Iron Man is dead. At least in this point in the comics. It allows War Machine to take over the title for a few issues, but it mainly consists of James Rhodes angrily stomping his feet in frustration at every single situation that comes his way. Seriously, for starring in his own superhero comic for these precious few issues, Rhodes has more angst than Spider-Man’s worst day. Anyway, in Iron Man #285-288, written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Kevin Hopgood & Barry Kitson – Iron Man obviously not “dead” dead – our hero hallucinates about his past. Mainly about his relationship with his father. Nowadays in current continuity, Tony Stark’s dad acts much like Batman’s dad: a paragon of the community and a role model for our superhero to aspire to be. But not in these four issues. Let’s meet a very different Howard Stark.
Iron Man has been sober for about a hundred issues or so. But all that previous alcohol fried his brain enough for him to repress all those awful memories of the domestic abuse committed by his boozy father. We know this story as a constant theme in comics — terrible parents force the prodigal son to begin his never-ending quest seeking the approval of people who will never give it to him. But this story factors so much into Iron Man’s personality: his love of machines, his superhero fantasies, his maniacal self-improvement, and his relentless drive; everything pretty much goes back to his father being a dick.
I know he’s called Iron Man and his first two armors were made of iron, but let’s chalk his father’s proclamation up to a coincidence. By the way, is it just me or is it weird to see Tony Stark without his mustache? Even as a child. That ten year-old needs to be rocking that pencil-thin mustache for me to be completely comfortable with this flashback.
You see what happens when you let kids be exposed to fantasy? They become billionaire playboy superheroes who gain the whole world’s adoration and love. Off topic, but I do hold a firm belief that superheroes are America’s King Arthur. Britain has their fictional greater-than-life heroes, complete with adventures and so on. We Americans created our own fictional greater-than-life heroes, just with spandex and who punch mobsters as opposed to slaying dragons. Though, if I can shamelessly plug, Green Arrow has totally slayed a dragon, so take that Lancelot or whoever.
You should feel bad for Iron Man, and not because he lost his parents. No, y’see, Iron Man is so amazing that nothing is difficult. He’s good at everything. He has no weaknesses. He’s a god among men. So shed your tears now, my friends. Can we all take a minute and proclaim what a genius Stan Lee is? He created Iron Man, a superhero literally no one can identify with (except maybe Elon Musk), injected into him the ego of an entire professional sports league, gave him everything the readers weren’t getting (like girls), and then somehow made this man a comic book superstar.
You know what happens next. Terrorists kidnap him or Vietcong or whatever’s the current group Iron Man first gets kidnapped by. I know nowadays his superhero origin relies on an abduction somewhere in the Middle East, but that changes depending on what decade the Iron Man story takes place in. But that incident propelled him to become a good person, warrior of justice, etc. May we all hope that our own physical, mental, or emotional transformation doesn’t involve building a suit of armor to blow up terrorists. But we should definitely hope that we can one day we could wear a pencil-thin mustache and still be called cool. That’d be a decent enough transformation, I guess.
Iron Man’s back to life! On Monday, get ready for a surprise (because I don’t know what we’ll be reading at).
Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
[Ed. Note: I’m feeling better. I promised myself I would get to 500 articles, so I hope you’ll enjoy the final fifty articles as much as I’ll enjoy writing them! Until I’m back to 100%, I’m going to cut down to two articles a week – I appreciate your support far more than you would ever imagine.)
Last time the Man Without Fear and the Dark Knight crossed pathes, they basically spent the entire issue seeing who had the bigger wiener. We all know the winner: Superman. His perfection doesn’t end at the belly button, my friends. In their second team up, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, Daredevil begins our story by traveling the mysterious dimensional gap of DC/Marvel cities to Gotham City. I know the story’s called King of New York. Just go with me here.
