Val’s Toy Chest- Christmas with the Super-Heroes

It has been a busy weekend at the Planet- so much so, that I actually didn’t get to see the complete list of what’s coming in this week. I know we will be getting the new Justice League: Gods and Monsters Animated Movie Figures of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman– all of whom are not the traditional versions of the characters and maybe a couple of other DC Collectibles items. This week’s column is a little different as I won’t be talking about our new items but rather discussing my all-time favorite comic book holiday tale.

The year was 1988 and I remember seeing and getting the DC Comics Christmas with the Super-Heroes special either at my local newsstand or at one of the mall bookstores I would sometimes find myself at. The cover featured seven of DC’s celebrated characters as illustrated by John Byrne in front of a Christmas tree with some very badly wrapped presents in front of them. Black Canary, Green Arrow, Batman, Superman, Wonder Girl Donna Troy, Robin Dick Grayson and Wildfire were the representatives of the six reprinted stories in the $2.95 cover-priced comic. There were two Batman solo stories, a Superman/Santa Claus team-up, a swingin’ sixties Teen Titans tale, a Legion of Super-Heroes tale and the one story that could quite possibly be my favorite Justice League of America story of all-time. First- a little background.

Now I know I mostly talk about toys in this column- so here’s something you might not have known about me- I am a huge fan of the classic JLA run- starting from when they were in the Secret Sanctuary with a mascot named Snapper Carr all the way thru the Satellite Era. I haven’t really connected with the Detroit era as much as I’d like to- but that’s another story. For me the very best of the original JLA title was the Satellite Era line-up which had been around maybe a couple of years by the time of this X-Mas tale. The Christmas tale entitled “The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus” was originally presented in Justice League of America #110 and was written by Len Wein and penciled by Dick Dillin. JLA members Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, The Red Tornado and the newly introduced John Stewart make up the issue’s roll call.

Something about this tale of a murdered Santa Claus and the perpetrator behind this act appealed to me- especially during the more action-oriented parts of the story. Here’s the plot- Old-school JLA villain- the Key is dying from radiation poisoning and wants to get revenge on the JLA. To set the events in motion- he murders a man dressed in a Santa Claus outfit that had been with Batman and Superman. Getting the rest of the JLA to investigate proves to be difficult as most of the members are celebrating the holidays with their families. Ollie, Dinah, and Reddy show up and try to locate the Key’s hideout with Batman, Superman and John Stewart (substituting for an injured Hal Jordan) helping out. Once they find their way into an abandoned building- the Key sets up multiple death-traps to take the JLA out.

I’ve always been a sucker for Ten Little Indians type stories where the protagonists get taken out one by one until you’re down to the last of them and this story didn’t disappoint. The most memorable moment for me is the scene where (of course) Black Canary has to sacrifice herself to save the rest of her team. Superman had just given himself up moments before and the five JLAers find themselves in a room filling with deadly gas which Dinah can hold back by using her sonic scream. Oliver wants to stay with her of course but she judo-flips him out of there as the door shuts separating her from the rest of the team- his despair- classic. I won’t tell you anymore as I think it is a story worth tracking down. As far as I know it has only been reprinted in that 1988 special- a shame since it was a good story that deserves to be read every Christmas season. I often wished that the Justice League cartoon would adapt the story into an episode- but alas.

That’s it for me this week- hope you and yours have an awesome holiday season- if you celebrate Christmas- Merry Christmas to ya! I will catch you all next week with my final column for the year. I’m not sure what I will talk about yet- but it should be a fun one!

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