Obscure DC Characters: N

Nasthalthia

"Zow! What's THAT?" the pretty co-ed yelped. "Not WHAT," said Linda Danvers, "Who?"

And with that, comic fans were introduced to Nasthalthia, better known as Nasty, the niece of Lex Luthor.

ADVENTURE COMICS had been Supergirl's home title for several years, and Kara's adventures were typical of the Super titles of the time - typical Supergirl stories of the time had lots of "twist" endings, lots of aliens, and lots of mild college adventures on the campus of Stanhope College for our favorite Girl of Steel.

And then came Mike Sekowsky.

Mr. Sekowsky had recently successfully revamped Wonder Woman, DC's top female character. Now he was given a shot at DC's other female star. With ADVENTURE #497, Sekowsky's revamp of Supergirl was started. In the issue's main story "Now...Comes Zond", Supergirl teamed up with the non-superpowered martial artist Diana Prince and Morgana, the manic-depressive witch who previously appeared in Wonder Woman. In it, Supergirl's costume is shredded (through magic), and she receives a new costume from Diana Prince's boutique. The issue's back-up story, "Meet Nasty," introduced us to a new character and villainess for Supergirl: Nasty.

In "a house not far away from the campus of Stanhope College..we find our mysterious friend from page one talking an old enemy of Supergirl — Lex Luthor". Luthor, and his raven haired nymphet niece Nasthalthia (pronounced Nas-THAL-thee-uh) plot to have Nasty infiltrate the campus of Stanhope to discover Supergirl's secret ID. Once it is uncovered, Luthor plans to catch Supergirl off-guard and shoot her with Kryptonite tipped bullets.

"First HER - then I have plans for those other Super-Freaks! Then - the world is MINE!" Luthor crowed."OURS, Uncle, OURS!" Nasty cooed.

(On that note, I want to mention how extremely CREEPY this first page is. Nasty is established as Luthor's niece, but the sexual tension between them in palpable. Check out how Nasty is posed throughout if you get the chance.)

Nasty quickly puts a gang together ("Nasty's Nasties") to terrorize the campus and draw Supergirl out of hiding. The gang frightens pedestrians with their motorbikes, steals a student's watch, and generally make life hell for the Stanhope students. Supergirl uses her superhearing to listen in on a conversation of Nasty's and learns of the link between Nasty and Luthor, and where Luthor's latest lair is. She flies straight there and captures Luthor without incident (in two panels - this will be important in a moment), then races off to confront Nasty and her gang at the local amusement park. Supergirl quickly captures Nasty and her gang (in four pages. - it was harder for Supergirl to capture Nasty than to capture Luthor. Think about it.), who end up in pool of water, "but perhaps Supergirl would have done well to look back, for then her super hearing would have overheard 'I understand you, Supergirl! Next time, you won't be so lucky! And I promise you, there WILL be a next time.'"

Nasty took a few issues off (and it's a good thing too - she missed having to appear in Adventure #400, one of the most continuity mistake laden comics EVER) and her next appearance wasn't even a real one.

In ADVENTURE #401's "The Frightened Supergirl," Supergirl is drugged by Bumphy (one of Nasty's Nasties) which causes Supergirl to be deathly afraid of EVERYTHING. Supergirl eventually becomes so addled that she accepts Nasty as her only friend. Nasty takes her back to Luthor's hideout, where she is tortured by mice and a toy car. Supergirl eventually becomes so afraid that lashes out wisely and destroys everything in site, until she becomes so frightened that she...

Wakes up. It was all a dream of Linda (Supergirl) Danvers.

The oddity of this issue (and any comic that Mike Sekowsky wrote was FILLED with wonderful oddities) was the Nasty narrated the tale up until Linda woke up, but it turns out Linda dreamed it all.

In this issue's letter column, it was explained that Luthor has an older sister (his younger sister had already been introduced, Lena Thorul Colby) - "one who married a European gentleman and has been living abroad. Lena Colby is unaware of this sister's existence because her parents had disapproved of their elder daughter's early marriage, and had no communication with her when they were killed in an accident. So Lena knows nothing of her niece, Nasty, or of her brother, Lex." We never met Nasty's parents in an actual story, though. We also never learned Nasty's last name. One letter writer suggested "Nemsis", as in a variation of the word nemesis. The writers never incorporated THAT into the story either (thank G-d). Throughout the entire series she was referred to only as Nasthalthia or Nasty.

And with that, Nasty again took another couple of issues off. While she was gone, Linda was slipped a pill by a scientist that caused her powers to fade and disappear at odd intervals. Supergirl would never know when her powers would suddenly disappear, so several Kandorian scientists allow her to compensate for her loss with rocket boots and an exo-skeleta-cyborg. These issues also introduced the other recurring villainess of the series, Starfire, a female crime boss who seemed suspiciously like WW's Dr. Cyber, another Sekowsky creation.

Nasty returned with a bang in Adventure #406's "Suspicion". The day had finally arrived and Linda Danvers (and presumably Nasthalthia) graduated from Stanhope College. The day was marred, however, by protestors, and the scheduled speaker, Supergirl, was unable to go on. Supergirl rushed back to her dorm to change back to Linda to meet her adoptive parents.

"Supergirl going into Linda Danvers' room? I'll hang around a bit, I think," Nasty thought as she lurked around Linda's dorm. Seconds later, Linda strolled out of the room. Nasty was thrilled! She had discovered the secret - Linda Danvers was Supergirl. Now she just had to have concrete proof.

