Superman's Christmas Adventure
December 3, 2012
Less an "adventure" and more "Superman invades people's privacy and doesn't punish the villains."
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, WHERE IT'S CHRISTMASTIME!
(He snaps his fingers, and like magic, icicle lights appear behind him and a Santa hat appears on top of his regular hat)
(Cut to Linkara's review of that comic series: the moment where Kirk is supposedly yelling Khan's name in rage – only he's not really)
Linkara: (angrily holding up comic and pointing to it) FAIL!! YOU... FAIL!!!
(Cut back to the present-day Linkara)
Linkara: That was a mistake.
(A shot of a comic called "Christmas with the Super-Heroes" is shown, showing various DC superheroes in Santa Claus' sleigh, which is being lifted into the air by Superman)
Linkara (v/o): So this year, we're going to look at some Christmas comics. Will they be good? Will they be bad? Hell if I know; it's a surprise, like a Christmas present. And because we just finished Secret Origins Month, I'm still on a bit of a Golden Age kick.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the comic Linkara will be looking at today)
Linkara (v/o): As such, let's check out "Superman's Christmas Adventure" from 1940. There were two of these, another from 1944, but we're looking at this one in particular because it's included...
(Cut to a shot of a DC trade paperback in which this comic is contained)
Linkara (v/o): ...in a trade paperback that I'm reading from today: "A DC Universe Christmas".
(Cut back to the first cover, which came from a place called Molan's Bakery)
Linkara (v/o): Nothing much more to say about the story, other than in 1940, it was a handout at several department stores.
(Another shot of the cover is shown, showing that it came from Macy's Department Store)
Linkara (v/o): That's why, if you look up the cover for it online, you'll notice that different scans tend to have different store logos in that big white space at the bottom right.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up the DC Christmas comic) "Superman's Christmas Adventure", and see just how insane Christmas can get in 1940.
(Title sequence plays; "Sleigh Ride" plays over the title card; cut to a closeup of the cover again)
Linkara (v/o): Since we're reading from a trade and the scans are actually from a 1970s reprint of the comic, no look at the cover, not that there's much to say for a mostly-blank giveaway. (the comic opens to the first page) We open on the standard shot that sets up the story, though in the Golden Age, they did less splash pages and more big panels to tease the contents. In this case, it's Superman framed against the moon, waving to Santa Claus as rides along with his reindeer.
Linkara: Just an amusing aside here: this trade also collects the story featuring the character Impulse, trying to justify Santa Claus' existence by the fact that all of Santa Claus' abilities are reflected by members of the Justice League, so trying to deny his existence in the DC Universe is a bit of a losing battle.
Narrator: Yuletide! Period of gaiety and good will among men!
Linkara: (narrating voice) Remember to load your shotguns, it's almost upon us!
Narrator: It seems hardly possible that anyone could be so mean as to sabotage such a beloved event...
Linkara: Actually, if Christmas specials have taught us anything, there seems to be an inordinate amount of people dedicated to destroying Christmas: Scrooges, Grinches, Martians...
Linkara (v/o): See, that's the real war against Christmas. And just imagine all these curmudgeonly individuals gathering together, Legion of Doom-style, in a big hall, and sharing plots to eradicate any joy and good will. Speaking of...
Narrator: ...but Dr. Grouch, gloomy killjoy, plans to do just that!
Linkara: Ah, yes, Dr. Grouch, of the Boston Grouches, no doubt.
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, what the hell kind of a family name is "Grouch"? Wouldn't you opt to change that, especially if you were a doctor?
Narrator: It remains for Superman to demonstrate that though scoundrels may seek to undermine all that Xmas signifies...
Linkara: Except for Christ, anyway, since they seem to have taken that out of the name.
Narrator: ...the triumphant spirit of Christmas shall exist eternally!
Linkara: (narrating voice) Even when we are enslaved by harsh killer robots in the far future, (holds up fist) the Christmas spirit shall reign supreme!
Linkara (v/o): We truly open at the Daily Planet, where the Chief [Perry White] is talking to Lois and Clark.
Perry White: This snowfall reminds me that Christmas is almost here!
Linkara: (as Clark) Uh, Chief, it's March.
Perry: How about both of you covering the local department stores and writing a couple of feature stories on the activity and color on display there?
Linkara: (as Clark) Uh, okay, let's see, there's... (looks up and points) red and... green and... a bit of white right there and... oh, I see some gold... red again...
Linkara (v/o): Nah, I know what he meant. The two reporters also figure it's a great opportunity to get some Christmas shopping done with.
