How the Doomsday Clock Ticks: Time & Continuity at the Midpoint

Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, and Brad Anderson’s Doomsday Clock, the shocking sequel to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen, has crawled its way through to the halfway point, issue number six out of twelve. Narratively, Doomsday Clock could never hope to achieve some of the amazing things that Moore and Gibbons were able to do back in 1986-87, but Johns and Frank have managed to match the original Watchmen in many ways—in style, depth, and pacing. (If you don’t think it’s been deep so far, you haven’t been paying close enough attention!) Story-wise, not much has actually occurred, but this mirrors the first six issues of the original series. Much of the first six issues of both series spent a significant time with flashbacks detailing the background of new characters and doing considerable world-building. However, one big difference I’ve noticed is Doomsday Clock‘s use of inconsistent specificity in regard to time and continuity.

Doomsday Clock is a continuous and uninterrupted story, meaning its narrative flows from one issue to the next, picking up where each prior issue leaves off. Despite this, Doomsday Clock seems to utilize a deliberately screwy timeline, one that doesn’t make much sense in the normal linear sense of things. I will break down the discrepancies issue by issue and try to explain them—and also try to explain how I am handling them in regard to building a chronological headcanon.

doomsday clock 1

Doomsday Clock #1: Released November 22, 2017. On Earth-Watchmen, we are told (by the new Rorschach) that it is November 22, 1992 or November 23, 1992 in the very first line. And in this very fist line, Johns begins what will be a recurring theme in this series: Dates are not to be trusted. Supplemental material shows newspapers from a couple weeks earlier, dated November 5, 1992. Thus, the November 22 date appears merely to correlate with the release date of this issue.

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Doomsday Clock #2: Released December 27, 2017. The “dates can’t be trusted” theme continues with a flashback security video sequence in which Marionette says “Happy Monday” and the banker says, “It’s Wednesday.” Marionette replies, “Whatever.” Supplemental material shows internet articles dated December 7, 2017, December 10, 2017, December 11, 2017, and December 20, 2017. This implies that the main action of Doomsday Clock is happening in mid to late December or early January. Despite it being November in the previous issue, we can chalk this inconsistency up to the fact that issue #2 brought us to a new Earth. The December 7, 2017 article in the supplemental material says that Helga Jace’s Supermen Theory first started six months prior, which would mean June 2017. The December 2017 date suggests mere correlation with the release date of the issue.

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Doomsday Clock #3: Released January 24, 2018. The “dates can’t be trusted” theme continues with Batman’s dialogue, “I ran a search for temporal anomalies.” Johnny Thunder then says it’s the first Monday of the month. While the senile fella is far from a reliable timekeeper, we can use this to place us on the calendar. As per the last issue, we have to be either in mid to late December or early January. Thus, if we take Johnny’s line as gospel, then we must be (and must have been) in January this whole time. The January date also correlates with the release date, so take that for what it’s worth.

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Doomsday Clock #4: Released March 28, 2018. The “dates can’t be trusted” theme continues with Mothman’s dialogue: “It’s warm for December. They say the dimensional rift that opened altered our seasonal clock. It’s going to snow in June. Isn’t that funny?” March is not referenced in the issue.

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Doomsday Clock #5: Released May 30, 2018. Clark mentions that it’s “ten years too late” to ask someone else to be Jon’s godfather. This implies that Jon was born roughly ten years ago, placing us in 2017/2018. However, specific mention is made of Johnny Thunder being 102-years-old. Johns’ “The Button” told us specifically Johnny was born in 1917, which would put us in 2019. This seems very deliberate, as if Johns is course correcting, placing us in 2019 where we need to be by story’s end (i.e. when Doomsday Clock will end publication). Supplemental material gives the date May 30, 2019! May 30 correlates with the release date.

doomsday clock 6

Doomsday Clock #6: Released July 25, 2018. This issue picks up immediately where issue #5 leaves off. Supplemental material places the primary action of issue #6 on Wednesday July 25, correlating exactly with the release date of the comic. No specific year is attached.

CONCLUSION: Clearly, the dates are being deliberately screwy and should not be exactly relied upon. Johns, in late 2017, said in interviews that the story would wind up being one year ahead of other ongoing DC stories. Since we know Doomsday Clock will end in 2019, we must assume that 2019 is when Doomsday Clock is taking place. Most of the dates, especially in supplemental material, are therefore irrelevant, merely referencing the release dates of the issues. Nevertheless, in order to properly read and engage with any story, there must be continuity. Johns is giving us discontinuity, and very specifically so. Despite this, using the dates given in the series thus far, we can try to place things accordingly. For example, there’s clearly about six months from the Supermen Theory going public to the main action of Doomsday Clock #6, but, as to exact dates, I cannot say for sure. Why is Johns doing this (if it is indeed deliberate)? Might it have something to do with the theme or with Dr. Manhattan’s manipulation? Only time will tell (pun intended).

trouble alert dc 5

Doomsday Clock (along with “The Button”) is also story about literal missing time, years stolen off the calendar by a cosmic power. This not only fits Johns’ theme, it acts as a meta-commentary on how reboots affect canon as well. Yet, because Doomsday Clock is being published so shortly after a reboot itself, much of what it’s referencing hasn’t been mentioned in-continuity before now—certainly not in the Rebirth Era or in the New 52, anyway. For example, Johns—in issues #5 and #6 alone (including the supplemental end parts)—re-canonizes old continuity pertaining to Firestorm, the Creeper, Global Guardians, Ultramarine Corps, Outsiders, Aruna Shende, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run, Black Adam, added Bloodlines material, Justice League Europe, Batman: Hong Kong, Kirby’s Super Powers, The Zhuguan, added Great Ten material, parts of his own Modern Age Teen Titans run, 52 (which he also co-wrote), Mr. Freeze’s Animated Series origins, early Gardner Fox Silver Age JLofA stories, Nocturna, Umbaluru, the Injustice Gang, The LAW, added Killing Joke details, JLA Classified, added Infinite Crisis details, some Modern Age Hal Jordan stories, Checkmate, Judomaster, and Naiad. None of this (at least, to my knowledge) had been canon since prior to 2011’s Flashpoint!—and some of it, like Super Powers, was never even canon to begin with.

One could simply chalk the myriad references up to Easter Egging on Johns’ part. After all, it is the current style of writing that’s in vogue in comic book world—to simply throw in “Who’s Who?”-style references left-and-right with reckless abandon now that anything can be Googled on Wiki-whatever. BUT, as is the case with everything else so far with Doomsday Clock, Johns looks to be including things for a reason. With issues #5 and #6, he just happens to include A TON (especially in the back material magazine sections). Grant Morrison always said that everything ever written was always canon (or, rather, could be canonized). Johns has taken this to the next level. But remember, we aren’t supposed to take things at surface value. Things in Doomsday Clock are not what they seem, especially when it comes to time and continuity.

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I was initially surprised at how much material from 1987-88 that Johns referenced (in both the main narrative and supplemental portion of Doomsday Clock #5-6)—a lot of Outsiders stuff and Ostrander narratives from Suicide Squad and Firestorm of that era. However, if you look closer, it’s not a coincidence that much of it comes specifically from a period of time immediately after the publication of the original Watchmen series. And a lot of Johns’ references are to stories featuring “alternate versions” of Dr Manhattan. There’s Captain Atom, Firestorm, Firehawk, Pozhar, Metamorpho, Element Girl, etc. They all have similar power sets (able to manipulate matter) and similar origins as nuclear-powered government agents.

We’ll see what the final issues bring. If we can compare to Watchmen, then there will be big revelations and a momentous change to the pacing of the narrative. We could literally see time change before our very eyes. With Doctor Manhattan lurking, and possibly already having appeared (hidden in plain view), anything could happen. And with so many matter manipulators running about the globe as the “metahuman arms race” heats up, time could easily be messed-with. Both matter and energy exist within time. As per Einstein’s general theory of relativity, time is “a measure of the continuity of space and everything that exists within space, itself existing as a 4th dimension.” For our storytelling and chronology-building purposes, time is literally also narrative. It gives the story purpose and meaning. It gives the reader answers. If the real life Doomsday Clock were to reach the end of its countdown, that would spell destruction, chaos, and change for the entire planet. Just like the real clock, Doomsday Clock the series is ticking—and when it reaches its end, it will also signal destruction, chaos, and change for our narrative—and possibly for the entire DCU. Six issues to go. Tick tock.

meaning purpose

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Twisted Sister: A History of Beth “Alice” Kane

alice batwoman

A recent Batwoman arc, entitled “The Fall of the House of Kane”—by Marguerite Bennett, Fernando Blanco, and John Rauch—concluded on June 20, 2018 with Batwoman Vol. 2 #16. And at the center of that awesome and fiery arc was Batwoman’s biggest arch-rival, her own flesh-and-blood—twin sister Elizabeth “Beth” Kane aka the super-villain Alice. Much has been said and written about Bruce Wayne’s amazing cousin, Batwoman Katherine “Kate” Kane, but a closer examination of her twisted sister Alice—originally created by Greg Rucka and JH Williams III—proves a bit harder to find. So, let’s take a closer look, shall we?

First off, I should mention the big difference between the Modern Age versions of Kate and Beth Kane versus current iterations (The New 52/New Age aka Rebirth Era). Their relationship (along with their dad Jake’s relationship) to Bruce Wayne was always vague and confusing in the Modern Age. In the Modern Age, Kate and Beth were distant relatives of the original Bat-Woman Kathy Kane, but directly unrelated to Bruce. The New 52 not only made Kate, Beth, and Jake’s places on the family tree crystal clear, but it upgraded their connection to the Waynes as well. Batwoman #25 (by Marc Andreyko, January 2014) strongly implied that Bruce’s mother Martha Wayne (née Kane) had four siblings: Philip Kane, Jacob “Jake” Kane, Nathan Kane (who was once married to Katherine “Kathy” Webb), and an unnamed sibling that was parent to another cousin, former Bat-Girl Mary Elizabeth “Bette” Kane. In the Golden and Silver Age, Bette was always said to have been the niece of Kathy Webb (used to be “Webster” back then), which always implied an unnamed Kane sibling as her progenitor. Detective Comics #939 (by James Tynion IV, October 2016) confirmed that Jake and Martha were siblings, officially defining Bruce, Kate, and Beth as first cousins.

By the time the New Age/Rebirth Age rolls around in early 2017, we get further details that allow us to fully understand the Wayne-Kane family tree. It was already long established that Elizabeth “Betsy” Kane and Roderick Kane were the patriarch and matriarch of the Kane side of the fam, and there’s no change there for Rebirth. Moving on, in Detective Comics #975 (by Tynion IV, April 2018) and Detective Comics #978 (by Tynion IV, June 2018), it is confirmed that Martha has only three brothers: Jake, Nathan, and Philip (also sometimes spelled “Phillip”). Since there’s no unnamed fourth Kane brother, Bette Kane, while never fully confirmed, is likely Philip’s only daughter (with an unnamed partner). We can further infer this due to hints gleaned from Nightwing Vol. 4 #27 (by Tim Seeley, October 2017), Detective Comics #967 (by Tynion IV, December 2017), and the aforementioned Detective Comics #978. Kate and Beth are the twin daughters of Jake and his wife Gabrielle aka “Gabi.” After Gabi dies, Jake marries Catherine Hamilton. And Uncle Nathan never has any kids, but he does marry Kathy Webb, who takes the Kane surname, becoming Kathy Kane. After divorcing Nathan, Kathy becomes, among many other things, the first Bat-Woman and Bruce’s lover. In any case, the first cousins are Bruce Wayne, Kate Kane, Beth Kane, and Bette Kane. Now that we’ve sorted out the family tree of a tribe that has way too many variations of the same few names (there’s three Katherines and three Elizabeths for crying out loud!), we can move on. We’ll first look at Beth Kane in the Modern Age, where she originally was born.

alice two batwoman batman collin colsher

As fleshed-out in Detective Comics #854-858 (by Rucka, Williams III, and Dave Stewart, August-December 2009) and also later referenced in Tynion IV’s Detective Comics #975 nearly ten years later, Alice’s origins begin at a young age. Army colonel Jake Kane takes a NATO gig and moves his family, including Gabi and the young twins, from Gotham to Brussels, Belgium. There, the Kane family lives happily until becoming the victim of a terrorist kidnapping. Kate, Beth, Gabi, and their chaperone Carol are held for ransom. Jake leads a rescue mission, but it gets botched. Horrific tragedy occurs. Kate is saved, but Gabi is killed and Beth goes missing. (Beth is incorrectly presumed dead.)

Mentally broken, Beth grows into adulthood, but keeps herself hidden from her family. Eventually, she joins The Religion of Crime, becoming the High Madame of the organization. Obsessed with Lewis Carroll, Beth changes her look dramatically, becoming “Alice.” You’d think the DCU already has enough Lewis Carroll-inspired characters (and you’d be right since there’s multiple Mad Hatters and an entire Wonderland Gang of Carroll-inspired villains), but Alice takes it to a whole new level. Modeling herself as an unhinged Steampunk version of Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Beth, upon her debut in Detective Comics #854—and much to the amazement of some fans and chagrin of others—would only speak in actual quotes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

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In Detective Comics #854-860 (by Rucka, Williams II, and Stewart, December 2009-February 2010), Batman (Dick Grayson, at the time) introduces himself to Batwoman (Kate Kane) for the first time and they discuss the fact that the Religion of Crime has a new leader: the mysterious Alice. (Note that, in the New 52 and Rebirth Era, Batman isn’t a part of this item.) Batwoman gets debriefed by her father Jake, who also happens to be her mentor and field operations leader. Ready for action, Batwoman infiltrates a high-profile Religion of Crime gathering and confronts Alice. They fight, and Alice drugs Batwoman with a poisoned razor blade. An intervening Kyle Abbot saves Batwoman from Alice. Jake Kane then nurses Batwoman back to health. Not long after, Alice and her Crime cultists kidnap Jake. Eventually, Batwoman and Kyle Abbot save Jake and stop Alice from dropping a deadly chemical payload over Gotham. Batwoman fights Alice aboard an aircraft and the latter does her Darth Vader reveal, telling Kate that she is Beth. But unlike in Empire Strikes Back where Luke falls, the villain falls to her death. (Don’t worry, Alice will be back!) Batwoman takes a blood sample of Alice (which is splattered on her costume) to a DNA testing lab to find out the truth. The results come in positive.

We next see Alice in Batwoman #17-20 (by Williams III, W Haden Blackman, Stewart, et al, April-July 2013). Williams III graduated from gorgeous art duties to writing as well. In this arc, entitled “This Blood is Thick,” Mr. Bones is now in charge of the US Government’s Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO). Batwoman, now working for Director Bones’ DEO, has just gotten engaged to Maggie Sawyer. Along with her new sidekick Hawkfire (Bette Kane’s new moniker), Batwoman has also just defeated the global criminal organization known as Medusa. Chase and Bones track down a mystical Religion of Crime sarcophagus. Guess who’s inside—and alive and well? Beth! She’s been miraculously resurrected by the Medusa hoodoo. Batwoman #18-19 continues the story, showing Batwoman and Hawkfire take down Mr. Freeze—with Batman (Bruce) coming to clean up the mess. Batman and Batwoman argue as the former demands Mr. Freeze’s freeze-gun. Batwoman breaks it in two and gives the Dark Knight one of the halves. Later at DEO HQ, Cameron Chase and Bones discuss how their agent, Batwoman, has gotten increasingly more and more disobedient as of late. Hoping to reassert his hegemony, Bones decides it’s time to reveal the ace up his sleeve: the captive Beth. Going in and out of her Alice character, Beth meets with her sister and hugs her in a warm embrace. Bones tells Kate that they can cure Beth (and will release her), but only if she (Batwoman) delivers Batman to them on a silver platter. Batwoman reluctantly agrees. Unknown to all, Bones interest in Batman is a false front for a deeper conspiracy. Bones has mistakenly come to believe that his father is Jake Kane. Despite the fact that Jake is not really his pop, Bones is obsessed with the idea and has come up with a plan to use DEO resources, under the guise of finding out Batman’s secret ID, to get revenge against the Kane Family. From this point onward, the New 52 continuation of “This Blood is Thick” gets a bit screwy due to an unfortunate clash between creators and editorial, which leads to an even more unfortunate dismissal/departure from the title. We’ll address this dirty mess next.

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Beth Kane aka Alice’s story continues with the conclusion of the “This Blood is Thick” arc—in Batwoman #24 (by Williams III, Blackman, Trevor McCarthy, et al, December 2013) and Batwoman Annual #1 (by Marc Andreyko, McCarthy, Moritat, and Guy Major, June 2014). If you notice the gap between the final two issues, this is because Williams III and Blackman had a huge falling out with DC Comics at the time and quit/were fired due to creative differences. So the story goes, Williams and Blackman were pushing the relationship between Maggie Sawyer and Kate Kane, hoping to soon make it the first lesbian marriage in mainstream comics. Unfortunately, DC head Dan DiDio and others didn’t like that direction and said no. Despite having already written issues #24-25, Williams and Blackman parted ways with DC on bad terms—with fiery Twitter words exchanged from both parties—leaving those two issues in never-to-be-published-Limbo forever. Andreyko and company were brought onto the book and they finished the arc a few months later. Who knows what Williams and Blackman originally had in mind for Alice? We might never know. Onto the synopsis of what was published! To lure Batman (and his main target Jake) out into the open, Bones has authorized the release of several of Gotham’s deadliest criminals—Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Tweedledum, and Tweedledee. These released Arkham inmates, along with a hired Bane, attack the city. The Bat-Family responds to the chaos. Angered at the fact that so many super-villains are being used by the DEO, Maggie Sawyer confronts Cameron Chase. Chase, using her DEO authority, responds by taking control of the GCPD. Meanwhile, Batman wails on Bane and injects a serum into his body that turns his Venom into a virulent toxin. Defeated and in pain, Bane reveals that Bones has set up the whole affair. Across town, Hawkfire busts into a DEO facility and breaks Beth out of captivity. While Batman and Batwoman fight each other, Bones, Chase, and a DEO squadron capture Hawkfire, Alice, and Jake’s military ops unit known as The Crows. Batwoman gets the jump on Bones and company by surprising them with a ruse where Jake wears the Batman costume. The real Batman, Nightwing, and Batgirl then take down the DEO guys. DEO Agent Asaf, on direct orders from the POTUS, takes out the rogue Bones by shooting him in the head, which puts him into a coma. Three weeks after Director Bones’ DEO assault on Batman and the Kane Family, Jake departs for a therapeutic overseas cruise with Beth in hopes of rehabilitating her at Roderick Kane’s old private island estate. For now, Alice is a villain no more.

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Chronologically, our next Alice-related item is Batwoman Vol. 2 #36-40, entitled “How in the Hell Did We Get Here?” (by Andreyko, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, and Major, January-May 2015). Beth, seemingly fully-recovered, returns to Gotham, with hopes of turning over a brand new positive leaf. Becoming “Red Alice,” Beth meets up with her sister with the idea that they should become a crime-fighting duo. Unfortunately, Kate is going through some wild stuff at the moment. She’s is convinced that she’s been turned into a vampire! Red Alice doesn’t trust Kate’s new girlfriend Nocturna, clearly aware that the latter is playing her sis. Shortly thereafter, Batwoman and Red Alice patrol together as superheroes! They soon find themselves teaming-up with the odd trio of Ragman, Clayface, and Jason Blood against the immortal sorceress Morgaine le Fey! Later, Red Alice exposes Nocturna for the villain that she is. In response, Nocturna metapower-manipulates Kate to attack her own sister. But Red Alice is smarter than that, showing Kate that she’s not actually a vampire—she’s simply Nicolas Cage A Vampire’s Kiss. Nocturna has merely used her powers to make Kate think she’s a bloodsucker. Nocturna tries to pin a murder on Kate, but Red Alice saves her sis again by secretly recording a confession from Nocturna and sending it to the cops. Red Alice is a pretty damn good superhero (and detective)! Runs in the Wayne-Kane Family, I guess. After a warm embrace and a loving sisterly conversation the likes of which we really hadn’t gotten the chance to see prior to this issue, Ragman interrupts. No rest for the weary! Morgain le Fey is in outer space and they’ve got to stop her.

This leads to Batwoman Vol. 2 #35 (by Andreyko, Jeanty, Story, Scott Hanna, Dexter Vines, and Major, December 2014)—out of order from a few issues prior—and the conclusion in Batwoman Annual #2 (by Andreyko, Jeanty, Yishan Li, Roberto Viacava, Ronan Cliquet, et al, June 2015). Batwoman and Red Alice join Etrigan, Ragman, and Clayface to become the superhero team of misfits known as “The Unknowns.” After rocketing into Earth’s atmosphere, they fight Morgaine le Fey and her demon army. Red Alice gets knocked-out but is saved by Ragman’s Suit of Souls, which only works because of all the evil deeds Red Alice has committed in the past. The Unknowns crash back down to Earth, but Morgaine le Fey has turned the entire planet into her own Medieval kingdom. While the rest of the heroes hide out and do recon, Red Alice wanders in the void realm that is within the Suit of Souls, coming face-to-face with evil souls that tempt her to stay with them forever. However, Red Alice proves that she’s really atoned for her sins. She truly wants to repent and be good. It is because of this that she is saved. Eventually, the Unknowns break Morgaine le Fey’s spell and return Gotham to normal.

