Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Christmas Stories Part 1

As I mentioned when talking about Thanksgiving, the comics in the Silver Age tended to be very secular; it was quite rare to see any mention of religion or religious holidays. So I decided to break the format here for a couple of posts on the Christmas stories of the Golden Age. There were a bunch of them, and for some odd reason, they tended to turn out to be classics.

My first selection is one of my favorites. From Batman #15 (February-March 1943) comes the classic story, The Loneliest Men in the World. Dick and Bruce are out shopping for Christmas when they spot a boy who looks a mite depressed, and decide to spread a little cheer:

I was a lad of 16 when I first read that sequence (as it was reprinted in Batman #239), and not prone to sentimentality. And I suddenly discovered that something in my eye was causing it to tear up. It is one of the greatest little bits of characterization for two of my favorite characters of all time.

After that experience Dick gets the idea of helping others out, and in a moment of inspiration he suggests that they bring joy to the loneliest men in the world. They decorate the Batplane and set out on their mission:

But while visiting Commissioner Gordon they reveal their plans and are overheard by a mobster who is being released. They start out with the doorman at a swanky club. Nobody ever notices or appreciates him, but Batman and Robin get him invited inside, where he is feted by the guests and given a raise by his boss. But the mobster has realized this will be an opportunity to rob the club, with no doorman guarding the place. But Batman and Robin foil the robbery and the doorman assists, with his salary doubled as a result. The mobsters get away.

The next stop on the loneliest men parade is Link Chesney. He's a famous comedian who makes everybody laugh, but he's secretly lonely and bitter. But the crooks follow them there and they rob the comic of his valuable gag file, and set up a death trap for Batman and Robin:

But they manage to escape, and before they leave a coast-to-coast telephone call comes through from Chesney's fans, wishing him a Merry Christmas, cheering him up tremendously.

The third loneliest man is a lighthouse keeper, and Batman and Robin arrive after the crooks have gotten there. They defeat the crooks, save the ship that the gangsters intended to have crash on the shoals, and enjoy a Christmas dinner with the lighthouse keeper. And in the end, they realize who the loneliest man in the world really is:

While we're on the topic of Christmas, Bill Jourdain has a few Christmas covers with a little more "bite" to them. Bill did a podcast a couple years ago on his favorite Christmas stories, and no surprise (he's a big Batman fan), he featured the story The Loneliest Men in the World.

Mark Engblom has a post up on a Captain Marvel Scrooge story from the Golden Age. As it happens, one of the Batman Christmas stories is also a Scrooge takeoff, and I'll cover that one in the next few days.