Who's Who in the DCU

Sorry for the tardiness of the column, (Actually, thanks to the crack work by this editor, no one out there knows your column was late. Or at least they didn’t until now. Nice job Mathan) but for the first time in nearly two years I am sick. Now usually, I’d try to tough it out, but it’s been so long since I’ve been sick, it completely knocked me out. Fortunately it gave me time to watch Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

That flick rocked! Everything about it rocked. Even Tim’s favorite Michael Rosenbaum’s Christopher Walken impression. Man, I’m upset that it took me so long to catch that movie.

How’s your week been Tim?

Oddly enough, I too caught Return of the Joker on HBO this weekend. And you know what? It was good.

Besides that, I am finally giving in and getting a cell phone. That’s right, two years of selling them didn’t convince me to buy them, but this upcoming move”¦it was time. A Luddite no longer. I think this phone even takes photos. Weird.

Links around the Pulse

Music has some summer mixes.

Movies reviews War of the Worlds.

TV has some interesting takes on summer series.

Games has more info on all things platform related.

Figures topics are writers are both fully articulated.

Sports covers MLB.

Moodspins has opinions aplenty.

Tim, what are you linking this week?

I’m linking nothing ‘cause this damn column is late. No time, we got no time!

What I Read Last Week

Wonder Woman #217 – A cool ending to an interesting storyline. Great cover.

Hellblazer #209 – We finally get the back story about the current thorn in Johnny’s side. Man, she’s ruthless.

JLA Classified #9 – R.I.P. The Superbuddies.

Albion #1 – I really dug the “real world” take on the heroes. Considering I’m completely unfamiliar with the characters I probably enjoyed the book too much. But I’m pretty sure I “got it.”

Shining Knight #3 – Tim’s right, the art is leaps and bounds better this outing. I was actually marveling at how solid it was. This is the best looking issue of this series.

Outsiders #25 – It didn’t disappoint, but it didn’t blow away either. It was just adequate.

OMAC #3 – This mini is really building steam. The issues keep getting better. Max is scary, Bats is overconfident. Reading is good.

OMAC!!!!

Batman #641 Not only didn’t this one disappoint, but it exceeded my expectations. This issue was so worth the wait. The lack of explanation was perfect and didn’t feel like a plot hole. Good job Judd.

Solo #5 – Perhaps the best issue to date. Cooke is a genius. He may be too talented. I can’t wait to see what else he’s got lined up at DC.

The Flash #223 – Remember when Johns’ was the “king of cliffhangers?” Well he’s reclaimed his throne. I’ve never wanted to read the next issue of this title like I do right now.

Green Lantern #2 – Solid outing. Classic Hal Jordan is back, and I’m happy about that.

The Losers #25 – So wait, the Losers didn’t really accomplish their mission. What a gyp.

Batman Allies Secret Files and Origins – I almost want to read every Bat-book out because of this issue. Almost.


It’s time for questions.

Bits from Alumni

From the last column
“What’s your favorite DC/Marvel crossover?”

Well Teen Titans/X-Men of course, because, well, it was the Teen Titans & the X-Men! And Wolverine fought Deathstroke…twice! Still, would have rather seen the proposed sequel by Wolfman/Perez with Brother Blood & The Hellfire Club.

re: Superman/Silver Surfer

“Truth be told though, I don’t this battle would ever take place. Both are too peace loving and are more likely to bond over their similarities then bicker over their differences.”

Bah, that brooding, pathos-laden Surfer will always fight if it will distract him from his tortured existence/somebody manipulated him. Surfer has gotten pounded by some run of the mill space bruisers like Morg, while Superman routinely beats tougher space bruiser types like Mongul, so I take the Man of Steel (despite Tim’s logic-laden reasoning)

“Tim can you think of any Asian characters that I’ve missed (and preferably one without a background in martial arts)?”

Grace from The Outsiders is Asian (but, as Tim may remember from San Diego last year, that is the only similarity she shares with Judd Winick’s wife).

