about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The Twelve Days of Who's Who! Conclusion: Batman Villains' Secret Files and Origins (1997-2006)

Whew, made it! And just in time for Twelfth Night, too!

Doing this series of posts has been one of the most exhausting, draining, frustrating, and goddamned fun projects I've ever done on this blog. It's a shame that it has to end this way, with an assortment that largely covers some of my least favorite Batman eras and characters.

That's not to say there isn't anything I love about Batman from 1997 to 2006. Sure, the days of the great Bat-trio of Moench/Grant/Dixon were starting to wind down, with many good stories hindered by one big crossover after another after another. The fact that they were all fired to make way for the next big crossover would haven been bitterly misguided if that crossover hadn't been No Man's Land. Far as I'm concerned, NML the highest achievement for Batman since Batman: Year One, since it was an event that was mostly focused on character rather than... well, events. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than any other major Batman crossover I have ever read, and thus I was greatly excited with the prospect of NML mastermind Greg Rucka continuing to write the ongoing Detective Comics.

While I loved Rucka's run, as well as Brubaker's Batman and Devin Grayon's Gotham Knights, the changes they made to Batman's character and supporting cast led the series down a path that I didn't necessarily like, but stuck with because I trusted the creative teams involved. And then they were all gone, with Loeb and Lee giving us Hush. After that, new writers followed the threads left by Rucka, Brubaker, and Grayson, and it all went to hell. The stories that followed left me cold, and much as I rag on Grant Morrison's run, I think I might honestly prefer it to the era of Black Mask. Don't force me to choose, please.

So now, at the end of a project that I started to celebrate the characters I love, I shall see if I can muster any of the same kind of enthusiasm for some of my favorite and least favorite eras alike.

These two are probably most well-known for their connections to Rucka's Batwoman in the pages of 52 and Batwoman: Elegy. I've always found them off-putting because they played towards Rucka's fascination with religious/ideological fanatics--mainly with Kobra and the Crime Bible--themes with I've always found off-putting. There's something I find genuinely upsetting about the self-righteous self-justified evil of characters like the absurdly-named Whisper A'Daire, with her slavish devotion to Ra's al Ghul. Even though I liked the Ra's stories by Rucka, Whisper was my least favorite part. Something about her, and characters like her, never sat well with me.

You may have noticed that this character's first appearance isn't listed in his vital stats. That's because you're technically looking at his first and only appearance, from 1997's Batman Villains Secret Files and Origins! He appeared right on the cover and everything, drawn by none other than Brian Bolland! Not bad for a never-was character!

Presumably, this page was meant to be a teaser for his first actual appearance in Batman: Shadow of the Bat, or so I assume since the bio is actually written by Alan Grant himself. I imagine some of you might have guessed that yourself, since the "saving the world from itself" tagline is just SO very Anarky. Alas, since Grant was fired when DC decided to go with No Man's Land instead of their first post-quake plans (where Gotham was going to get back on its feet with the same resilience to return to status quo that they showed after Contagion), one can only conclude that Grant's story for the Answer was scrapped, never to be seen again unless DC hires Grant to tell it at some juncture.

For the time being, the Answer remains one of the only characters to get featured on a cover, to get an entire profile written up, to have a pin-up dedicated to him, and yet never appear in any actual story. Reading this, do you folks think that's a good thing, or would you still like to see the Answer in action? Are there any heroes he'd work well up against? I know the obvious response would be "The Question," but let's be a little less obvious than that.

While I like Tim Drake, I haven't read much of his solo series, and thus I can be forgiven for assuming that these two were Azrael villains. They just both seem so very "late 90's video game." Meh. Feel free to let me know if they--and the stories they appeared in--were any good.

Say, people who remember their Vengeance of Bane and Knightfall better than I do: why did Bane want to rule Gotham? Did he just want to rule the underworld, or to rule it in general? Because if it was the latter, I'm pretty sure Superman could have flown in and flicked Bane in the face. Although I dunno, I bet Bane could be a good match for Clark if he had enough time to plan and prepare. That'd be interesting. Either way, I'm fuzzy on Bane's motivation in general here.