Clark: The stores certainly are crowded with Xmas shoppers!
Linkara: (as Clark) Boy, I sure do like to say the blindingly obvious!
Linkara (v/o): The two meet a little boy eyeing the toys.
Boy: My mom and dad are poor-- the closest I ever get to toys is when I look at them thru [sic] store windows!
Clark: You say your name is Billy Connelly and you live on Drake Street...
Linkara: (as Billy) Uh, no, I didn't, mister. (as Clark) Oh, yes, you did, Billy. In your mind! I can read your thoughts, Billy...
Linkara (v/o): As they walk away, Lois remarks about how much it sucks that poor kids get screwed out of Christmas presents. Clark hits on the idea of having the Daily Planet run a donation drive for old toys.
Clark: We'll repair them and distribute them to poor kids on Christmas Day!
Linkara: (as Clark) Being photographers, writers and journalists, we obviously possess the skill set necessary to repair old toys.
Linkara (v/o): I don't know why you're so concerned with the poor, Clark. The poverty problem is over there, and over there needs to stand on its own, right? But still, the Chief gives the plan his blessing, and we even see Santa up at the North Pole reading about the toy campaign.
Santa: Ho!* I have a couple of new helpers in Clark Kent and Lois Lane! That's fine!
- NOTE: It's actually "So...", not "Ho!"
Linkara: (as Santa) I could probably do the job myself, 'cause I'm Santa Claus and all, but, uh... eh, whatever.
Linkara (v/o): On his way home one day, Clark, for absolutely no reason, decides to invade people's privacy and use his x-ray vision to peek in on a luxury apartment building.
Narrator: Within--James Daniels, one of the richest youths in the country, resents the intrusion of the butler--
James: I don't want a silly* toy! I've got too many! What I want is a motorboat, or maybe a YACHT!
- ANOTHER NOTE: Linkara forgot to mention it, but James says "silly little toy".
Linkara: Oh, yeah, I can see how a yacht would be useful to you in the middle of winter.
Butler: But, Master James, this gift is from your father!
Linkara: (as butler) Also, you're getting to open your Christmas presents early, you ungrateful little bastard. Quit whining.
Clark: (becoming Superman) So James Daniels is dissatisfied with his stack of toys, eh? There must be something I can do about THAT!
(The Superman logo appears briefly and the theme from the Superman movie plays)
Linkara (v/o): (dramatically) Superman: bully of ungrateful children! (the logo and music disappear; normal) Seriously, what the hell, dude? Are you gonna do this with every child who's an asshole about his Christmas present? No wonder writers later had you struggle with a God complex.
Narrator: Later-- in the wealthy boy's apartment...
Linkara: Wait, I just had a thought: if his parents are so wealthy that they can afford boats for their kid, why do they live in an apartment and not a mansion?
Narrator: ...James awakens to see a cloaked figure beside his bed!
Linkara: (as narrator) And by "cloaked", I mean, "not cloaked", because Superman doesn't wear a cloak.
Superman: Wake up, James! You're coming with me!
(Once again, the Superman logo appears and the Superman theme plays)
Linkara (v/o): (dramatically) Superman: defender of truth, guardian of justice, kidnapper of children!
Superman: Don't be frightened! I'm not going to hurt you!
Linkara: (as Superman) I'm just going to take you from the warmth and comfort of your bedroom in the middle of the night into the cold, wintry sky, clad only in your pajamas, while I wear only a skintight outfit. (grins evilly)
Linkara (v/o): He brings the young James over to a poorer district of the city.
Superman: Look in! What do you see?
James: A little girl-- playing with a broken doll!
Linkara: (as James, terrified) Superman, is this the beginning of a horror movie? (as Superman) Kid, what about this situation makes you think you aren't already in the horror movie? (grins)
James: But that doll was broken! Why, then, was she having such a good time?
Superman: Because that old toy means more to her than all your expensive playthings!
Linkara: (as Superman) It's actually a channeling device. She'll use it to summon the forces of Hell and amass great amounts of demonic power!
Linkara (v/o): He then brings the kid over to another building.
Superman: Look well- and I hope you never forget what you see!
Linkara: (as James, terrified) Uh, Superman, this is the filming set of a porno. (as Superman) Yeah, well, it wasn't intentional, it was getting late and... I'm getting kinda tired and... I can't quite remember where we're supposed to be going...
James: It's a boy--a boy of my own age-- CRYING!
Linkara (v/o): Aaand we see in the next panel the boy Clark and Lois were talking to earlier. And his back is to the window. How the hell can James tell the kid is his own age?
James: W-Why was he crying?
