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

whoswho_v1_22

“Two little ducks.” That’s what the bingo caller/mayor back in my hometown liked to call the number 22 during his weekly bingo games to raise money for the local kids’ hockey league (this is life in a small Canadian town, folks; watching your mayor call out bingo numbers on the local TV channel). And here we are today, about to dive into the “two little ducks” issue of Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This week: Vol. Ecks-Ecks-Eye-Eye, from Starfire to Syonide. 

First, a bit of background. Note how this issue came out cover-dated December 1986. In case you didn’t know, a lot was happening at DC that year. For instance, the 12-issue Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series had wrapped up a few months earlier, meaning a whole lot of characters, settings and events officially “never happened” in the new DC continuity.

At the same time, a bunch of big-name creators were given carte blanche to reboot some of the company’s biggest franchises. Frank Miller, fresh off his success on Marvel’s Daredevil, put a darker edge on Batman with The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One; George Perez took Wonder Woman back to her mythological roots; John Byrne was brought on board to make Superman more of a man for the ’80s.

So while these creators were coming up with whole new histories for the characters (as well as the villains and supporting characters that inhabited their titles) and DC was literally rewriting the history of its universe with The History of the DC Universe, Who’s Who was plugging along, offering up histories of characters who were still “in play” alongside characters that were suddenly “never happened” while purposely leaving out other key parts of the old continuity because they no longer had a place within the new official history. 

The editors confront this confusion head on in the Letters section of this issue, explaining why, despite previous issues that said “(see Superman’s Fortress of Solitude)” in the text, there is no actual entry about Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in this issue. Since the “new” Superman didn’t have a Fortress of Solitude in the new continuity, the editors decided “it would confuse readers and make the sharp changes less certain” if the entry was left in. So planned entries about the Fortress of Solitude, Superboy and the Superman Revenge Squad were scrapped. Fair enough.

On the other hand, the Golden Age Superman and Supergirl were left in, even though they were also written out of continuity by Crisis, and a number of Superman’s older villains — Syrene, Terra-Man, Toyman, Vartox — appear in subsequent issues despite having no official status in DC’s continuity at the time. So… yeah, that didn’t really clear much up at all. 

“Is it just me, or is DC’s continuity just as convoluted and confusing as ever?” asks the one fan whose letter is included in this issue. The logical answer to this was a hearty “you betcha,” but editor Bob Greenberger argued the opposite, saying DC has always published books outside the official DC canon, some of the former parallel Earths are now parallel dimensions, etc. Also, he said future issues of Who’s Who would identifying entries outside the official DC continuity to clear up any “residual confusion” among readers. Oh, I think the confusion was anything but residual, Bob.

Onward! 

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Starfire I
She was a freedom fighter/star of her own short-lived title in the ’70s who did the sword-and-sorcery thing on a distant alien planet, but never mind all that. Because it’s time to play How Many Fun New Nicknames for Our Genitals Can We Find In a Single Who’s Who Entry. Let’s see, I found: Mygorg, Yorg, Sookaroth, Dagan, Eye of Armageddon, The Keeper, Moonwatcher, Lady Djinn and Thump the Mute Giant. Can anyone top that? C

Starfire II
Sigh. Okay, it’s like this. I’m not wholly in disagreement with the Eye Candy Theory of Superhero Character Development, and I can dig the idea of a female member of an alien warrior race crash-landing on Earth and making new friends as she struggles to understand this strange new world that she calls home. It’s just…. gah! She’s so obviously designed to be “that girl” — a supposedly liberated and empowering female superhero who’s really just a stroke fantasy for arrested-development male types, from the basketball breasts to the bikini-based battle costume to the “I come from a sexually liberated alien race and here let me show you what I mean” vibe she was always giving out. I’m sure I would like her if she were a real person and I got to know her, but the scripts forced her to play the “innocent sexpot” card way too often, and she feels like the product of a committee of marketing execs pandering to an audience that they really should have thought twice about pandering to. Because that audience? It grew up and decided what the comic industry really needed was a lot more of this:

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Anyway, grades. How about A for bringing some diversity to the Titans, D- for bringing the worst kind of it, B+ for her rehabilitated image in the animated Teen Titans show,  C- for going to the “look, she’s alien and doesn’t understand our strange Earth ways and isn’t that adorable” well way too often, averaging out to a middle-of-the-road C.

