When She-Hulk Met Santa Claus! – A “What Christmas Means To Me” Reflection

A few years ago, Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means To Me” came on as I listened to Christmas carols while decorating.  It led me to reflect (reflectin’ and decoratin’ and dancin’ to Christmas carols made for a great night!) which in turn led to a series where I ruminated on what Christmas means to me, using various Doctor Who Christmas specials as a frame for the reflection.  It turns out – just like Stevie sings about, “All these things and more, darling (all these things and more)” – Christmas means a lot of things to me, too!  ‘Tis the season for me to watch and read Christmas-y things and write about all Christmas means to me.  First up this year is The Sensational She-Hulk #8.  For many, writer/artist John Byrne’s quirky, eccentric, fourth-wall demolishing version of Jen Walters/She-Hulk is the definitive version of the character.  Keeping in line with the wacky and unpredictable hijinks of the title, its eighth issue saw Shulkie literally team-up with Santa Claus to convict a serial killer.  Nothing says “Christmas” like a ho-ho-homicide conviction!

I’ve just realized, while each time I write about She-Hulk: Attorney at Law I say how much I’ve always loved She-Hulk as character (even more than I love Bruce Banner/the Hulk) ever since I was a kid, I’ve never actually written about She-Hulk in the comics.  Well, we’re changing that now – HUZZAH!

After a few issues in space, the comic opens with She-Hulk returning to Earth.  She parks her newly-souped-up-for-interstellar-travel ’57 Chevy and begins to go through her mail and check her answering machine messages as she settles back into life on good ol’ terra firma.  Jen has a message from legal secretary, Louise “Weezi” Mason (the Golden Age hero the Blonde Phantom, Jen’s best friend, and the only other character in the comic who breaks the fourth wall as Jen does).  Back in issue #4, Jen accepted a job with the D.A. Blake Tower’s office but, due to her space adventures, had yet to take a case.  She’s called in to prosecute a serial killer accused of seven murders, “the slimiest snake to ever crawl out of the Outback,” according to his defense attorney.  However, as the defense attorney tells Jen, “But that doesn’t deny him the right to due process and the evidence against him is entirely circumstantial.  Unless your people can come up with something concrete within forty eight hours I’m going to move to have the whole case dismissed.”  There’s only one thing to do.  She-Hulk teams up with the World’s Greatest Detective!  No, what?  Not any flying rodent-themed character.  Don’t be silly.  It’s Santa Claus!  Santa is the World’s Greatest Detective, obviously!

Since he knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you’re awake, his entrance is classic Santa.

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After an all-nighter working on the case, Jen’s phone rings moments after she wakes up at her desk. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

His appearance though, is a little less classic (unless you take “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” literally) as he, presumably, gooses Jen on the street by way of announcing himself.

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This…uh, this is not how I imagine Santa saying, “Hello, nice to meet you.” :8 / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

It’s worth noting, Byrne’s run on The Sensational She-Hulk was quirky, funny, wild, and weird (as having Santa show up as a guest star to help Jen convict a serial killer illustrates!) but he also seemed to fetishize She-Hulk in a very direct, at times uncomfortable way (at least reading the comics today…I don’t remember how it felt in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s).  Almost every issue has Jen gratuitously in bed or stretching or showering or changing or on the beach or striking some sort of pin-up pose or all of the above.  She and Weezi break the fourth wall to tease Byrne about the “cheesecake” shots but acknowledging it doesn’t temper or change it and She-Hulk feels overtly fetishized in these comics, even as she has amazing adventures.  So Santa goosing Jen and then continuing to playful hit on her is very on-brand (and even a little tame) by Byrne’s standard on the book. 

So, a little butt-pinch kicks off their meeting and then Shulkie and Santa, calling himself Nick St. Christoper, are off to employ all sorts of Christmas-y, Santa-ish tools of the trade in the search of concrete evidence to put our unnamed Aussie serial killer behind bars.  After assuring her he “always knows who’s been naughty…and nice,” Nick goes with Jen to the killer’s home and they sneak in through the chimney in search of evidence!

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I have spent A LOT of time imaging what it would be like to enter a house via the chimney but, honestly, who hasn’t?? / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

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I love how, even after everything she’s seen working with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Jen’s still thrown by Santa magic :). / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Worried about what they find being admissible, Jen calls Blake to get a search warrant and, once she hears the sirens announcing the police’s impending arrival, she worries about how they’ll get out.  Nick assures her they can get out the same way they came in.  Laying a finger aside of the nose…and all that ;D.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Despite their jolly investigations, the judge is less than impressed.  Jen doesn’t have any evidence to tie the killer to the apartment, as its leased in someone else’s name.  Then we have a – SURPRISE!  AHH! – plot twist.  Blake asks Jen if Nick could be the killer!!!  What??  Santa Claus a serial killer?!? 

