The Racial Justice Experience
by John Wells
Diversity In The DC Universe: 1961 - Today
The revolution began quietly. In the pages of Our Army At War # 113, writer Bob Kanigher and artist Joe Kubert pushed Sgt. Rock to the background (and off the cover) for a character episode entitled "Eyes of a Blind Gunner."
The thirteen page story related the friendship of easy Company soldiers Jackie and Wildman, the latter an expert with a bazooka. In the climax of the story, the two men are separated from Easy, with Jackie blinded by the flash of an explosion and Wildman's hands burnt. With only a machine gun between them and advancing Nazi troops, Jackie tells his comrade that, "I'll be your hands -- if you'll be my eyes."
Between the two of them, the enemy is held off until Rock and Easy rescue them at dawn. "Bet you'll be glad to get back to your bazooka again," the Sarge joked to Wildman.
"Bazookas are only for wild men, Rock," he replied.
Jackie added, "We'll stick with something nice and peaceful like this machine gun, Sarge!"
It was, as noted, a simple character piece, but one that was remarkable for a story published in 1961: Wildman was white and Jackie was black. The landmark story was made all the more effective by its refusal to portray the friendship of men of different color as anything out of the ordinary. Indeed, the fact that Jackie was African-American went virtually without comment, powerfully expressing the message of brotherhood in that turbulent era without any of the heavy-handedness that was to come in the comics of the 1970s. (And one can overlook the fact that, in the real world, blacks and whites were segregated in the military.)
Such a portrayal was, of course, a radical departure from the earliest black characters in DC's history, figures who were almost universally presented as broad comic stereotypes with bulging eyes, big lips and little intelligence. Some were actually presented in their own strips, such as Sam the Porter (1936's New Comics # 5 to 1940's Adventure Comics # 53) and Pincus (beginning in 1935's New Fun # 3), while others played comic relief to their male leads, notably Jonah in "Bulldog Martin" (1939-1940's More Fun # 47-52) and Gargantua T. Potts in "Tex Thomson" (1939-1940's Action Comics # 15-25). The youngster Pincus, incidentally, actually crossed over into kid adventure strip "Spike Spalding" and remained there for the duration of its run.
Perhaps the best known of these stereotypes was Steamboat, seen in Fawcett's Captain Marvel series. He was a food vendor named Bill who'd saved a policeman from being killed in 1942's America's Greatest Comics # 2 but wound up having his vending wagon destroyed in the process. A grateful Billy Batson offered to fix him up with a job at Station WHIZ. Steamboat spent the next couple years as Billy's servant before good sense prevailed and he was eliminated from the strip.
In the face of such stereotyping, the 1944-1947 Johnny Everyman series (Comic Cavalcade # 8-14 and World's Finest # 15-26, 28, 30) was a refreshing contrast. Produced "in cooperation with the East and West Association," the series was designed to promote brotherhood, often dispelling myths about cultures around the world. The Association's principal mission was to create understanding of the people of Asia but, as seen here, "Johnny Everyman" went beyond that.
Particularly of note were the episodes that zeroed in on racism in the United States. Writer Jack Schiff and artist John Daly's story of Ralph Jackson (1945's World's Finest # 17), for instance, explicitly addressed the hypocrisy of fighting bigotry overseas while practicing it on the homefront:
In France, Sgt. Ralph Jackson leads his battalion of African-American soldiers in a furious attack on Nazi troops. As messerschmitts strafe their truck column, Jackson is hit in the right shoulder but nonetheless manage to shoot one of the planes out of the sky.
Months later, in the U.S., Jackson, having been awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, meets his friend George. They are turned away at one restaurant. Informed at a second cafe, that all seats are reserved, their old friend Johnny Everyman spots them and invites the men to his table.
"Sure, I'm a 'hero,'" says Jackson. "I almost gave my life to wipe out fascism. So what ? I come back here, and I can't even eat a meal where I want to...what's the use ?"
Johnny recalls how, in their college days, his white football team wanted to play Ralph's black team but officials refused. Early one morning, Johnny and Ralph organized their teams on the football field in defiance. The game ended in a tie but all the men on the field had greater respect for one another at its conclusion.
Today as then, Johnny continues, there are non-prejudiced people in the world and a growing number of organizations are helping to fight bigotry.
"You're right," Ralph replies. "Rome wasn't built in a day. But I wish there were more people like you."
Comic Cavalcade # 12's installment ("Meet Charley Wing") found Johnny trying to change the viewpoint of a group of kids well indoctrinated by their culture to view any Asian citizen as untrustworthy.
"All ya have ta do is see some o' them nifty serials at the movies every week," one boy insisted. "Tells ya what goes on in the mysterious underground passages of Chinatown. And lots and lots of books show how Chinamen villains do their dirty work. Always very sneaky ... they work underground ..."
Johnny makes a number of different arguments to prove them wrong, including a lengthy account of his work with the Chinese during the war. Ultimately, the detail that convinces the boys that young Charley Wing is no different from them is the fact that his father admonishes him to eat his vegetables ("Ha! Ha! That sounds just like my pop.").
And lastly, there was "George Tanaka, American" (World's Finest # 20), published shortly after the end of the war.
In China, an army captain has asked Johnny to find volunteers for a mission behind Japanese lines, noting that, as a civilian engineer, Johnny would be treated as a spy if captured. Johnny acknowledges the risks and presents his list of volunteers: Sgt. George Tanaka and Privates John Sato and Milton Hayashi. "Why, they're Japanese!" exclaims the captain.
"Beg pardon, captain -- they're Americans whose parents or grandparents are Japanese! You know how well they've served in this campaign!"
Having completed their mission of planting explosives on the Han-See Bridge, the men are confronted by Japanese soldiers as they leave. A furious Hayashi refuses to surrender ("My father fled to America from the oppression of warmongers. Why should I surrender to them now ?") and is gunned down by the soldiers, who declare him "a traitor to his race."
The remaining men surrender when they realize the enemy is unaware that the bridge has been mined. If even one can escape, the explosives can be detonated.
While searching Tanaka, the Japanese find a personal letter in his uniform. George's sister wrote that, while at a concert hall with their mother, people wondered aloud why "they aren't in concentration camps." As an American citizen nearly all of her life, George's mother was devastated by the comments. "Your father loved America!" she wept to her daughter. "Your brother is willing to die for it! Why should such a thing happen to us ? And those hoodlum attacks we've heard against other Japanese-Americans. Why -- why -- ?"
The Japanese ask Tanaka and Sato to join them rather than fight for "a nation that insults your mothers and sisters -- and will never accept you as equals." Sato refuses but Tanaka accepts the offer and is escorted to general headquarters. Sato and Johnny are ordered shot immediately only to have the execution disrupted when Tanaka throws a metal paperweight into a generator and causes an explosion.
"Do you think I'm a child, to surrender a birthright of freedom for your lying promises?"
The trio escape in a staff car, fleeing across the bridge, which they blow up once they're on the other side. Soon after, an American flag is flying over the camp where Johnny, Tanaka, and Sato had been held.
Later, Johnny confesses "you fooled even me, George! You seemed so angry -- and in a way, you had a right to be!"
"I know too well what I've lived and fought for -- and would die for -- to entrust it into the hands of the Japanese military caste. There are blind and thoughtless people in America, as elsewhere. But the seed of tolerance and fellowship has spread to many nations, and is growing."
And that brings us back to Jackie Johnson. Although Kanigher and Kubert soon revived Wildman as a regular in the Sgt. Rock series (beginning with 1962's OAAW # 120, which provided his origin), they waited a bit longer for Jackie. He finally returned in 1965's OAAW # 159 and took center stage in # 160 for "What's the Color of Your Blood ?"
Kanigher had provided his hero with the last name of Johnson, a nod to Jack Johnson, who'd become the first black heavyweight champion of the world in 1908. Like his namesake, Jackie Johnson had also been a prizefighter and a successful one at that. One off night left him open to defeat by a German boxer named Uhlan and Jackie was still spoiling for a rematch when World War Two began.
In OAAW # 160, Johnson and Easy Company crossed paths with "Stormtrooper" Uhlan's paratroopers and the Nazi couldn't resist defending his title. Aware that the enemy would execute his friends if he defeated Uhlan, Jackie refused to fight back, enduring vicious blows and taunts that his blood was black.
Urged on by Sgt. Rock, Jackie finally started pounding Uhlan. As expected, the Nazis opened fire the moment that Stormtrooper was kayoed but, ironically, it was Uhlan who sustained potentially fatal wounds. Apprised of the fact that Uhlan would die without a transfusion of Type B blood, a battered Jackie held out his arm. Watching the blood flow through the tube from Jackie's arm to his, Uhlan was forced to admit that "I was wrong. Wrong! The color of your blood -- is red!"
Having faced Nazi racism, Jackie went on to be subjected to the bigotry of his fellow soldiers in the form of a replacement named Sharkey (1967's "A Penny For Jackie Johnson" in OAAW # 179). He derisively referred to Johnson as "boy" and tossed a penny in his hand when Jackie extended a palm in friendship. "Where I come from," he sneered, "we don't shake hands with the likes of you! We just drop a coin in it."
Though Rock feared that "Sharkey's like a time bomb," Jackie refused to respond in kind. "The man is entitled to his opinion, sarge. And he can keep it -- until I can change it for him." Inevitably, after multiple insults and conflicts, Sharkey was gravely wounded and, Jackie, seriously injured himself, dragged him to safety. Apologizing, Sharkey asked, "Can I -- can I have my penny back ?"
"I've been savin' it for you, soldier," Jackie responded. He and Sharkey finally shook hands as the story closed.
Later in 1967, Gardner Fox checked in with a consciousness-raising story of his own in Justice League of America # 57's "Man, Thy Name Is -- Brother." Under the direction of Snapper Carr, three members of the League set out to meet with a variety of people to gather information for Carr's college paper on Brotherhood Week.
The Flash crossed paths with Joel Harper, a young African-American who, when praised for saving the life of a clothing manufacturer, asked for a job as a reward. As the Scarlet Speedster arrived, Joel was in the process of stopping another crime by shoving a rack of clothes towards fleeing bank robbers. Temporarily blinded, the Flash was forced to rely on Joel's directions to oppose the thieves.
Infuriated that Harper had gotten involved and ruined the garments on the rack, the manufacturer fired his new employee. Joel angrily told the Flash, "Colored boys never get a break! Would you believe I've been studyin' up on men's clothes and fashions -- dreamin' that some day I might own my own business ? What a laugh -- dreams like that don't come true -- not for me ..."
The Scarlet Speedster disputed him, using Joel's observation skills to identify the clothing that the thieves wore and make an arrest. Afterwards, he urged Joel to contact Barry Allen in Central City about a job on the police force. "I'm confident that some day you'll be a top-grade policeman -- if you have the confidence and ambition to make a go of it."
Although the Flash's offer of a law enforcement job to a man interested in the clothing industry was curious, one can't help but speculate where a rookie cop named Harper might have gone. An African-American version of Simon & Kirby's Guardian ? Stay tuned.
Elsewhere, editor George Kashdan had introduced an African young man named Molo among the International Sea Devils in Sea Devils # 23, 25, 27 and 30 (1965-1966) and, in a more significant role, Rupert Kenboya, in the pages of 1967's Showcase # 66-67.
The latter was the son of an African tribal leader who spent the late 1950s and early 1960s being educated at an American university and wound up with a friend for life in the form on Mike Maxwell. At Rupert's insistence, Mike agreed to accompany him back to Africa and, thanks to his friend's influence, ended up as the coordinator of a new wildlife preserve.
A mishap resulted in Maxwell acquiring strange powers (and an even stranger costume) and the alternate identity of B'wana Beast. "You've got something big," Rupert told him. "Something that could be a great help out here ... helping make a new country -- a new way of life for my people." Ultimately, Kenboya found himself as police commissioner of his new government, ordered to arrest the vigilante whom Rupert regarded as "my greatest help in fighting criminals." The series proved to be one of Showcase's great failures and the conflict went unresolved.
The debut of another black hero was heralded in the letter column of 1967's Adventure Comics # 363, then featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes. A reader asked, "Where are the Negroes in the 30th century ? Surely there must be some of the race around. Certainly they are not represented in the Legion, for only two of the members have non-white faces. The rest are Caucasians."
Obliquely referring to the forthcoming blue-skinned Shadow Lass, assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell responded, "We guarantee our next new Legionnaire will surprise you. Meanwhile, catch the February-March issue of Unexpected for a new and different Negro hero, in the debut of the Secret Six."
Although intended as the lead feature for Unexpected, the Secret Six (created by Bridwell and incoming Editorial Director Carmine Infantino and illustrated by Frank Springer) was instead launched as its own title in early 1968 and ran for seven issues. The premise was that six individuals owed their lives or reputations to a mysterious individual known as Mockingbird who blackmailed them into performing heroic missions. The twist: one of the sextet was really Mockingbird!
Among them was a middle-aged, bespectacled African-American government scientist named August Durant. Years earlier, the nuclear physicist had been infected with a lethal disease by Soviet agents (described in detail in Secret Six # 2) and now survived only thanks to the medication that Mockingbird provided. Or so he claimed.
Bridwell never revealed the truth but many believed that the brilliant Durant was the most likely mastermind of the team. Eventually, in the Martin Pasko-scripted Secret Six series in 1988's Action Comics Weekly, Durant was finally confirmed to have been Mockingbird -- after he'd been killed in a plane crash!
1968 had been a profoundly turbulent year in United States history, one that saw the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Some of the anger over those murders seemed to spill over into a script that young writers Marv Wolfman and Len Wein had prepared for Teen Titans # 20, slated for publication in January of 1969.
As described by Wolfman in 1998's Comic Book Artist # 1, "the story was about the Mob taking advantage of black anger by using and manipulating a teen gang. Somebody goes against the gang and tries to stop them. He preaches the Martin Luther King line hat people can't resort to guns and violence. At the end it turned out the masked super-hero is the brother of one of the gang kids."
Clad in a white costume with a full-face mask, Jericho was a guy named Ben, who explained to his brother Mark on the last page that "I had to prove to you that belonging to a race does not mean that you have to be against the others! Man, there's no blanket statement that can be made for any race. There's good and bad on all sides and the only way to find it is to believe in equal justice and work for it, Mark. But you wouldn't believe your 'coward' brother -- you had to have a faceless, raceless hero to show you where the real evil was. I had to become Jericho."
All involved, from Wolfman to editor Dick Giordano to Neal Adams, acknowledge that the story was heavy-handed but DC's outgoing Vice President Irwin Donenfeld is said to have given the plot his stamp of approval and it had been essentially completed when the roof caved in.
Donenfeld was gone and Carmine Infantino, citing fears of a Southern backlash, abruptly killed the story. Giordano, in CBA # 1, recalled, "The cover was already done and printed so it had to have 'Jericho' in the title and something to do with the action on the cover."
Ultimately, Neal Adams rushed out an entirely new script and pencils featuring a caucasian hero named Joshua but only after his rewrite over the original pencils had been rejected. "At that point," commented Wolfman in CBA # 1, "we all understood that it wasn't being killed because of bad writing, but because it had a black super-hero in it."
Much of the art for the original story, described as some of Nick Cardy's best work, still exists (published in CBA # 1 and 5) but DC's first black costumed hero remains in limbo. Significantly for a company whose writers love to revive obscure characters, substitute hero Joshua has never been seen again (outside of a reprint in 1981's Best of DC # 18).
Instead, Bob Kanigher got the opportunity to introduce DC's first African-American Titan, a slum kid named Mal Duncan (late 1969's Teen Titans # 26, illustrated by Cardy). Due to the events of TT # 25, the Titans were restricted to operating in generic uniforms without their powers. Impressed that Mal could hold his own beside them, the team invited him to join them. Mal successfully passed a survival training course but he felt out of place alongside the other teens.
