Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. XXIV

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If you’re Canadian (like most awesome people tend to be), you know you’re in for a good time when someone brings a two-four to the party. And on that note, here’s the somewhat entertaining 24th issue of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe for our grading pleasure. This week: Volume Ecks-Ecks-Eye-Vee, from Tim Trench to Universo.

This issue’s cover artist is Eduardo Barreto, a talented fellow who left us too soon in 2011. We’ve got a very nice interplay of the issue’s characters here, though I’m surprised Barreto didn’t position Two-Face on the crease so that half his face would appear on the front cover and half on the back. Too obvious, maybe? 

One letter writer in this issue asks how the editors choose the cover artist for each issue. Good question. The editors’ response: “We select people to do our covers who either have a superior sense of design or are willing to tackle a cover with over 30 people on it. Usually, some insane soul will ask to do a cover like George Pérez or Paris Cullins. Other times, when they’re not available, we will recruit friends like Ernie Colón. In the case of #22, it was only logical that John Byrne execute the piece.” So now you know.  

Onward!

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Tim Trench

It’s probably a good thing this guy is fictional, because if he were real you’d want to kick him in the nuts about 30 seconds after you met him. Why? Because he’s such a poser, that’s why. This Sam Spade rip-off (you use a spade to dig a trench, get it?) talks like a cheeseball private eye from a bad pulp-fiction novel, goes on about how Hollywood doesn’t make his kind of movies anymore (“the good kind”), passes off Oscar Wilde quotes as his own, and doesn’t go in for “fancy things” like martial-arts training (“I put my faith in a right cross and a lead pill”). Fer crissakes, he named his favorite gun “Lulu.” He probably calls every woman he meets “toots” or “sweetheart” and thinks they love it when a real man shows them some attention, completely unaware how much they hate his frickin’ guts. And rightly so. D-

Titano
Yep, sure, a giant chimpanzee with kryptonite eye-beams, why the hell not? Actually, it’s hard to bust this poor chimp’s chops; it’s not his fault he was tossed into a spaceship, bombarded with space radiation, and then grew to an unmanageable size when he returned to Earth. Superman, who apparently never saw The Butterfly Effect, dealt with him by tossing him into the prehistoric past, “where he would be among other giant creatures.” Titano is yet another Superman character whose Who’s Who entry came out at an awkward time; the “where are they now” blurbs at the back of the comic notes “Titano is now but a fond memory from the Superman stories of the past.” So if reading this entry was your first time meeting Titano and you wanted to see more of him… well, sucks to be you, I guess. C

Titans of Myth
Just like the entry for the Olympian Gods a few issues back, the Titans’ history offers a Cliffs Notes version of Greek mythology right up to the part where these guys decide to mess around with Wonder Girl and her friends. Rest assured, the parent-slaying and child-devouring parts of the story remain intact (and to think those busybody parents gave the Power Rangers grief for throwing a few punches). Art by the always incomparable José Luis García-López, who apparently never wore a clamshell bikini top himself, otherwise he’d know how much those sons of bitches can chafe. Or, you know, so I’ve been told. B

TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite
Now, I’m not one to go for the cheap laughs and make some off-color pedophilia joke about every superhero and kid sidekick that comes down the line, but COME ON, PEOPLE. High school chemistry teacher Thomas N. Thomas (no, really) would keep his “star pupil” Daniel Dunbar after school to work on “advanced chemical experiments” in the lab. Uh-huh. I mean, what teenage boy wouldn’t jump at the chance to play scientist alone with his teacher after school? Then “one evening while Thomas and Dunbar were working on an experiment, Thomas’ hand accidentally touched Dunbar’s, and both teacher and student suddenly found themselves feeling much stronger.” Read that quote again while humming Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” and tell me it doesn’t sound a little icky. Well, with these new super-powers that are activated when they… touch each other, they realize fighting crime is their only option. After all, it’s not like they can re-create their experiment and sell the formula to the army or anything crazy like that. I don’t want to know who first brought up the subject of tights. D+

