Sunday, December 18, 2005

Infinite Christmas

Fans of a certain age -- let's not be coy, my age -- remember the event twenty years ago that was supposed to set everything straight. In Christmas on Infinite Earths, the Anti-Santa sought to stop Christmas from coming, but was thwarted by a vast assemblage of heroes from across time and space. Who could forget the opening scenes of issue #1, as onetime toy deliverer Jack Skellington was obliterated by the Anti-Santa's wave of all-consuming ennui?

We thrilled to revisit classic team-ups like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman (the "Season's Finest"), and witness new alliances like Clarence the Angel and Charlie Brown, Emmett Otter and the Little Drummer Boy, and Clement C. Moore (or was it Henry Livingston?) and David Sedaris. The sight of Santa wielding both Ralphie Parker's Red Ryder BB Gun and Linus van Pelt's security blanket came off surprisingly well; and even though they were villains, it was still disturbing to see Scrooge, the Grinch, the Bumble, and a group of Martians lose their time-traveling battle to stop the 31st Century Santa-Bot from freeing the Anti-Santa. Finally, lest we forget, it was the Herdmans' and Misfit Toys' emotional plea to the Angel Gabriel that convinced him to intervene, thereby giving Santa the fighting edge he needed over his evil opposite.

Seems like Christmas preparations start earlier every year, but this year March had Countdown to Infinite Christmas, a one-shot which killed Yukon Cornelius and introduced four summer-spanning miniseries. Aside from fueling speculation that Buddy the Elf would become the new Cornelius, it was all a big buildup to the current holiday apocalypse. Along the way, Santa's army of helpers got turned into killer cyborgs and put everyone on the "naughty" list; a weird spatial anomaly opened up over the North Pole; a duplicate Scrooge was revealed; and Clarence was seduced by Eclipso, who in turn was defeated by the Nutcracker. Yeah, I didn't understand that last one either.

So now Infinite Christmas is here, revealing the original Saint Nicholas' plan to restore the holiday to its religious roots and have folks "keep Christmas all year 'round." I have to say, Geoff Johns and Phil Jiminez certainly treat Nick reverently, even if objectively he is the villain of the piece. Although the chaos he kicked off was entertaining, the Anti-Santa wasn't much more than a scary plot device.

It's also tempting, in the face of rampant Christmas commercialism, to applaud such a back-to-basics approach. Nostalgia is essentially a rebellion against the perpetual march of time, and the fact that Christmas comes at the end of every year just makes nostalgia for its traditions more powerful. Who wouldn't want to have a few more child's-eye holidays, when two weeks of vacation could start with a leisurely walk home from school under slate-grey clouds fat with snow -- when the wind wasn't cold but bracing, and your only responsibilities were to keep your nose clean and your questions to yourself until the morning of December 25?

And yet the most powerful aspects of Christmas, anticipation and hope, are always with us. Early Christian public-relations gurus knew what they were doing when they scheduled Christ's birth celebrations around the winter solstice, because the darkest time of the year is perfect for ushering in the light.

A slightly twisted version of that approach is on display in Infinite Christmas. We know that Rudolph, Santa, and Frosty will become friends again. We know the reindeer will reunite (and in their absence, Earth-2 sleigh-pullers Dunder and Blixem can help pick up the slack). We know that as with every new year, change is inevitable, but perhaps only incremental; and nothing we can't handle.

When I was a kid I got excited over a few weeks of vacation from school. As I grew up I learned to keep hope alive all year. Even if I don't have a long vacation anymore, Christmas still gives me a bit of a break. Like the song says (watch out for the auto-play music past the link):

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Happy Holidays, blogosphere!

(P.S. The GLX-Mas special was brilliant.)


Ragnell said...


Mark "Puff" Anderson said...

Let me guess...

Eggnog fueled parody...




Jim Roeg said...

:) Awesome. Merry Christmas, Tom!

Diamondrock said...

Purely brilliant. I am awestruck.

googum said...

Newsarama linked over here, and I'm grateful for it. Good stuff!