Aquaman’s Eel problem

About four years ago, I remember watching Saturday Night Live discuss one of President Obama’s triumphant debates over the Republicans.  I forgot the context and the reason, but Seth Meyers made this joke:

Come on, Republicans … you thought you could take down Barack Obama by debating him?  You realize debates are why he’s President, right?  Seriously, all you guys do is complain how Obama is “all talk,” and then you invite him to a forum that is literally all talk. That’s like saying, “Let’s see how tough Aquaman is when we get him in the water.”

Y’see, each of the DC superheroes has their strengths and weaknesses — some physical, other personality — but those downsides are what make the characters so interesting.  And Aquaman?  So maybe he’s not so great to plop down in the Middle East, but may the DC gods and goddesses help whoever decides to challenge him in the ocean.  The supervillain Eel learns this lesson the hard way today in Aquaman #21-22, volume six, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Patrick Gleason.

So currently, Aquaman patrols the city known as Sub Diego.  It’s part of San Diego when an earthquake submerged half of it and all of a sudden its inhabitants could breathe in water and no longer breathe air on the surface.  You can read an old article I wrote on it for more details.  But much like all other great DC cities, the mobsters, criminals, and supervillains still make their home there — even if they now live underwater.  Time for Aquaman to show these baddies who they’re dealing with (spoiler alert: Aquaman).

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I’m not saying that a killer whale makes for a better sidekick than, say, Robin, but Hollywood did make four Free Willy movies.  So let’s consider Sub Diego simply a wetter Gotham City.  They even have their very own criminal mastermind, out to take control of the city’s underworld (though isn’t everything sort of considered the underworld now?).  Meet Eel (real name Mortimer Coolidge), a telekinetic so insignificant that he only appears in six issues total.  Three of those are alternative reality Flashpoint issues, so they don’t even count towards canon.  But despite his lousy future, he’s still full of delightful supervillainy ambition.

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When Aquaman has to face the new head of Sub Diego’s mafia — an experience he probably didn’t have to face often in Atlantis — who does he turn to?  Who in the DC universe has fought mobsters more times than Superman’s saved Lois?  And it’s a bunch, because she falls out of a lot of buildings. Aquaman turns to the only other humorless member of the Justice League who, unlike Aquaman, cannot ride his sidekick.

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Can we take a moment and appreciate the cool upwards angle of the Batcave in that first picture?  But let’s talk about Batman’s comment (and ignore him handing Aquaman a deus ex machina) before we continue.  I kinda do think Batman enjoys the “chase,” but that’s only because his entire self revolves around fighting bad guys.  Batman can’t exist in a world without crime, and his claim does apply to most of the Justice League as well.  Hal Jordan lives for the “chase.”  So does Wonder Woman. Green Arrow needs it.  Definitely Nightwing.  Probably not Martian Manhunter, but he has other major issues to deal with.  It’s hard to be a superhero and not enjoy the adrenaline rush that goes with it. Either way, time for Eel to realize the folly of his ways.  Water plus Aquaman equals this:

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Eel’s telekinesis only works around water, but when the local superhero bursts through walls like a fishy Kool-Aid man, what chance does Eel possible have?  On that note, our dear Aquaman makes the mistake all good superheroes do once in a while: he underestimates his opponent.  Mainly because what type of fight would this be if it’s over in a single page?

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Round two, my friends.  Despite Coolidge’s second wind, his opponent wildly outclasses him.  Since I already shamelessly plugged another one of my articles earlier, have you read the article I wrote on mismatched superhero battles?  I should tell you that my self-esteem relies entirely on my blog’s hit count.  Oh yeah, and Aquaman pounds on Eel.

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Look, all these other pages still likely hasn’t convinced you of Aquaman’s water superiority.  It’s just a normal fistfight at this point.  But y’see, Aquaman can’t lose.  Like he had the fight wrapped up from the moment Eel dropped into the water way back in Sub Diego’s origins.  We’re in Aquaman’s house, and his house is disgusting.

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I hope Batman’s taking notes.