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Tobias Whale

“Tobias Whale may look fat, but he is, in reality, all muscle and incredibly strong.” This powerful head of an organized crime ring is also bald, built like a sumo wrestler, wears diamond tie pins, considers a street-level superhero the biggest threat to his criminal empire, occasionally employs costumed criminals to do his dirty work and, as seen here, has been known to wear purple pinstripes. I guess calling him “Linchpin” or “Filson Wisk” would have been too obvious, huh, guys? D

Tokamak
Pop quiz! You’re a powerful and ruthless American businessman looking to acquire a legal monopoly on all atomic energy research in the U.S. Do you:

(a) whip out your chequebook and spend money like a coked-up Koch brother, targeting legislators on key Congressional and Senate sub-committees with campaign donations that are ethically dubious but technically within the law under current campaign-finance laws

OR

(b) kidnap the daughter of one senator to force him to vote your way on a key bill, use her as a guinea pig in an experiment to re-create the accident that created Firestorm, brainwash her mutated form into fighting Firestorm for some reason, subject yourself to the same experiment and get yourself turned yourself into a human fusion reactor, and then kidnap the daughter again along with the senator, because his disappearance so soon after a vote in which your company had the most at stake would not look at all suspicious to anyone?

If you answered (b), congratulations! You’re now dead and an idiot. D

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Tomahawk and Dan Hunter
Okay, it’s not just me, right? I’m not the only one looking at this picture of Tom “Tomahawk” Hawk and his young protégé, Dan Hunter, and getting a strangers-with-vans vibe, am I? Because that Tomahawk fellow is standing a mite too close to Dan’s buck-skinned buttocks for my liking. At any rate, this Revolutionary War hero once earned the trust of his Indian captors by fighting off a fierce moose, which… okay, I’m not saying moose don’t get angry and I wouldn’t want to be around one when it does, but the idea of a hopping-mad moose still seems more comical to me than, say, an angry bear. Maybe I’ve watched too many Bullwinkle cartoons, I don’t know. C+

Tomahawk’s Rangers
“Tomahawk’s Rangers!
Tomahawk’s Rangers!
When the Union is in danger
They’re no strangers to ACTION!”

Let’s meet these heroes of the American Revolution!

whos-who-danhunterDan Hunter. Whoa, is this the adorable little redcoat murderer we saw on the previous page? How the hell did Tomahawk’s teenage towel boy go from spunky to chunky so fast? Did he eat that angry moose that Tomahawk fought off? And what’s with the look on his face? He looks like a pissed-off Packers fan who can’t find his favorite cheese-wedge hat in time for the game. D+

Big Anvil. He’s a blacksmith from Maine. He’s big! He’s strong! He wears a purple vest because camouflage is for pussies! And that’s all you need to know! C

Brass Buttons. He’s a former Infantry officer from Washington’s army who proudly wore his uniform even after he joined the Rangers. At least, one hopes it’s his uniform; a guy shows up at your camp one day wearing a uniform, you don’t ask questions about where it came from. Especially not when he’s shining those buttons and calling each of them “Annabelle.” C-

whos-who-cannonballCannonball. “Calhoun earned his nickname by hurling cannonballs at the enemy once during a battle.” Well, that sounds ineffective. I mean, cannonballs are usually kept right next to the cannons, right? Even if he didn’t want to waste time futzing with the powder and the fuse lighting and the positioning and that giant Q-tip thingie they used to pack it all down, how much damage was he expecting to do with a cannonball he chucked like a shot put? Maybe there’s a reason he was transferred to the Rangers. D

Frenchie. Frenchie was — brace for it — French! And not just that, he was a French naval officer from France who dressed like a Québécois lumberjack and had that French mustache that’s only sported by French dudes, so he was, like, super-French! Frenchie was also “known for his great agility,” because if you’re throwing in all the French stereotypes you might as well get in some mime school references, too. Did we mention he’s French? C

whos-who-healerdandolphHealer Randolph. The Ranger’s medic and only non-combatant, he’s an escaped slave who learned medicine from a grateful master whom he saved with his knowledge of medicinal herbs. He’s also black, not that you could tell from the extremely Caucasian-looking mugshot they drew for him. Figures the only black guy in the outfit doesn’t get a gun, huh? C+