Star Hawkins
Star Hawkins is a private eye whose first recorded case was in 2079; insert “private detective who’s brilliant about everything except how to handle his finances” cliché here. His secretary/housekeeper was Ilda, a robot he frequently had to pawn before a new case earned him the cash needed to get her out of hock. At some point in his career, he captured Galactic Enemy #1 and collected the 250-million-credit reward, which he used (for reasons only God knows) to start up a detective school for robots. This somehow led to the granting of civil rights to robots, including the option of “life-pairing between those programmed as males and those programmed as females.” Man, those anti-gay marriage types just cannot let it go, can they? C-

Star Hunters
“First appearance: DC SUPER-STARS #16.” So much for truth in advertising. This strip was yet another “rebels in space fighting a big bad empire… er, make that corporation” space opera that readers saw a lot of in the late ’70s and early ’80s for some strange reason (ahem). You knew the Corporation that ruled Earth was bad because its leader was named “Charles Bane,” just as you knew the Star Hunters were the heroes by such manly names as “Donovan Flint” and “Jake Hammersmith.” Geez, DC, were “Harry Von MurderKill” and “Studly Mightypenis” too subtle? Weirdest part of their story: this team of space explorers was coerced into doing the Corporation’s bidding by undergoing “genetic restructuring” that made it fatal for them to be on Earth for longer than 24 hours at a time (some mumbo-jumbo about stellar radiation filtered out by Earth’s atmosphere). That seems… rude, not to mention expensive. Why not just lie to them about the purpose of their mission? Or hire a bunch of people whose morality won’t get in the way? Come on, you’re a corporation, people — a little cost/benefit analysis would be nice to see. D+

Starman I
At last count, there were about five dozen characters in the DC universe named Starman; this was the first. Ted Knight (no relation to the actor of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Caddyshack fame, but oh, what a cool Arrow cameo that would have been if he were alive) was an amateur astronomer who discovered a previously unknown form of cosmic radiation. But instead of winning a Nobel Prize or figuring out a way to harness the radiation for humanity’s benefit, he stuck a fin on his head, called himself Starman and used his “gravity rod” to fly around and beat up Nazis. The Forties, they were a different time. At the time this issue came out, Starman was, like a lot of other Justice Society members, caught in a “time loop” in another dimension, joining the Norse gods in fighting the same cosmic battle over and over, “thereby preventing the universe’s destruction.” Honestly? After reading a couple of pages of YouTube comments, I’m kind of rooting for Ragnarok right now. C+

Starman II
He’s some alien shlub who drew energy from the stars, had a mentor named “Mn’torr” and died defending his homeworld, but that’s not the crazy part. Check this out: “Prince Gavyn was one of the potential heirs to the Empire on the death of Rilsom the 18th. When passed over for the throne in favor of his sister, Clyrssa, he was executed by being tossed unprotected into space (as was customary for all heirs other than the one chosen to prevent civil war).” The hell? Granted, it’s tempting to put that tradition into practice here on Earth — a few presidential primaries and recent seasons of American Idol come to mind — but was it really necessary to execute people on the off chance someone might someday stir up some shit? How many potential heirs are we talking about here? And is it really that hard to come up with a line of succession that everyone can agree on? He’s a far bigger man than I to survive that fun ritual and come back to defend his people. C-

Starro
Call Starro the Rodney Dangerfield of super-villains, because he never gets any respect. I blame the lack of a face; focus groups show people respond better to villains with faces. It could also be the goofy O-ending name that makes most comic fans dismiss this intergalactic conqueror. But consider this: he can travel through light-years of space unprotected. He can regenerate himself from any smaller piece of himself, so he’s essentially immortal. Given the right conditions, he can enslave entire planets with his starfish clones, and he can dominate minds and fire force blasts from his arms if he has to. And despite all that, he’s put in stories where he’s defeated by teenagers performing basic lawn care maintenance, or he’s relegated to fighting Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew. No respect, I tell ya. Out of pity, B

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Star Rovers
Look at this image and tell me there isn’t something kinky going on here. Karel the “glamor girl” is the one in charge, grabbing Rick and Homer’s asses like the trophies they clearly are to her, the swaggering and ascot-wearing Rick is striking an early blow in comics for confident bisexuals everywhere, and Homer — why, he’s got the tired eyes of a fella who’s just glad to be along for the ride. They were independently wealthy adventurers in the 22nd century who got caught up in all kinds of Earth-threatening stuff. “Their exploits were mainly unheralded, allowing them to enjoy a certain amount of anonymity.” You know who else enjoyed their anonymity? Those party-goers from that one scene in Eyes Wide Shut. Nuff said. C-

