Gun Happy New Year: A History of Deadshot

This article is cross-posted at TBU.net!

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

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

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

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

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

OG Deadshot Batman #59

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

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

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

detective comics 518 deadshot cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

deadshot vol 1 solo series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

deathstroke the hunted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

80-page giant deadshot vs batman

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

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

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

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

suicide squad returns

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

batman 607 deadshot

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

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

ID crisis deadshot page

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

deadshot vol 2

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

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

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

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

suicide squad vol 3

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

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

salvation run

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

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

secret six #1

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

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

secret six #36

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

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

new 52 deadshot mask

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

deadshot jla .1 issue

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

war of jokes and riddles deadshot vs deathstroke

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

harley deadshot romance

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

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

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

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

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

deadshot grifter liefeld

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

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

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

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

new suicide squad 1

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

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

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

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

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

midnighter vs deadshot

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

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

will evans deadshot

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

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

suicide squad vol 5 1

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

jl vs ss

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

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

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

suicide squad vol 5 22

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

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

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

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

new talent showcase 2017

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

new trinity new years eve deadshot

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

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

trinity 16 final page 2017-2018

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

This article is cross-posted at TBU.com!

collin colsher damian 666 batman super sons 10 tomasi

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

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

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

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

666 origin

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

batman 666 collin colsher

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

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

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

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

Batman 700 Page 33 Damian Wayne

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

DC One Million #3 Grant Morrison

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

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #75—”Eternal”
By David Finch, Scott Williams, and Peter Steigerwald (October 2010)

Eternal Superman/Batman 75

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

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

Superman Batman 80

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

flashpoint reboot

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

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

absolute edition batman inc

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

BATMAN INCORPORATED VOL. 2 #5—”Asylum”
Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, and Nathan Fairbairn (January 2013)

batman inc vol 2 5

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

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deal with the devil simon hurt

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

batman inc 5 2 batman damian yung

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

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

batman and robin annual new 52

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

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

damian son of batman kubert #1

DAMIAN: SON OF BATMAN #1-4
By Andy Kubert and Brad Anderson (December 2013 to March 2014)

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

the next batman!

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

the multiversity the just

THE MULTIVERSITY: THE JUST #1—”#earthme”
Grant Morrison, Ben Oliver, and Daniel Brown (December 2014)

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

picto fic! multiveristy

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

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

super sons 11

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My Favorite Comics of 2017

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17 Comics I Really Enjoyed a Lot in 2017 (in alphabetical order by title, with images instead of words)
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Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe
aliens dead orbit

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

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki
boundless

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

Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell
gab bell

Kirby by Tom Scioli
scioli's kirby

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

Mario by Tom McHenry
mario turtles feminism

My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly
pretty vampire skelly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly & Lewis Trondheim
poppies iraq

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino
sex fantasy dimino

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

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

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

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge
sticks angelica

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

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17 Other Comics I Also Enjoyed in 2017 aka Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order by title)
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The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollman
seabrook

Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld
baking with kafka

Midnight in the Phantom Zone by James Harvey
james harvey mignight

Crawl Space by Jesse Jacobs
jesse jacobs crawl space

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

The Flintstones by Mark Russell & Steve Pugh
flintstones 2017

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

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

The Leopard Vol. 4 by Sarah Horrocks
leopard sarah horrocks

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

Mirror by Emma Ríos & Hwei Lim
emma rios mirror image

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

She Wolf by Rich Tommaso
she wolf tommaso

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

Spy Seal by Rich Tommaso
spy seal rich tommaso

Super Powers by Tom Scioli
scioli super powers

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

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The Hole in Things: A History of Simon Hurt


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

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

simon hurt pic collin colsher

<3

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

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

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

all about me collin colsher batman historian

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

lynd ward prize honorees

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

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

And, through this presentation, we will examine graphic novel storytelling from a new perspective.
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WHAT EXACTLY IS MY PROJECT?

slide show pratt lecture

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

scott mccloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

batman montage issues covers

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

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

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

FICTIONAL CANON

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

what counts fictional canon?

or this? canon

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

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

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

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

sherlock holmes

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

seinfeld slide

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

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

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

tiny titans continuity joke

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

reboots reboots reboots

snyder reboots

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

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

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

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

The Crew Black Panther

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

references to original material bob kane

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

black panther coates flashbacks #1

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

retcons retcons

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

sliding time

SLIDING-TIME. This occurs in both DC and Marvel Comics, but it is a super-duper Marvel thing! Sliding-Time is the fundamental basis for all of Marvel’s continuity. Black Panther debuted in 1966. Everything that has happened to him since 1966 (ever since FF #52) is a part of his narrative. But thanks to Sliding-Time, only 14 or 15 years have passed. This keeps things constantly contemporary no matter how much time passes! In direct relationship to Sliding-Time, COMPRESSION and SHORTENING OF TIMELINES occurs as well. Time-sliding, for instance, causes massive compression. Say a story arc occurs over a specific nearly yearlong IN-STORY period. When things are made more contemporary, large chunks of story time cannot accommodate the shorter updated timeline. Thus, we have to imagine a condensed history. Of course, this all means that specific topical and seasonal references get ignored.

easter egg hunt

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

lego BATMAN!

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

Thanks!

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Superhero Socialism: The History of Anarky

This article is cross-posted at The Batman Universe.

Anarky Header

One of Batman’s secondary but widely-studied and highly-controversial rogues is back in the pages of Detective Comics. The enigmatic Anarky made a surprise return in the final page of Detective Comics #957 and we saw the character team with Spoiler in the recent Detective Comics #963-964 by James Tynion IV and Carmen Carnero. Despite being not nearly as big as Joker, Riddler, or Two-Face and having made way less appearances, there is a reason Anarky’s Wikipedia page just as long and sprawling. Created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in 1989, Anarky was a concept for a new era of comics and a character that has had (and continues to have) deep social impact far beyond the page. Let’s take a look at the complex history of Anarky.

Anarky Detective Comics 609

In 1989’s “Anarky in Gotham City” (Detective Comics #608-609), Grant and Breyfogle (with inks by Steve Mitchell and colors by Adrienne Roy) brought us a radical anti-hero ripe for the emerging new decade: the one and only Anarky, a politically-charged social justice warrior named Lonnie Machin, who enters the Gotham scene clad in a robe of scarlet, rocking the “circle A” symbol with a gold mask and eerily lanky body. When Batman finally meets the new villain face-to-face, he punches Anarky in the gut and it nearly kills him. Why? Because Anarky is only twelve-years-old! But don’t let his age deceive you. Grant created Anarky to be the voice of a voiceless generation—a child genius that holds radical anarchist philosophy (albeit teetering on the edge of libertarian socialism). Through this character, Grant hoped to address things in mainstream superhero comics not often touched upon—topics including anti-fascism, anti-militarism, anti-racism, systemic police corruption, social inequity, and the disparity of wealth in America. Anarky’s goal, upon the character’s debut, was the creation of a true welfare state (or city) and the total regulation/elimination of capitalist economy. In fact, many Anarky stories often amazingly make reference to anarchist philosophers and theorists—ranging from Proudhon and Bakunin to Max Nomad and James Joll. Lonnie even keeps a copy of V for Vendetta in his room!