The protests were in full force on campus that day (a nice, comic piece had three protestors holding signs - "Free Rocco Caridi", "Who's Rocco Caridi?", and "Who Cares - Free Him!") and the graduates are unable to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. Linda enjoys a nice evening with her adoptive parents, then heads to Metropolis to begin a new life. "Linda Danvers or Supergirl," Nasty thinks, "I'm going to stick to you like a leech from now on." Unfortunately, there are no job opening in Metropolis at the moment, so Linda calls her cousin Clark from a phone booth. In the adjacent phone booth Nasty listens in as Clark informs Linda about two job openings at KSF-TV, Galaxy Broadcasting's San Francisco affiliate. Clark puts in a good word for Linda, while Nasty calls her uncle to arrange a cross-country trip.

Linda gets the job as a camera operator and meets her coworker Johnny Drew (the brown headed one) and boss Geoffrey Anderson (red haired and mustachioed). Linda was surprised to learn that the other camera operator position had been filled by her old college "chum," Nasty.. "You remember those wonderful days at Stanhope and all the fun we had together, Linda? I know we'll get along great." Linda held her tongue, something she was going to do quite a bit in the days (and issues) to come. Nasty made a mental note that Linda seemed to have a crush on Geoff, and, in her words, "a girl in love makes mistakes".

Later, a fire breaks out and the crew rush to film it. Linda changes to Supergirl, but her powers pick that moment to fade. Linda is severely burned and injured, but the paramedics arrive and strap her to a gurney to take her to the hospital. Nasty, Geoff, and Johnny express concern, but Nasty is secretly happy, as Linda will be revealed when her powers return and her burns heal super quickly. Luckily (in ADVENTURE #407's "Suspicion Confirmed") the hospital is so crowded that Linda is able to run away without being noticed. Nasty noticed that Linda was back to normal the next day. The crew eventually discovered the person behind the fires and other problems plaguing the city (it was Dr. Cyber... whoops... I mean Starfire and the scientist who took away Supergirl's powers). Nasty continued to suspect Linda, but, since she had no concrete proof, couldn't proceed any further.

And with that, Nasty's role in the series was cemented. She'd show up, needle Linda at the office, state her suspicions, and try to catch Linda in the act of changing to Supergirl. Linda summed her relationship to Nasty by telling Johnny that "Oh, it's just a jealousy thing from our school days at Stanhope..." Nasty missed Sekowsky's last two issues, ADVENTURE's #408 and 409, although Linda DID think about how nice it was that she wasn't around.

One of the nice things about Sekowsky's run was that broke all the molds of a typical Supergirl story. Supergirl FINALLY graduated college, moved to a real US city, had her powers lessened, and finally, received a complete closet full of different costumes, many of which were designed by the fans.

In ADVENTURE #410, Sekowsky's free-wheeling, rather surrealistic style gave way to the more solid team of John Albano writing and Bob Oskner pencilling. The issue opens with Nasty trying to convince Linda to become her roommate. Nasty, of course, had an ulterior motive - to constantly spy on Linda. Suddenly, giant bird creatures attack the man in the next apartment. Linda sneaks out, switches to Supergirl, fights the creatures. The fight continues onto the streets, and, of course, Supergirl wins. She turns back to Linda, returns to the apartment to find Nasty taking care of the man, who had been knocked unconscious. Nasty takes credit for saving him, so he gratefully asks her out, then infuriates her by asking Linda to join them. On the "Date" Mike Merrick takes a shine to Linda and dances with her much to Nasty's dismay. Nasty leaves the club and the story. Good thing, too, since soon after Mike and Linda were abducted by the evil bird creatures and Mike turns out to be a criminal (who inadvertently learns Linda's secret). ("The Nature of the Beast") Linda may not have wanted Nasty for a roommate, but she gained one (for a few issues at least) in the form of a young superpowered alien named Judy. (410's backup story "The Ruler Without a Planet")

Nasty appears on the first page on ADVENTURE #411 ("The Alien Among Us") attempting to follow Linda on a job in order to expose her identity. Geoff gives her some more typing to do (oh I love the 60s) so she can't go. In #412 (The Battle for Survival") Nasty shows a somewhat compassionate side - while downtown, she witnesses Supergirl stealing from an art gallery! She phones KSF-TV and speaks to Linda - but wait! Isn't Linda Supergirl? Now Nasty's really confused! Suddenly strange alien bugs start to attack a policeman and Nasty thinks "Great Scott! What if those strange insects are poisonous..." (Well, I said "somewhat compassionate.") The KSF-TV crew arrives and starts to film. Another Supergirl robbery is reported across town, Linda is sent to investigate while Nasty is ordered to stay. And she stays out of the rest of the story. (The OTHER Supergirl is an alien trying to attract the real Supergirl so as to get her help.)

Nasty is absent until ADVENTURE #418's "The Face of the Dragon," where she launches one of her most ambitious plans. Nasty hires private eye Johnny Double. While in his office, Nasty explains that someone is trying to kill her and shots riddle Double's office from across the street. Nasty says she thinks she knows who the sniper is -Linda Danvers! Johnny Double accepts the job of trailing Linda. Nasty, of course, staged the entire incident. At issues end (and after an encounter between Supergirl and Dr. Tzin-tzin in San Francisco's Chinatown), Johnny tells Nasty that he KNOWS that she arranged the sniper attack and that Nasty and Linda work together. He goes on to say what a decent "chick" Linda is. Nasty storms out, adding Double to her mental s-list. And, since Nasty was involved in the story, she did what she always did in such cases - she takes a few issues off.

