A Tribute to the of

It’s been a while since we’ve visited the Teen Titans and in the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I’d check out yet another intriguing cover, one I’d admired in the past by the great Nick Cardy. It adorns issue #13 from January/February 1968. Did you spot the discarded can of "Cardy Soup" in the lower left corner? “The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” was scripted by Bob Haney with Nick doing all interior art as well, edited by George Kashdan with Joe Letterese on lettering.

The splash page shows a gent on his knees asking the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future what they want and they want atonement from the “old skinflint.” A quick page turn shows DC in full advertisement mode with a hillside setting, bearing a billboard pushing the Batman television show and the four Teen Titans, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Robin, enjoying some reading material. At first, I could only identify the Aquaman issue and then realized they were all from January/February of 1968, so thanks to the Grand Comics Database, I can tell you what each Titan is reading.

Kid Flash, oddly enough, is reading a Superman title, #203. Aqualad is reading, more appropriately, Aquaman, issue #37 and Wonder Girl is reading the latest issue of Wonder Woman (#174) while Robin, apparently a bit more cerebral, is reading Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, “A Christmas Carol.” “Wonder Chick” calls Robin out on it, so he switches to Batman #199 from February 1968.

A bit of classic Haney caption narrative tells us that in Christmas of 1967, things cannot happen the way they did in “A Christmas Carol.” Or can they? Bob seems to be channeling a little Stan Lee, too, as he urges “Titanic ones” to read on.

Our scene shifts now to a snowy winter’s day at “Junk-o-rama,” located in an old bus with a sign declaring “Ebenezer Scrounge, Prop.” Inside, Ratchet, the bookkeeper, bundled up, is asking Scrounge if they can have some heat, but of course he is denied. Reluctantly, Scrounge agrees to giving Ratchet Christmas Day off, and the clerk ponders that the overtime will just allow him to get an automatic wheelchair for Tiny Tom for Christmas.

Later, Ratchet is abruptly dismissed early and the clerk thinks he must be getting shuffled out ahead of a truck arriving with some sketchy characters inside. Next stop is Tiny Tom showing up after Bob Ratchet has left, but finds the bus HQ deserted, so he wheels around back to the main junkyard. There he sees Scrounge accepting a wad of cash from the representatives of Mr. Big and taking some junk away. Tiny Tom decides to continue to monitor things in his concealment.

After Ebenezer Scrounge departs, the henchmen pull out a ray-gun sort of device and train the ray onto the worthless scrap, transforming it back into their original form, such as a new car, motorcycle, television set, etc. They state that it’s a fool proof plan, importing overseas junk and converting it back into new, expensive goods that are duty-free.

Tiny Tom wheels away from the scene, determined to tell his father that he’s working for someone aiding and abetting a smuggling operation. Bob Ratchet, however, is reluctant to call the police and instead approaches Scrounge, who quickly denies any involvement. He is simply renting out his junkyard and has no interest in what his “business partners” do after he has left the premises.

Ebenezer then threatens Bob Ratchet with unemployment if he breathes a word to anyone and decides he needs to work on Christmas Day after all. Dejected, the clerk goes home and tells his son he must preserve his job so he can fulfill his late wife’s promise to take care of Tom. Tiny Tom says he understands, but begins immediately to hatch a plan to get some help.

Soon, the Teen Titans join Tiny Tom outside Junk-o-rama. When a familiar truck shows up, they hitch a clandestine ride. The truck unloads its cargo of junk, but before they can work their magic, a figure in the shadows is spotted. The thugs jump him, but are quickly repelled. They beat a hasty retreat and the Titans decide to follow the shadowy figure, bringing Tiny Tom along.

Later, they trail the man to an old mansion, the home of Ebenezer Scrounge, and he begins to knock upon the door. He calls to Ebenezer, telling him he has returned and Scrounge orders him to depart. The stranger threatens to break down the door, so Ebenezer relents, only to be greeted by a figure in classic striped prison garb. It’s Jacob Farley, bent on revenge, closing out Chapter I.

Chapter II opens with the Titans observing things from the window and Kid Flash going into action to separate the two men. The rest of the team enters and demands an explanation from Farley, who says he used to be Ebenezer’s partner, but he was unjustly imprisoned due to a sale of defective material that hurt someone on a job and Farley took the fall as Scrounge had insulated himself from any liability.

Ebenezer denies knowledge of the defective material, but acknowledges that he protected himself. Then he picks up a landline to call the police. Farley has escaped out a window and the Titans leave before things get more complicated. It is just then that the protégé of the World’s Greatest Detective realizes the parallels between what they’ve been witnessing and the classic Dickens tale. He suggests taking a page from Charles’ book and maybe using it to help the situation at hand.

The next day, Christmas Eve, Bob Ratchet reluctantly reports to work after bidding his son goodbye. It’s another tough day, with his fingers barely able to move in the cold, but Scrounge drives him like a taskmaster, then sends him on his way, anticipating another arrival of the truck.

