There are many tales about Jolly Old St. Nick — but Grant Morrison is telling a story that not many people have heard before. In his new book, Klaus, out Nov. 4, the acclaimed comic writer re-imagines Santa Claus, weaving a tale that is grittier and more sinister level than we’re used to. Along with artist Dan Mora (Hexed), Morrison tells the origin story of Santa Claus…with a few twists that include the character’s Viking lore and other dark characters such as Krampus. EW spoke with Morrison to find out what inspired him to take one of the world’s most beloved icons and turn him on his head.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You have a reputation for putting a “spin” on iconic characters…and Santa Claus is certainly iconic! What intrigued you about wanting to dive into his story?
GRANT MORRISON: That’s exactly how I felt! It’s since been brought to my attention that there have been a couple of literary attempts to provide an origin story for Santa Claus and at least two animated films — all of which I’ve made a point of avoiding on the grounds that I don’t want to be influenced — or put off — by anyone else’s take. What’s unique about this one, I think, is that no one has approached Santa Claus as a superhero origin story, or deliberately applied any of the other familiar superhero tropes to his story.
How far back will the story go in terms of diving into Santa Claus’ roots before he became the person we know him as today? How much of his past will we be seeing, when it comes to stories in this book?
When we first meet him he’s around 30 and he’s a wild man, a solitary shaman who hunts reindeer and lives alone in a hut on the edge of a gigantic frozen lake. Later in the series, we find out just what happened to drive him far from civilization, so we get to see him as a baby, a kid, and as a young soldier. What we don’t see in this origin tale is his final transformation into a white-haired, fat and jolly old man — although it’s obviously implied but we do get to see how he puts together the traditional red-and-white “Santa” outfit. These are the adventures of Young Klaus!
Can you talk about your collaboration with Dan Mora, and how that came together? What was it about his art and style that made you think he was the perfect fit for your story?
The guys at BOOM! suggested Dan to me. A few names were thrown into the hat but when I saw Dan’s work I was completely sold and couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the book. As I’ve said before, in addition to his mastery of framing, scale and composition, he’s coloring his own work in a very lush and assured style that reminded me of some of my favourite early Disney movies, somewhere between Sleeping Beauty and The Sword and the Stone, which is exactly what I was looking for. And he’s a steady and dependable worker, which means a lot in these days of often-delayed comics! I hope this book raises his profile and elevates him to the superstar status he deserves.
What in particular was most challenging for you in the process of creating this book? It seems like taking on such an established character could be a big undertaking.
I don’t tend to see these things as challenges; I follow my instincts with stories and this was one that I felt compelled to get down on paper after years in my head, so it kind of just unfolded once I found a home for it. Everything about Klaus has been fun so far.
The book will be accessible to all readers, despite the fact that it deals with a darker interpretation of the character. Was that something you wanted to be able to do, rather than write things that are specifically geared towards readers of a certain age?
After my last project (Nameless with Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn), which was an out-and-out, thoroughly unpleasant and grueling, nihilistic horror comic, I felt I needed a radical change of pace and Klaus is it. It’s a little darker than any previous take on Santa Claus that I’m familiar with but I did want the tone to be similar to say, The Hobbit or Dr. Who. It’s a bit scary and there are fights but it was important to me to tell a story that could reach a wide audience.
I believe this is your first time working with BOOM! Studios and you’ve worked with many comic companies throughout your career. What made BOOM! the right choice for this story?
I’ve been friendly with [BOOM! Studios Founder and CEO] Ross [Richie] and the guys at BOOM! for a while and we’ve talked about doing something together for ages. It wasn’t until I was able to wrap up my work on the monthly books for DC that I was able to finally get around to telling a bunch of stories that have been piling up in my notebook over the last decade. This one just seemed right for BOOM!
What can you tease for readers without spoiling things?
We get to see the development of the Klaus character over three distinct stages — man, legend, myth — and we get to meet the beings who gave him his “powers.” Aside from that, there’s romance, science fiction, psychedelia, and that ultimate battle between Santa Claus and Krampus that all right-minded people have been waiting to see!
Klaus is available Nov. 4. View exclusive preview pages below, including variant covers by Frazer Irving, Felipe Smith, Chris Burnham and Dan Mora.