Friday, April 10, 2015

Who's Who in the DC Convergence #1

Created by Grant Morrison, Gail Simone and John Byrne, based on the character created by Julius Schwartz, Gardner Fox and Gil Kane, which was very loosely based on the character created by Ben Flinton and Bill O’Conner
Alter Ego: Ryan Choi
Known relatives: A disapproving father
Occupation: Professor at Ivy University
Base of Operations: Ivy Town, somewhere in New England
First Appearance: DCU: BRAVE NEW WORLD (2006)

Hong Kong-born scientist Ryan Choi was a longtime admirer of Ray Palmer, with whom he exchanged letters for years. When Palmer disappeared after the events of Identity Crisis (if you haven’t read it, don’t; it’s terrible), Choi moved to America with his father and took Palmer’s place on Ivy University’s teaching staff…and, upon finding a size and density-changing belt, he also took Palmer’s place as The Atom.

Palmer’s years of weird adventures in and around Ivy Town had warped the fabric of reality, making the place a sort of hotspot for various weird and paranormal menaces, which Choi bravely fought using his keen mind and Palmer-gifted abilities to shrink.

He battled a cancer god, microscopic aliens, a shrinking serial killer and Wonder Woman villain Giganta before being pulled into the unfortunate events of Countdown (Don’t read that either; it’s even worse than Identity Crisis).

When Palmer finally returned, he and Choi straightened out the nature of their relationship—which wasn’t as Choi and readers thought it was—but they both continued to use the name The Atom.

And then Choi got killed by Deathstroke and a team of lame-ass villains, and his tiny little body was stuck in a matchbox.

Choi wore a “bio-belt” that gave him powers identical to those of his predecessor, Ray Palmer. He could shrink to unimaginably small sizes, while retaining his density, so, like Palmer, he could shrink to the size of a flea, but still punch with the force of a grown man.

Also like Palmer, Choi is a brilliant scientist specializing in physics and the emerging field of super-science.

Unlike Palmer, he often fought with a weapon of sorts, which he called a “Bangstick.” Originally conceived by his friends in the Lighter Than Air Society as a means for sub-atomic propulsion, this special staff could also produce a concussive effect. As for why it was called a Bangstick instead of a "Boom Stick," well, the latter was already taken.

Choi also knew martial arts, because he was Asian, so of course he had to know martial arts.

For further reading: Choi starred in The All-New Atom, which lasted 25 issues, and was collected in four trade collections. He was an interesting character, and the series had an interesting premise, but it was overall pretty terrible from start to finish.

Phil Noto
Stephanie Brown/Spoiler created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle; Batgirl created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, inspired by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff's Bat-Girl.
Alter Ego: Stephanie Brown
Occupation: Gotham University student
Known relatives: Arthur Brown/Cluemaster (father), Crystal Brown (mother) and a daughter she gave up for adoption
Group Affiliation: Batman, Incorporated
Base of Operatons: Gotham City
Favorite color: Purple
Favorite food: Waffles, apparently
First Appearance: As Stephanie Brown, DETECTIVE COMICS #647 (1992); as Batgirl, BATGIRL #1 (2009)

The daughter of Z-List Gotham criminal Arthur "Cluemaster" Brown, Stephanie grew up resenting her father for spending most of her childhood in jail, and for being an all-around bad guy. As a teenager, she created a fuchsia costume and began her career as the vigilante crimefighter The Spoiler; this was back when a "spoiler" was someone who spoiled things, and did not yet refer to giving away the ending of a movie, television show or other piece of popular entertainment on the Internet. What she wanted to spoil was simply her father's criminal plans.

This brought her into Batman and Robin's orbit, and, before long, she took a romantic interest in then-Robin Tim Drake. The pair had an intense on-again, off-again relationship; sometimes romantic, sometimes as crime-fighting partners, sometimes as just friends.

Despite her closeness to Tim, Stephanie was never very readily accepted by Batman and the rest of Gotham's vigilante community, most of whom repeatedly attempted to get her stop trying to be a superhero. She did seem to finally gain Batman's acceptance when he made her the fourth Robin, replacing Tim Drake when Drake temporarily quit. This was, in actuality, just one in a long line of dick moves by Batman, as he took Stephanie on as Robin mainly to convince Tim to return to the role.

