You’ve seen him parading around the oceans with that rockin’ hook of his (part of the Make Aquaman Cool Again Project of the 1990s), but how he lost that limb is just as important as him impaling dudes with a hook. Almost. To at least help you sleep a tiny bit easier tonight, let’s go over that fateful moment from Aquaman #2, written by Peter David and drawn by Marty Egeland. Notice this takes place in the very first arc of Aquaman’s newest volume. He already has a beard, soon followed by the lost hand, and it wraps up with the whole not-wearing-a-shirt-let-the-nipples-fly thing. Aquaman became the epitome of ’90 reinvention within the span of a few issues.
Oh, and the story so far: crazy people kidnap Aquaman and Dolphin so they can steal their powers.
Standard evil people stuff, right? Delusional self-confidence, long-winded monologue, sarcastic comment about their location and other basic monikers of crazy supervillains. But you have nothing to worry about — the insanity gets full-blown in the next few pages. There’s no need for subtlety when your costume consists only of shoulder pads. Watch our bad guy try to talk to fish:
So as you can figure, Aquaman and Dolphin escape, blow up the facility, wreck the baddie’s plans, and tie up all loose ends — all within ten or so pages. All that remains? The climactic battle against the evildoer who’s just lost everything, or the final fifteen minutes of Man of Steel. If you like blaring, sirens-blasting irony, check out Aquaman’s last words of the first page below:
Dolphin pops up with a one-liner and the bad guy loses. The end. Except I want you to take a moment and appreciate the pain Aquaman just went through. Y’see, bruises and cuts heal, but they don’t leave the emotional damage that this surely will. Dear readers, I present to you some superhero biology — the inside of Aquaman.
Right? I know I said we’re going to wrap up Aquaman today, but I lied. One more! It’s worth it.
Before we get into our the modern day Deadshot, we really need to touch upon his long-forgotten character development of the late 1980s. You want to know why the man’s callousness and apathy pervades so strongly in all his stories? Well, it deals with his first miniseries Deadshot #1-4, written by John Ostrander & Kim Yale and drawn by Luke McDonnell. Also, Deadshot’s an evil supervillain, so let’s not get all sympathetic here, but it’s worth a note. The master marksman comes across his miniseries’ problem:
Surprise! Despite being a terrible father, Deadshot has a son (though it is in the title of the article). You know how bad guys outnumber good guys like 10-to-1 in the comic book world? If they just united, they could easily take down all the do-gooders and destroy/rule the world to their liking. But the problem with being evil is that instead of teamwork, bad guys’ll do bad things to each other. Because they’re bad. That’s how it works. Most importantly, the stakes go much higher than a simple kidnapping — this is gritty post-1986 we’re talking about. Meet the pedophile:
Look, comic books sometimes handle wildly uncomfortable topics. Molestation, rape, etc. And honestly, I get that comics deal with issues like that and some comics should, but honestly? I don’t really like that stuff in my DC and Marvel. I know it’s hypocritical if just because of the crazy mass murder committed that I don’t bat an eye about, but if the main character wears spandex and has a cape, can we just stick to the non-creepy crimes? I mean, the idea of Superman solving an incest case or something? The thought of that alone makes me want to chug something strong. But today, we’re getting pedohpilia — I can handle it, unlike say, Deadshot.
How do these people possibly think Deadshot is going to react? He’s in Batman’s rogue gallery, for goodness sake, the meanest, pettiest, most irrational group of supervillains in the DC universe. Seriously, what is the homicide rate in Gotham City? Half? Though you can’t hate Deadshot’s detective skills — he just holds them at gunpoint until they give him what he wants. Has Batman tried that? It’s way easier than research and lab work. Also, here’s what happens when a group of henchmen kidnap the son of the most accurate marksman on the planet.
You can probably guess where this is going. Pedophiles don’t usually do anything chivalrous when no one’s keeping watch on them. Chris Hansen isn’t going to step out and ask this pervert to take a seat. I understand your uneasiness right now, but at least you’ll get to witness every single one of these henchmen — who let the kid run off with a pedophile — get very much what they deserve. By that I mean a bullet in the head.