Daredevil’s following Catwoman, who stole something valuable or whatever. But because all good team ups must begin with fisticuffs, Batman’s going to show up to wreck whatever information party Daredevil hoped to figure out. Cue the initial brawl:
These two constantly seem to forget that they’re normal dudes who can’t do stuff like fly or land safely on the ground without transforming into superhero goo. And while I know Daredevil attempted to interrupt Batman, the crooks are going to figure out who’s on their tail when Daredevil tackles his superhero counterpart in clear view while they both fall to their deaths. Truthfully, Daredevil’s actions only serve for us to witness a cool acrobatic free-for-all between Batman and him. And it’s awesome. I never need context for stuff like that.
Thus begins round two of their big wiener contest. The stakes are just as high as last time (nothing). But here’s the summary of their current squabble: both Gotham City and New York City are awful places that create the most unnecessarily toughest people to ever walk the comic book universe. But it’s their super awful places.
The story takes Daredevil’s bad guy Kingpin and Batman’s bad guy Scarecrow to New York City where the Scarecrow plans to unleash a mega bomb of fear toxin that will destroy the tough people of New York City. Earlier, Kingpin betrayed Scarecrow – y’know, because they’re both supervillains and that’s why every time the Injustice League gets formed, it eventually dissolves into infighting and misery – and now Kingpin’s getting his revenge. These next two pages aren’t important to the story, but they’re important for my heart and soul.
As required in a team up, our two superheroes face their buddy’s supervillain. I’m skipping Batman versus Kingpin, but only because the Daredevil versus Scarecrow fight is so much better. The baddie can’t beat Daredevil in a fistfight, so he has to use that magical fear gas of his. But Daredevil’s the Man Without Fear, right? See? I told you their fight was better.
Victory for our heroes, who never meet again. Luckily, I found a bunch of other crossovers, so next time we’ll have Batman team up with another Marvel superhero. Hint: this one doesn’t banter or smile. He only wears shirts with white skulls. His name starts with “P” and ends with “-unisher.”
I tend to keep my personal life out of this blog because you come for the comics and the images, not me. We read superheroes in the first place because they’re so much more fascinating than our own lives. But I have to take a few weeks off. I can’t keep this blog going right now. I promise to continue as soon as I can. Thank you for reading and I love you.
Daredevil #9-10, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Chris Samnee
This is a weird one, let’s not beat around the bush. Not the two paired together — that I can see, but the circumstances of the pairing. In this (obvious) non-canon adventure, Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and Harvey Dent (Two-Face) knew of each other as fellow lawyers. There’s no explanation or mind-warping needed. The two former best lawyers in their respective cities were buddies or acquaintances back in the day. DC’s Gotham City and Marvel’s New York City both exist, they both occupy this same universe, and the Batman/Daredevil duo will beat up bad guys together in the one-shot Daredevil and Batman: Eye for an Eye, written by D.G. Chichester and drawn by Scott McDaniel. These two wrote and drew Daredevil together for about three years in the early ’90s, back when Daredevil was happy and his whole life hadn’t shattered into the thousands of tiny miserable pieces that occurred about a decade later. Let’s take a look at their initial confrontation, which of course involves a fight – can you imagine the outrage if those two didn’t try to concuss each other?
It’s drawings like that above that remind me just how scary Batman is supposed to be. Strangely, for someone with the name “devil” in his superhero moniker, Daredevil’s costume may be one of the least scary in comic books. Maybe Daredevil just needs a cape, something Marvel superheroes severely lack in their ranks. Actually, while we’re on this subject — of the original Justice League members, three of the seven have capes (Batman, Superman, and Martian Manhunter). That’s a 42% capes to no capes. But of the original six Avengers (and I’m counting Captain America), only Thor is brave enough to wear one. That’s only 16% of members wearing capes. And honestly, this is almost certainly the most useless information you’ll read all week.
Oh, and now Daredevil and Batman have their brief tussle:
Here’s the beauty of Batman: he knew from the start that Daredevil was working on the same case he was. There is absolutely zero reason for him to fight Daredevil, and it should be noted, he did it anyway. Because he’s a crazy person. You can blame his ambush on wanting to “test” Daredevil or whatever, but our Dark Knight just felt like punching another superhero. Seriously, he made a claim of wanting to ask Daredevil questions, but he also didn’t ask anything before attempting to tackle him either. And you see how they both enjoyed it? Two insane superheroes are going to team up to hunt down two insane supervillains.