After Batman fired her as his sidekick, she resumed her Spoiler identity and sought to prove herself by...well, this part never really made sense to me. "War Games," that is. It was a big, stupid Batman crossover story in which Spoiler somehow accidentally set-off a gang war in Gotham City, but the war and her role in it didn't really make any goddam sense. She was tortured to death via power tools by the villain The Black Mask, because The Joker was apparently busy.

No one in the whole world liked this, so it was later retconned to reveal that Stephanie and Dr. Leslie Thompkins had faked the former's death, in an attempt to make Batman feel bad about violence. That seems like kind of a dick move, too.

Anyway, she next became Batgirl, when her friend Cassandra Cain decided to stop being Batgirl, since she could no longer make sense of her own continuity, as every story involving Cassandra Cain since the concusion of her title made even less sense than "War Games" did. Stephanie started out by rocking Cassandra's costume, but eventually Barbara "Oracle" Gordon, the original Batgirl, decided to quit giving Stephanie static, and became her partner and mentor, even designing her a brand-new Batgirl costume, which included lots of purple and a utility garter belt.

Stephanie seemed to flourish as Batgirl, earning Oracle's respect and, upon his return from his "death," even Batman's official sanctioning, as he made her a part of his Batman, Incorporated initiative.

And then Flashpoint happened.

Stephanie Brown has no super-powers, and hasn't had the years of extensive training that many of those in Batman's circle of allies have had, making her the least formidable of the three Batgirls to date. She has trained with Robin Tim Drake, Batgirl Cassandra Cain, Batman himself and The Birds of Prey, particularly Huntress, with whom she shares an affinity for purple.


Andy Kubert
Created by James Robinson, Carlos Urbano and Julius Gopez, based on the character “created” “by” “Bob Kane”
Alter Ego: Dr. Thomas Wayne
Occupation: He's Batman.
Marital Status: Widower (His wife is deeaaaaaad!!!)
Group Affiliation: The World Army
First Appearance: EARTH 2 ANNUAL #1 (2013)

While still a medical student, Thomas Wayne fell in with the Falcone crime family, and spent some time partying and doing lots of drugs with Frankie Falcone. It was Frankie who introduced Wayne to a young woman named Martha.

After Thomas and Martha married and had a son together, Wayne tried to sever all ties with Falcone, who eventually decided to have the Waynes killed. Thomas survived the attack that claimed his wife’s life, but decided to pretend to be dead in order to better pursue a life of vengeance against Falcone. He was able to accomplish this in part through using the miraculous super-steroid drug Miralco, which he stole from colleague Rex Tyler.

Disowned by his adult son Bruce “Batman” Wayne, who was less-than-happy when he found out about his father’s poor life choices, Thomas eventually took up the mantle of Batman after his son gave his life staving off the initial Apokolyptian invasion of Earth-2.

When Apokolips renewed its attacks on Earth-2, Thomas joined forces with a second generation of Earth-2 super-people, including Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkgirl, Red Tornado and others.

Thomas Wayne possesses the superior crime-fighting, justice-loving genes of the Wayne Family, and he is an expert hand-to-hand combatant, expert athlete and knows lots of doctor stuff.

The Miraclo super-drug gives him super-human strength, speed and stamina, as well as an enhanced level of invulnerability. But these powers only last for 60 minutes, and then the human body requires 24 hours between usages. Additionally, if Miralco is anything like Earth-Prime steroids, it also causes acne and dramatic mood swings, shrinks your genitals and makes your head look pretty weird…so just say no to drugs, kids! Remember: Miralco is wacko.

For further reading: EARTH 2 VOL. 3: BATTLECRY and EARTH 2 VOL. 4: THE DARK AGE, plus current issues of EARTH 2 and EARTH 2: WORLD’S END

Chris Burnham
Cassandra Cain created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott; Black Bat created by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
Alter Ego: Cassandra Cain
Occupation: Professional crime-fighter in the employ of Bamtman, Incorporated
Known relatives:David Cain (father), Lady Shiva (mother)
Base of Operations: Hong Kong
Favorite Saying: "..."
First Appearance: As Cassandra Cain, BATMAN #567 (1999); as Black Bat, BATMAN, INC #6 (2011)

Cassandra Cain was conceived of—even before her actual conception—by her father David Cain as the greatest assassin the world had ever known. He sought out Sandra Wu-San—the woman who would become Lady Shiva, widely believed to be the greatest martial artist in the world—to reproduce with him.

