CREDITS: Written by Eddie Gorodetsky (an SNL and sitcom writer, it is his only DCAU credit); directed by Kent Butterworth (also, his lone DCAU credit).
REVIEW: I think we have to address the Joker's voice long before we get to the Sounds Like portion of the article. Everyone raves about Mark Hammil as the Joker, in part because he's so immediately iconic and has one of the best laughs given the character, but also I think because it's such a surprise. This lunatic voice is Luke Skywalker's?! Considering that Hammil more or less resurrected his career with that Joker voice, it's quite an achievement, and just as iconic as Kevin Conroy's Batman. And like Batman, this Joker needs no introduction. We don't need to see his first entanglement with the Bat, or how he landed at Arkham. We don't even need to see him in his usual costume. The show boldly says, you know who these guys are, let's just have fun.
And let's face it, this is really just a collection of Christmas gags , most dangerous (blowing up a train), but some silly (throwing a pie in Batman's face). So the Joker makes his escape on a rocket Christmas tree, gags his hostages with candy canes, uses (rather fragile) giant Nutcracker robots, and hosts his own Christmas special on pirate TV (a trick taken from the Burton film, which this series references fairly often early in the season). And of all the gags, the Joker actually singing "Jingle bells, Batman smells" has to be the most priceless. And Batman using a baseball bat. Nice. The action is a bit limp, I must admit, and needed a directorial boost. There's something anticlimactic about watching the locomotive fall off the cliff, which is just wrong, and Batman and Robin (also making his first animated appearance) stand around looking stunned a lot. Only the Joker really has energy on screen, but if you can only spend time on one character, he's a good choice. Oh, and one piece of advice for Batman, if you're searching for the Joker, that disused toy factory with the giant creepy clown face on the front should probably be the first place you look.
To me, the Joker's Holiday shenanigans are nevertheless secondary to the early scenes of Batman Scrooging things up while Robin tries to show him the value of that Yuletide feeling, and how people are at their best during the Holidays, a bright contrast to the Bat's foul mood. Bruce Wayne's never seen "It's a Wonderful Life" because he could never get past the title; a lovely touch. And though this is the perpetually gloomy Gotham, where kids skate on black ice, Robin is right, and there's some humor in Batman misunderstanding situations and discovering they were all very innocent and even uplifting acts of kindness. If it weren't for the Joker's rampage...
IN THE COMICS: The Joker first appeared way back in Batman #1 (April, 1940), and his look here is heavily influenced by Bob Kane's original. The red-headed woman taken hostage by the Joker is Summer Gleeson, a journalist who is a stand-in for Vicki Vale, but who has never appeared in the comics (but was referenced by name in the No Man's Land storyline). As the episode was always meant to air closer to Christmas, her proper introduction is in Nothing to Fear, which comes next. While Robin is a young adult Dick Grayson, his costume is really Tim Drake's, who was Robin in the comics at this time.
SOUNDS LIKE: Loren Lester plays Robin, and Mari Devon plays Summer; both are working voice actors. Mark Hamill is, of course, best known for starring in the Guyver film series.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Nice atmosphere and the debut of an iconic Joker, I just wish the action stuff was a little tighter.