I did think that him being chosen as Ra's successor instead of Bruce was a great idea, and it's a shame that Legacy is one of the more forgettable of the big 90's Batman crossovers. Actually, aside from Knightfall, there were ALL kinda forgettable, weren't they? All the more reason I thank god (or at least Denny O'Neil and Greg Rucka) for No Man's Land, which incidentally featured Bane getting pulled back into Gotham by a mysterious new player who totally isn't Lex Luthor at all:

Nope. Totally not Lex. *nonchalant whistle*

After No Man's Land, we saw the launch of three new creative teams: Greg Rucka on 'Tec, Devin Grayson on Gotham Knights, and... Larry Hama on Batman. Oh dear. Here's the thing: Larry Hama's run on Marvel's G.I. Joe is justly celebrated, a series that was far more smart, thrilling, and entertaining than a comic based on action figures should be. Pretty much every single thing that's genuinely good about G.I. Joe comes straight from Hama, along with much more quality than you'd suspect.

His run on Batman, however, is one of the more infamously terrible ones out there. Maybe it's just that the bar was raised so high by NML, and everyone was just unduly harsh to Hama's brief run. Hell, maybe even this character from Hama's first story would have been more interesting if only this story had come out a couple years later rather than March 2000, by which point he was already an action-movie caricature in time when action movies were already dead.

Still, I think enough time has passed that I'd like to revisit Hama's run in whole. Maybe time and perspective have been kind to characters like the Banner and Orca. Maybe. Probably not. But maybe!

I've already written about my distaste for Black Mask's devolution from Doug Moench's original version (see first profile) in the first profile to the one we know from War Games and Under the Hood (see third profile), and how Ed Brubaker is partially, inadvertently to blame thanks to his overhaul of the character (see second profile). But man, do I loathe what Black Mask became. No, more than that, I hate that he actually WON, and became such a big figure for long enough that he now has fans. Considering that his action figure actually comes with a fucking drill like the one he used on Stephanie Brown (and mind you, I don't even LIKE Steph), the Black Mask of the 00's is the living embodiment of torture porn in superhero comics. He's Eli Roth's Hostel in Batman. I have nothing but contempt for everything he represents.

I resented Cain from the moment he showed up in NML. Everyone talked about him as if he was a household name, with even Jim Gordon going "Not THE David Cain?" It just reeked of trying too hard to sell the new Ultimate Badass, and the fact that he was hired by Harvey to kill Jim Gordon any damn sense in the first place. As such, I never had any interest in checking out Cassandra's Batgirl series, since the characters and creative team were centered around one of my least favorite stories from an event that I loved. Of course, I've heard nothing but great things about Cass' title, so I really should check it out one of these days. I know I should. But when I see that image of Cain in the second, with the stupid damn way he's posed with that gun, you'll forgive me if I don't rush out to pick up Batgirl this second.

I like the second piece solely because Bill Sienkiewicz is a miracle inker, making even Jim Balent (who had gotten rather lazy at this point) look great.

That said, I truly, honestly do not understand the obsession that some fans have for Balent-era Selina. While she was the star of her own book and a sometime-ally of the Bat-Family, she was still for all intents and purposes a villain, a point which seemed to be lost on both her writers and fans. She was selfish, self-absorbed, superior, and cruel, and often more out for her own self-interests than helping anybody else. Plus, I want you to reread the words "Cyber-Cat" from the first profile. Cyber-Cat. The purple suit era was just so very Wizard Magazine, which is probably the most damning thing I can say about it.

Furthermore, I have to side-eye a whole series that downplayed or--in the cases of both these profiles--outright ignored her sex worker past from Year One, while simultaneously ratcheting up the sexual exploitation in the art in ways Frank Miller NEVER did. For all the shit Miller gets for being misogynist with Selina, I think the Balent era was far more objectifying. It's all the more reason I loved Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke's Goggles!Suit Catwoman series, which put aside the Balent era, went back to the Miller roots, and made Selina an even greater character than she was before. Oh, and she was now also a hero (but one who was still true to her character), which is why I'm not including the Goggles!Suit Selina profiles from Catwoman Secret Files and Origins and Batman Allies Secret Files and Origins.

If you'd like to at least see the former, I refer you to dr_von_fangirl's breakdown of the various eras of Selina through Who's Who entries. Naturally, in all things Catwoman (and most things in real life), I defer to her authority.

