Few events ring in the yuletide season like the TV Christmas special. And there’s nothing quite like seeing our favorite costumed heroes let their hair down and get into some merry mutant mischief — or just gather around a table with some superfriends. So, go on, grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk and enjoy some seasonal cheer with the wombo combo of the superhero holiday TV special.
Batman: The Animated Series
“Christmas with the Joker” (S1 Ep 28)
There aren’t many places where you can see the Joker riding a rocket disguised as a Christmas tree, and that’s a real crime. Thankfully, Batman: The Animated Series solves that problem in “Christmas with the Joker.” Batman and Robin aren’t immune to the magic of Christmas Eve, not that the Dark Knight would ever want anyone to know.
But when the Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum, cue the holiday hijinks! With no family to celebrate the season with, Joker abducts his own “Awful Lawful Family” of Gotham do-gooders — Commissioner Gordon, Summer Gleeson, and Harvey Bullock. Festooned in baby clothes, gigantic holiday bows, and candy cane pacifiers, the three hostages wait as Batman and Robin must make their way through the Joker’s twisted take on the Nutcracker Suite.
The episode is comforting, silly, and the first Batman: The Animated Series appearances of both Robin and Joker. See? A little something for everyone, just like Santa intended.
Where to stream it: DC Universe
“Comfort and Joy” (S2 Ep 23)
Justice League’s “Comfort and Joy” is widely regarded as one of the best superhero holiday specials out there, and it’s easy to see why. There’s a bit of silliness, a lot of fun, and that unpredictable tear-jerker moment. Having saved a planet from destruction, various members of the Justice League head home for the holidays. That’s where the episode gets broken into three smaller stories.
Green Lantern and Hawkgirl experience the joys of snow angels and snowball fights before ending up in an Intergalactic bar fight (naturally). Flash does his best to find the hottest toy of the season (D.J. Rubber Ducky) for the kids at Central City orphanage, only to be interrupted by the antics of the big-brained villain the Ultra-Humanite.
Then there’s Superman, who loves Christmas so much he still believes in Santa, and convinces the Martian Manhunter to spend the holiday with him in Smallville. J’onn is still mourning the loss of the entire Martian race, knows nothing about Christmas traditions, and isn’t exactly up for celebrating. Still, he reluctantly accepts Clark’s invite.
The real magic of the episode is all in Smallville as J’onn learns about the joys of the season. Getting to see what makes Christmas special through fresh eyes, well, it is bound to melt even the Scroogiest of hearts.
Where to stream it: DC Universe
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
“The Christmas Aliens” (S3 Ep 11)
Crank up the oven and pop in a Christmas pizza because it’s time to chow down with the fab five of mutant Turtledom. “The Christmas Aliens” is a fun self-contained episode based off a one-off IDW comic of the same name. It’s Christmas Eve and most of the Turtles are getting ready for their holiday party except for Michelangelo.
Mikey is busy exploring Central Park, where he gets into some mischief with local kids, rescues a stray cat, and encounters the Purple Dragons in the middle of a crime spree. The Purple Dragons try to make off with a truck full of Lil’ Orphan Alien toys meant for the local orphanage, but Mikey isn’t about to let that happen on his watch.
With antics in and outside of the Turtle Lair, it’s fun to see some TMNT Universe favorites show up for a Christmas feast. Even Stan Sakai’s rabbit ronin Usagi Yojimbo makes an appearance, because the rules of continuity do not apply during the holiday season.
Where to stream it: CBS All Access
“Frozen Out” (S2 Ep 5)
“Frozen Out” depicts the origin of Permafrost (Maureen Conner), a girl capable of reaping havoc in the form of extreme cold, blizzards, and dangerous icicles. Static initially comes across the homeless Permafrost as she begs for money on the street. Virgil is too busy running errands and brushes her aside. A few days later Static spots Maureen again, this time getting kicked out of the mall after being accused of stealing jewelry. Virgil decides to see if he can find out more about the girl from his local pastor. Reverend Anderson tellsVirgil more about Maureen and how she ended up without a home after the death of her mother and neglect of her father.
Permafrost seems bent on destruction and ends up fighting Static with a powerful blast of icy-cold frost. Virgil appeals to her by telling her how he lost his mother and asks Maureen about her life. She lets her guard down and tells Virgil her story and how she simply wants to be seen, like everyone else.
Static Shock was never afraid to tackle social issues and it’s nice to see that hasn’t changed with their Christmas episode. It’s also one of the rare episodes to depict other holiday traditions like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Overall, “Frozen Out” is a great reminder of what the holiday season is all about.
Where to stream it: DC Universe
“Last Christmas!” (S2 Ep6)
DuckTales isn’t exactly a superhero show, but we’re letting it slide for the lasting contributions that Carl Barks has made to comics. “Last Christmas” pays homage to 1983’s iconic Mickey’s Christmas Carol, as a time-traveling tromp through Scrooge’s past, complete with emo teen songwriter Scrooge.
Dewey investigates a curious green light emanating from Uncle Scrooge’s room only to find Scrooge hanging with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. It turns out that Scrooge doesn’t actually hate Christmas, just all the responsibilities that go along with it. Each year Scrooge hangs out with his ghost pals to let go for a bit. Dewey hitches a ride on the robes of Christmas Future in the hopes of seeing his long-lost mother Della as a young duck. Unfortunately, Dewey falls off and gets lost in time.
