Justify Your Existence: Attack of the Poor Planners

It's time for another round of Justify Your Existence, the super-fun game where I judge the validity of a series of superfolks' motivations for their actions. Today: more villain types, because they usually have much more interesting origins!

First up, from Batman Comics No. 130, we've got Master of Weapons, a real no-hoper. His story starts on a movie set, as a man known only as Graham acts like a bit of a baby:

Seriously, buddy, take it up with the appropriate person, at the very least. Graham finishes his hissy fit by taking a header off of that there... windable trebuchet? Very tall catapult? He is sent to the hospital, but soon disappears.

Not long after Graham's disappearance, this sprightly fellow makes an appearance. I don't recall him being given a name in the story's text, but the title of the thing is 'Master of Weapons' so I'm going with that. The Master of Weapons has a plan, and that plan is to build siege engines and drive them to potential robbery sites, for the purpose of knocking the doors in.

Now, let's think for a second. The MoW has adopted a scheme that, unlike picking the locks on those double doors or blowing them up or throwing a rock through that giant window, telegraphs what he is about to do a very long time before he has a chance to steal anything at all. Even if Batman weren't involved in this case I reckon that the police could round this guy up pretty quickly if they asked the general public to report all instances of wooden, tension-powered devices in the city streets.

The Master of Weapons compounds his foolishness by choosing, when Batman and Robin show up, to attack them with a weapon meant to be used against gigantic stone walls. I don't know if the guy has been paying attention to the news or what, but I have personally seen the Batman avoid being killed by machine and regular guns, poison gas, various jungle creatures and Superman. I think that using that giant bolt as some sort of club would be a much better bet than having his two thuggish companions slew this thing sideways and fire off a wild shot. I know that Silver Age Batman villains take a lot of flak for their odd choices in weaponry but even an umbrella gun or hat-cannon doesn't take two or three minutes to reload.

Upon the Master of Weapons and Batman's next encounter, the MoW is using a catapult to fling a rock roughly three feet, the better to bust down a door. Again, I must point out that the effort involved in building, transporting, assembling and firing this contraption might have been better spent in other ways, like shopping around town for the best deal on crowbars. Note how Batman throws down some catapult slang in the second panel. This will be important... right now.

See, Batman was trying to trip up the MoW by deploying some specialized language, as the only people in Gotham city who resort to slang are carnies, Gypsies, siege weapon experts and the people who have been to prison, so identifying suspicious characters by their verbal tics is actually very easy. Graham, meanwhile, in his only really clever move, pretended not to recognize what the hell Batman was talking about, thus immediately throwing the World's Greatest Detective off the scent.

My grudging respect for Graham doesn't last long, however:

Yes, it turns out that even though Graham's plan all along was to frame another dude for his crimes, the only real way that he attempted to put that into effect was to go "Huh?" when Batman mentioned a nickname for what was evidently not a catapult but an onager. Master of Weapons, yes, Lord of Thinking Ahead, no.

What are his chances today? Not too good, frankly. I see ol' Graham as the token "super-villain" at those real-hero comic-cons that showed up in the Bulleteer portion of Seven Soldiers. At best. At worst, he's got a future as an "appear in one panel and then get killed to add dramatic weight to a storyline" stype guy.

What does the internet say? Not much. I think that I got more hits back about the Punisher than this guy.

Next, from 1st Issue Special No. 9, we have Khalis, "The Mummy That Time Forgot".


 Khalis is one of a long series of villains who prove that in a super-human-infested universe, Archaeology Is A Bad Thing. Seriously, for every ancient scarab that you dig up and use to fight crime, at least ten mummies, four cursed weapons and one haunted temple or pyramid rampage across the landscape and/or cause great spiritual turmoil inthe lives of millions. I'm surprised that the Justice League hasn't just started nuking ruins from space as a preemptive measure.

