Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas With The Caped Crusader: Justice League of America #110

Okay, this really isn't a Batman story, but Batman is in it.  So, I figured, what the hell, why not through it in?  After all, its actually kind of hard to imagine the Justice League without Batman.  He's been in every incarnation of the League, even the ill fated Detroit League for a brief time toward the end.  This  Christmas story from 1973 features the classic Bronze Age JLA, with Superman, Batman and the rest of DC's top heroes looking down on us mere mortals from their orbiting satellite headquarters
However, the most notable character in this story is John Stewart.  This was only his second appearance, coming more than two years after his debut in Green Lantern #87.  Today, the character has become so central to the DC Universe and the Green Lantern mythos in particular that its difficult to remember that until the mid-1980's he was a bit player who'd go for years at a time without being seen.
"The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus," written by Len Wein and rendered by perennial JLA artist Dick Dillin with inks by Dick Giordano, begins with Batman and Superman about to attend a Christmas party for some orphans on Christmas Eve, when an explosion kills the man playing Santa.  In the murdered man's hand, the World's Finest heroes discover a key and a note written in rhyme proclaiming that unless they can find the lock that the key fits before midnight, a bomb will destroy an entire city block somewhere in America.

Naturally, Superman and Batman put out a call to the rest of the Justice League.  However, for various reasons, Aquaman, the Atom, the Elongated Man, and the Flash are unable to respond.  No reason is given for Hawkman's failure to heed the call, and I believe that this story takes place during Wonder Woman's de-powered phase during which she had left the JLA.  Thus, only Red Tornado, Green Arrow and Black Canary join Superman and Batman aboard the JLA satellite.  Shortly, however, John Stewart shows up, explaining that Hal Jordan had been in the shower when the emergency signal came and had slipped on a bar of soap, hitting his head and knocking himself out, as he went to answer it, so his ring, after ascertaining that Hal wasn't hurt too badly, sought out John.
When Ollie remarks that that's a "miserable way to spend Christmas Eve," the robotic Red Tornado asks what's so special about this particular night.  Though GA is unable to explain it adequately, you just know that before the night is done, the Tornado will learn the meaning of the season.
A reference to an "arch" in the note leads the team to St. Louis.  John uses his ring to make the key able to detect the lock it fits, and Red Tornado takes it and scours the city in search of that lock.  Eventually, he finds it in a rundown tenement in a slum. Upon entering, the League discovers that the entire building is an elaborate death trap built by their old enemy, the Key.  Having been released from prison early after discovering that he was dieing, the Key set out to take the JLA with him into oblivion.
One by one, the Leaguers are seemingly picked off by the Key's death traps until only John Stewart and Red Tornado remain.  Gloating over his victory, the Key suddenly finds himself surrounded by the entire Justice League. Then the Phantom Deus Ex, Phantom Stranger shows up out of nowhere to reveal that he had saved the Leaguers from the Key's traps.
Though they've captured the Key, the League are too late to stop the bomb from going off.  So, they evacuate the area, and as the slum is destroyed, John uses his ring to rebuild the buildings as good as new as a Christmas present to the block's impoverished residents.
Later, aboard the JLA satellite, the group gather to present Red Tornado with the gift of a new costume, and the robot finally begins to grasp the meaning of Christmas.
Meanwhile, John Stewart flies off back to limbo, not to be seen again for another three years. His next appearance would be his return to Green Lantern in #94 in 1977.


  1. Wasn't this story, along with "The Silent Night of the Batman" reprinted in the DC "Christmas with the Super Heroes" special?

  2. Yes, it was. As was the topic of my next Christmas with the Caped Crusader post, "Wanted: Santa Claus--Dead or Alive!" Also included are the issue of DC Comics Presents where Superman teams up with Santa Claus, The Teen Titans in "The TT's Swingin' Christmas Carol!" and a Superboy and the Legion story.