Daily Archives: August 23, 2014

Making the Grade: Who’s Who, Vol. XVI


“Blow out the candles/Make your wish come true/For I’ll be wishing that you love me, too…”

Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe is turning sweet sixteen, and you’re all invited to the party. This week: Volume Ecks-Vee-Eye, from Mr. Terrific to Nightmaster. 

Not sure why, but I’m not as blown away with this issue’s cover as I was with the last one. Maybe it’s the lack of big-time stars, maybe it’s the overabundance of black and purple, maybe it’s the plain white background. Though I do like the visual gag of the Newsboy Legion trying to sell a newspaper to a guy whose entire reason for existing is knowing everything that’s happening in the universe.  

There isn’t a whole lot going on in the letters column for this issue, but you’ll be pleased to know the editors confirmed that Captain Carrot’s world was located in “an adjacent dimension” and not “a parallel universe,” meaning it was unaffected by the events in the then-recent Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series. I know I speak for Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea when I say, “Whew!” 


Mr. Terrific

Terry Sloane was “already famous at the age of ten as a child genius” and “completed his college studies when he was twelve.” He then became an award-winning athlete and made a fortune in business. But everything came too easy to him and he felt like life no longer offered him any challenges, so he decided to kill himself. No, seriously. But it’s all good, because he changed his mind after saving someone else trying to attempt suicide on a bridge and then rescuing her kid brother from a life of crime. Finding a new reason to live, he immodestly calls himself “Mister Terrific” and sets forth as a perpetually smiling masked hero dedicated to promoting fair play, to the point of wearing a tunic that says “FAIR PLAY” right up front. One hesitates to say “bipolar disorder” without having the medical training to confirm such a diagnosis, but if the mood swing fits… C+

What’s not to love about the Legion’s back-up Superboy? He’s got the same array of powers as the Teen of Steel, a stylishly understated costume, and he gets to mack on the very sultry Shadow Lass. On top of all that, he’s a decent human being despite having a lot of seriously messed up crap in his life. Follow this, if you can: prior to Krypton exploding, Lar Gand, an astronaut from the planet Daxam, was advised by Jor-El to head to Earth to escape Krypton’s destruction. Great advice, except when Gand arrived (a decade and a half after Kal-El’s rocket landed thanks to the ever-handy “busted ship/suspended animation” excuse), he contracts a fatal dose of lead poisoning (what with all Daxamites being susceptible to lead the way we humans are to plutonium at close range). So what does his new buddy Superboy do? Use his super-brain to find a cure? Consult with one of the many brilliant scientists with whom he was acquainted? Help his new friend die with a little dignity? Hell, no! Off to the Phantom Zone with you, Guy I Once Thought Was My Long-Lost Amnesiac Brother! So Mon-El watches everyone he loves grow old and die for a thousand years while he hangs out with the moaning wraiths who actually deserved centuries of punishment for their heinous crimes. That… really sucks. And I can’t say I wouldn’t be a little homicidal after going through something like that. But again: tapping Shadow Lass? Totally worth it. A-

“Occupation: Conqueror.” Nice work if you can get it. Mongul (dammit, auto-correct, not “Mongol”) is a perfect example of finding the beauty in simplicity: no complicated backstory, no fancy costume or weaponry, no bug up his butt about a particular superhero — he’s just an alien tyrant who’s the physical equal of Superman and whose arrival on the scene means shit just got real. Plus, he appeared in what’s probably one of the best Superman stories ever written, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” and uttered one of the best throwdown lines ever. The purple outfit doesn’t really go with the canary-yellow skin, I grant you, but you tell him that. B+

