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

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Great Scott! Suffering Sappho! Sockamagee! Is it that time of the week already? Why, yes. Yes, it is. So  let’s dive once more into the breach with Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This time out: Volume Vee-Eye-Eye-Eye, from the Fatal Five to Garguax. (Gesundheit!)

Not a whole lot to say about this cover by Cullins and Giordano, which makes good use of the many fire-powered and flower-based characters to be found this time out. Though I’ve got to say it’s odd how they couldn’t find space for any of the members of the teams featured in this issue except for the Forgotten Villains and Force of July. No Fatal Five, no Fearsome Five, no Forever People, no Freedom Fighters, no Forgotten Heroes… but they decided to use a good chunk of the back cover to draw the giant robot and his buddies in the Forgotten Villains. Huh. 

Fatal Five
A collection of 30th-century villains so vile, so evil, so powerful, and so bent on galactic conquest that their joining forces could only have been the result of an unholy… oh, wait, it says here the Fatal Five were recruited by the Legion of Super-Heroes in a desperate attempt to save our galaxy from a bigger threat. Mission accomplished, but the five criminals loved teamwork so much they “banded together to attempt the conquest of the worlds they had saved.” Nice going, Legion. B

Fearsome Five
This was your typical group of super-villains who mostly faced off against the Teen Titans, with the story of how they came together being the only notable thing about them. According to their entry, the group formed when Dr. Light “placed an advertisement to recruit fellow super-villains in The Underworld Star, an irregularly published newsletter featuring letters, articles and how-to tips by and for the super-criminal element.” Now that is something we really should have seen more of. Imagine the possibilities. A fashion column by Solomon Grundy. Croc’s “Eye on Real Estate.” We could get the Ultra-Humanite’s restaurant reviews. The Riddler would do the Jumble, of course, while the Joker would write the bridge column. The Penguin? Society pages, duh. Killer Frost and Harley Quinn would tag-team the romance advice column. Plus, what better way to bring bosses and henchmen together: “Wanted: Twins. Identical preferred. Must be proficient in small arms, safe-cracking, hand-to-hand combat, Microsoft Excel. H. Dent, Box 222.” B-

felicity

Felicity
Why, hel-looooooo there, nightmare fuel. On the off chance you haven’t yet gouged out your eyes with a spoon, she’s a member of the freedom-fighting Omega Men who once found work as a dancer and harem slave. I’m somehow not shocked by that. D

Felix Faust
Introduced early in the JLA books, Faust was your typical evil sorcerer playing with demonic powers no sane human should mess with. After a few tussles with the Justice League, he “experienced a primal scream” during a prison therapy session that released all his pent-up frustrations. This supposedly made his paroled self well enough to be put in charge of the section of the Star City Public Library that just happened to contain a collection of ancient black magic spellbooks, and he was soon back to his demon-summoning ways. You think I’m making all this up, aren’t you? C

Female Furies 
More four-color insanity courtesy of Jack Kirby, this was an elite squad of warriors under Darkseid’s direct command. Barda was their leader until she ran away with Scott Free to Earth; the rest of the Furies chased her down, but Barda and Scott convinced them to return to Earth and join the “traveling stage show” that featured Scott as Mister Miracle, world’s greatest escape artist. And what a lovely bunch of carnies these ladies would make, huh? Especially that one who’s DeSaad’s sister and uses a special knife that barbecues her victims from the inside. She’ll work out great at the guess-your-weight booth. C

Ferro Lad
A member of the Legion of Super-Heroes famous for two things: (1) being a charter member of the group’s auxiliary Legion of Super-Corpses when he heroically gave his life to save the galaxy and (2) being one of the few superheroes to proudly wear a symbol from the periodic table on his chest. That must have gotten annoying after a while, though: “No, it’s not pronounced ‘feh’ — it’s F-E, as in ferrous. You know, like iron? Because I didn’t want to write ‘Iron Lad,’ that’s why.” B-

Fiddler
Just in case you thought Barry Allen was the only Flash with a lame set of super-villains, here’s the Fiddler, one of the Golden Age Flash’s regular sparring partners. Goofy name-as-destiny alter ego (Isaac Bowin)? Check. Improbable origin involving an Indian fakir who revealed the secrets of hypnotic violin music? Check. Ridiculous mode of transport in the form of a flying car shaped like a fiddle? Check. Membership in not one but two criminal super-teams with serious branding issues? Check. And then his bio ends on this weirdly gossipy note: “Although he had temporarily gained a bit of weight, as of this writing the Fiddler is safely back behind prison bars, where he has lost that excess poundage and is once more his slender self.” Um… good for him? I guess? D+

