Oy vey! Chinese food for Christmas?

marvelholidayspecial2011coverMarvel Holiday Special 2011 #1
Feb 2012

It’s pretty much a sure thing at this point that Marvel intends to skip any sort of 2012 Holiday issue, so what better way to wrap up the season than by looking back on last season’s issue? Originally published as a series of free Digital Comics in late November and early December 2011, Marvel Holiday Special 2011 #1 came out in print on December 14, 2011. For those of you who keep track of these sorts of things, that was before both Chanukah (which started the night of the 20th in 2011) and Christmas (which falls on the 25th every year). Sasquatch appears on the last page of the fourth story of four in a single panel cameo.

While the other three stories are your usual Christmas stories, this one, titled, “Chinese Food for Christmas” is a quasi-Chanukah story featuring arguably the most famous Marvel Jewish character, Ben Grimm as The Thing. The reason it’s “quasi-Chanukah” is that the entire basis of the story is the unofficial tradition that Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, making this a Christmas story, not a Chanukah story. The Thing, along with Kitty Pryde, Moon Knight, Songbird, Wiccan and Sasquatch (all of whom are Jewish) gather for a banquet at a Chinese restaurant and invite some kids along to celebrate.

Wait, Sasquatch is Jewish? What? Yes, Walter Langkowski’s religion was never addressed in any of the Alpha Flight issues, and John Byrne probably never intended for him to be Jewish, but sure enough, Jim Starlin popped this little gem on us, seemingly out of nowhere:

Panel from Infinity Crusad e #1 (Jun 1993)

Panel from Infinity Crusade #1 (Jun 1993)

When various heroes around the world visualize their religious icons, Sasquatch is shown witnessing the Star of David, and just like that, he’s Jewish. Langkowski isn’t a Jewish surname but must have sounded plausibly Jewish to Starlin when he needed an international character to be Jewish. Why he didn’t pick Sabra is beyond me, and Alpha Flight Collector has always been just as confuzzled as anyone else about that Star of David panel, but it doesn’t contradict anything else and Sasquatch wouldn’t have made it into this issue otherwise, so no complaint.

marvelholidayspecial2011a

The only part of the story that is related to Chanukah at all is an image of Wiccan lighting the candles in the lower right corner of the last page, but it’s completely wrong. After you get past the whole concept of someone named “Wiccan” lighting them, note that Jews don’t light Chanukah candles after the holiday is over (earlier in the story, one of the children notes that Chanukah had ended, placing the actual story in 2010 because in 2011 the eight-day holiday ended “late” on the 28th and in 2009, The Thing wouldn’t be wearing his FF costume). Additionally, only new candles are used, not the half-melted ones shown, as they are supposed to be burned down to completion each night. Also, the central candle should be higher than the others, not even in height. Wiccan should be using that central candle to light the others, not his powers. Finally, there should be a gathering around while prayers are uttered, as lighting the candles is a religious event, not a decorative action. I’ll go ahead and guess writer Jamie Rich (who is Jewish) wasn’t so explicit in his script on these details, and that both penciller Paco Diaz and editor Daniel Ketchum (neither of whom are Jewish) did the best they could, but in the days when Marvel Comics was Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, this shanda would never have happened.

Note: the part about Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas is completely accurate.

Note: the Digital Comics version’s cover was based on an interior panel and not used as a section separator in the print version:

marvelholidayspecial2011originalcoverthumb Marvel Holiday Special 2011 #1 – Digital Comic cover for the fourth story
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