Is it Saturday already? All righty, then. Time to flip the switch on the ol’ Wayback Machine and party like it’s 1985 with another copy of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory to the DC Universe. This week: Volume Vee-Eye-Eye, from Doctor Psycho to Fastback.
Like last issue, this issue’s cover is done by Paris Cullins and Dick Giordano. And I gotta say it’s not one of my favorite covers in the series. The fact that Elongated Man is the featured hero gives you an idea of how lacking in star power this issue is, there isn’t a whole lot of kooky interactions between the characters like we see in other Who’s Who covers, and someone in the coloring department really needed to ease up on the blue and purple palettes with this one. Also: we’ve got room to show Ralph Dibny stretching to the moon and back but we can’t find a place to stick in either Doom Patrol team? Boo! Boo, I say!
A midget scientist who had a bug up his ass about women. Naturally, he faced off against Wonder Woman. “Doctor Psycho’s only super-power is his psionic ability to shape ectoplasm according to his wishes.” Oh, is that all? C-
Not, as you might think, the name of Metamucil’s new corporate mascot, Zaxton Regulus is a 30th-century scientist with a bug up his ass about the Legion’s Sun Boy. Get in line, Zaxton! A lot of his weapons and robots are powered by “radioactive gold,” which apparently is a thing I did not know existed until I looked it up specifically to confirm its existence for this review. Sad to say, my search for radioactive spiders continues. C+
He’s a guy with a bug up his ass about people who think ghosts and other supernatural beings are real. His occupation is listed as “Ghost-breaker,” which sounds weird (how do you “break” a ghost?), but no more weird than busting ghosts, which many of us happily accepted as a viable vocational option in the mid-1980s. Also, that’s his real name: Terrence Thirteen of the Thirteen clan. I’m bumping him up a letter grade just because of that. B
A Chinese ganglord with a bug up his ass because he “lost face at Batman’s hands,” and the other Chinese ganglords wouldn’t let him play their ganglord games until he avenged himself for that defeat. You’ll notice that none of them jumped at the chance to show Tzin-Tzin how it’s done by taking on Batman themselves. A “sub-par athlete and hand-to-hand combatant,” he possesses a “brilliant, devious mind” and is a master hypnotist, but when that doesn’t work he “has been known to resort to simple firearms like any common criminal.” Which, of course, is why he’s shown in his picture wielding a giant curvy sword while posing all martial-arts like. Sigh… C-
For those of you who think this Golden Age shrinking superhero has the dumbest name ever conceived, I refer you to Darrel Dane’s never-before-seen list of rejected superhero names:
- Mr. Pwecious
- The Itty-Bitty Man
- Captain Cutie-Pie
- Baron von Buttons
- The Teeny-Weeny Wonder
- The Awesome Ankle-Biter
Also, in case you’re wondering, he retains his full strength at his six-inch size and “wears a special costume that changes size as he does.” How? Shut up and hand over your ten cents, that’s how. D+
You know, if I were a scuba diver exploring the ocean’s depths and came across a shapely young blonde sporting Daisy Dukes and nipples that could sink the Titanic, I’d probably have the same reaction as the scuba diver shown in this picture. My, Dave Stevens certainly liked his women… pert, didn’t he? She was once part of a group called the Forgotten Heroes, which makes no sense given how hard it would be for anyone to forget someone like her. Yowza. B-
No, no, no. Don Caballero — a dashing mustachioed figure who wielded a sword for justice in early 19th-century California — is nothing at all like the far more famous Zorro, a dashing mustachioed figure who wielded a sword for justice in early 19th-century California. Zorro rode a black horse. Don Caballero rode a white horse. See? Totally different. D
Doom Patrol I
A lot of eyebrows have been raised over the years by the coincidental debuts of the X-Men and the Doom Patrol, two teams of misfits led by stern authority figures in wheelchairs. But regardless of who came up with what first, the Doom Patrol is hands down the winner in weirdness. While the X-Men fought Magneto about 50 times in their first dozen issues, the Doom Patrol squared off against immortal generals, evil brains in jars, machine gun-wielding gorillas and — no joke — a fellow who called himself the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man. That’s weird stuff, y’all. And just to drive the weirdness home, the original Doom Patrol was the first team to scream “No, we’re canceling you!” by allowing themselves to be blown up by their enemies in the final issue of their first series. Sure, they got better (see also: “first series”), but still… weird. A