Nasty returned for Supergirl's final story in Adventure before graduating to her own title. Fittingly enough, she is also responsible for the next phase in Supergirl's life.

In ADVENTURE #424's "Crypt of the Frozen Graves," Linda is investigating the local crime syndicate. She's also becoming more frustrated in her job, as Geoff tells her "You may not be the best camera operator we have around here, but these freelance news articles you've been writing are great!" Nasty, however, thinks "So.. Danvers has FINALLY found a way to get back on Geoff's good side! She's after the same promotion I want! But I think I know a way I can bust up this new career of hers and get her out of the running!" She informs the mob about Linda's information source, who is murdered. Linda is heart broken, so, of course, Nasty decided to rub it in:

"Trying to figure some way you can get out of working today."

Linda Danvers had had enough. "That's it! Just lay off, fat mouth! I'm not ABOUT to take any flak from you! Not today!"

"You really ARE in a bad mood, aren't you?" Nasty smirked. "Could it be that the source of your information for you articles has been eliminated?"

"YOU had something to do with Bruce getting killed? You told the syndicate that Bruce was the informer!" Linda lunged at Nasty. "You've gone too far this time!"

"Johnny! Geoff! Help me! She's gone crazy!"

What's happening, Linda thought as she was pulled away by her boss. I can't even control my emotions anymore.

Unfortunately for catfight fans, the syndicate chose that moment to bust in and capture the entire KSF-TV crew. Supergirl eventually discovers that the syndicate was freezing bodies and expelling them into space, so that there were no bodies of syndicate victims on Earth. On the story's last page, Linda goes to her office and is late again. Geoff offers her an assignment, but Linda has had enough.

"Give it to Nasty! You've always preferred her work to mine, anyway! Meanwhile, I've got something for you - a little notice stating that I quit as of right now! If you want me to stay the traditional two weeks -FORGET IT!! I'm leaving now!"

"Now wait a minute! You CAN'T just..."

"Oh yes I can!" Linda cut her boss short. "I'm sick of the whole rotten news business! My articles and the articles of your favorite camera operator cost a man his life! That's enough for me! I've got better things to do with my life than stay in a business that exploits people!"

Linda slammed the door on one phase of her life and set out to begin a new one.

Personally, I really like the character of Nasty. She's not a typical supporting character and is highly entertaining. She wasn't overexposed, but she wasn't used to her potential either.

With the current resurgence in Silver Age nostalgia in current stories, I think it'd be great if Nasty came back. Of course, if the name "Nasty" seems too silly, she could be called "Nasthalthia" exclusively with "Thia" as a nickname Instead of Luthor's niece (the current Luthor has no siblings.), she could be brought back as one of Lex's step-children. Lex has been married seven or eight times, so it's highly likely that at least one of those women had prior children. Nasty could have worshipped her step-father and is devastated when her mom divorces him. To tie her into Supergirl, she could even be the daughter of Liz Persky, who was Supergirl's mentor for a time. Instead of turning out like her philanthropic mother, she could be modeling herself after Lex, especially now that he's President. I think it could work.

Sorry, that version left off several appearances I added in later drafts:

Nasty appeared on the first page of ADVENTURE #411 ("The Alien Among Us"), attempting to follow Linda on a job assignment in order to expose her identity. Geoff gives her some more typing to do (God, how I love the 60s), so's she's unable to leave.

In ADVENTURE #422, Nasty pops up to call Linda a "goof up" and to ask Geoff out to lunch.

And, lastly, Nasty actually accomplishes what scores of other villains weren't able to do — relegate Kara to second stringer status for over twenty years. After leaving ADVENTURE, Supergirl graduated to her own title, which lasted only ten issues (read them and you'll know why — they have a slightly goofy Prez-like charm to them, but overall the series is pretty weak), then moved to SUPERMAN FAMILY, where she had short confusing stories for several years. Then, of course, came THE DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL (or, as it was known to some, "None of the Above"). It wasn't until Peter David's reinterpretation of the character that Supergirl achieved respectable sales figures and critical acclaim again.

New Gods

Many obscure Fourth World characters can be found in the New Gods Library: http://fastbak.tripod.com/charlist.htm

Nighthawk and Cinnamon

The recent HAWKMAN [4th series] #7 tells the story of the first meeting between two of DCs old western characters, Nighthawk and Cinnamon. During 1994s Zero Hour crossover event, it was revealed that Nighthawk was an incarnation of Khufu, the Egyptian prince who would one day be reborn as Carter Hall, the Golden Age Hawkman (This much-maligned story also introduced the hawk avatar aspect and merged Hall with the Hawkworld version of Katar Hol). The new story reveals that Cinnamon is the reincarnation of Chay-Ara, Khufus beloved who would be reborn again as the first Hawkgirl.

Nighthawk first appeared in WESTERN COMICS #5 (Sep-Oct 1948) in a tale drawn by Charles Paris. The writer, according to the Grand Comics Database, is unknown.

WHOS WHO vol. XVI (June 1986) says Nighthawk (who originally had a definitive the in front of his name, ala the Bat-Man) appeared mysteriously out of the East atop the black stallion Nightwind. His civilian guise was that of traveling fix-it man Hannibal Hawkes. He worked mostly in the Arizona Territory.

For a while, he traveled with a young boy named Jim Peyton, whose family had been killed by outlaws. After leaving Jim in the care of Miss Pritchett, a school marm, he rode alone again, spending more time in his masked identity and less as Hawkes.

