Saturday, September 10, 2005

(HA-HA), said Wonder Woman afterwards

You think Max Lord's neck was the first one Wonder Woman ever snapped?

Think again.

Johnsifying the Riddler

The Riddler. Naturally, we all think of the Riddler as a loner (hey, they even call him that in his DC Encyclopedia entry). After all, his M.O. almost precludes working with other villains. You'll remember that the Riddler seemed a bit out of place in the Legion of Doom, not so much because he was powerless, but because you almost got the feeling he was ratting out his colleagues with his "super-riddles".

But, as is so often the case in life (and certainly in Riddler stories), when we combine this riddling problem with another one, we get a solution. The other problem? The things the Riddler (and any other villian like him) does don't seem very profitable. On his last two outings that I've read, he stole an unsellable ancient manuscript right in front of Batman and beat the snot of Green Arrow. That may be loads of fun (particularly the Green Arrow part), but it don't pay no rent, folks.

The obvious conclusion? That's not his work; it's his hobby.

He (and any other villain whom we usually see stealing "priceless Etruscan snoods" or the like) make their millions in off-camera, less dramatic crime. That's how they buy giant jigsaw puzzles, super-instant-mesmerizing top hats, and flying fiddle-cars. Like regular people, they go to work, so that they can support themselves and their hobbies.

But isn't being a supervillain a stupid, self-defeating hobby, whose primary results are batarang scars on the back of your neck, a prison record longer than Plastic Man's arm, and a hefty monthly bill from Paul Gambi?

Nope! As Will Pfeiffer hints at in this month's issue of Catwoman, the "hobby" of supervillaining isn't just fun (and it is "the most fun you can have with your clothes on", as Catwoman puts it), it's useful because it gives you street cred. If you've faced a superhero (regardless of the outcome), you earn the respect and fear of everyone else in the criminal community. That kind of cache can't be bought and allows you to muscle in or pull off jobs that an ordinary crook could only dream of.

Is a criminal of even average competence going to be inspired to follow a badly burned attorney, a fat guy dressed like Uncle Moneybags, or a corny chemist with a skin condition? No. Will they clamor to work for Two-Face, the Penguin, or the Joker? Yep. Street cred, folks. The criminals want it and the villains have it, thanks to their "silly and unprofitable" confrontations with heroes.

And people think they're crazy. The fools, the utter fools!

So, why wouldn't the Riddler work with like-minded, smarty-pants villains making millions, so they can all finance their individual confrontation with various heroes? Fraud, identity theft, white collar crime, insider trading, blackmail, cover-ups -- the Riddler-centric gang below would have plenty of work to keep them in the green while they pursue their quizzical hobby of confounding the Forces of Good. And (like the Joker's gang imagined in an earlier post) enough personnel not to fall apart if a couple members happen to be in jail that week or recovering from heat-vision burns.

The Gamester (who fought the spectacular Sea Devils and needs to become Aquaman's Riddler). Yeah, so what if he probably died in that "Man-Fish" story? No one read it anyway. Give the man some floating gambling casinos and you've got a maritime buddy for the Riddler and another foe for Aquaman (who can always use another "old foe").

The Puzzler (no, not from the Batman TV series; the woman who stymies Superman). She's a redux on the original Golden Age Puzzler who looked, well, very much like the Toyman. Writers knew how to deal with Superman in the Golden Age; they gave him societal problems and intellectual villains that couldn't be licked by simply throwing a car around (the Puzzler, Mxyzptlk, the Prankster, J. Wilbur Wolfingham, the Ultrahumanite, Lex Luthor). Anyway, perhaps she could be a love interest for one of the others in the group?

Everyone's favorite psychopathic hunchback, Dr. Riddle (who stumped Bulletman, which I'm sure must be terribly difficult). Not the smartest member of the bunch, but he's the creepy one you send to scare somebody. Little children, I should think.

The Golden Age villain Mr. Who, with some toning down of his powers, would fit in and add enormous muscle to the team (with super-strength, regenerative abilities, and chameleon powers). His colleagues could help him use his powers to actually make money instead of just looming over fairgrounds, crushing statues, and fighting Dr. Fate. They could also get him a make-over and a nicer outfit. Yeesh.

