Daily Archives: August 2, 2014

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


We’re halfway there! Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear! Time once again to dive right into Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This week: Volume Ecks-Eye-Eye-Eye, from Krona to the Losers. 

Hey, George Pérez is back! Sweet. And good to see common sense prevailing with Lois Lane receiving the prime front cover spot (true, she’s shown interviewing the snooze-worthy Lightning Lad, but still). Inside, we find a letter by South Carolina’s own “M,” who sends in a laundry list of complaints and grievances. Number 3: “Don’t use so much Jack Kirby artwork. There’s just too much of it.” 

No problemo, M! Let’s ditch one of the most brilliant and influential creators in comic book history — a guy who came up with more characters before breakfast than most other artists did during their entire careers — and fill the space with more Todd McFarlane sketches of buildings he can see from his window. The editors crafted a polite response about wanting to get each character’s original artist involved in the character’s entry whenever possible, and one can only hope this M chap has since realized the errors of his ways. (“Less Kirby.” Good God, man…) 



He’s a scientist from the race that would later become the Guardians of the Universe who defied ancient taboos and built a machine to witness the beginning of time. This led to a horrible cataclysm that unleashed an evil force upon the universe and created both the multiverse and the anti-matter universe. So right off the bat, you would assume this is a major-league bad guy with the means to commit cosmic levels of asshattery. But the way Gil Kane draws him… man. Between the crossed eyes and the “durr” look caused by his gaping pie-hole, he looks like the horribly conceived mascot for a space-themed Special Olympics pep rally. Plus he spends most of his time either floating around as disembodied energy or serving as a death-god’s bitch. Thus, D+

You can pretty much divide DC’s readership into two groups: those who think a super-dog with a cape is a ridiculously childish idea, and those who don’t. Put me down for “ridiculous and childish… and loving it.” Yes, one can ask what value there is in knowing that Krypto’s progenitors were named Zypto, Nypto and Vypto. Yes, one can look at the phrase “Base of Operations: Doghouse of Solitude, somewhere in space” and feel a small pang of regret for all the time one has wasted reading comics. And yes, there is something a bit shifty in the explanation that Jor-El used his son’s beloved dog in his spaceship experiments because “he had a difficult time procuring test animals” (what, they didn’t have pet shops full of expendable critters on Krypton?). But forget all that. He’s a dog in a cape. This is what childhood is meant to be. B-

You know, given all the weird shit that happened in Krypton’s past, it’s kind of surprising the people had a hard time believing a guy who said their home was going to explode. After all, here’s a planet created by a race of sentient gas-clouds… was once inundated by a great flood from which people were saved by giant flying monsters… was attacked by a giant space creature that was only driven off by the people seeding their atmosphere with a red ore, turning the sky permanently red… and witnessed the deliberate destruction of one of its moons. Oh, and let’s not forget that whole “capital city was shrunk, bottled and stolen by a sentient super-computer wearing jockey shorts” incident, which I’ll find a way to blame on Obamacare if it kills me. Given all that, you’d think “the planet is going to blow up soon and we should maybe think about having an evacuation plan in any case” would be an easy sell. Apparently not. C+

I’ve already weighed in on the relative merits of each type of kryptonite, so all I’ll say here is I’m disappointed in Superman’s enemies for not fully exploiting the possibilities presented by having all the different types of kryptonite to choose from. Throwing green rocks at Superman and waiting for him to metastasize? Boring! Paint White K blue and wait for Superman to use it against a mob of murderous Bizarros. Tell him there’s a prison riot, tape some Anti-Kryptonite to the inside of his cape, then sit back and watch him deal with hundreds of super-powered criminals. Chuck a hunk of Red K into his shower just before his boss shows up for dinner and let the sitcom hilarity ensue. Just because you’re evil doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. B

An alien sorcerer-conqueror with three eyes and blue skin who thought wrestling with the Spectre and Dr. Fate would be a smart career move. Sure, let’s go with that. D

Now, this is just overkill. He’s a Japanese-American who, embittered with his country after the deaths of his parents during the Great Depression, went to Japan to train as a samurai. While there, he “also underwent a mystical ceremony that enabled him to transform into animals.” Guess he sprung for the extra semester at Samurai U.? Funny how Imperial Japan didn’t have whole legions of Animorphs to throw at the Justice Society, isn’t it? No matter — blah blah blah crisis on a bunch of earths not yet known how this affects his history magic continuity wand zap. C-