Monitor / Anti-Monitor
Hard to come up with a grade here for a couple of reasons. Both Monitors (one from the positive matter universe, one from the anti-matter universe) were more plot points than actual characters; they had no personality or motives beyond what they were required to show as the “good” and “evil” monitors. Plus it’s hard to get a handle on what, exactly, they were monitoring all those billions of years, and the “History” section of this double-page spread focuses more on the entire plot for the Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series than anything either of these cosmic beings actually did. So like I said, tough call. Though I will say this: for a bunch of self-appointed guardians of the universe, the Guardians of the Universe really suck at home security. I mean, a cosmic-level entity rises from the heart of Oa’s moon “unknown and unnoticed by all” and spends eons meditating and studying the universe without one of those bulb-headed buttinskis noticing? Suddenly, that whole ” let’s just dump Parallax on a planet and hope no one finds him” thing makes a lot more sense. C

One thing I was surprised to learn by these weekly strolls down Wasted Youth Lane is how much I’m impressed by Hawkman’s villains. I mean, he’s got a great visual look, but I’ve never thought of Hawkman as having a robust rogues’ gallery like Batman or the Flash. Maybe that’s because Hawkman’s villains haven’t gotten as much play because he’s not an A-list superhero, and if that’s the case then it’s a damn shame. Take the Monocle. He’s a businessman and scientist who got screwed over by greedy bankers, so he gets his revenge by killing the bastards. Who couldn’t at least partly sympathize, especially in these days of “too big to fail” and the like? But no, all Hawkman can see is the harassing and the murdering, so he shuts the Monocle down. But you can’t keep a well-dressed (complete 1940s evening dress, including high-collared opera cloak and trademark laser-shooting monocle) super-villain down, and he went on to steal enough money to earn himself a comfortable retirement, only coming back into the game for the chance to humiliate Hawkman. And really, who wouldn’t jump at that? Because let’s be honest — JLA membership or no, the guy could be a real douche sometimes. A-

Monsieur Mallah

He’s a talking gorilla with a French accent and 178 IQ who’s wearing a Rambo-style headband and toting a machine gun. What’s not to love? Bill Sienkiewicz clearly felt the same, judging by the art for this entry; there are shots of Mallah performing surgery, chucking the wheelchair-bound Chief like he’s preforming a shot put at the Olympics, and smacking the Teen Titan’s Starfire right across the face, her expression clearly displaying the shock of getting her alien ass kicked by a talking gorilla. B+

Legion baddie and wizard who hailed from the planet Zerox; insert trademark-infringement lawsuit joke here. Thought the winged-helmet look worked for Thor, so it would work just as fine for someone resembling Dumbledore’s retarded cousin. Routinely gets his ass handed to him by hormone-soaked teenagers despite having enough power to turn them all into hormone-soaked gerbils. His one redeeming quality is his not-quite-there appearance in Justice League Unlimited’s “The Greatest Story Never Told.” Let’s move on. D

Morgaine Le Fey
Yes, that Morgaine Le Fey, though in the DC universe her story continues with her chasing down Jason Blood in the 20th century to find the spell that will restore her youth and beauty. Interesting how so many female villains in the comics are motivated by nothing more than keeping their youthful faces forever, isn’t it? Almost as if someone wants us to think that’s the only thing worth valuing when you’re a woman… B-

Yeah, that thing I mentioned about boycotting Atari Force characters? Still in effect. For extra uselessness, this alien psychiatrist is a natural empath who’s able to experience the emotions of others. Think a lizard-like Deanna Troi whom you wouldn’t want to masturbate to (or maybe you would; I don’t judge) and you’ve nailed it. D

Mother Box
A quasi-sentient computer that could only have been conceived by Jack Kirby, mother boxes are advanced doohickeys that are spiritually linked to their owners. They’re powered by the Source, which is “the mysterious but benevolent intelligence that oversees the cosmos” and not Canada’s answer to Radio Shack (though how cool would it be if they stocked these puppies next to the battery testers and CB radios?). A mother box can perform complex calculations, detect radiation, and project powerful shock blasts (just like a PC) but it won’t function “if its possessor is somehow spiritually inadequate” (just like a Mac). Hmmm, a judgmental, all-powerful object named “Mother” that grows stronger when someone is “projecting his or her love” into it? Anything you want to tell us about your childhood, Jack? C

