We've reached what many consider to be the most wonderful time of the year, and it seems like the holidays can, in many ways, go hand in hand with the ideals of the superhero. Good will toward all and helping your fellow man are ideals that are pretty consistent with those of many superheroes, so it's not surprising that superhero ficition gets in the spirit of the season whenever November and December roll around on the calendar.
Some characters, though, tend to be resistant to the peachy emotions evoked by the holiday season, one of the most obvious of these being the Dark Knight himself, Batman. That doesn't stop DC Comics or Warner Bros. animation from making a plethora of Batman Christmas stories over the years, and these five prove to be some of the best.
5) Batman: Arkham Origins
The latest video game in the critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham series may not be the best of the bunch, but its story is certainly interesting. Taking place on Christmas Eve and into the big day during Batman's second year on the job, the Dark Knight is on the hunt to stop eight assassins from doing him in and collecting a $50 million payout... or is he? The story cleverly uses misdirection to instead serve as an origin story for the most defining rivalry of Batman's life, and the foe that will most define his crusade in the years to come.
The Christmas setting adds an interesting juxtaposition to the events depicted in the story, since Gotham is spruced up for the holidays while it's surrounded by murder and mayhem. The theme of family is also ever present in the story personified by Alfred, dutifully waiting in the Batcave to heat up his master's Christmas dinner as he woefully watches his surrogate son head back into the battlefield. Great vocal performances by Roger Craig Smith (Disney's Planes) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us) definitely serve to heighten the value of the story being told.
If you're looking for a Christmas-themed Batman story to enjoy with a bit more of an active role (or know someone else who is), then Arkham Origins would likely make a promising addition to a few Christmas lists.
Buy Batman: Arkham Origins for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U or PC
4) "Slayride" from Detective Comics #826
This issue from December 2006 started off innocently enough. As the holiday atmosphere washes over Gotham City, Robin is out on patrol when suddenly he's viciously pursued by gun-toting thugs intent on ramming him down in their car. He seemingly catches a break when a small SUV speeds into view, with the driver yelling for him to quickly get in. With no other options, Robin bolts for the car, and when he looks up to thank the driver who saved him, he finds himself face to face with the Joker.
From there, after incapacitating the Boy Wonder and tying him firmly into the front seat, Joker proceeds to go on a hellacious killing spree while Robin can do little more than watch and wait for the right opportunity to strike back at the Harlequin of Hate. "Slayride" isn't exactly a joyful Christmas story, but it's a well-written, fast-paced thrill ride that will disturb and entertain in equal parts, and juxtaposed with the cheerful atmosphere of the holidays, you can't help but be enthralled.
Buy "Slayride" at ComiXology for $1.99
3) "Holiday Knights" from The New Batman Adventures
The first offering from The New Batman Adventures (the newly stylized continuation of Batman: The Animated Series) saw three small stories told in the span of a single, 21-minute episode. In the first story, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have the holiday blues, and they think of the perfect thing to cheer them up: a shopping spree, courtesy of a mind-controlled rich guy. The one that they happen to snag is Mr. Bruce Wayne, and when the billionaire finds a way to sneak away from his captors, Batman decides to put an end to the shopping spree, and Harley and Ivy's time out of Arkham.
The second story focuses on Barbara Gordon, as she encounters a string of child robbers taking advantage of the hectic Christmas shopping in a Gotham mall to sneak away with money and treasure. When those kids all converge in one area of a department store, they combine into the hulking mass known as Clayface. Barbara Gordon quickly becomes Batgirl, and does what she can along with Detectives Bullock and Montoya to put Clayface on ice.
The final story in the episode takes place on New Year's Eve, with the Joker promising "a countdown of victims that will end at midnight." It's up to Batman and the new Robin to put a stop to his plans, and the episode ends with an awesome yearly ritual enjoyed by Batman and Commissioner Gordon. I'm a sap, and watch this episode at least once during every holiday season.
Watch "Holiday Knights" on Amazon Instant Video (Free with Prime)
2) Batman: Noel Graphic Novel
When you think about the timeless characters and situations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, it may become a little surprising when you learn a comic book creator decided to recast the classic tale in the world of the Dark Knight. Though, really, any Batman fan looking at the character of Ebenezer Scrooge may find more than a couple passing similarities, and the conception for Noel starts to become a little clearer.
This is basically what Noel does: it takes us through the classic tropes of Dickens' timeless story and places it under the lens of Gotham City, with Batman himself playing the part of Scrooge. While the realistic artwork of writer-artist Lee Bermejo may distract from some of the fantasy, it doesn't take away at all from the beauty and narrative strength of the book. I was initially skeptical of the concept, but one read-through sold me pretty well.
Add to that the appearances of some of the "ghosts," one of which is embodied by an angelically rendered Man of Steel, and you have a fun holiday story that reminds you of the meaning of Christmas, all in the unique visual and storytelling language of the Dark Knight.
Buy Batman: Noel at ComiXology for $14.99
1) "Christmas with the Joker" from Batman: The Animated Series
When Batman: The Animated Series first hit the scene in 1992, many observers, longtime fans and new younger fans all seemed to agree it was something special. As a result, the series has become something of a modern classic, with many of the voice cast still being the first voices that pop into fans' heads when reading comic book adventures of the same characters.
Kevin Conroy as Batman is still an enduring iconic portrayal of the Dark Knight, but probably the most continually praised and acclaimed performance to come out of that series is Mark Hamill's turn as the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. "Christmas with the Joker" was the second produced episode of Batman: The Animated Series, and it was the first time that Hamill's gleeful, manic performance as the Joker took true form.
The episode itself is a fairly standard tale, with Joker taking advantage of the chaos of the holiday season in Gotham to escape Arkham Asylum and hatch one of his unique schemes. The thing that makes it extraordinary is the fact that this is our first glimpse at what would become one of the most iconic interpretations of the character (for many ranking equal with Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn in The Dark Knight), and of course the Christmas setting. "Christmas with the Joker" is a classic B:TAS episode, and should definitely be enjoyed this holiday season by you and any other Dark Knight fans in your household.
Watch "Christmas with the Joker" on Amazon Instant Video (Free with Prime)
Do you have any other favorite Dark Knight Christmas tales? What about other classic Christmas stories with your favorite superheroes? Leave a comment below with other choices, and have a great, safe and happy holiday season! Comics on Film will see you again next week!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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