Robin loves Jubilee

Every decade or two, DC and Marvel come together to have their superheroes punch each other in the face.  That’s about it.  Some excuse is made up as to why these two companies have to kick and throw batarangs at each other, but the story always revolves around the fights.  And good.  Because thanks to these crossovers, you get to see Aquaman and Namor chuck whales at each other.  Flash vs. Quicksilver.  Catwoman vs. Elektra.  Lobo vs. Wolverine  Batman vs. Captain America.  And the list goes on, but I know the fight you’ve been really shouting for.  Jason, you ask, it’s cool to see Superman fight the Hulk, but what about the match up that critics and fans alike have desperately begged for years and years?  That’s right: Robin vs. Jubilee.  Finally.  Today, we’ll be using the following issues:
DC vs. Marvel Comics #1-3, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Dan Jurgens & Claudio Castellini
Legends of the Dark Claw #1, written by Larry Hama and drawn by Jim Balent
DC/Marvel: All Access #2-3, written by Marz and drawn by Jackson Guice

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In the first time our two protagonists meet, two godlike creatures basically pick a superhero from each company and have them brawl.  It’s for the survival of one of the two universes or whatever.  Here’s the important part:

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Teleportation complete.  All that remains now is a dose of melodrama to heighten the tension and the two can throw fireworks/hit each other with bo staffs.  I’d like you to always have in the back of your mind that in current comics, Jubilee is a mother.  Also, a vampire.  The past couple of years have been rough to her.

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Of the eleven matches in this series, six were determined by writers and five were determined by voters.  This one did not get left up to the fans, but we can all pretty much guess our eventual victor. Whether it’s a constant overcompensation by the writers for no superpowers or simply the benefit of an incredible amount of training, Robin totally takes down the living Fourth of July.  I don’t normally like to spoil this stuff, but I can’t see this coming as any sort of shock whatsoever.  For the other fights, you can buy the book.  I won’t spoil those.

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While Robin takes some time to learn about Jubilee’s fetishes, I can’t stress enough just how insane this crossover event becomes.  It’s great.  Situations that have never occurred in comics and never will again pop up on every other page.  Want to see Peter Parker flirt with Lois Lane?  I’m about to show you.  How about Dark Claw (Batman merged with Wolverine) fighting Hyena (Joker merged with Sabretooth)?  Yes, it’s amazing.

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By the way, those Amalgram combo-superhero issues?  They made 24 of them.  The ’90s could be a wacky time for comics.  But as we jump back to our sorta-love story, we pick up a year later in the sequel.  The superhero Access (real name Axel Asher) has the superpower to travel between DC and Marvel.  That’s his sole purpose for existing, and Jubilee wants to abuse that power.

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Remember what happens when two superheroes attempt a serious talk?  That emotional bubble must be popped before it manifests itself into something mushy and gross.  Luckily, before Robin and Jubilee can round the bases in the rain, they have to first overcome an obstacle.  It comes with the cape and cowl duties.

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In this series, Robin’s petrified of Two-Face.  Like Harvey Dent’s the Darkseid of Gotham City.  I understand that Two-Face’s a good shot and such, but so is 90% of the bad guys Robin battles every night he goes on patrol.  For the sake of this story, Two-Face is someone to be feared.  Robin’s blood freezes as a grown man wanders the soaked streets looking for children to shoot.  Plot-wise, what’s about to happen works — the goal to heighten suspense and give the two young superheroes a legitimate challenge is totally achieved.  But just how dangerous is Two-Face really?  Couldn’t Jubilee light a Roman candle under his chin followed with Robin’s kick to the face?  Down goes the supervillain.

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How do these kids beat this unstoppable maniac?  Capes, of course, which blows The Incredibles‘ moral right out of the water.  Also, note that giant coin?  Symbolism, dude.

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You know how earlier I mentioned it would take one firework and a good kick to defeat Two-Face.  I’m wrong and I apologize.  It took one firework and two kicks.  I’m a big man and I can admit my mistakes.  Scorpion (Spider-Man’s baddie) pops up in the next page.  He’s a much scarier supervillain in terms of abilities, but I’m going to skip the fight.  In summary, Batman pops up to shows Scorpion why he’s the C-lister he is.

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If you look again, Robin’s the one leaning in.  He totally kissed her.  Good for him.  And to be fair, it’s probably not cheating if the girl lives in another universe.

 


The Impulse and Batman team-up

No two superheroes have less in common than Impulse and Batman, except maybe a mutual respect for Batman.  The child speedster arrives in Gotham to play a prank on Robin — that’s his entire motivation for coming to the city and almost a perfect summary of the character himself.  And you know Batman already, the scariest man in the DC universe.  Today, they team-up against the Joker and it’s absolutely delightful.  Let’s read together Impulse #50, written by Todd Dezago and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver.