They’re not done being jerks to each other. Actually, it never stops the entire fifty pages of this issue.
I wouldn’t say Batman’s against rehabilitation as he admits above — he is the same man who brings escaped supervillains back to the mental hospital they stay at every few months they break out. The main story line involves DC’s Two-Face and Marvel’s Mr. Hyde teaming up to do something with poison or bombs or technology or whatever — I didn’t read the non-superhero parts that carefully. Instead, I became fascinated by Daredevil and Batman’s neverending crusade of seeing who has the biggest schlong. We get it — you’re both alpha males and the very best of the best of superhero-ing. Isn’t it about time the two of you kissed?
That’s right — Batman doesn’t even give Daredevil a ride. Luckily, our Marvel superhero jumps from rooftop to rooftop to get to the same crime scene at the exact same time as Batman’s fastest car in the world. But I don’t want to write 100% snark. Despite their differences (mainly the cape), they’re both still kind-hearted superheroes out to protect the innocent, dish out justice, and punish the wicked. This page sums it up nicely for me in the melodramatic fashion I look forward to in my comic book stories:
I’m skipping thirty-ish pages to the very last scene. As you can expect, they win. Two-Face and Mr. Hyde are safely locked up once more thanks to the tireless detective work/skull bashing of our two protagonists. But as they celebrate their victory, why not end their time together like most crossovers do, with the two warmly embracing a bro-hug as Batman softly musses up Daredevil’s hair. Right? Please?
Then they kiss.
You’ve had a tough year. Everyone’s going on Facebook and Twitter bragging about how amazing 2014 was for them, but you’re still angry and bitter. It’s understandable – stuff happens beyond your control and if choices are available, you sometimes make terrible choices in dealing with it. Sometimes I’m still amazed at how poor my decision making skills are and I’m in my late 20s. But today, put all that aside. What you want is Catwoman showing this jerk Thief exactly what happens when he thinks he can uproot and destroy her life. Oh, how he’s wrong. Today, Catwoman makes no bad decisions, only satisfying ones.
As Thief (that’s his actual supervillain name) plans the final parts of his dastardly supervillain schemes, it’d just be unfortunate if someone was gathering evidence of him committing crimes while he was out of costume with his face in full view of a camera. Very unfortunate.
Remember what Calculator said last time? This new guy Thief’s state of the art. His plans, his robberies, his equipment, and everything about him is so far above Catwoman’s old timey methods so much so that Thief isn’t even on Batman’s radar, and that dude’s like the Big Brother of Gotham. So as you see everything fall brilliantly into place for Catwoman’s revenge, don’t forget that while Thief may be a better thief, he simply can’t compete with Catwoman in the qualities she really shines in: insanity, bloodlust, and holding deep unwavering grudges.
Good triumphs over evil (and rubs it in), and the reason we read these issues as the final article of the year. Currently in the post-DC reboot New 52 Catwoman’s eternal story – her as the eventual mafia queenpin of the Gotham city underworld – we can learn something important from these dozen-ish pages below that’ll apply to our modern day stories: no one screws with Catwoman. No one.
I’m showing you a massive portion of this issue – probably more than I’m allowed. But I want you to remember all of this when you look back (for some of you) just how awful 2014 might have been and what 2015 will be. You’ll be Catwoman and this new year will be that mess of a man who thought he was better than she was. Next time 2015 attempts to stomp on your self-esteem, your ability to handle crap, or the frustrations heaped upon you as you attempt to accomplish your goals – you’ll be Catwoman and all that bullshit will be this disgusting failed supervillain.
You think I’m done. I’m not. Her revenge isn’t yet. As the solid black panel above signals Thief’s unconsciousness, he’s free to leave the mansion once he awakes. Catwoman’s gone. No one’s around. Because Gotham city’s version of revenge? It doesn’t end with a lecture and a beating. No sir. I hope your 2015 is wonderful. You deserve it.
