Ask Chris #320: The Justice League’s Holiday Mixtape
Q: What would be each member of the Justice League's favorite Holiday song? ---- @XavierFiles
A: Every year, when the postmen bring me the questions for the annual Christmas-themed Ask Chris columns and dump them onto my desk like the end of Miracle on 34th Street, I end up with a ton of questions that follow the pattern of asking about what the Justice League does at the holidays. I've been asked about their Secret Santa gift exchange, who would be the best replacement for Santa Claus, and so on down the line. But, y'know, I've been at this for a while, and I've already written about most of the ones I find interesting.
Asking about their favorite holiday songs, however, raises a lot of really interesting questions, and I think I might just be able to figure this one out --- even if our editors have told me that I can't just post Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" seven times and call it a day.
That's definitely Batman's favorite, though.
I'm not just saying that because it's my favorite song either, although I think we can all agree that the World's Greatest Detective would analyze all the evidence that we have and come to the incontrovertible conclusion that this is in fact the best collection of sounds ever produced by human beings, and also that maybe that's something we could talk about and bond over as we became best friends. I mean, that's part of it, sure, but it's not the whole story.
"Baby Please Come Home" isn't just about Christmas, it's about a very specific brand of melancholy that comes with the season. It's still built on the idea of having that feeling at Christmas , so much so that when the producers thought it was strong enough to not be relegated to a single month and did a version that replaced every instance of "Christmas" with "Johnny" and wound up with something that just did not work. Seriously, look it up sometime. It's like an audio window into Earth-3.
But no, this is a song about loss and the plaintive yearning to try to restore something that's gone; about seeing the trappings of festivity and merriness and not being able to fully experience them because something has been taken from you. If that's not Batman, I don't know what is.
Also, just so we're clear on this, Batman does not appreciate "Jingle Bells," and if you sing it around him, you will adhere to the canonical lyrics. No ad-libbing.
Superman, on the other hand, was a little tougher. The easy route here seems to be to go with something a little more traditional. Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" is a clear favorite here, and it's easy to imagine Clark Kent as his desk at the Daily Planet listening to "White Christmas" and imagining a crisp, snow-covered farm while he looks out over a decidedly non-snowy Metropolis. At the end of the day though, I decided to go with something else.
The reasoning here is pretty simple: It's the one Lois likes. And also, just as Superman is often shown in contrast to Batman, Mariah Carey and The Last Great Christmas Song is the thematic flipside to Darlene Love. They're both about yearning, but "All I Want For Christmas Is You" replaces the plaintive longing of "Baby Please Come Home" with a cheerful optimism and a poppy appeal to Santa Claus. What can I say? The guy's a romantic.
Wonder Woman presents a different challenge. She is, of course, from a culture that doesn't have Christmas, and not growing up with it means that she probably doesn't have the attachment to the holiday that others would. So if you want to find something she'd like, you're probably going to have to go outside the regular canon of standards.
There are a lot of women with powerful voices that I imagine Wonder Woman would be drawn to --- and you cannot tell me she does not bump Carly Rae Jepsen's "Mittens" in the invisible jet --- but the song that I think would really get to to her is Ella Fitzgerald's "The Secret of Christmas."
It's a relatively obscure track --- I hadn't heard of it until they featured it on Hark, a year-round holiday music ranking podcast that I love, and they hadn't heard of it before they started doing the show either --- but the thing that I really like about it is that it puts Christmas into its cultural context without necessarily removing it from its religious context. I think Wonder Woman, after leaving Themyscira, would've probably had the question of what Christmas is all about, and with all due respect to Linus, those religious roots don't quite explain why everyone's lining up at Best Buy on the day after Thanksgiving.
For an alternate selection, we have Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings doing "8 Days of Hanukkah."
Per Elle Collins, ComicsAlliance's resident Wonder Womanologist: "Hanukkah would appeal to Wonder Woman, because it's about warriors receiving blessings from their patron god. The Christmas story's focus on a child with no Earthly father who's here to save the world would just make her self-conscious."
In a similar vein, the Martian Manhunter also comes from a society without Christmas, although he has a long history of studying Earth's various cultures. There is, however, one song that's pretty appropriate:
I wish I could tell you that I had a better reason for this one than it just being the theme song to the classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but sometimes you just want to go ahead and take the easy route. I mean, that is a movie that features the line "Thank you, Santa, for bringing happiness to the children of Mars," and, y'know, the failures of green facepaint aside, it's not an uncharitable look at Martian society.
There's one other thing, though: "Hooray For Santa Claus" was composed by Milton DeLugg, a self-described "jazz accordionist" who also served as the long-time musical director for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade until he retired in 2013. I'm pretty sure there might be a little appeal there for a hero who tends to labor in obscurity and be overshadowed by his teammates.
Rounding out our trio of Leaguers who don't have the cultural context of most Christmas songs, we have Aquaman, and that underwater grump might be the biggest challenge of the bunch. There is no way that dude does not just wholesale reject the concept of pop music, so for this one, we're going traditional with "Good King Wenceslas."
As Elle again pointed out, this is literally a song about how to be a good king. Specifically, a good king who journeys out of his comfortable home and into a harsh and unforgiving wilderness in order to help the less fortunate, and who is then lauded for his righteousness and justice upon his death, when he is murdered by his brother Boleslav the Cruel.
I've checked, and there are no accounts of Boleslav wielding a magical trident or teaming up with Mirror Master in the Injustice Gang, but, y'know. There's enough there to grab onto.
For the Flash, I think it's safe to say that we'd need something a little faster paced.
Admittedly, this might be a little too exciting for boring-ass Barry Allen, but "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" isn't just a great song, it's also one with some thematic resonance. I've always been attracted to the pragmatism of "through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow" and its textual acknowledgement that we're not always in control of where we are and who we're with at the Holidays, and I'm pretty sure that would mean a lot to someone who spent 20 years in the Speed Force before he popped back out and then almost immediately started ruining the entire universe.
As for why this version, well, as good as most takes on "HYAMLC" might be, there's only one that kicks into that jazzy "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" at the end.
Which brings us, at last, to our final leaguer, Green Lantern.
I'm thinking specifically of Hal Jordan here, and he provides quite a challenge, in that Kenny Loggins, despite his best efforts, never really had a big Christmas hit, and I'm not sure that Hal Jordan has ever even heard a song that wasn't "Danger Zone." But since Hal is also the kind of guy who thinks he is literally the first person to ever consider Die Hard a Christmas movie, I think he'd probably try to blow everyone's minds at the party by putting on "Walkin' In A Winter Wonderland," and then explaining that it's used as a leitmotif --- which he would pronounce "leet-motive" --- for Hans Gruber's gang.
Nah, just kidding.
It'd be "Danger Zone."
Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson. If you’ve got a question you’d like to see Chris tackle in a future column, just send it to @theisb on Twitter with the hashtag #AskChris.