Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. V

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Saturday! What a day! Groovin’ all week with you! What, no Potsie fans in the house? Fine, I get it, I’m old.

Time once again to check in with Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This week, Volume Vee, from Chronos to Cyclotron.

No surprise, the cover is a delightful assemblage of this month’s inductees courtesy of George Pérez and Dick Giordano, with a cute visual gag showing the Composite Superman — a villain who’s literally half-Superman and half-Batman — perfectly bisected by the cover crease.

But the funniest part is the Pronunciation Glossary on the inside front cover; sure, we can assume not every reader might know how to pronounce “Circe” (SIR-cee) or “Cyclotron” (SY-kleh-tron), but did anyone really need help with a name like “Croc” (KROK)? “Look out, Batman, that crocodile-looking guy named — uh, Crook? Croak? Cruck? — he’s right behind you!”

Onward!

whos-who-chronos
Chronos
Easily in the running for Worst-Dressed Super-Villain (yellow cape, green tunic, red shorts, black-and-white-striped leggings… dear God, why?), Chronos is a time-themed villain who first butted heads with the Atom. He was inspired to become a time-obsessed villain after a stint in prison left him impressed with “the clockwork precision with which everything was run.” That’s quite the leap, to go from “Hey, they run a tight ship around here” to “I know! I’ll ride around on flying sundials and shoot exploding hourglasses at superheroes.” I guess we should be grateful he wasn’t as impressed by one of his fellow prisoner’s toilet stills. D+

Cinnamon
She’s a comely Western (make that Weird Western, according to her first appearance) lass who’s a part-time bounty hunter and full-time seeker of her father’s killers. “Though expert with knife and pistol, Cinnamon’s favorite weapon was the Japanese shuriken, a razor-edged throwing star that reminded the bitter young woman of her father’s badge.” So that’s where that one scene in Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft came from. It’s a neat idea for a character undermined by one inescapable fact: no varmint will ever run in terror when he hears that someone named “Cinnamon” is riding into town. It’s like creating a gritty urban crime drama starring Detective Sugarbunnies. B-

Circe
“Circe had long ago learned the ancient secret of transforming men into animals.” So did this one chick I knew from college, but you don’t see her bragging about it (hi-yo!). Yes, it’s the same Circe from Greek mythology, and yes, she first appeared in a Wonder Woman comic. But I was surprised to learn she didn’t hit the scene until 1983, in Wonder Woman #305. Why not sooner? An ancient Greek sorceress obsessed with immortality who turns men into beasts for shits and giggles sounds like an obvious villain for someone like Wonder Woman to go up against. But I guess her early writers were too busy (or too high) pitting Wonder Woman against cross-dressing snowmen and racist Oriental ovoids to give Circe some space. Pity. B-

The Citadel
What the…? No first appearance note? Bad editors! Bad! Though I can understand why they might have wanted to rush through this entry about an evil space empire featured in DC’s Teen Titans and Omega Men books. It’s a toss-up which Citadel factoid deserves the most laughs: that “the First Citadelian” fired his scientists and made clones of himself that were “imperfect and retarded”… or that he programmed his personality into a computer named “Complex-Complex”… or that the most recent guy to crawl to the top of this cosmic dung heap was an Earthling dressed like a 19th-century Prussian general named Harry Hokum. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Hitler would have gotten as far in life as he did if he were named “Harry Hokum.” D

Claw the Unconquered
After Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian comic proved there was a market for sword-and-sorcery titles, DC made a couple of attempts to come up with their own barbarian fantasy figures. Claw is one of the lesser-known ones. There’s not a whole lot that’s new here — alien dimension, magic swords, never-ending battle between the forces of shadow and light, orphaned boy raised to be warrior — but the claw thing is kind of original. Valcan (“If he can’t do it, no one can!”) was born with a furry, gnarled claw instead of a right hand, a claw that had to be kept covered by a magical gauntlet to “suppress his demonic urges.” Thinking about baseball usually works for me. C