He raised the resulting child exclusively in the language of violence, teaching her how to dodge bullets by shooting guns at her, and that sort of thing. As a result, young Cassandra never learned to speak or read, but she did learn to read body language to the extent that she could "predict" what someone would do before they did it, an ability that would eventually make her one of the world's greatest martial artists.

By the time she was eight, her father was ready to start using her as a weapon. After he put her hair in pigtails and gave her a frilly dress, she certainly looked harmless—right up until she ripped the throat out of her designated victim with her bare hand.

The shock of actually taking a man's life—compounded by her reading his pain and horror via her unique skills—horrified young Cassandra, and she ran away from her father at that point, and managed to stay off his radar for years.

She eventually ended up in Gotham City, during the lowest point in the city's history, after the United States Government officially excised the city from its territory and declared it a no man's land. Cassandra became one of Oracle's many civilian agents during this lawless time, and she eventually so impressed both Oracle and Batman that the pair decided to make her the new Batgirl, giving her a modified costume first worn by The Huntress when attempting to fill-in for an MIA Batman.

While not the greatest detective, and not terribly socialized, Cassandra became an excellent crime-fighter, particularly when paired with minders like Batman, Oracle, Robin, Nightwing or even Spoiler, who could help her navigate the social mores that were still alien to her.

During this time she eventually learned to speak and read, and among her accomplishments were fighting Lady Shiva to the death—twice (The first time, Shiva "kills" her quickly, but, realizing Cassandra has a death wish, she resurrects her immediately, so that Cassandra was only "technically" dead; the second time, Cassandra wins, but refuses to kill Shiva).

Around the time that Superboy-Prime started punching DC continuity, after the cancellation of Batgirl, Cassandra's story gets so garbled as to be non-sensical and at one point DC even had to launch a Batgirl miniseries to make sense of all the nonsense stories involving the character over a period of a few years (If I recall correctly, she was injected with mind-conrol drugs by Deathstroke?).

It's best to pretend that nothing after the cancellation of her own series even happened (and the last arc or so of that series wasn't very good, either).

She would later appear as Black Bat, wearing a modified version of her old Batgirl costume, as Batman's Hong Kong agent in his Batman, Incorporated initiative.

Whether or not Cassandra's abilities to intuit the movements of others constitutes a meta-human superpower or not is probably up for debate. It's an ability she shares with her mother Lady Shiva, however, and, as with Lady Shiva, it has made her one of—if not the—best hand-to-hand fighters in the world. As stated above, it allowed her to defeat Lady Shiva herself, and Batgirl has fought Batman to a draw on at least one occassion—she was all messed up on drugs at the time, though, and he was trying not to hurt her, so it wasn't exactly a "fair" fight, since she wasn't in her right mind and he wasn't trying to fight her. My money would be on Cass though.

Aside from being able to beat up pretty much anyone, Batgirl probably has Bat-arangs and other Bat-stuff, as hers is the biggest utility belt with the biggest pouches in the whole history of utility belts.

For further reading: As Black Bat, Cassandra Cain only had a few brief appearances in BATMAN INCORPORATED, which has been collected into three trades: BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL. 1, BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL.1 (not a typo!) and BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL.2; all are worth reading, even if the Black Bat content is extremely low.

As Batgirl, Cassandra Cain was the first Batgirl to support her own title, and at 73 issues she still holds the record for the longest extant Batgirl title (the current Batgirl series, the first to star Barbara Gordon, ironically enough, is only at issue #40, but barring a relaunch should eventually catch and surpass Cassandra's series). Most, of Cassandra Cain's BATGIRL has been collected in trade; the first 37 issues or so, by the book's original creative team, are the best, although the rest of the run has its moments, particularly writer Dylan Horrocks' run, which had all those gorgeous James Jean covers...and is oddly uncollected. BATGIRL: SILENT RUNNING, BATGIRL: A KNIGHT ALONE, BATGIRL: DEATH WISH and BATGIRL: FISTS OF FURY collect the good stuff, by the original creative team of Scott Peterson and/or Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott and Robert Campanella. I remember liking 2001's SUPERBOY #85, by Joe Kelly, Pascual Ferry and Keith Champagne pretty well; and 2006's SOLO #10, the Damion Scott issue, has two pretty good Cassandra Cain stories in it—a Spoiler/Batgirl team-up, and a possible future story where Batman Tim Drake has married Batgirl Cassandra Cain.