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Note the brilliant difference in art styles.  Impulse is drawn like a living cartoon with a larger noggin and softer features while Batman has his standard gritty lines and indulgence in shading.  Unfortunately, despite Impulse’s superpowers and Batman’s over-reliance on solo work, there’s one more solid reason for Impulse to run on home.  Y’know, it’s in his superhero name.  Also, you can really see the clear gorgeous difference in the art on these pages:

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Witness Impulse’s first conversation with the Joker.  The poor kid has to keep Joker busy long enough for Batman to disable all the traps.  Luckily for all the Joker’s unpredictability, at least he’s always terribly verbose.

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Joker’s bad grammar aside — it’s almost impressive for the Joker to bring about that level of fear in those he’s around.  The guy has no superpowers, no real alliances, an above average but not genius intelligence, and fairly middle-of-the-road martial arts skills.  Though I guess anyone would pick up a few fighting tricks getting bashed in the head monthly by Batman for the past decade or two.  So what would any good supervillain do with a speedster at his disposal?

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You can click the picture for a larger version of the montage.  And you should, because it’s fantastic. Note all the jokes: the two notes he starts to write his real name before crossing it out, that gleeful panel of Batman and Impulse cackling like mad scientists, Impulse’s poses as he takes pictures for Joker, etc.  For all the darkness and extreme-ness of comics in the ’90s, we can’t forget that glimmer of silliness and fun hidden beneath numerous pouches and leather jackets.

Also, three great jokes on the next few pages.

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There’s a three page fight scene after this, but you can buy the issue for that.  The important life lesson comes at the story’s conclusion, where all young superheroes experience growth through the tribulations of working with their elders.  Most importantly, Batman does something that’s his own perfect character summation.  He manages to give a compliment and an insult at the same time, thus bringing Impulse’s feel-good status back down to neutral.  You wouldn’t want the kid to get a big head, right?  I mean, a bigger head than he already has.

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We’re back to Robin on Wednesday because Tim Drake holds a special place in my heart.  He makes out with Jubilee.  How’s that for a tease?


Impulse and the library

Every weekend from 2003 till the reboot, the DC superheroes would ship their child sidekicks off to San Francisco to bond or whatever.  Maybe Batman just needs a break.  Maybe he wants some time without have to worrying about being a good role model or wearing pants in Wayne Manor. In Teen Titans #1-7, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Mike McKone & Tom Grummett, we get to see the teenagers’ days off from fighting crime.  Which they use to fight crime anyway.  But the idea of Teen Titans?  Fantastic idea, and good for personal growth or at least two days a week that Flash doesn’t have to deal with the DC universe’s annoying kid brother.

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Let’s talk about Bart Allen for a moment.  It’s weird and complicated, so I’ll try to explain the best I can.  Bart comes from a thousand years in the future, but unfortunately all that speed juice or genetic abnormality started to age him prematurely.  Like that Robin Williams movie Jack.  His family raised him in a video game-esque environment to keep his metabolism in check (hence Flash stating that Impulse treats everything like a video game with continues, extra lives, etc.), but it didn’t work.  Taking the next logical step, his mother sends him back in time to our day where medicine doesn’t have the ability to fix a future disease.  The Flash (Wally West) races Bart Allen around the world and the crazy speed fixes his metabolism.  Look, I’m not a scientist, but that’s comic books for you.

Now he’s the superhero Impulse, saving a yacht from a mysterious bad guy.

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The Teen Titans’ arch-nemesis Deathstroke is an old man.  His hair is white and he rocks full facial hair.  Yet he spends his time battling teenagers, like the ultimate elderly dude yelling at kids about stepping on his lawn.  Sure, he occasionally blows off kneecaps and slices people open with swords, but we can’t forget that he loses constantly to superheroes with a median age of 15.

Now here’s the thing about super speed — it also means super recovery.  Impulse can heal fully within minutes, but like in the real world and not in the world where running fast cures metabolism issues, if the knee heals in the wrong place then Impulse can kiss walking goodbye.  Plus, all the surgeons retrying after the healing ruins their surgery gives Impulse a long time to painfully think about his own life mistakes.  Remember when his mentor said that he doesn’t believe in him?