At some point, after he had all but abandoned his civilian ID, Nighthawk encountered Greg Saunders, the Golden Age Vigilante, who had been sent to the old west during the fateful encounter between the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the Nebula Man. Saunders spoke of the future and he also spoke of St. Roch, La., a wide-open town that held an appeal for Hawkes. In a saloon, he met Gentleman Jim Craddock (future Hawkman foe, the Gentleman Ghost, who may or may not have already been dead at this point), who told Nighthawk that an innocent man was about to be lynched.

Cyrus Evans was a former slave whose elderly employer, Bois Garvey, had been murdered. Garvey had named Evans his sole heir in hopes the younger man would set up a museum with his valuable possessions. This left his grasping niece, Matida Dunney, with nothing. Dunney, who may have had Garvey killed, stirred up the community with claims that Evans had killed Garvey. Then, after his arrest, she brought in hired guns to break him out of jail and hang him.

Cinnamon is of much more recent vintage, having first appeared in WEIRD WESTERN TALES #48 and 49 (Sept-Oct and Nov 1978). Hers was supposed to be a new on-going backup series to Scalphunters, but it fell victim to the dreaded DC Implosion. Her eight-page introduction was written by Roger McKenzie with art by Jack Abel and Danny Bulanadi. The second chapter was by McKenzie, Howard Chaykin and Bulanadi.

According to those stories, the red-haired girl nicknamed Cinnamon (real name: Kate) was orphaned at an early age when her father, a widowed Wyoming sheriff, was shot down in front of her by a gang of bank robbers. She grew up in an orphanage, nursing her desire for revenge. At 18, she set out to find her fathers killers, armed with a gun, a knife, and a supply of shuriken that looked like sheriffs badges.

Cinnamon next appeared in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #198 and 199 (Jan and Feb 1982). The two-parter by Gerry Conway, Don Heck and Brett Breeding (whose inks made Hecks work look great), featured a meeting between the League and Scalphunter, Cinnamon, Jonah Hex, and Bat Lash during a battle against the Lord of Time. I assume this story, with certain changes, is still in continuity, as I have seen nothing to specifically eliminate it. She also popped up in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #5 (Aug 1985).

Cinnamons quest for vengeance finally led her to St. Roch, where she tricked Emile Graydon, the final man involved in her fathers death, to draw on her. She gunned him down. Nighthawk, who was seated nearby with Craddock, shot Graydons associate before he could shoot Cinnamon. She denied she needed the help. The gunslingers were immediately drawn to each other.

Reluctant at first, Cinnamon joined Nighthawk in rescuing Evans from a mob. They hid in his masters mansion, Stonechat House, until a judge arrived and ruled Evans innocent.

Nighthawk's ultimate fate has changed twice since the Crisis. He was originally obliterated by an anti-matter wave in CRISIS #3 (June 1985). Later, in the previous HAWKMAN series, Vandal Savage claimed he hanged the gunman. Of course, Savage has made many claims over the years which appear to be little more than self-aggrandizing lies, so his account could be hogwash. According to HAWKMAN #7, Nighthawk died saving innocents in St. Roch, shot through the head by Dunney (who by then had married into the Roderic family). Cinnamon killed Dunney, but was fatally wounded in the process.

Comments

Considering the comic book tradition of all characters with the same (or similar, as in the case of Sanders and Saunders) last names being related, it wouldnt be surprising if someone decided that Jim Peyton was an ancestor of Will Starman Payton. It would only take misspelling the name on one official document to change the family name forever.

In the current DCU, there is a Cinnamon musical (shades of Annie, Get Your Gun). A billboard for it was seen in the recent WONDER WOMAN [2nd series] #175.

Must we assume that Nighthawk's death in Crisis just wasn't, and throw his GUY GARDNER: WARROR #24 appearance AFTER Crisis...

Guess so. His post-Zero Hour hanging at the hands of Vandal Savage seems to have been negated also (unless there's an untold story there along the lines of Clint Eastwood's "Hang 'Em High").

Nightmaster

» SEE ALSO: Primal Force Shadowpact

"I feel like a character from Howard or Tolkein. Pretty soon, though, I'm gonna wake up and find this is a spaced-out dream. And I'm gonna swear off reading sword-and-sorcery sagas!" — Jim Rook, 1969 (SHOWCASE #82).

The circumstances that would transform Jim Rook into the Nightmaster began nearly a millennium before his birth in the other-dimensional land of Myrra. The world was full of strange sights, from the benevolent Zelks (grasshopper-like steeds that the natives rode: SHOWCASE #82) to Hackies (animated suits of armor "filled with vile souls of dead Warlocks": #83) to Smoke Spiders (giant arachnids that materialized in unlimited numbers from magic vapors: #84) to Arivegs (monstrous flying plants that "devour anything that falls within their grasp: #84).

In a kingdom of Myrra, a monarch had once commanded the court magician, the blue-skinned Farben, to provide two renowned warriors with weapons that they would use in defense of the realm. The blue-fleshed barbarian "Brom was given the enchanted Mace of Mists." The pink-skinned Nacht, a goateed man clad in a blue hood and body suit and a red cape, was bequeathed with the Sword of Night.

