Set shortly after the events of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween follows the crusade of Batman, Captain James Gordon and Harvey Dent to topple mobster Carmine Falcone's crime family. At the same time, however, a mysterious assailant begins killing mafiosi members: hitmen, crime lords, and other important figures.The killer's identity remains a mystery for most of the story, but the method is always the same. The killer's weapon is a .22 pistol (using a rubber baby bottle nipple as a silencer) with the handle taped and the serial number filed off. Also, every crime takes place on a holiday and a small trinket representing each holiday is left behind at each of the crime scenes, such as a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, a box of chocolates for St. Valentine's Day, etc.. This is what leads the newspapers come up with the name "The Holiday Killer." Beginning on Halloween and continuing for a full year until the next Halloween, Holiday continues a murderous rampage each month (with the exceptions of April Fools' Day, where the killer confronted the Riddler but left him alive, and New Year's Eve where the 'victim' later turned up alive). There are several red herrings that appear in the story to further deepen the mystery.
The Holiday victims
- Halloween - Johnny Viti (Carmine Falcone's nephew), who had threatened to testify against his uncle at one point; a jack-o-lantern was left behind
- Thanksgiving - The Irish (a gang of five Irish assassins hired by Falcone to murder District Attorney Harvey Dent); a Thanksgiving basket was left behind
- Christmas - Milos Grapa (Falcone's personal bodyguard); a snow globe was left behind
- New Year's Eve - Alberto Falcone (Carmine Falcone's son); a glass of champagne and some confetti was left behind
- Valentine's Day - Mobsters hired by Falcone as well as innocent patrons of rival mob boss Sal Maroni's restaurant; a box of chocolates was left behind
- St. Patrick's Day - A large number of Maroni's men; a leprachaun figurine was left behind
- April Fools' Day - The Riddler (shot at, purposely unharmed. A play on the theme of April Fools' Day); Holiday left behind his own umbrella
- Mother's Day - The Gunsmith (a shop owner who had been making Holiday's guns); a basket of flowers with a Mother's Day card was left behind
- Father's Day - Luigi Maroni (Sal Maroni's father); a tie in a gift package was left behind
- Independence Day - Jasper Dolan (Gotham City Coroner); a Statue of Liberty figurine was left behind
- The Roman's Birthday - Carla Viti (Falcone's sister and Johnny Viti's mother)
- Labor Day - Salvatore Maroni
- Halloween - Carmine Falcone, Vernon Field (corrupt assistant to Harvey Dent)
The main suspects
Although the youngest Falcone appears to meet his end on New Year's, Alberto Falcone turns up alive and well in September. After the murder of Sal Maroni, Falcone is captured by Batman and Jim Gordon and is sentenced to death for all the Holiday murders.
It becomes clear that Alberto faked his own death on New Year's Eve. A number of the killings after this point are to cover up that fact. Carmine Falcone's daughter Sofia tracks down the Gunsmith with intentions of finding out who Holiday is, but finds him dead. Dolan, the Coroner, is killed because he knows that Alberto is still alive. Carla Viti is killed as she searches through the police files on Holiday, possibly because of some clue to Alberto being alive is held within. Although the lack of a body cast early suspicion on Alberto, unused Tim Sale-drawn panels cut in early drafts showed Carmine Falcone weeping over a badly-decomposed corpse after New Year's. These pages were published, in pencilled form only, in The Long Halloween's hardcover edition.
Alberto's identity as Holiday becomes problematic when the first three attacks are considered. Johnny Viti was his cousin, albeit a traitorous one. The Irish were on Falcone's payroll, and Milos Grapa was Carmine Falcone's trusted bodyguard. There are many theories as to how or why Alberto committed these attacks, but since he has now expired, the truth may never be known. From Gilda Dent's confession, it can instead be taken that she committed all murders until New Year's. It should be noted that she was hospitalized at the time of the Irish's murder, but she delusively may have been creating a confession in her mind.
Alberto's reasons for becoming Holiday are also the subject of debate. In the final issue, he claimed to have been lashing out against his father to one-up him for never taking him seriously or including him in the family business. Alberto also seemed to be addicted to the dubious fame of being a wanted serial killer, as he appeared proud of his actions to the police in his confession. Also, one of the running themes of the story seemed to be the change in Gotham City from one plagued by mobsters to one ridden with "freaks" such as The Joker, Poison Ivy, and Two-Face.
During the follow-up, Dark Victory, after being released and placed under house arrest, a now-free Alberto was tormented by the voice of his father, which was actually the voice of the Calendar Man distorted by The Scarecrow's fear toxin, under the orders of Two-Face. During this torment Calendar Man attempted to coerce Alberto into murdering his sister, Sofia Gigante, and toppling the Falcone crime organization. Alberto rejected the voices before he would shoot Sofia in the manner of a Holiday killing. Two-Face then attempted to use the voices and the corpse of Janice Porter to convince Alberto to commit suicide, which backfired and allowed Alberto to discover the deception. Calendar Man shot Alberto during the subsequent fight, becoming unable to prevent Sofia from smothering him to death.
