It's the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, all over the DC Universe from Gotham to Star City, superheroes are getting ready for Christmas, stringing twinkling lights from the echoing corridors of the Hall of Justice, putting up their trees and even getting ready to star in some holiday stories of their own. Though the existence of seasonal superhero stories might surprise you, it's actually a DC tradition that stretches all the way back to the Golden Age of comics. So, in this week's DC House of List-ery, we're curating five of the most radical, sweet and surprising DC holiday stories for you to read as you get ready for the most super season of all.
As is the way with holiday stories, many of the best that DC has to offer center around moral fables or tales to make us appreciate what we have. But easily the most powerful of the bunch is this Alan Scott Green Lantern adventure that feels radical even today.
While Alan Scott is hosting a festive radio show featuring a charming choir, the performance is cut short by a racist old woman who begins to aggressively rant about how the racially diverse singers aren't "real white Americans." Our heroic Green Lantern is disgusted, impressively and humorously dressing the racist down before telling her a story about the dangers of racism, hatred and bigotry centered around a nefarious faceless person spreading xenophobia for profit. This tale is not only really well told, but has also aged incredibly well for a story from the '40s. And then there's the fact that this issue has one of the all-time great Christmas comic book covers.
This surreal take on It's a Wonderful Life begins when Superboy's best friend Bash struggles to find his Christmas spirit while celebrating with the Kents. Driven to distraction by what he sees as the commercialization of his favorite season, Bash gives a cynical rant and storms out. But of course, young Clark follows him and does what any good friend would do: flies his good bud to a universe where Christmas doesn't exist to teach him just how good he has it.
In a fun twist, the creative team offers up an unexpected sci-fi twist on the tale as the world they end up in is a dystopian one where the lack of Christmas has set the planet on a dangerous path. Without goodwill to all men, people run riot in violent gangs and the air is nearly unbreathable. But even in the darkest time, Pa Kent is keeping the home fires burning for those who still have hope for a brighter day. This is a wonderfully weird Christmas yarn that'll warm your spirits.
While this issue has a ton of great stories (including Teen Titans taking on Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol and the Justice League solving Santa's murder), the standout is the perfectly titled "Wanted: Santa Claus—Dead or Alive!"
This noir-tinged tale from some of DC's biggest '80s names focuses on the Dark Knight trying to thwart some gangsters in Crime Alley on Christmas Eve. After he realizes a reformed criminal known as Boomer has taken a job as a department store Santa Claus, Batman decides he must be doing it for nefarious reasons. But soon Gotham's most famous son has to learn a lesson of his own about redemption, accountability and the magic of the Christmas Spirit. Don't worry, though. There's still plenty of gun-toting gangster action, Santas with billy clubs and Batman throwing Christmas trees at slickly suited crime bosses. So basically everything you want from a Gotham set Holiday tale.
One of the best things about these holiday specials is the chance to see unexpected characters in the midst of the Christmas season, and perhaps none is more unexpected than this story about Deadman.
While it begins as a slightly haunting tale as Deadman tries to experience Christmas by possessing other people, he soon realizes that what he's doing is wrong. And it's once he has this realization that he meets a beautiful young woman who can see him and helps him come to terms with his loneliness and what really drives him to be a hero. To reveal her identity would be to spoil the surprise at the heart of the story, but suffice it to say that this surprisingly somber, yet ultimately hopeful, take on the harder parts of the holiday season is another sterling addition to this delightfully charming DC Comics tradition.
It's hard to beat a Gotham story by Paul Dini and in this 2021 holiday special, he delivers a truly heartwarming tearjerker that feels like it jumped straight from the annals of Batman: The Animated Series.
Illustrated by Jordan Gibson and co-written by Alan Burnett, this is a delightfully sweet Christmas story about Tim Drake trying to find the perfect present for Bruce Wayne. But as he does just that—with a wonderfully referential gift—the city is struck by none other than Mister Freeze. He's a seasonally appropriate villain, but the team here leans into his tragic side to create something really special. This is a perfect tree topper for our list that delivers nostalgia, coziness and an unexpected twist that'll cheer even the grinch-iest of hearts. So, if you're looking for a little Christmas cry, then make sure to add this magical Robin story to your DC reading list this December! Happy holidays, DC fans!
Rosie Knight is an award-winning journalist and author who loves Swamp Thing, the DC Cosmic and writing about those and more here at DC.com. You can listen to her waxing lyrical about comics, movies and more each week as she co-hosts Crooked Media's pop-culture podcast X-Ray Vision. For more holiday recommendations from Rosie, don't miss her list of six essential Batman Christmas stories.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Rosie Knight and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.