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

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“This is the end/My only friend, the end…” 

Well, we did it. After 26 weeks, 832 pages and some 1,000 or so characters, we’ve reached the final and 26th issue (Volume Ecks-Ecks-Vee-Eye) of Who’s Who: the Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. And boy, what a humdinger of an issue it is! Okay, not really — but it still feels pretty nice to see it. 

Cover art is courtesy of Paris Cullins and Dick Giordano, and there’s nothing particularly noteworthy to say about it, so let’s talk about me for a minute.

I’m exhausted. When I started rating all the Who’s Who entries on a self-dare back in May, I had no idea how much time and effort it would take to plow through all 26 issues. I mean, sure, finding something witty or fun to say about a whackjob like the Red Bee or anything Kirby ever created is easy enough, but entertaining the masses with cutting remarks about the Duke of Deception, or Elu, or Wynnde, or any of the other barely remembered characters today? That changes a fellow in ways you don’t want to know. 

But I gotta admit, it’s been a blast re-reading this series and remembering all the characters I used to see in my comic stories back in the day (except you, Sun Boy; you still suck). So what better way to keep the magic alive than to keep on doing what we’re doing?

Tune in next week for another thrilling installment of Making the Grade, this time focusing on the characters in Who’s Who: Update ’87 Vol. 1, otherwise known as “The One Where We Finally Ditched the Roman Numerals, Okay, Everybody, Are You Happy Now? Sheesh!” 

As ever… onward!

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Wizard

“Marital status: presumed single.” Line forms to the left, ladies. On second thought, maybe they shouldn’t get their hopes up too much; despite starting out life with Asmodeus, a kick-ass middle name that any super-villain would be proud to sport, W. A. Zard took inspiration from his whole name to become (dramatic pause) the Wazard… um, I mean “Wizard.” What’s doubly confusing about this guy (aside from the fact he’s more of a vaudeville hypnotist than a genuine practitioner of the dark arts) is that he started out as a convicted criminal who “decided that crime was like a business,” so naturally he… goes to Tibet to learn astral projection? The huh? D+

Wizard World
You know, for a book that is mostly forgotten these days even by the guys who worked on it, The Warlord sure got a lot of ink in this series. Not only do we get bios of all the characters and a map of the place, we also get a write-up on Wizard World, the former name for Skartaris before all those damned dirty humans showed up. In our defense, though, at least we can come up with better names for places than “Human World.” Anyway, the write-up is mostly an extended plot synopsis of a story in which Warlord and his buddies go back in time and fight The Evil One with the help of Mongo Ironhand, an ancient Hobbit-like wizard shown here with a martini glass in his hand, because why the hell not. Evil One, Mongo Ironhand, Valamar the Elflord, Sarrgon Fire-Eye… how come no one in these stories is ever called Skippy or Bob? I would totally read a story about Skippy the Dragon-Slayer. C-

Wonder Girl
There’s been more than one contender for the name, but this is the original-recipe Wonder Girl, the raven-haired powerhouse who joined the first Teen Titans team. Her origins were a mystery (read: no one gave a crap about where she came from) until the 1984 story “Who Is Donna Troy?” posed the question. Readers of that story learned she was once an infant orphan who was rescued by Wonder Woman from a house fire and brought back to Paradise Island to be raised as an Amazon… because apparently child-protection services back then were totally down with that sort of thing. Of course, this revealed origin lasted all of five minutes before Wonder Woman’s history was rebooted during the just-completed Crisis on Infinite Earths series, meaning in the new universe she wasn’t around when the infant Donna was in need of a savior. Wonder Girl’s page ends with the same “her new history is yet to be revealed” line a lot of entries in the later Who’s Who issues were sporting, reminding us yet again how this series came out at a really awkward time in DC’s history. But any excuse for more Pérez art, I say. B-

Wonder Woman I
Zeus only knows why DC gave Wonder Woman two entries considering how everything before the then-new Wonder Woman title was officially declared “never happened,” but I’m not complaining. The Golden Age-era Wonder Woman is drawn by Trina Robbins, a wonderful gal in her own right who perfectly captures the whimsical cartoonishness of the original stories. Diana’s wartime origins exude about as much Golden Age goofiness and American jingoism as you’d expect, from the “ancient Greek goddess places bets on the USA being the last bastion of democracy” bit to the whole business of how Wonder Woman secures a secret identity via the “conveniently placed body double who’s also named Diana and about to leave for South America forever” method. I wonder if any of the later stories showed that woman returning to the U.S. to reclaim her life. Oh, what a comedic romp that would be! B+

