Christmas with the Super-Heroes #1 (1988)
"Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead or Alive!"
"The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus!"
"The TT's Swingin' Christmas Carol!"
"Star Light, Star Bright... Farthest Star I See Tonight!"
"Twas the Fright Before Christmas!"
"The Silent Night of the Batman"
Writers - Denny O'Neil, Len Wein, Bob Haney, Paul Levitz, E. Nelson Bridwell & Mike Friedrich
Pencillers - Frank Miller, Dick Dillon, Nick Cardy, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Curt Swan & Neal Adams
Inkers - Steve Mitchell, Dick Giordano & Murphy Anderson
Letterers - Ben Oda
Colorists - Glenn Whitmore, Helen Vesik & Jerry Serpe
Editors - Len Wein, Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $2.95
Welcome to not only the Ninth Day of Christmas on Infinite Earths... but the Holiday Edition of Super-Blog Team-Up! I fear I may have lost my mind claiming that I would marathon the entire... eight-thousand or so pages of Christmas with the Super-Heroes, and I guess we're about to find out!
For folks who are used to the way I "write", this will be mostly business as usual. For newcomers, what I usually do is first stumble through an introduction, then synopsize a particular issue... followed by hopefully a thorough analysis/discussion of the story/stories. We then close up with letters pages and some "interesting" ads to get us right into the gestalt of the issue we're looking at. I hope everyone enjoys visiting as much as I enjoy revisiting some of my favorite and not-so-favorite stories.
Anyhoo... after my usual nonsense, there will be a listing of all the great participants of Super-Blog Team-Up for you to check out and enjoy! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all... and to all a good... read!
Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead or Alive!
From: DC Special Series #21 (1979)
It's... Christmas Eve (get used to me saying that!), and Batman is scoping out a Nativity scene that is without it's star. Several blocks away, we've got baddie Matty Lasko living the high life. Shortly, Batman comes to crash the party. He takes Matty's men down without breaking a sweat... and even does his Superman impression, letting Lasko punch him in the gut as hard as he can. Awesome. A busted-handed Matty guides Batman to his point man, Boomer Katz.
Batman decides to disguise himself and head down to Crime Alley to see if he can't find out the whereabouts of ol' Boomer. The soup kitchen he checks out luckily has quite the case of "loose lips". We learn that Boomer is playing Santa Claus at Lee's Department Store. Before heading out, Batman hands a random woman $1,000. Whatta guy.
We shift to Lee's and see Boomer Claus being escorted out of the building on his last day as Santa. We see that he was a pretty great department store Santa... in fact, the best Lee's has ever had! The manager thanks him for his hard work, and Boomer begins to cry. Outside, he runs into a skeezy individual, and we come to find that he had only taken the job to disable the store's alarm system!
It seems as though Boomer had a change of heart. He doesn't want to rob the joint... unfortunately for him, he doesn't have much of a choice at this point. The skeeze uses Boomer to get on the inside to do some robbin'. Boomer smashes him over the head with a box of ornaments, but gets shot for his troubles.
Boomer crawls out of the scene just as Batman arrives. Batman grabs a miniature Christmas tree and hurls it at the baddie. Such an awesome, fluid scene.
Batman goes to look for Boomer when suddenly the missing star from the Nativity scene appears and shines the way. Once Batman finds Boomer, the star vanishes once more.
The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus!
From: Justice League of America #110 (March-April, 1974)
Batman and Superman are meeting up at a local Santa's apartment. Tonight... might be Christmas Eve... I guess. Yeah, it probably is... anyhoo, tonight this Santa will be entertaining some orphans... unfortunately, as he's adjusting his outfit... the apartment explodes! Batman and Superman find his fallen body next to a Key and a note threatening a neighborhood. Hmm...
The duo put out a call to arms for the rest of the Justice League... and, well... seems like some of the heavier-hitters are otherwise engaged!
Not Hal Jordan tho... nope, not our Hal. He's ready to go, with bells on even! He steps out of the shower to answer his comm-link-thing... and he *snicker* slips on a bar of soap, and knocks himself out! How amazing is that?
Hal's ring hovers over, and realizes that its bearer is a flipping idiot... and so, decides to find back-up Lantern, John Stewart... who, himself is none too pleased by the ring's not taking no for an answer.