Anarky Detective Comics 620

Anarky’s follow-up story was 1990’s “Rite of Passage” (Detective Comics #618-621), again by Grant and Breyfogle. In “Rite of Passage,” Tim Drake (not yet Robin) proudly foils an Anarky scheme that involves the teenage antifa trying his hand at anti-corporate computer fraud (as the hacker “Moneyspider”). The Moneyspider alias will be important down the road, but Anarky’s plot-line here is mostly overshadowed by Tim’s parents being kidnapped by The Obeah Man. Tim’s father is paralyzed while his mother is killed. Despite the Drake Family tragedy looming large, this arc is still notable for firmly setting specificity to the tone of Anarky’s politics as he preaches to his fellow prisoners in juvenile hall. It also cements him as a champion of the poor, something introduced in the previous arc. Through Grant’s words (via Anarky’s monologues), mainstream superhero comics were finally on the verge of having a hero (or anti-hero) that shared the values of the underprivileged, disenfranchised, and marginalized. Richie rich Bruce Wayne might fight for these folks, but he’s never been one of them or truly shared their values. The very definition of Batman is plutocrat. In the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon Justice League film, Bat-Affleck even responds to the question of “What is your superpower?” with a shit-eating grin, “I’m rich!” One could say that Batman’s plutocracy is a cog in the wheel of oligarchy, and Anarky is at the opposite spectrum. It’s hard to say for certain if there is a direct connection to the rise of Anarky, but similar leftist heroes would emerge in 1990’s DC via Dwayne McDuffie’s superb Afro-futurist Milestone line, which features working class Heroes of Color.

Interestingly, in the early 90s, since no one had filled the Boy Wonder void left behind by the death of Jason Todd, Grant and Breyfogle wanted Anarky to be the third Robin, petitioning the idea to DC higher-ups! Of course, that never happened as Marv Wolfman had already been given the duty of ushering in a new Robin and we got Tim Drake instead. Just imagine what could have been, though.

Anarky Robin Annual 1

Anarky returned for the 1992 DC Annual crossover arc “Eclipso: The Darkness Within”—specifically in Robin Annual #1. This issue, by Grant, John Wagner, Tom Lyle, and Scott Hanna, was a precursor for the future of Anarky, as he acts more like a hero than a villain, teaming with a rival closer to his own age: Tim Drake (now officially Robin). In this arc, Anarky escapes juvenile hall, demands that the mayor institute sweeping social change, and then uses mystical Eclipso diamonds on himself to become a super-powered being. When the diamonds turn a young girl into a vicious Eclipso Tyrannosaurus Rex, Robin and Anarky team-up to defeat her.

Anarky Shadow of the Bat 41 Batman

Entering the mid 90s, Anarky’s next appearance was in the classic “Knightfall” arc, in which he quite memorably interacts with both Scarecrow and crazy new Batman, Jean-Paul Valley. In 1995’s The Batman Chronicles #1, Grant once again used his character to espouse leftist political ideas as Lonnie gives a scholarly lesson in anarchy to his fellow juvie hall mates. That same year Grant penned “Anarky” (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #40-41), which again further pushed Anarky into the status of possible hero. In this arc, Anarky teams-up with Batman, Robin, and private eye Joe Potato to stop the mad bomber Malochia. He earns the respect of the heroes by selflessly crashing Malochia’s “Dirigible of Doom” into Gotham Harbor, at great risk to his own life. In fact, the heroes and Lonnie’s family think that he has perished and even mourn his passing. The “Anarky” arc brilliantly highlighted the greatness of Anarky and showed what limitless potential the character had in those days. Grant even got to do an Anarky issue for The Batman Adventures series in 1995 as well.

Anarky Vol 1 3 Batman

With popularity spiking, DC gave the green light for a coveted solo mini-series. Grant and Breyfogle once again joined forces to deliver “Metamorphosis” via four issues of Anarky in 1997. Sadly, Anarky’s unique status as a legit leftist social justice vigilante (a superhero socialist, if you will) drastically changed via this series. Lonnie’s belief system altered as Grant’s own personal beliefs changed from leftist radicalism (in the vein of socialism or anarchism) to Ayn Rand-influenced neo-tech (in the vein of objectivist libertarianism). In “Metamorphosis,” Anarky invents a device that will “de-brainwash” every human on Earth of all individual social constraints, hoping to eliminate religious fundamentalism, mass mediated-culture, and right wing hegemony. This may seem like Anarky’s prior modus operandi, but the big difference is now that he wants to uphold the capitalist free-market system in America. Justice is still paramount to his mission, but there is now leeway for individual and corporate greed/oppression. In order to power his machine, Anarky collects the essences of Etrigan’s madness, Darkseid’s evil, and Batman’s purity. However, Batman damages the machine and it affects only Anarky. Thus, Anarky’s metamorphosis (i.e. belief shift from socialist-anarchism to Randian objectivist anarcho-capitalism) is complete.

Anarky Green Lantern ring Anarky Vol 2

In 1999, Grant and Breyfogle delivered the second volume of Anarky, eight issues that see Batman kicking Anarky out of Gotham (following the destruction of the city in “Cataclysm”). Lonnie moves to Washington DC where he builds his own “Anarky Cave” underneath the Washington Monument, becomes an expert in superstring theory, gets a Green Lantern ring, starts blogging, thwarts Ra’s al Ghul, and delivers a strong anti-war message to the zombie-resurrected Founding Fathers of America. However, with sales lagging, DC gave Anarky Vol. 2 the axe. Hoping to go out with a bang, Grant and Breyfogle once again tried to permanently elevate their beloved character to the pinnacle of DC’s mythos, heavily insinuating that Joker was Anarky’s biological father in the final issue (Anarky Vol. 2 #8). But just as Grant and Breyfogle had once unsuccessfully lobbied to make Lonnie the third Robin, their idea to paternally link Joker with Lonnie was never going to fly either. Grant and Breyfogle desperately wanted this to be canon, but higher-ups and classic writers (notably Denny O’Neil) were dead-set against it. Thus, the follow-up confirmation (true or false) never happened, effectively cutting-off the Joker-related momentum at its knees. I guess we’ll never truly know if Joker was Lonnie’s dad in the Modern Age. Grant would leave DC shortly thereafter, placing Anarky in dreaded character Limbo for nearly ten years (aside from three relatively unmemorable cameo appearances).

Anarky Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong Robin 182

In 2009, Fabian Nicieza, a fan of the character, decided to bring Anarky out of Limbo and into the pages of Robin. Starting with Robin #181-182, Lonnie reappears but is immediately shot and paralyzed by Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, who winds up becoming the brand new Anarky, a fully-fledged super-villain. The villainous Armstrong version of Anarky makes various appearances in Robin and Red Robin. As does Lonnie, who, in 2011’s Red Robin #17, is hired by Red Robin (Tim Drake) to be his very own version of Oracle using his old “Moneyspider” gimmick! In this sense, Nicieza was able to return Lonnie to his social justice warrior roots, albeit without a heavy political agenda. (The lack of politics attached to Lonnie and the attribution of the Anarky moniker to a super-villain like Armstrong were very much to the chagrin of Grant and some right wing journalists, who wanted the concept of Anarky to forever remain a face of the Randian libertarian politics in comics.) The handicapped Lonnie acts as a hero right up to the final issue of the Red Robin series, which ended due to the New 52 reboot.