Corrupted by power, Brom and Farben conspired to murder their sovereign and the loyal Nacht. The two warriors fought "for a full day" but ultimately the Sword of Night was victorious. Before Nacht could react, Farben cast a spell to exile the hero to "a separate spiritual plane" that overlapped with Myrra — Earth. The Sword of Night was stuck fast, Excalibur-like, in a stone column in the royal chamber. With the disappearance of Nacht, the balance of power shifted in the favor of Brom and his descendants. The faction known as the Warlocks reserved a special fate for the kingdom that their patriarch had coveted. Its "magnificent buildings crumbled" and its "people shrivelled under the mystic onslaught," reduced into short, withered blue-skinned creatures.

On Earth, Nacht, using his family name of Roke (inferred from SHOWCASE #83 & 84), had no choice but to adapt to the strange new world of 10th Century Earth. He took a mate and began a family that would extend for centuries to come. His legacy would ultimately fall on the shoulders of a child born in 1942, a kid from the slums of New York City named Jim Rook.

It seemed that Jim had to fight for everything in his life, rising up from poverty, defying society to court a daughter of privilege named Janet Jones and carving out a career as the lead singer of a rock band called the Electrics. A lifetime of struggles had left the young man full of rage. Jim's speech seethed with often bitter sarcasm and his violent temper was the central obstacle in Janet's parents' refusal to approve their marriage plans.

After beating three hecklers into semi- consciousness ("You think because I don't look like a bank manager I'm weak — because, I favor peace, I'm a coward ... fair prey for bullies?"), Jim was pulled away by Janet. Walking through the streets of lower Manhattan, Jim spotted a store called Oblivion, Inc. and, convinced that a vacant lot was supposed to be on the spot, felt compelled to try the door. He and Janet immediately realized that they'd made a mistake. The door locked behind them, the temperature began to plummet and a spiral of golden energy tore them away to the land of Myrra.

With Janet nowhere in sight, Jim was brought before the wizened King Zolto. The monarch admitted that he'd taken advantage of a fracture in the barrier that had long separated Earth and Myrra and summoned a descendant of Nacht before the opportunity passed. Jim kept his cool but insisted that he and the missing Janet be sent home at once.

The conversation was disrupted by the humming of the Sword of Night, still sheathed in the pillar. The song of the sword was a warning of approaching Warlocks and Zolto pleaded with Jim to release the blade. Despite Rook's insistence that "from swords I know zero," Zolto assured him that "the weapon will guide your arm."

As predicted, the heir to Nacht could draw the weapon and he instantly felt "some sort of weird strength surging through my arm — through my whole body. The blade seems ALIVE ... to KNOW what it wants to do. I didn't even see that Warlock bolt coming. The sword pulled my hand to parry. Since this obviously isn't my show — I'll follow the sword's lead — and hope for the best!"

It was a strange scene, the Earthman with the turtleneck, Nehru jacket and striped pants fighting otherworldly magicians in green robes. Though Zolto had to bail out his young defender in the end, he pronounced Jim Rook's first battle a success.

"Look — will you DITCH that warrior bit? Like I said before, my scene is SOUND — NOT derring-do! It's been grins playing Prince Valiant, but I've had enough. So show me where Jan is, and point me in the direction of home!"

That, unfortunately, was a problem. Janet had been pulled away by Warlocks during the transferrence spell. "If you would see Janet alive again," Zolto informed him. "You must enter the Warlock fortress."

Accompanying Jim on his quest was Boz, a man whose clothes and skin were snow white. Rook himself was dressed in the costume of his ancestor, whose thermal qualities were more appropriate for the frigid Myrran atmosphere (and, Zolto must have secretly thought, furthered Jim's acceptance of the role of hero). "From this moment forward,"the king proclaimed. "Throughout Myrra, you shall be known as — Nightmaster!"

"Hooray for me."

As his travels progressed, Jim learned of other properties of the Sword of Night. Its touch would compel anyone to speak honestly ("This thing have truth-juice on the point?"), something that Rook learned accidentally when the weapon grazed a woman he thought was Janet. The enchantment instantly revealed her as the Ice Witch, who had no choice but to reveal the spell that would grant them access to the Warlock's fortress (SHOWCASE #82, by Denny O'Neil, Jerry Grandenetti and Dick Giordano).

As the journey progressed, Rook found more allies in the form of a barbarian named Tark (short for Tickeytarkapolis Trootrust) from the mountainous terrain of Szasz and Doe and Rae (no word on Mi or Fa), a pair of mute Sirens. "They defied the Warlocks. As punishment, the fiends stole their voices and locked their song in a crystal casket."

Thanks to Tark, the band of warriors learned that Janet was a captive of a Warlock known as Duke Spearo and invaded his castle. Therein, Spearo explained to Janet that she was a critical component in the Warlock king's plan to breech the dimensional barrier and invade Earth. "King wants to make you queen ... unsound idea, I think — making foreigner queen. Queen will lead invading forces ... only for magic to operate, she must be conscious and willing. We're taking you to King. He will PERSUADE you to help conquer your foreign home."

Within the castle, Rae found the casket that held the voices of the Sirens and carried it along as they pursued Spearo and company aboard the Moonship, a flying vessel that travelled only at night. When Jim and company fell from the ship during a battle with the spectral Hackies, Rae opened the box and her sweet song filled the air — and created a cascading solid bridge of sound to catch their fall. By chance, Tark explained, the Moonship had been passing over "Melody Chasm ... an enchanted spot where Siren sound becomes substance."

Rook, of course, didn't believe it for a minute but he couldn't argue with the results. "Too freaky ... on Earth, when I was a rock musician, I used to say music was my life. That was just rapping ... but HERE, in this nightmare, music really IS my life" (SHOWCASE #83, by O'Neil and Berni Wrightson).