“Hmm…I guess the Rogues, working solo, probably wouldn’t be JLA level villainy. However, I would like to see what they did as a team against the JLA. That could prove interesting.”

The Rogues aren’t around to take on the JLA or be ‘superstar’ villains, that’s not their nature. Guys like Captain Cold just want to live like in the criminal way in which they’re accustomed to, steal what they like, not rule the world. That’s the major component of their charm.

“I don’t remember much about Cavalier beyond the fact that he was in Knightfall for about 2 pages or so. Even in lousy shape, Bats made pretty quick work of him. Maybe he should spend some time as a Robin foe until he can get his “A” game back.”

I was listening to the British audio version of Knightfall the other week and the guy they had voicing the Cavalier sounded like a complete tool. Then again, Robin sounded like Oliver Twist and Bane sounded like Count Dracula.

Ben Morse


Robb L is attracted to sadness

I’m curious who’s Johnny Sorrow? Name sounds pretty cool.

Johnny Sorrow is pretty cool. He was a washed up silent film actor who turned to a life of crime back in 1944. Of course this brought him into a confrontation with the JSA. During the confrontation a teleportation device he was using was shot by Sandy. This resulted in Sorrow being ripped from our realm and into another dimension.

In that other dimension, known as the “subtle realms”, he was experimented on by The King of Tears. The King of Tears gave Sorrow a brand spanking new form. Wait, I meant to say brand spanking horrific new form. How horrific was it? Well when he returned to Earth and found he wife, Sorrow took of his mask. His wife, upon seeing his new form, promptly dropped dead.

Sorrow, naturally, blamed Sandy for his predicament and kidnapped him. Sorrow then killed some second string heroes who got in his way. The JSA came to the rescue and Sorrow and the King of Tears were defeated mostly by the Spectre’s interference. Sorrow did escape to fight another day.

He’s face the JSA on numerous occasions, most recently by teaming up the Despero to take on the JSA and the JLA. Beyond having looks that kill, he’s intangible and partially invisible.

Tim, do you want to see more of Johnny Sorrow, or would more exposure dilute his coolness?

I could do with a few more Sorrow appearances here and there. He’s got a cool demeanor and an even better look. Which brings up a good question: where do I find such a boss red suit?


KSM tries to make us look the fool

How could you leave off ZOOM as a possible JLA-level threat and arch-enemy? The guy has control over TIME fer criminy’s sake. And as for sheer amount of trouble, KOBRA seems to have threatened the world a couple times. They’re too generic and unspecial a group to make arch-enemy status, but a global plot by Kobra did require JLA intervention in Waid’s Terminal Velocity.

Well in regards to Zoom, he like most of the Rogues are pretty much Flash oriented. Zoom’s got a personal beef with Wally, so he’s not really going to be in a position to battle the JLA. At least that’s my rationale for excluding him.

Kobra on the other hand aren’t a “Flash-centric” organization. Kobra actually had his own book in the 70’s, and was a frequent threat to the original Outsiders. So basically I don’t consider Kobra to be a foe of The Flash’s. They were just a thorn in his side for a period of time.

Tim, what you have to say about our alleged exclusions?

I did forget about Kobra personally, but that’s mostly cause he’s dead these days. But your point about him being a DC villain more than a Flash villain is accurate. His last acts, if I recall correctly, were harassing the JSA and Robin. He hasn’t shown up in a Flash book for a decent amount of time.

Zoom isn’t a villain, as he’s likely to tell you (and often) and thus has no interest in terrorizing the JLA unless they get in his way. His thing is making Wally “better” and that’s about all he has time for (except, occasionally, saving his ex-wife). So yeah, Mathan, you go that one too.