As Catwoman’s solo series reached its final act in its final ten or so issues, the upcoming reboot meant everything they did wasn’t going to have any lasting effect or major changes to the character, so why not have some fun? Why not have Catwoman do what she does best? That’s right: anger and vengeance. In a delightful revenge tale, a new thief (called Thief) invades Gotham to take Selina Kyle’s place as the number one burglar, and unfortunately, illegal turf wars usually mean taking out whoever happens to be on the turf first. We pick up with Catwoman #72-74, #79-80, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by David Lopez — the issue immediately after she gives up her child. Our dear protagonist wakes up to an empty apartment:
See how good Thief is? He and his team ransacked her entire place — including the bed she was sleeping in — while she snoozed. But they made a mistake. With no supporting cast, no equipment, no goals, and all the time in the world, Catwoman now has the ability to devote every waking moment to taking down this new bad guy. No seriously, she has nothing else to do. Her calendar is completely empty — every day now gets circled for vengeance.
Oh, and besides an empty calendar, she also has no mask, whip, traps, or anything that made her a superhero. She’ll need them. Batman without his cowl is just Bruce Wayne. While she scrounges up a few of her essentials in a home robbery I’m skipping, it’s not as if she’s on bad terms with any of her friends. Let her get Batman to help her out (and he would drop everything to do so). That dude has dozens of safe houses, sidekicks, and almost certainly a spare Batgirl costume/utility belt she could borrow until her new stuff gets re-made/returned. But nope, she has to do everything herself. Underestimating her buddies seems to be a popular trait for angry Gotham superheroes. Keep note that her threatening Calculator (the Oracle for bad guys) comes with an unintended side effect:
Calculator drugged her coffee, which is one of the requirements for being a bad guy when one is overweight and has a ponytail. As you can imagine, Thief — pictured above– doesn’t shoot and kill her. He’s a supervillain and we all know superheroes always win in the end. But you’ve noticed a few things different about Catwoman lately, right? Besides the baby thing. She’s wearing shoes with flames on them. Her hair is long, brunette, and well-kept. She actually got punched by a henchman. That’s right — it’s time for that moment where she finally gets her crap together after twenty issues of her being off her game. Also, I’ve provided the page where Calculator tells her exactly going on:
And yes, you’d figure Catwoman’s revenge would be short, sweet, and full of monologues about how wrong Thief is for doubting her. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that. Unfortunately, this is also the same issue the Suicide Squad captures Catwoman for the DC event Planet Salvation where all the DC supervillains get shipped off to the alien planet. The poor girl can’t skip out on major events like that. So readers would have to wait a few months for the Planet Salvation tie-in to end. But finally, four issues before her series comes to an end, she’ll get her revenge. Which I’ll show you next time. It’s worth it.
I know, it’s Christmas today. Everyone’s full of joy and ham and football and Jesus, and then I come along to end your holiday season with this total bummer of an article today. I apologize, but we have to cover this before our big Catwoman finale on Monday and Wednesday. Plus, it’s a great story. From various pages of Catwoman #53-72, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by David Lopez, today I’ll attempt to explain the whole Catwoman’s daughter thing. It begins as you’d expect all pregnancies would:
Luckily, DC enacted their One Year Later event at this same time (where every comic automatically shifted one year forward) so we didn’t have to get twelve issues of a visibly pregnant Catwoman whipping bad guys or awkwardly jumping across rooftops. The baby, named Helena, just popped into the story — and the father? Dead. It’s all hers.