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Wonder Woman II

Glossing over the entirety of Woman Woman’s Silver and Bronze Age careers (sorry, all you Diana/I Ching ‘shippers out there), this is the “new” Wonder Woman who, at the time this issue came out, had just been re-introduced to the world by writer/artist George Pérez, and goddamn this is one fine piece of art. The words aren’t too shabby, either; gone are some of the sillier aspects of the old Wonder Woman, like the sorority sidekicks and the contrived secret identity, and in their place is an origin tale that’s less rooted in the Second World War and far more timeless as a result. And kudos to Pérez and DC for not shying away from her defining traits, including her unabashed feminism (and not in the derogatory sense that some people use that word) and her belief in justice and equality for all. Okay, soapbox over; it’s obvious I’m a fan of the girl, and of Pérez’s work with her. And this era in her history was one of the very few times that everything about her just felt right. A+

Wotan
Green-haired, blue-skinned, pointy-eared magical muckety-muck who took time out of his busy day to hassle Doctor Fate and the Shining Knight. He also wanted to conquer the world because. That’s all: just because. Moving on. D

Wrath
Before Batman: Year One rewrote Batman’s history, this grim fellow was posited as his evil twin back when that sort of thing was considered a novelty. The young son of two criminals gunned down before his eyes when he was a young boy (on the same night as Waynes’ deaths, even), the Wrath (“Name: Unrevealed”) grew up with the same hatred of law enforcement that young Master Bruce felt for criminals. He trained himself to become the scourge of police everywhere, only planning to stop on the 25th anniversary of his parents’ deaths when he intended to kill the officer who shot them, a young rookie by the name of James Gordon (dun dun dun!). It’s kind of surprising to see the Wrath get a berth in Who’s Who given his one whole appearance in a story before his death — especially when other characters who headlined their own series (PREZ!!!) didn’t get the same treatment. But no harm in reminding fans to check out a decent Batman story, I suppose. B-

Wynnde
Sigh. You know, if this guy had any higher profile than “ethnic sidekick in books starring that pretty-boy Arion guy,” I might be tempted to blame him for all those “kewl” and “radikal” superhero names in the 1990s that drove spelling purists crazy. As it is, he was a Native American type from 45,000 years ago who couldn’t bear the thought of being chief of his people, so he ran away to become a foot soldier for the City of the Golden Gate in Atlantis. Call me crazy, but I don’t really see that as a step up. C-

Wyoming Kid
I mentioned this guy in a previous round-up of Western comic cowboys with “kid” in their names, so allow me to plagiarize myself: “While Marvel/Timely/Atlas preferred to flood the market with Western titles when cowboys were king, DC opted to turn some of its moribund superhero titles into Western anthologies: All-Star Western, All-American Western, etc. Not that they were against brand-new Western comics; witness Western Comics, the not-so-imaginatively named series that debuted around the time as the Two-Gun Kid’s first title. The Wyoming Kid was one of the book’s regular characters, and he bucked the trend by not being on the run from the law. No, Bill Polk’s father, a sheep farmer, was murdered by a man named Hoke Claggett, who took off for parts unknown. Polk then wandered the West, working as a ranch hand, rodeo player, army scout or whatever other jobs he could find, always on the lookout for Claggett. He found him in an issue of World’s Finest Comics in 1949, but by that time he must have gotten used to the wandering do-gooder lifestyle, because he kept right on ridin’ the range and rightin’ wrongs all over the place. Good for him.” C

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X’Hal

What, only one entry starting with “X” in DC’s Who’s Who? No wonder Marvel cornered the market on the 24th letter. The final Who’s Who sop to Teen Titan and/or Omega Men fans reading this series, X’Hal was a living goddess worshipped by the races that made the Vegan system their home. Her “godlike powers and deathless energy were drawn from Vega itself,” giving her enough power to destroy at least three planets before she was decidedly deicide-ed by the Omega Men. What kills me about her entry is her outfit; she’s an actual, for-real goddess and they have her tarted up in a bikini bottom and see-through skirt, like she’s a belly-dancer extra in a live-action Aladdin musical. Next up on stage: Jesus in a Speedo. (Now there’s a phrase I dare you to run through Google Image Search.) C