The Justice League assembles, and our team is by no means small one (much less "depressingly small" per the caption). Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Red Tornado... yeah, I think this is a pretty decent team, no? Anyhoo... using the clues in the note that was left by "Santa's" body, Batman deduces that the neighborhood in peril is somewhere in St. Louis. Ya see, the note mentioned an arch... World's Greatest Detective, am I right?
Now, the gang assumes that the key they received will work on a door somewhere in Saint Louie... but, without the speed of the Flash, how can they ever hope to find the door before the boom? Well, I'm glad you asked. John Stewart can somehow fill the key with willpower, which will somehow cause it to vibrate when it's in the vicinity of the lock... ooookay, we'll roll with it. It's Christmas, after all. From here, it doesn't take long for Reddy to find the door in question.
Before entering the nasty tenement building the key matches up to, the team are guilt-tripped by a trio of tiny panhandlers. Green Arrow, of all people, tells John to keep his head in the game and sends the poor unfortunates away. Superman turns the key in the door, and we find that the JLA is being watched... by a shadowy fellow.
Inside the team falls into a strange cylindrical pit... a miniature Sun begins to descend upon them. Now, this bugger is a double whammy... it emits rays like a red Sun, but it's yellow... pretty much nullifying both Superman and Green Lantern. For some reason, the red rays actually appear to hurt Superman... which, I thought they just shut his powers down... I dunno, maybe with his defenses down, the severe heat being emitting is somehow causing him far more pain than his... human teammates. Dunno. Anyhoo... he uses his last bit of energy to fly up into the Sun, destroying it... and seemingly, himself in the process.
After... precious little mourning for their fallen champion, the rest of the League continues on the trail. A door opens in the wall, and they proceed through it... into a room with a calliope... but not just any calliope, a calliope that spews poison gas. Ya know, I doubt I've ever typed the word "calliope" before in my life... and I now have four times in a single paragraph... Anyhoo, Black Canary uses her ultrasonic song to counter the gaseous song. This holds the gas back, and lets the rest of the team escape... but not Canary!
We again see that the League is being watched... but it doesn't appear to be the same fella from earlier. He checks in with... get this... The Key! Whodathunkit? A baddie leaves a key as a calling card... you'd figure the World's Greatest Detective might be able to decode that one, no?
Another door opens in the wall, and the remaining Leaguers step through... into a room infested with giant Christmas tree ornaments... that appear to be homing in on our heroes. Batman is the first to fall.
Green Arrow realizes that the ornaments are tuned to body heat, and decides to test that theory by holding two flaming arrows. It works, and the ornaments begin rolling in his direction... he yells for Green Lantern and Red Tornado to continue on.
The remaining pair are attacked by an army of wooden soldiers. Stewart hits them with a blast... which only causes them to turn yellow. Ruh roh. Reddy blasts them with some air-blasts... which only seem to tick them off. Luckily, the JLAers stumble into another wall-hole to continue their trek... all the while, the Key watches.
We now learn why the Key is doing what he's doing. Ya see, while in prison he was found to be terminally ill due to his psycho-chemical injections... and so, he's set free to live out his final days on the outside. Sounds legit, right? Take a super-villain with a chip on his shoulder and absolutely nothing to lose... and put him right back out on the streets. That's some criminal justice we can all believe in.
Just as he's about to celebrate his ultimate victory... three more wall-doors open. Why, it's the Justice League... but how? I'm glad you asked... the reason why they all survived can be summed up in two words... Phantom Stranger. But how? Nah, don't you dare... Phantom Stranger is good enough of an answer... it's gotta be, cuz it's the only one we're getting!
The Key is all "screw this" and triggers the bomb... and escapes through a
We wrap up with Batman noticing that the Phantom Stranger has vanished before they could either thank him or offer him JLA membership. We get a neat one-page epilogue where the Leaguers present Red Tornado with a new costume.
The TT's Swingin' Christmas Carol!
