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Back during that mystical period known as the nineties, Batman writers Alan Grant and Doug Moench decided--for whatever reason--to give the Scarecrow a bizarre laugh that went "HAROO HRAAA" or sometimes "HAROO HRAAII."

At least, I think it was meant to be a laugh. Maybe it was meant to be the Scarecrow version of "BOOGA-BOOGA!" which would indicate that it was intended to be spooky or something. Personally, it just solidified my teenage perceptions of the Scarecrow as an annoying character who was neither cool, fun, nor--worst of all--scary. It wasn't until the CATverse that I realized just how enjoyable and chilling the character could and should be (if you're unfamilar with CATverse, this post will tell you everything you need to know about why that version is, IMO, the superior Crane), but the actual Scarecrow from the comics still largely leaves me cold.

That said, as with most things involving Grant and Moench, I've recently looked back on those older comics and have found so much to enjoy, and that especially goes for their "HAROO HRAA" Squishy. Although I must confess, much of that amusement stems out of how it reminds me of Billy West's impersonation of Richard Nixon on Futurama:

So yes, strange as it is, the thought of Billy West growling, "I'm Jonathan Craaane, the--" (shakes jowls) "--MASSSSSTERRR OF FEARRRR. HAROOOOOOOO!" honestly helped endear me to Grant and Moench's Scarecrow. I had wanted to compile every single Scarecrow laugh, but life being what it is, I had neither the time nor resources.

Thankfully, [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker--stalwart regular 'round these parts and all-around good guy--took the task upon himself, and provided collages of every single time "HAROO" from the comics. It's kinda awe-inspiring, if not likely to cause madness and/or seizures.

It... begins...

Two more huge collages behind the cut! )

At least I'm not the only one who's taken a shine to this oddball trait of Scarecrows past. In the months since I first declared my amusement of the laugh, I've seen it pop up as a meme among a handful of fans on Tumblr, thus creating the unholy alliance of comics and the internet. As such, I shall leave you with this image created by Tumblr user TheLoad:

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The penultimate post in this series is also the last of the official Who's Who profiles. A couple of my favorites are in this one, so I hope you enjoy. As always, keep the comments a-comin'! Even though I'm too busy composing entries (and doing IRL stuff) to reply as quickly as I want, know that your responses are half of why I do all this in the first place!

Read more... )

And that's that for Who's Who. After 1993, the interest in character profiles apparently tapered off, and frankly, I'm amazed it lasted in the first place. While there have been similar resources published since the late 90's, none were published under the Who's Who banner, nor were they nearly as comprehensive.

Last year, DC announced that there were plans for a new Who's Who volume to celebrate the company's anniversary, but that never happened and now almost certainly never will. At least, not for a while. The DCnU is too Nu for anyone to have established history, and if they made something up, you can bet most of it would be contradicted by later writers. Sure, there's all the PRE-DCnU stuff, but the last thing DC wants is to remind readers of what was, back when characters wore briefs on the outside of the outside of their costumes. God, how stupid is that? You'd think they were SUPERHEROES or something! A-duh!

As they stand, old Who's Who books are treasure troves of great, lousy, and lost characters, and if you can ever find copies in dollar bins, pick up a few. You never know who you might meet. If you want to find more Who's Who online, Grantbridge Street has posted complete collections of profiles from the Legion of Superheroes, Superman, New Gods drawn by Jack Kirby himself, and more in his archives. If you want to see more of these big looseleaf profiles, again, check out the DC Who's Who Tumblr, which is still being updated. Good stuff all around!

Tomorrow, the final post: Secret Files and Origins. Plus old man ranting.
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One thing I neglected to mention in the last post is to give credit to the DC-Whos-Who Tumblr feed, where I've found the majority of these images. If you like character profiles and great art, I HIGHLY recommend checking scouring through his entires. There is so much greatness to be found there, and far beyond just the Bat-Villains.

But of course, the Bat-Villains are what mainly interest me, so shall we continue?

Too bad, because I'm going ahead anyway! )
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By 1990, I suspect that DC was tired of the increasingly-crappy printing quality they were giving to their Who's Who books, and probably wanted to step things up for the collector's market. This is pure speculation on my part, just going by the fact that the new editions of Who's Who were a much higher quality, with better coloring and slick, glossy paper. The biggest change for these profiles was that they came in looseleaf tear-away binding with holes so you could organize them in a three-ring binder any way you wanted: by character name, by heroes and villains, by all Batman/Superman/cosmic characters, etc.

