Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 3)

Dick Grayson's evolution

Welcome to the third and final part of “Dick Grayson as Batman: A Retrospective (Part 3).” We left off in our last piece with Dick long into his tenure as Batman. With Bruce Wayne’s return in Grant Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman & Robin, there are two Batmen in Gotham, a unique and exciting time for what would ultimately be the twilight years of the Modern Age. With reboot looming via 2011’s Flashpoint (by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert), the sky is the limit for creators, so it would seem. As such, there are a lot of memorable moments. We’ll look at those Modern Age moments before touching upon cape-and-cowled Dick Graysons of other timelines.

In the wild and excellent crossover “JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM” (Batman #708, Red Robin #22, Gotham City Sirens #22, and Batman #709—by David Hine, Guillem March, Fabian Nicieza, Freddie E Williams II, Peter Calloway, Andres Guinaldo, et al, May-June 2011), we get the delightful debuts of Fireball and The Crusader—crazy scary powerful warriors subservient to Azrael (Michael Lane). Claiming to have been sent by God (in this case Ra’s al Ghul), the so-called “Angels of Death” destroy whole city blocks. Catwoman begs Dick to call Bruce for help, but Dick says that this is his own responsibility. Azrael kidnaps Mayor Hady while Fireball and the Crusader continue destroying the city. The Crusader’s powers include telekinesis, telepathy, pyrokinesis, flight ability, near invulnerability, super strength, and the power to make locusts and snakes appear at will. He’s amazing—one of my favorite comic book villains of all time (in case you couldn’t tell). Bruce, seeing the chaos on the news while away in Hong Kong, calls Dick to ask if he needs help. Dick says he can handle it. Eventually, Red Robin and Catwoman show-up with Jenny Lane and her kids. Azrael realizes that Ra’s al Ghul has been using him as a pawn and ends the attack.

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Detective Comics #875-881 by Scott Snyder, Francesco Francavilla, and Jock (May-October 2011) continues and concludes the “Skeleton Cases” story-arc. James Gordon Jr is back in Gotham, but is he a psychopath and did he really commit multiple murders? Inquiring minds want to know, including Barbara Gordon (Jim Gordon’s ex-wife), who returns to Gotham for the first time in over a decade. Unfortunately, Barbara is attacked by a mystery assailant and left naked, bloody, and Jokerized. Welcome back to Gotham, Barbara! Batman confronts Joker, who is genuinely annoyed that he’s dealing with Batman #2. Joker claims he doesn’t know anything about the attack. This is because it wasn’t Joker—it was James Jr, of course. James Jr kidnaps Babs and then contacts Dick, gloating that he knows the secret IDs of both Batmen! It’s heavily implied that Commissioner Gordon also knows, but I suppose that isn’t too shocking since it’s always been insinuated, especially by Snyder. James Jr monologues like Adrian Veidt, claiming he’s spiked Gotham’s baby formula vats. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but if so, thanks to the way James Jr’s drug functions, Gotham’s next generation will be composed of brand new psychos. Babs stabs James Jr in the eye just as Dick shows-up to save her. Commissioner Gordon shoots his son in the legs and reels him into justice in a scene that mirrors the climax of Frank Miller’s Batman Year One. Despite its myriad continuity errors (nearly every flashback is riddled with contradiction), this arc packs a chilling gut punch by the end. 

With Snyder riding high and taking the main reins of the Bat-line, DC gives him his own mini-series called Batman: Gates of Gotham #1-5 (art by Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy, May-October 2011). Snyder decides to rebuild some of the Gotham mythos with a little retconned history. In the late 1800s, the “first families” of Gotham (the Waynes, the Kanes, the Cobblepots, and the Elliots) began construction on the skyline of Gotham. Two young sibling architects, Nicholas Anders Gate and Bradley Gate, were hired to construct the elaborate Cyrus Pinkney designs. The skyline was built, but politics and intrigue led to a terrible accident and the death of Bradley. Unable to cope, Nicholas went insane and killed Cameron Kane’s son, earning a lifetime sentence to Arkham Asylum. Not wanting bad publicity, the “first families” covered-up the true facts of the murder and the Gate brothers never received credit for their involvement in the development of the city. With this backstory set in stone, we turn to the present. Three of Gotham’s bridges, the old Wayne Tower, and the Iceberg Lounge are blown up in terrorist attacks. Who is responsible? The steampunk villain known as The Architect aka Zachary Gate, descendant of the Gate brothers, who believes that the Gates were victims of persecution by the “first families.” And Snyder definitely gives us evidence that some underhandedness may have indeed occurred back in ye olden times. After some Dick-led Bat-Family teamwork, the Architect is defeated. Afterward, Dick reports to Bruce, who is overseas on business. Bruce tells Dick that he’s done a great job as Batman, but he’s coming home to Gotham for good soon and when he makes his return, they must have a talk about the future (i.e. Nightwing will eventually have to come back). Damn.

In Batman Incorporated #6 by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn (June 2011), Bruce gives a TV interview regarding Batman Incorporated. When Emoticon-Man (!) shows-up, Alfred kicks ass (!) and the villain is left surrounded by a bunch of GI Bat Robots and a grinning Bruce. Looks like the new Batman is rubbing off on the old one! Bruce holds a Batcave meeting with his closest allies and declares war on Leviathan, a global crime syndicate (secretly run by Talia al Ghul). Later, at the Bat-Bunker, Bruce explains to Dick and Damian that many people will now be trying to expose the secret IDs of all the Batman Inc members. After examining an Internet message board, Bruce demonstrates that much of the Internet community already believes that Bruce is indeed Batman! Bruce isn’t worried, claiming that a steady stream of misinformation will keep their IDs safe. Bruce and Alfred then begin a trip around the globe to meet with various Batman Inc soldiers, including Nightrunner, Black Bat Cassie Cain (!!!), a new Aboriginal Dark Ranger, Batwing, Traktir, Spidra, and Wingman (Jason Todd). We also see Gaucho and Jiro Osamu. Aboard the Leviathan satellite HQ, Doctor Dedalus and the mysterious leader of Leviathan begin their final preparations for an all out assault against the entire planet. On the twinkling blue Earth below, Batman Inc is ready and waiting.

two batmen! batman inc 6

Batman #713 (by Fabian Nicieza, Steve Scott, Daniel Sampere, Andrei Bressan, et al—October 2011) represents the unbelievable end of an era. Issue #713 is the final issue of Batman Vol. 1. Dick and Damian attend a Wayne Foundation Annual Benefit for victims of the long-ago-but-never-forgotten Great Gotham Earthquake (from 1998’s Cataclysm by Chuck DixonAlan Grant, Devin GraysonDoug Moench, et al). At the event, Damian tells three eager kids his version of the history of the Dynamic Duo. Afterward, Batman and Robin go on their nightly patrol. Batman and Robin will never die!

In Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! #1 by Morrison, Burnham, Cameron Stewart, and Fairbairn (February 2012), Batman Incorporated is finally ready to attack Leviathan head-on. Batman (Bruce), Batman (Dick), Robin, Red Robin, and Gaucho infiltrate a Leviathan oil tanker. Batman (Bruce) is dosed with an experimental drug and becomes separated from the group. Super-villain Doctor Dedalus is able to taunt Batman and pry precious secrets about Batman Inc from the struggling hero. Across the globe, Leviathan agents seemingly kill Batwing and the Hood. (Don’t worry, they are okay!) Meanwhile, Batman (Dick), Red Robin, and Robin fight a brainwashed Dark Ranger and Nightrunner and a turncoat Gaucho. Dedalus sinks his own ship and reveals that several meta-bombs will blow-up all over the planet. Gaucho has a change of heart and betrays Dedalus, giving Batman the antidote to the drug in his system. Damian throws a knife into Dedalus’ head, killing him. Damian nervously mutters, “Father. I’m sorry. He was going to kill you.” Great stuff. Batman, Batman, Red Robin, Robin, and Gaucho then find the severed head of Jezebel Jet (Bruce’s ex). Over the phone, Talia tells Bruce that the war is officially game on. While the Modern Age might be ending, things are just heating up for the New 52. 

