Comics On TV

The 5 Best Superhero TV Christmas Episodes

From The Flash's first season to an alternate universe Smallville, Rotten Tomatoes picks superhero TV's best Christmas episodes.

by | December 20, 2018 | Comments

The Flash -- "Don't Run" -- Image Number: FLA409b_0281b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Tom Cavanagh as Harrison Wells and Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon/Vibe -- Photo: Katie Yu/The CW

(Photo by Katie Yu/The CW)

Even superheros who battle impossibly powerful villains on a regular basis need to slow down every now and then, especially around the December holidays. That’s why, beginning with Wonder Woman in the mid-1970s, superhero shows on television have a longstanding of tradition of celebrating the season with Christmas episodes.

We’ve compiled a list of our five favorite superhero Christmas episodes. These installments can revolve around Yuletide cheer, or simply provide a festive backdrop for general superhero action. We happen to think they are the best overall, but opinions can and will diverge. For instance: you may notice all but one of the episodes we love are from shows based on DC Comics characters. As it happens, those superhero shows put more of an emphasis on Christmas with only the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. representing the notion of a Marvel holiday season. Considering the trouble characters like Daredevil (Charlie Cox) and Dagger (Olivia Holt) get up to on their programs (Marvel’s Daredevil and Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, respectively), it is probably no accident they never stop to dress a Christmas tree.

With that out of the way, here are our five picks for the best superhero Christmas episodes ever.

5. Smallville 78% — “Lexmas”

SMALLVILLE, Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Kreuk, 'Lexmas', (Season 5, ep. 509, aired December 8, 2005), 2001-2011. photo: © Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)

Television shows often lean on one of three stories for their Christmas episode inspirations: O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. In Smallville’s fifth season, it chose to mix up the latter two and give Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) the life he always wanted.

After getting shot in the back, Lex awakens to find himself in a world where he gave up the Luthor ambitions — and wealth — for a “happily ever after.” Seven years later, he’s married to Lana Lang (Kristin Kreuk) and good friends with both Clark and Jonathan Kent (Tom Welling and John Schneider). He also has a son, with another child on the way. An image of his mother tells him this can all be his if he makes the “right decision.” Back in the real world, Lex’s father Lionel (John Glover) volunteers him for a dangerous operation to preserve his ability to walk. It’s successful, but it ruptures the sanctity of Lex’s dream state, leaving his Dream Lana dead after she gives birth to their daughter. Traumatized by watching another person he loves die, Lex devotes himself to the way of power.

The episode, while also serving as a play on the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Superman story “For the Man who has Everything,” uses It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol in the most twisted and wonderful way. The lights in Lex’s Christmas future are omnipresent and just too bright, giving that dreamland a sickly sweetness despite Lex’s fondest wish to be a man more like Clark. In the end, he learns the wrong lesson — or perhaps the right one if you are a Luthor — and awakens from his post-shooting trauma denying his desire to be a good man. It’s a surprisingly dark Christmas story counterpointed by Clark’s weird encounter with a drunken Santa (Kenneth Welsh) who believes the Christmas spirit has been lost. Lex would certainly agree with that sentiment.

4. The Flash 89% – “The Man in the Yellow Suit”

The Flash -- "The Man in the Yellow Suit" -- Image FLA109a_0131b -- Pictured: Danielle Panabaker as Caitlin Snow -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW

(Photo by Jack Rowand/The CW)

The Flash made it a tradition to counter the Christmas season with dark developments in its ongoing plotlines, but the concept never worked as well as it did during the show’s first-season Christmas episode. Dr. Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) spots her presumed-dead fiancee, Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell), wandering the streets. It is also the first anniversary of the accelerator explosion, which seemingly has Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) down in the dumps when Barry (Grant Gustin) races to the lab full of Christmas cheer.

The most important aspect of the episode is, of course, Team Flash’s first confrontation with the Reverse-Flash. Lured into a trap by Wells and Cisco (Carlos Valdes), the titular Man in the Yellow Suit exudes a rare menace he will not have again until he kills Cisco in an alternate timeline. And while cornered, his dialogue proves him to be the most worthy of the Flash’s speedster foes. Then there comes the moment when he escapes, kills the anti-Flash task force, and yet spares Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), suggesting for a moment that Eddie may be under the mask.

