’s lineup of having been written by transgender or otherwise non-cisgender writers three times out of seven volumes, with two of those writers writing a single extended run and one of them writing two shorter series (or three, if you count the crossover event Milk Wars as officially under the Doom Patrol umbrella). Many of the iconic later characters were created by those writers, including satirical takes on cisgender masculinity in superheroes like Flex Mentallo and more gender-bending bandage people than you’d think possible. But it’s the less famous characters that I’ve always found myself more attached to—like DC’s first official transgender superhero, Kate Godwin, created by Rachel Pollack, who at the time was DC’s first transgender writer. (Since then, people like her direct predecessor on Doom Patrol, Grant Morrison, have come out.)

This almost continuity-long dance with real-world gender diversity and gendered issues manifests in interesting ways, often surrounding beloved Doom Patrol founding member Cliff Steele.

 Cliff’s backstory is quintessentially Silver Age. He was a daredevil who found his body destroyed in a racing crash, leaving only his brain behind, which was salvaged and put into a robot body by the enigmatic Dr. Niles Caulder, an act that turned out to be carefully planned from the start. His relationship to humanity is tied up in something completely out of his control, which spreads further into his relationship with gender and manhood; to start with, Cliff is utterly rigid in the way he asserts gender onto the people around him and onto himself. Admitting any disconnection with his gender identity admits a sense of disconnection from humanity for him. Thus he finds comfort in playing the hypermasculine role in a way that can’t solely be attributed to the time the story is set in and the tropes for male characters that accompany it, especially in the late 80s and early 90s under Grant Morrison’s pen. Morrison specifically plays it up to an almost parodic degree while simultaneously bringing Cliff closer and closer to psychological breakdowns—their run on the team even famously begins with Cliff meeting a new friend in a psychiatric hospital.

 In this hospital, we find one of our first instances of Cliff’s destructive views on gender. Rebis, the alchemical marriage between three beings, is explicitly neither man nor woman, and many characters use a neutral possessive pronoun for them. (The sensitivity of hir exact portrayal is a topic for another day.) Cliff consistently insists on referring to them as a man and by a name they do not want to be called anymore (“Larry,” who is, of course, one piece of hir being and a part of hir memories but not an identity that they claim), including trying to convince hir that that’s who they really are and correcting others who express confusion over Rebis and hir existence. Malicious intent doesn’t matter. Cliff will forever see someone who doesn’t want to be labeled as such as his former friend, regardless of hir feelings on the topic.

The pattern carries over to Jane and the rest of the Underground, too. There is a difference here in that as a body with Dissociative Identity Disorder, many of the alters present do not need to be cisgender for Cliff to try to stuff them into a box they refuse to align themselves with. As many times as they express that they aren’t Jane—Hammerhead, Driver 8, Scarlot Harlot, and several others express very explicit discomfort with being told they are someone they aren’t—Cliff decrees that they are and even tries to force the name Kay back onto them, something none of them identify with, not even the first person present in the woman’s body. The messaging from the character, though not the narrative, is clear. You belong the way you were when you were born because anything else would, in his eyes, be an implicit denial of his own humanity.

If Rebis is Rebis, and Jane and the other alters are themselves, then there’s a possibility that he isn’t a man, and therefore isn’t the human he still so desperately wants to be. That doesn’t excuse his actions. As much as he cared about Rebis and especially Jane and the rest of the Underground, he still didn’t respect them in ways that they deserved and required. But it does present an interesting side to him and his battle to reclaim his humanity.

And then Kate Godwin comes along and blows that internal expectation to pieces.

Kate is openly and proudly transgender among the people she loves. She understands how Cliff feels. Their first interaction is them bonding over a shared life experience, such as having a sudden revelation regarding their personal identity. Cliff says, to a woman whose name he just learned, “Tell me something—Kate Godwin. Have you ever found out that everything you believed—everything—about yourself, who you believed you were—was just wrong? Do you think you can understand what that feels like? Just a little?” Kate, of course, responds with “Yes. Yes, I think I can understand that.” She assumes, likely from this moment forward, that Cliff is aware that she is a transgender woman and easily applies those experiences to him.

