Who's Who #2
If it weren't for Who's Who, I probably wouldn't be the DC Comics obsessive I am today (or should I say "was, until about 5 years ago"). I had, before the end of the 1980's, managed to acquire every Who's Who issue (and thoroughly scoured them time and again, at one point even tracing the images within, creating mash-up characters, such as Rad Dude, the skateboard hero who had (Golden Age) Red Tornado's soup-pot head, Reactron's body and, for some reason, Heathcliff's legs).
Anyway, for some reason, issue #2 of Who's Who always eluded me... "for some reason"... I know exactly why... because issue #2 was the Batman issue, and it always fetched a much higher price than the other issues and was nearly impossible to find in most back issue bins. So it was with much excitement this year when I found it in a dollar bin at the Toronto Fan Expo, it's blue-background George Perez cover smacking me giddily in the face. The coveted prize was quickly escorted home where it was tossed in the pile beside the bed to be left, unloved, for many more months.
But I've now read it, and my knowledge of the DC Universe circa 1985 is now complete... completely out-of-date. Alas. Some notes:
"Automan" - there was a tragic-looking Tron-rip-off TV show from Glen A Larson (Battlestar Galactica, The A*Team) called Automan back in the 1980s. I seem to only recall seeing it on French-Canadian tv as a pre-teen. This isn't him. This dude looks kind of like Robotman, only dorky.
"Azrael" - not the Bat-universe Azrael, but some flying dude with wings who appeared briefly in the Teen Titans.
"Babe" - I have to wonder why the Atari Force, wonderful though it was, was given individual entries for each character in the series. It was out of DCU continuity and lasted less than 25 issues. Surely just one "Atari Force" entry in the first issue should have sufficed?
"Batman" - This was 1984 and Batman's Origin was as so:
Now and orphan, Bruce Wayne was placed in the care of his Uncle Philip. Since Philip Wayne was a world traveler, Bruce spent his formative years under the guidance of Philip's housekeeper, the kindly Mrs. Chilton (who was secretly Joe Chill's mother, a fact Bruce has never learned).
WHAT THE WHAT!
"Ben Boxer" - Never heard of him before but he sounds totally awesome and is an instant new favourite obscure character. One of Kirby's extras from Kamandi, which I should really give a gander one of these days.
"Big Sir" - man, he really didn't come unto his own until Giffen/DeMatteis/Jones got ahold of him.
"Black Canary II" - I honestly had no idea the Dinah's origin was this damn convoluted, but given DCU continuity it doesn't surprise me.
In pre-Crisis continuity, the younger Dinah was cursed by the Wizard while still an infant to create the Canary Cry. Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt removed the baby to his own dimension, where she could do no harm, and then stripped Dinah and Larry of their memories of her existence as an act of mercy. Larry was subsequently killed and Dinah mortally wounded during the JLA/JSA battle with Aquarius. At the elder Dinah's dying request, the Thunderbolt retrieved her daughter, now a young adult, from the Thunderbolt dimension and had her take the elder's place. The younger Canary moved to Earth-One and joined the JLA. For a number of years, she believed that she was her mother.
"Blackhawk Island" - Reading this reminded me that "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is basically the Blackhawks movie which nobody seemed to want or care all that much for.
This issue is a pretty neat time capsule of the confusion that resulted while Crisis on Infinite Earths was just beginning (it ran in parallel with that series for the first 12 issues, which was probably the biggest problem with the series). I think the writers/editors knew that changes were in the offing, but couldn't really write about them yet (there were no "Spoiler Alerts" back in them days, kids), so they were stuck trying to make sense of incredibly convoluted histories or bridge the differences between old and new (the Batman and Black Canary entries really highlight this). It's interesting reading, also from the standpoint of how diverse DC's offerings have been over the years, from non-continuity projects like Atari Force and Barren Earth to alternate-realities (but in-continuity) like Warlord and Amethyst to future and space heroes where characters like Automan and Ben Boxer came from.