Who's Who in the DCU

Tim, the summer TV season has begun. Are you enjoying or looking forward to anything on the tube this summer?

Much like this column’s schedule, my TV schedule has been totally thrown off by the move. In the past two weeks I have a.) developed a inflamed ganglion in my arm (it looks like a have a golf ball living under my skin…good times; and yes, by the by, it does also resemble a tumor which, if you don’t know what you are looking at, makes even better times until you get to the doctor), b.) been screwed over by non appearances from my cable company, twice, c.) been screwed over by my internet provider because they “forgot” to send the modem and such, d.) dodged flames at a laundry mat when one of the dryers caught fire (thankfully, all my clothes survived), and e.) spent the past three days lugging boxes through a house without air conditioning (average temperature? 92 degrees. With humidity. GLORIOUS!). This doesn’t even get into the more personal traumas of my life. So TV and internet were put on hold, hence this column being a week late.

I, in a word, suck.

All that said, I’m looking forward to catching up with Entourage and Rescue Me (via the miracle that is someone else’s TIVO) and, perhaps, checking in on Traveler, which is not great, but is fine for an excuse to stay in an air conditioned room for an hour.


Broken Dial

Beyond the Threshold

The DVD Lounge

Inside Fights

Machine Gun Funk


Not a True Ending

Popcorn Junkies

Primetime Pulse

Retro Grading

Tailgate Crashers

Visit our DC Boards, where we mourn the lack of Manhunter.

Yeah, wasn’t that supposed to be back next month?

What (little) I Read Last Week

Justice #12 – I really liked the ending of his mini. My favorite part had to be the appearance of the Green Lantern Corps. That was such a cool moment for me as a fan.

Green Arrow #75 – I can’t help but feel that when pacing, Judd thought this book was going to be a double sized anniversary issue. The JLA bailout felt forced, like space was an issue. Decent read, but kind of a letdown as a final issue in terms of the face-off with Constantine and Deathstroke.

Trials of Shazam #7 – Nice to see the secret origin of Sabina. I’ve got to say that I dig her as a character. I really hope that she remains a presence in the DCU in some way, shape or form.

Loveless #18 – The lynching stuff was almost too graphic for me. It was really heavy seeing that stuff on the page. But stuff like that did happen back during that time, which is even heavier.

Green Lantern Corps #13 – I liked Mogo took action into his own hands. He really went the distance this issue. Good stuff. I can’t wait for the next issue though.

Stormwatch PHD #8 – Not my favorite issue. I bet I’d enjoy it more if I’d had some familiarity with previous incarnations of Stormwatch. Next issue seems like it’ll be more my speed.

Definitely a slow down issue, but still fun for moments like Gorgeous following through on her word and Fahrenheit enjoying men fighting over her. Plus, the ending is great setup.

Countdown #46 – Liked pretty much everything this issue. I enjoyed the Mary Marvel stuff and the Rogue stuff. I’m intrigued by Forerunner. Things are really picking up with this book.

Heads up, I’m getting kind of low on questions, feel free to send me dozens.

YEAH! Or else, I bust skulls. Or show you this ganglion, at least. And no one wants that.

The Shade has interesting tastes in “adult” entertainment

Who is Sleez (aside from a charbroiled stain now) Is it true he coerced Superman and Barda into doing a porno?!?

Sleez was arguably the best of the non Kirby created denizens of the Fourth World. I mean he’s got that whole “name matches his appearance” thing going on. He also had a memorable debut storyline.

Sleez first appeared in Action Comics #592. It’s revealed that Sleez was such a vile cat that he was actually banished from Apokolips, which is like being kicked off a VH-1 reality show for being too trashy.

Anyway as most Apokolips exiles he set up shop in Metropolis’ Suicide Slum where his empathic abilities, for base emotions, could be fed. There he crossed paths with Big Barda and Superman. Using his ability to control people psionically, he did indeed bring out the worst in Superman and Barda by setting them up to star in an adult flick.

So disturbing.

In fact, if you’d like a peek at the issue in question here’s one take on it.

