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Marvel’s Merry Mutants: 15 X-Men X-Mas Tales

by  in Lists, Comic News Comment
Marvel’s Merry Mutants: 15 X-Men X-Mas Tales

More than any other superhero squad, the X-Men are about community. While teams like the Fantastic Four center around biological families, Marvel Comics’ mutant team is built around the family you chose to surround yourself with. While the last few years have seen the X-Men split into various factions, the idea of a family of outcasts built around hope remains a powerful message at the franchise’s core.

RELATED: All 12 Doctor Who Christmas Specials Ranked

Like many families, the X-Men come together around the holidays to celebrate, reflect and battle intergalactic threats. Now, in the spirit of the season, CBR is taking a look back at some of the X-Men’s X-Mas tales. While it might seem like an odd fit based on a forced Christmas pun, the X-Men have appeared in over two dozen yuletide tales. This list features a selection of stories, in no particular order, that follow Marvel’s merry mutants during the merriest time of the year.

15. Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas

animated-x-men-christmas-special

Like any good cartoon characters, the X-Men saved Christmas in one of the least action-packed episodes of “X-Men: The Animated Series.” On December 23, 1995, “Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” premiered, coming shortly after “Beyond Good and Evil,” a massive multi-part saga originally designed as a finale for the iconic 1990s cartoon. While “cool-down” stories after major storylines are common in comics, they’re rarer in adventure cartoons like this one.

After encountering some Morlocks during a last-minute shopping trip, Wolverine, Storm and Jubilee descend into the sewers to find the young mutant Leech in failing health. After a healing factor-laced blood transfusion from Wolverine saves their friend, the X-Men decide to spend Christmas in the sewers with their less fortunate allies. While this sweet-but-predictable main story takes up most of the show’s runtime, the episode also features some lighter moments at the X-Mansion, where Beast makes an exploding cranberry sauce and Cyclops fails to carry a tune. The best of these asides follows an increasingly heated argument between Jean Grey and Gambit over how to correctly prepare a Christmas dinner.

14. A Miracle A Few Blocks Down From 32nd Street

marvel-holiday-1991

Thanks to the opening of 1976’s “X-Men” #98, by Chris Claremont, Dave Cockrum and Sam Grainger, the original Phoenix Saga could arguably be called a Christmas story. While those pages depict the X-Men enjoying a winter night out at Rockefeller Center, “Marvel Holiday Special 1991” shows the unusual way they got there in a delightful short adventure.

In Cockrum, Scott Lobdell and Joe Rubinstein’s “A Miracle A Few Blocks Down From 32nd Street,” the All-New, All-Different team are sent to investigate a new mutant detected by Cerebro at a mall. While there, the young team encounters the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. During the ensuing skirmish, with villains like Toad and Unus the Untouchable, the mutants meet Santa Claus. After defeating the Brotherhood with the strange but fitting power to turn people into toys, the mutant who identifies himself as Kris Kringle sends the X-Men to Rockefeller Center and gives them a snowy evening. In a nice touch, Cockrum ends the story with a direct homage to his first page of “X-Men” #98.

13. Between the Cracks / Yes, Jubilee There Is a Santa Claus

generation-x-holiday-specials

A few years after that encounter, Santa Claus met another young group of mutants in 1998’s “Generation X Holiday Special.” Led by the explosive Jubilee, “Generation X” followed a new group of teenage X-trainees for most of the 1990s. In one of that group’s earliest adventures, “Generation X” #4 by Scott Lobdell, Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham, they battled with a redesigned X-villain called Orphan Maker. Working on behalf of a villain called Nanny, the Orphan Maker tried to use a powerful suit of armor to kill the human parents of mutant children in a wintertime tale.

In the 1998 special, “Yes, Jubilee There Is a Santa Claus,” Joseph Harris and Adam Pollina followed up on that story with a loose sequel. After a failed attempt to kidnap a young mutant named Matt, Orphan Maker kidnaps most of Generation X on Christmas Eve. While trying to protect Matt, Jubilee meets Santa, who reaffirms his status as a mutant. While the rest of the team gets free, Santa defeats the childlike villain by telling him there was still time to get onto the nice list.

