Daily Archives: July 19, 2014

Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. XI


Time once again to delve into the darkest recesses of our comic-geek past and wantonly wallow in yet another issue of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This week: Volume Ecks-Eye, from Icicle to Jonni Thunder.

This issue is… well, it’s not great. The Joker is our headlining character on the cover — as well he should be — but aside from him and Jonah Hex this book is a long slog through mostly forgettable characters. So let’s perk up our spirits by making fun of short people!

Conrad P. Felber — “5’2″ and proud of it” — writes to Who’s Who to complain about how there aren’t enough short superheroes for people like him to look up to… er, so to speak. Never mind that the most popular Marvel mutant of all time is only 5’3″ (according to Marvel’s own stats) or that superheroes, by definition, are supposed to be larger-than-life, literally and figuratively. No, Mr. Felber points to actual studies of the heights of comic-book characters to make his case that short people are getting shortchanged in the hero department. After all, they can’t possibly be expected to identify with fictional characters unless those characters are exactly like them in every way. (It’s the same reason why I can’t bring myself to care about the adventures of any superheroes who aren’t middle-aged, nearsighted and devilishly handsome.)  

Good on you, sir! In fact, I will take up the cause by noting the heights of every single character in this issue just to draw attention to this rampant inequality that must be addressed. Rise up, short people! Raise your fists and be seen! Unless you’re standing behind us normal-sized people. In which case… just shout really loudly or something.


A former physicist turned criminal, Icicle… wait, why is it always physicists who turn to crime? Sure, there’s the occasional botanist or biochemist who goes down that career path, but 95 times out of a hundred the evil scientists in comics are always physicists. I think the United Physicists Association should embrace that bad-boy image, don’t you? I mean ironically, as a way to show they’re not really power-mad types studying the fundamental forces of the universe as part of their ultimate plan to enslave the rest of us, particularly the English Lit and philosophy majors who got laid way more than they did back in grad school. Anyway, Icicle: he freezes stuff. In case you couldn’t guess. C
Height: 5’11”, but that’s okay because he’s a bad guy

Immortal Man
Okay, this one is a bit confusing. He’s Vandal Savage’s greatest enemy, and he has his own form of immortality in the shape of… well, I’ll let his bio explain it: “His greatest ability is, of course, the power of reincarnation that enables him to return instantly from the dead when his previous body has met a violent death.” Fair enough. But then there’s this part: “If mortally wounded, this Immortal Man would die like any other man — only to be instantly reborn as someone else, someone new, sometimes younger, sometimes older, but always someone different.” First: “someone else” and “someone new” are the same thing, editors. Second… what’s with this “sometimes younger, sometimes older” bit? I thought he was reincarnated, meaning he was reborn as a baby when his old body died and Savage had a good 20 or so years to chill before he had to worry about tussling with him again. So does he jump from adult body to adult body, booting out the spirit of the previous tenant so he can keep on living? That doesn’t sound very heroic. There are so many questions here that don’t matter because he suddenly became very mortal during the then-recent Crisis on Infinite Earths series and perished while saving the universe. Just a heads-up: we’re going to see a lot of that here in the coming weeks. C-
Height: Various, but you just know he would never hop into a short person’s body if he had the choice

Inferior Five
Not much I can say about this group of hopelessly inept superheroes because that’s kind of the point: this 1960s parody of a super-team would have fit in nicely with the gang over at MAD magazine. The set-up: they’re all children of famous superheroes who decide to follow in their parents’ footsteps despite their inferior attributes. Merryman is skinny and weak! Dumb Bunny is dumb! Awkwardman is clumsy! White Feather is a coward! The Blimp is, well, guess. Tons of fun if you can find their short-lived series, and there’s no reason why they can’t be the stars of the breakout superhero parody film we deserve. (Sorry, Mystery Men.) B

