The Comicon Advent Calendar: Day 17 – Hitman’s Gunning For Santa
by Richard Bruton
It’s getting nearer and nearer Christmas! We’re here at Day 17 of the Comicon Advent Calendar now, our little seasonal treat for all of you to enjoy, every day right up to Christmas Eve. And today, one of the funniest DC series and a particularly brilliant single issue – it’s Hitman #22, ‘The Santa Contract,’ by Garth Ennis and John McCrea…
Seriously, I have a feeling some of you out there may not remember – hell, some of you may not have been born – when the Ennis and McCrea Hitman series was coming out. They got the series off the back of their success taking over the Demon series for DC in 1993-1994, where their new Hitman character was introduced in Demon Annual #2, a ‘Bloodlines’ event crossover – as forgettable as most of these things were. But Hitman himself, well that wasn’t forgettable. A damn fine character, written and drawn by two very talented guys having an obvious blast on the comic.
Hitman is Tommy Monaghan, ex-Marine Gulf War veteran turned contract killer, living in the low-rent end of Gotham City, the Cauldron. He got superpowers from a Bloodlines parasite – don’t know, don’t care, just go with it – which triggers his meta-gene, giving him X-ray vision. And, as you do when you’re a super-powered hitman – he decides to go after super-powered hits, the sort of thing the ordinary hitpeople won’t touch.
And that’s it. Beautifully simple setup, brilliantly executed over the course of 61 great issues from Ennis and McCrea.
What made it a real blast was that this wasn’t an isolated Vertigo series – oh no, this was absolutely, completely in the main DC Universe, complete with plenty of guest appearances all the way up to the big red, white, and blue Boy Scout himself.
Okay then – that’s your background. It’s for sure a series you need to go and read, action-packed, silly, funny, and so well-written with some superb art from McCrea.
But, here we’re all about the holiday-themed stuff – which brings me to Hitman #22 – The Santa Contract from 1998. It’s all quiet everywhere on Christmas Eve… until the radiative Santa appears. Yes. The radioactive Santa…
Oh yes, and all the captions are in rhyme – because that’s the way these things get done every Christmas time.
So – after poor grumpy old Bob gets dumped into the chemical muck, he’s off in a stolen Santa suit to rampage around Gotham. Basically, it’s Garth and John doing this most bizarre version of the old Christmas Carol storyline. All it needs is the rad Santa to be shown the error of his ways? Right? Right? Hmmm…
Meanwhile, across town… “Children were handing out seasonal wreaths… and Batman was kicking out seasonal teeth…”
As Bob rampages, the boys get the call – perhaps it will be a present-filled Christmas after all?
Oh God, I’m starting to rhyme now. It’s catching.
Anyhow, the boys are on a Santa hunt – harder than you’d expect in Gotham on Christmas Eve where there’s one on almost every damn corner. But, as you’d expect, eventually they just have to follow the screams and the devastation… right to the Mall.
Now, in your normal Christmas Carol-ish tale would see Tommy and Natt show grumpy old Bob the error of his ways.
But this… well, let’s just say it ain’t no Christmas Carol…
So, has Bob changed his ways? Will the boys let him off and send him on his merry way?
Yep. Hitman #22 – ‘The Santa Contract’ – the perfect antidote to your good old-fashioned Christmas sentimental stuff.
But, when all’s done and the good(?) guys are off raising a glass to a New Year… there’s still the chance to get the moral of the tale…
So, take the hint, eh? When it comes to Christmas, let’s try less of the bitching and moaning, right?
So, one and all, here at Comicon, till tomorrow, we’ll wish you good night.