Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. VI

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Hi-dee-ho, neighborinos (or neighbourinos if you’re Canadian)! It’s Saturday, which means it’s time to delve into another exciting chapter of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This week, Volume Vee-Eye, from Daily Planet to Doctor Polaris. 

First up: the cover. Notice it’s the first Who’s Who cover in the series that’s not penciled by George Pérez; Paris Cullins has stepped in to do the honors, with inks by DC editor Dick Giordano. 

Cullins is best known to DC fans for co-creating Blue Devil and working on Blue Beetle’s title when he was introduced into the DC universe, as well as co-plotting and drawing a 1989 revival of The New Gods. While I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Pérez, Cullins does a decent enough job here; I especially like the image of Darkseid with a thumb cocked at the Demolition Team chipping away at a giant statue of him, looking all, “Geez, can ya believe da noive of dese guys?” Meanwhile, you’ve got DeSaad in the background roasting a weenie on Deathbolt’s energy field. Oh, the wackiness.

Onward!

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Daily Planet
No room for Alfred, no room for Commissioner Gordon, but by Godfrey the editors of Who’s Who will not rest until everyone knows every secret about Superman’s place of employment. Like how it’s supposedly haunted by a worker killed on its first day of publication in 1826. Or how it’s located in a building with a secret 13th floor that’s home to a tourist bureau for aliens. Or how Jimmy Olsen apparently pays Who’s Who writers to say things like he’s noted for his “courageous investigative reporting” and not for “being the oldest professional virgin working in comics.” Then there’s the biggest secret of all: “Most people assume that it is the Planet’s reputation for fairness and honesty that allows it to get so many Superman exclusives. But then, few people know Superman is Clark Kent.” Translation: people might think the Planet gets the goods on the world’s most powerful being because it’s a good newspaper, but it’s actually because its star reporter is a lying jerkface who functions as his own PR agent because he doesn’t let a silly thing like “journalistic ethics” stand in his way. B-

Dark Circle
These guys were built up as one of the biggest threats to peace and freedom in the 30th century, trying on several occasions to conquer Earth and the United Planets from their shadowy lair. The Legion of Super-Heroes thought it was an alliance of five unknown worlds, but then the Dark Circle was revealed to be just five guys in purple robes who were really, really into cloning. O…kay, then. What kills me about this entry is the way the five conspirators are posing in the picture:

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Sing it with me: “And the whole world has to answer right now/Just to tell you once again… Who’s bad?” D

Dark Destroyer
I made myself a promise not to dwell too much on the Atari Force characters, mainly because I defy anyone to find someone who gives a crap about any of them. I see no need to break that promise here. I mean, “Dark Destroyer”…? Really, guys? What, was “Big Scary Bad Man” already copyrighted? D

Dark Opal
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld was a fine work of fantasy that more people should check out. Dark Opal is a big part of the reason why. Great sizzling balls of fire, just look at him — a beautiful design by Ernie Colón, right down to crazy face-stripes and the clasp on his cloak with an image that mirrors his own emotional state. As the designated Voldemort of Amethyst’s coming-of-age tale, he doesn’t get a lot of backstory or reasons for all the plotting and pillaging; he’s just a guy who was named Dark Opal by his not-forward-thinking parents and responded accordingly. Imagine all the strife in Gemworld that could have been avoided if Mr. and Mrs. Opal had opted for “Gregarious Opal” instead. A-

Darkseid
Utter perfection by Jack Kirby, who once again shows the rest of us how you make a goddamn despot. Ruler of Apokolips, corrupter of souls, seeker of the Anti-Life Equation that would give him complete dominance over the universe… if “bad” means “good” to you, then they don’t get badder than this baddest of the bad guys. My only complaint, if it counts as one, is how ubiquitous Darkseid has become in the DC universe recently; 9 times out of 10, he’s slotted in as the Designated Baddie in this month’s DC Major Crossover Event That Will Change Everything Until Next Month’s Crossover Event, and that kind of overexposure hurts his image as the ultimate avatar of evil. Well, that and the cute l’il mini-skirt and thigh-high boots he’s shown wearing here. But you tell him that. A

Dart
Having said what I just said about Atari Force… my God, that José Luis Garcia-López fellow sure knows how to draw a beautiful woman. C

Dawnstar
So, fringed jackets are still going to be a thing in the 30th century, huh? Swell. Dawnstar (no other name) is a mutant Amerind born with wings and the mutant ability to… I’m sorry, I can’t do this. She’s just so boring. Her mutant power is essentially “she can find stuff” and a full third of her bio is devoted to a love triangle involving her, another Legionnaire and some alien no one cares about. I mean, sure, it’s great DC realized at some point in the ’70s that non-white people existed, but still… zzzzz. D