Infinite Man 
First, I don’t care what HR’s anti-discrimination policy says — anyone named “Jaxon Rugarth” is destined for super-villainy and should not be hired. He’s a Legion of Super-Heroes baddie who once took a bad trip in a time machine and turned into an unstable godlike being able to flow freely through time, plus he could fire blasts of chronal energy, whatever the hell that means. Sounds scary, but not as scary as the artwork on this page showing a grinning Infinite Man with wide-eyed Legionnaires trapped inside his Kirby-dotted maw. Gah. B-
Height: variable, but you can bet he never sized down to make an impression

Infinity, Inc. 
I’ll be honest, I was never a huge fan of this team, and I’ve yet to see them get the nostalgia treatment so many other characters from the ’80s have received in recent years. If I had to guess, it’s because there wasn’t a lot about them that was innovative or different. There’s one bit in their bio that puts me in their corner, though; specifically, the part where it says these children of Earth-2’s Justice Society of America formed their own team after they were rejected by the JSA for lack of experience. Oh, I see. That’s how it’s gonna work, huh, guys? In your day, all anyone needed to go out and violate civil rights was a mask and some gumption, but now that it’s our generation’s turn to take over, you suddenly decide every hero needs three degrees and an internship before they’re ready to start patrolling? Screw you, old people. Screw. You. C+

Infinity Inc. Headquarters 
Head-scratching fanwank for the tens of Infinity Inc. fans that existed in 1985. Yep, sure glad we kept Batman’s entry down to one page so we could show readers a picture of a defunct film studio lot reconverted into a superhero team HQ. It annoys me because it’s just so unnecessary. Other team HQ pages show cutaway diagrams of trophy rooms and meeting rooms and all the other cool sections you’d expect in a functioning team HQ. Here, we get labels on some buildings like “Administration Building,” “Rocket Racer Hangar and Workshop” and… that’s pretty much it. But at least we know the studio’s New York City street set is right next to the Castle and King Arthur set! D

Infinity Man 
Let’s be honest and admit that, while Jack Kirby was a genius, he was also on a deadline almost every moment of his life. And that kind of pressure, well… let’s just say not every idea was a winner. This guy was like the Captain Planet of the Forever People: whenever trouble happened, they all grabbed their Mother Box (stop that), said “Taaruu” to summon him from wherever he came from, and chilled on some distant planet while he did the heavy lifting. No background, no explanation for his powers or how he first got attached to these cosmic flower children, just a whole whack of “unknown” or “not known” references in his entry. Riveting stuff, no? If it weren’t for the fact he’s 6’4″ and likely annoys our Mr. Ferber for reaching such lofty heights, I’d totally write him off as a boring waste of time and space. As it is, C-

Injustice Gang of the World

The immediate thing that strikes me here is how wannabe the whole enterprise is. Not only did this gang of super-villains base their name on the Justice League’s, not only were they also headquartered in a “detection-cloaked satellite” on the opposite side of the Earth as the JLA’s own satellite, but they specifically chose their members by plucking one villain from each of the Justice Leaguer’s gallery of rogues (with Batman getting two, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, because he’s awesome). Come on, guys! I know you’re eager to start the hero-whomping, but that’s no excuse for skipping on some basic branding essentials! Differentiation, kids. It’s what separates the Legions of Doom of the world from… well, you. C-

Injustice Society of the World 
“Oh yeah, Justice Society of America? Well, check it out: we’re the Injustice Society of the whole WORLD! Suck on that, losers!” While it’s tempting to write off their “patriotic crimes” and schemes to replace American leaders with androids as the work of laughably unstable individuals, this assemblage of criminals from DC’s Golden Age somehow managed to keep a raging zombie, a 50,000-year-old caveman, a time-travelling Hitler stand-in and several other prime candidates for electroshock therapy working together with some semblance of teamwork. That’s no small feat. And let’s be honest: weren’t villains more fun back when they did stuff like steal the Washington Monument on a dare instead of stuff dead girlfriends in refrigerators? B+