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

I mean, he isn’t obviously.  He’s Santa.  When Jen presses him on his identity, he whisks her away to Australia, the person who holds the lease, and all the concrete answers she needs to make sure the killer gets locked up.  It’s a Christmas miracle!

So why did I choose this for my little Christmas reflections series?  I mean, other than the glaringly amazing fact of this being the story where She-Hulk meets Santa Claus and they team-up to solve crimes together.  Well, one of the things Christmas means to me is justice

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Nick was right; I had already figured out who he was. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

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Yes, this does make me hope there’s a future holiday episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law where Jen teams up with Santa. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Admittedly, even for someone who has taught theology for over a decade and has formally studied this stuff for over twenty years, justice is not the first thing I think of when I think of Christmas.  Heck, it’s probably not even in the Top Ten.  But it should be.  However, in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with shopping, decorating, watching Christmas specials and reading Christmas books (and Christmas comic books (like the comic where She-Hulk teams up with Santa!!!)), alongside the more quiet moments found in time with loved ones, a warm feeling in the air, finding (for whatever reason) it’s a little easier to touch that loving place inside ourselves and let the love we feel for all those special to us flow out as it binds and bonds us a little tighter, I find justice can be easily overlooked. 

From a Christian perspective, Christmas is first and foremost the feast celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  Now, we have no way of knowing what day of the year Jesus was actually born on.  This is forever lost to history.  But the Christian Church made an intentional choice in placing the feast of Jesus’ birth on December 25th.  The 21st is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  This means every day after the 21st is a little bit brighter than the day before.  So placing the feast of Jesus’ birth on December 25th is a reminder of who Jesus is for Christians.  Jesus brings light to the darkness.

Justice for all is a central feature of this light.  Jesus’ mission and message centered on the Kingdom of God, our world radically transformed in the image of God (which we see in how Jesus’ teaches his followers to pray in the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” – the Kingdom is about making earth like heaven).  This Kingdom, this new world, is a world created by and made of unconditional love for all, nonjudgment, total giving and no ownership, nonviolence, honesty, community, and letting God work through our actions to bring it all into being.  This world is first and foremost for the poor, oppressed, and everyone living on the margins of society.  We see this in Luke’s nativity story where Jesus is born in a manger.  He is born without a roof over his head and the first to receive the good news and see Jesus are the shepherds, the poorest of the working poor (at that time in the ancient world, being a shepherd was as poor as you could be and still have a job).  When the angel tells the shepherds, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people,” it is intentional on the author of Luke’s part that these tidings of great joy go first to the poor.

So Christmas, at its heart, should be a celebration of tidings of great joy for those living in poverty, those who are hungry, all those who find themselves marginalized in our society for any number of reasons – racism, sexism, ageism, weightism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, acephobia, xenophobia, and this punitive attitude to the poor.  A world where all these fears, prejudices, borders, boundaries, hierarchies, and divisions are erased is the world Jesus came to create.  This is the Kingdom of God, with God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven, a world of justice for all

Isn’t it weird and wonderful that a comic book about She-Hulk teaming up with Santa Claus to find concrete evidence which would be admissible in court to convict a serial killer at Christmastime would be the comic book story I read which helps me remember this?  I’d bet John Byrne wasn’t thinking about leading me towards a beautiful little epiphany/reminder about what Christmas should mean to me when I reread his comic thirty-two years after it was first published.  But that’s one of the beautiful things about art and about stories in general – you never know where they will take you, even if it’s a story you’ve read many times before.

For She-Hulk, after she gets her conviction, the story takes her to confront Nick.  She’s ready for answers – the real, full, straight truth – about the identity of Nick St. Christopher, the World’s Greatest Detective.  And, lending truth to the idea that maybe we should interpret “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” literally and not as a cutesy story about a kid catching his parents making out on Christmas Eve as they put his presents under the tree, Nick goes back to puttin’ the moves on Jen!  Something Mrs. Claus puts a stop to herself once she shows up!