From: Teen Titans #13 (January-February, 1968)
We open at Ebeneezer Scrounge's Junkorama... oi... inside Scrounge is being a slave-driver to his employee... Bob *hm* Ratchet. Bob asks Scrounge if he might have Christmas Day off to be with his son, Tiny Tom... is any of this sounding familiar? No? It's just me, then? Anyhoo... Scrounge is all "Humbug", but tells him if he gets his work done he can have the day off. Hmm, sounds reasonable, no? Suddenly a truck pulls up, and Scrounge decides to shoo Ratchet off for the evening.
Just as this occurs, Tiny Tom rolls up in his not-so-deluxe wheelchair. He overhears Scrounge and a pair of thugs making a deal on some old garbage. Ya see, they've got a sort of ray that makes old garbage into new stuff. Why, they'll make millions!
Tom rushes home to tell his father what he'd heard. He suggests he confront Scrounge with it... which, goes about as well as you might imagine. Scrounge decides that poor Ratchet's gonna have to work Christmas after all. Tiny Tom's outta tricks, so he decides to call in the cavalry... the Teen Titans! Not sure how he got a hold of them... but, c'maaaaaan, it's Christmas... we'll allow it.
The Titans hide under the bad guys' truck as they head out. They are stopped by a giant of a man who starts wrecking fools left and right. The Titans bail out and decide to trail their potential ally... all the way back to Ebeneezer Scrounge's run down mansion.
The big man beats on the door onto Scrounge answers... it's Jacob *hm* Farley, fresh from the clink... still wearing the stripes, even! He's here to take some justice from the ol' skinflint's be-hind.
The Titans enter the mansion before Farley can obliterate the old geezer... and we come to find that he was Scrounge's scapegoat for some scummy dealings, which caused some on-the-job injury. Scrounge knows his rights, and decides to phone up the police... Farley and the Titans both scram before they get arrested. Outside, the Titans compare what they're going through with Dicken's A Christmas Carol... okay, so we're going there, fair enough.
The gang decides... what the hell... let's keep playing along. Maybe have ol' Scrounge visited by some ghosts and what-not... which, ya know... is exactly what they're gonna do. First it's the Ghost of Christmas Past... who I'm guessing is Wally, because he comes in through the wall. He spooks Scrounge pretty good... causing him to flee the mansion...
... where he meets the Ghost of Christmas Present... who is, I dunno... either Robin or Aqualad, I guess. He takes Scrounge out to where he can see Bob Ratchet digging through the snow for spare parts with which he can repair Tiny Tom's wheelchair... good thing there's a perfectly good wheel under that snowdrift, right?
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Future arrives... which is, get this... Wonder Girl in a cute little Santa onesie, with her hood up. We hear some phantom voices about Scrounge's legacy, including a very nice one from Tiny Tom. The baddies arrive during the haunting... and, not messing around... shoot her right out of the sky. Ouch. Anyhoo, the jig is up.
The next scene is a... weird fighty bit, where the Titans get sucked into a giant "garbage tree" or something. I guess it's an anti-burglar device... that, I dunno... attracts human flesh?
Suddenly, the attractor starts... attracting, Tiny Tom's wheelchair. It falls and gets crushed... and they say, that Ebeneezer Scrounge's heart grew three sizes that day. Seeing the wheelchair of the only boy who ever said anything nice about him destroyed is enough to set him off. He turns off the machine, and frees the Titans.
Scrounge has seen the light... he decides to turn over a new leaf... he even goes as far as to buy Tiny Tom a state of the art, groovy electric wheelchair!
Star Light, Star Bright... Farthest Star I See Tonight!
From: DC Special Series #21 (1979)
It's... guess when... Christmas Eve at the Legion Outpost, and Superboy has decided to visit to spread good cheer. He runs into Mon-El who is on guard duty... and not much in a Christmas mood. When he comments that there really isn't all that much holiday spirit about, he finds himself standing... er, flying under the mistletoe. Phantom Girl phases in and gives him a peck on the cheek. Aw.
Superboy and Phantom Girl head to the monitor room, and check out the way some of their friends are celebrating the holiday season. We get a bit from Karate Kid, and his cardboard Christmas Tree (with Captain America's shield on top)... and Colossal Boy, who's home planet only celebrates (C)hanukkah. Very interesting.
Superboy is a bit upset that there are no real Christmas Trees at the outpost... and decides that the gang should go in search of the star that appeared over Bethlehem on "that Christmas". Only one problem... they can't find the star... only a small planet! Superboy, Lightning Lad, Wildfire, and Phantom Girl all set out to see what's up.