And that’s really where our Dick-as-Batman story ends. As referenced earlier in Snyder’s Batman: Gates of Gotham #5, Dick returns to his old role of Nightwing. Dick returning to his Nightwing gimmick is also referenced in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #60 (by James Robinson and Daniel Sampere, October 2011) and Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #1 (by Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn—July 2012). In the latter, which is canon in both the Modern Age and New 52, Dick is shown back in his Nightwing persona.

However, it isn’t long before Dick is already wearing the Bat-costume again—at least for a classic Bat-ruse. In Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 #3 (by Morrison, Burnham, and Fairbairn—July 2012), Batman dons his Matches Malone guise and, along with Dick dressed as Batman and an undercover Gaucho, Hood, and Freight Train, pumps the local bar scene for information regarding Leviathan. Dick gets to ham-it-up and do his amazing best-impression of grim-n-gritty Bruce Batman. Later, in the Batcave, Dick plays around, wearing the Bat-cape along with his Nightwing outfit.

batman inc vol 2 3

In Andy Kubert’s Damian: Son of Batman (December 2013-March 2014), in what actually seems to be a quasi-canonical future for both the Modern Age and New 52, Dick actually returns to the cape and cowl of the Bat after Bruce retires. Batman (Dick) and Robin (Damian) fight together long enough to garner new rivals in Jackanapes, The Weasel, Chipmunk, and Tomahawks. However, tragedy strikes when Dick and Damian investigate the scene of a grisly pile of murder victims about which are strewn a bunch of Joker-fish. When Dick examines one of the fish, a bomb goes off killing him instantly. This sequence is also shown in Batman #666 by Morrison and Kubert (July 2007).

Throughout the Modern Age, there have been other Dick Graysons to wear the Bat-costume, but they are all non-canon or alternate universe versions. An Elseworlds Dick-as-Batman from John Byrne’s Superman & Batman: Generations (1999) comes to mind as a highly notable Modern Age alt-version of the character.

After the Geoff Johns-authored Flashpoint reboot (2011), the New 52 brought a handful of fresh alternate reality Dick Grayson Batmen. Most notable among these is the Dick-as-Batman that debuted in Earth 2: World’s End #1 by Marguerite Bennett, Mike Johnson, Daniel H Wilson, et al (December 2014). This Batman had some longevity, appearing in over fifty issues, mostly in the pages of various Earth-2 titles. The Earth-42 Batman (from The Multiversity Guidebook #1 by Morrison et al, March 2015) is also remarkable. Not only is he Dick Grayson, but he is also a cute chibi version of Dick.

More recently, in the current “Rebirth Era” of DC Comics, Dick has returned briefly to the Bat-role, but only for ruses akin to when he wore the costume back in the Silver Age. For example, in Dark Nights: Metal #2 (by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo—September 2017), the entire Bat-Family (Nightwing, Batwoman, Batgirl, Batwing, and Red Hood) each disguise themselves as Batman using EMP holographic masks.

In Tom King’s current run, specifically Batman Vol. 3 #51-53 (“COLD DAYS”)—art by Lee Weeks, September-October 2018, Dick returns to the cape and cowl of the Bat after Bruce’s heart is broken by Selina and he has to go on jury duty for a Mr. Freeze trial. Learning that he will be sequestered at a hotel for what could be weeks of deliberation, Bruce asks Dick to fill-in for him as Batman. As the trial goes on, Batman (Dick) meets with Gordon and tells him that the other Batman isn’t doing so well. After routinely busting Killer Croc, Dick leaves a concerned voicemail on Bruce’s phone, inquiring whether or not Bruce is okay. Bruce is not okay. He vents in the courthouse bathroom by screaming and destroying a urinal. During the jury deliberation, Bruce tells his fellow jurors that everyone in Gotham sees Batman as this infallible god, whom they’d never even think to question—but Batman is human. He’s no god, no matter how much Gotham respects, fears, or loves him. With this sliver of reasonable doubt, the jury votes not guilty and Mr. Freeze is acquitted.

cold days snyder batman v3 51

Also in recent comics, we’ve seen an alternate Dick-as-Batman—the Batman of the future world of the 6th Dimension. In Justice League Vol. 4 #19-21 (“THE SIXTH DIMENSION”) by Scott Snyder and Jorge Jiménez. Mr. Mxyzptlk helps the JLA by opening a door to the 6th Dimension. There, the JLA finds an alternate future world where they are greeted by alternate future versions of themselves. The elder JL shows-off a utopian version of Earth where all crime has ended. The 6th Dimension’s Batman, an alt-Dick Grayson, tells Batman how the 6th Dimensional Bruce Wayne sacrificed his life to ensure the peace they now have. Alt-Dick gives Batman a tour of the Pennyworth Home rehabilitation center. Of course, things aren’t exactly as they seem. There’s a darkness to the ostensible utopia. The elder JLA is really led by Alpheus (the original World Forger, son of Perpetua, and brother to the Anti-Monitor Mobius and original Montior Mar Novu).

And that brings us up to speed. Let me know if I missed anything! Like I said, there’s a handful of instances where Dick wears the costume as part of a trick or ruse in order to fool someone, but this retrospective was really about tackling all of his more official runs as Batman. Overall, Dick was a wonderful Batman, who carried on Bruce’s legacy while adding flair of his own to the role. One can easily argue that Dick was a better-suited partner for Damian (and acted as a better father/big brother than Bruce ever did), which is pretty amazing. Dick’s candor, humor, and lightheartedness breathed new life into the concept of Batman, complicating the very idea of what it meant to be the Dark Knight for the first time in almost 70 years. Able to admit fault and rely on his heart, empathy, and humanity to guide him (in ways that Bruce has struggled with at times), Dick is a Batman that I wouldn’t mind seeing again in the future. Thanks for reading! Until next time, take care and keep reading superhero comics!

past present future

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The Prismatic Age: Batman as a Reflection of Outdated Ideas

I was recently reading a post entitled “Comic Characters I Enjoy More in Spin-off Media” by the great Anthony Dean, who runs the wonderful blog, Diverse Tech Geek. In his piece, Dean speaks about some of the reasons that he isn’t that into the current Batman featured in mainstream comics. While he lays out a variety of complaints, the main one that strikes me (and one that has been seriously bothering me lately) is rooted in the following passage:

“Problems [with Batman] are probably tied to how slavishly dedicated DC is to Frank Miller and his 1980s series The Dark Knight Returns. That’s been over 30 years ago, yet it’s left a very deep mark on almost every version of Batman to date. [. . .] Other stories also feel like they’ve cast a similarly influential yet problematic and dated tone (The Killing Joke, etc.). There’s also various real life changes since the 1980s. For instance, Gotham feels stuck in the popular media view of 70s/80s-era New York as a ‘cesspool’ with major problems; however, the real New York (which Gotham’s a pastiche of) has since vastly changed and improved. Mental health treatment attitudes have also changed over the decades, which might make Arkham Asylum as a concept problematic in the future. Additionally, there’s much more criticism now versus the 80s of ‘tough on crime’ policies; such policies tend to disproportionately harm Blacks and Latinos. An angry rich White guy declaring a ‘war on crime’ conveys a different tone these days.”