John M. has various”¦curiosities

A bit of an opinion question here. Has it ever been discussed in any comic how a super powered being like Superman functions with normal people? What I mean by this is picture yourself walking through life where everything is made from playing cards. If you simply took a deep breath or did not use the smallest amount of your strength everything would be knocked over. This must be how Superman would live, the man can move the moon so knocking on a door must be difficult to do without knocking the door over. He could simply have a bad dream and lightly (relatively) shove Lois Lane into orbit. I had always thought it would be an interesting idea to have a comic with Superman explaining how he gets through a normal day. Has this been done, do you think it would be an interesting read?

I know that John Byrne touched upon some of those things when he was heading the Superman relaunch in 1986.

It is important to remember that Supes did not arrive on Earth with all those powers. At one point he was pretty much human. His powers developed over time, at which point he learned to account for them.

In my mind it all comes down to exertion. I’m not going to tread on ice the same way I tread on cement. I’m not going to grip an ice cream cone the same way I’d grip a bottle of pop. And lifting a pizza box doesn’t take the same effort as lifting a spare tire. To me Superman has the same base as all humans, but his limits are far beyond ours.

Tim what are your thoughts on this one?

Sounds fair, but does not address such things as what Superman does when he isn’t aware of what he’s doing (as in the bad dream example above). The best way I can respond to that is that sometimes you just need to suspend disbelief. While I wouldn’t mind an issue exploring how hard Clark has to work to “fit” in, if you get too much into the technical side of it (like, how does he not knock Lois through a wall every night) you risk overanalysis which, inevitably, leads to boredom. Some things in fiction just are, whether or not they are 100% scientifically sound, because they need to be that way to give order to the universe of the story without bogging it down. Something like this is the type of small issue that writers can fudge and still have it seem “realistic” on a general look.

But, if you prefer an in-universe explanation, Clark has gotten so good with his powers and he is so sensitive to protecting people from injury via his gifts, even at rest he is never fully out of control.


Charles H wonders about the next life

In the first issue of VU Talia commented that Catman reminded her of a great man (or some such). What if Catman is no longer Blake, what if he is now a new body (or something like that) for R’as al Ghul? I don’t really buy the idea that he is dead. Maybe there will be a huge double cross by the whole Ghul clan. Any thoughts?

I’d love for Ra’s to be alive, so I’m going to give this one a thumbs up. I read Talia’s statement as Catman reminded her of Batman, but Ra’s would be a much cooler interpretation.

Tim, wouldn’t it be cool of Ra’s al Ghul came back from the dead as Catman?

I love Ghul’s appearance in The Animated Series and the Demon trilogy from O’Neill is some of the best Bat work that was written by Frank Miller in recent history. I even dig Batman’s shirtless “I’m fighting the Demon’s Head with a sword in the desert” look that has a tendency to pop up in those tails.

That said, I’d rather let him rest in peace. No reason he can’t come back. If anyone can, he at least makes sense. I think he had a quality death and would like, for once, to see such a death stand. Not holding my breath on that, but that’s just what I hope.


Colin is anxious to mess up a good thing

What do you think of the idea of inserting Robin into the new Bat-franchise? I think the idea of having a Robin somewhere down the line is imperative. Everyone knows the all-time duo is Batman and Robin, a dynamic which is sorely lacking in the comic world these days.

Anyway, I was watching a commercial about the kid from Shark-boy and Lavagirl, and thought he would make a terrific Robin in a few years. He has all these wild flips and kicks and whatnot, something a Boy Wonder ought to have; not like the mid-30s Wonder of Chris O’Donnell. Batman could continue to be the straight-forward head cracka, but Robin could be bouncing all over the place, hitting the bad guys from every angle; not unlike a Yoda beatdown. I imagine a lot of fanboys might not be too keen on the notion, because they need Batman to be all dark and serious, so that they feel like it’s a legit movie; not a “comic movie”, with a brightly-coloured Robin. Thoughts Math? Tim? Do you want a Robin in the next Bat-movie or two?

Color me “fanboy.” If I wanted Robin I’d watch “Teen Titans.” I don’t like the thought of Robin being in a Bat flick. In fact I almost cringed when that kid showed up “Batman Begins.” I thought to myself “please don’t let this be the groundwork for Robin.”