Yankee Poodle
And so it’s come to this, the last member of the Zoo Crew before we get to the end. Rova Barkitt was your average Hollywood gossip columnist bearing no resemblance to the real-life Rona Barrett when she was changed by a meteor that gave her instant magnetic and repulsive powers (“I’ll say she’s repulsive” – ghost of Groucho Marx). Aside from her overly bulbous anatomy that makes me want to ask uncomfortable questions about Scott Shaw’s fetishes, my only question is: what about the pony? She clearly lives in a world where both intelligent animals and the song “Yankee Doodle” exist, so does her Earth’s version of that song have the line “riding on a pony” in it? And if it does, does that mean not all animals evolved the same way, the same way Pluto and Goofy are both clearly dogs? Or is the pony fully aware of its lowly status among upright-walking animals and accepts its lot in life as a beast of burden? So many questions. C

Yellow Peri
Hey, look! It’s our last Superman supporting character whose existence was totally mooted by that Crisis thingie! I feel like we need some balloons to celebrate, or perhaps a cupcake. Loretta York was a teenage girl who found a book of magic spells and used it to try and help people, but her spells often backfired because them girls is silly, amirite fellas? Superboy, showing the wisdom and sound judgment we’ve all come to expect from the Teen of Steel, decides Loretta can’t be trusted to handle the book’s power, so he hurls it into space where it never causes trouble again. Ha ha! Just kidding, because years later it finds its way back to the now-married woman, and her asshole husband convinces her to use it to make them rich. Superman stopped the book by encasing it in lead (because dark eldritch forces have the same properties as X-rays…?), and left the box in the couple’s possession despite neither of them remembering anything about Loretta’s time as the Yellow Peri. Which probably made for awkward conversations across the supper table whenever one of them asked the other about the big lead box out in the garage. But like I said: moot. C-

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Zamarons

“Say, DC, how come there aren’t any female Guardians of the Universe?”

“Uh… because all the women left Oa billions of years ago to go do their own thing.”

“Really? Why would they do that?”

“Because all the men were focused on stopping evil in the universe and developing their mental powers, and the women said ‘nuck that foise’ and set out to develop their bodies. Their strong, lithe, supple bodies…”

“Yeah, about that. If they’re from the same race, how come the Guardians all look like shriveled Israeli prime ministers while the Zamarons look like supermodels posing for a gladiator-themed photo shoot?”

“What, you’ve never heard of evolution? Two and a half billion years is a long time, kid. All kinds of changes can happen.”

“And what’s this ‘they chose to be ruled by a mortal woman of a particular physical appearance’ business? How the hell did that tradition get started? Why would immortal women with magical sapphires even need a queen to rule them? And why queens who all look the same? What, is it like dog owners who keep getting the same breed so they don’t have to change the pictures in their house?”

“Because… reasons.”

“Sure, fine, okay. But… Seriously, all the women just up and left? Not one of them decided they’d rather stay with the boys? And if Oans had evolved to the point where they “no longer had strong sexual urges,” then wouldn’t it make more sense that the concept of gender would have disappeared entirely long before the Zamarons left the planet?”

“Look, you got twelve cents or not? This ain’t a library, kid.” D+

Zatanna
By the time this entry was published, Zatanna had abandoned her original top-hat-tails-and-fishnets look for an outfit that was a little more Traditional Superhero. Trust me when I say many readers were not fans of the new look. Pubescent fetishes aside, I have to admit this character was always a bit of a bore for me. Not only is she a magic-user (meaning that all internal logic goes out the window whenever she’s around, her abilities being whatever the plot demands), but she had an annoying habit of saying all her magic words backwards, like “ekam siht itbbar raeppasid” or “siht si gniyonna sa tihs dna ym rekcehclleps seerga.” I don’t know, maybe there’s a more recent rendering of her that gives her more of an edge, but as it is maybe her name should be zzzzz-Zatanna, amirite, people?

*crickets*

Yeah, I know that one sucked. Look, you try doing this for 26 weeks while staying sane. C-

Zatara
“First appearance: Action Comics #1.” Ah, so he’s the reason why that issue is so hard to find in the back-issue bins. Zatanna’s daddy was, like her, a stage magician who could do real magic, though no explanation other than “maybe magical ancestors…?” is given as a reason why. My fave part of his bio: “Zatara acquired a reproduction of the notebooks of his reputed ancestor, Leonardo da Vinci, who wrote in them backwards in order to protect his secrets.” Call me crazy, but I’m thinking a guy like da Vinci would have come up with something a little more cryptic than backwards writing to guard his “sterces.” Sadly, Zatara was turned into a mystical charcoal briquette protecting his daughter from some big evil thing, no doubt while yelling “kcuf, siht struh!” C