This is what they did to Killer Moth. Seriously. Because Killer Moth was oh so silly, but this was serious and scary and MODERN. Oh yes, this was a real upgrade, this was. Never mind that even the story itself pointed out that this transformation makes no sense, that "Charaxes" actually refers to butterflies, not moths, and that the entire concept is such a post-Aliens concept that would fit in well with your average Sci-Fi Channel original movie. But as I said before, Charaxes has already faded into obscurity, whereas Killer Moth endures in one form or another. Little things like that give me hope for the future of Batman comics.

Here's one last update for the saga of the Clayfaces. At this point, the newest edition was the son of Payne and Fuller, named Cassius (ha), who was soon followed by three other Clayfaces of various sorts, but ultimately, none of them made any real impact. I suspect that as far as the general comics-reading public is concerned, there's only one Clayface and he's pretty much the one they remember from Batman: The Animated Series, only he's named Karlo instead of Hagen for some reason.

That said, I understand that Preston returned and apparently exploded in the pages of JLA: Cry of Justice, which probably went unnoticed compared to the other crimes against humanity perpetuated by that mini-series. I suppose it was too much to hope for that Preston, Sondra, and their cornily-named son could go off peaceably into comics limbo forever. Also, according to Wikipedia, Matt Hagen is inexplicably alive, having been the Clayface who appeared in that Power Girl story by Geoff Johns and Amanda Conner for JSA Classified around the time of Infinite Crisis? I read the story, but I don't remember them naming that Clayface as Matt Hagen. Either way, that too seems to have gone unnoticed.

I just put all three of these under D for Demon. Over those nine years, Talia was the one who got the most development, with Greg Rucka bringing Talia to new heights of awesomeness before crashing her down and crushing her underfoot. While Ra's was still being Ra's, gaining a larger bodycount but nothing in the way of character development, Rucka (and/or some editor at DC who hired Rucka to write this) decided to have President Lex Luthor appoint Talia as head of LexCorp:

This was a surprising and refreshing use for the character, taking her away from both her father and Batman and placing this elusive femme fatale in the prominent position of running the biggest corporation in the world. It took her out of the same damn role she'd been in for years, and also showed off her abilities as a boss in her own right. Sure, I don't recall her actually doing that much, nor did she realize the extent to which she'd been manipulated into that position in the first place by Lex, but I loved the idea nonetheless, and thought that it had great potential for growth.

But Greg Rucka had other plans.

For Batman: Death and the Maidens, his "The Killing Joke for Ra's al Ghul" (a quote I distinctly remember him making, but cannot attribute anywhere), Rucka brought back a hitherto-unknown long-lost second daughter for Ra's.

With no knowledge of this sister's existence, Talia befriended Nyssa, who proceeded to brainwash Talia. Oh, you know that innocuous detail in the profile about how Nyssa turned Talia against Ra's? Yeah, um, do you know HOW she did that? Well, she accomplished that feat by systematically brainwashing Talia through a tortourous regime of killing her, resurrecting her in the Lazarus pit, killing her again, and repeat. This is one of the worst, most loathesome things I can recall a villain doing to an established character, a violation so horrible that it ruins any worth that Nyssa had as a character, and thus the main reason why I hate Nyssa and Death and the Maidens in general.

By the end, Talia is entirely conditioned to love Nyssa, and helps her kill Ra's and assume the empire together. Nyssa wins, Talia is lost (oh, she now hates Batman too, so no more "Beloved"), and Ra's is dead. I like Greg Rucka a lot, but I hate that story so much. It was the first step on ruining all of Talia's complexity, reducing her to a one-note, insane villain worse than her father ever was. While Nyssa was ingloriously bumped off by a later writer, Talia's fate was sealed once Grant Morrison got his hands on her and decided, "eh, I want to reference Son of the Demon but I can't remember how it went, so I'll just say that Talia raped Batman." Not even really exaggerating here. Unless a later writer decides to undo this in the rebooted continuity of the DCnU, Talia is now worthless as a character. It's just such a waste. Such a damn waste.

A one-off character from a great Two-Face story in No Man's Land who also received a short origin story in one of the Secret Files and Origins books, Echo never showed up again to the best of my knowledge. The fact that she was such a superfluous character who nonetheless got this level of mystery surrounding her origins leads me to suspect that there were plans for Echo that just never happened. I'm just surprised that Rucka never brought her back for Checkmate, since that would have fit her well.

