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Issue 48: DC’s Super-Star Holiday Special

Jessika: Is this my first fucking time on a podcast? Good God. Fuck my life.

Mike: Um, hello. Welcome to Ten Cent Takes, the podcast where we secretly stuff stockings full of coal one issue at a time. My name is Mike Thompson and as always, I am joined by my co host, the Cruelest of Carolers, Jessica Fraser.

Jessika: I laugh in the face of carolers.

Mike: How are you doing tonight?

Jessika: Oh, I'm okay. How are you doing?

Mike: You know, I can't complain. Things feel like they're calming down after Thanksgiving a bit. Well, that's it, a little bit.

Jessika: We're right in the throes of Dickens Fair, so things aren't calm for me, but things won't be calm until after the fair is over. I don't care about Christmas. I don't give a shit about Christmas. But the five weeks that the Dickens Fair is happening, that's my jam.

Mike: Yeah. Every time that your videos come up on TikTok for Sarah and me, you are in a different outfit at Dickens Fair. It's very good.

Jessika: I, ah, am a fun fact. I am going every single weekend. I went twice on Thanksgiving weekend because they were open on Friday and Saturday as well as, uh, they're always open Sunday. But Sunday is just harder for me. But I go as a different character every time I go. Nobody else knows it. That's my own personal bit. That's just for me. But I went in there on Friday, dressed as a boy, tried on a gown nice, wore that gown the next day and was a princess. Okay, motherfucking princess.

Mike: Love it. Don't make the same mistake that I did with The RenFair, which was I went there enough and then someone hired me for a job.

Jessika: Oh my gosh. I don't have the time to dedicate to the Dickens Fair or you better guarantee I would already be working there. I've looked into it. Don't tempt me.

Mike: Yeah, well, if you are new to the show, the purpose of this podcast is to look at comic books in ways that are both fun and informative. We like to check out the coolest, the weirdest, and the silliest moments, as well as examine how they are woven into the larger fabric, pop, uh, culture and history. If you're enjoying the show so far and you want to help us grow, as always, it's a huge help if you can rate and or review us on a podcast because that really helps with discoverability or follow us on whatever social media platform you're on. We don't know how much longer we're going to be on Twitter given how things are shaken out, but we are pretty much everywhere else, I think. And we're always ten Cent Takes all one word facts. So tonight we are going to be talking about DC's Superstar Holiday special, which is one of the more interesting holiday comics out there. But before we do that, what is one cool thing that you have read or watch lately?

Jessika: Well, uh, I'm pretty sure call me psychic, but I'm pretty sure that we picked the same thing that we have been watching.

Mike: Oh, really? Okay.

Jessika: I do believe that yours is a better introduction. So I will let you go first and I will go ahead and tackle long after. How does that sound?

Mike: Sure. I see now that I look at our show notes.

Jessika: Okay. I looked ahead only because you had already written ours out, and I was like, well, son of a bitch, mike.

Mike: Sorry. Great minds and all that.

Jessika: I know.

Mike: Yeah. So I have been watching Wednesday on Netflix. It just dropped, I think, last week. And it's this dark comedy coming of age show about Wednesday Adams, where Wednesday is sent to a spooky boarding school called Nevermore Academy by her parents after she's expelled from her last high school due to an incident involving Piranhas and the boys water polo team. And once she arrives, there's a bunch of storylines involving supernatural school drama, mysteries that tie to Wednesday's family throughout history, and a monster that's killing students and citizens in the neighboring town of Jericho. And it's kind of wild. Like, how many big names are associated with the show. Tim Burton directs four of the eight episodes. Louise Guzman shows up as Gomez Adams. Catherine Zeta Jones appears as Morticia. Fred Armison is fester. Wendell. And Christie is the principal of Nevermore. Even Christina Ritchie shows up as Wednesday's Dormother, who's also a teacher at the school. And then Jenny Ortega is Wednesday herself. And she is fantastic. Like, I cannot think of a more perfect casting for that. And originally, the show starts out feeling kind of like the Adams family by way of Riverdale. And, uh, I'm saying that as both a compliment and a criticism, but it finds its feet about halfway through and starts just really ripping along. I finished the season today while I was working at it on in the background.

Jessika: Nice.

Mike: Yeah. And I'm kind of embarrassed at how much I enjoyed the second half of the season, especially. There's a couple of twists in the last episodes, and they are so fun.

Jessika: Nice. Oh, I'm really looking forward to it because I've only seen the first two episodes.

Mike: Okay.

Jessika: So I'm probably going to watch a little bit more of it tonight while I'm arresting my poor neck. My poor neck is pinched. My nerve is pinched. It's not because of the upcoming Superstar holiday special, but you would have thought one might have thought back to Wednesday because I was also checking her out, as we know. And I'm also really liking it. I'm even more into it because there's talk about Wednesday being coded as an autistic character.

Mike: Yeah, no, she could absolutely be coded that way.

Jessika: Yeah. So I'm really enjoying finding all of the things that I would associate with that, like her special interests, how she takes everything super literally, and her lack of understanding or disregard for social convention, amongst other things. And I'm also me, myself, I'm going on a journey of deconstructing my own past. And it is looking more and more likely that I'm also neuro divergent. So it's great to see this type of positive representation in the media. I'm also really enjoying the little Easter eggs that they're throwing in, like snapping twice, and a character not lurch saying, you rang. And it was a very cleaver way of reminding us of the other family members without them actually being present.

Mike: Yeah. How did you feel about the other family members in terms of casting?

Jessika: I thought they were great. I really do. I like the idea of Gomez not being this kind of tall, dark, and handsome guy, because in the comics, he wasn't.

Mike: No. Guzman looks almost identical to how he was in the comics. And don't get me wrong, raul, Julia and Angelica Houston, I think, are still the most perfect casting for those characters. They did such a wonderful job of acting as those characters. But Captain Zeta Jones is fine. She looks the part. She's fine. They don't give her a lot to do. And Guzman, I think, is really good, but they also don't give him much to do.

Jessika: Right. I mean, I agree. From what I've seen.

Mike: Yeah. There's a later episode where they show up again and it's fine when Fred Armison shows up as faster. He's really entertaining. But again, he's no Christopher Lloyd. Christopher Lloyd had that kind of manic. Weirdness.

Jessika: Yes, exactly.