Red Robin Moneyspider Lonnie Machin Anarky

The true anarcho-socialist or anarchist superhero is a rarity—then and now. Green Arrow might mention Marxism every once in awhile, but aside from Alan Moore’s V (who was a direct influence on the creation of Anarky), Grant Morrison’s secret society in The Invisibles, Jamie Hewlett’s Tank Girl, Legionnaire Gates, and Dwayne McDuffie’s aforementioned Milestone line characters, most comic book characters that ostensibly lean radically left actually don’t. Plus, more often than not, they’ve been portrayed one-dimensionally and are usually super-villains to boot. DC’s relatively new Nightwing rival, Raptor, is a legit anarchist, but he’s already heading into straight-up super-villain territory. When thinking of ostensibly leftist characters that are actually quite politically hollow, a slew of Red Scare communist villains from the 50s through the 90s come to mind. As do Marvel’s Flag-Smasher, DC’s Kestrel, and Marvel’s radical feminists like Man-Killer and Superia. Others, like Marvel’s Rafe Michel and Daily Bugle reporter Leila Taylor, qualify as legit leftist radicals that were portrayed with more depth back in the 70s, but, again, they weren’t superheroes. Various characters featured in the works of Mark Millar (specifically Civil War, Jupiter’s Legacy, Jupiter’s Circle, and Huck) and Frank Miller (specifically The Dark Knight Returns and Martha Washington) might appear to be anti-capitalist anti-state heroes at surface-level, but they always turn out to be less than heroic, illegitimate, or failures when it comes to political conviction or social activism. Randian libertarianism is, in fact, imbued in a lot of both Millar and Miller’s oeuvre, including all their works listed here. The same can absolutely be said of Green Arrow, the skeevy original Charlton Comics version of The Question, and his extremely vile Watchmen counterpart Rorschach. Overall, nothing mentioned above (besides V for Vendetta, The Invisibles, Tank Girl, or Milestone) hits the hammer on the head or manages to fit the pure leftist bill quite like 90s Anarky. As far as anarchist heroes (or anti-heroes), Anarky is one of the best examples and one of the very few we’ve ever seen in mainstream comics to this day.

A quick interlude regarding the Charlton Question, who was created by Steve Ditko, a strict Rand-ian Objectivist. (Rumor has it that Ditko left Marvel due to fighting about politics with Stan Lee.) Ditko expressly wrote the Question to have his Objectivist political beliefs—even basing him off of his earlier nastier character “Mister A.” Only much later (at DC Comics) did Denny O’Neil alter the Question’s politics and spirit, even going so far as to make the Question a Zen Buddhist. Later Question writers like Greg Rucka “fixed” the Question’s tarnished image even more.

No history of socialism in comic books would be complete without mentioning the origin of the Man of Steel himself. Superman was created in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to be a socialist-type hero. As Grant Morrison—who wrote a throwback quasi-socialist version of Superman during DC’s New 52 venture—said in a 2011 New Statesman interview: “At the beginning, Superman was very much a socialist superhero. He fought for the unemployed, the oppressed, he beat up wife-beaters. It’s about a man driven by a burning sense of injustice — there are no monsters or robots, he fights against corrupt council officials! He was conceived as a Depression-era superhero, who dealt with the problems of ordinary people.” Of course, this version of Superman would quickly change gears as soon as WWII started; and, after that, his true socialist roots would always remain a distant memory.

It will be interesting to see where Tynion takes Anarky, especially since he penned a brilliant social-activist monologue—almost a call to all superheroes (and those writing superheroes)—in 2016’s Detective Comics #946. The dialogue, spoken by Tim Drake, is an uplifting speech about how the Bat-squad should bring new hope to Gotham, making it the safest city in the world. He talks about the very definition of what it means to be a superhero, about how superheroes must earn the public trust through collaboration and rehabilitation, rather than the usual fear-instilling and coercion. This is one of the best monologues I’ve heard in a long time in any comic book—it cuts to the core of what a superhero is supposed to be. And it also has shades of old-school Anarky mentality in it. Batman could take a few pointers, let me tell ya.

New Detective Comics cover Anarky Spoiler

The first part of DC’s long and complex experiment in overtly politicizing superhero comics via a foil for Batman lasted from 1989 to 2011 (with a few hiatuses here and there), but it didn’t simply end when the Modern Age of comics gave way to the New 52. Let’s take a gander at Anarky’s influence on comics in the past six years.

In 2013, Anarky saw his first action outside of a comic book, appearing as the primary antagonist in the animated TV show Beware the Batman. This version of the character contained some similarities to the original Anarky, but was rendered more as a Professor Moriarty-esque villain than any sort of anti-hero. Also in 2013, Anarky made his video game debut in Batman: Arkham Origins. This version of the character was more in tune with the anti-corporate anarchist roots that Anarky had in the early 90s. In 2015, Anarky made his live action TV debut in Arrow, played by Alexander Calvert, once again as a more pure super-villain stereotype.

Jensen's Anarky Green Lanter Corps 25 Zero Year

With Anarky popping up in different media around 2013, it was only a matter of time before he sprung back into the pages of the New 52. With DC having been fully rebooted and Batman getting a brand new origin story (“Zero Year”) courtesy of Scott Snyder, there was a blank slate for Anarky. In 2014, writer Van Jensen (along with a rather large creative team of Robert Venditti, Victor Drujiniu, Ivan Fernandez, Allan Jefferson, Juan Castro, Rob Lean, and Garry Henderson) delivered a brand new version of Anarky in Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3 #25. In the issue, set during Batman’s first year in costume, a super-storm heads towards Gotham, which has been blacked-out by Riddler. A team of marines, including Sergeant John Stewart (future Green Lantern), helps evacuate an arena full of Gothamites. There, the soldiers discover an anarchist group—led by Anarky—has reclaimed “people’s ownership” of the arena, despite a portion of the people having been forced to go along with his plan. While Stewart despises Anarky’s methods, he sees that Anarky means well and winds up siding with him against his own army brethren, who attempt to quell the situation with unnecessary lethal force. Stewart stops his crazed lieutenant and frees the hostages without causing any deaths. Meanwhile, Anarky escapes clean. Afterward, Stewart punches-out his lieutenant, effectively ending his military career.

While the new Anarky seemed to reflect what made him so popular in the early 90s, a big change in the character was making him black. Jensen said he wanted to do “a fresh take that honors [Anarky’s] legacy.” An African-American Anarky seemed to do just this, giving a minority voice to the ultimate social justice warrior, especially in a situation that closely resembled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Not only that, but juxtapositioning him with John Stewart, one of the most recognizable black DC heroes, and then having Stewart give a wink and a nod to Anarky, was a big boon to the character. Jensen and company even interspersed Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3 #25 with a flashback to Stewart’s childhood in Detroit, showing corrupt racist police reaction to left wing labor unionists. All of this was done to give sympathy to and legitimize Anarky’s political point of view. Unfortunately, Jensen’s Anarky was a big tease. Despite being well-received, this version of Anarky would not be seen again, making this a one-off one-shot appearance, much to the chagrin of fans, who were generally excited about this take. (I should note that Jensen is not a black writer, which does unfortunately complicate the message here. All black characters need not be written by people of color, but an actual black voice—in the relative sea of whiteness that is the mainstream comic industry—would have added credence, legitimacy, and power to this Anarky. Thankfully, despite this, Jensen seems to have penned a pretty decent version of Anarky—one that cuts to the core of what he is supposed to represent, and one that addresses the issues of marginalized and ostracized minorities with a progressively open mind.)