Lady Chian
She’s a fierce Asiatic warrior from an ancient land who fights for — and shares the bed of — the very white Arion, Lord of Atlantis. Why DC hasn’t used her to harness the power of millions of sexually repressed male fans with Asian fetishes is another one of those mysteries of the ages. B+

Lady Lunar
I’m aware of the fact that superhero comics will always have a certain level of sexist silliness — if not outright misogyny — in them, but there are limits. She’s an astronaut trainee who one day is affected by “weird radiation” from a space capsule that flew through a comet’s tail, to the effect that moonlight turns her evil and gives her both super-hypnosis and gravity-manipulating powers. No problem, we’ll just get Superman to — oh, wait, she’s also surrounded by a field of “kryptonite-like radiation.” Convenient! Thankfully, all it takes to cure her of her “moon madness” is a triple dose of sunlight. I guarantee there’s a great Gender Studies thesis waiting to be written that ties Lady Lunar’s “moon madness” to men’s fear of menstruation. D

Lady Quark

Hey, who stuck Annie Lennox in the sparkly unitard and pissed her off like that? C-

League of Assassins
We all dream of quitting our jobs to become assassins, but very few people consider all the work that goes into running a top-notch assassin franchise. First, you’ve got to master the tools of your trade, and it’s not something you can pick up by taking courses at the Learning Annex. Then you’ve got to establish yourself as a reliable professional. Advertising is always a challenge. Referrals are hard to come by. Invoicing? Don’t even go there. That’s why John Cusack’s character in Grosse Point Blank had it all wrong: a little corporate discipline is exactly what the freelance assassin industry needs to allow remorseless killers the freedom to focus on what they do best. Kudos to these fine ladies and gentlemen for recognizing that. That said: “Dr. Ebenezer Darrk”…? That’s the guy you go with to front the operation? Why not just go all the way and hire Killgrave McMurderson? B+

League of Super-Assassins
This is a group of 30th-century punks duped by a bad guy into believing the Legion destroyed their planet, when in fact the Legion tried to save as many people as they could. Nice to know our precious reserves of gullibility haven’t been used up by then. New rule: if you’re part of a brand new super-villain group and you’re deciding on that perfect name that inspires terror in your opponents, don’t call yourselves assassins until you’ve goddamned killed someone. I don’t know why I even have to say that. Look at the entry before yours, kids, to see how it’s done. You ice your first Legionnaire, then we’ll talk. D+

Legion Academy
Because we didn’t have enough Legionnaires on a roster that was starting to rival the Greater Albuquerque phone book in length, the writers created the Legion Academy, a place where promising up-and-comers can learn the finer points of being a Legionnaire: honing their powers, memorizing Legion by-laws, learning how to fend off Sun Boy’s drunken advances, things like that. Graduates included Timber Wolf and Dawnstar, but most nerds from my generation will remember the Academy for introducing us to Laurel Kent, the sexy Superman descendant who scampered about in nothing but a big red blanket with the “S” logo on it. Rowr. C+

Legion of Substitute Heroes
What, no art credit for this entry, DC? Tsk, tsk. No matter; it’s clear this is a Keith Giffen production, and God bless him for taking the absurdity of the concept and balls-out running with it in his Legion of Substitute Heroes one-shot. The set-up: they’re all rejected Legion applicants who banded together to prove they could be heroes despite the questionable usefulness of their abilities. They later decided to disband the group after “a number of new and less effective members” joined the team. That’s got to be quite the blow to your ego, that a group you just joined decides you’re so useless that it would rather not exist than allow you to be a part of it. But seriously now: Infectious Lass? That’s just wrong. B

Legion of Super-Heroes
I’m not going to get baroque here, people. They’re teenagers! With super powers! From the future! In space! I can’t help you if you aren’t able to grasp the awesomeness of that delectably simple concept. Teenagers! Powers! Future! Space! A

Legion of Super-Heroes Headquarters
A part of me will always miss the Silver Age Legion clubhouse — you know, the upside-down, half-buried rocketship version that looked like it couldn’t house a riding mower, much less the robust membership of a 30th-century superhero team. But damn, this new and improved headquarters has it all going on, in a building that still looks like a reasonable representation of the future all these years after it was first conceived (look at how artists in past decades visualized the future to see how quickly images of the future can look dated). Anyone needs me, I’ll be down in the Jacuzzi with Shadow Lass enjoying a holo-video. B+

Legion of Super-Pets
Having just expressed my appreciation to live in a world that can embrace the whimsical charm of a dog in a cape… no. Just… no. D