While we had snazzy new updated Who's Who profiles, very little actually happened to most of the characters since they were last written about in previous entries. Aside from the art, the written entries (many by Mark Waid!) were largely identical. Bear in mind, this is just before Batman: The Animated Series, Knightfall, and other stuff which would have greatly affects the biographies of the Batman villains. If DC had waited another year or three, the many profiles would have had more to say rather than pretty much rehashing everything we know already.

Nonetheless, the new art makes the lack of new information plenty worthwhile. Many of these portraits and stellar and timeless, perfect for use in your average wiki entry as a definitive take on these rogues.

A spiffy new bunch of Who's Whos, plus a couple new Who's Thats, behind the cut )

Man, I didn't intend to begin and end this part with Grant/Breyfogle creations! Maybe it's a sign that I need to finally collect that entire run and read it through, as well as the early Shadow of the Bat stuff. Grant's work is rarely what I'd call stellar, but it's proving more interesting, remarkable, and entertaining than I used to believe. If you folks have some favorite Alan Grant stories, let me know if the comments!
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While this post rounds out the remnants of the Batman villains from 1985-1989 Who's Who, there were some odds and ends of characters who didn't *quite* qualify, but who nonetheless deserved honorable mentions. But first, let's start with the rest of the actual Batman villains, even if two profiles are reruns.

But really, what more appropriate way to kick off the new year than with a second helping of a double dose of Two-Face? )
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Today's batch is coming much later because apparently I had a lot to say about several characters here. I've been going through waves of feeling totally burned out interspersed with MUST TALK ABOUT MY OPINIONS ON THIS CHARACTER'S ENTIRE HISTORY and then crashing again. Thankfully, tomorrow's group is almost entirely made up of some serious Z-listers, so maybe I won't have much to say. For today, though, you may wanna grab a snack. It's a big one.

Read more... )
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Today, I bring you a post which I fear may be unreadable. At least, if you don't own old-school 3D glasses. And even then, can 3D be viewed on a computer screen? Either way, I'm gonna ask you to bear with me as we look at selections from Batman 3D: Ego Trip, a graphic novel by comics legend John Byrne with effects by 3D master Ray Zone.

I enjoy Byrne's story and art here quite a lot, but I had a damn hard time settling into it in either two or three dimensions. Obviously, 3D isn't meant to be viewed without glasses, and while the actual 3D effects are often spectacular beyond the sheer novelty value, my eyes can't really handle it for long stretches. I wish they'd rerelease this story in 2D with coloring, so Byrne's story and artwork could be appreciated on their own merits, even with all the panels of various objects COMIN' RIGHT ATCHA!

So as I'm going with the assumption that we're all here to focus on the story, let's squint and try to take a look at Ego Trip, a Batman caper written in 1990 but with a distinctly old-school feel, guest-starring four of his greatest villains (including, naturally, Two-Face, who gets a slightly tweaked origin here) as they torment Batman and cause him to trip balls:

IT'S LIKE YOU CAN TOUCH THEM behind the cut! )

As a bonus, Batman 3D also included a pin-up gallery by an all-star roster of artists. Because I love Batman pinups, here's the whole lot!

Toth, Adams, Zeck, Gibbons, and more! Holy crap! )

As always (well, as usually), I've made certain to post no more than 1/3rd of the graphic novel's content, so there's plenty more to read for those who can track down this hard-to-find book. It's available for pretty cheaply used on places like Amazon.com, although there's no telling whether any copies will still have their glasses. Proceed with caution! If you have a local comic shop that might carry it, always try for that first. It's definitely worth checking out in whole. Hopefully someday, it'll find a new audience. In either dimension.
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I know it's a week late, but I figured that I would be remiss in not giving a quick look at the opening pages of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman #1, which is being hailed by some as the very best comic to come out of the DCnU so far.

My own reaction: it's good. Not brilliant, but good. It doesn't punch me in the gut, nor does it blow my socks off, or move me to tears, paint my house, pay off my car payments, or taste like bacon. It's just good. I suppose that in the sea of mediocrity that is most popular fiction these days, that should be remarkable in of itself. But even in that case, how sad is that? Shouldn't we hold comics to a higher standard so that stories like Batman #1 are the AVERAGE quality, not the EXCEPTION?

The issue itself is a solid introduction for new readers that also flows seamlessly from Snyder's work in Detective Comics: The Black Mirror and The Golden Gates of Gotham, as he works to create an overarching epic that is clearly shaping up to be Batman versus Gotham City itself (presumably as a living entity ala Milligan's Dark Knight, Dark City).

