Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Nights of Gotham: Villain of the Month-"Holiday"

We are knee-deep in the 12 Days of Gotham, and I can’t think of a better topic than to talk about one of the best Batman stories out there. Batman: The Long Halloween is a fantastic year long mystery that follows the Batman: Year One storyline written by Frank Miller. LH was written by Jeph Loeb and the artist for the series was Tim Sale. This story was originally printed in 1996 and concluded in 1997. If you have not read this story, you definitely should. I am not going to outline this story, but focus on the main villain “Holiday” also known as “The Holiday Killer”. I will warn you one last time, if you plan on reading The Long Halloween, you should wait to read this blog post. You have been warned.

Long Halloween focuses on Captain James Gordon and DA Harvey Dent as they try to bring the Falcone Crime family to Justice with the help of Batman. While this is the backbone of the story, a much deeper mystery is discovered as members of the Falcone crime family are being killed my some unknown person. The killer continues their reign of terror for a full year, only killing on Holidays. This presents problems for Batman, Harvey, and Gordon as they are for the majority of the story, not certain of Holiday’s identity. Holiday always uses the same method in killing his victims. A .22 caliber pistol with a rubber baby bottle nipple used as a silencer and the grips are taped with the serial numbers filed off. The killer also leaves a trinket relevant to the holiday that the murder takes place on. The newspapers of Gotham City dub him “The Holiday Killer” because of this method. The crime spree begins on Halloween and continues for a full year to the following Halloween. Each month during this year a murder takes place, except for April fool’s day where the Riddler is confronted but left alive for some reason and on New Year’s Eve where the victim is later found to be alive as well. Loeb treats us to a number of clues and swerves that make the mystery even more difficult to figure out.

The list of victims is a vast range of people in Gotham with connection to the Falcone crime family one way or another.

The first Halloween killing was Carmine Falcone’s nephew, Johnny Viti. This murder looks like its mob connected because Johnny had threatened to testify against his uncle Carmine Falcone (head of the Family). On Thanksgiving a gang of five Irish assassins were killed and it was revealed that this gang had been ordered to kill Harvey Dent. Carmine’s personal bodyguard, Milos Grapa was killed on Christmas. Alberto Falcone, who is Carmine’s son, faked his death on New Year’s Eve. Mobsters hired by Carmine as well as many innocent patrons of Sal Maroni’s restaurant were killed on Valentine’s Day. April fool’s Day was the enigma; The Riddler was shot at but not killed. This could be because of the nature of the holiday of April fool’s Day. Mothers Day was the next holiday that someone was murdered. It was the gunsmith who had been making Holiday’s .22 pistols. Luigi Malroni who is Sal’s father was murdered on Father’s Day. The Gotham City coroner was killed on Independence Day. This murder along with the gunsmith shows that Holiday does not want to be discovered, and when your city is the home of the world’s greatest detective that’s probably a good idea to cover your tracks as best you can. On The Roman’s birthday Carla Viti was killed. She is the sister to Carmine Falcone and the mother to Johnny Viti. As the year draws to an end Sal Maroni was killed on Labor Day and Carmine himself was killed on the Halloween along with Vernon Field who was a corrupt assistant to Harvey Dent.

OK, now that we have zipped through the list of victims, what about the identity of the killer you might ask? Well that what’s so great about this story and why it is still one of the greatest Bat stories every told in my opinion. No one knows who Holiday is for sure. There is quite a list of possible suspects who could have been the Holiday Killer. You could even make the argument that there was more than one person responsible for these killings. Here are the most common possibilities of who might have been responsible.