His inferiority complex would continue through a succession of writers for the duration of the book's original run (ending with # 43 in 1972) though a solo story in # 35 finally enabled Mal to truly feel that he was a Titan when he defeated the Gargoyle.
Elsewhere, barely a month after Mal's debut, an elderly black man was speaking these words in a Star City slum:
"I been reading about you ... how you work for the blue skins ... and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins ... and you done considerable for the purple skins. Only there's skins you never bothered with ... the black skins. I want to know ... how come ?! Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!"
His head hung down, Hal Jordan choked, "I ... can't ..."
Those three panels, written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by Neal Adams, were destined to become some of the most famous in comic book history. They heralded the beginning of big change at DC as social revelevancy suddenly began to capture the attention of the creative community, the media and the fans (if not necessarily the public at large).
In the case of Green Lantern, it was a life-changing moment, one that forced him to ask, "So tell me ... how do I help ?"
"I'm no advice committee ... If you want to bad enough, you'll find a way. And you know," the old man said as he put his arm on Hal's shoulder, "I think you do want to."
The remainder of "No Evil Shall Escape My Sight" (Green Lantern # 76) focused on Green Lantern's attempt to expose a corrupt slumlord and found the Emerald Gladiator taken to task by the Guardians of the Universe.
Appalled by what he was hearing, Green Arrow interjected, "Listen ... forget about chasing around the galaxy ... and remember America ... it's a good country ... beautiful ... fertile ... and terribly sick! There are children dying ... honest people cowering in fear ... disillusioned kids ripping up campuses ...
As images of King and Kennedy appeared behind him, he continued, "On the streets of Memphis, a good black man died ... and in Los Angeles, a good white man fell ... Something is wrong! Something is killing us all ...! Some hideous moral cancer is rotting our very souls!"
"Green Lantern/Green Arrow" was underway and comics would never be the same again.
Nor was this the only title generating excitement at DC in 1970. By the end of the year, Jack Kirby would be gone from Marvel and producing a series of titles for their biggest competitor.
It was Kirby who would introduce DC's first black super-hero, a magnetic- powered New God in blue and green named Vykin the Black, in late 1970's Forever People # 1. Vykin even managed to outdo his four teammates in one respect, starring in a two-page solo strip one year later in New Gods # 7.
Kirby would, in fact, introduce a black character into each of his initial four titles for DC, the best known of whom is certainly the Black Racer. Neither good nor evil, he was a bizarre angel of death who seemed to be an alternative take on Jack's earlier Silver Surfer, now recast as a knight in red and blue armor on crimson skis. In 1971's New Gods # 3, he merged with paralyzed Vietnam vet Willie Walker and showed up two more times during Kirby's run on New Gods (# 8 and 11). He even made an appearance in the non-Kirby Lois Lane # 115.
First to be introduced, though, was Flipper Dipper, a new addition to the modern Newsboy Legion in 1970's Jimmy Olsen # 133. Dressed in scuba gear, Flipper Dipper was a hip-talking attempt at providing a bit of diversity to the Legion's all-white roster. Mercifully, his name was eventually abbreviated to Flip, effective with JO # 145.
Shilo Norman came on the scene relatively late in the game in 1973's Mister Miracle # 15. He was a teenager who'd witnessed his brother's murder and was now in the protective custody of Scott (Mister Miracle) Free and Big Barda while the police continued their investigation. Impressed by Shilo's attempt to capture the murderers on his own and concerned about his future, the couple offered to train him.
"Have you taken a good look at me?" Shilo asked.
"Yes," Scott replied. "I see me -- as I once was ... trying to escape to anywhere."
"And I helped him do it," Barda added. "I couldn't fail him. I won't fail you, Shilo. You see ... I once lost a friend who couldn't ... escape."
Shilo remained a part of Mister Miracle's extended family until the end of the run (# 18) before entering a long period in limbo. He briefly resurfaced in 1990-1991's Mister Miracle (second series) # 21-28 as a third-generation Mister Miracle.
And then there was Soul Love, a magazine-style title that grew out of Kirby's rejected proposal, True Divorce Cases. As Mark Evanier explained in 1997's Jack Kirby Collector # 17, "there was one story in it about a black couple, and somehow this evolved into a new comic. ... We did three more stories; the idea was we took one story out of True Divorce Cases, so we didn't do two complete books; one story was common to both books. Jack wrote most of it. We got him copies of Ebony for reference, and it was some of his best art of the period. He sent it in; the first thing he got back was negative feedback that DC didn't feel they could market it unless the book was done by black writers and artists. They were talking about putting a pseudonym on it."
Although DC continued to tinker with the material, including commissioning Vince Colletta to retouch the art, the project was ultimately abandoned. Assessing the material in Jack Kirby Collector # 23, editor John Morrow admitted that it "leaves much to be desired."
"Lacking a narrator (a device that at least gave Jack's other 'adult' publications a personality)," Morrow continued, "Soul Love's stories are generically introduced with an attempt at 'hip' dialect that comes across as horribly forced; and while the underlying, universal message of love in these romance tales should theoretically transcend all racial boundaries, Kirby just didn't seem to have enough 'soul' to pull them off convincingly. As True Divorce epitomizes Jack's finest work, Soul Love just draws more attention to his stilted dialogue, and stands as some of his worst."
By and large, though, Jack Kirby's published contributions have stood the test of time fairly well. One can nitpick about the emphasis on their color in names like the Black Racer and Vykin the Black or Flipper Dipper's nickname and speech patterns but these characteristics weren't unique to Kirby creations. To his credit, he treated their skin color as incidental to the stories he was telling.
One need only look at Lois Lane # 106's "I Am Curious -- Black" (1970) to get an indication of just how embarrassing social commentary could be. In the story (by Bob Kanigher, Werner Roth and Vince Colletta), Lois headed to Metropolis' Little Africa to get "the nitty-gritty no newspaper ever printed" and found herself virtually shut out. The attitude was exemplified by activist Dave Stevens, who pointed at Lois and warned the crowd, "Never forget ... she's whitey!"
"She'll let us shine her shoes and sweep her floors. And baby-sit for her kids. But she doesn't want to let our kids into her lily-white schools. It's okay with her if we leave these rat-infested slums. If we don't move next door to her! That's why she's our enemy!"
Determined to prove Stevens wrong, Lois asked Superman to use Kryptonian technology to transform her into a black woman. Back in Metropolis, Lois experienced racism first hand, watching as a cab driver she'd previously regarded as a friend ignored her in favor of a white passenger.
Lois befriended Stevens, who was soon gunned down when he intervened in a drug transaction. As in Kanigher's earlier Jackie Johnson story, Lois conveniently had the same type of blood as Dave and offered to make a donation to save his life. In a wordless final page, an astonished Stevens smiled and clasped Lois's hand in friendship as he realized that a white woman had saved his life.
Much has been made of the fact that Kanigher's title for the story was inspired by a then-current x-rated film, "I Am Curious (Yellow" (which he had -- and has -- never seen), but his real inspiration was another movie, 1964's "Black Like Me." That film had been an adaptation of white journalist JohnHoward Griffin's book about posing as a black man in the South during 1959.
Though heavy-handed and simplistic (as in the implication that all African- Americans in Metropolis existed at poverty-level in a slum), the story was well-received at the time, with editor E. Nelson Bridwell reporting in Lois Lane # 109 that "we got some nice responses in other media ... including a mention on the Dick Cavett show."
Bridwell, Kanigher and company followed with a sequel in 1971's Lois Lane # 114 that included a two-page spread featuring historical black figures. Less shrill than the earlier story, the issue concluded with Dave Stevens being hired as "the first black columnist on the (Daily) Planet."
Along with his girl friend Tina Ames, Stevens would return in LL # 116 and 119 and continued to make recurring appearances throughout the decade, ending with non-speaking roles in 1979's Superman # 337 and 338.
Later in 1970, Mike Sekowsky featured an African-American college football player at the center of "Johnny Dee -- Hero-Bum," a Supergirl story in which the character's race was irrelevant to the plot (Adventure # 399). Here, gamblers tried to coerce Johnny into throwing the big game by threatening his girl friend. In a harrowing sequence early in the story, Johnny and Roxie were jumped by strangers in Klan-like hoods who whipped the young woman to make their point.
Although Johnny proved to be a one-shot, DC was striving mightily to establish a bit of racial diversity in its Superman stories. With the notable exception of the Lois Lane episodes, they generally managed to pull it off without overtly calling attention to the characters' skin color.
Only a few months after Dave Stevens met Lois Lane, a "World of Krypton" story in late 1970's Superman # 234 casually revealed that blacks existed on the seemingly all-white world of Kal-El's birth. A map of Krypton in issue # 239 formally established the existence of "Vathlo Island -- home of highly developed black race." When asked why they hadn't been seen previously, E. Nelson Bridwell explained (in # 238), "Remember -- you see blacks in the U.S. because their ancestors were brought here as slaves. That never happened on Krypton."
Regrettably, DC never developed Vathlo Island beyond that. It was, therefore, a bit surprising to see a black Kryptonian (the interestingly-named "Iph-Ro of Vathlo") surface in the very recent "Return To Krypton" arc (Superman: The Man of Steel # 111).
In 1971's Superman # 246, Len Wein decided to flesh out Clark Kent's supporting cast by introducing several of neighbors at 344 Clinton Street. Among them were two African-American men, Jonathan Slaughter (revealed in Action # 430 to be a karate expert) and doorman Frank Jackson.
Slaughter made only infrequent visits to the series, the last in 1984's Superman # 393, but Frank logged exactly two dozen appearances, concluding with 1985's Superman # 413. One of the most memorable was in a Bob Rozakis tale in 1981's Superman Family # 215, which revealed that Jackson had been a groundbreaking black baseball player in the 1940s.
In the post-Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen, writer John Albano and editor Joe Orlando introduced an African-American policeman named Corrigan who appeared in # 149, 150 and 152 (1972) before being promoted to detective in # 163 (1973). His final team-up with Jimmy was in 1974's Superman Family # 167.
Initial reports in the fan press gave the police officer an unusual heritage, with The Comic Reader # 80 (1971) and 82 (1972) asserting that he was to be the son of the Earth-One Jim and Clarice (misidentified as "Claire") Corrigan. Whether this was truly Albano and Orlando's intention or not, the parentage was never referred to in the comic book. Nonetheless, it fueled rumors that the young Corrigan was going to be killed and become a second-generation Spectre.
That turn of events never occurred but Tony Isabella made a nod to it by giving him the first name of Jim when he revived the officer in 1977's Black Lightning # 4. Corrigan made a few more appearances in Lightning (# 7-9) and showed up for the last time in 1979's World's Finest # 260.
Over in the Cary Bates-scripted Lois Lane # 121 (1971), the reporter was grieving the loss of her sister when she was befriended by an African-American woman named Julie Spence. After helping Julie locate her missing parents, Lois decided to share an apartment with her. Julie managed to be a fairly resourceful person, schooled in the martial arts and capable of defending herself. By contrast, Lois and Julie's other roommates were pure cliche -- the fat girl (with the unfortunate name of Marsha Mallow) and the girl with a secret (Kristin Cutler). After an active role in her first two appearances, Julie was reduced to cameos for # 123-130.
The dorm neighbors cast as Linda Danvers' neighbors in 1972's Supergirl # 1, African-American Terry Blake (seen in # 1-5) and Asian student Sheila Wong were pure tokens, though. Still, they at least managed to get names, unlike Diana Prince's Asian and black roommates in Wonder Woman # 204-206.
Even Lois Lane's back-up strip, "Rose and The Thorn," included a story on African-American Congresswoman Sylvia Charlton (based on Shirley Chisholm) in issue # 126's episode (by Kanigher and Don Heck).
The last of the new blood was another Kanigher creation, WGBS newscaster Melba Manton. She made her debut in a four-page solo story (illustrated by Art Saaf and Vince Colletta) wherein she risked her life to save an innocent fugitive from being shot by the police. The series was intended to replace "Rose and the Thorn" beginning with Lois Lane # 131 (1973) but plans for the back-up were scuttled and the only two episodes prepared ended up in LL # 132 and Supergirl # 6.
Melba still managed to debut in Lois Lane # 131, albeit as part of the supporting cast in the lead story. She went on to join Lois in # 133 and 135-137, making sporadic appearances in Superman-related titles through 1977's Superman Family # 188.
By comparison, the Batman titles offered little in the way of racial diversity although, to be fair, few supporting characters were added to the series in general during that period. Still the introduction of African-American scientist Harris Blaine in 1972's momentous final Ra's al Ghul trilogy (Batman # 242-244) is well worth noting. Denny O'Neil revived Blaine at the end of the year in issue # 247 but the doctor didn't appear again until he was murdered in Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham's 1987 graphic novel, Batman: Son of The Demon.
Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano's Green Lantern # 87 (1971) offered a somewhat more sophisticated spin on race relations than "I Am Curious" had done. Herein, Hal Jordan was instructed to find an alternate Green Lantern when his previous back-up, Guy Gardner, was injured. The new recruit was an unemployed architect named John Stewart who, in Hal's opinion, "has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Rock of Gilbraltar." To test Stewart's mettle, Hal deliberately assigned him to protect a racist Presidential candidate who, in the end, was exposed in his attempt to stage an assassination attempt and blame it on blacks.
In an interview in 1996's Comic Book Marketplace # 40, Neal Adams took credit for John Stewart's skin color. The suggestion was said to have come about after learning from editor Julius Schwartz that an alternate Green Lantern episode was in the works. Given the population of the world, he argued that "we ought to have a black Green Lantern, not because we're liberals, but because it just makes sense."
"But then the script came in," Adams continued, "and I found the guy's name was Hannibal Lincoln, or Lincoln Washington, or something like that. I thought how 'comic book' of us. Why don't we give him a regular name ? How about John Stewart ? He's an architect who's out of work. That was a change I never heard Denny object to."
The story is dated today, with its central character the soon-to-be-cliched jive-talking angry young black man. Still, O'Neil provided a bit more balance than the Lois Lane episode, refusing to allow John Stewart's insults and opinions to go entirely unchallenged. Hal Jordan granted him his points but refused to be addressed as "Whitey," observing "something in that reminds me of that bit about 'He who is without sin' casting 'the first stone.'"
Stewart returned for Christmas 1973 in Justice League of America # 110. Well-known fan Duffy Vohland had suggested to JLA writer Len Wein that using John might make a nice change of pace and Len agreed, incapitating Hal Jordan on page four and requiring his alternate to take charge of the ring.
In a clever bit at the conclusion of the story, Stewart used his emerald power to reconstruct a housing project after it's destroyed. "It's against the Green Lantern's code to use the power ring to give these folks new housing -- so I just used it to reconstruct the old buildings the instant they were destroyed -- minus the roaches, rats, collapsing ceilings and such ..."
Stewart made infrequent guest appearances in the 1970s and early 1980s (notably Green Lantern # 94-95 & 164-165 and JLA Annual # 1) before Wein made him a major player as Hal Jordan's successor in 1984's GL # 182. After a career peak with starring roles in Green Lantern: Mosaic (1992-1993) and Darkstars (1994-1995), Stewart has settled into the role of supporting player in the current GL series.
More subtle than either the Dave Stevens or John Stewart episodes was an eight-page piece by Bob Haney and Neal Adams from Our Army At War # 240 entitled "Another Time, Another Place." Published one month after GL # 87, it featured a racially diverse trio of soldiers (one black, one white, one Asian) in the future who were retaliating against an unseen alien foe who'd killed one of their patrols.
As the story concluded, an alien representative prevented the soldiers from unleashing a super-weapon and revealed that the earlier killings were an error ("We believed they were alien monsters."). Striding from his spacecraft, the extraterrestrial was revealed as a humanoid black man, "an alien adversary with the capabilities of destroying himself ... and -- the universe. Just like us!"
