Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas at Wayne Manor

Before you even start, I know! I said I would have a second Christmas post on Tuesday, but when you have to drop everything and drive your fiancee to the Apple Store on icy streets while it is snowing in order to fix her dead Macbook, I will give you a break too. (I just want to make it known that I love Vista. LOL.) Consider this an belated Christmas present. OK with that settled, on to the season at hand.

What is the first thing you think about when you hear the term "Christmas?" Family? Food? Presents? WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The correct answer is Batman. Yep, the Caped Crusader has definitely seen his share of Christmas stories set in the DC Universe, and purely by accident, I read two of them in the last week. Let me explain. During one of my trips to the the used book store, I recently came across Batman: Ego by Darwyn Cooke. Now I assume someone sold this original version since DC has released the story in a newer hardcover edition with the other Batman stories that Cooke has written. I have always wanted to read it since Darwyn Cooke is one of my favorite creators in comics today, so as soon as I got home, I parked myself down and read it. When I started reading, I made a realization pretty quick that Ego is the Batman version of "It's A Wonderful Life." Now of course, the Dark Knight's version of the classic tale has to be darker than the original. Instead of Bruce Wayne's guardian angel teaching him about his own worth, his personal devils explore his crusade to punish the guilty and avenge the death of his parents. We all know Batman's origin, but Cooke is able to make the reader feel Wayne's loss by showing more intimate moments of his childhood like Christmas morning with his parents. Just like George Bailey, Bruce Wayne comes out of the experience stronger, and assures Commissioner Gordon with only one sentence: "I'm on my way."

Now Christmas is all about the kids so it only makes sense that DC would put out a kids comic for Christmas as well. I read Justice League Unlimited #28 which is basically a kid-friendly re-telling of Batman: Ego. I assure you I did not plan this out. I just happened to read both books only days apart. Now instead of Batman being guided through his life by his inner demons, the Flash is guided by the Phantom Stranger (a perfect stand-in for a Dickens-style Christmas ghost) so that he can understand Batman better. Much like in Ego, opening presents at Christmas is used again to show Bruce Wayne's childhood. I will admit that this story has a truly heartbreaking moment when we see Bruce Wayne's first Christmas without his parents. When he gets the one present he really wanted, he starts to play and have fun like a normal kid until he looks up and stops dead in his tracks when he sees the portrait of his parents. Flash asks the Stranger what happened and the Stranger explains that little Bruce forgot his parents "and for the briefest of moments his promise to avenge them." As an adult, that sentence just punched me in the gut. In the end though, Flash gives Batman the same toy and all is right with the world. Honestly though, Batman fans should seek this issue out for the view into his life.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas with plenty of comics in their stockings. Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year to all.


Rick Hansen said...

Nice to have some Christmas stories that enrich the enduring story of The Batman. My favorite of all time was the Marvel Holiday Special that featured Thanos and Gamora. While he is trying to be a ruthless taskmaster who is grooming the "Most Dangerous Woman in the Universe", he finally gets a touch of the Christmas spirit and tosses the child Gamora a ratted doll, which she cradles with unspoken joy. I no longer have this issue, but I'd love to find it in a quarter box someday.

Rick Hansen said...

This was the 1993 Marvel Holiday Special. Xtoral Laxtan had some shady business dealings with Thanos the Titan. Laxtan betrayed Thanos during one of their transactions, then Thanos punished by him killing his family. Xtoral Laxtan took a blood oath to avenge his family. To kill the Titan, Laxtan sneaked into Thanos base using the aeration conduits. He reached Thanos and was shooting at him when the 5 year-old Gamora flung her doll onto Laxtan's face. Laxtan's shot destroyed only the computer panel in front of Thanos, and the Titan fired an energy blast that incinerated the alien criminal. Thanos was touched by Gamora's selfless act to protect her guardian, so he returned her doll to her despite his belief that stern discipline was the way to raise her into a fine-tuned killer. As wonderful a Christmas tale as I've ever read.