Star Sapphire
It’s a pretty constant law in superhero comics; sooner or later, all the women who try to kill our the heroes also want to shag them. Thor has Enchantress, Batman has Catwoman, Daredevil has Elektra… and Green Lantern had Star Sapphire, the alter ego of his boss/girlfriend Carol Ferris. First, let’s just agree the ’60s were a different time and not get worked up by all the sexual-harassment suits these two could have generated. Second, is there a more messed-up origin story for a villain than this one? Shortly after Hal Jordan pulls on his green tights, the all-female alien Zamorans choose Carol to be their next queen based purely on her resemblance to the last queen. What a coincidence! Of all the sentient beings in the galaxy, their choice just happens to be an Earth superhero’s main squeeze! And who cares about her diplomatic, political or fighting skills, as long as she looks pretty! So they tart her up in a purple outfit that shows off her shapely gams, give her a power gem and then hypnotize her into fighting Green Lantern because she chooses Hal over being their queen, and they’re not down with that. Though their actions beg the question of what exactly they needed a queen for, if they could just hypnotize anyone into doing whatever they wanted them to do. Later on, Ferris split into two people and her male half tried to hump her. It’s all very confusing. D

Steel
Zzzzzzzzz….wha? Sorry, I fell asleep at my keyboard. Where was I? Right, Steel. Back in the ’70s, DC tried to push a hero who was part Captain America, part Bionic Man. The world “meh”-ed in response. Fast forward a few years and DC brought him back — only this time, he’s the grandson of the original WWII-era hero. And this grandson of the original hero allowed himself to be subjected to “a series of painful operations” performed by his grandfather to augment his strength and senses with artificial implants. Not because he was injured or critically ill and needed those augmentations to survive but because… reasons! And then he joined the Justice League on his grandfather’s orders — only it was the version of the Justice League with the breakdancer and the Detroit mailing address. Let’s just say nobody wrote angry letters to DC when they killed him off and gave his name to that black Superman guy. D

Steelclaw
I used the text from this guy’s Who’s Who entry back when I did a list of comic-book mayors behaving badly, so allow me to quote myself: “When crime and corruption threatened to engulf Star City, Mayor Thomas Bolt determined to do something mayors-steelclawabout it (“Hire more cops? Start a jobs program for at-risk youth? Offer tax incentives for businesses? Nah, not flashy enough…”). While allowing Green Arrow and Black Canary to handle the more powerful criminals (mighty big of him to do that, it was), he adopted a costumed persona named Steelclaw (because it’s not as if mayors are public figures who need to worry about people wondering what the hell they get up to after office hours or anything). Using the costume and its arsenal to impose himself on common street criminals (“Hey, I’m imposing over here!”), Steelclaw dug for information about underworld activities that he could act on in an official capacity (“Sir, how did a city bureaucrat like you find out about a major drug deal before the cops did?” “Uh… internet?”) What Bolt didn’t expect was to cross paths with Star City’s protectors (I get the feeling he didn’t expect a lot of obvious things to happen; none too bright, is what I’m getting at). He narrowly avoided being captured by them, but in doing so found himself tied in with a gang of criminals. His disguise, however, only worked too well; it led him into a network of criminals who felt threatened by his existence (“AAAH! It’s Wolverine’s amputee half-brother! Killit killit killit!”). At the earliest opportunity, he was executed by gangland hoods. While the criminals lost a threat to their organization, Star City lost a dedicated mayor whose only real fault was caring too much (and also being really, really stupid).” D

Steppenwolf
“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway…” Anyone occupying a branch on Darkseid’s family tree is not likely to list “canasta, crocheting, long walks on the beach” among their favorite pursuits, but Uncle Steppenwolf takes the evil up to eleven by including “hunting and killing people for sport” among his preferred ways to chill out. In fact, it was his people-hunting that precipitated a big war between Apokolips and New Genesis, a war in which he led his mounted dog cavalry into the fray, slaughtering anyone who crossed his path. So… I’m guessing a Taurus? C+

Sterling Silversmith
“Occupation: Antique Dealer, Professional Criminal.” But then, I repeat myself (rimshot). I kid, I kid. He’s a wealthy businessman obsessed with silver and intent on amassing as much of it as he can. When his brother gets greedy, he murders him and places his corpse inside a hollow statue — not the best of plans, it turns out, since the statue smashes open right in front of Bruce Wayne, and you don’t need the hot forensic scientists from CSI: Gotham to figure out who did it. Detracting further from Silversmith’s “criminal mastermind” status was his decision to poison a man who claimed to know Batman’s secret identity… instead of, you know, torturing him or threatening his family or — hey, here’s a crazy thought — GIVING HIM SOME OF THAT SILVER YOU’VE GOT LYING AROUND in exchange for the goods. D+

