about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The Twelve Days of Who's Who! Part Two: from Cavalier to Doctor Double-X (1985-1989)

The response to the first part was great, guys! Keep 'em coming! So far this is damn fun, although I may kill myself trying to get them all out once a day! In the meantime, MOAR BATMAN VILLAINS!

Disclaimer for scans.

The Cavalier is so goddamn fabulous. Sure, he's one-note, but what other note do you need? I bet he enters every room by leaping in, swinging his rapier, and going "HA-HA!" I also like that the biographer went out of his way to point out that the Cavalier actually IS a threat, but much like the Penguin, it's a sad case of "if you have to say it, people will be even MORE likely to disbelieve it." Still, he's dashing, he's deadly, and he once stopped a fight to help an elderly woman with her packages. What's NOT to love?!

One of these days, I'm gonna write about the history of Basil Karlo, the original Clayface (without powers) who's also the current Clayface (with powers), but who is instead generally written and viewed as a dumber version of the Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series. If I had the time and inclination, I'd also be interested in looking at Hagen, Payne and the other Clay-Peoples, but I find Basil the most interesting and under-utilized by far. But then, I'm a ham actor who loves horror movies, so I suppose I would feel a bit of kinship there.

Of course, at the point of this bio's writing, Preston Payne (a villain of old-school movie-monster levels of both horror and tragedy) was the only Clayface of any note thanks to a great story by Len Wein and Marshall Rogers (thus why Rogers drew this), and his reputation would soon be further bolstered by a fantastic piece from Alan Moore, back when the Bearded Wonder could do no wrong. It can currently be read in the must-own DC Universe: The Collected Stories of Alan Moore, but I also recommend tracking down the original issue in which it was published, which also features a great Penguin story by Max Allan Collins and Norm Breyfogle. Oh, and if you do get the Moore collection, try to buy the older paperback, because the new hardcover will almost certainly be featuring the recolored Killing Joke, which I hate. Garish old coloring all the way!

Where was I? Clayface! Right! In all this, we have Matt Hagen, who has the most name recognition thanks to B:TAS, but who is himself kind of a worthless character. He's always struck me as a lowlife and petty scumbag, and there are few things I hate quite like assholes like that getting power. He's not a compelling character unto himself, he's just an incredibly powerful monster who you want to see taken down, and quickly. Even when he got the Post-Crisis origin treatment by Alan Grant, he was still a loathsome little shit who literally and figuratively dove headfirst into the addictive, horrifying powers of Clayface. As such, I shed no tears for the character's inglorious death in the Crisis, a few years after which we finally saw the remaining Clayfaces planning to unite:

This revised collection of bios served as a teaser for The Mud Pack, the storyline by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle that brought the remaining Clayfaces together. Man, the third part of that was one of the earliest comics I ever owned, and it disturbed the living hell out of seven-year-old me. Grant and Breyfogle could be horrifying, man!

So, the whole blurb there about the Clayfaces trying to bring Matt Hagen back to life? Yeah, that didn't happen. I wonder if that was actually the original plot of The Mud Pack, or if the editor writing this profile misunderstood that the story was REALLY about Karlo's plans for Payne and Sondra Fuller (IV's later-revealed real name)? Poor Hagen only made a few cameo appearances as an inert pile of mud in a sack. It's strange that Hagen could be killed in his clay form even by Shadow Demons, since he should be pretty darn well indestructible, but I guess that's antimatter for you. Actually, that's right, this question was actually addressed in one of the more recent Batman Secret Files books, where writer and editor flip-flopped in a tongue-in-cheek way as to the question of just how dead Hagen could be.

As for what happened when the remaining Clayfaces met and what Karlo's big plan was, you'll find out when I post the 90's Who's Who entry for the Mud Pack. But I'm sure you have some idea already, if you haven't actually read that story yourself.

Poor Cluemaster. He really doesn't deserve any sympathy, since even his best appearances by Giffen/DeMatteis and Chuck Dixon went out of their way to remind you that he was an unlikable crumb, but I always have sympathy for losers. And besides, considering that his daughter Stephanie is a fan-favorite character for whom I feel only aggressive apathy, I'm still waiting to see someone really try to make Arthur Brown a worthwhile character, even if he can't be a decent human being. As it is, his career highlight is getting a bomb strapped to his chest by the Riddler, who was most displeased to see his shtick stolen. So yeah, poor Cluemaster.