Cliff’s actual reaction to finding out that she’s transgender, and therefore in finding out that someone he’s starting to have romantic feelings for is transgender, is anger. I think that’s something a lot of people like to gloss over, just as I’ve noticed they tend to brush past Cliff’s treatment of Jane and his disrespect of her autonomy. But it’s an important character choice and one that falls in line with his past behavior toward Rebis in particular. His response is anger and betrayal at the mistaken belief that Kate has been lying to him. He hits all the usual talking points for transphobes (transmisogynists specifically, in this case, and I can speculate that they’re things people have in the past said specifically to Rachel Pollack herself), centering primarily on one idea in particular—that if Kate at one point had a penis, that will forever make her a man.

This is the logic he applies to himself, now leveraged as violence against Kate, in a potentially subconscious attempt to trap her in a “lie.” In his mind, to assert her own humanity would be to deny him his.

 Her reply is, “Really? Then, what about you, Cliff? Do you have a penis? What are you?” A statement which should, to him, prove him right. He doesn’t have a penis anymore, but he once did, which should lock him in as forever a human man. But it’s this that makes him stop and seemingly utterly reconsider his previous position. Why?

 This isn’t the first time Cliff has seemingly sided with inhumanity by distancing himself from human masculinity. Under Morrison, he is allowed to enter the depths of the Underground by proving to Black Annis, a protector of the system with a specific hatred of men and male violence, that he isn’t a man anymore because he doesn’t have “male” anatomy. At that time, it was for what would objectively be the greater good, at least to him—saving his friend from destroying herself in the Underground and essentially forcing herself into permanent dormancy. Here, the only one Cliff is in a position to “save” is himself. Kate is confronting him, and all onlookers either side with her or don’t particularly care about the conversation one way or another. Kate has already proven that she views him completely and totally as a human being regardless of his body and ability to pass (her words) as normal. He says he’s a man. He says he’s human. Therefore he is. She says she’s a woman. Therefore she is. Nothing needed changing about him for him to be a man, and even though she did change herself (to match her vision, her desire, as she says in one of my favorite lines not only from that arc but from any transgender character), she was always a woman.

This is demonstrated in another instance where their experiences are paralleled, in more of my favorite scenes in comics period. After Cliff and Kate fuse their bodies through sex to experience a transcendence and petition godlike beings, the Teiresiae, for help (roll with it, it’s Doom Patrol), they experience a horrible tangled mix of their past experiences with doctors trying to control their lives, as their memories have merged just as they have. They go through what the other did; Kate must face Niles attempting to deny Cliff his humanity on the basis of him now being a robot, and Cliff has to contend with a surgeon trying to refuse Kate hers because he was the one to make her into a “real” woman. The ownership taken over their transformations, as different as they may have been in the moment from everything to their content to the consent of their modification, binds them together in a way that is impossible to deny. When the antagonistic Contract, the manifestation of a deal with the devil carrying a clipboard with a checklist of the kind you would receive in a doctor’s waiting room, tries to offer them a set of “real” bodies—that of a cisgender woman and a cisgender man, respectively—he’s laughed off, as they say together they “don’t want your real bodies. We just want ourselves.”

 Cliff is a human being because he chooses to be. He can even be a man if that’s what he decides for himself. Kate is a woman. She’s known it since she was at least a teenager, and that’s how she’s decided to live her life, by following that internal truth bravely into the sunlight that may or may not is cast by a fox-headed god of age. This is who she is. This is who he is, too. Niles can’t take ownership of that, nor of Cliff’s internal self, no matter what he thinks. Hypermasculine posturing was always a lie. It damaged him and very much hurt many of the people around him. He can take ownership of that, but he still has to let it go, which he does in this arc and in an issue following, where he actively rejects his former self as a piece of history while still keeping the parts of him that matter. The lived experiences that matter.