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Deadman

“Occupation: Former circus aerialist, now wandering spirit.” There’s a career path not many people can claim. Boston Brand was a “ghastly disguised” acrobat whose macabre “Deadman” costume and persona were all part of his show — that is, until an assassin shot him while he was in mid-air. His murdered spirit was given the means to search for his killer by a mystical deity, which gave him the power to possess living bodies without the host being aware of his ghostly presence. It’s a great concept that deserves a weekly TV series, if only so we can cast Christopher Walken as the lead and have all the TV Guide listings say: “Deadman (Walken) continues his search for the killer…” (rimshot) B+

Deadshot
Who’s Who came out a few years before the first Suicide Squad series, so it’s no surprise Deadshot only gets half a page. In 1985, all we really knew about him was that he was a bored rich guy and master marksman named Floyd Lawton (“Floyd”…?) who tried to take out Batman and become the next big crime boss in Gotham. Considering how easy it was for Amanda Waller to find him when she went looking for incarcerated criminals to join her squad, you can guess how well that plan turned out. B

Deathbolt
Adding insult to the injury of Deadshot getting only half a page is the fact he had to share it with this amped-up also-ran. He’s an escaped criminal who’s hit by lightning while flying through a thunderstorm; brought to a super-smart bad guy (while likely emitting a bacon-like odor), he gets fancy lightning-like powers before he’s grounded (ha!) by the All-Star Squadron. Glad we could take half a page away from Deadshot to relate that scintillating narrative. D

Deep Six
This is a group of Darkseid’s soldiers who aren’t as well-known as some of Kirby’s other creations, and for good reason. They’re fish-men from a planet with no detectable oceans, with nasty overbites and no real personalities or distinguishing features to help readers tell them apart — though I’m sure a retconned love of pizza and some color-coded masks could take care of that. Also: why does the background art show Darkseid’s looming head looking like he’s about to take a big bite out of one of them? “Mmmm, fish sticks!” D+

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Deimos

One of the Warlord’s most implacable foes, Deimos was mmmph snerk giggle. Excuse me. Anyway, he used the legendary Scrolls of Blood to hoo hoo ha ha ha ho ho ho I’m sorry but are they freakin’ KIDDING me here? Listen, I don’t care how much blood you drink or babies you mystically clone to do your fighting for you. There is simply no way any man can pull off pointy elf shoes, bare legs and midriff, and a crazy collar like that without attracting some serious snickers from the peanut gallery. Then again, his archenemy battled evil wearing a winged helmet and fur codpiece, so maybe that’s just how they roll in Skartaris. D+

Demolition Team
A lot of people like to make fun of the Flash’s gallery of rogues, and in fairness they can be a pretty sad bunch. But Green Lantern has also had to deal with his share of goobers over the years. Case in point: the Demolition Team, a group of mercenaries named after construction equipment (except for the leader, a cigar-chomping gal name Rosie whose gun fires hot rivets, get it?). True story: this entry is the first time my younger self had ever heard of the sport of jai-alai (“Scoopshovel, a top-level jai-alai player from San Diego whose hydraulic arm can uproot almost anything”). Okay, I didn’t say it was a fascinating story, but it’s still more interesting than anything this lot ever did. D

Demon
Now this is more like it. Kirby bounced between DC and Marvel in the ’70s, coming up with one far-out character concept after another; the Demon is one of his better ones. Part Knights of the Round Table, part Jekyll & Hyde, part The Exorcist, it was the story of a man whose soul was bonded to that of Etrigan, an actual demon from Hell that was summoned to Earth by Merlin. He was — at least in the beginning — one of the nicer demons from hell, protecting us mortals from all sorts of mystic threats. “There are those who say they disdain his rhymes/For this scurrilous lot, I have not the time.” A-

Demonia
A member of the Omega Men eventually revealed as a traitor to the team. Gee, that must have been a real shock. “The chick who turns into a giant snake and has the word ‘demon’ right in her name has betrayed us! How did we not see this coming? Oh, right, because we suck.” D-

DeSaad
Oh, Jack. The Smithers to Darkseid’s Mr. Burns, DeSaad was his master’s chief torturer and sycophant, forever doing Darkseid’s evil bidding while secretly running his own fun projects on the side. Which Darkseid would always find out about, act disappointed, disintegrate DeSaad with his Omega beams, miss the little troll’s boot-licking, and then bring him back to life so they can start their co-dependent charade all over again. And really, who can blame Darkseid for wanting him around? Say what you want about the sadistic little fiend, at least DeSaad took pride in his work. That’s damned hard to find in employees these days. B-

