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 92% — “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 84% – “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 95% – “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

Turner Classic Movies Awards Tour Sneak Peek Box Office First Look GIFs Oscars thriller WGN Columbia Pictures DC Universe Food Network Television Academy DirecTV 24 frames Drama Song of Ice and Fire adaptation Black Mirror romance RT21 YouTube Netflix Christmas movies Christmas blockbuster Peacock joker technology festivals Animation Winners serial killer Cosplay south america CNN Horror YA docudrama San Diego Comic-Con Masterpiece Sundance Now cults Sony Pictures cancelled TV series witnail Mindy Kaling mutant Musicals LGBTQ Certified Fresh sequel police drama Star Trek 2017 Amazon Prime Video Musical cops BBC America Marvel Television Esquire HBO Max historical drama TV renewals sag awards transformers cancelled TV shows Disney+ Disney Plus vampires Captain marvel PaleyFest Watching Series Pixar teaser Brie Larson award winner Avengers Disney Channel Spectrum Originals toy story Arrowverse First Reviews 2018 golden globes SDCC ratings AMC spinoff rotten movies we love cancelled Family Star Wars SundanceTV diversity Year in Review space TV Land History hist 2015 VICE harry potter natural history FXX Dark Horse Comics biography canceled TV shows American Society of Cinematographers quibi Infographic Comics on TV TLC singing competition Mary Poppins Returns Chernobyl Rock Lifetime Film based on movie spanish language spider-man versus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aliens Mudbound Character Guide Nat Geo Epix 2019 foreign anime screenings miniseries Countdown doctor who BBC strong female leads Nickelodeon romantic comedy IFC Sci-Fi The Walking Dead movies Emmy Nominations PBS TCA 2017 crime drama The Witch Winter TV Ellie Kemper Ghostbusters IFC Films Summer Reality Extras Creative Arts Emmys Elton John cinemax 2020 MSNBC name the review Marathons TV Shudder DC Comics Calendar Syfy Hulu social media travel TruTV Stephen King dramedy tv talk RT History Endgame video Kids & Family Logo Reality Competition Universal GLAAD TCM indie binge zombies crime 45 game of thrones Acorn TV Schedule Holiday FX Writers Guild of America facebook Super Bowl Lucasfilm E3 Paramount Martial Arts Podcast discovery kids OWN stand-up comedy ESPN robots Hallmark Christmas movies series book Spring TV comiccon jamie lee curtis CW Seed El Rey Freeform Emmys See It Skip It A24 zero dark thirty Grammys Action Video Games science fiction crime thriller 71st Emmy Awards The CW Bravo revenge Trophy Talk spy thriller independent Lionsgate Rocketman CBS All Access breaking bad Marvel Studios Lifetime Christmas movies political drama TIFF comics cooking Superheroes USA Network Adult Swim Vudu dragons halloween Amazon 20th Century Fox Amazon Prime cars free movies Tumblr Disney Western screen actors guild cats Comic Book christmas movies Classic Film DGA theme song Disney streaming service Awards batman Pop supernatural Paramount Network Binge Guide hispanic crossover composers APB Nominations Thanksgiving Turner Sundance casting Music Quiz BET politics Superheroe boxoffice adventure SXSW Valentine's Day comic MTV television Trailer CMT Teen streaming war ITV Warner Bros. LGBT Comedy Central canceled Marvel TCA children's TV Fall TV Biopics The Purge Fantasy President 21st Century Fox Shondaland The Arrangement richard e. Grant Polls and Games Opinion VH1 E! NYCC dc cartoon National Geographic Cannes game show MCU Pet Sematary nature Fox News HBO X-Men finale ABC Red Carpet werewolf talk show unscripted NBC Toys Women's History Month what to watch Premiere Dates ABC Family Mystery dceu Trivia psychological thriller ghosts CBS period drama Interview anthology FOX animated elevated horror sports YouTube Red Cartoon Network Apple TV+ Mary poppins cancelled television USA Netflix Apple TV Plus Pirates Anna Paquin TBS renewed TV shows Spike Showtime green book disaster Comedy Tarantino New York Comic Con sitcom WarnerMedia Tomatazos Election YouTube Premium Ovation latino Rom-Com Britbox Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Set visit Hallmark Photos A&E Disney Plus Mary Tyler Moore DC streaming service Crunchyroll TNT Walt Disney Pictures true crime Holidays 2016 Pride Month justice league Starz spain Film Festival slashers Crackle Rocky blaxploitation GoT medical drama mockumentary Best and Worst Apple Heroines 007 Country zombie psycho