Superman on Television
Justice League: Episode Reviews
Season 2 - Episode 23: "Comfort and Joy"What a "Comfort and Joy" to Have Only a Half Hour Episode to Review; Thanks for the Holiday Gift, Justice League!
Reviewed by: Barry Freiman
"Comfort and Joy", the only 30-minute episode of Season Two, is significant for bringing the tradition of super-heroes and Christmas from the comic books into the animated universe. Featuring the writing of one of the progenitors of the animated universe, Paul Dini, in his debut writing endeavor for Justice League, Dini succeeds on many levels in telling a holiday story with the potential to become an annual tradition. Run, run Rudolph. The Justice League's in town.
The heroes featured in this story are Superman, the Flash, J'onn, GL, and Hawkgirl. Wonder Woman's nowhere to be seen, though Clark comments that Batman begged for monitor duty, a clever device to send off the animated Batman because, well, we know what he does for the holidays; to prove the point, "Comfort and Joy" was followed by the "Holiday Knights" episode of BTAS. One suspects it was easier to exclude Wonder Woman than get into the issue of Diana believing in other Gods than the one who inspired Christmas.
The episode is significant for featuring the return of Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicutt on TV's M*A*S*H) and Shelly Fabares to the roles of Pa Kent and Ma Kent. Following the brief opening scene of the League in action, Superman takes a back seat to Clark Kent in this story. Though I suspect some found it corny, I enjoyed Clark's innocent take on the holidays. It was a very different Clark Kent than the powerhouse Man of Steel featured until now this season, and it's a nice reminder of Clark's innocence, the source of his inherent goodness.
It did seem a bit like the Crusades of old, though, when Clark insisted that J'onn join him in Smallville with Ma and Pa for Christmas. But J'onn, green as the grinch, is not hostile like the Grinch, but he certainly plays the role of being initially ambivalent about the holiday season. By the end of J'onn's story arc, his experiences in Smallville culminate with his approaching the joyful singing of Christmas church-goers. J'onn's face changes, almost melting to the inherent goodness he feels emanating from inside. It's a grinch-like moment and one imagines the morphing Martian's heart growing two sizes larger that day.
During J'onn's spiritual journey, Dini manages a nice homage to the Keith Giffen Justice League of the late 1980's, which recently returned to comic book life in "Formerly Known as the Justice League", a 6 issue miniseries from DC. J'onn makes a little girl's wish for Santa to come appear to be coming true with his Martian powers and, mocking Santa, eats cookies from the plate left out by the little girl. The cookies: Oreos, J'onn's cookie of choice back in those earlier humorous Justice League days of the 1980's.
For Supergirl fans, her absence from the episode was necessary to simplify the story, but Kara's impact is felt. J'onn stays in her room on the Kent farm and interacts with Streaky, Supergirl's comic book super cat. And, rather than leave Kara's absence unexplained, how cool that she's off skiing with "Barbara" - a knowing reference, of course, to her pal Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. (STAS fans will recall the pair teamed up to take on Livewire, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy in "Girls Night Out", a BTAS episode from its final season.).
The remaining Leaguers all have their own yuletide adventure. Flash's attempt to satisfy the wishes of some orphans brings him head to ray gun of the Ultra-Humanite. Humanite, voiced by Ian Buchanan (best known for playing opposite Finola Hughes, the voice of Lara on STAS, on General Hospital), proves he is in fact an ultra human with a little cajoling from the Flash. The dialogue in the Flash segment is intelligently written, the story itself well-paced, and the character development for the Ultra-Humanite, the JLA super-villain with class, is top-notch.
Meanwhile, GL and Hawkgirl continue the development of their relationship by sharing holiday traditions. GL teaches Hawkgirl about snowball fights and Hawkgirl teaches GL about barroom brawls, each of which is associated with special yuletide type feelings for each hero. GL scores coolest looking moment in the show with his use of the Lantern ring to create a score of hands to chuck snowballs at Hawkgirl.
On the SFMWONS, which is slightly modified this week to recognize the season's goodwill, "Comfort and Joy" earns five out of five turtle doves! Dini's writing is an appropriate mix of action and Christmas charm that has created an instant yuletide classic. Clark Kent, not Superman, proves that Yes, Virginia, the Justice League should be around for many Christmases to come. And Ma and Pa Kent, the Supergirl references, and the irony of a man with his own place in the North Pole believing in Santa Claus, make this episode a stand-out for Superman and Christmas fans, a veritable celebration of all that is Americana.
Well, the Justice League goes on hiatus and I may use that time to begin going back and reviewing episodes from Season One.
Matt Ashbaugh writes in that the little kid in the crowd scene in "Hereafter" is a comic book character named "Kenny" and that the mutants who "kidnapped" Lois in that storyline were the infamous D.N.Aliens. Kenny is later adopted by Perry and Alice White in a story that may or may not still be part of comic book continuity.
With that, I wish everyone a joyous holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Ramadan, Festivus, or pray to the Kryptonian God, Rao. Me, I'm just a lonely Jew at Christmas. But don't worry too much about me. I've got Eight Crazy Nights to look forward to.
Peace out and Happy New Year to those readers on the Roman calendar. Could I be any more politically correct?
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