Thursday, September 22, 2005


Batman Adventures was often better than the “regular” Batman comic books being published at the time. Like the animated series that it was created to supplement, Batman Adventures offered stripped-down, snappy stories and a classic model of Batman. Free from the clutter of continuity and overly rendered artwork, Batman Adventures concentrated on short, in-and-out 22-page stories where every panel counts and simple visual storytelling is key. They were perfect spinner-rack gateway-drug comics.

I was a big fan of Batman Adventures, particularly when the late Mike Parobeck was doing the art. I should have Mike Parobeck week, that guy was awesome. In addition to the regular Batman Adventures series, DC also published several one-shots, like the Eisner winning Mad Love, and this comic, the Holiday Special.

Now, I think this is right: Mad Love was a comic first and then they made it into a movie, but several of the stories in the Holiday Special were on Batman: The Animated Series first and then appeared in print. Somebody jump in here and correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, the Holiday Special is a cornucopia of yuletide joy, Gotham City style. It features a bunch of Batman short stories by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Kevin Altieri, Ronnie del Carmen, and Dan Riba, and they’re all swell. There’s a great Batgirl vs Clayface story drawn by Bruce Timm, a sentimental story about a holiday tradition Commissioner Gordon and Batman share (it doesn’t involve kissing), a kinetic Batman vs Joker piece, a moody Mr. Freeze story, and a kick-ass hyperactive bit featuring everyone’s favorite lipstick lesbians Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
In this story Harley and Ivy are lounging around in a hotel room around Christmas time in underwear and belly shirts, bored. They want to celebrate the spirit of the season, but they’re broke. Ivy zaps Bruce Wayne with a whammy kiss at a holiday party, and the two felonious femmes drag the hypnotized Wayne and his credit cards on a shopping rampage.

Bruce snaps out of it eventually, but first he has to witness an unparalleled orgy of consumerism as Harley and Ivy just get nutty. Here’s a montage of the carnage, with a helpless Bruce Wayne sweating with frustration. I don’t know what he’s stressing about, if pert vixens were parading around in front of me and changing into different outfits, I’d just relax and enjoy the show.

Then again, they are planning on killing him.

Those chicks are so gay for each other.
The other story I really dig is a simple, poignant manhunt tale wherein Batman chases Mr. Freeze into a cemetery during a snowstorm and they duke it out among the gravestones of Freeze’s wife and Bruce’s parents.

Before he catches up with Freeze, Batman saves a young girl from a car sliding in the snow, and we get this scene (click to enlarge):

Batman, dude! She’s a little kid, ease up on her! This is supposed to be an accessible all-ages Batman, not Asshole Batman. There are other books for that. Ha, ha! I kid. You see, I cleverly inserted the word balloon from another comic into the …. Ah, skip it.

Anyway, the Batman Adventures Holiday Special is like a great big present to comic readers, all wrapped up with a shiny red bow.

I would like to see more comic books like this, please.


Dweeze said...

The well placed use of the dialogue from All Star Batman And Robin #2, or as I like to call it, CRAP, made me do a spit take.

This is from the same time period when Superman Adventures was the highlight of the Superman line and Untold Tales of Spiderman the highlight of the Spiderman line. That's a kinda sad thought.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I think all but the Mr. Freeze story were adaptations of stories that also appeared in the holiday episode of the TV show. It's a good one, too....

Greg said...

"Batman Adventures was often better than the 'regular' Batman comic books being published at the time."

"Often better"? Just my opinion, but since the one-two-three punch of Burton-man/Miller/Editor O'Neil every iteration of Batman comics, including Batman Strikes!, is better than any concurrently published DCU Bat-title.

Think I'm a little few-up with how Batman has been portrayed the last twenty years or so?

Anonymous said...

I've got the same issue and agree wholeheartedly. The stories weren't exactly the same, but they relied on the same templates--CLayface as multiple pickpockets, for example, was new, although it broadly imitated another issue of Batman Adventures where Clayface dates the news reporter. Stopping Joker during the New Year's countdown was 'new', in the sense that he stops Joker during every holiday ever in existence, but he hadn't done that particular fight in Batman Adventures. The Mr. Freeze issue was also new, although it expanded the whole "Dear Nora" idea first started in the Mr. Freeze episodes.

So it wasn't the same, but reliance on the same templates (probably due to the restricted space per story that required the writers to go for easily identifiable set-ups) was similar enough it's no surprise you thought you'd seen them before.

thekelvingreen said...

There's something bizarre about Harley and Ivy having an almost-lesbian relationship in the Animated comics and no one batting an eyelid, but if they tried it in the DCU, both the fanboys and the moral watchdogs would be throwing a hissy fit.

The Animated comics were (and still are, in the case of JLU) so much better than their "parent" titles. And I don't even like DC.

And Dave, the switch-in of the All-Star dialogue was inspired.

Anonymous said...

The Holiday Knights episode of Batman Adventures aired on Boomerang just last week. It included all but the Mr. Freeze story. The pages you posted from the Harley and Ivy spending spree are nearly a shot by shot adaption down to the outfit and hat designs.

The montage actually works a bit better on the comic page, I think. It's quite a nice page layout.

According to Toonzone, Holiday Knights first aired September 13, 1997 so you were right that the comic came first.

Kevin Church said... me, Campbell. You took my idea and made it...better.

I fucking loathe you as of this day forward!

Edward Liu said...

Mad Love was a comic before it was adapted for the TV show. However, it wasn't a movie, but just a regular old done-in-22-minutes episode. It fairly flies along, but doesn't leave out much. I'm pretty sure the "Rev up your Harley" line and the bit where someone gets thrown out a window near the end were translated intact.

