Obscure DC Characters: B

The Baffler

And now, on with our show:

Former construction worker Titus Samuel Czonka was the Lenny to Arthur Brown's George, a bald giant of a man with more brawn than brains. "His problem's simple," said Brown. "He likes to BREAK things" (1993's ROBIN #1, by Chuck Dixon, Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna).

Czonk entered into a partnership alongside Brown (a.k.a. the Cluemaster) and the Electrocutioner to escape Blackgate (ROBIN #2). Czonk was convinced that he needed a costume to work with the other two villains but the Cluemaster had no time for suggestions. Left to his own devices, the muscleman put together an outfit that included a flight cap and goggles, orange pants and a yellow shirt with a violet question mark in the center:

"Stand back in amazement for the coming of — The Baffler, master of mysteries."

Wiping away his tears of laughter, the Cluemaster explained that leaving hints to upcoming crimes "had a nasty habit of getting me caught." The sheepish Baffler opted not to mention the letter he'd sent to the "gothem city Police dept. Detectifes–important! Contains clues." The clue in question was written on the back of Hide-A-Wee Motor Lodge stationary (ROBIN #3). So much for the secret hideout.

At Cluemaster's suggestion, Czonk took a more dignified persona — the Headbanger — that reflected his penchant for, well, banging his hard head against his opponents' own craniums. The yellow shirt had given way to a green one with a skull emblazoned on it (ROBIN #4). The trio's plot to loot an armored car eventually went awry, with Cluemaster and Headbanger falling before Robin while the Electrocutioner was kayoed by the Spoiler (ROBIN #5).

Czonk and Cluemaster made an escape attempt but were trounced by Batman (1994's DETECTIVE #680) and ended up in Blackgate as cellmates (ROBIN #14, 16). The duo's subsequent attempt at leading a mass prison breakout (1996's BATMAN: BLACKGATE #1)resulted in their being tried separately at their next hearing. Using a bathroom break as a cover, he snapped his handcuffs and escaped custody. "And the funny part is I really HAD to go." (ROBIN #44).

Resuming the guise of the Baffler, Czonk lured Robin and the Spoiler to a building targetted by the city for detonation and took them hostage. He reasoned that their demise would prove to the Cluemaster that "the Baffler's a world class operator!"

"And soon I'll be bad guy number one! They laughed at me for the LAST time! Vaya con devo, you little do-gooders. The Baffler is — "

CLONG!

— knocked out cold by a low-hanging steel pipe.

Robin and the Spoiler eventually broke their bonds and, along with a groggy Baffler, ran for their life to escape the crumbling building. "Maybe this vigilante thing is COOLER than the villain gig," Czonk observed. "We could be like a team, huh?" Two fists to the jaw later, the Baffler had his answer (1997's ROBIN #43-44).

Czonk and the Cluemaster escaped Blackgate during the Gotham earthquake, making it as far as a mall before the Baffler was beaten to a pulp by the Huntress (1998's BATMAN: SPOILER/HUNTRESS: BLUNT TRAUMA #1). The Baffler escaped custody only to be recaptured by Lock-Up and incarcerated in his No Man's Land prison. Unable to shave his head, Czonk's hair had begun to grow back by the time Nightwing arrived to lead him and his fellow captives to freedom (1999's NIGHTWING #36-37).

Only Chuck Dixon knows where he might appear next.

Bag O'Bones/the Cyclotronic Man/One Man Meltdown

In BATO #4, Ned Creegan returns with a new name and a new costume. Creegan was transformed into a sketetal freak in BATMAN #195 way way back, and tried to kill Batman and Robin using the name Bag O'Bones. Creegan returns in BLACK LIGHTNING (1st series) #4-5 as the Cyclotronic Man. This time he wears an all green costume and goes after Black Lightning and Superman.

Third times a charm in BATO #4, when Creegan, now calling himself One Man Meltdown, escapes from prison because a crooked warden won't give him the radiation treatments his suped up body requires. After a misunderstanding or two, the Outsiders help Creegan get the treatments he needs and he goes back to prison, content to serve out his time and become a benefit to society.

Creegan can fire energy bolts, speed up the atoms of anything (including his own body), and is superstrong. The aura around his body can also melt most objects it come sin contact with.

The Banshee (Charlton Comics)

The Banshee was born in the American Midwest, the tragic result of circus performer the Flying Dundo's achievement of his greatest dream. Dundo had long been attempting to design an aerodynamic costume that would enable him to truly take flight. In 1967, he perfected a cape which, when connected to his wrists and ankles, enabled him to soar above the Earth. Dundo's stunned pupil, Max Bine, recognized that the chartreuse cape had far more potential than mere circus performances and murdered his mentor that night.

Adding a full face mask to hide his appearance, the villain (dressed entirely in green save for yellow eye pieces) launched an amazing string of robberies across the nation. "I make a swift, shocking entrance, strike fast before anyone can react ... and be gone while everyone is still in a state of shock." After an astonished victim gasped that "he swooped in and out like a ... a banshee," Bine took the name for himself.

The Banshee finally met his match in Crown City when he was struck down by TV newsman Vic Sage during a robbery. Taking flight without the jewel he'd intended to steal, Bine refused to give up and, using more caution, kept Sage's alter-ego, the Question, at arm's length for the next week. As a thunderstorm rolled in, the two opponents met on the ledge of a skyscraper and the Question grabbed onto the villain, adding more weight than his cape could support. Landing on an opportune rooftop, the Banshee pulled out a pistol — only to have the strong winds catch his cape. Observing the out of control bandit fading into the distance, the Question noted that "the Banshee's being blown out to sea. He got just what he deserved."

The Banshee resurfaced years later in AMERICOMICS SPECIAL #1 (1983) and, soon after, found himself alongside dozens of other villains during the Great Crisis in July of 1985. Surrounded by the likes of the Cheetah and Monsier Mallah, the Banshee stood out in a new, solid white version of his costume (CRISIS #9). Banshee was later part of a strikeforce sent to Oa to prevent Krona from creating the multiverse (CRISIS #10). In the new reality that arose in the aftermath, the Banshee's place is still unknown.

COMMENTS

Doctor Mid-Nite fought a second Banshee in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS #65. Another Banshee of Irish mythology appeared in the Jack O'Lantern episode in SUPER FRIENDS #44.

Baron Bug

An insect-powered villain who fought original H-Dialer Robby Reed, in the HOUSE OF MYSTERY Dial H series. Only ever showed up once, to my knowledge.

Baron Bug reappeared as a member of the Science Squad in the series, 52. (#23, 26, 46)

Baron Tyrano

Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, Tyrano first appeared in GREEN LANTERN v2 #54.

Presumably the descendant of European nobility, Baron Tyrano was bald, wore a monocle... and was permanently confined to a massive iron lung, being paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe unaided.

Tyrano became a criminal mastermind and assembled a network of agents to do his bidding in the outside world. Upon discovering that Hal Jordan was secretly the super-hero Green Lantern, Tyrano launched a scheme to project his own mind into the Lantern's body and escape the prison of his own existence.

GL was temporarily split into two separate beings by Tyrano's futuristic technology, but managed to reunite the Jordan and Green Lantern halves and crush the villain's plan.

Much later, Tyrano created a group of powerful androids to replace his human agents. Being totally immobile, he had spent most of his time in the past few years watching television, and so he created some of these in the image of characters he had loved. One "gunman" resembled Tyrano as Yul Brynner's "gunslinging robot" character from the movie WESTWORLD, while Tyrano's "girlfriend" looked like Joan Collins of DYNASTY.

Tyrano sent these agents to battle the seven members of the Green Lantern Corps then based on Earth (GREEN LANTERN CORPS #204). When the GLC overloaded the mentally-controlled androids, Tyrano was left comatose.

Probably unable to tell the androids to feed him, Tyrano may have starved to death since then.

Bat-Hombre

Luis Paralda, from BATMAN #56, had been chosen from among several candidates in a small Mexican village to become their Batman-like hero and protect them from the crafty ganglord, El Papagayo. Unfortunately, it turned out that Peralda was one of El Papagayo's men, looking to betray the town. During a clash with the real Batman, Peralda was killed, and El Papagayo's gang was finally brought to justice.

The Bat-Hulk

With Robin away on a Teen Titans caper, Batman was patrolling in the Batmobile when his TV hookup to Commissioner Gordon was hijacked by the Riddler. Taunting him with a riddle that led him to the Optometry Building, which in turn led him to the Diamond Exchange, Batman finally found the Riddler, who tossed a large diamond out the window to delay the Caped Crusader. Batman caught it, but soon tossed it away as the rigged gem exploded, releasing a strange gas which didn't seem to affect the Dark Knight. Leaving the Diamond Exchange, the Batman happened upon the Penguin flying above the street on an umbrella. The fiendish fowl gave Batman an enigmatic clue about passenger pigeons and fled. Batman headed to the City Museum, where he found the Penguin in the pigeon exhibit. The Penguin sent a crow after his enemy, which blew dust from its feathers at the Gotham Guardian, and distracted him enough to allow the Penguin to escape. Returning to the Batmobile, Batman discovered that his gear shift knob was replaced with a replica of the Joker's face, which spewed yet another gas into Batman's face.

Batman crashed the Batmobile into a utility pole, but he wasn't hurt by the accident–in fact, he didn't seem to really be Batman at all anymore. Batman grew to monstrous proportions, and climbed out of the wrecked car. He seized the pole and the heat generated by his hands destroyed his gauntlets and the pole by melting it to slag. Commissioner Gordon and a police officer in a cruiser happened upon the lumbering figure, which turned and sent a fiery blob from his hand, destroying the police car. Calling himself "Bat-Hulk", the giant melted anything that came near him, and stalked off into the park, where he disappeared by changing into a gaseous form. He re-formed later, and the shock of seeing his own reflection reversed made him change back. He realized that the gas and dust used by his three enemies must be the cause, and he also knew he needed help, so he headed to Simon Stagg's estate.

Batman related his tale to Stagg and Metamorpho, and Stagg ran some tests, which showed that Batman could change into Bat-Hulk again at any time because of the residual effects of the gas. Batman hoped that Metamorpho would be able to keep him in line the next time he changed. Naturally, he then reverted to Bat-Hulk, and fought the Element Man to a virtual standstill, escaping from Stagg's mansion.

The Joker, The Riddler, and the Penguin were celebrating their victory of the Caped Crusader when the Bat-Hulk burst through their wall. The Joker had thought he could control the monster, but Bat-Hulk had other ideas, and wanted the three to work as his helpers on a super-crime wave. In mid-sentence, he reverted back to Batman, who found himself weak and suddenly at the mercy of his three greatest enemies. Before the villains could attack, Batman changed back into Bat-Hulk and they started their crime wave, while Metamorpho, Stagg, Sapphire and Java were out searching for him. When the police had boxed in the Bat-Copter while Bat-Hulk was breaking into a bank, the three villains cut his rope and fled the scene. Metamorpho also finally met up with the monster as he was leaving the bank building. Bat-Hulk got his gigantic hands around Metamorpho and squeezed him like a tube of toothpaste, forcing Stagg and Java to use an electric current to bring the Element Man back to normal. They then looked up to see a giant Bat-Hulk signal in the sky, which Commissioner Gordon was using to let Metamorpho know where the Bat-Hulk was, leading them to the Clock Tower. Bat-Hulk and Metamorpho battled on the face of the clock and ended up on the roof. Bat-Hulk was about to smash the Element Man with a big television antenna when it was struck by lightning. Down in the street, Gordon had captured the three arch-criminals who had started the sorry situation. Metamorpho brought down Batman from the Clock Tower roof, thinking he may be dead, but the Dark Knight awoke upon hearing the criminals, wanting to get up and arrest them.

The Bathulk also appeared in the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon episode, "Game Over for Owlman!" as a parallel Earth's Batman.

