Who in the DC Universe is That? More Obscure Characters
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Too Many Characters
It’s a shame more people don’t know the rich character diversity of the DC Universe.
I knew I had to write this hub, especially after I wrote its counterpart with the Marvel Universe. But a funny thing happened in the meantime; I had a rare unexpected opportunity to rewatch Superman: The Movie (1978). I came in on it right at the best part – the helicopter scene. It’s when Lois is on top of the Daily Planet about to take a helicopter ride to interview the President at Metropolis International Airport. Only a cable comes loose and causes the helicopter to fly out of control and get caught on the roof. Reeve, who was the first actor to portray Superman since the George Reeves version from the 1950’s, introduces Superman to a whole new generation of fans. To this day, I have yet to find a scene from any movie that I enjoy more.
“It’s okay Miss, I’ve got you.”
“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?”
Scores of comic geeks just had a moment. Trust me, there was a disturbance in the Force.
You have to understand, in 1978, readers were in the midst of the “Bronze Age” of comics. The “Silver Age” of playful adventures had ended. While Lex Luthor was a mainstay in Superman, he was the evil scientist with a hate on for Superboy’s ruining his head of hair and blamed Superboy for stealing his limelight. Luthor was a colorful villain who wore the secondary colors of purple and green.
Comic book stories had started to get really interesting. Foes, old and new, began to challenge Superman’s power and the stories pulled in a varied cast of characters. Seven years later, this entire continuity would be gone and a whole new type of storytelling by new authors would come about. Remember, it was in the seventies that we had the first cross publication graphic novel of Superman versus Spider-man.
Villains like General Zod were really obscure and caused more problems in the Phantom Zone than anywhere else. Superman: The Movie and Superman II were meant to actually be one movie – only it would be too long. What was supposed to happen is a story about Lex Luthor and then a story about Jor-El’s enemies of Zod and his cronies.
So, what we had was Superman fighting an old favorite and a really powerful and interesting obscure villain.
DC has more than its share of obscure characters. It draws on these characters and with DC reboot, they bring back many of these characters to be rewritten better, stronger, and more vibrant. Well, all except for the Ten Eyed Man and the Bug Eyed Bandit – Marv Wolfman made sure those characters would spend eternity in the oblivion that birthed them.
Which only goes to show that you can be obscure; you just have to be interesting. I’ve tried to find five more characters that are interesting and not lame. Talking about lame characters for me is fun, but right now, I’m shooting for interesting.
Here’s the latest five.
DC made a bid early on for a hard boiled gumshoe detective who could slug it out with gangsters when they came up with Slam Bradley. Bradley was smart detective who was close to the Robert Downey, Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes. A fighter and a thinker. This guy’s beat? Gotham City.
Slam is a fighter who learned what he knows from the street. He went from city to city to city, learning and fighting while solving cases for the local police. Today, you can find him still operating in Gotham and as Catwoman’s staunchest ally.
This character was the brainchild of no less that Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and Malcom Wheeler-Nicholson. If the first two writers sound vaguely familiar, they’re the two guys that came up with that Superman guy. They were told to come up with an amateur detective who could be brawny and smart with a little bit of torn shirt for a bit of cheesecake for the ladies.
He was one of the first characters to be put out in Detective Comics. His adventures even continued despite the premier of that Batman guy up until 1949. His character then disappeared for twenty seven years.
He was brought back when DC decided to bring in a collaboration of detective characters including Jason Bard, Pow-Wow Smith, Roy Raymond, Christopher Chance (The Human Target), and Mysto (Magician Detective).
He was last seen in Darwyn Cooke’s, DC: The New Frontier, as a partner to Jonn Jonzz, the Martian Manhunter.
Slam Bradley first appeared in Detective Comics #1 (March, 1937)
Ch'p on Amazon
Ch'p as a Green Lantern
It takes all kinds to be a Green Lantern.
For some reason, the Guardians of the Universe chose one of the H’lven, a being who resembles a combination of a squirrel and a chipmunk. He came into the Green Lantern corps the same time Hal Jordan did. His signature move was his “acorn attack”.
No, I’m not kidding.
Ch’p’s biggest problem was he fell through the “cracks” of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. History was rewritten without him and he still existed without anyone knowing who he was. His power ring still worked but his old life was gone. His wife had married his best friend and Ch’p fell into depression and suicidal tendencies. Eventually, he began to spend time with fellow lantern, John Stewart (who was under the influence of Sinestro at the time).
Ch’p met his end when a yellow energy construct of a truck ran him over. We see Ch’p again during the Blackest Night storyline where his undead black ring self comes into fight the other lantern corps.
In many ways, it was sad that a character that was not to be taken seriously met his end in such a comical death.
Ch'p first appeared in Green Lantern vol. 2, #148
Flamebird on Amazon
Superman and Jimmy Olsen as Nightwing and Flamebird
The name “Flamebird” actually belongs to at least five characters.
The original character was a mythological character from planet Krypton. As a counterpart to the Nightwing myth the story was very similar to the Native American folklore of the sun and moon. In the pre-Crisis Universe, this was the inspiration of Superman’s Nightwing and Flamebird, who would be the bottle city of Kandor’s version of Batman and Robin – with Jimmy Olsen being the Flamebird-Robin character.
