It’s December, and that means it’s Christmas time again. Sure, we can be politically correct and call it the Holiday Season, but growing up as a Jewish kid in America and being the only house on the street not covered in colored lights, it was made abundantly clear to me early on who the real star is (Hint: It’s not Judah the Maccabee, even though he is glorious). Maybe you love the Christmas season, and the messages it brings such as joy and peace on Earth. Maybe you hate this time of year, what with the rampant commercialism and Nativity Scenes your neighbor will be too lazy to take down until St. Paddy’s Day. Or maybe you’re like me, and don’t celebrate Christmas, but can ignore your inner Scrooge and just enjoy the season for everything we’ve made it out to be. No matter what, I find that the Christmas, like everything else, can be greatly improved by Batman. So here’s a few seasonal recommendations to help you get through the end of the year.
DC Holiday Special 2009:
This comic book from 2009 is full of a bunch of short stories starring different characters, ranging from one-page vignettes to seven-page tales. They’re all done by different writers and artists, and vary in tone. While most of the stories are about Christmas, we do get a few notable exceptions, such as a short Chanukah story with Ragman and New Year’s Eve with Adam Strange. While some A-listers are present here — such as Batman, Superman, and the Flash — there are actually a lot missing in exchange for C-list and below. Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and a few other DCU mainstays are missing, but in exchange we get B’wana Beast, the Doom Patrol, and even incredibly obscure players like Angel and the Ape, among others.
Highlights: Deadman stopping a woman from committing suicide, Sergeant Rock and a Nazi Soldier in a ceasefire, Superman fighting a Snow Golem.
Where to Get It: If you can’t find a physical copy, it’s available digitally on Comixology. And the best part? It’s free!
Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special:
Written by Geoff Johns with art by the incomparable Brett Booth, this is one of the most hilarious comics DC’s released in the past few years. This one-shot stars everyone’s favorite greedy space-warthog Larfleeze and his orange light potato buddy, Glomulus, taking place after the events of the Lex Luthor-centric Action Comics story “The Black Ring”. Larfleeze is living on Earth now, in a junkyard cabin full of stolen stuff, and is excited for Christmas. Why? Because he’s heard of Santa Claus, the legendary Earthling who brings you everything you want, and Larfleeze wants everything. But when Santa doesn’t show, Larfleeze demands retribution. Hijinks ensue.
Highlights: Larfleeze terrorizing Mall Santas, a recipe for Orange Lantern Cookies, a Glomulus backup story by the creative team of Tiny Titans.
Where to Get It: It’s available for $1.99 USD on Comixology if you want it digitally. Trying to find it physically will probably result in a few different price points, as it’s a couple years old.
The very first convention I ever went to was the New York Comic Con 2009, where I had no idea what I was doing, but did get a magazine with a preview of this comic in it, and I was hooked immediately. You see, there are two classic Christmas stories everybody likes to pay homage to. As far as I know, there is no Superman version of It’s A Wonderful Life, which is an absolute shame because if you put Zauriel in the role of Clarence you have the best thing Grant Morrison hasn’t written yet. However, Batman’s gone ahead and followed in the tradition of such pop culture greats as Scrooge McDuck and the Muppets by doing a very non-traditional retelling of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Written and drawn by Lee Bermejo, this seasonal masterpiece is a retelling of the greatest Christmas story ever (as scientifically proven by the Institute of My Opinion) unlike any ever seen before. Rather than actually having Batman meet three ghosts, we see the story of Batman chasing a goon who works for the Joker, as a narrator parallels it with the story of A Christmas Carol. It’s a clever, heartfelt story, true to both the spirit of Batman and the spirit of the Dickens classic.
Highlights: A really cool version of Batman’s costume, the way the three ghosts are represented, the fact that somebody actually did a Batman version of A Christmas Carol. I mean, seriously, wow.
Where to Get It: You’ve got a few options here. Digitally, it’s available on the Kindle for $12.99 USD, and on Comixology for $14.99. The list price for the hardcover is $22.99 USD, but you can find it for cheaper depending on the retailer.
The New 52 Shazam story ran in backup issues of Geoff Johns’ Justice League from issue #7 to issue #20, with issues #0 and #21 being completely dominated by the arc instead of regular tales of the Justice League. This is the reboot of Captain Marvel, now called “Shazam” for branding purposes. And while it isn’t actually about Christmas, the story does take place during the Christmas season, which gives me an excuse to talk about it because it’s the best thing Geoff Johns has written in the past five years. And not only does it read great, but it looks great too, thanks to artist Gary Frank.
Shazam! reboots Billy Batson, taking the character who was a kind, pure-hearted, innocent child and reimagining him as a deceitful troubled teen looking out for number one. While this is a huge change, it works. The story follows Billy in Philadelphia (yes, Fawcett City no longer exists, although he does go to Fawcett High School), being fostered by a racially-diverse family and learning to love after being kicked around by the adoption system and life in general. Although cold on the outside, Billy has hidden depths which cause an ancient wizard to grant him incredible powers. Other characters involved in this story include old familiar faces like Black Adam and Doctor Sivanna, as well as new ones like an extended Shazam family of Billy’s adopted brothers and sisters. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s smart, it’s got cool action, and it’s a really compelling story. It’s worth a read.
Highlights: Black Adam’s new backstory, Billy’s meeting with the wizard, superpowered children in adult bodies.
Where to Get It: You COULD try buying all the individual Justice League issues the story appears in, or you could save yourself the trouble and just buy the collected edition for less money and hassle. The paperback won’t be out until June, because DC is horrible when it comes to releasing their collected editions in anything remotely resembling a timely manner, but the hardcover’s available now for $24.99 USD. Digital’s an option too, for $16.99 on Comixology and $13.99 on Kindle.
Lobo’s Paramilitary Christmas Special:
If you just can’t get rid of your humbug infestation, this is the book for you. DC’s rudest, crudest bastiche has been hired by the Easter Bunny to kill Santa Claus, and the Main Man always delivers. Written by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant with art by Simon Bisley, this book is full of as much carnage, gratuitous violence, and 90’s insanity as you could want. Everything in it is ugly and mean-spirited, and it’s a real cathartic read if you’re just sick and tired of Christmas, or just have a twisted sense of humor.
Highlights: Lobo singing while gunning down elves, Santa Claus having a gorilla for no reason, Santa Claus vs. Lobo machete fight.
Where to Get It: Look, this fraggin’ book’s over 20-years-old, so while you can probably find it on the used market, it’s just easiest to get it digitally for $1.99 USD.
So, there you go, kids. Five comics to get you through the rest of the season. Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.