It’s about acceptance and decision, not destiny or the outside machinations of a surgeon or a mad scientist that thinks they own you because they may have helped you reach your greatest potential. There is no “real body” ready-made and waiting for you out there. There is only yourself and the person you could become. The courage comes in accepting that—and deciding what you want to do about it.


BoomCrashers! Tales (Boom! Studios Releases for 07/21/2021)

The families of the disappeared kept looking, although finding them seemed more like an empty consolation as time passed, and grief started to settle inside their souls, and as the days changed for them, the places the travelers woke up in kept on changing as well.

Dark Blood

Shadows and sunlight cleaved, splicing the colorless void into two separate parts. One one side, images flew around the womans’ eyes in dizzying circles. She knew she was observing a snippet from the past. In a history not belonging to her, she witnessed ten year old memories of a young Black man, spinning like a propeller. Then, the rotating stopped.

Instead of shapes blurring at the edges, the woman saw the frightened face of a pilot as he plummeted toward the ground. His aircraft looked old, a relic nestled in history. She understood then. The memory ricocheted noisily in her thoughts as she floated between existence and non-permanence. It was a World War II fighter plane. And the man — Aldridge, someone’s scream had eked the brave fighters’ name through his comms — was about to die.

Emilia: No! Please don’t crash! You are so brave!

Dark Blood #1 (Written by Layota Morgan, illustrated by Walt Barna, colored by A.H.G and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

She yelled fearlessly, a faint facsimile of a sentence ringing out nearly one hundred years too late. Like a blemished film strip, the images flickered. On the opposite side of the divide, another movie projected a narrative in muted noir tones. Avery Aldridge took center stage in this film again, but lines etched signs of age onto his face. His appearance was strong, ordinary even, as he walked out of a diner long after waning twilight hours. In this second glimpse of Aldridge’s life, she recognized the open landscape framed against Alabama’s star clustered skies.

A personal thought hung in her mind. The woman clasped the abrupt intrusion in her hands, a burning ember of recollection. Her mother — where was she born? Was she dead? Why did she leave her father? Grief pressed on her heart, multiplying further when she saw a man prowling behind Mr. Aldridge. Danger followed the Black man wandering alone through soundless streets in 1950s Alabama.

Across the cleave, Aldridge’s body hurtled from the air. Smoke and fire singed the sky behind him as planes dipped and weaved manically. She wondered how he could close his eyes while nosediving down past the clouds. When had he even jumped from danger, releasing his parachute? Simultaneously, a fiery bullet had ripped through Aldridge’s only means of safety as his eyes glowed white, while the ill-intentioned man confronted future Aldridge in an alleyway. The woman exhausted her lungs and screamed into the splitting void. Then, forces beyond her control sucked her into a red Volkswagen car parked on the opposite side of the alley.

Emilia: I’m here in a new world. Whatever is moving me through these alternate universes wanted me to see Aldridge in his future. That means he must have survived the crash! I need to write. Thank goodness for security in this journal. Books have never let me down.

Emilia’s Journal: The white man dressed in a black fedora and matching trenchcoat is gleaning information from the innocent man. I hear the white man ask Aldridge’s full name. Avery Aldridge answers every horrendous question this racist harasser thrusts upon him. Now he’s asking Avery about his time in the army. The army! I see the connection now between the dual memories I saw in the desolate void. What is so important about Avery’s escape from the plane? Avery’s a veteran now it seems, and this racist is not happy about it. I choose to stay inside, away from a world of people who can hurt me. Yet, if I did, I know I…would be left alone. No one would engage in an altercation with me because of my skin color. Avery…he doesn’t have that privilege.

The white man extracted a gun from his coat. Pointed firmly at Avery, the man demanded spoken recognition of Avery’s cowardice. But Avery was never a coward. As the woman knew, this incident was hardly the first time Avery had to peer upon the towering face of death. She watched Avery tremble, ragged panic shuttering his confidence. Seconds passed, and the white man escalated the degradation. As opposed to backing down, Avery refused to admit any fear. Ink scribbles formed crude words as the woman wrote furiously about Avery’s sudden domination of confidence.