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Impulse is the only Flash-like character with perfect memory.  Flash or Max Mercury or Johnny Quick can learn how to repair a skyscraper in the time it takes for the first brick to fall, but weeks later the skill’ll be removed with football stats or however superheroes spend their weekends without their kids. Time for poor Impulse to grow up.

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Robin solos Deathstroke next.  And as I’m a former English teacher, I’d be remiss not to mention that for all of Robin’s skills — martial arts, detective logic, weapon training, years of on-the-job experience, and a costume full of Deus Ex Machina gadgets — his life today gets saved because of books. Beautiful, glorious, spectacular books.

If knowledge is power, than Impulse now has the power of the entire San Francisco Library.

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You can click the image above for a larger version where you can actually read all the text.  Like many Pokemon evolutions, the Flash title takes two promotions to obtain.  He starts as the immature and annoying Impulse.  After he proves himself (with knowledge), he graduates to the second level Kid Flash.  That’s the same title Wally West used before he became the real deal.  In a few years, Bart’s Kid Flash finally gets his precious Flash moniker (for thirteen issues before he dies, but that’s a whole other story).

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Oh yeah, the kids battle their superhero mentors, but you can buy the book for all that.  As we end today, I want to mention one more time how delightful and refreshing real superhero growth is.  I totally get that superheroes almost always must go through temporary change or personal growth with no future impact on the story — comics are a business and sales must remain steady.  Though I guess the New 52 is out to prove me wrong.  We should root with all our heart that this reboot succeeds because there’s no going back.  Readers’ delusions of an “oops” and shift back to 2010 isn’t healthy. Buckle up for the long haul and enjoy the ride.

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Robin’s school shooting, Pt. 2

Being a superhero, Robin has an advantage that normal people don’t — namely superhuman detective skills and kung fu-ing faces.  With his classmate dead, it’s time the teenage murderer pays for his crimes.  Through kung fu-ing him in the face, mainly.  Robin and his buddy Spoiler have all the information they need, and all that’s left is the bruising and the arresting.

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I’m not totally an expert on teenage behavior, but two colorful vigilantes bursting through a gang’s door invokes less fear and more apathy.  We forget that Batman’s the scary one.  Robin’s the lighter side of crime fighting.  Since children can’t be as frightening as Batman hopes, Robin’s bright colors allow the bad guys to underestimate him.  He wins the fight through psychology.  Or because Robin’s color scheme has been around for over 70 years and it’s too late to make any considerable changes to the costume.  Giving Robin pants were a nice touch though.

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You know Robin doesn’t belong in that area when he counters the thug’s threat with Gatsby’s catchphrase. Some hidden benefits of being a gang leader is your own theme song, like a half dozen highly armed men pounding a drum line for foreshadowed walks down the hallway.  You know how Batman always wins because of his incredible level of preparation?  Robin and Spoiler spend the next pages dodging a nonstop stream of bullets and other situations they’re not ready for.  The chase eventually leads outside:

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Daddy has a lecture planned.  I know in the movies, they always show Batman’s eyeballs, but the white slits make for a wildly more intimidating Batman.  Time for Robin’s life lesson this arc.

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Batman’s right, of course, except for one tiny detail — the whole fear of Batman prevents crime thing. Maybe in a real life society, a giant man in a bat costume dropping from the sky to punch all your friends would give you some hesitation before committing the next illegal act.  But Batman lives in a world where he needs stories to fill four or five monthly books — Gotham isn’t lacking in repeat offenders.

We pick up twenty issues later.  Bad guys continue to rob banks and steal and kill and poison the water supply and tear people in life while wearing luchador masks.  But today, we get the conclusion to Robin and Young El’s tale.  One of them didn’t learn the first time.

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See?  What a great dilemma!  Young El will need Robin’s help to survive his mistake, but Robin will be assisting a known murderer — and a personal tragedy in Tim Drake’s life — only to have Young El break the law later down the road again.  While people rave about characters who “put down” their villains, of course Robin’s going to attempt to save Young El.  He’s better than us.  Batman’s better than us.  Superheroes have to be morally superior, as it goes with the cape-and-underpants territory.

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We end our Robin stories today, and like the other two articles, this one also ends unhappily.  That child gets wrung through the emotional ringer.  Thank goodness poor Tim has the composure to suppress or deal with trauma (and it certainly helps that he’s a fictional character) or else his father wouldn’t need to find the costume to discover Robin’s secret identity — he’d just have to listen to the daily night terrors and massive therapy bill.