Ryan Sook
Created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino
Alter Egos: Milton Fine, Vril Dox
Marital Status: Married to his work.
Hobby: Shrinking cities, putting them in bottles
Favorite colors: Purple and green
First Appearance: ACTION COMICS #242 (1958)

God, where to start? Brainiac is probably the most fluid character in Superman's corner of the DC Universe, going through constant reboots, retcons, rejiggers and updates—occasionally for in-story reasons, often in response to a cosmic reset button pushed by the publishers here on Earth-33.

The original Brainiac was a bald, green-skinned alien and/or android with a tight-fitting pink shirt and boots, no pants, and diodes atop his head. He went about trying to shrink various cities on Earth to put in bottles, as he had previously done to the Kryptonian city of Kandor. Because Brainiac had collected Kandor before the planet was destroyed, it was the only city to survive. So Superman wasn't exactly the last son of Krypton, just the last full-sized son of Krypton. Superman kept Kandor safe in his Fortress of Solitude, promising to figure out how to restore it to full-size at some point. ("Yeah right," Reed Richards laughed, "Right after I cure Ben Grimm!")

Brainiac got a bit of a make-over in the 1980s thanks to writer Marv Wolfman and artist Ed Hannigan, who gave him new robot body resembling a metal skeleton with a giant brain, as well as a huge, tentacled ship that looked like his head.

Crisis On Infinite Earths didn't affect his design, but did affect his origin, as he was then a criminal scientist named Vril Dox from the planet Colu, who was sentenced to death but whose intelligence melded with that of Earth man Milton fine, a psychic sideshow mentalist.

As for our current version, the one who existed after the events of Flashpoint rejiggered the DC Multiverse yet again, he was still a criminal scientist named Vril Dox, living on the planet Yod-Colu. Aware of an imminent, planet-devouring danger from the Fifth Dimension called "The Multitude," Dox shrunk a city on his home planet to keep it and his family safe, and then sent out drones throughout the universe, to similarly preserves cities from different planets. He takes Metropolis from Earth about five or six years ago, but it is saved by a jeans and t shirt rocking young Superman, who takes his first flight in order to reach Brainiac's ship, and discovers his godawful New 52 costume on that ship.

After that defeat, Brainiac next returns to Earth after having infected Superman with the "Doomsday" virus, but is defeated once again, this time being thrown out of the universe and discovering the Multiverse in the process. Meanwhile, in the year 2019, Brainiac kills the majority of StormWatch in The Bleed, and begins another attack on Earth, this time as a kaiju-sized giant with a scary, many-eyed face. He is once again thwarted by Superman.

Brainiac is, as his name implies, very smart. Like, really, really smart. With those smarts, he's created a truly fearsome arsenal of weaponry and a technology that can be difficult to comprehend. But then, he did build a ship many times larger than Earth, multitudes of robot bodies and the ability to shrink and store entire cities.

He also has vaguely defined mental powers, which allow him to do mind-stuff, occasionally possessing human brains as easily as he can hijack computers and technology of various kinds. He is at his strongest, and has the greatest number of abilities, when inside his ship.

For further reading: Running just slightly behind Lex Luthor in the race to be Superman's archenemy, there are scores of Brainiac stories, and he often appears in at least a supporting role in some of the better Superman stories (Like "Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow?", for example).

DC Comics did put together a nice sampler of stories in the form of the 2008 trade paperback SUPERMAN VS. BRAINIAC, collecting stories from throughout the characters' history of conflicts.

For the purposes of Convergence, however, DC likely wants you to be most familiar with 1) Grant Morrison's run on Action Comics, which introduced the New 52 Braniac, which means SUPERMAN—ACTION COMICS: VOLS. 1-3 (which is really quite good, despite the inconsistent art by an ever-shifting array of artists), 2) SUPERMAN: DOOMED and 3) THE NEW 52: FUTURES END, only the first chunk of which is available in trade so far.

Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's SSUPERMAN: BRAINIAC, part of Johns' pre-New 52 run on the character, was pretty good. Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway's SUPERMAN: PANIC IN THE SKY! is pretty good if you can find that; it was a Superman story arc with a Crisis-sized cast, and was popular enough to be collected in trade paperback back in 1993, when trade collections of superhero comics were still pretty rare. Finally, Jim Krueger and Alex Ross' JUSTICE is great fun; that's essentially their attempt at producing a grown-up version of Challenge of The Super-Friends, and while it's of course out-of-continuity (think All-Star Justice League), it uses the original version of Brainiac as the lead villain.

Bruce Timm
Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
Alter Ego: Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel
Occupation: Career criminal/disbarred psychologist
Marital status: Still waiting Mister J makes an honest woman out of her
Known relatives: Mr. Quinzel (father), Sharon Quinzel (mother), Barry Quinzel (brother)
Group Afilliations: The Secret Six, "The Gotham City Sirens"
Base of operations: Gotham City
Not to be confused with: Harlequin
First appearance: "Joker's Favor" episode of Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

Harley's Brooklyn parents were probably asking for trouble when they named their daughter Harleen Quinzel. Whip-smart, Quinzel decided on a career in psychology at a young age, perhaps because she sought to understand what was wrong with her own family. In college, her boyfriend committed suicide, starting her obsession with the Gotham City master-criminal and mass-murderer The Joker.

She had the opportunity to become exceptionally close to The Joker while serving as an intern at Arkham Asylum, during which point the Clown Prince of Crime seduced her and they began their mad love affair. When Quinn was finally discovered to be complicit in his escapes, she herself was thrown in a padded cell in Arkham.

She made her escape during the earthquake that devastated the city, and adopted her own colorful criminal code-name: Harley Quinn. She teamed with one-time fellow Arkham inmate Poison Ivy, who gave her a chemical concoction that greatly enhanced her strength, speed and agility, making Harley a genuine physical threat to Batman—and more than a match for The Joker in a fair fight.

The two set on a crime spree, intending to take down both Batman and the Joker, but Harley was unable to bring herself to kill The Joker, and ended up back in his thrall, working with him throughout much of the time in which Gotham City was declared a federal "no man's land."

She would work with The Joker on and off for a while, but eventually attempted to get out from under his shadow by striking out as a villain in her own right. She reconciled with Poison Ivy, and together the pair relocated from Gotham City to Metropolis for a while.

After a variety of adventures and misadventures on both sides of the law—Harley Quinn may be a criminally insane supervillain obsessed with the worst killer in human history, but she actually kinda sorta has a heart of gold—she found herself re-teaming with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, an alliance that lasted a bit longer than most involving two or more super-villains might. In the trio's case, it was men who came between them: Batman and The Joker, in particular.

A low-level meta-human, Quinn received enhanced strength, speed, endurance and agility thanks to a chemical compound created by Poison Ivy. It also made her immune to many poisons and toxins, which allowed her to associate freely with Ivy with little fear of being accidentally poisoned to death.

Harley is a superb gymnast, and has honed her fighting ability by taking on pretty much every hero and villain in Gotham City at one point or another. Her favorite weapon is a comically large mallet.

For further reading: BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN (2000), HARLEY QUINN: PRELUDES AND KNOCK KNOCK JOKES, HARLEY QUINN: NIGHT AND DAY, HARLEY QUINN: WELCOME TO METROPOLIS, GOTHAM CITY SIRENS VOLS. 1-4 (Please note that the now-difficult to find BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN special is being collected along with other pre-New 52 Harley material in a collection also due out in July, also entitled BATMAN: HARLEY QUINN).

Scott McDaniel
Dick Grayson created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson; Nightwing identity created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, although the superhero identity "Nightwing" first appeared in a 1963 Superman story, and the costume has been repeatedly updated from Perez's original designs.
Alter Ego:Dick Grayson
Formerly: Robin, Batman
Martial Status: The DC Universe's most eligible bachelor, once almost married Starfire
Known Relatives: Adopted father Bruce Wayne
Group Affiliations: The Teen Titans, The New Teen Titans, The New Titans, The Titans, Justice League Task Force, The JLA, The Outsiders and Batman, Incorporated
BFF: Wally West
First Appearance: As Robin, DETECTIVE COMICS #38 (1940); as Nightwing, TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #44 (1984)

Dick Grayson grew up in the Haley Circus, where he and his parents performed as the acrobatic team The Flying Grayson. Gangsters trying to shake down Haley for protection money sabotaged one of the trapezes on one tragic night, and young Dick Grayson lost both of his parents during a performance, as the pair plunged to their deaths before his eyes.