It was also one of the first comics that Bruce Timm ever did, and he noted that he lay out the entire thing as a 9-panel grid the way Keith Giffen did in Legion of Superheroes (and Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons did in Watchmen).

Dan Slott did a pile of the JLAdventures comics (I'm personally quite fond of #11 and #13), and the 17 issues he did of Batman Adventures with Ty Templeton totally kicked ass, too. He pulled a trick with the Riddler that was sensible and brilliant, and didn't resort to earlier trauma or a rape to explain anything.

Edward Liu said...

And I'm very glad I wasn't drinking anything when I saw the updated panel from "Holiday Knights."

Anonymous said...

"I should have Mike Parobeck week, that guy was awesome."

Indeed. I loved (and still love) Parobeck, he was a genius at simplicity and an innovator still trying to be emulated today.

Please do a Parobeck tribute week. The !mpact Comics The Fly and the 10-issue Justice Society series (both with Len Strazewski) are particular favourites of mine.

B2 said...

I've always shied away from these books cuz I thought they'd be too kid-oriented, too childlike. But some of the work you've shown, like the clothes-changing page.. that's good work!

Scipio said...


Bill D. said...

I always thought the Holiday Special came before the episode, not vice versa, but I could very well be wrong. Anyhoo, this was indeed a great issue, and the original run of Batman Adventures was far and away the best Bat-title on the stands at the time. I couldn't get into the subsequent relaunches, though. Probably because there was no Parobeck.

And yes, please, do a Mike Parobeck week! That would be unspeakably awesome.

Anonymous said...

What Kelvingreen said about the Harley/Ivy relationship. They even had a great little exchange in a later episode. It was basically a Batgirl/Harley team-up, where they had to reluctantly work together to defeat a mutual enemy. At one point, they're staking out the bad guys' hideout, and end up having a conversation that goes something like:

Batgirl: So, I hear you and Poison Ivy have an, er, relationship?
Harley: You mean like the one I hear you and Supergirl have?
Batgirl: WHAT??!?

(BTW, thinking it over, the comic may very well have come out a few weeks before the cartoon episode aired, but they were pretty close together. I remember watching the show and thinking "Hey, I've seen this!")

David Campbell said...

" me, Campbell."

"I'll chase you round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up."

Or you can go with the Khan version:

"I'll chase him 'round the Moons of Nibea, and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!"

God. Such a geek, am I.

Tycho B. said...

Somehow I never picked up on the lesbianism between Ivy and Harley. I just always thought they were meant to be Gotham's Thelma & Louise, with the Joker as Brad Pitt.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, PLEASE do a Mike Parobeck week. I absolutely loved his work on Batman Adventures and especially that Justice Society series that was cancelled way too soon.

thekelvingreen said...

Don't hold your breath, Glenn. Dave still owes us a piece about that Batman-in-Scotland story, the superhero fashion show special feature and of course Superheroes With Beards: Why Facial Hair And Super-Heroism Are Strange Bedfellows.

Well, maybe not on that last one.

Woody! said...

While I thought the caption was funny, I didn't truly appreciate it as much as the others. I... um... didn't read the All Star Batman #2. I hated the first one, never wanted to read another one again. Does that make me less of a person?

David Campbell said...

Woody, that just means that you are growing as a human being.

Anonymous said...

I see Batman gives Ivy a pearl necklace.


Anonymous said...

Please do a Parobeck tribute week! He was the greatest artist ever!

Anonymous said...

There's no justice in this world where this beautiful series doesn't get the full TPB treatment. I'm jus' sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Dave, and I was so excited to see you cover the animated-verse. I really loved all those tie-in books. They really showed the rest of the mid-90's tripe how it was done.

For my money, the DC animated continuity is probably the best single take on DC and its characters. It really captures all the best elements while leaving out everything that doesn't work.

Plus, it gave the Question a whole new legion of fans. That guy deserved it.

Chris Arndt said...

Toon Zone? I'm glad reference material complements and confirms my thoughts but I'll use deductive reasoning first.

"Batman Adventures" and then "The Batman and Robin Adventures" were published concurrently with the original "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The Adventures of Batman and Robin" cartoon show. It was one long 64 (or 65) episode production running under three different titles (guess the third; it was the second one used).

There are visual clues that seperate one production from "The New Batman Adventures" production, and the primary ones are the color and shape of Batman's head, mask, and chin and in addition the Bat-symbol used for Batman: TAS was the "New Look" one from the sixties and the later Batman cartoon took its symbol from the forties and fifties comics and that chest icon continued on into the Justice League series.

"Holiday Knights" was the first episode in production for the last Timm-Dini Batman series (airing with "Superman" in a "The Batman-Superman Adventures") and possibly the first one aired. Its Clayface short makes it notable in that it cannot possibly fit into the canon of that series as it is broadcast. It was broadcast and created before the Robin-centric little girl Clayface episode later in the series, which was the follow-up to the last Clayface appearance in the first series.

Sure, "Holiday Knights" may take place later but it basically pops up a Clayface when there should not be one. Fun stuff.

Point being that the original "Holiday Knights" episode clearly pops up within one era of time and this holiday special seems to be clearly of the prior time.

Don't get your Fantasitc Four costumes confused.

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Stivel Velasquez said...

Batman Adventures was created to tie-in with the then new Batman: The Animated Series. And as the animated series changed with each successive re-branding and relaunch over the years, march madness so too did The Batman Adventures. The success of Batman Adventures has also led to a set of "Adventures" titles mirroring the animated series that followed Batman: The Animated Series, including Superman Adventures (based on Superman: The Animated Series) and Justice League Adventures (based on Justice League).

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