And, much as Jim might have wished otherwise, his reputation was growing. The Warlocks had begun to refer to their adversary by Zolto's chosen name, the Nightmaster.

The tide began to turn when Jim, Tark and Boz met a decrepit sorcerer named Mar-Grouch the Mystic, who'd been born prior to the exile of Nacht and was sympathetic to humans. The mage cast a spell to transport Jim's fiancee to his chambers but Spearo and his wizard had anticipated the development and transformed Janet mentally and physically into a barmaid named Mizzi.

Eventually, Jim was captured and mocked by the Warlocks for defending a world that wasn't his own. "I COULD give you a big routine about how any tyranny anywhere ... must be fought because so long as ONE PERSON's enslaved, we're ALL in danger of losing liberty. Or I could tell you that I believe in doing whatever I've GOT to do as well as I can, no matter how distatesteful it is. Both answers are PARTIALLY true — but the REAL answer is that you took someone precious from me. And once I decided I love someone, I'm committed ... I'll do anything for him or her. It so happens that I love Jan."

And somewhere within the mind of Mizzi, Janet began to reemerge, discreetly cutting her lover's bonds and returning to her normal form. The desperate Warlocks plunged through a portal to Earth, followed by Jim and Janet. Tark's last words rang in their ears as the gateway closed: "Farewell, Nightmaster. You were a good warrior — and a good friend!"

In the vacant office of Oblivion, Inc., the Nightmaster pointed his blade at the Warlocks and gave them their options. "Either go back to Myrra — or stay here and try your luck against the Nightsword." The mages retreated and the Sword of Night "rends the black portal to Myrra — rends and destroys it." Embracing on the vacant lot where Oblivion, Inc. had once stood, the young lovers consoled themselves with the likelihood that they'd just experienced a joint hallucination. Still in Jim's hand, however, was the Sword of Night (SHOWCASE #84, by O'Neil and Wrightson).

In SHOWCASE #82, Denny O'Neil had predicted that "Jim Rook may vanish into the limbo reserved for three-D movies, Edsel autos and other ideas that tried to grab a piece of popularity, and missed." He was, unfortunately, correct. Regardless, Nightmaster had opened a new door at DC and, like the portal to Myrra, it would never quite be sealed. The early to mid-1970s saw a plethora of fantasy and sword-and-sorcery titles, from classics like Beowulf and Burroughs' John Carter and company and Lieber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser to original series such as Claw the Unconquered and Stalker and Starfire and the only real success, Mike Grell's Warlord.

DC made a nod towards Jim Rook himself in a Charles Vess-illustrated entry in 1986's WHO'S WHO #16. Nightmaster also popped up in comic book limbo in 1990's ANIMAL MAN #25 and as a prisoner in the gulag in 1996's KINGDOM COME #3 and 4. Charles Vess depicted Nightmaster again on a single page in issue #3 of 1991's BOOKS OF MAGIC mini-series (scripted by Neil Gaiman). The story found Doctor Occult taking Timothy Hunter on a tour of magical dimensions adjacent to Earth. Of Nightmaster, Occult had this to say:

"The worlds beyond can be refuges, Timothy. Perhaps EACH of us creates his fantasy world — a place to which we can retreat. HERE a country named Myrra, THERE the land of Pytharia, and at the EDGE of every map, 'Here there be dragons.'

"In your world, Jim Rook sang songs of enlightenment and love — until he was seized by a kingdom of blood and enchantment ... where companions to heroes are forever brave and true ... where evil wizards forever brood on dusty parchment spells to raise their armies of the dead, and then forever flee, their schemes in ruins ... where giants Feefifofum until their heads are severed by heroes' swords — each blade named and magical. In THIS place, men have sobriquets like Claw the Unconquered, or Stalker the Soulless; Rook became Nightmaster annd will fight to save the world, or to destroy it. In worlds such as this the terms become synonymous, I am afraid."

Nightmaster didn't make a full-fledged return to action until back-to-back guest appearances in 1995. A far more mellow Jim Rook resurfaced in PRIMAL FORCE #8 as the proprietor of an occult book store based out of Oblivion, Inc. William Twotrees, a member of the Leymen, had been a regular visitor to the shop even though Rook cautioned against "dabbling in the dark arts." Rook clearly still had the magic touch, recognizing "the Power" in Will's teammate Liam McHugh when they shook hands.

When Will and most of the team were captured by the occult body known as the August, it was the Nightmaster (summoned by the Black Condor) who ended his long retirement and rushed to the rescue (PF #11). The Sword of Night was as capable as ever and severed the mystic bonds that held the Leymen as if they were butter (PF #12, by Steven Seagle, Nicholas Choles and Barbara Kaalberg).

One month later, Nightmaster could be found in the pages of SWAMP THING #160. Unlike the man in PRIMAL FORCE, this version of Jim Rook was a good samaritan who'd given away most of the money he made as a singer to help others and now spent his days working in a tavern (while avoiding alcohol himself). He seemed genuinely surprised when Oblivion, Inc. rematerialized across the street. "I thought I hallucinated the whole building," he explained, as part of a 1969 drug overdose. His short-lived marriage to Janet had survived barely two hundred days before their divorce in 1971.