Doom Patrol II
The Wings to the original Doom Patrol’s Beatles, the second DP was brought together by the widow of the first team’s leader to “carry on her husband’s battle against evil and injustice.” Upside: they brought back Robotman, the best character from the original DP, and the African-American member of the team was named “Tempest” and not “Black Tempest” (in the ’70s, that counted as a minor miracle). Downside: the Indian-born Celsius has the same charcoal-grey skin hue that every Middle Eastern/Southeast Asian person seemed to get in comics at the time, and Negative Woman was just more of the same, only with breasts. All in all, pretty generic stuff until Grant Morrison moved into the neighborhood. C-
Ooh, with a name like that he’s got to be one bad dragon-affiliated mo-fo, right? Maybe a guy who commands dragons, or turns into a dragon himself? Let’s see… member of the mysterious Black Dragon Society… third in command in Imperial Japan… created the mystical barrier that kept WWII superheroes with super-powers from entering Axis-held territory and ending the war in five minutes… yeah, I’m with Daenerys on this one (“Where are my dragons???”). A better name for him might have been Captain Plot Contrivance. D+
“She is considered the most beautiful and alluring Legionnaire.” Not by everyone, Pedro. Not by a long shot. Nice to know that even in the 30th century, a hot babe can do whatever she wants and get zero shit for it. Join the Legion under false pretenses? Trick the team into suspending or expelling members instead of coming clean about how you saw those booted-out members die in a dream and you were just trying to save them? No problem! You’re hot! Wear these go-go boots and metallic one-piece swimsuit and all is forgiven! Bleh. D+
The Duke of Deception
A minor Wonder Woman villain who was apparently a minion of Mars, he delighted in playing games of deception, the better to set us mere mortals against each other for his own perverse pleasure. Kind of like Jeff Probst, only without jungle-themed puzzles. C
He’s a crime boss whose stunted height and “somewhat grotesque features” make him look like an actual ventriloquist’s dummy, so much so that he would often pretend to be one so as to make his underlings wonder who the real boss of the operation was. So of course he’s the archenemy of a vigilante cowboy-slash-country/western singer because why the hell not? As much as I want to hate on this guy, you have to admire any deformed midget with a mug like a wooden dummy who looks at himself in the mirror and thinks “How can I make this work for me?” and then doesn’t go into the obvious vaudeville- or circus-related lines of work. C
She started out as Triplicate Girl, the Legionnaire who can split into three identical bodies and had a lock on the Most Secretarial-Sounding Name trophy every year in the Legion’s annual awards show. But then one of her bodies died at the hands of a renegade computer, and “One Less Lass” didn’t score well in the focus groups, so Duo Damsel it was. You might wonder how a non-powered person whose sole ability is splitting into two non-powered people is a useful addition to the Legion. You wouldn’t be the first. D+
My, that’s certainly a… confident pose, isn’t it? Quelu Ord (or Ord Quelu, as his name may be said in either order according to his home planet’s tradition — though I’m guessing an editor who once screwed up his name is the more likely cause) is a member of a group of heroes from the 30th century who fought, then allied themselves with, the Legion of Super-Heroes. His power to imitate the powers of any other hero makes him similar to the X-Men’s Rogue, only without the need for physical contact to “borrow” the power, the ability to absorb the other person’s memories, and anything else that might make him remotely interesting. D+
Now, I’m not one to give super-villains career advice, especially when they, like Earthworm here, engage in particularly heinous activities like illegal baby-selling rackets. But even if you prefer to live in sewers and underground places, and even if you have a slender frame that allows you to shimmy your way through tight spaces… do you really think anyone will hear “Earthworm” and quiver in fear? “Face the wrath of… the Earthworm!” “Those who know fear burn at the Earthworm’s touch!” See? It doesn’t work. Also: how does a sewer-dwelling freak get started in the baby-selling business? Craigslist? D