12. Hark, How The Bells!

x-men-165-santa-beast

While writing the core X-Men titles for over 15 years, Chris Claremont largely defined the X-Men through his singular voice. While he’s come and gone from the franchise since his initial tenure, Claremont has always excelled at writing stories where the X-Men spend time together off-duty. With 2005’s “X-Men” #165, Claremont re-teamed with his old “X-Treme X-Men” collaborator Salvador Larroca and inker Danny Miki to tell a stand-alone Christmas tale.

“Hark, How the Bells!” opens with the X-Men responding to a local car accident. After dealing with the situation, the comic follows various members of the extended X-family as they prepare to celebrate the holidays at the Xavier Institute. After a massive snowball fight breaks out, Beast, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey show up to hand out presents while dressed as Santa and his elves, respectively. As a fill-in issue between two story arcs, the book also does a little bit of place-setting showing Gambit regaining his vision after being blinded a few issues earlier. After a concert from longtime X-Men ally Lila Cheney, this low-key tale ends with a fireworks show from Jubilee.

11. Christmas Fear

juggernaut-santa

Although the original incarnation of “Generation X” was only published for seven years, the team celebrated four Christmases, a remarkable number by comic book standard. In between the two aforementioned Orphan Maker tales, Emma Frost spent Christmas Eve with Jubilee, Husk and M in 1997’s “Generation X” #24. Near the end of Jay Faerber’s fun run as the title’s writer, the teen team celebrated one last X-Mas before a dark revamp.

In “Generation X” # 60-61, by Faerber, Terry Dodson and Kevin Sharpe, the young mutants celebrate their time off from the Xavier Institute-affiliated Massachusetts Academy by having a snowball fight while the school’s headmaster Banshee broods about his villainous cousin Black Tom. While wrapping Christmas presents, the kids are attacked by Mondo, a thought-dead former student who betrayed the group. After Black Tom and his partner Juggernaut have a decent fight with the team, Tom explains how Mondo avoided death in an exposition-heavy sequence. Unsurprisingly, Generation X regained the upper hand and sent the villains running at the end of this cartoony Christmas adventure.

10. When Strikes a Gladiator!

cannonball-gladiator

After a lon,g universe-shattering conflict with Onslaught, a mega-villain who embodied Professor X’s dark side, the X-Men needed some time off. In one of a few excellent cool-down stories, Scott Lobdell, Joe Madureira and Tim Townsend told what was billed as “a decidedly different X-Men tale” in 1997’s “Uncanny X-Men” #341.

This excellent issue opens with an homage to the Rockefeller Center page from “X-Men” #98. While Rogue and Joseph, an amnesiac clone of Magneto, spend a romantic Christmas Eve together flying over New York, the young mutant Cannonball takes the spotlight in “When Strikes a Gladiator!” After Gladiator appears looking for the X-Men in the middle of a toy store, Cannonball has a kinetic battle with the Shi’ar Imperial Guardsman. Facing impossible odds, the young mutant drives his foe to the brink of defeat before the other X-Men arrive. After the fight, Gladiator requests the X-Men’s assistance and sends everyone but Cannonball into space, sparing his opponent due to his youth. Years later, Cannonball would eventually marry Smasher, the first human member of the Imperial Guard and ironically live in Shi’ar space for some time.

9. Gifts!

x-factor-iceman-christmas

For a series that was originally meant to reunite the original five X-Men in the mid-1980s, “X-Factor” had a complicated set-up. Including a newly-revived Jean Grey, X-Factor posed as a human team of mutant hunters in order to rescue at-risk mutants. Over the course of the series, X-Factor rescued several young mutants, including future X-Force members Rictor and Boom Boom. In 1988’s “X-Factor” #27, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson and Bob Wiacek gave the team and their wards a Christmas cool down issue after a major battle with Apocalypse.

“Gifts!” opens with Iceman covering up some of the damage from Apocalypse’s attack by creating a giant ice Christmas tree on top of the Empire State Building. After seeing the supposed deaths of the X-Men, an inconsolable Cyclops leaves the team to brood while Beast and Iceman look after the kids. While Jean visits her parents in a touching scene, donated gifts start rolling in for the young mutants. After opening a few presents, the young mutants decide to donate their gifts to the local children’s hospital as Apocalypse watches on, wishing the group an ominous “Merry Christmas.”