Detective Comics Anarky Bullock

In 2014, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato—via their “Icarus” arc (Detective Comics Vol. 2 #30-34) and follow-up “Anarky” arc (Detective Comics Vol. 2 #37-40)—would do their own take on the character. In “Icarus,” Bruce meets with Elena Aguila, who wants his help in reconstructing the slummy East End Waterfront property purely as a positive social act despite the fact that it would be a financial disaster for Wayne Enterprises. Bruce meets with Elena at her daughter Annie’s pro motocross event. There, Elena appeals to Bruce’s philanthropic side and he agrees to work with her “Healthy Families Initiative”—to put social interest ahead of corporate interest. In doing so, Bruce shuns corrupt Congressman Sam Young who had proposed a less socially progressive, more corporate-friendly reconstruction plan. This all leads to Elena’s death and Batman attempting to get the bizarre drug known as Icarus off the streets, a case that culminates in the complete destruction of the East End Waterfront. With plans so save the waterfront ruined, Annie angrily storms off. In the wreckage of the East End, Bullock and his partner Nancy Yip go to retrieve the remaining crate of the Icarus drug, but in its place is a spray-painted anarchy symbol. Anarky is back in Gotham!

Detective Comics New 52 Anarky Sam Young

By 2015, Manapul and Buccellato had successfully built an intriguing mystery. Who was Anarky? Could the new Anarky be socially progressive and kick-ass motocross-riding Annie Aguila? Or could it be Jensen’s awesome African-American anti-hero? (Sorry, I already spoiled that it wasn’t him.) Manapul and Buccellato continued their story with the Detective Comics arc entitled “Anarky,” adding another perfect candidate: Lonnie Machin! Thanks to references in Detective Comics Vol. 2 #38, we were given some New 52 backstory: Years ago, a tech genius calling himself Moneyspider hacked into Wayne Enterprises’ airtight computer system. Batman tracked Moneyspider and exposed him as pre-teen prodigy Lonnie Machin. Feeling sorry for both Lonnie and his down-and-out mom, Bruce decided not to press charges. Batman had been watching over Lonnie ever since. The idea that Lonnie could be returning as a rebooted Anarky in 2015 was quite exciting.

Lonnie Machin New 52

In the “Anarky” arc, the unknown Anarky executes corrupt business exec Jeb Lester. Meanwhile, Batman apprehends an escaped Mad Hatter and discovers that Jervis Tetch had been secretly killing kids even before his debut as Mad Hatter. Bullock (who has been tracking Anarky for months), Yip, and Batman investigate the scene of Lester’s murder, when, all of a sudden, the building’s computer systems lock-down and a bomb goes off, scorching a giant anarchy symbol into the façade of the structure. On Christmas morning, Anarky announces that he has erased the digital footprint of everyone in Gotham, making it so all police records, bank records, and credit debt are completely erased. Anarky declares that social revolution has begun. The next morning, Sam Young pledges support to Anarky, claiming there is method in his madness, especially compared to the right wing Mayor Hady. Batman interrogates Lonnie, citing that only he could have accessed control of Wayne Tower. Machin admits to the hack job, but says he gave the info to Lester, not Anarky. Later, during a robbery incited by Anarky’s words, innocent bystander Lonnie gets shot and is rushed to the hospital. Batman and Bullock find a link between Tetch and Young, which brings them to an abandoned boarding house. There, the heroes realize that those emboldened by Anarky have been influenced by Mad Hatter mind-control tech as well. They also learn that Tetch was a groundskeeper that terrorized and killed the kids at the boarding house, including a young Anarky. Anarky tries to kill Mad Hatter, but Batman stops him and punches his mask off…

Detective Comics Anarky Sam Young vs Batman

New 52 Anarky Sam Young Reveal

And with so many good directions to choose from, it is at this point that Manapul takes the pro wrestling route, delivering a twist just to swerve the audience. (Although, to be fair, this was the direction they had planned from the beginning.) Anarky was the jerk that upheld corporate values at the expense of the poor, a dude in the pocket of both Big Business and gangsters: Sam Young. Acting as a copycat of Jensen’s Anarky from “Zero Year” and using the famous Gotham anti-hero’s moniker for his own twisted purposes, Young was our new Anarky. The story continues with Batman and Bullock saving the day and busting Anarky. Thankfully, Lonnie makes a full recovery. In regard to politics, Manapul’s Anarky talked the talk, but he didn’t walk the walk, instead opting to using anarcho-socialist activism and rhetoric to mask ulterior criminal motives—albeit a somewhat sympathetic justice-oriented personal revenge scheme.

New 52 Earth-2 Anarky

In 2015, the New 52 also gave us our first female Anarky, the alternate Anarky of Earth-2, a super-villain seen in five issues of Earth-2: Society. Similarly to Manapul’s Anarky, this version also espouses anti-authoritarian politics and rhetoric, but only to mask criminal activity that has nothing to do with social justice. For example, Earth-2’s Anarky—created by Daniel H. Wilson and Jorge Jimenez—blows up a building to access a spacecraft engine, then instigates a protest riot to cover her tracks. This also turns out to be part of a dastardly scheme by the villain Doctor Impossible.

New Detective Comics cover Anarky Spoiler

And that brings us up to speed. Detective Comics #957 and Detective Comics #963-964, part of DC’s Rebirth reboot, saw Anarky return once more, this time to lend a hand to Spoiler, who is estranged from the Bat-Family. An wouldn’t you know, Tynion and Carnero have returned Lonnie Machin behind the mask! In issues #963-964 we catch a glimpse at the good work Anarky is doing. He’s set up an underground anarcho-syndicalist farming commune—nicknamed “Utopia”—for Gotham’s poor and destitute. The commune has a tent city, solar lighting, and greenhouses. After all, as Twitter user @SemperLiber9 says, “Anarchism is a mix of community gardening and punching Nazis.” Notably, pure heroic characters Harper Row and Leslie Thompkins are a part of this movement. Spoiler herself is so moved, she not only joins the movement, but becomes romantically involved with Anarky…for a brief moment. Batman exposes a dark criminal connection between Anarky and a super-villain called The First Victim, giving the Dark Knight all the reason he needs to throw Lonnie behind bars. Anarky is relegated to quasi-villain status yet agin, although his good work lives on in the form of the commune. At the end of ‘tec #964, Anarky—using his Moneyspider skills—hatches a plot that should see him out of Arkham in the near future.

Based upon Tynion’s work on Detective Comics and already what we’ve seen in Detective Comics #963-964, the new version of Anarky should be in more than capable hands, should he visit the DCU again. Despite Anarky’s clash with Batman and immediate jailing, a return to Lonnie (and his urban farming commune) implies a return to the character’s roots. And there’s no better time for Anarky in superhero comics than right now. Anarky can be the symbol he was meant to be at his inception—a force for good, social equity, real justice, and justice for all. Comic book universes are fantastical and far-fetched, but they are meant to reflect the world in which we live. And in 2017 America, where the President won’t effectively denounce Nazis and the KKK, choosing to instead pander to them as a constituency, Anarky is the hero we need. In 2017 America, where the alt-right and white supremacists are emboldened in ways they haven’t been in a long time, Anarky is the hero we need. In 2017 America, where systemic racism plagues our law enforcement agencies and the prison industrial complex is tantamount to slavery, Anarky is the hero we need.