Under Sgt. Rock, they were “one of the most famous fighting units of the Second World War,” even without vampires or werewolves within their ranks. Fighting their way through North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Holland, Uruguay, Singapore, New South Wales, Epcot Center, parts of northern Canada, and downtown Akron, Easy Co. included such men as “Little Sure Shot,” Rock’s Apache point man; “Four-Eyes,” the bespectacled sharpshooter; and “Worry Wart,” who apparently had no job in the unit but to be the poster boy for PTSD. If Rock was the guy coming up with these nicknames, I imagine his men had a few interesting names for him, too. B
This character got an upgrade during one of DC’s summer crossovers in the ’90s that saw him retooled as nothing less than God’s original angel of vengeance. His résumé is the Old Testament, that’s how badass he was made out to be. It was a definite improvement over Eclipso 1.0, which is what we get here. This Eclipso is a mysterious bad guy with no real motivation other than he’s a bad guy; he’s some body-inhabiting mystical being who takes residence in a solar-energy research scientist’s body, and he can only come out to play during an eclipse. Also? His weakness is any really bright light. So naturally he goes up against Green Lantern. D’oh! D+
Yes, it’s Superman’s pal, Jimmy Olsen! Now with super powers for the exactly one emotionally disturbed fan who begged DC to make it happen! Though you have to wonder how serious the writer who came up with “Elastic Lad” really was about the whole thing: stretching is inherently a silly power, Olsen gained it by being a klutz (i.e., by tripping and splashing an alien liquid all over himself), and his superhero costume is a purple unitard with “ELASTIC LAD” written in simple block letters. Seriously, it looks like he wrote it on his own chest using a Sharpie. You suck, Jimmy. D
Sorry to disappoint any fans of The Incredibles out there. This Elasti-Girl, despite what her name suggests, isn’t super-stretchy; her power is the ability to grow or shrink to almost any size. You wouldn’t think developing that kind of power would be the end of a movie actress’s career, but that’s Hollywood for you, size-ist to the end. A sweet gal and a valuable addition to the Doom Patrol, though you have to question her devotion to short skirts. For obvious reasons. B
So you say a man named Lazarus Lane gets hit by lightning and rises three days later from a death-like state? Oh, comics. This character from the early days of Western comics is a 19th-century bank clerk who tried to take on a gang of bank robbers and got a sound thrashing, near-drowning and lightning bolt for his troubles; lucky for him he had an old Apache shaman bunking at his place, and the old man’s secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices brought Lane back to the land of the taxpaying… but not as the man he was. “Though he was not dead, neither was he truly alive, Lane explained, for the lightning that should have killed him had instead split his very soul asunder. Now he was two men, the husk of the man that was all that was left of Lazarus Lane and… someone else.” Dun dun dun! C
Think the Punisher with a Duracell sponsorship. He shows up, electrocutes criminals with his electrified costume, debates crimefighting philosophies with the headlining hero, then disappears. Not an electric personality by any means, but his picture is yet more proof that Klaus Janson is a god among men. C
The gay Legionnaire. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, even back in the early ’80s when you couldn’t come right out and say that in a comic. But yeah, we knew it was true even back then. The artwork makes it pretty obvious the artist was going for that, and there are the subtle hints in the text about his “lonely personal life” and his only close friend outside the Legion being a (very female) Science Police officer. You just know some version of the following conversation took place in the Legion’s clubhouse at some point:
Sun Boy: That Element Lad is the greatest guy in the world. We’ve gotta have him and his wife over for drinks sometime.
Chameleon Boy: Hmm, I don’t think he’s married, Sun Boy.
Sun Boy: Oh, a swinging bachelor, eh? Well, there’s lots of foxy ladies out there.
Chameleon Boy: Sun Boy, didn’t Element Lad seem a little… festive to you?
Sun Boy: Couldn’t agree more. Happy as a clam.
Chameleon Boy: He prefers the company of men!
Sun Boy: Who doesn’t?
Chameleon Boy: Sun Boy, listen carefully. Element Lad is a ho… mo…
Sun Boy: Right.
Chameleon Boy: …sexual.
