Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. X

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Holy Decahedron, Batman! Have we reached the 10th issue of Who’s Who: The Definitive Director of the DC Universe already? Why, yes we have, little chum. This week: Volume Ecks, from Gunner & Sarge to Hyena. 

The cover for this issue is a little light on fun stuff (downright boring, in fact), so let’s dive right into the letters page. After a complimentary note from Phil Jimenez of Cypress, CA (whom I’d wager is this Phil Jimenez), Michael Cleveland of No Address Given asks what Who’s Who editor Len Wein has against such, er, “classic” Green Lantern foes as the Dazzler, the Bottler and the Crumbler. Aside from the fact they all sound like kitchen products from late-night infomercials, you mean?

Actually, what Mr. Wein said was that space considerations make it impossible for every DC character, especially those who only made one appearance, to appear in the pages of Who’s Who, but fans can look forward to seeing the Crumbler appear in a future update. Of course, this promised Crumbler profile never happened, and a disgraced Len Wein never found work in comics again.

Onward! 

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Gunner & Sarge

One calls himself Sarge because he’s a sergeant in the U.S. Army. The other is Gunner because “he used a submarine gun in battle.” When they were assigned a dog from the K-9 unit, they called him Pooch. After losing all their men on their first assignment as recruit trainers and feeling like losers because of it, they met up with some other men who experienced loss and dubbed themselves the Losers. They died near the end of the Second World War, but I like to imagine an alternate reality when they came back home and opened the world’s least successful marketing agency. C

Gypsy
How lame is Gypsy? This is how lame Gypsy is: “Sir! The woman who can change her coloring to blend into any background has just used her power!” “So? Just shoot at the brick wall in a wide arc until you hear something hit the pavement.” Fin. She also supposedly had illusion-casting powers that were so powerful that (ominous organ music) “people have been driven to distraction” by her illusions. Then there’s this: “It has been theorized that she is not a genuine Gypsy and is playing the role of a street urchin because it suits her present needs.” What needs, exactly, would be filled by “playing the role” of a 15-year-old homeless girl? The need to beg for change and stay one step ahead of rapists? D+

Halo
The Outsiders were a bunch of mix-and-match heroes that had no real reason for hanging out together, but Batman was their leader so shut up and buy the book. Halo had the most complicated origin story hands down: “she” was actually some kind of sentient-light alien that probed a dead teenager’s corpse and got stuck inside it, re-animating her and causing the alien (an “Aurakle,” if you must know) to lose its memories and think it was a human with amnesia who just happens to have various super-powers that manifested as color-coded auras surrounding her. Got all that? She later became the legal ward of Tatsu Yamashiro — a.k.a. Katana, a Japanese woman with a magic sword and mysterious past who wasn’t that much older than Halo herself. That must have been an interesting interview down at the Child Protection Office. C+

Harbinger
Also known as “Super-Administrative Assistant.” A couple of years before DC cleaned house with its Crisis on Infinite Earths series, two mysterious characters — the Monitor and his assistant, Lyla — started popping up in DC’s titles, acting as behind-the-scenes power brokers supplying weapons and expertise to various super-villains. The Monitor was never fully seen while Lyla was shown fetching files, commenting on his recent transactions — riveting stuff, really. Then the mini-series came out and her power was revealed: she can split herself into dozens of Harbingers to fetch superheroes, coffee, you name it. Because no one knew what to do with her after that story was over, she was drafted to the New Guardians. She hasn’t worked much since then. C-

Harlequin
Great. After making a couple of “super-secretary” jokes about Harbinger, we get Harlequin, an actual secretary who hides her athleticism, brains and beauty because men resented her natural talents. But after hiding her gifts she ends up shunned by men who found her too mousy. Given this bullshit Catch-22 to deal with (which totally doesn’t exist today, right?), she figures putting on a costume and robbing banks is the best way to land a man (namely, the Golden Age Green Lantern), which of course in 1940s comics is the only reason women even exist in the stories. And now I feel like a jerk. I can’t even offer the observation that her special illusion-casting glasses don’t sound the sort of accessory someone on a secretary’s salary can afford without feeling like more of a jerk. Let’s move on. B

Harpis
I’m sensing a theme developing here, namely “it really sucks being a woman sometimes.” She’s a member of the multi-species Omega Men who joined that merry band of interstellar freedom fighters after running away from home and finding work in a bordello; her beautiful form was later mutilated to make her more appealing to the Citadel’s inhuman soldiers. Oh, and her prized wings were then ripped off as trophies by a bounty hunter. On the plus side, we learn in her bio that there are no nerve cells in her wings, so they can take multiple gunshots without causing her pain while she’s in flight. Um… yay? B-

Haunted Tank
It’s a tank! And it’s haunted! Truth in advertising, that’s the way DC rolls. During World War II, Sgt. Jeb Stuart is watched over by the spirit of his ancestor, a famous Confederate general. So he flies the Confederate flag over every tank he commands, to honor the spirit of the ancestor that only he and men who are dying can see and hear. One: I can imagine how thrilled the lone black member of his unit was to know a Confederate general was watching over them. Two: I’d really like to know how cool senior commanders really were with the whole “I’m taking tactical advice from a ghost of a 19th-century general whom only I can see or hear” thing. Three: of all the men in the Haunted Tank crew, only Cpl. Slim Stryker went on to a long and productive career in porn.