Stiletta
She’s from that 1980s Hex series that saw Jonah Hex plopped into a Mad Max-style dystopian future, so right away she’s got that going against her. The bikini-and-mismatched-thigh-boots-with-heels look isn’t helping, either. In 2042, her father built a time machine and used it to skip over the nuclear war he knew was coming; he left behind Stiletta and her mother, who died in an attack. After Stiletta caught up to him by time-travelling the old-fashioned way (one day at a time, just like the rest of us), she was none too pleased to see him again, but her revenge plans get sidelined when she’s kidnapped and forced to fight as a gladiator. Isn’t that always how it goes? You haven’t seen Boston until you go to Fenway Park. You haven’t really done Dublin until you raise a pint of Guinness at a local pub. And you can’t say you’ve gotten the full post-apocalyptic experience until you’re captured and sold into slavery to fight for the amusement of others. It’s just the way it is. C-

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Stone Boy

“Stone Boy can transform himself into a relatively invulnerable stone-like form.” Ooh, that’s good! “Which is immobile and inflexible.” Ooh, that’s bad. Yeah, I can see why the Legion would have passed on the chance to sign up someone who at best might come in handy if you have a sudden need for a battering ram or a conversation piece at a garden party. Give him credit, though, for generating some of the funniest bits in the 1985 Legion of Substitute Heroes one-shot. Sigh. I miss the days when superhero comics were intentionally funny. C

Stripesy
This was a Golden Age hero who, reversing the usual adult hero/kid sidekick dynamic, served as chauffeur and sidekick to the teenage Star-Spangled Kid. He was a mechanic who overheard someone say they wished the American flag could come to life and stomp all those no-good Nazi types, so he hauled on a red-and-white striped shirt and went out in search of skulls to crack, only to find a kid wearing stars doing the same thing. What a coincidence! Neither had any powers, training or special abilities, but you didn’t need any of that fancy stuff back then. There was a war on. Pie cost a nickel. Different times. C-

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Strong Bow

“Perhaps most impressive was the strength of Strong Bow’s legs: he walked virtually all the miles he traveled.” No, what’s most impressive is how he’s killing a dinosaur with a knife holy crap did you see that. Talk about burying the lead; while the writers want us to gush over how this pre-Columbian Native American got lots of cardio, he’s killing a dinosaur with teeth and everything holy mother of God that is one badass mofo right there. Did Strong Bow fall through a time warp? Is he hungry and that’s the only source of meat to be found? Did the dinosaur attack first, assuming an easy kill? Does it matter? There’s Strong Bow. And there’s a dinosaur. And he’s killing the shit out of it!!!! B

Suicide Squad
Hard to believe, but there was a time when those two words didn’t automatically stir up images of super-villains working for the government on covert missions. The first Suicide Squad was a WWII-era group of soldiers “as ready to fight one another as they were the enemy” — because when there’s a war on, it only makes sense to put all your loose cannons and disciplinary headaches in one unit. The second squad consisted of Rick Flag, gung-ho son of the original squad’s commander; Karin Grace, a flight nurse who specialized in “space medicine” (like regular medicine — but in space!); astronomer Hugh Evans; and physicist Jess Bright. Faux drama was inserted by having Flag and Grace fall in love but unable to act on their feelings because they feared hurting Evans and Bright, because apparently all grown men with PhDs are emotionally stunted that way. They fought dinosaurs and aliens until they were defeated by government budget cuts and a Cambodian Yeti. Or a Cambodian Yeti cutting their budget, I’m not sure. C

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Sun Boy
All right. You may be wondering why, 22 issues into this mad experiment, I haven’t given out any Fs yet. The answer is simple: when assigning grades to lacklustre characters and I’m tempted to give them a failing letter, I ask myself this: “Regardless of how lame, ludicrous or hopelessly contrived this character is, does he or she provoke the kind of rage I see whenever Sun Boy shows up?” And the answer is invariably: no. No, he/she does not.

“But he’s a long-time member of the Legion!” you might say. “How could you not like him?” I’ll tell you how:

1. Alter Ego: Dirk Morgna.” Stupid-assed frat boy name.

2. “Occupation: Legionnaire.” Because God forbid he make an honest living that doesn’t involve the adulation of billions of sentient beings.