8. Ceremonies

christmas-x-men-109

Shortly before the first “X-Men” movie premiered in 2000, Chris Claremont made a highly-publicized return to the X-Men when Marvel relaunched the X-titles under the “Revolution” banner. While that relaunch fizzled out in less than a year, Claremont would continue to follow one of his long-gestating storylines in the newly-created third core X-Men title, “X-Treme X-Men.” In this series, a team including marquee members like Storm, Rogue and Beast would search for the long-lost diaries of the deceased precognitive mutant Destiny.

Along with Thomas Derenick, Rick Ketcham and Norm Rapmund, Claremont finished laying the conceptual groundwork for that new series in 2001’s “X-Men” #109. In between serious conversations about Destiny, “Ceremonies” shows a snowball fight that gave Claremont a chance to expound on the snow-filled childhoods of Colossus and the forgotten X-Man, Thunderbird III. As various mutants prepared to form the splinter group, the X-Men went ice skating and exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. Originally billed as a “100-Page Monster,” this issue also included reprints of the aforementioned X-Mas adventures “X-Men” #98 and “Uncanny X-Men” #341, along with the classic “Uncanny X-Men #143.

7. ‘Twas the Night…

longshot-uncanny-x-men

In a time fondly referred to as “the Outback Era,” the X-Men were thought to be dead by the rest of the world. During this 1980s, a team including Wolverine, Rogue and Dazzler operated out of the former Australian base of the Reavers, cybernetic villains set to torment Wolverine in 2017’s “Logan.” In 1988’s “Uncanny X-Men” #230, Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri and Joe Rubinstein chronicled the X-Men’s first Christmas at their new headquarters.

As the rest of the X-Men struggle to adapt to their new home, Longshot is haunted by the ghosts of the Reavers’ treasure horde in “Twas The Night…” With the help of the telepathic Psylocke, Longshot uses his ability to see the past history of the stolen goods to figure out where their rightful owners lived. Thanks to the Australian teleporter Gateway, the X-Men crisscross the globe, delivering objects on Christmas Eve. In a charming ending, Dazzler gets a motorcycle that she’d been lusting over and Rogue finds a new friend in Gateway.

6. On Angel’s Wings

x-men-evolution-angel

While not quite as iconic as “X-Men: The Animated Series,” “X-Men: Evolution” had a neat take on the franchise that still holds up well today. This series followed teenage versions of most of the X-Men as they learned to use their powers at the Xavier Institute from a teaching staff that included adult teachers like Wolverine, Storm and Beast. Originally broadcast on December 15, 2001, “On Angel’s Wings” introduced Angel, Warren Worthington III, in a yuletide adventure based on his often overlooked pre-X-Men days as a hero called the Avenging Angel.

The episode opens with the various X-teens exchanging gifts before heading home for the holidays. In a story that teases a potential relationship, Cyclops and Rogue are stuck at the X-Mansion without families to visit. After seeing Angel’s heroic acts on the news, the unlikely pair head into the city to try to recruit the new mutant. Although Angel and the two X-Men work together to defeat Magneto, Warren declines membership on the team, but goes on to work with them a few more times as the series progressed.

5. Ghost of X-Mas Past

colossus-dream

The siblings Piotr and Illyana Rasputin, better known as Colossus and Magik, have one of the more tragic relationships in X-Men history. While both have had their share of trauma, one of their most devastating moments came when a de-aged Illyana temporarily died after contracting the Legacy Virus, a mutant plague. In the wake of the underrated 1998 crossover, “The Hunt for Xavier,” Steven Seagle, Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend offered a quiet reflective tale set during this period in 1999’s “Uncanny X-Men” #365.

Haunted by a mysterious woman in his dreams, Colossus gives readers a tour of the X-Mansion late one sleepless Christmas Eve in “Ghost of X-Mas Past.” As Nightcrawler and Kitty Pryde decorate a Christmas Tree and Professor X reminisces about his fallen students, Colossus follows the ethereal being into the mansion’s attic. In a touching finale, he grants his late little sister’s final request before waking up and exchanging gifts with the rest of the X-Men on Christmas morning.

