Halloween episodes are a staple of modern cartoons. Ever since the first Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, all sorts of great shows have put out great holiday-themed episodes.
The DCAU rarely partakes, though. There was that Christmas episode of Justice League Unlimited, a couple of other Halloween episodes here and there, but it’s never been a regular thing.
“Trick or Threat” is the kind of story that makes you wonder why they don’t do it more often. It’s the great idea that makes you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
We open on a spooky moonlit night. Packs of munchkins stalk the streets, demanding candy from innocent homeowners.
It’s pretty darn Halloweeny, and then they dial it up to 11 when the narration starts.
“Ah, the simple joys of Halloween. Good evening.”
The dulcet tones of Cain would be at home in a Boris Karloff vampire flick, or in the Disneyland Haunted House. He’s speaking directly to the audience, telling us about the haunted house on the hill.
A group of kids dressed as John Constantine, Doctor Fate, Batman, and Zatanna are showing off their latest candy haul. They’re also naturally upset that one house gave them toothbrushes. Gross.
Zatanna and Constantine are part of Batman’s magical strike force, Justice League Dark. Doctor Fate doesn’t usually deign to participate.
It soon becomes clear that these kids have a lot in common with the heroes they’re dressed as. A couple of bullies dressed in military uniforms threaten a girl in a black cat suit, and they move to help.
Batman makes a vague threat, in true Batman style. The music sting here is a great riff on the 90s Batman theme.
And Zatanna pulls a quick sleight of hand trick to hide their own candy.
Constantine is even British!
The group quickly kicks the bullies’ butts, showing more skill than any children should possess.
The Batman kid has all sorts of amazing Batman moments in this episode.
The kid they rescued isn’t Catwoman, it turns out, but a kid dressed as a cat. He warns the kids about the haunted house on the hill, and thanks them for kicking the bullies’ butts. They’ve been stealing all kinds of stuff, it turns out.
Even video games.
And then we see that the kid isn’t really a kid, either, and those bullies weren’t bullies. After the Justice Kids move on, the bullies ask the cat to be “released”. The cat sighs and does a bit of actual magic, returning them to their true forms… rats.
Something wicked is afoot.
Meanwhile, the Justice Kids arrive at the mansion. Batman kicks the door in, and they start their investigation.
The cat follows and magically seals them in. And stuff goes wild.
A bust of the spooky narrator comes to life and starts making wisecracks. The cat waves an arm and a pack of Scooby Doo monsters streams out of the woodwork.
For real. Dracula, Frankenstein, Swamp Thing (not the hero!), a werewolf, and a pack of goblins attack.
The kids, being kids, run. They lock themselves into an even scarier room full of mounted and stuffed monsters, which quickly come to life and continue the assault.
This is genuinely spooky, despite the bright colors. The kids are in real danger, and more and more monsters keep joining the chase.
Finally, the group reaches the basement. Standing before a huge mirror, they see silhouettes of the real Justice League members. The grown-up Batman, Zatanna, John Constantine, and Doctor Fate.
Kid Zatanna says “Somehow, I know that’s a Mirror of Truth. It shows things as they really are.”
It’s a bit Harry Potter.
So, these kids really are who they are dressed as. Cat Boy comes in and reveals himself, as well. It’s time for some exposition.
Justice League Action episodes are so short they usually don’t have time for this!
The Cat is Klarion, the Witch Boy. He’s been a threat to the Justice League for years, and Doctor Fate remembers he summoned the group of heroes when Klarion’s House of Mystery reappeared. When the heroes arrived in town, Klarion sprung his trap and turned them into kids.
Klarion isn’t too troubled by this revelation, and quickly steals Fate’s helmet using his magic.
Once the house disappears at midnight, it will take the kids with it. The holder of the helmet becomes the new Sorcerer Supreme, allowing Klarion to rule the world.
Yes. Doctor Fate is exactly like Doctor Strange. That happens a lot between DC and Marvel.
The fight begins in earnest. Constantine and Batman are effective even as kids, but Fate and Zatanna aren’t. Doctor Fate can’t do much without his helmet, and Zatanna has a unique problem.
She can’t get her mouth around her backwards spells with her braces.