Publication-wise, we also see Red Alice in the alternate universe story (i.e. non-canon) Batwoman: Futures End #1 (by Andreyko, Jason Masters, and Major, November 2014). In this Futures End timeline tale, Batwoman has become a legit vampire (as opposed to a fake one) and has gone insane, becoming violently murderous. Red Alice, having learned Batman’s ID, goes to Bruce and asks for help in bringing her sis to justice. Bruce gives Red Alice a sonic device that can stun Kate temporarily. Batwoman’s former Unknowns team of Red Alice, Clayface, Ragman, and Jason Blood/Etrigan then reunites and strikes against the vampire queen in Gotham. Seeing no other option, Red Alice uses Bruce’s sonic device and then nets her sis. Red Alice then reluctantly puts a stake through Batwoman’s heart, turning her to a pile of ash.

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Beth returns to canonicity in the New Age/Rebirth Era with Batwoman Vol. 3 #13-15 (“The Fall of the House of Kane”)—the most recent and currently ongoing arc by Bennett, Blanco, and Rauch (May-July 2018). It’s highly debatable and hard to tell whether or not Beth’s New 52 arcs—the DEO story and Red Alice story—are still canon in the Rebirth Era. Some lines of dialogue in “The Fall of the House of Kane” seem to imply that they aren’t canon while others hint at them still remaining canon. We simply don’t know. It’s also highly possible that they are canon, but highly altered versions of what they were before. All we do know for sure is that, when we pick up with Alice, she is in a Swiss sanatorium, where she’s been for quite some time. Kate, as her legal guardian, placed her there and has been keeping tabs on her long distance for a while. When Beth goes missing from the sanatorium, Batwoman believes she’s been kidnapped by the criminal organization known as The Many Arms of Death, which has been fighting Batwoman for a full year. Batwoman’s guess is correct. Beth, back in full crazy Alice mode thanks to having been heavily drugged, returns to Gotham as “The Mother of War”—The Many Arms of Death’s ultimate weapon to use against Batwoman and the entire city. Drifting in-and-out of her Alice persona, the Many Arms of Death lieutenants guide her toward evil. That evil manifests in the form of a dastardly plan to kill everyone in Gotham. With the backing of the Many Arms of Death, a confused Alice mockingly spreads a deadly plague-like disease across the city via swarms of bats. Batwoman knows she (herself) is both a carrier and immune to the disease (thanks to a recent encounter with Scarecrow at a Many Arms of Death bio-weapons lab), so she contacts Julia Pennyworth for help. While Julia preps an antivirus using samples of Batwoman’s blood and DNA, Batwoman flies a plane and uses a sonic-emitter to attract all the infected bats, luring them away from the city. As soon as Julia has whipped-up the antivirus, she crop-dusts it over Gotham in a mini-jet. Batwoman then eliminating any possible traces of the deadly disease with explosives. Meanwhile, Batman, having been contacted by Julia, arrives to confront Alice.

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And that’s the cliffhanger at the end of issue #15. Pretty good, no? The conclusion to “The Fall of the House of Kane” ends with Bennett, Blanco, and Rauch’s Batwoman Vol. 3 #16 (June 2018). Batman confronts both Alice and Batwoman atop the old Kane Industries Building. An explosive three-way-dance makes its way through the building. Batwoman eventually claims victory by playing a loud recording of a gun firing (which apparently screws with Batman’s head) and then trapping the Caped Crusader underneath a giant letter K. With Alice in a moment of confused calm, Batman reminds Batman that Beth is not just her sister, but his cousin as well. Crawling out from beneath the K, Batman accepts that he should help family. The Dark Knight stands-down and leaves Beth in the care of Batwoman, but tells the latter that she’ll have to retire from crimefighting if she ever messes-up again. Seemingly recovered from her insanity (for the moment, at least), Beth stumbles over to an emotional Batwoman, who embraces her and apologizes. This is a nice way to end the long saga of Alice, for the moment anyway. Alice has gone through so much as a character, it’s fitting to see her somewhat redeemed or, at the very least, acknowledged as something more than the usual super-evil (and one-dimensional) baddie. She’s acknowledged as a legit member of the Wayne-Kane family. Like Kate, she’s Bruce’s first cousin—and that means something.

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Bennett’s follow-up in Batwoman Vol. 2 #17 pushes the clock forward three months. Batwoman and Batman aren’t on the best of terms (and Batman is super-bummed after Catwoman left him standing at the altar, so to speak). But thankfully, Alice/Beth is doing great! She’s become a sidekick of sorts to Batwoman. Along with Julia, she’s even moved into her sister’s place and built a stable family life. This awesome trio of kickass women is quite refreshing to see in DC comics land. There’s one more issue of Batwoman Vol. 2 to go before the series closes out. Let’s hope for a nice and satisfying conclusion. Hopefully, future writers will run with Bennett’s ball and treat Alice with similar respect, providing her with the help she needs from family and friends alike. Who knows what fate lies in store for Batwoman? But, more importantly, what fate lies in store for Alice/Beth? Only time will tell.

batwoman 17 happy alice

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Judo Chop! Part Two

It’s time for Judo Chop! Part Two. All mentions of JUDO from 1969 through early 1970. They LOVE mentioning JUDO. Batman even does Judo to a horse.

Detective Comics #384

judo chop watch part two!

JLA #71

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JLA #73

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JLA #74

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JLA #75

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JLA #78

jla 78

Detective Comics #384

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Detective Comics #397

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Detective Comics #399

tec 399 part one

Detective Comics #399

Detective Comics #399 part 2 judo

Detective Comics #399

Detective Comics #399 part 3 judo

World’s Finest Comics #186

wfc 186 (1) judo on a horse!

World’s Finest Comics #186

wfc 186 (2)

World’s Finest Comics #187

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And of course, the ads of the era were all about kung fu fighting and muscle building as well…

Action Comics #375

kung fu fighting ads

The Brave and The Bold #83

ad - bnb 83 muscles

Detective Comics #385

ad - tec 385

Detective Comics #388

ad - tec 388

World’s Finest Comics #189

ad - wfc 189





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Mommy Made of Nails: A History of Professor Pyg

This article is cross-posted at

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Professor Pyg—arguably Batman’s strangest and creepiest rival ever created—was conjured up from the deepest darkest recesses of the mind of Grant Morrison, making his first appearance in Batman #666 (July 2007), an issue that takes place in the future and actually shows Pyg already dead! Morrison, in an IGN interview, described Pyg as “one of the weirdest, most insane characters that’s ever been in Batman. We hear a lot about Batman facing crazy villains, but [artist Frank Quitely and I] tried to make this guy seem genuinely disturbed and disconnected.” (Note that Andy Kubert was the artist that gets credit for first drawing Pyg, which is technically true—but, thanks to a funny way of debuting, it’s really Frank Quitely that should get the illustrative credit. It was Quitely who actually designed Pyg’s look and first fleshed-out his actual present-day narrative debut. The Pyg that Kubert designed was published first, but it was merely a corpse without any of the character’s signature details.)

Morrison’s main inspirations for the schizophrenic rogue came from the Cypriot/Greco-Roman myth of Pygmalion (made famous in Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and from George Bernard Shaw’s stage play Pygmalion, about the very same myth. Further inspiration came from Frederick Lowe and Alan Jay Lerner’s My Fair Lady, a direct musical adaptation of Shaw’s Pygmalion. All of these stories focus on man’s desire to transform others into supposedly “perfect” states. In the original Pygmalion myth and in various stage, movie, and opera adaptations, the titular character builds a sculpture (named Galathea in some iterations) that comes to life. In other versions of stage and film adaptations, scientist Henry Higgins transforms uncouth Eliza Doolittle into an idealized high society woman. According to a Newsarama interview, Morrison’s inspiration to create Pyg also came from Kahimi Karie’s song about Pygmalion entitled “Pygmalism,” written by Momus. Based upon Pyg’s strong desire to maim and mutilate others and his macabre look, which includes a pig head mask and blood-stained apron that hangs over a well-fed paunch, it’s probably safe to assume that Morrison and Quitely had The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Leatherface and other psychotic serial killers (fictional and non-fictional) on their brains when fleshing-out Pyg as well.

Pyg’s horrific origin story reflects the Pygmalion concept of “idealized” transformation. Before he was the mass-murdering Pyg, he was Hungarian super-scientist Lazlo Valentin, an agent of the international spy organization known as Spyral. Valentin designed various pharmaceutical products for the group, including a pseudo-Alzheimer’s-inducing compound that would later be used by Nazi spy-leader Otto “Dr. Dedalus” Netz. Morrison links Valentin to Netz (also Morrison’s creation) here in the same fashion that the legendary Pygmalion of Cyprus and Ovid’s Pygmalion both parallel the Greek myth of Daedalus, another character that gave life to statues.

While under the employ of Spyral, Valentin was subjected to his own chemicals and tortured, leading to violent paranoid schizophrenia, drug abuse, and disfiguring surgery. Of course, Morrison’s other diabolical creation, Dr. Simon Hurt, was at the center of this origin story, manipulating and guiding Valentin through his descent into madness. Valentin, like Pygmalion, sought to transform others for Spyral and Hurt. But he wound up getting transformed himself by Spyral and Hurt. Pyg, along with others like Eduardo Flamingo and the Replacement Batmen, are psychologically ruined men turned evil by Hurt.

The theme of forced “idealized” transformation continues with Pyg’s own henchpeople, called “Dollotrons.” He turns folks into Dollotrons by permanently melting masks onto their faces and performing surgery to turn them into his mindless slaves. While ranting about Dollotrons and butchery, Pyg references “H.H.,” likely Henry Higgins, the main character in Shaw’s Pygmalion and My Fair Lady (played by Rex Harrison in the 1964 George Cukor film adaptation). Pyg’s signature grotesque animal pig mask and other dialogue hint that Pyg was also inspired by yet another Rex Harrison role, Doctor Dolittle (from Richard Fleischer’s 1967 Doctor Dolittle). The fact that Doctor Dolittle and Eliza Doolittle are so-closely connected (via both Rex Harrison and the exact-sameness of the surnames) is coincidence, but the synchronicity of the connection is something that Morrison surely couldn’t ignore when ingeniously crafting Pyg.

batman & robin 3 collin colsher

As detailed in his origin references and via his fixation on creating Dollotrons, Pyg’s constant super-villain theme is the extreme sculpting of minds and bodies via physical and psychological torture. While My Fair Lady‘s Henry Higgins clearly fits the “H.H.” dialogue in this Pygmalion-esque regard, another “H.H.” also figures into Morrison’s Pyg story: real-life 20th century psychologist Harry Harlow. As scholar Rikdad reveals, “Harlow’s experiments, intended to show the importance of nurturing human children, subjected rhesus monkeys to isolation and deprived them of affection. In one such experiment, the monkeys were given milk by a ‘mommy’ made of hard metal wires, which provided sustenance, but no comfort. These monkeys ended up irreversibly damaged psychologically, whereas monkeys given a similarly artificial but soft cloth-covered mommy did not.” In the comics, Pyg displays a nasty prop he calls his “mommy made of nails,” patterned on Harlow’s apparatus. Pyg also mentions his “despair pit” in the comics. As Rikdad points out, “Harlow called an even-more horrific piece of lab equipment the ‘pit of despair,’ which was a dark isolation cage in which he placed baby monkeys, leading them to grow up even more damaged psychologically.” Obviously, both Henry Higgins and Harry Harlow are at the core of Pyg’s vile character.

Interestingly enough, Rikdad details another lynchpin of Pyg’s characterization—the idea that he worships at the feet of an evil darker evil. Beyond wanting to please his master Hurt (who Morrison often identified as a stand-in for Satan himself), Pyg gives shout-outs to monstrous mythological females—such as Mormo, Tiamet, and the Gorgon Queen—as mother figures that he aims to please in his campaign of destruction, bloodshed, and mayhem. This ties into the idea of mothering or nurturing those in one’s care, but doing so in a negative way. Mormo, Tiamet, or the Gorgon each function as “mommies made of nails.” They’ve anti-nurtured and damaged those under their power—just like Pygmalion sculpting Galathea, Henry Higgins re-training Eliza Doolittle, Harry Harlow torturing his rhesus monkeys, Simon Hurt breaking Lazlo Valentin, and Professor Pyg creating Dollotrons.

batman & robin pyg


As mentioned above, Pyg first debuts in Batman #666 (by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang, and Guy Major, 2007), albeit as a fresh corpse. The first time we see him in present day (and alive) is in Batman & Robin #1-3, entitled “BATMAN REBORN” (Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Alex Sinclair, August 2009-October 2009). At this point on the timeline, Bruce Wayne has been Omega-zapped into the distant past (see Final Crisis and The Return of Bruce Wayne for details). With Bruce believed to be dead, former Robin/Nightwing Dick Grayson has taken up the mantle of his former mentor, becoming the new Batman. With Bruce’s son Damian Wayne by his side as the new Robin, this untested fresh Dynamic Duo takes to the streets. Unlucky for them, Pyg is their first challenge.

Batman and Robin debut against Pyg’s henchman, Mr. Toad, and some Russian mob drug-dealers. They apprehend Toad, but the Russians get away with the drugs and attempt to skip town. However, the drugs belong to Pyg, who kills the Russians, takes his goods back, and adheres one of his horrific Dollotron masks on Sasha, daughter of one of the Russians. (Sasha’s uncle is one of Pyg’s customers, who has used the drug to enslave women for the mob. Sasha says that the people who make and trade these new drugs sent Pyg to kill her papa. While not explicitly mentioned, this is the first time we can infer that Pyg works for Simon Hurt, via his El Penitente drug cartel.) Toad’s contemporaries (and other Pyg henchmen), known collectively as The Circus of the Strange (Big Top, Siam aka Kushti, and Phosphorus Rex), show up to try to break him out of jail. The new Dynamic Duo battles the Circus, but have very little chemistry, and the end-result is a disaster. Several cops are injured and, in the chaos, Toad is mysteriously killed and left with a domino in his hand. This is the start of a series of domino killing that will eventually be revealed as being connected to Joker. After their debacle at police HQ, an upset Damian takes off after Pyg by himself. Pyg’s Dollotron henchwomen kidnap Robin right away. Batman eventually saves Damian, stops the Dollotrons from releasing a narcotic flu virus across the city, and apprehends Pyg. At the crime scene, Dick finds another domino. Meanwhile, Sasha, now with a grotesque mask permanently attached to her face, stumbles away, distraught over the fact that Batman and Robin failed to help her. By the end of the arc, former Robin Jason Todd (now going by Red Hood) returns, recruiting Dollotron Sasha (now going by Scarlet) as his twisted sidekick.

batman & robin #14 pyg frazer irving

We next see Pyg in Batman & Robin #13-15, entitled “BATMAN & ROBIN MUST DIE!” (Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving, and Alex Sinclair, August 2010-November 2010). Batman (Dick Grayson) theorizes that the antidote—delivered in the earlier opening Batman & Robin arc—that “cured” Gotham’s populace of Pyg’s viral narcotic is actuality an even more potent remotely-activated version of the same narcotic. Pyg needs only to trigger the virus and all the citizens of Gotham could potentially turn into stark-raving junkie madmen. As Batman and Gordon rush to GCPD HQ, the Simon Hurt’s 99 Fiends army shoot down the flying Batmoblie. Hundreds of Pyg’s Dollotrons swarm upon Batman and Gordon while the Fiends break Pyg out of Arkham. Back at GCPD HQ, Damian beats Joker with a crowbar. A bloody Joker tries to explain that they share the same goal of bringing down the Black Glove (Hurt’s organization, of which Pyg is a henchman) and then scratches Damian with Joker Juice hidden under his nail. Joker then blows his way out of GCPD HQ with the incapacitated Robin in tow. Meanwhile, at their Park Row lair, Hurt and corrupt US Senator Vine reunite with Pyg. Coupled with Hurt, Pyg is fully unhinged, taking PCP and ranting about the destruction of reason. He mentions being in Arkham was akin to the “rats in Rockville,” which, as Rikdad says, is likely a reference to the fictional asylum “Rockland” from Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.” Day one of Hurt’s chaos ends as the Dollotrons kidnap Gordon and render Batman unconscious. Luckily, Alfred is able to rescue and patch up Batman, who is unconscious for several hours while Pyg activates his citywide viral narcotic, turning hundreds of Gothamites into crazed violent junkies. As Pyg prepares to torture Gordon, Senator Vine is stricken with a fatal case of laughter. Joker has used his vast resources to lace the catered snacks inside Hurt’s HQ with Joker Juice. The final “Finger” of the Black Glove slowly and painfully laughs himself to death while Batman begins firebombing the building with a Bat-helicopter. Batman saves Gordon, but the latter has been affected by the viral narcotic and clubs the Dark Knight back into unconsciousness. Concurrently, Joker has broken into the Bat-Bunker with a tied-up Robin and a live nuclear bomb. Hurt’s third day of chaos begins with 18% of Gotham’s population inflicted with Pyg’s virus. Hurt, now the the undisputed king of Gotham, makes his public debut, posing as a returning Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father) and claiming that he never actually died all those decades ago. Amid a media blitz, Hurt makes his triumphant return to Wayne Manor. Robin easily saves the commish but is captured and thrown alongside Dick in the Manor. Hurt then plugs a .32 caliber pellet in the back of Dick’s skull designed to cause permanent neurological damage within twelve hours if not treated. A crazed Hurt then demands that Damian pledge his allegiance to him. But who should return to save the day? Bruce Wayne! Bruce has literally just arrived directly from the final page of Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #6. Interestingly, in this arc, Hurt tells us that Pyg enjoys corruption for its own sake. Pyg is shown hanging upside down on an inverted crucifix, mirroring his debut in Batman #666.

batman and Robin #16 pyg

The story immediately continues in Batman & Robin #16 (Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving, Cameron Stewart, and Chris Burnham, January 2011). Hurt welcomes Bruce by turning loose the 99 Fiends on him. Batman, Batman, and Robin kick ass. While Bruce enters the Batcave, Damian and Dick take on Pyg. During this confrontation, Pyg refers to himself as “Napoleon”—not the French statesman, but the Josef Stalin allusion “Napoleon the Pig” from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Using Pyg’s enflamed H.H.-style “mommy made of nails” prop, Dick and Damian take care of Pyg by manipulating his own Dollotrons to attack him. Bruce beats Hurt to a bloody pulp before realizing that Alfred is tied-up inside gyro-copter wreckage at the bottom of the Batcave’s deepest underwater pool. Bruce dives in, allowing Hurt to escape. However, as Hurt emerges from a secret mausoleum exit, Joker is eagerly awaiting with his own trap. On cue, Hurt slips on Joker’s banana peel and breaks his neck! The Clown Prince of Crime shovels Hurt’s limp body (and now Jokerized rictus grinning face) into an empty grave. Across town, Damian defuses the nuclear bomb in the Bat-Bunker. Joker sings and dances in celebration all over Wayne Cemetery until Bruce punches his lights out. Within hours, the viral narcotic has been neutralized and Dick has made a speedy recovery following a round of emergency brain surgery from Doctor Pennyworth. Joker and Pyg are both incarcerated, although only Joker knows the secret burial location of Hurt (right under everyone’s noses). Later, Bruce makes his public return and drops one of the biggest bombshells in the history of Batman, announcing that he has personally financed Batman’s war on crime from the beginning and that, from this moment forward, Wayne Enterprises will fund a global anti-crime network known as “Batman Incorporated.”

Batman Incorporated #3-5 (Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, Pere Pérez, Michel Lacombe, Nathan Fairbairn, and Chris Burnham, March 2011-May 2011). is an important arc because, for the first time, it gives us the “Son of Pyg”: Pyg’s legit son, murderer Johnny Valentine. Batwoman chases after him through Kathy Kane’s recently re-opened circus, collecting an “oroboros” pendant clue from him, which leads to a British military secret hidden in the South Atlantic (i.e. where Doc Dedalus supposedly remains imprisoned on one of the Falkland Islands). Remember Dedalus is the guy Pyg built bio-weapons for back in the day. This leads to Batwoman, The Hood, Gaucho, and Batman (Bruce) all converging upon the Falkland Islands to confront Dedalus and Scorpiana. However, when they arrive they learn that Dedalus has long since switched places with a decoy. Not only that, his deceased handlers were also working for the terrorist organization Leviathan, which, unknown to the heroes at this juncture, is run by Talia al Ghul.