Now, though, his other life came rushing back to haunt him. Myrra, it seemed, had been razed by the Warlocks, who now planned to cross the threshhold to Earth. Tark and a pink-fleshed Boz made a desperate flight to Earth (with the aid of the mystic Traveller) to summon the Nightmaster. Tark died a tragic death at the hands of a semi-trailer but Boz managed to find an incredulous Rook. Jim insisted that Boz was a hallucination but Nightmaster's one-time servant refused to give up, pulling the dormant Sword of Night from a cupboard and telling Rook that "you're the only hope we got left." Against his better judgment, Jim entered Oblivion, Inc. with Boz and took his blade in hand. The Sword of Night blazed back to life and the Nightmaster was reborn (SWAMP THING #160, by Mark Millar, Phillip Hester and Kim DeMulder).

Elsewhere, the Swamp Thing fought and killed a druid who planned to establish the Warlocks' first foothold on Earth (SWAMP THING #161-162). At that point, the Swamp Thing was being subjected to a series of trials by various elemental Parliaments and, weary of the testing and fearful for his humanity, he refused to participate in pushing back the invasion of the Warlocks. The Traveller, working with another mystic known as El Senor Blake, summoned Janet Jones to guarantee that Jim Rook would not back out. Though happily married to an accountant named Maurice and the mother of a boy named Patrick, Janet was compelled to drive from Florida to Manhattan.

In New York, Nightmaster stood guard at the portal within Oblivion, Inc. even as other defenders like Claw, Stalker and Starfire fled (SWAMP THING #163). Ironically, the arrival of Janet that was meant to bolster his resolve caused him to weaken. Her words were so obviously scripted ("I don't CARE about the life I've carved out for myself in Florida or my marriage to that idiot accountant. I just want to be with you again, Jim, until death do us part.") that he began to waver.

The resolution of the crisis seemed to take its cue from Gaiman's BOOKS OF MAGIC passage, which had lumped together DC's sword-and-sorcery characters and dismissed them as being part of a "fantasy world." Indeed, when the paranormal outbreaks throughout the country finally drew the Swamp Thing to the epicenter of the crisis, he confirmed that the threat of the Warlocks and the "intersection of worlds" was being created by Jim Rook.

Entering Oblivion, Inc., the elemental found it filled with books of fantasy that Jim Rook had read as a child. "Oblivion, Inc. itself is nothing more than a physical manifestation of a desire to retreat ... back into a simpler age, filled with books." Confronting Rook, the Swamp Thing explained that "Myrra and its fairytale people ... and nothing more than your retreat from the real world ... brought to life by the scale of your misery. SEARCH your feelings, Rook ... What happened in your past ... which now causes you such terrible pain ...? Why does your subconscious seek to destroy the world ?"

In an instant, all of the supernatural manifestations were gone and the destruction they caused was soon erased. "They're gone ... Boz, Tark, Janet. All those people who meant so much to me. All gone forever." Asked whether Janet had been created as part of his fantasy, Jim responded, "Are you kidding? She was my WIFE. Breaking up with Janet was probably the main reason I lost my grip on the real world, man. Realizing she didn't really WANT me anymore is what gave me the STRENGTH to let go."

Questions remained, of course. "How come I was able to build this WHOLE shop with my subconcious mind and fill it with all these dumb, old books I lost when I was a kid? Who's behind this, man? What's going down here?"

Jim Rook never got his answers but the Swamp Thing did. Summoned before the elemental Parliament of Vapors, he was informed that "the Nightmaster was chosen as the catalyst for your elevation because the sword symbolizes not only air but also intelligence and reason. These qualities were needed to halt the migration from Rook's personal dreamworld." Elsewhere, an unwitting Rook sold the former Sword of Night to El Senor Blake, who placed the weapon with other objects of power, including Sargon's Ruby of Life (SWAMP THING #164).

Was this truly the end of Nightmaster? Was the Jim Rook who ran a bookstore out of Oblivion, Inc. the same man who claimed he hadn't seen the building or acted as Nightmaster in a quarter century? And if Claw, Stalker and company were truly the creations of Rook, how does one account for their involvement elsewhere in the DC Universe? Those lingering questions suggest that Nightmaster's final battle has yet to be fought.

Nightwolf

There may have been other characters with the same name but the one I remember is the guy who appeared in the farwell issue of WORLD'S FINEST COMICS.

That was his sole appearance although you can credit him for (indirectly) breaking up the Superman-Batman team.

POWERS: he could create a supernatural darkness and summon ghostly wolves to do his bidding.

ORIGIN: An unidentified archeologist himbo, he stole a magic belt from his female co-worker and learned spells from an Indian shaman on how to use the belt, which he used to try to bring America's agricultural community to its knees.

Superman was investigating and was beaten by the magic wolves. Batman discovers Nightwolf's origin and uses trickery to get the belt away from him, rescuing Superman and ending the menace.

Then, Batman gives a very patronizing speech to Supes about how he flies in without thinking and warns Superman that he won't be around all the time to rescue him.

The two go their separate ways and the caption tells us that a friendship that lasted half a century and a world war may have ended.

The writer meant that literally because WORLD'S FINEST was cancelled and under the post-Crisis regime, Batman and Superman were not friends.

Nightwolf has probably been retconned out of existance, like all those wonderful WORLD'S FINEST stories.

Joey Cavalieri had the sad duty of writing that farewell issue so I assume he created Nightwolf.

Nimrod the Hunter

Not much time right now, but here's a quickie on Nimrod the Hunter.

First appearing in SHADOW OF THE BAT #7-9 (the Misfits story line) Dean Hunter is an escaped con from Texas. Framed for murder by a villian named Chancer (there's another obscurity), Hunter busts out of jail, steals a military camoflague suit that gives him chameleon like invisibilty powers, and heads to Gotham to find Chancer.