Appearances:

  • The Brave And The Bold #68

The Bat-Knights

In the distant past, a race of tiny people known as the Elvarans fled the savage cavemen of the outer world for sanctuary within caverns within the Earth. The Elvarans periodically sent armor-clad warriors into the outer world atop bats to keep abreast of the Earth's evolution. With a racial hatred of "tall men," an Elvaran tribe in Ivy Town's Giants Cavern went berserk when it saw gangster Eddie Gordon in the cave. Firing his gun, Gordon unwittingly gained temporary control of the little people, thanks to the noise's effect on their motor responses. Gordon decided to use the Bat-Knights as a means of looting the city — and destroying his enemy, the Atom. The Atom managed to capture a lone Bat-Knight and convince him of his good intentions. Together, they freed the Bat-Knights from Gordon's control and the Tiny Titan was given the unique honor of being able to visit the people of Elvara "by giving the pre-arranged signal" (ATOM #22).

Gordon briefly regained control of the Bat-Knights in THE ATOM #30. Ray Palmer encountered the little people for a third time when he and Jean Loring visited Giants Cavern, also the location where he first became the Atom, during a honeymoon trip.

Marauding Bat-Knights claimed that the Elvarans now had more militant leadership and that they sought the secret of the Atom's size-control belt to conquer the outside world. Ray made a narrow escape and resealed the "doorway" out of the cavern (ACTION COMICS #487).

Batman Junior

This name was used by John Vance in DETECTIVE COMICS #231's flashback, when he helped Batman on a case before Dick Grayson came along to begin his Robin career. When Vance briefly re-entered Batman's life, and Dick learned of his having been a partner of Batman's earlier, it caused him some rough moments when he thought Batman might consider replacing him with Vance.

The Batman Of 2045-2050

90% of this text is directly from HEX #11, written by Michael Fleisher.

By 2045, Mr. Cohen had become a world-class gymnast, and a doctoral candidate in criminology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He idolized the original Batman, and was researching a thesis on the hero's spectacularly brilliant career. Although Batman's true identity had never been revealed to the world, Cohen had deduced it. Beneath abandoned Wayne Manor, in the once proud suburbs of Gotham City, he discovered the original Batcave. He was down in the Hall of Trophies, taking notes and holograms, when the first hail of ICBMs shattered the northeast. World War III had begun. If he hadn't been sheltered far below ground, he might easily have been among the 150 million who died.

When Cohen finally emerged, it was to a scene of soul-numbing horror and devastation. Law and order were non-existent. Plunder gangs roved everywhere — looting, raping, venting their mindless rage amid the ruins of a world that had gone insane. Miraculously, both his parents had survived the cataclysm. His mother, Miriam Cohen, was a rabbi who, among her other humanitarian concerns, had campaigned fruitlessly but tirelessly for handgun control. His father, Kenneth Cohen, had served as a top-level disarmament negotiator under three administrations. From them, he had inherited a compassion for victims of violence and a fervent desire for world peace. But compassion was in short supply after the holocaust, while the desire for scapegoats seemed to have no end.

One organization of crazed fanatics, the National Reconstruction Alliance, focused their hatred on two groups: advocates of arms control ... and Jews. Unfortunately for them, Cohen's parents were both. They were murdered in cold-blood one night while walking the streets of the city. There was no way he could ever bring them back, but he could do something to help bring back the civilized values they'd believed in ... the values they'd taught him to believe in. It was then that he remembered the Batman.

Cohen established a headquarters in the Statue of Liberty, and created his own bat-costume, equipping it with special features suitable to his place and time. And in memory of his parents, he made a solemn vow. As long as he lived, there would be no firearms allowed in New York ... and God help anyone who tried to stop him from keeping that vow.

The new Batman was last seen in 2050, when the time-lost gunfighter named Jonah Hex was tricked by the criminal organization called the Combine into believing that Batman had kidnapped Hex's friend, Stiletta.

Appearances:

  • Hex #11 (Jul 1986) "Night Of The Bat"
  • Hex #12 (Aug 1986) "Siege Of The Terminators"
  • Hex #13 (Sep 1986) "The Dogs Of War" (behind-the-scenes)

Batman of 3000 AD

Alias Brane (short for Bruce Wayne), of that futuristic year. He became Batman (inspired by legends of his ancestor) to help fight off an invasion of Earth from the planet Saturn, in Batman #26.

Brane reappeared in Batman #700, and Brane Taylor in Superman/Batman #80, among other cameos from the Superman/Batman mythos.

Batman of the 31st Century

a.k.a. Brane Taylor, who once saw old video footage of the 20th century Batman and had it inspire him to become his century's Cowled Crusader. He and the original Batman shared cases in BATMAN #67 and DETECTIVE COMICS #216, but never met again thereafter. However, still another future Batman appeared in BATMAN #105.

Batman of Zur-En-Arrh

Alias Tlano, a scientist of his world who studied Batman from afar and tried to duplicate his efforts to help his people, as shown in BATMAN #113.

The Bat-Squad

Written by Rich Meyer

The Bat-Squad was a rather interesting group of folks: Three Brits who got involved with the Batman on a case in London, England. Unfortunately they only appeared once, in The Brave and The Bold #92.

Bruce Wayne was in London for the filming of Basil Coventry's movie, "The Scarlet Strangler", based on a real-life Jack-the-Ripper-esque murderer. Margo Cantrell was on the set as script girl and stand-in for star Vivien Tremaine. Former Scotland Yard Inspector Major Dabney was on hand as technical advisor, and Mick Murdock, who had been pinched in the past by Dabney, was there to play weird "grotty" music to get the actors in the right mood.

During the filming of the first scene, however, the "Strangler" kidnaps Vivien, and the actor playing the Strangler, Ronald Dawson, is found murdered, which prompts an appearance by Batman. The Caped Crusader follows the available clues and is nearly killed by the Strangler himself, with Dabney's timely appearance saving his life. Mick and Batman later prevent Margo's kidnapping by the strong madman, as Dabney discovers that a piece of cloth from the killer indicates he was in the cellar of the Half Moon Inn (due to the kind of beetles on it). The Bat Squad converges there and discovers Vivien chained in a recess, and apparently of the belief that she is Lucy Crown, one of the Strangler's real-life victims. Mick believes this and several other occurrences mean that they have all traveled back in time to 1906.

Outside the Inn, the team sees the Strangler throw Coventry into the river, but when Batman approaches, Coventry himself leaps insanely from the shadows. He and Batman crash through the rotting floorboards into the cellar, where an unexploded bomb from the blitz of the World War pins down Batman. The sight of the swastika on the bomb brings Coventry back to reality, and Dabney and Mick arrive to assist the Dark Knight. With Dabney's instructions, Mick's nimble fingers fail to defuse the bomb and the pair flee, only to hear an explosion soon after. Batman walks out of the fog, having freed himself by digging into the wall and letting the river water buoy the bomb away from him.

Coventry explained that the original Scarlet Strangler was actually his grandfather. His father feared that he too would become like him and was committed to an asylum, and an uncle raised Coventry. Coventry discovered his heritage and wanted to make a movie about it. His father found out about it and went insane, thinking he was indeed the Strangler. He abducted Vivien and killed her co-star, and Coventry also cracked under the strain, but managed to kill his father (his body was the one thrown into the water). Mick refers to their little assemblage as the Bat-Squad, and they all hope they can team up again "some ruddy day".

COMMENTS:

This was actually a very good, though a little cliched, story, mainly because of the realistic characterizations of the Bat-Squad members. To be honest, I've always sort of thought that "The Bat-Squad" monicker was applied just so this mystery story could be used as a team-up in The Brave and The Bold, instead of say, Detective Comics. Still, it's sad that Margo, Mick and Inspector Dabney never appeared again...they were definitely a better representation of Great Britain then, say, that horrid "Londinium" journey the TV Batman, Robin and Batgirl took in their final season. And they probably never will be see again outside of a reprint collection, given the rather skewed tastes of the American comic buyer nowadays (unless somehow Geoff Johns or Kurt Busiek takes a hankering to the trio).

APPEARANCE:
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #92
October-November, 1970
Batman and the Bat-Squad in "Night Wears a Scarlet Shroud"
Cover by: Nick Cardy
Script by: Bob Haney
Art by: Nick Cardy

The Battering Ram

Alias Bruno Horgan, this super-strong horn-headed mutant fought H-Dialers Chris King and Vicki Grant in ADVENTURE COMICS #480.

Hector Bauer

In a rural community early in the 20th Century, nine boys had aspirations of becoming successful in the music fields. By the 1920s, all of them had made it, all that is but Hector Bauer. In desperation, he asked his friends to perform one of his compositions. The end result was a disaster. Hector simply had no talent. A head injury left Bauer convinced that his symphony had been deliberately bungled by the eight men and he resolved to get revenge. In 1943, he was finally prepared to fulfill his vow, making plans to destroy each man's livelihood, destroying the violinist's prize instrument, for instance, or slicing off the pianist's fingers. A chance encounter with Hawkman exposed the scheme to the Justice Society, who thwarted the plot and brought Bauer to justice (ALL-STAR COMICS #19).

Comments

Mikishawm, having checked a few JLA and JSA sites on the web, I've now encountered information saying that both JSA foe Hector Bauer and JLA baddie Pasha Gorki called themselves MAD Maestro. You're saying that was not the case?

No, neither was referred to as "Mad Maestro" in the stories themselves. Hawkman referred to Bauer as "the mad maestro" in AMERICA VS. THE JSA #3, though, and the JLA INDEX #7 identifies Gorki as "The Mad Maestro" even though, in the story itself, his brother referred to him exclusively as Maestro.

Belladonna

Really a failed chemist named Angela Wainwright, who fought H-Dialer Vicki Grant in ADVENTURE #488 after turning to a life of poisonous crime.

Belphegor

Mentioned frequently as a primary player in the Club of Heroes, the Global Guardians, and the Dome. Powers, abilities, and current activities are all unknown.

The Big Gang

Written by <The Atom>

Only appearance: THE ATOM #34 (Dec 1967-Jan 1968) Story: "Little Man––You've Had a Big-Gang Day!"

The Big Gang (not Big-Time as originally thought) was made up of several members, all of whom used the word "Big" in their names. They all wore similar uniforms, looking somewhat like "evil" Challengers of the Unknown than anything else. Their purple and black costumes did nothing to disguise their identities, although it seems unlikely that their mothers named them all "Big" for a first name at birth. Each costume had a symbol on the chest except for the leader. Their backgrounds all reportedly came from circus sideshow attractions except for the new recruit. The implication is that they're all midgets, although they're never seen close enough to a normal sized human to prove or disprove this theory.

Big Head was the leader, and had a head almost the size of Hector Hammond's. His "oversized head contains more brains than an entire college faculty". He was the "mastermind" of the operation. His costume was the only one without a symbol on his chest.

Big Ben was "an expert at synchronizing time schedules so that each member knows exactly when he's to go into action during a robbery". The symbol on his chest was predictable... a clock (Big Ben, to be precise). His timetables are constantly being upset by the unpredictable appearances of the Atom.

Big Wig was a villain that used wigs as a weapon. One guess as to his symbol... a wig. He had one wig that was explosive and others as well.

Big Bertha was the only female member of the group, and was described as a woman "whose arms are so strong she can hurl an object as accurately as the famous World War One cannon after which she's named". Big Bertha's symbol... a cannon.

Big Shot "makes his special guns talk a language all their own". Big Shot's symbol... a golden bullet. He had a gun that the Atom jammed, a gun that fired razor sharp propellers, and a "knob" gun that apparently fired doorknobs(?).

Big Cheese "concocts cheeses with extraordinary powers". You guessed it... his symbol's a slice from a cheese wheel. His cheeses included one that had knock-out odor and another that stuck like glue, as well as some standard limburger.

And the final member of the "Big Gang" was recruited in the beginning of the story–-

Big Deal was a stage magician and card shark. His symbol... a card "spade". Big Deal threw razor sharp cards that always managed to miss the Atom.

The Big Gang had already stolen the world's largest book and the world's largest drum, as well as making off with the biggest money heist of all time, but now had their sights set on the world's biggest emerald. Jean Loring and Ray Palmer happen to be on hand as the emerald is removed from the safe to be shown to a young girl, Candace, when the Big Gang shows up. Big Cheese lets loose with a knock-out odor cheese that flattens everyone but the Atom, who shrinks out of the "smell". He in turn flattens Big Head, Big Wig, Big Time, and Big Deal, and disarms Big Cheese and Big Shot. Unfortunately, Big Bertha, with her incredible aim, takes out the Atom in one shot, using a 16 ounce shot put. He takes a dive in the nearby pond, apparently pushed down by the weight of the shot.

