Who’s Who In The DCU 10.29.03

Hey, is it Wednesday already? I guess it’s time for a new column. Well let me get my juices flowing.

First let me say that I am in complete disagreement with Paul and his review of Batman #620. I would link it but I don’t want your minds to be tainted by his words. I will go on record as saying that this storyline will be better than the much-heralded “Hush” storyline. It’s a Batman story by Azz, and equal parts both. Do yourself a favor and pick up Batman #620.

I also have to say that I’m siding with Tony Isabella on the whole Black Lightning debate. While I’m not Judd’s biggest fan, I’m hardly his harshest critic, but he has two strikes against him in his characterization of Jefferson Pierce (a full grown daughter, and a cold blooded killer?)

Oh yeah after JLA/Avengers came out Jason beat me in our never ending DC versus Marvel Heroclix battle. It was a dark day indeed. But let’s not dwell on unpleasantness; we have a column to attend to.

First up is the still unstumped Mike Z.

Hasn’t Deathstroke reformed a bit? If so, what’s with shooting Bart in the knee?

Well we now know that the Deathstroke seen in the Teen Titans isn’t acting under his own will. But realistically Deathstroke is only as reformed, as the next writer who uses him wants to be. He isn’t in a regular book, so he now is a victim of elastic continuity. A writer could make him whatever they want him to be. As long as an editor approves Slade could turn up as a cross dressing hair dresser/animal activist, which by the way is what Ben pitched to DC for a Deathstroke relaunch (That was a Vigilante proposal actually. –Ben). Anyway given the success of the Teen Titans cartoon expect Slade to remain a rogue for the foreseeable future. (Deathstroke has been through a lot since he first showed up in New Teen Titans years ago. He’s lost both his sons; one because he was following in his footsteps, one at his own hands. His wife also died, because she blamed him for the death of their children and went insane trying to get revenge. He has no relationship with his daughter. He’s been de-aged, aged, etc. He has no friends and no family alive. The current Titans arc is suspect given that we’re not sure Slade is in control of his actions; but even when he appeared in the Superman arc “Critical Condition” or in the storyline in the last Titans series involving Cheshire, you could tell that Deathstroke is detaching himself from any personal codes and feelings and throwing himself entirely into his work as a mercenary. –Ben)

Mike Z, is there anything else on your mind.

What would you peg as the worst case of “corporate synergy”? Aunt Harriet showing up in the Batman titles, the gutting of the Young Justice and Titans franchises to relaunch Teen Titans, etc.?

Hm, bad corporate synergy? You give some good examples. I’m not a huge fan of Clark and Lois’ wedding forced to coincide with the wedding on “Lois and Clark.” I’m also not fond of “Smallville’s influence on Superman via “”Birthright.” As a result we have a young Lex enrolling in Smallville High. Yet I have a sneaky suspicion that despite Smallville’s popularity Pete Ross will remain blond haired and blue eyed. I guess the whole Birthright/Smallville thing is getting under my skin right now so it tops my list as the worst.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that not all synergy is bad. If it weren’t for the Superman and Batman Cartoons, we wouldn’t have Mercy or Harley Quinn, and I’m pretty sure that Lockdown also first appeared on the Batman cartoon. The popularity of Batgirl on the cartoon lead to the creation of the current character. Don’t you think that John Stewart would still be a paralyzed former Green Lantern as opposed to a full fledged (if under utilized) JLA member if it weren’t for the Justice League cartoon? And who could forget that kryptonite first appeared on the Superman radio show.

But then again I’m sure that Batman remained corny for a while into the 60’s because of the success of the TV show. And he also got that stupid yellow oval because of the show too. Ben, don’t you have a yellow oval on your bed sheet? (Such manners…who could have raised such a child? –Ben)

Hey, it’s my Mom and she has a question. (Oh wow! Hi Mathan’s mom! –Ben)

“You can’t change history” makes me think of Superman (the movie) when there’s an earthquake and Lois is buried and Superman is busy saving other lives so he doesn’t get to Lois in time. Then he orbits the earth, faster than the speed of light, I suppose, to turn back time so he can save her. I have no idea whether this was just in the movie, and therefore out of the purview of this column, or whether this happened in a comic book also. At any rate, I believe that Superman had been told by his father not to dink around with Earth’s time, and I always believed that in subsequent movies that Superman would have hell to pay for this action. (And, of course, why didn’t going back in time undue the other stuff he’d done while Lois was dying?)

So what’s the scoop? Was that just a movie moment or has Superman toyed with time on Earth?

