A More Innocent Time

Where there is a Hawkman there is going to be a Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman. It's now a thing. Initially, though, it took a little more than twenty issues for Carter Hall's galpal Sheira to get a costume of her own and start getting into scrapes. This is not terribly remarkable. What is, however, is the fact that for at least the first couple of issues that she was dabbling in the winged lifestyle this kept on happening:

Now I'll admit that if there was a flying superhero in my costume and I saw someone wearing a similar costume streaking overhead I might assume that it was them without checking for secondary sex characteristics and the like, but the fact that Sheira was repeatedly able to have extended conversations with people without them catching on to the fact that she was a she?

 Well that's just weird. Here, look at this:

Literally the only time in two Sheira-as-Hawkgirl stories that I've read where her gender was sussed out. 

I don't know. Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this. Maybe it's just a case of everybody involved being too embarrassed to mention to their friends that they found Hawkman quite attractive. Once a gangster cottons to having checked out a lawman's rack, well, it's pretty much all over, career-wise.

Never a Bat Around When You Need One

I'm sure that most of you are familiar with the part of Batman's origin in which he chooses his theme:

It's one of the iconic Batman moments, and even though it's been watered down over the years by such ideas as L'il Bruce Wayne falling down into what would someday become the Batcave and being traumatized by bats, or Thomas Wayne's bat-themed Halloween costume making a subconscious impression on his son, or every ancestor Wayne ever being a chiropterophile (and also all being the same dude, and that dude being him), there's still a rich vein of comedy there that people still occasionally mine. "Hey, what is Batman saw a dog instead of a bat? He'd be Dogman! Hilarious, right? Or if he saw some mail, he'd be Postman!"

The very best thing about this not-always-amazing joke, though, is that it's canonically accurate. DC has used the concept for "What if?" and alternate universe style stories several times over the years. My favourite of these, however, is this two-page bit of filler from Batman No. 256.

I like it best because it suggests a number of very interesting things about Bruce Wayne and his uncompromising hunt for vengeance on crime. Firstly, there is a hint that if he hadn't come up with a costume during WWII he might have to be having some serious talks with some serious men about his habit of dressing like other people's intellectual property. Or maybe there are only so many looks you can give a scorpion-themed outfit, I don't know.

Then there's the implication that Bruce would take his omen/totem beast so very seriously that he would not just dress up like it but stay exactly where he was when he saw it. See a bat? Gotham's streets now have a pointy-eared champion. Scorpion wander into your campsite? Look out, claim jumpers and other desert-type evildoers! "Hey Bruce, check out that stingray!" Time to start taking scuba lessons.

And of course that segues into my theory that these panels represent a series of branching possible timelines, that without the bat crashing through his window Bruce Wayne would have continued to stare at his table and grope for inspiration. And then he went camping and did or did not see a scorpion, and if he didn't he took a riverboat tour. And if he didn't see something eerie on that tour then Bruce Wayne would have abandoned his company and accepted a position as a forest ranger - anything to find that elusive spark that would catalyze the lifetime of face-punching that he so longed for.

Eventually, of course, Bruce starts to get desperate, as seen above. But he hasn't lost his vengeful spark! He takes what might be the least threatening astronomical object - or at least the object tied with Cloud of Interstellar Hydrogen for least threatening - and turns into what is actually kind of a creepy costume.

Now, this is the really telling one, the one that reveals just how long Bruce Wayne could have kept his anger focused without a totem to channel it through. Some of Wayne's careful honing of mind and body has come undone if his response to almost getting clobbered by a suit of armour is to put it on and employ it in a career of rooftop vigilanteism. The joke has come full circle here: we might as well be seeing the grim vigil of the Marble Statue or the Carelessly Hoisted Piano. It's all written there in that stock-upright, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-up-here stance. In this universe, Superman's best friend is the Flash.

Minor Villain Showcase: The Blaze

Today, coming to you from World's Finest No. 7, The Blaze!


High Point of Career:

As with many of the ne'er-do-wells in my Minor Villain Files, The Blaze only really had one shot at the big time and it's possible that he knew it, because the guy went all-out on his helmet in (I am guessing) an attempt to make himself memorable enough to be a recurring Green Arrow nemesis. And he should have been - look at that thing! That is not some sort of mist coming off of the top but rather a metallic flame licking up from his diabolical cranium. Together with the riveted sections up front, the faux-flame makes this the best new helmet that I've seen all year.

Mode of Defeat:

Ironically, it was the helmet that was the Blaze's undoing, and not due to some sort of accident involving a low doorway:

This illustrates what I feel to be the main reason that the Blaze has failed to return, cool look or no: sheer dumbness. Having spent ten pages fighting an expert archer who has already tried to shoot his helmet off once before, the Blaze neglects to outfit himself with a chin strap. Also, the orange jumpsuit loses all of its charm on a helmless man.

Low Point of Career:

The Blaze's plan is clever: set buildings on fire and then rob them in the confusion. However, the way that he sets the buildings on fire...

... that's real low.

So here's to the Blaze. A snappy dresser but a real jerk to birds.


Minor Villain Showcase: The Ancient Mariner

Straight from Batman No. 142, it's the Ancient Mariner!


Yes, the Ancient Mariner, the villain who dare to take on the Batman himself armed only with age and an albatross! Presenting the summary of his career:

High Point of Career:

Unquestionably, the Ancient Mariner's greatest triumph was defeating the Dynamic Duo using only a simple albatross and his gnarled, arthritic fists. Especially impressive is the fact that Batman and Robin had just taken down five or six much younger men, though none of those were equipped with enormous seabirds.

Mode of Defeat:

Betrayal and fisticuffs. It just goes to show that you should never trust an albatross. Just like my grandmother always told me, really.

Low Point of Career:

Unquestionably, the revelation that the crimes were not actually being committed by the Ancient Mariner (aka Captain Stubbs) at all, but by his landlord Mr. Travis, who took the following circumstances:

a) Knew a crazy old man with a grudge against a shipping company.

b) Had befriended said crazy old man's pet albatross.

As a sign that he should steal the man's identity and become a nautical-poem-themed sea pirate. In Gotham City. Armed only with an albatross and a harpoon.

Honestly, the guy is going to have such a hard time living this one down that I don't think that he even needs to be sent to prison - he will never be able to lift his head again.

Carry on, Captain Stubbs. Carry on.