A comics master who specialized in the Christmas tale was Carl Barks, longtime DONALD DUCK writer/artist and the creator of Uncle Scrooge McDuck. In my favorite Barks Christmas story, “Letter to Santa,” published in CHRISTMAS PARADE 1 (November 1949), Donald and Uncle Scrooge find themselves competing to fill the Christmas wishes of Huey, Dewey and Louie after Donald forgets to mail their letter to Santa. Things go from bad to worse when Donald opens their letter and discovers what the boys were asking Santa for: a construction steam shovel!
Panicked, Donald turns to his fantastically rich uncle, titanicatillionaire Scrooge McDuck, and asks for the money to buy a steam shovel. Scrooge naturally refuses, and soon Scrooge and Donald are embroiled in a bitter currency fight:
To Scrooge’s credit, when he realizes it’s for the nephews for Christmas, he immediately kicks down the cash, and Donald is off to buy the massive vehicle. However, when Scrooge discovers the credit will be going to Santa, his ego gets the best of him, and he’s off to buy his own steam shovel to give to the boys, and make sure that proper credit is given. Soon enough, Scrooge and Donald are fighting again, this time with enormous steam shovels, and with disastrous results.
After a $2 million fine, Scrooge and Donald are back on the street, trying to figure out how to salvage Huey, Dewey and Louie’s Christmas morning. Scrooge’s brainstorm is to have Donald dress up as Santa and tell the boys he’s out of steam shovels, but promise to bring one next year.
Donald’s Santa disguise works surprisingly well (despite the addition of a ludicrous putty nose at the end of Donald’s beak), in fact too well, as soon Donald is stuck heading back up the chimney, and Scrooge has to also fill in for Santa. Once again, Scrooge’s ego gets the best of him, and before long he’s telling the boys what a great man Scrooge McDuck is, far better than ol’ Saint Nick.
Incensed, Donald exposes Scrooge, and the boys resign themselves to a poor Christmas – that is, until the real Santa shows up and gives them exactly what they wanted: a toy steam shovel.
Santa is soon on his way, but not before a couple of last-minute Christmas wishes from Donald and Scrooge:
Carl Barks’ writing here is funny, charming stuff, with the wicked interplay between Scrooge and Donald at times laugh-out-loud funny, while his art in this story is intricate and beautiful, yet deceptively simple.