- “The Santa Contract” from Hitman #22 is a satire of typical Christmas stories, featuring a hitman tasked with eliminating a deadly Santa Claus.
- Tommy Monaghan is not your typical superhero or villain but a hitman with low-level superpowers.
- Batman makes an appearance in the story, and his absence is humorously explained with a page showcasing what he is busy doing during the events of the comic.
It’s our yearly Comics Should Be Good Advent Calendar! This year, the theme is the Greatest Christmas Comic Book Stories Ever Told! I had you all vote for your all-time favorite comic book Christmas stories and I collected all the votes, and now I am counting down the results! Each day will spotlight the next story on the list as we count down from #24 all the way to #1!
Every day until Christmas Eve, you can click on the current day’s Advent Calendar post, and it will show the Advent Calendar with the door for that given day opened, and you can see what the “treat” for that day will be! You can click here to see the previous Advent Calendar entries.
The drawing for this year’s Advent Calendar, of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Wolverine celebrating Christmas together is by Nick Perks.
And now, we open the sixth door on the calendar…
as we continue the countdown with #20 on the list, 1997’s “The Santa Contract,” from Hitman #22 by writer Garth Ennis, penciler John McCrea, inker Steve Pugh, colorist Carla Feeny and letterer Willie Schubert, where Tommy Monaghan has to carry out a hit on…Santa Claus?!
We continue our countdown of your picks for the greatest Christmas comic stories with a look at Batman haunted by his Christmas past
What was the Simpsons connection to Hitman’s twisted Christmas issue?
Hitman was a strange comic book. In 1993, both DC and Marvel decided to use its Summer annuals to launch brand-new characters. However, this being right at the peak of Image Comics becoming a big deal with its brand-new superheroes created and owned by the writers and artists behind them, it was a hard time to get comic book creators to give over their new creations to DC and Marvel (honestly, it has generally ALWAYS been a difficult thing to get comic book creators to create new characters, even before the Direct Market success of Image Comics in the 1990s and smaller indie publishers in the 1980s, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Roy Thomas, for instance, famously adapted an established Marvel character, the Vision, rather than create a new character for the Avengers.
In any event, as a result, those annuals tended to not have very many notable new characters in them, but a notable exception was the 1993 The Demon Annual, where the then-new creative team on The Demon, writer Garth Ennis and artist John McCrea, introduced a new character, although instead of the typical superheroes and supervillains that other creators were introducing, Ennis and McCrea’s character, Hitman, wasn’t actually a superhero or villain, per se. He was literally a hitman, only now, due to an alien attack that rearranged his DNA, he also had superpowers (low-level telepathy and “X-ray vision”). So when Tommy received his own series by Ennis and McCrea, he pretty much went about his regular life, although he would often get sucked into some bizarre storyline. Ennis and McCrea used the book to mostly make fun of superhero comics.
Therefore, as you might imagine, the Christmas issue for the series, in Hitman #22, was very much a satire of typical Christmas stories. Titled “The Santa Contract,” you could tell right off the bat that this was going to be a weird one (well, actually, the cover shows Tommy putting a gun in the mouth of Santa Claus, so you actually knew before you even opened the comic) because Ennis has also decided to narrate the story like Dr. Seudd’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas…
The story kicks off when a janitor at a nuclear power plant is accidentally knocked into a tank by one of the employees dressed as Santa Claus for the plant’s Christmas party. The Janitor emerges, now with radiation superpowers. At first, he thinks that he could be a superhero, but he soon discovers that his touch dissolves people, so he decides that he’ll just have to become a supervillain, instead. He kills the man who knocked him into the vat, and dons his Santa Claus suit and heads into Gotham City to go on a killing spree.
Amusingly, the plant’s owner and his subordinate are obviously Montgomery Burns and Waylond Smithers from The Simpsons. …
They hire Tommy to eliminate this deadly new threat.
An interesting aspect of Hitman was the fact that it was set in Gotham City, so Batman is nominally running around the city, although the comic book typically ignored that aspect of things. Here, though, Ennis actually explains away Batman’s absence with an amusing page showing what Batman is busy doing during all of this…
So it comes down to just Tommy and his best friend, and ally, Natt the Hat, to save the day.
We continue our countdown of your picks for the greatest Christmas comic stories with a look at a Thanos Christmas secret
What strange Christmas message did the issue end with?
Of course, the problem is that all Tommy and Nate have to work with is that they have to kill a deadly Santa Claus. So there is an amusing sequence where the guys just sort of attack random Santa Clauses…
Eventually, though, they track down the actual villain, and after a pitched battle, the two are able to disable him by hitting them with their car. The villain then tries to appeal to their good hearts, by arguing that he was driven to do this by some awful circumstances. Tommy and Natt are used to these sorts of pleas, and just kill him anyways…
Back at their local bar, Natt gives Tommy a “cops and robbers” toy set, as a joking reference to Tommy’s delicate relationship with a Gotham City cop.
The issue ends with a delightfully bizarre “Christmas lesson” from Ennis to the readers, basically suggesting that you should be a good person, and if you’re not, well, you might get two to the back of the head…
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