KLAUS (2015) – Looking Back at Grant Morrison & Dan Mora’s Epic Tale
Not your Average Children’s Story
Santa Claus, one of the most celebrated holiday figures of all times, having existed in myth for centuries. Christmas’s most loved mascot is easily identified by his red coat, portly figure, white beard, jolly attitude, large bag of toys, sled with reindeer, and aided by elves in the North Pole. It’s no surprise that Santa has appeared in numerous forms of media telling all kinds of stories such as in children’s books, music, movies, and television shows.
Which leads us to the most surprising interpretation of Santa, in a comic book detailing his origins by Grant Morrison. Klaus: How Santa Claus Began is definitely not your average child’s Santa Claus story.
Set in medieval times, this seven issue miniseries focuses on Klaus, who was found as a baby in the arms of her frozen to death mother by soldiers from the nearby town of Grimsvig. Given the name Klaus, meaning “Victory of the People”, he grew up befriending Dagmar, the baron’s daughter. Years later, Klaus is captain of the guard and prevents the death of a wolf cub by his own men. Soon after, Magnus, a confidant of the baron who was jealous of Klaus, poisoned the baron, pointing the blame at Klaus. Sentenced to death outside of town, Klaus is saved by the wolf from earlier and decides to live in the forest.
Years later, Klaus is now an independent trapper living in a cabin with the wolf, named Lilli, and they occasionally interact with magical forest spirits through music. With time gone by, Klaus goes back to Grimsvig to trade furs but is horrified by what he finds.
Klaus Versus Magnus
Magnus, now baron, rules with an iron fist by forcing the men to work in the mimes, keeping anyone from celebrating the holidays, and confiscating toys and musical instruments for his own spoiled son, Jonas, which he has with Dagmar. After defending kids from some soldiers, Klaus is attacked but manages to escape back into the woods. After using magic to heal himself and once again visited by forest spirits, the next day Klaus wakes up to carved up toys he made in his sleep.
The next night, Klaus manages to sneak in to the town and deliver the toys to the children, much to Magnus’s annoyance. Jonas is a brat who breaks the toys he’s given when he thinks they don’t work, while Dagmar is unaware of what’s going on due to both being kept inside by Magnus.
With more guards on the streets, Klaus delivers the toys through the rooftops and chimneys and manages to reunite with Dagmar, who’s still unsure about his innocence. Before he leaves, Klaus gives her a toy bird that she then uses to better teach Jonas how to properly play with toys. Magnus wants to free a demonic spirit, obviously Krampus but never named, under the mime that feeds on misery.
As Jonas becoming kinder, Magnus grows paranoid and hears voices in his head, which Magnus thinks is Krampus promising him power. The next plan to capture Klaus is for Jonas to write a letter for what he wants to lure him out, which works as Klaus is hit by a poisoned arrow and then captured by his cabin. Both the cabin and the toys are burned down and he’s left to die from exposure in the middle of a frozen lake.
With the town’s children rounded up and the king arrives to arrest Magnus for his treatment, Krampus is freed and kills anyone it encounters. All the while, as Klaus and Lilli are injured and dying, the forest spirits save them, giving them new abilities. When Krampus wants to also eat Jonas, he runs into the other children and promises not to run if he spares the others. As the demon terrorizes the town, Klaus appears in a sleigh pulled by other wolves and carrying a sword.
Despite Magnus believing what he was told about power and managing to harm Klaus, Krampus betrays and kills him. The demon reforms Klaus’s sleigh and takes him and Jonas upward to go after all children. Klaus, now able to heal quickly and turned immortal, jumps right into the sleigh. When the demon fails to breathe fire due to being too high, Klaus cuts off its head causing the sleigh to reform, getting the two back to the ground.
The King appoints Dagmar as regent, with Klaus as her advisor, and she promises to bring back joy to Grimsvig. The years go by with the townspeople celebrating Yuletide each year, regaining their spirits. Jonas becomes more kind and selfless, being able to treat others with more love than before. While Dagmar ages and eventually dies, Klaus’s immortality kept him from aging. During her funeral, Jonas, now the lord of the town, sees Klaus is setting up his sleigh. Klaus wants to bring joy to all children everywhere, but promises he will always come back.
Morrison’s Reimagination of Santa
Morrison managed to take a simple and well known character and made an epic origin story that manages to be both serious and fun. The writing is perfect and manages to make certain aspects that would normally seem silly, like Klaus saying “Ho Ho Ho” after cutting the demon’s head, work but also badass. Though there are a few things that are never fully explained, such as the nature of the forrest spirits, Morrison’s writing helps in still investing us in what’s going on. Jonas’s development from a selfish kid you want to punch to a more selfless kid willing to sacrifice himself is believable and my favorite part of the comic.
The artwork by Dan Mora is absolutely beautiful and fully detailed, being able to have the right tones in the day as well as night. Of note is the very colorful moments involving Klaus interacting with the spirits and how badass his entrance is when he fights the demon. One huge flaw with Klaus is the cover, making it seem it’s overly violent and dark, which it definitely isn’t.
You can read this reimagining at Amazon.