Chronologically speaking, Pyg’s next Modern Age appearance is in the much-maligned Convergence series. In issue #3 (Jeff King, Stephen Segovia, Jason Paz, and Peter Steigerwald, June 2015), alternate Earth versions of a couple heroes fight against a gaggle of baddies, including White Knight, The Absence, Victor Zsasz, Eduardo Flamingo, Riddler, Old King Coal, Man-Bat (Kirk Langstrom), Simon Hurt, and Pyg. Overwhelmed, an alternate-Earth Batman detonates a suicide-bomb, killing himself to take out the villains. Pyg is blown to smithereens. Of course, we can ignore this as basically being non-canon, erased from existence due to a long complicated process involving retcons, reboots, and various other later publications. It’s a story not worth mentioning further, so I won’t.

damian son of batman

Continuing onward. The also-much-maligned series Damian: Son of Batman (Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson, December 2013-March 2014) gives us our next chronological Pyg. (This series had the confusing distinction of being published in the New 52 era, but written for the Modern Age, hence its quasi-canonical status in both continuities.) Our story, in relation to Pyg, begins with a fifteen-year-old Damian arguing with his dad in the Batcave. This leads to Bruce getting accidentally impaled on a sharp item. Alfred rushes in to stabilize Bruce and orders Damian to leave. Naturally, Damian becomes Batman for the first time ever—the 666 version of the character from Batman #666 (the very comic that originally debuted Pyg). Damian’s first challenge as Batman, much like his first as Robin alongside Dick (when Dick became Batman for the first official time) is against Pyg (sporting a new look) and his Dollotrons. Pyg kicks Damian’s butt and blows him into the Gotham River, nearly killing him.

Will Batman-666 get his revenge? Well, not really, but, as we already know, Pyg gets what’s coming to him in Batman #666. As referenced in Batman #666, Morrison’s Batman #700 (August 2010), and Damian: Son of Batman #1-2, Damian takes three years to hone his craft as Gotham’s primary protector, during which time he gains a motley rogue’s gallery, including Pyg, which hints at unspecified return matches against the crazy villain. We also learn that Pyg has become one of Gotham’s top mob bosses during this time period, so it’s possible that Damian beats him up a few times for good measure—albeit off-panel.

batman 666 pyg death

Eventually, we come full circle on the Pyg oroboros for the Modern Age. We started with Batman #666 and that is where we shall end. In Batman #666, Michael Lane, former substitute Batman and former Azrael, returns to Gotham obsessed with destroying Damian at the behest of his master, Simon Hurt. Dressed in his old substitute Batman costume, Lane kills five of the top Gotham mob bosses, including Pyg.

pyg header (part 2)


Professor Pyg’s backstory, characterization, and origin were left intact through the transition from Modern Age to New Age, following 2011’s Flashpoint series. There are slight retcons to the arcs in which he or his son appeared—notably, in regard to the latter, the erasure of Batwoman, whose debut gets pushed back in the New 52—but overall (besides the shortened DCU timeline in general) everything is pretty much as it was before. Picking up from where we last saw Pyg (during the events of Batman & Robin #16) and where we first met his son (during the events of Batman Incorporated #3-5), only a short amount of time has passed. Pyg is still in prison once the New 52 begins, and that is where we see him first in Batman Vol. 2 #1-2 (by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Jonathan Glapion, November-December 2011), during an Arkham Asylum riot scene. (Sumo, who looks like the Circus of the Strange’s Big Top but is a totally different character, is there too.) As we will see, Pyg’s New 52 life is pretty much all Arkham-related, for the most part. A lot of issues, which I won’t bother listing below, simply show Pyg as a background character at Arkham.

batwoman vol 2 22 pyg interview panels

Pyg cameos in the Batwoman arc entitled “Blood is Thick,” specifically in Batwoman Vol. 2 #22 (by JH Williams III, W Haden Blackman, Trevor McCarthy, and Guy Major, September 2013), in which DEO leader Mr. Bones attempts to recruit a bunch of Arkham inmates to go after the Bat-Family. In a great short sequence, Cameron Chase interviews the Mortician, Black Mask, Fright, and Pyg—asking them their thoughts on Batman.

Pyg then shows up in the less-than-stellar 2014 “Gothtopia” arc (by John Layman, Aaron Lopresti, Art Thibert, and Blond). And shortly thereafter, Pyg shows up, along with literally every other villain in the DCU, in Forever Evil (by Geoff Johns and David Finch, 2013-2014) and its Arkham-related spinoff (by Peter Tomasi, Scot Eaton, Jaime Mendoza, et al, 2013-2014), which sees Pyg performing a number of horrible unnecessary surgeries on poor victims.

batman eternal #1 batman vs pyg

Besides Forever Evil: Arkham War, Pyg doesn’t really get any memorable action in the New 52 until Batman Eternal (by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, John Layman, Tim Seeley, et al, 2014), appearing as a primary player in the first handful of issues. Issue #1 begins with Commissioner Gordon and Batman engaged with an escaped Pyg. Batman himself escapes from a Pyg death trap and switches to a robot mech-suit to help Gordon rescue some kids from being turned into Dollotrons. While Batman corrals Pyg, Gordon chases Pyg’s accomplice, Derek Grady, into the subway. There, Gordon sees a false image of a gun—secretly projected by Brazilian metahuman Dr. Falsario—in the perp’s hand, which he shoots at. The bullet flies through the false image and hits a station power box. The power box, clearly rigged to explode, blows up and causes a massive derailment that results in the deaths of 162 train riders. Gordon is demoted and arrested for police negligence and manslaughter! In the shadows, the mystery Big Bad notes to himself that his evil plan is under way. Who is respsonsbile for the chaos? Is it a returning Carmine Falcone, who has teamed-up with corrupt Mayor Sebastian Hady? Could it be Cluemaster and his evil wife Crystal, who are shown meeting with Firefly, Lock-Up, Signalman, Lincoln March. Maybe its new asshole Commissioner Forbes, who has always hated Gordon and now has his position? What about the mysterious arrival of Jason Bard? How about Blackgate Prison’s Warden Agatha Zorbatos, who has always had it in for Gordon, and now has him dead to rights in the general population of her nightmarish penitentiary? Or could it be Pyg, Grady, and Falsario acting as a singular unit? A great setup for a weekly series, no? Too bad Batman Eternal would throw a big fat dud week-to-week for fifty-two weeks straight. While it certainly deserves hate, this ain’t no Batman Eternal review, so I’ll stop trashing and move on. Not long after the framing of Gordon, an angry Batgirl wails on Pyg’s henchmen (including Mr. Toad!) before being stopped by Batman for using excessive violence.

By the time Batman Eternal #5 (by Tynion IV, Snyder, Seeley, Layman, Fawkes, Andy Clarke, and Blond, July 2014) rolls around, three days have passed since Gordon’s frame-up and arrest. Super genius Red Robin deduces that Pyg’s involvement on the night of the accident is immaterial—Pyg’s victims that night were actually infected by a highly advanced nanotechnology before he got to them. Having traced the nano-virus to the Philip Kane Memorial Projects, home to Harper and Cullen Row, Red Robin goes there to investigate. A nano-swarm virus spreads across Gotham, but Pyg has nothing to do with it. He’s just a red herring.

In Batman Eternal #6-9 (by Fawkes, Snyder, Tynion IV, Layman, Seeley, et al, July-August 2014), Arkham Asylum gets taken over by ghouls linked to the spirit of Deacon Blackfire. Meanwhile, explosions rocks Gotham. Pyg’s laboratory gets burnt to the ground, courtesy of Pyg’s associate Bixby “Roadrunner” Rhodes (Tiger Shark’s partner), who has betrayed Pyg to work for Falcone. Batman responds to the conflagration only to get into a fight with Pyg and dozens of Dollotrons. Batman wraps-up Pyg in a nice little package for the GCPD, but Commissioner Forbes lets Pyg go free! Later, Pyg gets revenge for the destruction of his lab by blowing-up Rhodes’ car dealership, although Rhodes somehow miraculously survives without so much as a scratch. Batman leaves Gotham to continue his investigations into Falcone/saving Gordon in Hong Kong. There, he meets Alfred’s daughter Julia Pennyworth and the remnants of the semi-defunct Batman Incorporated finally die completely.

batman eternal #10 pyg threatens falcone

Batman Eternal #10 (by Layman, Snyder, Tynion IV, Fawkes, Seeley, Riccardo Burchielli, and Dave McCaig, August 2014) begins two days after Rhodes’ car dealership was blown up. Falcone abuses a restrained Catwoman, but while doing so accidentally spills the beans that he is working on behalf of someone else. Pyg and his animal-human hybrid monsters known as “Farm Hands” then attack Falcone head on, capturing him and prepping him for unnecessary surgery. As the media and police surround Falcone’s HQ, Batman swoops in via Batplane, takes down Pyg and his Farm Hands, and rescues Catwoman. Catwoman reveals that Falcone is merely a pawn in a bigger game. Like Pyg, Falcone is also nothing more than a red herring. Pyg also appears in non-noteworthy cameos in Batman Eternal #12 (illustrated by Mikel Janín and Jeromy Cox, August 2014) and Batman Eternal #16 (illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs, and John Kalisz, September 2014). If you want to know whodunnit then check out the series for yourself—I won’t spoil the ending here.

Pyg’s next big appearance is in the “Robin War” crossover arc, specifically in Teen Titans Vol. 5 #15 (by Will Pfeifer, Scott Lobdell, Ian Churchill, Miguel Mendoça, Norm Rapmund, Dexter Vines, and Tony Aviña, February 2016). Pyg and his Dollotrons get involved in the Court of Owls-fueled conflict, which includes the Teen Titans, We are Robin Gang, and Brother Blood’s Church of Blood cult.

After that, Pyg is seen in a cameo in Black Canary Vol. 4 #9 (by Matthew Rosenberg, Moritat, and Lee Loughridge, April 2016). Black Canary’s popular band plays a terrible private gig for a grossly wealthy teenage girl, who turns out to be a Falcone. Add to this Super Sweet 16 nightmare the fact that Gotham Underworlders show up, including Black Mask and Pyg!

nightwing vol 4 18 pyg's art gallery

Next, Pyg re-appears working for his old master Simon Hurt in Nightwing Vol. 4 #16-20, entitled “Nightwing Must Die!” (by Tim Seeley, Javi Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor, May-July 2017), which is a “Rebirth”-branded arc, but technically takes place in the New 52 because it occurs in continuity just prior to the “Superman Reborn” issue (Dan Jurgens’ Action Comics #975) that officially rebooted the New Age of DC Comics aka The Rebirth Era. (When all the continuity-alteration dust settled in 2017, this arc basically wound up being canon in both the New 52 and Rebirth Era, but it’s best not to dwell on this for too long or your head might explode.) Despite his myriad little appearances in the New 52, Pyg is really only his true twisted self when in close proximity to Hurt. And we get that feel quite strongly here. In the arc, Nightwing has been living in Blüdhaven for about two-and-a-half months now and has been dating Shawn Tsang (the former super-villain known as Defacer) for roughly the same amount of time. While Nightwing is on a trip to Gotham, Deathwing attacks Shawn in her Blüdhaven apartment and kidnaps her. Who, pray tell, is Deathwing? He’s an evil Dollotron version of Nightwing, created and sent to kidnap Shawn by Pyg on behalf of Hurt! Pyg even goes so far as to compare Shawn to Eliza Doolittle! We soon meet a seriously messed-up Dollotron version of Robin too. Nightwing and Robin are eventually able rescue Shawn from the clutches of Pyg, who has set up a grotesque art gallery in Paris. After Pyg goes down, Hurt trades up Shawn for the Boy Wonder, kidnapping the latter. Nightwing and Shawn—who dons her Defacer gear—go after Damian in Egypt, defeating Deathwing and Hurt to rescue the Boy Wonder. During this fight, Nightwing gets slashed with the seemingly cosmic-powered “Blade of Nothing,” which causes him to see visions of alternate versions of himself. This ties-into and acts as a prelude-of-sorts to the Dark Days/Dark Nights: Metal mega-arc. Deathwing turns on his masters and fights Hurt. (This is one of the rare times a Dollotron fights off Pyg’s influence.) They both disappear into thin air after stabbing each other with the “Blade of Nothing.”

And the rest of the New 52 for Pyg reflects the Modern Age (more-or-less). His stuff from Damian: Son of Batman and his death in Batman #666 end his tale once again, just as it did before.

For Pyg, his history and future in the Rebirth Era pretty much reflect what they were in the Modern Age and the New 52. However, his story continues after “Nightwing Must Die!” with appearances in Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 2 #14 (by Scott Lobdell, Joe Bennett, Sean Parsons, Veronica Gandini, and Blond, November 2017) and Batgirl & The Birds of Prey #15, entitled “Manslaughter” (by Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Roge Antonio, and Marcelo Maiolo, December 2017). In the former, Pyg and his Dollotrons take on Red Hood (former Robin Jason Todd) for the first time ever. (Red Hood made a Dollotron his sidekick back in the day, but he never actually fought Pyg or the other Dollotrons.) Artemis asks Pyg if he’s ever met Red Hood before, to which Pyg replies, “In continuity? No.” Besides that funny line, this Pyg appearance is one of his weakest as he is basically fodder for the second incarnation of the Outlaws. In Batgirl & The Birds of Prey #15, Pyg fights the latest incarnation of the Birds of Prey and gets a few more decent lines in, but he quickly succumbs (along with all the genetic-males) to a citywide virus spread by the misandry group known as the Daughters of Gotham.

pyg beware the batman still


Pyg has become very popular in recent years, and deservedly so. In the cartoon series Batman: The Brave and the Bold
episode “Knights of Tomorrow!,” Pyg and Eduardo Flamingo, based on the Morrison versions of the characters, make a small joint cameo. In the cartoon series Beware the Batman, Pyg appears as one of the primary antagonists. He’s still a mad surgeon obsessed with perfection and transformation, but this version of Pyg (along with his sidekick Mr. Toad) is re-interpreted as a British eco-terrorist, who dresses in Victorian clothing. Pyg also appears in the Beware the Batman spin-off comic book, which is based on the show.

In regard to other non-canon comic appearances, Pyg can be seen in the online-first series Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman #16 (by Jason Badower, Caitlin Kittredge, Scott Hampton, and Jason Badower, November 2015), in The Shadow/Batman #1 (by Steve Orlando, Giovanni Timpano, and Flavio Dispenza, December 2017), and in the Batman: Arkham Knight spin-off comic book (by Peter Tomasi, et al, 2015-2016). (We’ll briefly address Pyg’s video game appearances below.)

pyg on gotham tv

Pyg appears in the live-action Bat-Family prequel TV show Gotham, portrayed by Michael Cerveris. Producer Bryan Wynbrandt is a big fan of the character and wanted him to have a big role in the show, hence his inclusion. Pyg first shows up in the fourth season as a revenge-hungry serial killer who assassinates corrupt cops and covers their faces with the severed heads of pigs. In later episodes, Pyg gets more of a Hannibal Lecter treatment, murdering and surgically cutting-up his victims, then cooking them into meat pies. He then sadistically cuts up his own face in prison. In a big twist, Pyg reveals that he is actually totally sane, that his “insane persona” was merely part of a grand conspiracy orchestrated by the Falcones to ruin anyone under Penguin’s criminal umbrella, including various mobsters and bad cops. In the end, Pyg gets a fatal bullet for his trouble.

In video games, Pyg appears in the extremely popular Batman: Arkham Knight. In the game, Pyg has his usual look and MO, kidnapping people and turning them into “perfected” Dollotron servants. He leaves a trail of deformed corpses in his wake wherever he goes. His other video game appearance is in Injustice 2. Pyg cameos in Red Hood’s game ending in which Red Hood saves Scarlet from him.

In The Lego Batman Movie, an ad for “Lazlo’s Slaughter House” can be seen that depicts a man wearing a Pyg-like pig helmet. The animated Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, released in 2018, features Pyg in his animated feature film debut, voiced by the amazing James Urbaniak. We’ve yet to see any live-action incarnation of Pyg on the big screen, but I’d bet on it happening in the near future, especially with DCEU’s shared movie universe expanding.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading about the life and times of Professor Pyg! Until next time.

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Judo Chop!

In a bit of a belated April Fool’s Day post, I thought I’d do something a bit more on the silly side, but still in relation to the history of Batman. In the late 60s, Batman was very talkative while fighting. In fact, he was often known to call out martial arts moves—mostly judo, but some karate—while kicking ass. For your pleasure, here are some of the best “Batman calls out judo moves while fighting” moments of the late 1960s. Keep your eyes peeled for a second edition a little down the road too—this happened quite a bit!

NOTE: The image links on this post are permanently damaged. Sorry! Please click this link to my Twitter to see the images. Thanks.

Batman #191
judo batman

Batman #191
judo batman 191

Batman #196
Batman 196 judo call out

Batman #196
Batman 196 judo part two-do

Batman #197
judo batman 197

Batman #199
batman 199 judo 1

Batman #199
Batman 199 judo 2

Batman #199
Batman 199 part 3 judo

Batman #201
judo batman 201 part 1

Batman #201
batman 201 judo 1

The Brave and The Bold #77
brave and the bold 77 judo

Detective Comics #367
tec 367 judo

Detective Comics #376
tec 376 judo

Detective Comics #377
tec 377 judo

Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #111
superman's pal jimmy olsen 111 judo

Justice League of America #63
jla 63 judo chop

And for a little bonus, advertisers in the late 1960s were in league with DC Comics’ martial arts fun too…

Batman #204
batman 204 judo ad

Justice League of America #63
ketsugo ad jla 63

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Gun Happy New Year: A History of Deadshot

This article is cross-posted at!

deadshot banner image

Over the past few years, DC Comics’ chain-smoking master assassin Deadshot, one of Batman’s second-tier rogues, has gained popularity—appearing in more comic books than ever and in multiple TV and cinema incarnations, notably portrayed by Will Smith in David Ayer’s high-grossing but critically-panned Suicide Squad (2016). Say what you will about the Ayer film or Smith’s portrayal, it’s nice to see Deadshot finally get his due. He is pretty damn cool and quite fascinating, especially when you deconstruct his serial killer psyche in a way not dissimilar to something seen in the Mindhunters TV show. In 2009, IGN ranked Deadshot in its Top 50 Greatest Comic Book Villains of All Time. Despite Deadshot’s growing popularity he still seems to sometimes get confused with the popular character Deathstroke, DC’s other top marksman and hitman, who happens to wear a similar costume as well. Some fans might be surprised to learn that Deadshot actually pre-dates Deathstroke by a full thirty years, first appearing in the pages of Batman comics way back in 1950. (Deadshot also pre-dates Marvel’s similarly-styled highly-popular assassins-for-hire characters Deadpool and Bullseye by forty-one years and twenty-six years, respectively.) It’s clear to see that Deadshot has influenced many creators over the years. Without Deadshot, who knows whether or not we’d even have Deathstroke, Bullseye, or Deadpool.

DC Comics is ushering in 2018 with a special New Year’s Eve story in Trinity Vol. 2 #16 (by Rob Williams, V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, and Dinei Ribeiro) featuring a team-up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Deadshot. Let’s join in the fun and help DC celebrate the season by honoring 68 years of the man they call Deadshot! Because Deadshot has been around for such a long amount of time, there’s a lot of material featuring the character and there’s a lot to be said about him.

This first part of this piece will look at Deadshot’s canonical chronology from his Golden Age debut in 1950 up until the end of John Ostrander’s fantastic run on Suicide Squad in 1992. The second part of this piece will examine the chronological narrative history of Deadshot from 1993 up to the New 52 Flashpoint reboot in 2011. The third part of this piece will look at Deadshot’s chronological New 52 and Rebirth appearances, meaning all his comic book appearances from 2011 to now.

Deadshot has come a long way since the 50s, that’s for certain—especially when it comes to synergistic transmedia appearances. He’s appeared in numerous TV shows and movies over the years. Michael Rosenbaum voiced him in the animated Justice League and Justice League Unlimited TV shows. Tom Kenny provided a voice for him in the animated Batman: The Brave and The Bold TV show. Christian Slater voiced him in the animated Justice League Action TV show. In regard to live-action TV appearances, Bradley Stryker played Deadshot on Smallville while Michael Rowe played him on Arrow and The Flash. In cinema, Jim Meskimen voiced the character in the animated Batman: Gotham Knight while Neal McDonough voiced him in the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham. Deadshot also briefly appears (without speaking) in the animated Superman/Batman: Public Enemies film. Deadshot also appears in at least eight video games. Most famously, as mentioned above, Will Smith played Deadshot in Suicide Squad.

But where did it all start for Floyd Lawton? What’s the full story? It started, as we’ve already said, in 1950—with good ol’ American sequential art. Let’s take a gander at the long and amazing chronological history of DC Comics’ Deadshot, shall we?

OG Deadshot Batman #59

Lew Sayre Schwartz (with David Vern Reed) creates Deadshot for the June-July 1950 issue of Batman #59. (Schwartz, a longtime DC illustrator and Bob Kane’s primary ghost artist, also is the creator of Killer Moth and Mad Hatter.) Deadshot’s secret identity is Floyd Lawton, a debonaire wealthy socialite not unlike Bruce Wayne. While Bruce and Dick are away on vacation, Floyd snaps on a domino mask and debuts as a gun-toting tuxedo-clad superhero, quickly becoming the toast of the town—so much so that Commissioner Gordon puts a Bulls-eye Signal on the police headquarters roof right next the to Bat Signal! Upon meeting Deadshot, Batman and Robin are immediately suspicious of Gordon’s new golden boy. After working a few cases with Deadshot, Batman and Robin are able to figure out his secret ID and his true intentions: to become ultimate crime lord of Gotham. Before setting up a ruse to lure Deadshot into a confrontation, Batman rigs the sniper’s guns so that they won’t aim correctly. During the ensuing confrontation, Deadshot is shocked to have missed his target—something he’s never done before. In shambles, Batman exposes him as a fraud and sends him to jail.