Zoo Crew
“Because seven individual entries weren’t enough, here’s a double-page group shot for a funny-animal superhero team whose book was cancelled three years ago because you little bastards didn’t buy it!” At least, that’s what I imagine the editors wanted to write for this one. Not a bad comic, I always thought, and it certainly had fun mocking comic book tropes long before most other books got into that sort of thing, but I always wondered why “Zoo Crew”…? I mean, yeah, because they’re all animals, ha ha — but how would a world of intelligent, talking animals have a word for “the place where we put animals in cages for our amusement”…? And if zoos do exist in this funny-animal universe, then what do they put in them? Someone go find Scott Shaw so we can get to the bottom of this. C+

Zoo Crew HQ
You can’t have a team without a spanking cool headquarters, and the Zoo Crew get the Z-building, a Z-shaped hat tip to the Teen Titans’ T-shaped tower. Designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Rat (wokka wokka), it has the world’s only diagonal elevator and all the usual amenities you’d find in a superhero hangout, including a carrot-shaped swimming pool (which might as well as be in the shape of the rabbit leader’s middle finger to the rest of his team). Best part of the text: “Rubberduck, being familiar with the workings of various forms of transportation from his [starring role in many] chase movies, acts as mechanic on the Zoocruiser and Zoomobile.” You know, the same way Hugh Laurie is totally qualified to perform your next triple-bypass surgery. C

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Zoot Sputnik

FRED HEMBECK IS IN THIS, TOO? I MEAN, WHAT THE HELL… um, that is, “Zoot Sputnik” is the star of a comic series by Denton Fixx, who himself is a supporting character in the short-lived ‘Mazing Man book from the mid-1980s. So this is a bio of a comic-book character created by another comic-book character, both of whom we’re told cannot exist in the mainstream DC universe. So much for my fondest wish to see a Zoot Sputnik/Dark Knight Returns crossover… C+

Zyklon
“Hey, guys! You know that poison gas the Nazis used to slaughter untold numbers of innocent people in concentration camps? Wouldn’t it be cool if we named a Nazi speedster after it and then made him go fight Johnny Quick and the other All-Stars? Huh? Huh?” I mean… Jesus, DC. D-

Angel and the Ape
Huzzah! Now that we’ve made it to the end of the alphabet, let’s fill out the rest of the issue with the characters they forgot to include or were too wasted to remember the first time around! First up: Angel and the Ape, a curvaceous private detective and her crime-fighting parter, a talking gorilla named Sam Simeon. Sam wanted to be a cartoonist and “got a job working for Stan Bragg at Brainpix Comics, but Sam made a pittance and Bragg took credit for most of his work.” I hear Kirby made the same career transition in the ’70s, cracking the Son of Sam case before returning to comics. C+

Blackjak
Oh, look! It’s a character from the Atari Force comic that got left out the first time! With the added bonus of being the designated “merc with a heart of gold” cliché for the series! And I get one more chance to pretend none of it never existed! Bliss. D

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Cannon and Saber

This is an ironically named duo of assassins (ironic because the one who uses guns is Saber and the one who uses blades is Cannon), but that’s not why anyone remembers these Bullseye wannabes from the Vigilante comic. No, it’s because they were very obviously a gay couple at a time when that sort of thing didn’t happen in mainstream comics. They were never overtly identified as such, but it was pretty obvious to anyone who read their stories, and editor Mike Gold confirmed they were a couple in a later letters column. They weren’t depicted as flamboyant queens or some other gay stereotype, either; they were simply two professional killers who lived together, worked together and were ambiguously physical with each other… not that there’s anything wrong with that (well, except for the “professional killers” part). Probably the only reason DC didn’t get any Harry Homophobe types picketing their offices is because the company was very subtle about it; even in this Who’s Who entry, there’s nothing beyond a bromantic clasping of hands to suggest anything other than good, old-fashioned homicide of the heterosexual kind. But you could still tell. B-

Captain Triumph
This oddball Golden Age hero fought villains in jodhpurs and a T-shirt, but that wasn’t what made him odd. No, it was the fact he was the magical melding of two identical twins, one of whom was dead and floated around as a spirit until his brother touched his T-shaped birthmark and the two merged to become the super-strong Captain Triumph. “Although he wore no mask or other disguise, Captain Gallant was never recognized as Lance Gallant. Doubtless the mystic power which transformed him was responsible.” Yeah, “doubtless.” C-