Name: Duncan Pramble. Group Affiliation: The League of Challenger-Haters (featuring both Volcano Man and Kra, King of the Alien Robots). Base of Operations: “Allovahdepaze.” Look, DC, if you’re not going to at least try to be serious about this… D


The most evil villain to ever walk the Earth, Multiplex’s greatest triumph was convincing moviegoers to pay $13 for a small popcorn and Coke. HA HA! Oh, the anti-corporate humor flows fast and furious around here. No, he was another Firestorm villain who thought his piddling power (in his case, the ability to split into identical forms) somehow made him a match for someone who could snap his fingers and turn the oxygen inside his opponent’s lungs into molten lead. Firestorm never did stuff like that, mostly because he was an idiot. Doesn’t make Multiplex any less dumb for trying, though. D+

Or “MUHR-whih-den,” as the always-helpful Pronunciation Glossary tells us. He’s an evil sorcerer in purple-on-purple tights who wrestled with Abin Sur and got shrunk into the Green Lantern’s power ring as a result. Think about that. The ring Hal Jordan uses is powerful enough to create entire micro-planetary systems just to jail one pissed-off wizard. And Jordan still had trouble dealing with guys who thought wearing gold-colored tights or hurling pointy sticks at him were viable offensive moves. Not good, Hal. Not good. C

Mystic: Magician Detective
Ay carumba. Okay, so Rick Carter is a bush pilot in the Himalayas — which, note, is pretty badass as professions go — when he spots an old man being chased by bandits. In gratitude, the man teaches him the ways of magic — but not actual magic, just the “secrets of illusion and slight of hand” parlor tricks that you would see at a magic show. So Carter returns to the U.S. to start a new career as Mysto the children’s party magician, and decides after intervening in an attempted murder that his stage skills might be helpful in solving crimes. Three things: (1) That has to be lamest Tibetan swami ever. (2) It doesn’t say much about Carter’s magic skills that they’re only just good enough to fool kids. (3) Even the writers of this entry seem to find it ridiculous that anyone could ever think their mastery of card tricks would make them a valuable asset in the war against crime. After all, it’s not as if there aren’t already magicians in the DC universe using actual goddamn magic for the same purpose. D

Nathaniel Dusk
I’m kind of surprised to see Dusk in the Who’s Who lineup; the Depression-era detective only appeared in two short mini-series in the early 80s, and as far as I know there’s been no attempt to tie this Philip Marlowe type into the official DC universe. Anyway, there isn’t a lot here that fans of noir films from the ’30s and ’40s haven’t seen before; he’s an honest guy in a crooked town determined “to see justice done in this flawed world,” etc. I mean, don’t get me wrong, kudos to DC for not making every one of its private eyes some superhero’s lover/father/mentor/third cousin once removed — but all in all, Dusk doesn’t push any envelopes. C

He’s the “demon lord of a nameless hell” responsible for Dan Cassidy’s transformation into an actual Blue Devil. Nebiros was banished to his own dark dimension — “forever, they hoped” — by a group of ancient mystics and mages whose combined powers were clearly no match for the two Hollywood actors stumbling around in the jungle who accidentally set Nebiros free. Not the brightest bulb pulsating on Satan’s scrotal sac — he thought Cassidy was an actual “brother demon” when he spotted him wearing his Blue Devil suit and makeup — but definitely not someone you want to mess with. C+

Negative Man

He’s a test pilot who passed through weird radiation high above the Earth; when he came back, he discovered he had the power to generate a a shadow-like being from his body that could fly, create explosions, pass through solid objects, all kinds of fun stuff. The downside is he can only separate this energy being from his body for 60 seconds, his body falls limp whenever he does it, and he has to be completely wrapped in radiation-proof plastic bandages at all times. Obviously, he was a member of the Doom Patrol. Hey, you know what would be really funny? If the Negative Man was fighting Marvel’s Absorbing Man, and his negative attitude bummed out the Absorbing Man, but then the Absorbing Man was just so absorbing with his fascinating stories that it made the Negative Man realize how his being negative was bringing everyone else down and… okay, maybe I’m the only one who finds that scenario funny. C+