First we follow Wildfire. He comes across a reptilian race whose food is frozen solid in a chunk of ice. Wildfire mentions that this planet is about to undergo an ice age... and fears the survivability of these poor critters. He gives them a bit of a hand fetching their food before heading off.
Next up, Phantom Girl and Lightning Lad meet some little Glomer looking things dancing around a fire... because, ya know... it's really damned cold. One of the poor goofs accidentally dances into the fire! The Legionnaires do some search and rescue and head off.
Finally, we meet up with Superboy, who is saving a nestful of eggs for a bird-like alien. He digs for ore and shapes it into a cable so he may better secure the next for mama bird-thing.
The Legionnaires regroup on a nearby overlook... and try to figure out how they might help these strange characters. Superboy has an idea... and it's pretty much exactly what you think it is... these three species need to share resources and talents to ensure all of their survivability.
We wrap up back at the Outpost with Wildfire still skeptical of the meaning of Christmas. Superboy smiles and comments that they wouldn't have found this troubled planet had they not been in search of the star. Wildfire grumbles a bit as the rest of the Legion take part in trimming their (real) Christmas Tree.
Twas the Fright Before Christmas!
From: DC Comics Presents #67 (March, 1984)
It's Christmas Eve in Metropolis... and Superman lands next to a bell-ringer Santa Claus and a young boy with a toy dart gun. He fires a little plunger dart that attaches itself to Santa's nose... and then appears to fall into a trance. He calmly demands that Santa hand over all of his money. Superman nabs the pop-gun and gives it the ol' x-ray once-over. Somehow it has a secret mechanism that hypnotizes the trigger-puller. Superman then wraps the boy in his cape, and heads off to the Fortress of Solitude for more testing.
He gives the kid a full eye-exam, and snaps him back to reality. The boy's name is Timmy Dickens, and he recounts the last thing he remembers. He was snooping around the house looking for his Christmas gifts. He found a dart gun and a starship... when he fired the gun for the first time, he fell under a trance.
Superman then puts him under yet another trance... which facilitates Timmy telling Superman what his post-hypnotic suggestion was... hey, whattayaknow... it's the Toyman. Blech.
Superman takes the tot and begins the flight back to Metropolis... somehow the kid is still holding onto the starship toy... which blasts Superman in the face with a green ray. This causes the Man of Steel to drop into the snow like a rock... knocking himself out, as though he were Hal Jordan in the vicinity of a bar of soap.
Some elves... yeah, we all know where this is going... show up and carry Superman off. We shift scenes to the Toyman watching his monitor... which somehow captured Superman falling into the snow. That's some bad-ass camerawork, no?
We rejoin a groggy Superman as he stirs back to life... before him stand several elves... and, yup... the big man himself!
Santa Claus gives Superman the grand tour of his top secret toy workshop. A particularly funny scene follows in which Superman sees the new 20th Century Santa Claus monitoring system. It's elves putting together the naughty and nice lists by watching the kids (and a certain Toyman) on computer screens. That's pretty funny!
Superman watches as the elves craft toys as he and Santa lament the loss of the simpler toys of Clark's own youth... which segues into a mention of a super-simple Kryptonian toy that took brain waves and made them into a hologram. Simple toys... just like that! Anyhoo, Superman mentions that he lost that toy when Krypton exploded... because, pre-Crisis.
Superman still can't quite fly yet, so Santa offers to give him a lift on his sleigh. Superman tries to fly... but, flops into the back of the sleigh anyway. They head to Toyman's toy shoppe, the Big Shott Toy Store, and Superman decides to crash on in.
What follows is... well, way too many pages of Superman fighting toys. I mean, this goes on for like five pages and is horribly dull until Santa finally trips the Toyman up with some marbles, like he was that kid in Home Alone. He did that, right? Seems like something he would do...
Anyhoo, Superman and Santa Claus win the day... and all that's left is to replace the hypnotic gifts with the genuine Santa-crafted articles.
Superman and Santa share a few more words before Timmy "accidentally" blasts Superman with the toy starship again. Oof. Superman wakes up to find Timmy sitting over him, wrapped in his cape... was the whole thing a dream?