Mike: And I love that Christina Ritchie showed up. I love that they included her in this.

Jessika: I actually didn't even realize that that's who that was.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: That's so funny. Yeah. I'm going to have to go look at her again because as I was thinking about it, I was like, wait a second.

Mike: What?

Jessika: They did a really nice job on makeup yeah. Uh, for all of these characters. I mean, honestly. So yeah, that is what I'm going to be watching. I also really do enjoy that this version of the show is a bit more violent and deadly.

Mike: Yeah. And it's also a little bit more gnarly with things like Thing and how you see him all stitched together. I thought that was great.

Jessika: Yes. And having, like, shit in his fingernails and it's like, okay, no, this is real talk here, because I always wondered about the type of thing, like, I'm sorry, is that just like an open hand? Is that just a, um, bone there? Yeah.

Mike: And then there's a bit where once Adam's roommate is like, where's the rest of them? And she goes, oh, it's one of the great Adams family mysteries. And I was like, okay, that's solid.

Jessika: I also like that they always refer to Thing as being a bit vain.

Mike: Oh, yeah.

Jessika: Like his manicures and shit.

Mike: She figures out that he's in her room because she smells his extremely expensive skin lotion.

Jessika: Exactly.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: Uh, at one point, he's also on the roommate's bed, like, flipping through a magazine.

Mike: That was great.

Jessika: So funny. Yeah, that was great character. Great character.

Mike: Yeah, no, it's good.

Jessika: Uh, so that's me.

Mike: Nice. You're ready to talk about the superstar holiday special?

Jessika: Mike? Do we have to?

Mike: Yes, Mike. You don't get a choice. The original plan for this episode was that I was going to be talking about DC's Christmas with the Superhero books from the late 1980s, but they wound up being not as interesting as tonight's topic. But before we start talking about the superstar holiday special, we need to talk about some other stuff that leads up to it. So have you ever heard of the DC Special series?

Jessika: No.

Mike: Okay. DC Special series is this weird artifact from the late 1970s. It was preceded by another series called DC Special, which hit new stands in 1968. DC Special was basically a quarterly anthology series that became a bi monthly one. But unlike a lot of the other anthology books at the time, it didn't have an overall theme like science fiction or horror or romance or whatever. Instead, it was mainly reprinting stuff from DC's Golden Age or, uh, from DC's Golden and Silver age of comics. And so different issues would feature different themes. Like, for example, the first issue contained only stories by artist Carmine Infantino. The third issue is titled the All Girl Issue, and it features only stories about female characters. There's another issue that's focused on the work of artist Joe Cubert, while another issue contains nothing but, like, weird sports stories. And they are absolutely bad shit. There's a story about a baseball team in New York getting forced into a baseball game by a group of aliens with a group of headless baseball players. It's very weird.

Jessika: I'm sorry.

Mike: Uh, yeah, no, it's the whole thing. There were some new stuff that was also thrown in. Like, one of the issues that was focused on stories with shocker endings had an original story that introduced Abel, as in Canaan Abel of the Sandman Comics. But basically, DC Special sounds like it didn't actually sell. That great because it got canceled in late 1971 after issue 15.

Jessika: Whoops.

Mike: Yeah, right. DC started publishing it again in 1975 and then continued the original issue numbering. So, I don't know. Like, it's very strange. I don't quite understand why they didn't just start fresh with a new volume and numbers and, you know and again, DC Special was mainly reprints of older comics. But the last few issues featured entirely new stories. And then DC canceled the series for good in 1977 with each of 29. And then they started publishing DC Special series a month later. So DC Special series was kind of like a spiritual sequel to DC Special. Kind of like giving off a similar vibe even though it wasn't exactly doing the same thing. So DC Special series was a bunch of oneshots and special issues that were released under their own titles. In fact, the words DC Special Series and the issue number weren't included on any of the covers. It was only included in parentheses on the indicia, which is the text on a book's first page with all the other publishing info. So it would literally sit there and be like, oh, whatever, book. And then in parentheses, DC Special Series, volume one, number, whatever.

Jessika: Oh, my God. You're saying that so many times that it's literally not becoming a thing anymore.

Mike: Yeah, I know.

Jessika: The word is losing its meaning.

Mike: Yeah. I apologize. DC specialist, romantic satiation. It's weird. As I was writing out the script for this episode, I got to the point where I was looking at it and I'm like, I'm spelling the word special wrong because I had written it so many times and I'm like, it just doesn't look right anymore.

Jessika: I hear you. There was this one time I got really convinced that I was spelling the word done incorrectly. D-O-N-E-I was stared at it for a solid ten minutes, going, that can't be right.

Mike: Yeah, okay.

Jessika: College was hard, man. That was probably like, at three in the morning and I was burnt out. It was not the word.

Mike: Let's just say that the second time I went to college, I was a journalism major and I was also freelancing as a journalist. There were so many times when the easiest words to spell looked incredibly wrong to me because I'd written so much over the span of a couple of days. God gosh. So, anyway, DC special series. So these issues were spanning, like, a whole range of content. So some of the issues were what are called dollar comics, which were these like they cost a dollar, which back in the late 70s was a lot of money for a comic, but they were, like, really big comics with less advertising than normal. And in fact, for a while, if you bought one of these dollar comics, they would have no advertising at all.

Jessika: A legit meeting.

Mike: Yeah, we'll get to that in a minute. The first few issues of this series that did the dollar comic format contained, like, 80 pages. The ones that were ad free looks like they were actually a little bit shorter, but they were still pretty big. It was like 48 or 64 pages. Some of the other issues in the series were digest sized reprint collections, so it was like Readers Digest magazine size comics that you would find at grocery stores and stuff, and those were usually, like, reprints of older stories. There were others still that were basically special oneshot issues. A few of them have actually gone on to be key issues, like number 16, which I have, which features the death of Jonah Hex. And it was like the canon end of his story for a long time.

Jessika: Oh, wow.

Mike: Yeah. And he was still a really popular character, so he had the series going on. But one of the things they did was they started having him, like, bounce through time. They were able to sit and be like, oh, he went on to have further adventures. And then eventually he wound up here. And he knows the end of his story where he gets gunned down and his body gets stuffed and put on, like, a traveling roadshow and all that, which I think is hysterical. It's a very Jonah Hex ending.

Jessika: Oh, my God. Holy shit.