4. Wounded Wolf

wolverine-katie-power

While “Wounded Wolf” might not be the most seasonally-appropriate story, this issue makes the list by the same logic that makes “Die Hard” a Christmas movie. After a prologue where Lady Deathstrike gets the cybernetic enhancements that define her most recognizable period, Chris Claremont and Barry Windsor-Smith’s “Uncanny X-Men” #205 opens on Katie Power. After getting separated from her babysitter in a blizzard while caroling, the youngest member of the Power Pack comes across a bloody Wolverine.

In this stunning 1988 early Wolverine adventure, the unlikely duo protects one another as they try to navigate the blizzard while evading Lady Deathstrike and the Reavers. After dismantling the Reavers, Wolverine takes on Deathstrike in one of the most brutal fight sequences ever published in a Marvel Comic. With every drop of blood and flake of snow lavishly illustrated by Windsor-Smith, this essential Wolverine tale showcases the iconic duality of the character’s feral brutality and deep sense of honor.

3. If the Fates Allow

x-men-christmas

For a short time in the late-2000s, the X-Men lived in San Francisco. While this relatively optimistic era didn’t last for long, it remains one of the most recent times when the X-Men were all more or less united and propelled by hope. Originally published in “Marvel Holiday Special 2008,” Jim McCann and Todd Nauck’s “If The Fates Allow” perfectly captures this era.

During this period, Storm’s marriage to Black Panther and subsequent duties as the Queen of Wakanda took her away from the X-Men. This short tale sees Storm visit her old team in their new home as they get ready to celebrate the holidays. Amidst the celebrations for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas, Storm greets her fellow X-Men and muses on the absence of Kitty Pryde, who was trapped in a giant bullet hurtling through outer space at the time. As a large cast of X-Men gathered around a giant Christmas tree and Menorah, they bathed in a light show created by Dazzler, filled with a renewed hope that they would see all of their absent friends again.

2. Piece of Cake

wolverine spidey

One of the hallmarks of any good X-Men X-Mas tale is a predictably grumpy Wolverine. This comedic story by Andrew Farago, Shaenon K. Garrity and Lou Kang pairs a cantankerous Wolverine with a Spider-Man who’s eager to bring a giant-sized cake to Aunt May’s holiday gathering.

Originally published in “Marvel Holiday Special 2007,” this story starts when Wolverine comes across a decommissioned Sentinel that’s been taken over by a laid-off department store Santa. With a coat of red and green paint and giant jingle bells on its robotic feet, Santa’s Sentinel gives Wolverine a hard time until he teams up with Spider-Man, who was conveniently swinging by. While valiantly protecting his oversized cake, Spider-Man keeps Wolverine from disemboweling Santa in a berserker rage in broad daylight. As a way of thanking his temporary partner, Wolverine exhibits a previously unseen skill that lands him on the front page of the Daily Bugle in a delightful finale.

1. Demon

shadowcat-demon-x-men-143

After a collaboration that resulted in some of the greatest superhero comics of all time, Chris Claremont and John Byrne‘s legendary X-Men run came to a close in 1981’s “Uncanny X-Men” #143. In their final X-tale together, the duo, along with regular collaborator Terry Austin, put a spotlight on their greatest creation, Kitty Pryde.

In “Demon,” the young mutant faces the ultimate test of her newfound skills. After the rest of the X-Men leave her alone in the mansion on Christmas Eve, Kitty fends off a vicious N’Garai creature, a remnant of a previously unseen adventure. While Kitty struggles to outrun the monster, she begins to use the mansion itself as a weapon in a tale that riffs on “Alien” and predicts “Home Alone.” As Byrne’s savage beast continues its relentless pursuit through the corridors of the mansion, Kitty desperately tries to outwit the monster before making a character-defining last stand. While Claremont continued writing the book and Byrne would eventually work on the X-Men again, this suspenseful X-Mas tale remains a strong finale to one of the greatest comic book runs of all time.

Stay tuned to CBR for all the latest on the X-Men and their upcoming ResurrXion relaunch! And be sure to let us know what your favorite X-Men X-Mas story is in the comments below!

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