Superman deposits the tot and head home to his Clinton Street apartment. Surely the whole thing was a dream, right? Well... upon taking off his cape, Superman notices that there's something stashed there... it's the hologram toy from Krypton! He flips the switch, and it's... Santa, wishing Superman a Merry Christmas!
The Silent Night of the Batman"
From: Batman #219 (February, 1970)
It's our sixth and final story... and I think we might just have gone six-for-six here... it's Christmas Eve in Gotham City! Batman watches as the Gothamites complete their last minute shopping when he notices the Bat-Signal shining in the dark clouds. He heads off to the GCPD and is greeted by Commissioner Gordon who has... no emergency for him! Instead he wanted to invite him to a night of... get this, Christmas caroling!
Now these next several pages are... amazing. We've got Batman singing juxtaposed with some ne'er do wells in Gotham all having a change of heart for the better. We've got a young boy who steals a package from a woman... then, his conscience catches up with him, and he returns it.
We see a gunman bump into a man in a Batman costume. It turns out it's a Santa-Batman who is wearing a sign for the Wayne Foundation Christmas Drive for the Blind. He dumps his gun in the trash (yeah, I get the sentiment... but that ain't a good idea)... and maybe decides to turn his life around.
Next up is a grieving army wife, who desperately misses her husband. She has a note and heads to the bridge, perhaps with thoughts of throwing herself off. Before she can act, her husband pulls up and they embrace.
Batman continues to sing, and realizes he'd been singing the entire night. No calls came in, and nobody was in need... it was as though the Spirit of Christmas had affected every single Gothamite.
Gordon tells Batman that his "investment" has finally paid off... and gave him the all too rare, night off. Batman heads out... with a head-full of things to ponder.
Well, that was quite the package, no? Let's get right into it...
We'll begin... ya know, in the beginning with Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead or Alive. The first time I read this was in Longmeadow Press' The Complete Frank Miller Batman that I received for... Christmas back in 1989. I was nine, and probably a bit too young for the included Dark Knight Returns... but remember enjoying this (and the also included, Year One)... it's really quite an excellent package that I would recommend if you can get your hands on it.
For what it's worth, this was a fine story. A baddie finally gets looked at as though he has value in society, and decides that he'd be happier flying right and going clean. This of course does not ingratiate him to his old running buddies... and well, we know how that turned out for them. I remember when I was younger I was kind of blown away by Frank Miller's Batman... until I realized it was actually David Mazzucchelli's take that I fell in love with. The Batman we get here is a far "safer" take than Miller would use in Dark Knight Returns and it's sequels. Still great, but not nearly as iconic and "definitively Miller" as I'd expected. This shorter tale was a great way to open this beast of an anthology!
The Justice League story was pretty fun as well. This is definitely not "my" Justice League, that is to say, not the one I ever really knew. That having been said, I really enjoyed reading this adventure. Sure, the ending was a bit convenient... being as though they called in Mr. Deus Ex Machina himself, the Phantom Stranger. John somehow rebuilding every single destroyed home kinda reeks of convenience too... but, like I've said so many times during this Twelve Days of Christmas on Infinite Earths special... whattaya gonna do, it's Christmas!
I gotta say, I absolutely loved the way they shanghaied poor John into this story... watching Hal Jordan knock himself out by slipping on a bar of soap? HI-larious... and definitely would not happen in the post Green Lantern: Rebirth era. Back in the day, Hal ranked pretty low on the "Fonz" meter... and, if you ask me... he was better back than. Oh, and I gotta mention... I love seeing even one panel of a brunette Black Canary. I miss her not actually being a blonde.
The Titans Swingin' Christmas Carol... hoo boy... I'd purposely not read this one before. I've got it several times over in reprint editions I've come into possession of over the past couple of decades... but wanted to save my first actual reading of it for whenever I found myself an original copy.
Guess every man comes to a breaking point, and I finally decided to give it a whirl for this SBTU event... and, wow... it sure was something, wun't it? At first I was a bit surprised that they were actually doing a riff on A Christmas Carol... I know, I know, I should've deduced that from the title... maybe I'm a bit dense... or just figured it was a convenient title. Then, I was shocked that they acknowledged the similarities to the Dickens story! Hey, Tiny Tom is just like Tiny Tim! Are you kidding me? That's just too damn funny.