That same month, Bob Kanigher added a radical twist to the origin of Wonder Woman in issue # 204 of her title (illustrated by Don Heck). Swiftly undoing the plainclothes Diana Prince take on the series, Kanigher restored the Amazing Amazon's long lost powers only to have her claim to the Wonder Woman title opposed by a mysterious armored woman. Once Princess Diana had defeated her rival, the stranger unmasked as a black woman named Nubia, "Wonder Woman of the Floating Island" and leader of a tribe of apparently all-male warriors.
Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta, seemed to suspect the secret of the mysterious warrior and felt compelled to give her a personal goodbye in WW # 205's Nubia back-up. At the story's end, Nubia privately admitted, "I feel as if I've been lonely since the day I was born ... so long ago ... I can remember no mother ... no father -- Did Queen Hippolyte sense that ? Is that why she embraced me ? Because she took pity on an orphan ... lonely as a star ?"
The answer came in issue # 206's "War of the Wonder Women," which revealed that Diana and Nubia were sisters, both molded from clay at the same time by Hippolyte. Nubia, however, had kidnapped at birth by the war god Mars, who intended to make her his "instrument of vengeance against the Amazons." In a final conflict with her new-found sister, Diana realized that Nubia was being controlled by a ring that Mars had placed on her finger. Once it was removed, his control evaporated.
Nubia made a return visit to the Amazons in the Kanigher-edited Supergirl # 9 (1973) but spent most of the issue unconscious while Supergirl struggled to save her life from a deadly poison. After Kanigher's departure, DC opted to ignore the origin revision and, aside from a guest-spot in 1979's Super Friends # 25, she never appeared again.
Only recently, however, the character made a return as Nu'bia, the isolated Amazon guardian of the Tartarus Gate (1999's WW Annual # 8 and 2000's WW # 154-155). This time, of course, there were no sisterly ties to bind her to Diana.
Meanwhile, change had also quietly made its way into DC's romance and humor books. Although recurring characters were largely gone from the romance titles by that point, African-Americans now frequently appeared in the episodic stories. Some tales, in fact, were reprints from the 1950s and 1960s, with the characters redrawn to create a black cast.
Late in 1970, Sheldon Mayer introduced Raymond Smith, an African-American infant, into Sugar and Spike with # 94. As indicated by the cover, in which Spike and Raymond had swapped strollers to fool their respective mother and aunt, the story revolved around mistaken identity. The two boys began trading clothes in a performance of oneupsmanship that soon escalated into a confusing state of affairs that had Sugar and Spike's parents and Raymond's aunt (neighbor Mrs. Schofield) thoroughly confused. Raymond returned in a solo story in # 97 that involved him helping an angel find his place in Heaven.
1971 also found three African-Americans introduced into DC's teen triumverate, Binky, Date With Debbi and Swing With Scooter. Teenagers Big Sonny and Ossie appeared in a variety of one-page gags as did youngster Li'l Leroy. The final issue of Binky (# 81) featured a five-page Leroy episode plus a lead story in which Binky acquired a pint-size black guardian angel with the serial number of P66.
Sonny (minus the "Big" prefix) reappeared in a one-pager in 1977's Binky # 82 and made a final hilarious bow in 1985's "Whatever Happened to Binky?" page in Ambush Bug # 3. There, he snarled "Don't hassle me, man. I was just a token in that book. I took the money an' I walked through a coupla panels."
The DC war titles had seen black recurring characters of their own introduced in 1970. Healer Randolph (first referred to in the letter column of 1965's Tomahawk # 97) was belatedly written into the book as a Revolutionary War-era freed slave in early 1970's Tomahawk # 128 (by Bob Kanigher and Frank Thorne). Having proven his worth to his former owner, Doctor Randolph, Healer was placed with Tomahawk's Rangers when locals refused to accept treatment from a so-called "witch doctor." After the usual series of trials, Healer saved the life of an Indian chief's son and won over Wildcat, his harshest critic among the Rangers.
Healer remained in the series through # 130, after which it leaped forward in time to chronicle the adventures of Tomahawk's son. Randolph appeared for the last time in a one-panel flashback in # 134.
Joe Kubert's Unknown Soldier series debuted in Star-Spangled War Stories # 151 one month after Tomahawk # 128 and included a French resistance leader codenamed Chat Noir (Black Cat) among its cast. The black freedom fighter (alias Steve Robinson) remained a recurring figure in the strip for virtually its entire run, becoming a particular favorite of writer Bob Haney. In the last episode of the series (1982's Unknown Soldier # 268), Chat Noir was shown being killed by Nazis on April 29, 1945. Outside of a brief wartime flashback in 1989's Unknown Soldier # 6, he hasn't appeared since.
In early 1973, Archie Goodwin and Sam Glanzman embarked on an ambitious four-part adventure in G.I. Combat # 159-162 in which the savage spirit of Alaric the Goth would imperil the crew of the Haunted Tank and its ghostly guardian, General J.E.B. Stuart. Tossed into the mix was an African-American P.O.W. named Gus Gray.
Gray, we'd learn in his debut in # 160, had been a celebrated athlete in the 1936 Olympics alongside Jesse Owens but lost his medals in a scandal. The so-called "Gray Ghost" had allegedly "made some deal with a sports equipment manufacturer while the games were still on." Then, as now, Gray refused to comment.
The Haunted Tank's crew discovered Gus and another escaped prisoner within Nazi-occupied territory and were soon informed that Gray had collaborated with his captors. In truth, it was Gus' fellow prisoner who was the Nazi spy and, unrepentant, he confessed everything even as he died from machine gun wounds.
After repairing the Tank in a crisis situation, Gus came to be regarded as "a mechanical wizard" and admitted that he'd fallen back on his passion for automobiles after the Olympic scandal (# 161). Gus' arrival was soon overshadowed by tragedy when the crew's veteran loader Arch Asher was killed (# 162).
Gus remained a part of the series from that point on, even appearing in a single solo story in 1978's G.I. Combat # 207. Since the series concluded in late 1986 (GIC # 288), Gus has been unseen, with the handful of stories dealing with the Tank preferring to focus on the original crew.
Archie Goodwin also contributed another black character to DC before his departure for Warren Publishing. Kolu Mbeya, a Nairobi-based arms manufacturer, supplied Paul Kirk with his weapons in Goodwin and Walt Simonson's celebrated "Manhunter" series (as seen in 1974's Detective # 440) and returned for the climactic battle with the Council in issue # 443.
Up to that point, DC's black characters had been almost exclusively positive, admirable figures. Even African-American mutant-turned-activist Johnny Dune in the Mike Friedrich-scripted JLA # 95 (1971) had simply been misguided and resolved to direct his resources in a non-violent direction after his powers evaporated. Young writer-artist Howard Chaykin changed that in 1973's futuristic Ironwolf series.
In Weird Worlds # 8 and 9 (scripted by Denny O'Neil), he introduced the vampiric Omikel, a black man who was the leader of the Blood Legion and a highly-regarded confidante of the series villainess Empress Erika Klein- Hernandez. Omikel and Ironwolf's first battle, a sword duel in # 9, ended in a stalemate and the series was discontinued before a rematch could occur. The vampire eventually returned in 1992's Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution, now a purple-skinned being whose origins as a black man were no longer obvious.
In the spring of 1974, Len Wein added an African-American named Jefferson Bolt to the cast of Swamp Thing with issue # 11 (illustrated by Nestor Redondo). In a hidden sanctuary called New Eden, Bolt crossed paths with Swamp Thing's pursuers Matt Cable and Abby Arcane and suffered a personal tragedy when his girl friend was murdered by Professor Zachary Nail. Swamp Thing prevented Bolt from avenging himself on the killer and the grieving man spent the next two issues hunting the creature to settle the score. The subplot was resolved in Wein's final issue (# 13), wherein Bolt, Cable and Arcane came to terms with their anger upon learning that Swamp Thing was really the supposedly-slain Alec Holland.
Bolt continued to appear in David Michelinie's tenure on the book (# 15-18), almost exclusively playing the role of hostage. In his final appearance (the Gerry Conway-scripted ST # 19-20), he was having misgivings about continuing to track Swamp Thing and wondered if it would be more merciful to kill the tragic creature. Today, Jefferson Bolt is virtually forgotten, a state of affairs that would likely have been different had he debuted during the oft- reprinted run (ST # 1-10) that was drawn by Berni Wrightson.
Also in early 1974, Michael Fleisher introduced perhaps the most persistent adversary of Jonah Hex's life in the form of Quentin Turnbull (Weird Western Tales # 22). He was a rich plantation owner who was convinced that Hex had murdered his son during the Civil War. Much of Turnbull's surveillance of Hex was coordinated by his black servant Solomon, as much a slave in the post-war era as he had been previously.
The story culminated in a two-parter in 1975's WWT # 29-30 that flashed back to the Civil War and painted an ugly picture of the treatment of African-Americans, in word and deed, during that shameful era. Solomon, however, remained loyal to Turnbull, holding a gun on Hex and insisting that "at heart, he be a good man." The first direct confrontation between the two adversaries ended with Turnbull grievously injured but he and Solomon would return again and again. Despite his own misgivings over Hex's guilt in the matter, Solomon remained loyal to the end. His final appearance in the series was in Jonah Hex # 76 (1983).
The subject of slavery also figured into Hex's companion series, "Scalphunter," including a sequence with a Klan-like group in Weird Western # 40 (1977). A black shaman named Wakame befriended Scalphunter in # 41 and returned during a second anti-slavery sequence in # 47-48.
In a far lighter vein, Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti's tongue-in-cheek Green Team (1975's 1st Issue Special # 2) told the story of how the group of boy millionaires got its first African-American member, shoe shine boy Abdul Smith. After being rejected for membership by the Millionaire's Club, Smith approached the Green Team, who told him to come back "when you get a million." A clerical error accidentally put $500,000 dollars in Abdul's bank account and he made a killing on the stock exhange with the money before the screw-up was corrected.
If not for the tone of the story, one might well be insulted by the implication that an African-American could only be a millionaire because of a computer glitch. As it is, the plot development worked as a neat bit of wish-fulfillment for any kid and the description of the adult Millionaire's Club ("a minority group, considered by many to be shiftless and non-productive") was worth a chuckle.
A more substantial African-American had been introduced one month earlier in Denny O'Neil's Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter # 1. The story recounted the transformation of thief Richard Dragon into a benevolent master of the martial arts following an encounter with the O-Sensei and his black student Benjamin Turner.
Ben was a master in his own right and seemed fated to become Richard's co-star in the series. Instead, he seemed to have become a symbol of bad luck. A bullet in the leg sidelined him after # 3, leaving the door open for the ascendance of Lady Shiva in # 5-8. Further tragedy came with the murders of Ben's sister (# 10) and girl friend (# 15) and a near-death experience when he was poisoned (# 13-14). In the last issue, Ben was brainwashed into becoming a costumed fighter known as the Bronze Tiger (# 18 in 1977).
It was as the Bronze Tiger that Ben would achieve lasting fame but only after a stint as a villain against both Batman (Detective Comics # 485, 489) and Richard himself (DC Comics Presents# 39). The Bronze Tiger was revived in 1986's Legends # 2-6 as part of the new Suicide Squad and has continued to make sporadic appearances since its cancellation.
Late in 1975, Mike Grell introduced a black warrior named Machiste in the second issue of his new Warlord series and quickly cemented him as Travis Morgan's best friend in Skartaris. They parted company at the beginning of # 5 but were reunited in # 7, by which point Morgan had been joined by Russian archeologist Mariah Romanova.
They discovered that Machiste was now in the thrall of a demonic axe that had enabled him to subjugate his native kingdom of Kiro. Unable to find any other way to separate Machiste from the blade, Morgan was forced to sever his friend's right hand. The spell was broken -- but at a terrible cost. In Warlord # 8, Machiste had his armorers place a spiked mace where his hand had been.
Mariah's hopes of a romantic relationship with Travis Morgan were dashed in # 15 (1978) when he was reunited with his wife, Tara. Machiste agonized for Mariah as well but wasn't ready to act on his unrequited love for her. That development would come in issue # 28, when Machiste followed the mystically-abducted Mariah into the distant past, first admitting to Tara that "I love her."
As a delighted Mariah confessed, "I'm so glad you came," Machiste kissed her, vowing, "I don't intend to ever let you out of my sight again!"
Machiste, usually with Mariah, remained a recurring player in Warlord right up to its final issue (# 133) in 1988. The couple was last seen in Grell's six-issue 1992 Warlord mini-series.
Even before his depiction of an interracial romance, Grell had been challenging the perceptions of readers. In issue # 8, for instance, Travis Morgan's belief that Kiro was "a black kingdom" was greeted with this response from Machiste:
"Why ? Because my skin is black ? We are a nation of many races -- I just happen to be king, that's all. I don't know how it is in your country, but here we judge a man by his merits, not the color of his skin. I'm not going to hold it against you that yours lacks the proper pigmentation."
Recalling his mid-1970s run on Legion of Super-Heroes in Comics Scene # 9 (1983), Grell said that "I did one particular story where the character was rather undefined. I read it over and said, 'Why not ? There must be a few surviving black people in the 30th Century.'" The episode in question was apparently "The Rookie Who Betrayed the Legion" (Superboy # 207), which involved a police officer who found himself indebted to the villain Universo.
"So, I drew this Science Police officer as a black man and turned the comic in," Grell continued. "and (editor) Murray Boltinoff almost had apoplexy. 'You can't do that, this guy is black! You're going to have to change him.' Why ? 'You can't do that because there's something negative in that character.' He was an ordinary man who could make mistakes; Murray felt that would make the character appear weak. I took the story back to ink and was angry enough to make it obvious that he was a black man colored pink."
Grell eventually added a bit of diversity to the Legion by illustrating the first three appearances of their first black member, Tyroc, in 1976's Superboy # 216, 218 and 222 (scripted by Cary Bates) and designing the character of Dawnstar, an American Indian for issue # 226. He also provided their first black villainess, Quicksand, in issues # 223-224.
Tyroc was endowed with sonic powers and wore a white costume which, like most of Grell's other character designs of the period, showed a lot of skin. The character was also billed as "The Hero Who Hated The Legion," based on the fact that they'd supposedly ignored his all-black nation of Marzal. The Legion ultimately convinced Tyroc otherwise, with the team insisting that "when it comes to race, we're color-blind. Blue skin, yellow skin, green skin ... we're brothers and sisters ... united in the name of justice everywhere."
Incoming writer Paul Levitz, who joined the series with issue # 225, found the whole premise to be appalling, something he elaborated on years later in 1982's Legion of Super-Heroes # 297.
"By the thirtieth century, I believe racial problems will be a thing of the past ... If not, I rather doubt that there ever will be a thirtieth century. For that reason, I found Tyroc's origin (as a character who came from an island of blacks who had formed a separatist state to avoid prejudice) anachronistic, as was the scene in that issue where all the Legionnaires pointed to their skin colors to show they weren't prejudiced (see -- we have green, blue and orange people)."
Levitz eventually created his own black Legionnaire, Jacques (Invisible Kid) Foccart, in LSH Annual 1982's # 1, but emphasized in issue # 297 that he "was introduced not for the sake of his color, but as a hopefully interesting character, with a French accent because of his origin on the Ivory Coast of Africa, where the French have taken great pains to help their language live on."
Gerry Conway and J.M. DeMatteis eventually addressed some of the objectionable points about Tyroc's origin by establishing Marzal as a Brigadoon-like island that only materialized on Earth for brief intervals but they wrote Tyroc out of the Legion in the same story (1980's LSH # 265). Tyroc's only substantial role after that was in the dark 2995-era, from 1991's LSH # 16 to 1994's Valor # 22.