Tim Drake Monologue Detective Comics 946

Through the lens of a modern Anarky—treated as a sophisticated social justice revolutionary that upholds the values of Emma Goldman, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King while picking up the pieces of the shattered Occupy movement and bearing the banner of Black Lives Matter or Antifa—Tynion has a great opportunity to re-introduce an antihero that is a stalwart and uncompromising defender against fascism, unchecked militarism, sexism, racism, homophobia, systemic police corruption, economic corporate despotism, and class oppression. If Tynion’s reboot of Anarky acts as this defender while fighting for the basic public provision of education, health care, and housing and while also incorporating the concept detailed in the Tim Drake monologue from Detective Comics #946—the idea that superheroes should earn the public trust through collaboration and rehabilitation—Anarky has the potential to be one of the most culturally relevant characters of the 21st century. As Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle once showed decades ago, Anarky is the perfect tool to address these types of ideas in comics. And now is the perfect time for them to be addressed.

Rafael Albuquerque Batman Cover Anarky

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A Brief Breakdown of the Bygone Batman of Earth-B

NOTE: This article is cross-posted at The Batman Universe.

jerry lewis bob hope batman collin colsher earth-b


By the late 1970s there were a handful of Silver Age DC stories that just seemed out-of-continuity no matter what. They just didn’t fit, violated characterization, had obvious continuity errors, or were just plain strange (even for Silver Age comics). Many of these stories in question were written by Bob Haney and E Nelson Bridwell and edited by Murray Boltinoff and Bob Rozakis. Thus, these out-of-synch tales retroactively became assigned to Earth-B. The assignment of the letter B came from the fact there were so many B names creatively-involved in the non-synchronous tales—Bridwell, Boltinoff, and two Bobs (three if you count Bob Hope)! Further reasoning for assigning the letter B was that many of these tales also took place in The Brave & The Bold. While it is rumored that Myron Gruenwald and Mark Gruenwald originally came up with the idea for Earth-B, the concept was first mentioned in a letters column by Rozakis in the 1970s. Creators Mark Waid and Lou Mougin cemented the concept of Earth-B in 1986’s OFFICIAL CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS CROSSOVER INDEX. However, the Crossover Index was co-published by Independent Comics Group (ICG) and was therefore considered only quasi-official at the time. Thus, several contradictions arose within.

For example, Mougin and Waid, in the Crossover Index, state clearly that the 1974 appearances of Thomas Wayne Jr (in World’s Finest Comics #223 and World’s Finest Comics #227) are definitive occurrences on Earth-B. Now, while that is set in stone, the confusion lies in the fact that this doesn’t necessarily mean that Thomas Wayne Jr doesn’t also exist on Earth-1. Because of this, many wikis and online Silver Age synopses include Thomas Wayne Jr as part of Earth-1 canon as well. There are precedents. Scholars Mikel Midnight and Douglas Ethington regard the Golden Age Robin origin story in Batman #32, Part 2 as contradicting the Golden Age Robin origin story in Detective Comics #38. They place Batman #32, Part 2 solely on Earth-B. Likewise, 1994’s Batman: The Last Angel occurs on the Earth-B timeline (as its final future tale) and simultaneously on the Modern Age timeline. However, the Thomas Wayne Jr stories also contradict DC Comics Presents #24 by failing to acknowledge Deadman’s prior actions. Therefore, it does seem like WFC #223 and WFC #227 are non-canon on Earth-1.

earth-b thomas wayne jr collin colser

But the contradictions were further amplified (or cleaned-up, depending on your point-of-view) in 2005, when the Crossover Index was updated and republished as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition. Because the Earth-B timeline—a timeline comprised entirely of contradictory stories—itself contained contradictions, comics historian/researcher John Wells decided that Earth-B could be even further broken down into parts. As co-author of the “Compendium” section of The Absolute Edition, Wells created Earth-32, a place to hold all of the stories that definitely couldn’t work on Earth-1, but which also seemed to be on shaky ground on Earth-B. (Wells used the number 32 for his new Earth, citing that many of the stories that weren’t jibing with the rest of the Earth-B chronology could be traced back to both 1964’s Green Lantern #32 and 1945’s Batman #32.)

With Earth-B missing a chunk of its previous material (which had now migrated to Earth-32), Wells realized that Earth-B was a hatchet-job and really looked like something unrecognizable. Thus, he took all the material that wasn’t re-assigned to Earth-32 and listed it as a part of another new Earth: Earth-12. (Earth-12 was first mentioned in 1986’s Oz-Wonderland War—a three issue series that saw Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew join forces with the inhabitants of L Frank Baum’s Oz and Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland to fight Ruggeddo the Nome King. Eat your heart out, Alan Moore! The Inferior Five make a brief appearance in Oz, citing that they are looking for Earth-12. This has led some to speculate that the Inferior Five stories occur on Earth-12 (and therefore Earth-B as well).

oz wonerland war collin colsher

Because of Wells’ 2005 updates, some sources list Earth-B as an “unofficial Earth,” merely an amalgamation of the two “official Earths,” Earth-32 and Earth-12. But this is a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Earth-B was first, then Earth-32, then Earth-12. One could endlessly continue this process and get nowhere fast. Wells himself is nearly guilty of wandering into this desert. While most of the Batman toy tie-ins, food product mini-comics, and cereal box send-aways occur on Earth-B/Earth-32/Earth-12, Wells—in The Absolute Edition—notes specifically that the Hostess Snack Cake free comics and in-comic Hostess advertisements featuring Batman from the 1970s and 1980s all take place on a separate “Earth-Hostess.” Earth-Hostess! See what I mean? For the purposes of the Real Batman Chronology Project, Earth-B, Earth-32, and Earth-12 (and Earth-Hostess) each exist. Earth-B merely exists as a separate timeline that combines all of Earth-12 and Earth-32.

hostess snack cake collin colsher batman

Another interesting fun fact about Earth-B’s Adventures of Bob Hope series. Some of its elements were canon on Earth-1, most notably the debut and existence of Bob Hope’s amazingly ridiculous nephew Tadwallader Jutefruce, who moonlights as the superhero called Super-Hip.

Much of the information above comes from Mikel Midnight’s “Cosmology Compendium: Earth-B Timeline” (compiled in 2005), which in turn filtered information via writers Douglas Ethington and John Wells. Historian John McDonagh (seemingly via Wells and writer Mike Tiefenbacher) also proves a worthy source in the comments section of a 2006 “Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed” blog post by scholar Brian Cronin.

Below is a Batman of Earth-B timeline (of my own creation). Many of these items, as explained above, also go on Wells’ Earth-32 or Earth-12. Note that the meat-and-potatoes (i.e. stuff in-between the items on the list below) reflects the Silver Age Earth-1 timeline. Basically, this means that if I were making a full Earth-B timeline, I would copy-and-paste most of Earth-1’s chronology into it.

