Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 5

April 10th, 2013 by | Tags: , , , , , ,


Alias: Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, Captain Thunder
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (1940)
Powers: The wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. Able to summon lightning by saying, “Shazam”
Other Media: Old-timey film adaptations, had his own live-action show in the 70’s, an animated series, was on Legend of the Superheroes, guest-starred on Justice League, Batman: the Brave and the Bold and Young Justice.

I might as well get the name thing out of the way because I’m sure it’s confusing as hell for people out of the Shazam loop. The magical wizard is Shazam. The superhero is Captain Marvel, only sometimes they call him Shazam, like in current comics and this game. It’s for silly legal reasons that I’ll get to, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to call him Captain Marvel throughout this thing.

It’s a little sad that your average Joe doesn’t know who Captain Marvel is because during the 40’s, he was THE top superhero. Published by Fawcett Comics, his adventures sold more than Superman and Batman. He was the first superhero to get his own movie (which featured him taking out a bunch of enemy soldiers with a gatling gun. Times were different back then). Elvis Presley based his on-stage wardrobe on Captain Marvel’s sidekick Captain Marvel Jr. Captain Marvel was the man.

Only he really wasn’t a man, but a young boy named Billy Batson. Chosen by the wizard Shazam for his purity, orphan news reporter Billy was bestowed the power of becoming Captain Marvel upon saying the word, “Shazam!” Powered by the gods, Captain Marvel fought the likes of Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind and many others. What made the character work was that he was just a kid. It was pure power fantasy. The idea that you could become this great superhero no matter your age.

So what made him so much better than Superman in the nation’s mind? Well, to be brutally honest about early Superman comics, Captain Marvel was interesting. Superman was a novelty act. He was in God Mode, going through the motions, taking out criminals who were no threat to him. Watching him beat up wife-beaters or throw around mobsters was fun in its own way, but even the mad scientist characters didn’t work all that well. It was usually, “Haha! Let’s see what happens when I pour molten lava over Superman! Nothing? Well, shit. What if I send my giant robot forces? Torn apart with ease? Damn it.”

Captain Marvel had an amazing supporting cast for the time. He had your Luthor-like mad scientist in Dr. Sivana, but he also had guys like Black Adam and Captain Nazi who could fight Captain Marvel on his own physical level. His main threat was a mysterious mastermind named Mr. Mind who turned out to be a talking caterpillar with glasses. And after he lost, he got the electric chair! That rules! Then on the other side of things, Captain Marvel had his own Marvel Family. Most notable were his long-lost sister Mary Batson and a little boy crippled by Captain Nazi named Freddy who were each empowered like Billy to become Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. Then there was Uncle Marvel, an old guy who conned people into believing he had powers when he was really just a fat guy in red tights. Best of all was Talky Tawny, a clothes-wearing, talking tiger who hung out with the Marvels.

A talking tiger man. Beat that, Superman!

And so he did. Fawcett Comics got sued for Captain Marvel being a ripoff of Superman. Fawcett could no longer publish Captain Marvel. A lot of ridiculous legal issues snowballed out of this situation (namely the creation of Miracleman and the Gordian knot of headaches that came from that), but the big one was Marvel Comics’ involvement. See, in the 70’s, DC decided to make a deal with Fawcett that they’d license out the release of Captain Marvel comics under their banner. Problem was, during the years when Captain Marvel was off the table, Marvel Comics introduced their own character named Captain Marvel and trademarked the name. That meant that DC could still call their character “Captain Marvel” inside the comic, but they couldn’t promote him as such. In other words, his name couldn’t appear in the very title of his own comics. They had to toss “Shazam” into the title instead.

Captain Marvel and his peeps lived in a separate world than Superman, referred to as Earth-S. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Captain Marvel characters were all streamlined into regular DC continuity, where Captain Marvel joined the Justice League. The big change with him post-Crisis was that Captain Marvel retained Billy’s personality when transformed, albeit still evened out by being endowed with the Wisdom of Solomon. This made him more innocent and upbeat compared to even Superman.

That also led to an interesting storyline when Captain Marvel was a major player in the Justice Society comic. Billy Batson was dating teenage team member Stargirl on the side, who knew about his secret identity. Problem was, the rest of the team didn’t know that Captain Marvel was really a youngster, so when they saw what looked like a romantic connection between this adult hero and an underage girl, they demanded he cut that shit out ASAP. Captain Marvel had to break up with Stargirl because if he came clean about his identity, the team probably wouldn’t take him seriously. Stargirl begged him to reconsider as Billy (so he wouldn’t have the Wisdom of Solomon controlling his judgment), but he refused.

They released a miniseries called Superman/Shazam: First Thunder that told of the first meeting between Superman and Captain Marvel. It ended with probably one of my all-time favorite Superman moments. After Dr. Sivana killed Billy’s best friend, Captain Marvel went on a bit of a rampage. Superman found him in the arctic and was halfway into reading him the riot act when he noticed Captain Marvel bawling his eyes out. Superman was stopped in his tracks and Captain Marvel tried to explain his actions. When words didn’t explain it well enough, he said the magic word and transformed back into Billy. Superman stared at him for a moment until saying, as if he just saw the world’s most bizarre instance of child abuse, “Who did this to you?” Then he barged into Shazam’s home and chewed him out for ruining this child’s life with his magic whims. This action held extra weight due to Superman being relatively powerless against the magical Shazam. The two agreed that while Billy was a child, he needed guidance and Superman ended the story becoming Billy’s mentor.