In summary, Tim Drake’s the best Robin.  I think that’s the message I’ve tried to convey this week.

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Don’t worry, Robin’ll smile on Monday as we cover an Impulse moment from Teen Titans.


Robin’s school shooting, Pt. 1

As a teenager, Robin’s going to come across the normal teenage dramas as well as occasionally batarang-ing Two Face or Penguin or whoever.  Even Tim’s mentor can’t help with high school issues as unfortunately, Batman spent his own youth training as a ninja in the Himalayans.  Vengeance takes decades of prep, y’know.  So poor Robin has to get thrown into the inferno of improvised problem solving today in Robin #25-26, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Mike Wieringo, and Robin #46, written by Dixon and drawn by Cully Hammer.

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Get ready for another after-school special with bo staff beatings, because hopefully nerdy ’90s teenagers would pay attention to stuff Robin does.  Though it seems a bit patronizing in 2014, I’m okay with this type of story.  While kids can’t totally relate to school shootings (well, maybe now but not so much in 1996), they do understand impossible choices and it’s nice to have their fictional hero attempt to tackle that type of problem.  I might just be overly simplistic, but I think we can all agree that in summary, being a teenager totally sucks.

Tim enlists his dad to go talk to Karl’s dad.  The conversation goes exactly as you expect.

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Have you noticed how perfectly comic book characters’ hair grays?  It only reaches the temple and never expands into the precious moneymaker at the top (see Hal Jordan, Mr. Fantastic, Alan Scott, etc.).  Just a touch of distinguish-ness to show old age and a full, beautiful heap of hair above.  Do comic book characters only ever have a thick, gorgeous head of hair or none at all?  What about the balding superheroes and villains?

Oh yeah, and Karl’s rebuttal to Tim the next day also goes exactly as you expect.

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You don’t have to be Martian Manhunter to figure out what’s coming next.  That and the title of today’s article gives it away.  Robin has no problem snitching on his classmate — it’s to save his life, after all. Did Karl really think Tim wasn’t going to say anything?  The dude spends his nights handing over tied up bad guys to the police by the dozens.  He has battled every psychopath, monster, and criminal mastermind that Gotham City can throw at him — and won every time.  Robin ain’t scared of bullies. Though like all dramatic and sad superhero moments, our hero’s just a moment too late.

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Why is this moment so upsetting compared to the rest of Robin’s career?  Batman’s partner has seen hordes of dudes gunned down, women and children horribly killed, and the absolute core of Gotham’s evil.  So why one dumb bully from his school?  Simple:

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Robin and Tim Drake are separate entities, and they have to be for a teenage boy to handle the stress and sights of being a vigilante crime fighter.  Kids worry themselves sick over algebra tests, much less dodging machine gun fire.  Robin keeps all that potential PTSD locked away behind that mask — something Batman doesn’t do.  For a superhero who we all claim as a non-powered human, there’s very few human characteristics about Batman.  Now Nightwing, he’s more of the perfect balance.  I know it’s a little brief today but it’s a good stopping point for the second half on Wednesday (mainly because 30 images in one article gets draining) and Robin’s attempted revenge.  Spoiler alert: it’s sad.

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Robin’s birds and bees

Tim Drake’s the first Robin we really saw “grow up” as Robin.  I mean, sure, Dick Grayson took forty years to go through puberty, but his coming of age involved more chasing bad guys on giant piano keyboards and less frank relationship talks.  Though he did almost marry Starfire.  And dated Batgirl for a long time.  Look, so Dick Grayson’s not a good example.  But today, Tim has to confront a problem for the first time that batarangs and kicks to the face won’t solve: teenage love.  In Robin #40-41, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Staz Johnson, our dear protagonist has to make a choice when he’s finally at bat for his home run.  Cue after school special:

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Meet Ariana Dzerchenko, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants killed by supervillain KGBeast.  Robin saved her from a kidnapping, they met again out of costume, and she became Tim’s first serious girlfriend.  Unfortunately, with the whole fighting crime thing Robin has to do, their time together remains spotty and inconsistent.  Sadly, bad guys don’t wait till the end of dates to rob banks.