Calling Ferak a "character" is kind of stretching it. Her one appearance showed her to be little more than a wayward drone of Ivy's, which she presumably created for... some reason. While Ferak's story gave us a wonderful moment of the Huntress earning the (temporary) mantle of the new Batgirl, Ferak herself was a non-character who was made all the more non by the prettily lifeless artwork of Greg "LAAAAAAAAAND" Land. Her entry here almost certainly served to foreshadow that story, but it's kind of ridiculous that Ferak earned an profile in the original Batman Villains Secret Files and Origins, but Penguin and Riddler did not.

That's one of the main reasons I dislike Secret Files and Origins books compared to Who's Who: they were stripped-down promotion materials rather than examinations of characters old and new. Sure, they too were also promotional materials, but that's not ALL they were.

Like Mr. Freeze, Paul Dini seemed to have some trouble translating a character he understood so well in animation to the world of comics. Both of Dini's big Harley and Freeze graphic novels seemed to miss the point of what made the characters so great in the show. For Harley's part, I'm not sure what exactly happened, but Batman: Harley Quinn just wasn't a good story for one reason or another, and the art by Yvel Guichet didn't help either. But then, I'm not the world's biggest Harley fan, so your mileage may vary. I mean, that goes with EVERYTHING I opine about here, but the Cult of Harley compels me to add that disclaimer.

Answer: it's Thomas Fucking Elliot. There, mystery solved. Jesus, man, what the hell was the point of the "But maybe he's NOT Elliot after all, oooooh!" bullcrap from Gotham Knights? Were they THAT desperate to milk the mystery of his Ultimate Non-Character because they knew that he had nothing else to offer? I kind of hate that Paul Dini upgraded Hush into a serviceable villain you loved to hate, because then I could have hoped that maybe Elliot would fade into the background in the coming years. Sadly, if Arkham City proved anything, it's that Hush is here to stay. Ugh.

There's something so awesome and yet kinda depressing about seeing an artist so great as Aparo simply rehashing a piece by Brian Bolland. I know that some of you hate Aparo's Joker, but it's disappointing to see Aparo spending the last years of his life aping Bolland. Thankfully, I don't think it happened anywhere else, but it's bad enough considering how Aparo's art went downhill. Like Gil Kane, he's one of those amazing pencilers whose work, I've always thought, benefited from being inked by somebody else. I'm not the hugest fan of Dave (The Riddle Factory) Taylor's art either, but I think his inks serve Aparo nicely here, and I would have liked to have seen more of a collaboration.

God, Waylon, what have they done to you? What I really dislike is this retcon that Waylon is an actual mutant in the X-Men style, and that he can actually devolve ala Kitty!Beast into a gator-man-monster. He was never a mutant, he was a human being with a skin condition. No claws, no sharp teeth, just scaly skin that made this human kid seem more like a monster, and thus invite persecution. I hate how this effectively removes Waylon's humanity from the start, and that even when he was treated with the antiviral therapies, he's only more "human" in appearance. I cannot stress how much I hate this. Croc wasn't a brilliant character to begin with, but this just throws out any redeeming potential he had to make him little more than generic muscle who is actually turned into a generic monster.

SKREE! Okay, I'm done.

Also, his name is "Robert Kirkland Langstrom?" I read that as "Robert Kirkman Langstrom?" I'm now imagining a fat, bearded Man-Bat furiously typing away on the new issue of The Walking Dead.

Again, I haven't read Batgirl, so I'm just going to have to trust that it was vitally important for the story that Cass actually do the unthinkable and beat Shiva, something that no one--not even Batman himself--has never done. One of the things that defined Shiva in The Question was the fact that she was couldn't be beaten in battle, and while I'm sure it was necessary for Cass to have broken this rule, it seems to have robbed Shiva of her power in every appearance since. Now she's just another great martial artist, which are a dime a dozen in comics. If I'm mistaken, which is possible since I don't read Gail Simone's Birds of Prey books, please feel free to correct me.

