Who’s Who In The DCU 7.07.04

Welcome back to the column that (hopefully) you all know and love. For some strange reason B didn’t produce a column this weekend. B, what’s up with that? (I was in Connecticut spending the holiday weekend with my girlfriend. I already knew I was dragging her to see Spider-Man 2 on Saturday, so I figured subjecting her to sitting and watching over my shoulder while I wrote a column would be a bit too much comic geek for her. In a happy coincidence, we met up with Tim and his girlfriend to get dinner and see aforementioned movie on Saturday, so I asked if he could sub, since his lady loves the fanboy in him, and the rest is history. And my girlfriend ended up liking Spidey 2 so much she even asked me a bunch of questions about the comics on which it was based on the ride home, so everybody wins…except of course for you, M, who must have been in a cold sweat without my column. –B)

Well I guess I should get some links in right about now.

Hayhurst dishes on movies. He also contributes one of the best Late Night Jukeboxes that I’ve ever read. This man truly rocks.

DOL continues to be a laugh riot. Seriously.

B, was there anything else you wanted to link? (Well, since you already mentioned it, why don’t we link Tim subbing for me, which I really did enjoy. Also, my favorite wrestling zone writer, Eric S., mentioned me and Tim in his column this week, so I figure I should return the favor. –B)

At this point you should be asking yourself “what did Mathan think about last week’s comics?” I will hold you in suspense no longer.

Batman #629 I gotta admit, I’m kind of digging this arc. Aside from the Winick constant of an unexplained creature, the arc reads pretty well. And it’s nice to see a Batman scared out of his wits.

Richard Dragon #2 Dixon and McDaniel on a Bludhaven book again. I’m in heaven. This book is one of my favorites of the new launches.

Doom Patrol #1 On the other end of the spectrum is Doom Patrol #1. Oh my god! Shouldn’t a #1 issue be accessible to new readers? Isn’t that the point of the whole re-launch? This book was so confusing; if you didn’t read the previous JLA arc (and I didn’t) you were lost. It wasn’t even a compelling read. I honestly tried to give Byrne a fair shake; everyone should be glad that I didn’t get assigned that book to review. Terrible.

The Legion #34 Read my upcoming review. I’m sad to see the book is getting the axe. (This was a quirky little issue. I don’t really know what I felt about it. Well-written and entertaining, but the fact that I liked the pre-Zero Hour Wildfire so much more than the current one clouds my judgment. I’ll look forward to checking out that review. –B)

Green Lantern #178 Read my review.

JLA #100 I enjoyed it, but I can see why some folks hated it. I may even be curious enough to pick up the upcoming mini. (I actually started a thread in the forum about this, so I’ll direct our readers there. –B)

Superman Secret Files & Origins 2004 I was just wondering what happened to Jim Fern earlier last week, and then I read this. I’m glad to see that DC has decided to tie up some loose ends from the whole “Luthor as President” story. It’s also cool to find out more about the characters in the current Super titles. (Very solid read, though where Geoff Johns finds the time to write so many quality books at once I will never know. –B)

Charles Hargrove was the first (and only) person to correctly place the lyric at the end of the last column so he gets his question answered.

Okay, I have been trying to figure this one out by myself but I got way too confused.

What the hell is the deal with Hawkman? Who is he? Does he have any powers other than flight, skill with ancient weapons, and being a big a$$hole? And his wings, do they just sit there or can he control them in some way? And if he is a reincarnated Egyptian prince how come he knows about Thanagarian technology, including that glove that he used to knock out Superman in the new Superman/Batman comic? (Sidenote: Just about the stupidest bit of one-shot, pull-it-out-of-your-a$$ technology this side of Star Trek Voyager.)