Today, the majority of crime in New York City (where I proudly live) does not revolve around stick-ups, bank robberies, drug deals gone wrong, or back-alley assaults in seedy neighborhoods. Crime in NYC is white collar. Government kick-backs and tax breaks to corrupt real estate agencies, greedy landlords and greedier property-owners, European oligarchs purchasing large plots of building space and condos tax-free—and keeping these spaces un-occupied while homelessness is on the rise, big business polluting our waterways and air while denying or lobbying against science, racist over-militarized policing, hypocritical self-serving politicians, the privatization of our educational system—a system that is a pipeline for lower income children to end up in publicly-traded prison, institutions of power suppressing women’s rights and LGBT rights while abusing children, crumbling infrastructure, countless sick and addicted people without health care and working multiple low-wage long-hour jobs for uncaring profit-driven bosses, large portions of the community burdened by debt taken on by predatory lending by corrupt bankers. These are things that truly plague NYC today. (These things plague all of America too, for that matter.)

How is it possible that you could tell a story about a pastiche of NYC and NOT INCLUDE ANY OF THAT EVER? Thats bogus. And it’s what hurts superhero comics today.

bat-meme

And even if we move beyond the big city narrative, the reality of the 21st century is a place where super-villainy isn’t about some Ocean’s Eleven heist or some Venture Bros-esque costumed rivalry. True super-villains are the perpetrators of all the crimes I listed above. True super-villains exist as religious institutional leaders, right-wing lobbyists and pundits, evil corporations, vile self-serving TV talking heads, and corrupt government officials. True super-villains are the Nazis and White supremacists that cause more harm via gun violence than anyone else in America these days. Remember the 1940s when it was clear that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman had to put their lives on hold to fight Hitler? Why isn’t this being addressed in comics today either? Is it because our corporate overlords that own the comics don’t want to discuss these things?

A lot of people come to comics for an escape from the shocking reality of now. They want pure fantasy. I get it. We all need a break from the horrors of the modern world. However, comic books have always—ALWAYS—been a reflection of the real world. Much of the fantasy and sci-fi genre have been as well. From the 1940s to the mid 2000s, superhero story-arcs have always addressed (some more directly than others) the global sociopolitical climate i.e. real world issues. Superheroes represent the best of humanity—an idealized version of what we could be if given fantastic powers. With great power comes great responsibility, as Uncle Ben said. Has the responsibility become too much of a burden to bear? Super-villains, on the other hand, have always represented the worst that humanity has to offer. And the ideation of both the worst and the best has shifted, as things do, over time. I believe that different comic book eras, for decades, have always shifted along with the times. Having recently read all of Batman through the 60s and 70s, Ive been able to verify this firsthand.

However, it seems like the shift has stopped dead in its tracks (for the most part). Whenever I see Batman patrolling and busting random muggers, or whenever I see Superman foiling a bank heist, I roll my eyes. If these types of crimes exist in our world, they are outliers—and they should be in the fantastical world of the DCU too. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always been an exciting (albeit Judge Dredd-like fascistic) power element involved with being into Batman or any revenge-based vigilante heroes (at least since the 1970s, anyway). There is something satisfying in seeing the give-no-fucks heavy-hitters, like Wolverine or Batman, kicking ass. After all, while they might be “angry White men” delving out justice from an extremely violent and privileged place, we know that these guys have strict moral compasses that guide them to, at the very least, be stomping out those who rightfully deserve to be stomped out. Their values are just and unsullied, even if their actions might not align with how we’d act in proper society. However, if the moral compass isn’t aligned with/tuned-into the current sociopolitical and economic climate in which we live, then Logan and Batman’s ass-kickings become more and more problematic. Maybe the course needs correction. Maybe Batman should spend less time hunting jewel thieves (what even is a jewel thief?) and more time patrolling Wall Street, surveilling Roman Catholic confessional booths, or hacking Milo Yiannopoulos.

I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid in the 1980s. And, as stated above, I’ve spent the past decade reading DC Comics in chronological order from the 1940s to the present. Never before in the history of comics has there been less reflection of the modern world in the pages of the so-called funnybooks than today. We are in the Prismatic Age, so they say, where everything is a reflection of a reflection of a reference of a reference, rebooted, reworked, re-fandang-doodled. Somewhere in the kaleidoscopic meta-miasma that is contemporary superhero comics, the vibrant rainbow of social commentary and real-world reflection has been lost. If comics are pure fantasy, showing a utopia that is only threatened by crises delivered by kooky cosplayers, angry gods, and cosmic monsters, that’s fine and dandy. I love all that. Comics wouldn’t be comics without that. But if we’ve abandoned the street-level narrative—the real world material that has always been at the very core of superhero comics, then comics aren’t as good as they should be. A comics devoid of social justice values is a comics devoid of values in general. Without a heart or a mind, you might as well count me out.

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Judo Chop! Part Nine

I know I said I was giving up on these, but theres just too damn much good stuff to ignore. Also, it makes sense to have “Judo Chop!” be a ten part series. So this is the penultimate “Judo Chop!”

Also, The Brave and The Bold #132, featuring Batman and Richard Dragon is basically a single-issue case study for martial arts in 70s comics. Every panel of every page.


richard dragon
karate chop woo
wildcat chop
canary chop
manhunter chop
earth 616 meets earth 1
manhunter shaw
legit chop to batman
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ad nine hand of steel
ad ten
ad eleven strong arms
ad twelve be taller!
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Books (Non-Comics) I Read in 2018

2018 was a big year of lists for this blog site. Besides the cross-listed in-depth character histories that I wrote for the amazing TBU.net, most of disCONTINUITY was myopically-focused on judo and karate references in 60s and 70s comic books. And, of course, I recently posted my usual year-end favorites lists.

In 2019, I’m planning on hopefully getting back to the heart of what this blog site was at its initial inception—less lists and more thoughtful analysis of comics, comic trends, and continuity in regard to serialized multi-authored narratives. 2018 was a strange year for comics (or, at least, my interaction with comics). There were a ton of really powerful non-superhero books, but I felt less attached to current superhero comics than ever before. I think there are a lot of reasons for this, and reasons I’m finally happy/willing to address in more detail on this site in the coming year. But before I get back to the bread-and-butter of what disCONTINUITY was always meant to be, I’ll leave you with one final list to close out 2018 (even though it’s already nearly February 2019).

I think that looking at what a comic book fan reads as a whole, beyond comic books, helps give one a clearer window into that person’s soul. For readers of my website/blog, it can definitely help you see where I’m coming from better, for sure. We, in a sense, are shaped by what we read—and even simply what we gravitate toward really can reveal a lot about someone. My selection of fiction and non-fiction books always dovetails with my reading of comics in the most amazing ways. And yet, I rarely ever mention non-comics on here. Obviously, this is a comic book blog, which is part of the reason I haven’t, but to better understand my overall theoretical perspectives and generally where I come from when approaching comics, a gander at my non-comics reading list might help frame things in brighter light.

And thus, I leave you with one final list, closing out 2018, “the year of lists.” This isn’t a list of my favorite books of the year by any means. This is simply everything NEW that I read (i.e. for the first time), in alphabetical order. I won’t, for example, include my recent re-read of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, which is one of my favorites of all time.

I should also mention first that I read somewhere in the range of 35-40 stand-alone comic books and somewhere in the range of 25-30 ongoing comic book titles in 2018. This included everything on my BEST OF lists, Matthew Manning’s The Batman Files, the collected Batman & Robin Newspaper Strips of the 1970s, and also re-reads of Watchmen, Richard McGuire’s Here, and Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You. That’s a lot of comics! And that far outweighs the number of non-comics books that I devoured. But anyway, here’s the non-comic list, as promised.