Kaintuck Jones. He’s from Ohio, because of course. D+

Long Rifle. That sound you just heard was the Internet making a million penis jokes all at the same time. C

Stovepipe. Hands down my favorite Ranger not because he wore a stovepipe hat, but because he wore a stovepipe hat to hide the live ammunition and explosives he always carried around on his head. Think about that. A guy in wartime who stores 18th-century ordnance atop his noggin. And he’s one of the Rangers known to have survived the war and live to a ripe old age. Huh. B-

Wildcat. A member of a pacifistic sect from Pennsylvania, he became the Ranger “most enthusiastic about going into battle.” That’s what we like to call ironical. I imagine him humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” or loudly reciting the Twenty-Third Psalm in rhythm to his rifle-butting a redcoat’s face into goo. You know, the way goodly Christians would. C+

Tommy Tomorrow
That’s “Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers,” thank you very much, though not the same Planeteers who stuck the indigenous kid with the shitty “heart” ring and told him to go fight pollution with it. No, Tomorrow is a member of the elite force of 21st-century peacekeepers and explorers known as the Space Planeteers. This Aryan specimen of perfection, who traversed the universe wearing a really tight top and purple culottes, traveled exclusively with his, ahem, “companion”, a fellow physically fit officer with a neatly trimmed mustache named Brent Wood. Let your inner 12-year-old provide the punchline. Tomorrow first appeared in Real Facts Comics. To quote our dear Mr. Muntz, I can think of at least two things wrong with that title. C-

T.O. Morrow
Thomas Oscar Morrow (get it, huh huh?) tried to invent a time machine, but instead wound up with a device that “harnessed light rays from the future,” allowing him to observe events happening a hundred or so years after his time. And instead of using the machine in the manner that any red-blooded American would — betting big on sports events, playing the sock market, charting when and where the McRib will be sold for the next century — he steals weapons from the future and challenges superheroes to stop him from stealing “Earth’s greatest treasures.” Sigh. YOU HAVE A MACHINE THAT STEALS WEAPONS FROM THE FUTURE, DUMBASS! YOU DON’T NEED TO STEAL ANYTHING ELSE! I don’t care if this guy did create Red Tornado; there’s no way anyone can top this guy for sheer stupidity. D

Top
It would appear I stand corrected. D-  More? Oh, fine, then. Roscoe Dillon’s obsession with tops led to him learning how to spin himself at high speeds. Then he “discovered the spinning somehow increased his intelligence,” allowing him to devise inventive top-themed weapons, and eventually mind-over-matter powers, because why the hell not. Do I even need to tell you he was a Flash villain? Do me a favor, conduct a little experiment and see what happens when you spin around really fast. What do you feel? Nauseous? Dizzy? Ridiculous if you catch someone watching you? Whatever it is, you ain’t getting any smarter. In fact, you’ll probably feel dumber, though nowhere near as dumb as anyone who bought a comic with this guy in it.

Toyman
As much as I liked the 1996 Superman cartoon, I think their design for the Toyman (small dude wearing an oversized puppet head as a mask) was one of the few misfires in the show. The classic Toyman (or at least the version I first met) is an older gentleman who devotes his life to building toys, only to get screwed over by The Man when his old-fashioned toys become less appealing to modern kids, and so he uses his mechanical aptitude and love of toys to take what he feels he’s owed. Over the years, he’s gone from scheming criminal to reformed citizen to vengeance-crazed terrorist to seriously creepy child abductor, but I can’t think of a better use of his character than as a stand-in for all the craftsmen, artisans and assorted “little guys” knocked around by Big Business. Because every great villain needs to be a little bit sympathetic, no? B

Matt Savage, Trail Boss
Another Western hero from the time when Western heroes were as thick as tumbleweeds under the Arizona sun, but that’s not what interests me here. Neither is the fact he first appeared in the oh-so-imaginatively-named Western Comics. No, I’m more interested in trying to figure out how DC is filing these entries. The front of the book lists him as “Trail Boss Matt Savage” to make him fit in the cover index, even though his logo clearly says “Matt Savage, Trail Boss.” But why is he filed under ‘T’ while Tobias Whale and Lois Lane are filed under their first names? For that matter, if the job title takes precedence over the name, then why isn’t Merry, Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks filed under ‘G’ or Arion, Lord of Atlantis filed under ‘L’? I bet a lot of enraged librarians wrote in about this. C