Y’know I’m getting the impression that you don’t dig on the Hawkman. Hawkman is one of the most difficult to explain. Way back in the day there was this guy Prince Khufu of Egypt, or I guess more specifically Ancient Egypt. He encountered a Thanagarian ship that had crashed and came in contact with the Nth metal. I’ll spare you the melodramatic stuff, but he was killed. (By his high prince, Hath-Set. –B) His soul, the soul of his soul mate, and I guess the soul of what you could call their soul enemy (The aforementioned Hath-Set. –B) were all linked and destined to be reincarnated over and over. Each time the two soul mates hooked up, it was only a matter of time before the soul enemy killed them. They lived thousands of lifetimes.

Eventually they became Cater Hall and Shiera Saunders, the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl. They did the hero thing for decades and even had a kid. A few years back a couple of Thanagarian cops came to Earth. (They were the Hawkman and Hawkwoman from the Hawkworld book.) Anyway, during Zero Hour, Hawkman and Hawkgirl vanished, and the remains of the Hawkmen were merged into one being. That one being eventually perished too. (To go into a bit more depth, the Thanagarian Hawkman, Katar Hol, as well as Carter and Shiera, as well as a bunch of alternate Hawkmen who came into our dimension as a result of the wacky Zero Hour temporal chaos, were merged into one Hawkman, who still called himself Katar Hol. Eventually, Katar went nuts and threw himself into another dimension. –B)

A while after that Carter was reborn, with the memories of all of his past lives, as well as pieces of Katar Hol. (Thanagarian priests called back Carter’s soul from the other dimension and he now incorporated Katar’s soul into himself, kinda the reverse of Zero Hour. Shiera’s soul ended up in the body of her great-niece, the current Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders. –B)

Technically he doesn’t really have the power of flight, which comes from the miraculous Nth metal. He is proficient with ancient weapons; he’s also a warrior and a tactician. (Because he has the memories of all his past lives, so he knows how to use weapons from all those eras he lived in and has also accumulated thousands of years of tactical knowledge. –B) But none of those are really powers. With out the Nth metal, he’s just a normal guy. (I beg to differ; even without the Nth metal, he still has the knowledge of 1,000 years I just mentioned; he’s essentially had tons more training in every field Batman is supposed to be the best in. –B)

But with the Nth metal he got some incredible strength. It also protects him from extreme temperatures (which explains why he never wears a shirt.) The Nth metal also has healing properties. It’s a cool piece of metal, if you happen to have one.

His wings are basically just for steering. And he knows about Thanagarian tech because he came in contact with it in his first incarnation, because he was reborn on Thanagar, and because he’s got a bit of Katar Hol inside him.

I think that Geoff Johns and James Robinson did a pretty good job of fixing Hawkman; it’s kind of hard to explain, but it basically makes sense.

Joseph Selders do you have a continuity themed question?

Read your write-up on the Doom Patrol. Very interesting, but it brings a question to mind. Where does the revamp leave Beast Boy? If he used to be a side member of (and was raised by) the Doom Patrol where does that leave him now that the old continuity doesn’t exist anymore?

Ah poor Beast Boy. As I explained last column Beast Boy’s history is pretty well tied to the Doom Patrol. But since the Doom Patrol is just making their first appearance in the DCU, how do we account for Beast Boy being in various incarnations of the Teen Titans?

In the first issue of The Doom Patrol John Byrne contributes a text page(!) where he calls Garfield Logan “our own ‘Donna Troy’ here, in the form of one Gar Logan, who obviously was no longer connected with the Doom Patrol and certainly was never Rita’s stepson!”

When Wonder Woman got rebooted after Crisis, Wonder Girl was a character without history. She received several makeovers to try to fix things and was eventually killed off.

The bad news is that Gar Logan now finds himself in the same situation that Donna Troy was back then, a character whose history prior to joining the Teen Titans is null and void. The good news is that one of the guys who fixed Hawkman, Geoff Johns is the guy who currently writes Beast Boy on a monthly basis.

Of course I predict the inevitable “Who Is Garfield Logan” storyline. But it shouldn’t be too major. Now in all honestly Beast Boy’s foundation isn’t nearly as flawed as Donna Troy’s was. Donna Troy was Wonder Woman’s sidekick, if there was no Wonder Woman how do you explain Donna Troy? That is a riddle.