Turns out that Khalis was an early adopter of religious intolerance. In fact, he was such a prodigy that he was intolerant within the bounds of a polytheistic system. Let me emphasize this a bit more: the god that he worshipped was almost certainly related to the gods that he was calling false. It's like me devoting my life to convincing my cousins that my uncle is fictional. But, you know, effort should be rewarded, so Anubis gave the guy an amulet for being such a colossal dumbtwit.. And then, when the rest of Egypt's priests joined Nabu in mummifying him alive, Anubis kindly granted him eternal life.

Back to the present. Khalis takes his amulet back from Dr Fate, who apparently got it from Nabu, and uses it to summon a giganto temple to Anubis, and then Anubis himself!

Yep, things are reall looking up for old Khalis.

Except, of course, for the fact that Anubis no longer has any idea who the hell he is. In fact, I'm not too sure that he liked him much in the first place, as "being alive for three thousand years even though you've been mummified" doesn't seem like a very good god-given ability. Does it surprise you very much that Khalis is dust just three or four pages later?

What are his chances today? I'd say pretty good: mummies look cool in both wrapped and unwrapped states, and are among the few varieties of undead that aren't being over-used at the moment. Plus, Dr Fate doesn't really have many good enemies and a sad mummy who is trying to get his god to remember who he is is a concept with at least a couple of good stories in it.

What does the Internet have to say? Well, his story's been reprinted once. That's something, right?

Last, but certainly not least is Professor Hugo from Detective Comics No. 306, "The Wizarrd of 1000 Menaces". I'll let some Gotham City important types set things up:

Yes, it's another bizarre Gotham City society event. I guess that there's a reason that every time a horrible gelatinous blob starts rampaging around town the man on the street assumes that it's a publicity stunt: because it has a fairly high chance of being one. Hell, the Gotham Jelly Company hired men to dress up as blobs just last year.

Of course, Bruce Wayne is pegged to participate, and of course it's because his ancestor attempted to fly using a bat-suit. Because every single ancestor that Bruce Wayne has was either a detective or found occasion to dress like a bat or both. Science fact. But while Bruce is thinking about how ironic this all is, thugs armed with lightning cannons and jet-skis attack the bridge! But why?

The culprit turns out to be one Professor Arnold Hugo, who is upset with the Cosplay Selection Committee for not choosing him, even though his ancestor was a great warrior. In an attempt to gain recognition as a scientist, Prof. Hugo subjected himself to his experimental Brain-Stimulator and grew a gigantic, science-filled noggin. At this point, Hugo's plans diverge from what mine would be in a similar situation. Rather than registering a few hundred patents and then figuring out a way to shrink his head back down to size, all the while not really giving a damn about whether anybody wants him to dress up and pretend to fight some dudes, Hugo decides to devote all of his energies to destroying a publicity event. Which, when you think about it, would probably generate even more publicity for the museum, ensuring that its opening would be the event of the season. To this questionable end, in addition to deploying lightning guns and jet skis, he develops a remarkable tiger-growing solution and then, after twice being foiled by Batman and Robin:

He dispatches invisible flying robots to abduct them. At this point, Hugo is winning on style points alone. Is there any doubt that he has a death-trap lined up for Our Heroes?

Yes, Hugo is on top of the world. He even has a plan to... make another moon? Yes, I appear to have read that correctly: Professor Hugo plans to make a second moon so that everyone will remember who he is, The Guy Who Made the Tides Way Too High To Go To The Beach.

Don't worry though. He made the mistake of leaving Batman alone with a ball-point pen, so this happened:

What are his chances today? Despite the existence of Oolong Island, the DCU doesn't have nearly enough of the kind of mad science that unleashes invisible flying robots and glorious second moons on the world. Professor Hugo would be a perfect foil to the Cry for Justice-style, taking themselves way too seriously comics that crop up far too often nowadays.

What does the Internet say? Why, it turns out thatt he returned four times to fight the Martian Manhunter! How nice! Wouldn't it be great if he had shown up in an early issue of Run! to give the Human Flame a hard time for killing J'onn first?