Negative Woman
Same as above, only with boobies. C+

Until this guy got the Ultimate Evil upgrade in that Blackest Night storyline a few years back, he was a nearly forgotten spooky skeleton type who presided over one of DC’s approximately 4,547 dimensions of the dead. Points for appropriate ghoulishness, but I’m not sure what that oddly shaped neck goiter thing is about. Did he swallow a traffic sign that got stuck? C

“Occupation: Inventor, later vigilante.” I hear Thomas Edison’s career took a similar turn, though I’m not sure if vigilantism qualifies as an “occupation.” He’s a guy working for “America’s largest law enforcement agency” whose brother was captured by “the Council” and brainwashed to become an assassin; after his brother kills the agency’s director and is in turn shot dead, he decides a government pension doesn’t have the shine it once did, and he goes rogue to bring down the Council all by himself (with a little help from Batman). Hard to get too hepped up on this one, since his gadgets (facial masks dissolved by chemical spray, air blast concussion gun, “freeze bullets”) sound like stuff he picked up from superhero garage sales, and the only things he was ever truly the nemesis of were the Council and aviation safety. C-

Nemesis Kid
Let’s just be adults and admit Nemesis Kid is one of the best Legion super-villains the young Jim Shooter ever came up with. He joined the team with his power to instantly gain whatever abilities he needed to defeat a particular opponent, then revealed himself to be a traitor, selling out Earth to the Khunds and trying to frame Karate Kid for the deed. Later on, he kills Karate Kid in a one-on-one fight only to be killed himself by the guy’s grieving widow, Queen Projectra. Plus, he’s got that blue-eyed Captain Awesome look that makes its obvious he would never stoop so low as to sell out his planet to barbarous hordes of alien invaders. Or so you’d think (dun dun dun!). A-

Neptune Perkins
“Neptune Perkins is an apparent mutant who was born in 1922 with both webbed feet and a severe deficiency of sodium salts.” So of course all his dad had to do was throw him in the ocean and boom, instant superhero, right? Not quite, unless “the need to immerse in salt water daily in order to not die” qualifies as a super-power. Seriously, this is all he had. He’s not a super-fast swimmer, just a really good one. His years of swimming have made him “unusually but not superhumanly strong.” He can hold his breath for only seven minutes — meaning he can’t even listen to all of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” while underwater. So of course, who does Hawkman pick to go planet-hopping and monster-fighting with him after the war was over? Oh, comics. D

New Genesis
Come to scenic New Genesis where, as seen on this page, the scenic highlights include “The Park,” “Memorial Statues” and “The World Below.” Wow, the people at the New Genesis Tourism Bureau really suck at their jobs. This is the home planet of both the New Gods, with whom Darkseid’s evil forces were constantly engaged in battle, and the “bugs,” an underground-dwelling race of insectoid humans who owed their existence to the war between New Genesis and Apokolips. Darkseid eventually succeeded in destroying the planet, but Highfather was aware of the imminent destruction and the New Gods remained safe within Supertown, their floating city, as they traveled through space to find a new home. All those surface-dwelling bugs, on the other hand? I’m sure they died happy knowing the godlike people in the floating city over their heads took care of their own. Because that’s what the good guys now do, apparently. C

New Gods
Beautiful group shot of Kirby’s New Gods here, whom we are told arose from the ashes of a climactic battle between the Old Gods (though they’d probably prefer “Original Classic Gods” if they were still around). Some of these characters have their own entries and others will be dealt with later in Who’s Who updates. What I love about this image is how pissed Darkseid looks up on the viewing stage, like all he wanted was just one family photo where everyone was smiling and their eyes open at the same time, but everyone around him can’t stop strutting and posing dramatically for five seconds to let that happen. “Darkseid: the Claire Dunphy of the DC universe?” Discuss. B

