The Mystery Men of September part 3!

Today’s post revisits  DC heroes who made their debut in bygone Septembers:

Here’s my first glimpse of the Shade by mail order in early 1980

The Shade: louche immortal anti-hero and the break-out star of James Robinson’s Starman ( of whom, more shortly). Created as a Golden Age Flash villain, the ambiguous and effete Shade borrows Marv Wolfman’s “Dracula’s diary” gimmick to chronicle his adventures with all manner of DC obscurities through the ages. Mannered but interesting comics.

Nightshade: in my dotage, I rather like the retro stylings of Ditko’s “space princeress”. Nightshade assisted Captain Atom in Charlton comics and when DC acquired the Action Heroes, she was a member of long standing in the Suicide Squad (DC invented the Dark Avengers, you see.)

With the same kind of vague shadowy powers as the Shade and with an origin similar to Amethyst, Nightshade was revamped in 1999 for the LAW miniseries.

I still prefer the original version to Streaky Zebra Woman. More recently, Eve Eden was a member of the Shadowpact.

Dingbats of Danger Street:  Jack Kirby’s Seventies version of his classic kid gangs from First issue Special. Pure unadulterated 70s Kirby is not for the uninitiated. I like to think that the King might have created a wild new Bucky in the vein of Krunch for his Bicentennial Cap.

Jemm, Son of Saturn: pacifist alien innocent from a slave race created by J’Onn J’Onzz’s Martians. After his Colan miniseries, Jemm was Luthor’s secret weapon in JLA by Grant Morrison.  That’s the only appearance I own of Jemm.

Tellus and Quislet: Levitz and Lightle introduced these two non-human Legionnaires in the mid-80s but they were both almost completely inactive for the next two decades. Tellus (aka Ganglios) is a big telepathic fish and Quislet is a spark of energy in a tiny spaceship. With obscure powers to animate matter, Quislet is a difficult Legionnaire to use and although “it” has a memorably quirky speech pattern, “it”s been phased out of the LSH again. Tellus is one of the Legion Lost currently. The LSH definitely benefits from one or two really alien members but maybe these aren’t the ones.

New Guardians: although the multi-ethnic and sexually diverse makeup of this group was ground-breaking, Steve Englehart’s 80s take on his Celestial theme was a car crash of a comic. This bizarre and unlikeable group were formed in the Millennium crossover event and were meant to Mankind’s next evolutionary stage. Hugely camp Dr. Strange parody Extrano is probably the most memorable character, as DC’s first flamboyantly gay hero.

Team Titans: in a dystopian future where Donna Troy’s son is playing at being a Star Trek-style god, Nightwing leads a band of new teen Titans against him. DC’s answer to X-Force was perhaps the nadir of the Titans era. Marv Wolfman’s ideas were tired and derivative:  a vampire, an electrical being, a winged naif and a conflicted shape-changer. Wolfman even stooped to the cheap mystery of “Is Terra back from the dead”?  At first an attempt to put the Teen back into Titans under the pencil of a Neal Adams clone, the group  soon mimicked a perennial X-Men trope and travelled back to our present.  Just woeful.

Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt: I imagine that the main reason this Charlton Action Hero revival caught my imagination is Mike Collins’ proposal to make him the centrepiece of a a Justice League UK. A perfect physical and mental specimen, Thunderbolt has an origin story that, like Iron Fist, is probably inspired by Golden Ager Amazing Man. Cannon made his series début at a time ( the early 90s) where vanilla super-heroics were unfashionable. Perhaps if they’d given him a mullet or some pouches…

Fate: ludicrous “extreme” 90s spin-off from Dr. Fate. Note obligatory stabby weapons, mullet, glowing eye and useless attempts at body armour. Sadly, not intended as parody. Thankfully killed off in JSA.

Manhunter:  “Extreme” 90s version of Kirby/Simon hero. Note obligatory Deadpool-style mask, glowing fist, giant shoulderpads and multiple streaming tassels c.f. Fate.

Starman Jack Knight: surprisingly-successful Generation X version of Golden Age hero. The premise of a slacker son negotiating the Golden Age (plus sundry other neglected corners of the DCU) and its protagonists was a clever one. However, I was a decade older than the hero and found tattoos and daddy issues needy and tiresome. James Robinson’s florid hipster dialogue and preoccupation with antique characters merely make him a Roy Thomas for the Nineties. While Robinson successfully retired his hero, I have no doubt Jack Knight will revisit the new 52 eventually.

Damian Wayne/Robin: the force-grown offspring of Talia and Batman, Damian was born in a non-canonical graphic novel but was folded into the DC Universe by Grant Morrison. Precocious, obnoxious and lethal, this blackly comic version of the Boy Wonder is, in one alternate future, a darker, perhaps supernatural Batman. Why is he not in the Justice League?

All-New Atom: Grant Morrison, Gail Simone and John Byrne revamped the Tiny Titan in the person of Ryan Choi for some whacky mad science adventures. Although this version of the Atom was featured in tv’s Batman: Brave and Bold. Choi was murdered  by the Didiots to launch the execrable Titans: Villains for Hire. Killing off one of their few Asian heroes: great call, diverse DC.

Coming soon: Treasuries and Tabloids!

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners.


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