Sweet Crockett and Tubbs! Is it time again for us to return once again to that magical time known as 1987? Why, yes. Yes, it is. This week: Who’s Who Update ’87 Vol. 2, from Catwoman to Goldstar.
As for the cover, Joe Brozowski and Dick Giordano continue to do the honors in a competent fashion, though giving the Electric Warrior that much real estate makes me think someone at DC really, really wanted to push this character on the fans.
Aside from that… is Dr. Spectro hitting on Decay over there? Now, that’s an episode of Blind Date I’d like to see.
Catwoman II (Revised)
Not a big fan of the televangelist wife’s hairdo that Alan Davis gave Catwoman, and the classic costume and high heels means her more practical (and, to me at least, more appealing) Brubaker look is still a few years away, but I’m not complaining. Her entry was updated to reflect the changes to her backstory that were introduced in Batman: Year One; in her new history, she had been “engaging in illicit sexual activities” in Gotham’s East End before becoming Catwoman, because apparently even writing the p-word makes the Comics Code Authority cry. Back when she was don’t-say-the-p-word-ing herself, she worked for a criminal named Stan, who turned out to be the first guy Bruce Wayne fought while wearing a disguise (this was back before he decided to go all the way with the bat motif). Imagine that. Thousands of hoodlums, crooks, terrorists and super-villains vanquished over the decades by the Dark Knight, and it all started with a guy named Stan. B+
Cheetah II (Revised)
Just as Wonder Woman got a fresh start in ’87, so, too, did many of her bigger arch-nemesises… nemeses… nemesi? You know, those guys. This updated Cheetah is Barbara Ann Minerva, an ethically challenged archaeologist/treasure hunter who went to Africa searching for evidence of a legendary lost tribe of cat-people, finding only rare herbs and rituals that could transform her into a were-cheetah. Which means this lovely George Perez drawing of her in her full-on Cheetah mode, complete with a prehensile tail that she uses to “grapple with her foes or strangle them,” is actually a drawing of a buck-naked woman. A very furry buck-naked woman, granted, but still buck-naked. And yet we still can’t say the word “prostitute.” Huh. B
A Booster Gold baddie, he’s an assassin-for-hire who can change his form to look like anyone else, making him a lot like that Mystique gal only way fuglier. At the time this issue was published, he was involved in a cockamamie plot to kill Ronald Reagan and take his place, which is why the background art shows what appears to be the Gipper wearing Kirbyesque body armor and pointing a massive laser gun. I bet the real Reagan sometimes imagined himself like that, too. C-
I’m really torn on the subject of Ch’p. On the one hand, I’m not someone who insists my superhero comics all have to be about only quote-unquote “serious” things. I mean, if I’m willing to accept a reality where a guy dressed like a bat can drive around a major city and never get stuck in traffic, then a bow-tied Disney character with a Green Lantern ring shouldn’t be much of a stretch. It’s just… uch. When they’re trying to make you feel for a tragic character who has been forgotten by the world he protected just because reality rewrote itself, but every time he speaks you’re hearing the squeaky voice of either Alvin, Simon or Theodore… well, there’s a disconnect there, you know? To no one’s surprise or horror, he literally became roadkill in 1992. The end. D
I talked about this guy when I did a list about musically inclined bad guys, so allow me to plagiarise myself: “In an early issue of Infinity, Inc., a 1980s book starring the children and protegés of the Justice Society of America, readers met Chroma, a pale, rainbow-clad figure who interrupts a televised concert with his song about apocalyptic events. It’s a song that enchants almost everyone into wanting to hear it again and again, and those who aren’t swayed by his melody (like the dour Infinitor known as Obsidian) are kept away from him by those who are. We later learn he is actually one of many similar beings who travel the universe singing their songs for the many different civilizations they encounter. Having sung for humans and judged us worthy (or something like that… writer Roy Thomas is never clear about Chroma’s true motives), he then promises to return with another hit song in about a million years. So: mellow cosmic adventurer or Patty Smyth devotee? You decide!” C-
Church of Blood
Brother Blood got a write-up in the first series, and instead of giving him a revised entry to reflect the then-recent happenings in the Teen Titans books DC decided to do one instead for his Church of Blood. Fair enough. “Although Blood and his church publicly advocated peace, hope and brotherhood, they actually sought to control the world.” So… like Apple, then? C+
Chicago, represent! This entry focuses on the retconned James Gordon who first appeared in Miller and Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One, which also laid a lot of the groundwork for the character that appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight film trilogy. And why not? This isn’t the Gordon from the 1960s TV show, a somewhat useless fellow whose only purpose is ringing up Batman on the Bat-Phone every time a litterbug shows up. No, this is the last honest cop in Gotham, a guy who whales on thugs twice his size and personally cleans up his city armed with nothing more than his police-issue handgun, his bedrock sense of integrity and the awesome power of his moustache. Seriously, Guy Playing Gordon on That Gotham Show Whose Name I Forget — you’re going to grow one soon, right? Right? A
