Who’s Who In The DCU
By Mathan Erhardt
Ok, so I open my email from Mike Z. Bam, right out the box he hits me with the song title, artist, and album where the quote that closed last week’s column. So he gets first shot at questions.
What happened to Harold the hunchback from the Batman family of titles?
Harold was a hunchback who lived in the Batcave and did some repair work for the Dark Knight. You can’t imagine the wear and tear Bruce puts on his gadgets. Sure he could afford to buy new stuff, he’s a millionaire after all. But you save where you can. Did you know that Bruce is also a coupon clipper? Just because you live like a millionaire doesn’t mean you have to spend like one. That bastard Bruce didn’t even pay Harold minimum wage because the poor guy didn’t have a green card. He calls Oracle collect! He also fed Harold watered down dog food and told him it was beef stew. Geez, Wayne is there any corner you won’t cut to save a buck? Anyway Harold supplied Bats with all sorts of neat stuff. Then when that whole earthquake thing happened Harold ventured off into Gotham in search of things to fix. He was last spotted in â€œAzrael.â€
Parallax2 needs to know
Does the Shade have any significant modern appearances besides the Starman series?
Well Shade popped up in â€œGreen Arrowâ€ #16 and #17 playing a role in the whole Arrow Quest arch. He also popped up in the â€œJSAâ€ #48 and #49 again playing a role in the Princes of Darkness story. He even made a cameo over in the Vertigo in â€œBeware the Creeperâ€ #3. Mr. Black is still alive and well in the DCU and beyond. Though he’s not committing any crimes, at the moment.
I’m guessing that will change. Shade was a pretty low tier character, but Starman gave him some time in the spotlight. Since he appeared as a bad guy in the hugely successful â€œJustice Leagueâ€ cartoon I’m betting he’ll go back to being the dastardly villain again. If only because I know how DC loves to make comics accessible to TV viewers and hates to confuse them. Remember, â€œWait, people may not know they are reading a Superman comic (even though he is the country’s second most recognizable icon) because Clark and Lois aren’t married like they are on TV. We’d better marry these two in the comics as well.â€ But that’s just my opinion.
Now that Superman has been named the number 2 icon of all time, who are the biggest icons of the DCU? I think Batman is an easy 2 and Wonder Woman an obvious 3, but after that, who is it? Clearly, characters like Black Lightning aren’t even a blip on the radar, but Flash, Joker, Braniac, Bizarro and others have made inroads into the pop culture mind. But in what order?
How do the others fare? Well I have to believe that Batman is a close second. Everyone knows Batman. Robin comes after that because in the public’s mind Batman and Robin are a tandem. I’m guessing the Joker comes next; he too is linked with Batman, though not as closely as Robin is. Wonder Woman and Flash are next as they have both had TV shows, and both appeared in DCU cartoons. Plus they have kept the same basic costume for the past forty odd years. Everyone knows Wonder Woman, and when I venture out in one of my Flash symbol t-shirts I frequently get the response; â€œCool shirt. Flash Gordon, right?â€ To which I respond â€œsure.â€
I will give an honorable mention to Aquaman and Captain Marvel. Aquaman linked in the public consciousness with the lameness of superheroes. And occasionally when I wear my golden age Flash shirt someone says; â€œShazam, right. Cool.â€
Green Lantern is more of a concept than an icon. The GL from the â€œJustice League,â€ is different from the one on the Superman cartoon, and they are bother different from the â€œSuper Friendsâ€ version. The Bat villains are pretty recognizable, but I don’t think you wanted a list any more Bat-centric than it already was. Superman villains don’t really rank, other than Bizarro for obvious reasons. Lex has changed his look, but not as often as Brainiac.
JohnBritton you got a question?
Who knows more about comics–you, or your best comics-reading friend?
My best friend, Jason Torres, is also a comic fan, albeit a Marvel fan. He isn’t the avid comic reader he once was. He probably knows more about the Marvel Universe than I do, probably. But his knowledge of the Marvel Universe is nowhere near comparable to my knowledge of the DCU. So I know more about comics than anyone I know. Did you honestly expect another answer? By the way I demolished Jason in our Marvel vs. DC Heroclix battle. My 600-point squad killed his.
Mike (a different one) asks
Has the Justice Experience only been shown in flashbacks or was there a mini-series about that group?
I haven’t read any reference to the Justice Experience outside of â€œChaseâ€ #6. They were a group of heroes on the East Coast during the sixties and early seventies. The Justice Experience was mad up of Acro-Bat, Song Bird, The Bronze Wraith, Major Flashback, Mister Action, and the Manx. They were hunted down and killed by an enemy. I’m really surprised so many people remember this group from a series DC quickly pulled the plug on. If anyone knows of any other appearances let me know.
Jeff you had something you wanted to say?
The House in Arizona is run amok by a cadre of Marvel fans and the collection is destroyed, what 10 tpbs do you replace first?