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Despero

Another would-be conqueror of the universe, which I have to admit shows way more ambition than me. This is the guy who first showed up playing chess with the Flash in the first issue of Justice League of America; his telepathic third eye allowed him to hold entire planets under his hypnotic grip. The background art for this page is mostly just a bunch of Despero’s eyes staring right out at me… talking to me… welcoming me… embracing me...  C… B… A… A++

Destiny
Little known fact: before Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series hit the streets, one member of the Endless already existed as a DC property. That would be Destiny, the hooded figure with the book chained to his wrist. Before Sandman, he was a “cosmic observer” about whom little is known except that he “appears at will at the crossroads of every man’s life.” But not every woman’s life, I guess? C’mon, DC — even Star Trek was all “where no one has gone before” in the ’80s. Anyhow. Destiny: an interesting character whose time in the sun was yet to come, as evidenced by the fact he’s forced to share a page with a goddamn chimp. B

Detective Chimp
No. Just… no. D-

Dial H for Hero
This is an idea that sounds cool when you’re 11, and hopelessly lame when you’re 12. The setup: young Robbie Reed finds a mystical artifact in a cave with letters on it; when he types H-E-R-O, he’s transformed into a superhero, but never the same superhero twice. One day, he’s the Mighty Moppet, a super-powered baby who can make crooks act like babies; the next, he’s King Candy, with his licorice whip and lollipop bombs. Believe it or not, it got even sillier. Later, this was turned into a reader contest with kids encouraged to send in their own superhero designs for the artists to draw. It didn’t help. C-

Dinosaur Island
I say that if you can’t appreciate the awesomeness of a war comic with soldiers, robot soldiers and movie-monster commando units fighting dinosaurs on an uncharted South Pacific island, then there is no joy left in your cold, shriveled heart. A- 

Doctor Alchemy
Look, it’s not like I want to believe Flash had more than his share of dumb super-villains, but I’m only up to “D” and already we’ve seen Big Sir, Captain Boomerang and Colonel Computron. And now this guy… or rather, guys.  See, Albert Desmond was the original Doctor Alchemy but he went straight, which somehow turned his psychic twin, Alvin Desmond, totally evil. And so Alvin used his psychic link to learn where Albert kept the Philosopher’s Stone and became the new Doctor Alchemy, but he hypnotized Albert to make it seem as if he had returned to his life of crime and… Gah! We were expected to pay money for this, people! Fer crissakes, he’s a bad guy with the Philosopher’s Stone in his pocket! He could turn Flash into a puddle of butterscotch pudding with a thought. Why muck up a perfectly good set-up by bringing in psychic twins and evil urges and hypnotic commands and all the other contrivances that the hackiest soap opera writer would be embarrassed to write? It’s just… just… GAH! D-

Doctor Bedlam
He was a scientist on Apokolips who specialized in devising new ways to torture and terrorize. He must have been really good at it to earn his title; I mean, it’s Apokolips we’re talking about here, the planet where everyone chooses Advanced Torture and Terror as their college major. He also had the ability to move his energy form from one artificial body to the next, making him essentially immortal. Good for him. C

Doctor Cyber
This is what I don’t get about Wonder Woman villains, especially the female ones. It’s not enough for them to be bad for evil’s sake, or to try to take over the world because they love money and ruling over the little people. No, there’s usually some kind of “My face! My beautiful face!” angle to their motives. Take Doctor Cyber, a villain from Wondy’s everybody-was-kung-fu-fighting days who was a “stunningly beautiful woman” in command of a worldwide network of operatives until she got a faceful of red-hot coals chucked at her. Tough break, sure, but instead of using her wealth to get the best reconstructive surgery that money can buy, she puts on s a Vader-like mask and schemes to have her “brilliant brain transplanted from her disfigured body into wonder woman’s perfect form.” Funny how the Joker never once tried to put his brain in Batman’s “perfect form.” Anyone know Naomi Wolf’s cell number? Because I have an idea for her next book. C-

Doctor Destiny
One of the Justice League’s earlier foes, Doctor Destiny started out as a criminal scientist who invented an anti-gravity device and, proving that most super-villains suck at seeing the marketing possibilities in their projects, went on to invent a machine that could turn dreams into reality. Later, in one of those “ironic” twists so beloved by comic writers, his own inability to dream somehow caused his skin to shrivel and his face to appear skeletal. So while he probably has a Ph.D. in engineering, perhaps even tenure at a decent state college, it’s safe to assume he’s not scoring any undergrad tail with that Skeletor mug. C-