Around the time of Infinite Crisis, the Spectre went crazy and started a war against all magic, blaming it for all of the world’s sins. Captain Marvel fought valiantly against him, but he was only powered by some gods while Spectre was powered by THE God. Captain Marvel survived the encounter, but when Shazam himself challenged the Spectre, he wasn’t so lucky. Once all that Spectre business calmed down, Captain Marvel took over for Shazam as the keeper of the Rock of Eternity.

Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel each lost their powers. Captain Marvel Jr. earned his back through heroic trials, but Mary got hers back through dark means. Until Flashpoint, Mary’s whole thing was that she’d go back and forth between wanting to be heroic and wanting to wear the smallest black skirt in the world while being evil. The wizard Shazam eventually came back and depowered Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, insisting that they failed him.

During Flashpoint, Captain Marvel was renamed Captain Thunder and instead of just being Billy in an alter-ego, he and a handful of orphans would call upon him not unlike Captain Planet. “Captain Thunder” was one of the original ideas for the character’s name back when the character was initially conceived, but once again, legal issues prevented the promoted use of the name.

Post-Flashpoint, the character is simply known as Shazam. He doesn’t have his own series yet, but has appeared in the pages of the current Justice League comic. The big change is that teenaged Billy Batson is a tremendous asshole and only got the power because he told the wizard that pure-hearted people don’t exist and the wizard was just like, “Welp, good enough.” While Black Adam is out there, ready to fight him, Captain Marvel and his buddy Freddy Freeman intend to use his newfound abilities for profit. So far it’s pretty great.

Captain Marvel’s main role in DC is to act as that guy who can fight Superman head-on. This is best illustrated in his one Justice League cartoon appearance where the two have a crazy knock-out-drag-out fight, as well as the comic miniseries Kingdom Come. Though Captain Marvel’s most memorable moment in that series is standing over Superman and smiling insanely while showing off his gigantic man-bulge. Artist Alex Ross really has a thing for being anatomically correct in his work.


Alias: None
First Appearance: Green Lantern #7 (1961)
Powers: Wields a ring that allows him to create solid constructs out of yellow (or green) light powered by fear (or willpower), flight and other neat bells and whistles
Other Media: Pretty much everything Green Lantern’s been involved with.

On a storyline level, it’s really interesting to have Sinestro as a player in Injustice, considering Superman’s in-game actions are exactly what got Sinestro in so much trouble in the first place.

While Sinestro debuted as simply a villain with a yellow power ring, it was later explained that he was a Green Lantern who lost his way. Coming from the planet Korugar, Thaal Sinestro was an anthropologist and revolutionary whose life was turned upside-down the day a dying Green Lantern crashed nearby and gave him his ring. Then it turned out the dying Lantern’s condition wasn’t as severe as he thought and could survive if given back the ring. Sinestro selfishly left him to die, feeling that he could do much as part of the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro used his power to help the revolution, though the death of his wife Arin Sur (the sister of the guy who gave Hal Jordan his ring) badly affected his ideals.

Sinestro was known as one of the top Green Lanterns and was given the job of training new guy Hal Jordan. Despite Sinestro’s cold demeanor and Jodan’s hotshot attitude, the two mostly got along, partially due to their joint distrust in the Guardians of Oa. Their friendship came to an end when Hal visited Korugar to find out that Sinestro’s desire to protect the planet transformed into a complete dictatorship. In his obsession to create order, Sinestro ruled his own planet through fear, which was totally against everything the Green Lantern Corps stood for. Jordan brought Sinestro to justice and the Guardians had him banished to the antimatter world known as Qward. Meanwhile, to the freed Korugar, its inhabitants from that day regarded the Green Lantern symbol in the same way we regard the swastika.

The inhabitants of Qward created a yellow ring for Sinestro to wield, since they too hated the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro fought against the Green Lanterns, mainly Jordan, for years and always had the advantage. After all, his ring was the weakness of the Green Lanterns while having no weaknesses of its own. Eventually, he was captured and kept prisoner within the Green Power Battery. When Jordan went rogue and stormed Oa, the Guardians decided to let Sinestro loose to fight him, feeling that he was the lesser danger. Jordan defeated Sinestro and snapped his neck, furthering his descent into madness.

It was revealed years later that Sinestro didn’t really die. In fact, that wasn’t even him, but a construct created by himself and the yellow fear entity Parallax from within the Green Power Battery meant to send Jordan over the edge. Sinestro just laid low for a while, negating all the stories DC had done that involved Sinestro’s ghost flying around. Shortly after Sinestro revealed himself to be alive, Jordan came back from the dead. Although Parallax was defeated, Sinestro escaped. He joined up with the Secret Society during Infinite Crisis, since they were also opposing the Green Lanterns, but that went tits up too and he once again escaped.