I don’t want to see Robin on the big screen with Batman. So what if “”everyone knows” Batman & Robin? Everyone’s also pretty familiar with “Pow!” and “Zap!” Contrary to what you believe; the majority isn’t always right.

Now I will say that I’d appreciate a Robin movie along the lines of Robin: Year One, or The Gauntlet. I feel that Robin diminishes Batman, but I’m not opposed to Robin being in the spotlight. I think that Robin is a strong enough character to hold a movie on his own, with the occasional cameos by Batman. Think of it like this; somewhere in the back of our minds we believe that Batman Begins and Superman Returns exist in the same universe. So let’s have Gotham be a similar universe, with nominal interaction between Batman & Robin.

Tim, do you want to see Robin on the big screen?

First of all, I just have to object to your thesis that Robin somehow diminishes Batman. I call bollocks on that. They are both excellent characters and neither hurts the other merely by existing. In certain stories, certainly, a Robin appearance can prove a hindrance. I would never say one diminishes the other, however.

Movie wise, the big reason I’m opposed to a Robin onscreen is that it is another character vying for screen time. Batman Begins was the best installment of the Bat franchise in making Bruce Wayne/Batman the central character. It wasn’t “The Joker/Riddler/Penguin/etc Show with Guest Appearances by Batman” and I thought that was excellent. Throwing Robin into the mix would alter that formula and most likely hurt Batman’s centrality to the story.

It could be done without causing that problem, I guess, but I’d like one more movie of Batman solo before we find out about all that.


Chaos is concerned with our state of mind

Do you ever feel like an IT guy, dealing with people asking questions that just seem obvious all the time?

Nothing is ever obvious. I fully realize that not everyone has access to every comic book that I’ve read, much less every comic published. People ask questions, I provide the best answers available.

This column is a way for many older fans to get answers to questions that have been lingering in their sub-consciousness for decades. It’s also a place for current fans to get valuable back-stories on some of the current storylines running through the DCU.

If anything I consider myself a comic fan who’s providing a service to a company that’s provided me with hours of entertainment over the years. And a guy with too much time on his hands.

How do you feel about being who you are Tim?

I’m just happy to be along for the ride and getting a little bit of that reflected glory.

Seriously, what is obvious to many is not obvious to all and any question asked is worth answering if it makes the field of comics a little more accessible. I have no illusions about us really increasing the comics readership, but if we can answer a few questions that persuade some casual fans to pick up a title more often or a few titles for the first time, it was worth answering, no matter how obvious the question initially seemed.


Joe needs guidance

I’m looking to start reading comics again and I’m wanting something that I can jump into and understand, not have to buy 100 back copies to understand the storylines. Can you recommend a few?

Well, they’d take away my Comics Nexus membership if I didn’t mention Manhunter right off the bat. It’s a current fave of many of our writers here, and series writer Marc Andreyko stops by the message boards to shoot the breeze. It’s a solid read.

I’m also going to suggest Legion of Super-Heroes. It’s perhaps the most satisfying read month in and month out. Don’t feel daunted by the Legion’s decades old history, none of it applies. This book is fresh start. And Wizard even gave Legion of Super Heroes the much vaunted Book of the Month status (including a flawless write up by the one and only Ben Morse). Plus it’s only seven issues in, which should make it easy to pick up.

Teen Titans is a very popular book. It’s only 25 issues in, and has been kept up to date with trade paperbacks. It’s well written with great art. But I should mention that Rob Liefeld will being doing a two issue stint as guest artist, so don’t hold that against the title.

Y’know what? I’m also going to recommend Aquaman. Avoid the first twelve issues of the current book. But a perfect place to start would be issue #15, which begins with part of San Diego falling into the ocean. Believe me, if you thought Aquaman was a joke, read American Tidal and you’ll see how great the character could be.

Plastic Man is also a very fun book that’s under appreciated by the masses.

