Santa Claus Funnies: Santa's Return Trip, by John Stanley (1961)

Dell's Santa Claus Funnies enjoyed a 19-year run. Of course, that was only one issue per year. The anthology had no recurring characters (unless you count Santa himself).

This story, "Santa's Return Trip" from the 1961 issue, features the writer-artist team of John Stanley and Irving Tripp, most famous for their work on Dell's Little Lulu comics. (The story at, is posted at the Stanley Stories blog, Frank M. Young's tribute to John Stanley's work including Lulu, Nancy, Melvin Monster, Thirteen Going On Eighteen and more.)

Rather than give a blow-by-blow, I thought I'd just give the link, then compare Stanley's story to this year's elf tale, Pixar's Prep & Landing. [Spoilers follow]

Both feature elf protagonists who screw up. Scamper sneaks off for a quick zizz and finds himself wrapped and delivered to a young girl's house.

Wayne feels resentment at missing a big promotion and slacks off at work. Unlike Scamper, he gets caught by a human.

Scamper spends a lot of time talking to himself (a Stanley trait) and in the end decides to hang tight and let Santa rescue him. In the circs, this proves the wise course, but it makes Scamper a passive character and dependent on someone older and wiser – not surprising in a story aimed at kids.

Wayne reinstates his cover with the help of his partner Lanny. It's borne in on him how badly he's fumbled but he "elfs up" and fixes his own mess. More than just a few Z's, Wayne's concerns include career paths and social hierarchy – adult concerns, for a story aimed at a wide audience.

Scamper's toyshop is busy, exclusively male, and low-tech. Only the first adjective applies to Wayne's. A lot of subtext in male-female dynamics at Wayne's world, especially in the character of Magee.

Both have in-jokes – the doll Scamper replaced looks like Lulu's frenemy Gloria; Mickey's Christmas Carol is shown on the television of Lanny and Wayne's assigned house.

The use of Christmas lyrics in Prep & Landing – e.g., "Figgy pudding!" as an epithet – has no equivalent in the Stanley story, which is, of course, much shorter and doesn't need as much dialogue. But it was lifted from an earlier special, Santa vs. the Snowman.

Both Scamper and Wayne are extremely lucky to work for Santa Claus; any other boss would toss them out on their keisters. You could argue that Wayne's was the greater sin, as he was active while Scamper was passive. But the dynamics of storytelling demand that Wayne be rewarded for his fustercluck by being offered the promotion after all, so he can turn it down, just like Paul Blart.

It may be just my age, but I prefer Prep & Landing. "Santa's Return Trip" has a protagonist I don't care about and a flat ending. John Stanley has written a lot of great comic stories, but this isn't one of them.