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

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