Beast Boy’s origin on the other hand isn’t too tied to the Doom Patrol. You can still keep the original origin. Gar just gets adopted by some other Hollywood star and becomes a kid actor. The Teen Titans don’t have to hunt down the Brotherhood of Evil looking for justice. Gar is basically the same character, except that he doesn’t have the tragedy of having his first team killed. It should be a quick and easy fix for Johns. The real tragedy of the Doom Patrol re-launch is the demise of the Monsieur Mallah and The Brain unrequited love. That was tragic. B, you love Johns, Beast Boy, and Donna Troy. You even pointed out that Gar Logan had one of the most tragic lives in comics, what’s your take on the whole thing? (As I said last week: John Byrne has not shown me as of so far that he has such incredible Doom Patrol stories in him as to invalidate 40+ years of stories, and a big part of that is taking away some great Gar Logan stories and so much of the tragedy that makes him a fantastic study-in-contrasts character. I have faith in Geoff and I know Gar still has plenty of depth, but I’m still miffed. –B)

JohnBritton, another continuity query?

What’s Black Lightning’s current history? I know it’s been changed over the years, but where does he now come from? Does he still talk like a jive turkey when he puts on the mask?

Black Lightning is a victim of elastic continuity©(John Babos Inc.) He’s a big enough character to be recognizable to the comic fans, but his history isn’t well defined enough for some writers to care about. As it stands right now his origin is basically the same. He’s still an Olympic level athlete. He still taught school and cleaned up the street, in a fro and talkin’ jive. (I think technically he was speaking jive, as opposed to talking like a jive turkey. I think a jive turkey is a square. But that’s all before my time.)

The only thing that really changed has been recent. Apparently before he got divorced he had a daughter, which no one ever saw or mentioned before last year. Also Black Lightning, who gave up crime fighting when he accidentally killed someone, murdered the guy who hired a killer that killed his niece (who also never appeared before last year.) Also basically everyone knows that Jefferson Pierce is Black Lightning.

The first two changes were the result of Judd Winick’s two titles Green Arrow and Outsiders. While it’s cool that Judd cared enough about the character to try to flesh him out, it’s kind of frustrating that he chose to disregard how the character had been portrayed in the previous, oh quarter of a century. Geez, at least in Nightwing there was a build up to his acceptance of murder. No such luck with Black Lightning.

Now Jefferson is a guy who no longer talks jive when he puts on the costume, and is wrestling with his conscience. B, who do you think is going to be pushing up daisies in Outsiders? (Oh yeah, somebody is supposed to be soon, aren’t they…I’m going to ahead and say Thunder, keeping with the theme. People seem pretty uninterested in the character and just want Black Lightning back, so that should do the trick. –B)

Nathaniel A. Hensley do you have a question that keeps the theme of this column intact?

This is response to something you said — “And those classic Kryptonian Man issues with Kal’s Krptonian costume really slayed me. Sadly they are all gone, the result of Birthright. Damn you Mark Waid!”

And that is — now that I’m older and my tastes slightly more refined, Im discovering that in most cases I don’t care about airtight continuity. I mean, in you example, your fave Supes moment or issue will ALWAYS be your fave, even if it’s not in continuity. I mean, the DC universe is about half in, half out of continuity, right?

When I thought about, my fave books tend to be ones that have their own internal continuity. The Vertigo line, Warren Ellis’s stuff, etc.

So do modern comic book fans put too much emphasis on “one comic universe, one history”? I admit that stuff with Thor and New York was pushing it, but that’s Marvel’s own fault for centering 90% of their heroes in one city. But in general, why is it such a big deal? Isn’t telling QUALITY stories and developing QUALITY characters a much more important facet of comics then the overall storyline.