Emilia’s Journal: Avery does not turn the other cheek; instead, he turns the racists’ words back upon him. The racist wants Avery to say he is scared, but Avery challenges and says that the white man should be scared! If only I possessed even a fraction of Avery’s self-assuredness, I could change the course of my life. I am shivering right now. An anxiety attack edges toward the precipice of my mind. I am so entrenched in sorrow that the terror Avery must be enduring is crushing me. It’s not fair for Avery! He is a soldier and a person undeserving of this treatment. Emotional wounding scars for life that will not be undamaged even if he makes it out of here alive. He remains unflinching as this racist piece of garbage spews hatred toward Avery.

Dark Blood #1 (Written by Layota Morgan, illustrated by Walt Barna, colored by A.H.G and lettered by Andworld Design) / Source: Boom! Studios

Without warning, the man pulled the gun’s trigger. Anguish poured out of the woman in anticipation, but the bullet never struck Avery. Avery deflected the predecessor to his death somehow. Her sorrow metamorphosed into fury when a slur slipped from the white predators’ lips. However, Avery commandeered the situation. White beams like sun rays inexplicably encircled around Avery’s body. The woman pounded her fists against the locked car door, exhilarated by the turn of events.

Emilia’s Journal: He has powers! Bricks and trash can lids and objects float in the air around Avery as the racist misses every single shot. And I felt my will to intervene nearly overpower my fear of people. This is an…odd sensation, but maybe I am changing? Death does not await this hero today, nor in his past. An invisible hand guides Avery’s destiny apparently. Could it belong to the same apparition affecting me?

In a twist of fate, the racist man screamed of monsters and ran into the street. How peculiar that the man so impelled to take the life of another crumples into a petrified child when his own mortality is endangered. Fate, destiny, whatever assigned term best describes Avery’s newfound awakening, altered him irrevocably. When a car struck the fleeing killer, the woman couldn’t ignore the thought of the irony.

Irony bends fate both forward and backward, though. She was well versed in the irony of her own life as a shut-in after her father’s passing from cancer wrought by the sun. She wrote of the instant Avery ran over to check on his bloodied enemy. Could she feel compassion for her enemies like that virtuous soul? The sun had tricked her father. It would not trick her too. Perhaps she’d jump worlds forever, suspended in an eternal life without consequences.

Hazy reflections of sunlight and damage scorched her head. She looked up and saw a gleam, distant and indistinguishable. She pondered if the sun was returning for her. An act of revenge felt too obtuse, and then the illusion of light warped. 

Emilia: How ironic. I crave…darkness again. 

Sleep stole her away.

Proctor Valley Road

They found themselves walking down an infinite spiral. There was nothing else around, nowhere else to go. They just had to keep walking down. But as the sun bathed them in light, they opened their eyes. The smell of grass, cooked meat, dusted pavement, and a little bit of far-away weed invaded their nostrils. It breathed the same as back home, except maybe less pollution. They woke up in a front yard of an abandoned house, where the wood croaked even with such a light breeze, the windows were all broken because of teenagers with something to prove, and its grass was starting to take on a brown shade. It felt forgotten.

Aimée woke up. This time, they didn’t complain or asked for things to go back to normal, nothing at all. They just stared at this new place, a bit tired, and got up. For a moment, as they impulsed their body up from the ground, they thought there was something behind the corner of the house, a distorted light, but they thought it was a sign they were still sleepy. The rest of the neighborhood was normal and boring, except for the house next to where they woke up. Aimée heard screamings coming from inside and walked discreetly to the window.

Aimée’s journal: There’s a birthday inside, but two girls are fighting. Huh, they appear to be cousins who have recently fought. Wait, their clothing seems old. I think I’m in the 70s. What if I accidentally step on something, and I end up being my grandparent? Time travel is weird, man. Maybe it’s not even my past.

The day continued, but Aimée stayed with one of the girls, August. Maybe to make things more simple or because she believed that it wasn’t all just a coincidence. She learned what happened to her; three kids disappeared, one of them is dead, the other two are still missing, and they’re blaming her and her friends, saying they helped them cross the border to avoid getting drafted. But the town didn’t know that the one to blame is a spirit haunting the place where the boys got lost, and August and her friends are trying to stop it. 

