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Friday, May 30, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 5

In the final installment of Batman's Rogues, we take a look at a character that may just be the most popular villain never to make it to the big screen. And on the flipside, a villain that will most likely never appear again... anywhere.



Week 4:
Harley Quinn – Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel
First Appearance – Batman: The Animated Series “Joker's Favor” (September 1992)
Created by – Paul Dini and Bruce Timm



Brief History:
Possibly the biggest omission from the multiple Batman movie universes is fan favorite (and only character of this feature to first appear in a cartoon) the Joker's on-again off-again girlfriend, Harley Quinn.
She was created as a one-off side character in the Batman: The Animated Series, however the character received such high praise , that she was brought back in subsequent episodes, until she was introduced into the comic world in The Batman Adventures series (which was itself based off of the cartoon) thus cementing her place in the Bat-mythos.

Harley has played different roles in her costumed career, however it all started when she was a doctor at Arkham Asylum. There she became at first enamored, and eventually fell in love, with the man who would define her life for most of her existence, The Joker.

She's grown as her own character, and not simply a tool for Joker to use, and even currently headlines her own series as part of the New 52 for DC Comics. At times she embraced her criminal roots, while at other times she swayed closer to the side of the law, most notably during her pairing with Catwoman and Poison Ivy in the Gotham City Sirens comic series.



Personal Favorite Moment:
My favorite moment for Harley Quinn was during the aforementioned Gotham City Sirens run. After teaming with Catwoman and Poison Ivy for many issues, she betrays the two to break into Arkham Asylum planning on killing the Joker for all the years of abuse. During her break in, she displays the skills she's learned from Joker by manipulating some of the guards and brutally killing others. As she enters Joker's cell, ready to kill him, the site of him brings back all the good times she shared with him, and they decide to take the asylum over. It begins as an impressive example of Harley's own self sufficiency, but quickly dovetails to proof of her own fractured psyche and reliance on Joker and the hold he has over her.




Kite Man – Charles “Chuck” Brown
First appearance – Batman #133 (August 1960)
Created by – Bill Finger and Dick Sprang



Brief History:
*Sigh* Oh the life that was Kite Man. Chuck Brown began his criminal career by employing 'trick' kites to attempt his crimes. I say 'attempt' because I don't believe Kite Man has successfully committed a single crime, constantly being thwarted by Batman, Batgirl and other heroes.

No tragic back story has ever been revealed in the comics, however the character was featured in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, where it was explained that as a kid, Charles was a fan of Ben Franklin and made an attempt at recreating the famous lightning-kite experiment. For some inexplicable reason, the kid with metal braces decided to conduct this experiment while standing in a bucket of water. While this origin may not be canon to the comic universe, it's the only one we have.


Personal Favorite Moment:
Honestly, I don't have a favorite Kite Man moment; no one does, not even his creators.

By default I'll list his appearance in the 25th issue of the weekly comic 52. Already thought dead, “killed” by Deathstroke by being thrown off skyscraper. That's right the guy whose whole gimmick is flying, was thought so little of, they believed a fall would kill him. As it was revealed, Chuck survived the fall, only to be captured along side several other Q-list villains and was actually eaten by a Superman villain.




Thank you for coming along with on this journey through the deeper more obscure bowels of the Gotham underground. I hope you had as much fun revisiting (or possibly discovering for the first time) some of the more colorful rogues to plague Batman's war on crime in Gotham City.

You can view the original posting of this article at The Time Warriors, and read up on everything pop- culture.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 4

In this week’s installment of my celebration of the Caped Crusader’s lesser known villains for Batman’s 75th anniversary, I take a look at a villain who may be more popular than all the other villains featured thus far, but has yet to be featured in a movie.  Also, you’ll find out about (for many readers for the first time) to a villain who truly belongs on a list of z-list characters.