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Hawk, Son of Tomahawk

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re looking at this guy and wondering what insane notion possessed DC editors, in 1970, to greenlight a Revolutionary War hero who looks and dresses like a Western-themed Elvis impersonator. But it’s a little-known fact that men in late 18th-century America commonly wore slit-to-the-navel jumpsuits, bellbottoms, neckerchiefs and sideburns. Honest, go check Wikipedia in… oh, let’s say about 20 minutes. The more you know, people. That said, that’s something so ludicrously comics about making Elvis Presley a half-Indian 18th-century wilderness scout that I can’t not love it. B-

Hawk & Dove
Brainy, pacifistic Don and his brother, belligerent football-playing Hank, turn into Hawk and Dove whenever injustice is near. Who is the mysterious voice that grants them their powers? Where do their costumes and powers come from when they say their superhero names? Will the brothers ever stop bickering about everything under the sun in a none-too-subtle commentary on left-vs.-right politics? The answers, courtesy of Steve Ditko: (1) Shut up and buy it (2) Shut up and buy it (3) No. I guess we should be thankful this wasn’t one of Frank Miller’s ideas, otherwise the book might’ve been titled Real-Man and the Pantywaist. C+

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Hawkgirl/Hawkman I/Hawkman II/Hawkwoman

No sense divvying up this quartet for discussion, since they all equal awesome in my book. Where to begin? Both couples came with great costume designs and intriguing origins, even if the Silver Age versions were a little too Silver Age-y in the latter department (so, crime didn’t exist on their planet of militaristic bird-people until a bunch of human-headed birds showed up to steal stuff? Riiiight). Their use of ancient weaponry was always a fun treat, visual-wise, and they had a collection of intriguing villains (Gentleman Ghost, Fadeaway Man, Shadow-Thief) that are still vastly underrated. But what I think I like best about both couples is that (the standard-in-those-days “-girl” notwithstanding) the women are partners in every sense; Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman isn’t a cloying girlfriend who joins her man on rooftop romps because it’s a gas, and she doesn’t exist just to be a villain’s simpering hostage every third issue. In both instances, she is an integral part of the team, in the sense there wouldn’t have been a team without her active involvement right from the start. Plus, we get an all-star line-up of artists — Steve Rude, Murphy Anderson, Joe Kubert, Paul Smith — depicting the four. What more can you ask? A

Heat Wave
As one of Flash’s regular super-villains, Heat Wave uses a specially desig– hey, where did everyone go? Come on, let’s give him a chance. Look, just because he’s a pyromaniac with a fancy heat-gun who chooses to battle a man who moves at the speed of light doesn’t mean he’s a complete idiot… Oh, it says right here he wears a “specially insulated asbestos costume.” That doesn’t even cover his mouth and chin. Never mind. D

Hector Hammond
The problem with Green Lantern as a concept is that he’s a guy with a ring that can do pretty much anything, provided there are no yellow lamps in the room. This makes it difficult to come up with foes who can pose a credible challenge. The solution? Go Lex Luthor on his ass and get someone who can tussle with him on the mental plane. Enter Hector Hammond, an unscrupulous sort forcibly evolved by meteor rays into an immortal future-man with vast mental powers, the downside being those same rays have also made him completely immobile. So right there, you’ve got someone who can make GL break a sweat and has a plausible motive for going after him (in that he sees GL’s ring as the key to regaining his lost mobility). Do yourself a favour, pretend that 2011 film never happened and just accept that sometimes those Silver Age writers knew what they were doing. B+

Helix
Long before Todd McFarlane made all the money in the world and then spent it on baseballs, he helped come up with this forgettable gaggle of goofballs to throw up against Infinity Inc. Well, that’s not entirely true — Mr. Bones had potential (and was later recycled as a major player in the American superhero-industrial complex), but the rest of them… gah. A dog-boy wearing a necktie, gang. That’s all I have to say. Naturally, this group was created by a mad gynecologist named Dr. Love who gave a special drug to six pregnant women, stole their freakshow babies when they were born, then spent 20 years dealing with diapers, temper tantrums and awkward birthday parties to create the ultimate hair-metal band. “Gimme an R! O! C! K!” D

