Spoilers for a DC Comics Christmas story from the late 1980s.

§ December 28th, 2015 § Filed under dc comics, publishing, supergirl § 6 Comments

christmaskaraSo Roel asked, regarding my link to last week’s Question over at Trouble with Comics, just why that particular Alan Brennert Christmas story with Supergirl and Deadman was referred to as “infamous.”

To be honest, I didn’t think much about that particular description…I just figured it had something to do with the pre-Crisis Supergirl appearing in the post-Crisis universe and someone somewhere, either a pro or a fan, got bent out of shape over it or something. And, it appears, after being pointed in the direction of this article by my fellow Troublemakers, that there more hoohar swirling about this particular comic than I realized.

The article itself focuses on the (basically confirmed) idea that folks in charge of the Superman comics weren’t terribly enthused about the pre-Crisis, totally-wiped-from-continuity Supergirl all of the sudden being brought back for a Very Special Story that was not under the purview of the Super-editorial offices. And if one were to look to the comments on said article, rumors aplenty are to be had about what may or may not have happened in regards to the release of this particular story…rumors that I’ll thank my kind readers not to reproduce in my comments section here, please. But anyway, there’s the “infamous” bit of business about it, I suppose.

I also saw elsewhere (in a post on a comic news site that has since been deleted, it seems) some commentary inspired by the Trouble with Comics Question column, wondering just why this specific Supergirl/Deadman story is held in such high regard. I personally think it’s a good, strong story (in a comic filled with some top-notch funnybookin’), in which Deadman learns a Very Important Lesson that just because no one knows about the effort and sacrifice one makes to do the right thing, doesn’t mean that doing the right thing isn’t important or unappreciated. For Deadman, who is literally an invisible spirit that the living world can’t know about, it’s an idea he needs to learn to accept, that he isn’t any less a hero just because his heroism is unrecognized.

For the reader, who is presumably aware that this is the Supergirl who was written out of the DC Universe due to the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, we are reminded that just because the characters don’t “exist” in “current continuity” anymore doesn’t mean those stories suddenly stopped meaning anything to us, now. It’s hard not to read a sort of implied criticism in this story about how stories and characters “count” or “don’t count” in terms of where they fall vis-à-vis universe-wide continuity-changing events. This comic is copyrighted 1988 (with a cover date of 1989), so this was only a year or two past DC’s kinda/sorta linewide reboot in Crisis, which would make Supergirl’s appearance here one of, if not the, earliest return of a pre-Crisis character that specifically references the pre-Crisis universe. Kind of a surprise kick in the pants to folks still getting used to the New DC of the “there’s-no-stopping-us-now” variety.

I don’t know that really explains why this is as highly regarded as it is, beyond it being a well-written comic with great art by Dick Giordano. It could be seen the sort of fan-targeted deeply-referenced insular story that isn’t good for the long-term health of the medium, with a punchline that only makes sense if you were there for Crisis and can understand just who that blond gal is talking to Deadman. But it is a nice Christmas gift to those fans, a quiet metatextual reminder after the bombast of the crossover event, that those characters and stories may be in the past, but they’re not forgotten.

Plus, who doesn’t love a good Deadman story? C’mon, let’s get serious here.

6 Responses to “Spoilers for a DC Comics Christmas story from the late 1980s.”

  • Bruce Baugh says:

    I didn’t read the story at the time, but a year or two later when a friend pointed it out. I remember feeling that DC was getting heavily into ultra-violent grim and gritty all over, and that it was a note of sweetness and kindness in the midst of all that. No, I wouldn’t want a steady diet of just that, but it was very welcome.

  • Hal Shipman says:

    Wasn’t this the one that Mark Waid was fired as an editor for?

  • Roel Torres says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Mike! Makes a lot of sense now.

    Hal — if you follow the link in Mike’s post and read the comments section, Mark Waid himself briefly comments on some of those rumors!

  • Mig-El Coco says:

    Let’s let Little Neddy Knickers handle this one, shall we:”Infamous is when you’re more than famous! This guy El Guapo is not just famous, he’s IN-famous!” -Ned Nederlander

  • hueysheridan says:

    I think the story works and has had an impact because it plays with the trappings of DC’s mangled continuity in a clever way that manages to extract real drama and even tragedy from it.

    Kurt Busiek’s Astro City story “The Nearness of You” does something very similar. That story is perhaps better known and certainly more widely praised -I think partly because its continuity revisions are a designed element of story.

    But Brennert’s achievement more impressive to me as he manages to extract great beauty from the clumsy convoluted “history” of these characters.

  • Snark Shark says:

    there were some DC editors opposed to this story. For the full story (on the story!), see BACK ISSUE #84.