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This sort of reminds of this time I was on a date with a girl and she wanted to get her picture taken on Santa’s lap while we were at the mall ( we were in our early twenties at the time) but that’s a story for another time… / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

So there you go, dear reader, the story of when She-Hulk met Santa Claus!  With all it can teach us in mind, as we celebrate the next month, uh, may all the butt-pinches we get be consensual, may all the invitations we receive to enjoy being young and alive be welcome, and may no jealous partners leave reindeer shit in our homes.  That’s, hmm, no.  I can do better than that.

More importantly, may the holiday season be a beautiful reminder to all of us of the blessings and comforts we have as well as a call to remember and stand with all those who don’t have the same blessings and comforts we do.  Let it be a merciful season of justice for all, and to all a goodnight!          

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Nick also gives Jen a gift while they are investigating the murderers apartment but it isn’t opened for almost thirty issues!!! Jen won’t open her present until The Sensational She-Hulk #36! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

If you’re in the mood for more pop culture reflections on what Christmas means to me check out:

A Very Doctor Who Christmas “Voyage of the Damned” to find the Tenth Doctor on board a spaceship version of the Titanic seemingly destined to meet the fate of its namesake and read about how Christmas means happily holding layer upon layer of meaning, religious and secular, cultural and personal, accumulated over thousands of years.

A Very Doctor Who Christmas “A Christmas Carol” to see the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond, and Rory Williams’ version of the Dickens’ classic play out on Sardicktown in the year 4398 – with flying sharks! – and ponder how Christmas means a time to be with those we love and celebrate all the ways we are connected, over the holiday season and always.

A Very Doctor Who Christmas “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” to see my stirring defense of one of Doctor Who’s most derided Christmas specials (I don’t care what anyone says I LOVE IT and I think it’s one of Doctor Who’s BEST CHRISTMAS SPECIALS EVER) where the Twelfth Doctor and Nardole’s adventure is basically Doctor Who + a superhero movie + a Hallmark movie = a reminder that Christmas means improbably happy endings.

A Very Doctor Who Christmas Titan Comics’ The Thirteen Doctor Holiday Special which follows the Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham as they travel to the North Pole at the urging of an elf to try and rescue Santa’s workshop from the tyrannical rule of Krampus and illustrates how Christmas means believing.

Harley Quinn and Chaos for Christmas! in Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1 has all the holiday hallmarks we know and love – dozens of pets in need of adoption, a child acting up, breaking and entering, family drama, and an ax hungry for blood being wielded during Christmas dinner – which, naturally, all shows how Christmas means magic.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special drops us in the midst of Peter Quill, Nebula, Rocket, Groot, Astro, Kraglin, Mantis, and Drax rebuilding Knowhere when Mantis and Drax decide they need to find the perfect Christmas gift for Peter which reminds us all Christmas means presents in the best possible way!

The Star Wars Holiday Special looks at the SINGLE MOST MALIGNED STORY in alllllll of Star Wars history, canon, and pop culture, and I argue there’s something good, something special mixed up in that mess.  This shows us how Christmas means family time, awkward and uncomfortable as well as the fun and joyful.

3 thoughts on “When She-Hulk Met Santa Claus! – A “What Christmas Means To Me” Reflection

  1. This She Hulk meets Santa story is pure gold, and perfect for the holiday seasons. I’ve always liked the character of She Hulk, Jen us such a versatile character and lots of fun as well. I’ve read a few of your other Christmas issues suggestions as well, especially the Doctor Who issues. For me though, It never feels quite like its properly Christmas until I’ve watched `Batman Returns. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why don’t people discuss ‘Batman Returns’ when they talk about Christmas movies like they do ‘Die Hard’?? Is it because no one thinks of it as a Christmas movie…or because EVERYONE clearly already knows it is? That is an excellent choice! And I’ll always wonder what Gotham would’ve looked like if Tim Burton and Michael Keaton kept going.

      And yes! She-Hulk is such a versatile character. I don’t know that she always gets the credit she deserves there, either. Everyone always talks about Deadpool but She-Hulk was doing it for ages before him!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my Christmas choices, too :). Great minds think alike and all that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, know what you mean. For me Batman Returns is an essential Christmas must see. I watch it every year, usually while wrapping presents. Gets me in the mood for the holiday season. I guess we and only imagine what Batman Forever would’ve been like if Burton had consinuted with the films. I always think it’s a shame his Superman Lives never got made either, especially with Brainiac / Spider thing as a main villain. I have a feeling that would’ve tuned out quite good.

        Liked by 1 person

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