The Atom survives, having switched to near weightlessness before being hit by the shot. He floats to safety already unconscious and lands atop a lily pad. Figuring out that the Big Gang is likely to steal the only other "big" items in Ivy Town (the world's largest coin and world's largest stamp), the Atom lurks in near-microscopic size atop the coin. In order, the Atom takes out Big Wig, Big Bertha, Big Time, Big Head, Big Shot, Big Cheese... and neglects to notice Big Wig throwing an explosive toupee at his back while the Atom prepares to take out Big Deal. The Atom shrinks subatomic but the Big Gang is sure he's dead and gets away with the loot.

Following the theme, the Atom figures the Big Gang would hide somewhere... well, BIG. With, uh, BIG in the name of the place–or sort of. The Atom goes off to "Giant" Caverns (hereafter known as "Big" Caverns), where the Big Gang is storing the world's biggest silver nugget. The Atom again takes out Big Head, uses the world's largest book against Big Bertha, Big Shot, and Big Wig, then takes out Big Cheese, Big Ben, and Big Deal with the largest drum.

Number of times the word "BIG" is used in the story... ninety-one!

Binky

Binky first appeared in LEAVE IT TO BINKY #1 (March 48), but i think most people remember him as a very 1960s/early 70s character.

Billy the Kid

Pancho Guinones was having a good day. He had a fine new horse and saddle, a hot meal in his belly and a promising start to his card game. Somehow, though, he got the impression that his luck was about to go sour. Maybe it was that blonde stranger in buckskins who stood in the doorway of the tavern and called him a "sneaky, murderin' rat." After the cigar was shot out of his mouth, Pancho was fairly confident that good fortune had left him.

"You shot my Pa in the back less'n a few hours ago — then you stole his horse and saddle."

Pancho insisted that, whatever else he may have done, he wouldn't have shot a man in the back. A local stepped forward to say, "He's right, Billy. ... Ah'm no friend of this thieving varmint, but ah do know he's above thet kind'a killin'."

The Mexican bandit did admit to taking the horse and saddle, though.

"Pancho see thees beautiful horse weeth no one to care for heem, so he say 'Pancho, thees three hombres who shoot thees old man, who leave thee poor horse to starve, so you must — "

Billy stopped him at that point. With someone who could identify the killers, the Kid had a chance at bringing them to justice. Billy agreed to let Pancho keep the horse if he'd help track down the assassins and the two set up camp for the night. By morning, Pancho was gone again, adding Billy's money, provisions and watch to his rapidly accumulating cache of goods.

Billy picked up the trail in a village where Pancho had eaten breakfast. Discovering the stolen eighty dollars, the Kid slapped the woman and accused her of being the Mexican's accomplice.

"And what about my watch? Was he wearing mah watch, too?"Sobbing, she asked, "How could I know this? I am BLIND!"Suddenly contrite, Billy tossed the money back on the table and stuttered that "mebbe it were some other critter did thet stealin' ...""I am sure that is true," she answered, still weeping. "Mr. Pancho is very rich ... he has left me money many times."

Once more, Billy tracked down Pancho, only to be informed by the bandit that someone else had stolen the watch from him. Arriving in the next town, Pancho wondered why Billy was stopping instead of continuing the search for the killers. "Ah'm NEVER going to stop looking for them, Mex ... but right now we've gotta stop and earn some money for new provisions."

A local recognized the blonde as Billy the Kid and insisted the gunfighter become their new sheriff — at least long enough to stop the threat of Blackie Kane. "None of us could stand up to the lightning draw of Blackie — an' nobody here has got the stomach for that kinda violence." Billy agreed to take the job long enough to capture Kane — and none too soon. A drunken Kane had just gone on a spree that spooked a horse and trampled a little boy.

While Billy transported the youngster to the nearest doctor some two miles away, his companion decided to confront Kane. ("Pancho do not like hombres dat cause leedle boys to get hort.") Billy returned to town to find Pancho dying of a gunshot wound to the chest. Shoving his way through the crowd, Billy kneeled beside him, cursing, "You dumb thieving Mex. Couldn't you have waited until I — "

"Always you make weeth thee tough talk, keed — but you no fool Pancho — you love heem like brodder ... Pancho ees happy you return een time, Billy ... so he can geeve back thee watch weeth thee beautiful picture inside that he steal from you ... the picture of YOU and your father ... Don't worry, keed ... your secret ees safe with Pan ... cho ..."

Billy walked from Pancho's body to the tavern, identified the cocky Blackie Kane and shot him dead. The next morning, Billy arranged a proper grave for Pancho, complete with this epitaph: "I loved him."

"Adios, amigo ... I'll have to continue my hunt alone ... but ah'll never forget you ..." Flipping open the pocket watch, the Kid looked at the family photograph and its inscription, "To my loving daughter, Billy Jo," and then added, "Nor the fact thet you kept my secret well ..." (1971's ALL-STAR WESTERN #6, by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga).

ASW #7 continued the formula of the series when Billy was rescued from an Indian ambush by another shady character, "'Ace' Van Winston ... gambler, gunfighter and philosopher." He was also a man in love with killing, particularly Indians. Minutes after Billy prevented Ace from murdering a native youngster, the duo found themselves surrounded by an entire tribe. Ace was sentenced to burn at the stake but Billy was freed out of gratitude for her part in sparing the boy — the Chief's son.

Ace pleaded with Billy to kill him on the spot. When the Kid refused, the gambler pulled out his trump card.

"WAIT! Perhaps it would be easier for you to do if I told you it was I who cut down your esteemed father!""Yo're lying, Ace ... yo're jest saying thet so ah'll — ""Then how would I know that his last words were of you ... his daughter — MISS Billy Jo?"

Overhearing the conversation, the Chief offered to let Billy and Ace face each other in a duel, each with one bullet in their gun. Ace pretended to reach for his weapon and Billy instinctively fired, mortally wounding him.

"Ah don't get it," she told him, "You only bluffed goin' fo' yore gun, gambler — how come?""Heh heh. That Indian chief would never have let me go free if I'd beaten your draw, Kid ... The deck was stacked ... so I played ... the Joker" (ASW #7).

In a tavern in the Midwest, Billy seemed to have found the other two men who had killed her father. "Within seconds it was over ... the two men had drawn against a legend ... the legend of Billy the Kid ... and lost ..." The other patrons in the saloon could only gasp in disbelief. "NEVER seen a man draw THAT fast in mah life!"

The local sheriff was less impressed and put Billy in a cell with an old man nicknamed One-Eye. The old timer was an inveterate scavenger and became fixated on his fellow prisoner's boots. The two got into a fight and, when the sheriff tried to break them up, One-Eye pulled a concealed knife and stabbed him in the back, removing off the lawman's boots for good measure. Against her better judgment, Billy fled the jailhouse with the killer.

Billy soon learned that One-Eye had plenty of enemies, including the gang that he'd run out on. The bandits got the drop on the escapees and were stunned to discovered (by way of her pocket watch) that Billy the Kid was a girl. Aware of Billy's sharpshooting skills, One-Eye goaded the villains into trying to outdraw "a skinny female." Three corpses later, Billy was ready to "make tracks outa hyar ... afore any more of yore FRIENDS show up."

First though, the old scavenger felt compelled to pick through the possessions of the bandits, plucking the boots off one body and looking through the telescope of another. Billy asked again if One-Eye was ready to leave but the old man told her to go on without him. "Ah got too much to do hyar fer a spell."

"Robbing dead men! Yore no better'n the skunks we jest killed!"

While Billy rode off, One-Eye began firing on the posse he'd seen while looking through the telescope. "And if ah'm able to outshoot these varmints, ah bet ah'd shore git me a lot more fine pair o' boots. Yes indeedy!"

On the opposite end of the shoot-out, the posse was confident that it was just a matter of time before the killer was out of ammunition. "Yep ... his next stop'll be BOOT HILL" (ASW #8).

In the end, editor Joe Orlando decided that Billy the Kid simply wasn't going to click and the series was put on hold. The twist of her concealed gender was interesting but not visual enough to have any impact on the potential audience. If ALL-STAR WESTERN was truly going to be a success, it needed a lead character who grabbed the reader the moment they saw him. Vamping for time, Orlando released ASW #9 as an all-reprint issue and got to work with Albano and DeZuniga on creating a new western hero.

The end result was unveiled in late1971's ALL-STAR WESTERN #10: "Cold-blooded killer, vicious, unmerciful hellion without feeling, without conscience ... a man consumed by hate, a man who boded evil ... That was ... Jonah Hex." And the rest was history.

The Black Bat

As part of the special double-sized BATMAN #600 that kicked off the "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" saga, the DC editorial staff decided to include several backup features of "previously unprinted Batman stories". The first of these was "The Mystery of the Black Bat!", a time-travel tale that appeared to be from the lighthearted Batman comics of the 1950s, most likely illustrated by Dick Sprang or Sheldon Moldoff, though "these stories had no credits listed".

Watching the excavation of an old mining town outside Gotham on television, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are astounded when the visiting scientist unveils his discovery — a dime novel from the 1870s called "The Black Bat Rides". The cover of this book features a Batman-like character said to have been based off a historical figure of the time. Intrigued, Bruce and Dick decide to pay a visit to their friend Professor Carter Nichols, creator of a wondrous time machine that has sent them on adventures in many different eras.

Nichols successfully transports them to the 1870s where they promptly change into their Batman and Robin personas. Soon after, they meet Samuel Braxton, a tall black man in a tattered Union uniform. The Dynamic Duo help Braxton fight a group of Confederate soldiers and Braxton is quite taken by the heroes' dramatic (and somewhat frightening) costumes. Batman and Robin continue helping Braxton as he continues his duties as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves. The Gotham heroes agree to guide a group of former slaves to freedom while Braxton attends to another mission. As a parting gift, they give him a batarang to remember them by.

Batman and Robin's group is soon taken by surprise and attacked by a Confederate patrol. The soldiers tie the heroes up, mistaking them for Northern spies. Suddenly, a batarang whizzes by and cuts their bonds. The menacing figure of the Black Bat comes riding down the hill and the three costumed champions soundly defeat the soldiers. After the commotion, the Black Bat removes his mask to reveal Samuel Braxton. Influenced by Batman's costume and the awe and fear it inspires, Braxton had decided to spook the soldiers. Seeing the effectiveness of this tactic, he decides to continue helping people as the Black Bat.

Batman and Robin soon feel themselves being drawn back to the present and quickly change back to their civilian clothes. Yet they are left with a conundrum — was Samuel always the Black Bat or did he become the Black Bat because of their visit to his era? If they inspired him, where did the dime novel that prompted their trip in the first place originate? It's enough to make a crimefighter's head spin.

Just as astounding to the readers of BATMAN #600 is that the tale of the Black Bat is actually not a "lost" Batman story at all. It and several other backup features were created specifically for the issue. "The Mystery of the Black Bat" was in fact scripted by Ed Brubaker and drawn by James Tucker as a homage to that era. In hindsight, this seems obvious. The story was sursprisingly progressive for the conservative 50s and very aware of the paradoxes of time travel.

However, I must admit that for a while, I myself was suckered in by this charming (and misleading) story.

HISTORICAL NOTE: The Black Bat is also the name of a pulp hero of the 1930s that bore a striking similarity to Batman. His origin may have had an influence on Two-Face's backstory as well. This guy's real though, folks. Honest.

Blackbriar Thorn

Blackbriar Thorn first appeared in DC COMICS PRESENTS #66 (Feb 94). An ancient druid who has survived for centuries in the form of a wood creature, the Blackbriar Thorn is awakened in modern times by the father of Lana Lang (who was an archeologist pre-Crisis) and wreaks havoc in Gotham City before being defeated by Superman and the Demon Etrigan.

Although he never had any subsequent appearances before the Crisis, this adventure was apparently enough for him to get his fact page in WHO'S WHO #1 (Apr 85), possibly because Len Wein, the creator of the character, was also WHO'S WHO editor at the time.