Captain X
Captain X, a Golden Age spy/pilot who flew a transparent plastic plane on missions for a super-secret organization called The Group, was pretty much forgotten after his handful of Golden Age appearances, but then he was brought back in the ’80s to be revealed as Ronny “Firestorm” Raymond’s long-lost grandfather. I don’t know what’s more unbelievable, that a kid who stumbled his way into super-heroics via nuclear explosion just happened to have a grandfather he never knew who was kind of in the same line of work, or that a transparent plane would be at all useful from a tactical point of view, given how people on the ground could still hear the plane coming and see the seated, non-transparent pilot whipping through the air. But, you know, comics. C-

Dragonsword
This was your standard fantasy epic about apprentices and magic swords that turn people into dragons and big climactic battles with evil emperors, but then it got weird. After the hero defeats the big bad guy and declared an end to mystic tyranny, he “deeded the world to his longtime companion, a sentient ape named Dysillus, for generations to come, and flew off in his dragonlike form.” Wait… what? Okay, let’s say talking monkeys are a common sight on this magical world. How is replacing one absolute ruler with another supposed to fix things? What if the people aren’t down with a monkey-cratic form of government? What if the other power-hungry sorcerers distract him with a banana? What if the monkey is just as big an asshole as the other guy? What if the monkey starts out with good intentions, with solid five-year economic plans and everything, but proves the “power corrupts” adage crosses the line between species? What if scandalous photos of the monkey eating the nits off a monkey who isn’t his mate come out, and it brings his entire administration crashing down? This Dragonsword guy clearly didn’t think this through. C

Guy Gardner
I really didn’t get the appeal of Guy Gardner, but I’ll be the first to admit I probably wasn’t the target audience for his 80s-action-movie brand of bravado either. And I guess it was nice having a hero within the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League who could provide a little bit of friction, but man, what an asshat. And I wonder if the writers weren’t being a little more than cheeky, explaining this egotistical, Reagan-loving jerk’s attitude as the result of brain damage. Later writers found ways to make him less of a jerk and a more relatable character, but at this point in history… let’s just say that “one punch!” moment was a particular favorite of mine. D+

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Knodar

Let’s be clear — I think there’s an interesting concept behind this character. “Guy from crime-free future comes back to our time to play at being a criminal” has a lot of potential, especially if you want to inject some commentary about modern gamer culture and make him out to be a naive fellow who doesn’t understand the consequences of acting out his macho fantasies in real life. But good god, look at him! Even if you accept the explanation that he’s forced to wear that outfit because he comes from an era with no prisons or prisoner uniforms… well, what’s stopping him from picking up a nice suit when he arrives in our time? it’s not like money is an issue, right? Because, you know, “criminal.” Then you’ve got his weapon, a “metal controller” that doesn’t even get a fancy, futuristic name. Wonderful, of all the amazing devices they’ll have five centuries from now, he comes back with an oversized spatula that bends metal. Christ, I could go back three decades with an iPod Shuffle and own the world with it, and the best he can come up with is a goddamned magnet? You suck, Knodar. D-

Mekanique
So, in the future there’s this great “metropolis”… where a governing elite rules everything and the rest are forced to work like slaves in the machinery that makes the city run… and there’s a rebellion… and a humanoid-looking robot… say, this all sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe someone figured Infinity, Inc. readers weren’t big Fritz Lang fans. Art by Todd McFarlane, who does his mecha fetishist fans a solid with this picture. C-

Neutron
Best part of this page? The background art that shows Beast Boy, in midair as a kangaroo, poised to land a kangaroo-sized kick on Neutron’s head. That’ll teach that living atomic reactor a lesson! I never understood why an atomic-powered villain would name himself after the lazy parts of an atom, but I get to sing the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” every time he shows up to rumble, so it’s all good. C+

The 1000
They were once the evil criminal gang known as the 100, but then they upgraded. I never figured out if that number was a solid count of their membership or more of an aspirational thing, but it doesn’t really matter. Best part of the text: “The organization was composed of ten divisions, each self-perpetuating: the Amazons, the Dynamiters, the Hunters, the Mind-Benders, the Space Raiders, the Stealers, the Agents, the Sea Wolves, the Mobsters, and the Athletes.” Three thoughts: (1) Doesn’t this sound more like the team names in some underworld recreational bowling league? (2) Why single out only some members as “Stealers,” “Mobsters” or “Agents” when all members in an organized crime ring like the 1000 would technically be all three? (3) “Space Raiders”…? As in, they have a whole division devoted to committing crimes in space? Now that’s forward-thinking. C+

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