The Green Lanterns were no longer weak to the color yellow, taking away Sinestro’s advantage. Sinestro sought out the ever-powerful Anti-Monitor and got him to create hundreds of yellow rings like his. Sinestro looked through the cosmos to find aliens of all kind who were capable of spreading great fear. Cool thing was that one of those rings flew to Earth, jumped onto Batman’s finger and then retreated after it realized he had been corrupted by recently wearing a Green Lantern ring. Sinestro and his Sinestro Corps made their presence known by storming Oa and freeing the likes of Parallax, Superboy Prime and Cyborg Superman. The full-out war with the Green Lantern Corps spread to Earth for the big climax.

One of my favorite little moments in all of this was how the guy writing the Sinestro Corps War, Geoff Johns, was also writing Action Comics. Action Comics was telling a story about Superman on Bizarro World that introduced Bizarro Hal Jordan, a hideous and idiotic freak who wore a Yellow Lantern ring. Halfway into the story, he abruptly flew off due to an order from his ring. During the Sinestro Corps War, Bizarro Jordan could be seen being blasted by a Green Lantern in a big group shot.

Despite his overwhelming forces, Sinestro’s side lost. Sinestro didn’t see it as a loss. In order to get the edge to win, the Guardians had to change the laws of the Green Lantern Corps to allow their rings to kill their enemies. Without that failsafe, the Green Lanterns won, but at the same time, Sinestro had molded them closer to his vision. Order through fear.

Various different Lantern Corps started to appear and the War of Light began. Sinestro fought against the Red Lanterns and Violet Lanterns, but all differences needed to be put aside once the Black Lanterns started popping up throughout the universe. If that wasn’t enough, Sinestro was facing mutiny at the hands of the supervillain Mongul, who himself had been recruited into the Sinestro Corps. Sinestro defeated him and imprisoned him in the Yellow Power Battery, concerned that killing him would only bring him back as a Black Lantern.

Due to the events of Blackest Night, all the various Lantern Corps agreed to an uneasy truce, especially between the Green Lanterns and Sinestro Corps. They were all brought together once again to face Krona, a Guardian who had gone evil eons ago and desired all of the Lantern powers for himself. Although Sinestro lost his yellow ring, he watched as Jordan bravely defied Krona and, inspired by his old friend, attacked the mad Guardian from behind. The ring of a dead Green Lantern flew over and forced itself onto Sinestro’s finger, once again making him a member of the Green Lantern Corps due to his immense courage.

This decision wasn’t popular with anyone other than comic fans. Sinestro didn’t want it. The Guardians didn’t want it. Jordan didn’t want it. The Green Lantern Corps didn’t want it and the Sinestro Corps members were absolutely pissed. Green Lantern and its corner of the DC Universe was unaffected by the Flashpoint reboot, but the new Green Lantern #1 started off with Sinestro as the title character. Since he didn’t need to start from scratch, he was easily the most interesting character in DC’s New 52. He was a redemption story for a character who insisted that he shouldn’t have to redeem himself for any of his actions. Whether it was the Green Lantern Corps or the Sinestro Corps, he feels that he never betrayed anybody.

Jordan was stripped of his ring for killing Krona and was sent back to Coast City. Sinestro visited Earth and deputized him with his own ring that Sinestro would have ultimate control over. Sinestro needed Jordan’s help because the Sinestro Corps had taken over Korugar. The two reluctantly worked together and saved the planet from the Yellow Lanterns, which changed the minds of many of the planet’s citizens about how to feel about Sinestro.

The buddy cop adventures of Jordan and Sinestro led to them facing Black Hand, one of the major players from the Black Lantern invasion. After being betrayed by the Guardians, the two Green Lanterns were sucked into Hand’s ring. They found themselves in a dimension of dead souls, but Sinestro eventually figured out a way to escape. By that point, the Guardians had already been defeated by a being called the First Lantern.

The First Lantern has control over all the different emotional colors and has been acting like an emotional vampire, devouring the feelings of different Lantern characters while increasing his ability to change history. Soon, he’ll be able to remake history in his image. In the latest issue of Green Lantern, he fought Sinestro on Korugar. Sinestro protected a group of his people via a force field and a little boy pleaded with him to help. Sinestro looked to him and explained, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, child.”

He succeeded in protecting his people and wounding the First Lantern with his determination and ring-slinging skills. First Lantern then caught Sinestro off-guard by going back a moment and seeing what would have happened had Sinestro failed. First Lantern powered himself on all the hope, anger and fear that Sinestro imprinted into the world and then blew it up. Last seen, Sinestro floated through the rubble and summoned his Yellow Lantern Battery, ready for round 2.

Outside of comics, Sinestro’s most notable appearance is in the Green Lantern movie. There, he was depicted as being a total good guy, even if he was kind a hard-boiled dude. I kept waiting for them to show some character flaw, since we knew that he’d eventually lose his way. Nope. Instead, he just acted like a good guy until the post-credits stinger showed him getting a yellow ring and going evil just because he was a Yellow Lantern in the comics. God, I hated that scene.