3. “Height: 6’0″.” Which makes him taller than me. Asshole.

4. “Hair: Blond.” A stinking lie since his hair is obviously not blond.

5. “Dirk Morgna was helping out at a research reactor plant being run by his father…” In other words, he got the job through nepotism, depriving some poor hard-working reactor plant worker of a job. Dick. 

6. “Regulus was fired, but vowed revenge on the Morgnas. Regulus returned, leaving robots to beat Dirk…” So a researcher’s unauthorized experiments result in a workplace fatality and Morgna’s dad fires him, but apparently he forgot to call the police or revoke Regulus’s access codes. Morgna’s dad isn’t very smart, and you know what they say about apples falling from trees.

7. “…and leave him to die overnight in an unprotected area of the reactor. Instead, the exposure to radiation gave Dirk solar powers.” Remember that guy in school who could fall backwards into a literal ocean of shit and come out with his cancer cured and the keys to a new Ferrari in his back pocket? Remember how much you couldn’t stand that smug SOB because everything always worked out for him? Dirk Morgna is that guy.

8. “Taking the name Sun Boy, he applied for membership…” Wow, way to get real creative there, “boy with sun-like powers.”

9. “Sun Boy has become one of the most active Legionnaires, while also being one of the most visible Legionnaires on the social scene on Earth.” Good to know he’s not letting the boring parts of being a hero (humility, self-sacrifice, service to others) interfere with his important partying schedule.

10. “Although he’s had many brief relationships, he has never been associated with any one woman for any length of time.” Unrepentant dog or dishonest-with-himself closet case? You decide! Either way, God only knows how many 30th-century STDs he’s heroically saving from extinction.

11. “Among the most notable battles in which Sun Boy has been important to the Legion are their several fights with Doctor Regulus…” Good job taking care of your own messes, Dirk.

12. Look at the image of Sun Boy drawn by the great José Luis Garcia-Lopez. He clearly thinks Sun Boy is a dick, based on the scowling mug he gave him. Twice. And who are we to argue with one of DC’s greatest artists?

No, my friends, the choice is clear. Prepare yourself, Mr. Morgna, for the ultimate humiliation. F! FFFFFFFFFF! F! F! F! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Sunburst
Man, that felt good. I’m feeling so good right now, I’m willing to give everyone else a B and take off early. However, objectivity is in order. And objectively speaking, Sunburst is… actually, he’s all right. Which is a miracle, if we’re being honest. Here’s the backstory: this guy was a Japanese actor playing a fictional superhero with solar-based powers when one day his special-effects harness broke and — hey, now! — he’s got powers for real. But then he decided he didn’t want his powers and he got himself hypnotized into forgetting them. Sounds lame, right? Sure is, and that’s why he was almost a total non-entity after one lone appearance in a Superboy comic. But then he gets this great scene in the final issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths where he tells someone else how he had to learn to be a hero, and then he goes off to die a noble death. No gore, no melodrama, no building it up as the greatest tragedy ever — just a simple story of a man with special abilities who does what’s right, because doing right is what you do. Well done, Takeo. B+

Sun Devils
“Okay, guys, it’s been a month since we put out a book about a ragtag group of inter-species rebels uniting to fight Nazi-like bad guys in space that’s just different enough from the works of Lucasfilm Ltd. to keep us in the clear. Let’s hear your pitches.”

“Uh… okay. How about this? Hero with manly name teams up with sexy-but-tough-as-nails chick, backup chick, token cute alien, and three clones to battle the evil forces of the Empi– er, let’s call them the Confederacy. And we’ll call the big scary weapon the Starcrusher, and the Confederacy will destroy the home planet of one of the good guys just to show it can.”

“Good, good. Got a working title?”

“Well, I was thinking Sun Devils and — get this — the hero’s name is Rik Sunn. As in Sun Devils. Get it?”