I’ll admit to being kind of happy to see Sleez again in Countdown. And then he died.

So very disturbing.

Tim, do you think that Superman’s adult adventures are still in continuity or were erased by an errant Superboy punch?

I…I still don’t think I’m quite over what I’ve just seen yet to even contemplate that question…let’s move on.

Oh, but before we do, fun fact! Kirby was no fan of the Barda on Kal action because he had based Barda on his wife and, in turn, Mister Miracle on himself. Thus, Byrne, in essence, had Jack Kirby’s wife mind controlled and forced into making a porn (or two).

Just got a bit creepier, eh?

That Bootleg Guy asks, “Where did all the children go?”

For generations, comics were marketed and sold to kids. Then, somewhere along the line, the focus changed towards young adults. Was this an intentional, gradual change in direction by the industry or did we all wake up in 1973 to the sight of Speedy shooting heroin?

First off, I just want to say that I believe that children are the future. You teach them well and you let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.

I think I’ve heard this before.

I doubt it. It’s just something that I believe in and have held for a long time. But back to the question.

Well, Aaron, you’ve got to put things in perspective. The accursed Seduction of the Innocent by Freddy Wertham really put a damper on the comic industry by claiming that it was corrupting influence on kids. As a result comics became super kid friendly fare for generations. The industry went though a process kind of like how veal comes about; the development was stunted so that the product would be uber soft.

I don’t want to make it seem like if the book hadn’t been published comics would have seen great leaps and bounds in terms of stories or content. If you look at movies or television everything was pretty milquetoast until the late 1960’s, around the time when the country was changing. Comics pretty much followed suit. It really was a different era when boundaries were being pushed in all areas.

Obviously Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams decided to inject social commentary into their run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. But that same duo also moved Batman comics away from the campy elements, popularized by the 1960’s television series, and returned him to his darker brooding roots.

So, I’ll say that it was a natural occurrence that was spurred by the spirit of the time.

Yay for children buying comics! Boo for adults doing the same!

Tim, why do you think comics moved away from courting the kids?

The factors you mentioned are a big part of it. I think the Direct Market has also greatly effected things as kids were less likely to trek out to (or be able to trek out to or convince their parents to trek out to) comic book shops than teens and adults and thus the bread and butter audience changed. When your audience changes, you write more to suit the new ones.

Also, I think it is a case of “when I was a kid”-itis. When my grandfather was in the military during World War II he and his fellow soldiers read a lot of, ready for it, comics. And they, by law, were all over 18 (well my grandfather wasn’t…but that’s another story). Those aren’t kids. And that was 60 something years ago.

Now comics as a “hobby” (as opposed to simply throwaway entertainment) has grown and thus the adults consumers are more visible and have louder voices. However, I do think we often fret far too much about the lack of kids or too many adult readers because, I believe, it has been more like that throughout history then we’re really aware.

The Shade has giant apes on the brain.

What happened to Solovar is he dead?

I don’t want to say that Solovar is sexy, but well, he kind of is, isn’t he?

Y’know, maybe if you hadn’t tried to hit on his lady at that party for the 1996 Olympics, you two might have remained friends and you probably would have gotten an invite to his funeral. Dude, friends don’t do things that like. And I know you’re going to say “but Mathan, I had been drinking” and as usual my response is that there’s not enough Ruby Red Squirt in the world to explain away your actions that night. Honestly, I think that Solovar was completely right to have cut you out of his life all together. I would have done the exact same thing.

But, yes, Solovar is dead. I don’t know how you missed it. It was in the Gotham Gazette, Daily Planet and the Opal Review.

Oh wait. I know you don’t remember his death. It’s because it occurred during the dreadful JLApe annuals of 1999. Y’know, the ones where the members of the JLA are transformed into apes. Oh, it’s worse than it sounds.

Solovar was assassinated by a car bomb, planted by human racists, patsy-ed by anarchistic gorillas from Gorilla City, manipulated by Gorilla Grodd. It always leads back to Grodd.