Clayface I
God knows why there is even one baddie named “Clayface” listed in Batman’s Rolodex, but there you go. The first Clayface was a washed-up actor who went nuts and stabbed people until Batman and Robin stopped him. You wouldn’t think an actor would give Batman much of a challenge — Meryl Streep, sure, but that woman can do anything — and yet we’re told this guy was a “fierce hand-to-hand combatant due to the abnormal strength granted him by his insanity.” Why is that a thing in comics, that crazy = super-strong? I don’t care how nutso blee-blop lulu-cuckoo you are, you just don’t beat the Bat without putting in some serious ab crunch time first. I mean, that’s just common sense. D

Clayface II
This is the Clayface that fans of the Batman animated series will recognize. However, this Matt Hagen isn’t an actor addicted to untested cosmetic treatments; he’s a fortune hunter who finds an underground pool of magic goo that turns him into a shape-shifter for 48 hours at a time. Not the most exciting super-villain — Look! He’s a centaur! That’s… scary? — and no one shed a tear when he was killed off in a cosmic event shortly after this issue came out. D+

Clayface III
Preston Payne was your average scientist/acromegalic who sought a cure for his congenital condition. That led him to Matt Hagen and a sample of his blood, which Payne believed could transfer Hagen’s shape-shifting powers and would, if injected into him, allow him to reshape his face. It worked, sort of… but then his flesh began to run like melting clay; even worse, his touch caused other people to dissolve into protoplasmic goo, and he couldn’t turn it off. So his mind snaps, he hides out in a wax museum and falls in love with a mannequin. As one would. B-

Clock_KingClock King
What’s that? You say one ridiculously dressed timepiece-themed villain in this issue is simply not enough? Well, friend, today is your lucky day. William Tockman (ha ha!) was your average clock repairman until a doctor told him he had only six months to live. Not wanting to leave his invalid sister without the means to take care of herself, he embarked on a crime spree, calling himself the Clock King because he liked clocks and he liked the symbolism of being a fellow who was running out of time. But — oh, irony! — the doctor had mixed up his file with another patient’s, and his sister died while he was “doing time” in prison and unable to care for her. Which, you know, sucks, but (a) no one told him to commit illegal acts to get money for his sister; there’s this thing called “life insurance” and (b) at least he’s not the other patient in that file mix-up who thought his life was going great until he suddenly checked out without having a chance to cross any of the items off his bucket list. Glass half full, you know? D+

Cluemaster
Uch. Generic costume, generic motive (he’s out to learn Batman and Robin’s secret identities like EVERY OTHER GOTHAM SUPER-VILLAIN EVER), ripoff M.O. (instead of riddles, he leaves clues), ripoff weaponry (he’s a “walking utility belt,” as Robin puts it)… let’s be honest, not every Batman villain is destined for greatness. Most are barely destined for adequacy. Cluemaster is… striving for adequate. Really, he’s just one bowler hat and question-mark tie away from a massive copyright infringement suit. Let’s stop talking about him now. C-

Colonel Computron
On second thought, let’s go back to Cluemaster. Introduced during those heady early days of personal computing when you could slap a motherboard to anything and call it the future, this Flash foe wore a computerized suit of armor that did all sorts of computerized stuff — it doesn’t really matter what, it’s all “a wizard did it” nonsense for the ColecoVision era. The big mystery here was that the person behind the mask could have been the elderly toy inventor who first came up with the Colonel Computron toy, or his wife, or their genius daughter. The fact that I can’t tell which is which looking at the three headshots in Carmine Infantino’s background art says a lot about how little anyone, including the artists, cared enough to find out. D-

Colonel Future
So let’s say a “freak electrical accident” gives you the power to see into the future, so much so that you can “borrow” technical specs from the future and build yourself a personal jetpack, stasis-field ray, teleportation device, you name it. What’s your next move? (a) Build stuff, sell stuff, retire a billionaire. (b) Take a peek at next week’s lottery numbers; buy an island. (c) Check out a sports almanac printed in the future; bet big on sporting events yet to happen. (d) Put on a costume and risk life and limb to prevent what you think are future catastrophes, all the while trading punches with Superman because you can’t waste time explaining to him that you’re actually a good guy. Did you choose (d)? Congratulations! You’re an idiot. D

Color Kid
“His power to alter the color of objects… was considered nearly useless (by the Legion of Super-Heroes) and he was rejected.” “Nearly”…??? D-