Gilda Dent, the wife of Two-Face, admitted (in a private monologue) that she was the first Holiday. While burning the evidence of her crime, she claimed that she began the murders because Harvey could not settle down and raise a child with her until the Falcone crime family was finally destroyed. In Gilda's confession, she mentioned that on New Year's Eve, she had heard of Alberto's murder at sea. Afterwards, Harvey had returned home with wet hair, stating that he had lost his hat and that it snowed. She took this as a sign that Harvey himself had taken up killing Falcone family members. As a result, she stopped killing and took a passive role, waiting for Harvey to finish the job so they could settle down.
There are several problems with Gilda's "confession," such as the fact that she was bedridden and hospitalized during the murder of the Irish Gang. Also, it is unlikely that she would have been able to enter the Falcone headquarters and murder Johnny Vitti and Milos Grappa with ease.
Whether or not Gilda's claims were truthful were never verified, as she left Gotham and was never brought to justice. In Dark Victory, the Calendar Man and Two-Face have an exchange where the former is about to reveal who he thought/knew Holiday was before Two-Face purposely cut him off. It appears that both Dent and the Calendar Man knew that Gilda was the original Holiday but that Dent wished the information to be kept secret. How Calendar Man knew that Gilda was Holiday (if this was the case) was never explained.
Technically, Two-Face was a Holiday killer, as he murdered Carmine Falcone and Vernon Field. Both murders took place on Halloween, and while there was no 'marker' for the holiday, Two-Face left behind his trademark double-sided coin at the final murder.
Dent (before becoming Two-Face) was an early suspect of the Holiday murders. In the first issue, Batman provided Dent and Gordon with a ledger from Falcone's safe. This ledger had a list of members of the family and would provide Dent with the info he needed to track down and kill them. Although this was a crucial piece of evidence, he couldn't use it, being inadmissible, in court against the Roman because he would have to reveal that Batman had stolen it. There was also a .22 pistol that Gilda found in their basement, which Dent maintained was evidence in the investigation. In addition, the murder of the Irish gang would seem to be an act of revenge, as they blew up Dent's house and injured his wife. After Dent was scarred by the acid and fled into the sewers, both the ledger and a Holiday-style .22 were found in his briefcase in his basement. This led Batman and Gordon to conclude that Dent was Holiday since the beginning, but the sudden reappearance of Alberto seemed to put an end to the theory.
Dent is seen as a main suspect for a large portion of the story, notably for a number of enigmatic comments he makes (example: on the subject of Johnny Vitti's murder "Two shots to the head. If you ask me, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy." He says the same thing after killing Falcone, as Two-Face). As with many of the theories surrounding Holiday, the specific details will remain a mystery.
There were several characters in the story that were deliberate red herrings. Their various activities and motives pointed suspicion towards themselves. Batman postulates several possible murderers himself on April Fool's Day, but these five remained the strongest superfluous suspects until, one by one, they were cleared or became victims themselves.
Sal Maroni, Carmine Falcone's chief rival, had been under heavy investigation early on as a suspect in the search for Holiday. He was always determined to outdo Falcone and come out on top, and the killings of Johnny Vitti, Milos, and the Irish were all affiliated with Falcone in some form; the murders, therefore, benefitted Maroni and his mob. However, when a number of his men were murdered at Maroni's Italian restaurant, his innocence is gradually revealed. The final proof comes on both Father's Day, when his father becomes a victim and Maroni himself is shot, and in September when he becomes Holiday's final victim.
The Riddler theorized that Catwoman could be Holiday because the .22 pistols that Holiday employed were lightweight and easy for a woman to handle. Since the break-in at Falcone's penthouse early on in the story, Catwoman had access to Falcone's safe and information on everyone in his criminal empire. With a million-dollar bounty on her head, her best defense would be a justifiable offense. Batman however, abandoned her as a suspect when she assisted him in capturing Falcone's henchmen, The Mad Hatter and The Scarecrow.
Catwoman's efforts to prove Falcone was her real father (the true reason for her interest in the Holiday case) are detailed in Catwoman: When in Rome.
Johnny Vitti, Carla's son, was briefly shunned by the Falcone family after threatening to testify against his uncle. It was briefly considered by Riddler that Carla Vitti, his mother, killed her son after he nearly betrayed them all. Moreover, she was driven by the goal to expand her outfit in Chicago and outgrow her brother's empire. Riddler theorized that by starting with killing her own son, Carla would divert all suspicion for the later Holiday killings away from herself. All the killings were initially directed at Falcone, but Carla, as an enemy of Maroni, would have no problem attacking Sal's family as well. Carla was one of the characters shown using a .22 pistol (supporting The Riddler's suspicion) although she maintained that she would kill Holiday using the weapon the murderer had used on Johnny.
Carla was finally cleared of suspicion when she became Holiday's victim.
Carmine Falcone is another Holiday suspect and was the one the Riddler was certain on being Holiday. The Riddler, although, never goes into detail on why he thinks Holiday is him. No-one, although, has this opinion besides the Riddler including Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent.
The Calendar Man was of the one suspects Batman thought Holiday could be. Because of his obsessions with committing crimes with a calendar, it was possible that he could be using another alias. Although, he was a minor suspect because during the entire year, the Calendar Man was behind bars. But as Batman said; he could have altered the Arkham files making him seem like he was always there.