Yup, still sexy. In fact, I believe his tombstone read:

Solovar 1943-1999
Too Sexy for This World, so God Called Him Home

Don’t quote me on that though…I’m not sure it is still in continuity, what with Mr. Mind eating timelines and Superboy punching reality.

God…this is a long caption.

Tim, you’re stuck in an apartment for a month and the only comics you can have are either the JLApe crossover or the Last Laugh crossover. Which do you choose?

Oh good god! That is too cruel.

Push comes to shove though, I go Last Laugh (provided the crossover issues are included). I seem to remember a good Flash issue in that mess so I could just read that over and over again. JLApe, while shorter, had zero goodness at all. Even with those great apes. And yes, that was a pun. See what those issues do to me?

Juan Francisco Gutierrez Santiago put the power of a universe in our hands

If you had the chance to revamp a DC Comic, which one would you pick and what would you revamp?

Hm, this question certainly has potential to be a Temporary Mainstay status. Maybe. I mean I think that Nexus readers should have a place that they can turn to when they want concepts revamped. Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before?

For anyone who’s been frequenting you know that the book that I’d revamp would be Secret Six.

I really enjoyed the team in Villains United, but every subsequent appearance has resulted in diminished returns. The team was unique and had a reason to be a team when they were standing against the Society (against their will). But since the Society pretty much disintegrated, their reason for sticking together undermines the appeal of the team.

As I see it the Secret Six should be a series of mini series featuring villains together for a common cause. Maybe it’s revenge. Maybe it’s a cool score. Maybe it’s protection. Perhaps it’s six villains inspired by the example of the original Six. Or it might be one of the originals looking to recreate that original magic.

The Secret Six should be about forgotten or lame villains proving that they viable characters. It shouldn’t be the Secret Five plus the guest-star of the month.

For my relaunch of the concept I’d handpick six villains who I think would make a good mix.

The Answer – This character only appeared in the 1998 edition of the Batman Villains: Secret Files & Origins. He sounded almost like the Riddler because he’s supposed to leave a card at every crime scene detailing his next crime. But he also had a telescopic cane that contained more than 50 tools/weapons. But more importantly the guy is visually cool. I figure he could get his shine on this team.

Dr. Light – This guy really hasn’t done much lately. He came back in a big way during Identity Crisis and made a splash in Green Arrow and Teen Titans. But lately he’s been lying low. I figure that perhaps he’d like the idea of being part of a team for the protection aspect.

Kestrel – Given that the new Hawk & Dove are pretty much MIA, Kestrel is just sitting in limbo too, but he’s too cool for that. Kestrel is very much a loose cannon on this team.

Riot & Madman – Riot can create duplicate of himself. Madman can create a mindlink with anyone that he touches. You’ve got two character that both have the ability to flood a room with themselves, how can you not have them on the same team?

Hm, I need one more criminal. Ooh, I’ve got it! Crazy Quilt!

What? You’re not familiar with Crazy Quilt?

From the 6/5/03 column
For those of you unfamiliar with Crazy Quilt here is a short run down. This guy, known only as Quilt, was an artist/crime boss who gave instructions to his men through his paintings. As often happens to crime bosses this guy was shot. Fortunately he didn’t die unfortunately he was blind. Desperate to regain his vision he underwent experimental surgery (is there any other kind of surgery in comics? Don’t they have any established surgeries that have been done numerous times, successfully?) Anyhow the surgery was a success, sort of. He could see, but only in vivid, bright colors. Well that sent him over the edge. He took the name Crazy Quilt and began a career of crime. He got locked up and escaped. He got right back into crime again, this time using a helmet to see. But he was no match for Robin who put him back in prison.

Everything was going well Quilt was doing his bid, then right before he was going to be released the prison doctor told him that his condition had worsened and that he would be blind again. Well Crazy wouldn’t hear that so he stole some new fangled technology (in this case a laser) and kidnapped a doctor to fix his peepers. Everything worked out perfectly, and he regained his vision. But then when he was fighting Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson), our favorite boy wonder reflected a laser in Crazy’s eyes, and poof, blindness again.

