The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which premiered on Disney+ last week, introduced somebody very special to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, for as holly jolly as Kevin Bacon might be, the Marvel Studios Special Presentation failed to canonize one of the greatest characters from Marvel Comics.
Santa Claus should’ve been in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
To be fair, we do get a glimpse of Santa in the Holiday Special. The Marvel Studios logo sequence that opens every MCU movie and show has been altered so that the letters that make up “Marvel” are filled with images from the comics of Saint Nick interacting with various superheroes. However, the special itself, which stars Drax and Mantis as they travel to Los Angeles to kidnap Kevin Bacon in order to give him to a Star-Lord as a gift to remedy his Christmas blues, features no appearance from Santa Claus. It’s a fine little special but you can’t help but feel that the MCU is leaving something on the table by not fully embracing the holiday spirit (and Marvel Comics tradition) by having Santa be a character.
Santa first appeared in Marvel Comics in a 1954 issue of Strange Tales, though the anthology story he featured in doesn’t resemble what we think of as the “main” Marvel superhero continuity. Father Christmas would make many, many appearances alongside Marvel’s superheroes in the decades to come, however.
Frequently, these appearances have had a snarky, funny spin to them — a vibe that would’ve fit well with James Gunn’s take on the Guardians of the Galaxy. In 1986 Santa appeared in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #112, where he confronted an armed robber who had been pretending to be Santa. In 1989, Santa appeared in Sensational She-Hulk #8 where he acted as a private detective who helped She-Hulk solve a case before flirting with her and getting dragged back to the North Pole by a jealous Mrs. Claus. In 2019, a bunch of naughty kids hired the Merc With a Mouth to assassinate Santa in Deadpool #7. Howard the Duck — a once-popular, now infamous Marvel character who made his MCU debut in Guardians of the Galaxy — met Santa in 1980. Captain America and Bucky supposedly saved Santa after Nazis kidnapped him in World War II.
Perhaps Santa’s most famous appearance came in 1991 in The Marvel Holiday Special where in the story “A Miracle a Few Blocks Down From 34th Street,” the X-Men discover that Santa is an Omega-level Mutant — the most powerful class of Mutants in the comics. (Santa defeats the Brotherhood of Mutants by turning them into action figures and then erases the X-Men’s memory of him.) Given that the MCU is toying with introducing Mutants to the continuity, as seen in Ms. Marvel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and an alternate reality in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, they should’ve gone further and made the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special another Mutant bread crumb by having Santa Claus do his thing.
The most comprehensive account of Santa’s role in Marvel Comics came in the 2006 Marvel Holiday Special, which features a prose entry in the Marvel Handbook all about Santa, which suggests that he is some combination of the historical Saint Nicholas, a figure from British myth named “Old Winter” and Odin himself made manifest. (Also he’s a Mutant, remember.) His powers are vast. He can teleport, travel through chimneys, transform people into inanimate objects, lift two tons (on Christmas), generate snow at will, and he always knows who is naughty and who is nice. Santa’s basically already a superhero, the comics just make that a bit more explicit.
The point is, there’s precedent for Santa Claus existing in the Marvel Universe. Perhaps there will be a future Marvel Studios Special Presentation that will give us the gift of a live-action Santa in the MCU. For now, we’ll have to settle for Kevin Bacon and the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which are better than a pair of socks but still not exactly what we wanted as a present. Alas.
Stream tons of holiday movies (many of which do feature Santa) on Peacock’s Hallmark Channel hub.