So, three more existences, three justifications. I reckon that Khalis and Prof. Hugo can get away with what they do due to being completely bug-nuts, but the Master of Weapons is going to have to settle for a copy of out home game (our home game consists of a copy of Showcase Presents: Batman and access to the Internet).

Good afternoon, everyone!

Justify Your Continued Existence, or, Captain America Ain't Exactly a Trendsetter

It's soon to be the first day of the rest of Captain America's some more life, apparently, so we're having a special edition of Justify Your Existence in which we take a look at some of the many, many ways that comic book folks have cheated death over the years. This is a very small sample, of course - I managed to think up something like fifty possibilities ranging from Superman to Little Mermaid over the course of half an hour. Really, the question isn't whether a comic book character is going to come back but when.


If you're not familiar with Hellhound, don't worry. He was a chump with a pretty decent costume who had an ongoing rivalry with Catwoman - your standard martial artist type, plus some big dogs. He eventually showed up at the beginning of the very long "War Games" arc that ran through the Bat-family comics a few years ago, acting as a bodyguard to one of Gotham's innumerable crime bosses:

He's a pretty tough-looking bodyguard, that's for sure. To bad tough didn't turn out to count for much amongst the shipping crates of Gotham Docks or wherever this meeting took place, as the eternal truth of the Gotham underworld held true: get more than two guys with any degree of power together and there will be a shoot-out, or maybe a freeze-out or a mud-out or some sort of violent guessing game. Poor Hellhound just wasn't up to the challenge and ended up sprawled behind a crate full of bootleg Ken dolls. Hell, the first time I read this issue I wasn't paying too much attention and thought that he was Catman - an ignoble end indeed for a dog-villain.

Just a couple of years later, though, in the highly-entertaining Villains United:

Well well, what have we here? Were reports of Hellhound's death greatly exagarrated? Nope, turns out that Calculator sold the franchise to some other chump. Well, I'm sure that he'll have a long and storied career, right? Maybe have some fights with Mr Bones or Bouncing Boy? Let's check out what I'm half certain is his very next appearance, in Salvation Run:


Oh no!

Yep, he was used as a contingency plan and fed to lizard-lions by the Body Doubles, a team of fashionista assassins who haven't changed their clothes in at least five years. And then this guy's cousin and some dog-looking guy showed up in Blue Beetle:

Don't worry, I hadn't heard of a title fight either. Evidently, it's what happens when a super-villain kicks off and two or more guys want to fill his shoes for some reason. This is now imprinted on my brain - every time some R-grade bad guy gets shot in the head I'm going to picture seven guys meeting up outside of a bar in Toledo, all wearing their best Crazy Quilt or Planet Master outfits. Evidently, an established name is way more valuable than people not immediately picturing you getting eaten by evolutionarily-unlikely alien beasts when they meet you.


Means of death: back alley brawl; distraction.

Means of revival: Replaced by a series of chumps.


Black Adam

Black Adam, as integral to the DCU as he has been for the last decade or so, debuted in 1945 as a one-shot villain, an old student of the wizard Shazam who had turned to the bad and been banished to deepest space for his temerity. He showed up in Marvel Family No. 1 and took on the whole darned bunch of 'em, until he was finally outsmarted by the cunning of Uncle Dudley, who fooled him into saying Shazam and turning back into his 5000 year-old alter-ego, Teth-Adam:

And we all know what happens when someone who is very old stops being under a magic spell or unfreezes or is cured of vampirism or the like: instant ageing! Poor old Teth-Adam, who had spent the last 5000 years flying through space and was understandably a bit pissed off, wrinkled up and turned to dust, which must have been very pleasant for the preadolescent members of the Marvel Family (i.e., all of them) to watch.