Deadshot next makes a cameo in Detective Comics #169 (by
Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane, and Charles Paris, March 1951), which sees Batman, serving as temporary warden of Gotham State Prison, checking-in on Floyd in his cell. This is a fun little appearance that most of the internet seems to be unaware of.

tec 474 deadshot englehart marshall

It’s not until the Silver Age that we see Deadshot again, specifically in Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers’ superb classic “Strange Apparitions” arc. In Detective Comics #474 (Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, and Jerry Serpe, December 1977), we are introduced to the more recognizable version of the character as Floyd debuts his signature red-and-gray assassin costume complete with wrist-mounted guns—although, thanks to the magic of flashbacks, Deadshot’s tuxedo-wearing origin story is canonized for the Silver Age. Englehart and Rogers designed Deadshot’s wrist guns based on real life “sleeve guns” manufactured during World War II by the British Army. Breaking out of jail, Deadshot adds his signature laser-monocle to his new costume, which is actually a gizmo he steals from Penguin! The next day, at the Gotham Convention Center, Bruce meets with paramour Silver St. Cloud and Commissioner Gordon. By night, Batman is fighting Deadshot, who wants revenge, at the convention center, which features an exhibit of old-school Golden Age-style oversized items. Deadshot’s revenge plot fails as he is defeated by Batman.

detective comics 518 deadshot cover

In the follow-up—Batman #351 (by Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, and Gene Colan September 1982), Detective Comics #518-520 (by Conway, Levitz, and Don Newton, September 1982-November 1982), and Batman #354 (by Conway and Newton, December 1982)—Deadshot gets out of prison thanks to help from crime boss Rupert Thorne and corrupt government officials, including a crooked prison warden, Commissioner Peter Pauling (who has replaced Gordon), and Mayor Hamilton Hill. Accepting a hit on Bruce Wayne, Deadshot stalks his victim, who is actually Christopher Chance aka The Human Target, an amazing Len Wein/Carmine Infantino character that mimics would-be victims in order to turn the tables on their would-be assassins. Shortly thereafter, Gerry Conway introduces a bit of complexity that will be attached to Deadshot’s character for the next 35 years: his gray role as antihero/potential hero. Batman pulls Deadshot out of prison and interrogates him as they take a ride in the Batmobile. Deadshot plays ball and names names, an act that ultimately causes the downfall (and death) of Pauling in Batman #354. After spilling the beans, Deadshot winds up imprisoned in the Batcave, which leads to some awesome banter between Floyd and an annoyed Alfred.

deadshot is back!

It’s not long before the precocious Deadshot pops back up again in Batman’s world. In Batman #369 (by Doug Moench, Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, and Adrienne Roy, March 1984) and Detective Comics #536 (Moench, Gene Colan, Bob Smith, and Roy, March 1984), Floyd, once again free from prison, accepts a lucrative hit on none other than Alfred and his daughter Julia Pennyworth. Deadshot attacks them in Montreal, which brings the Dark Knight a-calling. Shortly thereafter, Batman once again saves the day and busts Deadshot, who makes a false claim that Julia’s recently-deceased adoptive dad was behind the hit. En route to jail, Deadshot escapes into the Montreal sewers, prompting Alfred and Julia to chase after him. Eventually, Batman, Alfred, and Julia take down Deadshot and the real perps, a Syrian terrorist organization comprised of art thieves.

We next see Deadshot along with dozens of other super-villains in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths—and similarly along with dozens of other super-villains in Batman #400. In Crisis, The Creeper bests Deadshot. In Batman #400, Talia al Ghul gets the better of Deadshot. And that’s all she wrote for the character’s Earth-1 and Earth-2 existence. The Crisis sweeps it all away and delivers the Modern Age of comics. Deadshot might be a bit player in the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze Age, but, as we will see, Deadshot officially joins the big leagues after 1986.

legends ostrander deadshot

In the rebooted post-Crisis continuity, all of Deadshot’s previous history is more or less kept intact. However, for the first time ever, Deadshot branches-out, leaving his role as B-list Batman rogue to become a DCU journeyman that is paradoxically both a sympathetic loving father and a stone cold sociopath who dwells in the darkest reaches of comic book villainy. Deadshot’s first Modern Age appearance is in the Legends crossover (by John Ostrander, Len Wein, John Byrne, Karl Kesel, and Tom Ziuko, November 1986 to May 1987), which also debuts the Suicide Squad, a team with which Deadshot will be forever associated. The Suicide Squad is a team of rotating incarcerated super-villains forced to undertake secret missions for the US military. They are controlled by Task Force X, a clandestine government organization run by the notorious Amanda Waller. The Suicide Squad program supposedly offers super-villains a clean slate in exchange for joining, but the devious Waller will rarely ever grant the prize, sending her “heroes” on mission after deadly mission. Interestingly enough, in Legends, Waller does honor her promise, but Deadshot shows his masochistic nature, choosing to remain on the team. This is the first inkling of Floyd’s personal death-wish—a compulsive desire to be killed in an over-the-top way. Deadshot also shows his sadistic side as well as he has no qualms about executing his own teammates. And thus begins Ostrander’s start with the Suicide Squad and Deadshot, an excellent run that will span nearly six years.

suicide squad vol 1 1

Suicide Squad #1-4 (by John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, Karl Kesel, and Carl Gafford, May 1987-August 1987) begins the legendary development of Deadshot’s character. In Louisiana, Deadshot joins his fellow Bell Reve Penitentiary inmates—Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Nemesis, Nightshade, Plastique, Rick Flag, Karin Grace, and Mindboggler—on the first Suicide Squad lineup. Even in the first four issues of the highly acclaimed series, the team changes lineups and suffers losses (a trend that will continue for decades to come), as they face-off against the aptly named Jihadist group known as The Jihad and then some Darkseid cronies. We see Deadshot, when told to take some one down, use the most brutal and damaging force possible. Even given plenty of non-lethal options, this sick puppy will choose to kill, kill, kill. Amazingly, Deadshot then disguises himself as racist ideologue William Hell (a childhood friend of his) in order to discredit the asshole at a White Power rally.

firestorm nuclear man vs suicide squad

Not long after the debut of the Suicide Squad, Ostrander continues Deadshot’s tale in the pages of Firestorm Vol. 2 #64 and Firestorm Vol. 2 Annual #5 (October 1987). In this mini-arc, Firestorm vows to eradicate all of the nuclear warheads on the planet, so the US government sends Captain Atom and the Suicide Squad—Rick Flag, Killer Frost, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Multiplex, and Slipknot—to fight him. The Justice League then gets involved in what becomes an all-out war against Parasite, who has been unleashed by the Suicide Squad. Eventually, Firestorm combats Russia’s own nuclear man Pozhar and merges with him.

cool deadshot cover

Suicide Squad #5-8 (continued by Ostrander et al, September 1987-December 1987) sees the team—joined by Penguin—venture into Soviet Russia to combat the KGB! We learn that Deadshot is fluent in Russian and a communist. When the US government catches wind of Waller’s mission, she is forced to abort. The Suicide Squad gets out of dodge, but Nemesis is captured by The People’s Heroes. Back behind Belle Reve bars, Deadshot and his Squad pals deal with the machinations of Derek Tolliver, Task Force X’s dubious NSC liaison. The team eagerly wants to rescue Nemesis, but Waller won’t (and can’t) give the green light. In a Bell Reve therapy session, Deadshot kisses his doctor, Marnie Herrs. A bit of sexual tension will last between the two, moving forward.

Deadshot, as part of his new journeyman status with the Suicide Squad, obviously shows up for DC’s next big mega-crossover Millennium (1987-1988), in which we discover that loved ones and close friends of the superheroes have been replaced by killer android Manhunters. (This is basically Marvel’s Secret Invasion done exactly twenty years earlier.) The Manhunters’ goal is to stop the Oanian/Zamaronian “Millennium Project,” a plan to birth a new superhero team that will defend the galaxy. The heroes learn about the “Millennium Project” and the Manhunter plot at a special meeting called to order by Hal Jordan at the Green Lantern Citadel. After debriefing, the war against the Manhunters officially begins on Earth and in outer space, with hundreds of heroes and villains involved, including the Suicide Squad. In the pages of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad #9 (January 1988), Deadshot and company face off against the Manhunters, finding that one of their own, Karin Grace has been replaced. Floyd gets a new opportunity to still be the bad boy that he is, but to also fight for a heroic cause. The antihero shines through here.

suicide squad 10 deadshot batman

Following the Millennium crossover, in Ostrander’s Suicide Squad #10 (February 1988), Batman learns about what the Suicide Squad is and he’s not happy about it. Already down South following the events of Millennium, Batman dons the Matches Malone disguise and infiltrates the Squad’s headquarters as an inmate in Belle Reve. While there, Batman fights the Suicide Squad and beats the entire team before confronting Waller, who threatens that she can easily discover his secret identity if she wants to. Batman backs down.

Next, Deadshot’s journey with the Suicide Squad continues in another small crossover, featuring Justice League International #13 (by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, et al, May 1988) and Suicide Squad #13 (by the Ostrander team, May 1988).
In JLI #13, the Suicide Squad, against Waller’s orders, attempts a rescue of Nemesis in Russia, but the JLI is ready and waiting for them at the request of the president, who fears an international incident. The JLI and Suicide Squad square-off, but the former eventually comes to realize that Nemesis is wrongly imprisoned. The fight ends with a truce and team-up to save Nemesis, although a disgruntled Batman nearly cripples Rick Flag and quits the JLI (for the second time). Despite the protesting of the Russian government, Nemesis is given asylum at the JLI Russian Embassy and then secretly returned to the States.

Ostrander and McDonnell’s Suicide Squad #14-16 (June 1988-October 1988) details the “Nightshade Odyssey”—which sees the Squad explore the Nightshade Dimension (aka The Land of the Nightshades), a world of darkness and horror linked to team member Nightshade—and “Manhattan Massacre”—a single issue featuring the revenge attempt of the Jihad. In the first part, a chaotic battle against the demonic Incubus goes south when a hotheaded Deadshot shoots Incubus’ mortal host in the head, which sucks everyone into a black hole-like portal that takes them to the Zero-Zone (which is linked to the Phantom Zone). This eventually leads to Shade the Changing Man joining the team. Shortly thereafter, in the second part, much to Deadshot’s pleasure, the Squad gets a bloody rematch against the Jihad.

deadshot vol 1 solo series

Finally, due to his ever-increasing popularity, Deadshot is granted his very own solo series for the first time ever! Deadshot #1-4 (by Ostrander and McDonell, who are joined by Kim Yale, November 1988-December 1988). This series is notable because Ostrander and Yale start fleshing-out Floyd’s most defining traits, including expanding upon a running thread from Suicide Squad: his macabre death-wish. Deadshot, often shown as being bummed when he isn’t slaughtered on missions in the pages of Suicide Squad, will double down on this mentality after his solo series concludes. The Deadshot solo series not only further expands upon Deadshot’s character, but it also reveals that Floyd has a young son named Edward Lawton. Unfortunately, poor Edward gets raped and killed before story’s end. Yikes. Shaken to his core, Deadshot becomes even more detached from humanity, accepting his fate as a blind vengeful killing machine in the Punisher sense. In the end, Floyd winds up shooting and crippling his own mother. Deadshot also finally tells us what makes Floyd tick via a very troubled origin that dates back to his twisted childhood. When young Floyd’s abusive dad cheated on his mom, she tasked Floyd’s brother Eddie with killing their adulterous pop. Eddie wound up shooting their dad, paralyzing him for life. In the ensuing chaos, Floyd accidentally shot Eddie dead.

deadshot shot shot

The tragedy of the death of Floyd’s son and messed-up family affairs will continue to haunt him as his narrative continues uninterrupted through over fifty-five ongoing issues of Suicide Squad, from 1988 to 1990. In the big chunk of Suicide Squad #22-43, Ostrander and Yale guide Deadshot through the sinister underworld of corruption and malice that is the late 80s DCU. In Suicide Squad #22 (December 1988), the now completely unstable Deadshot assassinates a US senator and gets in a dogfight with Rick Flag, which leads to an emotional scene where Deadshot breaks down and gets riddled with bullets in front of the Lincoln Memorial. But our boy Floyd is a survivor, and he comes back for the “Phoenix Gambit” arc from Suicide Squad #40-43 (April 1990-July 1990). In this tale, Amanda Waller, who has been stripped of leadership duties and jailed, gets out of prison to lead the now freelance (non-government-sanctioned) Suicide Squad into Count Vertigo’s civil-war-torn homeland of Vlatava. However, since Batman has given the Squad nothing but grief in the past, they not only want his blessing, but his help as well. Therefore, Waller cuts a deal that allows Batman to help choose the new members of the Squad in exchange for aiding him in the capture of a fugitive Vlatavan murderer. Batman personally re-recruits Poison Ivy and Ravan into the Squad and they all head out to Vlatava. Meanwhile, when a serial killer steals Deadshot’s costume, he is “forced” to murder someone that essentially looks just like him. After the dust settles, a disillusioned Waller leaves the Suicide Squad. (Don’t worry, she’ll be back.) For the first time since before the Crisis, though, Deadshot is legitimately freelance—although not solo as he remains with the Squad.

After his costume is returned by none other than Batman’s mentor Henri Ducard (!), Floyd chooses to leave the bullet hole in his mask—the hole through which he put a slug into his copycat’s head. Shaken by the altercation with his doppelgänger and with a new Suicide Squad status-quo, Floyd reconsiders what it means to be Deadshot. Despite still remaining active with the team, Deadshot stops referring to himself as such and begins referring to himself by his civilian name. Floyd will roll with this from Suicide Squad #44 through Suicide Squad #61 (August 1990-January 1992) as he goes on successful mission after successful mission.

At the beginning of 1992, Deadshot appears in the War of Gods crossover—in Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #61 (by George Pérez and Jill Thompson, January 1992) and a few War of the Gods issues (by George Pérez and Russell Braun, September 1991-January 1992)—a big event where Circe manipulates the ancient gods to begin a massive battle-royale on Earth. While the temporarily split Greek gods fight their Roman counterparts, Earth’s heroes (and the Suicide Squad) take on the combined force of the Norse gods, Egyptian gods, Babylonian gods, African gods, and Thanagarian gods.

Following War of the Gods is Suicide Squad #59-62—the “Legerdemain” arc (by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, Geof Isherwood, Robert Campanella, and Tom McCraw, November 1991-January 1992). In this unbelievably complex plots, the Saddam Hussein-esque ex-dictator of Qurac is being held at the Guantanamo Bay-esque Blood Island, which is where the Suicide Squad is supposedly stationed. Both Israeli and Arab metahuman teams are trying to get to the ex-dictator Marlo first (the former trying to assassinate, the latter trying to rescue). Meanwhile, Batman, Aquaman, and Superman have converged on Blood Island because they believe that they have found evidence linking Amanda Waller to Ray Palmer’s recent death. The heroes clash with the Israelis and Arabs on Blood Island, but realize that the Suicide Squad isn’t there. However, the Squad arrives when Waller discovers the entire altercation on Blood Island is a CIA setup in which the US government is trying to deliver Marlo back into the hands of the Quracis. Anyway, the new Atom dies and Ray Palmer makes his return, revealing that he had faked his death in order to go undercover in an investigation into microscopic rogue CIA agents. Notably, there is an excellent (albeit slightly continuity-problematic) nasty confrontation between Batman and Oracle in issue #59.

final ostrander suicide squad

Suicide Squad #63-66 (February 1992-June 1992) ends Ostrander’s brilliant long run on the series, pitting the Suicide Squad up against an alternate Suicide Squad and rival Task Force X group. For six years, Ostrander and a rotating team of partnered creators delivered some of the best comics of the 20th century—and at the heart of those comics is Deadshot.

With Deadshot appearing alongside Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in a New Year’s Eve story in the new Trinity Vol. 2 #16 (by Rob Williams, V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, and Dinei Ribeiro), it’s only appropriate to ring in the New Year by celebrating the man they call Deadshot. We last left our favorite psychotic killing machine in June of 1992. Now that John Ostrander isn’t attached to Deadshot as his primary architect anymore, we’ll start to see a lot more creators work with the character, although his appearances will be a bit more sporadic—at least initially. This is the equivalent of Ostrander letting his baby go—sending him off to college, so to speak. After full year gap without any sightings whatsoever, Deadshot returns with a bang in 1993 with Showcase ’93 #7-12—”The Kobra Chronicles”—(by Mike Baron and Gary Barker, July 1993-November 1993). Deadshot takes a Kobra hit on Deathstroke and Peacemaker! The combined might of the duo is too much for Deadshot, but when he learns that Kobra was going to double cross him, Deadshot switches sides, teaming up with Deathstroke and Peacemaker! Eventually, the trio destroys a Kobra base with assistance from Doctor Light and Katana.

deathstroke the hunted

Sadly, another full year passes before Deadshot turns up again—in Deathstroke the Hunted #41 (by Marv Wolfman and Sergio Cariello, November 1994). Wolfman, co-creator of Deathstroke, always had an affinity for Deadshot. This is Wolfman’s first real crack at the character, and he was super excited to be able to put the two characters together as a follow-up to their previous “Kobra Chronicles” arc. When Deathstroke is framed for treason, Sarge Steel sends Bronze Tiger and Deadshot to bring him in. Unlike the previous two-on-one situation, this time the tables are turned with the odds in Deadshot’s favor. Deadshot (with Bronze Tiger) is able to capture Deathstroke by shooting several rounds into his chest.

Narrative-chronologically speaking, a cool “five years ago” flashback from Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #226 (by Greg Rucka and Cliff Richards, April 2006) comes next. I be remiss if I didn’t include it because it features Deadshot taking a hit on the Pope in Vatican City! Wonder Woman stops him.

Superboy Vol. 3 #13-15—”Watery Grave”—(by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, March 1995-May 1995) is up next. Amanda Waller puts a new Suicide Squad together and has Deadshot recruit metahuman stripper Knockout. Teamed-up with Superboy, they battle a Deadshot-lite known as Stinger. When Captain Boomerang is outed as working against the Squad, Deadshot tries to kill him. Deadshot winds up shooting Boomerang in both his hands while he is holding onto a ledge. This basically ruins his career—after all, how can you throw boomerangs with crippled hands.

Marv Wolfman’s second crack at putting Deadshot and Deathstroke together comes in July 1995 with Deathstroke #49 (written by Wolfman, art by Sergio Cariello and William Rosado). Only this time, they once again team-up as Deadshot is hired to help Deathstroke challenge the super-villain known only as Crimelord.

Swinging back into narrative chronology mode, another interesting flashback can be squeezed in right around here. In Batman & Superman: World’s Finest #10 (by Karl Kesel, Dave Taylor, and Robert Campanella, 2003). Batman tells Superman that there have been major metahuman/super-villain breakouts at Stryker’s Island and Arkham. It’s not long before Metropolis’ villains show up in Gotham and begin attacking Arkham’s escapees. A “villain war” erupts immediately. Batman and Superman recapture Bloodsport and Deadshot.

killer elite deadshot

DC’s mega-crossover Underworld Unleashed (by Mark Waid and Howard Porter, November 1995) comes next. This tale basically serves to upgrade all of DC’s super-villains, including Deadshot. Neron, King of Hell, has gathered the entire DCU villain community together. His plan? To offer every single villain something special in exchange for his or her soul. Here, Waid and Porter really stamp Deadshot as a vile despicable character worthy of very little sympathy. Deadshot is one of the villains to accept Neron’s offer, making a literal deal with the devil. He begins working with the assassins Bolt, Chiller, Deadline, and Merlyn in a group called the Killer Elite. Each member is given the opportunity to commit their dream assassination. What does Deadshot want? What is his greatest desire, his dream assassination? To murder an entire kindergarten class. Oof. Thankfully, Obsidian of the Justice League America stops him (as seen in the Underworld Unleashed tie-ins, Justice League America #105-106—”Killer Elite”—by Gerard Jones and Chuck Wojtkiewicz, November 1995-December 1995). By the end of this arc, which further explores Floyd’s tortured psyche in regard to his family and upbringing, Deadshot winds up in a coma where he keeps reliving an Obsidian-induced fantasy over and over. This second “dream assassination” is killing his brother Eddie.

Following Underworld Unleashed, it seems as if the now wannabe child-killing Deadshot was too hot to touch, for we don’t see him again for over two years! Maybe it’s for the best. With the child killing episode long behind him, Deadshot returns in the capable hands of Mike Baron—in Hawk and Dove Vol. 4 #3-5 (story by Baron, art by Dean Zachary, Dick Giordano, and Roberta Tewes, January 1998-March 1998). Baron, in the best possible move a writer could have done at the time, returns Deadshot to his roots: the Suicide Squad. The new CIA-backed Suicide Squad’s first mission is to hunt down Hawk and Dove. Deadshot has a stand-off with Hawk’s father Colonel Martens, but Dove sneakily takes Deadshot down. Deadshot then wins a sniper duel against Vigilante, but, in a nice touch by Baron (who tries to return some nuance to the character), Deadshot surrenders himself rather than murder the government agent.