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Firebrand I 

There was a time when the comics were chock-full of bored rich guys whose only motivation for engaging in masked vigilantism was a need for some excitement in their lives. Firebrand was one of the gayest. No, correction: he was the gayest. And I don’t mean “gay” in the same way that a snotty 12-year-old means it about stuff he doesn’t like; I mean “gay” as in “he clearly preferred sex with men.” Proof? (1) He wears a pink see-through top. (2) His mask is a darker shade of pink with a big flouncy sash dangling off the back. (3) He completes the outfit with a pair of fabulous hip-hugging tights and pointy red shoes. (4) He spends a lot of his training time and off-hours with Slugger, his “best friend and man Friday.” (5) His name is Rod Reilly, for crying out loud. Even the Ambiguously Gay Duo would be all, “Girlfriend, please.” C-

Firebrand II 
The sister of the first Firebrand, she’s just like him in every way except for the “she actually has fire-controlling powers” thing, she doesn’t wear a see-through top, and she’s an established heterosexual. One unusual thing about her: she made herself a superhero costume based on her brother’s costume before she developed her fire-generating powers. Damnably convenient how that worked out, wot? C+

Firebug
Some guys get all the luck, and some guys are named Firebug. An ex-soldier who went mad with grief after his entire family was killed “in separate building-related accidents” within three weeks, he expressed his grief by whipping up a flame-themed costume and vowing to burn all three buildings to the ground. His entry ends by saying it’s not known whether he survived his last confrontation with Batman, but it doesn’t really matter what happened to him because…

Firefly 
…his role as the Designated Arsonist in the Gotham Underworld Directory has been supplanted by Garfield Lynns, a.k.a. Firefly. Those who know him from his appearance in the 1990s Batman cartoon might be surprised to learn his original comic book iteration was an experts in lighting effects, not pyrotechnics. The artwork here shows him in his original dorky costume with an “FF” on his chest, using his special light-belt to “blind and otherwise befuddle” the Dynamic Duo. Maybe DC felt it was too confusing having two Batman foes with “fire” in their names, or maybe the cartoon producers thought “Firefly” sounded better than “Firebug” for their guest-starring pyromaniac. Whatever the reason, Firebug got burned big time. Firebug: C-/Firefly: B-

Firehair 
His occupation is listed as “Wanderer” and his marital status is “single,” and you know what that means, ladies: he’s available! Or he would be, if we were still in the 19th century. When he was a baby, he was the only survivor of an attack on a wagon train by a tribe of Blackfoot “who were afraid the white man would bring an end to their way of life.” Not an unfounded fear, I’d say. Adopted by the tribe’s chief, young Firehair grew up shunned by his peers for his ginger complexion, and later despised by white people for his Native American dress and mannerisms. It’s your classic fish-out-of-water comedy, only with fewer laughs and more cultural genocide. C

Firehawk 
A beautiful rendition of the character courtesy of then-current Firestorm artist Rafael Kayanan. I’ll admit she has a great design; it’s just a shame it’s in the service of a completely redundant character. She was a college student and U.S. Senator’s daughter when she was subjected to the same conditions that created Firestorm; because it’s the comics, she also didn’t die and instead got some sweet super-powers (but not the same type of super-powers as Firestorm, oddly enough) out of the deal. Basically, she was created to be the girl Firestorm, and to DC’s credit she wasn’t automatically made Firestorm’s love interest. But later revelations about Firestorm’s true origins made her own origin story even more unlikely, she never got a decent story arc to call her own, and she continues to live on the fringes of the DCU as the pretty flying hero whom no one really knows much about. Which kinda sucks. Still, it’s a very snazzy design. C+

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Fire Jade

So I was all set to riff on how “honey, you’re no Dark Opal” with this one, only to learn this Amethyst foe is a former Gemworld noblewoman driven mad by her daughter’s death at the hands of Dark Opal; she later experienced her own violent death and another malevolent being tried to use her restless spirit’s rage and grief to destroy all of Gemworld. That’s… harsh. And now I feel like a dick. Granted, not as big a dick as the dick who killed her child or the other dick who wouldn’t let her spirit rest in peace, but… yeah. Moving on. B

Fire Lad
He was a member of the Legion of Substitute Heroes because his power to breathe fire was “considered too dangerous” to let him join the regular Legion. Hurl lightning bolts? Create homicidal computers? Able to turn people into plutonium on a whim? Generate enough heat and light to form your own sun? Manipulate any of the fundamental forces of the universe? Great! Welcome aboard! Here’s your official flight ring and Zumba class schedule! Whoa, you can make some flames come out of your mouth? “RUN! HE’LL DESTROY US ALL!” Yeah, I’m going to need someone to explain that to me. C