What can anyone say about Bob Haney's teen-speak? He's not called "zany" for nothing. Between mentions of "Wonder Chick" and Aqualad's incessant fish-puns... oofta. And our new friend Tiny Tom ain't off the hook either... his ridiculous patter may have been the worst of all! Our other creator... Nick Cardy. Dang, I really enjoy his stuff. It's somehow cartoony and realistic at the same time in a way that I really can't describe. Just excellent stuff.
The Legion story was pretty good... though I'd wager if I were a bigger fan of the team, I would have enjoyed it more. I mean, by this point, I've read a bunch of Legion... and yet, I'm still lost when more than two of them are on panel at once! Maybe it's my density... or maybe it's my disinterest. Either way, that kinda sucks. I've said it before, and I'll say it now... I really want to "get" the Legion. Ehh, maybe one day. Before going into the story a bit, wanna mention that it felt Superboy was drawn a bit too much like a skinny Superman rather than Superman as a boy. Still looked great, but thought it was worth a mention.
Anyhoo... the story was... arright... Superboy helps save three disparate species by having them share their specialized traits and talents. That was fine. Perhaps my favorite part of this was seeing how the different members of the Legion celebrated the Holidays. I kind of chuckled/raised an eyebrow when I saw that on... I wanna say, Colossal Boy's planet, they only celebrate (C)Hanukkah. It's silly, but interesting... gotta assume that planet was discovered and/or settled by Jewish space-explorers. I wonder why they left Earth... or why they stuck together. That's just really interesting to me... though, as I say... I might be overthinking this.
The Superman and Santa Claus team-up against the Toyman? It was fine. Touching in a way... what with the story ending with Superman having been gifted the toy he'd lost when Krypton exploded. I also gotta say, I'm cool with any story that keeps the magic (or even skepticism) of Santa Claus alive... rather than just writing it off. I'm all for believing as long as humanly possible... it's not long before real-life starts. While we're young we need to keep all the magic and wonder that we can!
I've always thought that the Toyman was a pretty lousy villain, and this issue didn't do anything to change my mind. Don't like him here... and wasn't much of a fan when they darkened him post-Reign of the Supermen... yeesh.
We wrapped up with another shorty in an iconic Neal Adams drawn Batman story. Not a whole lot to say about this one, besides the fact that it looked fantastic... and it was nice to see a softer side to Gotham City... even at night! I'll also admit, I loved seeing Batman belt out some carols with the GCPD choir. That was both touching and hilarious! Left a great taste in my mouth as this anthology wound down.
Overall... a great grouping of DC Comics Christmas stories that I would recommend to fans of DC Comics both new and old. This was a collection of previously published work, which to me feels more worth my time than a more contemporary over-priced "jam" book with a handful of throwaway stories. If I were to pick any nits... I would have preferred it had they included the original covers. I always like seeing that Teen Titans cover, and was disappointed that it wasn't included here.
Sadly, this issue does not appear to be available digitally... and I doubt it will be, though... stranger things have happened... and I've been wrong (many times) before. If you wanna track this bugger down, it shouldn't set you back more than a couple of bucks... tops. That's about where I'd valuate it too... wouldn't go much higher than the $2.95 cover price on this one.
Anyhoo... if you've made it this far, I salute you. I sincerely thank you and hope you've enjoyed. We'll do some (not the) letters page and interior ads, then you can continue along the trail of wonderful Super-Bloggers!
(Not quite a) Letters Page:
Interesting Ads & Et-Cetera:
Super-Blog Team-Up Continues Below...
Between the Pages Blog
The Ghost of Supergirl Past
The Crapbox of Son of Cthulhu
!mpact W!nter Spec!al #1
The Super-Hero Satellite
The Super-Hero Satellite's 4th Annual Holiday Special
The Unspoken Decade
The 1991 Marvel Holiday Special
!mpact W!nter Spec!al #1
The Super-Hero Satellite
The Super-Hero Satellite's 4th Annual Holiday Special
The Unspoken Decade
The 1991 Marvel Holiday Special
Chris is on Infinite Earths
Christmas with the Super-Heroes 1988
YOU ARE HERE!