Alberto Falcone was the youngest in the family and even though he faked his own death on New Year’s Eve he was the one sentenced to death for the Holiday murders. He was captured by Batman and Gordon after the murder of Sal Maroni. He becomes the lead suspect after faking his own death because the murders following that were to cover up his own false murder. Carmine’s daughter Sofia tracks down the gunsmith in an attempt to figure out the identity of Holiday, but finds the gunsmith already dead. The coroner is killed because he is the one who knows that Alberto tried to fake his death. Carla Viti is murdered because she is able to research the police files on Holiday and presumably gets too close to figuring out the identity of Holiday and the fact that Alberto is still alive. Some unused Tim Sale panel artwork was published in the Long Halloween hardcover that shows Carmine sobbing over a decomposed corpse after New Year’s. While trying to connect Alberto to the first three Holiday killings some facts don’t add up. First the Irish were on the Falcone payroll, Milos was a trusted bodyguard to Carmine himself, and Johnny Viti, the first victim was Alberto’s cousin. Even though his loyalties were not always with the Falcone family. Gilda Dent, Harvey’s wife confessed to being Holiday, but it can only be assumed that she was the killer up to the New Years Eve event. However she was hospitalized when the Irish were taken down so her confession is thought to be a delusional event she created in her mind. If you look at Aberto’s motives for being Holiday there are some inconsistencies. He claimed to be lashing out against his father for not allowing him to be more involved in “the family business” and he also was so envious of the fame that went with being a murderous villain in Gotham City. A prominent running theme of LH was the transformation of a mob-driven city to a city of murderous and evil “freaks”. So this confession of Alberto was a clear demonstration of how things were shifting in Gotham at the time.

Gilda Dent who is the wife of Harvey and subsequently Two-Face admitted in a private monologue that she was the first Holiday. She explained her motives for doing so was that Harvey could not settle down and have a family until the crime family was destroyed. She suspected that Harvey had taken up the Holiday mantle after he came home on New Year’s Eve with wet hair. Gilda thought that Harvey had taken it upon himself to rid Gotham of the Falcone mob and decided to let him proceed uninterrupted by her to finish the job so they could finally raise a family. Like I mentioned earlier, it was impossible that Gilda was the sole murderer due to the fact she was bedridden in the hospital during the murder of the Irish. However she admits to sneaking out of the hospital to do the job without anyone knowing she was gone. Another problem was how she could have infiltrated the Falcone headquarters to kill Johnny and Milos without being detected.

Harvey Dent was technically responsible for being the last of the Holiday Killers. He murdered Carmine Falcone and Vernon Field on the final Halloween. He left behind his trademark two-sided coin at the scene of the final murder. Harvey before becoming Two-Face was already a suspect. Batman had provided a ledger from Carmine’s safe that had all the crucial information on it that Harvey would have needed to commit the murders. But it was inadmissible in court as Batman naturally obtained it without a warrant. Gilda had found a .22 pistol in the basement of their home which Harvey claimed was evidence in a crime. Batman and Gordon conclude that Harvey was the Holiday Killer from the start, but the reappearance of Alberto throws their theory for a loop and make them not so confident that it was Harvey. Earlier in the story when Dent first hears of Johnny Vito’s murder he says “Two shots to the head. If you ask me it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.” Two-Face says the exact same thing after killing Carmine Falcone. Harvey’s involvement and suspected guilt raise a question integral to the character of Harvey/Two-Face. Was he prone to these types of acts before getting acid thrown in his face making him Two-Face? Or was it the event itself that drove him over the edge loosing grip with his own personality. This was theme to the recent movie “The Dark Knight”, examining the psyche of Harvey and how far he would go for “justice” to be served.

There are a few other characters that were thrown in as red herrings to make the mystery even deeper, causing the reader to really question who possibly could have been the Holiday Killer. Sal Maroni was an early suspect as he was the top rival to the Falcone family. But when his own father is killed, the innocence of Sal in these killings is revealed. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) was theorized as being the Holiday Killer mostly because of the light nature of the murder weapon, a .22 caliber pistol. Batman clears her of any involvement when she helps him capture Scarecrow and Mad Hatter who was working with the Falcone family. Carla Vitti was a suspect for a short time as well when it was believed that she might have murdered her own son, Johnny for betraying the Falcone family by threatening to testify against them. She was cleared of suspicion when Holiday killed her.

So with all this crazy mash up of a suspect list where does it leave us? I’ll tell you where, right back at the beginning. The true identity of Holiday has never been revealed. The Riddler has made some theories towards the end of the story, along with Batman and Gordon. The consensus is that Holiday was more than one person. Started by one individual for a certain reason, and then taken up by others for completely different reasons. This my friends is what makes it so hard to figure out who it was and what makes this such a fantastic story in itself. Often we expect that we will be given the answers we seek in a story, it is nice to be able to read a story that keeps us guessing to the present which is more than 12 years after it was published.


  1. excellent breakdown. this is my favorite batman story of all time

  2. Thanks Tim, you almost have to breakdown the story to get to the nuts and bolts of Holiday. My favorite Batman story as well!