Colossal Boy
Oh, stop that snickering. Like all early members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, Gim Allon was blander than Cream of Wheat on Wonder bread, with only his super power (he grows big, duh) setting him apart from the crowd. Later on, he hooked up with fellow LSHer Shrinking Violet, only to later discover he in fact married a shape-shifting spy who had taken her place in the Legion. But then Colossal Boy forgave her for it and stayed married to her. And suddenly I’m thinking of that scene in Revenge of the Nerds where the masked nerd tricks a hot girl into sex by letting her think he’s his boyfriend, and she’s grateful for it. To wit: the hell? C

Commander Steel
Ah, the mid-70s. Who cares about gas shortages and lapel-related injuries when we’ve got a bicentennial party and a super-cool bionic guy on the telly-tube to chase away our weekday blues? So in those days, a bionic-infused patriotic hero should have been a slam dunk, right? Well… not so much. It’s your standard “we can rebuild him, we have the technology” story about a WWII Marine who’s given steel bones, motorized joints and super-hard skin by a questionably certified doctor after a near-fatal explosion “left him more dead than alive.” Not only does this save his life, he can lift a half-ton, outrace a car, leap great heights, tell his salad fork from his shrimp fork, you name it. So obviously this miraculous and clearly successful operation was given to every soldier who was critically injured fighting for their country during the Big One, right? HA HA! You’re funny. C

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Composite Superman

He’s a janitor with a bug up his butt who lucks into the combined powers of 19 Legionnaires — including Supergirl and Mon-El — and he still gets his ass handed to him by Batman. How the hell does that happen? D-

Computo
HAL, Ultron, Alpha 60, that one super-computer that Kirk beat by barking gibberish at it… the ’60s was a decade when super-computers tried their damnedest to make us meat-bags suffer, unlike today’s computers that know their place as our servants and GODDAMMIT THAT WAS THREE HOURS OF TYPING I’LL GIVE YOU THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH IF YOU DON’T — ahem. Anyway. Computo was Brainiac 5’s greatest creation until it went on a rampage and murdered one-third of Triplicate Girl… and then, a few years later, went on another rampage that almost caused the deaths of the entire Legion of Super-Heroes. I assume those two incidents were followed up by two very awkward performance reviews. C+

Congo Bill/Congorilla
He’s a Clark Gable-ish great white hunter type who explored Africa blah blah blah he’s known far and wide for his courage and honesty blah blah blah has magic ring that switches his mind with that of a super-strong golden gorilla. But who cares about all that boring stuff. Check out the background art: it’s a gorilla holding a machine gun! That’s goddamn good comics, y’all. B

The Construct
At the risk of betraying my fellow carbon-based life forms, I’m going to offer some friendly advice to any future would-be world conquerors, AI-division: (1) The whole “create a world of perfect automation” goal? It’s been done. And it’s a stupid goal, given how humanity’s disorganized mess of radio and electronic signals is what gave you life in the first place. (2) If you have the power to possess bodies, then don’t dick around. Simply turn the president into your finger puppet, push the red button, boom, you’ve conquered the world. (3) If your biggest weakness is your “inability to hold [your] electronic consciousness together in the face of overwhelming stress,” then I suggest an occupation slightly less stressful than world conquest or going up against the Justice League. Macramé, perhaps. Or Sudoku. D+

Controllers
As you might have guessed, these guys like to control things. Specifically, they’re a renegade offshoot of the Guardians of the Universe who take the kill-the-patient-to-save-the-patient approach to fighting evil, mainly by wiping out entire galaxies where they’ve decided those galaxies have gotten a little too evil. In the 30th century, one Controller targets our own Milky Way with his awesome Sun-Eater, a massive space cloud that, um, kills suns. But the Legion of Super-Heroes saves the day, and the Controller dies of a heart attack that “may or may not have been caused by the presence of Ferro Lad’s ghost.” There’s just something about the idea of an all-powerful, 10-billion-year-old control freak dropping dead at the sight of a teenage ghost yelling “BOOGA BOOGA!” that tickles me in a happy place. C

Copperhead
Snake-themed bad guy known for being able to squeeze through tight spaces and using snake venom against his adversaries. Hmm, which came first, this guy or Marvel’s Cobra, whom I deem the superior snake-themed bad guy known for being able to squeeze through tight spaces and using snake venom against his adversaries? Doesn’t matter; I’ll just echo Dr. Jones’s sentiment about snakes and give this mildly dangerous-looking cipher a disinterested C.