The Cluemaster (who's apparently cool now). Our Mr. Brown would have a legitimate function; heroes always look for clues and always find them. Arthur would simply make sure the clues led the wrong way. So what if the Riddler once strapped a bomb to his chest? No one remembers that story now...

The Calculator (you don't think the Secret Society is going to last, do you?). The Calculator knows all the answers; who else should he work with but the man who knows all the questions? I shudder to think what the Calculator and the Riddler could accomplish if they put their heads together.

The Spellbinder is a traditional Batman villain who relies on disorienting, confusing, and deluding people. She had a rather successful outing against Batman after she got her powers from Neron, but hasn't been seen since. Her brand of mind-games would spice up the gang considerable and be viciously effective under the direction of someone like the Riddler.

Hey, what about Miss Terry? She's pretty hard up for work since Mr. E went round the bend. Let's have her turn to crime and act as secretary to this busy little group. Although she'd play a secondary role, in some ways she'd be the smartest one (next to the Riddler) because while they occasionally go to jail, she does not.

Naturally, Query and Echo will remain. Not only because they are fabulous, but because if the Riddler tried to fire them, they'd beat him up.

And, last but not least, Quiz Kid (correctly spelled, however). "Real" Robin desperately needs this fun-filled Junior Riddler introduced as a rival in the Teen Titans, Go! #15. The Riddler would be great with a kid sidekick!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Two-Face's Gangland Posse

Two-Face is an old school gangster, folks. Loud suits, tommy guns, "hits" and "heists", thugs in coat and tie. He's the Dick Traciest of Batman's rather Traciesque Rogues' Gallery (and if you don't believe that, go look up Haf-n-Haf who first appeared in 1931).

A gangster needs a gang! And Two-Face needs one more than most. While Two-Face is certainly always disturbing (in some ways the most disturbing of the Bat-enemies), he's not always as threatening as we need him to be. Brilliant and sturdy though Two-Face is, Batman's basically fighting a burn victim with a law degree. While others sport freeze-guns, mind-controlling headwear, and exploding whoopie cushions, Two-Face carries ... a gun. Let's give the man some back-up, shall we?

The Joker's themes (clowns, humor, cards) are more style than substance; he's not really known for stealing objects or planning capers around his themes. The Golden Age Penguin used go pretty heavy on the themes (birds and umbrellas), but lightened up dramatically after the Crisis.

But Two-Face, as we all know, is really big on "theme"; always has been. He would definitely have lieutenants who shared one of his themes (the number two, justice, chance/fate, gambling, the coin). So I'm picturing:

Double Dare and The Body Doubles (already foes of Nightwing and classic examples of Free-Range Sidekicks)
The Trigger Twins (foes of Robin)
The Penny Plunderer (*sniff*, I love you, Joe, no matter what they say)
Hazard and her brother, The Gambler,
Jinx and Amos Fortune (if you play Heroclix, you know the value of "Probability Control")
The Bad Samaritan (which would keep me from donating him to Marvel)
Larry the Judge (Tec #72!)
a moll named Penny or Silver (gotta have a moll)
and for some comedic costumed chaos, Dollar Bill (surely some of you remember Dollar Bill!)

Anyone else?


If you aren't reading Will Pfeiffer's "Catwoman", then start.

I ADORED his work on Aquaman. In ONE issue, he set Aquaman squarely on the road to recovery after the disastrous Veitch run. Aquaman became one of my favorite characters almost overnight, solely due to the strength of Pfeiffer's writing.

Finally (or so it seems), Pfeiffer will do what's been needed for Catwoman; make her a villain again. Bravo, Will!!!!!

Speaking of villains, I must confess ...

I can't identify all the villains on the two page spread in "Villains United" this week. Can you?

Somebody PLEASE tell me the guy in the front wearing the red jacket that says "Foul Play" is the new Sportsmaster! I've wanted them to use him as a Mr. Terrific for since the new Mr. T was introduced!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Riddle Me This!

How many cross-company Marvel/DC character codename duplications are there?

Let's start with the Captains Marvel (however it is spelled).

And the rest are ... ?

Blaze of Glory

Having rested now with other pursuits, we return to ... the Rungs of Villainy!

