Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 continues, this time combined with the weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post. This item looks at A Christmas Carol getting adapted through two separate stories – first with Luke Cage/ Power Man and then with the Teen Titans.
LUKE CAGE, HERO FOR HIRE Vol 1 #7 (March 1973)
Jingle Bombs was the real title of this holiday tale which pitted superhero Luke Cage aka Hero for Hire aka Power Man against the one-off supervillain called Marley. Like a Guest Villain from the Adam West Batman show Marley uses a campy Christmas Carol motif for his nefarious plan … yet, oddly the story is kind of quaint.
On Christmas Eve, Luke Cage is hanging out with his then-girlfriend Claire Temple, a doctor who worked at a clinic in the New York ghetto. Later on in the series Claire would be the center of a romantic triangle between Luke Cage and another of Marvel’s black superheroes – Black Goliath, Hank Pym’s former lab assistant who used Pym’s inventions to turn to giant-size and back.
As night approaches Luke sees a ruckus outside the clinic: a man in Dickensian 1800s clothing is using his walking stick to beat a little handicapped boy named Timmy. Our hero goes out to save the little boy and is attacked by the strange man, who identifies himself as “Marley.”
Marley’s attack on Cage ends when he breaks his walking-stick on Luke’s thick, bullet-proof skin. The villain flees into the falling snow and our hero makes the decision to carry Timmy into the clinic for medical attention rather than pursue Marley.
With that Menace of Christmas Past over with, Luke gets the clinic’s Dr Noah Burnstein to see to Timmy’s wounds. Later, Claire and Luke head out into the wintry night to go on their Christmas Eve dinner date. At one point they come across a seemingly legless Vietnam War veteran begging for money in the street.
Luke gives the man some money but the unstable veteran is really Marley again. He attacks Luke with a sawed-off shotgun this time but is easily defeated again. Mistakenly thinking Marley really IS a troubled Vietnam War vet, Cage simply destroys the shotgun but mercifully does not beat the man up or turn him over to the police.
That finishes the Menace of Christmas Present (for the early 1970s). Luke and Claire enjoy their romantic dinner and are on their way to her apartment afterward when Marley strikes again, this time as a Menace of Christmas Yet to Come.
Marley’s schtick this time involves him being costumed as an oppressive law enforcement agent from a dystopian future. His ray-gun and other futuristic weaponry and body armor make THIS threat the toughest for Luke to handle. This time Cage goes all the way, physically defeating the madman and then turning him over to the police.
Soon Luke and Claire discover Marley has overpowered the arresting officers and left them in their crashed police car. Cage sends Claire home in a cab while he pursues Marley by way of the villain’s footprints in the snow. Our hero knows it’s got to be a trap but pursues the madman anyway.
At an abandoned building that Marley is using as a headquarters he uses more of his supervillain’s bag of tricks to knock out Cage and chain him up. When Luke comes to Marley greets the hero warmly and explains the night’s activities in a typical Villain Rant.
Marley informs Cage that he has come to hate humanity, especially at the Christmas time of year. He has a nuclear device that he plans to use to blow up New York City (himself included) but first he wanted to see if anyone in the metropolis was worth saving, Sodom and Gomorrah style.
To that end he attacked the little boy Timmy, expecting all New Yorkers to show their usual indifference to such cruelty. Luke impressed him by coming to the boy’s aid. Next, to see if Cage would be equally heroic against a weapon deadlier than a walking stick he attacked him in the guise of the crazed Vietnam War vet.
Not only did the Hero for Hire show the same courage against a sawed-off shotgun but he compassionately settled for just disarming him and letting him go. Even against the futuristic weaponry of the Menace of Christmas Yet to Come, Luke passed the “test of character” with flying colors.
Marley salutes Cage for his courage, compassion and fighting prowess, but adds that he won’t be able to spare his life … or his own. Luke will at least have the satisfaction of knowing why New York City will die in a nuclear blast at Twelve Midnight. This is supposedly an adequate reward, since nobody but Marley and Cage will ever know the truth.
As Midnight approaches, Marley gets distracted by a person actually coming down the chimney of his headquarters. Luke immediately pounces on the opportunity to break free of his chains, disarm Marley and prevent him from blowing up New York City.
In the typically wry, streetwise ending for a 70s Luke Cage story it turns out the figure coming down the chimney was a black teenager attempting to rob the place. Seeing Cage he relents and vows to go straight. So, with Marley defeated and the lives of millions of people saved, Luke and the would-be-burglar welcome in Christmas Day.
TEEN TITANS Vol 1 #13 (February 1968)
SWINGIN’ CHRISTMAS CAROL – Here is a look at Christmas 1967’s The Teen Titans’ Swingin’ Christmas Carol.
Swingin’ Christmas Carol may sound like the title of a Dean Martin Christmas Special but was really an issue of Teen Titans which paralleled the Dickens tale.
The Teen Titans was a team composed of the teen sidekicks of various DC Superheroes. Robin the Boy Wonder, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqua Lad and later Speedy, Hawk & Dove plus many others would come and go over the decades.
For this Christmas story we meet Ebenezer Scrounge, who runs a junkyard where he employees and abuses Bob Ratchet. Bob’s handicapped son Tiny Tom comes to visit his father and accidentally witnesses Scrounge’s secret partner – a crime boss called Mister Big – use an invention which turns old items in the junkyard brand new.
Tiny Tom tells his father about this but Scrounge threatens to fire him if anyone else finds out about it. Tom slips away to Teen Titans Headquarters and enlists their help.
Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqua Lad stage visits from the ghost of Ebenezer Scrounge’s dead partner Jacob Farley plus the expected Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. These half-assed theatrics wind up with a repentant Scrounge confessing where Mister Big’s hideout is located.
Our heroes attack the criminal’s lair with the end result being that the Teen Titans are captured by Mister Big and his gang by way of a magnetized trap.
The Christmas Carol reenactment DID succeed in permanently changing Ebenezer Scrounge, however, and with help from him, Bob and Tiny Tom our heroes are saved. They then clobber Mister Big’s gang.
The crimelord’s invention is used to turn a junky old wheelchair into a fancy new one for Tiny Tom. The bad guys go to jail and the good guys all celebrate Christmas while we readers are left wondering why it’s against the law to use an invention to turn junk into new items. And why it was wrong for Mister Big to do it but not the Teen Titans when they made Tiny Tom a new wheelchair.
Pretty lame. Even in the 60s and 70s Marvel apparently ran rings around DC.
FOR MORE VERSIONS OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/a-christmas-carol-2/