Or – “Big Blue Meets Big Red!”

I confess that, even as I enjoy today’s more adult comic fare and the grown-up perspectives that (usually) come with it, there are a few things that I do miss from years past.  I’ve lamented that comics can’t be goofy anymore, that we can’t have a silly comic relief character like Woozy Winks clowning through the pages.  We can’t have a storyline that ends with “It was all a dream… OR WAS IT????”  Batman laughing at Robin’s bad puns, the Justice League spending time together off-duty, the Avengers taking time to play a game of baseball…  But of all of these, I think I miss the maudlin, over-the-top holiday spectacle most, as something like “Christmas With The Super-Heroes” would never play in today’s market, for a number of reasons…

This, Faithful Spoilerites, is why we have (only slightly tardy) Holiday Retro Reviews!!

DC Comics Presents #67
Script: Len Wein (co-plotter, scripter); E. Nelson Bridwell (co-plotter)
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Murphy Anderson
Colors: Gene D’Angelo
Letters: Ben Oda
Publisher: DC Comics

Previously, on DC Comics Presents:  For decades, dating back to Dubya Dubya Two, Superman and Batman had their monthly team-up adventures in World’s Finest Comics.  In the mid-sixties, the G-D Batman started teamin’ up with other heroes, taking over The Brave & The Bold and making it a tw0-fer book.  Pre-Crisis, it seemed clear that Supey and Bats had “Most Favored Nation” status, wherein if one got something good, the other would get it as well.  (Superman got Krypto, so Batman got Ace.  Superman got Supergirl, so Batman got Babs Gordon and her powder-puff motorcycle.  Superman got Myxyzptlk, Batman got Bat-Mite…)  Thus it was that Clark Kent finally got his own two-in-one title, one that actually made more sense than any of the other team-up books out there, in that unlike Spider-Man, The Thing or Batman, he at least had superhuman speed to explain how he made his way around the world giving spotlights to lesser heroes who might be down on their luck or looking for their big break.  Some DCP teamups were tailor-made for his style (Adam Strange, Doctor Fate, Green Lantern, even the Legion) while some were a bit more unorthodox, teaming Superman with the likes of Sgt. Rock, He-Man, Clark Kent and his own Earth-Prime duplicate, now forever known as Tom Welling Prime.  But this may be the oddest of the oddball doubleshots you’ll ever read, as we team Kal-El with another orphan who put on a distinctive uniform and dedicated himself to making life better for others…  the man known as SANTA CLAUS!!  (That’s Father Christmas to our British Spoilerites…)

First of all, let me just take a moment to say:  CURT SWAAAN!!  WITH MURPHY ANDERSON INKS!!!  SOOO PRETTYYYYY!!!!  That right there is worth the price of admission any day for me, and in ’84, Mr. C still had some serious chops.  This issue starts out weird, as Superman steps between a dime-store Santa and a kid with a pistol, only to have the kid shoot Santa in the face!  Supey doesn’t respond in time, revealing that he was aware that it’s just a suction-dart gun, but that a strange radiation has been shooting from the toy into the child’s brain.  This has left the boy in a state of hypnotic trance.  Superman carries the unfortunate child (named Timmy Dickens…  We see what you did there, Len!) off to his Fortress of Solitude to figure out what’s going on…

Big Shott Toys?  Why, this must be a plot by none other than the nefarious Winslow Shott, The Toyman!  Kal-El and the boy set out for Metropolis to foil the villain’s plan, when the hero is struck down by a mysterious ray from Timmy’s other toy, a replica spaceship of some sort.  They tumble to the icy wasteland below, and the Man of Steel is (amazingly) rendered unconscious by the combination of frap-gun ray and impact!  Timmy starts to lose his cool, imagining a horrible freezing fate on the Artic tundra, when suddenly, unconventional help arrives…

The elves quickly scoop up Superman and carry him away, as a confused Timmy tries to figure out what in the world is going on.  “This is the North Pole, sonny!” quips one of the tiny men.  “We’ll give you three guesses!”  Back in Metropolis, a triumphant Toyman laughs about his latest brilliant invention (“heavy-gravity energy”) and how he has surely taken his foe down for good this time.  It’s truly fun to read, the kind of silly rant that you don’t get anymore in comics, as Nelson Bridwell and Wein give him dialogue that clearly demonstrates that Winslow believes that HE is the Man of Steel’s greatest foe.  Heh…  Superman slowly regains consciousness, and discovers that he owes his survival to another larger-than-life character.

Santa leads a disbelieving Superman and a thrilled Timmy through his warehouse, showing them the assembly lines, the elves at work, and even the devices that allow him to see when you’re sleeping, et al.  Saint Nick even checks in on the Toyman, confirming Superman’s suspicions that is was HE who created the malicious toys.  And since Timmy was a bad lad and busted open his gifts early, Santa comes to the realization that there are probably MORE mind-control toys out there, just waiting for Christmas morning to create a Chinpokoman army that Toyman can use to… do…  something.  Something bad.  I think.  The Big Red S and the Jolly Old Soul set out together, engaging in friendly banter about who is TRULY faster on Christmas Eve, but Superman’s abilities aren’t at full power yet.  They take a high-speed sled to Metropolis and engage the villain in his lair, combating Shott’s playthings with not only the powers of a Kryptonian, but a little North Pole know-how!

Santa takes down the Toyman himself with a handful of marbles (making a mental note to fill his stocking with coal later), allowing Superman to get the win over the villain’s evil robots and mind-control rays.  With the immediate threat under control, the Last Son of Krypton grabs Santa’s bag of replacement toys and engages in mind-blowing super-speed action!

With all the troublesome toys destroyed, Superman returns to the sleigh to finish up with his partner, when suddenly Li’l Timmy accidentally pushes a button on his toy rocketship, and…

Are you allowed to punch a kid for something he did in a dream?  Awakening in the ice, Superman realizes that the whole thing has been nothing more than the delusions of his unconscious mind.  He quickly returns the young boy home before he freezes to death, and then heads for a holiday party at Lana Lang’s house.  (Wait, shouldn’t he still investigate Toyman’s plan?  Couldn’t there still be evil toys under trees all around the city?  How hard was that shot in the head, anyway?)  Superman reaches into the hidden pocket of his cape to find his crumpled-up Clark Kent suit, but instead finds something more…  Something that just flat cannot exist.

Dun dun DAAAHHH!!!  And there we end our story, with next issue’s promise of Vixen adding to the holiday theme.  (On Dazzler!  On Smasher!  On Plant-Man and…  Oh, skip it.)  There is no giant earth-threatening madness, no adult themes, no cursing, no time-travel, no Civil War or Blackest Night, and yet, I like it.  The art is simple, clear and precise, and the story, while admittedly light, still has a stylishness that reminds me of the comics I read when I was a kid.  (Of course, this BEING one of those comics probably helps, but still…)  I really miss the ability to just be child-like and fun and a little bit goofy with comics, and I really think that Santa looks phenomenal under Swanderson’s pencil/pen set.  This particular issue probably isn’t essential comics reading for most of us, but at a time when we sit back and think about family, about blessings and about the year going past, it’s a nice book to spend ten or twenty minutes with.  DC Comics Presents #67 earns an eggnog-by-the-glow-of-a-warm-fire (or at least the Yule Log channel) 3 out of 5 stars overall, and serves as my holiday gift to y’all.  Maybe I’m a bit late, but I’ve had a six-year-old informing me that I can’t work during Christmas for the last three days, so we can all blame her.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What other interesting stories come to mind when you consider holiday-themed comics?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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