–Batman #32 (also canon on Golden Age pre-Crisis Earth-2 timeline)
–Adventures of Jerry Lewis #97
–Swing with Scooter #5
–Adventures of Bob Hope #103
–The Brave & The Bold #84
–The Brave & The Bold #90
–The Brave & The Bold #96
–The Brave & The Bold #99
–The Brave & The Bold #108
–World’s Finest Comics #223
–World’s Finest Comics #227
–The Brave & The Bold #117
–Batman Power Records Comic #PR-27
–Batman Power Records Comic #PR-30
–The Brave & The Bold #124
(introduction of Earth-PRIME B)
–Amazing World of DC Comics #11
–The Brave & The Bold #131
–The Brave & The Bold Special
–The Brave & The Bold #146
–Aquateers Meet the Super Friends
(1979, this likely goes on the Super Friends’ Earth 1-A too)
–Batman: The Peril of the Penguin (1979, Post Fruity & Cocoa Pebbles box mini-comic giveaway)
–Super Heroes: Prisoners of the Stars (1979, Post Fruity & Cocoa Pebbles box mini-comic giveaway)
–Batman: The Joker’s Last Laugh (1980, Post Super Sugar Crisps box mini-comic giveaway)
–Super Heroes: The Secret of the Sinister Lighthouse (1980, Post Super Sugar Crisps box mini-comic giveaway)
–The Brave & The Bold #162
–The Brave & The Bold #167
–Batman: Belt ‘Em For Safety
(1981, Mini-Foldout comic for The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
–Super Powers Collection #2 (1983, Kenner toy tie-in)
–Super Powers Collection #5-9 (1983, Kenner toy tie-in)
–Super Powers Collection #11 (1983, Kenner toy tie-in)
–DC Challenge #1-12 (1985-1986)
–Viewmaster Mini Comics: The Joker’s Wild (1993, based on “5-way Revenge”)
–Justice League America vs. Amazo (1993, Kellogg’s Cinnamon Mini Buns mini-comic)
–Batman: The Last Angel (1994, also canon on Modern Age Earth-0)

__________________________________________________________________

earth-b collin colsher cover collage

The Earth-B items on the list above only include issues that feature Earth-B Batman. As stated above, the Earth-B timeline is modeled off of the Silver Age Earth-1 timeline, so a version of pretty much every Silver Age DC character would also live on Earth-B. Other inhabitants, however, are unique to Earth-B. Besides the comic versions of Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis, unique inhabitants of Earth-B include: The Green Team, Prez Rickard, The Inferior Five, The Freedom Brigade, Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Plastic Man (from Arnold Drake and Gil Kane’s Plastic Man Vol. 2 ), Scooter and his gang (from Swing with Scooter), and The Super Friends (from the comics only, although some folks cross-list the TV series on Earth-B as well).

Of course, the past is the past. The Silver Age ended with The Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986. And Earth-B/Earth-12/Earth-32 all disappeared into the white ether as well. The Modern Age (and later New 52/New Age) would give us a new Earth-12 —home to the Batman Beyond DCAU characters—and a new Earth-32—home to the Elseworlds-styled Justice Titans.

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The Reboot Has Begun

new superman timeline collin colsher

I wasn’t sure whether or not DC was heading toward a full reboot with its long “Rebirth” saga, set to wrap early next year with the cosmic intervention of Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan and Mr. Oz. But the multiverse-shattering conclusion to “Superman Reborn” in Action Comics #976, basically confirms that DC is indeed doing a full reboot.

In fact, the reboot has already begun! Much like how the Silver Age was rebooted in sporadic chunks from the 1950s into the 1960s, it appears as though the New Age proper (aka post New 52) will be ushered in via a similar method. Action Comics #976 has effectively killed the New 52—or at least fatally poisoned it. In case you haven’t read it, here is what happened in convenient synopsis and analysis form (lifted straight from the New 52 Year Ten Chronology). Thanks to the meddling of Mr. Mxyzptlk and the undefined seemingly-cosmic powers of Superboy, the spirits of New 52 Superman and New 52 Lois Lane merge with Modern Age Superman and Modern Age Lois Lane. A new merged timeline, which combines both Modern and New 52 histories of these characters, is created in an instant. If you thought Convergence was clunky and messy, Action Comics #976 is right in that vein. If the Superman timeline has indeed changed then the entire DCU timeline has effectively changed as well, which means full reboot. This ain’t a soft reboot. I’m sure a lot of people will say that it is a softie, even comparing it to something like Zero Hour or Infinite Crisis. But that just isn’t the truth. With both Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis, there only really a few cosmetic changes for DC’s big players (Batman and Superman). And in the case of the former, most of Zero Hour‘s bigger cosmetic cosmic alterations wound up being cancelled-out or ignored within a few years’ time anyway.

But just to prove my point, let’s use a character case study to better explain. You can fully alter Vibe’s history and it wouldn’t effect the entire DCU timeline. No offense to Vibe fans, but he’s simply not that important as a character. A change to Vibe would register as a caveat, a minor retcon. But when you fuck with Superman’s history, you fuck with the entire history of the DCU. Along with Batman, Superman is a continuity linchpin of the DCU. To look at Action Comics #976 specifically, it merges two pairs of radically different characters. New 52 Superman was madly in love with and dated Wonder Woman for quite some time. New 52 Lois Lane was only ever a friend to Clark. Modern Age Lois and Clark were in love, married, and had a child together—a child that is 12-years-old at this point! I’m not sure how these things can coexist without a total reboot.

DC, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do! Kyle Pinion, at The Beat, says it best: “Don’t expect a ton of answers beyond hand-wavery on the specifics of how we got here or how the pieces all fit together. Really though, there’s no way Superwoman or New Super-Man could still exist as is, given how specifically tied they are to the events of ‘The Final Days of Superman’ just ahead of Rebirth.” And it’s not just Superwoman and New-Superman. Nor is it just stuff related to recent story arcs. The majority of the New 52 timeline couldn’t exist “as is” without the very specific and detailed existence of Nehru-collared New 52 Superman and solo New 52 Lois. James Whitbrook, at Kotaku, writes: “This obviously has ramifications—monumental ones—that stretch far beyond the lives of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. We have yet to see the evidence of it in the wider DC Comics roster, but this is essentially a brand new DC Universe. Moments from before the New 52 reboot in now exist again, alongside the events of the New 52 universe itself. This is so out of nowhere that I feel like I might have gone slightly insane reading this comic book. DC doesn’t just up and create a whole new universe for its comics without a fanfare. But this has to affect more than just Superman and Lois’ lives, right?” Yes, yes it does. Even Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens basically says it is a full reboot: “The events of Action #976 reset and reshape the entire Superman timeline. Where there had been two Superman [sic], their realities have now been fused into one timeline with just one of them. And, yes, Clark and Lois are back at the Daily Planet. Not only does everyone know they had a child; they were there shortly after Jon was born. The Daily Planet crew has known Jon his entire life.

With all the evidence stacked up before us (or above us), I’d say it it pretty clear that the “rebirthing” has officially begun. Some stories published after Action Comics #976 might be able to fit into both the New 52 and the post-New 52 timeline. But others certainly won’t be able to. It’ll be the new task of the Real Batman Chronology Project to determine how things fit up until Dr. Manhattan takes over.

However, seeing as the big Watchmen reboot event won’t likely come until Summer 2018, we have over a year until the possibility of a new and finalized DC timeline. That puts me at a crossroads of sorts. In the very near future, much of the DCU will be in an interim period, meaning that it will be firmly outside of the realm of the New 52 (reflecting “Superman Reborn” changes) yet prior to any changes that could occur as a result of the Watchmen stuff. In essence, all comics from Summer 2017 until Summer 2018 are the equivalent of a reboot crossover à la the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Big difference is that Crisis lasted 12 issues whereas this “reboot arc” will comprise all of DC comics for a year. That’s a lot of issues. I’m hesitant to make an interim timeline, but maybe it is necessary? After all, “Futures End” was a year’s worth of stories that wound up equalling nothing more than a discardable interim timeline—and I have that catalogued on the site. We’ll see, we’ll see. Any thoughts?