Mike: Yeah. Jonah Hex is, like, one of my favorite characters. He's wild.

Jessika: Just wait for the I'm summing that one up. Just you wait, everyone.

Mike: Yeah, but these were all really interesting, and we'll get to some of the other interesting ones later on. But before we actually get to the issue in question, the other thing we need to talk about is something called the DC Implosion. So the DC Special series line was hitting shelves right in the middle of something called the DC Explosion, which was a campaign that the publisher was running in 1978 to try and claw back its market dominance from Marvel Comics. Marvel had actually wind up taking over a larger share of the comics market than DC because it had doubled down and opened the floodgates for content. So not only were they doing new original books, but they were also publishing their own reference and stuff. And as a result, people were buying more of their stuff. And so DC decided to do the same thing. They kicked things off in 1975 and they launched approximately 34 titles over the next two years. So as a result, they started this marketing campaign in June 1978 that was basically promising readers more comics containing more content. And take a look at this in house ad for the DC Explosion that they are running in comics. That was right at the beginning of the campaign.

Jessika: Beginning June 1. The DC explosion. More pages, more stories, and the most exciting superheroes in comics. Watch for full details next month. And we've got a whole array. That was all of it. By the way, there's a whole array of characters here. I don't know that I know their real names because they look a lot like Marvel character knockoffs. But we're cool here. There's a guy with a mohawk. I dig him. He's a very tiny man.

Mike: Yeah. So most of these characters are not really well known today. There's like the adam. He's the DC counterpart to Ant Man. There's, hawk man. Who you recognize? There's the Martian Manhunter. I think that's a Wonder Woman holding a sword. But she's kind of got, like a Greek Toga vibe.

Jessika: Right.

Mike: Um there's Dead Man, who was kind of a part of that whole Spooky resurgence of comics at the time.

Jessika: Which one is he? Is he the guy with all of the clothes?

Mike: Yeah. No, he's the guy with, uh that's right next to Martian Manhunter. And he's all in red. Yeah.

Jessika: Okay. That makes a lot of sense, actually.

Mike: But yeah. So the guy who looks like a World War I pilot, that is enemy ace. Who is this? Like, he was, like, kind of an antihero, I think. I don't know a lot about him, but he was a World War One character who, like, flew for the Prussians, but he was, like, basically made to be an antihero with, like, a noble soul or something like that. There's BARDA right next to him. Of big Barter from the New Gods. I think the guy behind her is Steel. Um, I'm not sure about that because of the costume. I have no idea who the guy in the suit behind him is.

Jessika: Junk. Really strange.

Mike: And then finally, the guy with a mohawk is OMAC, who was a, uh, Jack Kirby creation. It's like the one man army corps.

Jessika: I don't want to be OMAC. I kind of want to cosplay as OMAC.

Mike: Be a good look.

Jessika: It would be a good look.

Mike: Uh, but that's the thing. You show this to most readers these days, and they're going to have no idea who any of these characters are.

Jessika: Just like me. I arguably am not a DC girl, however.

Mike: Yeah, but I mean, almost none of these are characters that most DC readers would even know at this point in time. Like a casual DC reader. But here's the twist. Okay, so the DC explosion campaign only lasted it for a couple of months, and it was supposedly until around September of 1978. And this is because, in spite of all this new content, DC's books weren't actually selling very well.

Jessika: Oh, no.

Mike: This was caused by several factors. The big one that's always cited whenever people talk about the DC implosion is blizzards. And, um, the US. Saw, uh, major blizzards in both 1977 and 1978. In fact, the Great Blizzard of 78 has, like, a Wikipedia entry that cites the storm as, like, one of the worst blizzards ever hit the country. And then a week after that hit, there was the Northeastern United States Blizzard 78, which dropped record breaking levels of snow across New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Jessika: That, uh damn. Nor Easter. I swear.

Mike: Swear. So the other thing that you got to remember is, you know, around 50 years ago, supply chains were a lot more fragile than they are today. Well, you know, fragile like, before COVID at least. You know, and additionally, comic stores weren't really that common at this point in time, and comics were still being sold at, uh, places like Newsstands and on spinner racks and drug stores. Unsurprisingly, DC's books didn't sell as well as they needed to because of all this disruption that was going on. And then, additionally, people were dealing with inflation issues from the economy. There was a recession, there was increased paper and printing costs. So not only were comics getting more expensive, and less profitable, but fewer people could afford to buy them. Which, now that I say this out loud, sounds a little bit too familiar to what we're dealing with right now. But this is actually explored in depth in an article by Jill Scott on comic basics called DC Explosion and Implosion the History of Why it can't be Ignored.

Jessika: DC of the big publishers hit roadblocks that they could not possibly have predicted. With their comic book explosion came promises and expectations. Jeanette Kahn promised that with new titles came better distribution and ease of access. With most comic books being sold on newsstands and the storms causing delays, her promises were quickly falling to the wayside. No matter what DC had thought would happen with their explosion, adults preparing for the worst overruled it. Children wanted comics, but adults wanted food, supplies and anything that would help them survive the catastrophe. Because adults paid the bills, children didn't get their comics.

Mike: Yeah, this feels a little bit too familiar for comfort right now.

Jessika: Yeah, also okay. Boomer.

Mike: Right?

Jessika: They were like, we don't need art. Just get rid of the art. I'm going to send my child to a Malta story school, though.

Mike: It'll be fine. Yeah. So unsurprisingly, the corporate overlords at Warner Brothers were unhappy with DC's performance. And then right after the marketing campaign started in June of 1978, the publisher canceled a little under half of the books that they had in production and laid off a ton of the staff. Like, again, echoes of the past going on with everything that's happening with the Warner Brothers discovery right now and all the bullshit they're pulling, but yeah. According to an article on comic book Resources titled in the Midst of Expanding Its Line, something went awry. DC apparently canceled 31 titles by the end of the year. So by the end of 1978, they actually had eight fewer titles than they had when they started the whole DC explosion in the mid seventy s eight.

Jessika: Of them just fell off the turnip truck.