Babel-17 by Sam Delaney

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Four Futures: Life After Capitalism by Peter Frase

A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney

House of Rumour by Jake Arnott

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them by Jason Stanley

Infinite Resignation: On Pessimism by Eugene Thacker

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Alex Williams & Nick Srnicek

Jonathan Strange & MrNorrell by Susanna Clarke 

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai

The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector

Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy by Lynne Segal

Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul by Jeremiah Moss

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The 18 Best Comics of 2018 (in alphabetical order)

The Agency by Katie Skelly
All the Sad Songs by Summer Pierre
Amnesia: The Lost Films of Francis D. Longfellow #1

Amnesia: The Lost Films of Francis D. Longfellow by Al Columbia
The Bacchae Vol. 1, by Sarah Horrocks

The Bacchae by Sarah Horrocks
Doom Patrol Vol. 6 by Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, Nick Derington, Dale Eaglesham, & Tamra Bonvillain
by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank
Grip by Lale Westvind

Grip by Lale Westvind
Kirby by Tom Scioli
Kirby by Tom Scioli
The Muse by Zidrou & Oriol Hernández
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Parallel Lives by Olivier Schrauwen

Parallel Lives by Olivier Schrauwen
Prism Stalker
Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong
Sabrina - Nick Drasno

 Sabrina by Nick Drasno
Soft X-Ray / Mindhunters (A. Degen)
Sleepless by Sarah Vaughn, Leila del Duca, & Alissa Sallah
Songs of the Field by Ryan Cecil Smith
Songs of the Field by Ryan Cecil Smith

Soft X-Ray / Mindhunters by A. Degen
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson & Emily Carroll
Von Spatz - Anna Haifisch

Von Spatz by Anna Haifisch
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The Best Comics of 2018: 18 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

dead oak tree
Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll
brat michael deforge
Brat by Michael DeForge
comic book history of pro wrestling
The Comic Book Story of Professional Wrestling: A Hardcore, High-Flying, No-Holds-Barred History of the One True Sport by Aubrey Sitterson & Chris Moreno

Cruel and Unusual: Story of Lethal Injection by Liliana Segura & Jackie Roche
the dreaming si spurrier
The Dreaming Vol. 2 by Si Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, & Mat Lopes
Flocks by L. Nichols
Flocks by L. Nichols
Frankenstein by Junji Ito
hieronymus & bosch
Hieronymus & Bosch by Paul Kirchner
Hyper-Capitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and how to Change Them
Book by Larry Gonick and Tim Kasser
Hyper-Capitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them by Larry Gonick & Tim Kasser
i am the best at drawing totoro
I am the Best at Drawing Totoro by Maki Naro

LAAB #0: Dark Matter by Ronald Wimberly
LOEG 2 alan moore
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 4: Tempest by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish

The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish
Pinky and Pepper Forever - Ivy Atoms

Pinky and Pepper Forever by Ivy Atoms
The Mighty Thor by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, & Matthew Wilson
The Pervert, by Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez

The Pervert by Remy Boydell & Michelle Perez
Poochytown, by Jim Woodring

Poochytown by Jim Woodring
war bears
War Bears by Margaret Atwood & Ken Steacy
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Judo Chop! Part Eight

The judo chops keep on coming. Although, a decidedly noticeable drop-off in comic book references while ADVERTISEMENTS are on the rise as we head into the late 1970s. (There are some really amazing ads in this bunch.)

judo chop image with gordon and batman tec 454

b&b120

jla123

super fam 171

ww222

 

batman 266 1

batamn 266 ninja ad

judo chop 8 images

judo 8

judo 8 2

judp 8 3

judo chop 8 4

judo days

judo n ights

judo full page ad

judo chop ads muscle power
isokinetics!!!
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Ten Nights (and Thirty Years) of the KGBeast

This article was originally published at The Batman Universe (http://thebatmanuniverse.net/kgbeast/).

In March of 1988, who could have guessed the Cold War had pretty much run out of steam and was soon to end in only a couple years’ time? Certainly not creators Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo. Enter Anatoli Knyazev, the Soviet super-soldier unleashed into the heart of America in the pages of Batman #417. In their arc, entitled “Ten Nights of the Beast!,” which was advertised almost like its own mini-series, complete with its own trade-dressing on the regular Batman covers, Starlin and Aparo sculpted a cybernetic martial artist that had mastered every deadly weapon known to man. Having trained as part of the KGB cell known as The Hammer, which also spawned metahuman Superman-adversary Zed aka the Russian General Zod (as referenced in Action Comics #804 by Joe Kelly, Pascal Ferry, Cam Smith, and Guy Major, August 2003), Knyazev became the killing machine known as KGBeast. According to Starlin’s lore, by the time KGBeast enters the US, he’s already killed over 200 people, including real life Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar el-Sadat, who was assassinated in 1981. Now on American soil, the deadliest man on the planet has gone rogue, with plans to heat up the Cold War to a boiling point. Thus begins the Modern Age history of KGBeast, which we’ll examine in this first part of our retrospective piece.

batman 420 cover cc

“Ten Nights of the Beast!” (Batman #417-420—by Starlin, Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, and Adrienne Roy, March to June 1988) sees the Russian murder machine enter Gotham with the goal of crippling the US Government by assassinating the Secretaries of the Department of Defense. Aided by both the Hammer and a Shi’ite terrorist organization, and having been fully-disavowed by Mikhail Gorbachev himself, KGBeast begins a brutal ten day killing spree, aptly reflecting the title of the arc, during which he murders over 100 people. At one point, KGBeast famously severs his own limb to escape capture, later returning with a cybernetic gun arm in its place. Issue #420 ends on day ten with Batman—backed by the CIA—outwitting Knyazev to save President Ronald Reagan! Afterward, Batman, having faced one of the greatest challenges in his career, defeats KGBeast by locking him in a storage room in the sewer.

Two years later, in Batman #445-447 (“When the Earth Dies!”—by Marv Wolfman, Aparo, DeCarlo, and Roy, March to May 1990), KGBeast’s sadistic successor and protégé, NKVDemon (Gregor Dosynski), whom he’s spent a long time training, attempts to outdo his master. While KGBeast doesn’t make an appearance, you can be sure he’s paying close attention. Unlike the KGBeast, Dosynski is too lazy to come all the way to the US, so Batman has to fly to Moscow to confront him, defeat him, and save Gorbachev’s life.

kgbeast vs king snake

KGBeast comes back in Robin III #1-6 (“The Cry of the Huntress”—by Chuck Dixon, Tom Lyle, Bob Smith, and Roy, December 1992 to March 1993). In Robin III, new Robin Tim Drake meets Ariana Dzerchenko, who will become his girlfriend for a few years in the comics. When gangsters threaten Ariana’s family again, the Boy Wonder winds up facing-off with the returning KGBeast! The USSR has collapsed, but, like many others in Russia, the Hammer has found capitalism to be quite to its liking, now operating as a crime syndicate. KGBeast—who should have rightly changed his name to CapitalismBeast or CrimeBeast or something—attacks on behalf of the Hammer. During this arc, KGBeast holds his own against both Robin and Huntress, but fares much worse against King Snake (Bane’s dad and leader of the Ghost Dragon gang). King Snake kicks KGBeast’s ass in a scene that sees him act as a jobber to make King Snake—Dixon’s original creation—look good. This won’t be the last time, unfortunately, that KGBeast is used a a prop to get others over or to advance another character’s narrative.