So Black Adam was no more. Too bad, as he was a super-distinctive looking character. Look at that widow's peak, surely one of the wonders of the age! And between his eyebrows, ears, nose and chin, his features were so exaggeratedly evil that I'd be surprised if he could have gone into any field other than that of the super-villain. Seriously, I might call the police if I saw him buying a lotto ticket.

Flash forward to 1974 or 75, to the DC-published Shazam! No. 28. Bily Batson and Uncle Dudley have been on an extended road trip across the USA, chasing Dr Sivana as he wreaks havoc in city after city. Finally, he fires up his trusty reincarnation machine...




And brings back Teth-Adam! This time around the same old trick will not work again on ol' Tethy, no sir. Thanks to Sivana's machine, Black Adam will have to wait a long, long time before he has to worry about crumbling to dust unexpectedly if he accidently says hello to his neighbour Shazam Johnson. Plus, the machine somehow manages to give him a swanky new hat, which might be a built-in feature. You know, in case someone wasn't satisfied with merely being raised from the dead and needed some material inducement to stick around and hang out with a dwarfen science-tyrant.

The best part is that he not only smashes Sivana's machine so that is can never be used to return him to dust but he also steals the wee doctor's plan. I have never seen the little guy so upset. Good job, Black Adam!


Mode of death: the old "make 'em so old they turn to dust" manouvre.

Means of revival: tiny megalomaniac and his Reincarnation Machine (bonus points for now being immune to original mode of death; more points for making Sivana sad).



It's true! Way back in Detective Comics No. 328 they killed off Alfred "bestest butler" Pennyworth. See, Batman and Robin were fighting some goons in a construction site (as they are wont to do) and Alfred drove up on a motorcycle (as he was very occasionally wont to do), and:

Alfred was duely buried, the Alfred Foundation was started in his honour and Aunt Harriet moved in with the boys before the Butlercycle had even cooled off. And this is how things stayed for the next thirty issues, until (reportedly) the appearance of Alfred on the Batman TV show necessitated that he be brought back in the comics as well. How'd they fix a man who had been smushed under a boulder, you ask? Well:

They called in Brandon Crawford! Brandon Crawford, a man who describes himself as "a radical individualist, always experimenting, always finding new laws of nature and science - laws which orthodox scientists do not yet admit". Yes, Brandon Crawford, the man who discovered that dogs have no sense of irony! The radical individualist who refused to wear a tie to the Tycho Brahe roast!





Frankly, if I was a barely-alive butler lying in a refrigerated tomb without having been embalmed and this guy found me? I'd be resigning my mostly-dead ass to being rubbed with essential oils and then shoved into an orgone accumulator for a couple of hours. What I'm saying is: what happens next does not surprise me.




Crawford throws Alfred (still reeking of rose-hips and bitter almonds) into a cellular regeneration machine and throws the switch. Evidently, this bathes the whole damn room in whatever energy the thing uses, because it's not only "Corpsey" Pennyworth that gets a jolt. Brandon Crawford lapses into unconsciousness, wishing all the while that he had discovered the "radiation shielding is good" law of science.

Alfred, meanwhile, is indeed revived - score one for radical individualism, I guess - but in horrifically lumpy form:

Following this, Alfred-as-the Outsider bedeviled the Dynamic Duo with Grasshopper Men and booby traps and all manner of tomfoolery (oh, and he turned Crawford into an Alfred doppleganger and put him back in the crypt, so as to fool the Bat). It isn't until issue numba 356 that Batman and Robin managed to track him down, and that only after Robin had been turned into a coffin. In the ensuing fight:

That darn regeneration machine! Alfred could have learned a thing or two from Black Adam, I swear. Smash the machine after you are fully regenerated, guys, because those things usually work in reverse.





Sure enough, a second dose of those crazy rays de-lumps Mr Pennyworth and everyone gets to go home and be sarcatic at each other about how Batman doesn't eat. Incidently, if you, like me, are sad whenever you get to the part of Dark Knight Returns where Alfred dies, just imagine that this all happens again afterward. It's very cathartic!


