Marvel Holiday Special (1991)
By the early 1990s the comic book industry was becoming inundated by investors. Promises of high returns for pennies on the dollar had outsiders taking a serious look at what before was considered juvenile entertainment.
Within a few years, the bubble would bust leaving us true believers wondering if the medium could continue. Thanks to some well-done animated series and successful toy lines, comic books would survive.
However, in the pre-bust days readers would have to solider on.
DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths had provided some interesting reboots and the soon-to-be christened Vertigo franchise was holding my interest. Todd MacFarlane’s much heralded arrival on Spider-Man was not. Nor, were many of the flash in the pan titles Marvel was pumping out.
What did catch my attention, aside from Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk, was the return of the Holiday specials. For the first time in 15 years, Marvel decided to unleash a Christmas-themed one-shot filled with original material.
Some of the stories are almost unreadable after all this time, but a few still hold up.
Marvel chose some unlikely stories from the bankable characters at the time including the Punisher and Ghost Rider, but it’s the stalwart stables Spider-Man, Captain America and X-Men who provide the real treasures.
Of course any mutant title at the time was hot. Chris Claremont had made the outcasts unheralded successes paving – and paying – for the continued publishing onslaught that had overtaken rival DC many years past.
Scott Lobdell, unofficial Marvel historian, dusted off X-Men 98 and provided a prequel before George Lucas invented the word with “A Miracle a Few Blocks Down From 32nd Street.” The talented scribe shamelessly hinted that even the mighty Santa may be a mutant.
More subdued and predating any reference to the Winter Soldier, Captain America relearned the meaning of Christmas in “Precious Gifts.”
The final gem is the last story in the book starring Spider-Man and Jolly J. Jonah Jameson in “A Spider-Man Carol.” Danny Fingeroth did his homework for this one.