At this point, Deadshot is in the Suicide Squad and the Killer Elite. The latter appears in Body Doubles (Villains #1) aka New Year’s Evil: Body Doubles #1 (by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Joe Phillips, Jasen Rodriguez, and Carla Feeny, February 1998), trying to execute their competitive rivals, the assassins known as The Body Doubles (Bonny Hoffman and Carmen Leno). In a big reveal, Deadshot betrays his team and pretends to get knocked out because he is secretly romantically involved with Carmen Leno! Besides the ex-wives, awkward psychiatrists, and prostitutes that have popped in-and-out of Floyd’s troubled life, this is the first legit love affair for good ol’ Deadshot.

80-page giant deadshot vs batman

Deadshot returns for a pair of 80-Page GiantsJLA 80-Page Giant #1 (by Mark Millar and Christopher Jones, July 1998) and Batman 80-page Giant #2 (by Scott Beatty and William Rosado, October 1999). Note the 15 month gap in-between the two issues. Fans didn’t see Floyd for a long time in 1998/1999. The first 80-page Giant happens shortly after the formation of Grant Morrison’s “Big Guns” JLA. The team sets up their new Watchtower headquarters, built on the surface of the moon. While the finishing construction touches are made on the Watchtower, Martian Manhunter disguises himself as a villain and dismantles the entire Secret Society of Super-villains—including new invitee Deadshot—from within. The second 80-Page Giant has Two-Face hiring Deadshot to kill Batman, but Deadshot fails in his task, getting his jaw broken in the process. Rough time for Floyd in both of these issues.

In October 1999, Grant Morrison writes Deadshot for the first time ever! Okay, okay, so Deadshot merely turns up in a big pro wrestling-style schmoz, appearing in a Belle Reve prison riot in JLA #34 (script by Morrison, art by Howard Porter).

Deadshot Batman 592

As the 1990s end, it seems as though no one knows quite what to do with Deadshot any longer. He’s kind of fallen from grace, back down into second-tier status. But leave it to the genius of Ed Brubaker to return Deadshot to his former glory. How to do so? Why, by bringing him back to his roots, of course. But further back than the Suidide Sqauad, back to the beginning, back to being primarily a Batman rogue. In Batman #591-592—“Shot Through the Heart”—(by Brubaker, Scott McDaniel, Karl Story, and Roberta Tewes, July 2001-August 2001), classic Golden Age Bat-mythos mob-boss Lew Moxon comes back into town and everyone wants a piece, including Deadshot, who wants the bounty on Moxon’s head. When Bruce Wayne and Sasha Bordeaux meet Moxon at a black tie event, Bruce is confronted by two surprises. One, Moxon’s daughter is Mallory Moxon, a young boyhood friend of Bruce’s from before his parents were murdered. And two, Moxon’s bodyguard is the Deadshot-esque Philo Zeiss. When Deadshot sets off some fake explosions to test Zeiss’s security detail, Batman swings into action, but Deadshot is able to make a clean getaway. After Bruce has dinner with the Moxons, Batman encounters Zeiss, who tells him that he orchestrated Jeremy Samuels’ death (in Batman #583) as revenge against the Waynes for an incident that had occurred between Thomas Wayne and Moxon decades ago. Enraged, Batman tussles with Zeiss and before he knows it has played right into Deadshot’s hands. By essentially using Batman to neutralize Zeiss, Deadshot has a clean opening and shoots Moxon in the chest, paralyzing him for life. This is Floyd at his finest. Brubaker’s long arc on Batman is one the best in history, and his treatment of Deadshot is nothing short of perfect.

After a fun Geoff Johns and Stephen Sadowski-penned non-speaking cameo in JSA #28 (November 2001), Deadshot is back in action for the Joker: Last Laugh crossover (by Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, and Andy Kuhn, December 2001), which sees dozens of villains infected by Joker Venom. In the Last Laugh tie-in issue Flash Vol. 2 #179 (by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins, December 2001), the Killer Elite goes on its final mission, attacking the Iron Heights metahuman prison. Deadline is killed and Deadshot, showing more sympathy than usual, rescues Captain Boomerang from medical confinement.

suicide squad returns

A few months later, Deadshot completes his triumphant return tour by rejoining the Suicide Squad yet again! This time, in Suicide Squad Vol. 2 #5-8 (by Keith Giffen and Paco Medina, March 2002-June 2002), General Rock (formerly Sgt. Rock) leads the Suicide Squad, which is developed in the aftermath of the big Our Worlds at War crossover by none other than President Lex Luthor himself. In this arc, Deadshot becomes close with Blackstarr, Havana, Killer Frost, Major Disaster, Modem, and Reactron. While a featuring a fun and unique lineup, the team was unsuccessful and quickly disbanded.

batman 607 deadshot

After his latest Suicide Squad stint, Deadshot is back with Brubaker, which means good stuff coming for slick Floyd. Geoff Johns, having dipped his toes into Deadshot and taken a strong liking to the character, joins Brubaker as co-writer for Batman #606-607—“Death-Wish For Two”—(art by Scott McDaniel, October 2002-November 2002). In this story arc, Bruce has just been cleared of all charges in the murder of Vesper Fairchild. Her real murderer, David Cain (Cassie Cain’s dad), is scheduled to testify in court regarding the details of the case. Batman knows that President Luthor will have sent an assassin to silence Cain before the hearing, so he prepares for the worst. And with Brubaker and Johns with the quill in their hands, the worst most badass assassin in the entire DCU at the moment is definitely Deadshot. Sure enough, the President’s man nearly kills Cain, but Batman saves his life. Cain, showing off his chops as well, nearly killing Deadshot.

What would DC Comics be without its never-ending crossovers. “War Games” (by Devin Grayson, Andersen Gabrych, AJ Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo, Javier Piña, Pete Woods, and Ramon Bachs, 2004-2005) continues Deadshot’s story as Penguin hires him as a bodyguard. Together, they attend a gangster summit, which is secretly part of a theoretical Batman plan to consolidate Gotham’s gangs in order to better control organized crime in the city. However, theoretical is the key word. Spoiler, trying to impress Batman, jumps the gun and starts the plan, leading to a shootout, during which Deadshot kills several men, including Junior Galante. Interestingly, writer Andersen Gabrych reveals that Deadshot goes way back with Onyx Adams, an amazing and underrated assassin character created by Joey Cavalieri and Jerome Moore. This arc also sees Deadshot take on Hush, Prometheus II, and Tarantula—unfortunately all losing efforts.

ID crisis deadshot page

From June 2004 to December 2004, Identity Crisis (by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair) shakes up the entire DCU (and the entire comic book industry) for better or worse, and Deadshot is right in the thick of it. In this controversial arc, Meltzer reveals that several characters, including Batman, have had their memories erased to hide certain dark truths about the past, notably that Doctor Light once raped Jean Loring. Deadshot, privy to this information, is the first to tell the rest of his super-villain pals that Doctor Light was mind-wiped. During a fight against Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, Deadshot deliberately shoots himself in the neck, forcing Rayner to save him and drop his guard, thus allowing Floyd to take aim and almost shoot him. Despite this successful maneuver, he is captured by Superman. By story’s end, a bunch of villains are prosecuted by DA Kate Spencer, but they avoid jail time due to Floyd’s government connections.

deadshot vol 2

With all his recent awesomeness thanks to the likes of Brubaker, Johns, Meltzer, et al, Deadshot was back on top of his game, and back on top popularity-wise too. Thus, we get treated to a second solo Deadshot series! Deadshot Vol. 2 #1-5— “Urban Renewal”—(by Christos Gage, Steven Cummings, and Jimmy Palmiotti, February 2005-June 2005) is super important to the direction that the character will go for the next decade-plus. In this series, Floyd discovers he has a daughter, Zoe. Floyd goes into Punisher mode and decides to violently wipe out all the crime in Zoe’s Star City neighborhood. Floyd also tries his best to alter the course of his tragic and demented life by trying to act as a father to Zoe. However, it’s just not in the cards. Deadshot fakes his death to give Zoe distance and closure from his dangerous nature and lifestyle. Zoe won’t be much of a factor in the rest of the Modern Age, but Deadshot will come to be primarily defined by his relationship to Zoe in later continuities (and in cinema too).

Villains United (by Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, and Val Semeiks, December 2005-April 2006), a series related to the 2005–2006’s Infinite Crisis (by Geoff Johns and Phil Jimenez), continues Deadshot’s story. A Suicide Squad-esque group known as The Secret Six coerced into forming by Lex Luthor (disguised as Mockingbird). Luthor tells Deadshot that if he joins, he could become the king of North America, but if he refuses to join, Zoe will be killed. This leads directly to Secret Six Vol. 2 #1-6—”Six Degrees of Devastation”—(by Gail Simone and Brad Walker, July 2006-January 2007).

The long running Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight series (which began in 1989) ends with issue #214 in March 2007. And wouldn’t you know it, LODTK ends with a Deadshot vs Batman tale by Deadshot Vol. 2 creator Christos Gage and artist Phil Winslade! The canonical status of this issue, however, is questionable because Deadshot mentions that he’s in the Suicide Squad again, which, at this point, isn’t true. Deadshot also references Identity Crisis in a way that doesn’t make sense. Also, this issue shows Commissioner Gordon in charge of the GCPD, but Commissioner Akins is the current head honcho. Oh well.

Next is Birds of Prey #104-108—”Whitewater”—(by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott, May 2007-September 2007). Simone continues her Secret Six run with the gorgeous illustrations of Nicola Scott, bringing her Six babes to meet the titular stars of her other ongoing series, The Birds of Prey. There’s a lot of love and passion that Simone shows for all characters involved in this arc.

suicide squad vol 3

Following “Whitewater,” Suicide Squad Vol. 3 #3-8 aka Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #3-8 (January 2008-June 2008) comes next. These issues see John Ostrander return to writing Deadshot and the Suicide Squad for the first time in sixteen years! With art by Javier Piña, it’s a lovely few issues with some nice callbacks to the 80s and 90s, reminding us just how great Ostrander’s legendary run with Deadshot and the Suicide Squad was in the first place. We wouldn’t be here without his master works from back in the day.

We see Deadshot and the Suicide Squad again in Paul Dini’s Countdown #43-28 (July 2007-October 2007) as they round up super-villains to be shipped to a prison planet. The group encounters Pied Piper and Trickster several times, and each time fails to capture them. Deadshot, ignoring Amanda Waller’s direct orders, ditches the dead weight of his team and goes after them solo, murdering Trickster.

salvation run

After a brief appearance in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #15 (by Dwayne McDuffie, Ed Benes, and Sandra Hope, January 2008), again with the Suicide Squad, Deadshot appears in the Final Crisis tie-in Salvation Run (by Bill Willingham and Lilah Sturges, 2007-2008) where he is betrayed by Waller and Rick Flag Jr and sent off to the prison planet. Deadshot vows revenge. Deadshot helps his fellow prisoners stop a Parademon invasion before escaping the planet and returning to Earth.

Oddly enough, despite reaching heightened levels of popularity, Deadshot takes an eight month break from appearing in comics. He shows up next, playing a rather large role in Kevin Smith’s Batman: Cacophony (script by Smith, art by Walt Flanagan and Sandra Hope, November 2008-January 2009). Unfortunately, like LOTDK #214, Smith’s story really doesn’t fit onto any timeline without a ton of continuity errors. In Batman: Cacophony, Deadshot takes a hit on Joker and confronts him inside Arkham Asylum. There, Onomatopoeia arrives and kicks Deadshot’s ass, shooting him in the head. Deadshot’s armor saves him and masks his vital signs to make it appear like he’s been killed. After chatting with Batman, he gives his strange false-death armor tech to the Dark Knight, who uses it to survive an encounter with the Joker and Onomatopoeia in a similar way.

secret six #1

Returning to in-continuity comics, say goodbye to the Suicide Squad. It’s all about the Secret Six now. And with this, Gail Simone completes a long run that cements her as one the best architects of Floyd Lawton that DC Comics will ever see. First, Deadshot appears in Secret Six Vol. 3 #1-16 (by Gail Simone and several artists, November 2008-February 2010). Deadshot—along with Scandal Savage, Bane, Rag Doll, and Cat-Man—reform the Secret Six as the definitive DCU antihero/super-villain team. They start off by taking a job—hired by Mad Hatter—to recover a stolen “Get Out of Hell Free” card made by Neron. The team faces off against Junior (Rag Doll’s terrifying sister) and a bunch of super-villains before escaping to Gotham. Deadshot betrays his teammates and joins up with Tarantula. The rest of the Six confront Deadshot, but before they can fight him, they wind up fighting another horde of villains, which leads to Tarantula and Junior’s deaths. For months to follow, Simone takes Deadshot and company on a wild ride of mission after mission. Over the course of her run on Secret Six, Simone will build a very well-fleshed-out relationship between Deadshot and Catman.

In March 2010, the first volume of Suicide Squad gets one more go for a single issue (Suicide Squad #67—nicely pairing up current Deadshot architect Gail Simone with the old school creator John Ostrander and artist Jim Calafiore)—as a tie-in to Geoff Johns’ “Blackest Night” storyline. Deadshot, of course, features. This is Ostrander’s last time writing Floyd in the Modern Age.

secret six #36

Gail Simone, with a bunch of different artists at her helm, continues her awesome long run on Secret Six Vol. 3 with issues #17-36 (March 2010-October 2011), all of which feature Deadshot going on various mission with the team. After the Secret Six crosses-over into Action Comics #895-896—”The Black Ring”—(by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods, January 2011-February 2011), we finally reach the conclusion of Deadshot’s life and times in the Modern Age of comics. And who better to help him say goodbye then the architect that has been at the helm for the last few years: Gail Simone. Secret Six Vol. 3 #36 (script by Simone, art by Jim Calafiore, October 2011) ends Simone’s lengthy and delightful run, and it’s a great send-off. In this issue, the Secret Six has plans to assassinate Red Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Azrael in Gotham. However, a double-crossing Penguin alerts the hero community about the Six’s arrival in town. The Six (Bane, Catman, Deadshot, Jeannette, Ragdoll, and Scandal Savage) along with King Shark and Knockout take a bunch of Venom pills and make their glorious last stand. However, they are easily defeated by what seems to be one of the largest gathering of collected heroes in the entire Modern Age. So, yeah, it’s eight villains versus Batman, Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Superman, Superboy, Steel, Dr. Light, Obsidian, John Stewart, Red Tornado, the Birds of Prey, the JLA, the JSA, the JLI, and the Teen Titans. Overkill, anyone? Probably, but it just goes to show how kickass these underdog anti-heroes—especially Deadshot—really are by the time the Modern Age ends. Simone really hammers in the idea that these are not B-list second-tier baddies. They are A-listers worthy of your respect. Amen.

In 2011, DC reboots its entire line with the Flashpoint series. Out with the old and in with the new, meaning Deadshot is essentially starting from scratch for the New 52. While much of his background remains the same as it was before, the most notable changes are the erasure of his son Eddie, replaced by a second daughter, Suchin, and an updated costume design courtesy of Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio.

new 52 deadshot mask

Deadshot’s background of being one of Batman’s top rivals is intact in the New 52, as is his long-running relationship with the Suicide Squad and his devotion to his daughter Zoe. Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #1 (by Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio, November 2011) features the first New 52 appearance of Deadshot, and the latest Suicide Squad lineup. For the purposes of this part of the article, I’m going to mash-up Deadshot’s New 52 continuity with his Rebirth continuity because they are very similar despite technically being two separate timelines. We’ll also jump around a bit more than in the two previous parts of this article, simply because all the rebooting warrants a narrative-chronological layout rather than a publication-chronological perspective. Because the Hollywood Suicide Squad film had already been announced (in 2009), with the idea that Deadshot would be one of the primary foci of the feature basically set in stone, the comics from 2011 onward place an added emphasis on Deadshot being in the Suicide Squad. While the roster will rotate as usual, Deadshot will be a constant member (and leader) from 2011 to 2018. Thus, we’ll see much more of Deadshot than we ever have before in this time period. If there’s anything I’m glossing over, it’s simply because there’s just not enough space to be completely encyclopedic. What follows below are the most important highlights of Floyd’s comic book life.

deadshot jla .1 issue

A good glimpse into New 52 Floyd’s backstory is in Justice League of America Vol. 3 #7.1 aka Deadshot #1 (by Matt Kindt, Sami Basri, and Carmen Carnero, November 2013). This issue delivers some of Floyd’s New 52 attributes, which are reminiscent of his previous attributes. He is a master marksman, possibly the best on the planet. He is also a self-taught engineer, having designed his own wrist guns. Our first chronological scene showing Deadshot in the New 52 is in the second feature to Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #1 (by Rob Williams and Jason Fabok, October 2016). Batman crashes through a window to prevent a robbery at a fancy black-and-white high-society party. Debonair playboy Floyd is in attendance and is inspired to don a costume of his own, albeit for wrongdoing instead of heroism. Thus, Floyd becomes Deadshot. An in-story year later, we get a flashback from Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #1 (by Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio, November 2011), the very issue that debuted New 52 Deadshot in the first place. Batman prevents Deadshot from murdering a senator, after which he is sentenced to jail time in Belle Reve Penitentiary and winds up on Amanda Waller’s radar, soon after joining the Suicide Squad in similar fashion to how he did in the Modern Age.

war of jokes and riddles deadshot vs deathstroke

Chronologically, in regard to narrative, Tom King and Mikel Janín’s “War of Jokes and Riddles” (2017) is up next. Riddler and Joker begin a war against one another, recruiting super-villains into their respective folds. Riddler’s team includes Two-Face, Scarecrow, Clayface, Firefly, Victor Zsasz, Killer Croc, and Deathstroke. Joker’s team includes Oswald Cobblepot, Solomon Grundy, Man-Bat (Kirk Langstrom), Cluemaster, Deadshot, Mad Hatter, Tweedledum, Tweedledee, Mr. Freeze, and the Ventriloquist (with Scarface). These two factions begin warring with each other for weeks, which leads to dozens of innocent deaths. Specifically, Deadshot and Deathstroke begin a solo war against each other. Batman apprehends them both, but not for five bloody days, which results in 62 deaths. An angry Batman pummels Deadshot so mercilessly that he nearly dies in the hospital.

harley deadshot romance

Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #1-5 (by Adam Glass and Federico Dallocchio, November 2011-March 2012) start off Deadshot’s New 52 Suicide Squad missions with a bang. Deadhost assumes leadership of the Squad on a mission to purge a quarantined arena full of people that have been infected by a zombie virus. Deadshot finds “patient zero,” a pregnant woman, and proceeds to cut her baby right out of her womb in order to obtain a cure. After ordering his own teammate Voltaic to eliminate everyone in the arena, Deadshot puts a bullet in his head in order to complete a full cover up. (Voltaic, as most comic book characters, do will return.) Deadshot, however, gets infected but doesn’t show any signs. This leads to Floyd’s first romance in the New 52, and boy it it a twisted one. Enter Harley Quinn! Immediately after their first mission together, they get it on! This relationship will last for a while. Shortly after Harley and Floyd hook up for the first time, we learn about Floyd’s other daughter (aside from Zoe): Suchin. Waller will use Suchin to blackmail Deadshot and control him for many missions to come.

Resurrection Man Vol. 2 #8-9 (by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Jesús Saíz, and Andres Guinaldo, June 2012-July 2012) is up next.
The Suicide Squad tangoes with Resurrection Man, killing him. Deadshot has the brilliant idea of chopping up Resurrection Man with a chainsaw in order to prevent him from resurrecting. Then, his old flame Carmen Leno (!), with her Body Doubles partner Bonnie Hoffman, shows up to stop him.

Deadshot’s adventures continue with the Suicide Squad, mission-for-mission, from issues #6-13 (by Adam Glass et al, April 2012-December 2012), in which Deadshot seemingly sacrifices his own life TWICE only to miraculously survive.

Bat-Family spin-off titles in the Scott Snyder’s “Death of the Family” arc take place after that—in Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #14-15 (Adam Glass and Fernando Dagnino, January 2013-February 2013). Harley mourns the loss of her lover for the second time, but don’t worry! Floyd wakes up in a hospital bed unscathed. He’s A-okay! Curious…

In Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #16-19 (By Adam Glass, Henrik Jonsson, and Cliff Richards, and Sandu Florea, March 2013-June 2013), Deadshot rejoins the Squad to take on the lingering threat of Regulus and the new threat of Gotham’s Chinatown mob boss Red Orchid. The Suicide Squad attacks Red Orchid and her Chain Gang thugs at her penthouse HQ. The goal is not only to bring down Red Orchid, but to rescue the kidnapped Kurt Lance (Black Canary’s ex-husband). After the penthouse gets blown-up by Deadshot, Waller regroups with her team in the basement of the building. Just as Batman arrives on the scene, the Suicide Squad makes a quick getaway into the sewers only to be accosted by The Unknown Soldier. Deadshot also appears in Teen Titans Vol. 4 #18 (by Scott Lobdell, Eddy Barrows, and Rodney Buchemi, May 2013), which also features the Suicide Squad going after Kurt Lance, specifically during the period shortly after the death of Damian Wayne.

deadshot grifter liefeld

Deadshot then faces-off against an old Wildstorm character not so different from himself in Grifter Vol. 3 #14-15 (by Rob Liefeld, Frank Tieri, and Marat Mychaels, January 2013-February 2013). Cole Cash, better known as Grifter, takes on the Squad.

In Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #20 (by Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher, July 2013), Amanda Waller reveals—Venture Bros style—that Deadshot hasn’t miraculously survived two deaths. She’s resurrected him twice! This is also how Voltaic (and others) have been killed and come back good as new.

Next up comes Justice League of America’s Vibe #4-5 (by Sterling Gates, Manuel Garcia, and Fabiano Neves, July 2013-August 2013), in which the Suicide Squad hunts Vibe.

Geoff Johns mega-crossover Forever Evil (2013-2014) is up next. This arc features all the super-villains of the DCU, including Deadshot. Suicide Squad Vol. 4 #24-30 (by Matt Kindt, Patrick Zircher, Sean Ryan, Andre Coelho, and more, December 2013-July 2014), which wraps the series, are tie-ins to Forever Evil.

new suicide squad 1

With Suicide Squad Vol. 4 wrapped up, New Suicide Squad naturally begins! And Deadshot is at front and center yet again. Along with an interesting initial line-up of Black Manta, Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, and Joker’s Daughter, Deadshot follows the new contentious Squad leadership of both Amanda Waller and Vic Sage. Deadshot is a prime-player for 22 issues and one Annual. The New Suicide Squad series (by Sean Ryan and a host of talented artists) lasts from September 2014 to September 2016, featuring various Suicide Squad missions and overlapping with the majority of the listed stories below.

Birds of Prey Vol. 3 #33-34 (by Christy Marx, Robson Rocha, and Scott McDaniel, September 2014-October 2014). It’s the Suicide Squad versus Birds of Prey. Cross it off your New 52 checklist!

Superman/Wonder Woman #18-19 (by Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke, August 2015-September 2015) follows. After Superman’s secret ID is outed to the public and his power levels are significantly lowered, the Suicide Squad takes on the new t-shirt-wearing Man of Steel and his lady love Diana.

Following Superman/Wonder Woman #18-19, Deadshot shows up for his on-again-off-again lover Harley Quinn in the pages of the quite bonkers Harley Quinn Vol. 2 #20-22 (by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and John Timms, November 2015-January 2016).

In Deathstroke Vol. 3 #11-12 (by James Bonny, Tony S Daniel, and Tyler Kirkham, December 2015-January 2016), Floyd shows off his kickass hand-to-hand combat skills, fighting Deathstroke to a relative stalemate.

midnighter vs deadshot

After a teeny-tiny cameos in Batman & Robin Eternal #21 (by James Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Tony S Daniel, and Sandu Florea, April 2016) and Catwoman Vol. 4 #49 (by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, and Eva de la Cruz, April 2016), Deadshot turns up next in the first legit marquee match-up pitting him against an old Wildstorm character since his dance with Grifter from a few years prior. Midnighter Vol. 2 #7-12 (by Steve Orlando, ACO, and Hugo Petrus, February 2016-July 2016) sees Deadshot versus Midnighter. Good stuff.

Following Midnighter Vol. 2 #7-12, we are treated to Deadshot making more special guest appearances for Harley—in Harley Quinn & The Suicide Squad April Fool’s Day Special (by Rob Williams, Jim Lee, and Sean Galloway, June 2016) and Harley Quinn & Her Gang of Harleys #1 (by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Frank Tieri, June 2016).

will evans deadshot

Suicide Squad: Most Wanted – Deadshot & Katana (by Brian Buccellato and Viktor Bogdanovic, March 2016-August 2016) gives us a nifty retcon fake-out. At first, we are led to believe that Deadshot’s entire history as a wealthy socialite is bunk. However, it’s all a big twist in which Floyd has attempted to steal the origin story of his pal Will Evans. Floyd’s buddy Evans joins the Suicide Squad only to witness Deadshot bail on a mission. Amanda Waller sends Evans to take down Deadshot as punishment. Sure enough, Evans puts a few slugs into Floyd, putting him in the hospital. With Floyd out, Evans becomes the new Deadshot! When Floyd recovers, he’s none too thrilled at the events that have taken place in his absence. When Evans kidnaps Suchin, it’s Deadshot vs Deadshot! Two men enter, only one man leaves. Evans is killed in the duel.

In 2016/2017, DC reboots yet again, pushing in its “Rebirth” initiative. However, Deadshot’s basic New 52 history is kept intact, so his narrative continues on relatively unchanged. Delightfully, the “Rebirth” initiative, which is designed in part to appease fans disappointed with the gist of the New 52, gives a special Suicide Squad one-shot to the father of the team: Joh Ostrander! Deadshot, as part of the early “Rebirth” branding, joins the Suicide Squad in what feels like an old school ride in Suicide Squad: War Crimes Special #1 (by John Ostrander, Gus Vazquez, and Carlos Rodriguez, October 2016). Deadshot also appears in Geoff Johns’ DC: Rebirth #1 (July 2016) and Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 (by Rob Williams and Philip Tan, October 2016) to officially kick things off “Rebirth” style. This Suicide Squad mirrors the one seen in the David Ayer film.

suicide squad vol 5 1

At this juncture, Suicide Squad gets a brand new volume for the “Rebirth” movement. Thus, Deadshot appears in its opening arcs from Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #1-9 (by Rob Williams, Simon Spurrier, Jim Lee, Riley Rossmo, and more, October 2016-March 2017). Right from the start, via a flashback rom the second feature to Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #1, the evil crime-cult known as Kobra kidnaps Deadshot’s daughter Zoe and blackmails him into accepting a risky hit on Bruce Wayne. Seeing no other option, Deadshot contacts Batman via the Gotham underworld and asks him for help. For the sake of his daughter, Batman agrees to assist, but only if there is no killing. Deadshot and Batman kick ass and rescue Zoe, but, of course, Deadshot kills a bunch of dudes (including their leader Lord Kobra). Batman throws Deadshot back into the waiting arms of Belle Reve Prison. This is an important story because it will directly factor into our final New Year’s Eve story at the end of this article!

jl vs ss

The big crossover Justice League vs Suicide Squad is next.
Maxwell Lord breaks into the Catacombs Prison in Death Valley and releases the original members of the Suicide Squad—Doctor Polaris, Emerald Empress, Lobo, Johnny Sorrow, and Rustam. While Max Lord is busting out the original Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller sends the current Suicide Squad to the small tropical island of Badhnisia to fight the Brimstone Brotherhood. The Justice League flies to Badhnisia, cleans up the Suicide Squad’s mess and offers to help them get out from under Amanda Waller’s modulation. Waller orders her team to attack, prompting an all-out war between the Suicide Squad and Justice League. The JL defeats and captures the Suicide Squad relatively easily until Killer Frost debuts a new power, the ability to suck up anyone else’s powers to redouble her own. After draining Superman dry, Killer Frost beats the entire JL on her own. The JL are stuffed into containment cells in Belle Reve before a gloating Amanda Waller. Batman escapes custody and confronts Amanda Waller. Learning about Max Lord’s jail bust, Batman and Amanda Waller call a truce. The JL is released and joins the Suicide Squad to watch the security footage of the jailbreak. Max Lord’s team crashes into Belle Reve and begins fighting the Suicide Squad and Justice League. Lobo chases Batman, Amanda Waller, and Deadshot down a long corridor. Seemingly unstoppable with healing-power, Lobo charges only to get his head blown up by Batman, prompting Deadshot to say “Damn, Batman.” After Eclipso takes over the world, Batman recruits Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Lobo, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Killer Frost into a “substitute Justice League.” Cyborg booms the substitute JL to DC where they engage with the Eclipso-JL. Max, despite his tattoo, gets completely taken over by Eclipso, expectorating black bile, which releases Eclipso himself. All over the planet, people turn into Eclipso demons. Pretty soon, the substitute JL is overwhelmed too, except for Batman, Lobo, and Killer Frost, who eventually save the day.

Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #10-15 (by Rob Williams, Simon Spurrier, Giuseppe Cafaro, John Romita Jr, Eddy Barrows, and more, March 2017-June 2017) continues Deadshot’s narrative. Rustam’s metahuman terrorist group known as The Burning World murders a bunch of corrupt politicians (secretly part of the secret organization called The People), attacks Washington DC, and breaks prisoners out of Blackgate Prison. The Suicide Squad defeats the Burning World in an epic battle. Batman then deals with the aftermath of the jail break in Gotham, kicking ass and returning convicts back behind bars.

By the time we reach Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #16-18 (by Rob Williams, Tony S Daniel, Sandu Florea, June 2017-July 2017), Amanda Waller has brought Zod out of the Phantom Zone in an effort to bring him into the Suicide Squad, but the evil Kryptonian’s powers are too strong. He releases spirits from the Phantom Zone and puts an impenetrable black shadow dome over Bell Reve. Batman, unsure of what is happening inside, immediately begins using WayneTech satellites to keep tabs on the situation.

suicide squad vol 5 22

In Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #22-25—”Kill Your Darlings”—(by Rob Williams and Agustin Padilla, September 2017), Russian government agent Karla—a lovely nod to John le Carré—converses with Amanda Waller, showing her a video of the Justice League fighting in a ruined city—part of a strange “What If?” computer simulation. Amanda Waller then siccs the Suicide Squad (Katana, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, El Diablo, Enchantress, and Killer Croc) on Frost in Gotham City. As revenge against Frost for having escaped her clutches, Waller uses Diablo to transfer a disease pathogen into Frost. The pathogen causes Frost to lost control of herself. A pissed-off Batman arrives to survey the situation. Using the brain-bomb frequency, Batman is able to quickly nullify the entire Suicide Squad except for Katana, who doesn’t have a brain-bomb in her skull. Katana reluctantly slashes Batman in the back, taking him out. Task Force X choppers arrive to retrieve the downed Suicide Squad and an unconscious Frost. At Belle Reve, the Suicide Squad argues with Waller, specifically over the recent deaths of teammates Rick Flag and Hack. (Hack is dead, but Rick Flag is actually just trapped in the Phantom Zone.) While Batman deals with Killer Croc and infiltrates the prison, Harley Quinn and Katana breach through the prison’s network firewall and learn that Waller has betrayed the US Government and given all of her detailed metahuman files to Russian government agent Director Karla, who unleashes multiple foreign Suicide Squads to attack multiple locations across the globe as part of his “Joseph Protocols.” Batman then takes out Enchantress before being joined by Katana—who apologizes for attacking him earlier—and Harley, who drags an unconscious Frost. Batman takes Frost and escapes in a military jet while Katana and Harley fight a bunch of Suicide Suit security robots. Meanwhile, Deadshot and Diablo discover that Waller is under the possession of Russian metahuman Gulag, who is a member of Karla’s elite Russian version of the Suicide Squad known as The Annihilation Brigade, which also includes Cosmonut, Tunguska, and Tankograd. Harley and Deadshot fight the possessed Waller and abort her missile attack against Batman. Captain Boomerang—previously thought to be dead—rejoins the Suicide Squad and helps them corner Waller. Katana then slices Waller, releasing her from Gulag while killing the latter in the process. Waller and the Suicide Squad then fight the remnants of the Annihilation Brigade, killing the rest of them at the site of their control center where a deceased Karla—having committed suicide—is found as well. Meanwhile, the Justice League fights against sixteen separate international versions of the Suicide Squad. From the control center, Harley activates their brain bombs, killing all of them in an instant. Later, Waller visits Batman and Frost at the JLA Sanctuary to explain that she had been possessed, but also to apologize.

In New Super-Man #14-16 (by Gene Luen Yang and Billy Tan, October 2017-December 2017), we learn that Deadshot speaks fluent Mandarin. This arc features Kenan Kong and his Justice League of China, Suicide Squad, Emperor Superman, and the living embodiments of the Yin and the Yang.

Deadshot shows up for Scott Snyder’s awesome Dark Knights: Metal crossover next—in tie-in issues Nightwing Vol. 4 #29 (by Tim Seeley and Paul Pelletier, November 2017), Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #26 (by Rob Williams and Stjepan Šejić, December 2017), Green Arrow Vol. 6 #32 (by Benjamin Percy, Joshua Williamson, and Juan Ferreyra, December 2017), and Justice League Vol. 3 #33 (Joshua Williamson, Tyler Kirkham, and Mikel Janín, January 2018).

After a Suicide Squad adventure versus Red Hood and The Outlaws in Red Hood & The Outlaws Vol. 2 #16-17 (by Scott Lobdell, Dexter Soy, and Veronica Gandini, January 2018-February 2018), Deadshot appears in Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #27-32—”The Secret History of Task Force X”—(by Rob Williams, Barnaby Bagenda, Wilfredo Torres, Eleonora Carlini, Scott Eaton, and more, December 2017-February 2018), which brings us up to speed with Floyd’s interactions with the Squad.

new talent showcase 2017

New Talent Showcase 2017 #1 (by D Proctor, Erica Harell, Lalit Sharma, Jagdish Kumar, and Beth Sotelo, January 2018) features a cool Deadshot solo story, the first solo issue for Floyd in quite some time.

new trinity new years eve deadshot

Finally, that brings us to the most recent Deadshot appearance in comics. New Year’s Eve! Trinity Vol. 2 #16—”Old Acquaintance”—(by Rob Williams, V Ken Marion, Sandu Florea, and Dinei Ribeiro, February 2018) shows Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jon Kent, Damian Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, Diana, Steve Trevor, and pretty much everyone else you can think of attending Bruce Wayne’s New Year’s Eve party right in the heart of Times Square, New York City. With only hours until the ball drops, Kobra initiates a plan to get revenge against both Batman and Deadshot for the murder of their leader, which occurred at the hands of Deadshot earlier in the year (in the previously mentioned flashback from the second feature to Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #1). (Batman was present for Lord Kobra’s death, and has, as such, earned Kobra’s wrath as well. Plus, they already hated him.) Kobra kidnaps Deadshot’s daughter Zoe, which leads to Bruce ditching the party and rushing to Belle Reve. Batman forces Amanda Waller to release Deadshot for the night, citing that he owes her from her “Kill Your Darlings” debacle (in the previously mentioned Suicide Squad Vol. 5 #23-25) from a few months ago. Not long afterward, Superman and Wonder Woman quickly join Batman and Deadshot, helping them fend-off mutated snake soldiers. After chasing decoys all over Manhattan, the heroes (and villain) wind up fighting snake men at Bruce’s party. As the New Year’s countdown hits zero, one of the snake men activates a suicide quantum energy bomb. A snake man acting as a Kobra suicide-bomber has just activated a quantum energy bomb at Bruce’s New Year’s Eve party in Times Square, New York City. While Wonder Woman and Batman defeat two other snake men, Deadshot kills the suicide-bomber. Superman throws the lifeless snake man into the sky where he explodes at a safe distance. Kobra’s threat is over, but, sadly, Deadshot’s daughter Zoe remains missing, having been kidnapped by Kobra earlier in the day. Batman vows to find her.

And there you have it. The complete life and times of Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon; the flames of love extinguished, and fully past and gone—he’s been around for 68 years, but here’s to another 68 for Floyd in the future. Happy New Year!

trinity 16 final page 2017-2018

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The Devil in the Details: A History of Batman-666

This article is cross-posted at!

collin colsher damian 666 batman super sons 10 tomasi

The recently released Super Sons #10 (January 2018, by Peter Tomasi, Jose Luis, and Scott Hanna) gave us a brief future intermezzo that showed an adult Damian Wayne, wearing a trench-coat-style Batman costume, emerging from the smoldering wreckage of the Gotham City Police Department headquarters. This Damian-as-Batman will factor into Tomasi’s upcoming Super Sons arc, probably providing intriguing headaches for both titular stars—the adult Batman’s younger self (Robin) and Jonathan “Superboy” Kent. How those headaches specifically take shape remains to be seen. But who is this grown-up Damian Batman (aka “Batman-666” aka “Batman of Bethlehem”) and where does he come from? Let’s dig deep, shall we?

In July 2007, DC Comics published a single-issue story called “Batman in Bethlehem” in Batman #666 (by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang, and Guy Major), debuting a dystopian future Gotham City (dystopian even by Gotham’s standards) in which Batman is dead and Bruce Wayne’s adult son Damian Wayne has replaced him as a trench coat-wearing vigilante with no qualms about using lethal force. Thus, the “666 Future” world of Batman-666 (Damian as Batman) was born. The “666” name derives from both the issue number—Batman #666—and also the heavy narrative themes of devils, Satan, the Anti-Christ, and selling one’s soul that are imbued in the issue itself. This dark future was a key part of Morrison’s long arc on Batman that ran from 2006 to 2013. Visions of this possible/inevitable Gotham dystopia cause Bruce Wayne to rethink his entire mentality and mission, switching from a street-level/local Bat-Family battle plan to an ultra-militaristic global Batman Incorporated battle campaign. Morrison would return to the 666 Future with Batman #700 (August 2010) and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5 (January 2013), thus making his 666 Future story basically a trilogy of single issues. The 666 Future would also be re-visited a few more times, further fleshing-out its narrative, over the course of the next decade—notably by 666 co-creator Andy Kubert himself in the mostly-maligned Damian: Son of Batman (December 2013 to March 2014), which told the detailed origin story of Damian becoming Batman-666. Other writers (including David Finch, Chris Roberson, and Peter Tomasi) would sprinkle-in a bit of sporadic 666 as well, adding their own little nuggets to the mythos along the way.

BATMAN #666—”Batman in Bethlehem”
By Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, Jesse Delperdang, and
Guy Major (July 2007)

Batman #666 gave us our first glimpse into the life of an adult Damian as Batman. The issue immediately tells us that the former Batman was killed, after which a teenage Damian was manipulated into “making a deal with the devil”—i.e. a deal with Simon Hurt—to ensure Gotham’s protection. Damian gave up his eternal soul in exchange for the ensured survival of Gotham City. The nitty gritty details of the deal are never fully revealed, but it is implied that Damian received a “healing factor” or semi-immortality in the process. This deal, as we will see later in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5, eventually comes back to haunt Damian. Hurt’s manipulation runs even deeper since he works for Damian’s mother Talia al Ghul, who is secretly the one responsible for Batman’s death.

666 origin

After the backstory, Batman #666 cuts to the future-present. We learn that a shaved-headed Damian, already a veteran in the Bat-costume for over a decade, has long turned the entire city of Gotham into his own personal weapon via hundreds of booby traps. Furthermore, Damian has activated a brand new Brother-I satellite and now uses it as his ultimate surveillance guide. Damian’s main rogues gallery consists of a pastiche of veteran villains and wild new rogues, which he regularly puts away in a reopened super-security version of Arkham Asylum. Damian has already filled the new prison with several super-villains—including The Sphinx, who would later be retroactively added to the list via the New 52’s Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5, and Jackanapes, who would later be retconned by Kubert to be one of Joker’s original henchmen in the New 52’s Batman #23.1. No specific details are given, but Damian also became partly responsible for the death of an unknown person (likely Jim Gordon), which put him at odds with Gotham’s new Commissioner of Police, Barbara Gordon. When former Azrael (Michael Lane) returns to Gotham obsessed with destroying Batman at the behest of his master Simon Hurt, Damian is forced into action. Dressed in his old Simon Hurt “substitute Batman” outfit, the “Bat-Devil” Lane kills five of the top Gotham mob bosses, including Phosphorus Rex, Professor Pyg, Loveless, and Candyman. Lane claims to be the Anti-Christ, sent to Gotham by the devil himself. Commissioner Barbara Gordon thinks Batman is responsible for the mobster murders, but she quickly sees the light of truth. Damian defeats Nikolai, The Weasel, Jackanapes, Max Roboto, and Eduardo Flamingo, during which he is riddled with bullets and set on fire. Despite this, Damian survives, thus hinting at (basically confirming) a “healing factor” or near invulnerability obtained from his deal with Hurt. Much to the dismay of Commissioner Gordon, Damian executes Lane.

batman 666 collin colsher

Batman #666 was published in July 2007, seemingly out of nowhere, interrupting the natural flow of Morrison’s arc (Batman #665 and Batman #667) without warning or explanation. The reader was simply dropped into the unfamiliar and chaotic territory—roughly fifteen to twenty years into the future from current storylines. Morrison would later slowly reveal—in 52 (2007), Batman #673 (2008), and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (2010)—that the entire 666 Future was part of a fever dream/vision/nightmare that Bruce Wayne had while going through a strenuous Thogal/Tögal ritual and then, later, while going through Darkseid’s cosmic Omega Sanction time-displacement. The full scope of what the 666 Future was, in regard to its status as a nightmare experienced by Bruce, wouldn’t be known until Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 (2013), six years after the publication of Batman #666! This would lead to considerable online debate over whether or not the 666 Future was meant to be a canonical future or merely a possible future (in both the Modern Age and New 52). It’s very debatable, and—as with much of Morrison’s work—there’s no definitive answer.