Week 4:
Man-bat1  – Kirk Langstrom
First Appearance –  Detective Comics #400 (June 1970)
Created by – Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

Brief History:
I have to imagine the entire thought process behind the creation of Man-bat was something along the lines of ‘What if we changed Batman’s name around?’  I’m sure there was more to it, especially since Kirk Langrstrom has grown into a beloved and layered character in the bat-mythos.  Dr. Langstrom specializes in experimental treatments to cure deafness in humans.  He uses an extract from bat DNA in an attempt to replicate their sonar abilities in himself, however this turns him into Man-bat (as we’ve come to expect from comics) and robs him of his intelligence (otherwise a hero would have been born, it’s a formula people).
Discovering the truth, Batman concocts a cure that reverses the effects of the serum, and all is well in the world (so to speak).  That is until Kirk decides to take the serum on another occasion, and later convince his wife to join him on his nocturnal hunting. 
In recent years, Langstrom’s serum has been stolen and modified by Talia and Ras al’Ghul of the League of Assassins, and also stolen (and modified) by his father, creating deadlier versions of Man-bat.


Personal Favorite Moment:
Kirk as Man-bat has many memorable moments in various mediums (unfortunately no movies yet) but my favorite is pretty simple.  Talia al’Ghul pilfered the serum and injected it into her League of Assassins.  Seriously, think about that. ‘Man-bat’ ninja assasins! So much better than a meek scientist who loses his intelligence when transforming into his villainous alter ego.




Crazy Quilt – real name unknown
First appearance – Boy Commandos #15 (May 1946)
Created by – Jack Kirby


Brief History:
Jack Kirby is undeniably one of (if not THE) greatest comic creators of all time, but that’s not to say he hasn’t has a few missteps along the way. Enter Crazy Quilt, a criminal who gives his gang instructions for their crimes via his paintings.  After being betrayed by one of his crew members he’s blinded, and is forced to undergo an experimental procedure that restores his sight.  Of course, being comics there’s a caveat to this, colors are so bright he’s effectively unable to see passed them.
Enter one of the most outlandish costumes ever! In an effort to control the light he dons some spectacular head gear that allows him to shoot light beams, and do a pretty good impersonation of a DJ light show.
Even his creators must have realized how sad a character he was because he’s become more of a Robin villain, not warranting the attention of Batman himself.

Personal Favorite Moment:
The short lived Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon, introduced the absurdity that is Crazy Quilt for a whole new generation, but my favorite moment is from the JLA-80 Page Giant #1.

In this issue, the JLA devises a plan to stage a fake villains meeting luring many of the more dimwitted villains into their defunct base, apprehending all of them.  During this ‘meeting’ Crazy Quilt’s costume is mocked by Monocle.  Monocle for Christ’s sake! He looks about as intimidating as a modern age Bela Lugosi  Dracula without any of the vampire abilities.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 5/21/14

If you didn't realize from my previous posts about Batman's 75th anniversary, I'm a bit of a comic fan. As such I thoroughly enjoyed a six issue comic series called The Escapist which came out in 2006.  The story revolved around a golden age era comic hero I hadn't heard about getting a retelling in more modern times.  It wasn't until after I read the series that I learned there never was a golden age Escapist, but that the character was created for a book that was published in 2000.  That book? "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon and it tells the story of two Brooklyn cousins, Jewish immigrants of WWII, who decide to create comics together.



I can safely surmise that this inspires the creation of the Escapist character.  How that story develops is what has me intrigued.  And the fact it won a Pulitzer Prize as a piece of historical fiction based on a non-existent comic character makes this a book I've been looking forward to reading.