Trickster
Another Flash villain with a ridiculous backstory (he comes from a family of circus aerialists but is drawn to crime solely because his name is James Jesse) and horrendously designed costume, at least Trickster offers a little entertainment in his choice of prank-based weaponry, albeit in a discount-Joker kind of way. Inspired by his namesake, he invented jet-shoes that allowed him to walk in midair and used them to rob airplanes in flight. Okay, I brought this up back when we talked about Terra-Man, but I have to ask this again: how the hell would this work? Even if you build jet-shoes that can fly as fast as a plane, even if you figure out a way to survive the wind speed and lack of oxygen that high up, even if you find a way to force the pilots to let you inside that doesn’t involve puncturing massive holes in the fuselage… what the hell are you going to steal from an airplane? Tiny pillows? Inedible food? Are millionaires routinely checking in carry-on bags full of cash and gold doubloons while us proles in coach get charged for carrying a Wet-Wipe in our pocket? C+

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Trigger Twins

These two Western heroes — and yes, their last name really is Trigger — were identical twins, one the sheriff of Rocky City and the other a shopkeeper. When the job “proved too much” (read: drunken stupor) for the sheriff brother, the shopkeeper would step in and pose as his brother. This “double identity” also allowed them to outwit criminals by appearing to be the same man in two places at once, but I don’t see how that could work. I mean, Western towns weren’t all that big, sheriffs and shopkeepers tended to be high-profile residents, and the townspeople would have known about the sheriff’s twin brother, so why would this be a secret to anyone? Why even bother with the “I’m actually my brother” charade? Why would the shopkeeper’s girlfriend not put two and two together every time her beau ran off? And how would the shopkeeper brother even know when it’s time to strap on his six-shooters, given the sorry state of cellphone service in the 1800s? I know, “shut up and hand over your twelve cents,” etc. Art by Carmine Infantino, so you know what that means: legs apart, arms akimbo, and all smiles… in stereo! C-

Trigon
Not much you can say about the ol’ Trigster — he’s another in a long line of “ultimate embodiment of evil” types who are great for kick-starting a story, but not so great at having any character himself. Raven’s baby-daddy wanted her by his side to rule the universe — hence her constant “I must not feel emotion/give in to my dark side” muttering — because she was his only child, which seems highly unlikely given his long lifespan and evil’s general propensity to shag, but whatever. Called himself “Trigon the Terrible” after “Trigon the Tolerably Unpleasant” tested poorly among the key 18-to-34 Satanist demographic. B-

Tsunami
Nisei, issei, kibei, tsunami — who said comics weren’t educational? After reading this entry, I feel like I could talk Japanese like a native. This aquatic anti-hero was a young Japanese-American girl who sided with Japan in WWII over the mistreatment of her people by the American government during the war. She has the mental power to create and control giant waves — hence, you know, “Tsunami” — she fought the All-Star Squadron, and… that’s it, really. Hey, has anyone brought her back recently? Because I’m thinking the whole “American government creates its own enemies by treating non-white people like crap” theme might still have legs. Just a hunch. B

Turtle Man
“Art by Peter Laird,” and a party-sized pizza to everyone who gets that little inside joke. There were actually two Turtle Men, not that you could tell them apart; both were bald, fat, slow-moving and somehow decided their slowness made them the perfect arch-nemesis for heroes named “Flash.” Eventually, DC tried to make sense out of this mess by having the second Turtle Man invent “slow lasers” and ” invisible brake shields” but… no. Nice try, but no. D+

Tweedledee and Tweedledum
Because pilfering from the public domain is both fun and easy, DC has gone to the Wonderland well a couple of times, with one of its earlier expeditions producing Deever and Dumfree Tweed, nearly identical cousins who just happen to resemble the original depictions of Tweedledee and Tweedledum in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. “Fat and lazy,” and occasionally using their similar appearance to fool their enemies, T&T weren’t obsessed with twins or Wonderland bric-a-brac; they were criminal masterminds whose only claim to crazy was thinking they could take on the Batman. B- as in good, but not great, especially compared to…