If you want to jump outside of the mainstream DCU, I’d suggest picking up The Matador and Ex Machina. Ex Machina is about a former hero who become Mayor of NYC, due largely in part to his saving of one of the Twin Towers on 9/11. It’s a great read, that balances action and boringness of politics. The Matador is a miniseries about a cop who runs across an urban legend; the perfect hit man. I enjoy the story but love the art.

Tim, what books do you want to recommend?

You definitely hit a few of my favorites. I’d also recommend the wildly irregular Planetary because, although it rarely comes out, it is always excellent. Fables and Y The Last Man, both from Vertigo, are truly unique properties that never fail to entertain. All three are easy to catch up with via trade.


Dhaise is down with the freaks and geeks

Where have all the DC weirdos gone? sure,we got the madmen in Countdown, but when was the last time the Creeper, Question, or Chronus figured into anything? More weirdos!

The Question just wrapped up his own miniseries a few months back and the Creeper showed up during Austen’s run on Action Comics (though I can’t blame you for not reading that.)

As for “Chronus”, I’m guessing that you mean Chronos. But even that guess I don’t know if you’re talking about Gabriel Walker or David Clinton. Or maybe I’m just so sick with a fever that I’m forgetting who “Chronus” is.

Anyway the weirdoes are still out there. Aren’t you reading Day of Vengeance? Detective Chimp could hardly be described as “normal.”

Tim, who is Chronus and do you want things to become more weird?

Chronus is Chronos. With all that time traveling it is sometimes hard to keep the spelling of your name straight.

If weird is code for “more diverse and different” then sure, sign me up. Weird for weird’s sake rarely interests me, but the risks DC has taken with “different” titles over the years has produced some of my favorite (if short lived) series: Bloodhound, Aztek, Chase, Human Target, etc. The mainstream can always use a touch of weird.


Nalydpsycho was a schoolyard bully

Seriously, why don’t other heroes poke fun of the yellow weakness Green Lanterns have?

Well, because I think that every hero is pretty self conscious about their own weaknesses, be it physical or emotional. For instance if Wally West said “Hey Hal, remember that one time that guy hit you with a lemon meringue pie?” I think Hal would respond with “Hey Wally, how’re the kids?”

I think they’re also painfully aware that if they aren’t fully covered in yellow, they’re pretty susceptible to the most powerful weapon in the universeâ„¢. For instance I don’t think that you’d taunt Mike Tyson, if he happened to be lactose intolerant.

Tim, should Green Lanterns be made fun of because of their weakness?

Everyone should be mocked for their weaknesses. Often.


Nathaniel H. is down with the corporate raiders

On the cover of issue #1 (of Villains United) we see Lex Luthor, the Calculator, and Dr. Psycho, all are wearing suits and ties. Does this reflect on our society, that the new mega-villains don’t wear super-suits, but just regular suits? Enron’s legacy, perhaps?

Well it’s hardly a new phenomena. When the current Lex Luthor debuted he was the epitome of evil in the mid 1980’s; a corporate raider. In fact he didn’t don the purple and green Battle Armor until the first arc of Superman/Batman.

I will say that the idea that the most dangerous threat doesn’t really stand out is a frightening one. You know not to make a deal with the Joker, but Lex is a bit harder to call.

In an era where killers could be lurking next door or in your church it’s not too unbelievable that folks wouldn’t be as trusting of “regular looking” people than usual. But the real question is; is Black Adam there as a representation of lingering distrust for people from the Middle East?

Tim, are we reading too much into our comic books?

Up until the Black Adam thing, I was totally with you. Then”¦less so. If Black Adam looked stereotypically Arab, I’d be more inclined to agree. However, he looks kind of like a buff elf with those ears. And everybody likes elves. Until the recent “benevolent dictator” phase that Adam is now in, his ties to the Middle East were purely historical. So no, I don’t think it has anything to do with Middle East distrust because I don’t think people really think of Adam as Middle Eastern.

It is always nice to see someone reading past the surface of their comics though. Even if what they get out of them differs from most people’s interpretation, the fact that they took the time to form an opinion about subtext is a good sign. So too much or not”¦keep it up.


