Sunday, May 03, 2015

Who's Who In The DC Convergence #4

Mike Sekowsky
Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, based on various Justice League characters created by various creators
Base of Operations: (Pre-Crisis) Earth-3
Line-Up: Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick
First appearance: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #27 (1964)

Hailing from an alternate Earth in a parallel vibrational frequency, The Crime Syndicate were the only beings with any super-powers, a result of the peculiarly "reverse" nature of their world's history (a world where, for example, President John Wilkes Booth was assassianted by Abraham Lincoln). With no super-heroes to challenge them, these five super-villains were soon bored with the challenge-free task of conquering and ruling their world.

This changed upon Ultraman, Earth-3's Superman analogue, acquiring the new power of "Ultra-Vision," which allowed him to see into different realities. He discovered the worlds designated Earth-1 (home of the Justice League of America, the core of which were composed of inverse versions of the CSA) and Earth-2 (home of the Justice Society of America).

Thrilled by the idea of a real challenge, The Syndicate attacked and were quickly defeated, but they managed to escape capture. In their better planned second tussle with the heroes, they first captured the JSA and fought the JLA on the neutral ground of Earth-2 (each team having a natural, home court advantage on their own world, ruled by differing cosmic laws; put simply, the good guys always win on the League's world, while the bad guys always win on the Syndicate's world).

This time the Syndicate were both defeated and captured, imprisoned in an unbreakable Green Lantern ring construct that was then jettisoned into the limbo between dimensions. The Syndicate would occassionally escape with outside aid from the likes of The Secret Society of Super-Villains or Per Degaton. They and their world were completely destroyed by an anti-matter wave unleashed by The Anti-Monitor during the crisis that collapsed the known Multiverse.

The Multiverse has a way of remembering and restoring all its lost, however, and different versions apparently based on echoes of the original CSA would appear in various forms throughout the years.

For further reading: CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 1 (2013), VOL. 6 (2013)

Mark Texeria and Tony DeZuniga
Created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga
Alter Ego: Jonah Woodson Hex
Occupation: Bounty hunter
Known relatives: Woodson Hex (abusive alcoholic father), Virginia Hex (mother)
Distinguishing characteristics: The entire right half of his face is deformed by terrible scarring, with a weird little skin bridge over the right side of his mouth
First appearance: ALL-STAR WESTERN #10 (1972)

Sold into slavery by his father at the tender age of 13, young Jonah Hex spent some of his formative years being relentlessly worked by his new Apache masters. When he saved their chief from a puma attack, however, he was adopted as the chief's own son, and raised as one of the tribe. That didn't last too long however, as his adpoted brother betrayed him and left him for dead with an enemy tribe, and Jonah once more found himself excised from his family.

He was rescued by the U.S. Calvary, but when he attempted to stop their slaughter of the Native Americans, they shot him too. He was nursed back to health by a kindly trapper.

As a grown man, eventually joined the the Confederate Army, although he felt conflicted by fighting in a war on the side of slavers (a conflict likely made more palpable to him than many of his fellow soldier on account of the fact that he spent some time as a slave himself). He eventually decided his best course of action would be to simply surrender to the Union, so as not to betray his former comrades, but that didn't go so hot, as when the Union soldiers were able to track Hex back to his former base, he was blamed for betraying them anyway.

After the war, Hex attempted to return to his Apache tribe, where he accused his adopted brother of the long-ago betrayal. The chief decided they should settle it with a good old-fashioned tomahawk fight, but Hex's no-good brother sabotaged his tomahawk. In desperation, Hex pulled a knife in self-defense, and was severly punished for this heinous breach of tomahawk fight protocol. A heated tomahawk was pressed into his face to give him "The Mark of The Demon" (and his signature good looks), after which Hex was banished from the tribe forever.

Hex became a bounty hunter by accident, when killing a man who  happened to have a bounty on him. He had finally found his true calling, and excelled and hunting and killing outlaws, proving all of the hardships, violence and temporary surrogate families of his youth were at least good for something.