You've survived so far. Instead of being part of someone else's gang or some villainous co-op, you're operating solo or have a gang of your own (composed of Faceless Fodder, Nameless Underlings, and maybe even Denominated Henchmen or a Forgettable Moll). You have your own nom du crime, an M.O. or "theme", or maybe even a power or two.

Congratulations! You are now

A Solo Villain.

Let's meet one of your colleagues now, from the Motherlode of Villainy, the Evil Factory itself...

Gotham City.

Yes, glorious Gotham City, with its Decogothic architecture, giant props, terrible weather, and bizarre camera angles is the perfect breeding ground for villainy. Because it's intrinsically evil? Because its juxtaposition of wealth and poverty create a stormfront of crime? Because the sun can shine there only on alternate Thursdays or when Batman's away on a JLA mission?


Because Gotham makes being a villain FUN!!! Why, just take a look here at your colleague "Blaze".

This long-lost cousin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers is positively overwhelmed by the delirium of his own villainy. With his Joker grin and Manga eyes, coiled with a barely containable Gorshinesque glee, the Blaze is nearly aflame with passion for his own villainy. We should all be so lucky as to enjoy our jobs even HALF as much as Blaze.

Do heroes ever look that happy? No.

The best they ever manage is a forced grin while punning during fight scenes (which you can tell embarrasses them, but it's in their contract) or a chuckle of relief at the end of the story when they joke about how funny Blaze looked tumbling down a flight of stairs and into a convenient vat of chemical waste:

"It's terrible to see such a great mind ... go to waste, eh, Robin?"

"And how, Batman!"

But you and Blaze, you're Solo Villains. You couldn't care less what the hero, society, or Wizard Magazine thinks of you. Whether you're tearing the tags off mattresses or tossing parapalegics into a giant red ore-crusher named "Roger", you've done what others barely dare to dream -- you've given yourself utterly over to obsession and you are having the time of your life!

Who cares whether Wizard Magazine lists you as one of the "Ten Lamest Villains Ever, Except for Any From Marvel?" You are going to be in an Archive Volume some day; Wizard won't.

Maybe you'll become one of the great ones, defeatable only by the Comics Code or Hostess Fruit Pies ("Mmm! Real fruit filling!"). Maybe you'll discover the hero's secret identity and be immediately struck by a freak bolt of lightning while laughing triumphantly. Maybe you'll never be heard from again, and wind up the answer to an HCRealms trivia question or one of those hideous little MicroHeroes on an Angelfire site. Even worse, you might end up a Green Arrow foe.

No matter. Even if, like your colleague above, you're merely a fleeting "blaze" of glory ...

you'll have had fun.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Devils, You Say!

Naturally, like all decent people, I'm a member of the League of Challenger-Haters. In fact, I'm the person who took Multi-Woman's place after she left for the 30th Century to become a Disciple of Night Girl.

Devon of Seven Hells invited me to join; he took the place of Drabny, because they both are basically ordinary humans with Chinese comic book collections. But I digress.

Anyway, as the new reigning Queen of the Challenger-Haters (I look MUCH better in the outfit than she did!), I have to state, loudly, publically, and for the record ...

I love the Sea Devils.

Now, you probably think that makes no sense, since they are virtually identical small groups of powerless plucky adventurers in gaudy matching costumes and based on Painfully Obvious Archtypes (The Leader! The Tough Guy! The Smart Guy! The Hothead/Kid! The, um, Girl!).

But then again, you probably drink RC Cola.

The Challengers are goobers (even they know it, as the panel demonstrates). Dressed like Chinese acrobats, these societal rejects stumble about in the dark, where, since they are dealing with the "Unknown", no one will notice how stupid they are. I guarantee you, if they were faced with the REAL Unknown, they'd wet themselves before they could wriggle out of those ridiculous banana-hued flight-suits. Starman would knock these guys over on the way to fight the Green Arab and not even notice. Their vehicle? The "Galloping Gizmo"; jeez, just call it the "Goobermobile", why don't you? They're the Fantastic Four minus the Fantastic; no wonder an entire League of people hate them. Kirby creations; 'nuff said.