Alias: Cyrus Gold
First Appearance: All-American Comics #61 (1944)
Powers: Varying levels of super strength, resurrection
Other Media: Appeared as a villain on Superfriends, Justice League, the Batman, Batman: the Brave and the Bold and Legend of the Superheroes

Well over a century ago, a rich man named Cyrus Gold was murdered and his body was dumped in a place called Slaughter Swamp. He rose from the swamp as some kind of bizarre super zombie with no memory of her previous life. He wandered around until being befriended by some drifters, who took him in as one of them. Of all the things from his previous life, the only thing the walking corpse could remember was that he was born on a Monday. One of the drifters pointed out how that was just like the morbid poem called Solomon Grundy, about a man who is born, lives and dies over the course of one week. The zombie from there on started calling himself Solomon Grundy.

The drifters used him to help steal money from various places, garnering the involvement of original Green Lantern Alan Scott. Scott’s ring didn’t work on wood and for some reason Solomon Grundy’s body was heavily composed of wood. In the 90’s, it was explained that Grundy’s origin was nature trying to create its own plant elemental (ie. Swamp Thing), but failing because there was no fire to go with the water, wind and earth needed for the process. Ergo, Grundy was like some kind of reject prototype version of Swamp Thing.

Green Lantern defeated Grundy by hitting him with a train, but Grundy returned another day. And another day. Again and again. He never stayed dead and went from strictly being an old-timey Green Lantern villain to a Justice Society villain. Then he went on to become a villain for pretty much anyone.

He’d show up so often, but there was rarely ever consistency. Sometimes he would be skinny and lanky. Other times he’d be built like a house of muscle. Sometimes he could talk like a normal person. Sometimes he would only speak in grunts and growls. Sometimes he would only say his own name or even recite the Solomon Grundy poem. Sometimes he’d be weak enough that Batman could defeat him in a fight, while other times he’d be strong enough to trade blows with Superman.

In the 90’s, Grundy briefly became a supporting character in the wonderful series Starman. The series was mainly about the hipster son of the Golden Age hero Starman and his reluctance to take over the mantle. The name “Starman” had been a go-to name for DC over the years with a bunch of characters being given that handle, even if they had nothing to do with the others. The comic was able to find links between all of them, including Mikaal Tomas, a blue-skinned alien named Starman who appeared in one comic in the 70’s. At the time of this comic, Tomas was in an almost catatonic, amnesiac state.

The title character of the series Jack Knight was asked to help find Grundy by Alan Scott’s daughter Jade, who had befriended Grundy before back when she was on the team Infinity Inc. Jack found Grundy, who appeared more timid and innocent than anyone had ever seen. He took Grundy in and Grundy created a kinship with Mikaal, as both were in rather childlike states and got along.

The original Starman Ted Knight was confused over Grundy’s behavior and also disturbed, mentioning how decades ago, Grundy mercilessly killed one of Ted’s friends. Grundy secretly heard this and ran away in shame. He later reappeared to save Jack from a crumbling building, sacrificing himself. His last words were, “Tell Tedstar, I’m sorry if bad Grundy killed Pemberton. Tell Tedstar that good Grundy was good Grundy.”

In an attempt to save Grundy, Jack, Alan Scott, Batman and the Floronic Man magically entered his mind to find out the truth behind Grundy’s decades of behavior. Cyrus Gold was cursed to always walk the Earth. Even if killed, his body would be recreated. It’s just that it would always be inconsistent. Not only in stature and power, but in personality. Gold was a terrible person, so almost all of the time, Grundy had been a monster. It was a rarity that he was to exist as a genuinely kind creature like they had just witnessed. Grundy did resurrect, but not in the way Jack had hoped.

Grundy returned towards the end of the series, part of a teaming up of most of the series’ villains. Grundy was back to his evil self, though capable of conversation. He fought Mikaal, who had also long regained his intelligence. During the fight, Grundy jumped in front of a missile meant for Mikaal. As he died, Grundy swore that he didn’t do it for any stupid sentimental reasons based on their prior friendship, but was unable to come up with a proper excuse.

Grundy made more appearances through the years as a stock villain. When a new Justice League was formed, Grundy showed up as their first villain. In this incarnation, he was both terribly strong and had Cyrus Gold’s full intelligence. His plot was to create a permanent, unkillable android body for himself so he could no longer feel the pain of death and resurrection. Coincidentally, the main story of this arc was that the android Red Tornado had been able to put his soul into a human body so he could be mortal. In the final battle, both reverted to their status quos as Grundy mortally wounded Tornado (who had to return to his robot body) and Tornado tore Grundy apart with his high-level tornado winds, returning him to the never-ending cycle of life and death.

Grundy got his own miniseries based on him having a week to find out the truth about who killed him. It was way too long and wasn’t very good and the only part that was in any way interesting was when Grundy befriended Bizarro Superman (there was a great moment of the two of them sharing the contents of a hotdog cart). Grundy eventually discovered that Cyrus Gold killed himself all those years ago. This revelation was meant to free him from the curse, but then the Black Lantern invasion began and Grundy was one of its soldiers. He fought Bizarro, who ended up destroying his friend by throwing him into the sun.

After Flashpoint, Grundy has only shown up in the Earth-2 continuity, where he’s portrayed as a god of decay. He is currently stranded on the moon, where his powers are worthless.