On more than one occassion during his successful career, Hex encountered the supernatural, which he proved as adept at vanquishing as any other enemy life had thrown at him, and time-travelling superheroes from the future, which was also took in stride.

Things got infinitely weirder for Hex in 1875, when he disappeared from a saloon and reappeared in the post-apocalyptic future of 21st century Seattle, Washington. He was abducted from his home time period by one Reinhold Borsten, who wanted to press-gang the famed Old West gunfighter into serving him as muscle, but Hex wasn't interested and escaped, falling in with a woman named Stilleta and her biker gang The Road Reapers.

After a series of weird-ass adventures in the irradiated, Mad Max-like future America–say, with a new Mad Max movie on the horizon, maybe it's time for a Hex revival?–Hex discovered his own stuffed corpse in a sideshow, which heartened him, as he took it to mean he would eventually return to his own time period.

Hex is remarkably skilled with most killing implements of his era, particularly late 19th century firearms, the tomahawk and the knife. Hex is an expert marksman and has one of the quickest draws in the West. He is also a skilled tracker and, given his compsoure during what have to be some of the strangest adventures had by any of his gun-fighting and bounty-hunting peers, he's apparently unflappable and unphaseable.

For further reading: Hex, the 18-issue, 1985-1987 series that the version appearing in Convergence: Infinity Inc was taken from, has never been collected in trade. But if you read pretty much any comic with Jonah Hex in it–Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex Vol. 1, any of the Vertigo minis, the Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray-written Jonah Hex or All Star Western–you'll get the general idea of who Hex is and what he's about. The main difference between the Jonah Hex of Jonah Hex comics and the Jonah Hex of Hex is that the former wears a cowboy hat and the latter does not.

Brian Bolland
Created by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton, Joe Orlando and Bob Layton
Alter Ego: Helena Wayne
Occupation: Heiress; also works for the law firm of Cranston and Grayson
Known relatives: Bruce Wayne/Batman (father), Selina Wayne/Catwoman (mother)
Base of Operations: Gotham City (Pre-Crisis Earth-2)
Popular ship: Power Girl
First appearance: DC SUPER STARS #17 (1977)

Helena Wayne was the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Wayne (nee Kyle), The Batman and Catwoman of Earth-2. She was extremely well educated and trained by her parents, and by the time she grew into a young woman, she was a superb athlete in peak physical condition.

She eventually learned of her parents' costumed pasts, and would soon after create an identity of her own. When Helena was 19-years-old, an old criminal associate of her mother's resurfaced and blackmailed Selina into once again becoming Catwoman. Selena died because of her associates machinations, and Helena created a purple costume vaguely suggesting elements of both of her parents' costumes, taking for herself the name "The Huntress," which was previously used by the villain Paula Brooks.

Helena achieved justice for her mother, but continued to fight crime as The Huntress. After the death of her father, The Huntress joined The Justice Society of America and, briefly, Infinity Inc, a new, upstart super-team consisting of the children of various members of the JSA. Her closest allies of all were probably Dick Grayson/Robin and Superman's cousin Power Girl.

Like her famous parents, Helena Wayne had no super-powers, but was a superb athlete, gymnast and martial artist. She was proficient in several weapons, most notably the crossbow, which would become her signature weapon.

For further reading: HUNTRESS: DARK KNIGHT DAUGHTER (2006)

Val Semeiks
Team created by Grant Morrison, individual members created by Morrison, Mark Waid and others, based on pre-existing characters created by a whole mess of different people
Base of Operations: Jupiter
"Current" Line-Up: John Fox/The Flash, Wonder Woman, Kal Kent/Superman, Aquaman, Batman, The Atom and Owlwoman
"Past" members: Mitch Shelley/Resurrection Man, Farris Knight/Starman, Hourman
First Apperance: As a team JLA #23 (1998); The Flash and Hourman appeared individually previously

The heroic ideals of the Superman, The Justice League and other heroes of the 20th and 21st Century live on in the far-flung future of the 853rd Century. Incredibly powerful super-teams known as Justice Legions, composed of legacy versions of familiar heroes from their distant past, continue to protect the known universe.

