Henchman Fashion File: The Rocketeer's Rocketeer-Racketeers

It's that time again: time to over-analyze the fashion choices that the super-villain on the go is making for his underlings. What fun we shall have!

The Villain: This is the guy, and I'm going to call him the Rocketeer (more on that later):

The Rocketeer (no relation) had a cunning plan to steal missiles in-flight for... some reason. The issue was actually less about whatever he was scheming as it was about the personal heartbreak of Batman's pal, who hadn't followed his family's tradition and gone into the armed forces and so had to be the best scientist ever in order to have some semblance of self-respect. And the fact that people were going to the trouble of stealing them mid-flight wasn't proof that they were good rockets, either, so don't bring that up in the comments.

The Rocketeer (no relation) was also notable for having a much worse costume than his underlings, but again, more on that later.

The Henchmen: These guys I'm calling the Rocketeer-Racketeers, because it's on the cover.

As far as henchmen go, the Rocketeer-Racketeers have it pretty sweet: they get to fly, they have great costumes... The only problem is that they just aren't all that good at their jobs. Or possibly that they were hired solely for their abilities in the stealing-a-rocket-in-flight field and were never actually tested for Batman-opposing skills. What I'm trying to say is that they are incompetent, to the extent that I don't know if I have any more pictures that feature them not being punched out.

Attractiveness of Costumes:

I'm going to come right out and say it: these things are totally awesome. Flared gloves? Goggles? Head and shoulder fins? Hell, even their pistols look like they were stolen from a moon-man. It's only the fact that the whole thing is bright orange that disqualifies this from my list of potential Halloween costumes, and the little rocket on the chest almost outweighs that.


Utility of Costume:

Also surprisingly high, actually. As opposed to some of our earlier examples of henchman couture, the Rocketeer-Racketeers  appear to actually be appropriately attired. There are no awkwardly-placed tail-fins just waiting to get stuck in an inconvenient hedge, no giant rocket-shaped helmets to make them top-heavy, and they reliably fly! Well, semi-reliably. Also, I'm concerned about the placement of the jets - I reckon that over the long term the Rocketeer (no relation) is going to be dealing with a lot of lower-back injury related workman's comp claims.

There's also the issue of speed. As far as I can tell, these particular rocket packs must fluctuate wildly. After all, they managed to catch at least three rockets in-flight, but later on:

It sure does look like they get overtaken by a couple of guys in parachutes. And even if that's not the case, they definitely get out-manouvered by them. Happily for the Rocketeer-Racketeers, though, they regain some of their lost points via this little innovation:

Given the amount of time that these fellows spend crashing into the ocean, an amphibious mode is basically the best option that they could have thought to build into their suits. Hell, they kind of out-thought Batman on that one. Good call!


Budget for Costumes:

Exactly where it should have been, in my opinion. If you're going to go into super-crime then you have to go all the way. If there's one place that they skimped, it was on the surplus Orange fabric that they used to make the things. At least they all have the same colour.

The high quality of his henchmen's uniforms, in fact, is likely to be the reason behind the Rocketeer's abysmal fashion choices. Desperate to distinguish himself from the common hench-rabble, he added element after element, little caring that each one took more and more away from the attractiveness of the whole. Especially the writstbands and rocket-fin helmet. Only the rakish moustache was a good idea.


Chance for Bonus Points: Does the Villain Have a Lieutenant with a Marginally Cooler Costume and Possibly a Name?

Kind of? Actually, the Rocketeer 9no relation) himself fills that role, as he's kind of a first among equals. In the context of the story, it's the group that's referred to as the Rocketeers, or the Racketeers, or maybe the Rocketeer-Racketeers. So even though he's clearly the leader, the Rocketeer is also kind of the one henchman with a nicer more elaborate uniform. But no name. 

I just kind of confused myself, so I arbitrarily decide that he gets no bonus points. Still, the final total is a very respectable 11/15. Good job, you orange-clad crash-monkeys.

Enjoy your victory, Rocketeers!


Henchmen Fashion File: Kobra v. Solaris

It's a special double-shot of henchmen antics, thanks to the fact that that wacky cult-leader Kobra had his own series way back in the day and spent issues 2 and 3 attacking another super-villain  - not exactly a rare situation, but not one that happens every day. 

The Villains: 

Kobra: Just to keep things simple, I'm only going to refer to Kobra as he appears in the seven issues of his series, and not the 30-plus years of history that followed.