Grundy is pretty memorable for his appearances on both the Superfriends cartoon and Justice League (where he was basically a tear factory because holy shit, his death scene). In Superfriends, his hillbilly Hulk voice practically made the show and translated well when Cartoon Network did a parody where a meeting with the Legion of Doom fell to pieces once everyone started making demands of having their own utility belts and magic lassos. When Brainiac – who only wore a polo shirt and white briefs – pleaded for a pair of pants, Grundy famously growled, “Solomon Grundy want pants too!” Awesomely enough, “Want Pants Too” is the name of one of Grundy’s attacks in Injustice: Gods Among Us.

My personal favorite Grundy appearance is from Legend of the Superheroes. I’ve mentioned that a bunch of times here, but I’ve never talked about just what it is. Legend of the Superheroes was a pair of hour-long specials (or pilots?) from the late-70’s that begged the question: “What is the Justice League like in the world of Adam West Batman?” Adam West, Burt Ward and Frank Gorshin all reprised their roles while introducing everyone from Hawkman, Sinestro, Huntress, Black Canary, Captain Marvel and more.

While one episode was your basic heroes vs. villains thing, the other was – and I kid you not – an hour-long roast hosted by Ed McMahon. Said roast featured a scene of McMahon trying to coexist with live-action Solomon Grundy and it’s every bit as fantastic as it sounds.

“Can I call you Sol?”

“Grundy’s friends call him Sol!”

“Oh, good!”

“Not good! Bad! Grundy hates his friends!”


Alias: Clark Kent, Kal-El, Superboy, Gangbuster, Jordan Elliot
First Appearance: Action Comics #1 (1938)
Powers: Super strength, speed, endurance, healing, invulnerability, ice breath, x-ray vision, heat vision, intense control over senses, flight
Other Media: EVERYTHING!

Superman was the creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Originally, they worked on a story called Reign of the Super-Man based on a creepy mad scientist trying to take over the world, but reused the name to create what was to be a take on Hercules and Samson, only in modern times. His physical appearance was a bit of a mix between leading actors Clarke Gable and Kent Taylor, hence the name Clark Kent. Possibly based on how Siegel’s father died in a robbery incident, the idea was that Superman would protect people from criminals, ultimately looking out for the little guy.

And so, Superman was a huge hit. Siegel and Schuster famously got pretty screwed by practically being forced to sell the rights to the character to DC for a couple hundred bucks, which led to decades of lawsuits. Hilariously enough, Schuster went on to draw a bunch of S&M fetish comics with characters who looked an awful lot like Superman and Lois Lane in his own form of bitter revenge.

The early Superman comics depicted him as a little on the rugged side. He was ultimately noble, but kind of a jerk compared to how he is now. He was almost a bully in the way he’d delight in throwing common criminals into the distance to teach them a lesson. At the time, his only weakness was Lois Lane, who tended to get captured an awful lot and be used as a hostage. The idea of kryptonite didn’t show up for a few years. In fact, it originally showed up in the Superman radio show and wasn’t brought into comics until 11 years after the character’s first appearance, due to the fact that people were starting to get pretty bored with his constant invincibility.

They did later explain another weakness for Superman in the form of magic. This one gets people confused because the basic idea was that if a sorcerer can turn people into frogs, there’s nothing stopping him from turning Superman into a frog and stomping on him. It’s magic and he has no defense for that. That evolved into the belief that if, say, Captain Marvel punched Superman, it would hurt him even more because Captain Marvel’s fists are laced with magic. It kind of depends on the writer, I guess.

His powers were initially claimed to be from some kind of jump in evolution, but it was quickly changed to him being from Krypton. In a story that remained mostly the same to this day, the planet was going to blow up, Jor-El tried to warn everyone, nobody believed him, so he was able to send his son off to Earth to survive. The rocket was discovered by a kindly couple of farmers and the rest was history. There had been changes over the years. Originally, everyone on Krypton was a super-evolved being, so Superman had those powers by default. They changed it so that his planet had a red sun, meaning that our yellow sun enhanced his physiology. In the 80’s, the Crisis reboot brought up the idea that practically everyone on Krypton was cold and emotionless, with Jor-El and Lara as the exceptions. That concept was also done away with sometime later.

The 50’s to the 70’s gave us the Silver Age of comics and Superman got pretty goddamn weird. Not only did they have years of Superman comics to write, but supporting characters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen each got their own spinoffs, so they used any idea they could get. This was known as the era of Superman being a dick, which gave the internet plenty of fodder with its goofball stories led by a never-ending series of covers that showed Superman in all sorts of nigh-unexplainable situations. The rumor is that the covers would be drawn well in advance and the writers would have to write their stories based on whatever crazy nonsense was going on. Usually, the stories involved Superman teaching his friends a lesson in some way. Superman comics back then were like a fever dream sitcom more than anything else.

My personal favorite wacky Superman cover is one where a villain named the Prankster is mocking him by saying that there’s no law against putting pennies in one’s own ears. Superman, being held back by his supporting cast, looks insanely pissed and screams, “Stop it, Prankster! Stop it or I’ll… I’ll KILL YOU!”