To add to the mind-blowing nature of introducing a concept six years prior to fully-explaining its connection to everything else, by that point in summer of 2007, we had yet to meet Professor Pyg, Phosphorus Rex, Eduardo Flamingo, Jackanapes, or the Weasel. These characters wouldn’t debut chronologically (both publishing-wise AND on a narrative timeline) until later—some of them much later. Yet, here readers were seeing them for the first time thanks to a flash-forward to the future! Not only that, but Professor Pyg’s first appearance in Batman #666 showed his death! Similarly, our first introduction to Michael Lane happened in Batman #666 too, which predates his first chronological narrative debut, which wouldn’t occur until Batman #672 (February 2008). We also met Alfred the Cat II in Batman #666—well before Alfred the Cat I debuted in Batman Incorporated Vol. 1! The idea of debuting characters BEFORE THEY ACTUALLY DEBUT is a very hard concept to articulate, but if you can grasp it, it’s truly astounding and beautiful. This Morrisonian trick is one of the many awesome “writing games” or “writing methodologies” that you can only really find in serialized superhero comic storytelling.

BATMAN #700—”Time and the Batman”
By Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert, and Brad Anderson (August 2010)

batman 700 cc

Our next glimpse into the continuing saga of Damian as Batman came with Batman #700. Max Roboto—later retconned by Andy Kubert, along with Jackanapes, to be one of Joker’s original henchmen in the New 52’s Batman #23.1—and 2-Face-2 take over Gotham’s new artificial climate control system, causing it to rain Monster Joker Venom all over the city. The majority of Gotham’s citizens are morphed into crazed Jokerized zombies. The double-faced legacy villain also kidnaps an infected infant named Terry McGinnis! Batman watches as a time-traveling Professor Carter Nichols appears from the past and, in a twisted form of suicide, murders his older self. Past-Nichols, distraught at his life of failure thanks to Simon Hurt, has time-traveled to now, killed his older self, and then sent that body back to the past so that the authorities (and Hurt) will think he is dead, thus providing him with a free and unhindered life in this future. Batman rescues tiny Terry, gives him an anti-venom, and defeats the baddies. The inclusion of Terry was Morrison’s way of canonically-connecting the 666 Future to the Batman Beyond future, which featured Terry as the new Batman. Furthermore, Batman #700‘s narrative begins in Bruce Wayne’s early days as Batman and spans hundreds of thousands of years, thus acting as Morrison’s way of also canonically-connecting the 666 Future to Morrison’s own DC One Million future, which featured the Justice Legion (including Batman) of the 853rd century. Having the narrative begin in Batman’s early days of crime-fighting, of course, was Morrison’s way of canonically-connecting the 666 Future to the primary timeline.

Batman 700 Page 33 Damian Wayne

Amazingly, Batman-666 and 2-Face-2 were referenced by Morrison himself twelve years prior to Batman #700—in DC One Million #3 (November 1998)! In that issue, the Batman of the 853rd century tells us that 2-Face-2 was cured by Batman, who convinced him that his lucky coin had caused him to make more good choices than bad overall. So, technically, this is the first mention of Damian as Batman—and it happens EIGHT YEARS before Damian’s published debut, NINE YEARS before Damian’s published debut as Batman-666, and TWELVE YEARS before 2-Face-2’s published debut! As you can clearly see, the seeds were being sewn by Morrison for his mega arc way early on!

DC One Million #3 Grant Morrison

(I should mention a caveat: The Batman of the 853rd century mistakenly refers to Damian Wayne as the “second Batman” in his dialogue. The term “Second Batman” is a dubious reference, but due to the landscape of DC Comics at the time, who really knows what Morrison was thinking? Technically speaking, even in 1998, Batman Number One was Bruce Wayne, Batman Number Two was Jean-Paul Valley, and Batman Number Three was Dick Grayson. Damian would have technically been Batman Number Four, although Morrison was probably referring to Damian as the second permanent Batman, which actually would have made sense at the time. In any case, this is definitely supposed to be a reference to Damian as Batman in the 666 Future.) Like the writing methodology of “debuting characters before they actually debut,” another great trick Morrison often employed (and with great success) was playing the long game. First, Morrison would write-in a time-traveling character and have the character mention something vague about the future… then, A DECADE LATER, he’d write a fully-fleshed-out narrative arc based on that vague mention!

By David Finch, Scott Williams, and Peter Steigerwald (October 2010)

Eternal Superman/Batman 75

Our next Batman-666 sighting was in the “Eternal” portion of Superman/Batman #75. Because this short tale includes Conner Kent, it is decidedly only applicable to the Modern Age. (Conner Kent never exists as a character in the New 52.) And while “Eternal” was created by Finch, Williams, and Steigerwald, it definitely took place on Morrison’s 666 Future timeline shown in Batman #666 and Batman #700. Not only that, “Eternal” was also linked to Morrison’s DC One Million arc yet again, both because “Eternal” featured DC One Million characters and because it connected with references made in the DC One Million tie-in Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1,000,000 by Mark Schultz. In Man of Tomorrow #1,000,000, it is said that Superman (Kal-El/Clark Kent) decides to leave Earth after Lois Lane’s death to travel the cosmos in solitude for over 68,000 years. Before leaving, Clark appoints Superman Secundus as the new protector of Earth. Originally, Schultz had Clark depart at the end of the 21st century, but Superman/Batman #75 clearly retconned that to occur much earlier in order for things to jibe with the 666 Future timeline. Following Clark’s departure, Damian and Conner vow to meet annually at a memorial statue of Batman and Superman to honor their mentors’ memories. “Eternal” shows Batman (Damian in his forties), who is currently training Terry McGinnis to become the new Batman for Neo-Gotham. Likewise, we see an aged Superman (Conner Kent), who would be knee-deep in training Superman Secundus. Damian also mentions a truce, referring to the fact that he and Conner are currently in the middle of a feud.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #80—”World’s Finest”
By Chris Roberson and Jesús Merino (March 2011)

Superman Batman 80

Superman/Batman #80, which was later re-printed in the DC One Million Omnibus, gave us a story-arc involving old-school Justice League rival Epoch (aka The Lord of Time). Having just been defeated by a young Batman (Bruce), young Superman (Clark), and even younger Robin (Dick), Epoch escapes into the time-stream and emerges in the future where he is immediately defeated by Batman-666 (Damian Wayne) and an also-time-traveling Superman Secundus. (Depending on your perspective and interpretation, this could easily be Superman Conner Kent, although the number two on his chest, along with a later nod to DC One Million in the same issue, seems to point toward this being Superman Secundus. Note that the term “second Superman” is used, which muddles things as specificity so often does in superhero comics storytelling.) Epoch retreats back into the time-stream and jumps to the 31st century, and later to the 853rd century as well. Again, like the previous Superman/Batman issue to feature the 666 Future, “World’s Finest” is applicable only to the Modern Age timeline.

flashpoint reboot

And in 2011, the Flashpoint reboot occurred, ending the Modern Age and starting the New 52 era. However, the 666 Future story wasn’t done yet. Undeterred, Morrison seemingly viewed the reboot as merely another “challenge of writing mainstream superhero comics” for which to deal with creatively. And, sure enough, Morrison dealt with it quite creatively. Due to the character’s status in the company, the main parts of Batman’s past were kept intact, despite an extremely-shortened new timeline. (Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s past was similarly unaffected.) Because Batman’s history was virtually untouchable, Morrison and all the other Bat-line creators were able to continue their ongoing arcs even though the entire line had been effectually eliminated and restarted from scratch. For Morrison, he continued his ongoing Batman Incorporated arc. In clever ways, he made sure that both Batman Incorporated and the 666 Future worked in both Modern Age continuity and New 52 continuity.

In 2011, following the New 52/Flashpoint reboot, things at DC were in full shake-up mode. Yet, despite the fact that the entire DC line had been rebooted to start over from virtual scratch, Batman made it through less altered than most other characters. However, in order to tell a seamless uninterrupted story (in his ongoing Batman Incorporated arc) that could take place canonically in both the Modern Age AND New 52, Morrison would have to put his creative writing skills to the test. Quite masterfully, Morrison did exactly that.

absolute edition batman inc

Admittedly, Morrison’s amazing exercise in making an arc work in TWO SEPARATE continuities at the same time isn’t 100% perfect, meaning it requires a handful of asterisks and caveats—notably Barbara Gordon is shown in a wheelchair in Batman #666, Batman #700, which didn’t have the benefit of hindsight upon their respective releases to know that Babs would recover the use of her legs in the New 52. (Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5—the third part of the 666 trilogy—does have that benefit, but matches its two predecessors anyway, putting Babs in the chair.) In any case, despite the caveats, Morrison’s lengthy Batman Incorporated arc and 666 Future arc both work pretty damn on the money in both continuities. When the Batman Incorporated Absolute Edition came out in 2015, Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn even made sure to alter some of the art so that it made sense in the Modern Age, especially the flashbacks. In the Modern Age, Batman wears his yellow-oval costume earlier in his career, so a flashback should have reflected that. However, in the New 52, Batman never wears the yellow oval; and, in fact, only wears one type of black-symbol costume. Thus, in the original New 52 run, Batman, even in flashback, wears the same black symbol costume. Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn made the change in the Absolute Edition because they were serious about fitting their story into dual chronologies. There’s even a scene in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #10 where Batman obtains Man-Bat Serum from Dr. Kirk Langstrom that is brilliantly written in an obscurantist way so that it could exist in two separate timelines—one where Batman has long been comrades with Langstrom and the other where they haven’t even met yet! This sequence is like the Certified Copy (the film by Abbas Kiarostami) of superhero comics. With all these tricks and shenanigans going on in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 at the time of the reboot, it’s no surprise that the Batman 666 Future could coexist in two separate continuities. It’s also no surprise that there’s no official consensus, a ton of debate, and quite a bit of interesting takes when it comes to figuring out the continuity and canonicity of the 666 Future post-Batman Incorporated Vol. 2.

Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, and Nathan Fairbairn (January 2013)

batman inc vol 2 5

Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5 is the only part of the 666 Future narrative that is sandwiched between present-day narrative—as a flash-forward that explicitly regards it as a mere dream. Bruce explains this part of the 666 Future to Damian and the rest of the Bat-Family in Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5. Because of this, Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5‘s 666 Future story is technically a dream sequence, falling into a category of questionable canonical status more-so than the other stand-alone parts, which are unattached to any dream sequence or contemporary story narrative. But, as with all of the 666 Future, the canonical status of the Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5 part is open to interpretation (and, therefore, much debate).

batman inc 5

deal with the devil simon hurt

In the middle of “Asylum,” we get a recapping of the death of Batman from Batman #666—with the important added “deal with the devil” (aka “deal with Simon Hurt”) scene that gave Damian invulnerability at the cost of his very soul. Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5 continues the 666 Future story with much of North America in chaos (thanks to the actions of Bat-Damian’s rogues). Damian and Commissioner Babs fight off the entire populace of a government-quarantined Gotham, which has been Jokerized with a brand new strain of Joker Venom. Damian and Babs try to hold off the Jokerized citizens from a barricaded Arkham Asylum, but a rescued infant brings the virus within their walls. (Note that the infant shown in here, unlike in the previous Batman #700 story, isn’t Terry McGinnis. We know this because Baby Terry was given a dose of anti-venom and this baby has a natural immunity.) Babs then gets infected and blasts Damian in the spine with a shotgun. (Damian’s “healing factor”/near invulnerability allows him to continue on.) Per Talia’s orders, Simon Hurt (who has ascended to the highest levels of American government) authorizes a US Government nuclear strike on Gotham, killing thousands and wiping-out most of the city. As the trope/saying goes, “No body, no death.” We never see Damian or Babs actually killed. Damian looks worse for wear, but presumably, Damian’s “healing factor”/near invulnerability allows him to survive the nuclear strike, after which he presumably rescues Babs and purges the Joker Juice from her system. Babs appears to succumb to her Jokerization before getting swarmed by a mob. But if we are to take the 666 Future as canon, then Damian and Babs must remain alive—an elder Damian is shown mentoring teenage Terry McGinnis in Batman #700 and Babs features heavily in Batman Beyond. This is comics, though, so clones or resurrections could always be a factor. Even Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 ends with a bunch of Damian clones. But that’s a story for another time!

batman inc 5 2 batman damian yung

The next installments to the Batman-666 story occurred in Batman & Robin Vol. 2 Annual #1 and Damian: Son of the Batman #1-4; and both function as prequels, detailing the origins of a younger Damian becoming Batman-666.

BATMAN & ROBIN VOL. 2 ANNUAL #1—”Batman Impossible”
By Peter Tomasi, Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and John Kalisz (March 2013)

batman and robin annual new 52

In “Batman Impossible,” Bruce Wayne is challenged to a global scavenger hunt by Damian. Bruce agrees and immediately departs with Alfred for London. In Gotham, young Damian dons a self-made Batman costume (a mini version of his costume from the Batman 666 future!) and hits the streets to work a case and bust some random costumed super-villains. In London, Bruce finds Damian’s first “gift,” a picture that Bruce’s mom painted. Damian video chats with Bruce and tells him to get to Spain. While Bruce and Alfred catch up with some heartwarming bonding time, Damian puts on his 666 Bat-costume and kicks some more butt in Gotham. While Bruce goes to Barcelona and Greece, lil’ Bat-Damian-666 defeats a guy in a military mech-suit and the debuting Weasel. Like before, this is a timeline mind-bender since, at the time of publication, we’d only seen the Weasel in Batman #666, which was the future—and technically the future of a previous continuity, to boot! In Greece, Bruce finds the stone tile on which his father wrote a marriage proposal to his mother. Damian flies to London and meets with his pop. Bruce is overjoyed and filled with love in regard to Damian’s wonderful scavenger hunt. Father and son then watch Alfred perform Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater. Quite a happy sappy start to a hellish and evil future! Tomasi was definitely having fun with this one.

Next up was Damian: Son of Batman #1-4, written solely by the artist creator of Batman-666 and the 666 Future, Andy Kubert.

damian son of batman kubert #1

By Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson (December 2013 to March 2014)

Damian: Son of Batman tried its best to adhere to the small amount of backstory given to the origin of Damian-as-Batman—the key facets being that Batman died, after which Damian (still Robin) made a deal with the devil aka Simon Hurt, which then led to him becoming the semi-invincible cat-whispering Travis Bickle-esque Batman-666. However, Kubert was all about that M Night Shyamalan twist. (For any film buffs keeping score, I’ve compared Morrison’s scripting to Kiarostami and Kubert’s to Shyamalan; and, no offense to fans of M Night, but the comparison is decidedly in Morrison’s favor.) Anyway, the “what a twist!” moment comes as we learn that the Batman who died in the origin flashbacks from Batman #666 and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5 wasn’t Bruce… it was Dick Grayson! AFTER ALL, Morrison merely showed us that a Batman had been killed to kick-off the 666 Future. He never said who was wearing the cape and cowl! In another odd Kubert bit, we learn what happened to Jim Gordon after he retired from the Force. For some reason he became a Catholic priest. Don’t ask why.

the next batman!

Damian: Son of Batman begins with Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian) investigating a mass grave about which a bunch of Joker-fish are strewn. When Dick examines the fish, a bomb goes off killing him instantly. (The immediate aftermath of this death scene, which was shown in Batman #666 and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #5, looks quite different in Damian: Son of Batman—another strange decision made by Kubert for unknown reasons.) Soon after, a funeral is held at Wayne Manor, presided over by Father Jim Gordon. In attendance are Bruce, Alfred, Damian, Babs (in a wheelchair), and two other unidentified people. Weeks after Dick Grayson’s death, Damian visits his mother Talia and grandfather Ra’s al Ghul. Talia and Ra’s al Ghul discuss Damian’s history—although Talia curiously neglects to mention his New 52 death (from Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #8) and New 52 resurrection (from Batman and Robin Vol. 2‘s “Robin Rises”). This omission on the part of Kubert seems like a hard lean into making this arc function in the Modern Age over the New 52, but, again, who really knows what Kubert was trying here? Interestingly, Mom and Grandpa are the ones that encourage Damian to become Batman-666. Back in Gotham, Damian learns that many super-villains have falsely claimed responsibility for murdering Batman. A pissed-off Robin goes out and murders both Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc and nearly kills Jackanapes. After a chat with Father Gordon, Robin kills rookie villain Chipmunk. Back in the Batcave, Bruce (now older and slightly graying) flips-out and confronts Damian about the murders. Bruce and Damian begin a brutal fistfight with each other, during which Bruce winds up getting accidentally gutted by a grappling hook. Alfred rushes in to stabilize Bruce and orders Damian to leave. After chatting with Father Gordon, Damian dons an adult version of his 666 Bat-costume and heads to the recently abandoned Arkham Asylum. A clue at Arkham leads the debuting Batman-666 downtown into battle with Professor Pyg and his Dollotrons. Pyg kicks Damian’s butt and blows him into the Gotham River. Alfred collects the unconscious Damian and brings him back home. After performing lifesaving surgery on Damian, Alfred slumps over and ingloriously dies. Note that Alfred’s tombstone says 2014 (the date of this arc’s publication), which again, oddly enough, was clearly Kubert demonstrating his strong lean toward Modern Age sensibilities even though this arc was published in the New 52. Damian soon recovers from injury but begins talking to his pet cat, Alfred II, which he hallucinates as sounding just like Alfred. Talk about a coping mechanism. Damian, as Batman, returns to the streets and takes down newcomer Sharptooth, Jackanapes, and an unnamed simian pal. Later, Bruce, still recovering from his own injury, gets kidnapped by his in-house nurse, who turns out to be a disguised Impostor Joker. This prompts Damian to march into a nest of super-villains to attempt a rescue. The young new Batman fights and defeats Phosphorus Rex, a newbie named Tomahawks, Jackanapes (again), Weasel, and a bunch of ape-men. He then saves his dad and kicks the crap out of Impostor Joker. After Damian and Bruce leave, the real Joker appears and kills Impostor Joker. Damian chats with kitty Alfred and then takes to the streets to make his tenure as the new Batman official, starting with the arrest of weird super-villain Snickers the Cat-Man. There is truly a lot of strange stuff happening in Damian: Son of Batman. It feels like Kubert was trying to do his best Morrison (or Neal Adams) impersonation, but it fell a bit short.

the multiversity the just

Grant Morrison, Ben Oliver, and Daniel Brown (December 2014)

The next Batman-666 we’d see was a brand new take entirely—an alternate Earth version of Damian-as-Batman delivered by (again) Morrison himself. Welcome to Earth-16, a part of the Gérard Genette theory-inspired arc known as The Multiversity—a world where all the super-villains have been defeated by mom and pop; and the second generation heroes find themselves living complacent reality TV/pop-star lives akin to the Kardashians. Damian is again the trench-coat-wearing 666 version of Batman we know and love, but he is decidedly a part of the pompous and decadent world of Earth-16. The banal domestic dramas between Damian, his lover Alexis Luthor, and his friend Superman (Chris Kent), which overlap with a lackadaisical investigation into suicides related to party invitation snubs, are quickly quashed by a massive metatextual threat as the creeping cosmic Gentry seep into their world, brining utter doom and gloom with them.

picto fic! multiveristy

Following The Multiversity, interest in Batman-666 never waned. Writers clearly have had him (and his future) on their minds quite a bit. While Batman-666 hasn’t appeared outright, he has in the form of hallucinations or visions. These hallucinations or visions of Batman-666 have popped-up here-and-there—in Batman Eternal #46 (April 2015) by a large group of creators, including Tim Seeley, the villain Ebeneezer Darrk causes a hallucination of Batman-666 and other possible future Batmen; in Nightwing Vol. 4 #17 (May 2017) by Tim Seeley, Javi Fernandez, and Chris Sotomayor, Simon Hurt uses a cosmic blade that causes visions of alternate realities linked to the ongoing Metal: Dark Nights series—including the 666 Future; and in Superman Vol. 4 #25 (August 2017) by Patrick Gleason, Peter Tomasi, and Doug Mahnke, we are treated to visions of various “alternate arcs of space-time.”