Next, we see Blackbriar Thorn in a couple of cameos. He is part of the Spectre's gathering of magicians who help save the Earth from the Anti-Monitor, in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #12. Then he has a run-in with John Constantine in SWAMP THING #70; John Constantine summoned Thorn's spirit. Maybe he was in HISTORY IN THE DC UNIVERSE #1, too–I've forgotten.

BB is also largely forgotten until he is revived during the Underworld Unleashed crossover in 1995. In the ABYSS: HELLS SENTINEL one-shot, he is part of Blaze's (and therefore, Neron's) minions. He battles Sentinel Alan Scott with his wooden body, only to discover that Alan is no longer vulnerable to wood.

So, in JSA #9-10, (Apr-May 2000), Thorn's enemyship with Alan is revisited, as he returns as a member of Johnny Sorrow's new Injustice Society. It doesn't go to well as Wildcat splinters BB's body and uses his remains as toothpicks. Nevertheless, the Tigress is able to re-animate Thorn's body with a new look (and, surprisingly enough, a more modern speech pattern) in JSA #16-18 (Nov 2000-Jan 2001). The villain almost succeeds in killing Alan Scott (who had regained his weakness against wooden materials), penetrating his chest with his body. At the end of the struggle, Thorn is defeated by the Star-Spangled Kid and her shooting stars.

Comments

I don't have any facts, but wasn't Blackbriar Thorn a Golden Age villain? Maybe I got that impression from seeing him fight GL in Underworld and later in JSA, but I don't have the GA resources to check this out.

Nope. Blackbriar Thorn is pure Bronze Age. Of that I'm certain.

By the way, the DCCP issue where Blackbriar Thorn first appeared, is also the first time Etrigan starts rhyming in every sentence. (Before that it had only been his transformation spells that rhymed.)

Blackjack

A midget with cosmic gambling powers, who lives in a section of sub-space; once you enter his realm, you cannot leave unless you beat him in a game. H-Dialer Chris King contended with him in ADVENTURE #490.

Black Lightning

See also: Black Lightning

In his eighteenth year, Jefferson Michael Pierce participated in the Olympics and believed that life could never get any better than this. At twenty-two, he came away from the Decathalon with a gold medal. Surely, this must have been his fifteen minutes of fame. And then came his twenty-seventh year. And his twenty-ninth. And at thirty-five ... well, as a child, hed vowed to escape his Suicide Slum roots but, in his wildest dreams, Jeff Pierce had never imagined he part of the Presidential Cabinet. Of course, hed never imagined hed be Black Lightning, either ...

Black Lightning, as related by Tony Isabella in THE COMICS BUYERS GUIDE #921 (1991) and 1093 (1994), had originated in another writers proposal, a character who, in Isabellas words, was a white bigot in his secret identity. In 1976, Paul Levitz approached Tony about salvaging the character but Isabella found the two completed scripts to be so horrendously misguided that he suggested an entirely new hero. Isabella and penciller Trevor Von Eedons BLACK LIGHTNING became one of DCs major launches in the first months of 1977 and the first two issues (plus #6) set up most of the back story.

Born and raised in Metropolis Suicide Slum, Jeff had lost his father when he was only three, the result of a shooting by an unknown gunman at the grocery store where he worked. Mom did the best she could to raise me by herself, he recalled, but it was pretty rough until Peter (Gambi) opened up his (tailor) shop underneath our apartment. Within a year, Peter was more like a member of the family than a neighbor ... and it was good to see Mom smile again. Peter made her an equal partner in his shop. The two of them saw me through high school — two Olympics — and a teaching degree from Kent State.

Jeff ended up teaching at a high school in New Carthage but returned to Metropolis for his mothers funeral. In his time away, Jeff had married and divorced a young woman named Lynn Stewart. As related in SECRET ORIGINS #26 (1988), Lynn left because she thought I couldnt get angry enough — at least not at all the terrible things in the world. She said all I ever REALLY cared about was getting out of this crummy neighborhood and never looking back. Maybe she was right. Then.

But when I came back for the funeral, I looked around and saw that NOTHING had changed here. Not a damned thing. It GOT to me for some reason. Dont ask me to explain it, because I CANT. Maybe I can make a DIFFERENCE this time. SOMEBODY has to try.

And, indeed, back at his old alma mater of Garfield High School, Jeff quickly made an impression when he kicked a drug pusher off the premises and followed suit by humilating three members of the criminal organization known as the 100. In retaliation, the gunmen killed Earl Clifford, one of Pierces students, and left his corpse in the GHS gymnasium.

A distraught Jeff related the tragedy to Peter Gambi, who urged him to fight back in a persona that wouldnt invite counter-attacks on his students. Presenting him with a predominantly blue costume, Peter confessed that I guess I had this in mind from the minute I received your letter saying you were coming home. Put it on, Jefferson. These streets — the kids — they need a symbol — and youre it!

Justice, like lightning should ever appear to some men hope; And to other men fear. It was a poem written long ago based on words by Thomas Randolph. A poem that expressed the dual nature of justice. A poem whose meaning had been lost ... until then. Gambi had remembered the poem. His skills brought it to life anew.

Equipped with a force-field belt that enabled him to generate lighting bolts, Black Lightning had been born. Jefferson Pierce played to the eras stereotypical perception of blacks by affecting a jive-talking speech pattern as Black Lightning and wearing a mask/wig combination that gave him a big afro, simple devices that deflected suspicion from a well-educated school-teacher.

Over the course of his first eight issues, Black Lightning carved out a niche in Metropolis, ultimately gaining the trust of such high-profile figures as Superman, Inspector William Henderson and reporter Jimmy Olsen. Along the way, he defeated several super-powered underlings of the100, from Merlyn (#2) to the Cyclotronic Man (#4-5) to Syonide (#6-7), as well as the gangs gargantuan albino leader, Tobias Whale (#1-8).

There would be retaliation for Black Lightnings actions but not against Jeff Pierces students. Rather, it was Peter Gambi who paid the price, leaping in front of a gun-blast meant for Black Lightning. Stripped of his force-field belt, the hero seemed destined for a similar fate but, in his fury, Black Lightning generated its effects from within his own body. In some unknown manner, hed internalized the electrical power. The confrontation with the 100 had also exposed Peters darkest secret. The support and love that hed showered on Jeff and Mrs. Pierce had been a kind of penance. He had been the man whod killed Jeffs father (#7).

A letter from Peter was delivered to the grieving young man at Gambis funeral, posthumously promising an explanation for his actions. You know, Ive been staying awake nights trying to figure out WHO Peter was before he came into my life, Jeff said. I came up blank. I dont know what crimes were in his past — or even how the belt he designed gave me super-powers. But he gave his life to give me a dream — and dreams are hard to find these days. Tearing the unopened letter to shreds, the young man let the scraps fall over the broken Earth. Rest in peace, Peter (#8).

Isabella was an advocate of the shared universe of DC comics and peppered BLACK LIGHTNING with characters and locales that originated elsewhere. Gambi, for instance, was the brother of 1960s criminal tailor Paul Gambi, who had debuted in THE FLASH #141 and was named after fan Paul Gambaccini. Suicide Slum had originated in Joe Simon and Jack Kirbys 1940s Newsboy Legion series while New Carthage was the locale for Dick Graysons Hudson University. Inspector Henderson had been a staple of the Superman radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s while Officer Jim Corrigan (no relation to the Spectre) had appeared in a few early 1970s Jimmy Olsen episodes.

Tonys final issue of the series proved to be #10, which ended with an ominous hint that Jeffs ex-wife was to become the target of a cult. Lynn Stewart had been hired as a teacher at Garfield High in #3 and figured out that Jeff was Black Lightning in #9: Do you HONESTLY think a mask and a wig can fool a woman whos seen you in your birthday suit? The subplot proved to have been a hastily-written substitution for the gag feature originally intended to close the issue and Isabella later admitted that he had no idea where that story thread would have gone.

DCs line-wide purge of its weaker titles in the summer of 1978 claimed BLACK LIGHTNING as one of its victims. It ended in June with #11, Denny ONeils debut as scripter. Within six months, Black Lightning returned for his most-widely circulated appearance to date — a guest-spot in the nationally-distributed WORLDS GREATEST SUPER-HEROES comic strip, by Marty Pasko, George Tuska and Vince Colletta. Over the course of the adventure (running from November 1978 through January 1979), Lightning joined forces with The Batman to investigate a series of student abductions (including Dick Grayson) and met Superman and Black Canary before the case had closed.

In comic books, ONeil continued the series in early 1979s WORLDS FINEST #256, where Green Arrow met Metropolis newest hero and acknowledged him as a kindred spirit. The story continued over the next two issues with a rematch against Tobias Whale. ONeils take on Black Lightning continued with stories in #259 and 260 that had originally been intended for BLACK LIGHTNING #13 and 12, respectively, and closed with #261.

September of 1979 saw three separate Black Lightning appearances, including his regular WORLDS FINEST spot in #260 and aguest appearance in JLA #173, the first of a two-parter wherein he was nominated for League membership and rejected the honor. Most significant in retrospect was his ONeil-scripted team-up with Superman in DC COMICS PRESENTS #16. The catalyst of the story was a girl named Trina Shelton who was shot and killed by a stray bullet during an altercation between Lightning and muggers. The balance of the episode dealt with the heroes battling Trinas boyfriend, a magnetic refugee from outer space whom Lightning defeated by pushing his electrical field to the limit.

The first half of 1980 saw Lightnings series revived for a Marty Pasko-scripted two-parter in DETECTIVE #490-491 that recast Jeff Pierce as a high school coach and stripped him of his powers in an accident. Jeff had resumed his teaching position in J.M. DeMatteis subsequent pair of scripts (#494, 495) but the loss of Black Lightnings powers had stuck. Between issues, the depowered Lightning also crossed paths with Batman in THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #163 (by Paul Kupperberg and Dick Giordano) and left the Dark Knight admitting that I AM impressed.

It fell to Mike W. Barr to revive Jeff Pierce some three years later, picking up on the Batman connection and the DC COMICS PRESENTS story as part of 1983s BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #1 and 2. Hoping to rescue his friend Lucius Fox from war-torn Markovia, the Dark Knight recruited Jeff to infiltrate the country, posing as Foxs brother. Inevitably, he was forced to become Black Lightning and ended up being captured alongside Batman. Ignoring the short-lived DETECTIVE run, Barr had Lightning reveal that hed lost his powers after Trina Sheltons death. Convinced that the loss was psychological, the Dark Knight began to verbally prod at him and brought Jeffs electrical powers back to life once more.

The next four years saw a new confidence envelop Black Lightning, as he forged new friends with the Outsiders, found a teaching post at Gotham Citys Edison High (BATO #4, 6), gained a bit of closure in Trina Sheltons death after a confrontation with her parents (BATO #9-10), revisited the Olympics (BATO #14-15) and even had an amicable reunion with Lynn Stewart, (OUTSIDERS (first series) #4, 9-14), now the president of a public relations firm.

By the end of 1987, though, the Outsiders were disbanded (OUTSIDERS #28) and Jeff was settling into a teaching job in yet another city (SECRET ORIGINS #26). The end of 1988 saw Black Lightnings powers go berserk upon the detonation of the Dominators Gene-bomb (INVASION! #3) and Jeff could no longer deny that the power was PART of me — there was no doubting it any longer. It had been given to me for a REASON. Reflecting on his newfound goals in 1995s BLACK LIGHNING #5, he explained that hed moved to the so-called Brick City, a neighborhood in his fathers hometown. I knew I couldnt save the world — but I COULD save one neighborhood — and maybe even the FUTURE.

1992s WHO WHO #16 hinted that a new Black Lightning series was in the offing with an entry that included a never-seen-again costume illustrated by Mark Bright. The book wouldnt come to fruition until Tony Isabella made a triumphant return to his creation in 1995, now paired with artist Eddy Newell. The official new costume included a red and black jacket and lighting coursing between the heros eyes, eliminating the need for a mask.