The sequence was genuinely thrilling the night it aired and continues to possess the kind of power and confidence the show often tries to reclaim, whether in big character reveals or Barry’s first confrontation with each season-long big bad. But none of the subsequent episodes contain a scene quite like the moment Wells reveals himself as the Reverse-Flash by offering the audience at home a terrifying “Merry Christmas” wish. The episode may not revolve around Christmas, but it uses the trappings of the season to give this key Flash character a proper introduction.

3. The Tick  – “The Tick Loves Santa”

THE TICK, The Tick (center), 1994-1997, TM & Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy Everett Collection)

High on the Christmas spirit, the Tick (Townsend Coleman) mistakes a lowly hood (Jim Cummings) for jolly old St. Nick. When our hero interferes with the cops’ pursuit, the bank robber ends up electrocuted on a neon sign — leaving Arthur (Rob Paulsen) to explain to the Tick that there is, in fact, no Santa. The hood later awakens with a new ability to make duplicates of himself, and continues his crime spree with a new gang of Santa Clones. They inevitably interrupt the superhero community’s night of Christmas caroling, but the Tick finds he cannot fight any of the rogue Santas. He is admonished for his continued belief in Santa and almost comes to doubt Kris Kringle’s existence when Santa’s Little Secret Service appear at the Tick and Arthur’s apartment to prepare them for Santa’s arrival. He attempts to convince the Tick that it is okay to hit the false Santas in this particular instance.

Like many of The Tick’s best episodes in its animated run from 1994 to 1996, the madness inherent in Coleman’s voice keeps the story electric. Serving as contrast, though, are Cummings’ no-nonsense Multiple Santas and a pair of deadpan security guards who openly question their holiday malaise while The City becomes the Santa Clones’ toy box. And just when you think the story is going in a conventional direction with the Tick learning the sad truth of St. Nicholas, the real Santa appears to offer gifts and serve as a hilarious deus ex machina. It all culminates with the Tick’s improbable Christmas speech, with Arthur joining in the madness as both have visions of sugarplums dancing around their heads.

2. DC's Legends of Tomorrow 89% – “Beebo the God of War”

DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- "Beebo the God of War" -- Image Number: LGN309b_0322.jpg -- Pictured: Katia Winter as Freydis Eriksdottir -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW

(Photo by Dean Buscher/The CW)

Still smarting from their recent losses, the Legends find a new time anomaly to keep their minds of their grief. They arrive in 1000 A.D. Newfoundland, where Leif Erikson (Thor Knai) and his sister Freydis Eriksdottir (Katia Winter) have made landfall. In the original history, Leif’s convention to Christanity led to his group going back to Greenland. But in the altered timeline, the Erik siblings remained and conquered all of what would become New Valhalla — all thanks to the new god Freydis discovered just before the Yuletide: Cuddle Me Beebo, the number one holiday gift in 1992.

When Legends finally catch up to the anomaly, they discover the Beebo doll was in the possession of the younger Dr. Martin Stein (Graeme McComb), whose 2017 self recently died in their timeline. Once they free the younger Stein, they discover Christmas is no more. It has been replaced with Beebo Day, and their attempts to fix the timeline only make things worse.

Coming off the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover with Supergirl, The Flash, and Arrow, the team faced their most serious blow in the loss of Victor Garber’s Stein and the impending departure of Franz Drameh as Jefferson Jackson, the other half of Firestorm. Understanding this, Legends secured the brief return of original cast member Wentworth Miller (as the Earth-X Leonard Snart) and for the silliest episode of the series to that point. It proved to be a defining episode for the show, as it couched the the characters’ trauma in a patently ridiculous predicament, tried tricks like Sara’s (Caity Lotz) multiple plans for getting Beebo back from Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough), and offered an early indication that Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) would be a permanent fixture.

And then there’s Beebo. The throwaway parody of hot Christmas toys like Teddy Ruxpin, Tickle Me Elmo, and Furby proved to strike a chord with fans — many of whom are still waiting for official Beebo merchandise.

1. Justice League 96% – “Comfort and Joy”

JUSTICE LEAGUE, The Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Hawkgirl, J'Onn J'Onnz, Wonder Woman, 2001-. (c) Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

(Photo by Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection)

After saving a planet of crab-like aliens from certain destruction, the League takes a holiday recess. John Stewart (Phil LaMarr) convinces Shayera Hol (Maria Canals) to enjoy the snow on a nearby winter planet, but she suggests a subsequent celebration. The Flash’s (Michael Rosenbaum) plans to deliver a rapping and farting toy called Rubber Ducky to a group of orphans gets waylayed by the Ultra-Humanite (Ian Buchanan). Superman (George Newbern) convinces J’onn (Carl Lumbly) to come home with him to the Kent farm, where he observes Christmas in Smallville.