The Superman and Jimmy Olsen team of Nightwing and Flamebird were retconned out of existence and left to a Krypton vigilante legend that Superman passed to Dick Grayson, who was looking for a new independent identity after his Robin years.
Still, Kandor needed vigilantes. While going undercover in the bottle city, Kara Zor-El (Supergirl) and Power Girl took the mantles of Nightwing and Flamebird. And lastly, the latest Nightwing and Flamebird incarnation was Christopher Kent and Thara Ak-Var who became the avatars of the namesake myths.
But getting back to Dick Grayson, fans of the silver age of Batman stories would remember that Batman and Robin frequently teamed up with two female counter parts of Batwoman and Batgirl. This Batgirl was before Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, or Stephanie Brown. This Batgirl was Bette Kane who was the niece of Kathy Kane (Batwoman). She had discovered Batwoman’s secret identity and became her sidekick.
What the writers had done after that was attempt to make a romantic interest for the silver age, Pre-Crisis, Batman with Batwoman and similarly do the same with Robin and Batgirl. In its time, it was cute and it kept people from inferring that the Dynamic Duo were homosexuals.
Fast forward to Post Crisis continuity, Bette Kane joins the Teen Titans as a character known as Flamebird. This was an “in” joke from the writers who were establishing a character to be with Dick Grayson’s Nightwing.
She has no real powers. However, she is a martial artist and a trained athlete. While she is a competent fighter, her abilities are nowhere near that of Dick Grayson, Batman, or any of the top tier hand to hand combatants.
Bette Kane first appeared as Bat-Girl in Batman #139
Some characters just aint right in the head.
When you have a character that essentially is a failed prototype of an experiment to develop super-speed through cybernetic implants and steroids you have the recipe for trouble. Lady Flash was a member of a super-speed experimental group called Blue Trinity. The success group was the next generation, Red Trinity.
While Red Trinity was able to repackage themselves from supervillains to a super-speed delivery system, the thing that made Blue Trinity the reject batch was their low intelligence and their high emotional instability. When you combine them with super-speed powers and super strength (from the steroids), you mix the nitro in with the glycerine.
Christina Alexandrova, a dull witted over-emotional speedster, broke away from Blue Trinity and joined up with the immortal, Vandal Savage. Savage who was able to get a spare Flash costume gave it to her, in combination with a cocaine addiction, to keep her loyal. After battling Wally West (The Flash), she turned against Savage, and helped West defeat him.
After she tried to obsessively latch on to the Flash (and got rejected), she fell in with one of Flash’s worst enemies, Savitar. She ditched her Lady Flash costume for one that was like Savitar’s (taking the name Lady Savitar) and fought against the Flash, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, and Impulse. She later gets lost in the Speed Force and reemerges to cause trouble.
Unfortunately for her, her fate came when Barry Allen returned and accidentally killed both her and Savitar as part of a calibration issue that Professor Zoom created within the Speed Force. She was disintegrated.
Lady Flash first appeared in Flash (v.2) #6.
Have you ever met any of the night people. These are the people that seem to only come out at night. They aren’t vampires. They are just night people.
Nocturna is one of those. In the Pre-Crisis continuity, an accident removes all pigment from her skin and she can’t go out in sunlight. She manages to get into the Wayne household and has a relationship with Bruce Wayne and becomes a mother figure to Jason Todd. She is almost killed by her former partner, the Night Slayer, and then makes her escape into Pre-Crisis oblivion.
Nocturna returns in the Post Crisis revamp and gets a set of powers which allows her to control people through pheromones. When people smell them, they lose all emotional inhibitions. She was defeated by Robin and the Spoiler.
The Spoiler attempts to make a friendship with her while she’s being kept at STAR labs. She stayed there for a while, however in the One Year Later jump, we see that she’s become a member of the Injustice League and later gets involved with Vandal Savage.
First appeared in (Pre-Crisis) Batman #363 and (Post Crisis) Robin #100.
I tried to keep away from the lame characters, I really did. I just couldn’t resist the obscurity of Ch’p and Lady Flash. One was a rodent Green Lantern and the other was a mentally challenged steroid case with an obsessive disorder to belong.
Normally, making fun of those characters is in order. In this case, I’ll table that to a time where I can find more really lame comic book characters and come up with “Son of the Lame” lame characters part 2. Until then, we’ll just settle for the fact that they are obscure and that few people had heard of these unknown characters.
DC seems to have an abundance of characters that have been thrown by the wayside. And given all of the media opportunities that DC has gotten into (i.e. – The Brave and The Bold, Justice League Unlimited, Batman, and Superman animated series – as well as Arrow and Smallville) dollars to donuts, you’ll see some of them eventually.
Actually, now that I remember the last episode of Arrow, I remember seeing appearances of Harvey Fyres, Deadshot, and Merlyn – three characters who rarely see the light of day outside of villain team ups and the Suicide Squad. Now that Smallville has ended and they even dug up characters as campy as Zan and Jayna, keep your eyes open for any one of the five characters I mentioned.
They could pop up any moment.
© 2013 Christopher Peruzzi