Moments after Ratchet’s departure, a hooded figure comes through the wall and announces it is the ghost of Christmas past. The ghost shows Scrounge an old photo of himself with Alice, who went on to marry another. The ghost reminds him of who he used to be and commands him to mend his ways before disappearing as quickly as he appeared.

Rattled, Scrounge begins to walk away from his place of business when he’s confronted by another cloaked figure declaring he is the ghost of Christmas Present. Intent on showing Ebenezer how his stinginess is hurting those around him, he points out Bob Ratchet, searching for salvageable items in the junk yard to service Tiny Tom’s wheelchair. He calls out Scrounge on his skinflint ways, denying his clerk enough of a living to be able to afford an electric wheelchair for his disabled son and hanging his partner, Farley, out to dry. He is again commanded to repent and change.

Soon a third figure flies in, donned in a Santa-like outfit, but still concealed. She is the ghost of Christmas future and has some insights for Scrounge’s future if he doesn’t change his ways. He hears voices, declaring his sins and not lamenting his death, but then hears the voice of Tiny Tom, defending him as someone desperately unhappy rather than bad and that he feels sorry for him.

Just then, the truck arrives, bearing Mr. Big himself while the ghost of Christmas future begins to depart. Shots ring out from the ground and Wonder Girl falls to earth. The rest of the Titans team come running to her aid, closing out Chapter II.

Chapter III begins with full on action as the Titans plow into the bad guys. The crooks unload the junk in the truck, intent on burying Wonder Girl, but Kid Flash uses his super-speed to do some quick juggling of the junk, even creating an aerial “Merry Xmas” greeting. The rogues aren’t done yet, though and using the powerful magnet for moving junk around, they pluck Wonder Girl from her teammate’s grasp with it, using her metal bracelets for the magnetic grip. She is then unceremoniously dumped into the car crusher and it is activated.

Robin manages to stop the operator of the equipment, but is then ensnared in another trap by Mr. Big. Cue to Kid Flash and Aqualad to render aid, but they are similarly draws into the strange, unexplained trap, along with Wonder Girl, reprising the helpless quartet on the junk pile from the cover. Tiny Tom has seen enough and tries to help, but in the process, his wheelchair is destroyed.

Horrified at events, Scrounge himself deactivates the trap and then destroys the control console with a junked car bumper. Not finished, he then uses it on Mr. Big himself as the Teen Titans clash with the rest of the gang.

After everything is mopped up, Mr. Scrounge explains his actions and changed heart, internalizing the lessons taught by the “ghosts” of Christmas past, present and future. He vows to give Bob Ratchet a big raise, allow him Christmas Day off and then uses the transforming ray to change Tom’s broken wheelchair into a shiny modern electric version.

The final panel is described by Bob Haney as a four-color Christmas card in “Titanscope,” showing our team, the reformed Ebenezer Scrounge, who tells Bob Ratchet that his Christmas gift to his clerk is installation of a new heater in the office and of course Tiny Tom declaring, “Best wishes to all—for a swinging and groovy New Year…and bless us everyone!

Okay, as usual, Haney’s hokey “hip” patter can get thin really quickly, but as a long-time fan of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” (yours truly played Ebenezer Scrooge in my elementary school play and I own three versions of the story on DVD), I still had to smile, predictable though the story was. Add in Nick Cardy’s stellar artwork and this was just a fun read, even with a little corniness thrown in.

Speaking of Nick, when I had the privilege of interviewing him, he even commented on his cover work for this issue:

CARDY: On one of the Teen Titans covers I did a Christmas tree and the story was about Scrooge. I was reading that and so my editor says, “Hey, Nick. When was the last time you got a raise?” I said I didn’t remember. It had been quite a while. So, he said, “Let’s talk to the guy and see if we can get a raise.” So, we went to see the boss and he said, “Nick’s been here for 20 years and he hasn’t had a raise.” So, the guy said, “Well, you know, we’re trying to cut back and get rid of the deadwood,” and there was no raise, so we walked out of there and I figured, “I’m going to do a bang-up job,” and it was that Christmas issue cover that had every little pen line, every detail. I put a lot of crap in it.

BDS: I remember it. Beautiful job.

CARDY: I liked it. Only on some parts, the color was off, but it was done by a colorist that I liked and he had more experimental looseness.

As you can see, Nick put a lot into this issue, the cover in particular, and all those years later, he still remembered it. Hopefully he got that raise. He surely deserved it. This story was reprinted in Limited Collector's Edition #C-34, cover date March, 1975 with a cover by none other than Nick Cardy. The splash page features a new title and the shameless plugs mentioned above are nowhere to be seen.

Remember to address any feedback to my e-mail at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Merry Christmas from the Silver Lantern, readers! Here’s hoping you continue to visit us and enjoy what we have to offer in the New Year. 2019, here we come!

See you on New Year’s Day and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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