Insect Queen
Just to prove that no member of Superman’s supporting cast was ever spared the Silver Age silliness, here comes a double dose of Lana Lang as Insect Queen. But which one, Earth-1 Lana or Earth-2 Lana, is the superior monarch in terms of utter stupidity? Earth-1 Lana gained her powers from a grateful alien’s “biogenetic ring” that she didn’t know could grant super-powers until she spontaneously grew a firefly’s ass in the middle of the night; Earth-2 Lana received a magical scarab from ancient Egypt that was somehow activated by the sound of Superman’s flying (bu-huh?) and gave her the power to enlarge insects to ride on. Oh, and once the brain of the Ultra-Humanite was placed in the head of one of her giant ants and he used it to control Lana. Tough call, but I’m going to give the prize to Earth-2 Lana. Congratulations, Lana! Too bad neither of you don’t officially exist anymore. D+
Height: 5’7″ for both, clearly a slap in the face to the Felbers of the world

Invisible Destroyer

Memo to comic book writers: if you create a character that is composed of invisible energy — except for the very visible gloves, boots, costume and finned helmet that he/it chooses to wear for some inexplicable reason — then that character is not, technically, invisible. Something to keep in mind for next time. Spare me your “mental manifestations” mumbo-jumbo; there’s invisible and there’s visible, and this dude ain’t invisible. This homicidal Green Lantern foe erupted from the subconscious of a by-all-accounts law-abiding physicist, which only proves that even the nice physicists are hellbent on destroying us all. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. D+
Height: 6’0″ because no one in their right mind would create a mental manifestation that’s shorter than them

Invisible Kid I 
A Legionnaire who was alive, then not. “It recently appeared that Lyle had been trapped in another dimension and was not dead, but this was revealed as a hoax perpetrated by a demon seeking to lure Legionnaires to their doom.” This kind of stuff happens all the time in the comic books. It must be hard for superheroes to work through the grieving process, with asshats pulling stunts like this all the time. C+
Height: 5’7″, and if he were any shorter he would have stayed invisible 24/7

Invisible Kid II 
A guy who became invisible by drinking the same invisibility serum the first Invisible Kid drank and then joined the Legion. I dunno, invisibility sounds like a cool power to have, but then I remember that one X-Files episode where a guy gains the power to turn invisible and his invisible ass gets flattened by a truck five seconds after he celebrates his new power. Because the driver couldn’t see him, see? The Legion writers must’ve thought along those same lines, because they added vague teleporting powers to this guy’s skills set. Good for him. B-
Height: 5’9″, a full two inches taller than his predecessor and proof that there’s no point in updating characters if you can’t make them taller

“I…Vampire” was the title of the strip, not the name of the lead character. That would be Andrew Bennett, a former English lord cursed to be a vampire and yet somehow he managed to resist his bloodlust, supping only on animals and bottled blood. He’s never referred to as “I…Vampire” in his entry or in his stories, which is a shame; imagine the Abbott-and-Costello-type possibilities. “Watch out! It’s I…Vampire!” “Wait, you’re a vampire?” “No, him! That guy over there!” “Who, him?” “Yes, it’s I…Vampire!” “But you just said…” B
Height: 6’3″, because the ladies just won’t let you sink your fangs in if you can’t reach their necks

Ira Quimby started out as a not-so-bright criminal whose intelligence was one day boosted by radiation from an alien rock. So being intelligent enough to realize the risks of crime outweigh the rewards, he patents the many inventions he suddenly comes up with and retires wealthy at the age of… no, I’m just messing with you. Instead, he goes on super-intelligent crime sprees that somehow always end with him getting his ass kicked by men in tights whom it’s safe to say would probably not win as much on Jeopardy! as Mr. Quimby. Plus, he’s a character whom I will never be able to think of without picturing a certain er, ah bumbling mayor from a certain er, ah town. C+
Height: 5’10”, with his “ever-present aero-shoes” lifting him up even higher above the heads of the filthy, filthy short people us Earth-bound normal people are forced to endure