As you can see, Kobra is kind of a dick. This probably comes of having been raised as the leader/messiah of an Indian snake cult, who stole him from the hospital at birth. Thanks to their fanatical devotion, he made a few pretty good runs at taking over the world, and his early enemies included his own brother Aaron, PI Johnny Double and the Demon's pal Randu Singh. He also called people "witling" a lot.

Solaris, AKA Clifton Lacey, was a NASA scientist who specialized in solar radiation and really enjoyed his job, to the extent that when he was fired he, well, became a super-villain. 

Looking at the technology that Lacey came up with as he sought revenge, I have to think that maybe NASA wasn't thinking so clearly when they fired the guy. If only they'd kept him happy, he might have tricked out the space shuttle for them, and I know that I would have been a little more interested in becoming an astronaut if there was the possibility of getting to fire a death ray. Sure, the guy acts a bit crazy, but that's just passion!

Oh no wait. He's completely crazy.

The context of the Kobra/Solaris scrap, by the way, is that Kobra wants to steal Solaris' Heliotron, seen above, cradled tenderly in his arms. As with many of Kobra's plans, the sole purpose of this is to help him kill his own brother, because Kobra is also crazy.

The Henchmen:

Hey look, it's both sets of henchmen in a single image:

Though outwardly they might look similar - groups of identically-dressed men with below-average self-esteem and a gift for following orders - but they actually represent two distinct types of henchman. Solaris' guys (let's call them the Sunnys) are basically the same goons that DC villains have always hired, only wearing form-fitting leotards instead of suits and ties. witness a typical interaction between a typical Sunny and his boss:

Note the fact that this is a normal human conversation - Solaris doesn't call the guy "witling" or "imbecile" even once. It's just a guy and his boss, fleeing their secret HQ in a super-sweet rocket.

By contrast, the Kobra Cultists are evil religious fanatics - they probably don't even get paid for what they do, which frequently involves their grisly deaths anyway. They die in enormous quantities, and often by Kobra's own hand, which suggests that they either have a fantastic recruitment campaign or that their ranks are composed of roughly the stupidest people on the planet. I mean, would you join an organization in which this was the penalty for failing to find a small bracelet on a ruined bridge?

Attractiveness of Costume:

This is actually kind of tough, since both groups are essentially just wearing a palette-swapped version of their boss' costume - in the case of the Sunnys, the first of their boss' two costumes, seen above. Neither of them have the most terrific colour scheme at that, though red and yellow is astonishingly better than green and orange.

It all comes down to flair, really, and the Sunnys have very little. They do have those awesome holsters with the button-down flap that I love so well, but that just can't compete with the visual appeal of seeing snake men in togas running around with swords.


Utility of Costumes:

It's clear from a glance that the Sunnys' costumes offer little-to-no protection. Why, just look at what happens when Kobra hits some of them with one of his patented venom-blasts:

Of course, the same could be said for the Cultists' duds:

That Kobra. An equal-opportunity venom-blaster to the core.

In the absence of protective benefits, I'm going to have to judge this based on the gadgets that the rank-and-file of each organization are given to slaughter each other with. You've already seen the Cultists' flying sabres, but since those didn't actually kill anyone I'm going to discount them - a non-flying sabre is ultimately going to be more useful than a flying one that doesn't work. So what else do they have?

Well, both groups have flying skateboards and laser guns, so it's still tied up. No, wait...

Laser blowgun for the win!


Budget for Costumes:

I'm tempted to give this to Solaris, since he obviously takes his guys to the same tailor that he goes to, but even though that might technically cost more money I am more impressed with what I have to assume is Kobra's method of clothing his followers. Based on what I know and can guess about the guy, Kobra has to have a whole branch of his organization devoted solely to making uniforms out of real cobras.


Chance for a Bonus Point - Does the Villain have a Lieutenant With a Marginally Cooler Costume and Maybe a Name?

Not really, but they do both have robots:

Kobra's is named Servitor, and he found it in a meteor, but I just can't help liking Solaris' Robot Defender a bit better:

There's just something about the way that it looks like Solaris put it together out of spare parts on the weekend that endears it t me. It would totally win the bonus point,


... except that Kobra defeats it with a robot snake that flies out of his toga, and that is manifestly more cool.


Sorry Solaris, but you lose. Better luck next time.

May I present the winner of the first-ever Henchman Fashion Files Fashion-off:


 Kobra, the man without irony!

Henchman Fashion File: The Monarch of Menace's Serfs

Happy Saturday, all youse folks. It's rainy here in John-Land, but I'm snug and warm in my new Orange Lantern shirt, thanks to a birthday sale-abration at Strange Adventures, the bestest comic store ever. Larfleeze would be proud, i think. No, wait. Larfleeze would kill me and take the shirt for his own.