1976 saw several other developments beyond the creation of Tyroc. Years before Mariah and Machiste, Gerry Conway and Walt Simonson began to set up a romance between the Metal Men's Doc Magnus and his African-American physical therapist, Isobel Sullivan. Her debut in Metal Men # 45 made broad hints that a relationship existed, including body language and Magnus' awkward reference to her as "my -- ah -- companion," but Conway's quick departure from the book left the situation unresolved. New writer Martin Pasko used Isobel through # 50 before abandoning the character.
Conway also created DC's first official African-American costumed villain in the form of the Black Spider, a vigilante who aspired to be a hero like Batman but was far more ruthless in his actions. Eric Needham was a former drug-addict who'd returned in the purple body suit of the Black Spider to kill Gotham's drug dealers in Detective Comics # 463 and 464 (art by Ernie Chan & Frank McLaughlin). The Black Spider seemed to perish at the end of the first two-parter but Conway revived him in 1978's Batman # 306 to complete the origin. The character was killed in 1992's Shadow of The Bat # 5 but there's evidence in Sandman # 57 & 59 and Underworld Unleashed # 1 to suggest that he may still be around.
And lastly in 1976, there was Mal Duncan, revived as part of August's revival of Teen Titans with issue # 44 (co-written by Paul Levitz and Bob Rozakis). Mal's old inferiority complex was still in evidence and he was regarded as so ineffectual that Doctor Light ignored him when he abducted the other Titans in the story.
Aware that the fate of the team now rested on his shoulders, Mal ransacked the Titans' trophy room in search of a means of becoming a super-hero. He came up with a strength-inducing exo-skeleton (from Batman # 192) and a replica of the costume of Golden Age hero, the Guardian (later revealed to belong to the hero's nephew, Roy (Speedy) Harper).
As the new Guardian, Mal managed to free his teammates and defeat Light but he reverted back to his orange jumpsuit in TT # 45. According to Rozakis, new editor Julius Schwartz "didn't like the idea of Mal running around looking like an old minor league Golden Age hero." Consequently, the Titan was killed in an explosion but (believe it or not) won a boxing match with the Angel of Death and returned to Earth with the Horn of Gabriel, a celestial artifact that would enable him to "even up the sides in any fight."
Mal eventually took the identity of the Hornblower (with a costume designed by fan Dave Elyea) for all of six pages in TT # 49 only to switch back to his Guardian duds on the final page. It seems that Gabriel's Horn had been stolen. In the Nov. 27, 2000 edition of his on-line Silver Bullet Comics column, Bob Rozakis explained that he "had plans to have Mal discover who had taken it. In fact, it was to have been Mal himself who had hidden the shofar, subconsciously wanting to give up being a superhero."
Upon seeing an armored African-American hero in the line-up of 1980's New Teen Titans, many readers jumped to the conclusion that it was Mal in yet another costumed identity. As they'd soon learn, Cyborg was a brand new hero, one destined to be far more recognized and successful than Mal ever was.
Mal returned for Donna Troy's wedding in 1984's Tales of the Teen Titans # 50 and again as the Herald in 1989's Secret Origins Annual # 3. He's continued to make periodic cameos right up to the present.
While Mal was taking the guise of the Guardian, plans were afoot to create DC's first African-American super-hero in a starring role. In 1976, Marvel had three series featuring black costumed heroes (Black Goliath, Jungle Action (with Black Panther) and Power Man) and DC wanted an African-American super-hero of their own in the worst way. They nearly got their wish.
The Black Bomber was another Bob Kanigher creation, this one slated to appear as part of editor Gerry Conway's stable of comics. Kanigher described the series in The Comics Journal # 85 (1983):
"A white Archie Bunker by day, a longshoreman with all the racial and social prejudices, with a white girlfriend; and a black super-hero at night, with a black girlfriend. A white and black Jekyll and Hyde. I took great care in a quasi-scientific explanation for the change in pigmentation. Naturally, neither side of the character was aware of the other. ... It would have been DC's first black super-hero. I wanted to call it Black and White."
Discussing the scripts in The Comics Buyer's Guide # 921 (1991) and 1093 (1994), Tony Isabella elaborated further:
"The Bomber was this racist soldier who participated in biological camouflage experiments during the Vietnam war. He was given drugs to enable him to blend in to the jungles of Southeastern Asia. However, the test yielded no discernable effects and was pronounced a failure. America lost the war, and the Bomber came home. But now, in times of stress, the soldier's body would undergo an incredible change. He would transform into a figure of super-human strength."
In the two completed scripts that Isabella read, the Bomber would unwittingly rescue black people and then express disgust at his actions. In his civilian identity, "he was unaware of his Black Bomber persona and could not possibly learn anything from his experiences as a black man in our society. The Bomber was equally oblivious to his (civilian) persona. Only his girlfriends -- each had one -- knew of the transformations."
The final insult was the Bomber's costume. It looked like a basketball uniform.
Followed Conway's departure for Marvel, Isabella was approached by Paul Levitz to try and salvage the character. Horrified, Isabella suggested that an entirely new hero would be preferable. The end result was Black Lightning, created in collaboration with young artist Trevor Von Eedon, which became one of DC's major launches in early 1977.
Equipped with a force-field belt that enabled him to generate lighting bolts, Black Lightning was secretly high school teacher Jefferson Pierce. In a nice touch, he played to the era's stereotypical perception of African-Americans by affecting a hip-talking speech pattern as Black Lightning and wearing a mask/wig combination that gave him a big afro, simple devices that deflected suspicion from a well-educated school teacher.
Beyond the quality of Isabella and Von Eedon's work, notably the impressive first eight issues that comprised the character's full origin, Black Lightning also gave DC a highly visible symbol that they weren't a stodgy, white-bread company.
Whether by coincidence or design, 1977 saw a succession of new black characters introduced into the DC line on a monthly basis after the release of Black Lightning # 1 in January.
In February and April, hitman Pulsar (secretly middle-class husband and father Benjamin Day) clashed with Karate Kid in KK # 8 and 9.
In March, Mal's girl friend, Karen Beecher became the Bumblebee (the Bob Rozakis- scripted Teen Titans # 48), eventually joining the team in # 49. In an indication of the mindset of the times, Rozakis recalls that Len Wein was lobbying to name the heroine the Black Bumblebee.
In April, an Aquaman foe first seen in 1967 finally removed his helmet in Adventure Comics # 452, asking his nemesis, "Have you never wondered why I'm called -- Black Manta ?"
Manta was accompanied by several black soldiers, intent on conquering the underwater colony of the Idylists and "make the city's occupants my army."
"Not that racism is my motive -- there's no profit in prejudice -- but since blacks have been suppressed for so long on the surface, they fight well for a chance to be 'masters' below."
Both the Pulsar and Black Manta stories had been scripted by David Michelinie, who continued his string of African-American characters in May. In Men of War # 1, he introduced Gravedigger, a black soldier named Ulysses Hazard in World War Two. Racism resulted in Hazard being prohibited from combat and assigned to the graveyard detail. Realizing that the exceptional physical skills he'd developed over a lifetime were being wasted, Hazard went AWOL and made an appeal to high-ranking officials in Washington. Now a so-called "one-man commando unit," Gravedigger went on to headline the entire 26 issue run of Men of War, which ended in December of 1979. Ironically, despite his status as DC's second African-American hero to headline his own comic book, Gravedigger has made virtually no appearances in the last two decades aside from his entry in 1985's Who's Who # 9.
May also saw the debut of DC's latest African-American super-hero. Tempest was Joshua Clay, a mutant capable of generating force blasts through his hands. He was part of the new Doom Patrol, introduced in Showcase # 94 (by Paul Kupperberg and Joe Staton), and continuing in # 95 and 96 during July and September. Tempest made sporadic appearances with the Patrol into 1987 when the team finally received its own title. In 1992, having long since abandoned his alias in favor of his civilian name, Joshua Clay was shot and killed in Doom Patrol # 55.
During June, black scientist Theodore McGavin was included as part of the Star Hunters in DC Super-Stars # 16's series pilot (written by Michelinie), an atomic villainess called Dyna-Moll appeared with the one-shot Rainbow Squad in Shazam! # 31 (scripted by E. Nelson Bridwell) and detective Ed Lacy hooked up with superdog Krypto (Superman Family # 185, written by Bob Toomey), a partnership that would continue until 1978's SF # 192.
South African speedster Impala made his bow in July's Super Friends # 7 (by Bridwell) and Ben Turner became the Bronze Tiger in August's Richard Dragon # 18. A black man briefly became the villainous speedster known as Cyclone in November's Justice League of America # 151 (scripted by Gerry Conway). Neal Adams closed out the year with a little project called "Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali" in December's All-New Collectors' Edition # C-56.
Aside from Black Manta, Pulsar, the minor-league Cyclone and Dyna-Moll and the returning Black Spider, the late 1970s also saw African-American super-villains in the form of the Annihilist (1978's Black Lightning # 9, written by Isabella) and the Firebug (1979's Batman # 318, written by Wein).
Having established Black Lightning and Gravedigger as their first black leading men in 1977, DC hoped to introduce their first African-American super-heroine in 1978. The Vixen # 1 was heavily promoted in house ads during the summer and slated for an August 8 debut. Instead, the series fell victim to DC's line-wide purge of its titles in June and the completed first issue appeared only in an internally-distributed collection of xeroxes known as Cancelled Comic Cavalcade.
The first issue (written by Gerry Conway and illustrated by Bob Oksner and Vince Colletta) would have introduced model Marilyn Macabe, whose buried memories of her father's murder were revived when the killer attended a United Nations conference. Using the mystic Tantu Totem, she took the persona of the Vixen, clad in a blue costume with yellow gloves, boots and fox mask.
Conway eventually got his creation into print via a Superman story in 1981's Action Comics # 521 and the Vixen was established as a prominent second-tier DC heroine in titles such as Justice League of America (1984-1986) and Suicide Squad (1988-1991). Unfortunately, despite a long succession of black heroines in the past two decades, DC's first starring vehicle for an African-American super-woman has yet to materialize.
The late 1970s saw another black war hero get his own series (Cassius "Black Eagle" Bannister in 1979-1980's All-Out War # 1-6) but, like Gravedigger before him, the character virtually slipped off the radar when his title ended.
Arguably, the most durable African-American of the 1970s made a modest debut in October of 1978's Batman # 307 (by Len Wein, John Calnan and Dick Giordano). Lucius Fox was a Wayne Enterprises executive and trusted friend of Bruce Wayne, whose stability and devotion quickly made his an endearing member of the series' cast. The fact that Fox has gone on to make more than nine dozen comic book appearances right through to the present speaks for itself.
It seems appropriate to end this survey with Fox, a character who, like Jackie Johnson, made an impact in a subtle fashion. The 1980s and 1990s saw DC continue to make great strides in diversifying their titles, from the fad of installing ethnic characters in super-heroic identities once used by whites to the ground-breaking Milestone imprint. But it all started here, with characters like Jackie Johnson and Dave Stevens and John Stewart and Black Lightning and Lucius Fox and so many more. They were the trailblazers.
Justice, Like Lightning ...
In his eighteenth year, Jefferson Michael Pierce participated in the Olympics and believed that life could never get any better than this. At twenty-two, he came away from the Decathlon with a gold medal. Surely, this must have been his fifteen minutes of fame. And then came his twenty-seventh year. And his twenty-ninth. And at thirty-five ... well, as a child, he'd vowed to escape his Suicide Slum roots but, in his wildest dreams, Jeff Pierce had never imagined he part of the Presidential Cabinet. Of course, he'd never imagined he'd be Black Lightning, either ...
Black Lightning, as related by Tony Isabella in The Comics Buyer's Guide # 921 (1991) and 1093 (1994), had originated in another writer's proposal, a character who, in Isabella's words, was "a white bigot in his secret identity." In 1976, Paul Levitz approached Tony about salvaging the character but Isabella found the two completed scripts to be so horrendously misguided that he suggested an entirely new hero. Isabella and penciller Trevor Von Eedon's Black Lightning became one of DC's major launches in the first months of 1977 and the first two issues (plus # 6) set up most of the back story.
Born and raised in Metropolis' Suicide Slum, Jeff had lost his father when he was only three, the result of a shooting by an unknown gunman at the grocery store where he worked. "Mom did the best she could to raise me by herself," he recalled, "but it was pretty rough until Peter (Gambi) opened up his (tailor) shop underneath our apartment. Within a year, Peter was more like a member of the family than a neighbor ... and it was good to see Mom smile again. Peter made her an equal partner in his shop. The two of them saw me through high school -- two Olympics -- and a teaching degree from Kent State."
Jeff ended up teaching at a high school in New Carthage but returned to Metropolis for his mother's funeral. In his time away, Jeff had married and divorced a young woman named Lynn Stewart. As related in Secret Origins # 26 (1988), "Lynn left because she thought I couldn't get angry enough -- at least not at all the terrible things in the world. She said all I ever really cared about was getting out of this crummy neighborhood and never looking back. Maybe she was right. Then."
"But when I came back for the funeral, I looked around and saw that nothing had changed here. Not a damned thing. It got to me for some reason. Don't ask me to explain it, because I can't. Maybe I can make a difference this time. Somebody has to try."
And, indeed, back at his old alma mater of Garfield High School, Jeff quickly made an impression when he kicked a drug pusher off the premises and followed suit by humilating three members of the criminal organization known as the 100. In retaliation, the gunmen killed Earl Clifford, one of Pierce's students, and left his corpse in the GHS gymnasium.
A distraught Jeff related the tragedy to Peter Gambi, who urged him to fight back in a persona that wouldn't invite counter-attacks on his students. Presenting him with a predominantly blue costume, Peter confessed that "I guess I had this in mind from the minute I received your letter saying you were coming home. Put it on, Jefferson. These streets -- the kids -- they need a symbol -- and you're it!"
Justice, like lightning should ever appear
It was "a poem written long ago based on words by Thomas Randolph. A poem that expressed the dual nature of justice. A poem whose meaning had been lost ... until then. Gambi had remembered the poem. His skills brought it to life anew."
Equipped with a force-field belt that enabled him to generate lighting bolts, Black Lightning had been born. Jefferson Pierce played to the era's stereotypical perception of blacks by affecting a hip-talking speech pattern as Black Lightning and wearing a mask/wig combination that gave him a big afro, simple devices that deflected suspicion from a well-educated school-teacher.
Over the course of his first eight issues, Black Lightning carved out a niche in Metropolis, ultimately gaining the trust of such high-profile figures as Superman, Inspector William Henderson and reporter Jimmy Olsen. Along the way, he defeated several super-powered underlings of the100, from Merlyn (# 2) to the Cyclotronic Man (# 4-5) to Syonide (# 6-7), as well as the gang's gargantuan albino leader, Tobias Whale (# 1-8).
There would be retaliation for Black Lightning's actions but not against Jeff Pierce's students. Rather, it was Peter Gambi who paid the price, leaping in front of a gun-blast meant for Black Lightning. Stripped of his force-field belt, the hero seemed destined for a similar fate but, in his fury, Black Lightning generated its effects from within his own body. In some unknown manner, he'd internalized the electrical power. The confrontation with the 100 had also exposed Peter's darkest secret. The support and love that he'd showered on Jeff and Mrs. Pierce had been a kind of penance. He had been the man who killed Jeff's father (# 7).
A letter from Peter was delivered to the grieving young man at Gambi's funeral, posthumously promising an explanation for his actions. "You know, I've been staying awake nights trying to figure out who Peter was before he came into my life," Jeff said. "I came up blank. I don't know what crimes were in his past -- or even how the belt he designed gave me super-powers. But he gave his life to give me a dream -- and dreams are hard to find these days." Tearing the unopened letter to shreds, the young man let the scraps fall over the broken Earth. "Rest in peace, Peter" (# 8).