Mode of death: Smushed by a boulder whilst motorcycling for justice.

Means of revival: Turned into a lumpy telekinetic monster by a radical individualist/got popular on the teevee.


Good afternoon, folks.

Justify Your Existence: Batman Villain Edition

Hello and welcome to Saturday here at Living Between Wednesdays! Today we'll be playing a game of "Justify Your Existence", the game in which super-folk of yesteryear tell us, in their own words, exactly why they did what they did. This week we're going to be talking to some Batman villains of yore, and in return we'll be telling them exactly how likely it is that they might make their way back into the comic books of today to bedevil whoever wins that pesky battle for the cowl.

First up, Doctor No-Face, from Detective Comics No. 319.

And who is Dr No-Face? Why, he's Dr Paul Dent, medical researcher and erstwhile chimp-smoother!

Dent's facial features are obliterated by overexposure to his ray! He rushes out into the night, shrieking!

Dr Paul Dent becomes Dr No-Face! He goes on a rampage! His petty, ascotted vandalism has Gotham in the grip of fear! But why, Doc? Tell us your motivation:

Ah, the classic plot: taking revenge on society for the horrible disfigurement that... you caused yourself to have. Well, I guess that it's not like you can erase your own face, right?

What are his chances? Pretty good, if it were up to me. I'm sure that if he were around today he'd be disfiguring beautiful people or holding famous faces for ransom whilst wielding a vial of acid or something but I suppose that that's the style of the time. Check this though: Dr Paul Dent is Dr No-Face while Harvey Dent is Two-Face! They could be cousins and have a familial rivalry and terrorize the Gotham citizenry with their feud! Or Dr No-Face could fight the Question for thematic fun and maybe try to woo her, leading to big laffs! And Cousin Harvey is creepily into Renee Montoya! The plots write themselves, folks!

What does the Internet say? Because I haven't read every comic ever I feel the need to check for repeat appearances. Turns out that Doc N-F was mentioned in 52 as having developed some of the technology that led to the Question's mask, but his name is also listed as Bart Margan, which detracts from some of my fun. Still, the stage is set!

Our next contestant is The Dummy!

As far as I can tell, The Dummy is some guy named Danny, a very short performer who poses as a ventriloquist's dummy while working tthe controls of a larger figure named Matt:

But Danny has a problem: when he walks down the street dressed as a ventriloquist's dummy after a long day of pretending to be a ventriloquist's dummy in a fairly popular show (well, popular enough that that one guy's evidently seen it twice), sometimes people talk like he's a ventriloquist's dummy.

This is not a good reason for crime, Danny the Dummy. This is a good reason to retool your act so that it involves you explicitly puppeteering Matt or maybe so that it's you operating a very small dummy while Matt's dismembered body lies on the stage behind you. Continuing to dress as a dummy and calling yourself The Dummy will still result in people referring to you in a manner that might lead you to believe that they think that you are a dummy, Danny.

What are his chances? Poor. In addition to the fact that he became a criminal for a very stupid reason and that he looks unnervingly creepy, the Dummy doesn't even fill a unique niche. Batman already has a much better ventriloquism-based villain and there's already a more notorious DCU villain named The Dummy who fought the Vigilante and killed his sidekick and stuff.

What does the Internet say? Squat. Danny is not a player.

The Hangman:

The Hangman made an appearance in Detective Comics No 355 as a wrestler who was undefeated and whose identity was unknown and had promised to reveal his identity if he was ever beaten in a fight.

And then, the Hangman starts showing up all aroung Gotham - every time that Batman investigates a crime scene, the Hangman is nearby, running away or loitering suspiciously, and of course they fight and Hangman keeps beating Batman with his awesome wrestling moves and then keeps trying to take unconcious Batman's mask off. Why all the strange behavior, Hangman? (below)




Augh! That's a terrible reason to roam the city staging crimes (it turns out that he was staging the crimes, by the way) and picking fights with a super-hero!