Legion of Super-Villains
All of the powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes with none of the character development. It’s hard to find a lot of love for these guys; the best villains are the ones whose actions are never completely predictable, usually because they have their own agendas that are never 100% clear to either the heroes or the readers (or even at times to themselves). These guys, it’s pretty obvious when they show up what they’re there to do. Which is a shame because the team’s origin is pretty nifty; after an innocent bystander was hit in the throat by police fire, he took out his (now-mute) anger on all law enforcement by starting a school for super-villains. Which he staffed by… kidnapping Legionnaires and forcing them to be the instructors? For real? Okay, I’m sure he’ll work on his staffing issues right after he gets that accreditation business sorted out. C-

Liberty Belle
In her civilian identity, this wartime heroine was an American athlete who became an international celebrity when she swam across the English Channel to escape Nazi-occupied Europe. She then became a media commentator who advocated for American involvement in the war. But somehow this very famous person was able to protect her secret identity by covering her face with nothing more than a domino mask. Maybe it was one of those things people agreed never to talk about during wartime, like whatever happened to that nice Japanese family down the street. C+

Lightning Lad

You know, I don’t think Dave Cockrum was a fan of Lightning Lad. Seriously, look at the leer on his face; all he needs is a monocle and Van Dyke beard and he’s a villain from an old-school Disney movie. Along with his sister, he’s the only superhero who can list “ran out of gas on a planet full of lightning creatures” as his origin story. Funny how that doesn’t make him any more interesting. C

Lightning Lass
The twin sister of Lightning Lad, she took his place in the Legion after he died by cutting her hair and pretending to be his resurrected corpse. Why didn’t she just join up as herself to honor her fallen brother? Because shut up, that’s why. She only got found out when Sun Boy pointed out her lack of an Adam’s apple, and boy do I have no problem believing Sun Boy has mastered the art of gender detection. When her brother turned up alive and the team couldn’t have two lightning-hurlers on the roster for some contrived reason, she turned to science (science!) to gain the power to make things super-lightweight, which is so meta it’s not even funny. Background art shows her using her “Light Lass” powers to lift Sun Boy and a chair off into space; I’m docking her half a point for letting him come back. C-

Lightning Lord
Finally, we get to the last of the three Ranzz siblings with lightning-based powers, and I’ve got to say their origin story doesn’t get any more exciting after reading it the third time. At least we finally get a look here at the elephantine creatures that zapped them with lightning, so that’s something. He turned to crime and attempted sibling-cide because he was a single-birth child on a world where twins were the norm, which makes no sense to me but I’m living in a city where the mayor who’s running for re-election thinks dropping a hundred grand on rehab and running around town in a Cadillac SUV with a high-priced “sobriety coach” somehow makes him more relatable to working-class voters, so I gave up trying to make sense of the actions of nutjobs a long time ago. C

So I’ve missed a couple of New Gods stories over the years; can anyone tell me which issue had Lightray come out? Come on, even Forrest Gump’s gaydar would pick up on the vibes this guy is radiating. B-

“Occupation: Goddess.” Love to see her claim that on a tax form. “Lilith’s travels took her to New York, where she eventually met the philanthropic millionaire Loren Jupiter, who took her in and gave her life some meaning.” So remember, kids: if life is tough at home, just run away to New York and you’ll get taken in by a mysterious millionaire who will hook you up with other awesome teens! And he’ll feed you candy and ice cream every night! And then you’ll find out you’re a princess or nearest Olympian analogue! Another public service announcement brought to you by DC Comics, Inc. D+

Little Boy Blue 

Sigh. You know, I get that the Golden Age was a simpler time, and nobody back then saw a problem with gangs of masked kids fighting gangsters and super-villains. There was a war on, etc. But come on, people. Even the Little Rascals would call bullshit on the idea of these three kids collaring hardened criminals with nothing more than their “cleverness and athletic skill.” I’m definitely not getting a “cleverness” or “athletic skills” vibe from the pudgy one with the dopey grin. And Little Miss Redhead is so mismatched with this kids gang it’s not even funny. It’s like she was stuck in the strip by some bigshot Hollywood producer stringing her along with the promise of bigger roles. “Sure, sure, sweetheart, I can totally get you into the Justice Society, I just need you to do this part first. What do you mean, all they gave you to fight crime with is a rope? It’s not a rope, it’s a lasso! Or a bola! Look, just use your imagination while I set up an audition with the Boy Commandos, okay? There’s a good girl.” D+