Doctor Double X
The saddest thing you can say about Doctor Double X is he once saw a partnership with the Rainbow Raider as a positive step in his super-villain career. The second-saddest thing: he was a research scientist who accidentally discovered a way to generate an energy duplicate of himself, and he could think of nothing better to do with his incredible discovery than pull on some tights and give Batman’s knuckles a five-minute workout. D

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Doctor Fate
As you can see in the cover up top, he gets this issue’s prime front cover spot, signifying he’s the marquee name in this issue, but… I don’t see it, to be honest. I’m a little biased against magic users to begin with, since their stories too often tend to be literally “a wizard did it.” But at least with a guy like Doctor Strange, you get some real-world stuff mixed in with the mystical mumbo-jumbo. By comparison, Doctor Fate… lives in a windowless tower in Salem. And his magic comes from a dead Egyptian wizard who lives inside his helmet because why the hell not? Maybe I just haven’t read the definitive Doctor Fate story yet, but I would’ve put Darkseid in the spotlight position instead of him. C+

Doctor Light I
“Arthur light, a physicist, long intended to use his scientific talents for crime.” Hey, just like Stephen Hawking! But seriously, how does that work? “Well, I’ve got eight years of post-graduate work under my belt, tenure and a sweet gig at the research institute. Time for a crime spree!” To make matters worse, he invents a device that lets him see what’s happening on other planets — to the point he can copy down design schematics for machines belonging to alien civilizations — and what does he do with it? Does he patent that puppy and enjoy the fame and hot babes that comes with being a major science stud? Why, heavens, no! Instead, he uses his gizmo to steal advanced optics technology, which he uses to start his bank-robbing career as Doctor Light. He doesn’t even use an alias, for crying out loud! You know what, I don’t care if it was the worst JLA story ever written. That mind rape they did on him? Totally justified. D-

Doctor Light II
The second Doctor Light was a Japanese astronomer who lucked into her own light-based powers… but she somehow thought adopting the exact same name and costume design of a ten-time loser like the first Doctor Light was a good branding decision. Uh-huh. D+

Doctor Mid-Nite
Doubt me if you must, but there have been no less than three superheroes over the years to call themselves Doctor Mid-Nite (or Midnight, as the case may be). All three were accomplished medical doctors, all three suffered the loss of their eyesight, all three gained super-vision powers, and all three decided that was enough of an edge for them to put on a cape and kick bad-guy butt. Insane? Yes! Stretches credulity beyond belief? Absolutely! But my favorite part of the original Doctor Mid-Nite’s entry is this line under Powers & Weapons: “For a brief time, Doctor Mid-Nite carried a weapon he invented… [that] could take control of the nervous system of another person, thereby controlling his movements, and could temporarily freeze human flesh.” Yeah, why should he even consider keeping that kind of weapon handy when he possesses the awesome power to see in the dark? C-

Doctor Occult
He started out as a private dick who got more than his share of supernatural-tinged cases (think Sam Spade crossed with the Scooby gang in one of their lesser direct-to-DVD outings); a few years back, he was turned into a high-ranking magical muckety-muck  in the DC universe. There isn’t a lot more to say about him, other than he’s considered the first costumed hero of the Golden Age and we’re apparently not supposed to talk about how he was created by a pair of youngsters named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Funny, that. C

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Doctor Phosphorus
Before his career as a hideously irradiated mass of living phosphorus, he was a wealthy physician living in Gotham City. Hard to imagine he’s still board-certified, though, what with the “he burns everything he touches” and “walking around with only a pair of apparently fireproof jean shorts covering his nether regions” aspects to his personality. His given name is Dr. Sartorious, which sounds so awesome as a super-villain handle you have to wonder why he even bothered with anything else. C+

Doctor Polaris
He’s one of Green Lantern’s recurring villains and a master of magnetism, but I always forget that last part because I hear “polar” and assume he’s a Mr. Freeze knock-off. Considering how long he’s been knocking around the DCU, he doesn’t have much of a profile; it probably doesn’t help that Galactus totally ripped off his tuning fork-helmet look. C

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One response to “Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. VI

  1. But Dr Fate looks so much cooler than Dr Strange – and at least he remembers to put his boots on – Strange appears to be saving the earthly realms in a skirt and black nylons….

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