Mike: Yeah. This is how intense the cost saving measures were, believe it or not. Like Detective comics. Almost got the axe. Yeah, they wound up merging it with the better selling Batman family Comic at the last minute. But, yeah, we almost lost Detective Comics to this. And this resulting crunch became known as the DC Implosion because people were just like, you just were saying that we were getting the explosion with all this stuff. And so they had books that were like, apparently fully produced, but just hadn't gone to the printer yet. And so something came out later on called the Canceled Comics Calvicate, where they they printed those issues. We'll probably end up talking about that in a later episode because it's also weird, but it sounds like the DC Special series was actually one of these casualties because it went on hiatus after the fall 1978 issue and it didn't come back until the summer of 1978. And with that, we can turn to issue 21, aka the Superstar Holiday Special. Here we go.

Jessika: Buckle up.

Mike: Yeah. So this comic is a holiday in quotes themed anthology issue. It's really a Christmas issue. Like, they say that it's like a holiday issue. Every story is about Christmas, which I mean, okay, whatever.

Jessika: Every story is the exact same ending. I'm sorry.

Mike: And so each of these stories has characters from major, uh, DC Books of the Day ends with a message encouraging people to go check out the character's own comics. As a result, this is essentially a sampler comic that's designed to kind of like onboard people to check out other DC books. So there are a total of five short stories, and we're going to split up the duties of summarizing them. So, Jessica, you're up for the first one?

Jessika: Let me get this straight. Let me get this gay. They were trying to draw readers in with this?

Mike: Oh, yeah.

Jessika: Oh, fascinating. Okay, everyone, buckle up. So the first story is Jonah Hex. Okay? So he's wandering around the woods looking for criminals, like the bounty hunter he is, when he comes upon a father and daughter who are out hunting for Christmas dinner. Now, the dad is about to shoot a fawn, a motherfucking baby deer, which probably wouldn't exist naturally in the winter, I think. But also, my dude, you know the rules. Only aim at the ones with the horns, you monster. Did this fucker kill Bambi's mom? Maybe, yeah.

Mike: And it's implied that it might be the kid's pet. Not on it, but it's kind of vague.

Jessika: It's vague. I think it was one of those, I want to save this poor deer with a broken leg kind of a situation when a nurse is back to health. So the kid is begging her dad not to kill this baby deer that has an injured leg, and she just wants to take care of him. And her dad is like a ah. Male is a male, and I have no regard for your feelings on the matter. So Jonah Hex has this flashback about how he tried to save an injured raccoon one time and how his dad basically served her to the family without him knowing it. And then like kind of just inferted afterwards. And then there was some actual visual child abuse when child Jonah Hex expresses emotions about the Heinous act that his father just made him take part in. So warning on that. If you decide to read this bullshit excuse me. On that, my opinions are coming out. So back to reality. Jonah hex intervenes. Oh, by the way, by the way, let me insert at this point in time the fact that my mom loves to tell me these little nuggets of traumatic stories, right? Just reminded me of one because the other day she goes, oh, funny story. And I'm like, oh, great. Let me know what trauma you're about to tell me. Funny story. Do you guys remember when you had rabbit for the first time and you were like, mortified that he had fed you a bunny? And I told my brother that, and he was like, well, I mean, like, you know, I mean, it is a rabbit. Like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was like, so she couldn't have explained to us that, like, rabbits are both pets and for eating. Like, she couldn't have had that conversation? Like set us up instead of, like, traumatizing us in this way? He's like, oh, I guess she could have done that. I'm like, yes, she could have fucking done that. So thanks, parents, for being fucking traumatizing. So back to Jonah Hex. Back to reality. Jonah Hex intervenes, asking him if he'll spare the fawn if he can feed his family for Christmas another way and begrudgingly. Monster father agrees. Cut to Jonah Hex, who is in the woods looking for something to hunt. And in two respects, really, because he's looking both for the game, for this family and the criminals. That was his initial intent. But it's darn cold. So he decides to go into a cave where it just so happens that the very criminals he's looking for are hiding from him. So they think he's absolutely psychic and start shooting at him. And he takes at least one bullet and then is like, never bring a gun to a dynamite fight, bitches. And because one obviously wouldn't do the job, he throws an entire round of sticks of dynamite. And we're talking like it's so good. Sick so much overkill into the cave with absolutely no regard to the danger of an avalanche. It was wild. So the smoke clears. He wanders into the cave, and these guys are definitely dead. Good night. Like, dramatic one leg sticking out to show us that these guys are no more. So Homeboy Walters, back to the hunter's house. Cut scene with two extra horses and a bag. He throws at the hunter and is basically like, you can feed your family now, so leave the deer alone. And dude opens it up and he's like, the fuck? This is jerky and trail mix, my dude. And Jonah Hex is like, hey, I only said I'd feed you, not that you'd be having a chicken like a feast. Yeah. And then Monster father does a complete 180, trying to save face, I guess, and says, oh, I never could have heard that deer anyway, though. Jkjk so, like, you were just, what, traumatizing your child for no reason? What an actual piece of shit.

Mike: Yeah, it's funny because you messaged me about this and you were like, the story was wild. And I was like, yeah. I'm like, do you not remember me telling you last year in our holiday episode? Which, by the way, if you want to learn the history of holiday comics, go back and check out our episode about Marvel's. Holiday specials where we go in depth into holiday presents and comic books. But one of Sarah's Christmas presents to me one year was a Christmas themed issue of Jonah Hex where he is threatening Santa at gunpoint to go entertain orphans. And it turns out in the issue, it's his dad. His dad was a wanted criminal, and basically Jonah forced him to play Santa Claus and deal with orphans because he would hate that more than going to jail. Welcome to Jonah Hex, everyone. This is, like, one of my favorite characters in DC Comics.

Jessika: Good Lord. I did forget to say that the one part of this that was like the star part is that he was like, I got to find me. I got to find criminals. And so he follows a star because that makes a lot of sense, right?

Mike: Yeah. And that's the ongoing theme with all the stories in here, is that the Christmas star, the Star of Bethlehem, makes an appearance, which also ties into the comic title of the superstar holiday special.

Jessika: Basically, we have figured out the DC comic book characters are in fact, naps that are attracted to the Star of Bethlehem, and they cannot stay away.

Mike: Yeah.

Jessika: Pretty much just get pulled in and zapped. So you know what, guys? Let's move on to story number two. So the next one, Mike's insisting I say the title I fucking hate it. It's wanted Santa Claus, dead or alive.

Mike: It's important.