Little Cheese the Micro-Mouse
Even through they don’t mention it in his bio — which points out that Chester Cheese has an aunt named Chedda and got his shrinking powers from eating actual moon cheese — I happen to know he is the first member of the Zoo Crew to join after the original six, who were all affected by meteor fragments hurled in their direction by a giant space starfish. The fact there is space in my brain devoted to retaining that information fills me with a deep sense of shame. D

Lois Lane
There’s a very good reason why Lois Lane is only non-superpowered (or at least non-protagonist) character to appear in all of Who’s Who. Yes, Alfred Pennyworth, Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang all get their own entries, but they’re listed as their respective super-alter egos; while Lois has dabbled in super-powers in the past, she’s the only supporting character to appear under her own name. And the reason is simple: she’s the best female character in superhero comics. Reasons? (1) She’s got a lock on the title for longest-running female character still appearing in superhero comics. (2) She’s one of the few female characters in any medium whose name is recognized by almost everyone on the planet. (3) She has long been established as Superman’s equal, someone who can go toe to toe with him when he needs a jolt of realism to bring him back down to Earth. (4) She’s as incorruptible and as tough as he is in every way that matters. Yes, things got goofy in the Silver Age and we’ve even got some of that in her entry with details about Teen Lois going to summer camp with young Lana and Clark and (oh, irony!) how she once sabotaged Lana’s attempt to discover Superboy’s secret identity. But there’s no discussion. No one else even compares. Lois Lane is the best female character in all of comics, period. A+

No. No. NO! It is a goddamn insult to women everywhere to follow up Lois Lane with this vapid idiot who was stale and offensive even back when she first appeared. This extremely useless member of the Outsiders (which is saying a lot) grew up with a “massive inferiority complex due to her plain appearance” — which as shown here meant she wore glasses and her hair in a bun while rocking the “inhibited librarian” wardrobe. But then she was kidnapped by a race of underground dwellers who exposed her to a piece of Halley’s Comet, which transformed her into a beautiful woman and granted her various mind-over-matter powers. (Actually, the comet fragment only gave her the powers; someone sneaked up behind her during the ceremony, pulled the bobby pins out of her hair and voila.) Add in the most ridiculous costume (it’s asymmetrically pink-tastic!) and superpowers that manifest themselves “by a blue glow around her eyes” greatly resembling too much mascara, and you’ve got a character for the ages… specifically the ages between 1947 and 1962. D-

Lord of Time
I gotta say, it takes a really big brass set to call yourself the lord of anything, especially if you’re this guy. The Avengers got Kang, the Justice League got this guy; if the script called for a time-traveling villain to throw Vikings and Visigoths at the League or zap them with future-rays, he got the call. It wasn’t steady work, but it was work. He also built a time-stopping computer that, once activated, couldn’t be turned off, keeping time frozen until he tricked the Justice League into shutting it down. Hey, there’s irony for you: calling tech support about rebooting your time-stopping computer and literally waiting forever for someone to take your call. C-

Lord Satanis
“Oh, Lord,” indeed. He’s another of those “virtually nothing is known” characters, so we get hundreds of words worth of plot summaries from old Superman comics. Blah blah blah magic magic magic he needs Superman to activate a runestone something about Satan and time travel and splitting Superman in two and fighting Satanis’s own wife for ultimate power. Look, gang, it’s late and I want to wrap this up, so come up with your own “boy, ain’t that what all marriages are like” punchline here. Whatever you come up with is guaranteed to be more interesting than this guy. D

Lord Shilling 

Now this is more like it. No offense to the British, but no one does cold, efficient villainy better than Her Majesty’s loyal subjects. I don’t think I’ve read one story this Revolutionary War spy for the British was in, but judging by the art and personal details in his Who’s Who entry I feel like I would love to see him in action: no hang-ups, no bluster, just cool professionalism and biting remarks uttered in a Jeremy Irons voice while he ever so gentlemanly slit your throat. Maybe I identify with him because I’m Canadian and we were technically rooting for the redcoats back then. Hey, did you know we burned down your White House in 1814? Sorry about that — didn’t mean anything by it, just a small kegger that got out of hand. A-

We’ve already met Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, Gunner and Sarge in their individual entries, and there’s not much new info to share in their team entry, other than this band of fatalistic commandos was joined by Ona for a few missions. Ona — who didn’t rate a last name or Who’s Who entry of her own, for some strange, certainly-not-related-to-her-gender reason — was a member of the Norwegian resistance who lost her entire village to the Nazis. And if that wasn’t enough tragedy for her to deal with, the team replaced her with a dog when she left. But then, it’s probably tough to recruit new members for an outfit called the Losers. Now, it those guys had called themselves the A-Team… C+