I wouldn’t know Mom, you threw out my entire collection when I went away to college! (I’m kidding. My Mom has all ten of my comic boxes in my old room. She takes good care of my collection.)

Has Superman performed that exact feat? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I scoured the net looking for the answer, but came up empty-handed. He has performed some outlandish acts in his day. He’s done quite a bit of time travel, although I don’t think that any of it was for such personal gain. He’s changed the courses of mighty rivers and even moved planets. But I can’t recall Superman doing something this selfish in the comics. He’s done lots of impossible things. Psh, some guys will do anything for a woman, even break laws of physics. Didn’t you do that once Ben? (People have such a weird definition of “laws”…-Ben)

JohnBritton, I know you have a great question for me.

Nowadays, comic books are serious or relevant or both on all kinds of levels. But how about in the 50s? Most of the reprints I see were silly and spineless. Were there any that actually took on an issue or were allegorical or anything, or were all superhero comics of the 50s just fluff? I’m talking about the Rainbow Batman era.

Now my personal belief is that those horrid hearings that destroyed horror comics had an effect on the entire industry. The belief was that kids were impressionable and comics were for kids. After the hearings the industry reacted in two ways. First they created the Comic Code Authority a self-policing agent. They also moved away from telling realistic stories. That way on one could accuse them of corrupting young minds. I mean who in their right mind could attack comics that featured a super hero’s obviously fictional exploits. This is why the comics of that era are nonsensical and lack any real substance. At least that’s my opinion. Or maybe it was the beatniks.

JohnBritton, I think you’ve got something else on your mind.

Why did so many heroes get sissy-shoes in the thirties and forties? I don’t think any guys get pixie boots like Robin and Flash first wore, and didn’t Superman wear ballet slippers early on? And why were they wearing their underwear on the outside in the first place? What was that all about?

I’m guessing that these outfits were like a package deal. It isn’t like a restaurant. You don’t pick a mask from column A, an emblem from column B, footwear from column C, and you get your choice of cape, at no extra cost. I’m pretty sure you get the shoes that come with the outfit.

Plus a lot of these guys were very vain and fashion conscious. It’s like the Style Network, on only 11 (On a related note, E! broadcasting Melrose Place reruns at 11 on Style is one of the best things to happen in recent history…but I digress. –Ben)). These guys picked their costumes and colors specifically for a “feel.” Sure they could wear practical boots, that would provide support for super heroics, but that would ruin the whole “look” they were going for. These guys made a lot of sacrifices to fight crime; love, fame, families, and sadly practical footwear.

Personally I like them. I think that it adds a dramatic flair to their look. It’s very theatrical. It also makes for great deniability. “Chuck Lane, are you the Jester?” “C’mon, I would never be caught dead in those pixie boots.”

As for the underwear on the outside it’s to distract the people from figuring out their secret identity. Sure skimpy clothing is everywhere now, but in the thirties actually seeing underwear, why that caused people to swoon. The witnesses would describe a person wearing underwear, and not focus on the face that was only covered by a domino mask. It was all part of the plan. Distract the people. Ben still does that to this day, with his Underoos. (At least I don’t wear little wings on my head and tell anybody who will listen that I’m the fastest man alive, M. –Ben)

Brian, do you have a question for me?

I have a question regarding Supes’ flying ability? How is he able to withstand the pull of gravity? He has no propulsion to allow him to escape the earths gravity. How is he able to stay airborne especially when he stops and hovers?

The common belief is that Earth’s gravity is lighter than that of Krypton. But since Kal was never on Krypton would its gravity have any affect on him. I mean a guy who grew up on Krypon would be like “man, I feel so much lighter here on Earth.” But wouldn’t Kal’s body have adapted to Earth’s gravity so that it was the norm? Wait a minute; I’m supposed to be answering the questions. Ahem, Superman flies as a result of magic. Not satisfied? Ok there is talk that he flies as a result of psychokinetic manipulation. There are you happy? Next question!

Mike Z, you’re back!

We all know that Squadron Supreme (especially the limited series) is supposed to be homage to the JLA, but has DC done anything like that?

DC’s versions of Marvel characters are generally limited to tongue in cheek satire of or one shot appearances. General Glory from the JLI is an obvious Captain America clone. Mr. Nebula and the Scarlet Skier are jabs at Galactus and Silver Surfer.

The Hybrid, a villainous counterpart to the Teen Titans, could easily be confused with the X-Men.