The greatest of these is Justice Leagion A, a team of seven indominatable heroes, each of whom is assigned a different planet within our solar system to protect–all of which are now inhabitable and inhabited–and which meets at a round table in a special forcefield base within the eye of the storm that continually rages on Jupiter.

The most familiar version included John Fox, the time-travelling Flash from the 23rd Century, who made a new home for himself in this adopted future, and is based on Mercury; a "smart marble" statue code-named Wonder Woman who is based on Venus; the latest member of the Superman dynasty protects Earth with his incredible array of powers, which dwarf those once boasted by the original Superman; the intelligent machine colony Hourman, with formidable powers over time and space; Starman, who is headquartered in a star-shaped space-station near where the planet Uranus used to orbit and who is charged with oversseeing the solar system's artificial and artificially intelligent second sun; Aquaman, based on the ocean planet Neptune; and Batman, superhero warden of the prison planet Pluto, which he protects with the aid of his robot sidekick Robin, The Toy Wonder.

To celebrate the imminent return of "Superman-Prime," the original Superman Clark Kent who has spent the millennia in a self-imposed exile within the sun itself, the Justice Legion travelled back to the end of the 20th Century in order to invite Superman himself and his Justice League teammates to travel to the future with them and participate in Olympics-style games/power displays.

Things went very wrong very fast, however, as The Living Sun Solaris, a long-time Superman foe that, after its last defeat, was reprogrammed and repurposed to provide sunlight to the planets in the outer orbit of the solar system, had infected Hourman with a techno-organic virus. When Hourman arrived in the 20th century, it was released, wreaking world-wide havoc and making those infected–including the super-powerful Justice Legionnaires–paranoid and violent.

With much of the JLA already sent to the future, it fll to those who stayed behind (like Oracle), their newest recruits (like Steel, The Huntress, Plastic Man and Zauriel) and allies (like The Atom) to fight the century-spanning machinations of Solaris and immortal JLA foe Vandal Savage in a high-stakes war on two-fronts in two time-periods.

Don't worry; the good guys won.

While this team-up with their own founders and inspirations probably constituted their greatest adventure, The Justice Legion had many more adventures before and after, several of which have been recorded in comics published in the late 20th and early 21st century.

For further reading: DC ONE MILLION (1999) or JLA: ONE MILLION (2004) or DC ONE MILLION OMNIBUS (2013), all of which contain the same story, although the latter includes many more of the tie-ins (like a lot of Morrison-written projects, including The Multiversity and Seven Soldiers, this actually reads much better in single issues than a collection, as the stories were written to be read in that format). Most of the other appearances of these characters since–an 80-Page Giant here, a Superman/Batman story arc there–aren't really that great, but kinda sorta spin-off series HOURMAN (1999-2001) is well worth anyone's time.

Art Spiegelman
Created by Jack Cole
Alter Ego: Patrick "Eel" O'Brian
Occupation: Deputy officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and its fictional sister agency, the National Bureau of Investigations
Known associates: Woozy Winks, The Spirit (but only on the covers of Police Comics)
First appearance: POLICE COMICS #1 (1941)

Orphan Patrick O'Brian turned to crime at a young age, and took the name Eel. As he grew, his crimes grew more serious, so that by the time he was an adult he was working with a gang of burglars. One fateful night, when they were attempting a heist at The Crawford Chemical Works, they were surprised by a night watchman and forced to flee.

Eel was shot in the arm and then exposed to a mysterious chemical, but was still able to escape. When he made it to the street, he saw that his gang had left him. He fled on foot, before passing out at the foot of a mountain near town. He awoke up in a strange bed, where the friendly monk who found him had carried him and laid him to heal.

That wasn't as big a surprise as what he discovered when he stretched his arms–they kept stretching, and, when he tugged on his cheeks, he saw his face was just as pliable. Somehow, the mysterious chemical had given his body the properties of rubber–or, perhaps, plastic.

The monk's kindness, his gang's lack of loyalty and concern for him and his newfound powers convinced Eel to give up his life of crime, put on a costume and devote himself to fighting crime as the superhero Plastic Man.

