Friday, 11 December 2020

A DC Universe Christmas



The Wonder Of Christmas

A DC Universe Christmas
by various writers and artists
DC Comics ISBN: 9781563896408


A DC Universe Christmas is a nice, festive, trade paperback reprint of a number of DC Christmas stories drawn from various decades of the company’s output... or, you know, a shameless seasonal tie in to shift old stories and repackage them for new readers. You decide.

Now, the fact that the stories come from varying time periods means that there is a complete mixture of art (not to mention writing) styles in the tome and I’d have to say, I much preferred the stories reprinted from the 1940s through to the 1960s than any of the other ones from later time periods. Also, I noticed that those ones were more likely to entertain the idea of Santa Claus as a real person rather than just an invention to keep the dreams of children alive... or to keep them quiet.

The age of various strips means there are some characters in here from recent years (up until 2000, when this was published) who I had never come across before and, also, a few second tier characters from the 1960s (but these tales they appear in date from much later), who I had no idea about. So characters like Impulse, Enemy Ace and Bat Lash were not on my radar but, can’t see that I’m missing much of anything, although the Wild West story of Bat Lash showed some promise. What’s worse is that some of the characters had changed identity from the ones I used to read as a kid. For instance, The Flash is neither Jay Garrick or Barry Allen in his story here. Instead he’s... Wally West. Seriously? Wally West was Kid Flash, the sidekick, when I was growing up. I guess he grew up too. Also, well, this seems to be the Tim Drake version of Robin in one of the stories... who I think I remember came on board as the third Robin after Jason Todd was killed by The Joker, if memory serves. Actually, the short Robin story in this, where he’s feeling lonely for the holidays and then suckered into turning up at a surprise Christmas party with his ‘superhero family’ is a nice one and worthy of something written 50 or more years before it actually debuted in 1999. Which is a pleasant surprise.

So, yeah, a bit of a mish mash of a collection but, seriously, I wouldn’t expect anything more and these kind of things are always going to be a hit and miss kind of affair. For me, though, there were some nice highlights to the book...

For instance, although it’s one I’d read before, there’s a nice Wonder Woman story reprinted from a 1943 issue of Sensation Comics called The Story Of Fir Balsam. This one is a snow bound adventure and is told from the point of view of the titular Fir tree. In it, Fir Balsam helps Wonder Woman, who is Amazonian so she can speak to Fir because she knows tree language, to both thwart a nazi racket and also restore an estranged family, bringing two kids and their father back to the mother. This one is pretty good.

Another good one is Billy Batson’s Xmas, reprinted from a 1947 issue of Captain Marvel Adventures. Nowadays he’s known as Shazam... which makes no sense whatsoever (but I’m really not going to go into that yet again). This involves Captain Marvel getting an unfairly dismissed department store Santa his job back and also has the not so brilliantly resolved question of... what did Billy Batson and his alter ego Captain Marvel (who were very much their own beings in those days, remember) get each other when they went out Christmas shopping?

Perhaps the oddest story here, A Swingin’ Christmas Carol, is a reprint from a 1968 issue of Teen Titans. This one features characters like Ebeneezer Scrounge, Jacob Farley and Tiny Tom and, as soon as the Teen Titans realise the adventure they are living is a strange parallel to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, they try to solve the problems posed by the story by masquerading as the three ghosts from that book... with not the kind of solution they were necessarily expecting. This one is annoying because the criminals have a ray gun that can turn rubbish into valuable retail products and, at no point in the story does anyone stop to question what possible science there could be behind this... it just makes no sense. It’s also annoying when... and this kind of dates it... all the characters (including the guy writing the captions) refer to Wonder Girl as Wonder Chick. A sign of the times, I guess.

The last story in the book is a reprint of the 1940 comic Superman’s Christmas Adventure and, yeah, it’s pretty good. In this one, Clark and Lois try to bring Christmas to the poor kids of Metropolis, show a spoiled brat the error of his ways and, ultimately, thwart an evil scheme of Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meany when they try to shut down Santa’s operation at the North Pole. When they kidnap and then gas the reindeer, it’s up to Superman to work with Santa Claus to not only keep Christmas going (Superman pulls the sleigh for the sleeping reindeer) but also to reform the two killjoy criminals by showing them Christmas kindness. This kind of stuff is pretty much what Christmas is all about, as far as I’m concerned.

And that’s about it for my quick overview of this one. A DC Universe Christmas is not the best Christmas superhero comic I’ve read but it does contain a mixture of different styles and sometimes even differing views of just what the Christmas spirit is, or should be. It’s a good stocking filler for that superhero lover in your life and you should find something that will warm your heart inside. The world needs more collections like this, I think.

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