Yeah, so daddy’s angry. Even with my hyper-liberal leanings, I’m all for capital punishment on molesters. No therapy will kill that attraction. Regardless of this being a fictional universe where none of these characters actually exist, the next few pages fill that broken part of my soul that the previous page shattered. And now you can probably understand why Deadshot keeps anyone who could get emotionally close far, far, far away from him. Watch this monster get what he deserves:
Deadshot’s mom orchestrated the kidnapping of his son. This man never stood a chance of not being evil. For what this 20 year-old job is the bad guys wanted him to do, what’s the secret involving Deadshot’s family, and the confrontation between mother and son, you’ll have to buy the book. I’m sorry. Next time, we jump to his even-harder-to-find second mini-series for his fight against Green Arrow!
Well, the return from his first appearance in 1950. No more fancy gentleman attire. We’ll get that normal firetruck-android outfit he normally puts on. Though as we explore Deadshot’s second comic book appearance in Detective Comics #474, written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Marshall Rogers, the main focus should be on Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, Silver St. Cloud.
She has a great comic book name. Also, she has the honor of being the first woman to ever be shown “bedding” Bruce Wayne. I looked up the scene in question and it’s both of them fully clothed in a hospital while Dick Grayson makes a pervy sound effect closing the door. That’s it. It’s no Catwoman #1. But this issue we’re reading today has more than just melodrama mixed with supervillainy — at the end of the issue we get a revelation that changes Wayne and St. Cloud’s relationship forever. See? I’m getting better at building up suspense.
A single word bubble summarizes the entirety of last time’s article. Also, Commissioner Gordon’s no longer that suave ginger police dreamboat he used to be. And while Batman’s talents sculpt him as the most useful person in the world, his excuses fold quickly under an educated, smart woman. Let that be a lesson to all vigilantes — Batman could never win if Catwoman fought him with logic instead of claws. If you forgot the previous word bubble describing what happened in Batman #59 from a six panels before, you’re reminded again here:
This Deadshot’s a bit wordier and more emotional than the current Deadshot. His beef with Batman has long since faded and replaced with extreme self-loathing and a sort of narcissistic apathy for the events happening around him. But not here. This Deadshot spent 27 real years (and maybe a decade of DC universe time?) behind bars waiting for his moment to dress like a sexy clock and shoot the Caped Crusader. And he misses. Luckily, the fight continues with more silly proclamations and a fight upon a giant typewriter.
Silver St. Cloud deduced Batman’s true identity through jawline alone! Before we jump to a few modern Deadshot stories, we’re going to continue this St. Cloud girlfriend stuff. Batman gave up emotions like love and happiness a long time ago, but next time we’ll watch St. Cloud scour through the remains of Wayne’s feelings to rip them apart in front of him. It’s great. Batman almost cries.
Heads up, it’s goofy. How, you ask? This is the cover of the issue he premiered in:
But you’ll have to get yourself a time machine and go back to 1950 if you want to read that story. Today, we’re covering Deadshot’s first issue, a supervillain who’s gained an impressive following in the past few years with the Secret Six and Suicide Squad series. But we need to venture back to the early Batman stories, when Batman used silly gadgets and Robin hadn’t hit puberty yet. Let’s take a look at the very first Deadshot story in the first few pages of Batman #59, written by David Vern and drawn by Bob Kane & Lew Sayre Schwartz. Get your mystery pants on, because we’re about to jump into a dozen pages of spectacular detective insanity.
Deadshot’s original costume looked like Zorro dressed up for a cocktail party. Thankfully his mustache never goes away. I like Batman and Robin taking a vacation in the first panel — within a few decades, Batman’s warped and all-consuming justice would never allow him to relax and take a break when criminals still roam the night robbing abandoned dock warehouses and stealing sewer orphans and whatnot. Luckily, 1950s Batman could still do stuff like not break into cold sweats because his fist wasn’t connecting at that moment with a bad guy’s jaw. Also, and while I am no expert of firearms, could Deadshot actually stamp out a cigarette with a bullet? Wouldn’t that be like putting out a campfire with a bowling ball?
This is the Golden Age of comics when everything had to be explained in dialogue that would never naturally come out of people’s mouths. And while I’m also not a cop, I imagine any man trigger-happily shooting bullets around town would be frowned upon by the police. Still, it looks like Deadshot may not be such a beloved vigilante after all, especially because he’s been a supervillain for sixty years of DC history. Most importantly, how young does Commissioner Gordon look compared to his normal grizzled, always-one-horrible-crime-from-retirement face he normally has?
I’m not saying comics have become more subtle in the modern age (more violent definitely), but very rarely do supervillain’s butlers straight-up announce evil plans for the whole world to secretly listen to. At least nowadays he would wait until the final page of the issue.