Hell, that's exactly what Snyder has said in interviews, where he posited the ludicrous theory that Gotham has literally been "Batman's best friend," lol wut. No, no, no, if Gotham is sentient at all (and what's with this fascination some writers have for envisioning cities as actual entities?), it's hardly EVER been Batman's bosom pal.

Based on his two previous Batman stories, I suspect that Snyder is probably continuing the Morrisonian trope of evil secret societies of cult-like evil evilness (and if Newbie McMayorChin isn't revealed to be involved, I'll be damn surprised). As you may have guessed, this type of story fills me with aggressive apathy, but as long as Snyder keeps a focus on characters, I'll keep reading. He writes a fine Jim Gordon, and I'm glad to see Bullock prominently featured, even if Snyder's Bullock sounds a lot more like Slam Bradley. As for the rest of the issue, it's pretty much all set-up, with an empty cliffhanger ending we've seen before countless times. I look forward to reading the story as a whole, but there's not much to especially recommend about this one chapter, which is a common problem in this day and age of wait-for-the-trade.

What I do want is just quickly look at the opening pages, featuring the Rumble In Arkham that we've seen in previews:

Batman versus Everyone (What do you mean, everyone? EV-RRREEEE-WUUUUNNNN!!!!) behind the cut )

Oh. One more thing... /uncle

In comic news about something which actually DID come out today, I give you the spoiler-tastic final page for The Dark Knight #1, which features the first look at whatever the fuck it is they're doing with Harvey. Go. Go read it. Seriously.

Back? Okay. WOW that's dumb. Kind of delightfully so! I mean, seriously, "One-Face?" What the fuck does that even MEAN? He still has the scarred and unscarred sides! Was there a miscommunication between writer and artists here? Is it supposed to indicate that Harvey's bad side has completely taken over when he became Hulk!Harv? Honestly, that breaks my brain more than the Venom/Titan/whatever he's hopped up on!

Oh, Paul Jenkins, you're the gift that keeps on giving... ridiculously overblown Two-Face stories. Which reminds me, I still need to summon up the courage to review Batman: Jekyll and Hyde. You poor people, you.
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I've been incredibly annoyed at DC for the way they've treated their trade collections over the past decade. I can understand many great stories being left out of print, of course I can. Collections cost money to make, and if there's no market even for great stories which few people want or know about, why publish it? I get that, sad though it makes me. But what they actually WERE doing was, to put it mildly, damn stupid.

Bad enough that they were constantly publishing six-issue collections in overpriced, flimsy, awkward hardcovers. But worse, some collections, like Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, were published in three separate hardcovers, with several key issues published OUT OF ORDER. Then, as if to compound this ridiculousness, they subseuqnetly published Blackest Night and Blackest Night: Green Lantern as TWO SEPARATE COLLECTIONS, even though anybody who followed that event knows that both titles alternated telling the same damn story. It's like buying two copies of the same book, but one copy has the even-numbered chapters and the other has the odd.

And then there are collections like Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told and Batman VS Two-Face, which completely omit big-name stories in favor of out-of-context selections from larger stories, included for the clear purpose of enticing people to buy those trades next at the expense of a great collection. I was so pissed by this, I actually wrote an actual paper letter to the editor who seemed most responsible for most of this fuckery, and it was a very polite but strongly-worded one, but to no avail. Man, sometimes I wish DC would just put me in charge of their collected editions.

Until that happens, though, it seems like something must have changed, because DC is stepping up their collected editions in a big, big way! Never have I seen so many new collections coming out at the same time that I so wanted to own, especially since I've recently fallen in love with Bronze Age Batman in a big way.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1 [Hardcover]

The first part of a complete, full-color collection of The Brave and the Bold? Holy hell, yes yes YES. I know that Aparo isn't everyone's cup of tea, and that my own adoration may be purely based in nostalgia, but Aparo's Batman is definitive for me the way Sprang, Adams, Miller, and Lee's Batmen are for others.

I've only read a handful of Aparo's TB&TB stories, but the few I've read have been absolute gems. Of course, it helps that two of them are written by the great Alan Brennert, and I've reviewed both stories in the past. Read them if you haven't, dear god, do. Other stories are written by Bob Haney, a writer who's notably a big out-there with character depictions (such as making Oliver Queen a greedy, boorish treasure-seeking booby), but even that team can result in one of the greatest Two-Face stories I've ever read. So while an Aparo collection of TB&TB will almost certainly be a mixed bag, I will devour each and every story with great interest.

And hey, hopefully the subsequent volumes will open the door to collecting more of Aparo's straight Batman work, especially the all-time classic mini, The Untold Legend of the Batman. That story needs to be collected, like, yesterday.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers (Batman) [Hardcover] (Not final cover art?)