robin vs kgbeast

In late 1994, KGBeast shows up in Gotham once more, this time with some backup. The whole Bane/Az-Bats saga has recently ended, and Dick Grayson is playing the role of Batman for a brief moment while Bruce gets ready to return. In Robin Vol. 4 #12—or Robin Vol. 2 #12, depending on how you personally number your volumes—by Dixon, Phil Jimenez, John Stokes, and Roy, December 1994, which is part of the “Prodigal” arc, we are introduced to the Russian Troika, a team consisting of Russian super-villains Colonel Vega, Romana Vrezhenski, the Dark Rider, and—of course—KGBeast. After “Prodigal” wraps and Bruce is back behind the cowl, his very first taste of action is against the Troika in the aptly named “Troika” arc from Batman #515 (by Doug Moench, Kelley Jones, John Beatty, & Roy, February 1995), Batman: Shadow of the Bat #35 (by Grant, Barry Kitson, Ray McCarthy, and Roy, February 1995), Detective Comics #682 (by Dixon, Graham Nolan, Scott Hanna, & Roy, February 1995), and Robin Vol. 2 aka Robin Vol. 4 #14 (by Dixon, Tom Grummett, Ray Kryssing, and Roy, February 1995). Bruce, having gone through all he has with Bane and Az-Bats is now a lot grittier than usual, kind of like an angry dad. This is bad news for the Troika, which, by the way, means “Triad,” meaning “three.” The Troika foursome realizes that they should just change their name and then—nope! Vega, Romana, and KGBeast screw-over the poor Dark Rider and kick him off the team into the waiting arms of Batman. Ice cold. Eventually, Batman and Robin are able to stop the Troika from detonating a nuclear device, but they can’t prevent Harvey Bullock from getting shot by KGBeast. Interestingly, Bullock getting shot by KGBeast leads to important narrative shake-ups in other titles. While Bullock is laid-up in a coma, MacKenzie Bock becomes Montoya’s new partner. KGBeast winds up in Blackgate Prison, which immediately leads us to an encounter with Bane!

kgbeast vs bane

In Batman: Vengeance of Bane II (by Dixon, Nolan, Eduardo Barreto, and Roy, 1995), entitled “The Redemption,” we are treated to the villain match of the century: KGBeast versus Bane! Two of Batman’s most skilled and dangerous foes are locked in prison together and they hate each other’s guts. Surely this must be a fantastic match, no? No. Bane is a shadow of his former self, having wasted away in Blackgate for months and months. In fact, he’s gotten incredibly soggy, fat, and unfit in this time. KGBeast kicks the shit out of Bane just for fun. This leads to Bane, while in the infirmary, befriending Buzz Galvan and the Ratcatcher. With their help and inspiration, Bane decides to get back into shape. First, he murders another inmate, which gets him a long stint in solitary confinement. After a few months of constant work-outs and meditation in solitary, Bane emerges a new man. Back among the regular population and back in peak physical condition, and also now without a Venom addiction, Bane sets his sights on KGBeast. The rematch takes place and Bane wallops KGBeast as revenge for the trouncing delivered to him before. KGBeast responds with an offer of friendship. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Bane has earned KGBeast’s respect. Word up. KGBeast, along with Galvan and the Ratcatcher, even helps Bane escape from jail.

batman plus arsenal

KGBeast goes off the radar for two years until Batman Plus #1 aka Batman Plus Arsenal #1 (by Devin Grayson, Rodolfo Damaggio, Robert Campanella, and Lee Loughridge, February 1997). The always superb Devin Grayson, in a story called “Beauty and the Beast,” sees KGBeast as a top-notch assassin-for-hire. The tale begins with super-villain Cheshire detonating nuclear bombs in Qurac, virtually destroying the entire nation. In retaliation, Quraci nationals, led by a now out-of-prison KGBeast, kidnap her. Who could possibly care enough to risk life and limb to save a woman who literally just nuked an entire country? Arsenal, of course! Why? Because Cheshire is the mother of his child. Arsenal is Roy Harper. You may know him better as former Teen Titan, Speedy! Anyway, Roy travels to Blüdhaven and asks Dick Grayson to ask Batman to help him out. Batman and Arsenal then team-up and travel to Zurich, where a solo Arsenal takes out KGBeast (!) while Batman rescues Cheshire and learns of an added layer to the mission. Unknown to Roy, his daughter Lian Harper had been kidnapped by KGBeast as well, and Cheshire was being blackmailed for a ton of cash. Lian, being held back in the States, is saved by Nightwing. Any book by Devin Grayson usually makes for a good read, and this one’s no exception, especially if you are into some amazing Roy banter.

Next up is Batman and Wildcat #1-3 (by Dixon, Beau Smith, and Sergio Cariello, April to June 1997). In this one, Dixon poses the straightforward question: Who is the better pound-for-pound fighter in the DCU—Ted Grant aka Wildcat or Batman? The two get to fight each other in this tale, and we almost find out the answer. Almost. For anyone who doesn’t know, Wildcat is a long-time JSA member, former boxing heavyweight champ, and one of the many men who trained a young Bruce Wayne long ago. In this story, promoter Ernie Chubb organizes a televised metahuman MMA tournament and hires Lock-Up to kidnap all the participants. The overachieving Lock-Up does a hell of a job too. The main contestants he successfully nabs are: KGBeast, King Snake, Panara, Monsoon, Killer Croc, and Steeljacket. Hector Ramirez (Ted’s protégé), eager to impress his retired mentor, dons the Wildcat costume and enters the tourney only to be promptly pummeled to death by Croc. Batman and the original Wildcat rush to the scene where they are captured themselves and tricked into squaring-off against one another. They never finish the fight, however, and instead team-up and take out all of the bad guys. Batman easily takes down KGBeast and Monsoon at the same time. Once again, KGBeast’s status as a top dog is lowered tremendously, although yet another KGBeast-involved story has a big impact on the wider DCU narrative: Wildcat decides to officially come out of retirement after this.

lock-up and kgbeast blackgate wardens

When we next see KGBeast, Gotham has turned upside-down. A massive earthquake has rocked the city and the US Government has given up hope, abandoning the entire city to become a dystopian “No Man’s Land” (NML). There’s a lot going on in this “No Man’s Land” mega-arc (and if you haven’t read it, you definitely should, because it’s some of the best Batman there is), but KGBeast’s role is fairly simple: Batman, having taken over the remnants of Blackgate Prison, has appointed Lock-Up as his personal warden. Lock-Up immediately appoints KGBeast as his top man. From late 1997 until late 1999 (nearly two years of publication time), KGBeast is Batman’s warden—as seen in Batman: Blackgate #1 (1997), Batman: Blackgate – Isle of Men #1 (April 1998), Batman #565 (May 1999), Detective Comics #732 (May 1999), Legends of the Dark Knight #119 (July 1999), Detective Comics #736 (September 1999), and Nightwing Vol. 2 #35-37 (September to November 1999), by many, many different creators, too many to list here. Because this arc goes for so long, this means Lock-Up and KGBeast are warden of Blackgate for well over half the time Gotham is NML. Depending on your version of canon, NML lasts for 333 days, 323 days, or 230 days. In any case, this means Lock-Up and KGBeast run Blackgate with an iron fist for hundreds of days. Eventually, things get out of control in Blackgate. In the end, the heroes realize that Lock-Up and KGBeast have long given into their sadistic desires (basically right from the start) and have begun to enjoy their warden privileges a bit too much. This forces Nightwing to regain control of Blackgate for Batman.

dead kgbeast robinson

And that’s pretty much it for KGBeast being used as a character with the same worth he held during his original debut in the late 80s. We don’t see KGBeast for almost seven years, with the exception of a brief reference in Scott Beatty’s Batman: Gotham Knights #46 (December 2003), in which KGBeast urges his Russian mob pals to recruit a recently paroled Spook. By the mid 2000s, KGBeast was considered a dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War comic era. Thus, it was with this mindset that James Robinson used KGBeast as narrative fodder, a mere plot device in Detective Comics #817 and Batman #652 (with art by Leonard Kirk, Don Kramer, John Kalisz, et al, May to June 2006). In Robinson’s “One Year Later/Face the Face” arc, our story begins with the murder of KGBeast by a mystery assailant. At this point, the Caped Crusader has just returned from a year abroad. During that time, Harvey Dent—rehabilitated and surgically repaired—has been the primary protector of Gotham, having been trained and approved by Batman himself. Harvey has done well protecting Gotham, but Batman just doesn’t trust him when KGBeast, Magpie, Orca, the Ventriloquist, and Killer Moth all turn up dead. These characters are thrown in the fridge, victims of a new Tally Man, mainly so that Harvey can get blamed in order to return him to his Two-Face roots. Thus ends the Modern Age saga of KGBeast—the LIVING saga, anyway!