Iron Major 

Boy, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a super-powered Nazi, huh? The Iron Major gained his moniker for being a rigid enforcer of military discipline, and also for the bullet-deflecting prosthetic he sported after he lost his right hand to frostbite. He was commandant of a brutal POW camp that Sgt. Rock was the first to escape from, “only to be pursued by the Iron Major into the Forest of Forgotten Skulls.” I’m sure that forest’s name sounds a lot more pleasant in the original German. Let’s see: “Wald der vergessenen Schädel.” Yeah, I’d rent a cottage there. B
Height: 6’0″, because anything less is unacceptable when you’re part of a master race

Lord, why are we cluttering this series with yib-yobs like this one? He’s a freedom fighter/space pirate in the 61st century who uses a sword and a blaster gun to fight an evil empire. Note: his entry also contains such phrases as “Empress Erika Klein-Hernandez,” “the starship Limerick Rake,” “anti-gravity wood,” and “a race of vampires created through an evolutionary accident” — in case you were trying to decide if this early-1970s strip was written on a dare or on drugs or both. D
Height: 6’0″, because a pirate captain shouldn’t need a stool to look death right in the eye

A member of Infinity Inc., Jade is a green-skinned mutant whose star-shaped birthmark and command of the green energy she generates led her to believe her father was the original Green Lantern. And she wasn’t wrong in her assumption, it’s just… well, that’s quite the leap, isn’t it? In a world full of radiation and magic and gift-giving aliens and a million other ways of obtaining super powers, it seems a stretch to think some superhero you’ve never met is your daddy just because you both share a color scheme. Anyway. C+
Height: 5’3″, which means she’s the shortest character in this issue and Felber would have still have to stand on his tip-toes to give her a kiss

Jason Bard
One of the ongoing mysteries of Who’s Who is trying to figure out the reasons for including or not including certain characters. Eleven issues in, it’s pretty clear DC made the decision not to include any supporting characters unless they had a super-powered alter ego (this is why Jimmy Olsen is listed as “Elastic Lad,” for instance). Which makes this guy’s inclusion so damned odd; he’s a Gotham City private investigator with a reputation for ethics whose services have been used from time to time by the Batman. He’s a crack shot and he uses a cane, sure… but it’s not even a super-powered cane. And he has sort of a tragic story involving his dead mother and a search for his murderer father… but that never really goes anywhere. And yet somehow this guy who’s never headlined his own strip or series rates a full half-page more than the absent Commissioner Gordon. Huh. C
Height: 6’0″, not counting the cane obviously used to make sure short people keep their distance

Oh, for the love of… HE THROWS STICKS AT A GUY WHO WEARS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON IN THE UNIVERSE ON HIS FINGER! Pointy sticks, I grant you, but still. If there isn’t an issue of Suicide Squad that shows him shot in the head, I will be very disappointed. D-
Height: 6’1″, because making him this moronic and 5’2″ would have been too silly for words

Jemm, Son of Saturn 
No, you’re thinking of Jem, the rock star/Barbie pretender from the same time period. There’s nothing truly outrageous about this star of a short-lived comic series, who didn’t really make much of an impact on the DC Universe probably because the Martian Manhunter already filled the “thick-browed alien stranger in a strange land” niche quite nicely. Blah blah blah two warring races/nuclear holocaust/thinly veiled commentary on Earth racism/child born with magical birthmark as foretold by the prophecy/vague “let me feel your feelings” powers/a dozen other sci-fi tropes we’ve all seen a million times before. “Like all Saturnians he is particularly vulnerable to fire.” You don’t say. D
Height: 6’6″ because we don’t serve no waddling little E.T. types in here