FUCK YES THE LEGENDARY ENGLEHART/ROGERS RUN HAS BEEN COLLECTED AGAIN YES!!! Erm, I mean... how satisfactory. I wondering what the coloring will be like? Will it be the wonderful original coloring, or the crappier, washed-out coloring that was used for the reprints? Oh whatever, I don't care, it's Strange Apparitions! Hugo! Deadshot! Thorne! Fish! One of the all-time greatest takes on the Joker ever, complete with the glorious butt-chin that Rogers liked to draw!

This seems like a huge collection. What other Batman work did Rogers do that would be included here? Probably Dark Detective, but I wonder if they'll also include Siege, Archie Goodwin's posthumous project from Legends of the Dark Knight? Either way, this is a must-own. For those who need a taste of just what makes this run so great, and why Rogers is a legend deserving of recognition, check out my review of the entire Hugo Strange subplot from Strange Apparitions.

Tales of the Batman - Gene Colan Vol. 1 [Hardcover]

First things first, who's noticing the pattern here? Yes, all of these collections are highlighting the ARTISTS. There isn't a single new DC hardcover collection coming out to celebrate writers (not unless you count the fact that they're rereleasing the excellent DCU Alan Moore collection in HC, presumably to include the inferior Bolland recoloring of The Killing Joke). What gives? Is this just indicative of the DCU run by Jim Lee, artists are now regularly given writing duties regardless of their skill or experience?

Don't get me wrong, the first two collections are absolutely deserving of being compiled for the artist first (although it's hard to imagine Strange Apparitions being half as good without Englehart firing on all cylinders), and no one will dispute that Gene Colan is a master deserving of recognition. On the other hand, you see that vampire story from featured right there on the cover? Yeah, it ties into several other stories which aren't drawn by Colan--including issues of the Batman, whereas this one was published in Detective Comics--but were ALL (or mostly) written by Gerry Conway. Now, I think many/most of the non-Colan issues were drawn by Don Newton, so thankfully we're also getting this...

Tales of the Batman: Don Newton [Hardcover] (Not final cover art, presumably)

... Which is great, but damn, wouldn't it have made more sense to do it as a Gerry Conway collection? Well, I suppose it all depends on which stories they include through each volume. As it is, you'll have to buy both if you want to read the complete saga of Boss Thorne's return, and subsequent re-haunting by the ghost of Hugo Strange, not to mention the introduction of Killer Croc and Redhead!Jason.

And finally, the book which in some ways gets me most excited:

Batman: Birth of the Demon [Paperback]

Birth of the Demon is one of the greatest Batman comics I have ever read, and it is THE greatest Ra's al Ghul story ever written, a masterpiece by Denny O'Neil and Norm Breyfogle both working at the very top of their game. The fact that it was out of print and unread by most just spoke to me of everything that was wrong with DC's collected editions, as well as the audience who didn't buy it enough when it came out to make it a hit. Hopefully that will be different this time, and people will finally read this masterwork for themselves.

Don't let the title fool you, it's actually the complete trilogy of Ra's al Ghul graphic novels, including the two by Mike W. Barr. The first is Son of the Demon, where Bruce and Talia actually got married, had sex, and she became pregnant. Yes, that would indeed be the origin of Damian Wayne, um, except that Grant Morrison, Mr. Everything-Is-Continuity-Yay-Silver-Age, couldn't actually remember how Son of the Demon went and, even though he loves wanking about obscure stories from 1957, he couldn't actually be bothered to read a graphic novel published in 198-fucking-7. So instead, he made up his own origin where Talia raped Batman. Let me say that again: GRANT MORRISON DECIDED TO HAVE TALIA RAPE BATMAN. I feel like it's important for everyone to remember this, especially when they wonder why the hell she's become an irredeemably evil character in the past few years. Barr's original Son of the Demon deserves to be read all the more because of Morrison's fuckery.

Less important is Barr's sequel, Bride of the Demon, which is by far the weakest of the trilogy. Ra's decides to marry an over-the-hill actress to have his heir, why now? It's as silly and forgettable as Birth is brilliant. The whole collection is worth every penny for the first and third stories alone. Just try to ignore that boring, boring, BORING cover by Andy Kubert.

Other collections of note coming out soon:

A new edition of Knightfall and a whole Batman VS Bane compilation, one of which will hopefully FINALLY collect Vengeance of Bane. Why the hell was that one never reprinted? If I'd read that, I might have actually cared more about that silly 'roided-up luchador!