Jessika: It is important. I also hate it, though. I also hate Batman. We'll get into it. So Batman is flying around Gotham trying to find some petty shit to do with his time instead of actually helping the issues of the city all of his money and power could do to change things. So along with being really concerned that someone stole the star from the only apparently nativity scene in town, he rolls up on one of the town's mob bosses to find out why he's bringing a boat into port that night. He, like, rolls into his party, and the dude's like, you didn't, like, look at Batman. Is constantly just breaking in. And then he's like, why are you mad? Why are you mad? They're like. Motherfucker. It's locked. Take a hint. That man's just disrespectful.

Mike: Also, he shows up, and he is in way better shape than everybody else, and he makes them all look bad.

Jessika: Oh, he swoops in, and his cape is taking up, like, half the room. Yeah, the motherfucker made an entrance from the ceiling, and he's like, Miss me. Ding. So basically, he beats mob boss into telling him that he's doing the whole boat, like, pulling the boat into the harbor as a favor to his boy Boomercats, who's caught up in the middle of quite the scheme. He is playing a department store Santa, and he's being treated so well by everyone at the department store and getting all of these accolades about how he's the best santa that they've ever seen. Blah, blah, blah. And Cass has eaten it up. And he's like, Rut Row. I'm totally doing what to these nice people? And so when the plan goes into action, he hasn't actually done his part and is actively like, wait, store staff. I have no idea what's going on here. They forced me to open the door. And the baddies, including Mr. Boss himself, from the beginning of the story, are like, dude, what the fuck? Okay, double crosser. So they're already planning on killing this bastard. So the bat swoops in. Surprise, bitches. I had nothing better to do with my time than this. So he beats the baddies down, and Cats runs away. But the baddies get him again because Batman didn't tie them up or anything. He just knocked them out and was like, that feels like good enough.

Mike: No, what happens is he winds up, like, interrupting them in the middle of their robbery after they shoot Boomer. And then he knocks out most of them, but one of them gets away with Boomer. He hears Boomer getting shot. That's what happened, um, by these other gangsters.

Jessika: But did you see mob Boss is there.

Mike: It's a different mob boss. Here's the problem with Frank Miller's, art. He only knows how to draw, like, five different figures.

Jessika: So the Mob boss at the beginning wasn't the same mob boss, different guy. He's fighting. What the fuck was that? Because here's the thing. Batman just looks incompetent because I thought that motherfucker just got away. I was like, what?

Mike: No.

Jessika: You were so inept at your job, Batman. You gave yourself this job and you're bad at it.

Mike: No. So he basically he's like, why did you arrange for this boat to be sitting in the harbor? And he's like, I don't know. I did it for my friend Boomer Cats. And then he winds up, like, going in blackface to a homeless shelter in disguise. And then finds out that Boomer has been working as, like, a mall Santa. And then he's just like, oh, there's only one reason that someone like Boomer Cats would take a job at a mall. It's to rip it off. And then it's like and that's why he arranged for a getaway boat. I'm like, I don't know. A boat and a blizzard seems fucking.

Jessika: Dumb, but it seems a little far fetched.

Mike: Yeah. And then so that's the thing. He gets there. But the problem is that this is Frank Miller's art. So you look at all the women in this, it's like, they have the same face. They have the same figure.

Jessika: They're the same woman.

Mike: It is not obvious. And like, the Mob boss, it's the same face, but it's not well explained.

Jessika: You don't love it. It's very confusing. So Batman runs into two cops who are like, how do you mysterious vigilante who doesn't work in law enforcement in any official capacity? Do you have everything under control? And batman is like, yeah, totes go about your night. And they're like, yeah, cool. We will. So the Batties catch back up to Cats, and they really do intend to kill him. And Batman finds them because they're all at the Nativity scene. And Batman thinks the star is back because he sees a light, right? And he stumbles upon the scene with a mob boss and cats, and he breaks that up. But where's the star? Oh, it was in the night sky all along. What a motherfucking Christmas miracle or something? I don't know. Yeah, it was awful.

Mike: It's really interesting. And we're going to talk about this story later on because you wouldn't think based on the quality of the story. But this has wound up being like a really pivotal Batman story. I'll explain that later. Yeah.

Jessika: Oh, good lord. Here's the thing. Here's the thing. Bruce motherfucking Wayne better have bought every single goddamn child in Gotham City a motherfucking present.

Mike: He was only a millionaire then.

Jessika: And you know that bastard didn't fuck him. Fuck millionaires. Fuck billionaires. You heard. He'd hear first. Eat the rich.

Mike: So mad that's, uh, the true meaning of Christmas is eat the rich.

Jessika: It is. Turkey is dry. The richer fatty. Eat the rich.

Mike: Oh, uh. Man all right. So it's my turn now. Okay. So the first story after this is an untitled House of Mystery Christmas story. And it's kind of great. Like, I'm not going to lie, I kind of loved it because it's basically it's all of the hosts from DC's horror themed anthology comics hanging out. There's the witches from the witching hour. There's canaan abel from the house of Mystery. There's Destiny, who would later go on to be one of the endless Siblings of Sandman comics. And he hosted a comic called The Secrets of the Haunted House. Back then, they're all waiting for someone to show up at the house for a holiday celebration. And to pass the time, each of them tells a Christmas story. So it's basically kind of like who can tell the best scary story, except it's Christmas themed. And, uh, these are all basically the twist ending short stories that the respective books were famous for. But they're all themed around holidays and kind of like good natured. So the witches tell the story of a family that were almost shipwrecked, but they managed to escape into their life raft. And they're rowing away from this wrecked yacht. And then they spot the light of a lighthouse, only to arrive at the lighthouse and find out that the lights been out for a while and they were actually being guided by the magic star of Bethlehem.

Jessika: There it is.

Mike: Oh, god. We would be dead already if we were playing any drinking games with this. I don't know. There's no way. There's no way we would die. The second story comes from Cain and Abel. But really it's Cain telling the story about this crooked pawn shop dealer who routinely swindles people for their valuables during hard times. And then one day this old man shows up and he's like, I have this big fuck off diamond, and it's the world's largest diamond, and I will give it to you for every item in the shop. And then the shop owner is like, fine, okay, I guess I guess I could part with all the junk in my shop for this, like, exquisite, massive fuck off diamond. So the diamond then turns into coal after the deal is done and the shop's backed up and the mysterious stranger reveals himself to be Santa Claus and he's punishing someone on his naughty list and he flies off the end of the sky basically going, fuck you. But he doesn't actually give the items back to all the swindled people. So I don't know what's going on with that.