Luckily for Dick, Bruce Wayne was in attendance and, seeing himself in the young, tragically orphaned boy, Bruce makes Dick his ward and begins training him to be his sidekick, Robin. After a long, productive career as Batman and Robin, The Dynamic Duo, Grayson went off to college at Hudson University, and teamed with Batman less-and-less.

After a falling-out with Batman, Grayson devoted more and more time to his work with the Teen Titans, a group he had been leading since he first teamed up with Kid Flash and Aqualad years before. To further sever his ties with Batman, and step out of his mentor's shadow, he took the new identity of Nightwing. During his time with The Titans, Grayson developed a very close relationship with the alien princess Koriand'r, codenamed Starfire, almost marrying her at one point.

He was eventually drawn back into Batman's orbit when the Dark Knight started to lose it in the years after Batgirl Barbara Gordon's severe injuries and the second Robin Jason Todd's death at the hands of The Joker. A brilliant young boy named Tim Drake had deduced Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne's true identities, and noticed that, without a Robin, Batman had become increasingly unhinged. Drake tried and failed to convince Grayson to resume his role as Robin, but he did manage to convince Grayson and Wayne to reunite...and to convince Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth that Batman did indeed need a Robin. The pari decided that rather than Grayson putting on the old Robin costume, it should be Drake.

After Nightwing helped Batman and the new Robin defeat Jean-Paul Valley, who had temporarily taken on the role of Batman and had gone a bit around the bend, Grayson briefly assumed the mantle of Batman, while Bruce Wayne disappeared for a while on mysterious business. Nightwing then moved to Gotham's never-before-mentioned sister city Bludhaven, protecting it as Batman protected Gotham. During that time, he worked on and off with the various incarnations of the Titans and with Batman, Robin, Oracle, Huntress and their allies. It was during this time that Grayson and Barbara Gordon began a serious romantic relationship.

When Batman—and the rest of the JLA—were seemingly killed, Nightwing lead a new incarnation of the Justice League.

And, not long after, when Batman was again seemingly killed again, Nightwing again resumed the mantle of Batman, now working with Bruce's biological son Damian as Robin, rather than Tim Drake, and again joining and leading a new incarnation of the Justice League. When Batman returned from the dead this time, he and Grayson both went by the name Batman.

Then Flashpoint happened, and scrambled Nightwing's continuity pretty badly, to the point where much of what's above didn't happen, and that which did happen has now happened in very different ways, most of which haven't been revealed.

Raised in a circus by circus acrobats before he even started training in the fine art of climbing buildings, running around rooftops and swinging around the city on grappling hooks and bat-ropes, Nightwing is an extremely gifted acrobat and gymnast, as at home in great heights as it's possible for anyone who can't fly to be.

Having been trained since childhood by Batman, Nightwing is also an excellent detective, martial artist, and can do pretty much anything Batman can do, about as well as Batman can. The one area in which he far exceeds his mentor, however, is in his leadership abilities and people-skills. An affable, likeable and all-around charismatic guy, Grayson has spent his whole life among superheroes (particularly Superman and his fellow sidekicks), and has been leading various superhero teams since puberty. Even if Batman is a brilliant tactician in his own right, his off-putting personality and territorialism regarding his city make him a hard person to work with. Other superheroes may follow Batman because they have to, whereas they follow Nightwing because they want to.

Nightwing is also proficient at throwing Bat-shaped things at people, although his weapon of choice has long been a pair of Eskrima sticks.

He is widely regarded as the sexiest superhero in the DC Universe, and in possession of the best butt.

For further reading: As one of the oldest and most popular characters in DC Comics history, there are obviously a lot of comics featuring Dick Grayson available in trade. For a decent post-Crisis, pre-New 52 history, try BATMAN: YEAR THREE and/or ROBIN: YEAR ONE, NIGHTWING: YEAR ONE, BATMAN: A LONELY PLACE OF DYING, BATMAN: PRODIGAL, any of the Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel run on the 1996-2009 Nightwing ongoing series (BLUDHAVEN is he first volume) and BATMAN & ROBIN Vols. 1-3. He also appears in many of the Titans trades from this period, as well as all of the big Batman event stories and line-wide crossover stories; Nightwing is actually a hard DC superhero not to run into when reading DC Comics.