Anyway, being a convicted killer, Hunter runs into trouble with Batman. But when Bruce Wayne, Comm. Gordon, and Mayor Krol are kidnapped by Calendar Man, Killer Moth, Cat Man, and Chancer, Robin forms an uneasy alliance with Hunter. In the end they win out, and with Chancer safely behind bars, Hunter gives himself up to Batman. Since Chancer had yet to "un-frame" Hunter by testifying in court, Hunter was still an escaped convict. The super suit went back to the military.

About Chancer; He's a guy wearing a white and red costume with two dice on the front. He's unbelieveably lucky, getting all the good breaks and chances and thus, his name. His real name is unkown, having never been caught before.

Chancer is eventually caught after falling off a roof in the final battle, but he lived because an awning broke his fall. As Batman said "Luck is relative" - breaking a few bones is better than dying. Oh yeah, Chancer also wields a metallic club (like a car jack) that he throws at his opponents. He often times misses, but the club riccochets off walls, falg poles, etc so that it eventually hits its target. Just another example of Chancer's luck holding out, I suppose.

Nuclear Family

Appeared in OUTSIDERS (1st series) #1, #2 and ADVENTURES OF THE OUTSIDERS #39, #40. Their appearance in AOTO is a reprint of their first appearance.

Dr. Eric Shanner is an old man who is strongly opposed to nuclear energy. In order to convince the world of the damage that one nuclear device's explosion would do, he creates the Nuclear Family, a group of sentient robots whose individual powers mimic the stages of a nuclear explosion. The Family consists of Dad, who emits radiation; Mom, who produces electromagnetic pulses; Biff, who produces a thermal (heat) pulse; Sis, who emits a destructive blast wave, and Brat and Dog, who are both able to turn themselves into radioactive fallout.

The Outsiders prevented then from causing a meltdown at Esperanza Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and captured the entire Nuclear Family. After examining the robots, Dr. Jace decides that Looker should infiltrate the group, using her powers to disguise herself as Mom. The Nuclear Family is released so they can lead the Outsiders to Shanner, but Looker is eventually discovered before she can tell the Outsiders where Shanner's HQ is.

We then learn that the Nuclear Family are replications of Shanner's family, all of whom (but him) died from radiation poisoning. We're led to believe that Shanner was once upon a time either Dad or Biff. Anyway, the Nuclear Family hunts down the real Mom, whom the Outsiders are still holding captive. After a struggle, the Family grabs Mom, and heads to Esperanza Canyon to finish their mission. The Outsiders follow them, and ultimately, the entire Nuclear Family is destroyed in an explosion. Metamorpho turns into TNT and blows them up while they are trying to start a meltdown. Shanner, however, is still alive.

Null and Void

Real names: Null was Solomon, pudgy, failed businessman and Void was Peter, an English-David Niven lookalike who was a professional rogue.

Powers: Null could neutralize people's senses. Even Superman's. Void could teleport an object from one hand to another.

Origin: Centuries ago, in the age of piracy, ambitious spacefarer X'ult tries to set himself up as ruler of Earth. He has an 'environmental adaptor' ejected from his ship but it melts in re-entry to Earth's atmosphere and ends up as a molten rock with a strange marking on its side in an island in the Caribbean.

In World War II, Solomon, on a boating trip, gets shipwrecked on the Vichy-occupied island of Martinique. David Niven — I mean Peter, some sort of hustler, uses his influence to help the two of them escape the island. They end up getting stuck on the island with the rock where the natives make them undergo some strange ritual where their palms are branded with the mark from the strange rock. They discover that when they press their marks together, they become Null and Void. But their powers wear off eventually so they have to stay close to each other to retain their powers.

Eventually a passing ship, piloted by Ernest Hemingway(!) rescues them. That is when Sol discovers that Peter had been hired by his dad to rescue him all along. Despite this, they remain friends and everytime Sol needs some working capital (which is often since he is a lousy businessman), the two go out and commit crimes together. They operate for 20 years without anyone even being aware of their existance.

That is, until a 1983 issue of WORLD'S FINEST when they run into Batman and Superman. Supes and Bats manage to detect the two and duke it out with them. We see that Peter and Sol aren't all bad as they risk capture to save Batman when a building collapses around them.

Bats and Supes manage to capture Peter after his powers wear off. Then, over a year later, we see the trial of Peter where he actually puts Batman and Superman on the witness stand and gets acquitted by basically saying that Batman and Superman can't testify against him because no one knows their real identities. Makes you wonder how the World's Finest duo ever got anyone convicted in the past.

Meanwhile, a block of frozen time, containing X'ult and two other rock-branded heroes (Swordfish and Barracuda), is recovered in the waters of the Caribbean. Null and Void go to investigate and Superman and Batman follow. In the course of the story, Null and Void have a falling out. Void signs on with X'ult while Null helps Batman, Superman and Swordfish battle the two and rescue Barracuda. Superman unravels X'ult's frozen time and sends X'ult, Swordfish and Barracuda back to their proper era. Sol decides to give himself (and Peter) over to the police, ending their criminal careers.

In the last years of WORLD'S FINEST, Joey Cavalieri and David Kraft tried to do some original things, creating a rogues gallery and supporting cast exclusive to that title. Unfortunately, many of their creations have vanished after the Crisis. Sol and Peter have probably been retconned away as well. Guess you could say that Null and Void are now null and void.

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