So how in nineteen issues of comics did we get from this joy seen above, from Catwoman giving up crimefighting, devoting herself to motherhood, and becoming a role model for her infant child, to this childless, fiery, vengeful vigilante we saw last article? Well, you know that superhero life. It involves lots of this:
The child doesn’t die. Don’t worry about that. But how much longer in the series until she does? If DC would kill off poor Aquababy, they’d wipe out Catbaby faster than you could ask, “Who’s Aquababy?” In the DC universe, our characters narrowly avoid death practically every ten to twenty pages. And babies? Very few of them know martial arts or other methods of defending themselves. But I want to take this moment as a “what if?” If Catwoman and Batman could get their crap together and actually function as two people in a healthy relationship, it’s not foolish to think that canon (not even alternative universe) Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle could have a happy nuclear family. Did you laugh as I wrote those last words? I know. Catwoman knows. Batman knows everything. But still, it’s nice to dream.
Batman even fakes Catwoman and her child’s death. Because while I’m no expert on child-rearing, it’s better if supervillains don’t attempt to kidnap or maim the child you’re raising. Spoiler alert: Catwoman’s not satisfied. How could she? It’s not as if the bad guys won’t find out about her one day. And it turns out bad guys are really good at holding grudges. Plus, best case scenario for the child of a superhero? That kid also becomes a superhero, dodging gunfire and fireballs for a few years until killed off in a major event to bring pain to their more famous parent’s dramatic life.
Batman places the kid up for adoption. Helena gets adopted. We never hear from her again. And thus I bum out your Christmas spirit after a night of drinking eggnog lattes and dancing around the Christmas tree (I don’t actually know what people do on Christmas). In summary, don’t have children. I think that’s the message of this arc.
Oh, and because of the DC universe reboot and de-aging of Catwoman from the (probably) mid-30s she is here to a sleeker 23 years old, this story never happened. Except in your heart, of course.
Next time, we’ll raise your spirits with a story of Catwoman’s life ruined once more by a new thief out to claim his stake in Gotham. Then I’ll find a story about puppies and sunshine and flowers, I promise.
We left Catwoman last time with the delightful discovery that she can brush off bullets and punch panthers across rooms. It’s good to be Catwoman. And in this weird alternative Earth of hers, what’s not to enjoy about being indestructable and all-powerful? That’s right: nothing. Unless you happen to be the buzzkill of the DC universe. In all the chaos of teleporting the bad guys to the planet Salvation, one Justice Leaguer also hitched a ride.
You know the best part of superpowers? The freedom. No longer does one have to cartwheel and backflip out of the way of normal death machines. Or hide and cry if one’s not an Olympic-level vigilante. So let this alternative Earth’s Batman try to uncharacteristically mow down our protagonist. Let him try. Can you already feel the joy coming from our dear Selina?
Remember when Batman went crazy and slightly evil because he suddenly had the ability to protect everybody in the world and his overwhelming/warped sense of justice forced him to do so? Catwoman’s not wired that way. She can be things Batman can’t, like happy, and more importantly, all the joy you and I would feel from being infamous, invincible, and not caring about anyone who wanted to do silly futile stuff like stop us from doing whatever we want when we want to do it.
How good of a mood does one have to be in to see Superman and figure, y’know, why not? Let’s take him. Back home she had her friends and belongings taken away by people who want to kill her then teleported to a prison planet to waste away with other baddies, but here? Oh, the freedom. It’s basically a world created from her current deepest desire — a perfect world for the crap Catwoman’s current going through (which, and spoiler alert, it sort of is exactly that). Because in what other scenario could you possibly imagine where Catwoman does this?
We can use the same summary we use about Daredevil comics of the past three to four years: sometimes it’s just nice to see Catwoman win, because those last dozen issues or so before this arc have been rough for the poor girl. Plus, this is the third time she’s beaten Batman — which might be saying more about her fantasies than anything else (I’m just saying, in the most non-offensive way possible, that the whip of hers isn’t just for crimefighting). And as for the icing on the cake?
Don’t think we’ve forgotten about our green buzzkill earlier. I know it’s to save her life and bring her back into the real world so she doesn’t die in a desire-driven alien machine, but Martian Manhunter can be such a downer sometimes. As Catwoman accepts the reality of her situation, at least she recognizes it like the badass she is. That’s all I ever want in a comic book character.
I briefly mentioned before that someone torched all her belongings earlier. Next time, she gets her revenge. It’s going to be bloody.