Well that sent him over a completely different ledge, so he got some guy to make a new helmet that hook up to the optic part of Crazy’s brain, in some wacky attempt to see again. It worked and he sought his revenge against Robin for blinding him. He kicked the snot out of the Jason Todd Robin (guys don’t be so hard on Crazy, he was blind. Even with my contacts in I have a hard time telling the difference between Dick and Jason.) But then Robin defeated him and sent him back to prison. Apparently Crazy’s helmet emitted light that could “bedazzle and befuddle” and had laser that could burn through “a bank vault door.” Nifty.

Now does this guy really fit with the grim and gritty Brucie we all know and love? How this guy survived the Crisis I’ll never know.

My team would be coerced into teaming up by a mysterious Mockingbird who would eventually be revealed to be Anarky.

Maybe the next mini would feature Anarky as Mockingbird again or have a whole new cast. Who knows, but that’d be the joy of the book.

Tim, do you want to revamp the Secret Six or would you rather revamp something else?

Well, I happen to like Secret Six, regardless of your distaste for it. However, I have to admit, I do love your overall concept for a revamp. A very cool villain spotlight type book. It would probably be cancelled two arcs in, but still. Very cool.

As far as what I’d revamp…oh dear, where to begin? Ahh, I know…time to undue an injustice.

I’d revamp Impulse.

“But Tim,” you say, “you’re on record as being fine with Bart’s ascension to Kid Flash and as not reading Impulse or caring much for the Young Justice you have read. Why revamp this book?”

And you are entirely right about that. However, I did oppose Bart becoming the full fledged Flash, especially given the recency of Kid Flash and the accelerated aging. I thought it was a lousy way to cheat a character out of a chance to evolve by, more or less, shoving him into an adult suit and demanding he act the part (if that had been done in-story, okay, but it wasn’t). Plus, there is the matter of Flash #13, released last week. The book as well written and drawn and actually pretty good. Except for its portrayals of the Rogues. And the fate of Bart.

See, DC saw the flagging numbers and heard the complaints and reacted in, frankly, the worse possible knee jerk way. They took everyone’s objections and disinterest as a sign of the audience’s dislike of Bart as opposed to what it was, the dislike of what Bart had been forced, via editorial, to become. Their solution? Kill him. Not fix him. Kill him. It boggles the mind a bit.

So while I did not become upset when Bart went from Impulse to Kid Flash many did and I recognize that. I also recognize that they were Bart fans first and thus more likely to support his return, provided it is done well and “right”. Hence, Impulse. Bart didn’t deserve to be forced into a role no one wanted him in and then killed when editorial couldn’t make it work. The way to make it right is bring back Impulse, with all his screwy charm, and give him another shot and evolving at his own pace. Maybe one day he does return to the scarlet, but this time, we let him do it when it makes sense, not just because of an event book.

The setup is easy. Wally keeps seeing after images of Bart and plunging into the Speed Force to save him. Bart does return, but young once more and with Max Mercury in tow. Bart attempts to reintegrate himself into life, the superhero scene, and come to terms with the knowledge of his own, albeit temporary, death. And, of course, he does all this hilariously.

The Shade sort of makes me cry.

If there was one character who is currently six feet under that you would wish to return to the living who would it be?

Look, I know that you wish you could have one more moment with Solovar so you could mend your fences and make your peace with the guy, but dude, you’re really bringing the column down with your personal stuff. You need to work that out on your own time.

And just for clarification, I hope that we’re not talking about zombies, because those things are so played out.

Off the top of my head I can think of two characters that I’d like to see return from the dead; Ra’s al Ghul and Orpheus.

Ra’s al Ghul is probably my favorite villain of all time and possibly my favorite character. Birth of the Demon is one of my favorite graphic novels. Hell, I even picked up the issue of Azrael where Ra’s showed up.

His death was a good one. Death and the Maidens provided a nice closure to the character. I was cool with that. And Nyssa seemed like she’d be a good successor to the title. However since Nyssa was killed OYL, it kind of undermines Ra’s’ death. So, while he had a good death, I really wouldn’t mind seeing him get resurrected.