Isabella and Newells reality-based series hoped to emphasize genuine political and social concerns even as metahuman threats such as Painkiller (BLACK LIGHTNING #2-4) presented themselves. The ongoing menace of a gang known as the Royal Family figured into a school shooting at the end of #4 that left Jeff critically wounded and one of his best friends, teacher Walter Kasko, dead. The introspective Blowed Away in issue #5 dealt with Jeffs physical and emotional recovery, as he tried to come to grips with his career as Black Lightning and the deaths of so many along the way.

In addition to Kasko, the new series had also introduced a number of other new players to the cast, notably student Lamar Henderson, an informant nicknamed Beagle, police contact Tommy Colavito and new love interest Gail Harris.

An editorial flap resulted in Isabella and Newell leaving the book after issue #8 and the series, now in the hands of writer David DeVries, soon collapsed. The final serial (#11-13) found Batman renewing his ties with Lightning to help clear him of charges that he was a serial killer. Once the furor had died down, Isabella and Newell returned to Lightning for a striking black and white episode in Christmas 1997s DCU HOLIDAY BASH II.

In the three years since then, Black Lightning has made no more than a handful of appearances, working with the Outsiders in Markovia during a Hellish eruption of demons (DAY OF JUDGMENT #4) and serving with the Justice League Reserves in the midst of other disasters (JLA #27, 41). His efforts during the Mageddon crisis, in particular, were critical as he taxed his abilities like never before, attempting to tap the electrical field of the planet (#41).

Youve accomplished so many things, helped so many people — and you weigh yourself down with the times you DIDNT succeed, the ones you COULDNT help. Stop denying what you ARE, Jeff. Youre a good man and then some. Youre a super-hero just as REAL as they come — in a world thats damn hard on HEROES. You havent made compromises, youve made CHOICES ... and theyve been the RIGHT choices for you. This city — and all the OTHER cities like it — its where your HEART is. Superman and those others — God bless em — they can save the world every WEEK. You can make it a BETTER world. Dont you KNOW how special you are?

The words that Lynn spoke to Jeff as he recovered from his bullet wounds in BLACK LIGHTNING #5 echo back as he makes one of the biggest choices of his life. Will serving on President Luthors Cabinet give Jeff the resources to make a better world? Or, as in Markovia, is he serving as one of The Batmans agents? In the distance, you can hear the sound of thunder.

Blackmask

(an 80s Prestige Format mini-series)

Blackmask was Dan Cady, whose three-issue 1994 series was a creator-owned project from Brian Augustyn and Jim Baike. In the 1950s, Korean vet Dan Cady took the guise of Blackmask (black leather jacket and pants, plus a bandana-style mask) to free Iroquis Falls, New York from the grip of the Falcon mob. With the destruction of the mob complete, Dan tossed his mask in the garbage and left town to truly start his life over.

Comment

The only Blackmask I can think of at DC was a Batman villain created by Doug Moench... a cosmetics heir named Roman Sionis whose attempt at plastic surgery was botched, giving him an even uglier face. For that reason, he always wore a black wooden mask. The late Gil Kane created a barbarian hero named Blackmark who he took to several publishers, including Marvel but not (to my knowledge) DC.

Blackrock I-II

I recall Blackrock's first appearances in SUPERMAN and ACTION COMICS but don't have his final appearances in SUPERMAN FAMILY (where I believe he clashed with Supergirl) so someone else will have to fill that one out.

In the 70s-80s, the television industry was a major influence on the Superman books. At the time, Clark Kent was a nationally-recognized TV newscaster and many stories dealt with TV industry-related themes including thinly-disguised versions of Johnny Carson and Rona Barrett.

Blackrock, who premiered in ACTION #458-459, was perhaps the epitome of the TV milieu that Superman was set in. He was not one person but was actually different people in his various appearances.

It seems that Samuel Tanner, president of UBC broadcasting was angry that Morgan Edge's WGBS was beating him at the ratings, partly due to all the Superman-related scoops that WGBS gets.

So, he orders his head scientist, Dr. Peter Silverstone to come up with UBC's own superhero. The poor scientist, who is definitely a total drone to his boss, complies by creating Blackrock.

Blackrock had a green and purple costume with no sign of any black on it. (Shades of the Blue Rajah.) His weapon was a television antenna that he could use to redirect TV and radio waves into power blasts and various other uses.

Blackrock tried to upstage Superman as the new hero of Metropolis but he was really more of a pest, endangering himself and innocents. He talked in TV-lingo (... "the pause that refreshes..") that seems rather dated now. His identity was a secret, even to Tanner.

Eventually Superman discovers that Blackrock is Tanner. Silverstone decided that only Tanner had the courage, drive and initiative to become UBC's superhero. So he hypnotized his boss and turned him into Blackrock. (Silverstone was suppose to be a genius but he comes off as a soft-spoken weirdo. If I hypnotized my boss, I certainly would not turn him into a superhero.)

After a short battle, Superman straightens Blackrock out and Tanner goes back to normal, totally unaware of his dual identity.

In SUPERMAN #315, Tanner forces Silverstone to come up with a new Blackrock. This time, the character is actually armed with a black rock instead of a TV antenna. And his secret identity is comedian Les Vegas, who is both a thinly-disguised version of Chevy Chase and nephew of Tanner. After some problem with mixed identities and a three-page Superman vs. Chevy Chase battle, the man of steel wins again and once again, Blackrock vanishes from the memory of his alter ego.

Finally, in SUPERMAN #325-326, Tanner decides that it is fruitless trying to create a new superhero to compete with Superman. So instead, he tries to 'steal' Superman from WGBS. Silverstone devises a weapon that hypnotizes Superman so he agrees to reveal his secret identity, live on UBC. This time, Blackrock is merely an energy construct, used to wield the weapon to control Superman's mind. Not surprisingly, Superman outsmarts Tanner and leaves the angry network chief with egg on his face.

I don't know about his appearances after that although I believe Blackrock could be seen standing in the background in one of those mass supervillain scenes.

Now that Clark Kent's TV background has been wiped from continuity, Blackrock doesn't really fit in with the new Superman. A pity, since he was quite a good device for satirizing the TV industry. The names Tanner and Silverstone sound a lot like Turner and Silverman and I believe "Blackrock" is the nickname for the building that houses CBS.

Too bad. If not for John Byrne, we might now be reading about a hypnotized David Letterman fighting Superman.

Post-Crisis

In JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #43 (October 1990), a new Blackrock appeared fighting the League together with Black Mass, Crowbar, Brainstorm, the Cavalier, and Sonar.

I'm not sure, but I think that Blackrock was later one of the villains who got their weaponry absorbed by the Replicant in the pages of FLASH.

Black Thorn

a.k.a. Elizabeth Thorn, this bloodthirsty female vigilante first appeared in VIGILANTE #45. She linked up with Adrian Chase, both professionally and romantically, until Chase apparently committed suicide in VIGILANTE #50. She then spent some time working with Checkmate, but ultimately left that group as well. She was last seen in YOUNG JUSTICE, as a member of the Zandian Olympics team.

Blackwing

Once upon a time, there was a world where costumed men and women dressed in colorful costumes took to the streets and fought crime. The heroes flourished in the 1940s but their numbers had dwindled by the 1970s. Their hair had turned gray and one of the greatest of their generation — The Batman — had died (1978s ADVENTURE COMICS #462). A relative handful of heroes — including the Huntress, daughter of the Dark Knight — stood poised to replace them.

*************

Its one thing to read about crime in the newspaper but its quite another to experience it first hand. Such was the case with Charles Bullock, a young African American lawyer recently added to the roster of Gotham Citys Cranston, Grayson and Wayne in 1981 (WONDER WOMAN #281-284, by Paul Levitz, Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell). When a super-villain named Karnage attacked the law offices in search of senior partner Arthur Cranston, Bullock rushed forward to oppose the intruder only to be swatted away like a fly (#286-287, by Levitz, Staton and Bruce Patterson).

Karnage was soon brought to justice by The Huntress (secretly Helena Wayne, another partner in the firm) and Arthur Cranston tried to assure Charles that he had nothing to be ashamed of. Youre a lawyer, he said, not a bouncer. The young man was not appeased, however. I have some heavy thinking to do ... about the way Karnages attack is going to CHANGE my life (WW #289). Digging through the firms library, Charles found a fairly complete file on The Huntress in the clippings. Good. I wonder if it has everything I NEED ... (WW #290, by Levitz, Staton and Mike DeCarlo).

Levitzs plans for Charles Bullock were never realized and it fell to his successor, Joey Cavalieri, to resolve the subplot in the latter half of 1982. The Huntressepisode in WW #297 opened with Charles witnessing a pair of hoods harrassing a local grocer. What can we do about it? the old man asked. Were too small to fight them. In the old days, there was The Batman, God rest his soul. He was there to PROTECT people like us. Saw to it slime like that didnt get into the neighborhood. But now, who STANDS up for people like us? What can we do ...? For Charles Bullock, it was a call to arms.

The following evening, a bat-scalloped shadow fell over the thugs, momentarily stopping them — and a concealed Huntress — in their tracks. The source of the shadow was a man in a variation of The Batmans costume — light blue replacing the gray, a more stylized bat chest emblem and utility belt, yellow bands around his wrists and calves and a sharply arched yellow-tipped face mask that evoked bat-ears in silhouette. His dark blue cape functioned as a hang-glider. Stand back! he commanded. NONE may threaten the people of this city while Blackwing stands!

Unhappily, Blackwing was grounded almost immediately when one of the thugs partially shredded his cape/glider. The would-be hero was beaten into unconsciousness and unmasked. Watching from a distance, the Huntress recognized Charles instantly (WW #297, art by Staton and Sal Trapani).

Blackwing was presented to the mastermind behind the gang, a snake charmer of sorts named the Boa. The Huntress crashed the party and was left to the mercies of a boa constrictor as the villains made their exit. Blackwing, whod been feigning unconsciousness, used a dagger to slash the serpent and free the Huntress (WW #298-299, art by Staton and Frank McLaughlin).

I was a top notch lawyer, he explained, but that only gave me a ring-side seat as I watched criminals slide through the revolving door of justice. I felt the need to do something MORE — something lasting! My hero had always been The Batman. The heart of this town nearly quit beating altogether when he died. But then The Huntress swung into action — and I knew in my guts that if SHE could do it — I could, too! (WW #298)

Maybe it was stupid but I became Blackwing to be that symbol for people again ... to restore their pride in Gotham ... and SPUR them to take charge of this city once more. I tried to THINK the way The Batman would. I had the presence of mind to keep my miniature tape recorder in my utility belt running ever since I was kidnapped.

Evidence! The Huntress exclaimed. Good work, Charley. Well nail them YET. You wouldve made The Batman very proud, Charley. Youve certainly made ME proud. The daughter of The Batman captured the Boa and his gang that night (WW #299) but Charles never took to the sky as Blackwing again.

And, yet, history may yet see the Bullock name enshrined as a costumed hero. A Gotham youngster named Charlie Bullock, possibly a namesake cousin of Charles, had crossed paths with Wildcat three years earlier on a late winters evening in 1979. Charlie proved to be a natural fighter and helped the Justice Society member take down a quartet of muggers.

Wildcat realized that kids like Charlie could achieve great things with a little positive reinforcement. Pulling off his mask, Ted Grant introduced himself to Charlie and decided, in that moment, that he would leave his JSA responsibilities to become a mentor to any of the youth in Gotham that he could help. Announcing his leave of absence, Ted noted that SOMEONEs gotta start worrying where the NEXT generation of super-heroes is coming from(ADVENTURE COMICS #464, by Levitz and Staton). Will Charlie Bullock return as the Blackwing of the current DC Universe? Only time — and future issues of JSA — will tell.

The Blade

Another of the Master's clone-slaves, from the Dial H For Hero series in NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY #36-37.

The Blade Master

Although this was another Dial H For Hero villain, from ADVENTURE #482, he wasn't one of the Master's clone-slaves. Instead, this freelance killer worked for the H.I.V.E.. Still hasn't been seen since his debut, though.

The Blood Pack & the Bloodlines Aliens

» SEE: Blood Pack

Blue Damsel Fly

Yet another of the Master's clone-slaves to fight the H-Dialers.