I like how nobody has ever bothered trying to give Copperhead an origin. He just showed up one day in a snake suit and started committing crimes. And then one day, he became a mutated snake man monster, because it was the 90's and he had to be up to date, until he was finally jobbed (for lack of a better term) in the first issue of Manhunter to show us all how badass Kate Spencer was. Farewell, Copperhead. For a non-character, you had a pretty good run. Another one for the "canon fodder" pile. We need a term for characters bumped off for cheap shock value, because it's going come up over and over and over again in the next posts!

Crazy Quilt is one of those characters who always pops up on Worst Batman Villains Ever lists, but y'know, anybody whose mission in life is to kill Robin can't be ALL bad. Being drawn by Kirby doesn't hurt either. Still, while I appreciate the bio's valiant attempt to sell Quilt as a legitimate threat, it sounds like all you'd need to take him down are a pair of sunglasses or something. Oh, and has frickin' laser beams attached to his frickin' head. Yeah, if that's his "primary" weapon rather than actually being cunning in any significant way, it's hard to defend the character as being threatening in any real way. Sorry, guy.

That said, I would be interested to know what effect his criminal career had on the value of his paintings, and/or if his work would be considered noteworthy on its own merits. Hell, I'd think that only being able to see the world in bright, vivid colors would be an asset if he kept painting while in prison (because Crazy Quilt is apparently not crazy enough for Arkham). Well, except that he would be blind, since he couldn't have his helmet in prison. He should escape not to commit new crimes to revenge himself on Robin, but just to paint wild, vivid paintings! It would almost certainly be a better use of his time. Maybe he should make it his goal to replace Thomas Kinkade as the true painter of light! Or just try to kill Thomas Kinkade. That works too.

The prescription... is EVIL. The cure... is JUSTICE.

While I've always been amused by Thorne's Golden Age confession revealing himself as a CRIME JUNKIE, I'm glad that Batman: The Animated Series decided to play up the Thorne names to reinvent the character as a conflicted, reluctant underworld surgeon. That was by far the most interesting the character's ever been, even if it severely limited the number of appearances the character could make without returning to crime. But really, when your one story is good, why do need more? If only current writers remembered that instead of turning him into an evil Elton John or whatever. But if they ever had to go back to classic Bradford Thorne, I'd love to see him as a college and/or romantic interest for Leslie Thompkins, especially if they played up that he genuinely loved medicine but couldn't quite get the crime monkey off his back.

I recently got into a discussion with somebody who preferred the idea that Killer Croc should be more like the Lizard: a normal person mutated into a cannibalistic sewer-dwelling monster. Personally, I think the "skin condition" origin described above makes for a far more compelling character. This is a character who played up being a monster as a means of survival, whose turn to crime (and especially crime LORD) is far more understandable than if he were just a standard evil criminal mastermind. He's a ruthless bastard, a heartless killer, and probably quite sane, but you can understand how he got that way. Also, in my personal canon, he never actually ate anybody until he was mutated, but he certainly let people think he would eat them if he was displeased. Again, playing up the monster.

Oh, and in case you were curious to read the Squid's bio, too bad: Who's Who apparently decided, ehhhh, yeah, we don't care about the Squid enough to give him one after all! We said we would, changed our minds, who cares, nobody, that's who. Keep the Squid's exclusion in mind as we see some of the other truly forgettable foes who WERE included instead.

This was in Floyd's limbo period after being brought to prominence with a new costume in the Englehart/Rogers run, but before the character gained much-needed depth and awesomeness in Ostrander's Suicide Squad. Thus this good, eventually-brilliant character only merits half a page for his bio in 1985. Hang in there, Sniper McMustache, the best is yet to come! Man, I cannot wait to get my Suicide Squad issues out of storage so I can finally read them all in one sitting. I'd only *just* completed the run before we had to move, so I'm anxious to read the whole saga, and then to pass it along to Henchgirl, Captain, and surrealname. It's a series well worth sharing, and Floyd's a big reason why.

My first exposure to Doctor Double-X was through Englehart and Rogers' Batman: Dark Detective, where he was easily the most obscure character to appear. Englehart had the smart idea to update the villain as a scientist rather than a costumed criminal, and had Ecks appropriately serve in the Two-Face subplot. The strange, wacky Two-Face subplot. Man, it'll be fun to finally review B:DD one of these days. What I liked most about Ecks in that story was that he was an uncommonly sensible villain, which I think was a lesson he learned the hard way after teaming up with frickin' Rainbow Raider. That'd seriously cause you to reevaluate your life and methods.

To be continued!
Tags: clayface(s), croc, deadshot, dick giordano, marshall rogers, pat broderick, who's who and secret files

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