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We know what he’s thinking.  He’s fifteen.  No matter how fast he grapples from rooftops or uses the Batcomputer to hack into mainframes, we have one dilemma that Batman hasn’t trained him for.  I mean, Batman wants to beat up criminals, not bang models — unfortunately, his cover of Bruce Wayne forces him to occasionally sleep with the most beautiful women on the planet.  The sacrifices that man makes.  Anyway, Robin’s reaction?  Warning: this is going to be incredibly melodramatic.

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Let me try to explain this the best I can.  In Robin #1-2, there’s a minor bad guy named Kurt Stack who runs a gang called the Speedboyz.  Robin takes him out.  We don’t see him again until Robin #31, written by Dixon and drawn by Mike Wieringo (which is also Stack’s final appearance) where at a car show, Ariana suddenly recognizes him.  I’ve included the two pages here for you to see:

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That’s it.  Robin apprehends him at the end of the issue and the obvious attempted rape is never mentioned again.  Ariana mopes around a few times for the next nine issues wanting to tell Tim “something,” but it’s vague and unimportant to the central plot.  But there’s the story.  From what I know about that kind of trauma, Ariana wouldn’t want anything to do with intimacy much less attempting to rush it with Tim, but her actions make sense from a storytelling standpoint.

Unfortunately for Tim, we’re still reading a superhero adventure.  That means whenever our hero comes close to anything resembling happiness, it must be shattered and broken with all the force and malice a writer can provide.  Comic are soap operas, after all.

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Like all good teenage stories, ours ends today with Tim evading the violent adults to rush back home. We’ll end our article today with it.  More importantly, this marks the beginning of the end for Tim and Ariana’s relationship.  Their love cools and Tim starts dating Stephanie Brown (the superhero Spoiler/Batgirl).  It’s not his fault — Robins and Batgirls are destined to fall in love.

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As for Tim’s virginity?  That’s gross.  He’s a child.  You shouldn’t ask questions like that.


Robin’s blown secret identity

It’s a normal day at Gotham County High School.  No supervillains unleashed deadly chemicals into the water fountains.  No bad guys let loose dangerous wild animals throughout the halls.  No evildoers stashed explosives in the lunch meat.  But Tim Drake wishes any of those would have happened instead of what actually occurred.  Y’see, being Batman’s partner takes not just incredible skills and intelligence, but the ability to lie your balls off to anyone you care about.  And today in Robin #124-125, written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Francisco Rodriguez De La Fuente, poor Robin receives a massive blow that won’t heal with a few bandages and some pills.

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So when Robin’s job involves leaping on rooftops and karate chopping criminals, he’s bound to receive a few scratches and bruises along the way.  But having to explain to his father that a football smacked him in the eye as opposed to being clawed open by Killer Croc makes for far less questions later down the road.  Unfortunately, his lies have caught up with him.  Jack Drake knows Tim’s harboring a secret and it’s his fatherly duty to figure it out.  What if Tim fell in with a bad crowd?  What if he smokes cigarettes?  What if he sneaks out of his house every night helping out a man dressed as bat to jump kick armed thugs inside abandoned warehouses?  Spoiler alert: it’s the third one.

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Oh come on, you say, this is a comic book: surely Tim’ll just describe this as a secret Halloween costume and his father’ll apologize for all the frenzy.  Except notice those journals at the bottom — the ones he writes details about all his missions, his fellow crimefighters, and any other important information needed for a later date.  Even Batman keeps a written journal — Batcomputers tend to go down or short circuit or explode during major events.  But with all this new knowledge in devastated Jack’s hands, he has only one job now: keep his only child from becoming sidewalk goo.

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We accept without a second’s hesitation that glasses make Superman unrecognizable.  But if Clark Kent takes off those glasses, then whoever witnesses the transformation triggers some sort of magic kick in the brain that connects the two identities.  Seriously, Robin wears a “mask” that barely covers his eyes, but unless hard evidence is provided, no one can magically make the connection. It’s a suspension of disbelief we accept as comic book readers.  Now that Tim’s dad holds hard proof in his hand, the gig is up.  No mask or glasses or colorful lies’ll stop this train from coming.

Like all good after school specials, the thrill climbs to its highest point before the inevitable crash back down to misery.  Break into an abandoned amusement park?  Wait till the police arrive just before commercial break.  Kiss the girl of your dreams?  Your girlfriend walks in your front door mid-embrace as the studio audience gasps.  Put on a flamboyant costume and solve mysteries to protect a corrupt and broken city?  Dad’ll be waiting back at the Batcave when you return.