But notice the skull Deadshot shoots into the wall? I counted, and there’s over a hundred bullet holes. Seriously, count it yourself. And his gun looks like a six-shooter. So that means while shooting a skull into the wall to show Batman and Robin his evilness, he had to reload a good sixteen or seventeen times while Batman and Robin waited patiently for him to finish his graffiti. Let’s do some math. If we take the fastest shooter on YouTube, which I believe is one second to shoot all the bullets and two seconds to reload, and say Deadshot can equal this man’s speed, then that still makes Batman and Robin standing in silence for a good minute or so while Deadshoot finishes his masterpiece. Dynamic duo indeed.
Oh, and enjoy mopey Batman and smug Batman only five panels apart.
Except that while Batman got Deadshot to confess, Batman’s breaking-and-entering is also a crime. A crime he admits in police headquarters to the police commissioner. Oh well. Also, before we end today (next time will be Deadshot’s re-emergence in the 1970s), take a moment and appreciate Batman’s incredible sense of humor. Dudshot. Get it? Right? Okay, never mind.
As Batman and Catwoman’s relationship goes from adversarial to passionate to cold to adversarial again, rinse and repeat, in 2004 they mainly just try to stay out of each other’s way. For reference, this story takes place a month or two before the DC event Identity Crisis, where Zatanna reveals she magically-influenced Catwoman to be a superhero. But before Selina Kyle’s breakdown, we get this lovely story from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #177-178, written by Devin Grayson and drawn by Jean-Jacques Dzialowski.
Catwoman attacks the Triads, who make the awful mistake of getting involved in the sex slave trade in Gotham’s East End (Catwoman’s territory). As talented and scary as Catwoman can be, she’s no Batman — she’ll need some help if she’s to take on an entire gang. Luckily, even with Catwoman’s egocentric rules, Batman’s always been a rule breaker.
It’s nice to know Batman can make his undercover identities even sleazier with just a few keys on the Batcomputer. Note that this takes place after the Batman: Hush arc, so Catwoman knows Batman’s secret identity as Bruce Wayne. Hence, with just a pair of glasses and a mustache, Bruce Wayne becomes unrecognizable as Matches Malone. It’s what Clark Kent does and no one’s the wiser, despite him working in an entire office of amateur detectives.
It’s important to note that despite Matches Malone’s obvious sexist comment, if Batman had said the same thing, her response would have been noticeably less chilly. That just goes to show you: become a legendary symbol for all that’s good and just in the rotten depths of Gotham City and your occasional paramour won’t mind a flirty crack every once in a while. I don’t always give dating advice on this website, but you should write that last tip down.
Now we’re getting to Catwoman and Batman’s normal method of dating. Whoever gets the least bruises at the end of the night wins the date. You see Matches Malone’s face in that last panel? Fully take in his cartoonishly prideful smirk. Whenever Catwoman fights back, I’m just impressed that Batman is able to counter, what with his boner restricting his movement. Most importantly, good for Catwoman not to trust a henchman who looks more like a used car salesman than a crime-fighting force of nature. Girls have been abducted, the bad guys are committing unspeakable evil, and Catwoman doesn’t have time for Matches Malone’s pervy investigations. Of course, like all good Batman relationships, he unashamedly uses her to find out exactly what she’s after.
Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game where Matches Malone and Catwoman seemingly compete to see who can free the girls first, hence Catwoman’s rage like in the page below as she spends the next fifteen pages yelling at him and dodging gunfire to find these girls. See Matches Malone talking to the bad guys? What’s his real motive?
Spoiler alert: Catwoman finds and frees the girls. Batman, who doesn’t help at all in this arc (if you don’t count his disguise), shows up at the very end stand there and bark orders at his soulmate. I’m just saying he treats her more like Robin than his on-and-off again lover.
All that’s left is to solidify Matches Malone and Catwoman’s partnership. As in all that built-up anger (which pretty much drives Catwoman’s character at this point) towards our undercover agent has to get offloaded at some point, and we can see Batman be a delightful gentleman in having Catwoman being the one to squeak by with the victory here. Also, it saves him being randomly clawed in the face at some point in the next few days. Crime-fighting is a personality-walking tightrope. Especially for Batman, who has difficulty with stuff like feelings and friendships and stuff.
One more secret identity given up to Catwoman. Their relationship takes one more dysfunctional step forward — then a dozen steps back in Identity Crisis, but that’s another story. Next time, the goofy origin of Deadshot!