KGBeast returns in Nightwing Vol. 2 #141-143 (by Peter Tomasi and various artists, April to June 2008)—as a corpse! Yes, KGBeast’s cadaver plays a role. There’s still life—narrative life—in the old boy yet. In this arc, called “Freefall,” Nightwing, now operating out of NYC, visits Gotham only to stumble upon grave-robbers (who have also recently stolen the corpse of a 13th century knight and the corpse of Black Condor) unearthing the corpse of KGBeast. Nightwing fights the grave-robbers, but they are able to escape with KGBeast’s severed head after a re-animated half Black Condor/half 13th century knight monster attacks. After an autopsy of the monster by Dr. Mid-Nite, it is determined that the creature is a clone made-up of the DNA of various deceased metahumans and warriors of the past. All the clues point to Talia al Ghul, so, while Batman is busy on his normal Gotham patrol, Nightwing and Robin go on a little trip to her African island HQ. Once Nightwing and Robin arrive, they discover that Talia is nowhere to be found, but she has hired the evil scientist Creighton Kendall to create a clone army for her. If you are making a clone army, why not throw in a bunch of KGBeast DNA! Kendall’s program is shut down, so we never get to see an undead monster version of KGBeast…

kgbeast black lantern blackest night

…until Blackest Night! That’s right, you get your wish, KGBeast fans! In Blackest Night: Batman #1-3 (by Tomasi, Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes, and Nei Ruffino, October to December 2009), all of Earth’s dead begin to rise as a zombie apocalypse gets underway. When Deadman’s body rises up as one of these zombie “Black Lanterns,” Deadman faces an evil zombie version of himself, which causes him to freak out and seek Batman’s assistance. Of course, at this point, Bruce is lost in time, so Dick is currently Batman. Batman, Robin (Damian Wayne), and Deadman team-up to take on a chilling cavalcade of reanimated cadavers , including KGBeast, Blockbuster, Ventriloquist, Deacon Blackfire, Magpie, King Snake, the Trigger Twins, Abbatoir, and Captain Boomerang. These zombie villains attack GCPD HQ. Batman and Robin, armed with flamethrowers, then assault the Black Lanterns and rescue Commissioner Gordon and Babs. Red Robin (Tim Drake) jets in from Europe just in time to help face-off against the zombie versions of his parents and Dick’s parents. With a little help from a Deadman-possessed Etrigan, the heroes freeze themselves, confusing the zombies, who then fly off in search of more dead bodies. Eventually, the “Blackest Night” arc, to which this mini-series was attached, ends and KGBeast finally gets to rest in peace.

end part one kgbeast article collin colsher

If a new millennium KGBeast was considered an antiquated relic of another time by DC publishers and authors (with Tomasi as the notable exception), the DC higher-ups sadly doubled-down on this idea in the immediate aftermath of 2011’s Flashpoint reboot. However, a few writers, notably Dan Jurgens, Scott Lobdell, and Scott Snyder, seemingly in direct response, fought against the grain to restore KGBeast to his former glory. In the next part of this article, we’ll take a look at KGBeast in the New 52/Rebirth Era and his first appearances in non-canon comics and other media.

new suicide squad non canon bs

In 2011, DC rebooted its entire line into a new continuity with the Flashpoint storyline. While there was certainly good intention with the reboot and some worthwhile storytelling involved, there were undeniable continuity issues right from the get-go. The story of KGBeast was one of the worst offenders. It was all quiet on all fronts for KGBeast until New Suicide Squad Vol 1 #2-4 (by Sean Ryan, Tom Derenick, et al, October 2014 to January 2015). Sean Ryan was tasked with giving a new origin for Knyazev, and chose to do so in the pages of New Suicide Squad, which sees the Suicide Squad enter Moscow for a mission. After tangling with the Rocket Red Brigade, the Suicide Squad comes face-to-face with Commander Anatoli Knyazev, who is a high-ranking officer in the military but certainly not the murderous monster assassin we know and love. Deadshot and Knyazev shoot each other up, nearly killing one another. This leads to the final page of the arc, where an advocate for MARS Systems (a private defense contractor) visits Knyazev in the hospital and offers to enroll him in their program, which will turn him into a super-soldier. Thus, you have the New 52 origin of Knyazev, just prior to becoming the KGBeast. Not quite as cool as his original origin, but no continuity issues to speak of—not yet anyway.

Interestingly, we first see a New 52 KGBeast in November 2014’s Grayson: Future’s End #1 (by Tom King, Tim Seeley, Stephen Mooney, and Jeromy Cox). This is strange because it takes place in an alternate continuity, years into the future. In this story, the Futures End version of Dick Grayson—(who is an alternate version of Dick but has the same past history as the primary timeline version)—faces off with KGBeast, who has ascended in rank to the highest levels of Russian government and military. Dick tells KGBeast that Batman said he was a total joke of an opponent, even having had to bite his own lip in order to not laugh while fighting him. This basically cemented the New 52 KGBeast, as of late 2014, as a failed military commander reborn as a supposed super-soldier via MARS Systems, who then fought Batman so poorly that the Dark Knight did all he could not to laugh in his face. Sean Ryan had set the stage for a writer to do what he or she pleased with the new KGBeast. King and Seeley, first to tackle the character, decided to treat him as a complete joke. (King retained his seemingly comical view of KGBeast, even after the assassin’s character assassination was retconned to make him a badass again, via the invention of the Bat Burger fast food chain—debuting in April 2017’s Batman Vol. 3 #16—that features the KGBLT, a sandwich named after KGBeast, on its menu.)

aquaman and the others kgbeast

Knyazev’s next appearance (and first official canon New 52 appearance as KGBeast) occurs in Aquaman and The Others #6-11 (by Dan Jurgens, Lan Medina, Roy Allan Martinez, and Matt Milla, December 2014 to May 2015). In this series-ending epic, entitled “Alignment: Earth,” Jurgens and company deliver KGBeast, but not a rookie created by MARS Systems—THE KGBeast of old. This, by all means and appearances, is the old school KGBeast. In “Alignment: Earth,” Jurgens and his creative team invented a super-villain team called Mayhem to take on Aquaman’s Others. At the heart of Mayhem is none other than KGBeast himself. And with the inclusion of a very badass, highly-trained killing machine version of KGBeast, Jurgens canonized KGBeast’s Modern Age legacy in the New 52, essentially bringing a version of “Ten Nights of the Beast” into continuity. Likewise, Jurgens added NKVDemon to Mayhem as well, canonizing KGBeast’s training and affiliation with Gregor Dosynski and some version of “When the Earth Dies” and/or “Troika” in the New 52. In this tale, we get some added information to KGBeast’s history. We learn that Vostok (and the other Vostoks) trained with KGBeast at some unknown point in the past and also that he has a long combative history with the master martial-artist/US Government agent known as The Operative (Joshua Cole). Aquaman and The Others #7 and Aquaman and The Others #9 gives us a detailed flashback—the first of its kind—showing a younger KGBeast on an early mission, before fighting Batman and losing his hand. In this flashback, we see a highly-capable KGBeast detonate a bomb at the US Embassy in Berlin in order to steal some government files (with help from Russian agent Gary Korec). KGBeast easily evades Cole and leaves dead bodies behind, kicking-off their long feud. All of this seems to add up to a retcon, erasing Sean Ryan’s Commander Knyazev/MARS Systems origin and making King/Seeley’s KGBeast loser line as false. (The former is undeniably a retcon, meaning that Knyazev’s appearance in New Suicide Squad must be ignored. In regard to the latter: As we will learn in later comics appearances and references, KGBeast was never a loser—and he never was on any timeline. KGBeast is a badass and not to be messed with. Therefore, in Grayson: Futures End #1, Dick must be lying in order to get under KGBeast’s skin.) In the main action of “Alignment: Earth,” KGBeast, having assembled Mayhem, takes down the Others and steals a flash drive with information that will allow them to launch old Soviet nukes. Eventually, the Others thwart the nuclear strike and face-off against Mayhem. During the brawl, Cole gets his long-awaited revenge, defeating KGBeast in combat. In the end, Others members Ya’Wara and Vostok sacrifice their own lives to destroy a Russian moon-base that was being used by KGBeast.