Nathaniel H. revisits a column favorite villain

My real question * I don’t read Wonder Woman, so I am not familiar with Dr. Psycho. I understand his character well enough through his dialogue, but a) what powers/abilities does he have and b) so far he just rants and raves, and LEx always tells him to pipe down, so why exactly is he included with the other super villains that seem to be very useful. He hasn’t actually done anything yet except be overruled when he suggests mutilation or cannibalism. What’s the deal?

As for his powers;

Y’see the guy can control people’s perceptions. He can tap into their psyches and amplify their emotions and feelings. Using his powers effectively he can turn a person into a puppet.

He’s clearly not given enough credit in the DCU. He should be a power player. But since he battles Wonder Woman the guy gets no respect. Just because he fights females, people think he’s a chump.

But the real reason why he’s there is so that Wonder Woman is represented. Batman has Talia, Superman has Lex. Black Adam and Deathstroke represent the JSA and the Teen Titans respectively. The Calculator represents either the JLA (by way of Identity Crisis) or Batman (by way of Oracle, who was a member of the JLA so maybe it’s still JLA.) Wonder Woman is one of the big three, thus she’s got to be represented. Doctor Psycho got the call and took the slot.

Tim, do you think Doctor Psycho deserves to be there or is he just filling a quota?

So far, he has not done much in Villains United to prove he deserves a seat at the table. However, in Wonder Woman, in the past year and a half, he has done plenty to prove that he is a villain worthy of fear and respect. So, as it stands, I sit on the fence. YAY for mixed metaphors!


Lord Buff brings up an always hot topic

What happened to the Martian Manhunter’s weakness of fire and where did it come from. I vaguely remember reading in the Giffen/DeMatties Justice League that is weakness was psychological because all the Martians burned and once he realised that he overcame it, but later he vulnerable again. Also in the Martian Manhunter series the vulnerablility was transmitted via telepathy, which was why his nemesis ( Malefic I think) was immune because he had his telepathy removed beforehand, so why are the white Martians, who had already left Mars vulnerable as well.

Martian Manhunter is a character that everyone seems interested in, but can’t hold his own book. But that was just me thinking aloud. Here’s your answer;

Ok, well back in the day the Martians weren’t all peace loving, like hippies. They were more dangerous like Hell’s Angels. So the Guardians of the Universe intervened. They had to stop the threat of the Martians, but they weren’t too keen on that whole “genocide” thing.

They decided to give all the Martians a fear of fire. It was part of their genetic code. It not only worked as a sort of collar for the race, but it also mellowed them into the species they ended up being.

Now in J’onn’s case he had that physical weakness, but his was equally psychological. Y’see, watching his two most cherished loves, his wife and daughter, burst into flame in front of him kind of scarred him. Kind of like how I’m afraid of dogs. One incident can mess you up for life.

Also it wasn’t the weakness to fire that was transmitted telepathically it was H’ronmeer’s Curse.

Oh, you want to know what H’ronmeer’s Curse is? Well it’s a pyrokinetic plague that’s spread telepathically. Almost all of the Martians caught it, and promptly burst into flames, including J’onn’s wife and daughter, right in front of his eyes.

So basically the Guardians had planted the weakness before the curse was spread.

Hope that clears up your fire queries.

Tim, I asked this of your predecessor once; is J’onn’s tragedy more tragic than that of Bruce, Dick or Tim?

Yes for two reasons. A.) He lost his entire world and, unlike Superman, was old enough to feel the pain of that and B.) he still doesn’t get the respect such a tragedy should afford him. I mean, it’s hard enough to lose your wife and kids. Nevermind dealing with that AND the fact that you can’t get readers to care about your solo book.


Alas the column is done. Hopefully I’ll feel better next week.

My question for you; how do you feel about DC’s “one year gap” policy in regards to Post Infinite Crisis titles?

“Let’s party til we can’t no more, watch out here come the folks.”

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