Aimée’s journal: August feels guilty because of everything that’s happened, so she’s about to face the ghost by herself. Shit, she has a bicycle. I’m gonna have to run.

While on the run, the night came. When August (And secretly Aimée) reached the place of destination, they discovered the other girls from their group went by themselves too. They agreed they should be together to hunt the ghost and apologized for fighting. One of them had a hint that convinced them it was hiding underwater, in the only place with a body of water in Proctor Valley Road.

Proctor Valley Road #5 (Written by Alex Child and Grant Morrison, illustrated by Naomi Franquiz, colored by Tamra Bonvillain and lettered by Jim Campbell) / Source: Boom! Studios

Aimée: Let’s hope I swim better than I think I do. Will the journal get wet if I take it with me? It isn’t a problem in video games, so I guess I’m gonna stick with that.

The group of friends got in the water, and Aimée followed them after a while. Even harder than they thought it was going to be, they had to open a submarine and get into it. But once they did, they found themselves in a courtroom. It would’ve been empty if not for the skeleton of a supposed judge. They kept going further into that place that felt outside of time and space, lost and undetectable to even higher powers. Then, when they left the room, Aimée got there.

Aimée’s journal: This place is creepy. Why am I even here? The fucking journal said write everything, not write everything about the worst possible people. If I’m not already dead, I’m gonna get myself killed!

As the just reunited friends kept walking, they suddenly encountered the witch. She tried to convince them to join her, although it was a fruitless attempt to deceive them, and they knew it. But she was still powerful, causing them to age decades in just minutes, and they didn’t have a plan to defeat her. They were filled with hopelessness, ready to face the fact that they had lost, and there was nothing to do. But in a turn of events, they held each other’s hands, and for a mysterious reason, they were able to revert the magic. Back to their young bodies, they got up, full of trust in themselves and one another, and sure they could do anything together. With their newfound power, they pushed the ghost into the cavern’s stalactites, killing her twice and for all.

Proctor Valley Road #5 (Written by Alex Child and Grant Morrison, illustrated by Naomi Franquiz, colored by Tamra Bonvillain and lettered by Jim Campbell) / Source: Boom! Studios

Aimée’s journal: Holy shit! That was so cool! And they also found the two missing kids! I wish I had friends like that to be in this crazy whatever-the-fuck-i-am. Minus the evil witch that killed a bunch of people, maybe.

As they reached the town and authorities, everyone met with their families, and the missing kids testified that the girls were not only not responsible for their disappearance but also that they saved their lives. Now, the world didn’t seem so unattainable for them. It was hard, but they could handle it.

Aimée’s journal: Well, it was a crazy ride. Possibly the craziest shit I’ve gotten myself into, but I guess it could be worse. Maybe this was all meant to happen. Maybe it was for the better that all of this happened to me. I wasn’t any good back then anyway. I’m so tired though; running and swimming are definitely not for me.


Klaus and The League Of Santas

We are joined by Ritesh Babu to do a deep dive into The League Of Santas in Klaus

Santa Claus as a superhero. That’s the fundamental premise of Klaus. And what do all superheroes have? A superhero team!

Grant Morrison has done The Doom Patrol. They’ve done The Justice League. They’ve done The X-Men. They’ve done Seven Soldiers. It is safe to say that they know their way around doing superhero teams. 

That people still hail the late ‘90s’ JLA revival by them and Howard Porter as the pinnacle of that title should be a hint. And historically speaking, Morrison has had a history of introducing a brand new superhero team in virtually every single superhero title they’ve done in some way shape or form. It holds true of their earliest works to the most modern, whether it be Zenith or Final Crisis. This is clearly a writer that loves an assembly of characters.

So it should surprise no one that eventually, inevitably, Morrison, alongside collaborators Dan Mora and Ed Dukeshire, would introduce a team of holiday heroes based around Christmas mythology. And it’s one that effectively distills down all the lessons and ideas Morrison’s applied to mainstream superhero teams for years. It’s one that has strands of everything they’ve done to date, whilst also being remarkably simple. It is Morrison doing to holiday folklore what they did to DC mythos.