Barbara Gordon was created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, her Oracle identity was created by Kim Yale and John Ostrander
Alter Ego: Barbara Gordon
Marital status: Single
Known relatives: Father James Gordon, psycho-killer brother James Gordon Jr.
Group Affiliations: American Library Association, Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, JLA, Batman, Incorporated
Base of Operations: Gotham City
BFF: Black Canary Dinah Lance
First Appearance: As Batgirl, DETECTIVE COMICS #359 (1967); as Oracle, SUICIDE SQUAD #23 (1989)

Super-smart twenty-something Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon from his first marriage, moved to Gotham to live with him and take a position as the head librarian of the Gotham City Public Library. One night she was on her way to a costume party dressed in a sexy, Carmine Infantino-designed Rule 63 Batman costume, and happened upon costumed criminal Killer Moth.

Despite having no prior experience fighting crime, she was able to take the villain down, either on account of the fact that she was just that awesome, or because he was Killer Moth (I believe he used to just go by "Moth," but added "Killer" to sound slightly more menacing).

Despite the instant-disapproval of the He-Man, Women-Hating Dynamic Duo, Batgirl embarked on a fairly successful career as a Gotham City crime-fighter, occasionally working with Batman and Robin, but never taken completely into their confidence. She eventually retired of her own accord, and pursued a career in politics.

Her life was forever changed when she was visiting her father and answered the door, only to find The Joker on the other side. He shot her instantly through the spine, and then went about stripping and photographing her, as part of his plan to drive her father and Batman as mad as he was.

Barbara never recovered the use of her legs, and was henceforth confined to wheelchair, but she soon reinvented herself as a computer expert, hacker and information broker, working for a time with the Suicide Squad under the codename Oracle. She achieved much greater success as Oracle than she ever had as Batgirl, working closely with Batman and his various allies, often supplying them with information and coordinating their actions.

She later developed first a working relationship and then an extremely close friendship with Black Canary, and together the two formed an informal partnership, with Oracle providing the brains and Canary the brawn. They would occasionally recruit other heroes to help them on missions and, later, added permanent members to their team, including The Huntress and Lady Blackhawk.

In addition to her work with the Bat-Squad and her Birds of Prey team, Oracle also joined the JLA, playing a key role and fending off the anti-sun Maggeddon, and gradually became the information broker for much of the DC Universe's superhero establishment. During this time, she had an intense and passionate—though on-again, off-again—romanric relationship with former Robin and current Nightwing Dick Grayson, and she helped Batman train Cassandra Cain to be the new Batgirl.

Oracle naturally joined Batman in his Batman, Incorporated endeavor, fighting cybercrime both as Oracle and as an online Batgirl avatar.

Barbara Gordon possesses a photographic memory, and is an unparalleled computer hacker.


Now, if you're looking for BIRDS OF PREY in trade, ORACLE/BLACK CANARY: BIRDS OF PREY was a 1996 one-shot, essentially kicking off a series of specials and miniseries, and introducing the premise of Oracle and Black Canary as a team. An ongoing series was launched in 1999 and ran through 2009, and was followed by a short-lived, 15-issue second volume, before the New 52 reboot launched a third, Oracle-less volume. When looking for trade collections, once again "Chuck Dixon" is a good signifier of quality; he was followed by Terry Moore, Gilbert Hernandez and Gail Simone, the last of whom would eventually become the most closely-associated with the premise, her 65-issues across two volumes eventually eclipsing Dixon's own 52-issue run, which included the original one-shots and minis as well as the first few years of the ongoing. Dixon's and Simone's were the longest and most heavily-collected runs; regarding the latter, it's probably worth noting that her series gets less good the longer it runs, so those from the second volume are pretty poor compared to her run on the original title.

Rafael Albuquerque
Renee Montoya created by Sean Catherine Derke, Laren Bright and Mitch Brian; The Question created by Steve Ditko
Alter Ego: Renee Montoya
Occupation: Freelance crime-fighter
Marital status: Single, but looking...ladies.
Known relatives: Disapproving parents, ally brother
Base of Operations: Gotham City and The Outer Banks of North Carolina
Distinguishing characteristics: No face
First appearance: The Question, BLUE BEETLE #1 (1967); Renee Montoya BATMAN #475 (1992)

Renee Montoya's crime-fighting career began with the Gotham City Police Department, where she made homicide detective, eventually assigned to the GCPD's Major Crimes Unit. She was originally partnered with Harvey Bullock and, later, Crispus Allen.