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Hercules

Ha! Bet you don’t know DC had its own Hercules on the payroll, and that he first appeared all the way back in Wonder Woman #1. Take that, House of Ideas! There’s a recount of his legends from Greek myths, including his seduction and enslavement of Hippolyta, and then a disclaimer that impostors using his name during subsequent credited appearances of him in DC history make it “impossible to determine” what he’s been up to since togas went out of style. There’s some talk about infinite earths and extra-dimensional  communication but I tuned out because Look! Walt Simonson! And his brontosaurus signature! Yay! B-

Heroes of Lallor
Random thoughts: (1) I want to live in comic-land, where every accidental atomic explosion near residential populations bestows phenomenal super-powers on the local unborn children — as opposed to, say, deadly tumors and phosphorescent flippers. (2) To this day, I can’t hear the name “Gas Girl” and not titter like my 12-year-old self. (“Gas.” Hee!) (“Titter.” Hee!) (3) Duplicate Boy is the only member of this futuristic quintet to also score his own individual entry, possibly because (as Who’s Who noted both times) he was once involved romantically with LSHer Shrinking Violet. Which just goes to show: even in the 30th century, it pays to be a star-fucker. C

Highfather
Who wears short shorts? Why, the Moses-like leader of an advanced race of super-gods, that’s who. He started a war with Apokolips after Darkseid and friends murdered his wife, then later forsook violence to find a better way. Specifically, a way where he gets to call the shots on New Genesis because a big wall with magic flame writing on it said he could. He also sealed a treaty with Apokolips by trading sons with Darkseid, condemning his son (and the future Mister Miracle) to a miserable childhood in a hellish pit of despair, torture and pain. The upside: he saved a fortune in private school tuition. C

Hippolyta
Queen of the Amazons and mother of Wonder Woman, Hippolyta was, at the time this entry was written, “recently voted out of her role as queen by the Amazons.” How does that work, exactly? Maybe Paradise Island used the same form of government that allowed the daughter of an Alderaanian senator to be referred to as a princess? Yeah, that still bugs me. C+

H.I.V.E.
Or the Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination. You’ve got to love a secret terrorist organization that puts that much effort into its name. They’re criminal scientists and former superhero punching bags who banded together to succeed where they failed as individuals. And of course the only things lacking in their previous schemes were bitchin’ purple robes and a honeycomb motif in all their decor. They moved into “scientific terrorism” when their earlier efforts as a group failed, and I’m trying to figure out how you would scientifically terrorize someone. Present overwhelming evidence of evolution to a Texas school board official? C-

Hop Harrigan
You know one of the best things about the Golden Age? All the cool names and nicknames they came up with for their characters. You had “Hop” Harrigan, ace teen pilot… his scheming legal guardian, Silas Crass… his co-pilot, Prop Wash… his mechanic, “Tank” Tinker… and his aunt, the deliciously ethnic Donna Sanchez de Rodriguez Manuella de las Cordelliras. Huh, now that I look at the entry again, there’s no mention of Harrigan’s birth name. Everyone, drop your implements! All work must cease until we resolve this vitally important matter. C+

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Houngan

When Wolfman and Pérez updated the Doom Patrol’s Brotherhood of Evil for the ’80s, they came up with some damn fine characters worthy of membership. Houngan wasn’t one of them. And it’s not even the “Haitian BDSM dungeon master” look, though it doesn’t help. No, it’s the fact this computer scientist and voodoo practitioner put his two interests together and made a computerized voodoo doll. How does that work, you say? Excellent question! It’s a high-tech voodoo doll that works the same as a normal voodoo doll, except it needs a DNA sample of Houngan’s intended victim to make the micro-sensors and other technical jibber-jabbery inside it work. Which means either (a) Houngan walks around all day with DNA samples of every superhero he might encounter, which: ew or (b) he’s a super-villain who’s only threatening when you’ve already lost the fight and he can do-si-do over and pluck a hair from your head. D

Hourman I
Does anyone else hear the song “Sixty-Minute Man” whenever they see this guy’s name, or is it just me? I bet they made a lot of jokes about his staying power down in the JSA locker room. Rex “Tick-Tock” Tyler was one of several Golden Age heroes who found better living through pharmaceuticals — his Miraclo pills granted him exactly one hour of super-strength and speed. You’d think that would be the kind of discovery that would make Viagra’s sales numbers look like bottled cancer by comparison, but no! Instead, Tyler uses his discovery to beat up super-villains, gangsters and Nazis. But not super-villain Nazi gangsters. Because you just don’t, that’s why. B-