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16 Best Comics of 2016

 
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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

 
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-Saga – Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)
-Flying Couch – Amy Kurzweil (Black Balloon)
-Someone Please Have Sex With Me — Gina Wynbrandt (2dcloud)
-The Nameless City — Faith Erin Hicks & Jordie Bellaire (First Second)
-Boys Club – Matt Furie (Buenaventura)
-Nod Away – Joshua Cotter (Fantagraphics)
-Panther – Brecht Evens (Drawn & Quarterly)
-The Thing Itself – Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
-Nighthawk Vol. 2 – David F. Walker, Ramon Villalobos, et al (Marvel)
-Angel Catbird – Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas (Dark Horse)
-Judge Dredd Vol. 2 – Ulises Fariñas, Erick Freitas, Dan McDaid, et al (IDW)
-Lady Killer – Jaime S Rich, Joelle Jones, Laura Allred (Dark Horse)
-Mooncop – Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly)
-The Vision – Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, et al (Marvel)
-Sot – Joan Cornellà (self-published)
-She Wolf – Rich Tommaso (Image)
-Archangel – William Gibson, Jackson Guice (IDW)

 
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TOP 16 of 2016:

 
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16. Becoming Unbecoming – Una (Arsenal Pulp/Self-published)
becoming unbecoming image
Aiming to explore lived experience within a socio-historical context, this beautifully drawn debut comic really strikes a chord, brilliantly tackling issues revolving around politics, feminism, psychosis, and disability. Una will undoubtedly be an important voice in comics, moving forward.

 
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15. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus — Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)
mary wept over the feet of jesus image
The Bible filtered through the sex-positive lens of narrative legend and master illustrator Chester Brown, who kills it (as he always does). An important book about feminism and sex work, especially keeping the source material in mind.

 
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14. Moon Knight Vol. 8 — Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Jordi Bellaire, Francisco Francavilla, James Stokoe, Wilfredo Torres, et al (Marvel)
moon knight
Step one: Take some of the best artists in the biz today—Smallwood, Francavilla, Stokoe, Torres—and let each draw very different genres, seemingly unconnected from each other? Step two: Take one of the most creative minds in the biz today—Lemire—and let him weave it all together. What do you get? A visual smorgasbord that seems to call-out and beckon you deeper and deeper on the journey into the fractured labyrinth of Moon Knight’s mind. Marvel Comics superheroes have very confusing backstories. And THIS is how you write a superhero that has a confusing backstory. Did I mention Stokoe? He is one of if not the most technically-gifted artist out there today. Worth the cover price just for the select pages he does, featuring werewolves in space. Dig it.

 
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13. Sugar & Spike: Metahuman Investigations  — Keith Giffen, Bilquis Evely, Ivan Plascencia (DC)

Marvel isn’t the only comic book company that has a long and confusing continuity. DC has a ton of obscure and ridiculous items on its nearly 80-year-long chronology. Giffen takes oddball 60s fluff characters Sugar and Spike and masterfully shows us what they’ve become as adults—private investigators that are so well-versed in comic book lore that they are in the exemplary position to sweep some of the superheroes’ more embarrassing continuity bits under the rug. Evely and Plascencia sleekly render some of the more ridiculous parts of DC’s history, making them feel as though they neatly fit into the contemporary world of comics. This is the kind of DC book that reminds DC fans why they love DC.

 
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12. The Mighty Thor Vol. 2 / Unworthy Thor — Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Olivier Coipel, et al (Marvel)
unworthy thor
Jason Aaron continues to be one of the best writers in mainstream comics today, continuing to mark his territory as one of the primary architects of the Marvel line. Aaron made sure that the female Thor wasn’t just a flash in the pan—and, in fact, has come to define the female Thor as THE THOR. Marvel’s ONE TRUE THOR. Oh yeah, and that other guy, the guy that USED TO BE THOR? That’s a damn good Aaron story as well. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, no one in superhero comics writes modern mythology better than Aaron does. In his Marvel, gods are superheroes and superheroes are gods. To boot, an assortment of the industry’s best illustrators and colorists have all contributed to the Thor line, adding exceptionally amazing top-notch artwork to the list of accolades these titles rightly deserve.

 
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11. Silver Surfer Vol. 8 — Dan Slott, Mike Allred, Laura Allred (Marvel)
silver surfer
Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer has been on my Best Of List ever since its debut last year. And it’s just as good as it was last year. The Allreds are the Allreds—their art is as energetic, vibrant, and delightful as it ever was. This trio of creators breathes a new fresh life into one of my favorite—if not my absolute favorite—Marvel character. The Surfer travels through some of the most interesting, bizarre, and truly fun corners of the Marvel Universe, going places that most other writers and artists dare not go, likely because they wouldn’t risk including such potentially goofy material into their modern work. However, the Slott and the Allreds are more than capable of doing just that—and they do it endearingly well. The space highways and cosmic casinos that the Surfer (and Dawn Greenwood) travail are exactly where I’d go first if I was dropped into the Marvel Universe.

 
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10. Rolling Blackouts – Sarah Glidden (Drawn & Quarterly)
rolling blackouts
Glidden’s Rolling Blackouts is an important work of journalism about journalism. Detailing the topically relevant struggles and triumphs of journalists as they go through Syria and Iraq, Glidden tells a complicated, dense story about the horrors of contemporary war (which also shows the plight of Syrians and Iraqi civilians quite well). Glidden’s stylish yet simple cartoon-work, with its light watercolor-ey pastel-ish coloring, adds an elegance and charm to a very darkly serious and complex narrative. This combination/juxtaposition helps gives a depth that make Rolling Blackouts one of the best of the year, without a doubt.

 
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9. Prophet: Earth War — Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & Giannis Milonogiannis (Image)
prophet earth war
Prophet ended this year, and there is little if anything that I can imagine filling the void that will be left behind. Brandon Graham is a unique creator, the epitome of what it means to be “indie.” Prophet has operated as the definitive anti-mainstream comic for years running. I’ve always thought of Prophet as the evolution of monthly comic book publications into something more revolutionary, something unseen yet grounded in the roots of sci-fi, space fantasy, and superheroes at its very bottom foundation. Hopefully, Prophet has inspired new writers and illustrators alike to venture into riskier territory, to tell new stories. As a reader, it has definitely inspired me to think about and engage with comics differently.

 
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8. Monstress — Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda (Image)
monstress
There’s something undeniably sumptuous in the layouts and designs that Takeda contributes to the bizarre and often grotesque world that Marjorie Liu has constructed in Monstress. Set in an alternate post-Victorian Era matriarchy filled with brutal war, strange science fiction, and magick, Monstress falls into the category of steampunk fantasy. I can’t say that this is normally my favorite genre, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t breathtakingly layered storytelling of the highest degree, containing sturdy feminist themes as well. The world-building is impeccable—and Liu and Takeda work as a great team to flesh it all out and give life to their universe. Monstress just plain works as a comic. Strong stuff.

 
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7. Jupiter’s Circle / Jupiter’s Legacy 2 — Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Chris Sprouse, et al (Image)
jupters legacy two
Mark Millar extends his streak of somehow always making it onto my Year End List. Say what you will about the man, but his Jupiter saga is maybe one of the best things he’s done in his long career. If folks in the future look back on his body of work with positive eyes, it’ll be because of Jupiter. It certainly doesn’t hurt that everything Frank Quitely touches turns to solid gold. Quitely does things in Jupiter that he’s never done before, and that is really saying something for such a legendary comics journeyman. Not to mention, Chris Sprouse was born to do throwback superhero stories like this. Can’t go wrong with these artists on board. Page-turning layered storytelling merged with intellectual political commentary—both in the 60s and present day—make this story something that fits neatly into the overarching Millar-mythos, but with greater depth, more focus, and restraint (when needed). A lovely continuation to an already robust arc.

