Episode Title: “Invasion of the Secret Santas”
Original Air Date: Decenber 12, 2008
Most series produce a Holliday special to help embrace the sentiments of the season around Christmas time. This episode is the Christmas entry of Batman B n’ B, and as it happened so early in the first season, there was no guarantee that the creators would ever get another chance, so they pulled out all the stops here and tried to really make it count.
In the teaser we have the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle teamed up with Batman to battle against one of the more ridiculous villains from the comic books, Sportsmaster, in a bowling alley. After a bit of humor involving Reyes talking to his symbiotic suit, Beetle and the Bat easily apprehend the bad guy. After the situation is resolved, Beetle invites Bats to Christmas dinner, but Batman has to decline because “crime doesn’t take a Holliday”.
Our story proper begins with the android hero Red Tornado disguised in his human persona Professor Ulthoon (a reference to the character’s origin in the pages of Adam Strange) and teaching an archeology class at the local University. Outside the classroom window he notices an out of control delivery truck skidding on the icy road towards some children. Ulthoon quickly sheds his disguise and appears as Red Tornado in time to save the children from harm. As the grateful family mentions the Christmas spirit to Red, he expresses to them that he has never felt that phenomenon. The children laugh at him because he’s “just a silly robot”, and Tornado becomes determined to feel the spirit of the season for himself. The android exuberantly participates in all the typical seasonal activities, decorating his house in a fashion that would make Clark Griswold proud, donning the ugliest of sweaters, caroling off key, and finally watching a black and white Christmas movie not unlike “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The movie is interrupted by a news flash that aliens from Neptune are attacking Earth and demanding that Santa be turned over to them so that he may bring gifts to the children of Neptune. Red Tornado joins Batman, who is already battling the invading UFOs in the town square. The two astutely identify that these are not really aliens, but creations of the robot villain Fun Haus. After foiling the UFO plot, Red Tornado and the Dark Knight go on to stop Fun Haus’ army of evil android Santas, before finally being faced with high his ultimate scheme. The “hottest toys” of the year are actually weaponized action figures used to rob the families of Gotham on Christmas morning. The small figures all join together forming a giant mecha for Fun Haus, but Red Tornado is able to stop it, though doing so overloads his circuits causing him to tingle and leading him to be overjoyed at finally feeling “the Christmas Spirit” before he explodes. In the epilogue we see our android hero being taken to Star Labs to be repaired and Batman finds a sentimental gift from Alfred in the Batmobile as he drives off to stop another villain reminding us that “crime doesn’t take a Holliday”.
This was an ambitious episode for a couple of reasons. First, the creators put in as much Christmas imagery as I imagine is possible in a twenty minute cartoon. The alien attack is clearly an allusion to 1964’s “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”, and we have frequent scenes showing various Christmas decorations around town accompanied by a smooth jazz score reminiscent of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Fun Haus serves as a stand in for Dr. Seuss’ Grinch (though his heart most definitely does not grow larger by the end), and I would even dare say that Batman is this story’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Though it is admittedly a stretch, I would say the sinister action figures bring to mind the Sinbad Christmas (not quite) classic “Jingle All the Way”. The more significant ambition of this story are a series of three flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood as a petulant rich kid on Christmas morning. This is the first treatment of the Batman origin story in this series, and they have dared to up the emotional ante by having his parents murder take place on Christmas. Various retellings of the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne have already introduced elements of guilt for Bruce, but this one effectively adds another layer to the intrigue and pain that surround the event, and I for one think that it should be canon.
Overall, I think this episode work’s well as a Christmas episode, though I suspect it might fall a little flat if viewed during the high temperatures of July. Far and away the most enjoyable parts are the three brief flashbacks to Bruce’s childhood, and they may not be enough to carry an entire episode for many viewers. Having said that, I do feel that for any superhero loving parents looking for something safe and enjoyable to share with their children around the Hollidays, this deserves a spot in the annual December rotation alongside more traditional fare like the Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph.
Featured Characters: Blue Beetle 3 (Giffen, Rogers and Hamner, 2006), Sportsmaster (Broome and Hasen, 1947), Red Tornado (Fox and Dillin, 1968), Fun Haus (Johns, Busiek and Woods, 2006 as Toyman Robot)