Stay tuned for my verdict...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 3

This is my third, of five, week celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary by highlighting some of his lesser known villains.  Today we have two of my favorites, hope you enjoy.  You can check out these Batman posts, and many other exciting pop culture news at The Time Warriors



Week 2:
Clayface1 – Basil Karlo
First Appearance – Detective Comics #40 (June 1940)
Created by – Bob Kane



Brief History:
Basil Karlo was a famous character actor, specializing in horror roles (he was inspired by Basil Rathborne and Boris Karloff, two real world actors famous for their horror movies). Basil, slightly past his prime acting wise, is replaced in a remake of one of his most famous roles. This enrages him to the point where he dons the mask the killer of the movie wears, as Clayface, and kills the various workers associated with the movie. He left the actor that replaced him for last, however Batman and Robin thwart him.
He escapes his prison transport and continues his criminal ways only to be easily thwarted again by the Dynamic Duo.
At this point in time, he's been in jail for a number of years, and other criminals have taken up the Clayface mantle. These villains, for the most part, have the shapeshifting abilities and mud appearance that are most commonly associated with the name Clayface. While in jail, Basil is visited by the fourth in Clayface line, Sondra Fuller a.k.a. Lady Clay. During this visit, Basil convinces Sondra to not only break him out of prison, but to form an alliance with all the living Clayfaces and to resurrect the second Clayface.
The newly formed Mud Pack take on Batman and the Outsiders. Their initial appearance results in a swift defeat, however during which Basil injects samples of Clayfaces III and IV to gain both of their powers and become what he calls “Ultimate Clayface”.
Over the years Clayface has not only changed identities, but also personas, powers, mental capacity, background, and everything else that identifies as the villain; the one thing that remains is the threat he poses to Batman and the whole Bat-family.



Personal Favorite Moment:
The Batman cartoon of the 90's had a great two part episode that told the origin of Clayface. This combined elements of Basil Karlo and the second Clayface, Matt Hagen. It was an amazing story, that is a great example of how the show, especially for a kid's cartoon, had superb character development.
However, my favorite Clayface moment would have to be a more recent appearance of his. In DC's New 52 Clayface is once again Basil Karlo and he now has the ability to absorb a person's DNA in order to replicate their appearance.
Attempting to frame Bruce Wayne for several murders, Basil breaks into Wayne Tower disguised as Bruce Wayne himself. He's met by Batman, who alerts Basil that the cops are on the way. After a brief battle, Commissioner Gordon and several officers arrive on the scene, and Basil decides to reveal the identity of Batman by absorbing his DNA. He does so and reveals that Batman is none other than Bruce Wayne
Unconvinced because Batman is still masked the cops take no action. Taking advantage of the distraction, Batman and Lucius Fox trap Clayface in an enclosure only Basil Karlo's original DNA can unlock. Unfortunately, Clayface has become so entwined with the different people he absorbed, he no longer has enough of his own DNA to escape.
Why is this my favorite moment, you ask? How does Batman explain Clayface absorbing Bruce Wayne's DNA from him? A fake layer of skin with Bruce Wayne's DNA coded on it. I love Batman, but this is an example of him 'always being prepared' that makes it a little ridiculous to accept.




Firefly1 – Garfield Lynns
First appearance – Detective Comics #184 (June 1952)
Created by – France Herron and Dick Sprang



Brief History:
Firefly is another villain whose mantle has been used by multiple people. Garfield Lynns, the first and more popular of the two, was a special effects expert, and burgeoning pyromaniac. He beings his criminal career (post-Crisis) as a would be robber, however after being stopped by Batman and Robin, he decides to alter paths and becomes an arsonist.
After several schemes, mostly failures, he takes his pyromaniac obsession to new heights by donning a flame resistant suit with jetpack. He then becomes an arsonist for hire, usually burning down businesses for the insurance money.

Personal Favorite Moment:

My favorite moment, isn't one moment per-se. The depiction of Firefly in “The Batman” cartoon from the mid-2000's depicted Garfield as a corporate saboteur that challenged Batman in ways I never saw him do in the other versions of the character. And the noise he made when flying around was pretty sweet. (on another note: I recommend watching said Batman cartoon for unique versions of all of the characters, a cartoon done well.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 2

Last week, in celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, I highlighted two villains from his rogue’s gallery that may not be as known as other.  This week I present two other villains that haven’t had the mainstream exposure as some of the more popular villains that appeared in movies and whatnot.