Isabella was an advocate of the shared universe of DC comics and peppered Black Lightning with characters and locales that originated elsewhere. Gambi, for instance, was the brother of 1960s criminal tailor Paul Gambi, who had debuted in The Flash # 141 and was named after fan Paul Gambaccini. Suicide Slum had originated in Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's 1940s "Newsboy Legion" series while New Carthage was the locale for Dick Grayson's Hudson University. Inspector Henderson had been a staple of the Superman radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s while Officer Jim Corrigan (no relation to the Spectre) had appeared in a few early 1970s Jimmy Olsen episodes.
Tony's final issue of the series proved to be # 10, which ended with an ominous hint that Jeff's ex-wife was to become the target of a cult. Lynn Stewart had been hired as a teacher at Garfield High in # 3 and figured out that Jeff was Black Lightning in # 9: "Do you honestly think a mask and a wig can fool a woman who's seen you in your birthday suit ?" The cult subplot proved to have been a hastily-written substitution for the gag feature originally intended to close the issue and Isabella later admitted that he had no idea where that story thread would have gone.
DC's line-wide purge of its weaker titles in the summer of 1978 claimed Black Lightning as one of its victims. It ended in June with # 11, Denny O'Neil's debut as scripter. Within six months, Black Lightning returned for his most-widely circulated appearance to date -- a guest-spot in the nationally-distributed World's Greatest Super-Heroes comic strip, by Marty Pasko, George Tuska and Vince Colletta. Over the course of the adventure (running from November 1978 through January 1979), Lightning joined forces with The Batman to investigate a series of student abductions (including Dick Grayson) and met Superman and Black Canary before the case had closed.
Regrettably, Lightning missed the opportunity to appear in the late 1970s revamp of the "Super Friends" animated series. Tony Isabella had retained a percentage of the profits when he created the character and received a royalty each time the character was used. Rather than pay for the character, Hanna Barbera simply created a electrical-based hero of their own called Black Vulcan.
In comic books, Denny O'Neil continued the series in early 1979's World's Finest # 256, where Green Arrow met Metropolis' newest hero and acknowledged him as a kindred spirit. The story continued over the next two issues with a rematch against Tobias Whale. O'Neil's take on Black Lightning proceeded with stories in # 259 and 260 that had originally been intended for Black Lightning # 13 and 12, respectively, and closed with # 261.
September of 1979 saw three separate Black Lightning appearances, including his regular World's Finest spot in # 260 and a guest appearance in Justice League of America # 173, the first of a two-parter wherein he rejected an invitation to join the League. Most significant in retrospect was his O'Neil-scripted team-up with Superman in DC Comics Presents # 16. The catalyst of the story was a girl named Trina Shelton who was shot and killed by a stray bullet during an altercation between Lightning and muggers. The balance of the episode dealt with the heroes battling Trina's boyfriend, a magnetic refugee from outer space whom Lightning defeated by pushing his electrical field to the limit.
The first half of 1980 saw Lightning's series revived for a Marty Pasko-scripted two-parter in Detective # 490-491 that recast Jeff Pierce as a high school coach and stripped him of his powers in an accident. Jeff had resumed his teaching position in J.M. DeMatteis' subsequent pair of scripts (# 494, 495) but the loss of Black Lightning's powers had stuck. Between issues, the depowered Lightning also crossed paths with Batman in The Brave and The Bold # 163 (by Paul Kupperberg and Dick Giordano) and left the Dark Knight admitting that "I am impressed."
It fell to Mike W. Barr to revive Jeff Pierce some three years later, picking up on the Batman connection and the DC Comics Presents story as part of 1983's Batman and The Outsiders # 1 and 2. Hoping to rescue his friend Lucius Fox from war-torn Markovia, the Dark Knight recruited Jeff to infiltrate the country, posing as Fox's brother. Inevitably, he was forced to become Black Lightning and ended up being captured alongside Batman. Ignoring the short-lived Detective run, Barr had Lightning reveal that he'd lost his powers after Trina Shelton's death. Convinced that the loss was psychological, the Dark Knight began to verbally prod at him and brought Jeff's electrical powers back to life once more.
The next four years saw a new confidence envelop Black Lightning, as he forged new friends with the Outsiders, found a teaching post at Gotham City's Edison High (BATO # 4, 6), gained a bit of closure in Trina Shelton's death after a confrontation with her parents (BATO # 9-10), revisited the Olympics (BATO # 14-15) and even had an amicable reunion with Lynn Stewart, (Outsiders (first series) # 4, 9-14), now the president of a public relations firm.
By the end of 1987, though, the Outsiders were disbanded (Outsiders # 28) and Jeff was settling into a teaching job in yet another city (Secret Origins # 26). The end of 1988 saw Black Lightning's powers go berserk upon the detonation of the Dominator's Gene-bomb (Invasion! # 3) and Jeff could no longer deny that "the power was part of me -- there was no doubting it any longer. It had been given to me for a reason." Reflecting on his newfound goals in 1995's Black Lightning # 5, he explained that he'd moved to the so-called Brick City, a neighborhood in his father's hometown. "I knew I couldn't save the world -- but I could save one neighborhood -- and maybe even the future."
1992's Who's Who # 16 hinted that a new Black Lightning series was in the offing with an entry that included a never-seen-again costume illustrated by Mark Bright. The book wouldn't come to fruition until Tony Isabella made a triumphant return to his creation in 1995, now paired with artist Eddy Newell. The official new costume included a red and black jacket and lighting coursing between the hero's eyes, eliminating the need for a mask.
Isabella and Newell's reality-based series hoped to emphasize genuine political and social concerns even as metahuman threats such as Painkiller (Black Lightning # 2-4) presented themselves. The ongoing menace of a gang known as the Royal Family figured into a school shooting at the end of # 4 that left Jeff critically wounded and one of his best friends, teacher Walter Kasko, dead. The introspective "Blowed Away" in issue # 5 dealt with Jeff's physical and spiritual recovery, as he tried to come to grips with his career as Black Lightning and the deaths of so many along the way.
In addition to Kasko, the new series had also introduced a number of other new players to the cast, notably student Lamar Henderson, an informant nicknamed Beagle, police contact Tommy Colavito and new love interest Gail Harris.
An editorial flap resulted in Isabella and Newell leaving the book after issue # 8 and the series, now in the hands of writer David DeVries, soon collapsed. The final serial (# 11-13) found Batman renewing his ties with Lightning to help clear him of charges that he was a serial killer. Once the furor had died down, Isabella and Newell returned to Lightning for a striking black and white episode in Christmas 1997's DCU Holiday Bash II.
In the three years since then, Black Lightning has made no more than a handful of appearances, working with the Outsiders in Markovia during a Hellish eruption of demons (Day of Judgment # 4) and serving with the Justice League Reserves in the midst of other disasters (JLA # 27, 41). His efforts during the Mageddon crisis, in particular, were critical as he taxed his abilities like never before, attempting "to tap the electrical field of the planet" (# 41).
"You've accomplished so many things, helped so many people -- and you weigh yourself down with the times you didn't succeed, the ones you couldn't help. Stop denying what you are, Jeff. You're a good man and then some. You're a super-hero just as real as they come -- in a world that's damn hard on heroes. You haven't made compromises, you've made choices ... and they've been the right choices for you. This city -- and all the other cities like it -- it's where your heart is. Superman and those others -- God bless 'em -- they can save the world every week. You can make it a better world. Don't you know how special you are ?"
The words that Lynn spoke to Jeff as he recovered from his bullet wounds in Black Lightning # 5 echoed back as he made one of the biggest choices of his life, accepting the position of Secretary of Education in the new Luthor Administration (Superman # 166). Will serving on President Luthor's Cabinet give Jeff the resources to make a better world ? Or, as in Markovia, is he serving as one of The Batman's agents ? In the distance, you can hear the sound of thunder.
The Unbreakable Wall
Armed with a newly-awarded political science degree, the widowed mother of five marched into the headquarters of dark horse Congressional candidate Marvin Collins, singing his praises while candidly admitting that he had little hope of getting elected. She suggested a partnership, combining her common sense approach with his idealism. "I am Amanda Waller," she declared, "and as of this second I am your new campaign director!"
Her sister, Mary White, observed that "Amanda decided at an early age that unless you could make her do something, she didn't have to do it. And she didn't have to listen, neither. I learned a lesson our folks never did. You don't fight Amanda; you just give her a taste of her own medicine. She don't like that much."
At the age of eighteen, Amanda Blake married 20-year-old Joseph Waller and they settled into Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project. "We wanted a family and the Lord surely blessed us with one. Joe, Jr. and Damita were first, then came the twins, Martin and Jessie, and then my baby, Coretta. Times were hard but they didn't make us hard. We got by."
In the span of six months, however, tragedy struck the Waller household three times. Joe, Jr. was gunned down by gang members and Damita was raped and murdered by a sadistic pusher called the Candyman. Furious that his daughter's killer couldn't be arrested without a witness, Joe, Sr. snapped, tracked down the Candyman and shot him. The dying pusher fired back and Amanda Waller became a widow. "No more," she vowed over their tombstones. "I ain't letting these damn streets have no more of my family. By God in Heaven, I swear I'll get them out or kill myself trying."
Mary White recalled that "she wound up having to swallow a lot of that pride. Had to go on the welfare to keep her babies alive. That burned her deep, I'm telling you." Amanda refused her sister's offer of assistance, snapping that the taste of government aid "rots in my mouth! I'm gonna get me power over my own life! And Heaven help the one who tries to take that power from me!"
The hardship "didn't kill me," Amanda noted, "though sometimes I thought it would. First, I got the last of my babies through college. Then I got myself through college. Then I looked around for something to do." That something was her advocacy of Marvin Collins' platform. Through Amanda's efforts, he won the election and became an influential voice in Washington.
As his aide, Amanda soon found herself aspiring to a head up a grander project. After stumbling across data on a former government strikeforce known as the Suicide Squad, she approached the President about reviving the Squad under her command.
"I'm a practical woman. I see a problem, I wanted it solved. There are things, here and abroad, that need doing, but for one reason or another, the government cannot do them. That's fine. I understand that. But those things still need doing.
"What's needed is a covert group of agents -- utterly ruthless, totally expendable. Prisons are full of those kind of people and it costs to keep them there. Especially the super-villains. So why not let them contribute to their country ? Make them a deal: do what needs doing, succeed and survive, and keep your trap shut, and we'll commute your sentences to time served."
A field test against the Apokolips-spawned threat of Brimstone had been a success and Waller managed to get Presidential approval. He cautioned that "the group's existence will depend on the goodwill of whoever's in this office, Mrs. Waller. Remember that."
Created by John Ostrander, Amanda Waller was destined to become one of DC's most memorable creations of the 1980s, a tough, single-minded control freak who would do anything to correct a perceived injustice. She'd been introduced during the Brimstone affair in 1986's Legends # 1 and 3-5 (with art by John Byrne and Karl Kesel) and her origin (quoted above along with excerpts from Suicide Squad # 31) was laid out in Secret Origins # 14 (art by Luke McDonnell and Dave Hunt) before the launch of the ongoing Suicide Squad title.
The Squad had its share of personal setbacks as members drafted for the team were killed but Amanda's own powerbase was progressively expanding. Her installation as commander of Earth's Intelligence forces during the Alien Armada's assault on Earth should have represented the zenith of her career (Invasion! # 2) but it had been tainted by a disastrous political scandal that exposed the Squad's existence to the public. Among the consequences was Squad member Deadshot's unexpected assassination of Senator Joseph Cray, who'd attempted to blackmail Waller and the Squad into helping him get re-elected (Suicide Squad # 22). After a Congressional hearing, Amanda was publicly stripped of her duties but privately retained full control of her strikeforce (SS # 24-25)
Amanda's prestige took another hit when Kobra manipulated the Squad and other metahuman U.S. agencies into fighting against one another, an operation that became known as "the Janus Directive" (Checkmate! # 15-18; Suicide Squad # 27-30; Manhunter # 14; Firestorm # 86). Kobra was ultimately taken down but the President was furious, vowing to reorganize all of the agencies. "The only reason Kobra got as far as he did was he played on you people like violins!"
Amanda would now be required to report to Sarge Steel and was informed that "your remaining the head of the Squad permanently will depend on how much of a team player you show yourself to be."
"Why am I being singled out here ?!" she demanded to know. "If it wasn't for me, Kobra would've won! I'm the one who smoked him out!"
"And you never told me," the President countered. "You've played the lone wolf too often, Mrs. Waller, and you enjoy it too much. That may have worked under the former administration but it won't work under mine. End of discussion." (Suicide Squad # 30).
Mary White, who now served as head of medical facilities at the Squad's Belle Reve headquarters, was deeply concerned for her sibling's emotional health. Speaking to Father Richard Craemer, she confessed that "I'm scared for my baby sister, Rev -- scared that the anger in her is congealing into hate. That hate will kill her, you mark my words!"
Confronting Amanda, Craemer told her that "people here call you 'The Wall' and you let them because you like it -- you like the image. But it's false. You have emotions like every other human being but you sublimate them -- and that affects your judgment.
"You systematically surround yourself with people who will act as a natural check and balance to you -- LaGrieve did it, Nightshade did it, Flag did it, and so does your sister. You count on them to keep you honest -- to rein in your nastier side. By the time the Janus Directive came around, most of them were gone. You were emotionally on your own -- and you made some bad calls. And you know it.
"So -- what will you do now ? Surround yourself again with people who'll put the brakes on you ... or learn to put the brakes on yourself ?"
Amanda allowed that she'd "think on it some" (SS # 31).
Whatever Amanda may have thought, she couldn't have anticipated that Flo Crowly, her cousin's daughter, would perish on a Squad mission (SS # 36). In a deep state of depression (# 37), Amanda was unprepared when word was leaked to the press that she was still running the Squad. After orchestrating a final, bloody raid on the leaders of the mystical Loa, she ordered the remained Squad members to flee and surrendered to police custody. Mystified by her docile behavior, Sarge Steel observed that "it's almost like she WANTS to go to jail" (# 39).
One year later, Sarge Steel approached Amanda with the news that a political situation had arisen that required the Suicide Squad's services. She agreed with the stipulation that she be released from prison immediately. "No strings. Presidential pardon. I get access to prisoners with the same deal as before. Batman helps me on this case. Oh -- and you give me a million dollars." Smoldering a bit, Steel said yes (SS # 40).
The Squad continued for several months, culminating in a mission in the island nation of Diabloverde against a rogue imitation of the team. Amanda announced that she was "shutting the Squad down," insisting that it was inherently flawed and that she'd been "too stubborn -- too proud -- to see it. ... All that's ahead would be more people, OUR people, getting killed. It's time to stop" (SS # 66).
Amanda was not, of course, the retiring type. She spearheaded efforts against Eclipso in the nation of Parador (Eclipso # 3, 5, 9, 11-16, 18), reorganized the Squad to lead an assault on the Silicon Dragons (Superboy # 13, 15) and recruited Doctor Polaris for defense efforts in the Sun-Eater crisis (The Final Night # 1). Amanda eventually brought the Squad under the umbrella of the Department of Extranormal Operations (Hawk & Dove (fourth series) # 4-5; Chase # 2). Within months, she agreed to take the position of Southeast Regional Director with the D.E.O. while still retaining control of the Suicide Squad (Secret Files & Origins Guide To The DC Universe 2000 # 1). And now, she's part of President Luthor's Cabinet as Secretary of Meta-Human Affairs (Superman # 166), a position she first utilized by ordering a probe of Project Cadmus (Superboy # 84).