As the Flash says late in the episode, it’s “kinda cheesy,” but it is also Justice League’s most experimental episode. While the rest of the series was built around two-part tales of high stakes action, “Comfort and Joy” is a single episode with no central villain or conflict. Even Wally’s tussle with the Ultra-Humanite is more of a joke that leads to an emotional end.

Instead, the entire episode revolves around the characters as they navigate the holiday. J’onn silently confronts his isolation even as he discovers the magic of sandwich cookies — an in-joke from the Justice League International comic book — while Clark turns into a kid again with his insistence that Santa wrapped his presents in lead-lined paper. John enjoys the snow, while Shayera figures out a completely different way of expressing a similar joy. Then there’s Flash’s Christmas spirit speech, which inspires the Ultra-Humanite to fix the Rubber Ducky toy he destroyed. It should be as cheesy as the aluminum Christmas tree he gives the criminal genius when he returns him to prison, but the situation is just so absurd that it works.

Of course, the whole thing is aided by top-notch vocal talent, like Buchanan’s erudite take on the Ultra-Humanite and Lumbly’s definitive performance as J’onn J’onzz. His curious Martian song reminds you that this is still Justice League, even if it is taking a holiday pause. It is heartfelt and kind of corny, but its dedication to the characters makes for a magical 21 minutes of heroes at the holidays.