The Hangman turns out to be Telman Davies, a TV newsman who has a secret life as a masked wrestler, just as they often do in real life. Remember the wrestling subplots on Murphy Brown? Classic.

What are his chances? On the theme that he showcased in this story? Bleh. However, Davies was disgraced at the end of the story and had to leave Gotham. He'd have made a great recurring antagonist, trying and failing to wreak his revenge on Batman for ruining his scheme. At the very least he's visually interesting enough to make good crowd scene filler - he could pop up in villain bars and prison escapes and such.

What does the Internet say? Things aren't looking good. A Hangman has made an appearance in Batman comics in recent years, in the series Dark Victory, but it wasn't Davies. He could still get that job as an extra, I suppose, but this makes it far less likely.

It's Signalman!

Signalman is Phil Cobb, an itinerant gangster who wants to hit the big time in Gotham but just can't seem to get ahead. Being new in town, he has a really hard time making friends and inciting them to shake down local shopkeeps.

Phil is a thinking man, a cleft-chinned, green-suited pool hall-frequenting thinking man. He puts his mental muscle to work and comes up with a plan re: how to get a gang going in Gotham. What was that plan again, Phil?

He decides to gin up a reputation by emulating the  crime-style of the Joker and the Penguin! Granted, those two never seem to have any problem drumming up a gang of gangsters in Gotham, but then again they always seem to get caught or seemingly killed as a  result of their convoluted scheming and the Batman's straightforward punching. Maybe it would be a better idea to relocate to a town without a masked champion of justice, or at least with one who has never beaten Superman in a fight?

Or going completely, insanely all-out with a theme and attacking Batman head-on is another option. Signalman is of course defeated (despite his awesome cape) but I'm sure that he makes lots of friends in prison with his effective communication skills.

What are his chances? Well, this one's a little easier, since I know that Signalman made a few more appearances in the Silver Age and showed up in the Secret Society of Super-Villains and so forth. He's been treated as something of a joke for a while now but maybe his time has come. Maybe Mr Cobb has been biding his time and is about to unveil a super-cool new device that disrupts the electrical signals of the brain or takes over the Internet or something. Will 2009 be the year that Signalman comes into his own?

What does the Internet say? Man, Signalman is still around, more than I realized. He's like the new Dr Light, the joke villain that everyone makes fun of. Let's hope that he can make a better, non-rapey comeback.

Okay, one more: The Wheel.

Come on, you know The Wheel, don't you? Frank "Wheels" Foster? Gotham restauranteur? Ran a clandestine gambling den? Captured by Batman? Sent to a prison full of yokels with simple senses of humour?

The Wheel! Remember how he serendipitously escaped from prison when a truck blew a tire and came up with the best plan ever?

That's right, Frank, it's an omen! Wheel crimes, yeah! Though why gate-, truck- or laundry-based crimes were less fateful I'm not sure. I guess that the whole nickname thing meant that he already had some sort of wheel connection going on in his mind but I'd think that the merciless prison-taunting would have seen to that pretty damn quick.

I want you to note two things here, folks: this is The Wheel's first caper, the one where traditionally the villain thwarts Batman and gets away. The second time out is the one where Batman almost catches the villain but ends up with the loot. The Wheel is not fated to be doing this. Also, Batman clearly knows who he is so the mask is kind of stupid.

What are his chances? I see two chances for The Wheel. One, he can show up in an Arkham Asylum scene in a room full of wheels and clockwork and stuff as a background madman. Two, if my plans for Signalman come to fruition and he becomes cool again the Wheel can step in as the low villain on the totem pole. Heck, theyy even have basically the same costume.

What does the Internet say? Sorry, Frank. You're off the radar.

Okay folks, that's it for today. I'd like to thank all of our guests and remind them never to give up hope. You never know when you'll get the chance to shine in a prison riot or Suicide Squad mission or parody comic.

See you next time, existence-justifiers!