For a long time he maintained his identity as Eel O'Brian, so that he had plenty of exposure to and contacts within the criminal underworld.

Together with is best friend Woozy Winks, another reformed criminal whose "powers" have included the remarkable ability to avoid any form of injury through unlikely circumstance (and, briefly, Plastic Man-like stretchy and bouncy powers), Plastic Man achieved much more working for the side of the angels than he could have hoped to as a criminal. He worked closely with local police, and was eventually recruited to the FBI and/or the NBI.

Plastic Man can stretch his every part of his body–down to a molecular level–which combined with his own wild imagination, has made him the most powerful and versatile of comics' many "stretchy" guys. In addition to stretching, he can shrink, grow and assume pretty much any shape at all, no matter how complicated or how many moving parts it might have. The one give-away of his transformations, which he has endlessly used as a sort of master of disguise, is that whether he turns into a rug, door, dressing table, vase, tank, bicycle, book or whatever, he can't change colors, so the objects will always appear mostly red...with some yellow, black and maybe some pinkish flesh color in them. Fortuitously, few of his marks seem to notice when a common object in their homes, offices or hideouts has suddenly become red.

The true limits of Plastic Man's powers were never really tested–at least not by the point in history that the Plastic Man in Convergence was plucked from–and like those of many old superheroes, tend to vary from story to story and writer to writer. In general, he is immune to most forms of deadly harm, including blunt trauma and even bullets.

He's generally more vulnerable to attacks by pointy objects, like knives (if you can manage to get him with one), fire, extreme cold and electricity or other forms of energy attack.

For further reading: While DC has produced several noteworthy Plastic Man comics in recent years, including Kyle Baker's series and the bulk of JLA and Alex Ross and Paul Dini's various Justice League-related collaborations, this is the Golden Age Plastic Man we're talking about, in which case we should probably limit our further reading to PLASTIC MAN ARCHIVES VOLS. 1-8 (1999-2006) and the mostly prose JACK COLE AND PLASTIC MAN: FORMS STRETCHED TO THEIR LIMIT (2001).

Sheldon Mayer
Created by Sheldon Mayer
Occupation: Boy cartoonist
Known relatives: Mortimer "Dinky" Jibbet (younger brother)
Base of Operations: New York City
First appearance: POPULAR COMICS #6 (1936)

All of his young life, Scribbly Jibbet's one over-riding ambition was to be a newspaper cartoonist. He eventually achieved that dream when given a job at The Daily Dispatch. He was relatively close to neighborhood grocer Ma Hunkel, who would eventually don a costume to become t he first costume adventurer to use the name The Red Tornado. Scribbly's younger brother Dinky and Ma's daughter Sisty were also adventurers, who went by the name "The Cyclone Kids."

Scribbly Jibbet has all of the standard powers and abilities of your standard cartoonist. Yes, he's that powerful.

For further reading: I got nothing.

John Bolton
Created by Creig Flessell
Alter Ego: Sir Justin
Occupation: Knight in service to King Arthur of Camelot, freelance superhero
Group Affiliations: Knights of the Round Table, The Seven Soldiers of Victory, The All-Star Squadron
Not to be confused with: The Silent Knight
First appearance: ADVENTURE COMICS #66 (1941)

As a young, new recruit to King Arthur's famed and fabled Knights of The Round Table, Sir Justin was just in time to see Sir Fallon killed by the ogre Blunderbore. Fallon was the cousin of Queen Guinevere and, therefore, kind of a big deal. Justin swore a vow and went on a quest to avenge Fallon, as knights were always doing back then, and journeyed to find Blunderbore.

Along the way, he freed the wizard Merlin from the tree he was stuck in, and in thanks Merlin enchanted Justin's armor, sword and shield so not only did they all shine brightly, they were also invulnerable, and Justin's sword could now cut through anything. Merlin also magically gave wings to Justin's steed, Victory (What, you thought Victory was a natural pegasus? Don't be silly; pegasuses aren't real). Victory promptly changed his name to Winged Victory.