Linkara: (as Superman) He just read the promotional solicit for "Avengers Arena". You'd be crying, too. Or yelling. That's what I did.
Superman: Because he has NO toys at ALL to play with-- not even a broken one!
Linkara: (as Superman) I probably could brought the kid a toy or something, since we were here anyway, but... eh, I figure it was better for him to just live in misery to teach (points to camera) you a lesson, twerp.
Linkara (v/o): You know, I could just imagine what this kid is saying as he cries in his bed about the kids who are richer than him.
(Cut to a clip of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX)
Chazz: Who cares if he's richer than me? And so what if he's more powerful? I'm really good at playing card games! And that's what life is really all about, anyway!
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Superman brings the kid home.
James: They had so little--and I have so much! I never realized--
Superman: I hope that you realize how fortunate you are--and how unfortunate many other children of your age are!
Linkara: (as Superman, waving) Merry Christmas, kid! Enjoy spending the day feeling ashamed and guilty!
Linkara (v/o): We cut to the North Pole, where some kind of ship is flying towards Santa Claus' headquarters.
Voice on ship: We'll put an end to all this Christmas foolishness!
Linkara: (as this person speaking) Kamikaze run! (holds up and shakes fist) SEE YOU IN HELL, SANTA!!
Narrator: Within the vessel, Dr. Grouch and his crony, Mr. Meaney...
Linkara (v/o): (stunned) Really? Really?!
Linkara: Look, if you're not even gonna bother to give realistic names to these guys, just go all out! Call them "Mr. Jackass" or "Dr. I'm-The-Bad-Guy-With-Poor-Motivations".
Linkara (v/o): I'm not kidding about the motivations, either.
Dr. Grouch: We never enjoyed Christmas when we were children--why should the kids of today have a good time?
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) My Lord, it's not even that you were abused or anything; it's that you two had sucky Christmases when you were younger and thus you refused to let anyone else have a good time. You spent all this effort and money constructing this fantastic aircraft because you're assholes!
Linkara (v/o): They apparently scheduled a meeting with Santa or something ahead of time, since he happily greets them and shows them around his workshop.
Dr. Grouch: Superman toys, shirts, puzzles, krypto-rayguns, belts, balloons--
Santa: Yes, Superman novelties are very popular this year!
Linkara: (as Santa) Superman's a cash cow, gentlemen! I'm raking in the dough! Ho ho ho!
Linkara (v/o): Also, "krypto-raygun". So it was Santa Claus who created all the tech that supervillains used in the Gold and Silver Ages to kick Superman's ass?
Dr. Grouch: To come to the point-- we believe your factories can have a better purpose than making toys for children! All this labor and equipment going into a lot of foolishness! You can make commercial products and we can sell them! What a business we'd have!
Linkara: (as Dr. Grouch) And it will only cost us billions of dollars to ship it out of the Arctic, what with the specialized equipment necessary to constantly be operating in a snowy wasteland.
(Cut to Pollo standing in front of a bookshelf)
Pollo: We'll be right back in a moment... maybe. We'll see.
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner as Pollo leaves; cut to black as we go to commercial; upon return, Pollo returns)
Pollo: And we're back. Good times. (leaves again as the AT4W logo appears in the corner)
(The review resumes)
Dr. Grouch: We demand that you conform to our way of thinking, or suffer the consequences!
Linkara (v/o): Hey, dudes? He hasn't even said no yet. You're coming on too strong at this point in the negotiation. Look, if you're gonna open business deals strong from the get-go, you gotta do it like this...
(Cut to a clip of an episode of NewsRadio, showing a negotiation between Jimmy and Beth, and Jimmy slams a shoe on the table)
Jimmy: (yelling at Beth) I WILL BURY YOU!!
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Santa's not taking any of this crap and promptly unleashes his elves upon the two, armed with cattle prods and pop guns. Man, everyone makes jokes about the elves being slave labor, but look how delighted they are to be using these weapons. But then, if it's packaged for working for Santa, it must be awesome. Two cartoonish villains make a hasty retreat back to their... sky submarine or... whatever the hell that thing is.
Santa: Good riddance! How can human beings be like that?
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Santa Claus)
Santa: Heat up the death ray!
(Back to the comic again)
Dr. Grouch: Resist, will he? I'll teach him to accept the ideas of Dr. Grouch!
Linkara: (as Dr. Grouch) I'm going to write a strongly-worded memo about listening to my ideas!
