Sandman #7, Kirby, DC Christmas digest

Sandman #7/The Best of DC #22, March 1982

“The Seal Men’s War on Santa Claus”

When young Jed goes to ask the reclusive Titus Gotrox for a contribution to the school Christmas fund, he receives a very cold reception. However, Titus offers a challenge: if Jed can prove, by midnight, that Santa Claus exists, then the school fund will get a cheque for a million dollars! Jed leaves and blows his whistle to summon Sandman. Luckily, Sandman confirms that he is in fact an old friend of Santa and will happily take Jed to meet him.

Meanwhile, Rodney, Titus’s son, is none too pleased that his inheritance might soon be a million bucks poorer, and he sets out after Jed. He finds Jed’s discarded whistle and blows it. Glob and Brute, Sandman’s reluctant “assistants”, believe his tale that he was supposed to accompany Jed and determine to take him to see Santa.

Jed and Sandman arrive at the north pole, but find themselves under attack from elves. Mrs Claus remonstrates with them: they’ve mistaken our heroes for Seal Men! It transpires that the Seal Men have kidnapped Santa and are holding him hostage. Sandmand and Jed set out in hot pursuit, but are soon captured and thrown in a cell with Santa. Taken before the Seal King, the trio discover that the Seal Men are unhappy because of an administrative mix-up: they’ve been receiving the wrong gifts for years. Santa promises to put everything right, and everyone is released.

It’s Christmas Eve, so Santa rushes home—only to find Mrs Clause being held at gunpoint by Rodney! Sandman quickly disarms him.

Later that evening, Santa delivers Rodney to Titus. In return, the old man gives Jed the promised cheque—and gets to drive Santa’s sleigh.

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Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the 1970s Sandman was the master of the Dream Stream. Sandman #1 was published as a one-shot with simply “Winter” as the cover date. As both Simon and Kirby were working at DC in1974 publisher Carmine Infantino thought that “putting the band back together” might make for a winning formula After all, during the 40s and early-50s the Simon & Kirby brand was a sure sign of quality with the pair responsible for a string of hits such as Captain America, the Boy Commandos, the Newsboy Legion—as well as popularizing crime comics and creating the romance genre. With comics sales plummeting Infantino was keen to try anything that might prove to be a hit.

That first issue had larger than average sales—possibly due to its extended shelf life—so an ongoing series was greenlit. Neither Simon or Kirby were involved when the series began (with #2), though Kirby supplied the covers. With #4, Kirby came back on board as penciller, bringing a much-need boost of adrenalin. The scripts throughout were by Mike Fleisher. Never the expected success, Sandman was cancelled with #6 (December 1975)—which was beautifully inked by Wally Wood, Kirby’s old inker on Challengers of the Unknown and the Sky Masters newspaper strip. However, a seventh issue was completed before the axe fell.

Though it wasn’t to see print in the hero’s eponymous series, that tale was rescued from the scrap heap and set to be used in Kamandi #61, where it was to be brought into Kamandi’s continuity by way of a framing sequence. Sadly, Kamandi was cancelled before this plan saw fruition. The contents of Sandman #7 and the Kamandi framing sequence were then printed in Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (late 1978), a limited print project intended purely to secure copyright on a thousand unpublished pages.

Which brings us to the relatively obscure The Best of DC #22, where the story finally saw print—possibly the greatest Kirby “rarity” in terms of how easy it is to track down a copy! It’s hardly Jack’s finest hour, but essential for the completist.

For anyone seeking more of this version Sandman, the first issue is reprinted here:

Image ©2011 DC Comics