Orpheus, on the other hand, is a character that I’m not that familiar with. I mean, I know who he is, but I’m pretty sure that don’t have a comic that features him.

That said, I liked the idea of the character and I think that he was really squandered and clearly never lived up to his potential. So I’d like to see him come back, and this time I’d pay more attention to him. Though, I’d settle for having his mantle picked up by another.

Are there any characters you’d like to see back from the dead, Tim?

I’d second Orpheus because his was the second most ridiculous and unnecessary death in War Games. Also, I quite liked the guy and thought he was on his way to being an interesting character.

My top resurrection choice is, always, unsurprisingly, Aztek. I love me some Grant Morrison, as you probably know, but I always felt that Aztek’s death at the end of World War III reeked of “I don’t trust anyone to play with my toys but me” and I have a profound distaste for that particular tendency in writers. Also, I just truly loved the character and thought he was unique, interesting, and worthy of a second go-round.

A less predictable choice, I suspect, would be the return of El Diablo. Now, I’m not actually he’s dead, strictly speaking. He looked like he might be done for in Villains United so he might literally be dead. In any case though, his career as a hero certainly is and I think that’s a shame.

He’s a Latino politician who had a rough, but not stereotypical, upbringing. He believes in using government to help people but is consistently stymied by party politics when he tries to do so. He acts out his frustrations as a costumed vigilante and consistently endangers his life and livelihood while doing so. It is a great concept and one I’d like to see again.

That Bootleg Guy

It’s been over 20 years since Crisis. This was the (original) event that would change the DCU forever, etc. I’m curious as to what you and Tim think are the most lasting effects, characters and/or consequences of The Crisis storyline. It’d be kick arse if you guys could comment both within the pages of comics and on the industry as a whole.

Well it made Superman the only survivor of Krypton and, well that’s a bad example.

Ooh, it got rid of the multiverse, so now there’s only one…, ok, that doesn’t work either.

Ok, here are some of the lasting effects of the Crisis.

Origins – It all started with Man of Steel, the origin miniseries event. Batman: Year One followed. Since then origin miniseries or storylines have become a fixture in the industry. Dick Grayson’s had two (one for Robin and one for Nightwing.) DC has a slew of Year Ones planned for released this year. The Bat related ones are the best of the bunch, but they all provide insight into the early exploits.

The Mucking up of the Legion – When the Crisis got rid of Superboy, a key piece of the Legion’s origin was missing and the concept never recovered. At first they had a pocket universe Superboy. Then they had Valor/Lar Gand/Mon-el. Then they had L.E.G.I.O.N. via Durlan. Then it was just the heroes of the 21st Century. The concept was irrevocably damaged.

JSA & JLA coexisting – After the Crisis the JSA and the JLA existed on the same Earth, which meant that there was a mentor/rookie relationship. Barry Allen had a relationship with Jay Garrick, and Wally West looked up to both. Alan Scott took a vested interest in Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan. Wildcat trained a young Bruce Wayne. Everyone looked up to Alan Scott. That respect for what came before still exists today.

Death is a big deal – When Supergirl and Barry Allen were killed and stayed dead it sent shockwaves through the industry. Marquee characters could be killed off and not necessarily resurrected. Granted, most times they do return, but given the example of Barry fans can’t take resurrections for granted.

Crossover Events – Crossover events are a fact of the comic industry. Whether it’s Infinite Crisis or Last Laugh readers can count on a storyline that links books and characters and more often than not, hyped to death. They provide the appearance of a cohesive universe and drive up sales. They will never go away.

Limited Time Travel – After the Crisis, time travel in the DCU was very limited and rarely occurred. The Legion visited the past a few times. Superman, Superboy and Supergirl all ended up in the 31st Century via accidents or manipulation. Where as in the Pre-Crisis Universe, time travel was a regular occurrence, in the Post Crisis it was an actual event.

Superman & Batman having a strained relationship – In the Pre-Crisis DCU Bats and Supes were the best of friends. However following the tone of their first meeting (as documented in Man of Steel) the two had grudgingly respected each other, but were hardly chummy.