Tag Cloud

E3 The Academy Prime Video Hallmark Christmas movies Disney Channel MCU crime drama target scene in color Winter TV quibi women screen actors guild 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards BBC America book adaptation directors scorecard Shondaland Chernobyl PaleyFest TBS Sundance TV blaxploitation comedies USA toronto TV Infographic Grammys pirates of the caribbean Superheroe rt labs ABC Ovation james bond Kids & Family indiana jones AMC Plus YouTube Red Disney streaming service The CW animated Calendar ABC Family Television Critics Association YA Showtime obi wan Nickelodeon twilight black comedy Amazon Prime TruTV disaster kids Music Valentine's Day Box Office Thanksgiving OneApp child's play archives asian-american Chilling Adventures of Sabrina rom-coms IMDb TV WGN young adult Hallmark talk show ID DGA venice Musicals breaking bad period drama Mary Poppins Returns travel casting President Netflix Christmas movies Pride Month 73rd Emmy Awards chucky Apple christmas movies popular supernatural golden globe awards Baby Yoda The Walt Disney Company Adult Swim ESPN deadpool First Reviews Biopics Logo Indigenous Awards Tour Disney+ Disney Plus Holidays SundanceTV Alien Oscar cancelled tv talk Best Director Amazon Studios TCA 2017 all-time Black Mirror YouTube Premium Country scene in color series lord of the rings diversity Epix remakes spy thriller Trailer biography mockumentary MTV canceled mission: impossible series Sci-Fi Cosplay vampires NYCC Action strong female leads godzilla scene in color film series Sony Pictures Film based on movie films Super Bowl Rocky festivals scene in color game of thrones critic resources streaming movies aliens 2016 new star wars movies discovery crime thriller Avengers harry potter anime Crackle CMT Tomatazos witnail sopranos king kong feel good die hard aapi Musical 1990s Starz dexter Anna Paquin slasher DC streaming service GoT satire Reality Competition batman police drama Wes Anderson nbcuniversal screenings ITV royal family Geeked Week spider-man Extras sequel zombies Awards fast and furious RT21 IFC serial killer Pop Disney Plus Crunchyroll international slashers historical drama Native Toys 71st Emmy Awards Fall TV anthology free movies Reality Family art house japanese FX sports AMC Sony Horror social media Lifetime The Witch Esquire Pixar FXX psychological thriller critics Premiere Dates Walt Disney Pictures BET comic book movie blockbusters vs. streaming TCA razzies hispanic space canceled TV shows stop motion basketball saw CBS All Access 21st Century Fox cartoon TCA Winter 2020 genre binge book trophy concert HBO Max Pacific Islander ratings Ellie Kemper Red Carpet Endgame The Walking Dead Image Comics stoner Mudbound History El Rey Schedule Paramount Network political drama worst movies Animation name the review 99% stand-up comedy dragons TV renewals mutant Columbia Pictures monster movies scary rotten movies we love biopic Acorn TV Song of Ice and Fire movies singing competition Black History Month MSNBC GIFs worst telelvision 90s The Purge crime Turner Classic Movies The Arrangement Countdown halloween Summer CW Seed television mcc TV Land TV movies 79th Golden Globes Awards Academy Awards LGBT National Geographic composers posters IFC Films marvel cinematic universe nfl emmy awards wonder woman Western japan criterion Exclusive Video action-comedy australia spider-verse Freeform dreamworks Apple TV+ Tarantino elevated horror comiccon APB Mindy Kaling justice league LGBTQ Broadway adenture Disney laika romance cancelled TV series Rocketman parents classics facebook richard e. Grant spanish live event robots finale theme song legend Cartoon Network cancelled television kaiju DC Universe 2019 french VOD docudrama Marvel Studios streamig franchise Funimation Emmy Nominations Vudu superhero HBO Go king arthur war revenge SDCC boxoffice Neflix cops Character Guide Mary poppins TCM Instagram Live Oscars Photos reboot Britbox joker Comedy Central Apple TV Plus dogs Cannes Best Picture NBC Best Actress independent Film Festival HFPA Opinion Elton John 2020 FX on Hulu technology zombie Trophy Talk Polls and Games leaderboard YouTube Marvel Television miniseries Peacock hollywood See It Skip It American Society of Cinematographers halloween tv scary movies Lucasfilm politics Nominations new york Holiday south america summer TV preview psycho 2017 cats Interview Paramount Pictures golden globes MGM TLC Fargo trailers X-Men suspense festival Lionsgate Certified Fresh CBS fresh rt archives dc South by Southwest Film Festival dark black hidden camera Bravo Hear Us Out Spring TV Ghostbusters Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt OWN olympics Masterpiece TIFF A24 dramedy BAFTA Christmas italian summer TV BET Awards A&E USA Network jamie lee curtis Comedy universal monsters foreign Tokyo Olympics Martial Arts game show versus Binge Guide Warner Bros. Hulu live action Hollywood Foreign Press Association Television Academy 007 documentary adventure sequels Paramount SXSW 2022 94th Oscars spain Tubi high school Election Star Trek natural history toy story documentaries cancelled TV shows blockbuster TCA Awards new zealand medical drama award winner summer preview nature science fiction Discovery Channel hispanic heritage month Legendary Creative Arts Emmys Arrowverse cults Classic Film jurassic park PBS ViacomCBS crossover gangster 2018 romantic comedy ghosts VH1 Winners true crime comic Focus Features Dark Horse Comics Star Wars Pet Sematary prank Amazon cooking Set visit latino Spike Video Games target Mary Tyler Moore Rock zero dark thirty TNT doctor who 2015 indie First Look Turner 20th Century Fox Comic-Con@Home 2021 Shudder Tags: Comedy cars Podcast PlayStation rt labs critics edition Emmys Marathons Mystery Quiz green book New York Comic Con thriller Rom-Com Pirates ABC Signature teaser 45 sag awards RT History Sundance Now hist Spectrum Originals Captain marvel boxing reviews dceu WarnerMedia Marvel 72 Emmy Awards spanish language comic books what to watch a nightmare on elm street unscripted adaptation Comic Book Fantasy broadcast Trivia renewed TV shows werewolf Sundance children's TV Drama Watching Series Fox Searchlight Fox News 24 frames Comics on TV marvel comics best DC Comics interviews kong Food Network Pop TV FOX Star Wars Celebration Paramount Plus DirecTV Universal 2021 SXSW CNN 4/20 Amazon Prime Video debate 93rd Oscars BBC superman Best and Worst Universal Pictures NBA heist movie Syfy TV One Sneak Peek San Diego Comic-Con BBC One Tumblr Stephen King Superheroes obituary football cinemax rotten GLAAD news Women's History Month Lifetime Christmas movies video on demand know your critic Teen Nat Geo Netflix comic book movies HBO sitcom comics transformers Writers Guild of America Best Actor spinoff mob Brie Larson video Year in Review Travel Channel Heroines movie VICE E! docuseries