She came into frequent contact with Batman and Gotham's other colorful crime-fighters and criminals, beginning a particularly strange relationship with master criminal (and one-time Gotham City District Attorney) Two-Face, aka Harvey Dent.

Montoya was one of the police officers to stay behind in Gotham City after it was declared a "no man's land" by the federal government, and she served as a go-between of sorts between Two-Face and the James Gordon camps during the crisis, repeatedly appealing to Two-Face's Dent persona. Dent falls in love with her, which doesn't work out all that well for him. Not simply because he is a criminally insane murderer and arch-criminal, nor because he's hideously—yet symmetrically!—disfigured, nor even because his morality teeters between good and evil and is decided decision by decision by the literal flip of a coin. Well, those things are all factors, sure, but Montoya is also a lesbian, which Two-Face will later out her as in revenge.

Montoya ultimately leaves the force in disgust after her partner is murdered, and tries to lose herself in alcohol and naked ladies until she's approached by the mysterious vigilante The Question, who recruits her as a sort of sidekick during his year-long investigation of Intergang and The Crime Bible. Before long, Montoya finds herself training under The Question, and upon his death from lung cancer, she takes up his mantle. And by "mantle" I mean freaky face-less mask and a fedora. I didn't like this at the time, and I still don't like it, as it seemed to take two interesting characters and reduce their number to one. That's just bad math.

As The Question, Montoya had some boring adventures in various back-up sand event tie-in comics, mostly involving The Crime Bible and her ex-girlfriend Batwoman, and then Flashpoint seemingly erased Montoya from existence, introducing a weird new version of The Question.

Montoya lacks anything in the way of super-powers, but she does have the various skills and abilities of most successful career big city homicide detectives and street-level vigilantes. Detective skills, martial arts skills—she briefly trained under Richard Dragon, one of the world's best martial artists—and the ability to shoot guns pretty well. That sort of thing.

For further reading: THE QUESTION VOLS. 1-6 (starring the original Question), GOTHAM CENTRAL VOLS. 1-5 (starring Montoya; particularly VOL 2: HALF A LIFE), 52, THE QUESTION: THE PIPELINE

Andy Kubert
Created by Tom Taylor, Nicola Scott and Robson Rocha, based on the character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Alter Ego: Val-Zod
Marital Status: Single
Group Affiliation: The World Army
Often Mistaken For: Earth-23 Superman President Calvin Ellis
First Appearance: EARTH 2 #19 (2014)

One of the few survivors of the destruction of his universe's Krypton (two universes over from the DC Universe proper, in the current Multiverse), Val-Zod was discovered not by some kindly old Midwesterners, but by Earth-2's Terry Sloan, one of the world's smartest men...and a real bastard. He offered to protect Val, and stuck the young Kryptonian refugee in a deep, dark basement below the World Army's Arkham base, where Val was deprived of sunlight (and thus couldn't charge up his Kyrptonian cells, and gain the sorts of amazing super-powers possessed by his fellow Kryptonian survivors Kal-El (who would become Superman) and Kara Zor-El (who would become Supergirl, and then Power Girl).

His traumatic past and life in a cell made Val-Zod an unlikely candidate to take up the mantle of Superman after Kal-El gave his life (along with Batman and Wonder Woman) saving his Earth from the invading forces of Apokolips, as in addition to being a pacifist, Val was also afraid of wide open spaces.

After some understanding prodding from the Red Tornado Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, and some tough love from Batman II Thomas Wayne, Val eventually stood up to help defend the world from Brutaal, an evil clone of Superman that had lead a second Apokolytpian invasion of Earth-2.

Superman II possesses the same Kryptonian physiology as his late predecessor, and thus the regular laundry list of powers: Super-strength, super-speed, super-breath, invulnerability, flight, X-Ray and heat vision, ridiculously enhanced senses, and so on.

For further reading: EARTH 2 Vol. 4: THE DARK AGE, EARTH 2: WORLDS'S END


Anonymous said...

Fine work, sir. Jonni DC would be proud.

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

I don't know whether to be impressed at how in-depth this is or scared that you know so much about some characters I barely know anything about besides their name--and I thought that I knew comics!