“When there’s trouble, you call D.W./Darkwing Duck!/Let’s get dangerous…” Okay, hands up everyone who saw this guy’s name and was disappointed to find out he’s not the terror that flaps in the night. Alas, this Darkwing is some Thangarian dipstick who pestered the Hawk-couple for a bit. He’s supposed to be some kind of anti-Hawkman, the same way Batman has a bazillion evil versions of himself running around, but he comes off looking like a BDSM enthusiast who’s just really into birds. And not in the normal way that, say, John James Audubon was into birds. D
There’s just no pleasing some parents, is there? Darwin Jones came from a long line of police officers, but decided his passion was science, which “desolated” his police chief father who “spent many sleepless nights thinking of how to persuade his son to follow in the family calling.” For Christ’s sake, Dad! He’s winning scholarships, earning multiple degrees in physics and engineering and — more importantly — he’s out of your house. But dear old Dad wouldn’t even give up even after Jones graduated and started his career; when the FBI was looking for someone to head up a new division investigating “the increasing number of scientifically oriented crimes and mysteries,” he pressured his son into taking the job, and it’s only by the grace of God that Jones enjoyed the combination of science and crime-solving. Later, Jones moved to Vegas, hired a team of hot young forensics scientists and… well, you know the rest. C
One of the many things done right in George Pérez’s reboot of the Wonder Woman franchise was the inclusion of a lot more mythological gods and beasts in her supporting cast and gallery of rogues. Decay was molded from the fiery heart of Medusa and sent off to destroy our leading lady shortly after she arrived in Man’s World; her very touch was able to wither and decay anything (and anyone) she touched. “Equally deadly was Decay’s breath, which could cause whatever it touched to crumble into dust.” I think we’ve all woken up next to someone with that particular super-power. Oh, hi, honey! No, I was talking about other people whose morning breath can wither human flesh, honest. What other people, you say? Ummmm… C+
Deimos and Phobos
One is the god of fear, the other the god of terror. I’ve no idea the difference, but I’m sure someone can’t wait to regale me. They came from the union of Ares and Aphrodite, and it’s fair to say they definitely took after their father. They’re gods, so don’t expect much in terms of backgrounds or motives; someone tells you you’re the god of fear, you go out and spread fear. That’s just how it works. Two things that work against them: (1) I can’t look at the two of them and not think about the adorable Pain and Panic from Disney’s Hercules movie. (2) Deimos was dispatched by Wonder Woman, who used her razor-sharp tiara to decapitate him, making him the first super-villain to list “death by fashion accessory” as cause of death. C-
“Hmmm, I’m a fabulously powerful United States senator who wants to become president. Should I leverage my prominent position to secure the backing of key donors, build up a massive war chest, and snag my party’s nomination before rolling out an unbeatable ad campaign… or do I take over a small crime cartel, hire a shape-shifting assassin to kidnap and kill Reagan and Bush, have him assume Reagan’s form so he can appoint me vice-president and then announce his resignation to leave me in charge, with a backup plan involving a super-powered android in case some Larry Longjohns type travels from the future to stop me? Decisions, decisions…” D-
Not the white and male Dr. Mid-Nite who first appeared back in the ’40s, nor the more modern white and male Dr. Midnight who would show up in the JSA title of the late ’90s, this Dr. Midnight was another skilled surgeon who was blinded in an accident, only to find out she somehow gained the power to see in absolute darkness. And… that’s it, really. No super-strength, no flight, no combat training — just flip on a light switch and she’s as useful as Mister Magoo at a police line-up. That said, I’m surprised the hospitals in the DC universe aren’t full of nerds hoping to score super-powers by shoving scalpels into their eyeballs. C-
A Korean surgeon and scientist wanted on six continents for his many medical crimes against nature, Moon has a habit of justifying his immoral behavior with relativistic pronouncements about morality and the law (for instance, his stance on the Hippocratic Oath: “Only a fool is bound by the words of one long dead”). So… basically every asshole college roommate you’ve ever had, then? C
1. He looks like a walking disco ball.
2. Or a Lite-Brite set belonging to a very unimaginative child.
3. His sole super-power is the ability to make people see bright lights and hallucinations, which is exactly the kind of firepower you need going up against a guy who can atomic-punch you into the middle of the next decade.
4. He’s a pool hall owner and former lab assistant who somehow found the means to cobble up a “technology-laden costume” and flying scooter when he decided to go into super-villainy.
