Okay, not a Christmas comic book in that there is no Christmas cover, no Christmas stories. Just an original Denny O’Neil/Irv Novick Batman v. Joker tussle. The remainder are reprints dating back to Batman (1940) 16.
What makes this a Christmas comic book – to me – is the fact it was in my stocking Christmas the morning of 1974.
Yeah, I’m that old.
If you’ve read my earlier ramblings, you know my Mom had a routine. Christmas morning you hopped out of bed, brushed teeth and hair, donned suitable clothes and waited for everyone else to do the same. When Mom, Dad and Grandma and Grandpa Winterhalter were seated in the living room, I opened my stockings.
Stuffed among the Lifesaver Holiday box set, Crayola Crayons and miscellaneous merriment was Batman (1940) 260, one of the prized 100-page issues DC published at the time.
Other than the Christmas tabloids DC published under the Limited Collector’s Edition imprint (C-34 and C-43) this comic book is the one I remember most from my stockings. The jarring orange (or whatever color that is) cover with the Joker flipping his deck of cards showing the Caped Crusader in death throws at the reader. Riddler and Robin taunting Batman behind a cell door. Batman atop of giant glass bottle, muscles straining as he tries to free Robin from inside. Alfred and Catwoman’s heads barely rising above the cover bottom.
Batman (1940) 260
“This One Will Kill You Batman!” is the original story. DC’s hundred pagers followed a formula with the first story being an original one. The remaining tales were reprints from the Golden and Silver ages.
Fans know when a key villain appears, the issue is always better. Certainly no common crook could serve as felonious a foe as the Joker. Already the issue was better than most.
That was followed by “Grade A Crimes!,” originally published in May-April issue of Batman 16. Catwoman was featured in the following story, “The Perfect Crime – Slightly Imperfect!” from Batman 181 of June 1966. “The Case Without a Crime!” was pulled from Detective Comics 112 having first seen light June 1946. “The Pearl of Peril!” was courtesy of Batman 27, February-March 1945 and “The Riddlers’ Prison-Puzzle Problem!” rounded out the book. It was the most recent of the reprints having been published in Detective Comics a scant six years earlier.
I read the issue cover-to-cover several times during that Christmas break. The book stayed with for years until it wasn’t with me. I forget what happened to it to be honest. It just was gone one day. The saddest part is I didn’t notice its passage.
Until one day.
One day I started buying Batman comic books again. Years after I’d first received the book. By that time I was an adult. As much of an adult as I will ever be at least.
Something jogged my memory. Maybe I saw a picture of it. Maybe another issue reminded me. Whatever the reason I realized the issue was gone.
Though I mourned the loss it wasn’t a book I made a priority to replace. I spoke of it at times. One of those occasions was with a dear friend of mine, long since moved, who kept that discussion in mind.
That Christmas Batman 260 became a Christmas comic book again. In the hand-wrapped bundle of comic books he handed me was that issue. The same cover. The same promises of stories to come. The same book in every respect other than it had to be in better shape than my original. That issue had to have been dog eared and ratty from the repeated readings.
It didn’t matter.
Here was my beloved Batman 260. Once again in my hands. Ready to read. Again and again and again.
And, I have read it again and again and again. I’m far more respectful in my handlings now, but enjoy them no less.
So, for everyone enjoying a comic book today, and those who aren’t, Merry Christmas.