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CARTOONS CAUGHT ON PAPER, Part Two: The Batman Adventures Holiday Special

Last time, we covered an issue of The Batman Adventures – DC’s tie-in to the popular Batman: The Animated Series – that showed Clayface getting super bummed that his latest love connection didn’t quite pan out for him. This time, we’re getting deeper into the world of The Batman Adventures for the 1994 holiday special. I’ll admit right now, even though we’re just entering into the Halloween season, I’m a softie for holiday specials. There’s something that’s uniquely heartwarming, revealing, and sometimes a little sad about a well-done Christmas special. Standouts for me are My So-Called Life, All in the Family, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (“Amends”! So good), Supernatural, and even Roswell – a series that was very hit or miss, but really nailed the holiday episodes. Let’s see how well The Batman Adventures hits those holiday feels.

There are six stories listed, but the Intro is really part of the Clayface story considering it’s just one page, and the “Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot” finale is really part of the Joker story. The issue is made up of these four concise, villain-centric tales that are mostly devoted to Christmas with a little bit of New Years thrown in as well. Among these, I think there are clear standouts, so let’s talk about them.


Clayface is back, and he’s pulling some holiday-themed trickery. Disguised as a bunch of bratty kids, he’s robbing department stores while Bullock poses as a mall Santa in hopes to catch the thief. Barbara Gordon is on the case, though, and she gets suited up as Batgirl and saves the day. This is action-packed and fun, and Batgirl’s 48-second change into her costume was great, poking fun at the idea of the convenience of changing into tights while chasing a bad guy.


This one was my personal favorite, because it was the most fun. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are probably the two characters from this incarnation of Batman that I have the most affection for, so I was glad to see them paired up for this story where they, to fight Harley’s holiday blues, kidnap Bruce Wayne. When Wayne gets away and Batman saves the day, it was almost a little bit of a let-down – they might be villains, but when you pair these two up, you just want them to win. Besides, a little kidnapped millionaire-sponsored shopping spree never hurt anyone. The art in this story is also the best of the bunch, and is by Ronnie Del Carmen, who also co-plotted the story.


The most emotional of these stories was the Mr. Freeze tale, which leads to a showdown in a cemetery between Freeze and Batman. Both of them have devastating moments here, when Batman slams into the grave of his parents and Freeze has to admit to his enemy that the reason he’s covering Gotham in snow isn’t because he has a master plan, but to give his deceased wife a white Christmas, which she always loved. It leads to a moment of empathy between Batman and Freeze, which hits that perfect Christmassy balance of tender, sad, and uplifting that just wrecks me.



Finally, the last major story pits Batman against the Joker. The Joker is pulling murderous antics as the clock counts down to the New Year, and Batman races to stop him amidst a bunch of people that have been given Joker masks. It’s a rock ‘em sock ‘em action packed story, but isn’t quite as fun as the Harley/Ivy tale and doesn’t touch on the tenderness of the holidays as explored in White Christmas. However, it does end with a plaintive epilogue with Gordon and Batman discussing, as the new year rings in, what it takes to do what they do. I liked that quite a bit to close out the issue and I can see why they credited it as a different story – it functions as an exceptional end to both this Joker story and the overall volume.

I’m a much bigger fan of the writing and especially the artwork in this issue than in the first The Batman Adventures comic I’ve read. It captures the feel of the cartoon while also playing with time, focus, and layout in a way that only comics can. Licensed properties of cartoons can sometimes feel like still, silent versions of the original material, but this has a life of its own.

Damn, now I’m in the mood for some Christmas music. Too early. Waaaay too early.

NEXT TIME: We switch it up with Batman & Robin Adventures #8.


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