5. As for motive, he became Dr. Spectro when he realized Captain Atom’s public story was a fraud. So he decided to show the government he knew they were pulling a fast one because… money? I’m guessing it’s money because the entry isn’t clear why he did it. At any rate, showing the U.S. military you know their dirty secrets while taking on an atomic-powered superhero doesn’t sound like the healthiest way to collect a paycheque.
6. Under “Powers and Weapons,” it says his illusions can affect a maximum of eight people at the same time, despite the background art showing a crowd of more than eight people fleeing in terror from one of his illusions. Another great moment in the history of quality control, brought to you by the good people at DC. D-
Again, feeling those same torn feelings I had while talking about Ch’p. On the one hand, making the archenemy of a cartoon space chipmunk another cartoon space chipmunk who’s like the Cobra Commander of his cartoon space chipmunk world is kind of awesome. On the other hand, he turned good, retired to Africa and dedicated his life to raising the intelligence of Earth animals up to his level, as if humans didn’t have enough to worry about without animals bitching about their rights. Oh, and he also wields something called a “sucker stick.” Yeah, I think we’re done here. D+
Like Doll Man, only with breasts. Doll Man’s first case involved collaring a criminal who was blackmailing her by “threatening to expose a relationship she had had in college with one of her professors.” Yes, because why bother blackmailing the tenured guy who presumably has a wife and reputation to think of when you can shake down a co-ed? C-
Hey, did you know there were other countries in the world not named America? And those countries have their own super-heroes? Granted, they’re mostly based on national stereotypes held by Americans, but still! And all these non-American superheroes are affiliated with the Dome, a Paris-based organization that acts as an information clearinghouse and crisis monitoring center (pardon, “centre”) for the world’s superhuman community (except those operating in the United States, South Africa and the Communist countries). It was a nice nod towards internationalism and dealt with the illogic of a team called the Justice League of America traipsing all over the globe to battle angry aliens and shaggy men, but the concept really didn’t go anywhere except provide some fun Springfield-vs.-Shelbyville rivalry when the Justice League went international in the late ’80s. C
Duke of Oil
“Duke, Duke, Duke/Duke of oil, oil, oil…” Picture the Terminator mixed with J.R. Ewing and you get the idea. And a fairly stupid one, at that. Fought the Outsiders, as if that needed to be said. D-
We talked about the NAMBLA-level ick factor behind this kid’s origin story in the original Who’s Who series, when he was part of a team-up with the adult TNT. But Danny Dunbar scores himself a solo revised entry this time around on account of the fact his mentor done got killed by one of them evil Axis Amerika types. Dunbar thought that meant the end of his superhero career, as he believed he and his adult partner had to touch each other to trigger the chemical reaction that gave them a burst of super-powers. But as it turns out, he had the power inside him all along and only had to touch himself (not like that, you perv) to power up. Let’s hope there’s a scene where Dunbar asks himself why his mentor was so insistent on the whole touching thing. C
You know, the Electric Warrior! The guy who’s totally not a rip-off of Judge Dredd, The Terminator, Mad Max, Metropolis, Blade Runner, Dune, and possibly several more well-regarded sci-fi franchises! He gets two whole pages, slightly more text than either Superman or Batman, and a Marvel Handbook-style drawing on the inside front cover showing the technical schematics of his gadgets. Needless to say, his series concluded after 18 issues and he was never heard from again. D
Both are natives of New Genesis created by Jack Kirby for his original, dynamic and enduring Fourth World saga. They also get half a page each. Sorry, guys, but you’re no Electric Warrior. Esak: C; Fastbak: C+
She’s an evil schoolmarm who ran a school for homeless youths in Gotham, with no one suspecting she was teaching her young charges the finer points of breaking, entering and other illegal subjects. I think it’s a shame she wasn’t introduced in the ’60s when the Batman TV show was on; I would have enjoyed seeing The Beverly Hillbillies’ Irene Ryan smoke a stogie and shake her fists while her “prize pupils” did the bop-zonk-kapow dance with the Dynamic Duo. And think of the death traps! She could have strapped their arms to a piece of self-moving chalk and forced to write lines until their minds snapped. Or tie them to electric-chair desks force them to take part in a spelling bee. Anyway. B-
Firefist Checklist! Corny name-as-destiny moniker (Lyle Byrnes)? Check. Scientist mentally and physically scarred in horrific explosion? Check. Vow of vengeance against those he blamed for his plight? Check. Application of device/substance that would have made him a fortune if he cooled down for five seconds and talked to a patent attorney? Check. Falling to his apparent doom after climactic battle with no trace of his body found? Check and check. Really, all he’s missing is a personal connection to Peter Parker in his civilian identity and he would be every Spider-Man villain ever. Seriously, what is up with that? Because I’m pretty sure even Peter’s childhood cat came back at one point to fight him as the Green Goblin. C