What in the? How dare they invade my Batcave Clubhouse of Solitude! Let me check on my mom. (Grabs the phone and dials.) Hey mom. Is everything ok? Um, can you check on my comics? You’re sure they’re ok? Because this guy saidâ€¦ Hypothetical you say? (Mathan grabs a dictionary and flips the pages.) Oh, hypothetical. I see. Well I’ll let you go. Yes mom. Yes. Three times a day got it. Love you.
I’m going to say that 90% of my collection is unavailable in trades. I have most of the Batman and Detective issues from the late eighties and early ninties, most of the JLI/A and JLE issues, every issue of the current Flash and Green Lantern series, issues 184-224 of Green Lantern (Corps), every issue of the ninties Legion (until Zero Hour.) Plus I have The Comet, Blood Syndicate, Black Lightning, Valor, Starman, Creeper, Eclipso, Chase, Aquaman, Young Justic, Supergirl, and Nightwing complete runs. Plus various other issues of other titles. I exist somewhere between the archive and trade markets. The place I like to call the â€œcomic readingâ€ market.
Now some of my most prized book sized editions include;
â€œThe Complete Frank Miller Batmanâ€
This book has â€œBatman: Year Oneâ€, â€œThe Dark Knight Returnsâ€, and a Batman Christmas story. Plus it’s leather bound.
â€œThe Golden Age â€œ
This is one of the best JSA stories ever. I love this book.
â€œSon of the Demonâ€
I love Jerry Bingham’s Batman. I love Ra’s al Ghul (he’s my favorite Bat foe.) Unfortunately this isn’t the hardcover, nor is it in continuity.
â€œBride of the Demonâ€
I love Tom Grindberg’s Batman. I love Ra’s al Ghul (he’s my favorite character, period.) What more do I need to say? This is the banging hardcover edition.
â€œBirth of the Demonâ€
I love Norm Breyfogle’s Batman (he’s my favorite modern Bat artist.) It’s the origin of Ra’s al Ghul. Let’s see Mathan’s favorite Bat artist drawing Mathan’s favorite charater. Can you say â€œPerhaps Mathan’s favorite story ever?â€
I hope I answered you question.
JohnBritton wants to know
What are the biggest rip-off’s from DC? I nominate Fortunate Son. It was really expensive, but looked so cool. I can’t remember a thing about it, except that I finished and I felt like I shelled out way too much money for it. My apologies to the folks who made it, but that’s how I felt.
Well remember those high profile events from a couple of years back; â€œJust Imagine Stan Leeâ€¦â€ and â€œThe Dark Knight Strikes Back?â€ I found them less that satifying to say the least. â€œDKSBâ€ was the stereotypical sequel; it tried too hard and didn’t live up to the original. â€œJust Imagineâ€ was an amazing concept that wasn’t necessarily poorly executed, but nonetheless didn’t live up to expectations.
I agree with your notion that â€œFortunate Sonâ€ leaves no impression. I bought that and â€œThe Scottish Connectionâ€ (that’s right I was down with Quietly before â€œAuthorityâ€) And I couldn’t give you a plot summary for either. Personally I still think that Hush has great rip-off potential. I hope Loeb pulls this off, but if he doesn’tâ€¦
JohnBritton, anything else you want to get off your chest?
It’s kind of obvious now that comic stories are expected to take about six issues per arc. I imagine it’s for the purposes of combining stories as TPBs, but it’s making for some dreary pacing. As a kid, I remember the JLA, JSA, and New Gods teaming up against Darkseid and doing the deed in three lightning-fast issues, and that was by far the exception. When did the shift take place?
I’m guessing that in the aftermath of all of those Bat title crossovers people realized this is a good idea. They would come out in trades and do decent numbers. Plus some people actually picked up current issues after reading the trades. It was a growth market. It also allowed comics to take over shelf space in bookstores. I’m guessing it became the norm with the current JLA series. The idea of epic that could come out as trades and make more money just seemed too lucrative to pass up. So they didn’t. Now it is the norm.
This is tough. On one hand the fan in me hates it. I hate trades. Trades suck. It makes stories too drawn out, and makes everything seem too long. Green Arrow doesn’t need multi part stories. Boo, trades bad.
But on the other hand the writer in me sees nothing wrong with multi part stories. The problem with one-issue stories is that everything has to be wrapped up in that issue. If the JSA is battling the Injustice Society one issue isn’t going to do it justice (ha ha ha.) Fans would complain. You kind of need a multi issue story to justify the use of the JLA or JSA. As a writer I am free up to develop plots as I see fit, and built up suspense. Would the last page of â€œGreen Arrowâ€ #28 work as well if it were on page #10? Single-issue stories are good sometimes, but frankly writers need freedom to go where they see fit.
That is it. I’m tired. I have to be at work in about six hours, and I haven’t slept yet. But I do it for you, my loyal readers. Next time I will finally get M’onel and other questions. Maybe even yours, but you have to ask. Post on the message board or email me your queries. Oh yeah your question for the week is’ What is the best DC Direct figure? â€œGimmie the stuff, that sweet funky stuff.â€
Tags: Batman, Robin, Stan Lee, Superman, The Flash, The Golden Age, The Shade, Who's Who in the DCU, Wonder Woman