all star batman snyder kgbeast

KGBeast returns in All-Star Batman #3-5 (by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr, Danny Miki, and Dean White, November 2016 to February 2017). And if Jurgens was a fan of KGBeast, Snyder is a MEGA-FAN. Our story, entitled “My Own Worst Enemy,” returns KGBeast to his former glory, and then some. The tale starts with Batman traveling to the old Arkham Home in Massachusetts with a restrained Two-Face in tow. All the while, a bevy of hired killers come after them, thanks to a major hit put out on the Dark Knight by Two-Face himself. (This story is quite complicated, but I’ll just give the Cliff’s Notes version for brevity’s sake here.) In Washington DC, Penguin, Great White Shark, and Black Mask hire the former Soviet killing machine, who is now working as an assassin for the US Government and calling himself simply “The Beast!” After successfully fending-off dozens of attackers, Batman—still lugging a captive Two-Face by his side—is targeted by the Beast, who appears and shoots at a SWAT van that is tailing Batman, causing it to crash. The Beast—showing a return to greatness that we really haven’t witnessed since his original debut—brutally murders the SWAT Team and begins fighting the Caped Crusader. When Two-Face gets involved, the Beast lodges several throwing stars in his face. Lark (Duke Thomas) arrives, hitting the Beast with a car. Batman and Two-Face pile-in and Lark drives them off. The original Royal Flush Gang (with youngest and newest member, Ten of Spades) arrives only to be immediately blown-up by an already-recovered Beast. After re-fueling at Harold Allnut’s farm and taking down some Court of Owls Talons, Batman and Lark commandeer a biplane and fly toward the Arkham Home. Just as Batman is about to get rid of Two-Face’s coin, the Beast drops down onto the biplane from a plane above and knocks-out the heroes. Later, Batman, Lark, and Two-Face awaken as captives of the Beast on an abandoned casino river boat. The Beast vows to take them to his manmade island HQ at “The Location of the Beast: 666” (6th parallel, 66th meridian west coordinates)! Shortly thereafter, an explosion rocks the boat, freeing all three captives. Outside, Lark looks on in horror as hundreds of weapon-wielding regular citizens, all decked-out as bargain basement Mad Max-looking super-villains, converge upon their location, all out for Batman’s blood. Batman blows the riverboat off of its mooring, causing he and the A-list villains to float away. Batman, Lark, and Two-Face eventually arrive at the old Arkham Home where Batman finds a serum that could potentially turn Harvey either fully evil or fully good. Batman instead injects Two-Face with a booster shot that Harold whipped-up, which ends Two-Face’s threat. All of a sudden, a persistent Beast spears Batman through the chest. The angry mob has also followed and begins shooting at Beast, still eager to get their hands on Batman themselves. Batman tackles the Beast off of a cliff and is rescued by Lark before collapsing due to injury and exhaustion. Lark and a bloody Batman limp away as the bewildered mob parts for them in the pouring rain.

DC’s Rebirth initiative brought about another reboot, following the “Superman Reborn” arc. Both Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 2 Annual #1 (October 2017) and Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman #10 (July 2017) referenced “My Own Worst Enemy,” both specifically referencing the Beast’s new status-quo for the new timeline. Both issues basically reconfirmed the canonization of “Ten Nights of the Beast” for the Rebirth Era as well. No matter how many reboots there are, you can bet that Snyder is going make damn sure the Beast is canon! Interestingly, Bane: Conquest #12 (by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Gregory Wright, August 2018) references the Modern Age’s Batman: The Vengeance of Bane II—the story where KGBeast kicks the shit out of Bane just for fun, after which Bane trains and bests KGBeast in a rematch, thus earning the Russian’s respect. However, the canonicity of Bane: Conquest is in-question. It might not be canon since it kind of appears to not jibe with Tom King’s ongoing Batman mega-arc, which revolves around Bane. Time will tell on this one, but if Bane: Conquest is non-canon, then KGBeast’s fights with Bane might be non-canon too. Let’s hope not, because those fights are awesome.

red hood and outlaws v2 annual 1 kgbeast collin

The first official Rebirth appearance of the Beast (aside from his appearance in the Rebirth-branded New 52 “My Own Worst Enemy” arc) is in the aforementioned Red Hood and The Outlaws Vol. 2 Annual #1 (by Scott Lobdell, Tyler Kirkham, and Arif Prianto, October 2017). In this Annual, the Beast attempts to hijack a large arms cache leftover from a recent fight between Batman and the Colony. Lobdell continues to show off the Beast as one of the DCU’s top villains. Knyazev not only holds his own against Red Hood, Artemis, and Bizarro, but actually sort of defeats them. Only Nightwing’s intervention, which turns the fight into a four-on-one handicap match, causes the Beast to go down. Good stuff.

The Beast also shows up in Harley Quinn Vol. 3 #41 (by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, Moritat, and Jeremiah Skipper, June 2018), in which dozens of Gotham super-villains show up in Harley’s Coney Island turf, thanks to an invite from Penguin, who is trying to horn-in on her territory. The Beast can be seen duking it out in a giant rumble with many others. Notably, he takes a baseball bat to the face from Harley herself and can be seen knocked-out with many other bad guys towards the end of the issue. A fun cameo, but not one really worthy of our killer Beast.

bane conquest collin colsher kgbeast recruitment

And, bringing closer to the present, as of August 2018, the Beast has most recently appeared in Bane: Conquest #8-12 (by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Gregory Wright, February 2018 to August 2018). As briefly mentioned above, this entire story might be non-canon. The anachronistic appearance of King Faraday, which could contradict his appearances in Suicide Squad, plus the focus around Bane during a time where Tom King seems to have a monopoly on the character, all point toward a messy continuity situation. Continuity issues aside, this is a great arc that picks-up on a lot of Modern Age threads that Dixon and Nolan were working on decades ago. For my money, this is Bane done right—but I digress. We’re here to talk about the Beast! In this tale, Bane engages in an all-out war with Kobra. Eager to recruit new blood to help him in the fight, Bane goes to Siberia to recruits the Beast. Knyazev has become a pub arm-wrestling champion of sorts, winning money from the locals left-and-right. Seeing his old pal Bane, the Beast joins up right away, looking for action. Bane then follows by recruiting King Faraday, Gunbunny, Gunhawk, Shaka Usuthu, Kiang, Harpo, and “Crow” (actually Batman in disguise). Eventually, remotely-guided by Kiang and Dionysius, Bane’s crew hikes up Mount Baekdu on the Chinese-North Korean border and infiltrates a big Kobra base. As Bane’s crew (including the Beast) kicks ass, Bane steps back and pummels King Faraday, mistaking him for a disguised Batman. This prompts Batman to shed his disguise. Bane winds up teaming with Batman against the greater threat of Kobra anyway. In the end, Darkseid’s general Steppenwolf, angry that Kobra has stolen New God technology, arrives from Apokolips and saves Bane’s gang, killing all the Kobra soldiers. The Beast, along with a few others, escapes to Apokolips!