“Brilliant! Good work, team. Write up the script and we’ll shoot to have it out by next month. Return of the Jedi will still be in theatres by then, right?” D

Sun-Eater
It eats suns. Never let it be said Jimmy Shooter ever wasted anyone’s time by getting fancy with names. C-

Super-Chief
He’s a pre-Columbian Iroquois superhero who got powers from a meteor and wore a buffalo-head mask while doing super-deeds. I was going to go on a rant about a member of a tribe based in the U.S. Northeast wearing the head of an animal that’s best known for roaming the Great Plains, but apparently the bison’s natural habitat once reached as far east as western New York, so that checks out. So I’m left to wonder… why would he need a mask? It’s not like pre-1492 America was rife with super-villains who would strike at heroes through their families, and we can assume most members of Super-Chief’s tribe would figure out which adult male among them was always taking off just before Super-Chief showed up. Art by Carmine Infantino, so you know the drill: full-length body shot, floating head to the side, obligatory man-in-action background image. Arms aren’t akimbo, though, so that’s progress. C-

Supergirl
Coming into the homestretch of this issue, we get a triple dose of heavy-hitters (quadruple, if you count Superman twice). First up: Kara Zor-El of Argo City, better known to Earth dwellers as Supergirl. I’ll admit it: I’m a big fan of this character for a lot of reasons, not all of them licentious. She gives Superman a much-needed dose of humanity, plus she adds a welcome dash of diversity and “girl power” to the DC lineup. But more importantly, she didn’t rocket to Earth as an infant and know only this planet as her home; she’s an alien who made this planet her home by choice. That counts for something. Far as I can recall, that last one is not an angle a lot of writers used, and that’s too bad — I could have used a lot fewer stories about “Linda Danvers, Soap Opera Star” or Supergirl’s heartbreaking choice between being in love and being a hero. This entry, laying out her many jobs and settings, suggests the writers were at least trying to keep her fresh. At any rate: this entry serves as a fitting epitaph for the Maid of Steel, as she had recently just died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, and DC’s big Superman reboot (see below) made it clear Superman was the only Kryptonian who survived the planet’s destruction. Trust me when I say that edict didn’t last long. A-

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Superman I

So like I said, the timing of this issue meant anyone looking for an entry about the Silver Age Superman would walk away disappointed, but there was room for the Golden Age Superman (drawn, in a nice touch, by Golden Age Superman artist Wayne Boring and then-current Superman artist Jerry Ordway). Some fun facts about Superman’s early days you might not know: his Kryptonian name was Kal-L, not Kal-El; the Kents first dropped him off at an orphanage but later returned to adopt him, much to the relief of staff who saw the baby do things like lift a crib with one hand (and apparently forgot about his feats of strength as soon as the Kents left); Clark Kent worked at the Daily Star under editor George Taylor; his first public act was to prevent a lynching. Oh, and one of his arch-villains was named Funny Face, because apparently it was “Take Your Kid to Work Day” when the editors came up with that character. A

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Superman II

Like the first Superman entry, this one has art by a classic Superman artist and a contemporary one: in this case, Curt Swan and John Byrne. Right around the time this issue came out, Byrne was given carte blanche to revamp Superman for the 1980s, which he did by stripping Superman of the Silver Age goofiness and bringing his power levels down to a point where he wasn’t essentially a god. How well he succeeded depends on who you ask; some ideas were better received than others (such as Lex Luthor being a brilliant CEO instead of a mad scientist lurking in secret lairs). As for me, Byrne’s reboot happened just as I was getting into comics, and I hadn’t read enough of the pre-reboot stories to think his version was a radical departure. I remember my dad seeing the issue of The Man of Steel featuring Superman’s first (reluctant) team-up with Batman and grousing about how those two are supposed to be best friends. The moral: Everyone’s got a Superman to call their own. This one was mine, hence A+

Swamp Thing
A brilliant example of how to re-invent a character without disrespecting the work that others had done before. Swamp Thing started as your basic horror-superhero mash-up, with a scientist working on a “bio-restorative formula” caught in an explosion that sent his body flying into a nearby swamp, where he emerged more muck than man. For years, the creature known as Swamp Thing tried to reclaim his human form. But then, in a neat twist, he discovers he’s actually a sentient plant that only thinks it’s human because he absorbed the scientist’s memories. This gave Alan Moore and later writers the freedom to write stories that pushed the envelope in terms of what mainstream comics could show at the time. For real, stop wasting time reading my juvenile rants and go check out Moore’s run, starting with “The Anatomy Lesson.” You’ll be glad you did. A

Syonide
Sigh. You mean I can’t end on a high note? I have to include someone from the Outsiders’ gallery of rogues? Fine. But you can’t make me like it. There were two killers to take this name; they both used an electric whip, they both wore ridiculous thigh boots, and they both died. I’m taking off half a grade because the name is a cutesy misspelling of an actual word, triggering bad memories of half the lame characters that came out in the ’90s. Now, can I please get back to my Swamp Thing comics…? D-

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