Justin and W.V. eventually caught up with Blunderbore and exacted their vengeance, but in the struggle the pair were buried under an icy avalanche, in which they were frozen in a state of suspended animation, and weren't revived until 1941, when a museum curator found them (That's right, Captain America; Shining Knight was getting frozen in suspended animation and revived in modern times years before it was cool).

In the modern world, there was really only one thing a knight with magic super-armor and weapons and a flying horse could do, and so Sir Justin did it: He became a superhero.

He soon met like-minded superheroes and formed the super-team The Seven Soldiers of Victory, which Winged Victory always assumed they named after him, and thus the horse considered himself their leader. Justin would also join the war-time super-team The All-Star Squadron, and while serving with the super-sized super-team he fell in love with Firebrand II and got to work with Sir Winston Churchill, returning to England for a time.

Later, when battling the being known as The Nebula Man, Justin and the other Seven Soldiers were hurled through time, each of them ending up in a different time period, until they were rescued by The Justice League of America.

The original Seven Soldiers line-up consisted of Sir Justin, The Crimson Avenger, The Vigilante, Green Arrow, Speedy, The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy. Various time and space warping crises have repeatedly altered the make-up of The Multiverse, however, so that many of Sir Justin's adventures were rather radically altered, with people who fought alongside him in The All-Star Squadron and The Seven Soldiers occasionally being removed and replaced by others.

As an Arthurian Knight of the Round Table, Sir Justin is skilled in the various martial arts of his home time period, including being a particularly skilled swordsman and jouster. He would have been quite familiar with other weaponry of the period as well, including the bow and arrow, the mace and so on.

Sir Justin's enchanted armor and shield are invulnerable to all attack (so aim for his face, criminals!), and his enchanted sword can cut through anything.

Winged Victory can fly, and is also invulnerable to harm.


Mike Grell
Created by Mike Grell
Alter Ego: Travis Morgan
Occupation: Warlord
Marital Status: Currently married to Tara, Queen of Shamballah; his first wife died in a car crash
Known Relatives: Jennifer (sorceress daughter), Joshua (son who was cloned by an evil wizard and…actually, let’s not get into it)
Base of Operations: Skartaris
Sometimes mistaken for: Green Arrow Oliver Queen
First appearance: 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL #8 (1975)

United States Airforce pilot Travis Morgan flew through a hole in the Earth’s crust at the north pole, and found himself in the center of the Earth, in the fantastic, night-less world of Skartarsis, which was your basic Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired sword-and-sorcery world, with scantily-clad ladies, wizards, dinosaurs and all that jazz.

Packing a .44 AutoMag pistol and plenty of manly American can-do spirit, Morgan quickly acclimated to the new world, making friends with the princess of Shamballah, mace-handed king-turned-gladiator Machiste and shape-changing magic cat lady and future Latin crossover pop star Shakira.

He became a slave and a gladiator, he fought dinosaurs, he made archenemies with an evil wizard named Deimos, he lead rebellions and fought off armies and eventually married Tara.

Despite living in the center of the Earth—or a different dimension whose portal coincides with a hole in the arctic, whichever you prefer—Morgan has had plenty of visitors from the rest of the DC Universe, including Aquaman and Mera, Wonder Woman and Trevor Barnes and The Justice League Task Force.

Morgan is an incredibly fit human being, as he would have to be to get away with just wearing a leopard print loincloth with a ton of accessories.

Before he began his career as a hollow earth adventurer and warlord, Morgan was a member of the United States Air Force, and can thus pilot a plane and, um, do other stuff they probably trained him to do. Push-ups, field-stripping firearms, whatever.

He is an expert marksman, and because he possesses the first and only pistol in Skartaris, he instantly became the best shot in the whole world upon his arrival there.

He is also an expert fencer, and is proficient in the use of many other weapons you might find in your average Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

For further reading: The first volume of WARLORD ran for 12 years, producing 133 issues that can often rather readily be found in back-issue bins (although they may smell kinda musty). Your best bet, however, is 2009’s SHOWCASE PRESENTS: WARLORD, which collects the first 28-issues of the series.

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