The League Of Santas, originally formed on December 18th of 1951, is the united global alliance of gift-givers. Its riff on The Justice League ought to be obvious with that title, but it’s also at once The Club Of Heroes. It’s not just the assortment of the odd, different individuals, but also the global, international coalition of characters operating around similar central ideas, albeit with drastically different gimmicks and motifs.

But it’s also a conception of a big superhero team post-The Multiversity, the seminal work and concluding magnum opus of Morrison’s DC tenure. And there, as Grant does, they made another brand new super-team: The Justice Incarnate.

The Justice Incarnate, a multiversal S.O.S. response alliance, was very much Morrison’s explicit take on the question they’d been asked for over a decade: “What would Morrison’s Justice League look like now, in a modern era, as opposed to the ‘90s?”

And well, it’d look like this. It’d be, like their JL prior, very much a blatant riff on The Knights Of The Roundtable (they even have a literal roundtable), with the base as a Camelot-equivalent. But it’d also be bigger, spanning a membership of heroes from across the multiverse. And while that would be the case, its central line-up would be 9 members.

They wouldn’t be the typical post-Authority/Ultimates brand of super-team, the military task force that had grown popular. They would instead be closer to Cosmic Firefighters, putting out all the fires, answering S.O.S’, leaning into the most idyllic parts of noble knights with a code of honor and their grand quests to help the realm.

And that carries over into The League Of Santas big time. You’ll notice its prime membership is also just a solid 9. But beyond all of that, the other tangible strand of influence, very overtly, as it’s straight up in the title is this:

“The idea of Santa Claus is that he travels around the world giving people presents, but what happens when the world population grows to a point where he can’t handle it anymore? There’s too many kids — way too many kids! He can’t give them all presents. So we introduce these other versions of Santa Claus, the Middle Eastern version, a Russian version, a Communist version. That’s his personal League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, all these different Santa Clauses forming a team.” – Grant Morrison

The League Of Santas then is, ostensibly Morrison’s take on a conceit akin to The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While Victorian fiction and icons have long been Moore’s primary (not only) fascination, to the point that Moore did From Hell, a masterwork entirely dedicated to capturing the twilight of the 19th century (and thus, implicitly, the birth of the 20th), Morrison’s primary fascination has long been weird folklore. Thus, rather than the British icons, you get this international alliance of Santas, building some kind of weird superheroic unified theory of Christmas mythos.

And rather than being embroiled with the matter of Britain in the way the League due to its very nature of conception is, the Santas go broader, wider. Ages ago, Morrison said the following:

“The Justice League’s like The United Nations, The Avengers is like a Football Team, The Fantastic Four is a Family, The X-men are a School, and The Doom Patrol are a Therapy Group.”

This then begs the question: What is The League Of Santas? 

And the answer is simple: They’re a group of Imaginary Friends.

Now, you’re probably wondering ‘Well, all of the above are real things to analogize to, while Imaginary Friends aren’t!’. And you know what? Fair. But also, allow me to disagree. Imaginary Friends are real. They might not ‘exist’ in the way you or I do, in flesh and blood, and certainly, they’re made up, fictional. But a great many of us had them, whether it be pretending a toy or a teddy bear had some measure of sentience, some value, to making up a being. And things needn’t be ‘real’ in the rigid sense most mean to have value or an impact. 

“We all know that Santa Claus isn’t real. We get to a point as children where we know he’s not real. But then we grow up, and get to a point where we think, well, Santa Claus is real. We’ve known about him all our lives. Every year, we hear about this character. What is that character? What is that power we all understand? Every generation has their own version of it, but it’s real. Santa Claus doesn’t have to be physically real, because he’s emotionally real.