Jennifer Morgan 
Daughter of Travis Morgan, the U.S. Air Force pilot who crash-lands in the other-dimensional realm of Skartaris, she sets out to find her father and ends up becoming the most powerful sorceress in the realm. But where her dad puts on a fur loincloth and takes to calling himself Warlord, she sticks with “Jennifer Morgan.” I respect that. I mean, sure, she dresses the part with her Elvira-on-St.-Patrick’s-Day outfit and she has all the bog-standard magic-user powers, but I think it takes real strength of character to stick with your birth name instead of going with “Mistress Magica” or whatever. B
Height: 5’6″, but no amount of magic will make her want a dude who’s shorter than her

I stopped caring about the Teen Titan’s Jericho back when he either did or didn’t turn evil but a bunch of grown men with wildebeest costumes were somehow involved either way; for obvious reasons, I’ve repressed that period of Teen Titans history. I don’t even know if he’s still kicking around the DCU, and I couldn’t care less if he was. So let’s remember him as he once was: a man-permed, body-possessing, mute hero true who clearly preferred the company of men. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. C-
Height: 6’0″, but about three inches of that is hair


At first blush, this guy seems like a joke: Golden Age cop who decides to fight crime by honoring his medieval court jester ancestor, right down to the motley costume, pixie boots and jingle bells. But check this part out: “(D)espite his lighthearted manner, the Jester was dreaded by criminals, who feared hearing the sound of his high-pitched laugh or the bells on his costume.” Think about it. You’re just a working-stiff crook in a dark alley robbing a fur warehouse or whatever, and suddenly you hear those bells. You can’t tell where they’re coming from, but they’re getting louder.  Then you see a guy dressed like a jester come out of the shadows holding a cream pie and laughing maniacally. You just know some crazy shit is about to go down. B-
Height: 5’11” — hey, go complain to the police academy, I didn’t make the rules here

A mid-season replacement after the Fearsome Five sent Doctor Light packing, Jinx is a sorceress about which “virtually nothing is known,” except for the fact she’s from India. So naturally she’s given the same ashen gray-green skin coloring that every Middle Eastern and South Asian comic book character got back in the day. Sigh… C
Height: 5’9″ and she’ll hex the heck out of any short guy who even thinks of putting the moves on her

Johnny Cloud 
Son of a Navajo chief, ace fighter pilot Johnny Cloud couldn’t escape racism, no matter how good he was at shooting down Ratzi planes; he joined up with the Losers after he lost a pilot under his command and crashed his own plane. He often saw a cloud shaped like an Indian brave riding a stallion across the sky, a drawing of which is provided on the page. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cloud formation look so… pointy. I wonder what it says about me that all I see when I look at clouds is a bunch of bunnies humping. C+
Height: 5’11” just like every other all-American flying hero should be

Johnny Quick
He’s a Golden Age super-speedster who turns on his power by saying the secret formula “3X2(9YZ)4A” and turns it off by saying “Z25Y(2AB)6.” How do you pronounce the parentheses, you ask? Excellent question! Other super powers included flight, vibrational control of his molecules, gonging Liberty Belle. His day job is “newsreel cameraman for Sees All/Tells All News.” What do you think the modern-day equivalent would be? Paparazzo for Us Weekly? Side-boob beat at TMZ? B
5’11”, also known as “the real man’s height”

Johnny Peril
“It is speculated that even his name is an alias.” Gee, ya think? This guy’s entry sounds like every rugged he-man cliché thrown into a blender: he’s been an adventurer, soldier of fortune and private investigator; his name has “always been associated with danger and intrigue” by… well, someone; he’s traveled all over the world and takes on all manners of dangerous assignments but keeps it real by saying he’d rather have “a nice, normal case”; and he relies more on his “determined nature and quick wits” than any kind of specialized training or fancy book-learnin’. I don’t know if his creators purposely set out to create the world’s biggest poser, but kudos to them if they did. Also: what the hell is up with the crucifix he’s holding? There’s not one mention of vampires or supernatural beings in his bio. Is he trying to convince the devout ladies at the bar that he’s all this and a Christian, too? D+
Height: 6’2″ but you just know he puts lifts in his shoes

