Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2 (Deadman)
“Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot”
Writer – Alan Brennert
Art – Dick Giordano
Letters – Steve Haynie
Colors – Tom McCraw
Editor – Mark Waid
Dedicated to Otto Binder & Jim Mooney
Okay Gang, today we’re going to take a look at a most intimidating little story. I feel like, for many, this is the story of the issue. It’s certainly the most discussed one… and not to put the cart in front of the horse, this is not only my favorite story of the issue… but very likely my favorite Deadman story ever.
Let’s get right to it!
It’s Christmastime, and Deadman is being kind of naughty. Ya see, he’s been scoping out a rather rich fella by the name of John Turner Danforth. After taking possession of this dude’s body, Boston goes about using his immense (and arguably, ill-gotten) fortune to send gifts to his old friends at Hill Brothers Circus. Pretty sneaky, pal. That’s not the story we’re going to tell today, however. No, no, no… this is a story about how during Christmas, Deadman is at his most lonely. All that “good will toward men” in the air gives him a bit too much idle time.
Boston spots a skater on the ice… and decides to take possession in order to feel what it’s like to have the cold air on his face. After a couple of axles, he spots… a most arousing (his words, not mine) woman. He figures his next “stop” will be inside the body of her male companion.
The woman kisses him, because she doesn’t realize she’s, ya know, kissing a dead-man. Together, they head to a friend’s house for a Christmas Party. Boston is greeted, and treated as though he belongs there. Again, this is because none of them realize that their buddy Paul is currently being possessed.
He loses himself in the fun, frivolity, and warmth of the occasion. He takes in the sounds of laughter, and smells of food. He reminisces about Christmases long long ago. But then, the harsh reality of the situation sets in. This isn’t his Christmas… it’s Paul’s. And what he’s doing is robbing him of a wonderful experience… and ultimately, wonderful memories.
After one more scan of the table, and one more look into Kerry’s loving eyes, Boston decides to vacate. He’s already taken too much from Paul, and doesn’t feel right taking any more.
Outside, he curses Rama for his lot in (after) life before sitting down to sulk. The pity-party is interrupted by the arrival of a blonde stranger, who… oddly enough, can see Deadman.
She offers an unsolicited opinion, in that she suggests Deadman might be feeling the way he is because nobody can see all the good he’s done. He’s very much an unsung hero… righting wrongs without ever getting recognition or credit. Boston asks if anyone cares… to which, the stranger replies “Probably not.” Ouch.
Deadman relates his feelings to when he was a circus performer. He was fueled by applause… something he certainly doesn’t experience these days. The Stranger removes Boston’s mask so she can look him in the eyes, and assures him that what they do isn’t for recognition. They do what they do because no one else will. They act in the interests of the greater good… even if no one remembers they ever existed. Remember that last bit.
Deadman apologizes for his outburst, and tells the Stranger that she’s right. After wishing our man a Merry Christmas, the Stranger goes to take her leave. Before she can, however, Boston asks for her name… to which, she replies “Kara”… buuuuut, she doubts that means anything to him.
We wrap up with Boston floating away letting the situation set in. He thinks to himself that Kara was right… that name didn’t mean anything to him. He wishes her a Merry Christmas… whoever she is.
Okay, so we’ve got a little bit to unpack here, don’t we?
Before addressing the elephant in the room, I want to spend a few moments looking at the first-half of this story. Maybe I’m too much of a Christmas-Softy, but this scene really got to me. Deadman having the opportunity to take part in the love and warmth of a Christmas Gathering… with a woman who looks at him with nothing less than adoration on his arm. Sounds like a pretty good time, don’t it? Until, of course… he lets himself think about what he’s taking from the man who owns the body he’s currently occupying.
It’s heartbreaking. I mean, again… this is coming from Christmas-Softy Chris, but… even taking the “Deadmannyness” out of the equation… it feels like every year we’re gently dropped into the festivity and warmth of Christmas… family gatherings, neighbor after neighbor decorating and lighting-up their homes, reconnecting with friends… then, suddenly… it’s over. We’re yanked back to reality for another eleven months. Family and friends go their own ways, the neighborhood returns to normal… the warmth kind of fades.
I think of that one line from Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas… one that never fails to move me. “Someday soon we all will be together – If the fates allow – Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow”. So much of life can come down to “muddling through”… if we let it.
Which brings us back to Deadman. He’s doomed to work in anonymity… doing what’s right for people who will never know he was there. It doesn’t get much more “muddling through” than that… which is something that is all the more apparent during the “most wonderful time of the year”. It’s only in meeting a stranger named Kara, that he begins to make peace with that.
I’m not blowing any minds here, and it’s never said outright… but, “Kara” is pretty clearly meant to represent the pre-Crisis Supergirl. A Supergirl that no longer exists… and, in fact, never had! She can identify with Deadman, in that everything she’d ever done… or ever will do, will be done without anyone acknowledging her existence.
This is also pretty heartbreaking. While I’m certain I’d have been more “moved” by this scene had I grown up in the pre-Crisis era, the poignancy and tragedy of this meeting was not lost on me. In a way, it reminded me of how I felt when reading those (mostly tepid) Convergence mini-series’ from 2015. We were given a fleeting opportunity to say goodbye to “our” heroes… before returning to “muddle through” The New-52!
When I read those series’, I lingered on the final panels… realizing that this was very likely going to be “it”. I was never going to see my Superman again… or my Titans… or my Outsiders. Of course, some half-decade later, I’ve got a bit of egg on my face… but, that’s neither here nor there. I gotta wonder how this sorta-kinda cameo was received by folks back in ye old 1989? If you’re reading this, and were around… I’d love to know how seeing your Supergirl again felt! Also, did you look at this character as Supergirl… or simply an “Easter Egg” of sorts?
Overall… there’s just a ton to love about this little story, and if you only read one from this 1989 Special, I would urge you to make it this one.
Tomorrow: Wrapping up Christmas on Infinite Earths… in July, with the Compilation of Christmas With the Super-Heroes #2!