Last time we covered the dramatic Brian K. Vaughan re-telling of Matches Malone’s origin story. It’s delightful. But Batman’s undercover alter-ego actually premiered back in 1972 as a response to Ra’s al Ghul, who himself premiered ten issues before Matches Malone. It’s complicated and weird, but if we jump right into it, I think it’ll sort itself out.
Let’s start with some background, mainly Ra’s al Ghul’s first issue back in Batman #232, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano. Remember how Bane one-upped Batman by figuring out his secret identity and then using it to destroy his life? Bane’s a copycat. Ra’s al Ghul had the supervillain-figuring-out-Batman-is-Bruce-Wayne gimmick twenty years before our beefy luchador.
So in order to defeat his opponent ten issues later (and in a crossover event), Bruce Wayne has to die. Unfortunately, despite this being Batman’s dream of getting to be Batman 24/7, no longer having to deal with the awful life of a super rich, attractive, playboy billionaire CEO, he still needs another identity that doesn’t growl and wear a cowl. In Batman #242 and 243, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Irv Novick, Neal Adams, & Dick Giorando, we get our answer: Matches Malone.
I know they called Bruce Wayne a millionaire, but this was back in the 1970s when bread was five cents a loaf and new cars could be afforded by whatever clump of bills you found in your pocket. Nowadays, Bruce Wayne has to cross that billion mark just to afford replacing his $20 million Batplane ever three or four issues it explodes. Now, it’s never fully discussed why he needs Matches Malone (the real one) on his side, but this happens anyway:
For some reason, and not explained very well, Matches Malone’s gun ricochets off the wall and kills him. So Matches Malone dies more than once in the Batman universe. Fortunately, his death allows Batman to take over his identity. And more complicated plans to allow Matches Malone and Batman to appear at the same time.
Of all the people Batman could have picked to help him go after Ra’s al Ghul (Superman, Wonder Woman, other people with superpowers), he chooses a gangster, a doctor, and a martial artist. Look, we’re not crazy detective geniuses — we normal folk can’t comprehend how Batman’s mind works. Also, spoiler alert: Batman wins in the end anyway. But at least Batman shares. Everyone gets to be Matches Malone!
On Monday, we jump back to the mid-2000s for a Matches Malone and Catwoman team-up!
Sometimes when criminals have finished peeing their pants while hanging off the balcony as Batman explains his arm’s getting tired, the Dark Knight still doesn’t have all the information he needs to knock out supervillains’ teeth. And since Batman’s the world’s greatest detective, sometimes that means going all Donnie Brasco in the depths of the Gotham underworld. His most used, famous, and silliest secret identity is New Jersey’s Matches Malone. No one suspects a thing. Luckily, Brian K. Vaughan explains to us how Matches Malone came to be in Batman #589, written by Vaughan and drawn by Scott McDaniel.
Oh, and in bigger news, Matches Malone just got shot. Not Batman. The real Matches Malone. That’s right, kids, we’re getting a plot twist in the second paragraph of the article.
It seems Batman has to frequently explain his own dark secrets to his closest friends and allies. Remember in the arc “Batman: Bruce Wayne — Murderer?” where his Batfamily actually questioned for a moment whether Bruce Wayne could actually kill anyone or not? It’s because of times like these, where no matter how deep they dig, Batman’s closet pours out a never-ending supply of skeletons. Here’s another one. Also, we sometimes forget that he wasn’t always the unbeatable, always-plans-for-everything Batman we know and love. That took time.
The most important thing to remember about the above pages is that Batman once wore blackface as the Joker racist-ly remarked. But if we take into consideration Batman started crimefighting at age 25 (as Frank Miller decided for us), that’s still a tremendously stupid age. Trust me, I made some horrifically bad decisions when I was 25, and I rarely wear a mask and uppercut criminals. Luckily, an opportunity came around for our protagonist.
Let’s not get angry at Batman for obstructing justice or interfering with an investigation — that’s pretty much all he does. Any evidence collected by Batman is illegal, obtained through illegal methods, can’t be used in a court of law, and given freely to a corrupt police department. Hopefully, the criminals’ broken jaws and Batman’s threatening growls are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow. I’d only have to get punched in the face once to end my life of crime, trust me.
Luckily, Bruce Wayne and Matches Malone have the exact same face and head shape. We read comic books, where no one knows Nightwing is Dick Grayson because of a tiny black strip across his eyes. At least now you know the truth, though you should go buy this book (part of a collection called Batman: False Faces) for the rest of this story and a delightful two-issue Wonder Woman vs. Clayface arc.