I’m fascinated by that idea. Even as a teenager, I remember sitting up and thinking, “I know Santa’s not real, but it’s Christmas eve, and I’m hearing bells in my head. Why am I hearing bells? I know Santa Claus isn’t real.” And then the understanding: Of course Santa Claus is real. He’s a real idea. Like Superman, like Batman, he’s an idea so powerful that we can’t destroy him by rationality. That’s magic.” – Grant Morrison

All of which is to say, they’re the Agents Of The Imaginary. They’re that lovely thing sustained by belief, spirit, and faith of children, of collective human imagination. The willingness to engage with that which we clearly made-up, because it makes us feel a certain way. 

In this sense, The League Of Santas are less akin to any proper superhero team published in Big Two comics, and much closer to Dreamworks’ Rise Of The Guardians:

They’re beings who face archetypal struggles on the imaginary plane, whilst also having a foot-hold in that which is ‘real’. They’re manifestations of our faith in certain notions, certain traditions, and assumptions. Closer to, say, The Endless, than The Avengers.

The Roster

First assembled decades ago, the team’s ranks have grown across the years since then. They’ve split up, shifted, had ups and downs. But regardless, their greatest high and low, their grandest adventure (and horror) remains The Lunar Civil War. A massive mysterious event, akin to The Time War, between two species native to The Moon- The Kobolts and The Moondogs- it’s one that changed them forever. 

Little is truly known about what occurred during their time there, except that they finally manage to stop the war after great effort. 

What follows is a look at its prime membership over the years:

[Note: Klaus, the primary Santa, our lead character, as well as Joe Christmas, his apprentice, both seen above, are not granted listed entries here. Christmas’ association with The League is akin to Robin and The Justice League, thus the absence of an entry, while Klaus is the lead character that needs no introduction or explanation.]

Ded Moroz/Grandfather Frost 

The Russian Santa, who resides in his icy palace-workshop, this is an iteration of the Santa myth that is ingrained into Russian culture, with roots going back to Slavic paganism. Everyone from Ukraine to Croatia ought to be familiar with the old Gramps as well, as the astonishing artist Dan Mora adheres pretty close to the classical design. He dresses in blue/white, with a symbolic star-staff to go with it. 

Grandfather Frost is a man that’s at once Science-Hero and The Pulpy Myth. Both Atom and Batman. Which is to say…he’s Jack Kirby Batman as Santa. Thus he doesn’t brood. He grins wide, he’s a big guy, he has super-artifacts made of mythic metals, and he’s the smartest dude in the room. His Workshop is very much a ‘What if 70’s Kirby drew Santa Claus while designing The Forever People?’, for even his super Santa-Mobile is a Kirybian vehicle.

As his glowing hammer and office indicate, Ded Moroz is a master builder and The Super Scientist Hero. From maneuvering dimensional rifts, cosmic portals, to size-shifting and super-healing surgeries, he’s your guy. Oh, and, as you’d expect from his title, he is an actual, literal Grandfather.


Snowmaiden is the granddaughter of Grandfather Frost, and his heir apparent. The super-partner, the Nightwing to Frost’s Batman, except imagine Nightwing truly got to truly level up and lead The Justice League. Or, if you enjoy your Doctor Who, much like Morrison does, she’s a Companion in the vein of, say, Clara Oswald. A true equal of the hero who helped raise her. She’s the mystical elemental hero who is a proper second-generation gift-giving immortal. There’s no one quite like her.

The basic way Morrison/Mora is effectively ‘What if someone like Diana, Wonder Woman, had been raised by Jack Kirby Bat-Santa?’, so you get a character with a spirit evoking Dick and Diana, who’s also something different. While lacking the historic roots of a figure like Ded Moroz, the Snowmaiden remains a lovely bit of folklore that’s fun to engage in.

Mus Gerila/Moș Gerilă/Father Frost

The Romanian Santa, who looks like Golden Age Superman, except better, because he’s shirtless. Father Frost is the eternally youthful-looking hero who couldn’t touch, for how else would a man go shirtless all the time, but especially during the winters of Christmas?!

He’s a character who started out as a propaganda figure to replace the previous title and iteration of Santa, as that was deemed to be too religious in its connotations by the communists in-charge at the time. Mora and Morrison recast him to be a hunky beefcake hero whose relevance is no more in his home region. But alas, that will not stop this gift-giver! 

