Batgirl - Jolly Ol' St. Nicholas
Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1
"Jolly Ol' St. Nicholas"
written by Paul Dini, art by Bruce Timm
Published originally in Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1
January 1995 cover date
Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock are undercover at a Gotham department store, trying to find a shoplifter who has been robbing the store blind during the holiday season. In disguise as St. Nicholas, Bullock is a terrible Santa, uninterested in the task and literally nodding off while listening to children rattle off their wish lists.
In the crowd of shoppers is Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) selecting Christmas gifts. She spots Montoya and Bullock doing a terrible job as Santa and elf, and decides to monitor what's going on.
Meanwhile, a small girl catches Bullock's ear, telling him how she wants her daddy to come home for Christmas. Bullock realizes that her father is "Mad Dog" McSweeney, a criminal Bullock personally arrested and "sent up the river" to prison. Out of pity and embarrassment he gives the little girl all of his "donut money" (Bruce Timm's art depicts empty boxes of donuts and beer cans around Santa's perch) and then sends her on her way.
Barbara Gordon spots a small boy shoplifting jewelry from the store, and she accosts him, and he promptly runs from her and policewoman Montoya, who must have pretty sharp eyes to see this happening from a distance, jumps into action with gun drawn, "Wake up Harvey, we're on!" she shouts.
The fleeing child however is not a child, and other running children (Timm draws them with fiendish smiles) combine with the first one to suddenly become the huge, hulking villain Clayface.
Barbara runs to the crowded dressings rooms of the store and in 48 seconds (she times it, and exclaims, "like to see Robin beat that!") she is in full Batgirl regalia. She runs to where Clayface has been confronted by Bullock (still in his Santa suit) and Montoya, but they are completely impotent; Clayface has rendered their handguns useless. He raises up a huge fist that changes into an equally huge axe, announcing he is about to dispatch the "two losers" and flee, for he will just set up the same shape-shifting shoplifting scam in another town.
Yet, before he can drop his axe on the two officers, Batgirl smashes into him with her feet and the momentum sends them both crashing through a gigantic window worthy of Bill Finger. The pair fall down to the lower level of the store onto an ice skating rink.
Clayface rises up in massive rage, announcing he will kill Batgirl for her interference as he raises up an arm that has three scalloped daggers (à la Wolverine). But before he can strike at Batgirl, further away and unbeknownst to him, Montoya and Bullock unload their revolvers into him. Temporarily distracted by the shooting, Clayface turns his attention away from Batgirl who looks around and quickly concocts a plan to finally stop Clayface and his rampage once and for all…
Bruce Timm art
Paul Dini's story is packed into 12 pages, and though it doesn't possess the density of, say, the Archie Goodwin's Batman 12 pagers from his run editing Detective Comics, it still has plenty happening and is nicely crafted to fit 12 pages. And it still give Bruce Timm chances for some large panels to show off his skills (and one full battle page).
Timm's art here is a graceful compromise between a number of factors. First, he has to tell the story, and his storytelling gives us all the visual pieces we need to see what's happening. The drawback is his fat brush strokes tend to fill up panels quickly. On the other hand, those "fat brush strokes" make for the long, beautiful lines that give Timm his distinctive style and whatever is lost in background detail (and compared to the modern era in which backgrounds are dispensed with altogether by some artists) is made up for in just getting the story told.
Batgirl - "New 52" version
Original Page Dec 25, 2016 | Updated Jan 2017 [Z]