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The Joker has nothing compared to the wishes of Robin’s father.  Legally, Batman is completely at Jack’s mercy.  He carries Tim’s journals.  He knows all the secrets.  Batman holds no legal right to keep Tim and without complete agreement to whatever Jack demands, the whole Batman game ends with the newspapers shouting from the mountaintops.  Plus, to be fair, Batman is using a fifteen year-old without hesitation to fight the most dangerous people in the most dangerous city.

Unfortunately, Tim’s a teenager, so he reacts appropriately.  Also, he somehow becomes Asian.

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Remember back when Jack and Tim’s stepmom were searching Tim’s room?  Stephanie Brown was mentioned, the girl who had a child out of wedlock.  Y’know, the superhero Spoiler, eventually Batgirl, and Tim’s on-and-off again girlfriend.  More importantly, in the next issue, she premieres as Robin. You can imagine then what the outcome of our story today is.  Meet the new Tim Drake, definitely not swinging across construction sites to bash in bad guy’s skulls.

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Notice Bruce Wayne mentioned as an expendable identity.  Batman’s the real deal and Bruce Wayne’s the mask, but that’s a topic discussed many, many times by people with actual psychology PhDs or by cosplayers during lunch time at Comic Con.  Tim Drake returns in his Robin costume four issues later, but his dad can’t un-forget this whole Batman’s partner thing.  Y’know, until Identity Crisis — but we don’t have to discuss that.


Flash’s airplane free fall

While the Flash can run around Earth in about the same time it takes you to read this sentence, he lacks a vital superhero power that so many of his super friends possess: poor Flash can’t fly. Earthquake in China?  The Flash’ll be there to help in seconds.  Explosion in Antartica?  The Flash can investigate before the smoke clears.  A spaceship broke apart up in the stratosphere?  Oh, well, better hope Superman’s around.  So in Flash #54, written by William Messner-Loebs and drawn by Greg LaRocque, finds himself miles above the planet’s surface.  No parachute, no buddies, no jet packs.  This’ll be one story we hope ends in a whimper and not a bang.

We begin as the Flash (real name Wally West, who’ll always be my Flash) boards an airplane to help out the FBI.  Unfortunately, for reasons to protect his identity or live like the common people or not have to eat six thousand calories after running across the country, our protagonist decides to take a several hour excruciating plane ride.  Government business and whatnot.

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You can imagine what happens next.  A superhero can’t go anywhere without running into terrorists or evildoers or someone attempting to cause some damage.  Maybe comics only cover the exciting moments of a superhero’s life, leaving off the page all the boring stuff like reading the morning newspaper or standing in line at the post office.  But let’s not forget another comic book rule: the more character development someone gets, the higher risk that something bad will happen to him or her. Such as that poor flight attendant — the moment we learned about her hopes and dreams was the moment she doomed herself.  See in the next panel as she gets sucked out the plane:

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Once again, poor Flash.  Acting heroically means making some really dumb choices to retain the proper levels of impossible morality.  Julie Meyers is falling to her death and only the Flash can save her.  The Flash, who can’t fly or sprint on air or run so fast that the Earth spins in the opposite direction and reverses time.  But he has to do something.  Sometimes it really sucks to be a superhero.  Like really, really sucks:

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The Flash can totally catch her, but what then?  They can both splatter into goo together, I guess. Sadly, improvised plans deal with one problem at a time.  First step: catch the woman.  Second step: not explode into a liquid when they hit the ground.

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I do admire her gesture.  It’s sorta insignificant, as Flash needs Michael Phelps-levels of food intake to function properly, but maybe the placebo effect’ll keep his mind off of his pain.  Or maybe this is all an elaborate fetish to have a woman feed him peanuts while in free fall.  If people like feet or horses, why not that?

I know I’m making fun of this whole situation, but despite being fictional, this is some hardcore heroism we’re witnessing here.  The reason I chose this issue to highlight is just how out of his element the Flash is here, yet he shows no hesitation or fear.  Freeze guns and boomerangs?  Those he can handle no problem.  But knowing that he would be falling full force towards the Earth with nothing to protect him or slow him down but violently kicking his legs — he does it.  No hesitation.  No fear.  Remember, superheroes are better than us in every way.

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A happy ending is the best ending.  Plus, now Flash knows he can jump out of planes and survive. Two birds with one stone.