And whereas Klaus has his Cosmic Sleigh for travel, Ded Moroz and Snowmaiden have their Santa/Snow-Mobile for travel, this Romanian good boy has a COSMIC TRACTOR. He drives about the cosmos on his stellar-tractor.

Father Christmas

Ah, the English Santa Claus! The Man In Green! Inspired by the renowned John Leech depiction of ‘The Ghost Of Christmas Present’, he’s got a wreath on his head, and he’s decked out in green, with his chest on full display.

Father Christmas asks the question ‘What If Volstagg The Voluminous was both English and The Santa Claus?’ which is a fair question to ask, given the history of Father Christmas (before the almost complete erosion of distinctions between him and ‘classic’ Santa Claus) as a figure of celebrating and feasting. The man was a party animal before all the stronger ties to youth kicked in. But nevertheless, Father Christmas possesses a gentle and fair soul, and his wrath is not to be earned. He’s just hoping everyone has a grand ol’ time.


The Santa from Finland! The tiny elder man, who rides a goat! He is The Transforming Hero of the team, for every super-team needs that. He’s the Shazam, the Hulk. The goat and the man are two parts of the singular being. Sums of a greater whole. And that blue energy surrounding them? It’s what emerges when they transform. 

With one magical act, the man and goat become one, turning into a sort of satanic, muscular goat-warrior. He’s the weary, grizzled, and grumpy figure of the gang. The goat-part of him specifically possesses the power of prophecy, which also comes in terribly handy, so Yule-Goat also operates as an oracle for the collective of gift-givers. (He and Gerila/Father Frost are good friends.)


Arguably the most sinister of the lot, Sinterklaas is the Dutch iteration of the Santa myth and one of the key foundations that informs the eventual whole. But I say the most sinister because across the series, his darkness is suggested at and implied, and in real folklore, he is the one with the most problematic companion possible. (Look up Zwarte Piet. Or uhh…don’t. You’ll be happier that way.)

Morrison and Mora nod at him being behind a sinister Days Of Future Past-esque event during the ‘80s, so little can truly be said of Sinterklaas beyond the fact that he is someone who the rest of the team works with, but cannot truly be certain of. He’s a man with his own agendas and plans, more so than any of his other fellow global gift-givers.

He rides a horse, and carries his question-staff, akin to Highfather, everywhere.


The Santa of the Basque tradition, he’s typically a pipe-sporting figure who loves wearing berets dearly and looks like a cross between a cabbie and a sailor at once. Little is known of him beyond that, as he’s one of the more distant members of the squad. Except, the real myth of Olentzero (and there are several, but we’re going with the one most congruent for this iteration) is a lot of fun, as it’s rooted in him being saved as a lad by fairy-spirits and raised by a couple. A man who then dies in a sacrificial act, in the story he is revived to be an immortal spirit of joy, much the way Klaus is!

Papa Nomuz/Papa Noël/Père Noël

The French Santa, who looks the most like a wizard of all the Santas! The good ol’ Papa of Christmas is a man who is typically seen with his trusty donkey, Gui. It’s his partner and ride of choice. Apart from that, the French figure most closely resembles the Russian favorite- Grandfather Frost/Ded Moroz, down to having his staff (which also doubles as a cane of sorts). And if a lot of the others represent the sort of more foxy visions of Christmas heroes, Papa very much staunchly remains the gaunt old man. He’s the most traditional looking of the entire crew, for the most part, as there’s not much of a radical redesign here. Mora only opts for minimalism and a few color tweaks to simplify the character and their look.

Papa is, alongside Olentzero, the one we’ve seen the least of, and thus know the least about, except that when the moment calls for it when he is needed: he is there. He can be counted upon.

And that’s it for our Christmas Coalition!

Never have gift-givers been this buff, fit, and hot, and for that we all thank Dan Mora.

Merry Christmas folks!

P.S- Here’s a handy little Klaus reading order/guide to help you out!