In late August 2018’s Action Comics #1002, Brian Michael Bendis and Patrick Gleason gave a fun wink-and-nod to the Beast, via a post-it note on Clark Kent’s work computer at The Daily Planet, which reads “Is KGBeast tied to election hacking?” Could the Beast have been a liaison between Putin and Trump in the 2016 election? Makes sense to me—although the Beast would probably claim there was no collusion.

beasts of burden cc

Finally, Tom King has recently brought the Beast back to Gotham for his “Beasts of Burden” arc. Presumably working for Bane, a quiet and calm Beast (after murdering a man with his bare hands) shockingly shoots Nightwing in the head—as seen in Batman Vol. 3 #55-57 (by King, Tony Daniel, Danny Miki, and Tomeu Morey, released in September-October 2018). Nightwing survives, but won’t be the same. (Until someone reboots him so that he’s back to being the same, of course.) In any case, the ramifications for the Bat-Family are huge for now. Dick loses his memory and becomes “Ric,” a dude that bears little resemblance to the Nightwing most folks know and love. King also shakes-up KGBeast’s backstory as well, seemingly linking his Russian training to Apokolips. The evil New God Kanto, one of Darkseid’s minions, apparently helped train the Beast. The details of this training are vague at best, delivered partially by Bronze Tiger. Is King’s linking of Kanto and the Beast a reference to Bane: Conquest? Or does this outré re-imagination of the Beast’s past stand on its own? Either way, getting Kanto involved is quite strange. There’s also the question of whether or not the Russian Government has been aided by Apokolips. Not long after Dick’s shooting, King delivers a depth of psychology to the Beast’s character the likes of which he haven’t really seen before. In a small cabin in Russia, the Beast shares a drink with his dad, who we learn was abusive to him as a child. The Beast, in fact, first called his abusive dad “The Beast” back in the day. Startlingly, the Beast (Junior) puts a bullet in pop’s head. Stone cold. Not to mention, we learn that the Beast killed his entire family at some point in the past. Ice cold. No sooner does Papa Vasily Knyazev’s warm blood drip onto the floorboards does the Beast hear crunchy footsteps in the freshly fallen snow outside. Batman has found him. Batman Vol. 3 #57 delivers a showdown long in the making—and it’s very very personal. Nearly the whole issue is devoted to a knock-down-drag-out melee between the two proud warriors. Much blood is shed, but in the end, it’s Batman breaking the Beast’s neck! The Beast offers to tell Batman who hired him in exchange for help, but, just like Batman did when they first met in the 80s, he tells him to piss-off and walks, leaving him to fend for himself. I’ll say the Beast definitely wound-up in the worst shape of his career after this one (aside from that one time he died, of course), but, in terms of characterization, King brings Anatoli Vasilavitch Knyazev (we learned his middle name!) back to his roots while shedding some new insight onto his past. In an interesting touch, we also learn that young Bruce and young Beast both shared a favorite Russian fairy tale in common—a particularly dark fairy tale not typically befit for a youngster.

That’s it for the continuity comics. Now that we’ve looked at the canonical history of KGBeast from 1988 to 2018, it only makes sense to look at KGBeast’s other appearances in alternate universe material or other media too.

kgbeast batman NES 1990

Believe it or not, KGBeast’s first ever alternate universe appearance was in a video game, making it his first ever non-comics media appearance as well! KGBeast, modeled after a generic 8-bit ninja sprite, appears in the 1990 Batman video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System! Wielding a katana, KGBeast acts as the mid-level “henchman” mini-boss in stage one. Because the video game is linked to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, this means KGBeast is a part of the “Burtonverse,” where he is one of Joker’s hired stooges.

In the late 1990s, Marvel and DC unbelievably teamed-up for a brief spell to put out joint comics. This ultimately resulted in the Amalgam line, which consisted of characters that were mashed together from both universes. As such, Dark Claw Adventures #1 (by Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, and Linda Medley, June 1997) gave us, if only for one issue—and in a hologram training program, no less—The Omega Beast. Marvel Russia’s deadliest mutant villain Omega Red merged with DC Russia’s deadliest good ol’ KGBeast.

JLU KGBeast animated series

KGBeast’s first television appearance is in the amazing Justice League Unlimited animated series, where he shows up for five episodes from 2004 to 2006. In the series, which attempted to utilize lesser-seen Bat-villains into its narrative, KGBeast is given his full comic book history from the Modern Age and is a formidable opponent for all that come up against him. He’s also consistently seen working with other villains, although he changes allegiances to suit his needs. Towards the end of the series, the animated KGBeast is killed by Darkseid.

In the Flashpoint Multiverse (an alternate universe created during the Flashpoint reboot series), as seen in Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #1-2 (by Adam Glass, Rodney Buchemi, José Marzan Jr, and Artur Fujita, August to September 2011), an version of KGBeast is seen as a prisoner in the Hall of Doom where he is a member of the Meta Gang. This KGBeast gets executed by Amazo.

Keep Your Enemies Closer Arrow TV

KGBeast made his jump to live action in the Green Arrow series, Arrow, where he’s appeared in thirty-three episodes thus far (2013-2018). Played by David Nykl, this version of the character is the leader of the Solntsevskaya Bratva, a Russian criminal syndicate. Retaining much of the same characteristics of the KGBeast from the comics, including his KGB background, this Knyazev is much older and operates as a suit-wearing mobster. And, instead of being rival to Batman, he’s an antihero of sorts, often acting as a protagonist and ally to Oliver Queen. The Arrow series is also the first time we ever get to see scenes from Knyazev’s childhood. Young Knyazev is played by George Klimovich. With Season 7 coming soon, we’ll see more of Knyazev (young and old) on the small screen.

KGBeast was introduced into the best-selling video game universe based on the Arkham Asylum series (known as the “Arkhamverse”), but ironically never appears in any of the actual Arkham games, only spin-off material. After getting a brief mention in Derek Fridolfs’ Batman: Arkham Unhinged comic book series, KGBeast appeared in the 2014 direct-to-video animated feature film Batman: Assault on Arkham. In the movie, KGBeast (voiced by Nolan North) is a member of the Suicide Squad. But KGBeast is merely a plot device in this flick, fodder for Amanda Waller to demonstrate that her neck bombs are real. KGBeast doesn’t last long before Waller blows his head clean off.

lil kgbeast lil gotham

In Batman: Li’l Gotham #10 (March 2014), Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen treated fans to a cute mini Li’l KGBeast, although we only see Li’l Batman dragging his ass through the snow in Russia.

Last (and I guess least), KGBeast appears in Zack Snyder’s much-maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Played by Callan Mulvey, Knyazev is a Russian weapons trafficker/assassin in the employ of Lex Luthor. In the film, Knyazev is at the center of a Luthor-backed African mission that successfully frames Superman for the deaths of innocent civilians, leading to public backlash against the Man of Steel. After successful assassinations for Luthor, KGBeast kidnaps Martha Kent and holds her hostage, an act that ultimately leads to his death in an explosion during Batman’s rescue.

And that’s where we leave off with the Beast! Who knows if we’ll be seeing him in future films or video games, but—as stated above—he’ll definitely be showing up on Arrow. If we take all recent comics as canon, the Beast, not too long ago, hung out with evil New Gods on Apokolips (one of whom was revealed as a mentor of sorts) and conspired with Putin and Trump in the undermining of American democracy. And now that we’ve seen the comics version of KGBeast return in the “Beasts of Burden” arc—in the pages of Batman Vol. 3 #55-57, we know that King has finally seen the light and hopped aboard the the Beast love-fest—at least to some extent. Although, leaving him with a broken neck definitely sends some type of message. Sure, Batman was mad as hell, but, as I said above, the Beast is now probably at his lowest point (in current continuity). Will the Beast bounce back? Is he capable of recovering, and will he ever be the same? I’d wager a guess that he’ll be back one day.

Here’s to thirty years of the Beast and thirty more.

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Judo Chop! Part Seven

A special ALL ADVERTISEMENTS edition of Judo Chop! Classics, straight from the pages of your favorite 1970s DC comic books…

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Judo Chop! Part Six

Action Comics #430

Action Comics #431

The Brave and The Bold #107

The Brave and The Bold #107

Batman #255

Batman #259

Batman #260

Batman #260

Detective Comics #443

Detective Comics #443

Detective Comics #443

Wonder Woman #213
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