Bob the Galactic Bum

Bob the Galactic Bum was, for lack of a better description, W.C. Fields (or, for you Superman fans, J. Wilbur Wolfingham) in space. With a bulbous red nose, battered top hat and ample belly, Bob moved from port to port, putting his own uniquely loquacious spin on every successive hardship that he and his comrade Buck Fifty encountered. Buck, who possessed a nose of Muppet-like dimensions had a vocabulary that consisted of the phrase "What?"

In the course of 1995's four-part BOB THE GALACTIC BUM series (by Alan Grant & John Wagner and Carlos Ezquera), Bob and Buck became the only survivors of a Khund raid on a space cruiser — save for Chazza, the so-called "idiot prince" of the planet Gazza. While Lobo (prominently featured on each cover) and Stealth searched for Chazza on behalf of the R.E.B.E.L.S., Bob made his way to the world of Gnulp, insulting and mocking Chazza's claims of royalty for the entire trip. Only at the conclusion of #2 did the bum realize his mistake.

Helping Chazza from the pig sty where he'd left him, Bob explained that it had all been a test. "Had I helped you — had I lifted ONE FINGER of assistance — as was my deep desire, I can assure you — you would have been INSTANTLY DISQUALIFIED and barred for life!" Proclaiming Chazza a "Knight of Space," Bob presented the prince with a "beautifully inscribed medal" bearing the phrase "Eat my shorts."

"What does it mean?"

"It's CODE, sire! All will be revealed in one year's time on the anniversary of this initiation."

Bob cemented his relationship with Chazza when he met the prince's guru and challenged "this charlatan to a philosophical debate." As the staredown commenced, Bob explained that "we're conducting this battle on a higher plane. Mind against mind. I'm grappling with him now. One of my theories has just overwhelmed several of his suppositions. Stand by for further news." Predicting that the guru was "verging on total collapse," Bob distracted Chazza and knocked his opponent out cold.

Unfortunately, Bob did too good of a job. Chazza regained the throne but promptly abdicated, moved by Bob's "sacrifice" at giving up the freedom of space for life in a kingdom. "We'll roam the cosmos together, the three of us,"predicted Chazza. "Tumbleweeds adrift on the winds of space."

"I should've trusted my first instinct!" Bob moaned. "He's a king, all right — King Piker!"

Bomba The Jungle Boy

BOMBA: THE CHILDREN'S BOOKS

The Stratemeyer Syndicate produced this 20 volume series from 1926 through 1938. They were written by ghostwriters using the pseudonym "Roy Rockwood". The first ten Bomba the Jungle Boy books tell of his South American adventures and his quest for the discovery of his origins. The second set of ten books take Bomba on adventures set in different locales.

These books were originally released by Grosset & Dunlap from 1926 through 1938. Through the 30's and 40's, they re-issued the series in a number of different formats. The first ten were then re-issued again as a set in 1953. Also in 1953, Clover Books, an imprint of McLoughlin Brothers, marketed the first half of the Bomba titles in a picture cover format. In 1978, Grosset & Dunlap re-issued the first two volumes.

  • #1 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY; or, The Old Naturalist's Secret (1926) — "Separated from his parents since childhood, a young boy, who has been brought up in the jungle by an old naturalist, begins the long search for his true identity." — After Bomba saves the lives of two American rubber hunters, they inquire about this teen-aged boy who lives in the Amazon jungles. This sets Bomba to thinking about who is he and how he had come to the jungle. When his guardian, the old naturalist Cody Casson, gives him a clue as to the identity of his father and mother, Bomba sets off to solve the mystery of his past.
  • #2 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AT THE MOVING MOUNTAIN; or, The Mystery of the Caves of Fire (1926) — "Bomba sets out on a dangerous journey to find the medicine man who can tell him the secret of his origins." — Fourteen year-old Bomba travels many miles through the jungle, and has many encounters with wild beasts and hostile natives. At last, he reaches the Andes Mountains and trails an old man to his caves of fire, learning a little more about his past.
  • #3 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AT THE GIANT CATARACT; or, Chief Nascanora and his Captives (1926) — "Bomba treks through the Amazon jungle to the Island of Snakes to find an old witch who may know the secret of his origins." — Bomba travels to the Giant Cataract, still searching for the secrets of his past. Among the Pilati Indians, he finds an aged woman who had at one time been a great operatic singer. She is the first to give Bomba some real information about his parents.
  • #4 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY ON JAGUAR ISLAND; or, Adrift on the River of Mystery (1927) —??
  • #5 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN THE ABANDONED CITY; or, A Treasure Ten Thousand Years Old (1927) —??
  • #6 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY ON TERROR TRAIL; or, The Mysterious Men from the Sky (1928) —??
  • #7 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN THE SWAMP OF DEATH; or, The Sacred Alligators of Abarago (1929) —??
  • #8 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AMONG THE SLAVES; or, Daring Adventures in the Valley of the Skulls (1929) —??
  • #9 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY ON THE UNDERGROUND RIVER; or, The Cave of Bottomless Pits (1930) —??
  • #10 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AND THE LOST EXPLORERS; or, A Wonderful Revelation (1930) — Bomba's quest to learn the truth about his parents concludes.
  • #11 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN A STRANGE LAND; or, Facing the Unknown (1931) —??
  • #12 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AMONG THE PYGMIES; or, Battling with Stealthy Foes (1931) —??
  • #13 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AND THE CANNIBALS; or, Winning Against Native Dangers (1932) —??
  • #14 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AND THE PAINTED HUNTERS; or, A Long Search Rewarded (1932) —??
  • #15 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AND THE RIVER DEMONS; or, Outwitting the Savage Medicine Man (1933) —??
  • #16 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY AND THE HOSTILE CHIEFTAIN; or, A Hazardous Trek to the Sea (1934) —??
  • #17 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY TRAPPED BY THE CYCLONE; or, Shipwrecked on the Swirling Seas (1935) —??
  • #18 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN THE LAND OF BURNING LAVA; or, Outwitting Superstitious Natives (1936) —??
  • #19 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN THE PERILOUS KINGDOM; or, Braving Strange Hazards (1937) —??
  • #20 BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY IN THE STEAMING GROTTO; or, Victorious Through Flame and Fury (1938) —??

BOMBA: THE MOVIES

In 1949, producer Walter Mirisch began a series of low-budget adventure films based on the popular Bomba story books. He hired Johnny Sheffield, who had played Boy in the Tarzan films, to play the teen-aged jungle boy. There were eight films produced by Mirisch for Monogram between 1949 and 1952, and four more produced by Ford Beebe for Allied Artists between 1953 and 1955.

BOMBA, THE JUNGLE BOY (1949) — Photographer George Harland, and his daughter Pat, arrive in the African jungle to film the exotic wildlife. They are guided by an old friend, Andy Barnes. Pat and her gun-bearer Mufti explore the region called the Great Rift. When Mufti is killed by a leopard, a jungle boy named Bomba appears and kills the dangerous animal. Later that night, Bomba makes an attempt to contact Harland regarding his daughter's whereabouts, but he is wounded when the frantic photographer fires at the jungle boy. Pat accompanies the injured Bomba to his home, a cave overlooking a peaceful jungle paradise. Harland and Barnes, who believe that Bomba has kidnapped Pat, track the jungle boy, but are soon attacked by angry natives. Bomba and Pat arrive, and the youth saves the men from the fierce warriors. Harland discovers that Bomba was raised by an aged naturalist named Cody Casson, who has since died. Although he is offered passage back to civilization, Bomba prefers to remain with his jungle friends.

  • BOMBA ON PANTHER ISLAND (1949) — Bomba battles a deadly black panther and superstitious natives.
  • THE LOST VOLCANO (1950) — Bomba battles people searching for buried treasure.
  • THE HIDDEN CITY (1950) a.k.a. Bomba And The Hidden City — Bomba aides a jungle orphan, who is revealed to be a princess.
  • THE LION HUNTERS (1951) — Bomba attempts to stop a hunting expedition from slaughtering lions on sacred Masai land.
  • BOMBA AND THE ELEPHANT STAMPEDE (1951) a.k.a. The Elephant Stampede — Bomba combats ivory poachers.
  • AFRICAN TREASURE (1952) — Bomba encounters diamond smugglers posing as geologists.
  • BOMBA AND THE JUNGLE GIRL (1952) — With Cody Casson's diary as a starting point, Bomba starts on a quest to discover the true identity of his parents. While on his way to Gamboso's village seeking information about his parents, Bomba rescues Linda Ward from a crocodile. The girl's father is visiting the village to assess the living conditions for the government. A blind native woman named Linasi informs Bomba that his parents were killed by Gamboso's followers and were buried in a cave in the hills. Before she can point the way, she is killed by a poisoned dart fired by Boru, Gamboso's daughter. Bomba is then bound and taken back to the village to be turned over to Ward for the murder. Linda forces his release, and intends to investigate Bomba's claims regarding his parents. Gamboso sends Boru and her warriors to stop the Wards. After ordering her men to torch the jungle, Boru herself becomes trapped by the fire. Bomba and Linda find and rescue Boru, however their only safety lies in a nearby cave. It is there that Bomba discovers the evidence needed to convict Gamboso. Boru tries to kill Bomba and Linda, but after a brief struggle, she runs out of the cave and perishes in the flames. Gamboso is arrested and Linasi's son, Kokoli, is promoted to chief. Bomba returns home, satisfied that justice has been done.
  • SAFARI DRUMS (1953) — Bomba and his animal friends combat a murderous guide.
  • THE GOLDEN IDOL (1954) — Bomba recovers a priceless Watusi statue stolen by evil Arabs.
  • KILLER LEOPARD (1954) — Bomba guides a Hollywood starlet through the jungle in search of her missing husband.
  • LORD OF THE JUNGLE (1955) — Bomba tries to track down a rogue elephant.

BOMBA: THE COMIC BOOKS

From mid-1967 through mid-1968, National Periodicals Publications, Inc. (later DC Comics) published seven bi-monthly comic books based on the adventures of the young jungle boy. They reprinted two of the tales in 1974, but changed the character's name to Simba to avoid copyright infringement.

BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY

  • #1 (Sep-Oct 1967) "The Jaws Of Doom" — Bomba lives in the Amazon jungles of South America. His companions include Doto the spider monkey and Tiki the parrot. Bomba is described as "a white boy, lost in the wilderness as a baby and reared by a scientist explorer, Cody Casson". His faithful friend Gibo brings him news of an attack by the warriors of Jojasta on a party of explorers. Jojasta is an evil medicine man with whom Bomba has clashed before. Jojasta, and a traitor amongst the explorers, are stopped from stealing a treasure from the Incan temple of Xamza.
  • #2 (Nov-Dec 1967) "The Phantom City Of Death!" — The archeologist Prof. Wilson, and his daughter, had hoped to find the legendary City of Gold. His daughter is captured by the warriors of Buo-Buo. While rescuing the girl, Bomba encounters the last tribe of the ancient Incas.
  • #3 (Jan-Feb 1968) "My Enemy ... The Jungle!" — A garbed man claiming to be Viracocha, an ancient god of the Incas, enters the jungle village of San Topa, demanding to rule it's people. Chief Atachi courageously steps forward to oppose him, but is attacked. His daughter, Tina, seeks Bomba's aid. Bomba battles sentient plant-men, eventually learning that they have been tricked by the human posing as Viracocha.
  • #4 (Mar-Apr 1968) "The Deadly Sting Of Ana Conda!" — Tina contacts Bomba when the village of Panqui is destroyed by Ana Conda and his Snakeskin Warriors. Bomba must contend with Tina's temporary loss of memory as he defeats the killers.
  • #5 (May-Jun 1968) "Tampu Loves — Bomba Dies!" — Bomba and Tina travel to a village deep in the rain forest which worships a statue of the evil god Tampu. The statue soon comes to life and threatens the people. Bomba discovers that the medicine man Manco is actually a white man who is using the mechanical statue to gain access to the oil on the land.
  • #6 (Jul-Aug 1968) untitled — Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the people of a South American city engaged in many bizarre experiments. One experiment released a deadly vapor which killed all but the tyrant Krag and his six bodyguards, who escaped but soon fell into a deep state of suspended animation. Over the millennia, the jungles covered the ancient city. Then, one day, Krag is again freed. Bomba battles the tyrant, who wishes to use his power to rebuild his wicked city. After killing Bomba's friend Jobo, Krag flees. Bomba vows to find Krag and make him pay for what he has done.
  • #7 (Sep-Oct 1968) "Nightmare!" — Two people search for and locate Bomba, informing him that they will be returning the jungle boy to civilization whether he wants to go or not. When they show him a number of photos, he recognizes Krag's handiwork in one of them, and agrees to go with them. Before they depart, Bomba is forced to dress in more "proper" attire. When they reach the city, they discover that the residents have been driven insane. Krag has poisoned the water supply. Bomba again stops the evil tyrant, who once again flees. Bomba then returns to his jungle home.

