about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The Twelve Days of Who's Who! Part Eleven: From Rāʾs al Ghūl to Ventriloquist (1990-1993)

The penultimate post in this series is also the last of the official Who's Who profiles. A couple of my favorites are in this one, so I hope you enjoy. As always, keep the comments a-comin'! Even though I'm too busy composing entries (and doing IRL stuff) to reply as quickly as I want, know that your responses are half of why I do all this in the first place!

I have nothing to say about Ra's this time around, other than to keep an eye on that plot detail about Qayin. Even if you haven't read Son of the Demon, remember that for when we get to Talia, because I'm gonna rant and it's gonna come up.

This is my favorite Riddler drawing of all time, but my adoration is tempered by the fact that it's directly influenced by Milligan and Dwyer's storyline, Dark Knight, Dark City. Look, that story is great, don't get me wrong. But damn it, I am sick and tired of people hailing it as a great Riddler story, because it doesn't fucking count when Riddler is possessed. Sheesh. Really, the best things about the Riddler in that story was the way he was drawn by Kieron Dwyer, because Dwyer is awesome, especially with inks like the ones Janke has provided here.

It breaks my heart that artist George Pratt is not more well-known, and that his graphic novel, Enemy Ace: War Idyll, isn't hailed as one of the great comic masterpieces of the past twenty-five years. Seriously, you can buy a copy used on Amazon for little over a buck. That's ridiculous. Granted, Pratt's actual Batman graphic novel, Batman: Harvest Breed, ain't that great, but Pratt nonetheless is a name that should be held in higher esteem than it is. That said, I so wish he'd been allowed to paint this piece rather than pencil it, as it's kinda stiff but eerie. The last panel is the part I really like, as Batman looks like he's going to scream his own jaw off while Jonny lords over him in delight. It's a brief moment that the Scarecrow should savor before Batman recovers and kicks his teeth in.

As for the text of the profile itself, I think Mark Waid has composed the perfect summation of who the Scarecrow is, and of his origins. The last paragraph alone absolutely nails the Scarecrow at his best, the Scarecrow that bitemetechie and captaintwinings write about, but whom too many writers snug in favor of a giddy sadist, a howling cartoon madman, or a desperate fear junkie. Not enough emphasize his mind, which should always be his deadliest weapon.

I'm including this piece mainly for abqreviews, whose appreciation for classic Grundy relieved any apprehension I had about including the big lug. Incidentally, this image was my first exposure to Grundy. After his one unsettling appearance in Shadow of the Bat (man, there are no images of that Grundy online? Internet, you fail me yet again), I'm not sure that Grundy has ever looked more like a waterlogged corpse.

Man, I miss the art of Luke McDonnell. Suicide Squad just ain't the same without him, just as it's not the same without Ostrander writing. Everyone here looks wrong, just wrong, and the artist automatically loses points for giving Oracle's wheelchair handles. I love that it was actually agreed at the editorial level that Barbara doesn't have handles because she refused to be pushed.

Still, I had to include this piece because there was a time when Oracle (who actually BECAME Oracle in this series, because Ostrander and Yale were awesome that way) was on the same team with Deadshot and Poison Ivy. Maybe those last two were villains, but they ended up fighting for heroic reasons due to the sheer badass force of will/nature/God that is Amanda Waller.

Here's a rare instance where the artist from the first Who's Who returns to draw the same artist. I know that abqreviews and lego_joker didn't think much of Bingham's Talia the first time around, so I wonder what you'll make of this one. I'm not sure about the colors on her catsuit, but I like how it displays both her abilities as a leather ass-kicker along with her graceful personality. Furthermore, I love imagining all the obsessed anti-Talia fans gritting their teeth reading that first paragraph there. That said, I find it interesting that this bio was apparently written before Son of the Demon, where Denny O'Neil established that Ra's met Talia's mother at Woodstock, a detail which I kinda like even if it makes me roll my eyes a tiny bit. Oh, Denny.

