I learned about this book from an Unbound Worlds post recommending sci-fi and fantasy books for Christmas. I’d link it, but Penguin Random House removed that website and now all blog posts, no matter the genre, appear on the main website… something like that. Anyway, that Unbound Worlds post convinced me that I NEEDED Klaus: How Santa Claus Began with this statement:
“And really, who doesn’t love a Santa who crafts all of his toys during an extended drug trip brought about by a hallucinogenic stew?”
Lol! I mean, yo! After reading that I had to find out what’s up with this Santa. So I bought the book (back in 2017) and waited 3 years to read it, lol!
Klaus: How Santa Claus Began by Grant Morrison, illus. by Dan Mora
The smash-hit series by legendary creator Grant Morrison and phenom artist Dan Mora exploring the secret origins of the world’s first superhero, Santa Claus.
He’s a myth. He’s a legend. He’s loved worldwide by children and adults alike…but does anyone truly know the origins of Santa Claus? Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the story of how Santa Claus really came to be—the tale of one man and his wolf against a totalitarian state and the ancient evil that sustains it. (Goodreads)
I like this book for odd reasons. First, it gives me a story about a bad-ass Santa. Second, this bad-ass Santa has a big-ass wolf that’s white like Ghost (from ASOIF). Third, this Santa is so foine!! And fourth, this was basically Batman as Santa… or Santa as Batman. Either way, I got some serious Batman vibes from this Santa.
But, for real, I enjoyed the story. It opens with Klaus making his way to Grimsvig, a town in the far north that was once filled with Yuletime spirit until Lord Magnus took over and plunged it into darkness and despair. No one is allowed to be happy, the men work all day in the Magnus’s mines, where a sinister whispering voice drives them mad, and the only child allowed to have toys is the Magnus’s ungrateful son, who’s supposedly seriously ill.
Klaus sees all this and decides to bring happiness back (Batman style). But first he gets kicked out of town and escapes execution with the help of his wolf before going home to whip up some “hallucinogenic stew” to get his creative juices flowing, i.e., have the spirits help him make toys because he’s high as fuc… lol!
Anyway, since it’s hard to deliver toys in a town that guards against happiness, Klaus pulls out some Batman, ninja skills to make his deliveries while messing with the guards to show how stupid they and the Magnus are. Eventually, we learn what’s really going on and get a nice showdown between Klaus and Krampus before the story wraps up.
Oh, yea, and Santa gets high again and manages to get himself a girl in all this (of course).
Soo… I liked the story. It was entertaining and it was fun to see such a ripped, edgy Santa Claus in this dark story because it does take a dark, more violent turn later on when Krampus shows up. I liked the backstory we get for Klaus because it still retains a bit of mystery. However, I wish Magnus had a little more depth because he came off as just a typical evil villain. I also didn’t care much for the love triangle or the romance Klaus develops, although I think it adds a nice touch to the end and I like the festive panels there showing how the couple develops over time while the really important things remain the same. It was a decent story about fighting for what you believe in and holding onto those you love.
I love it, but first let’s talk about the book itself. It’s a beautiful thing, and I admire its construction. The colors on the cover — browns, tan, burgundy, and hints of gold — work well with the gold-painted edges. This book is not about a festive Santa (well, not at first), so the overall design doesn’t hint at that, but it retains some of the majesty surrounding this figure and hints at the edginess to Morrison’s version of Santa Claus.
I love the deep, dark chocolatey brown used for the cover’s background; it makes the books seem like a gold-dusted bar of chocolate. (Yum! Lol.) I also like the illustration of Klaus in the middle: holding the skull of a stag with his sword resting on his shoulder and the halo above his head hinting at sainthood or divinity. Inside, the book has some cool surprises before the story’s illustrations begin, like the silhouette of Klaus and his wolf in a corner of the endpages and, on the copyright pages, a scene from the story of Klaus and his wolf taking down a stag. I just really like the overall design.
Mora’s illustration style really appeals to me. It’s clean — not a lot of hatchmarks — and easy to follow. The illustrations are detailed, which, with the colors applied, make them seem realistic. His illustrations also really pop, and I get the impression that they would still do so even without color and shading applied. There are some really cool panels of characters striking poses that forces the reader to stop and admire them (or rather Mora’s talent) for a moment. The action panels are also good, and the scenes where characters are dealt a fatal blow are pretty dope as well. I think Mora did a great job on these. I mean, the facial expressions are great too and also Klaus’s ripped body — that dude is just rippling with muscles. There’s not an ounce of fat on this Santa!
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
A fantasy story that gives us the background on an edgy Santa Claus from the Siberian wilderness. I enjoyed reading it and LOVED the art.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth buying for the beautifully designed book and great illustrations. The story is good as well but for me, the art stands out the most.
If you like this, you might like…
Rasputin, Vol. 1: The Road to the Winter Palace by Alex Grecian, illus. by Riley Rossmo
Rasputin isn’t a superhero story and is not about a festive holiday. It’s inspired by stories about the historical figure Rasputin, who many claimed was a mad monk. Klaus made me think of it because we get a bit of backstory for Rasputin in the first volume, which seems to take place in the wilderness of Siberia (if I recall correctly) and involves similar spirits, and I think Santa Claus pops up too… or a figure who resembles him… I can’t remember for sure but something like that happens.