My favorite goofball Superman moment came from the 70’s, where there was an increased emphasis on Clark Kent’s adventures. One of these stories had him as a dance judge at a newly-opened disco. During the competition, he noticed a shady guy from a rival disco sneak in and place bombs in the basement. He couldn’t go do anything because he was forced to watch the dancing and couldn’t blow his cover. Then he stood up, held his arms out and said, “Everybody clear the dance floor!” He started disco dancing, causing Jimmy’s jaw to drop. Shaking his super-ass all over the floor, he stomped down in just the right spots to deactivate the bombs in the basement below. The greatest moment.

He dated a mermaid back in the day too. I don’t know what that was about.

After the Crisis, they rebooted Superman and changed some stuff. Writer and artist John Byrne became obsessed with explaining every little thing about the character. Like how the S on his chest is the Kryptonian symbol for “hope” and since it looked like an S, Lois just coined the name Superman. Or how instead of just being really strong, his powers were some form of telekinesis to explain how his tights never get torn and how he can lift large stuff without it falling apart in his hands. Whatever.

Shortly after the Crisis reboot, Superman ended up fighting Zod, the Kryptonian villain from Superman 2. Other than a strong try a couple years ago, nobody has ever been able to make anything interesting out of that guy comic-wise. Superman defeated Zod, Ursa and Non, but they mocked him and threatened to one day find Earth and destroy it in revenge. Superman, feeling he had no choice, exposed the three of them to kryptonite and killed them. He moped about this for a while and spent some time fighting crime under the name of Gangbuster as his way to deal.

In the early 90’s, Superman finally revealed his identity to Lois and popped the question. For years, Lois had always tried to prove that Clark was Superman, but would get fooled by Superman standing around Clark Kent robots, Bruce Wayne dressed as Clark and even JFK dressed as Clark. Personally, I always liked the version of it from the Superman: Doomsday animated movie. Lois (played by Anne Heche) knew Superman was Clark Kent, but chose not to say anything because if he truly cared about her, he’d come clean. Lois got over Clark lying to her and agreed to marry him, but then Doomsday happened and Superman died.

Like I said back in the Doomsday profile, Reign of the Supermen was a good time. After everyone sulked over Superman’s death for a few months, four replacements showed up with people wondering which one was the real Superman. They were each introduced through a series of four-page segments that depicted their first public sightings. I absolutely love this sequence. A being looking like Superman hunted down and coldly murdered a common criminal. A young-looking Superman escaped a laboratory while yelling at somebody for referring to him as “Superboy”. A large, black man with a giant hammer stumbled out of some wreckage while deliriously muttering that he needed to stop Doomsday. A man who appeared to be Superman flew down to the plaque commemorating Superman’s death and proceeded to melt it down with his heat vision before flying off and revealing a 70% robot body.

All four guys were based on nicknames for Superman. The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Last Son of Krypton. Superboy was called the Metropolis Kid, which I don’t think was ever a term for Superman, but whatever. It was a decent enough mystery with some cool moments. Even when the REAL Superman came back with a black costume and mullet, it was still well done and clever, as he had appeared alive in the comic long before the readers had realized. Superman came back, beat up Cyborg Superman, had three new allies in Superboy, Steel and Eradicator (who got the least amount of play after this story despite being the best fake Superman). Oh, and Clark and Lois finally tied the knot.

Superman kept that mullet for much of the 90’s until his transformation into Electric Blue Superman. They decided to change him up in both appearance and powers, removing his super strength and replacing it with electric powers. Everyone hated it and the only writer who could make it work was Justice League writer Grant Morrison, who eats up that weird crap. Then there was a second Superman who was red and… I don’t even know. Superman returned to normal and nobody ever brought it up again.

In the 00’s, Superman comics were a crapshoot. Sometimes you’d get something truly brilliant, like Joe Kelly’s one-issue story What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way, which later got turned into an animated movie Superman vs. the Elite. Other times, you got, “THIS ENDS NOW!” comics. “THIS ENDS NOW!” is a Superman trope from lazy action sequences where after a brutal beating, Superman’s eyes would suddenly go red and he’d yell, “THIS ENDS NOW!” and punch out the villain as if he just remembered that he was Superman. Glad to see that Superman uses that line during his Clash Attack in Injustice.

The 00’s also gave us Grant Morrison’s brilliant love letter to the character, All-Star Superman. If you ever wanted to give a Superman comic a chance, this would be one of the top choices (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow would also be a top choice). If anything, read it for the heartwarming scene of Superman stopping a teenage girl from committing suicide off a skyscraper. One of the all-time best pages in comic history.

Unfortunately, Superman got pretty bad during the last few years before Flashpoint. The most infamous was Grounded, a story by J. Michael Straczynski, a writer most well-known for creating Babylon 5 and writing most of the episodes of Real Ghostbusters. He used to be one of the better comic writers until becoming the deadbeat dad of the comic book world. Grounded had Superman return from his last big storyline to have a woman slap him because her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor and if Superman wasn’t off saving the world, he could have maybe removed the tumor with his x-ray and heat vision. Instead of congratulating her for being the biggest dunce in Metropolis, Superman moped about it and decided to spend his time walking (as in not flying) across the country to get in touch with his American roots or whatever. It only got worse from there until JMS stopped writing halfway into the story and walked away, which had become his trademark for the past decade.