Cosmic Boy
Cosmic Boy bugs me. With most Legionnaires, it’s pretty easy to figure out what they do from their names. Lightning Lad, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy, Brainiac 5, Element Lad — no problems there. And then we come to “Cosmic Boy,” whose power is super-magnetism. I mean sure, call yourself whatever you want, it’s a free country, but… well, isn’t everything in the star-hopping 30th century “cosmic” to some degree? And what kind of ego does it take to call yourself “Of or Relating to the Universe or Outer Space Boy” or “Of or Relating to Something Very Large or Important Boy” when your power is something that everyone back on your home planet can do? For real, Rokk. Stop being a cosmic douche, already. C-

Cosmic King
On the other hand, at least Cosmic Boy didn’t go all way into nomenclatural douchebaggery and proclaim himself a king. And just to make it more confusing, Cosmic Boy’s evil counterpart in the Legion of Super-Villains isn’t another super-magnetic guy; he possesses “the ability to transmute inanimate objects, changing their elemental composition, structure or form with unknown limitations.” Which sounds bad-ass for a villain, but any guy who has to call himself a “king” clearly has confidence issues. D

The Council
So, what makes this super-secret organization dedicated to complete control of the world’s information different from all the other super-secret organizations dedicated to complete control of the world’s information? Well, for starters, their secret base is at the bottom of Lake Michigan near Chicago. You have to admit that’s original. Also, they didn’t come up with a catchy name for their evil enterprise, like “HYDRA” or “Google.” Though to be fair, naming things doesn’t seem to be their strong point; their hooded leader is called “The Director” and their costumed enforcers are, no joke, “The Gang.” Maybe they should hire a super-secret organization dedicated to complete control of the world’s marketing. D-

whos-who-count-vertigo
Count Vertigo
There has been some really good work done with this guy in recent years. Originally a Green Arrow villain, Vertigo comes with an interesting power (the ability to make people feel dizzy and unbalanced), a classic costume design, an aristocrat’s attitude of imperiousness, and a decent motivation for his criminal acts (he’s from a royal family forced to flee their tiny Balkan country when it was taken over by the Soviets after the Second World War, and he fights to regain his title and his country’s independence). Really, he’s got it all going on. It’s kind of a shame the Arrow TV show turned him into a wide-eyed drug dealer, but that’s Hollywood for you. A

Crazy-Quilt
Yeah, okay, so… this guy. Don’t get me wrong, I loves my crazy Kirby, sometimes the crazier the better, but… really? Okay, so he’s a famous painter who branches out into organized crime by giving his henchmen the plans for his crimes via clues in his paintings. “Not crazy enough,” you say? But wait! He’s blinded by a gunshot wound inflicted by a rival and then gets an operation that allows him to see, with the unfortunate side effect of only being able to see bright colors, so he embarks on a series of color-themed crimes. “Still not crazy enough,” you’re probably thinking. No problem! So then he gets a helmet capable of generating disorienting light shows and laser beams and sets out to make himself the arch-enemy of both the Boy Commandos and Robin the Boy Wonder. No, not Batman and Robin — just Robin. All while looking like this:

crazy-quilt

So… crazy enough for you now? ‘Cause that’s too crazy for me. D+

Creature Commandos
No, you go to hell. These guys were friggin’ awesome! A vampire and a werewolf and a Frankenstein monster and a Medusa in a World War II special-ops unit? Can anyone who claims to have a heart not fall in love with the utter insanity of that idea? Warren Griffith, Oklahoma farmboy and bloodthirsty werewolf! Elliot “Lucky” Taylor, whose nickname turns ironic when he steps on a land mine and endures hours of operations to become an eight-fool-tall patchwork man! Vincent Velcro, who was injected with chemicals laced with blood from vampire bats to… wait a second. His name was Velcro? Well… no matter. It’s still a concept my 12-year-old self couldn’t get enough of. Come on, Warner Brothers — if they can make Abe Lincoln a vampire hunter, you can bloody well get this project off the ground. A-