And once again, we have Batman-666—or at least some version of him returning to comics in Super Sons by Peter Tomasi, Jose Luis, and Scott Hanna. This will be the first non-hallucination or non-vision version of Batman-666 to appear in the “Rebirth” Era (i.e. to appear since DC’s latest reboot, which occurred this past year). In Super Sons #10 (January 2018), Tomasi and company delivered a stark and striking image of Batman-666 crawling out of the burning wreckage of the GCPD HQ building. (In case you hadn’t noticed, Batman-666 emerging from raging hellfire—a part of reoccurring Satanic themes—is a common trope for the character.) Batman #666 ended with Damian declaring, “The Apocalypse is cancelled. Until I say so. Super Sons #10 sees Damian declaring, “The Apocalypse is back on. Because I say so.” Bring it on, I say! Batman-666 returning to the fold falls in line with other recent similar “Rebirth” appearances of alternate future characters. In other titles, we’ve seen Troia, the “Titans Tomorrow” Tim Drake, and the Justice League’s kids from a dystopian hypertime future, just to name a few. These returns have all had major impact on the contemporary players involved. The same should ring true for the Super Sons. Tomasi’s ongoing arc should be one for the ages, especially since Super Sons has already been an exciting ongoing series that hasn’t failed to deliver as one of DC’s current best.

super sons 11


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My Favorite Comics of 2017


17 Comics I Really Enjoyed a Lot in 2017 (in alphabetical order by title, with images instead of words)

Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe
aliens dead orbit

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
the best we could do

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki

Doom Patrol Vol. 6 by Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tom Fowler, & Tamra Bonvillain
doom patrol vol 6 gerard way

Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell
gab bell

Kirby by Tom Scioli
scioli's kirby

Moon Knight Vol. 8 by Lemire, Francavilla, Torres, Stokoe, Smallwood, & Bellaire
moon knight vol 8

Mario by Tom McHenry
mario turtles feminism

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly
pretty vampire skelly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim
poppies iraq

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino
sex fantasy dimino

Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign? by Geoff Darrow
shaolin cowboy 2017 darrow

Silver Surfer Vol. 8 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred, & Laura Allred
silver surfer vol 8 slott

Space Riders Galaxy of Brutality by Fabian Rangel & Alexis Ziritt
space riders

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge
sticks angelica

Tenements, Towers, and Trash by Julia Wertz
tenements towers and trash


17 Other Comics I Also Enjoyed in 2017 aka Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order by title)

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollman

Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld
baking with kafka

Midnight in the Phantom Zone by James Harvey
james harvey mignight

Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs
jesse jacobs crawl space

Dept. H by Matt Kindt & Sharlene Kindt
dept h 14

The Flintstones by Mark Russell & Steve Pugh
flintstones 2017

Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean, Mike Spicer, Lin Visel, Joseph Nergin III, & Jordie Bellaire
head lopper

Judge Dredd: Blessed Earth by Ulises Fariñas, Erick Freitas, Daniel Irizarri, & Ryan Hill
judge dredd idw 2017

The Leopard Vol. 4 by Sarah Horrocks
leopard sarah horrocks

The Mighty Thor Vol. 2 / Unworthy Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Olivier Coipel, et al
mighty thor

Mirror by Emma Ríos & Hwei Lim
emma rios mirror image

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
my favorite thing is monsters

She Wolf by Rich Tommaso
she wolf tommaso

The Smell of Starving Boys by Frederik Peeters & Loo Hui Phang
smell of starving boys peeters

Spy Seal by Rich Tommaso
spy seal rich tommaso

Super Powers by Tom Scioli
scioli super powers

World War 3 Illustrated Presents FIGHT FASCISM! by Erik Drooker, Sue Coe, Kate Evans, Peter Kuper, Steve Brodner, Isabella Bannerman, Kevin Pyle, Seth Tobocman, et al
fight fascism

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The Hole in Things: A History of Simon Hurt

Back in April, I wrote a piece on the history of Grant Morrison’s Simon Hurt character for Hurt is one of my favorite comic book villains. I usually cross-post my other comics writing that I do for other websites on my blog, but for various reasons was unable to do so at the time. Unfortunately, I’m still unable to do so, BUT I’m now finally happily sharing the links to the piece below. Enjoy!

The Hole in Things: A History of Simon Hurt (Part 1)
The Hole in Things: A History of Simon Hurt (Part 2)
The Hole in Things: A History of Simon Hurt (Part 3)

simon hurt pic collin colsher


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The Uniqueness of Serialized Multi-Authored Comic Book Storytelling (And Making Sense of It All)

In late 2017, I was honored by receiving an invitation from Professor Sofi Thanhauser to lecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. It is with great pleasure that I now provide a semi-transcript of the lecture to my devoted blog-followers. The lecture, entitled “The Uniqueness of Serialized Multi-Authored Comic Book Storytelling (And Making Sense of It All),” is transcribed—with images—below. Note that the actual lecture went into much more detail and included a Q&A as well. Hopefully, I’ll have an audio podcast coming in the near future!

pratt institute seal brooklyn new york sofi thanhauser collin colsher graphic novels
pratt institute logo brooklyn nyc

all about me collin colsher batman historian

My name is Collin Colsher. I have a graduate degree from NYU, I am a teacher, artist, filmmaker, and comic book historian. I’ve also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is one of the most prestigious graphic novel awards outside of the industry. (The big industry awards are the Eisners and the Harveys.) The Lynd Ward Prize is an academic award sponsored by the US Library of Congress. Previous honorees have been Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden, Unflattening by Nick Sousanis, This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, Fran by Jim Woodring, Building Stories by Chris Ware, and Habbibi by Craig Thompson, just to name a few.

lynd ward prize honorees

While I am a working visual artist and filmmaker, my lecture will be something a bit different than the normal “guest artist lecture.” Rather than sharing my “creative work,” I’m going to talk about a project that I’ve been working on for the past nine years. Professor Thanhauser’s syllabus states that two essential keys to her Pratt Institute Graphic Novel course are “gaining knowledge of the broader tradition of the graphic novel” and “consider[ing] what the graphic novel form is and what it may become.” Hopefully, my lecture will hit upon those things in ways other standard artist or academic lectures might not. I will attempt to tie in this lecture to both Batman comics and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther series.

In this presentation, I’m going to address the broader tradition of the graphic novel and its form in a few ways: First, by talking about my project in relation to the complexity of superhero comic book narratives; second, by addressing the concepts of fictional canon and reboots; and third, by showing some examples of what I’m talking about.

And, through this presentation, we will examine graphic novel storytelling from a new perspective.


slide show pratt lecture

My project is called The Real Batman Chronology Project—(right now the whole thing is all online, but I’m hoping to have it published into book form). The project is about scholarly analyzing something that, at first glance, might seem unworthy of scholarly analysis: superhero comics—specifically using Batman as a sort of “primary text” or “case study.” Now, whether you are into superheroes or not, there is a lot going on with superhero comics. And the history of graphic novels really starts with superheroes and it starts here in the United States.

scott mccloud

Scott McCloud’s brilliant and timeless Understanding Comics gives one of the most succinct and wonderful histories of comics. It also shows how complex the very act of reading a comic book is. Hopefully, this lecture will connect to McCloud’s work in some ways.

My project essentially tracks the narrative continuity of DC Comics via the lens of Batman, plotting each of his appearances into detailed timelines. Now, you might be thinking, doesn’t one just read the comics in the order they are published? Why does there need to be a project dedicated to that? I’m going to show you why it’s not that simple. Far from it. But first, a little backstory about how this project got started. This all came about when I started a blog that was supposed to be a fun commentary as I attempted to read through all Batman comics chronologically starting from 1939. Of course, once you attempt this, you find there are a lot of interesting things going on—and then you are in a black hole you never intended to be in. As I was reading, I started to realize that getting the complete story wasn’t as simple as reading everything in published order. I also quickly realized that, beyond the overall complexity of how we read sequential art (in the Scott McCloud sense of reading sequential art), there is a narrative complexity in the very nature of superhero comics.

And this extra narrative complexity consists primarily of four key things.

ONE: Superhero comics exist as vast collections of interconnected serialized fiction that span decades.

TWO: They are authored by hundreds of different people—including writers, pencilers, colorists, inkers, letterers, editors, publishers, and more.

Beyond the large number of people involved creatively (and because of the large number of people involved creatively), we get number THREE: much of the superhero genre is open to reader interpretation—and authorial interpretation of previous authorship.

FOUR: Every Wednesday, dozens of titles come out continuing the story from the previous week’s batch of titles. And all of these titles–week to week, month to month, and so on—tell an ongoing über-story in which the events and characters of said titles all exist in the same shared world, directly influencing each other. (To show how many ongoing titles are released, ballpark numbers: Dark Horse, IDW, Image, and BOOM Studios each put out around 10 comics a week, Marvel and DC put out double that—about 20 comics every week, and there were upwards of 30 indie books that come out via the awful Diamond Distribution monopoly into mainstream comic shops as well. The Diamond monopoly and soul-sucking corporate nature of these comics are a worthwhile discussion too, but one for another time!) If we look solely at DC for the purposes of this conversation, we are talking about literally hundreds of creators working together to build a “shared universe”—essentially a single unified story.

batman montage issues covers

How can all these titles (and creators) possibly exist and function cohesively? How can there be a coherent story, both visually and narratively? The comics combine to form a puzzle and it’s how the pieces fit together that really interests me. This is what the Real Batman Chronology Project is all about at its core.

But why Batman? Why is he so important? He’s quite popular, in case you didn’t know—he shows up in almost every DC title at some point or another. Batman is the primary lens through which DC Comics has been able to tell a consistent narrative for the past 75 years-plus. Therefore, sticking with Batman appearances for this project allows for the easiest opportunity to determine passage of time, character age, where events occur, where things need to be rearranged, how things come together, or how things fail to come together for the entire DC Universe. Of course, a ton of variables have to be considered and the process gets complicated. I’m sort of a masochist for continuing my project with such diligence! But I do so because, in looking deeper at serialized comics (and in looking at the four keys I just mentioned), one finds certain refreshing truths.

First, continuity equals congruity (meaning that, contrary to what a lot of folks think, continuity isn’t supposed to over-complicate or make texts feel exclusive—it actually helps us understand narrative more easily); second, serialized multi-authored narrative worlds utilize truly unique forms of storytelling; and, third, a cohesive superhero universe is the result of a collaborative interpretive process undertaken by both creators and readers alike. In order to prove these theses, my foundational focus has always revolved heavily around respect for the concept of fictional canon and knowledge of DC’s line-wide reboots.

canon cannon canon


When we think of the word “canon” we often think of the classic definition: A body of historical works in music/visual art/film/literature considered to be masterpieces worthy of study. The problem with this form of canon lies in the question: “Who determines what is considered worthy?” Typically, canons have been determined solely by a White male majority of scholars and critics. Only in more recent years has the canon begrudgingly begun to accept other works of non-White/non-colonial/non-male authorship i.e. what we could call diverse works. But, ANYWAY, we aren’t here to talk about that, we are here to talk about fictional canon.

what counts fictional canon?

or this? canon

Fictional canon exists in serialized media and refers to any source material that is in-continuity as opposed to what is out-of-continuity, or, in other words, what officially “counts” toward story/character development versus what does “not count.” At first glance, every superhero story seemingly falls either into the category of canon OR non-canon. HOWEVER, that is a gross oversimplification. The authors and owners of said conceptual material usually determine what is canon, but most canons exist only because they have been accepted as “official” by a fan base. Since the entire concept of canon is rooted in fandom and fan interaction with the stories, ultimately there’s no way of determining what is officially canon or non-canon. Canon is also often said to be the opposite of fan-fiction, but again this is an oversimplification for the very same reason. Ironically, both are rooted in fandom. Therefore, canons are all malleable constructs that can never be 100% finite.

That being said, my project monitors canon. And I just told you that there IS NO OFFICIAL CANON! This may seem like a complete invalidation of my project, but this contradiction is actually the very reason I do what I do!

To me, the most interesting thing about canon is that it always gets defined as this very scientifically precise concept, something chained to authorship, ownership, and continuity. But because of the nature of superhero comics, so much of what goes into making sense of multiple overlapping stories by multiple creators is done solely in the mind of the reader. So, canon, usually defined so rigidly, really isn’t a rigid concept at all! Therefore, in serialized fictional media, I’ve come to personally define canon as: The collaborative perceptive processing of an ongoing work by both authors and readers, through which the story MAKES THE MOST NARRATIVE SENSE. You’ll see what I mean as we continue.

Now, before moving forward, a quick interlude about where the very idea of fictional canon comes from. The term canon derives from the authentication of religious scripture. Ancient texts like The Bible, Gospels, The Talmud, Sūtras, and The Daozang have multiple volumes or interpretations created by multiple authors in a similar way that most fairy tales, folklores, folk tales, and mythologies do. (Whether or not most religious institutions will admit to that is another thing altogether.) All of these sacred stories, from the Old Testament to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, deal with the conundrum of legitimizing a single official narrative while having varied accounts or versions, either because of multiple authorship or a lengthy oral tradition. The idea of modern fictional canon, however, didn’t come about until the 20th century.

sherlock holmes

The concept was invented by Ronald Knox in 1911 in reference to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. There were a ton of Sherlock knock-offs, so Knox used canon to deem which books fit into the official Holmes-verse and which were mere imitations. (Sherlock Holmes is actually a complicated example to talk about in regard to canon since the character is now in the public domain and has been re-created in various media formats and even since been included into the same world as Batman and Superman. Public domain is another great topic of discussion. Warner Bros and Disney are great at lobbying Congress and putting out material simply to extend copyright—the very reason 75-year-old characters like Batman and Superman haven’t gone into public domain even though they should have by now.)

seinfeld slide

But putting public domain aside, here lies the big mega-difference between Sherlock Holmes, written by one author with one source of narrative, versus superhero comics, written by a ton of authors and spreading throughout multiple sources of narrative. Once you begin to add more streams of information, continuity-building begins to get more difficult. The chance of contradiction, confusion, or error arises—either by the writer themselves or in how the reader interprets the work. After all, each creator (and reader) brings something different to the table and has their own perspective. As the old saying goes, “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth”—or even more applicable, “A camel is a racehorse designed by committee.” Superhero comics are a monster-camel with a billion humps.

Superhero comics get even wilder in regard to multiple sources of narrative information when we think of the synergistic trans-media experience that permeates most storytelling today. It’s not just different narratives from comic books. What about board games, toys, TV shows, video games, phone apps, novelizations, etc…? Where, when, and how do they fit in?

These days, more so than ever, you don’t just sign onto one single narrative stream of media. To get the full picture, you have to commit to the entire “shared universe.” We see this with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and more. And with comics, it’s become hard to just read one title here or one title there. You really are forced to read “the DC Universe” or “The Marvel Universe” if you want that coherent narrative.

tiny titans continuity joke

Superhero comics are further uniquely complicated because, as i’ve already mentioned, each superhero company places their titles within the spectrum of a shared world—or universe, multiverse, etc… While all of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures occur on a singular timeline in which he, Watson, and Moriarty all existed, the same can be said of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Captain America, who all exist in the Marvel Universe. Or the characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in the Star Wars Universe. Likewise, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman all exist in the DC Universe. There is so much going on and so much room for contradiction when working within the confines of a cluttered fictional world, especially one in which there are hundreds of toys in the sandbox, so to speak. Therein lies another part of the problem. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of characters to keep tabs on!


reboots reboots reboots

snyder reboots

DC’s major reboots are incredibly important to understand continuity. Reboots influence reader experience and the actions of authors, in relation to canon, more than anything else. (Reboots are when the company decides to scrap everything and start over from scratch. Except they never really start over from scratch. Tons of old story gets folded into the “new continuity” and this happens in very interesting ways, which we’ll soon address.) A QUICK HISTORY LESSON: Superman debuted in 1938 and Batman in 1939, essentially starting DC Comics’ shared narrative universe—and the Golden Age of comics. About twenty-five years later, in the late 1950s/early 1960s, DC wanted a fresh start with a new type of modern hero. Thus, the Silver Age was born. Almost as if on cue, roughly twenty-five years later, in 1986, the seminal Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover was published, which collapsed the existing multiverse and rebooted it all into one new unified Earth where all characters had a new shared history. This was the dawn of the Modern Age of superhero comics. Twenty-five years later, 2011’s Flashpoint rebooted DC yet again, and a mere six years after that (earlier this year in 2017), they rebooted again!

Now, what I just gave you was definitely THE MOST BRIEF history of DC Comics that one could possibly have given. By catering to this complex history it might seem as though DC is acting exclusionary and doing itself a disservice by making things so convoluted and sprawling. While knowledge of this history is essential if you want to track canon or continuity, it doesn’t need to be understood or even known to simply enjoy the comics. They stand on their own—you can pick up a collected trade paperback and read a totally inclusive story that begins, has rising action, a climax, and denouement. But the beauty, especially for me, is that if you already like comics, then knowing about this history will only serve to augment your enjoyment.


Because the “superhero story” generally exists in the form of serialized multiple-authored sequential art, we see types of storytelling in superhero comics that are unique only to superhero comics. Thus, there are a lot of tricks or “funny games” that creators play to tell superhero stories (or play while telling them). This specific kind of trick-storytelling exists in the winks, nods, references, Easter Eggs, retcons, flashbacks, call-backs, time-sliding, canon-immigration, grandfathering-in, back-engineering, and re-imagining of hundreds of creators telling the über tale. This next part of my lecture is all about these funny games—the games that creators play and which fans (myself included) interpret. The collaborative perception of both authors and readers is what makes superhero comics superhero comics. It is through this exchange that a superhero universe gains cohesion and coherence.

Let’s now look at few examples to show how this works (for both author and reader). Be very aware that, with most examples that show my personal interpretive process as a reader, there can often be various alternate interpretations to open-texted material. Again, this is the idea that fandom dictates canon. Remember: There is no one true correct answer. The goal here is to decipher a story that makes the most sense narratively and chronologically.

The Crew Black Panther

REFERENCES (and also FLASHBACKS) FROM ONE ERA TO A PREVIOUS ERA—when an author canonizes narrative from a prior continuity or prior narrative. Above we have Coates’ Black Panther #6 (2016) referencing The Crew (2003). Writers often also make reference to their peers’ story arcs (for better or worse). A random example of this would be, say, if Alfred hurts his arm and is in a cast, maybe another writer will show Alfred in the cast. Alfred could also simultaneously appear in a third title without the cast. You can see how the chance for contradiction exponentially rises.

references to original material bob kane

REFERENCES TO ORIGINAL MATERIAL consist of anything mentioned in a comic that is to a past event that is unique (and hasn’t been shown before or is not in another issue prior). This happens a lot, especially back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Batman #69, as our random sample, refers to an event—Batman joining the volunteer fire squad—that never happened in any prior comic. It must be inserted into history at a point that makes sense.

black panther coates flashbacks #1

FLASHBACKS. The very first page of Coates’ Black Panther series (in Black Panther Vol. 6 #1) contains three flashbacks to old stories. On the left is a flashback reference to Black Panther’s father from Marvel Two-in-One (1970s). The middle contains a flashback reference to Namor destroying Wakanda from X-Men vs Avengers (2012). And the right shows a flashback reference to the Dora Milaje from Christopher Priest’s Black Panther Vol. 3 (1998). For many, Coates Black Panther was their first foray into reading superhero comics. Yet, right from the get-go, Coates is, in a sense, demanding some knowledge of deep continuity cuts from his readership.

retcons retcons

RETCONS (Retroactive Continuity alterations). These include CHARACTER CHANGES and AGE CHANGES. Sometimes personalities, races, or ages change depending on author (purposefully, or by mistake). Ages are stretched-out, like Robin being in high school for way longer than he should have been. Examples in context: in the 1970s Bruce and Selina are retconned to have been married with a baby, so a bunch of stories from the 50s and early 60s don’t fit!

sliding time

SLIDING-TIME. This occurs in both DC and Marvel Comics, but it is a super-duper Marvel thing! Sliding-Time is the fundamental basis for all of Marvel’s continuity. Black Panther debuted in 1966. Everything that has happened to him since 1966 (ever since FF #52) is a part of his narrative. But thanks to Sliding-Time, a mere twelve to seventeen years have passed—depending on which site you source. (Douglas Wolk said, in 2017 lectures, that the Marvel timeline was around fourteen years long, whereas Christos Tsirbas put it at twelve years long before a Sliding-Time update in 2018 that seemingly stretched it to seventeen years long.) This keeps things constantly contemporary no matter how much time passes! In direct relationship to Sliding-Time, COMPRESSION and SHORTENING OF TIMELINES occurs as well. Time-sliding, for instance, causes massive compression. Say a story arc occurs over a specific nearly yearlong IN-STORY period. When things are made more contemporary, large chunks of story time cannot accommodate the shorter updated timeline. Thus, we have to imagine a condensed history. Of course, this all means that specific topical and seasonal references get ignored.

easter egg hunt

EASTER EGGS are a fun type of writer’s trick. The Batcave trophy room is filled with them. Basically, the Batcave trophies have long existed as a means for artists to have fun and draw in whatever they please. But when this happens—let’s say for instance someone draws a lighthouse in there (as pictured above)—this means that Batman went on some unspecified mission and netted a lighthouse as a prize. This becomes a part of his history that we can only imagine in our own minds! Coates’ Black Panther is chock-full of Easter Eggs, so much so he did annotations in a Vulture article. Coates: “Kimoyo is something that my predecessor, [past Black Panther writer] Christopher Priest, came up with. He had a Kimoyo Card, which is almost like this smartphone-in-a-card that Black Panther used. We changed it a little bit and turned it into a band that all Wakandans have.” Coates: “Niganda is a country that neighbors Wakanda, and they have not been as fortunate in history as Wakanda has. [Black Panther nemesis] Killmonger [in a recent story] tried to organize the Nigandans to basically overthrow T’Challa and take over Wakanda. It’s a poorer country.” It feels like many comics today have become vessels for Easter Egg hunting, which can be very cool—unless Easter Egging takes the place of actual storytelling, which happens more often than I’d care to see.

lego BATMAN!

Everything is canon on some timeline. Everything has a place. If it doesn’t fit, then it fits somewhere else.


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