Which reminds me, do you know what IS included? The plot of Son of the Demon, which completely omits the minor details that, y'know, Bruce and Talia got MARRIED, had sex, and she got pregnant, then faked a miscarriage and gave the child up to a foster couple. Because, you see, as I recently learned thanks to killermoth, Denny O'Neil decided to cut that entire element out of continuity and keep that well-selling graphic novel it of print because it clashed with his firm belief that Bruce was made impotent by his parents' murders. And yet, Waid saw fit to retain the plot of Son of the Demon regardless, even though what actually happened in it with Talia--probably the most important event she's had since he earliest issues--is missing. Oh, and the art here is by Son of the Demon artist Jerry Bingham. WTF, DC?

And again, here they go, trying to make us believe that Tweedledee and Tweedledum are actual characters of note who have some kind of history! In fact, I don't recall any story where they teamed up with the Joker (as jester elves to Santa Joker, no less?) in some scheme involving Lex. Were there plans for a story that ended up being scrapped, or am I somehow forgetting this story? Either way, man, that is an awful lot of blank space in their bio. The best thing I can say about this is that Breyfogle is awesome, and that while I like the idea of the Tweedes wearing different outfits, it kind of defeats the purpose of them being identical. Whatever that purpose is.

And of course I've previously written about this portrait: one of my favorite Two-Face drawings by one of my favorite Two-Face artists from my favorite Two-Face story ever. There's a lot I love here. Notice how just that ONE story packs enough depth to full up almost the ENTIRE profile page, whereas almost everyone else's profiles are just a paragraph of origin and then recapping major story events. No, Harvey's story IS Eye of the Beholder, simply because that story had that much going on in just, what, 48 pages? Bloody amazing.

Y'know, for all the ways I talk that comic up at every opportunity, it isn't a perfect story. There are definitely flaws, and I should someday give that story a second, more critical analysis. More than anything else, it's the Klemper subplot that doesn't sit well with me. I should also someday explain just why this origin resonates so... personally with me, but that won't be an easy entry to write. Maybe I'd be better off posting it at thehefner, but I fear it might be too geeky for the personal blog, and too personal for the geek blog! Well, we'll see what happens.

Notice that Arnold still hasn't gotten his name by this point. Hell, he hadn't even appeared in any stories since his previous Who's Who entry! Sanderson had to pad the bio out with what Kadaver tried to do with one of Arnold's plans, which barely has any impact on Arnold himself! Perhaps this was done to remind readers who the hell this character was by the time the The Return of Scarface storyline came out.

And hey, psychopathicus: notice that Scarface STILL has that random-ass tiny piano. Anybody know why? Were tiny pianos a thing for ventriloquist acts?

And that's that for Who's Who. After 1993, the interest in character profiles apparently tapered off, and frankly, I'm amazed it lasted in the first place. While there have been similar resources published since the late 90's, none were published under the Who's Who banner, nor were they nearly as comprehensive.

Last year, DC announced that there were plans for a new Who's Who volume to celebrate the company's anniversary, but that never happened and now almost certainly never will. At least, not for a while. The DCnU is too Nu for anyone to have established history, and if they made something up, you can bet most of it would be contradicted by later writers. Sure, there's all the PRE-DCnU stuff, but the last thing DC wants is to remind readers of what was, back when characters wore briefs on the outside of the outside of their costumes. God, how stupid is that? You'd think they were SUPERHEROES or something! A-duh!

As they stand, old Who's Who books are treasure troves of great, lousy, and lost characters, and if you can ever find copies in dollar bins, pick up a few. You never know who you might meet. If you want to find more Who's Who online, Grantbridge Street has posted complete collections of profiles from the Legion of Superheroes, Superman, New Gods drawn by Jack Kirby himself, and more in his archives. If you want to see more of these big looseleaf profiles, again, check out the DC Who's Who Tumblr, which is still being updated. Good stuff all around!

Tomorrow, the final post: Secret Files and Origins. Plus old man ranting.
Tags: brian stelfreeze, chris sprouce, deadshot, mark waid, norm breyfogle, penguin, poison ivy, ra's and/or talia al ghul, riddler, scarecrow, who's who and secret files

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