Lex Luthor was evil. Amanda Waller knew it. But she'd known many evil men, from movers and shakers in Washington to former members of the Suicide Squad. Indeed, she recalled a secret cabal of high-ranking officials who'd conspired to control the metahuman community -- and the President's fervent denial that he was involved (SS # 62). As she and Sarge Steel had left the Oval Office that day, Amanda reflected on Adam Cray, the latest death from within her ranks.
"Every day, I go back and I remember the names and faces of those who've died since I started the Squad. Every day I number the dead. I know how they died, and why. others may die. I may die. We all know that going in. But I never take it lightly. Never will. Never. I wish I could say that everyone we've worked for felt the same."
Black Spiders and Superflies
"Life is sacred. They taught me that at Sunday School a long time ago. Of course, I didn't listen. Bet you didn't know I was a church kid, huh, Batman ? But I was. Mom and Dad used to send me every Sunday, until Mom died. Then Dad sort of drifted away. It was like a part of him had died. He didn't have much time for me anymore.
"I guess that's when I found the streets. And heroin. Why start ? I've asked myself that a hundred times, and the best I can do is: why not ? I missed my Mom. Dad was drinking. The other guys did it. I wanted to be a rebel, too. And to be honest, I liked it. At first. It helped to fill the black, aching hole inside me." -- from the last will and testament of Eric Neeham (Shadow of The Bat # 5).
The background of the man who would become known as the Black Spider was revealed piecemeal by Gerry Conway over the course of three issues, 1976's Detective Comics # 463 and 464 (art by Ernie Chan & Frank McLaughlin) and 1978's Batman # 306 (art by John Calnan & Dave Hunt), with further details being provided by Alan Grant in 1992's Batman: Shadow of The Bat # 5 (art by Norm Breyfogle). Historically, he was also DC's first black costumed villain though Black Manta would be retroactively established as African American in 1977's Adventure Comics # 452.
Eric was first sentenced to prison after mugging and nearly killing an elderly woman but, as a minor, he was out in three years. Over the next twenty-four months, Eric hooked up with another junkie named Linda Morrel and they had a son, Michael. Needham continued to steal to support his habit, culminating in a fateful liquor store robbery. Gunning down a customer who'd lunged for him, Eric realized far too late that he'd just murdered his own father.
Months later, Gotham's drug dealers found themselves marked for death by a mysterious assassin. At the site of the second killing, Batman confronted the sniper and was stunned to hear the man in the dark purple body-suit declare that "I've been trying to emulate you, Batman, to do as you do -- bring scum to permanent justice -- justice without recourse! .... The drug-dealers -- the superflies -- are the dregs of the Earth -- and what better man to catch and kill a superfly -- than a Black Spider ?"
Batman again failed to stop the rampage at the Gotham International Airport. Here, the Black Spider displayed the latest addition to his arsenal, a gun mounted on the top of his wrist that fired a deadly "sting" at his targets.
The conflict came to a head atop a speeding commuter train, where the Spider, whose background had finally been unearthed by the Dark Knight, was attempting to bomb the car carrying another dealer: "That motorman's gotta die, and if some punk commuters gotta die, too -- that's tough!" A lurch of the train sent the Black Spider and his bomb flying from the car. Needham was presumed dead when the bomb was detonated.
Gravely injured, Needham made his way to a free clinic, where "hate nursed me through the months of operations...and recovery...and therapy...and re-training..." The bomb, it seems, had gone off prematurely. Needham had been bankrolled by a supposedly benevolent financier named Hannibal Hardwicke, who was, in fact, a major druglord himself. Once the Black Spider removed his competition, Hardwicke had intended for Needham to die. Instead, Hardwicke found himself at the top of the Black Spider's "Most Wanted" list and only Batman's intervention allowed him to survive to see a prison term.
Inevitably, Needham's goals became compromised and he found himself allied with villains that he might otherwise have opposed to participate in grudge matches against Batman (Detective # 526 and Batman # 400). Even when Batman was absent from Gotham during the case that led to the formation of the Outsiders, the Black Spider found costumed opposition in the form of the beautiful Nightshade (Secret Origins # 28).
With Linda Morrel was still firmly in heroin's grip, the Spider's next targets were the men who were supplying her with the drugs. As the war escalated, both Linda and Michael were murdered and Needham went on a suicide run, determined to take down everyone. Dying from multiple bullet wounds, the Spider was dragged before the gloating druglord only to have Needham reveal his trump card. He'd attached plastique explosives to himself. "I'm ... wired to blow! ... right about ... now!" And he did.
The Black Spider's name would survive, though now in the hands of a mob assassin named Johnny LaMonica, an egomaniac who hated to cover his beautiful face with a mask. After infiltrating the Black Mask's mob with the intention of killing the crimelord, the new Black Spider was brought down by Batman. Having smashed into a broken mirror, his handsome face was now a "web of scars" (1995's Batman # 518-519, by Doug Moench, Kelley Jones and John Beatty).
Meanwhile, Eric Needham's story was not quite over. In Hell, Lucifer had, for reasons of his own, set all the dead free, a turn of events that would eventually lead many back to Earth (Sandman # 23). Eventually, the angels Duma and Remiel took charge of the dark realm. By then, most of the dead had returned (Sandman # 28). Most, but not all.
Eric had no intention of going back and seems to have struck an unholy bargain to remain of Earth. In time, he seemed to have become a successful businessman, though he kept the specifics of the business vague. Ominously, he frequented a nightclub overseen by Lucifer himself (Sandman # 57, 59). As the Black Spider, Eric was last seen with other villains hoping to strike a deal with the demonic Neron (Underworld Unleashed # 1, page 27, panel 2). The consequences of that conference have yet to be disclosed.
A Symbol For The People
Once upon a time, there was a world where costumed men and women dressed in colorful costumes took to the streets and fought crime. The heroes flourished in the 1940s but their numbers had dwindled by the 1970s. Their hair had turned gray and one of the greatest of their generation -- The Batman -- had died (1978's Adventure Comics # 462). A relative handful of heroes -- including the Huntress, daughter of the Dark Knight -- stood poised to replace them.
It's one thing to read about crime in the newspaper but it's quite another to experience it first hand. Such was the case with Charles Bullock, a young African American lawyer recently added to the roster of Gotham City's Cranston, Grayson and Wayne in 1981 (Wonder Woman # 281-284, by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell). When a super-villain named Karnage attacked the law offices in search of senior partner Arthur Cranston, Bullock rushed forward to oppose the intruder only to be swatted away like a fly (# 286-287, by Levitz, Staton and Bruce Patterson).
Karnage was soon brought to justice by the Huntress (secretly Helena Wayne, another partner in the firm) and Arthur Cranston tried to assure Charles that he had nothing to be ashamed of. "You're a lawyer," he said, "not a bouncer." The young man was not appeased, however. "I have some heavy thinking to do ... about the way Karnage's attack is going to change my life" (WW # 289). Digging through the firm's library, Charles found "a fairly complete file on The Huntress in the clippings. Good. I wonder if it has everything I need ..." (WW # 290, by Levitz, Staton and Mike DeCarlo).
Levitz's plans for Charles Bullock were never realized and it fell to his successor, Joey Cavalieri, to resolve the subplot in the latter half of 1982. The "Huntress" episode in WW # 297 opened with Charles witnessing a pair of hoods harrassing a local grocer. "What can we do about it ?" the old man asked. "We're too small to fight them. In the old days, there was The Batman, God rest his soul. He was there to protect people like us. Saw to it slime like that didn't get into the neighborhood. But now, who stands up for people like us ? What can we do ... ?" For Charles Bullock, it was a call to arms.
The following evening, a bat-scalloped shadow fell over the thugs, momentarily stopping them -- and a concealed Huntress -- in their tracks. The source of the shadow was a man in a variation of The Batman's costume -- light blue replacing the gray, a more stylized bat chest emblem and utility belt, yellow bands around his wrists and calves and a sharply arched yellow-tipped face mask that evoked bat-ears in silhouette. His dark blue cape functioned as a hang-glider. "Stand back!" he commanded. "None may threaten the people of this city while Blackwing stands!"
Unhappily, Blackwing was grounded almost immediately when one of the thugs partially shredded his cape/glider. The would-be hero was beaten into unconsciousness and unmasked. Watching from a distance, the Huntress recognized Charles instantly (WW # 297, art by Staton and Sal Trapani).
Blackwing was presented to the mastermind behind the gang, a snake charmer of sorts named the Boa. The Huntress crashed the party and was left to the mercies of a boa constrictor as the villains made their exit. Blackwing, who'd been feigning unconsciousness, used a dagger to slash the serpent and free the Huntress (WW # 298-299, art by Staton and Frank McLaughlin).
"I was a top notch lawyer," he explained, "but that only gave me a ring-side seat as I watched criminals slide through the revolving door of justice. I felt the need to do something more -- something lasting! My hero had always been The Batman. The heart of this town nearly quit beating altogether when he died. But then The Huntress swung into action -- and I knew in my guts that if she could do it -- I could, too!" (WW # 298)
"Maybe it was stupid but I became Blackwing to be that symbol for people again ... to restore their pride in Gotham ... and spur them to take charge of this city once more. I tried to think the way The Batman would. I had the presence of mind to keep my miniature tape recorder in my utility belt running ever since I was kidnapped."
"Evidence!" The Huntress exclaimed. "Good work, Charley. We'll nail them yet. You would've made The Batman very proud, Charley. You've certainly made me proud." The daughter of The Batman captured the Boa and his gang that night (WW # 299) but Charles never took to the sky as Blackwing again.
And, yet, history may yet see the Bullock name enshrined as a costumed hero. A Gotham youngster named Charlie Bullock, possibly a namesake cousin of Charles, had crossed paths with Wildcat three years earlier on a late winter's evening in 1979. Charlie proved to be a natural fighter and helped the Justice Society member take down a quartet of muggers.
Wildcat realized that kids like Charlie could achieve great things with a little positive reinforcement. Pulling off his mask, Ted Grant introduced himself to Charlie and decided, in that moment, that he would leave his JSA responsibilities to become a mentor to any of the youth in Gotham that he could help. Announcing his leave of absence, Ted noted that "Someone's gotta start worrying where the next generation of super-heroes is coming from" (Adventure Comics # 464, by Levitz and Staton). Will Charlie Bullock return as the Blackwing of the current DC Universe ? Only time -- and future issues of JSA -- will tell.
What A Croc!
The muscular man burst into Wayne Manor, catching Alfred Pennyworth by surprise and rendering him unconscious in a matter of moments. "Get it straight," he'd said earlier in the evening. "I'm doin' this for one reason only ... to break The Batman's back." Years before Bane came on the scene, there was Killer Croc.
Croc was an African American who was well acquainted with the taunts and beatings of others from an early age. "He was born thirty-five years ago in a Tampa slum area near the 22nd-Street Causeway and though the name on his birth certificate reads Waylon Jones, by the time he was ten, all the neighborhood kids were calling him -- Croc. No parents ... living with a dead-beat aunt who spent more time in jail on D-and-D charges than she did at home ... alienated and cursed with a hideous skin disease ... is it any wonder the kid went bad ?"
Jones was a regular visitor to the juvenile detention center and was finally tried and convicted as an adult when he was sixteen. He killed a prisoner who mocked his appearance but nonetheless was out on parole "after eighteen years behind bars. Out of prison, he found a job in a carnival sideshow ... wrestling alligators" (Batman # 359). "I broke their backs with my bare hands," Jones later recalled. "Then I got smart. I had the strength, I had the hate -- why shouldn't I use it to get what I wanted ? 'Killer Croc' -- that's what they called me. But some day, some day, I knew they'd call me king!" (Batman # 358).
Croc had formed powerful mob ties in Tampa that he was anxious to capitalize on elsewhere. He'd discreetly established a foothold in Gotham and assembled a gang before returning to Florida to take care of "some personal loose ends." After snapping the neck of the deputy who brutally beat him when he was ten (noted in Batman # 359), he returned to discover that his followers had affiliated themselves with the simple-minded Solomon Grundy. Croc kept his temper in check but left the gang to its fate. Within hours, the entire crew was killed when Grundy flew into a rage (Detective # 523, by Gerry Conway, Gene Colan and Tony DeZuniga).
Croc shifted his allegiance to the Squid, a mobster who was poised to fill the power vacuum in Gotham's underworld left by the downfall of Rupert Thorne (Batman # 354) and Tony Falco. Initially, Croc was content to work a protection racket at the visiting Sloan Circus (Batman # 357, by Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala) but he soon wanted more. After he witnessed Batman's escape from a deathtrap, Croc sauntered away, informing the would-be crimelord that "this outfit smells of loser."
The Squid was furious, shaking Croc by the lapels of his jacket and knocking off his hat to reveal red eyes and reptilian green flesh. "Nobody touches Croc, little man," he snarled. "Especially not a five-cent hood like you." Jones' sharp eyes spotted the concealed Dark Knight as he made his exit but he kept his silence. Returning later in the night, Croc fired a high-powered rifle at the Squid. Looking down at the corpse, Waylon Jones smiled. "Like I said -- nobody threatens Croc" (Detective # 524, by Conway, Newton and Dick Giordano).
While Batman began tracing the gun that killed the Squid, Croc approached the members of Gotham's Tobacconist Club and announced his intention to take over the city's mobs. The president of club's inner circle proposed a test and directed Jones towards a state-of-the-art Air Force Computer at S.T.A.R. Labs.
"Mister, I was born a freak -- I've had to prove myself to creeps like you all my life. I could break you in half. But that wouldn't get me what I want ... so I'll steal your crummy computer. And then I'll shove it down your fat throat."
The robbery was a success and, after a cursory "we'll be in touch" from the movers and shakers, Croc returned to his apartment. Seated in an easy chair, The Batman was waiting. Jones went ballistic, lunging at the Dark Knight and screaming that "this was my place, my special place! Built this place -- my home -- nobody could call me a freak here! But you've spoiled it -- you ruined it!" Firing his gun into a space heater, Croc watched the room go up in flames before he plunged into the river (1983's Batman # 358, by Conway, Curt Swan and Rodin Rodriguez).
A natural swimmer, Jones threw off his business suit and stripped down to red briefs to maneuver more easily. The killer toyed with Batman in the water, striking and choking him and leaving only when he thought the Dark Knight had drowned. "I thought you were tough," he sneered. "Someone I could respect. But you're nothing but a loser, like all the rest" (Detective # 525, by Conway, Dan Jurgens and Giordano).
Croc issued a summons to the chiefs of Gotham's mobs for a meeting at the Gotham Zoo's reptile house two nights later. Attendance was not optional. Still wearing his red shorts, Jones walked amongst the alligators and addressed the crowd as King Croc. His claims to have killed The Batman were ridiculed, however, and the mobsters contained to pledge allegiance to the jailed Tony Falco. Determined to make the mobs his own, a knife-wielding Croc broke into prison and slashed Falco to ribbons. Batman traded blows with Croc for a third time but with no more success.
Elsewhere, Joe and Trina Todd, a pair of acrobats from the Sloan Circus, were doing some investigating of their own. They'd agreed to help Robin break the protection racket that the circus had been threatened by and took off in pursuit of one of the mob enforcers. Untrained in the art of surveillance, the Todds were spotted immediately by their subject and a warm welcome awaited the husband and wife when they crept into the reptile house. The lights flashed on and Joe and Trina found themselves on a stage before an audience of mobsters -- a stage they shared with an approaching Croc (Batman # 359, by Conway, Jurgens and Giordano).
Robin arrived at the reptile house alongside Batgirl and was greeted by a gray Commissioner Gordon. When the Teen Wonder inquired about the Todds' welfare, the veteran cop was horrified that he'd involved civilians in the case. Directing him to their corpses, lying amidst the crocodiles, Gordon said, "We can only hope they were already dead when he threw them to his friends below. You brought them into this, Robin. It's on your head." In a state of hysteria, Robin plunged into the pit, beating the reptiles aside with the butt of a gun, cradling Trina Todd's corpse in his arms and unleashing an agonized, grief-stricken scream.