The Flashpoint reboot showed that during Superman’s initial year of fighting crime, he was again a brasher fighter for the little man like back in the 30’s. Instead of the tights, he wore a Superman t-shirt, cape and jeans. This depiction sadly didn’t last so long. In the new continuity, he’s no longer married to Lois and both of his parents died when he was still in Smallville. He’s less of a superhero father figure and has a bit more attitude to him. I think he has a romantic thing going on with Wonder Woman right now? I don’t know. I stopped reading Justice League a long time ago.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: in the 70’s, there was a comic called Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. Superman boxed Muhammad Ali for the right to save the world from an armada of boxing aliens. You may not believe me when I say this, but the comic is 100% kickass. Trust me on this.


Alias: Diana Prince
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (1941)
Powers: Super strength, speed, endurance, healing, flight, wears unbreakable bracelets, wields a magic lasso that compels people to tell the truth
Other Media: Showed up on pretty much any DC cartoon, had her own live-action TV series, an animated movie and a failed pilot

Wonder Woman started out like many of the superheroes from the early 40’s by fighting Nazis and stuff because of World War II being such a big deal. Thing was, her comics were really weird. Not weird in the “Superman shoots tiny Supermen out of his hands” weird, but more in an unsavory way. Like, Superman’s weaknesses back in the day were kryptonite and Lois being used as a hostage. Green Lantern’s weakness was wood. You could easily write multiple stories based on that. Wonder Woman’s weakness was being bound by her lasso. Which happened all the time. Wonder Woman’s comics were bondage fetish stories in the form of superhero stories, which helped keep sales strong when superhero comics in general started to dwindle in sales. The fact that she was seen as a great feminist figure in light of this didn’t hurt either.

The original idea behind the character was that Diana lived on an island of Amazons known as Themyscira and an American soldier named Steve Trevor ended up there, terribly injured. Diana nursed him back to health and her mother Hippolyta decided that someone from their island should help the Allies fight the Axis Powers. She held a tournament to decide and against her mother’s wishes, Diana competed and won. Then she stole the identity of a military nurse so she could stay nearby Steve and eavesdrop to find out information for where she’d be needed.

In the 60’s, they added more of a mythological edge to the character by having her empowered by the gods. It was explained that Diana was actually a sentient statue. Hippolyta created a little girl out of clay and prayed to the gods to give her a daughter. The gods accepted Gepetto—I mean, Hippolyta’s wish and transformed the statue into flesh and blood.

During this time, Wonder Woman’s comics started dedicating a lot of time to her adventures as a teenager and then her years as a little girl. Then the three versions of Wonder Woman started teaming up. Somewhere along the line, they decided that the teenage Wonder Woman should be her own character and gave her the identity of Wonder Girl, otherwise known as Donna Troy. Donna is the most boring clusterfuck of a character in comic history, so I won’t mention her again.

In the early 70’s, a writer decided to spruce up the character concept by completely changing what Wonder Woman was about. She sacrificed her powers to remain on Earth and spent a year fighting crime with her judo skills, looking like something out of Austin Powers. It was thought that she’d be considered more of a feminist ideal if she was more Batman than Superman, but female readers rejected it and wanted her super strength and star-spangled outfit back.

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wonder Woman’s series became a huge hit thanks to writer and artist George Perez. He dove even deeper into Greek mythology and rebooted her story so that she was a representative sent by Themyscira to help bring peace to the world. In this incarnation, Diana found no reason to have any kind of dual identity.

Over the years, Diana lost the mantle of Wonder Woman one way or another and was briefly replaced by Amazon friend Artemis and later Hippolyta. John Byrne wrote a story where Hippolyta went back in time to the 40’s to fight alongside the Justice Society as a way to explain how Wonder Woman was able to be a member of that team when she existed in the present. Only this didn’t need to be explained in any way because, you know, continuity was rebooted!

Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman became known as DC’s Trinity, being their top three characters and all. Naturally, Wonder Woman would be paired up with each of them. Based on their relationship on the Justice League cartoon, Wonder Woman and Batman had a bit of a fling, but since DC didn’t want to make that last, they just did a cool issue where Wonder Woman saw various possible futures of where that pairing would lead to. Perhaps Wonder Woman would have murdered the Joker to avenge Batman’s death despite Batman’s final words telling her not to. Perhaps Batman would have led the charge against Hades’ army. Perhaps Wonder Woman would have fought alongside him as the new Batwoman, becoming more violent in her actions. Perhaps the two of them would have cleaned up Gotham and allowed Bruce to finally feel hope again. Either way, the two decided to call off the relationship.

She had tried getting with Superman, but he turned her down due to his loyalty to Lois. That said, Superman/Wonder Woman is a pairing that’s shown up numerable times in non-canon stories, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us. The most notable instance of them becoming a couple is Kingdom Come, where they ended the story by asking Bruce to be the godfather of their new baby.

What separated Wonder Woman from Superman and Batman – outside of the ovaries – was that she didn’t share their zeal for making sure that nobody died ever. She was a warrior and made no bones about it. While nobody seemed to have much of a problem with her beheading Medusa on live TV, things became really strained for everyone when Wonder Woman twisted the neck of Max Lord. Lord was a former government liaison to the Justice League with minor mind control abilities. He focused his power on Superman for years, burrowing down into his brain until getting full control and at one point making him beat Batman half to death under the belief that he was fighting Darkseid. Wonder Woman wrapped Lord with her magic lasso and demanded to know how to release Superman from his control. Lord said she’d have to kill him and she granted that. Unfortunately, the footage of the murder was broadcast across the world without any context.