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Two-Face

A classic Batman villain with a great visual hook, a suitably tragic backstory, and a peculiar obsession (in his case, duality and the number 2) that sets him apart from the rank-and-file mob bosses that try to own Gotham. Really, what more could you ask for? We all know the story of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent, the acid-scarred DA who literally flipped a coin to begin a new life on the other side of the law. Impeccable artwork by Brian Bolland (one of my fave cover artists) on this entry suggests someone at DC liked this guy as much as I do. Only thing I could never figure out were his clothes. Where did he get suits tailored like that? Because it’s hard to imagine Two-Face hunched over a sewing machine on a Saturday night. A

The 2000 Committee
“The 2000 Committee is a group dedicated to the takeover of the U.S. government by the year 2000.” Well, I hope they weren’t too disappointed when things didn’t work out as planned. Or maybe they did achieve their goals; after all, look who got elected president that year. (“dun dun dunnnnn!”) Plenty more razor-sharp political satire where that came from, people! (On a related note, there’s a chain of electronics stores in my neck of the woods called 2001 Audio and Video. I bet that name sounded very futuristic back when Columbia House was offering 8-tracks through the mail.) C-

Typhoon
Another Firestorm villain who falls ass-backwards into something radioactive, in his case becoming a living storm system with a bug up his butt about how he got that way. You know a character is snooze-inducing when you catch yourself grammar-checking the entry while you’re reading it (note to DC: it’s “sought out the two men whom he felt were responsible for the destruction of his marriage,” not who). D+

Tyr
An alien warlord from the 30th century with a Fu Manchu mustache and a gun instead of a right arm. That’s it. He looks like an action figure that some kid pulled the arm off of and stuck a robot gun in its place, and I cannot stress how uncool that looks. Also not cool: he’s a bloodthirsty warlord with a mobile war planet at his disposal, yet somehow “brainwash Timber Wolf into killing the Legion” was once at the top of his to-do list. Are you kidding me? You’re a murdering, pillaging tyrant with the DC equivalent of the Death Star at your command and your master plan is hypnotizing the dumbest Legionnaire into doing your dirty work? D-

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Tyroc

So, here’s the thing: the Legion of Super-Heroes first appeared in 1958, a time in which it was considered impolite to point out things like, oh, how lily-white-wonder-bread-bland-as-an-unsalted-cracker that merry band of 30th-century superheroes really were. Oh sure, you had an orange-skinned shape-shifter and blue-skinned chick on the roster, but those were aliens and some folks, not unreasonably, asked where all the black people were. It was a valid question, since no non-white person appeared in the strip until 1976, and when one finally did… hoo boy. A caricature of the angry young black man (his power, no joke, was his super-screaming), Tyroc was the champion of a small island off Africa that every black person in the 30th century moved to, a piece of real estate that also just happens to disappear every once in a while (explaining why no one in the strip ever saw a black person until Tyroc and his people showed up). Oh, and he’s also a former slave turned racial segregationist who made it loud and clear he wasn’t down with any of the Legion’s “can’t we all just get along” jive. Now, if all this sounds racist… well, it’s because it was, and the artists who worked on the strip at the time are on record saying they were appalled by what they were given to work with. And even though this Who’s Who entry tries to gloss over his origin by making Tyroc’s home a dimension-hopping island that originated on another, less-progressive version of Earth, it’s still pretty bad. I’m kind of impressed DC owned up to having once published this character by giving him his own Who’s Who entry. But that’s about the only thing that’s impressive here. D-