Today we're going to be looking at the Monarch of Menace, a jaunty fellow who bedeviled Batman way back in Detective Comics No. 350.

 The Villain:

The Monarch was a Batman villain in the classic "costumed thief" mode, except where, say, the Riddler spent his time working on death traps and ways to stick rebuses to downtown billboards, he put all of his energy into the fine art of getting away from the scene of the crime. This is actually a pretty good strategy, I reckon. Why risk Arkham for the fleeting joy of seeing Batman almost get squashed by a giant rubber duck when you can escape to the jungles of South America with millions of dollars and have trained monkeys act it out for you every night before you go to your extremely occupied bed?

And sure enough, just having escaped from Batman was enough to make the Monarch's name. Batman just stared sadly at his portrait every night, saying "Sigh... sigh..."

But just how did the Monarch achieve these goals? How did he evade the Dark Knight Detective where so many others had failed? Well, first off he had glue-dispensing shoes, to trip up pursuers, then a gas-dispensing cloak to sap their strength, a shock-dispensing scepter to stun them and finally a hypnotic lights-dispensing crown to keep them down. Here's an illustrated cheat sheet for you:

 The Henchmen:

I'm calling these guys the Serfs, due to their lack of an actual name. Unlike poor deluded Birdmaster, the Monarch seems to have skipped the fanatical cultists and gone straight for the standard DC Comics Thug, of the kind that, throughout the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, infested every remotely urban area from Smallville to Star City - note, for instance, the accent. This makes sense: even though there is no actual evidence that a DC Thug ever got away with committing a crime more serious than jaywalking from the advent of Superman onward, they at least know how costumed law-enforcement operates due to having been socked inna labonza by it so many times. Of course, the Monarch of Menace is a theme-driven man, so he outfits them all in lime-green tunics, laced sandals and flowing wigs. I'm guessing that it's only his successful track record that keeps him from being force-fed his own crown by his loyal goons.

Attractiveness of Costume:

This is not a very nice-looking costume. The Medieval serf, hard worker though he might have been, has never been looked upon as history's fashion plate. These guys are probably dressed in material a hundred times better than any serf ever even saw, let alone wore, but there's no helping some outfits. Plus, taken out of context like this, it kind of looks like Batman is being attacked by a gang of poorly-dressed transvestites - I'm sure that there was a lot of confusion on the streets of Gotham.

Why the Monarch chose to go with a serf theme over, say, a gang of dukes or courtiers or something is a mystery to me - a sadistic streak, perhaps? He does gain some credit for letting his guys wear sweatpants and ditch the wigs while hanging around the jungle headquarters, but  that doesn't absolve him of his design sins.


 Utility of Costume:

While it's not really adding anything to these guys' job performance, this costume is certainly not holding them back: no long sleeves to get in the way when they go to pick something up, no binding at the crotch when they run, no splitting at the seams when they bend over... it's not losing any points here.

It's not really gaining any, either. About the only really useful descision that the Monarch made about this whole getup was to assign his guys pistols instead of training them all in the use of the polearm or something. Admittedly, they have to carry their guns in-hand all the time, unless there's some sort of highly-disturbing inner-thigh holster that I don't know about, but just think of the time he saved! While the Baron of Burglary is holding a two-week intensive course in how to deflect a Batarang with a glaive-guisarme, the Monarch of Menace has probably robbed five or six banks, slight thematic anachronism be damned.


Budget for Costumes:

I want to say that the Monarch of Menace just made a quick stop at a factory outlet for half a dozen surplus XXL green t-shirts, then robbed a discount wig store, but when I look at these outfits I actually think that they might be a cut above that. Oh, they're ugly, but they're so... uniform! I can't believe that the Monarch didn't have them tailored. Likewise, the wigs are meticulously if questionably styled, and where the hell are you going to get sandals like that nowadays? I'll bet that he had them custom-made.

Technically, I should give him some points here for budgeting his costumes so well, but I just can't get past how bad they are. One point off for not using the wig fund to hire some sort of fashion consultant.


Chance for Bonus Points: Does the Villain Have a Lieutenant With a Marginally Cooler Costume and Possibly a Name?

Well, kind of.

See, the Monarch has a son, a disappointing son. A son who he dresses up like a court jester and makes fun of with the help of his hired goons (quote: "You're th' greatest! And your son's the worst! HO - HO - HO!"). I'm not too sure what the kid did to draw such mockery - from the context of the story it might just be that he's a clumsy guy.