Jessika: He infers that. He's like, I, uh, know what I'll do with these. And it's very heavily inferred. I believe that he's going to be giving them back, but he does not actually say that. And he does.

Mike: Yeah, he does fly off into the sunset. So I don't know, maybe Rudol is having a magical Christmas.

Jessika: Are we saying no? But I'm saying that Mrs. Claus got herself a nice new diamond ring.

Mike: Yeah. And then we get Destiny's story, which is about a rocket ship pilot who's chasing after the Christmas star because he's actually convinced it's a UFO and he's going to catch it. And in his pursuit, he hits the speed of light right as his ship shakes apart and the fuel tank explodes. And then the resulting explosion crashes through the barriers of time and it's seen across the ages, so it becomes the Star of Bethlehem. And it's kind of like the self fulfilling prophecy not going to lie. Kind of like that one. It was just weird. And then everyone starts arguing about who had the best story until the Phantom Stranger and Madame Xanadu show up. The stranger basically yells at them about the meaning of Christmas and how it's about a time where they all come together and blah, blah, blah. But then Irish goodbyes his way out of that whole situation a panel later because let's be honest, everyone in that room is behaving like an asshole. And that's it.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: The next one is a story starring Sergeant Rock and Easy Company, who are characters from World War II stories. And Sergeant Rock and Easy Company are trekking through the woods of Italy. I think it's not actually named, but based on the dialogue and the name of the village, I'm assuming it's Italy. Rock is navigating via a radium compass, which made me do a double take, but cool. So the radium compass gets shot out of his hand by a Nazi sniper. They end up gunning the sniper down and then they start navigating by the light of the Christmas star, which is mistaken for the North Star towards the town of Santa Maria, which they have to get to for kind of unspecified reasons other than to prevent the Nazis from thwarting some Allied tank movement. On the way, they come across a number of Catholic pilgrims who are marching toward Santos Maria through the snow to pray for a Christmas miracle at the town shrine, which is apparently tradition that's been going on for 800 years. Rock tries to warn them off and tells the nun leading the group not to go because the Nazis will kill the pilgrims and then use the lights of their candles to target them. She basically refuses to listen to Rock and EC company book it double time and make it to the town ahead of the group. But Santa Maria is already basically a graveyard. Rock finds, like, this orphan kid hiding in one of the building sellers and gives them a speech and some chocolate. It's kind of weird. It doesn't make a lot of sense. They also shoot a bunch of Nazis, which, honestly, I can get behind anytime. You can never shoot too many Nazis, to be honest. It doesn't matter if it's Christmas story or not. But then he, uh, blows up some anti tank artillery and it turns out that he managed to destroy the Shrine of Santa Maria at the same time. And he feels guilty and then learns the pilgrims were like, already hanging out of the shrine, but they're all okay because their candles had gone out, so they were praying in the dark, but they basically weren't targeted by the Nazis. And then the Star of Bethlehem comes out. It appears in the sky, it lights everything up. And the nun says something about how faith doesn't need a shrine because their hearts are shrines and their love can light up the world.

Jessika: Fuck. All the way off. I have some choice words. We'll get there.

Mike: Yeah, it's a very shoehorned holiday message and it does not fit well. And then we get to the final story, which is called Starlight star bright, farthest star I see tonight. And so this is a story that is starring Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes. Superboy comes to the Legion's headquarters on Christmas Eve. He finds a skeleton crew manning the building. He ends up, uh, getting a surprise mistletoes smooch from Phantom Girl as she phases through a wall. And then Saturn Girl is on monitor duty and she shows him scenes of Christmas celebrations across the galaxy because, sure, why not? That totally makes sense. Superboy gets grumpy about how even though there are all these different types of celebrations going on, there isn't an old fashioned Christmas celebration being celebrated anywhere. And he ends up asking the Legion to help them find the Star of Bethelham so they can figure out what star was that guided the three wise men to the Nativity scene. And they basically look through the records. They punch coordinates in on a navigation computer. And then Soups, saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Lightning Lad and Wildfire Head off to these projected coordinates. But the Legion spaceship arrives at the supposed location. There's no star. There's only a planet. That is, like, struggling. So the heroes investigate, and they find these three groups of kind of indigenous aliens, and they're all struggling in different ways. And the Legion rightly steps in to help them out. But the assistance they offer is very short term. And they end up creating a larger solution where they create an underground cave where these different alien species can kind of live together in harmony and help each other out, especially after the Legion cobbles together some translation technology for the groups. And then they go back onto their ship and celebrate the holiday. Even though I don't know how the planet's population is going to survive long term, especially without a star.

Jessika: Apparently we'll talk about that.

Mike: Yeah. That is the superstar holiday special. So what are your thoughts?

Jessika: It was certainly something I, uh, don't really know how I feel about the Star of Bethlehem being the shoehorn theme of every single fucking comic. Because again, it just was the same ending. Every single story was a little rough. I was like, didn't I just read this? No, I didn't. And it really felt like it was trying too hard to get that in somewhere. It didn't always make a lot of sense. Not that comics have to or always do, but especially these. I guess overall, it was fine. I didn't care for the child abuse or the slurs or the colonizer vibes that were very present. But I didn't hate the comic, I guess. No second thought. I actually did hate it a lot. Who shocked here? Anyone?

Mike: Yeah. Viewing it, I feel kind of like it's a Christmas TV movie from that era where you're like, I can see what they're going for in certain ways. It's a little bit charming in certain ways and weird. But also it doesn't really work through the lens of almost 50 years later. Did you have a story that you liked the best or hate the least?

Jessika: No, I only had one I hate the most. I can talk about that though, if you want. Because I think for the ones I hate the most, I think it's a tie between the war story and the Superboy story. And here's why I'm torn. So the war story first of all, who the fuck is that character? Sergeant what's his bucket? I've never fucking heard oh, Sergeant Rock, what are you doing?

Mike: Yeah, here's the thing.

Jessika: Why are you?

Mike: The World War II comics were big. Like, that was a big thing. And Sergeant Rock was like DC's equivalent of Nick Fury. They had Sergeant Rock for DC. They had Sergeant Fury for Marvel. And Sergeant Rock and Easy Company wound up starring in a number of long running World War II comics. I mean, a lot of the books that came out around them were really interesting. One of my favorites that I find really fascinating is Weird War Tales, which is like World War One. World War Two Stories, originally. And then they continue to build on it. And then you start having Korean War and Vietnam War. But war comics for a while were a very popular shop. These days, not so much.