As everyone knows, Mister Freeze was given a powerful overhaul for Batman: The Animated Series, transforming a shallow character into one of the best villains on the show. So naturally, you'd assume that when Freeze was subsequently resurrected following his death by Joker joy-buzzer, DC would try to make the comics' counterpart more like the one from TAS, right? Nope! While Nora was thrown into the origin, the rest of this Mister Freeze is based around the one from Joel Schumacher's Batman Ampersand Goddamn Robin. From his personality to the motivation for diamonds, they turned Victor into a monster who was an only slightly restrained version of Arnold's version. Oh, and they also had him sell his soul, although everyone forgets that he also gained actual ice POWERS from the deal with Neron. But no one remembers that and it hasn't come up since, so thanks heavens for small blessings. Too bad the same can't be said for Captain Cold and his stupid new design in the DCnU.

To date, no writer has really gotten Mister Freeze right, although they were certainly getting closer around 2006:

Just going by this profile alone, I would think that they had a pretty good handle on the character. He certainly LOOKS more like it. But then again, this is around the same time as Gotham Central, where Freeze is written to pretty much just be a sadist and that's it. How sad is it that the very best versions of Mister Freeze that we've seen in years have appeared in the Flashpoint mini-series, Citizen Cold, as well as in Batman: Arkham City? Hopefully those will help influence Freeze in the regular comics, but I'm not holding my breath. Ironically, I don't want to get burned again.

Meh, mobsters. How common. Far as I'm concerned, there should be only one name for organized crime in Gotham:

Ozzie is a pimp. But then, we all knew that.

I've always been amused by the 90's design of the Penguin and his three little "feather" type cowlicks hairstyle. I think he was more often seen that way rather than wearing his trademark top hat, which I suppose makes sense considering that he spent most of his time indoors, behind a desk. Man, in theory, turning Ozzie into Gotham's Kingpin made perfect sense, and he especially seemed to thrive in No Man's Land, where he was something between Syndey Greenstreet's character from Casablanca and the magnificently vile bastard from Arkham City. Hell, there was even a great storyline that allowed classic, dashing Penguin the chance to shine and serve on the side of good. For his own ends, of course.

Unfortunately, Penguin's status as a villain was sabotaged throughout as he not only gets humiliated by Batman but also double-crossed by Two-Face and utterly crushed by Lex Luthor. If you're gonna have him be a Kingpin clone, then the key to that is he has to be so powerful as to be virtually invulnerable save for the occasional small, private humiliation by the hero's actions. While I disagree with those who see "businessman Lex Luthor" as a Kingpin clone, the principle is the same. If you're gonna make the Penguin a mobster, then he should be the most powerful Batman villain in Gotham. He should revel hiding in plain sight because he knows that nothing can touch him.

Instead, Penguin's spent more time getting bullied, beaten, and generally shown to be a pushover. His standard role is to play the sleazy informant. How many damn times have we seen a hero going to pump Penguin for info? That is ALL writers seem to think he's good for now. Instead of being Syndney Greenstreet, he's just Peter Lorre. And while I love Lorre, that's not Ozzie. Not at all.

The indignity towards Penguin continued post-NML, where Brubaker had him humiliated by Bruce Wayne and nearly killed by the Charlatan. Meanwhile, in the blockbuster Hush storyline which featured about a dozen of the Rogues, Penguin only merited a one-panel flashback cameo. By all accounts, the War Games storyline should have been his moment to shine. Instead, he was crushed by Batman, who was himself beaten by Black Fucking Mask. Man, if only War Games had resulted in Penguin FINALLY achieving that untouchable status (a status which Black Mask enjoyed), the story might not have been a total waste.

As it is, the only good thing Ozzie got out of it was this spectacular update drawn by Cliff Chiang (and a profile that actually acknowledges the greatest Penguin story to date, Penguin Triumphant, so extra points there!):

Like I said: pimp.

I mean, sure, he's subsequently been humiliated and pushed around by the likes of the Great White Shark, Two-Face, and even the new Black Mask, and has since been subject to a naked beating at the hands of Dick Grayson before most recently getting turned into whatever the hell David Finch did to him dear god what no. Whether in the comics or from fans, Ozzie doesn't get enough respect. But at least he can still carry himself like the classy, awesome, magnificent bastard he should be.