I completely agree with you about internal continuity. I loved Peter David’s Aquaman and Supergirl books, but both suffered when they had to take part in multi title crossovers. I love Fallen Angel because it’s a well-written book, but I suppose subconsciously I’m also relieved that I don’t have to worry about crossovers.

James Robinson did a great job of balancing having to do crossovers with telling the story that he wanted to tell in Starman. He almost seamlessly incorporated Underworld Unleashed and Genesis into Starman and made them work. But I bet he wasn’t happy about it.

I understand your point about a favorite moment always being a favorite moment. That may be true with movies or books, but I think that comic books are a little different. Fans like to believe that the books matter. That’s why we keep our issues, because they mean something and they “happened.”

I may have really loved the moment in Batman: Year Two, when Bruce faces Joe Chill and is about to kill him. That may be a definitive moment in my eyes. But isn’t it greatly diminished by the fact that it never “happened?” Bruce endured a lot during Year Two, but according to DC it didn’t really occur.

I’m sure that lots of Teen Titan fans will feel gypped that Cliff Steele’s appearances in that book no longer happened. I really enjoyed the last Doom Patrol series, but I’m kind of pissed that I spend that much money on a book that has no relevance.

So I do understand your point about favorites always being favorites no matter what happened (I personally loved the 5YG Legion and always will) I can also see how fans might feel betrayed when their favorite stories evaporate from continuity.

As for fans being obsessed with continuity, I guess to me continuity errors are like a spectrum. On one end would be Barry Allen showing up in Firestorm #3. On the other end is Clark Kent wearing a blue striped tie in the first page first panel of Superman #213, but on page 2 he’s wearing a green striped tie.

Clearly Barry Allen can’t show up in the current issue of Firestorm, but nitpicking tie color is very obsessive. In between the two are varying degrees. Why is Tim Drake Robin in Batman and Identity Crisis? Why has Tattooed Man reverted to criminal ways? Why is Nightwing relatively stable in Richard Dragon & The Flash? Why is Wally West joining the Elite? Why is that guy at the end of Green Lantern #178 alive and well? These are all continuity related questions.

I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for that a character that has a title of their own appear in character when in another book. Remember when the Dark Flash appeared? It wasn’t too difficult for DC to make the rule that Wally West was out of the picture, at least for awhile.

Clearly if you examine continuity too closely it falls apart. How can Batman be having adventures in Gotham Knights, Detective Comics, and Batman, while still showing up in JLA and Doom Patrol? I don’t think that fans are asking for that much. But I do think that fans ask that stories don’t contradict themselves.

Geoff Johns does a pretty good job of not contradicting other people’s work. Characters are pretty true to form when Johns is doing the writing. Nightwing and Flash are buddies. Grodd is pissed at Nightwing. Characters are pretty consistent.

Judd Winick doesn’t do as great a job. In Green Arrow, Ollie cheated on Dinah and Black Lightning murdered a man. The story was a pretty one, but the characters didn’t ring true with some readers.

Tattooed Man made a brief appearance in Outsiders, but it flew in the face of how the character had been written for the past 15 years. It kind of irks to see a character acting out of character. It’d be like James Bond being speechless or not shagging the girl. It’d be like Superman vaporizing the bad guy with his heat vision.

Telling quality stories is very important. But continuity is important as well; otherwise Elseworlds books wouldn’t need that logo. But as James Robinson proved with Starman you can have continuity and quality stories at the same time. B, I know you want to voice your thoughts on this one. (I’m just going to sit back and applaud your excellent summation on the subject, which pretty much mirrors my thoughts exactly, perhaps the only difference being that I love the shared universe concept to bits and will gladly put up with the occasional company-wide crossover to preserve it. –B)

Well, I’m going to call it a column. I think my roommate and I are going to see Spider-Man tonight so I’d better get ready. Email me with your questions/comments. You could also post them on the message boards (where I am doing my part of spice things up). My question to you; what is the one comic (from any publisher) that you think everyone should be reading?

“Recent research shows it’s not so darn harmful”

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