Firestorm
Firestorm succeeded because he was every teenager’s fantasy dream come true: to have a divorced, middle-aged physics professor take up residence inside your head. He was also pretty powerful — almost too powerful — in that he could literally change anything into anything, until the writers decided to make “anything organic” his one weakness. As a result, I always get a chuckle whenever I pass the organic produce section at my local supermarket (“Sufferin’ isotopes! It’s Corporal Kale and his Organic Overlords of Doom! Golly, Professor, we’re in for a fight now!”). He was a bit of a dunderhead in the sense he never seemed to figure out air = oxygen = non-organic = instant blocks of granite inside the nasal passages of anyone who pisses him off, but at least his head was on fire. It’s hard to not dig someone whose head is on fire. B+

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Fisherman

There’s a great piece of background art on this page that shows Aquaman snared by this guy’s “reinforced titanium steel fishing rod” and the look on his face is totally “Are you totally f— kidding me??” Let’s be adults and overlook the, ah, unfortunate decision to attach a telescoping fishing rod to his costume at crotch level, as well as the Bass Masters-meets-Boogie Nights vibe this guy’s outfit is giving off. What I want to know is: who thought this concept was a good idea? Seriously. I think “fisherman,” I think kindly old Newfoundlanders and New Englanders in rain slickers out on the Grand Banks, not… whatever the hell this guy is supposed to be. Up next: the evil Lumberjack and his atomic-powered chainsaw. D-

Flash I
The Original Crispy Recipe of DC’s stable of speedsters, Jay Garrick gained his super-speed powers by inhaling fumes from an experimental form of “hard water” he was studying. Say what? I grew up on a glacier and no one told me sucking in water vapor could do that. Oh, I kid. Fact is, Jay’s a stand-up guy and business savvy, too, assuming he finagled his trademark winged tin-helmet look into a sweet endorsement deal with the FTD people. A

Flash II
The Silver Age Flash gets a full two pages and rightly so; he played a historic role in DC’s publishing history and has always been one of the heavier hitters in the Justice League’s line-up. Having said that, the excessive length of the “history” portion of his entry is indicative of the many ludicrous plot points the writers threw at him in the mid-1980s, his Rogues’ Gallery is overstuffed with costumed goobers that should not have caused him more than a nanosecond’s worth of sweat and — as I’ve noted before — his reputation as the morally upright nice guy in the Justice League may be somewhat overstated. On the other hand… how can you hate on a guy who keeps his costume stuffed inside a ring? A-

Floronic Man
Yeah, I know this guy was involved in a couple of very cool Swamp Thing stories. But objectivity requires me to weigh that against three salient points: (1) he was originally an Atom super-villain, which: ’nuff said (2)  he was featured prominently in the dopey Millennium crossover and spin-off New Guardians book, about which the less said the better and (3) his entry starts with this: “Originally a master criminal on an other-dimensional world inhabited by wood nymphs, dryads, Nereids, air sprites and flower spirits, [he] was banished for his wicked deeds to Earth, where it was hoped he would perish.” First, thanks a lot for sticking us with your trash, people of the Fern Gully dimension. Second… what exactly do you have to do to qualify as a criminal in a world full of wood nymphs and air sprites? Unauthorized composting? Possession of hay fever in the first degree? D+

Forager
Not sure what I can say about this guy without regurgitating umpteen Fourth World plot points, as his entry does here. He evolved from an artificial form of “micro-life” and joined New Genesis against the forces of Apokolips, all while sporting “adheso-grips” and a shield for defense. Good for him. C-

Force of July 
Yep, that’s what they were called. Lady Liberty! Major Victory! Mayflower! Silent Majority! Sparkler! Together, they are… a good reason to emigrate to Canada. Much to no one’s surprise, this forgettable group of ultra-patriotic government agents fought the equally forgettable Outsiders a couple of times under the mistaken belief the Outsiders were acting against American interests. And to be fair, “Outsiders” does kind of leave it up in the air what, exactly, they considered themselves outside of. Anyhow, it’s a shame we didn’t see an updated Force of July during the George W. Bush years. PATRIOT Act! Shock and Awe! Mama Grizzly! The Waterboarder! The Credit Cruncher! Gitmo Girl! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! D+

Forever People
The hippie flower-children of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga. In times of trouble, they combine their powers to summon… Captain Planet! Wait, no, I meant the Infinity Man. When this entry was written, they were last seen marooned on a distant idyllic planet. That’s literally the most exciting thing I can say about them. Ah well, not every brainstorm can be a Devil Dinosaur, I suppose. C-

Forgotten Heroes/Forgotten Villains
It makes sense to pair these two groups together since they basically existed to fight each other. The Heroes were some of DC’s lesser-known adventure characters like Immortal Man, Cave Carson and Rip Hunter, while the Villains were an odd coalition of little-used sorcerers, a faceless alien, a humanoid computer and a living planet. Then there’s Mr. Poseidon, who has no water-based powers at all — just a set of rings that allowed him to shrink in size and control the walking computer. I’m starting to see how the “forgotten” label came about. C-