Fresh off John Francis Moore's Batman: Poison Ivy one-shot released in conjunction with that movie we shall not name again, this piece by Brian Apthorp is one of my favorite Ivy pieces. This unofficially kicked off my favorite era of Pam's shoddy history, depicting her as someone who just wants to be left alone with her plants, away from cruel humanity. But people being people, they couldn't leave her along, and which only invited her righteous fury. It's a take on Ivy that was continued through to No Man's Land:

God, it's because of the opportunity for stories like THIS that I love No Man's Land, warts and all. Rucka did some wonderful work with her during and after NML, telling some of the best Ivy stories I have ever read, so of course a hack had to come along and ruin everything great Rucka did, all while tying Hush up in that mess. Shortly thereafter, Paul Dini turned her into an irredeemable monster who casually feeds innocent people to her plants whenever she's bored. If that wasn't indignity enough, I have three words for you: Gotham City Sirens. So few characters are as popular and visible, yet so misused and misunderstood as Poison Ivy. Seeing these profiles only serves as a reminder of that sad fact.

I'm sorry, I know Jason's crazy popular now, and the fans love them some Red Hood bad boy action/angst, but... ugh. I could never warm to him. First off, I've always hated the Deadpool mask he wears, especially at the expense of the simple elegance of the original tux-and-pill-head Red Hood costume. But those are just silly superficial nitpicks. Mainly, I disliked Jason because I felt like Judd Winick was aggressively shoving the LOOK AT TOTALLY COOL AND BADASS HE IS YOU GUYS. I remember one month where the Red Hood guest-starred in BOTH Green Arrow and Outsiders, both of which were written by Winick, neither of which were related, and both of which showed him being all AWESOME AND COOL AND SHOWING EVERYBODY UP BECAUSE DID I MENTION THAT HE'S AWESOME AND COOL.

I guess the core problem is that I really, aggressively don't care about the Robins, and am cold to the love for the Bat-Family in general. Strange how incredibly beloved the Bat-Family is these days, more so than even the Batman Rogues if the abundance of art and fic is any indication. I blame Supernatural.

Sam's not really a villain, but he's enough of an antagonistic danger to innocent people that I figured he deserved inclusion here. I have nothing to say about him either way beyond that.

I kinda dig this very Ragdoll-esque Scarecrow by Duncan Fegredo, except all it does is remind me of New Year's Evil: Scarecrow, the story which introduced a certain character named Becky Albright. If that name means nothing to you, I'll just say that it's a name you'll find all over fanfiction.net. She's a source of much contention for Henchgirl and Captain, but I'll leave it to them to hash that out if they see fit. While that story has proven seminal to a new contingent of Scarecrow fangirls, I barely remember the blasted thing.

Mainly, this profiles focuses on both Doug Moench's origin and a two-part Scarecrow story by Moench and Jones released around the same time as this Secret Files and Origins. In both, the bullying is central of Moench's Scarecrow, and gaining revenge on the bullies even years later proves to be a central motivation in the second story. I'm not a fan of that myself, especially since Alan Grant had already kinda done that with the Penguin a few years earlier, but I find it interesting that it wasn't mentioned here.

The other big addition from Moench's new origin is that now the Scarecrow actually IS a formidable hand-to-hand combatant, something absent in every single other Who's Who Scarecrow entry we've seen. Look, I like the Scarecrow, but... no. He's a man of science and a frail, punch-able guy, that's part of his appeal. Actually making him a capable fighter just seems to help out the lazy comic writer who can't handle the intellectual, science-based villain and just wants to put in a big ol' fight scene. Another reason I dislike Moench giving Crane fighting abilities... well, two words: "violent dancing." Between that and the of naked silhouette of Jonathan Crane, yeah, no. Thank you, Doug Moench, but no.

By 2006, the already-popular Scarecrow had been given far greater exposure thanks to Batman Begins. Personally, I thought that Cillian's Scarecrow was shallow and silly, serviceable enough for the film but not much to talk about. Then again, I'm not a fangirl, so what do I know? Either way, this impacted the Scarecrow of the comics through two major stories, but while this profile uses the artist of one, it sadly favors the plot elements of the other.

Henchgirl and Captain turned me onto Scarecrow: Year One, a book which I avoided initially because it was written by Bruce Jones, a writer whose great-to-suck ratio had been increasingly tipping to suck over the past fifteen years. To my surprise, it was quite an excellent story, and one of the best takes on Crane I've ever read. It worked in a child abuse angle, but handled it in ways that defied cliche. There was something wonderfully Southern Gothic about the Scarecrow's origin there with his evil grandmother and great-grandmother, and while I thought that artist Sean Murphy's costume redesign was a bit... off, he did great work nonetheless. So it's not at all surprising that Murphy was brought in to draw this profile piece.