Ultraa
Pre-Crisis, this guy was the Superman analogue for Earth-Prime, and he was the only super-powered being on that planet until five members of Earth-1’s Justice League showed up one day because… reasons. After sharing some shits and giggles, they decide Earth-Prime is better off without any superheroes, so Ultraa agrees to go to Earth-1 with them while Green Lantern casually mind-rapes everyone on Earth-Prime into forgetting Ultraa ever existed. Only — oops! — Ultraa decides he likes this idea of getting rid of all heroes on the JLA’s Earth, too, so he builds a doohickey that takes away the Justice League’s powers, but — oops again! — accidentally boosts the powers of super-villains. Then at some point a lawyer who’s actually a “group of alien beings in disguise” shows up to steal all the hydrogen on Earth (no, YOU shut up with your “most common element in the universe” objections!) and Ultraa ends up a busboy in Atlantic City. Then there’s the final paragraph, in which we find out Ultraa never existed in the “reformed DC universe” and everything we just read about him officially never happened. I can relate; I’ve had more than one night that I declared “never officially happened,” either, very probably while I was under the same pharmaceuticals that inspired this drivel. D

Ultra Boy
He’s a guy in the 30th century who got super-powers after he and his one-man spacecraft were swallowed by a giant “energy beast” in space. His name? Jo Nah. This is what passed for humor back in the day, folks. There’s nothing else particularly noteworthy about him, so let me just ask: why are they called “Science Police”? Is everything “science this” and “science that” in the future, or do they only have jurisdiction over the scientific laws? “For violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics, you are hereby sentenced to 5 to 10 parsecs in science prison. Science Bailiff, take him away. All right, that’s science lunch, everybody; see you back here in one science hour.” C

Ultra-Humanite
Great villain, mainly on the strength of the sheer lunacy of the concept. For starters, what the hell is a “humanite,” let alone an ultra one? He started out as a Lex Luthor mad scientist type, only with a penchant for swapping bodies; aside from his original, crippled body, he’s had his brain put inside a Hollywood actress, a giant flying ant and an albino mutant gorilla. Oh, and his albino mutant gorilla form comes with telepathic and telekinetic powers, because what’s the point of being a scientific genius/albino mutant gorilla if you don’t have awesome mental powers? Goddamn, I love comics. A-

Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man
A fellow born to parents killed during World War I on a parallel Earth, Gary vowed to end all war by devising defenses so strong that waging war would be impossible. Shockingly, others better versed in world history, military tactics, human psychology and a few other disciplines called him mad, but he didn’t care. But then — oh, irony! — the next world war broke out while he was working in his lab (way to keep up with current events, Gary!) and a bombing trapped him inside with his war-stopping chemicals, but no biggie — they put him into suspended animation until 2174, and gave him super-strength, to boot. So he set forth to battle world conquerors while wearing… well, this. First Tommy Tomorrow and now this guy — I guess global warming will make pants and long sleeves unnecessary in the future. C-

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Ultra the Multi-Alien

Ace Arn was your average space pilot when he crashed on an alien planet and woke up in the headquarters of a dead alien named Zobra. Why? Who knows? Before he died, Zobra invented a weapon that could turn someone into an exact duplicate of whoever fired the weapon. Why? Who knows? Zobra’s four lieutenants, who each came from a different alien species, all decided to shoot Ace with their own copies of Zobra’s duplicating weapon at the exact same time. Why? Who knows? This turns Ace into a weird conglomeration of all four aliens, with each quarter of his body resembling and possessing the powers of one of the four aliens he then defeats and escapes to begin life anew as a superhero. Why? Who cares? D

Uncle Sam
The living embodiment of the American spirit, Uncle Sam has appeared at various times throughout history “to help Americans in times of national turmoil.” Which probably makes him the only superhero you don’t want to see, because his showing up means things are really about to hit the fan. Especially given how all the crap the U.S. has been through lately somehow doesn’t qualify as “national turmoil.” At the very least, one would hope an old man in red-and-white striped pants would show up to smack Roger Ailes in the head. C+

Unimaginable
It’s an alien being whose appearance and powers are unimaginable, but not so unimaginable that the Justice League couldn’t figure out — or “imagine,” if you will — a way to trap and contain it when it threw a hissyfit about joining the team. “Vaguely imperceptible” might be more apropos here. D

Universo
One of the Legion’s more persistent foes, Universo was a Green Lantern who went renegade, much like Sinestro did a thousand years before — leading, I believe, to the Guardians’ controversial “Enough With the Pointy-Eared Dudes already” policy. Later thought super-hypnosis was the perfect weapon to bring to a Legion fight. Worked out about as well as you’d think. D+