TARZAN

  • #230 (Apr-May 1974) — Reprints BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY #4. Bomba is renamed Simba the Jungle Boy.
  • #231 (Jun-Jul 1974) — Reprints BOMBA THE JUNGLE BOY #3. Bomba is renamed Simba the Jungle Boy.

The Bombardiers

The Bombardiers were Curly McGurk, Swordo and the lovely Red Rogers. In POLICE COMICS #21, they were provided with explosive powers by the Human Bomb and joined in a series of raids on the Japanese army in mid-1943 (#21-22). With #23, the Bomb was back in the States and we never did learn what happened to his partners.

Jim Boone and Bob Colby

Highway patrolmen Bob Colby and Jim Boone helped the alien manhunter Klee Pan thwart the Faceless Creature From Saturn on three occasions between 1960 and 1963 (STRANGE ADVENTURES #124, 142 and 153) and were rewarded with telepathic powers that they chose to conceal for future strategic value.

Bork II

See also: Power Company

The planet Molanto was ruled by a tyrant known as Bork, who wanted to conquer the entire galaxy rather than just his planet. He laid plans to invade the planet Rann, sending Tyron, who was his most powerful warrior. Unfortunately, Tyron was discovered and executed by Rannian security forces as a spy. A wizard on Rann named Mordorh wanted to study the Molantan, as the warrior died in a very strange manner. Molantans, when they die, pass over to another dimension known as the Netherworld, and Mordorh speculated that if a person could reach that dimension, they could revive the dead.

Other Molantan spies brought back that information to Bork, who immediately attempted to revive Tyron. The attempt was more successful than Bork had imagined, as Tyron was now nearly invincible and totally obedient to the tyrant's commands. The discovery also caught the attention of the great Darkseid on Apokolips, finding it to be close to the Anti-Life Equation that he had long been searching for. Bork's agents told him that the process required each resurrection to have a host body, and that Mordorh had the formula key to access the Netherworld. Bork went to Rann with his Black Council to get the formula. Their invasion was ended by the efforts of Adam Strange, the hero from Earth. Adam and Mordorh used a combination of science and sorcery to get rid of the formula, using a Zeta-Beam (which Adam normally used to travel between Earth and Rann) to send the tablet with the formula to Earth, and also sent it back in time.

Bork and his forces set up operations on Earth's moon, and began sending his agents back in time to look for the tablet. He also started testing the resurrection process on dead Earth people, using dead movie stars (including Humphrey Bogart and W.C. Fields), thinking that they wouldn't cause much of a stir on the planet. At the same time, the Guardians of the Universe began making plans to stop him, believing that the situation called for them to take more than a passive role for once. Bork also set up operations on the fifteenth floor of the Galaxy Communications Building, as his ever-increasing dimensional powers allowed him to inhabit the same space as a travel agency without the occupants being aware they were there.

The Guardians allowed a young intern at the Daily Planet, Floyd Perkins, to see the aliens in the travel agency, hoping this would draw Superman into the fray. That didn't, but the resurrection of another Molantan outside the building did, and the Guardians telepathically told Superman of the creature's one weakness, which was that extremely low air pressure sucked the Molantan "demon" from it's host body.

In the meantime, Bork had succeeded in finding the tablet with Mordorh's formula and planned to replace the Earth with Netherworld so he would have a mighty army of slaves to conquer the rest of the universe. The Guardians then contacted Kaz, the chief admiral of Molanto for help. He agreed, and also managed to lure several other of Earth's super-heroes into the battle (including Batman) with some fake clues. He then created a fake alien invasion to rally Earth's defenses together, which would in turn be used against Bork's invasion.

As this was happening, the effects of Bork's "demons" traveling through time were beginning to be felt in the present, and the Guardians again interceded on Earth's behalf, sending numerous heroes into different time periods (including Darwin Jones, Detective Chimp, Adam Strange, Uncle Sam, Thunderbolt, and Jimmy Olsen) where they might be able to right things, but the side effects of Bork's search began to create bizarre alternate realities, including one in which the Nazis had won the second World War.

The fabric of reality was beginning to weaken substantially, and Bork was ready to start the merger of Netherworld and Earth, when Darkseid appeared and told him that, in fact, he was responsible for weakening the space-time continuum. Bork reminded him that it was he who had located Mordorh's formula and that they could share the universe, but of course, Darkseid does not share. He destroyed Bork with a powerful energy blast from his eyes (though it did not appear to be his Omega Effect).

Appearances:

  • DC Challenge #1-3, 8-12

The Bottler

Hal Jordan, super-villain. If you want a phrase guaranteed to generate controversy among Green Lantern fans, that's the one to use. And yet, back in 1966, Hal's own Uncle Titus was suggesting that very thing.

Multi-millionaire architect Titus Thomas Jordan was "far and away the richest member of the Jordan clan," complete with "his own private airfield — and golf course," a butler named Givens and a chauffeur named Williams. Unfortunately, the public also regarded T.T. as the meanest member of the family, joking that "the initials stand for 'Terrible Temper' Jordan."

Titus approached his nephew with the challenge of using Jim Jordan's new public relations agency to correct his image as an ogre. Unknown to the young man, however, Titus had also been enlisted by Jim's wife, Susan, to prove that her husband was Green Lantern. "If a nephew of mine is really Green Lantern," he thought, "I want to know it. They can't keep secrets like THAT from ME!"

At a family gathering at his estate that weekend, Titus hosted Sue, Jim and brothers Jack and Hal for a reunion. With Jim escorted to the library to select photographs for his uncle's promotional campaign, Titus laid out the plan for the rest of the family. "I've created one of those super-criminals that Green Lantern is always fighting, complete with a snazzy uniform. One of us will pose as this phony criminal — and I've decided it will be YOU, Hal."

"ME? But I'm — er — not the type."

"DAD BLAST IT! Are you going to spoil everything now by arguing with me?"

Hal finally agreed but he blanched when he saw what he was supposed to wear. The costume of the Bottler was in shades of light and dark orange and the bottle motif was everywhere, from stems on the gloves and boots to icons on his chest and cowl to miniature flasks on the belt. Hal's reaction had nothing to do with the design, though. As Green Lantern (the REAL one), he'd crossed paths with the supposedly imaginary villain on the previous night.

When he interrupted the Bottler's warehouse heist, GL discovered that each flask on his belt contained a different threat, from explosives used to open a safe to knockout gas that rendered the Emerald Gladiator unconscious. Hal realized that playing along with Uncle Titus' game might flush out the real Bottler and he headed for the library to "'break in' and start 'robbing.'" Intent on his mission, Hal never saw the weighted bottle coming for his head and collapsed to the ground. "We can do without YOU in this plot," observed his assailant. "Why use a FAKE Bottler when the REAL ONE is ready for action!"

Elsewhere, Jim told Sue that he'd already figured out what she and Titus were up to and strolled off to talk to the man he saw climbing in a window. Tapping the prowler on the shoulder, a smiling Jim said, "Hold it! I know who you are." The Bottler grabbed him by the jacket and pulled back his arm even as the young man laughed. "Oh, stop the pretense, Hal. I know you wouldn't lay a finger on me — !"

"Not a finger — but my whole fist, chump!"

So much for Jim.

Inside, Titus handed over his collection of stamp rarities to "Hal,"complaining that his decision to tie him and Jack to their chairs was "going too far!" Green Lantern, sporting a nice goose-egg on the back on his head, agreed and flew into the room to wrap things up. After smothering one of the rogue's flask explosives in an energy sphere, Hal fired an enormous projectile at his foe. "One way to deal with a human bottle — is by a giant bowling ball. And I claim a STRIKE!"

The unmasked thief was exposed as Titus' driver Williams. "He learned of the imaginary criminal you created, Mr. Jordan," GL speculated, "so he decided to put your idea into actual practice. He became the Bottler in real life. I guess he was fed up being a chauffeur. No doubt he thought he saw an easy road to riches — but it only turned out to be a path to jail."

While Green Lantern hauled the Bottler off to jail, his bruised brother was receiving virtually no sympathy from his wife. Sue was convinced that Jim had faked being struck and slipped off to become the Emerald Crusader. "And that ice bag. As if YOU needed it!"

Even if his bride wasn't convinced, Jim believed he could use his uncle's embarrassment over the incident to prevent Titus from arguing with his solution to his publicity woes. "The truth is, Uncle Titus, that you DO have a terrible temper. And you'll never get the public to like you unless you can control yourself."

The p.r. man let out a sigh of relief when Titus responded. "James, you're the first one who ever had the courage to tell me that to my face! And you know something, I think you've done me a good turn. I'm going to double your fee. And I am going to control my temper — you watch" (GREEN LANTERN #44, by John Broome, Gil Kane and Sid Greene).

Whatever his intentions, Titus never quite triumphed over his temper, at least at family gatherings (1969's GL #71 and 1992's GL #36). Susan Williams Jordan, though, finally acquiesced to reality and gave up on the emerald theory about her husband (1977's GL #101). As for Williams (no relation to Sue), one presumes that the Bottler is still on a shelf in a California prison.

The Bounty Hunter I

While investigating the case of a murder (Walter Briscoe was thrown out of a skyscraper) Batman discovered a list of six names of prospective victims (as well as getting some information from one of his stoolies), and decided that the Bounty Hunter was back in town on an extended contract. Batman believed that the list named the hitman's victims. The final two names on the list were Sapphire Stagg and Bruce Wayne. After a warning from Batman, billionaire scientist Simon Stagg awoke Rex Mason, also known as Metamorpho the Element Man, from the chemical bath that he had been soaking in for several years in hopes of curing his freakish condition. Metamorpho was angry with Stagg, but when Stagg told him the situation, he agreed that Stagg's daughter needed protection. While she was glad to see her lover again, Sapphire didn't want to be pinned down by anyone, not even with Batman's warning. Meanwhile, Batman and Commissioner Gordon had been trying to warn and offer protection to the other people on the Bounty Hunter's list. Unfortunately, while Batman was watching financier Harlan Twiss at a boxing match, the Bounty Hunter took out Mrs. Emmaline Van Prell, with a sabotaged hair dryer. Batman could not find a link between any of the victims, besides their obvious wealth.

Batman was making himself visible around Gotham City that evening as Bruce Wayne, hoping to lure the Bounty Hunter out after him instead of one of the other potential victims. Sapphire Stagg was also out, having escaped her house (and Metamorpho). After a brief and profitable run at an illegal crap table, a man who wanted to shake her hand accosted Sapphire. His hand and arm came off in her hand, causing the lovely blonde to faint. Luckily, Metamorpho had tracked her down and enveloped the fake arm with his body, which exploded. Once again however, Sapphire gave him the slip, as she was getting a real kick out of being pursued both by Rex and a killer. Meanwhile, Stagg alerted Batman of the attempt on Sapphire's life. Batman decided that since Metamorpho was guarding her and the police were guarding the remaining people on the Bounty Hunter's list, he could take the evening off to keep an appointment in the country that Alfred reminded him of.