New Olympians
A theme-adhering group of villains who went up against Batman and the Outsiders, which pretty much says it all. My personal fave: Nox, who can manipulate dark matter and shuns bright sunlight. So of course it makes perfect sense to put him on a strike force attacking the daytime opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics. In Los Angeles. D+

Newsboy Legion

Suppose I said the words “Newsboy Legion.” Suppose I told you they were four plucky orphans living in the slums of “York City” named Big Words, Gabby, Scrapper and Tommy. Suppose I told you they got into all kinds of hi-jinks fighting mobsters and super-villains with the help of their pal, Guardian. Suppose I told you they all grew up, became scientists, had sons that more or less resembled them, and went to work for the same top-secret government project where they cloned their former mentor while their sons battled Darkseid’s agents on Earth using something called a Whiz Wagon. Would I even have to say the words “created by Jack Kirby”…? No. No, I would not. B-

Night and Fog
A brother and sister pair of German leather fetishists, they received their powers to generate fog and darkness from Nazi scientists tasked with developing superhuman assassins. You know, I’m starting to figure out how Germany lost the war. “Mein Führer! We’ve sustained heavy casualties on the Eastern Front! We must recruit more men and increase artillery production!” “NEIN! We will win this war with… talking gorillas! And a giant wheel with cannons coming out of it! And make sure our top scientists are working on a way to give super-powers to two assassins of my choosing!” “Sigh. Jawohl, mein Führer. Heil Hitler.” D+

Night Force
Goddamn, I loved this series. It was like The X-Files and The Twilight Zone and Mission: Impossible all rolled into one. A mysterious and irascible fellow who never leaves his Georgetown mansion sends others — sometimes against their will, or without them even knowing it — to go battle unexplained and/or supernatural menaces using whatever natural talents or skills they possess. It’s a great premise that someone needs to turn into a TV show, if only to give Johnny Depp or someone similar a juicy role manipulating various guest stars playing Night Force agents. And then there’s the mystery of the mansion with doors that can open to any place, and to any time… A

Night Girl

Honestly? I kinda miss the beehive. Lydda Jath came to earth in the 30th century to join the Legion of Super-Heroes, but while her great strength was impressive, she was rejected for membership because she could only use her powers in the dark. She hooked up with Cosmic Boy, who proved he wasn’t a complete dweeb by recognizing a good thing when he had it, and they lived happily after ever. Or at least until the next Legion reboot. B+

Signs you’re trying too hard as a masked Western hero: (1) Your birth name is Hannibal Hawkes (2) Your occupation and cover identity is “travelling fix-it man” (3) You ride a jet-black stallion named Nightwind and (4) You take in an orphan after outlaws gun down his federal marshal dad. But at least we can’t accuse Nighthawk of having an overly complicated origin story: according to this entry, he just appeared one day riding out of the east, “already clad in the ebony garb of his calling, fighting outlaws and rustlers with a righteous vengeance.” Well, thank goodness for that! If we’ve learned anything from a decade-plus of superhero movies, it’s that audiences hate knowing inconsequential stuff like how masked heroes start their journeys. C-

Is it just me, or is this not the perfect name for the star of a BDSM film franchise? “All who worship the night must submit to… The Nightmaster!” Anyway. Take every derivative sword-and-sorcery story you’ve ever read, mix in a dash of Arthurian legend with a soupçon of the Singing Sword and you’ve pretty much got this strip. A singer with a New York City rock band discovers he’s the descendant of a mighty warrior from an other-dimensional kingdom who journeyed to Earth and… actually, you know what? All you need to know is his costume — a costume we are told is identical to the one worn by his ancient, other-dimensional ancestor — has the letter “N” for a belt buckle. Enjoy. D