Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Every Christmas with the Super Heroes starts out as smiles and gifts, but after a few holiday scotches,
Robin's demanding a divorce from Batman, Superman's crying on the patio and Wonder Woman's
locked herself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine.
If you grew up in the Seventies, or even the Eighties, you probably had a couple of these albums yourself, either the stand-alone albums or the ones which came with a horribly written comic attached to the sleeve.

Nowadays, I have more than a dozen of these things - far more than I ever had as a kid, and this includes Reflections Of A Rock Super-Hero, which was this mixed-genre rock concept album which caused you to die of horribleness anew with each track, like Ringu but with proto-Prog Rock. Then Stan Lee would do a spoken segment, and you'd be soothed back to life, only to be brutally killed again by the NEXT goddamn caterwauling. For more accurate description of this album, please see Dante's Inferno.

But back to this album, what we have are three Christmas-themed stories featuring the Kennedy Clan  of DC Comics; Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Appropriately, they all deal with traditional seasonal themes, such as Santa Claus, charity, and nuclear missiles killing the merry fuck out of everything. HO HO HO!

Superman starts us off with "Light Up The Tree, Mister President," which is fun to sing along to "Turn Me On Mister Dead Man" or "What's the Frequency, Kenneth." Jimmy Olsen kicks off the scene, interviewing folks - like this excitable fella from the Pacific Northwest - at the site of the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the lawn of the White House.

Little does Jimmy know that a crazy-ass mad scientist-type has rigged up what is probably the least rational doomsday plan in the history of everything. A kidnapped Jimmy has the plan explained to him - via a series of images on television screens, very helpful for those of us LISTENING TO A RECORD  - by apocalyptically-obsessed madman genius Thurston Killgore, who probably wouldn't be half the menace he is had he been born "Ted" to Ira and Dianne Shelby.

In a flashback, we hear the once-respected Killgore addressing Congress with a program I believe he called "Operation Enduring Killing Everyone On Earth With Nuclear Bombs Until America Is All That's Left," and not to go all political here but I SWEAR some of the stuff he's bellowing sounds like it came straight from a Rumsfield press conference. Naturally, Congress would NEVER go along with any plan which involved America launching pre-emptive strikes on another country with weapons of mass destruction - right? Right - so they lock Killgore up in the nut pokey and forget about him.

But he comes back with a plan for revenge, based on the following logic - he wants the world to die in nuclear fire, right? Right. But the only man who can launch America's arsenal of nuclear weapons - in this story, that's FIVE - is the President, via the special button in his office. But Killgore has RIGGED the button which lights the Christmas Tree on the White House lawn so that IT launches the missiles when the President lights the tree! AND it explodes one that's hidden in the tree itself! It's DEVIOUS, and only about NINETY-PERCENT MORONIC, since you figure that if he could rig this freaking button to launch the missiles, he could go ahead and do it himself.

Only in comic books are the words "Evil Genius" and "Catastrophic Brain Injury" pretty much synonymous.

Fast forward to the end, Superman wins. Beats him up or something. NOW, two things stand out for me in this story. First off, at the same time that Jimmy Olsen is covering the tree lighting ceremony and Lois and Clark are watching Jimmy on WGBS' live feed, the United Nations is unanimously passing a worldwide resolve to ban all nuclear weapons forever. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the news business, myself ... in fact, I don't even watch television news, or read a newspaper, or in fact know HOW to read OR write, and instead rely on shouting at the keyboard in order to create these articles, BUT ... it seems to me that if I were the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper, I'd have at least ONE of my three top reporters assigned to COVER THE GADDAMN UNITED NATIONS BANNING ALL NUCLEAR WEAPONS! I don't care HOW pretty the lights are...

Second thing which stands out is a constant for this album - the sound effects. For some reason, the foley on this thing is flat-out bizarre, particularly when anyone takes a walk. As just one f’instance, there’s a scene where Superman inquires as to the whereabouts of Jimmy Olsen and, upon receiving a clue, dashes across the quad in his brand new corduroy pants. *VWUP VWUP VWUP*

Moving on to the Batman story - "The Christmas Carol Caper," this is where the album gets sort of ... unsettling. I was never the world's biggest fan of Batman, and maybe I'm not as hep to the mythos of the guy as some of you out there, but upon listening to this recording I feel I can say with some certainty: THIS IS NOT BATMAN!

Batman is an avenger of the night, a dark and brooding figure, and even at his worst a campy fat man who can’t get rid of a bomb. He is not a laid-back bon vivant with a song in his heart and singing telegrams coming in on his telephone! I'm not even 100% convinced that Batman should be answering his own phone, but I DO know for sure that Batman would NEVER say "HOW NICE!" or "SING AWAY", never mind ONE AFTER THE OTHER!!

This story starts off with Batman and Robin chilling at the Batpad on a quiet, crime-free Christmas Eve when the ... ugh ... when the PHONE RINGS AND BATMAN ANSWERS IT and it turns out to be A SINGING TELEGRAM ... OF DOOM!

Now, what I know of Gotham City villains is that they each have their own theme, right? Joker uses comedy-related stuff, Two-Face gets double-gimmicks, Riddler riddles, Penguin gets the arctic, umbrellas and birds, because who else will, right? Well, here's a little known fact - all OTHER non-gimmick Gotham villains are required to either sing or have Christmas related motifs. No, it's true! Why else would both the threatening voice on the phone sing a menacing version of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" while Rodney The Red Nosed Hitman (I ain't kidding folks) fires away, singing "Deck Them All With A M3 Volley," just before Batman and Robin are almost run down by Maxy the Minstrel Man and Sammy the Southside Santa?