 
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6. Doom Patrol Vol. 6 — Gerard Way & Nick Derington (DC)
doom patrol
I was stoked when DC announced Gerard Way’s unfortunately-titled “Young Animal” line. Pop musician by day, comic book writer by night, Way—a disciple of Grant Morrison that has grown into his own and become one of comics’ best unique voices—delivers a gut-punch that fuses aspects of prior continuity with a fresh take on an old concept. This book definitely fills the Morrison void that I’d been feeling since he stopped doing monthlies at DC. It’s irreverent, bizarre, mind-blowing, and, maybe most importantly, super fun. Nick Derington’s superb art lends itself to Way’s bonkers (yet totally in-control) narrative. Beloved characters are rendered in new but familiar form, blending awesomely with new faces that I can’t wait to get to know more. Excellent read for both fans of the old Doom Patrol and those just jumping on.

 
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5. Hot Dog Taste Test — Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)
lisa hanawalt collin colsher
Lisa Hanawalt, with Hot Dog Taste Test, cements herself as one of the funniest and most-talented comic book makers working today. Off-beat and silly in all the right ways, Hot Dog Taste Test, is a stream-of-consciousness string of cartoon strips that tackle just about whatever seems to be on Hanawalt’s mind at the time. Her charming drawings and gorgeous colors come together to express in great detail all of the nooks and crannies of her mind. There’s political commentary and feminism, deep topics handled deftly with grace and aplomb, all the while sprinkled with brevity and wit, making each page accessible for all. A definite must read for 2016. Looking forward to what Hanawalt bring to the table in the future.

 
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4. Big Kids — Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)
michael deforge big kids collin colsher
No Best of the Year List is complete without a Michael DeForge comic. Big Kids is no exception. It is simultaneously moving, heartbreakingly emotional, devastating, and creepy. DeForge’s art feels both connected and detached from its narrative at the same time as well. To read DeForge is to experience a powerful drug-like effect. This coming-of-age tale reminds me of my own life, my own human experience, sweet sickly nostalgia in general—yet it is decidedly alien, extremely not-of-this-human-world all at once. DeForge has really cornered the market on this type of story-conveyance. He is unmatched, and, combined with his patented highly-stylized limited color-palette art, it makes him one of the great geniuses of the medium.

 
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3. Laid Waste — Julia Gfrörer (Fantagraphics)
laid waste
Sadly, 2016 showed us that the comics industry—both indie and mainstream—is still rife with sexism and bigotry. However, the female, trans, and queer voices made their presence powerfully felt, cutting through the bullshit. On my Top 16 List alone, there are eight female creators. This trend will hopefully continue in the future—and when it does it will be led by the brilliant Julia Gfrörer, writer and illustrator of the earth-shattering Laid Waste. In stark black and white, Laid Waste builds an ethereal world of dark magick and brutality. The art looks, at times, like an engraving or woodcut etching from an illuminated Medieval manuscript, detailing the harsh life of peasants or struggles during witch trials. This frightening glimpse into history reflects our modern day in the scariest of ways. Gfrörer is a talent to be reckoned with. Not many could handle a plague story period piece, and not many could write and draw one that makes you feel like you have contracted Black Death itself as you read it. That is ridiculously good storytelling.

 
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2. Dept. H — Matt Kindt & Sharlene Kindt (Dark Horse)
dept h kindts collin colsher kindt
I’ve talked a lot about filling gaps and filling voids on this Best Of List. And Dept. H is one of those void-fillers. I was bummed when Mind MGMT ended, and was waiting for Matt Kindt to convey something akin to that. Well, I have been floored to the bottom of the ocean with Dept. H, a stunning mystery drawn by Kindt and even more-splendidly watercolored by his wife Sharlene. This duo should make beautiful things until the end of time. Adding elements of sci-fi, murder mystery novels, Hollywood action movies (with the strong female lead!), and a healthy dose of Jacques Cousteau, Dept. H is a nail-biting and exciting read from the start to the finish of each floppy. Kindt’s ability to world-build while telling a captivating ongoing narrative is more than commendable. Sharlene breathes life into each panel, evoking a wide spectrum of emotions–from the bleak claustrophobic desperation of being trapped in a leaking vessel six miles underwater to the unbridled joy of swimming freely in the vast blue sea. Dept. H is a can’t miss title of 2016. Check it out if you haven’t already.

 
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1. House of Penance — Peter Tomasi & Ian Bertram (Dark Horse)
bertram colsher tomasi
I’ve never been to the Winchester House in San Jose, California, but now that I’ve read House of Penance, I might be to freaked-out to visit. Tomasi and Bertram team-up to tell the gothic nightmare “true story” of Sarah Winchester and her mad mansion. Haunted by ghouls that manifest in the form of a sinisterly-tangled conglomeration of dark red blood— a wave of evil tentacles flooding through corridors like in the Shining, drowning those in its path—Sarah is constantly wandering in a world of torturous surreal suspense. The blood-soaked scenery is but one of the many eerie renderings that Bertram couriers to the reader. In the school of Quitely or Stokoe, Bertram is master in his own light—definitely my favorite artist of the past two calendar years. He is a true rising star that will shine brighter than the sun. Make sure you keep your eyes (with sunglasses) on him in 2017. But not only is the art flawless, the entire concept of House of Penance is beyond cool too. It’s truly amazing that Tomasi—usually a Batman and Superman writer—and Bertram have constructed the perfect Gothic horror Western that also concurrently functions as a documentary or bio-pic about the real life Sarah Winchester. It is historical fiction of the highest degree. It’s everything I’m looking for in a title. Dark Horse really did well for itself in 2016. I’m hoping they can do well in 2017 also. Ditto for Tomasi and Bertram, who I hope collaborate again sometime.

 
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Fight

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Been a busy few months—new job, life changes, etc…

But, following the election, now dawns upon all of us the most unexpected change of all. Trump/Pence.

I’ve long turned to comic books as a form of escapism, a place to take my mind off the harshness of reality. When things got rough, the comics were always there, and always making me feel as though my problems weren’t as bad. After all, Gotham City was always more dangerous than the real world, even with Batman’s protection.

Now I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. Villains seem to have won in reality. I don’t feel safe in the real world anymore. And what especially pains me is that I don’t know how or when or even if I’ll be able to shake that unsafe feeling. I fear for my fellow People of Color, my fellow queer people, my fellow good and decent human beings, my transgendered friends and family, my own mother who was an immigrant to this country—ALL are now threatened by this administration.

But despite my fear, I’m going to stand up and fight for what’s right. And I’m going to fight for those who can’t fight. Comic book heroes are inspired by real life heroes. We can all be heroes if we fight. Let’s be active activists, sacrifice a little for the oppressed, donate your time and your money to just causes, combat all evils, protest as much as we can, use your loudest voice, and demand basic human equity for all. I hope the comic book industry does all these things too. Bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia and the like WILL NOT WIN in the end.

Be strong. Be vigilant. Be powerful.

nighthawk collin colsher walker

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