Linkara (v/o): No, instead, they decide to go to the Daily Planet's "department for distributing toys", which, as we see in the next panel... consists of Lois and Clark. Are... Are they the only two people who work at the Daily Planet? And by the way, this takes place on Christmas Eve. Lois doesn't want to see her sister or her dad? I know Clark can technically super-speed over to his parents, but they're working late into the night here, and I imagine he'd want to see them on Christmas. Anyway, Grouch and Meaney... Dear Lord, I still can't get over that... storm in and use a gas gun on Clark, who feigns unconsciousness, because, well, Superman. They use the gun to knock Lois unconscious, but not before she manages to rip off the handkerchief covering his face and see who he is. The two set fire to the presents and make a run for it. Fortunately, Clark wakes up and easily puts out the fire, which, given the size of it, probably should've set off the fire alarms. Or sent Clark into the other world. Lois comes to and decides to chase after them while Clark resumes work on the toys. The two ne'er-do-wells return to their laboratory... because I guess they would have to have one, considering the crap they keep pulling.
Dr. Grouch: Well, here we are, Meaney! Now to see the ruins of the Daily Planet on the television screen--
Linkara: (as Dr. Grouch) Yes, committing arson and murder was well worth it to make some children mildly upset!
Linkara (v/o): They turn on the TV, and I was expecting a news broadcast, but apparently, they took the time to set up a camera inside of the Daily Planet, even in the room where the two had been wrapping presents. I mean, look at this! When the hell did they do that? Or is this some kind of magic TV that's just able to see anything anywhere? Anyway, realizing that their latest scheme has failed, they decide to return to the North Pole and smash up Santa's toy shop.
Linkara: (holding up hand) Whoa, I think it's time for us to get scared, people! Two octogenarians armed with close-distance gas guns and umbrellas are gonna take on an army of cattle prod-wielding elves! Truly, this is the epic of our time!
Dr. Grouch: Come! The space ship awaits!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, their ship can go into space now, apparently. You know, say what you will about Ebenezer Scrooge, but the dude at least just retired to be alone with his riches. He didn't actively invent spaceships and stuff with the sole purpose of ruining Christmas children. Dude just wanted to be left alone. Anyway, Lois sneaks onto the ship, and the two somehow manage to overpower the elves, quickly smashing as many toys as they can. They find Lois and... I can scarcely believe this, but... they tie her to a giant cartoon firework. What... the hell...?
Dr. Grouch: I'm putting on the heat-- This time it's goodbye and good riddance!
Linkara: (holding up hand) Okay, guys? You are once again trying to commit MURDER over Christmas! Get a hobby! Watch some soap operas! There is literally nothing riding on your mission to destroy Christmas!
Linkara (v/o): And then they just walk away from Lois and get back to work, smashing up toys with axes.
Mr. Meaney: Tears--tears--the world will be flooded by the tears of little children!
Linkara: Oh, now I get these two! They work for Master Xandred on Power Rangers Samurai! (beat) What? It makes more sense than anything else about these characters.
Narrator: --But a photo-electric signal warns Santa that someone has broken into the toy shop--
Linkara (v/o): "Photo-electric signal"? You mean, an alarm? And why the hell isn't he at the toy shop, anyway? IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE. A little bit of a slow start, isn't it, Santa? Anyway, like both the Robin Williams film Toys and, of course, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Santa unleashes an army of toys upon the two, forcing them to flee back to their ship. Clark, realizing how long it's taking for Lois to return, changes into Superman and rescues her from her incredibly goofy fate. Grouch, looking through some kind of "ultra-telescope", spots that Lois has not made an incredible kaboom, and they take off once again to kidnap her. And they succeed! Dear Lord, these guys are spry for their age. They've been swinging axes, building giant fireworks, tying people up, running left and right... and now they've kidnapped all of Santa's reindeer! Did they down a whole bunch of five-hour energy drinks before they started their anti-Christmas crusade? Anyway, back at the North Pole, Santa thinks they're screwed since they can't deliver any toys without the reindeer. One of the elves suggests contacting Superman, because of course that would be the first idea. You'd think Santa would have a backup plan or extra reindeer for this kind of eventuality. And so, Santa goes to his radio and sends out a distress signal, which, of course, Clark overhears on his car radio.
Clark: This may be a hoax-- but I'll take no chances-- I must go to the North Pole AT ONCE!
Linkara: Does that happen a lot? You think morning show deejays send out prank calls over the radio on the off chance Superman will hear them?