Seriously, the attempted hit-and-run is all Batman's fault, anyway. I'll let him explain, and I'll let you shudder at Batman singing a merry tune...

All this ends at the Southside Mission, where the famous Dr.John - probably not the one you're thinking of - manages his home for rehabilitated hobos. Secretly, one of these hobos is a terrible criminal who's there to kill Batman, which I think everyone should have expected because he refused to sing Christmas Carols with the other hobos. Or, actually, he probably wasn't able to, since I don't think there were more than three voice actors doing this whole record. You could barely afford to have someone interrupt ...

The berserk-ass foley continues to meet my highest expectations -  the sound the Batarang makes as it whizzes in midair (that being a sound not unlike slide whistles in a washing machine ), or all the hobos' endless Christmas Caroling - ACTION PACKED! At the very least, I can share this much with you - Batman and Robin getting around Gotham via tap-dancing bat-ponies. Sorry Madam!

This all ends with Wonder Woman in "The Prisoner Of Christmas Island." This is probably the least of all three stories, cause whereas Batman's was sort of disturbing and insane and Superman's story was just flat-out mind-boggling dumb, Wonder Woman's story is only sort of obtuse.

Or hey, maybe it's me, I never quite 'got' Wonder Woman anyway. I mean, most other superheroes have a theme by which they abide, you know, Superman is 'Super,' Batman has a bat costume and bat-themed gadgets, Spider-Man has spider powers and Captain America is all about America, and so on. But with Wonder Woman, she's a little harder to define. Right off the bat, she's a patriotic polytheist from Sorority Island, not to mention being a D-Cup golem with a golden bikechain which makes you tell the truth, and who splits her free time between chucking bullets off her wristwatch and talking telepathically to her imaginary airplane. Danant danant dant danant!! WONDERRR WOMAAAAN!

Wonder, indeed.

Still, I don't think it's me. Dig this: Wonder Woman's story begins with an Ex-Nazi quisling kidnapping Santa Claus from his North Pole toystore on the orders of the legendary Valkyrie, Brunnhilde. This is a devious plan of the war god Ares, who is introduced to us while arguing with Aphrodite. Meanwhile on Earth, the President enlists Wonder Woman to save Christmas while news agencies around the world report of Santa Claus' sudden absence and orphans cry themselves to sleep at the prospect of a Christmasless winter. So, it's up to our heroine to return the jolly old elf in time to make his yuletide rounds or else the Third Reich rises again, and JUMPING JESUS ORANGUTAN, PEOPLE!! Confusing or not, all I know is that's a lot of myths, archetypes and cliches to pack into a fifteen minute adventure!!

At least they talk pretty in this one. Either that, or the narrator is practicing his sibilants.

Naturally, Wonder Woman comes out on top in this adventure - keep the dirty joke to yourself, friends. Nonetheless, her victory is amazing to me. Sure, in the comic book world, most supervillains may be nitwits, but even the greatest superhero has a greater-than-even chance of being a total mental zero. Take, for instance, Wonder Woman's musings on geography. I think she means it figuratively. Or, in any case, I can't help but find the way she says this ... oddly arousing. If I start writing erotic fanfic, please stab me in the eye with an icepick, please. Thanks.

Not to be left out, Wonder Woman also gets saddled with profoundly puzzling foley. Specifically, she's off to go cheer up the orphans - presumably by eating a straw hat. And that's what Christmas means to me, CRONCH CRONCH!

Transcriptions of the audio files ....

... this excitable fella from the Pacific Northwest ...
Jimmy Olsen: I'm Jimmy Olsen, WGBS TV, can I talk to you for a minute?
Man: Sure.
Jimmy Olsen: How do you like Washington?
Jimmy Olsen: What do you think of that tree up there?

... dashes across the quad in his brand new corduroy pants. ...
Superman: Did you see where he went?
Man: Last we saw, he went over to that van over there.
Superman: Oh, the WGBS Mobile Unit. Thanks. (SFX: Cordurouy pants on the move!)

(Phone rings)
Batman: I'll get it. Hello?
Voice: Hello. Is this Batman?
Batman: Yes.
Voice: I have a singing telegram for ya!
Batman: How nice, sing away!

... explain, ... 
Robin: Don't you think it would be better to go the rest of the way by Batmobile?
Batman: Oh, I don't think so. With Rudy in jail, we shouldn't have any more trouble. Aaaand it's such a nice, clear night for walking. (Singing and apparently tap dancing) Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, da da da da deee, doooo...

... tap-dancing bat-ponies. ...
Batman: Now!
(SFX: Tap dancing ponies kicking up a storm)
Batman: GOTCHA!
Old Lady: AAAAAAH!
Batman: Oh, I'm so sorry madam ...

... talk pretty ...
Narrator: And like a grey-black ghost, her massive engines purring softly in the murky depths, the powerful sub sails silently South with its precious cargo ...

... Wonder Woman's musings on geography. ...
Wonder Woman: The ocean is so large and that island so small!

... eating a straw hat. ...
Wonder Woman: I'll do my best to cheer them up. (SFX Crunching taps...)

1 comment:

Patrick said...

I had this record as a kid. Years later, I found it rediscovered it buried in a closet again and decided to make a bowl out of the record by steaming and reshaping the vinyl, leaving the record label at the bottom.

I still use this every day as my change bowl.

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