Sun Boy: [pauses] AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
What I’m saying is: Sun Boy is a moron. Element Lad, though, he’s all right. B
“When Ralph Dibny was nine years old, his parents took him to a traveling sideshow where he met an Indian rubber man. Ralph’s fascination with the ability of Indian rubber men to stretch lasted into his adulthood.” HOLY LIVING CHRIST, PEOPLE, GET YOUR CHILD A GODDAMN TRAIN SET! I mean, kids obsess over all kinds of stuff — I have a 10-year-old currently on a mission to re-create the Western Hemisphere in Minecraft — but Indian rubber men? Really??? That boy has issues, y’all. And it gets better: he later learns that all Indian rubber men enjoy the same exotic soft drink, so he isolates the active ingredient in that drink that’s been making them flexible without their knowledge and gulps it down, becoming a super-stretchy hero as a result. Sure, why not? It’s only slightly less preposterous than a kid distilling the essence of Mountain Dew to become the world’s greatest snowboarder. C-
Or “The Parrot” as he’s known to Spanish-speaking folk, El Papagayo was a constant thorn in Jonah Hex’s side. And judging by the cocky smile he has in both pieces of art showing his face, he loved every minute of it. He probably trained his parrot to laugh, too, just to piss off Hex. “Fucking parrot,” Hex would mutter, just like he mutters everything else. B-
A freedom fighter from the Omega Men book who’s surrounded by an opaque and egg-shaped force field, which on paper makes him/her/it look like a Tribble with a buzzcut. Though I’m guessing artist Shawn McManus saw Elu another way, namely “easiest paycheque ever.” D+
A vicious 30th-century conqueror who uses a giant floating eyeball as her weapon of choice, the Empress was one-fifth of the Fatal Five and lived up to her team’s name. Though to be fair, her entry has this to say: “She has worked with her fellow members on several occasions, but continues an independent career in an attempt to dominate her own planet or an acceptable substitute.” See! She’s an independent career woman! And she’s not unreasonable about the whole conquering-her-planet thing; any reasonable facsimile will do! That’s the kind of flexibility you just don’t see in today’s younger world conquerors. B+
Over at Marvel, “Enchantress” means a sexy blonde forever trying to get Thor laid and being called a villain for it. Here, the Enchantress is… well, more chanting than enchanting, unless a bug-nuts crazy brunette is what turns you on. And who wouldn’t be crazy after going through what she did? First, her parents didn’t do her any favours by naming her “June Moone.” Then a visit to a haunted house goes seriously wrong and she winds up with magical powers, which she uses as a hero until, eh, screw it, she decides the world doesn’t appreciate her enough and she goes Full Metal Baddie. Joining a crew called the Forgotten Villains probably wasn’t her best career move after that, but you know, “bug-nuts crazy.” C
The star of a decent war strip by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Enemy Ace was a German WWI pilot who lived by a strict code of honor. They probably didn’t call him “Enemy Ace” in Germany, though, the same way Chinese food in China is just “food.” Maybe they called Balloon Buster “Enemy Ace” over there. Or more likely, “der Amerikaner dummkopf who thinks ‘Balloon Buster’ sounds badass.” A-
There were two Enforcers — a beefy bald guy and a shapely black chick — and they both wore high-tech armor and boot jets. Both also thought this was enough of an edge to take on Firestorm, a guy who could change their high-tech armor and boot jets into sulphuric acid with but a snap of his fingers. And that’s why they only get half a page. D-
This minor Flash villain was a crime-fighting state senator (is there any other kind?) named Creed Phillips with three super-powers: the most awesome politician’s name ever (who wouldn’t vote for a guy named “Creed Phillips”?), the mightiest man-perm this side of Michael Knight, and the ability to save Cronenberg a fortune on special effects if he ever decides to make a Scanners sequel. And just in case you needed a vivid demonstration of that last one, artist Carmine Infantino provides readers with a lovely image of the Eradicator cupping his hands around the head of a guy whose brain and skull fragments are flying around every which way, an image lacking only full color to provide the full effect. Way to earn that Comics Code Authority stamp, DC! C-
He’s some dude from an alien planet who invented a wearable “star-band” that extended his life and gave him unlimited power, but at the cost of turning him evil. Seems a fair trade. A decent concept ruined by the fact he wears a ridiculous star-shaped mask and employs five “starlings” — mindless midgets bearing his trademark starfish-head look — to do his demeaning grunt work. It’s like the rest of the galaxy has never heard of interns. C-
The Fadeaway Man
I can’t figure out why this Hawkman villain doesn’t have a higher profile. He’s got a great name (Anton Lamont), a great look, and a simple story: he’s an art history professor who finds a magic cloak while cataloging ancient stuff and uses it to go on a crime spree. What does it do? Why, nothing special except permit instant teleportation of the wearer, or allow Lamont to reach within its folds and haul out pretty much anything he feels like throwing at a costumed do-gooder. BAM! Volcanic ash! In your face! Take that, Dark Knight! That shows some decent creativity on his part. Me, I’d probably just use the cloak to smuggle snacks into movies. B
A super-speedster turtle with an Andy Griffith drawl who hails from the Okee-Dokee Swamp down in the Deep South, he could only be a part of Captain Carrot’s Amazing Zoo Crew. Note: unlike the Flash, he does not have complete control over his molecules. Just in case anyone was wondering. Oh my God! Fastback. “Fatback.” I LITERALLY JUST GOT THAT! C-