Creeper
The Creeper is one of those characters who I feel ought to be right up my alley, but I’ve never seen the point of him. Maybe he was something new when he was first introduced in the ’60s, but today he feels completely unnecessary. I think it’s the lack of theme that gets me. Batman embodies vengeance, Spider-Man is all about responsibility, and the Creeper embodies… Anarchy? Subversiveness? The versatility of a good sheepskin rug? And let’s not even get into the highly contrived “how he got his powers” backstory, complete with a conveniently expiring scientist who tinkers in the damnably oddest side projects. And while we’re dwelling on his origin story, why would his “bizarre appearance” during his first outing as the Creeper give him an edge over his “terrified kidnappers”? They kidnapped him at a costume party! They ought to know it was a washed-up TV reporter underneath all that makeup. C-

Crime Doctor
He’s a doctor who commits crimes, which sounds like both the most awesome and stupidest idea at the same time. On the one hand, you would think the material rewards of being a medical professional would be enough to keep a doctor from risking everything over the chance to get a Batarang flung at his head. Second, it’s probably not a good idea to advertise your day job in your super-villain nom de guerre. On the other hand, why stop there? The Crime Firefighter! The Crime Fry Cook! The Crime Systems Analyst! The Crime Wall Street CEO, about whom the “And that would be a switch how…?” jokes practically write themselves! C

Crime Syndicate
Some random thoughts about the Crime Syndicate, an anti-JLA group from Earth-3: (1) Star Trek did the “evil mirror universe” thing a lot better. (2) It’s hard to believe no one lost body parts snickering at Owlman’s ridiculous cowl. (3) So Evil Spock gets a goatee and Evil Green Lantern gets male-pattern baldness. Interesting. (4) Funny how they’re considered the evil ones while the Justice League’s idea of humane incarceration is a “life-sustaining bubble between the dimensions” that didn’t even give the five of them room enough to lie down, hello. C+

Crimson Avenger
From his bio: “All his life Britt Reid” — sorry, I meant to say Lee Travis — “fought for the cause of justice, first as crusading young publisher of the Daily Sentinel” — whoops, meant to say Daily Globe-Leader there — “and then, when that didn’t seem to be enough, as the midnight manstalker known as the Green Hornet” — dang it! Focus, man, focus: “Thought at first to be a criminal and wanted by the police, the Green Hornet” — sigh — “made use of this deception to infiltrate criminal gangs and destroy them from within. With the aid of his Oriental assistant, Kato” — ARGH!! D

Croc
“I threw a rock at him!” The greatest line from the greatest scene from the greatest episode of the greatest Batman series ever. Though I have been known to exaggerate once or twice. As for Waylon “Croc” Jones, I say mad props to him. He didn’t come with a gimmick or a theme or a catchphrase or a maniacal obsession with anything; he was just a guy with a temper and a bad skin condition who didn’t take shit from anyone and got himself onto Batman’s B-list with nothing more than that going for him. You gotta respect that. B+

whos-who-cyborg
Cyborg

It’s hard to dump on Vic Stone, a solid contender for the Teen Titans’ MVP award. He’s got a suitably tragic backstory, an appearance that helps him stand out in the long-underwear crowd, a set of powers that makes him infinitely more interesting as our technology advances, and that undefinable “street cred” that cuts across demographic lines. Really, a desire for ethnic diversity is the least of the reasons why DC was right in promoting him to the big leagues a few years back. Now if I can only figure out why he hung out with a dweeb like Beast Boy all those years… A

Cyclotron
Terry Curtis was an average atomic research scientist in the 1940s who got a fatal dose of radiation from an experiment until the villainous Ultra-Humanite offered to cure him in exchange for Curtis’s services. So does the super-smart bad guy lock Curtis in a lab and force him to create the world’s first atomic bomb? Does he hold Curtis’s daughter hostage and order him to infiltrate the Manhattan Project and steal its secrets? Don’t be silly! No, instead he gives his reluctant minion “various atomic powers” — including super-strength and the ability to fly — and orders him to go steal a mystical hammer. I’m sure it was all part of a really great master plan. D+

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