Elsewhere, the Joker was attempting to cement his status in the Gotham mob's new hierarchy. On one hand, he'd mobilized the long-established super-villains of the city to kill Batman before the upstart Croc could do so. On the other, he revealed the plot to Croc (minus his own role), gambling that the opposing forces would take each other out and leave the field clear for him.
Talia and Catwoman had alerted the Dark Knight to the looming attacks on his life and the trio wound up in the abandoned Adams Brewery. They ended up being captured anyway, all three chained to a faulty brewing vat that was likely to erupt when it got hot enough. Croc stepped past a gloating Joker and demanded that Batman be released so that they could fight out their differences "man to man." As for Talia and Catwoman, Croc answered, "You win, they live. You lose, they die. Simple as that."
This time, Batman came out on top, freeing himself from Croc and sending the thug reeling with a steel barrel thrown into his torso. "No!" the reptile man shrieked. "Nobody ever broke my grip -- nobody!"
"That was your mistake, Croc -- my name isn't 'nobody!'"
Forgotten in all this was Joe and Trina Todd's acrobatic young son, Jason, who'd tumbled onto the Batcave after Dick Grayson left him at Wayne Manor. An unapologetic thrill-seeker and concerned for his parents' safety, Jason put together a variation of Robin's costume and headed in the direction of the Adams Brewery. He arrived just behind Robin and Batgirl, who revealed the horrifying news of the Todds' demise to Batman.
Leaping from a rafter, Jason knocked a ten-foot pipe from Croc's hand, allowing Batman to get in a final punch to the killer's chin. In a state of rage, Jason struck blow after blow on the reptile man before Batgirl and Robin pulled him away.
In the aftermath, Bruce Wayne did his best to console Dick Grayson but the young man would be haunted by the faces of Joe and Trina Todd every time he wore the Robin costume from that point on. Dick was insistent on adopting the orphaned teenager but Bruce wouldn't hear of it. As man and boy walked onto the grounds of Wayne Manor, Alfred whispered "My goodness. Master Dick, you don't suppose ... ?"
"I think you'd better open up my old room, Alfred." (Detective # 526, by Conway, Newton and Alcala)
A new era was about to begin. The next months were full of excitement for Jason Todd, who fought for and ultimately won the right to be the new Robin.
Killer Croc returned in 1986, part of a corps of villains freed from prison by Ra's al Ghul to capture those close to The Batman. Croc, delighted at the prospect of snapping the Dark Knight's spine, dutifully abducted Alfred from Wayne Manor, unaware that he was kidnapping Batman's butler. Jason Todd seethed at the thought of his parents' killer running free and, mercifully, was absent when Batman took down Croc with a gas pellet from his utility belt (Batman # 400, by Doug Moench, George Perez, Art Adams & Terry Austin and Ken Steacy).
The 1987 revamping of Jason Todd's origin in Batman # 408-411 erased the second Robin's circus origins and Killer Croc from the post-Crisis Dark Knight's history. And yet, a scant two months after Batman # 411, Croc was back.
He and Batman fought across a two-page sequence in Swamp Thing # 66 (by Rick Veitch and Alfredo Alcala), smashing into the office of Arkham Asylum administrator Robert Huntoon. "Doctor," Batman reported. "This thing goes by the name of Killer Croc. He just murdered thirty innocent people with an incendiary device in midtown. Lock him up."
Croc was far from defeated, rising to hammer the Dark Knight with a series of crushing blows while delivering a Hulk-like monologue: "Rodent not superhuman like Croc! Rodent soft as jelly! Breaks easy ... tastes goooood!" Reflecting the grim, violent tenor of the times, Batman sprayed him nerve gas and informed Huntoon that "this man shouldn't give you any more problems ... unless it's from a wheelchair."
The events of Detective # 523-526, et al. were still largely canonical, after all, with details such as his skin condition and wrestler origins (The Demon (third series) # 11) and his ousting of the Squid (Batman # 489) being specifically cited. Eventually, it would even be revealed that Croc had made a second attempt at taking over the Gotham mobs, coming into conflict with Black Mask (mentioned in Robin # 71). Notably absent from the post-Crisis account were, in addition to Joe and Trina Todd, Dick Grayson himself, who failed to recognize Waylon Jones' name prior to going up against Croc in Batman # 512.
The idiot strongman routine was a fake, though, as Veitch (with art by Brett Ewins) revealed a few months later in Secret Origins # 23. "Can you imagine," he thought, "putting me in an institution for the criminally insane ? Actually it's my own fault. I've always projected the old 'mindless engine of destruction' image to others." By playing a brain-damaged, bound patient at Arkham, Croc was privy to all manner of secret, from guards who stole drugs or were involved in a sinister conspiracy to the innermost thoughts of Jason Woodrue, whom he regarded as a friend.
Supposedly paralyzed for life thanks to his exposure to the nerve gas, Croc awoke with a start from a nap and realized that he could move his neck. Stunned by his good fortune, he decided to keep the discovery to himself. "Yes. I'm healing. Just like a good reptile. Let them think I'm a basket case. Soon I'll jump up, murder a few for good measure, and walk out of here ..."
By 1989, the truth had come out (though the amount of blood shed is unknown) and Croc was placed in solitary confinement, exercising regularly to maintain his wrestler's physique (Detective # 604). He even managed to engage in battle with Batman once more while the Joker had temporary taken control of Arkham. Croc suffered a nasty spear wound in the course of the conflict (Arkham Asylum, by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean).
Temporarily back in a wheelchair, Croc was now restrained with steel clamps on his wrists and ankles. Tired of faking madness, he snapped at a doctor who referred to him as Killer. "That's Mister Croc to you, chump. An' I'll tell ya somethin' else -- I shouldn't even be here. I ain't crazy!" The unexpected arrival of a demon conjured by fellow inmate Tenzin Wyatt gave Croc the opportunity he was looking for to escape (1991's The Demon # 11, by Alan Grant, Val Semeiks and Denis Rodier).
A brief alliance with the Riddler ended with capture by Superman (Legends of the World's Finest # 2) and Croc was soon back in Arkham (# 3). Subjected to numerous sessions of electroshock therapy, Croc finally tore loose of his restraints, screaming that "I'm Killer Croc! This brain ain't for fryin'!"
Fleeing to an abandoned subway tunnel beneath Gotham, Croc found refuge with other street persons. For the first time in his life, Waylon Jones had found people who accepted him as he was, including a surrogate mother he called Aunt Marcy who gently patted his head as the tormented man rested in her arms.
Croc's thefts of food and appliances for his new family eventually led Batman and "bat-hound" Ace to the sewers. Croc reacted just as violently as he had on the last occasion that his home had been invaded. The long-overdue rematch between the two was abruptly curtailed when the Dark Knight revealed that new water tunnels were being opened that night. As the flood began roaring towards them, Croc and Batman put their backs into holding up the deteriorating walls until the rest of the family could seek higher ground. Aunt Marcy slipped and Croc insisted that Batman rescue her.
As water began pouring past him, the green man defiantly shouted that "I'm Killer Croc! I can do anythin'! This is my home! Ain't nobody takin' it away from me!" It was not enough. As the flood swept him away, Croc's shell-shocked, weeping family, led by Aunt Marcy, began to sing the lullaby that had soothed their friend: "Hush little baby, don't say a word -- Mommy's gonna buy you a mockingbird ..." (Detective # 471, by Grant and Norm Breyfogle)
Croc had survived, living on rats and river water and existing for weeks without human companionship. When a group of derelicts stumbled onto him and ran in terror from the "monster," all of the taunts from Waylon's youth flooded back into his fogged brain. In a state of delirium, Croc went on a rampage through Gotham, imagining that everyone from the people on the streets to the mannequins in storefronts were his childhood tormenters.
The reign of terror attracted Tim Drake (the third Robin), Jean-Paul Valley (dressed as Batman) ... and Bane. After nearly crushing "Batman's" rib-cage, Croc turned his attention to Bane, who wished to test the marauder's mettle. Powered by Venom, Bane effortlessly broke both of his opponent's arms and left as quietly as he'd come (Batman # 489, by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo).
Within days, Bane had freed the inmates of Arkham and Croc, his arms wrapped in fresh casts, was among the escapees (Batman # 491). Thirsting for revenge, Croc used his enhanced senses to zoom in on Bane's scent and interrupted the Santa Priscan villain's interrogation of Robin. Without an infusion of Venom in his system, Bane suffered a few rough blows before recovering and smashing Croc's right arm again. Locked in combat, they fell into the rushing waters of the sewer (Detective # 660, by Chuck Dixon, Jim Balent and Scott Hanna) and Croc vanished underwater once more (Batman # 494).
Elsewhere, Killer Croc was among the villains featured in Batman: The Animated Series. With vocals by Aron Kincaid, Croc debuted in October 5, 1992's "Vendetta" and was later prominently featured in May 3, 1994's "Sideshow," a rewrite of a 1971 O'Neil-Adams story from Detective # 410 that Croc fit seemlessly into. A later episode, 1998's "Love Is A Croc," revolved around Waylon's romance with Baby-Doll. Brooks Gardner took over the role of Killer Croc with that episode. In the comics based on the series, Croc was spotlighted in two character-based episodes, one dealing with his friendship with his wrestling manager (1993's Batman Adventures # 7) and the other with his one-sided attraction to reporter Summer Gleeson (1997's Batman & Robin Adventures # 23).
Back in the mainstream DCU, Killer Croc was lurking near the Gotham River, his broken limbs healing rapidly during the weeks since his beating by Bane. A succession of deaths near the river led Robin to conclude that the culprit was the missing villain and he and the latest temporary Batman (Dick Grayson) took off to investigate. Going toe-to-toe with Croc for the first time, Dick acquitted himself nicely, breaking free of the ex-wrestler's back-breaking hold by clapping his hand around the green man's ears (Batman # 512, by Moench, Mike Gustovich and Romeo Tanghal).
As he recovered from multiple gunshot wounds sustained in that last adventure, Croc found himself dreaming of a more serene existence in the swamps (Showcase '95 # 11) and, his mental faculties now truly reduced to Hulk-level proportions, broke out of Arkham. Croc found himself instinctively drawn to Houma, Louisiana and Batman was close behind, following the trail of wreckage (1995's Batman # 521). As the Dark Knight prepared to capture his foe, both men were stopped by the Swamp Thing, who revealed that he had summoned Croc to the bayou.
In his current state of mind, Croc was regarded as "a primordial being" whose "madness and torment ... his fierce yearning for a place of peace ... his piteous rage ... has created a profound disturbance in the Green." Swamp Thing called Waylon Jones to his home and "changed him. He will kill now ... only for food ... only to exist as part of this swamp ...where it could take a man years to find him ... yet I will know where he is ... I will always know ... through the consciousness of the Green. And if ever again ... he becomes a threat to the world of man ... I will make you aware of it."
Reluctantly, Batman accepted the proposition and left (Batman # 522, by Moench, Kelley Jones and John Beatty). The swamp environment proved less than ideal. The Swamp Thing, distracted by his ascension through a series of elemental parliaments, had little patience for his new guest, physically strking Croc to teach him "his place ... in the pecking order of the swamp" (Swamp Thing # 160, by Mark Millar, Phillip Hester and Kim DeMulder). It was one more bully in a life that had seen too many and Waylon Jones hopped the next train out of Houma, enjoying a prize bull for a meal en route to Gotham (Batman Chronicles # 3, by Dixon, Gabriel Gecko and Robert Campanella).
A more mellow Croc took up residence in Gotham's underground, his solitary existence interrupted by a wounded Man-Bat, whom he offered food and sympathy. As his house guest flew off, Waylon cautioned him to "watch yourself out there this time, okay ? It's a rough world, pal" (1996's Man-Bat # 2).
Inevitably, Croc was recaptured (by Wolverine, of all people, in Marvel Versus DC # 2). He escaped one prison for another when Lock-Up and the Fabulous Ernie Chubb made Waylon Jones one of the feature attractions in a murderous pay-per-view series of wrestling matches. Thanks to weeks of torturous, abusive treatment, Killer Croc again lived up to his name (1997's Batman/Wildcat # 1, 3; by Dixon & Beau Smith, Sergio Cariello and Dan Miki).
Once Batman had hauled him in after a botched robbery (Resurrection Man # 7), Croc settled into a comfortable routine at Arkham, his mental stability actually helped by the regular interaction with other people for the first time in years. He watched "Seinfeld" (Hitman # 3), formed a close friendship with environmentalist and kindred spirit Poison Ivy (Batman: Poison Ivy), played cards with the Ventriloquist and the Mad Hatter (Batman 80-Page Giant # 2) and joined in the regular inmate uprisings (Batman: Arkham Asylum - Tales of Madness # 1; The Creeper # 7-8; Batman Villains Secret Files # 1).
Part of Croc's docile behavior was due to the regular supply of sedatives prescribed to him at Arkham. With the asylum in disarray following the Gotham earthquake, the Joker quietly slipped into the computerized records files and began changing the precriptions. Suddenly, Croc was receiving amphetamines six times a day (Batman: Shadow of The Bat # 80). The geared-up Croc eventually killed fellow inmate Pinhead during a grudge match (# 81) and escaped with the other criminals just as Gotham was declared a "No Man's Land" (# 82; by Grant, Mark Buckingham and Campanella).
As various parties began to seize different sections of their own, Croc became "a nomad, fighting whomever he finds" (Batman: No Man's Land # 1). He also put together his own gang (glimpsed in Batman: Shadow of The Bat # 86 and Detective # 737) and, for the first time in years, began entertaining thoughts of calling himself King Croc again. He was not pleased, to say the least, at news that a good samaritan providing services to the disenfranchised of Gotham was being referred to as the King. Croc tracked down the so-called King -- a reformed crook named Stanley Demchaszky -- and threatened to kill him. For the second time during the NML (the first being in Batman Chronicles # 17), Batman traded punches with Croc. He ended up sending the green man on a four-story tumble from a building with debris raining down on him. "He's survived worse," the Dark Knight thought. "It'll just put another dent in his ego" (Shadow of The Bat # 89, by Ian Edginton, Jason Miller and Sal Buscema).
Croc had characteristically formed close bonds with the men in his gang and was outraged when one of them was critically injured by serial killer Mr. Zsasz. Though desperate to kill Zsasz, himself a patient of Doctor Leslie Thompkins, Croc agreed to abide by the cease-fire that she had declared in the makeshift hospital. All bets were off when Zsasz escaped. Batman separated the two killers as they wrapped their hands around each other's throats, restraining Zsasz while Croc escaped (Batman Chronicles # 18, by Devin Grayson, Dale Eaglesham and Jaime Mendoza & John Floyd).
As the NML was winding down, Croc was preparing to return to the persona of gang lord that he'd once craved. Now wearing an expensive designer suit, he proclaimed to his followers that "I ain't going back to the sewers! That's over! That's history! I'm not going back to that! You with me on this ? I used to run this town 'til the cops and Blackmask and Bane hounded me into the sewers. And I blame nobody but myself! But I'm Killer Croc, damn it, and I'm back for what's mine!"
Croc intended to "expand east and south and crush anybody who stands in the way." A crew that included Robin, the GCPD, Alfred Pennyworth and even the Penguin faced down the gang and the Boy Wonder managed to end the uprising by getting Croc to drop a car on himself (Robin # 71-72, by Chuck Dixon, Stza Johnson & Gordon Purcell and Wayne Faucher).
With order restored in Gotham, Croc was again reduced to committing burglaries (Batman: Gotham Knights # 3) interspersed with stays in Arkham (B:GK # 5; Batman # 584). His NML experiences have emboldened him, though, giving Killer Croc an appetite for power that convenience store heists just can't satisfy. "I'm back, baby!" he announced during Robin # 72. "The Croc is back to stay!"
