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A suicidal young woman and a mindless brute drowning in icy water. IT’S A VERY BATMAN CHRISTMAS. – Batman #309

December 14, 2011

When you think “holiday cheer,” visions of the grim Caped Crusader probably aren’t the first to dance in your head. Not to say that Batman can’t have a place around the Christmas tree, but a man driven to nocturnal vengeance, one prone to crouching on rooftops next to stone gargoyles, isn’t exactly Hallmark material. Then again, maybe the cold weather is ideally suited for him. Now that I think of it, Batman Returns was a “Christmas” movie. Hmm.

Whether Batman belongs under the mistletoe may be up for debate, but here we have a genuine Batman Christmas tale, one surely worthy of a microscopic parsing. No matter what. It’s wreathed by ivy, for God’s sake. It’s a veritable Yule log of material.

Len Wein, John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin crafted the easily titled “Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas!” Here’s DC’s Blockbuster, the change-his-ways Grinch stand-in for the comic (another Blockbuster, two in less than a week — what’re the odds?):

Not only does he shop at the same Tattered Purple Pants Emporium as Bruce Banner, but he’s good with his hands! The young toughs he KRAKs and KROOMs above had just snatched a young lady’s purse, launching the Blockbuster on a dim-witted quest to return it to her. That theft was the last straw for the poor (yet attractive — can’t have her be poor AND ugly) Kathy, who decides to end her miserable, crappy, shabby one-room apartment life. An overdose of sleeping pills is her Christmas feast — JOY TO THE WORLD. What makes this even more depressing is that she calls a police station for her last farewell (just what I’d want — my last words to be spoken to Barney Miller and Fish):

In a twist (A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE), Batman’s there to drop of a gift for his platonic life-partner, Jim Gordon:

Legends of the Dark Suicide Hotline Counselor:

Bats goes into full NOT ON MY WATCH mode. But Blockbuster (with purse) beats him to the dying Kathy:

I confess, the “nok nok KRAM” made me laugh.

Block scoops her up and wanders off with a vague idea to get some sort of help. But he’s a bit possessive and grabby (think Lenny with rabbits in Of Mice and Men) and this brings him into conflict with someone else who’s on a mission of mercy:

Do you sometimes wonder if Batman ever sat down in the Cave and did a cost-benefit analysis of his cape? Maybe pulled out a yellow legal pad, took out his Batpen and drew a line down the middle, listed one half PROS and the other CONS, then went to town? “PRO — Aides in striking fear in the hearts of criminals. CON — IT WILL ONE DAY KILL YOU, YOU IDIOT.”

While Batman shakes off the cobwebs, Kathy is well on her way to developing a comic book Stockholm Syndrome:

HO HO HO:

I think that might actually be the “real” Santa, apparently taking a shift down at the Salvation Army bucket. Whatever the case, he’s unable to help because the Blockbuster gets jealous and spirits his rescuee/hostage away. Somehow they end up on ice floes in the river (surprised they didn’t see Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius and the sled dogs out there), and this is where the Blockbuster performs a final heroic act:

Kathy recovers with fresh optimism and a renewed lease on life. Once again, A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. And has anyone ever tabulated how many Batman books ended with our hero and Gordon standing side by side reflecting on the most recent case/caper?:

There are definite demerits in this issue. The art is less than stellar (especially after being taunted by an Aparo Batman cover) and plot elements are ham-handed. Also, while I have no beef with there being snow in a winter-set story, the omnipresent gigantic flakes are a tad distracting. You half expect them to start showing up in the indoor scenes.

Still, I like it. If a Christmas suicide seems a bit heavy, keep in mind that even Superman, DC’s beacon of light and hope, has grappled with this depressing subject. What really helps the story overcome the downer vibe is the gift exchange between Batman and Gordon. Pipe tobacco for a charitable donation seems a perfectly apt holiday trade for these two guys, and I’m left wondering what blend Gordon smokes. Maybe “Manly Trenchcoat Moustache Delight.” I’m also curious whether Batman brings the full resources of Wayne Industries to bear in securing the most potently aromatic leaves on the face of the Earth. One likes to think so.

Good, clean Batman Christmas fun. Maybe he does belong.

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