Week 2:
Black Mask1 – Roman Sionis
First Appearance –  Batman 386 (August 1985)
Created by – Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake

Brief History:
Roman grew up in a wealthy family with parents who were more concerned about their social status than his well being.  His father owned a makeup company, Janus Cosmetics, and used that fortune to elevate his social circle to “befriend” Thomas and Martha Wayne.   Roman’s parent’s obsession with status led them to force Roman to be friends with Bruce Wayne (spoiler: he becomes Batman).  Roman grows to hate the false faces his parents and other people of note wear to hide their true feelings. 
Upon graduating college, Roman begins working for his father, where he meets and falls in love with a secretary, Circe.  Because of her middle class status, Roman’s parents disapproved of Circe, and forced him to end the relationship.  Upset with his parents, Roman burns down their house with them still inside, killing them both.  After some bad business decisions, and permanently scarring hundreds of women, Janus Cosmetics was in ruin.  Bruce Wayne bails out the company, but this just enrages Roman even further, reigniting his hatred for Bruce.

Roman’s mental instability was exasperated when he was struck by lightning at his parent’s crypt.  Taking this as a sign of his rebirth, Roman carved a mask out of the black wood of his father’s coffin, and Black mask was born.
Building a criminal empire with his False Faces, criminals all forced to wear masks to cover their true faces, Black Mask has plagued Batman and the other protectors of Gotham City for nearly 30 years.
He’s appeared in video games and cartoons, but has yet to make it to the big screen.


Personal Favorite Moment:
The novelization of the classic “No Man’s Land” story has some great scenes with Black mask, but my personal favorite would have to be from “War Games”.   In this arc that ran through the different Bat-titles at the time, Stephanie Brown, former Spoiler, future Batgirl, current Robin, decides she’s going to show Batman her worth by enacting one of his plans to unite the Gotham Underground under a single criminal leader that Batman could control. 
The plan hinges on one Matches Malone to show and begin the process.  Unknown to Stephanie, Matches is one of Batman’s undercover personas.   This oversight ignites a gang war that ravages Gotham. 
During this time Black Mask assumes the role of Orpheus, a Bat-affiliate, and infiltrates Batman’s camp.  With Spoiler captured he tortures her for information on Batman.  The damages of the torture results in Stephanie’s death (of course being comics she later returns, but that’s neither here nor there). 
In the void in the criminal world power structure resulting from “War Games” Black Mask emerges THE criminal kingpin of Gotham, and the character truly came into his own.




Maxie Zeus – Maximilian Zeus
First appearance – Detective Comics #483 (May 1979)
Created by – Denny O’Neil

Brief History:
Maximilian is a  former history teacher whose wife left him.  This, as so often happens in comics, drives him insane and into a life of crime.  After working his way up the ranks, Maxie puts together his own group of superhuman criminals he dubs the New Olympians.  Each member with a different Olympian god’s motif, they kid name an Olympic athlete in hopes of making her Maxie’s bride and future mother of his child, Medea (not to be confused with Tyler Perry’s Madea).  Batman and the Outsiders thwart this attempt in a series of Olympic like events.

Personal Favorite Moment:
Zeus’ most popular appearance may be in Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel in which Maxie is linked to the electroshock therapy equipment.  He constantly receives shocks to the brain, and these have driven him to believe he’s a new proto-god taking place of the historical mythological Zeus.

However, my favorite moment is from Batman and the Outsiders #14, in which the aforementioned Olympic contest occurred. Zeus and his New Olympians are empowered by the Monitor (long story) and each possess the abilities of their mythological motif.  It was a fun story with no lasting repercussions that don’t happen often any more.  And really, why wouldn’t Batman participate in the Olympics if he were real?