“Little is known of Flare’s early life and origins… Although captured by the Legion of Super-Heroes (see LSH), she has revealed no new or conclusive information on her background while imprisoned on Labyrinth.” Gosh, thanks, Who’s Who Update ’87! I sure am glad you’re devoting valuable real estate space confirming how little we know about a fictional character you guys just made up. She’s red and she has fire for hair, and that’s all you get to know. C-
Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the world, so this is Wally West, the former Kid Flash, shortly after he got called up to the big leagues. We get the same highly improbable series of events in his history as before (West visits Barry Allen, gets hit by lightning/chemical bath in exactly same way as Allen while they’re talking about Allen’s accident, then gets exact same speed powers as Allen instead of suffering a horrifying, painful death), only this time they added “fatal disease that was once killing him now completely in remission” and “oh yeah, did we mention he also won the New York State lottery?” Oh, comics. B
Flaw and Child
One is a Lord of Chaos, the other is her servant. They showed up in Gemworld, messed around a bit, then got thumped by Amethyst. The end. Why? To “create chaos.” Because, you know, that’s what she’s a Lord of, duh. Not every hit’s a homer, people. D
Now, this is an interesting one. Created for the then-brand-new Young All-Stars series, he was a teenager from a tribe of hidden natives in northern Canada. Although in retrospect, they probably needed to work a bit more on their hiding, as a visiting U-boat full of Nazis had no time finding them. For no discernible reason, the Nazis tried to force his people to commit acts of guerrilla warfare against the Canadian government, killing the tribe’s chief when he refused. After the Nazis left, the chief’s son received training from a shaman and, wearing a cape and cowl fashioned after the magical flying fox, traveled south to join the All-Star Squadron. I’m not a big fan of magic heroes per se, but I like this guy because (a) he’s Canadian (b) he brought some much-needed diversity to his team (c) for a native kid who was just introduced to the white man’s world, he got in some pretty good lines and (d) his chest emblem is literally painted on his chest, and he wears only furry briefs, boots and gloves to go with his cowl and cape. I’ve been to northern Canada, people; you don’t wear a get-up like that at any time of year without risking serious hypothermia. Unless you’re a badass, which our Flying Fox clearly is. A-
She’s a close friend and classmate of Wally “Kid Flash” West who happens to be a mutant with the power to generate magnetic fields. Sure, why not? Any questions I have about the odds of a superhero’s girlfriend just randomly becoming Miss Magneto are overshadowed by one simple question about her costume: why even bother wearing a mask if you’re going to use your real name? D+
DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series allowed the company to start fresh with its properties, but it also left a lot of unanswered questions. For instance, there was a character named Fury on the Infinity Inc. team who was the daughter of Earth-2’s Wonder Woman. Fury still existed in the new, “official” universe, but there was no longer any Earth-2 or WWII-era Wonder Woman to birth her. So where did she come from? Answer: the first Fury, a young Greek woman who was given powers by the mythological Furies to kick Nazi butt. She had your standard set of powers (super-strength, super-speed, super-leaping) along with a bulletproof suit (that came with large holes on the side that I’m guessing the Nazis were too gentlemanly to aim at). From time to time, she also transformed into her “blood avenger” form that shot “magical heat beams from her eyes,” which frankly sounds like overkill. I mean, if you’re shooting heat beams from your eyes, it doesn’t really matter if they’re magical or not, does it? Anyway. C
Fury II (Revised)
Like I just said, Crisis created a whole bunch of new questions about who came from where, keeping writers busy for years coming up with new origins for DC characters. Fury, for instance, went from being the daughter of Earth-2’s Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor to being the adoptive daughter of a couple named the Trevors. She still developed her super-powers in her teen years, but she didn’t learn the original Fury was her mother (and source of her powers) until well into her superhero career. This raises questions. Doesn’t it seem a bit too coincidental she would adopt the same superhero name as her mother before finding out they were related? If Fury’s parents were normal people who had no idea they adopted a girl with super-powers, wouldn’t it have come as a bit of a shock when she started developing those powers? And perhaps most importantly, why the hell is she drawn in this entry looking like a pissed housewife in a bathrobe waiting for her husband to come home? C-
So remember in Iron Man 3 when Pepper puts on the Iron Man suit and all the nerds in the movie theatre started ranting about how you can’t just stick a superhero’s secretary in a super-suit and expect her to know how to use it? Okay, maybe it was just me doing that. But it’s still a valid point! Booster’s personal secretary (nicknamed Trixie because of course she is) dons a special powered-by-magnetism suit and saves her boss’s butt before deciding the superhero life is not for her. Just as well, since her superhero name reminds me of cheap Korean TV sets. C-