Jessika: Yeah, I guess here's the thing. Me as a person, war not logical. Not logical. It's a bunch of dudes getting really emotional. Um, if we're going to tell a real fact here, it's a bunch of dudes getting really emotional and not having an outlet, not knowing how to process their feelings. World leaders, go get fucking therapy. Go get therapy. Here's the thing with this comic in particular. Like, first of all, he's like calling this kid Bambino. And I looked it up, and it doesn't appear to be an outright slur, but it sure felt like one by the end of the comic. And like, the whole town is destroyed. This child is an orphan. And the main character, he himself literally blew up the 800 year old statue that was this town shrine that people would literally go on pilgrimage to visit. And this fucker has blown it up. But they're all happy in the end because what? There's a giant fucking star in the sky? And that's the Christmas miracle. I fucking hated it.

Mike: Yeah, I I have to say that is my least favorite of the story. Like, not only not only because of all the reasons that you've mentioned where I'm like this kid. There's no resolution with the kid and the fact that he has been orphaned because Nazis murdered his parents. And he talks about that with rock. But also, it's kind of, uh, a little quick one off war story. It's not even like a really interesting war story overall until there's the last bit. And the last bit doesn't make sense. They could have done a way more interesting story of I don't know, there are stories out of World War One, out of World War Two about Christmas armistices and things like that that are really kind of interesting.

Jessika: Absolutely.

Mike: I think you could have done something a lot more interesting. But no, we got, like this weird one off sort of action story that has this awful ending. Chew horned into it.

Jessika: Exactly. Well, and here's the thing about the Superboy One. They like, fly down to this planet that they literally know nothing about, and they start just getting heavily involved, like changing the ecosystem and being like, I know what's best for these natives. Um I'm sorry, what?

Mike: And that's the thing, is the and.

Jessika: Then at the end, everyone is fucking just happy. And it all works out like the planet was just going to die that day if they didn't intervene. Okay. It's giving colonizer. It's giving white savior, uh, us more evolved ones. Know best. Yeah, exactly. White savior. It's yucky. It's a gross.

Mike: Yeah, it's one of those things where on the surface, if you read it, it's okay. But then if you start digging into it, you have the fact that every legionnaire that isn't in, like, full armor is white. The alien species all feel like primitive indigenous people. And on top of that, like, there's the whole thing where they're like, there's no star here. There's just a planet. And I'm like, a planet literally needs a star to, uh, support life. For life to exist, there has to be a star. And it's like, oh. And then, like, we got here just at the right time where, you know, the land dwelling aliens are burning all their crops to stay warm. I'm like, oh, well, okay. Like, that doesn't feel right.

Jessika: Look at they're doing something so fucking stupid. We had to come save them from their own stupidity.

Mike: Yeah, I was just like, whatever.

Jessika: Yeah, it's just stupid. Yeah, there's also this part. One of the characters makes a remark about how could they be acting like this on Christmas Eve? And it's like, my dude, this is another planet. Why would they even be celebrating Christmas? And for that matter, you're from Krypton. Like, why the fuck are you yeah.

Mike: So fucking well, because he got raised on Earth by the Kent. And the whole thing is that he has come from smallville USA in the 20th century to the 30th century with the Legion of Superheroes. But I didn't understand why he was so grumpy that there was no, quote unquote, old fashioned celebration of Christmas when it's like Christmas has overtaken the galaxy and they're showing him all these different planets where it's being celebrated and people are coming together. Uh, those two stories really feel like they could have been something much better, like the Superboy one. I think it could have been really cool if they've been like, look, not only has this holiday become dominant on Earth, but also the goodwill that it brings about has spread across the galaxy in a really meaningful way. And instead, we're going across the galaxy to this planet that no one knows about, where they aren't aware of Christmas. And oh, no, how could they act like this on Christmas Eve? My dude, they don't have interstellar communications. How would they know about it?

Jessika: Yeah, it's giving do they know it's Christmas?

Mike: Oh, if you want to learn more about that song, go check out our recent issue on Marvel and DC's famine Relief. Cox. Uh, yeah, I did kind of enjoy the Jonah Hack story because it was very in keeping with Jonah Hex. And it's wild. I kind of dug the House of Mystery one because it was just weird and silly. And I was like, these are very inoffensive kind of strange stories. And I kind of dig how just bizarre they are in a lot of ways.

Jessika: Those were the ones I have.

Mike: Yeah. Uh, but yeah, overall, I feel like this is like it's not great, but it's an interesting artifact that I didn't sit there and find myself wanting to fling across the room. But the interesting thing is that this issue has gone on to be a bit of a collector's item. And that's largely thanks to that Batman story that you loved so much because, uh, wanted Santa Claus dead or Alive is, in fact, Frank Miller's first work doing art on a Batman story. Frank Miller went on to a lot of acclaim in the 80s. He did Batman year One. He did. The Dark Knight returns. He has gone on to do Sin City, and he also did acclaimed runs on Daredevil. And then he became this lunatic in the odds that basically nobody wanted to read anything from after that. But it's interesting because this story, even though it's not really all that amazing, has been reprinted in a bunch of other books. I have a hardback of the complete Frank Miller Batman that I bought when I was like, ten. And so it was this story, it was Batman year one, and it was The Dark Knight Returns. Like, those were the three stories that were contained in this. And yeah, that short in particular, and also the Superbowl and the Legion of the Superheroes issue were reprinted in the first issue of Christmas with the Superheroes, which is how I wound up discovering this issue because I was trying to track down what all the other issues were that they were reprinting stuff from. Meanwhile, the DC special series, it lasted for a bit longer. It kind of careened along until the fall of 1981. Its last issue. It's actually pretty famous because it's a crossover between Batman and The Incredible Hulk, which I haven't read, but I feel like we're going to at some point. Yeah, but that's about the long and the short of the superstar holiday special. Do you have any final thoughts before we move on? Have you said everything that you wanted to?

Jessika: Wow. I may have said everything. The child abuse is still really sitting heavy with me, as is the colonizer vibes. I don't know, man.

Mike: Yeah, Jonah Hex is a lot of childhood trauma.