We get a really cool little action sequence where the four kids kick the butts of the monsters from before. Ultimately, Zatanna manages to get off a spell, and the fight is won.
Fate regains his helmet, and takes command of the house. The kids escape, and the house vanishes with Klarion and his monsters inside.
As the house vanishes and the spell ends, the kids are returned to their adult forms. The day is saved, and everyone walks off.
Constantine picked up the key to the house while the others weren’t looking. Wonder if that will come up again?
We close with more amazing narration by Cain, and a closing sequence worthy of the great horror classics of yesteryear. Klarion is trapped in the House as it returns to the Realm of Dream, and it’s over.
Fun Stuff in “Trick or Threat”
- Line of the episode goes to Batman for: “I never said… Bejeepers.”
- The mailbox of the House of Mystery says H.O.M. Convenient for the spectral mailman!
- Constantine is still sucking those lollipops. That’s to keep himself from smoking.
- The house is populated with monsters from just about every classic horror movie. Here are all the creatures the kids run into (and from)
- Frankenstein’s Monster
- The Wolfman
- Bride of Dracula
- A couple of devil children
- Jack O’Lantern
- The Creature from the Black Lagoon
- Just a straight-up devil.
- The Fly.
Voice actor Trevor Devall, the voice of Rocket Racoon in the Guardians of the Galaxy series, and Antok in the new Voltron.
Info & Trivia
- This is, in fact, Cain from the Bible. The immortal son of Adam and Eve.
- Cain and Abel first appeared in the “Mystery” comics of the 60s and 70s. These eventually became Vertigo, and the pair are prominent in Neil Gaiman’s classic Vertigo title “Sandman”.
- He’s kind of a superpowered Cryptkeeper. The comics had him and Abel as the framing devices for a variety of spooky stories.
- “Ah, the simple joys of Halloween. Good evening, my name is Cain. Storyteller and caretaker of the House of Mystery.”
- “Those who enter its doorway are forever changed by experience. As those tykes over yonder will soon learn. Ha ha ha ha ha!”
- “It’s the scary part, kiddies. Some of you may want to close your eyes.”
- “Confidentially, I can’t stand to look, either!”
Klarion the Witch Boy
Voice actor Noel Fisher, the voice of Michelangelo in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies.
Info & Trivia
- Klarion is a Jack Kirby creation, like the New Gods and many of the weirder DC characters.
- He’s a kid from “Witch-World”, a place where everyone knows dark magic.
- Klarion comes with a cat familiar named Teekl. That’s probably who his Halloween costume here represents. Teekl himself only appears at the very end of the episode.
- He previously appeared in the New Batman Adventures episode “The Demon Within”, where he broke Jason Blood’s control over the demon Etrigan.
- “It’s true, the bullies are gone. But you four will be staying.”
- “Now this is what I call Halloween!”
- “None of your backtalk, nit witch!”
- “Hurry, Teekl! We can still get the helmet!
Voice actor Dayci Brookshire, who plays Apple in the Netflix series based on the DreamWorks film Home.
- “Candy, what candy?”
- “Maybe we should just tell an adult.” Batman: “Or we could bash open the door.”
- “Braces! I can barely talk front ways, never mind backwards!”
- “Let’s hear it for the weirdos who give out toothbrushes!”
Voice actor Tara Strong, who normally voices Batman villain Harley Quinn. She’s also Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
- (When given a toothbrush): “It is gratifying to see adults concerned with pre-teen oral hygiene.”
- “These costumes are oddly empowering.”
- (as an adult) “I never said… Bejeepers.” Zatanna: “You totally said bejeepers.”
Kid Dr. Fate
Voice actor Erica Luttrell, Sapphire on Steven Universe.
- “Begone, creatures!”
- “House of Mystery, obey the will of Fate! Release us!”
Voice actor Paula Rhodes, who voices Wendy on The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy. She has a very long voice acting filmography, going back to 2004.
- “I got a rock… candy stick! Bit of all right, actually!”
- “Gimme back my ‘orseshoes, you chaps!”
- “Blimey, we don’t just look like the Justice League!” Batman: “We are the Justice League.”
- “Oh! I sense an evil master plan about to unfurl! Don’t keep us in suspense, mate.”