Freedom Fighters
“Hey, guys! There’s a whole other Earth where there aren’t any superheroes and the Axis powers are winning World War II! Who wants to go fight a whole world full of Nazis?” Understand: I have no great love for Nazis, or anything involving any combination of fascism, uniforms and getting up early. But Uncle Sam made this pitch to heroes from our world in 1941, long before it was a sure thing the Nazis could be defeated in our own dimension. I mean, take care of your own backyard first, right? Also, we learn from this entry the Nazis were still the rulers of Earth-X decades after the start of the Second World War, when the Freedom Fighters hopped between worlds and asked the Justice League and Justice Society to help with a little regime change. And yeah, sure, “Nazis am evil” and all that but… well, who’s to say the Nazis on that other Earth hadn’t mellowed out by then, or were at least too busy dealing with the boring parts of world domination to focus on the genocide part of their mission statement? I mean, those state veterinary board certification exams aren’t going to administer themselves. C

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Funky Flashman

Man, when Kirby didn’t like someone, he really wasn’t subtle about it, was he? Let’s see… consummate con man… lived off a rich man’s largess until he was forced to look for new ways to make easy cash… refers to himself as “the Salesman Supreme”… perpetually smiling even as he’s (the hell?) dropping a live snake into someone’s back pocket while they’re bent over to pet a cute puppy… And then there’s this line: “He is truly a marvel [emphasis mine] at persuading his listeners through fast talking and flamboyant hype.” Gee, I wonder which former business partner Kirby was skewering when he came up with this guy. Note: Flashman once lost his job of leader of the Secret Society of Super-Villains to a talking gorilla. Just in case you didn’t know. C-

Fury
She was the daughter of Earth-2’s Wonder Woman and Col. Steve Trevor; together with other super-powered sons and daughters of Golden Age heroes, she joined Infinity Inc. to show their parents what they could do on their own. Pretty vanilla stuff here, right down to the generic super-strength and super-speed powers, though I do love this bit in her bio: “The fiery tempered young woman was offered a choice between transferring to the University of Southern California or spending the next several years in intensive training on Paradise Island.”  Hmmm, several years of no men, metal brassieres and Bronze Age workouts… or enjoying the company of college men, pub crawls and beer pong tournaments. Decisions, decisions… C

Galactic Golem
“Occupation: Agent of Destruction.” You’re welcome, nameless punk bands of America. The Golem was another of Lex Luthor’s schemes to kill Superman that — spoilers! — resulted in the creature turning against its creator instead. I love this part from the text: “Since Superman drew much of his power solely from Earth’s yellow sun, while the Golem drew his power from every star in the heavens, including many red stars that could sap Superman’s strength, Luthor assumed Superman would prove no match for the Golem. Luthor was, of course, wrong.” HA ha! “Of course.” More like “Lex LOSER,” amirite, people? C-

Gambler
All together now: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/Know when to run…” Okay, so here’s what I don’t get about this guy. He dresses like a 19th-century riverboat gambler and calls himself the Gambler to honor the memory of his gambling daddy and grand-daddy. So it would be safe to assume he’s some kind of super-villain gambler, right? Maybe a guy who uses giant roulette wheels or one-armed bandits to bedevil our heroes? But we don’t get that here. We don’t even know what kind of crimes he committed to become “one of the most wanted men in the country.” No, all we get here is “obsessed with luck,” “master of disguise” and “throws knives real good.” And wouldn’t someone who’s really good at gambling be able to figure out a way to win enough money without having battle superheroes with fancy sleeping-gas guns? So many questions. C-

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Gang

Do the grocery stores where you live offer a generic line of products? Here in Canada, we have a grocery chain that offers its No Name line of products: yellow packaging, nothing but the name of the product (“Baking Powder,” “Aluminum Foil,” etc.) in Helvetica font on the front. The Gang is the No Name equivalent of super-villain teams; they probably drive The Car and hang out at The Hideout in between ass-whuppings by The Superhero in The City. They’re also generic in their costume choices, their motivation (“Being poor sucks!”) and their team line-up (brainy leader, stumpy strongman, handsome strongman, hypnotist). About the only thing interesting about them is the fact the so-called brains of the group is also the only one who elects not to wear a mask while they’re on the job. Huh. D-

Garguax
He’s a Doom Patrol baddie and would-be alien conqueror. He was also an honorary member of the original Brotherhood of Evil. I hope he got a plaque to commemorate that; plaques are always nice. How evil is this intergalactic mofo? He’s so evil he once forced the Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood to join forces to defeat him, just like that one time Cobra and G.I. Joe teamed up to fight a common enemy. Yeah, I agree, I should have spent more time outside as a kid. C

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