Brubaker and Cooke's Catwoman series is getting recollected in a big hardcover. God, I loved that series so much. It was the first time I ever actually cared about Selina! That said, I'm not sure how well it's aged. I'm now more sensitive to Brubaker's tone-deafness when it comes to voices, and the stuff with Black Mask and Maggie Kyle just seems irredeemably ugly to me now. Honestly, I just hope that book collects Selina's Big Score by Darwyn Cooke, which is the greatest Catwoman story ever made. Ever. Ever ever ever. But even if it's not collected there, you can still always find it in Batman: Ego, and Other Tails.

Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, an original graphic novel set in a separate continuity intended to draw in new readers. This team did amazing work with Superman, but in truth, I don't really care too much about them trying to tackle Batman. I'm just in it to see what the hell he does (if anything) with Harvey Dent. Because I'm that predictable.
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These images have just been taking up space, so here, have a random assortment of Two-Face-related trading cards! First up, how many people remember the ads for the Batman cards which came with Nerds candy?

Because I do, but I'd never actually seen them all until I found images of them over at this Batman trading cards blog. You can see them all except Catwoman's, for some reason.

Like (most of?) the rest, this one's by the criminally-underappreciated Batman artist Norm Breyfogle. I'd like to see a better scan of this image, preferably recolored so the hair doesn't remind me of Batman Forever. Otherwise, leaping into action with a half-pinstripe suit and double-barreled shotgunts in each hand? That's My Harvey! *cue studio audience applause*

Next up, are Harvey's two cards from the Master Series Batman trading cards, which attempted to tell an actual story from the POV of the Joker. A noble attempt, even though nothing I've seen really made it look all that great. Part of that is due to the artists, who were very grotesque and Vertigo-ish. I believe both of these are by Dermott Power, one of the artists behind Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle.

I'd actually like to know what the back of both these cards read, particularly since they're told by the Joker. I can only imagine how he'd find ways to pick on Harvey, even in that format.

Next up, we have Harvey paired with his, apparently, ideal opponent from the DC VS Marvel card set:

At first, I scoffed because, "Oh hey, let's just pair together the two criminals who have screwed-up faces, done!" But I suppose it could make for a mildly interesting gang war, even though Jigsaw is a pretty typical psycho mobster compared to Two-Face, who's only occasionally written that way himself.

I'm not sure how I feel about the art, though. Jigsaw looks uncharacteristically calm and boring, whereas Harvey looks like he's throwing a tantrum, while wearing half a tablecloth.

Let's end this on a proper palate cleanser:

Hell yes, Dick Sprang. That is all.
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NOTE: I offer another departure from the usual topic today because... well, I just really want to discuss this one with you guys. I can justify this with the fact that it's written by the excellent author of this great Hugo Strange story I posted a while back, and also because it's a great example of what alternate universe storytelling can do. It'll be good to keep this in mind when I look at the various alternate Two-Face stories, even the ridiculous ones where Harvey's a deranged ballet dancer, thank YOU, Mike Grell.

The best Elseworlds stories utilize the alternate reality format to gain fresh perspective on the characters and themes they represent. I've always loved the mantra which used to accompany the earliest books in this imprint:

"In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow."

I've always loved that last line. "As familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow." So why are there so many mediocre Elseworlds stories? Why do so many follow the formula of "plug in X character in Y time setting, tell basically the same origin"? Asking "What If?" doesn't really matter if that question isn't followed by, "So What?"

That is not the case with Alan Brennert's last (and only) major DC story, Batman: Holy Terror, the first alternate universe DC story to carry the Elseworlds brand. It's that rare Elseworlds (hell, that rare story) which actually has something to say about its lead character and the alternate reality he inhabits.

In this instance, it's Batman in a Puritanical theocracy.

This story is not to be confused with a similarly-titled, aborted project by Frank Miller, although the two do play with similar ideas. Except Brennert's is far more subversive, even more so today than when it was published. After all, in this story, Batman is waging a Holy War. And what's another word for one of those?

In Gotham Towne, twenty years ago... )

Damn it, I want a sequel.
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Oh, hologram trading cards. So neat to look at. So impossible to scan.

Kind of incomprehensible, right? There was virtually no reason for me to ever post this, but that was before I found the original art that was used for the design, by none other than Norm Breyfogle!

Two (hurr!) largish scans behind the cut )

I find it funny that the original art for a 3D card could be so... flat. But I find the first part pretty enough to warrant posting this whole oddball curiosity here.

Oh, and for those curious about what's going on behind Harvey in the card, he's blowing up the Second National Bank. Because that's how he rolls.


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