DC’s Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer comics from the 50’s and early 60’s haven’t been reprinted (well, not since the oversized Limited Collector’s Specials in the 70’s as well as 1980’s The Best of DC #4 digest), which is undoubtedly due to a combination of low to nonexistent demand and complicated copyright issues. This is a shame since while the stories drawn primarily by Rube Grossman (if you’re thinking, “Wasn’t Rudolph written and drawn by Sheldon Meyer?”, you’re thinking about the new material published in the 1970s) aren’t exactly great comics they’re at least on par with the rest of DC’s anthropomorphic humor output of the period (Peter Porkchops, Raccoon Kids, etc.) Meaning they’re nicely nonthreatening, mildly amusing little kids comics (what are known as “nursery titles” in the UK). But mostly they’re interesting because of the different spin they put on the Rudolph mythology, especially his relationship with Santa.
The outcast misfit from the cartoon special always carried himself with a lot of quiet dignity, especially compared to the goofy egomaniac of the DC comics. Though I suppose this version of Rudolph was intended to be a stand-in for the audience; a well intentioned, but easily distracted kid prone to be flighty and forgetful, always being distracted from his many “duties” (apparently the job description for “Santa’s Reindeer” is extremely vague, given the number of strange side jobs Santa fobs off on him) by his fame. Which a modern reader might confuse with demonstrating good self esteem. But in the end Santa allows the wayward reindeer back into the fold – once he abases himself enough.
The stories are full of fairly disturbing scenes of life at the North Pole and examples of the capricious nature of Santa’s love, who’s an even bigger jerk that the one from the animated holiday special. In this story, from the last issue published in the 60’s, when Santa discovers that there’s a country (other than Saudi Arabia) where Christmas is forbidden instead of expressing sympathy for its children who have never known the joy and love of Christmas his response is, “That king has a lot of nerve, butting in on my territory!”. What an asshat.