Sapphire Stagg arrived at the Fairbairn estate, where she was met by the brothers Conrad and Derwent Fairbairn. They were selling the estate to consolidate their finances, and one of the stipulations was that all of the bidders had to be present when the sealed bids were opened at midnight that evening. Derwent showed Sapphire the house, and shortly afterward Bruce Wayne also showed up as another of the bidders. Derwent showed Bruce into one of the rooms, locking him inside. Sapphire found herself locked in the family crypt. At the same time, the late Walter Briscoe showed up, and Conrad was very anxious because with both Sapphire and Bruce missing, he would be the winning bidder by default. Derwent told him that there would, in fact, be no bidders, as Mr. Briscoe was The Bounty Hunter, a specialist he had hired to prevent anyone from bidding. The deranged Derwent chloroformed his brother, believing he was selling out the family ideals by selling the estate, and then went to kill Bruce and Sapphire.

Bruce had changed into Batman and had managed to find Sapphire by traversing the mansion's air vents. Metamorpho had likewise tracked down his girl, following the carbon monoxide trail of her car to the Fairbairn estate. They escaped from the crypt and headed upstairs, with Rex leading the way as invisible hydrogen gas. He couldn't find Derwent or the Bounty Hunter, who had headed down to the crypt after no one was found in the room Bruce had been secured in. Upon not finding Sapphire in the crypt, the Bounty Hunter turned on Derwent, believing that he was double-crossing the assassin. Batman attacked, but not before the Bounty Hunter killed Derwent. After a brief but furious fight (in which the Bounty Hunter was nearly beating Batman), Sapphire stumbled into the fray and was taken captive by the Bounty Hunter. Warning off both Batman and Metamorpho, the Bounty Hunter drove off with Sapphire, throwing her out of the car a short distance down the road. Luckily, Metamorpho was trailing the vehicle and caught his lover in a calcium chair.

Back at the Fairbairn estate, Conrad decided to try and keep the mansion to honor the memory and feelings of his dead brother, Sapphire was irate because she thought the mansion should be hers because she was the only bidder left, and Batman was lost in thought wondering about when next he would encounter ––and stop––the Bounty Hunter.

Appearances:

  • The Brave And The Bold #101

The Bounty Hunter II

The list calls him an agent of the Master, but I don't recall him having any ties to that villain. As I recall the story, from ADVENTURE #484, he was a freelance killer who was hired by a mob boss to go after Chris King's dad, to keep him from testifying at the mobster's trial. The Dial H duo made short work of him and his robotic ally, the Pupil.

Brother Power, The Geek

A mannequin brought to life through some arcane means that I don't really understand, this offbeat character had his own book for two issues in the 1960's and then didn't appear again until SWAMP THING ANNUAL #5. At that time, he was "revealed" to be a "doll elemental" that could manifest himself in any mannequin, puppet, or other false representation of man (including the figures on a deck of playing cards). His last appearance was in the Vertigo 2000 one-shot TOTEMS, though he didn't play a major role.

The Buddak

Written by Richard Meyer

While searching for a solution to his vulnerability to magic, Superman decided to pay Doctor Fate a visit on Earth-Two to see if he could make him proof against sorcery. At the time of his arrival, Doctor Fate was in his secret identity of Dr. Kent Nelson, and treating a very strange case in the emergency ward of the Weatherby Free Clinic–an alien! The alien had been sitting in mid-air over the city after he was hit by the wing of a low-flying airplane. The alien had telepathically moaned that "Earth is doomed" and the two heroes decided to investigate further, with Doctor Fate using his Sacred Crystal to attempt to probe further into the alien's psyche. The probe revealed two places: Stonehenge and an old Mayan Temple in the Yucatan Jungle.

The heroes split up to investigate, and Doctor Fate discovered another alien floating in the air above the temple in the Yucatan. After trying to communicate with the alien, the plants of the jungle below attacked the sorcerer, but his magicks protected him from harm. The alien disappeared soon after, saying that his task there was done. Superman encountered a similar alien floating above Stonehenge, who created a colossus of sand to restrain the Man of Steel. Superman's heat vision fused the sand creature into breakable glass, but this alien also got away before Superman could capture him.

On the way back to Doctor Fate's tower in Salem, both heroes had to stop many times to help save lives and prevent damage as a flurry of earthquakes and tidal waves wracked the planet. Doctor Fate again tried to probe the unconscious mind of the alien from the hospital, and this time was successful. Ghan Uu, was a of The Buddak, who were the "high lamas of a star-spawned race that is older even than time–and space". For untold ages, they had sought the bliss of nirvana that came with the true liberation of the mind, and had finally found the means to achieve it when the planet Earth orbited into a perfect cosmic conjunction. They had discovered, through their mystic science, that if they were to move the land masses of Earth into each other, the resultant destruction would create "the ultimate energy", and by being bathed in that energy, the full capabilities of their minds would finally be opened to them. Doctor Fate told the Man of Steel that the time for confrontation had come, and they had to head for the focal point of the problem, which was in the Lost Valley of Ur.

Doctor Fate had literally begun his career in the Valley of Ur, and the heroes discovered the two Buddaks they had fought there, along with the alien from Doctor Fate's tower, enclosed in a globe of force that the two could not penetrate. Doctor Fate summoned his Crystal from his Tower and used it to empower Superman's invulnerable body with his own occult powers, hoping that the combination would be strong enough to get past the aliens' defenses. The "black magic" of the Buddaks couldn't affect the mystically-powered Kryptonian to any great degree, and he was able to punch their shield, which caused an explosion that made their sorcerous abilities backfire, causing them to disappear (and apparently killing them in the process). Superman was unable to prevent the continents from impacting together from the lingering effects of the Buddaks' magic, but Doctor Fate supplied him with a set of magical chains to pull the planet's land masses (North and South America, at least) from their collision courses.

Once the balance was restored, Doctor Fate told Superman that he could indeed make him immune to the effects of magic, but the Man of Steel had second thoughts, since if he had been invulnerable to magic, they couldn't have defeated the Buddaks.

Appearances:

  • World's Finest Comics #208

Bug-Eyed Bandit

Written by Scott Fulker

Bertram Larvan was a brilliant entomologist and robotics expert who was determined to build a miniature insect robot whose job would be to rid the world of pests. Pitching his brilliant concept to the banks proved to be impossible, as no one would lend money to him. Frustrated but still determined, Bert continued to work on his invention with a single-mindedness that cost him his fiancee, Alice Morse. Eventually, his work paid off and he was able to create his prototype, a nearly perfect robotic insect, capable of performing pest control and much, much more.

Jaded by the world's rejection of him, Bert decided to make the world pay for what they had done to him. Outfitting his robotic insect with weaponry that imitated real-life insects, Bert set out on a life of crime. His first job was a simple payroll heist that turned out to be anything but simple. Stealing the combination to the safe at Rogers Imports by using a knockout gas from his insect on owner Clifford Rogers, Bert used his insect's robotic arm to steal the wallet from Rogers. He was then able to pluck the combination to the safe from Roger's wallet and easily break into the office and steal the $100K from the safe. Everything would have worked out perfectly, if Ray Palmer had not decided to investigate. Being called in by Police Chief Baxter to examine Roger's condition at the hospital, where he ended up, Ray decides to look into Roger's place of business before heading home that night. Almost coincidentally, Ray runs into Bert as he exits the building holding a huge bagful of cash. Noting the mechanical insect circling above Bert's head, he deduces that this is the man he's looking for and quickly (while no one is looking) switches to the Atom.

The fight between Atom and robot insect is furious and Ray almost manages to win, but Bert is concerned about his invention and ultimately calls it back after Ray has damaged it. Bert drives away too fast for the Atom to pursue, although he manages to secure a small blade from the robot insect for study. Back at the lab, Ray begins to notice the blade twitching as Bert sends his insect off on another heist. Allowing the blade to pull him, the Atom is drawn to the home of a retired jewel collector, Ivar Norbert. Sure enough, he spots the robot insect, fully repaired, and in the process of stealing some priceless gems. The Atom manages to stop the theft, but cannot catch the bug or thief.

But something odd happens during the fight. Larvan notices an odd energy reading on his insect monitor everytime the Atom changes size or weight. Using his own brilliant powers of deduction, he is able to improve his monitor so that he can discern the Atom's special energy signature from other energy. When Ray runs into Alice Thayer nee Morse at a party and figures out where Bert lives, he decides to visit as a fellow scientist. Bert detects the Atom's energy signature at the front door, and determines that Ray Palmer is the Atom. Sending his robot bug to pursue Ray after he leaves, he nearly succeeds in killing Ray. Bert monitors the whole incident, where Jean Loring saves Ray's life. Traumatized, she immediately tells Ray to propose. Stunned, he does and after hundreds of rejections–she says "yes". However, Bert thinks that Jean is his former girl Alice and is incensed to destroy Ray Palmer and the Atom.

The Atom returns to Bert's home later and immediately runs into a trap. After another furious fight with the bug, Ray manages to evade the trap, but discovers that the Bug-Eyed Bandit now knows his secret identity. Larvan is hit by the Atom riding his bug, and accidentally triggers his amnesia spray. Waking later, he remembers nothing including the secret identity of the Atom. Larvan goes to jail, and Ray and Jean celebrate the engagement that would last for what seems like forever.

Appearances:

  • The Atom #26 (origin)
  • The Atom #33
  • World's Finest Comics #260
  • Crisis On Infinite Earths #9, #12 (deceased as of Crisis)

Aaron Burr

Here is an obscure character in comics — but not in American history:

In the DC Universe, the third vice-president of the United States is not only alive but living in outer space.

This was shown in the Green Lantern back features that used to appear in THE FLASH after Hal lost his own book.

In FLASH #230-231 (published sometime in the 1970s), Jordan sees a trainload of exhibits for the forthcoming Bicentennial being hijacked into space by robots disguised as American colonists.

He tracks the robots to their mothership and finds Aaron Burr, still in 1700s garb, sitting inside, mastermind of the whole affair. Thinking Burr is a robot like all the others, he agrees to an old-fashioned "duel" and then tries to short circuit Burr, only to find out he is the real thing.

Burr then recounts how he was taken into outer space the day before his historic duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804. The inhabitants of a strife-ridden world needed a statesman to lead them and of all the people in the universe, they chose Burr.

A duplicating machine created a perfect copy of Burr which was sent back to Earth in his place, to take part in the duel with Hamilton.

Since that time, Burr has been reforming the alien society while being kept young by their technology.

Aaron says he borrowed the Bicentennial exhibit because he was homesick and just wanted to see some artifacts of his own era.

A huge, hulking, artificial life-form/manservant of Burr's then tries to assassinate him under the command of some reactionary cabal on the alien planet. Hal naturally saves Burr. He then takes Burr back to Earth for a last look at his old home. A tearful Burr recalls how much he missed the Earth but he is needed at his new home so he returns to space.

This story, by Denny O'Neil and Dick Dillin, was clearly intended to tap into the interest in the Bicentennial which was just about one or two years away.

What makes it odd is the choice of Aaron Burr, of all American figures, as being the supposed great reformer who can singlehandedly save an alien culture.

In history, Burr is highly controversial for secessionist plots and his great ambition. Not to mention, his killing of Hamilton in a duel. Jefferson and Washington both didn't like him. Some people even see Burr as a would-be tyrant, yet Denny O'Neil, the flaming liberal of comics in the 70s, makes Burr the hero of this story, depicting him as wise, selfless, and compassionate.

I wonder why Denny didn't choose Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin or John Adams or any of the other founding fathers?

Oh well. Liberals seem to like Burr. Gore Vidal seemed enarmoured of Aaron Burr too.

B'wana Beast and Freedom Beast

B'wana Beast was Michael Maxwell, who first appeared in SHOWCASE #66. Formerly a game preserve ranger in Africa, he ran afoul of poachers and almost died until he drank some magically enhanced water that gave him super-strength, and found a supernatural helmet that allowed him to merge any two animals into a new beast with all the strengths of both. He eventually went nuts and was taken down by Animal Man, and the helmet was taken from him; however, he retained his other powers and later returned as the Antagon. IIRC, he died in a second clash with Animal Man.

The Freedom Beast is Dominic Mndawe, who debuted in ANIMAL MAN #13. It is he who has inherited the B'wana Beast helmet, but he uses it mostly to communicate telepathically with animals and not to merge them, which he finds obscene.

Original text copyright DC Comics unless otherwise noted. Used without permission.