But I suppose that the DC version of Marvel characters that made the most impact would be the DC version of the Fantastic Four. They appeared in Adventures of Superman #466. It’s the same origin, four people exposed to radiation that affects their bodies in strange ways. But the results are a tad more tragic, most of them die or can never resume normal loves. Oh yeah the DC version of Reed Richards is a guy named Hank Henshaw. But you probably know him better as the Superman nemesis the Cyborg. Did I miss any of the homages Ben? (The Justifiers, a group patterned on the Avengers who appeared early in the original Justice League of America series, then played a more prominent role in the Giffen/DeMatteis J.L.I. Wandjina, who died in J.L.I., was Thor; Silver Sorceress, who also died in Justice League Europe, and Blue Jay, were based on Scarlet Witch and Wasp/Ant-Man respectively. There were also versions of Captain America, Quicksilver & Hawkeye, I believe. The group’s enemies, the Extremists, were based on Marvel villains; the most prominent, Dreamslayer, was based on Dormannu; Gorgon was based on Dr. Octopus and Tracer was Sabretooth…think there were others too. –Ben)

I need another question, how about you JohnBritton?

In retrospect, what do you think were the best books of a given era, as opposed to what books were popular? I’m curious about, say, five-year intervals. Most people would agree that Starman was one of the best books of it’s day, but I don’t think it was a best-seller. I ask because it seems that nowadays, the best DC books ARE largely among the best sellers.

I don’t have my collection on hand so I can’t do the breakdown by years, but I can tell you some of the books that I felt were great, that certainly weren’t popular. I agree that Starman wasn’t breaking any sales records, but it was a critical darling. The early 90’s Legion title was also a neglected book in my eyes. I was also fond of Chase, Stars and STRIPE, Hourman, and Anarky, but none of them lasted too long. And while they both had decent runs Supergirl and Young Justice are also sorely missed.

Some of my favorite books right now aren’t too popular. Issue after issue 100 Bullets, Reign of the Zodiac and Fallen Angel continue to impress me. But I fear they are being ignored. Ben you have any thoughts on this? (I’ll go with the themes you started…during the 90’s, I thought the best stuff DC was putting out was the Legion stuff, as you mentioned and I thought Superboy was really fun during the initial Kesel/Grummett run. The Flash has always been good. And I too miss Young Justice, even though I like Teen Titans. I think the best titles DC puts out right now are The Flash & JSA. –Ben)

Mike Z, are you still plagued by questions?

Who had the better version of continuity? Marvel pre-Heroes Reborn
(everything [except What if, obviously] happens in the same universe/dimension/reality), or DC pre-Crisis (an Earth for everything, and everything on its Earth)?

I’m going to have to give this one to Marvel. I say this because there were like, what six people putting those books together at Marvel in the early days. It was very easy to keep track of everything. DC had already been around for years, and in the early days no one knew what was going to sell so they didn’t put too much thought into keeping everything a cohesive continuity. Take the Legion of Super Heroes. Sometimes they were from the 30th century, others they were from the 21st. DC also had multiple Earths. A hero from Earth Q could show up on Earth 1 in Title A, while in Title B that same hero could be battling aliens on his home, Earth Q. Things got sort of hectic. Marvel tried to make things more realistic; therefore their continuity was tighter. Not perfect by any means, but it was better. What are your thoughts on this Ben? (Decent cases on both sides. Marvel had a much more realistic sense of a shared universe; you actually felt like the characters lived in a world where they could run into each other at any moment. I think putting everybody in New York and not having multiple earths helped that. At the same time, DC’s seemingly infinite locales were a dream both for fans and I’d imagine for writers, with all the possibilities. I’d say Marvel had better continuity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was better. –Ben)

Shivkala, you’re new around these parts right?

So what was the full story on Shadowdragon? What was his background and was he featured after “The Death of Clark Kent”? I believe he actually got one of those “Year One” annuals in 1995, but did that tell us much about his background?

Shadowdragon is apparently a character that is used to convey how computers are making life way too easy for people (as previously witnessed in the horrible Ashley Judd vehicle “Double Jeopardy.” Yes, even I will do the occasional stupid thing for a woman such as sit through hours of crap.) He is a hacker and a martial artist. He’s a very honorable guy. Sure he occasionally breaks the law, but he has a code of conduct. He’s also Savitar Bandu, the King of Bhutan’s first-born son. I’m sure that he’ll pop up again when some writer needs to use a hacker, but can’t figure out a way to work Oracle into their story.

Well it is late so I’m going to put this column to bed. If I didn’t get to your question this week, rest assured that it will be answered. A lot of people responded to last week’s question, and for the record your responses aren’t bound to the DCU. Here is this week’s question from me to you; what is the worst single issue of all time? I’ll catch you in a week.

“Oh girl, I’ll build your wishing well.”

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