Hourman II
Man, everything about this guy’s page screams “douchenozzle” to me. His occupation is “would-be artist,” and the costume design he came up with explains the “would-be” part. The background art of his face makes him look like every entitled frat house trust-fund prick you knew back in college. He’s intelligent but “uninterested in applying himself to a career,” and resists his father’s efforts to bring him into the family chemical business — but the first chance he gets to gulp down Daddy’s super-strength pills, of course he’s all over that. I get the feeling the writer of this entry shares my antipathy towards the character, given the fact that half his bio is taken over by the origin story of another Infinity Inc. team member. D+

Human Bomb
Roy Lincoln was a chemist working on a powerful new explosive when a bunch of Nazis broke into his lab, killed his father and demanded the formula. Lincoln swallowed the only sample he had, and instead of dying the horrible, wall-splattering death that logic would demand, he discovered he could “release tremendous explosive force” through his hands. Considering he blows things up, once ran with a group called the Freedom Fighters, and can’t say his own name in airports and government buildings without causing alarms to go off, he’s a shining example of a Golden Age character that probably would not go over so well if he had been introduced in these post-9/11 times. C-

Human Target
Since his original ’70s run as an Action Comics back-up strip, Christopher Chance has racked up a not-unimpressive two TV shows and several fine comic series, thanks to his unique premise. For a fee, he sets himself up as a “human target” by disguising himself as clients who have reason to believe they are about to be the victim of a murder. He does this to ferret out killers who would justifiably be surprised to, say, see their intended target rip off his face, jump out of his wheelchair and go kung fu on their homicidal asses. Before you go blaming your guidance counselor for not including “human target” among your post-grad career options, keep in mind Chance had a cribbed-from-Batman’s-test-sheet origin story involving a gunned-down parent in a dark alleyway. Man’s got issues, is what I’m saying. And bless him for it. A-

Hunter’s Hellcats
No! NO! You are not manly enough to even look at this page! Look at these ex-convicts turned special commandos! Hunter! Brute! Snake Oil! Swinger! Hard Head! Even the woman — last name Heller because of course — has that look that says she’d rather gut you than give you the time of day. It’s like someone stole Lee Marvin’s testosterone when he wasn’t looking and dribbled it all over this page, it’s that manly. Wait, that didn’t come out right. C+

Huntress I
She’s a thief who decided she didn’t like how law-and-order types “hunted” criminals, so she decided to turn the tables by kidnapping cops, judges and superheroes, turning them loose in her “private zoo” and hunting them down for sport. Hold up. She’s wealthy enough to afford her own private zoo, and she spends her free time arranging the kidnapping and deaths of people — people whose disappearance would be noted immediately, by the way — just so criminals can score some payback in the abstract sense? That lady’s messed up, yo. But then I think of that one deliciously insane story where she and her husband, Sportsmaster, kidnapped a bunch of heroes and villains to play a game of baseball. Glorious. C

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Huntress II 

Fans of the current Huntress might be surprised to learn she was originally the daughter of Earth-2’s Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, and she got into the family business after her mother was gunned down by an ex-associate. Damned convenient, then, that her parents trained her to “an extraordinary peak of physical and mental development” throughout her childhood, for no reason whatsoever other than “they assumed such development was good for its own sake.” Her bio ends with this bit of oddly placed gossip: “Gotham DA Harry Sims was her lover.” Um… you go, girl? B

Hyathis 
One of four planetary rulers in a distant solar system who were always fighting each other for supreme control of the solar system. When that didn’t pan out for her, she took over Hawkman’s planet and turned its people into happy little foot soldiers and invaded yet another planet. One: all this planet-hopping is making me feel like Earth is the cosmic equivalent of that one last stop on the bus route way out where the sidewalks don’t reach. Two: Geez, lady, you had a whole freakin’ planet under your controls-all-plant-life thumb. Isn’t that enough? Can’t you find some other hobby that doesn’t lower property values? Even Genghis Khan took a few moments to look around and savor the moment before marching off to his next conquest, you know? C-

Hyena 
Let’s not dwell on the fact this is yet another Firestorm villain who shouldn’t have taken more than five seconds for him to knock out. Instead, let’s focus on how Summer Day’s (no, really) entire super-villain career consists of men shitting all over her, from her cop dad who couldn’t hide his disappointment over her being a girl… to the African native who bit her while she was giving him medical attention and turned her into a were-hyena… to Firestorm, who not only beat her in public but read her diary to learn the truth about her curse… to the jerkwad doctor who forced her to turn back into a were-hyena and attack other doctors just because he was pissed at the state medical board for not recognizing his foreign credentials. And as if that weren’t enough, she passes on her curse to Firestorm and he gets cured in time for the next issue while she remains a specimen in some African lab. That, people is some Grade-A bullshit right there. Out of extreme pity, B-

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