Christmas with the Super-Heroes (Limited Collector’s Edition Vol. 4 No. C-34)
This treasury sized special cover dated March 1975 contains reprints of Christmas stories of a bevy of DC Superstars. Superman and Captain Marvel are featured in a couple of un-credited feel good Golden Age stories and Angel and the Ape star in a humorous Christmas caper of mistaken identity by John Albano, Bob Oksner and Wally Wood. But the two true classics of the issue are “Silent Night, Deadly Night” starring Batman- written by Denny O’Neil with art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano and “A Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” featuring the Teen Titans with a script by Bob Haney and Art by Nick Cardy.
“Silent Night, Deadly Night” – The Batman is on the snow-covered streets of Gotham in the early evening on Christmas Eve. The Batman is tracking a series of assaults on street corner Santas. He comes across the most recent one who was able to crack the assailant in the knee and draw blood leaving a trail for the Dark Knight Detective. The trail takes him to a Christmas tree lot where he gets as good as he gives until he takes his quarry down with a combination of moves in a nice silent sequence.
Batman listens to the sob story that the man, Tim Tells. Being in the Christmas spirit, Batman gives Tim a chance. He’s lost his job just before the Christmas season and he’s responsible for taking care of his orphaned niece, Betsy. Not only is Tim trying to provide Christmas, but Betsy is sick as well and running up medical expenses. Tim had been working for a local toy manufacturer, Richard Evans, and Batman tries to explain to Tim that he is taking out his issues with Evans on the world. Batman pays for it as Tim brains him with a lamp and ties him up while his back is turned.
Batman wakes up to the sight of Betsy hovering over him. He quickly realizes what’s happened – Tim is going to take it out on Evans. Instead of leaving the girl alone he bundles her up and they head out in the Batmobile to Evans’ estate on the outskirts of town. However, the snow has begun to fall again and the roads become impassible. As Tim reaches Evans inside his estate, Batman and Betsy wait for a miracle.
Tim goes after Evans as the geriatric toy manufacturer attends to some of his favorite creations. Batman has set off on foot carrying Betsy in a desperate attempt to reach Evans when the sound of bells cut through the night air. Perched on a low hill just a short distance away Batman spies a horse-drawn sleigh. Batman gets his miracle. They board the sleigh and speed off to the estate. They arrive in time to see Tim carrying the motionless form of Evans out the front door.
Evans speaks just as Batman is accusing Tim of the worst. As Tim argued with Evans he explains, he realized how sick and fragile the old man was. Tim was carrying Evans out to get him help. The sleigh provides transportation for the foursome to the nearest Gotham hospital. They are in time to save Evans and Tim has come to his senses. Batman gives Tim the promise of Wayne Foundation help. The ER doctor comes out to announce that all will be fine with Evans as Batman hands Tim some cash to give Betsy a Christmas.
As Batman leaves the hospital he muses on the serendipitous appearance of the miracle sleigh. They are gone as he walks back to where he left it and as he wonders upon the ownership, he looks up into the now clear night and sees a star reminiscent of the Christmas star and he has his answer.
There is a great Christmas message throughout the story, from the change in Tim’s attitude towards Evans, to Batman’s generous nature. But the ending is the bit that will put a lump in your throat. Amen, Batman, Amen.
Irv Novick is often underrated as a Batman artist, but this story is a great resume piece for his inclusion among the greats. There are some nice actions bits and nice page layouts, but his Batman is classic. It’s every bit as impressive as Neal Adams work on the character. We shouldn’t overlook the inking by Dick Giordano, who may very well be the best inker of all time.
There are a few times in which Batman may be a bit too trusting, but it’s all in the spirit of the season. It is a Christmas story, but the ending may be a bit much for some readers. I wonder how overt an ending DC would publish today.
This is a classic Christmas tale with so many things that readers expect in a Batman story – detective work, action and making a difference in the world. It’s also a really nice Christmas story that has no trouble incorporating the meaning of Christmas.
“A Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” As one might expect this is a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic- “A Christmas Carol.” Originally published in the late sixties in the Teen Titans own title, this story updates the classic tale and modifies it to allow the Titans to play a role in the story as the ghosts.
Ebenezer Scrounge is a junk man who’s gotten involved with the mob, allowing them to use his junkyard as a place to transform imported junk into “expensive goods” that the mob doesn’t have to pay any import duties. Working for Scrounge is of course Bob Ratchet, who’s working hard to make extra money to buy his son Tiny Tom an electric wheelchair for Christmas. Things go bad when Tom stumbles onto Scrounge taking cash from the mobsters and overhears what’s going on. He goes to his dad who in turn confronts Scrounge. With his job at risk, Bob backs off and hurries Tom home.
It isn’t long before we see Tom explaining the set up to the Teen Titans – Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Aqualad. The Titans hitch a ride on the back on one of the mobs’ trucks as it enters the junkyard. There’s a scuffle between the mobsters and a mysterious figure and the bail before the Titans get a look at the switcheroo of the junk. Meanwhile, Scrounge gets his first visit of the night – from his former partner – Jacob Farley! Not a ghost, but escaped convict, Farley is looking for revenge after taking the rap for Scrounge when the partners sold defective material to a construction project. The Titans end up on the scene and Kid Flash intervenes to stop Farley from murdering Scrounge. Aqualad quickly put it all together that this case seems an awful lot like “A Christmas Carol” complete with sound alike names. Robin then puts together a plan to mimic the tale to turn the table on Scrounge.
Kid Flash plays the role of the Ghost of Christmas past, Aqualad is Christmas Present and Wonder Girl treats Scrounge to Christmas future. The head mobster, Mr. Big, shows up as Wonder Girl is doing her thing and an all out battle breaks out. In the midst of it, Tiny Tom ends up defending Scrounge and it turns his heart. After the Titans put the mobsters to sleep, Scrounge uses the junk to expensive goods device to create Tom a brand new electric wheel chair.
Perhaps the single greatest thing about the story is the phenomenal work by Nick Cardy. He is a fantastic draftsman and is able to give each of the Titans the spotlight. His hatching style is at times moody and atmosphere and at others dynamic and expressive. But his work is always gorgeous. The story itself is often humorous and quite fun. Haney does a good job modifying the Dickens tale to make it fit and it plays well with the good natured aspects of this group of Titans.
The criminal aspect of this story is really weak. If you think to hard about it the scenario becomes completely unbelievable for even a comic book. You really just have to accept it and enjoy Cardy’s art and the Dickensian element.
“A Christmas Carol” is a Christmas classic for very good reasons – it shows how a person can have a change of heart when given the chance. Not everyone gets a chance, but the story gives us all a chance to evaluate our own lives. The Teen Titans version may not be as strong as the original, but it is a doorway to a classic with some awesome Nick Cardy art.