A few years ago, J. Michael Straczynski took over writing duties on Wonder Woman and people made a big deal over it because they were finally giving her pants. It was about time because iconic or not, it was hard to take a scene of Superman and Wonder Woman comforting a distraught Alfred over Batman’s death seriously when Wonder Woman had blue spandex creeping up her crack. While the pants were welcome, the new design looked pretty atrocious. Not that it really mattered. JMS stopped writing halfway into the story as he’s wont to do and they brought back the star-spangled swimsuit.

After Flashpoint, Wonder Woman’s series became one of the consistently better DC comics. The series is based on the revelation that the story of Diana being a magic statue is completely false. In actuality, Hippolyta got mad rutty with Zeus way back when and Diana came from that. The goddess Hera took revenge on Hippolyta for this and Wonder Woman’s been gathering together all of Zeus’ bastard children from across the globe. One of them is late musician Wesley Willis. Not even kidding.

Oh, and when the new Wonder Woman series was announced, the promotional art had her wearing pants. By the time the first issue came out, her pants were gone. I don’t know.

Wonder Woman had a hit show in the 70’s, but these days, Warner Bros hasn’t been able to commit to giving her another shot. They did create a TV pilot in 2011 starring Adrianne Palicki as “Diana Themyscira”, Elizabeth Hurley and Cary Elwes. I’ve only seen a couple minutes of it, but it’s embarrassing in how laughably terrible it is. I’ll sum it up with this quote, said by Wonder Woman in a board meeting: “I never said to merchandize my tits!” Yeah. Lovely.

Joss Whedon wanted to direct a Wonder Woman movie with emphasis on the mythological aspects of her character, but Warner Bros turned him down. Instead, he went on to direct one of the most successful superhero film adaptations of all time. Great move, guys.


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13 comments to “Guide to the Injustice Roster: Explaining Comics to People Who Don’t Read Comics Part 5”

  1. “Instead, he went on to direct one of the most successful superhero film adaptations of all time”? I think you mean THE most successful. From a financial standpoint, at least.

  2. You left out the main detail of the JLU Solomon Grundy two-parter – him going toe-to-toe with Cthulhu. (Well, okay, the serious feels from the end of that and the reappearance where Hawkgirl has to put him down.)

  3. You know what I wanted, pre-new52? For Solomon Grundy to be reborn with average intelligence and zero interest in stirring shit. “Look, if I go out of the swamp, all the superheroes in the world are gonna assume I’m rampaging, shit will go down, I’ll get killed, and I’ll be an oaf. Again. So I’m gonna chill in Slaughter Swamp, see if I can get cable and WiFi. Don’t start none, won’t be none. Okay?!?”

    Gavok . . . I HAVE to know. What issue can you find Disco Clark Kent? That sounds awesome.

  4. Oh, and now it’s done. I shall miss it. Very pleasant to read, punctuated with snark.

    Also, periods and commas go inside the quotation marks: “like this.”

  5. @Jason: Superman Family #196

  6. Aww, it’s over. Now I’m hoping whatever DLC characters are down the pipe have a convoluted backstory to write up. Too bad Ghost Rider is Marvel…not only cod you write pages on his idioticly finagled backstory, Netherrealm could also recycle a lot of Scorpion animations…

  7. I really wish DC would have actually done something with the idea of Superman mentoring Captain Marvel, it’s a cool concept that would put Supes in a very magic based world, which is totally out of his comfort zone, and having two of the most powerful characters in the DC universe flying around together would probably lead to some massive, wondrous stories.

  8. Wow that was a really informative bio of Capt. Marvel. I’ve been a comic fan for like 25 years now but I’m still reading these and learning things I didn’t know.

  9. decided to look up Legends of the Superheroes because that sounds like the best thing ever.

    ” New characters featured include Ghetto Man, an African-American superhero who performs a stand-up comedy routine; ” :raise:

  10. The big problem with Captain Marvel is that he works because of the tone of his stories. Best thing would be to make him a major player in DC’s kid-friendly books, where you could go nuts with the talking tigers and wicked worms, like in the old days when Captain Marvel was on top.

    This is not to say that old CM stories were free of violence and even gore, but they didn’t wallow in the violence. You wouldn’t have to worry about, say, Pantha’s head getting knocked off and spurting blood as it rolls around. At worst you’d see it bounce off-panel with a dotted line, and Captain Marvel saying “Holey Moley! I didn’t expect her head to come clean off”; but it’s much more likely they wouldn’t even have gone there.

    Anyway, there have been a couple kid-friendly CM series over the past couple years, and while they didn’t sell that well, I think they could. Really, DC needs to push its kid-friendly books a little heavier, maybe market them more as “all-ages fun”.

  11. That’s beautiful. Thanks, Gavok!

  12. Another great Sinestro appearance: the one episode from the Green Lantern Animated Series featuring him.

  13. It is weird to read all these stories because it seems that every DC superhero was once a young orphan asshole named Peter Parker who got bitten by a radioactive lightning bolt.