Johnny Thunder I
“Occupation: window washer, world heavyweight boxing champion, G-Man, rodeo rider, U.S. Naval seaman, king of Badhnisia, etc.; now retired.” There’s a CV you don’t see every day. John L. Thunder was literally born to greatness, his time of birth aligning with an Asian kingdom’s ancient prophecy that said he would possess great potential for power. Yadda yadda yadda fast forward past a few kidnappings and mystical ceremonies and boom, he commands a pink lightning-themed genie (“who is smarter than Johnny,” the entry snarkily tells us) that can do whatever he wants for one hour a day. Not exactly how I might have interpreted that prophecy, but I’d take it. I hope a real-life rendition of “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me” comes with the package. B-
Height: 5’11” not counting the times he asks his genie to make him even taller (though the genie can be quite liberal interpreting Johnny’s command to “give me inches where it counts”)

Johnny Thunder II
No relation to the genie guy, this Johnny Thunder is an Old West vigilante actually named John Tane. By day, he’s a bespectacled schoolteacher whom no one would suspect of being Mesa City’s mysterious protector. Why the ruse? Because he promised his mother on her deathbed he wouldn’t follow in his sheriff father’s violent footsteps — and he “felt he could remain true to his oath by becoming another person.” That’s… a rather creative loophole. “No, Ghost Ma, you didn’t see me color my hair black with costumer’s hair dust and go riding to a shootout with Pa. That was Johnny Thunder, a totally different guy from me. These six-shooters on my hips? I’m… holding them for a friend?” C+
5’10” because it’s the Wild West, pardner, that’s why


What can I possibly say about the Clown Prince of Crime that hasn’t been said a million times before? He is heads and (waistcoat) tails above all other super-villains because he is the perfect foil for Batman: the merry face of random anarchy and destruction in opposition to a child’s need for justice and order in a cold, uncaring universe. “Though the Joker appeared to mellow for a time, he has recently returned to his murderous ways, becoming once again the most dangerous madman on the face of the Earth.” Goddamn right he is, and don’t you forget it. A+
Height: 6’5″ which is slightly taller than Heath Ledger’s 6’1″ but that’s okay, because he really nailed that role

Jonah Hex
Do yourself a favor and stop reading the double-page Jonah Hex entry right where it says “Heartbroken, Hex returned to his previous way of life.” Everything before that is pure gold: the harsh upbringing, the savage moral code of the Old West, the hard choices a man makes to remain true to himself. But then everything goes to shit because someone decided them kids in the 80s didn’t like them there Western picture-stories no more, so let’s hurl Hex into the fuuuuuu-ture. But not just any future, it’s the same Road Warrior future we’ve seen a bajillion times before: post-nuclear holocaust, irradiated wastelands, rich people using their access to life-saving commodities to keep the rabble in line, tough guys forced to fight for other peoples’ amusement. It made about as much sense as putting Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name on board the Millennium Falcon, and Hex was put back where he belonged. Or to quote co-creator John Albano: He was a hero to some, a villain to others… and wherever he rode people spoke his name in whispers. He had no friends, this Jonah Hex, but he did have two companions: one was death itself… the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.”
Jonah Hex, Western bounty hunter: A; Jonah Hex, future gladiator: D-
5’11” and ya best not make a point of asking ’bout it if’n ya know what’s good fer ya

Jonni Thunder a.k.a. Thunderbolt
Don’t remember this lady? Don’t sweat it; few do. She starred in a four-issue series just before Who’s Who debuted, then sank into obscurity after a guest-star appearance in Infinity Inc. She’s a skinny-tie-wearing L.A. private investigator who inherits an ancient statuette of an Incan lightning god that somehow can turn her into a humanoid lightning bolt. Naturally, this statuette attracts the attention of “Red Nails,” an exotic dancer and electrical genius who wants to capture the magical energy in the statuette for her own nefarious plans. No, she’s not out to perfect the ultimate glow-in-the-dark G-string, but that’s a good guess. C
Height: 5’6″ with heels that lift her way out of the league of any shorty who thinks he has a chance with her