 


The inner thoughts of Killer Croc

[Ed. Note: Like last year at this time, I'm on vacation next week, but I have some great stuff planned for when I return.  New articles begin June 23rd -- check out some of my previous stuff in the meantime!  Thank you for your continued and incredible support of my website.  I love you all!]

You know what makes the Punisher comics so great?  Truckloads of blood.  But after that, inner monologues.  I love them — the idea that we as readers get access to the inner thoughts of our favorite characters.  We’re all psychics in the Marvel and DC universes!  Today, I found a delightful issue narrated by Killer Croc, a Batman villain who’s usually described as somewhere in between sewer-dwelling moron and ridiculous manimal.  But let your heart open (slightly) because in Batwoman #21, written by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman and drawn by Francesco Francavilla, we get another side of the story — and while not sympathetic or redeeming in the least — it’ll be a chance for Batman’s B-list rogue to talk about a day in his sewer-dwelling manimal life.

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Aw, DC’s only two crocodile people found each other!  And they aren’t eating each other either — unless manners demand they make out a little before disemboweling.  Still, like Killer Croc knows all too well, any happiness comes with a price, and usually in blood because it’s not as if Killer Croc can stop by an ATM or anything.  But instead of Killer Croc: frightened sewer embarrassment, how about Killer Croc: brave sewer king?

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Batwoman (real name Kate Kane), fights crime much like the normal Bat-family way: kung fu and grit. Unfortunately, all the roundhouse kicks in the world won’t penetrate Killer Croc’s superhuman durability or block his super strength.  Though as we learned in the last two panels, his heart remains ever soft and mushy.  It’s the supervillain curse that so many of them have to prove their love by slaughtering vigilantes.

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See that smile on Killer Croc’s face?  He may have a hideous physical condition, but he’s still a dude deep down.  And even though that may have been one of the least romantic kisses in recent comics, Batman’s supervillains make up for their deviousness with their pervertedness.  Now because comics demands that every tender moment be shattered by impromptu violence, Killer Croc attacks.

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Okay, we have to talk about this amazing scene.  Of course Killer Croc lives with massive self-loathing being a sewer reptile man and whatnot.  Relentless teasing, bullying, and other therapy-inducing acts brought upon in his youth don’t go away — especially after decades of cannibalism and Arkham Asylum stays.  Even though he looks like a reptile and possesses reptile traits, he’s still a human with human feelings.  He lived as Waylon Jones for longer than he’s lived as Killer Croc.

Isn’t it great Maggie Sawyer acts as a partner as opposed to a damsel in distress?  Batwoman can fight to her full extent knowing that she doesn’t have to protect her fiancée.  It’s just a nice change of pace from when Superman always has to rescue his lover Jimmy Olsen Lois Lane.  In the New 52 at least, Wonder Woman can survive nuclear explosions, so Superman’s new girlfriend happens to be a bit tougher than his previous love interests.  This is off topic, but can we drop the Superman vs. Batman nonsense?  The Dark Knight’ll die from a lucky bullet through the chin while Superman would brush off Hiroshima like an inconvenient tan.  Batman’s awesome, but he’s also wildly mortal, and that’s the way we like him.

Back to our story, I love that we get the truth behind Killer Croc’s physical pain as well.  Batman’s rogue gallery does feature some baddies with superhuman characteristics (like Bane, Poison Ivy, Clayface, Man-Bat, and Harley Quinn to a lesser degree), but they aren’t on the same league as Superman’s or Wonder Woman’s group of evildoers.  Batman has to be able to take on his villains with some ingenuity and exploding batarangs, something Doomsday or Ares would laugh off before punching Batman into space.  So yes, Killer Croc can take a full pistol clip without slowing him down, but it’s still going to hurt like hell.  I like that he admits it, and we’ll remember this fact the next time Batman throws a batarang in his eye.

Finally, a third Batwoman buddy shows up.

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Writers Williams III and Blackman left Batwoman after issue #24.  Editorial differences wouldn’t let them marry Batwoman and Sawyer, but relevant to this story, DC forced them to scrap plans to expand upon Killer Croc’s origin and role.  It’s quite unfortunate, because as you read the ending today, this marks a phenomenal new start for one of Batman’s most forgotten bad guys.  For now, just imagine what would have happened.  Our imaginations must be pretty good by now, right?

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In our next issue on June 23rd, Flash falls out of an airplane!


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