Linkara (v/o): Anywho, Superman flies off to the North Pole and meets with Santa, who explains the situation... and reveals it's Christmas Eve to the audience, so a lot of this makes no sense at all... and Superman returns to Metropolis and easily finds Meaney, who has apparently traded in the spaceship for a truck. I'm guessing they used up all the spaceship going back and forth between the North Pole. He easily lifts the truck up and brings it back to the North Pole, revealing it has the reindeer inside. However, before they can detain Meaney, he knocks out the reindeer with his gas gun – all... two of them. Huh? Anyway, this shouldn't be an issue anyway, since we saw Lois got a face full of this stuff, and she was only out for about a minute, but for narrative purposes, the reindeer are all unconscious now.
Mr. Meaney: Hah! Gloom will pervade the universe after all!
Linkara: Dude... give me something to work with here. Have you just not gotten laid in a long time? Were you separated from your beloved childhood sled? Are you really constipated?! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?
Linkara (v/o): Superman, undeterred, tosses the old man into the sled and spends the entire night acting as the reindeer, lifting Santa's sled and carrying him around everywhere to deliver presents.
Santa: Only Superman can perform this feat!
Linkara: (as Superman) HA! EAT IT, BATMAN!
Linkara (v/o): Also, weren't the toys destroyed earlier? What the hell? Anyway, they arrive at the home of Dr. Grouch and toss Meaney down into the chimney... where he no doubt inspired the Christmas story from Gremlins. Or just broke his neck in general, given the angle he's falling at. And yet, when we see him emerge from the fireplace, he's sitting in the opposite position. Of course. Grouch and Meaney discuss what has happened and then hear Superman and Santa in the other room.
Superman: You're still going to leave them gifts despite all the harm they've done to you?
Santa: Yes--it's the Christmas spirit to forgive your foes!
Linkara: (laughs sarcastically, then becomes furious) THEY TRIED TO MURDER PEOPLE!!
Santa: I'm sure there is some good in both Grouch and Meaney!
Linkara: Yeah, there's good in everybody, but they should still be punished for their crimes!
Linkara (v/o): The two overhear Santa as they enter.
Dr. Grouch: I never thought people could be like that! They're the first presents we ever got!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, you've gotta be freakin' kidding me!
Dr. Grouch: If you'll shake my hand, I'll be the happiest man in the world!
Mr. Meaney: We promise to be kind from now on-- you've taught us plenty!
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, there's your lesson, kids: It's okay to commit wanton acts of violence and destruction as long as you admit you were wrong at the end! Oh, and from a story perspective, there's the motivation of our villains: rich assholes who just wanted people to give them crap! WHAT! A! LOAD!!! They release Lois and apologize, though she says it's not necessary... Oh, hell, yes, it is! ...and Superman flies Lois and Santa back to their respective homes. And so, our comic ends with Superman dropping by James again, who's off with his butler to distribute to the needy.
Superman: I hope all you readers will remember to be generous to those less fortunate than yourselves!
Linkara: (as Superman) Or else I'll take you in the middle of the night! Superman is watching... (closes comic and holds it up; normal) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Now, don't get me wrong: it's a Golden Age comic; there are gonna be hiccups and logical problems. But the motivation of the villains is utter nonsense, and they only stopped their rampage because Santa gave them gifts! It comes across as rewarding them for their evil! At least the kid, you could say, was privileged and didn't know any better. What the hell is the excuse for Grouch and Meaney?
Linkara: (shrugs) But hey, pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things. It just irritates me that the villains got away scot-free. (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Actually, it occurs to me that Dr. Grouch could also be related to Oscar the Grouch... though not nearly as cool or entertaining.
I'm also not trying to start a fight over "Xmas" vs. "Christmas." It just seemed kind of silly to say "everything it stands for!" when they take out the religious part of it, which is kind of a big deal, you know?
(Stinger: A Christmas commercial for Polaroid. In the middle of the night, on Christmas, two kids, a boy and a girl, come down the stairs with a Polaroid camera. The boy sets up the camera, tying a string around the button, while the girl ties the other end of the string across the fireplace. Then they run back up the stairs)
Announcer: Perhaps more than any other time of year, this is the season when millions of people discover...
(The string is pulled and the button is pushed, taking a picture, which comes out a slot at the bottom. The boy and girl stop and look back, gasping. The whole room is adorned in Christmas decorations, all lit up)
Announcer: ...Polaroid cameras do what no other kind of camera can do.
(The boy looks over to the camera, while the girl runs up to a letter by the fireplace)
Girl: What's this? (reads) "Thanks for the milk and cookies and thanks for the beautiful Polaroid picture. Love, Santa."
Santa: Ho ho ho!
(A shot of the picture of Santa is shown while the word "Polaroid" appears at the base of the screen)
Announcer: Happy holidays from Polaroid.