Script: Bob Haney
Art: Nick Cardy
Color: Helen Vesik
Originally Published In: Teen Titans #13 (January/February 1968
Yes, I changed the name of this series on the fourth day. I was never in love with the original name. We’ll see how this one shakes out.
There are very few stories that have been adapted as many times and in as many ways as Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is one of those stories that people go back to again and again to re-tell in a new and hopefully interesting way. It is easy to see why. My friend Scott Gardner hit the nail on the head when he referred to it as a scared straight story and he is absolutely right. At its heart Scrooge is the personification of absolute greed and selfishness and watching him come back from the brink and resolve to change his life for the better is something we all (or at least most of us) can relate to.
Less serious adaptations outnumber the serious ones. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, the Flintstones, Mister Magoo and even Sesame Street have all been featured in variations on the story. Today we look at the time the Teen Titans were part of their own adaptation and if you think that I am going to spend the next handful of paragraphs tearing this story a new one you are going to be disappointed. While this is far from the finest take on the original tale it is actually a lot of fun.
I haven’t read this story since I bought Christmas With The Super-Heroes at a Waldenbooks in 1988, so all of the specifics had vanished from my memory. I have poked fun at it in the past but that was all based on what I thought of this story as a twelve year old. Things have changed since then. Well, most things. In any case while this version of A Christmas Carol is hardly faithful and has some seriously goofy elements to it there is a real heart to the story and Bob Haney manages to use the familiar trappings of the story in the previously mentioned new and interesting ways.
In this version Mr. Scrooge is Mr. Scrounge and instead of being a money lender he owns a junk yard called Junkorama. Working for him is a man named Ratchet, a single father that wants nothing more than to give his son, Tiny Tom, a new, electric wheelchair for Christmas. A day or so before Christmas Tom comes to work to meet his father and witnesses Scrounge taking money from some questionable people working for a man named Mr. Big. The plan is pretty simple; Mr. Big’s men unload a bunch of useless, imported junk into the junkyard. The men hit the useless junk with a weird ray gun which turns it brand new looking junk. Mr. Big then sells the new looking junk for a sizable profit because he doesn’t have to pay any duty on the items. Scrounge is unaware of Mr. Big’s plan and has made a point to tell the men that he doesn’t want to know what they are doing with the junk they are supposedly dumping.
Tiny Tom sees this and tells his father who tells Scrounge who wigs out and threatens Ratchet’s job if he says anything. Tiny Tom ignores this warning and get the Teen Titans involved. So Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Aqualad all head on over to investigate and show up just in time to see a shadowy figure beating up on Mr. Big’s men. They follow the man to Scrounge’s place and discover the shadowy man is none other than Jacob Farley, Scrounge’s former partner and the man that wants to put a hurtin’ on the dirty so and so. It seems that when they were partners Farley and Scrounge sold some defective material which resulted in someone being hurt on a job and Farley alone went to jail because of it.
Robin keeps Farley from killing Scrounge and soon they all leave because Farley is a fugitive and the Titans are technically trespassing. Outside they realize that all of the major players have similar names to the characters in A Christmas Carol leading to them wanting to pull a Scrooge on Scrounge. The plan works for a time but when Mr. Big’s hoods show back up and reveal that the Ghost of Christmas Future is actually Wonder Girl things go south in a hurry. There is a big fight between the Titans and the bad guys and things look bleak as one by one the Titans are all trapped on what the story refers to as a Junk Tree. Tiny Tom tries to stop them but he is quickly snatched out of his chair and the chair is reduced to refuge.
This leads Scrounge to have a, “That’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more,” moment and he assists the Titans in taking down the Hoods. Scrounge explains that Tiny Tom’s actions were the reason for his change of heart and not only does he give Tom’s Dad a raise but he uses the fancy ray gun to make a new, electric powered wheelchair for Tom. There is a lot of laughing and joking and in the end Scrounge is a changed man and I am sure he became a second father to Tiny Tom and all that jazz.
There are two reasons I like this story so much and the first is the fact that it is a rather clever re-telling of the basic Scrooge story. Instead of doing a straight up adaptation Bob Haney crafts a tale where there are a bunch of people that are a whole heck of a lot like the characters in A Christmas Carol and when the Titans realize this they decide to take it to the next logical, ghost filled level. Basically the entire story is one big coincidence, which may seem kind of silly but I found it rather charming. I also liked the fact that Haney made Scrounge shadier than the character he was based on. Scrooge was just a greedy bastard that treated his employee badly and cared little for his fellow man. Scrounge knows something shady is going on but is able to stay somewhat clean by not knowing all of the details. It is a gray area and while it keeps Scrounge from being an out and out bad guy he still straddles the fence in a big way.
While his scared straight moment may not be as poignant as Scrooge’s it works just the same mainly because of the other reason I dug this story so much. The artwork. Nick Cardy’s art is absolutely gorgeous in this story. I could literally gush over every single page. The writing was certainly strong and a lot of fun but it was the art that made this story come to life. The expressions on the characters’ faces. The detail Cardy puts into the props and backgrounds. The storytelling and the action. It just blows my mind that a silly little story could look so good. Cardy gives this comic an almost storybook feel, which lends itself nicely to the Christmas setting. It is just a beautifully rendered story.
There are some ads throughout this reprint that made me smile as well. Comics were laid out differently in the sixties and at the end of each chapter (I did mention that this story is broken up into three chapters, right?) there was usually an advertisement or a PSA that took up the bottom half of the page. Instead of reprinting all of the ads and PSAs the powers that be put in two ads for then contemporary books. The first was Superman related and advertised Superman (Vol. 2) #27 and Adventures of Superman #450. This took me back to when Christmas With The Super-Heroes was originally published because those two issues were the lead up to the Exile storyline and man do I love me some Exile. The second ad was for The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told and has some neat Kyle Baker art. Below the final page is something called Cap’s Hobby Hints and shows the reader how to avoid smacking their thumb when they are hammering something by holding the nail with a pocket comb. I have no idea if this thing is a a real hobby hint or if it is a carefully crafted homage to such things. Either way it was neat to see.
So in the end a story I thought was going to be a real slog to get through turned out to be a real treat. It is possible that if I had read this during any other time of the year my opinion could have been completely different. I am a sucker for the season though, so my vision could be cloudy what with all of the sugar plums dancing before me at the moment.
Either that or I am tired and hallucinating. It is a fifty/fifty shot really.
More to follow…