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Santa Claus: Year One

Once upon a time. And a place. There was a man. These days everyone knows his name. But few could tell you who he really is or how he got started. This is the greatest untold story of them all.
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Once upon a time, there was a jolly old man dressed in red with a belly full of jelly who delivered presents to all the good children of the world on his magical sleigh pulled by eight (nine if you included whatsisname) reindeer. His name was Santa Claus. Over the years since fiction existed, the big guy got tons of proposed origin stories detailing how he came to be.

Then Grant Morrison decided that he wanted to take a shot at the idea and wrote Klaus, a seven-issue miniseries telling us how he believes Santa came into existence while also cranking the Badass Santa trope as high as it can possibly go. Dan Mora of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (Boom! Studios) fame provides artwork.

The series follows a man named Klaus, a former captain of the guard for the once happy town of Grimsvig. Klaus was framed for the murder of the town's Baron but managed to survive his exile thanks to a wolf he names Lilli. Returning to Grimsvig after several years, Klaus finds the town to have become quite the Crapsack World, to the point where even making a wish at a well is forbidden. The day after his anonymous return to Grimsvig, Klaus finds a sack of toys left for him by supernatural beings called the "Shining Family". Unsure of what to do at first, he soon takes it upon himself to cheer the children of Grimsvig up by delivering toys to them in secret. Klaus soon becomes dubbed the "Santa" by the folks in the village, much to the irritation of its leader, Lord Magnus. Thus, the Santa becomes a wanted man in Grimsvig. But as the series progresses, it becomes clear that there is something more that is happening within Grimsvig besides the conflict between the Santa and the village's oppressive leadership. Something is within the rocks of the town's mines, and it wants out...

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Not to be confused with the videogame of the same name.

