Marvel often gets around to producing a "Holiday Special" one-shot. I've seen 'em from 1991-1994, 1996, and now after what seems to me like an eight year gap, here's one from 2004.
Of course, when I was a young lad back in the fifties, we would have called this a "Christmas Special". These days, of course, we realise what a culturally insensitive faux pas that would be. These days, I still wish people a "Merry Christmas", but I'm equally delighted to receive a "Happy Hanukkah" in response, or even a "Kooky Kwanzaa" or a "Rightous Ramadan". Hey, I'm not fussy.
Hey, what the heck? Now, hang on a cotton-picking minute. All that stuff just back there, I didn't mean that I'm happy with people dicking around with Dickens! The story was "A Christmas Carol", not a freaking "Holiday Carol". Sheesh. Is nothing sacred? Hey, if you like the story, then use the story, but you can't just go screwing with it!
So, like, if you decided to base a story on an ancient Tibet legend, would you change all the names because the original names might offend people who aren't Tibetan? Gordon freaking Bennett. You rip off a work, then you rip off a work. Don't go and Bowdlerize it in the process. I'm gonna have to take a moment here to calm down before I can go on with the review!
Right, fine. Where were we. OK, this book has three stories in it. Only the first features Spidey. That's the "Jonah's Holiday Carol", which has Jonah at the Bugle, with everybody working Christmas Eve. Now, in my town, they don't run a paper on Christmas Day, or even Boxing Day. Sorry, I mean "on Holiday Day, or even the day after Holiday Day". But I have to assume that a busy city like New York runs a paper every day, yeah?
Anyhow, while Peter, Ben, etc. are down on the Docks covering a super-battle, Jonah takes a doze. Warned by the Green Goblin, he is then visited by the ghost of Christmas Past (Captain America), Present (The Thing), and Future (Spidey). Writer Tom DeFalco does a passable job, although Miyazawa's art reminds me of Marvel Age Spidey enough to make me feel uncomfortable.
The whole story is perfectly adequate, though there's a reference to Jonah's first wife being killed by "a masked gunman", which is clearly implied as being the basis for his hatred of Spidey. I don't recall having come across that one before. Did I miss an earlier reference to that in recent years?
John Jameson gets involved. No mention of his dating She-Hulk. Anyhow, the upshot is that Jonah gets enough "Holiday Spirit" in him to at least cover the cost of the Daily Bugle's "Holiday" party. Of course, the spirit vanishes when he sees the bill, but Jonah was always a tougher guy than Scrooge ever was.
The other two stories are a bit mixed. There's an X-Men story featuring Cyclops, Emma Frost, and some kid named Kevin. Cyclops and Emma are an item? Whew, guess I've been out of the X-Men loop for a while! Anyhow, that story is rather sickly sweet, and without redeeming features. The final story is a Fantastic Four tale which attempts to look at all the different things that people do over Christmas.
Actually, the FF story is rather interesting. It covers the Christian angle and the Jewish angle. It then looks at people who don't believe in any specific God, and instead implies that those people probably believe in some sort of generic "cosmic force", perhaps "Love". Of course, if you're an atheist, you'll probably be offended by the fact that the story seems to imply that the only unacceptable belief is to believe in nothing. But hey, atheists don't tend to declare holy war, so we don't worry about them too much.
In fact, the one big message that I take out of this comic is that U.S. popular culture is still really struggling with how to write these kinds of tales. Nobody dares say "Christmas", and instead, the writers just dance around the topics, desperate not to offend anybody. Naturally, the one thing you can guarantee is that if you try really hard to offend nobody, you probably won't please anybody!
What's also a real bummer is how this massive domestic emphasis on cultural sensitivity doesn't count for squat internationally. I guess wishing a Muslim a "Happy Ramadan" is all very well, but if they feel that they're getting a bit of a rough deal in the real world, then no amount of politically-correct comic stories is going to make a difference. And maybe that's the problem - maybe it's hard to write the stories because they're just words, and we know that there's so much more to be done in deeds before we can truly earn the right to pen those delicately-balanced and carefully-considered all-embracing sentiments.
You know, I think I can see why Marvel gave up on these "Holiday" books for a while. They're just too damned hard. If I was Joe Quesada, I'd forget December, and instead I'd do a "Saint Patrick's Day" special. Oh, hang on, what about "Rabbi Patrick", and "Dalai Lama Patrick". Oh, bugger it! Two webs. Bah Humbug!