So no bonus points for you, Monarch of Menace. You could have made your kid the Pilfering Prince of the Dauphin of Distress but you just had to act like a jerk instead. That's no way to parent.

Don't worry, though, it all comes back to bite him in the ass. The son is so desperate to impress/show up the father that he heads to Gotham in a spare Monarch of Menace suit to prove that he's got the chops. He gets captured by Robin in about fiive minutes of course, but that's still showing some cojones. Seeing how Batman and Robin get along and don't constantly make fun of one another and Batman only sometimes forces Robin to dress in humiliating outfits, Monarch of Menace, fils throws in with the Dynamic Duo to help lure his father back to Gotham for capture.

Well, the Monarch rated slightly higher than the Birdmaster with a 7/15. Let's look at his final fate:

Well, I guess it beats getting torn apart by giant eagles. Any last thoughts, Batman and Robin?

There are reasons that people make jokes about you, guys.

Good day!

Henchman Fashion File: The Birdmaster's Feathery Thugs

Hello folks and welcome to my first Saturday post for Living Between Wednesdays, where I share all of the odd things that I have found whilst reading hundreds and hundreds of comics from any number of metallic ages. Mad props to Rachelle for organizing the whole thing (though why she wouldn’t take my suggestion to name it “Rachelle and John and Tiina and Dave Review” I’ll never know), to her husband Matt for all of his excellent design-work and to my long-time pal and former blog-partner Paul for putting the whole thing together.

In honour of the occasion, I’m inaugurating a new feature in which I’ll critique the design choices made by super-villains of yesteryear when outfitting their henchmen. We’ll be looking at these costumes for utility, attractiveness and budget, as well as taking a look at the final fate of the head honcho involved, just to see if attention to detail in henchman-costume-design translates to long-term criminal success. Maybe someday I’ll do a chart, I don’t know.
The Villain: The Birdmaster! Appearing in Detective Comics No 348, this vaguely Middle Eastern evildoer used giant trained condors and eagles to shut down air travel around Gotham city in order to… collect ransom? Steal things? If this sentence is still here then I didn’t bother to go back and check. Actually, I did check: as far as I know this guy had no goal whatsoever. He was just... jealous? He didn't want anybody else using the sky.
The Henchmen: They never really get a name, but a couple of times they get referred to as Feathery Thugs, so that’s what I’m calling them. Let me tell you: these guys might prove the theories about henchmen having really low self-esteem.
Attractiveness of Costume: Not very. Aside from the fact that they break Blockade Boy’s “long sleeves with bare legs is verboten” rule, the only thing that I think of when I see these things is “bad Hawkman cosplay”. I think that the best explanation for this is that it’s like in a fantasy novel when the villain saunters into the nearest half-assed evil cult and takes over by killing the leader. Birdmaster obviously must have offed the president of the Gotham chapter of the Carter Hall Appreciation Society so as to have thematically-appropriate minions. Of course, he could just have horrible design sense. Whichever.
Utility of Costume:  I don’t know if any consideration of the day-to-day duties of a thug passed through the mind of whoever created these things. Look at how they all have their arms held stiffly out to the side, even the guys with the net, kinda. I bet that those feathers fall off really easily and double-bet that these guys are never going to learn how to fly. Also, remember the first Tim Burton Batman movie, how Michael Keaton had to turn his whole torso to look to the left or right? You can’t tell me that these guys aren’t doing that constantly. Even if they weren’t obviously incompetent fighters, these outfits would do a fine job of making them so.
Nose-mounted knockout gas dispensers are a very nice touch. I could almost believe that the costumes were deliberately designed to look stupid so that this bit of cleverness would come as a surprise. Looking at the rest of the Birdmaster’s half-assed operation (his plane, for example, is not only not shaped like a bird but doesn’t even have a bird painted on it) I think that that might be giving him too much credit.
Budget for Costumes: I’d say that there’s a pretty good chance that those feathers are made out of construction paper, an excellent chance that the eagle heads are made of papier mache, and I’m near-certain that the whole thing was put together in the Birdmaster’s garage on a rainy day, possibly to get the henchmen out of his hair for a few hours so he could have a relaxing bath.
Chance for Bonus Points: Does the Villain Have a Lieutenant With a Marginally-Cooler Costume and Possibly a Name?: Nope.
So, out of an arbitrarily-decided fifteen possible Henchman Costume Points, Birdmaster scored a 4. And what was the final fate of this Sultan of the Skies? (see if there’s another one of these in the comic)
(these costumes are NOT APPROVED, by the way)