The Sea Devils, ah! Now there is a groovy group, not like the Chals at all. They are masters of the mysterious underwater world. Have you ever swum? A lot? In the ocean? The Sea Devils must be RIPPED, baby! And highly intelligent, as marine biology is an extremely complex field. I mean, they are so smart they built a giant underwater robot that looks like Neptune ... and they live in its head. Not even Batman is that smart. Unlike the Chals, who grope about for a stick to whack whatever monster happens along in "the unknown", the Sea Devils mean business, bud. Two words for ya: harpoon gun. The Sea Devils are smart, ripped, and oxygenated for action, just like their babelicious creator Robert Kanigher (*swoon*!!!!).

Observe. Ace, the "leader" of the Challengers, is merely a slackjawed pawn in the sexual mindgames of superior beings like Judy Walton and Dane Dorrance, the erotic tension between whom is so powerful it's already fried that poor Rear Admiral's nice white uniform to a brown toasty crisp. Stoically grimacing through the searing pain, the Admiral's preparing to get the Chals "up to speed"; good luck with that, sir!

Meanwhile, the Sea Devils are analyzing new species of eukaryotes, harnessing submarine geothermal energy sources, and negotiating their movie contracts, all of which you'll be able to read about on their blog that evening. In that time, if they're lucky, the Chals will have remembered how to peel off those banana-suits (if Judy doesn't take a break to show them how herself!).

I'm having custom Heroclix made of the Sea Devils, to swim proudly by the new "Icons" Aquaman's side. The Chals? Pogs; movable terrain, easily removed from play once they've got harpoons sticking out of their chests.

You can cheer on the "Challengers", if you want; I'm sticking with the champions!

Japanese Sandman

Sanderson Hawkins, a.k.a. Sandy the Golden Boy, a.k.a. "Sand". You probably don't think about him much.

He was a hero in the Golden Age. In the Silver Age. In the Modern Age. And in this panel you get a glimpse of what kind of hero he is.

Just brought back to human form after saving the earth from cracking into pieces at the cost of the cohesion of his silicon form, naked, dazed, confused, and about to fall unconscious into the arms of a comrade, Sand still remains focused on his mission, his team ...

and his Heroic Haiku.

"Eclipso. Mordu.
Have to save the Earth. Have to
find the J S A."

Gods, that's inspiring! Most of us would have just spit out "Grk! Ack! What th-- Oohhh!" before falling over face down in the rubble. You can tell this guy knew the Golden Age Starman! And his boss, the original Sandman, used to compose little poems all the time, designed to upset evildoers. Clearly, Sandy was a good pupil and remains a true hero.

What haiku can YOU compose in honor of the poetic heroism of Sand on this occasion?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Overshadowed by ... The Light!

You know what's been missing from my life? DRAMA!!!

Fortunately, it only takes one panel of Golden Age Starman to fix that problem...

At one point in his career, Starman was being menaced for many pages by the machinations of a shadowy villain known as "The Unknown." How exactly one can be "known" as "the Unknown" without exploding in paradox I do not know ... but if anyone can do it, it's a Starman villain.

Imagine the unimaginable horror when the Unknown, once known, turns out to be ...


You remember him, of course.
The villain with the second flattest head in all of comicdom.
The villain with the Distintegration Tube in his backpocket.
The villain with no given or discernible reason for his nom du crime.

Good GRAVY, folks...! What a DRAMATIC reappearance of a villain believed dead by his own hand!

The exposure of the Mystery Villain as a Longtime Foe!

Characteristic Starman-villain Trans-fourth-wall Menacement!

Accusatory Reminescences of Befoiled Plans of Planetwide Conquest!

Declarations of the Triumph of Evil!

The Countenance of F. Murray Abraham, heavily inked, lit from below, and wearing purple!

Radiating Drama-lines of Doom!

Good lord, what if you were standing by yourself on a nearly abandoned subway platform, wondering why your train was late, and a Unknown Stranger with heavy Eastern European features and a sinister Van Dyke thrust his face into you, full-frame, hissing that he was your archenemy, back from the dead, unhappy with your interference, and about to triumph over you?!!

I don't know about you, but personally, I'd just throw myself right onto the Third Rail, and be done with it...

Thank the gods for Starman!!!!