Santa Claus is back, and he has a gun. And sunglasses. And cigarettes. – The Spectacular Spider-Man #112
The “Evil Santa” angle is a frequently probed outgrowth of Christmas-time. There have been roughly 1.7 billion cinematic takes on this subgenre, and they’ve mostly been unspeakably awful. A random yet prime example of the potential terribleness is Santa’s Slay, which had the wisdom to fuse the thespian talents of SNL alumnus Chris Kattan (Mango, Mr. Peepers, etc.) with those of professional wrestler Bill Goldberg. We’re talking direct to video dreck here, folks. The quarter bin of films.
Comics have had their share of this as well, and the Spider-Man mythos is no stranger to Santa Claus imposters (that terminology is a bit redundant, since all Santa Clauses are Santa Claus imposters when you get right down to it). Years ago on this very site we looked at one of the more memorable faux Santas, as Wilson Fisk donned red garb and a fake beard in a newspaper giveaway, only to comically (fitting) float up to the heavens by story’s end. Hard to top that. Yet here we go with another Spider-Man fake-Santa-palooza, this time in the web-slinger’s secondary ongoing title.
No, that’s not Frank Castle in a fake beard up there on the Kyle Baker cover, in deep disguise to break up a violent smuggling ring that’s infiltrated Toys for Tots or something. This time around (Script: Peter David, Pencils: Mark Beachum, Inks: Pat Redding) we have a department store Santa who’s actually a career criminal, using holiday duties as a front for scoping potential break-in targets. (Apparently background checks aren’t and never have been a priority when it comes to seasonal employment. Lesson: Be careful whose lap you sit on.) Our evil St. Nick has incapacitated and squirreled away the jolly old elf who was supposed to be listening to kids’ requests a couple of days before Christmas, and he intersperses their fondest desires (Optimus Prime and Stinkor are two of the 1980s toy buzzwords that grace these pages) with queries about where they live, what they have in the house, etc. And once the children leave with their folks, he dutifully records his intelligence on a notepad, while looking all sinister and stuff:
What’s Peter Parker up to just before Christmas? He’s having one of his usual mope-fests, which have always seemed to be an adjunct to his guiding “great power, great responsibility” bedrock. In this case it’s his difficulty in finding someone to spend Christmas day with that has him all hangdog. He calls up Aunt May, but some missed signals and misunderstandings leave him thinking that she already has plans. And this brings us up to the secondary focus of this comic book: women and their genitorectal regions. Seriously. This comic book repeatedly lingers on the backsides and general nether areas of the female members of Spider-Man’s universe. (I’d like to thank God that Aunt May was skipped.) Here’s Mary Jane, sudsing up in the bath as Peter rings her but hangs up before leaving a message:
Why not just strap up her legs and do a full gynecological exam?
An out of costume Felicia Hardy gets in on the call and hang up action, as she writhes and juts in a nightie cut real high:
Let’s take a break from the voyeurism and get to one of the most depressing moments in Spider-Man history. Here’s Peter Parker spending a quiet night half-dressed and talking to himself. Well, not himself — talking to something even more alarming:
Buck up, Pete, I too have had moments like this. “Happy Arbor Day, potted plant that I sometimes remember to water.” But pull yourself together, man. Peter talking to his black costume isn’t as depressing as Frosty the Snowman’s donkey story, but it’s a leading indicator of a superhero losing his marbles. Look at the care he took to arrange it so that it was ”sitting” in the chair. GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF. YOU’RE YOUNG, HAVE POWERS, A RECLINER AND A CABLE SPOOL COFFEE TABLE. LIFE ISN’T SO BAD. (We should note that having a cable spool coffee table can be chic, but it can also signify acute loser status. I think the latter is the case here.)
We now return to our regularly scheduled ladies’ hinders programming. Jordan, the boy whose info we saw fake-Santa jotting down, lives with his mother and her two roommates in an apartment that’s coincidentally (what a coincidence!) right next to Peter’s place. All three of the ladies also wear sleeping attire that makes it look like they could roll out of bed and walk right into a Flashdance music video, as we see when sinister Santa makes his move:
All this ruckus sets of the slumbering Peter’s Spider-Sense, and in no time Spider-Man crashes through a window and has bad Santa on the run. Our villain heads to the roof in his bid to escape, and once there he has an unexpected run in:
So he ran into the real Santa. Hey how about that. Let’s just hope it wasn’t Nick St. Christopher.
After this disappearing act, no one is more surprised than Peter to find out that the crook has shown up back at the scene of his original intelligence-gathering, with mended ways and armed with new gifts (Peter is stuck covering it for the Daily Bugle, which proves that he’s still getting the worst assignments at that paper despite working there for twenty-plus years):
What’s in the note?:
Santa knows all.
Peter David’s story, coming fairly early in his career, lacks the self-aware smarm that would mark some of his later output. This is a good thing. This is a dopey tale, but decent holiday fill-in material. I’m not sure what the hell was going on with all the gratuitous butts, though, and I only scratched the surface with the scans I included. There are many more if you’re so inclined to track this down — you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
And there you have it. Bad Santa, with a dollop of ass. MERRY CHRISTMAS.