The Winner of Western Comics
He was DC's first Native American star ... and one of its best.
The story of Pow-Wow Smith played out in the pages of DC's comics in reverse order, beginning in the present before moving to the past. Created by Don Cameron (who wrote at least the first six episodes) and Carmine Infantino, the Indian lawman operated during 1949-1953 in Detective Comics # 151 to 202. Infantino left after ten episodes and Leonard Starr (# 161, 163, 175-202) and Bruno Premiani (# 162, 164-174) continued as artists on the series.
In 1953, the series was relocated to Western Comics, where Julius Schwartz replaced Jack Schiff as editor with # 43. Returning to the character he'd launched was Schwartz stalwart Infantino, who pencilled (and frequently inked) the series for the duration of its Western run. France Herron scripted the first half (# 43-60) while Gardner Fox wrote the latter (# 61-85).
Pow-Wow's arrival in the book was heralded on the cover, where he became the new lead feature, bumping the previous star, the Wyoming Kid, to the back of the book. Gone altogether was the Cowboy Marshal series. With Pow-Wow's second installment (# 44), the series underwent another alteration when the locale was moved back seventy years to the 1880s.
As related in Who's Who '86 # 18, "Sioux Indian brave Ohiyesa ('The Winner') left Red Deer Valley and his tribe to learn more about the world of the white man. His expert skills at tracking and handling a gun enabled him to win a job as deputy sheriff ... While still a deputy, Ohiyesa was given the name Pow-Wow Smith by some townspeople. Though he used his Indian name with the tribe, he eventually began to call himself Pow-Wow when among the white men. Once he became sheriff, Pow-Wow spent most of his time living in Elkhorn, only rarely returning to Red Deer Valley."
Gardner Fox deviated from the episodic nature of Herron's scripts and began to introduce recurring characters, the first of whom was Tony Morley, the Fadeaway Outlaw. Morley debuted in Western # 62 (1957) and returned in # 73 (1958). The Fadeaway Outlaw wasn't a true super-human but used a variety of tricks and disguises to make it seem that he could vanish.
Western # 73 also introduced Pow-Wow's deputy, Hank Brown, who had announced his intent to resign after he married his girl friend Sally Ann. Hank refused to leave until the Fadeaway Outlaw was in custody, much to his fiancee's chagrin. On the morning of the nuptials, the villain was captured and Pow-Wow made it to the church in time to serve as best man. Hank evidently changed his mind because he became a regular within a few issues, appearing in # 76 (mis-identified as Jim Hathaway), 77 and 79-83. Sally Ann Brown popped up in # 81.
Western # 78 (1959) featured a nice story about Pow-Wow's relationship with the people of Elkhorn. Young Tommy Walters, excited about his birthday party, asked the sheriff when his own birthday was. "I'm a Sioux," Pow-Wow explained. "and we don't know the exact day we are born. The closest I can get to my birth date is -- the second day after the big buffalo kill during the Month of Shedding Ponies (approximately May) in the Year of the Plenty Buffalo."
After listening to the story, Tommy's father decided to "get in touch with the territorial governor." In short order, the entire town of Elkhorn was conspiring to hold a surprise birthday party for the sheriff. When the big day arrived, the locals were on pins and needles as each new crisis threatened to take Pow-Wow away from the festivities. When he took off in pursuit of bank robbers that evening, the townspeople despaired that he'd never return in time.
With less than fifteen minutes until midnight, Pow-Wow locked the bandits in a cell only to hear dozens of voices singing "Happy Birthday" to him. He was presented with a scroll "signed by the President and Congress of the United States" that "makes you an honorary citizen of the United States and legally declares your birthday to be May 15th from now on." For the document to be binding, it had to be presented to the recipient on his designated birthday. As two of the local men raised Pow-Wow on their shoulders, the delighted sheriff proclaimed it "the most fantastic thing that ever has happened to me -- and the most wonderful!"
A footnote added that "it wasn't until 1924 that the Federal Congress passed legislation making citizens of all Indians born within the continental limiits of the U.S.A. Until then only individual Indians or tribes had been so honored."
The final four Western episodes (# 82-85) introduced Ohiyesa's fiancee, Fleetfoot. Issue # 84 expanded the family further with the introduction of Pow-Wow's twin brother, Horse Hunter. According to Sioux custom, "when twins are born, one of them is given away, to avert the anger of the evil spirits. My parents gave me to the Blackfeet to raise for their own." After seeing the sheriff's picture in a newspaper, Horse Hunter deduced what had happened and travelled to Elkhorn. Had Western not been discontinued with # 85 (1960), Pow-Wow's strip might well have played with some of the same plot devices as the recently discontinued "Trigger Twins" series.
Who's Who '86 # 18 revealed that Ohiyesa and Fleetfoot eventually married and that the Pow-Wow who appeared in Detective # 151-202 was their namesake descendant. "This Ohiyesa attended college in the east, then returned to Red Deer Valley, seeking to bring his tribe into the wondrous 20th Century. He too became a lawman and took the name Pow-Wow Smith, but he continued to live in Red Deer Valley."
The early 1970s saw a minor Western revival at DC and ten separate Pow-Wow Smith episodes were reprinted, most notably 1970's All-Star Western # 1, which was virtually a Pow-Wow solo book (reprinting Western # 80 and 73). Other reprints appeared in All-Star # 8, 9 and 11, DC Special # 6, Super DC Giant # S-15, Trigger Twins # 1 and Weird Western # 12.
The modern-day Pow-Wow returned in 1980's Detective Comics # 500 alongside several other crimefighters from the title's long history. The episode, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, was a rewrite on an old Batman yarn ("The Case Batman Failed To Solve" from Batman # 14) in which multiple detectives joined forces to solve the murder of an associate.
Pow-Wow's 19th Century incarnation missed making an appearance in Crisis On Infinite Earths but he did manage to turn up with many of DC's other 1870s Western heroes in 1991's Armageddon: The Alien Agenda # 3.
Most recently, Chuck Dixon and Eduardo Barreto featured a possibly third-generation Pow-Wow ("It's United States Marshal Smith now.") in 1997's Robin Annual # 6. In a cute sequence, Smith astonished the modern counterpart of Nighthawk by looking at tire tracks and determining that the fugitive 20th Century Trigger Twins "came off the interstate a few miles north. '78 Cadillac Eldorado. Oklahoma plates. Stolen back in Tulsa."
"You can tell that from sign ?"
"It's in the Texas Rangers' report."
Pow-Wow and Nighthawk eventually ended up in Gotham, meeting Sheriff "Shotgun" Smith ("No relation, I reckon."), Robin and the Huntress before the Triggers were taken into custody.
Will Pow-Wow Smith's legacy extend into the future ? Only time (and Chuck Dixon) will tell.
Sunburst (x 6)
The death of Japanese super-hero Sunburst during the Great Crisis was a great blow to the country that he'd defended, doubly so when it was revealed that he had also been film star Takeo Sato. The powers that Sato had exhibited on screen -- flight, bursts of flame and bright light from his hands, the ability to generate small volcanoes -- had not been special effects. Years earlier, Sato had given his own account of how this had come to be:
"It started the day of my birth -- or so I am told. You see, I was born in a tiny village, within sight of an active volcano. On the day of my birth, the volcano was belching fumes prior to an eruption. Fumes, I imagine, that I inhaled with my first breath.
"I never knew of any effect they had on me, and I grew up normally. Then, as an adult, I decided to become an actor. I won the role of a costumed super-hero in a low-budget production, and I had to learn to 'fly' on wires. It was nearly my last day as well, for the wires holding me in the air snapped. I screamed in terror -- and next I knew, I was in flight! The studio decided to keep my powers a secret, preferring to release my super-stunts as state-of-the-art special effects" (1983's New Adventures of Superboy # 47, by Paul Kupperberg, Alex Saviuk and Kurt Schaffenberger).
Sunburst's natural powers eventually came to the attention of criminals, who abducted Takeo's parents and blackmailed him into going on a crime spree as Sunburst. The string of robberies soon drew the attention of Superboy, who found that there was "more to (the marauder's) arsenal than mere sun-power and flight -- such as superhuman speed and agility -- an incredible hardness of body and mighty strength."
After a series of skirmishes with the Boy of Steel, Sunburst seized on a moment of concealment to reveal the extortion plot and enlist Superboy in a plan to capture the kidnappers. After his parents were rescued, Takeo related his origin to Superboy and cursed the day he'd learned of his powers.
"Maybe I can help you with that, Takeo -- since it seems the secret to your power lies in knowing how to use it. But if I place a strong hypnotic block on that knowledge, your powers should slip back into dormancy." The plan was a success and the short career of Sunburst was brought to a close (NAOS # 45-47).
The post-Crisis version of Sunburst's origin, according to 1986's Who's Who # 22, involved Japan's native hero, the Rising Sun, rather than the now non-existent Superboy.
Flash forward a dozen or so years to Iran, where a wealthy oil baron named Omar had finally discovered the origin of a jeweled globe that had been in his family for centuries. "The eternal secret of total energy" was implanted in the sphere "by a man whose name has been lost to antiquity." It was given to Omar's ancestor for safe-keeping as the forces of Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 334 B.C.
After eight years of searching, Omar learned that the globe possessed "power enough to convert the sun's solar energy into a field of force -- transforming a man into a human sunburst, and giving (him) strength enough to recreate the Persian Empire." In a burst of energy, Omar adopted an armored uniform, his exposed flesh turned blood red and his hair became a mane of fire.
En route to the United Nations to deliver an ultimatum, the flying Sunburst had a chance encounter with a distraught Aquaman, only hours after the murder of his son. The Sea King was swiftly defeated by the villain, who left him for dead in the desert. Unable to use his aquatic powers, Aquaman found a small basin of water that he rationed as he walked through the desert night. Spotting a plane on the horizon, he used a metal can to make a glare and catch the pilot's attention. "There's a certain irony here: sunlight was used to trap this man, and now, appropriately, sunlight is used to free him."
Arriving in Bakushi, Iran, Aquaman found Sunburst making new threats at an embassy. Dodging the villain's heat-vision, the Sea King declared that "my desert experience taught me a man has other powers than those based in his body -- and those powers -- his wit and cunning -- are the greatest powers of all!" Pulling out a mirror, Aquaman reflected Sunburst's powers back at him, burning out the solar tyrant's might (1977's DC Special Series # 1 -- a.k.a. "Five Star Super-Hero Spectacular" -- by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin and Jack Abel).
Within a few years, Earth -- and the universe itself -- found itself imperilled by the threat of the Anti-Monitor. Heroes from all over the globe were mobilized, including Japan's Doctor Light, the Rising Sun ... and Sunburst. Through circumstances unknown, Takeo's knowledge of using his powers had returned and he gallantly joined the defense efforts. Sunburst was killed in the skies over Tokyo, struck down by a Shadow-Demon (1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths # 12, by Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jerry Ordway).
Within months, the Sunburst name had been appropriated by a third person. Timothy Walton had designed golden body armor, complete with glider wings, that was powered by solar energy. Its defensive capabilities included bursts of force and solar energy channelled through his hands. Unfortunately for the would-be criminal mastermind, he attracted the attention of the Teen Titans almost immediately and was ultimately blasted from the sky by Starfire's own solar energy bolts.
The story might have ended there had the entire conflict not been observed by the Wildebeest. The villain stole Walton's armor, used it to kill a business rival and created a situation in which it appeared that Starfire had accidentally slain the man herself. Thanks to Nightwing's detective skills, the plot was exposed (1987's New Teen Titans # 36-37, by Wolfman, Eduardo Barreto and Romeo Tanghal). Sunburst's armor, however, was never recovered and presumably was adapted into the Wildebeest's catalog of weapons.
Meanwhile, in Japan, the legend of Sunburst was being continued by a media savvy successor, whose every action was televised on "The Adventures of The New Sunburst," described as "the country's most popular television show." Clad in a costume loosely modelled after Takeo's, the new Sunburst could channel solar energy through his hands but the full extent of his powers is unknown. In 1989, Sunburst suffered a humilating defeat at the hands of the soon-to-be Brotherhood of Dada (Doom Patrol # 26, by Grant Morrison, Richard Case and John Nyberg).
The legend of Takeo Sato was also revisited by Paul Kupperberg in 1991's Superboy # 18 (art by Jim Mooney and Kim DeMulder), set within the continuity of the live-action TV series. In this version, Takeo was a film student at Shuster University who produced and starred in the amateur production "Sunburst Over Tokyo." Takeo had discovered a talisman in Japan that granted him solar powers but members of the Yakuza tracked him to the U.S. hoping to use the amulet for themselves. Superboy defeated one of the solar-powered thugs and returned the talisman to Takeo, suggesting that the young man use the power altruistically.
Instead, the aspiring filmmaker smashed the jewel, declaring that "I picked my destiny years ago, when I decided to become a Spielberg instead of a Superboy." As the Boy of Steel began to argue that someone else could have used the talisman for good, Takeo pointed out that it could just as easily fall into evil hands.
By the earlier 21st Century, groups of freedom fighters known as Team Titans were being mobilized to combat the threat posed by Lord Chaos by being sent back in time. One such agent was code-named Sunburst, whose "whole team was killed in the time-transfer." On top of that, Sunburst had arrived three years earlier than intended. "All (he) could do was wait." The solar Titan could encase himself in a fiery force bubble and, like most of the men who previously held his name, was capable of generating solar blasts through his hands. In 1993, Sunburst was attacked by a Chaos-drone from the future and, despite an alliance with other factions of the Team Titans, he was ultimately killed when the robotic manhunter fired a blast into his chest (Team Titans # 11-12, by Marv Wolfman & Tom Peyer, Gordon Purcell & Frank Turner and Dave Simons).
A final Sunburst didn't appear until the 30th Century. In 2969, the Legion of Super-Heroes faced a man in a red suit (with black vest and boots) who held them at bay during a robbery at the Metropolis Mint. The costume was lined with super-scientific devices that enabled Sunburst to "surround him(self) with an electro-magnetic force-field," generate bursts of blinding light and fire the requisite bursts of solar radiation. The villain was finally apprehended when he was blinded by Shadow Lass.
Unknown to the Legion, Shadow Lass was being impersonated by Uli Algor, who was working in tandem with Sunburst to convince the team that she was for real as a prelude to stealing the secrets of the LSH. Shady's boy friend, Mon-El, discovered the switch and brought the mimic to justice (1969's Action Comics # 379, by E. Nelson Bridwell, Win Mortimer and Murphy Anderson).
Summing up, we've discussed:
Sunburst I (Takeo Sato): New Adventures of Superboy # 45
Sunburst II (Omar ?): DC Special Series # 1
Sunburst III (Timothy Walton): New Teen Titans (second series) # 36
Sunburst IV: Doom Patrol # 26
Sunburst V: Team Titans # 11
Sunburst VI: Action Comics # 379
A seventh Sunburst seems to be an inevitability, given the obvious attractiveness of the name. It's just a matter of when and where. Until then, keep watching the sky!
John "Mikishawm" Wells, the pride of Batavia, Iowa, is a lifelong comics fan, working his way forward from Disneys in 1969 to newspaper strips in 1973 to SHAZAM! and the rest of the DC Universe in 1974. During the 1980s, he began compiling a lists of DC character appearances, a massive database that he's tapped into when writing articles for publications such as the DC Index series, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer’s Guide, Comic Effect, Comic Book Marketplace, It’s A Fanzine, The O‘Neil Observer and, of course, Fanzing. He is Kurt Busiek's unofficial reference guide, as the keen-eyed may have noticed in Power Company #2.
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This piece is © 2002 by John Wells
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