Comics and Christmas go together like milk and cookies laid out for Santa. It’s not so much an opinion anymore so much as a near-indisputable fact, as evidenced by holiday-themed comics from around the globe gracing the shelves of comics shops and news vendors for almost a century. (Famous Funnies #5, generally assumed to be the first Christmas comic book, was released in 1934.)
Admittedly, sci-fi comics and Christmastime may not have always had a direct connection, but despite that, iconic British anthology and self-styled Galaxy’s Greatest Comic 2000 AD remains one of the true joys of the holiday season each and every year, having melded their thrill-powered, bad-ass sci-fi strips and Christmas kitsch together for more than four decades.
While Tharg the Mighty, 2000 AD’s polystyrene-cup-eating, egomaniacal, all-powerful and thrill-packed editor, may not hail from Earth according to the magazine’s lore – he’s from Betelgeuse, if you’re wondering; maybe they celebrate Christmas there, as well – he’s nonetheless done a mighty fine job of curating trusted art droids to handle the job of holiday cheer catering to human feelings every year.
(That’s not a knock on the many talented artists whose work has appeared in 2000 AD across the decades, by the way; “art droid” is the traditionally accepted term used to refer to artists in the comic’s own mythology, where everyone working on it is a droid of one kind or another. Well, with the exception of the clearly alien, living, Tharg, obviously. It’s used with no small amount of affection, especially by the “droids” themselves.)
Sure, American comics often have the schmaltz and schlock of the holiday seasons on lock, especially when it comes to inserting Santa as a superhero among the caped crusaders, but few publications in comics history have given into the true spirit of holiday right there on the cover like 2000 AD and its sibling title Judge Dredd Megazine. Since some of the very earliest progs, the covers of the weekly anthology have brought good tidings in a way that only a truly thrill-powered holiday can: with the many characters under it’s umbrella reigning terror over the season, with big boots, rabid Krampuses, and home-invader Santa robots feeling delightfully par for the course instead of a one-off play for holiday audiences affections.
Though the anthology clearly had it’s too-cool-for-Christmas humbug decade where the themed covers didn’t grace the news stands between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s, the comeback was nothing short of spectacular. Each December, Tharg once again stands front and center for the festivities in special year-end issues of both 2000 AD and the Megazine that traditionally feature at least one seasonally-themed story laced with the dark humor that makes both titles such a pleasure to read.
With artists like Mick McMahon, Carlos Ezquerra, John Higgins, Chris Weston, Eric Bradbury Colin MacNeil, Cliff Robinson, and Alan Davis contributing appropriately festive cover illustrations across the last 44 years, there’s little denying the fact that when it comes to the packaging of holiday cheer, 2000 AD has been coming out on top for nearly half a century. Here’s to many more years sharing goodwill to every spug, futsie, and drokker out there.