The episode is a clever mix of nostalgia and sentimentality as Scrooge and Dewey try to find their way back to McDuck Manor and get in touch with what Christmas means to them. There’s also an absolute treasure trove of chaotic DuckTales weirdness thrown in for good measure. There are so many hidden gems — from callouts to the 1980s series, to the video game — new and old fans will find cause for celebration.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
“Beebo the God of War” (S3 Ep 9)
Sure, “Beebo the God of War” plays up typical Christmas special themes of time travel and hard-to-get holiday toys, but it does so in the best possible way. It’s a moment of levity in the show’s third season after the death of Professor Martin Stein, and the writers definitely milk every ounce of joy from the holiday season with a descent into trippy-toy-inspired-chaos.
Thanks to a time mishap, the Legends discover a group of Vikings led by Leif Erikson in a place called New Valhalla. Not only has the group of Vikings elevated the hottest toy of 1992 (Cuddle Me Beebo) to god status, they’ve also captured a young Martin Stein. If this sounds like a Viking version of Back to the Future, well that’s because it kind of is. The episode is chock-full of references to the popular Michael J. Fox film-franchise. Overall, the episode serves as a fitting tribute to Stein and gives the Legends some closure while still maintaining its Christmas charm. Plus, did we mention the animatronic puppet worshipped as a god? What more could anyone want from a holiday special? All hail Beebo.
Where to stream it: The CW app and Netflix.
The New Batman Adventures
“Holiday Knights” (S1 Ep 1)
It wouldn’t be Christmas without holly and ivy, even if it is the poison kind. The very first episode of The New Batman Adventures is the three-part “Holiday Knights.” Depressed about their current financial situation, but Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have got a plan to turn their holiday humbugs around. The two abduct Bruce Wayne, and once under one of Ivy’s mind-control kisses, he can’t resist taking the devious pair shopping. The highlight of the episode comes in the form of an epic shopping montage. Eventually, Bruce escapes their clever clutches and chases them around the department store.
The second vignette features Batgirl, Harvey Bullock, and Renee Montoya as they battle Clayface in a super silly Santa-inspired caper. The final vignette features Commissioner Gordon, Batman, and Robin who team up to stop the Joker before he can use his sonic device on hundreds of unsuspecting New Year’s Eve revelers at Gotham Square who are all wearing complimentary Joker masks. “Holiday Knights” is a joyous episode and a great introduction to the extended Bat-family.
Where to stream it: DC Universe
“The Man in the Yellow Suit” (S1 Ep9)
Everyone should have a speedster like Barry Allen (The Flash) around to help them put up holiday decorations. In “The Man in the Yellow Suit,” the Flash faces his nemesis and mother’s killer, the Reverse Flash. The episode isn’t perhaps the normal Christmas fodder, but it does tick a few boxes on the list of Superhero Christmas Special must-haves. There are confessions of love, with Barry finally admitting his feelings for Iris West, and surprises of all kinds.
The payoff of the episode comes in finally finding out who has been haunting The Flash all this time, and it doesn’t disappoint. “The Man in the Yellow Suit” makes the list because seeing Barry confront his conflicted emotions about the holidays without those we love is pretty powerful.
Where to stream it: The CW app, Netflix, and DC Universe
“The Tick Loves Santa” (S2 Ep10)
Saturday Morning cartoons anyone? In the 90’s kids were treated to a steady weekend morning diet of cereal with more sugar than two-dozen Christmas cookies and some sweet, sweet cartoons. The Tick makes its mark on the Holiday list, complete with its oddball sense of humor.
The Tick really loves Santa. So, when Santa goes on a crime spree and appears to get electrocuted by a neon sign, the Tick falls into despair. Thankfully his friends Arthur, American Maid, Sewer Urchin, Die Fledermaus, Feral Boy, and Four Legged Man are there to cheer him up. A despondent Tick doesn’t feel much like celebrating but never fear, the real Santa helps get Tick back into action.
It turns out Santa isn’t really a criminal or dead! Instead, the evil Multiple Santa is behind the string of robberies and mayhem. The Tick gets back to his silly hero self just in time to save the city and celebrate Christmas in true Tick fashion.
Where to stream it: Amazon Prime
“Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-Mas” (S4 Ep12)
This episode has everything an X-Men fan could want. Grumpy Wolverine? Check. Rogue and Jubilee decorating a tree? Check. Relationship discord with Gambit and Jean Grey? Check.
Gambit and Jean Grey bickering in the kitchen is one of the most iconic scenes of 90’s cartoons, and the entire episode is worth watching for that alone. If that doesn’t convince you then perhaps Storm’s holiday dress in an orange tiger stripe pattern will. Most of the mutant gang decides to go ice skating for some inexplicable reason — not that it matters because seeing Wolverine on a pair of skates is as delightful as it could possibly be. The team has to face some unpleasant Morlocks in the sewer while seeking a blood transfusion for a critically injured Leech. All we can say about the rest of the episode is the X-Men really are lucky Storm is on their side.
Does the episode make a lot of sense? Not really. Does it matter? Nope. This is pure, sweet Christmas fun.
Where to stream it: Disney Plus