Jessika: Yeah.

Mike: If you read through his old comics, like, from the 70s, they are a trip if you want to read some really good stories with him that won't give off that vibe, there was a series called All Star Western that started up in 2015 or so, and that was really good. It, uh, might be before then, but in the last decade, there was a series called All Star Western that was basically reviving the comic title that Jonah Hex first appeared in. And instead it's him. And I think alma dais Arkham, the guy who founded Arkham Asylum. And they're running around 19th century Gotham and dealing with all of the strangeness that's going on there. And it's actually really funny. It's kind of like an odd buddy comedy where, you know, Jonah Hex is like the rough and tumble kind of sort of himbo, and then Arkham is the nebbish kind of brilliant man. Yeah. Uh, that was a fun series. I really dug it.

Jessika: Nice.

Mike: So, yeah. How do you feel about moving on to Brain Wrinkles?

Jessika: Let's go.

Mike: Alright. Ah. We are at Brain Wrinkles, which is the portion of the show where we discuss one thing that is comics or comics adjacent and has just been sitting in our head rent free for a couple of days. I have been talking a lot, so you want to go first?

Jessika: Why don't I? So I have been with the end of the pandemic and air quote, guys, just be careful. And yeah, well, with more people being kind of UT in a boot during these times, there have been more things like cons which have been happening, and I, for one, have been really enjoying seeing people's cosplays and the things that they're doing to get prepared for cons. I don't know if you know this, but I've never been to a convention. I've never been to one, not for lack of wanting to go. I feel like our podcast is a really good excuse to start going to some of those once I feel a little bit more comfortable and once I feel like I can get a cosplay to the level that I wanted to be at, to go to something like that. And I know you don't have to be, like, all out when you cosplay, but this is me.

Mike: I got it.

Jessika: But I just want to encourage people who it doesn't matter if you don't look like the person you want to cosplay. It doesn't matter if you have the same hair, if you have the same skin color, if you're the same gender. It does not matter, like, just cosplay who you want to cosplay. Make it. You have fun with it. And I want to see your cosplays on TikTok, so post them. Um, yeah, and I know some really cool people who do con stuff and cosplay stuff around here and really, like, intricate and polished stuff that you're like, oh, that was made in a professional studio, right? It's like, no, my buddy Sean made that. It's like, okay, Brad, so thumbs up. Keep up the good work, everyone. But what about you? What's been snapping in the synapses of.

Mike: Your I mean, kind of related we have a mascot.

Jessika: We have a mascot, you guys.

Mike: Yeah. So I'd been talking with Sarah for a while about like, oh, we should get a mascot. And she was like, what would you want it to be? And almost immediately popped into my head, I'm like, trash goblin. Trash goblin named piles. And she immediately went, that's amazing. Uh I love it. So she has drawn piles. We should have dropped the artwork for it by. The time this episode comes out because she's just doing a couple of finishing touches on it. But like, I want to get this on T shirts. I want to get it on some stickers and stuff that we can hand out at Cons. It's really cool. He's adorable. I don't know. I'm just assuming that it's a he. It's kind of a gender neutral trash goblin. But maybe it's a they.

Jessika: Maybe piles is that.

Mike: But on top of that, I think we need to start bringing on more guests and maybe dubbing them like, I don't know, spectales is the scarce army, I guess. Like, what would be the goblin horde?

Jessika: The goblin horde. I like that.

Mike: But yeah, I'm really excited about it. I feel pretty good about starting to put some of that stuff out there and eventually getting merch and t shirts and hoodies and things like that with piles printed on it out there for people to wear and continue to spread the word of our goofy little show. But yeah, it's kind of a nice place to be in, especially considering we haven't been at this for super long. And the, uh, other thing is, I think about a year ago is when we recorded our last episode in my old place. Yeah. Because we had a buffer going on. And then what we did was between the move and the holidays, we basically burned through about a month and a half worth of content and just kind of let us recover from all that. But it was one of those things where about a year ago, I was really excited to see where the show was going to go. And we've been doing really well traffic wise. We've continued to get more and more downloads almost every month. It's been really cool. And we really appreciate all of the way. I think we really appreciate everyone who is stuck with us so far. And hopefully we can pay you back with adorable cartoon goblin merch.

Jessika: Yeah. And we'll make stickers of our own logo as well so you can have our face on shit too. So let us know where you want to see our face. Like on a mug, like socks. I don't know. Like, the world is your oyster. We'll figure it out.

Mike: Yeah, exactly. We have a very talented artist on staff who works for clothing and nice dinners.

Jessika: Yes. Yeah. Well, we'll see. She'll figure out her worth some day. And that will be the trouble.

Mike: We I know, man. This time around, I bought her a very nice Star Wars vaccination poster from the 70s. Uh, that was the payment for piles. It's C threePO and R telling people to vaccinate their children.

Jessika: Oh, my gosh, I love that.

Mike: But yeah. So next week we will have another dollar been discovery for all of you. And then the week after that, we will have, I don't know, something else. Yeah. I don't know what we're going to be talking about?

Jessika: I do.

Mike: All right. Do you want to spoil it?

Jessika: Do you want uh, no. And I'll tell you why. Because I don't want people to be going and doing their own little motherfucking.

Mike: All right? Fair.

Jessika: Add a lot.

Mike: But yeah. So until then, have a happy holiday, stay safe, and we will see you in the stacks.

Jessika: Thanks for listening to Ten Cent Takes. Accessibility is important to us, so text transcriptions of each of our published episodes can be found on our website.

Mike: This episode was hosted by Jessica Fraser and Mike Thompson, written by Mike Thompson, and edited by Jessica Fraser. Our intro theme was written and performed by Jared Emerson Johnson. The Bay Area sound our credits in transition music is Pursuit of Life by Evan M. McDonald and was purchased with a standard license from Premium Beat. Our banner graphics were designed by Sarah Frank, who you can find at uh,, if you'd like to get in.

Jessika: Touch with us, ask us questions or tell us about how we got something wrong, please head over to or shoot an email to tencent You can also find us on Twitter. For now, the official podcast account is tencent takes. Jessica is Jessica with us, and Jessica is spelled with a K. And Mike is Van Sau. V-A-N-S-A-U.

Mike: If you'd like to support us, be sure to download, rate and review wherever you'll listen. Stay safe out there and support your local comic shop. Boom.

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