Klaus provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: When Magnus is killed by Krampus, the townsfolk cheers and demand the monster go for his son next.
  • Action Pet: Lilli, the giant white wolf.
  • Adaptational Badass: Klaus is already obviously a younger, badass Santa Claus, but his reindeer are now replaced with wolves and his sleigh a mysterious hovercraft.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original legends, Krampus was a demonic servant of St. Nicholas who kidnapped and punished misbehaving children. Here he's an ancient demon/possible alien who wishes to feed on bad children and is enemies with Santa.
  • All Myths Are True:
    • The Witch of Winter and Crisis In Xmasville reveal all the other interpretations of Santa, such as Sinterklaas and Father Christmas, are actually separate individuals who've been similarly empowered the way Klaus was.
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    • The Crying Snowman features survivors of Ragnarok as the main antagonists.
  • Analogy Backfire: The current owner of Pola-Cola tries to argue with his grandfather that trying to make people scared of Santa is like trying to get people to be scared of clowns. Apparently, he hasn't heard.
    Patridge: I hate clowns.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Klaus promising to come back every year to deliver presents to Grimsvig. When Jonas points out how much time Klaus has and how big the world is, Klaus implies he will extend his promise to the rest of the world. He eventually gave up this mission when the population got too big. Plus, parents were already buying gifts for their children anyways.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Lord Magnus is the Baron of Grimsvig, and oppresses the villages with heavy taxes and forced labor.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Klaus asks Krampus what horrible crime Jonas did to deserve death. Krampus is at a loss for words.
  • Badass Beard: Klaus wouldn't be a Badass Santa without one.
  • Badass Santa: Klaus.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Jonas begins his Character Development and stops being a little shit when he stops accepting Magnus's superficial gifts stolen from the town's children and receives genuine love and care from his mother and Klaus.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Lord Magnus and Krampus. By the end though, it's made clear Krampus is the bigger threat.
  • Character Development: Magnus and Dagmar's son Jonas was quite a spoiled, forever unsatisfied brat at the start of the story. By the end of the whole thing, he's realized how much of a little bastard he's been and even begs for Krampus to take him rather than the other children.
  • Child Eater: Krampus' primary goal is to devour "wicked children".
  • Child Hater: Krampus comes off as this when Klaus asks him what Jonas did to deserve his extreme wrath.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Klaus and Dagmar.
  • Children Are Innocent: Klaus holds this belief. In his opinion, there are no bad children.
  • Christmas Special: Is currently an annual series of one-shots, serving as one of these from Morrison.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The Crying Snowman reveals that the Santas need belief in them in order to survive. Father Frost, the Soviet Santa, is slowly weakened and disappearing from existence due to the sudden drop in fame because of, well you know.
  • The Corruption: A mere touch from Krampus transforms Klaus's sleigh and its dogs into hellish nightmare version of themselves.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: Santa Claus vs the Krampus
  • Covers Always Lie: There are various covers and variant covers that show Klaus looking like the traditional Santa Claus, complete with white hair and a white beard. Klaus's appearance never goes that far and his hair remains with a Skunk Stripe.
  • Crapsack World: When the town's leader actually cancels Yuletime (this era's version of Christmas), you better believe it.
  • Daddy Issues: It's implied Grandfather Partridge has got a few of these, since his idea of the Pola-Cola Corporation's hypothetical "New Santa" looks a lot like his dead father.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: After his Character Development, Jonas continues to wear dark clothing, but is clearly a much kinder person than he was previously.
  • Death by Origin Story: Klaus's mother froze to death holding her baby son, who miraculously survived.
  • Decomposite Character: The original miniseries initially touts itself as an Origins Episode for Santa Claus. However, Witch of Winter reveals that the series is only an origin for one Santa Claus.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Magnus is the main antagonist for much of the story, only to be killed by Krampus, who serves as the final threat.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Krampus's modus operandi towards punishing misbehaving children. Klaus lampshades how ridiculously cruel this punishment was for kids who just got a little bit greedy and wanted more toys.
  • Doing In the Wizard: A very odd case. Krampus is clearly (or at least acts like) a supernatural being, but the Shining Family (who also act like supernatural beings) that assists Klaus are heavily implied to be alien beings due to both their appearance and the sleigh they grant him, which was described as a "Bright Machine from the 8-Lornered Orb." But it's Grant Morrison, so going by Animal Man and The Invisibles, aliens and supernatural beings are the same thing.
    • Magnus spends most of the series claiming that he's made a deal with the Krampus to free him in exchange for power. Once the Krampus is liberated, it's revealed that it was Magnus' own mental illness and obsession with the arcane that made him unlock the monster's prison and the beast itself had never actually conversed with him until they met in person.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Magnus is not at all a good man, but he still loves his wife and son. As he dies from being burned, he begs anyone who can hear his plea to save Jonas from Krampus.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Milhous Q. Partridge is not entirely thrilled his grandfather's selling children in exchange for alien technology.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Magnus learns this the hard way upon releasing Krampus, who quickly lets Magnus know how little power he truly has.
  • Evil Wears Black: Both Magnus and Jonas wear dark clothes. Later averted following Jonas's Character Development, where he still wears black-colored clothing despite becoming kinder.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: With each successive issue, Klaus's hair is shorter and and greyer. By The Crying Snowman, he's fully white haired.
  • Expy:
    • By Crisis in X-Masville, it becomes clear that Klaus is one for Superman. In turn, Lilli is one for Krypto The Super Dog. Even back in the original miniseries, Magnus referred to Klaus as "the man who has everything".
    • Grandfather Frost is one for Batman, considering his cave full of vehicles, weapons, and gadgets.
    • The Evil Santa looks and talks like Lobo, even having a space-travelling hoverbike.
  • Global Warming: In The Witch of Winter, Klaus returns to Earth after a long absence and notes that the winter air feels warmer than usual.
  • Healing Factor: Both Klaus and the Krampus have this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jonas begs for Krampus to take him and spare the other children. Unfortunately after he's stuffed into his sack, he goes after the other children immediately.
  • Horns of Villainy: Krampus has a pair of long, antelope-like horns sprouting from his skull.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Near the end of the series right before his death, Magnus reveals that all he wanted was to be loved by Dagmar and their son.
    Magnus: I WANT MY PEOPLE TO LOVE ME! I want my wife—and son—to love me...
  • In the Hood: Lord Magnus wears one.
  • Kill It with Fire: Krampus' preferred method of killing people.
  • Knight Templar: Krampus. He justifies killing children by stating that they are greedy, envious and self-centered, and he is merely delivering their punishment. However, he's wantonly sadistic and indiscriminate in who he targets, revealing himself to be nothing more than a self-righteous hypocrite.
  • The Krampus
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: By the last issue, Klaus has become effectively immortal. The montage of the many Yuletimes to follow show him enjoying himself with a progressively aging Dagmar. He's not all that upset at her timely death either.
  • Mama Bear: Dagmar picks up Magnus's sword and threatens to kill Krampus if he didn't let Jonas go.
  • Meaningful Name: Klaus means "victory of the people."
  • No Name Given: Krampus is never given a name but anyone who knows his appearance and what his deal is knows who the child-eating demon is supposed to be.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Krampus claims he's merely punishing wicked children, but Klaus sees him for the self-righteous bully he really is.
  • Off with His Head!: Klaus defeats the Krampus by chopping off his head.
  • Origins Episode: The whole series for the Santa Claus mythos, but issue 4 shows us Klaus's past and how he ended up outside of Grimsvig to live as a wild man.
  • Papa Wolf: Klaus towards the children of Grimsvig, even spoiled Jonas.
    Klaus: I say this—THERE ARE NO BAD CHILDREN!
    • Gunnar Mikkelsen, a miner, stabs Krampus in the back with a pickaxe so his children and their friends can flee.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Magnus's Villainous Breakdown and desperate plea to the Krampus for power is brought about by news of his inhumane rule over Grimsvig reaching the King, who sends men to arrest him.
    • One of the most potent weapons in the Krampus' arsenal is a fiery Breath Weapon that is rendered useless in the upper atmosphere where the air is cold and thin.
  • Recycled In Space: The sequel.
  • Sadist: "TO RUN IS FUN! WHEN THERE'S NO ESCAPE!"
  • Science Fantasy: The series firmly sets its foot in this genre following the mostly Sword & Sorcery-style miniseries.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Throughout the story, Krampus was trapped in both the rocks of Grimsvig's mines and an ancient book. Once he's freed, his portrait in the book vanishes.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Skull for a Head: Krampus.
  • Spoiler Cover: Issue five's cover features Klaus battling the Krampus, a whole issue before his true form is unleashed and revealed.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Magnus and Jonas look alike.
  • Take That!:
    • One of Klaus's sworn enemies is a soda company called the Pola-Cola Corporation, who wished to use Klaus's likeness to sell their product.
    • The family who owns the Pola-Cola Corporation wanted to get rid of Klaus and replace him with their version of Santa, i.e., New Santa. It's hard not to read the idea of replacing something classic with something new yet shoddy as a Take That! towards the failure of New Coke.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Magnus becomes more and more unhinged as Krampus's arrival drew near. As the demonic being laid waste to Grimsvig and began going after the children, Magnus desperately yells for him to grant him the power he promised so he can avoid what he believes to be the king's incoming wrath.
  • Villainous Crush: Magnus had his eyes on Dagmar since they were children.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Jonas is given a toy by Klaus, who is said to only give toys to good children. Jonas clings onto the implications of Klaus's gift when the Krampus abducts him.

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