And yet, none of the actual story of Scarecrow: Year One is here. Instead, his origins still adhere to Moench's bullying stuff before diving headfirst into recounting the events of the OTHER big Scarecrow story of the time: Judd Winick's As the Crow Flies. Seriously. The fucking SCAREBEAST? I'm sorry, that aggressive attempt to make him seem even more terrifying only serves to make him sillier, in my view. Turning him into a fear-gas-spewing monster with claws--removing his intellect while simultaneously opening the door to blood-n-guts violence--is not how you develop the Scarecrow as a character. You just turned him into Man-Bat by way of Croc by way of stupid. Congrats.

The good news is that the Scarebeast has effectively been forgotten by comic writers since War Games. The bad news is that now, in the DCnU, it appears that the Scarecrow is entirely defined by the Nolanverse look, since we've been seeing in again and again and again. I wasn't sure that it was happening until that last one, which really pushes the boring "sack with a suit" look, while doing like Capullo in the first one and desperately trying to make the Scarecrow into Dr. Decker from Clive Barker's Nightbreed. So there's that.

Once again, I'm reminded how I probably never would have cared about the Scarecrow if it weren't for Henchgirl and the Captain. Hopefully someday, their faithful old-school take on Crane will become canon once more.


I blame Denny O'Neil. This is a Denny O'Neil character, right? This was O'Neil trying to create a villain who's Marilyn Manson as a Bon-style political mover-and-shaker, yes? Is that a fair assessment? Bear in mind, for the entire Road to No Man's Land storyline, THIS guy was the main antagonist. I guess it was just a bit of crappy calm before the storm of excellence that was No Man's Land. Yeah, that was horrible and lazy, but Nicolas frickin' Scratch doesn't deserve a quality write-up. Just look at him. All you wanna do is punch him in the face. More than anyone else here, he REALLY pushes my credo of "No bad characters, just bad writers."

And finally, we reach our last rogue. I really didn't intend nor expect it all to end here with Harvey, but how fitting.

Sure, this piece is by far my least favorite from all his other profiles thus far, for reasons I've already written about before. I like the controversial artwork of Scott McDaniel most times, but definitely not here. Furthermore, I don't like the emphasis of Harvey being pure evil, but what do I expect from Scott Beatty, the co-writer of Robin: Year One (and we all remember how evil THAT Two-Face was), writing about the character as he was circa 1997? Sure, The Long Halloween was coming out, but the prevailing Two-Face was the one by Dixon, Grant, and Moench. I have to give Jeph Loeb this much credit: he popularized Harvey Dent as he was rather than just what he became. So I have mixed feelings about ending this list on a sub-standard Two-Face.

Nonetheless, I'm still happy that it ends here, with Harvey. After all, while I intend about_faces to look more at the Bat-Villains in general, the focus will still be on Harvey most of all. He is unique of all Batman characters in representing the very best and the very worst that both the villains and heroes have to offer. He is a character whose potential in either direction is seemingly boundless, save for the coin. Or more accurately, the writer. As such, that boundless potential extents to the quality of his stories, many of which are lousy. But one last time, I believe that there are no bad characters, just bad writers. And more to the point, if you'll forgive the cliche... I believe in Harvey Dent.

So here's to another year for about_faces. The output will be infrequent, but I'm not going anywhere. There are too many stories left to look at, too many stupid things to rant about, too many comics and characters and ideas worth celebrating. Hope you'll stick around, and as always, keep the comments coming. You're the smartest damn bunch of fans I know, and that's no lie, no flattery, it's the damn truth. So thank you, and be seeing you.
Tags: alan grant, bane, bill sienkiewicz, black mask, brian stelfreeze, catwoman, clayface(s), cliff chiang, croc, graham nolan, harley quinn, jason todd, jim aparo, jim balent, joker, killer moth, mister freeze, penguin, poison ivy, ra's and/or talia al ghul, ramon bachs, rick burchett, scarecrow, scott mcdaniel, tom mandrake, who's who and secret files

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