Grant Morrison and Dan Mora recently retold the origin of Santa Claus - with a surprising amount of swordplay - in BOOM! Studios' Klaus, and now the duo return an apt holiday special titled Klaus and the Witch of Winter.
Debuting this week, the one-shot brings the reimagined St. Nick into the present day to rescue two children from - you guessed it - the Witch of Winter.
On the eve of this Christmas one-shot's release, Newsarama spoke with Morrison about this reimagined Santa Claus, where the holiday hero ranks against the likes of Superman and Doctor Who, as well as some update on his other projects. And there might be a few surprises in there for you…
Newsarama: Grant, tell us about this Klaus holiday special.
Grant Morrison: So yeah, we want to do one of these every year, and do a different take on the character and his possibilities. So this is very different from the Klaus miniseries we did last year, which was the origin story.
This is set in the present day, and it’s trying to expand the character out and demonstrate some possibilities that may not have been discovered already.
Nrama: Beyond being in the modern day, what can you tell us about the storyline?
Morrison: Well, I don’t want to ruin too much, but it’s about someone who loses his kid. And you know that thing, “The Snowman,” where the snowman comes to life and takes the kid on an adventure for Christmas Eve? I kind of found myself thinking, “What if a snowman took your kids away on Christmas Eve?” and the story kind of takes off from there.
This starts with Klaus being trapped in the moon, and he’s been there for decades, and he gets freed and comes to Earth and it’s the present day. The fun thing with Klaus the character is that he can be like a superhero or a Doctor Who character who can appear in all kinds of environments. So you take a character who was previously in a story that was set in kind o a weird fantasy version of 17th-century Norway and bring him to the 21st century, and he’s dealing all different ethnicities and is in a new world.
We basically wanted to use this story to show that the character can appear in all kinds of stories across many different genres.
Nrama: So it sounds like you have some long-term plans for Klaus.
Morrison: Yeah, I want it to go on forever! I think we’ve stumbled on to something as primal as Superman or Doctor Who or Batman. I think it’s so powerful, and I keep coming up with new ideas for stories, and they can take place anywhere. They can be set in the Victorian era, or in medieval times, or during war, or even modern American times.
I think it’s something that can be appropriate to a lot of different eras and times and ideas.
Nrama: What’s always been an interesting subtext of your work is the use of what’s human and universal and comforting in the context of things that can be very cosmic and philosophical and surreal. When you’re dealing with the Christmas mythology from around the world, do you find a kind of distillation of that, using the archetypes of the benevolent Santa character as a kind of superhero?
Morrison: Yeah, it’s an ideal - when I was a kid, I believed in Santa Claus until the age of about seven or eight, and then I realized it was just my dad. We deal with that in the new special, that kind of idea and disappointment, that this amazing, mythological figure is actually your dad or mom coming in at 4 a.m. Christmas morning and putting presents on your bed.
But yeah, I was fascinated with that archetype - not just Santa Claus, but also the idea of ordinary parents trying to be that character, trying to convince kids that this thing still exists. I love the notion; it’s a very magical notion, that there’s something out there we don’t understand, and it comes to us every year, and we can hear sleigh bells, and we know it’s not real, but at the same time it is real, because we believe it. And Klaus is just a literalization of that understanding.
Nrama: What are some of your favorite takes on the Santa story throughout history? I have a fondness for L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus because that was adapted into a Mike Ploog graphic album, and also a completely psychotic Rankin-Bass stop-motion special.
Morrison: In the current story I’m doing with Dan, we’re actually looking at the many different versions of Santa Claus. There’s an elderly, patrician version of him; there’s one from Russian who’s kind of a Stalinist version of Santa; there’s one from the Middle East. We try to bring them all in and rationalize them, kind of like the concepts of parallel Earths. Russia alone has all sorts of different Santas – we try to look at how he’s represented by different cultures.
Nrama: Do you find working on the character of Klaus gives you a more positive perspective?
Morrison: Well, you know me -I’m an optimist! Even when Donald Trump wins the election, I’m an optimist! And that comes out in all my work and all the characters that I do.
I believe, ultimately, that humans are okay, and that our best instincts will win over our worst instincts. And Santa Claus, all the ideas of Santa Claus, tie into that.
The basic notion is we are winning! The good guys will win in this story. And Santa Claus represents that – the idea of basic decency and goodness, and that those qualities will win out.
Even if they’re only fictional figures, there’s characters out there who never fail us – that idea that Superman or Santa Claus could walk into your life and fix it because they care. And I think it’s important to remember that, especially in dark times.
Nrama: You say you have ideas for more Klaus stories in different eras – any plans for another miniseries?
Morrison: Oh yeah, I want to do a holiday special every year. The problem is Dan’s availability – he’s such a brilliant artist that you know he’s going to get snapped up and doing Batman with Scott Snyder in six months.
So every year, they have a Doctor Who Christmas special, and I’d like to do something like that – every one set in a different year, like World War I, the 1960s, one in the Romantic Era and the characters hang with Lord Byon.
Nrama: What else do you have coming up?
Morrison: I’m doing the Wonder Woman stuff – I have another volume of Earth One coming out. But I’m mostly working in television, doing Happy over at Syfy.
Nrama: What have you found from working in a different medium - are there things you can do in TV that you can’t do in comics, or vice versa?
Morrison; The wonderful thing about television is that there’s a hundred people working with you, and they’ve got your back and they’re working with you to help make one thing better. In comic books, it’s just me and the artist – in television, it’s 100 people. So I kind of like that, but it also takes away the very personalized thing about comics, that it’s just the artist and me working with the editor and a few others to make something, which is very ‘60s, very punk rock. In television, everyone’s contributing ideas. But comics are a lot more personal, and I love that.
Nrama: Curious: Do you have a favorite Christmas special in general?
Morrison: Like I said, the Doctor Who specials. I f***ing love them! Every year they do one, and every year, it’s something brilliant! It was my template for Klaus – I wanted to do something different every year that looked at different aspects of Christmas, and how we think and feel about it.
Nrama: Anything else you’d like to talk about that we haven’t discussed yet?
Morrison: I think everyone should buy the Klaus hardcover – it’s got those beautiful gold-edged pages, like the Bible. I think Klaus is going to appeal to a wide range of readers – it can be read by kids, it can be read by adults, and it’s one of the most intricate pieces of plotting I’ve ever done, and I don’t think anyone has noticed just how elaborate it is. Anyone who’s been interested in Santa or Christmas should read these books. If you read Marvel or DC you have 50 years of continuity, and Klaus just has all the story and mythology right there, and if you like the book, go and get this Special.
And also, everyone who likes my work should read Heavy Metal. Because I’m doing my absolute best stuff in Heavy Metal, and you need to see “Smile of the Absent Cat,” which I’m doing with Gerhard.