The Notion of Legacy – The Crisis gave us Wally West as the Flash, Doctor Midnight and Wildcat II, and thus began the practice of legacies in the DCU. Since then we’ve had numerous legacy heroes including new versions of Doctor Midnite, Wildcat, Flash, Robin, Atom and even Commander Steel.

Hawkman tainted – When Hawkman got his origin mini, it was set in the present rather than the past, which caused some scrambling to explain where all of the Hawkmen in the DCU came from. As a result Hawkman became radioactive as a property and eventually needed Zero Hour to fix things, by banishing him.

Um, that’s all that I can really come up with right now. I’m sure that I’m missing a few.

Tim, can you think of any long-term effects of the Crisis that I missed?

I think you nicely covered them. A lot of them have changed as of late (Black Canary, not Wonder Woman, as founder, Superman not ever being Superboy, etc) so it is harder to nail down the lasting changes.

Stone King plays spot the obscurity.

In #183 we have our first glimpse of the black market for Rogues in Keystone. I need some identifying help. Specifically, the guy in the purple costume with the mathematical symbol cube, the guy in the black and grey costume arguing with a Kobra minion, the albino bald guy in a pinstripe suit behind Captain Cold, and, on the fold, the shirtless guy with a gold hood and no face who is hoisting a box above his head.

Ooh, more villains! I actually had to dig this issue up out of my collection, but after close examination I’ve got some answers for you.

The guy in purple is none other than a Pre Identity Crisis Calculator. That’s why he’s picking up the cube with mathematical symbols. I like the new Calculator better.

The guy in the black and grey costume is Black Hand, another character who’s been revamped relatively recently. In this case, I prefer the old school Black Hand to the current in limbo version.

The albino gent is Tobias Whale. He used to be a big shot in Metropolis with the 100, a criminal organization that later became the 1,000. He was a frequent foe of Black Lightning, but he’s fallen off the map for a few decades now.

The shirtless hooded chap is actually Atlas. I’m basing this on the fact that he’s holding the box in an Atlas-like manner and because he resembles the Atlas that appears in Kingdom Come. This might be Geoff Johns’ first use of a Kingdom Come character in the DCU, which he’s famously doing plenty of in the current Justice Society of America.

Tim, don’t you miss when The Flash was a readable book written by your BFF Geoff Johns?

I do, I do.

Now we can see what Waid does with the book though. Fingers crossed he resists the desire to do Chain Lightning 2.

Oh…now I’m depressed again.

Stone King

In 187, Blacksmith tells Goldface that Keystone City is her’s and releases a bunch of Rogues to prove it. The midget guy in orange with the two guys…who is that? Also, that page has a better view of the gold hooded shirtless guy.

This is tougher. I don’t really know of too many midget villains in the DCU, so I’m going to just guess that it’s Gizmo of the Fearsome Five. But I’m not 100% on that one, as he looks like Scott Kolins revamped the character a tad, if it is him.

Tim, are there any villains who’ve really caught your eye as “villains to watch”?

Hmm…you know, I dug the villain Dini created to start his ‘Tec run, but he felt sort of one off. I’d like to see more but I’m not sure I’d label him as one to watch.

Riddler and Penguin would certainly make my list for their non-villainous lives these days.

Monarch (Captain Atom edition) seems well on his way to raising hell, but that’s probably too obvious.

Ditto Trickster, Pied Piper, the Sinestro Corps, and Darkseid.

Despite botching things up nicely in Countdown, I’m still keeping an eye out for Teth Adam.

My big villain to watch though is none other than Ras Al Ghul. Why? Well DC has an Annual coming out that is centered on him and that’s usually no coincidence.

That ends another column. It’s been fun. We’ll be back next week with more of the typical Q&A that you’ve come to expect. We might even deal with resolved storylines, Sportsmaster and even Richard Dragon. Or maybe not. We might even answer your question.

But we can only do that if you send questions our way. You can either email me or you can post them on our thread and take part in the always enjoyable discussion that follows.

“And we don’t care about the old folks, talking ’bout the old style too.”