Robot 6

A copse of obscurity

Grumpy Old Fan

Grumpy Old Fan

At the height of DC’s big-event mania, it was almost a running gag that a forgotten DC character (most likely an obscure Teen Titan) would be decapitated, dismembered, or otherwise used as cannon fodder for the likes of Superboy-Prime or Black Adam.

Therefore, now that the dark period is apparently coming to a close, I thought it would be nice to look at some dust-gathering DC folk who might benefit from the occasional guest appearance. Take last week’s Justice League #41, for instance. A flashback featured the 18th-century characters Tomahawk and Miss Liberty, who found an otherworldly artifact examined in the present day by scientist Darwin Jones. Later in the issue, Troia finds Batman and Robin taking out the Yellow Wasp (who both she and I initially misidentified as Killer Moth).

To be sure, DC is no stranger to reviving obscure characters. Conversely, it could fill quite a few issues with characters we’d be just as happy to leave in limbo. Therefore, it wasn’t easy finding characters wrongfully denied the spotlight … but I tried nonetheless.

Accordingly, in alphabetical order, here are some folks I wouldn’t mind seeing again under better circumstances.

* * *

As part of a Superman-free alternate reality shown in 1994′s Zero Hour, the Alpha Centurion was Metropolis’ hero, and also Lois Lane’s boyfriend. Although this timeline was eventually wiped out, pretty much the same guy returned about a year later, in The Adventures Of Superman #527 (September 1995); and even in the regular timeline the “Lois Lane’s boyfriend” thing remained a source of tension. By way of origin, AC was an ordinary second-century Roman soldier named Marcus Aelius until he was abducted by aliens, trained in the heroic arts, and returned to 20th-Century Earth. For a while he was head of Team Luthor, the corporation’s battle-armored private security force; but Lex Luthor ended up running him out of town. From what I can tell, his most recent appearance was in December 1996′s Superman: The Wedding Special.

I’ve mentioned Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld a few times in this space, but one more won’t hurt. While Amethyst isn’t connected especially strongly to the DC superhero line, she did appear in an Infinite Crisis cameo and as a Lord of Order she’s connected to Dr. Fate. However, because she started out as an Earth teenager, her roots are fairly mundane. Ideally, her adventures would have been collected by now, and she’d be helping expand DC’s readership. All that notwithstanding, I could see her showing up in a Phantom Stranger-esque expositional role, guiding the Justice League and/or Justice Society through some magical conundrum.

The Butcher was a Native American superhero created by Mike Baron and Shea Anton Pensa. A Lakota Indian who became an Army Ranger, he debuted in a 1990 miniseries, and reappeared in a 1991 Brave and the Bold miniseries alongside Green Arrow, Black Canary, and the Question. I never read either miniseries, but he strikes me as the kind of coldly-competent fighter who’d fit neatly into a wide variety of guest-star roles. He did have a cameo in Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow, but I’m surprised he hasn’t been used more often, especially in Chuck Dixon’s ‘90s heyday.

Arguably, the Challengers of the Unknown don’t need special attention, but the last time we saw them (in The Brave and the Bold #12) they were on the trail of one of their own. I have a feeling the Challs’ search for June Robbins would have been explored further if Mark Waid had kept writing B&B, but it would be nice to check in with them regardless. Although the Challengers are DC’s non-powered version of the Fantastic Four, with experiences comparable to any superhero team, they still come across more as ordinary folks leading extraordinary lives. That makes them both “realistic” (relatively speaking) and Silver Age-y, not unlike the Blackhawks or Adam Strange. In fact, for an ostensibly more “realistic” team, I wouldn’t mind seeing the late-‘90s Challengers team reunited. That take on COTU seemed to draw heavily on an X Files-ish atmosphere of creeping dread, and its characters were more downbeat as a result. At the very least, the Challengers are a fine way to show the superheroes from a different perspective.

The mysterious Faith ran the risk of Mary-Sue-dom when she was introduced during JLA’s “The Obsidian Age.” Showing up out of nowhere with her credibility resting largely on an absent Batman’s recommendation, she stayed with the League for a brief period before moving over to the Doom Patrol. Her powers are vast but undefined, she has a mysterious background, and she exudes an aura of trust and confidence which helps groups work together. In other words, she is potentially all sizzle and no steak, and a little more definition might do her some good.

Itty, or “That Thing On Hal Jordan’s Shoulder,” was created by Denny O’Neil and Mike Grell when they were producing Green Lantern backup stories for The Flash. Basically a little alien worm whose race Hal saved, Itty gave Hal someone to talk to during those lonely treks through Space Sector 2814. He appeared off and on from December 1975′s Flash #238 through July 1978′s Green Lantern #106. Once GL got his own book back, though, he was paired again with Green Arrow, which kind of left Itty out in the cold. Indeed, GL #106 (also by O’Neil and Grell) wrote the little guy out of the series, having him metamorphose into a humanoid and leave Earth. Readers next saw Itty in 1993, when Hal helped him and his mate fight off their mortal enemies and repopulate their species. Itty probably isn’t on Geoff Johns’s radar (sarcastic mentions at conventions notwithstanding), but it might be a nice change of pace to check in with him once all the sturm und drang is over.

A few years ago Dave Campbell took down Signalman thusly: “[b]ack in the day, all you needed to be a Batman villain was a gimmick, an ugly-ass costume, and a wildly unrealistic sense of confidence.” These things are all true, especially the costume. Decked out in orange and yellow, Signalman certainly stood out in gloomy Gotham. Regardless, he had his moments — off the top of my head I remember his stint with the Secret Society of Super-Villains, when he used a blinking neon sign to hyp-mo-tize a crowd into subduing the Darknight Detective. People made fun of the Riddler for essentially blabbing his schemes ahead of time; and while Signalman has all the subtlety of a traffic cone, at least he doesn’t have that hangup. He still makes occasional cameos in crowded events like Final Crisis and Trinity, and his last real contribution I remember was as a drug-addled informant in Brad Meltzer’s first Justice League arc. Thus, I presume that he still has some appeal. What’s more, he’s one of the few super-criminals who actually has two criminal identities, having also caused trouble as the trick-arrow-shooting Blue Bowman. There’s a Batman/Green Arrow/Two-Face story waiting to be written, I’m sure.

Not long after John Ostrander started writing Firestorm (in the late ‘80s), he included a Soviet citizen in the Firestorm matrix. Naturally, this took ‘Stormy to the U.S.S.R., where he encountered the teen super-team Soyuz. Led by the psionic Firebird, Soyuz included the whirlwind Vikhor, the electricity-projecting Perun, the water-controlling Rusalka, and the cold-manipulating Morozko. They adopted secret identities for a very good reason: to hide from the KGB. A little better than amateurs, but definitely not pros, they had a certain charm; but they’ve since fallen between the cracks. Here’s hoping some glasnost comes their way.

Batwoman wasn’t the only character promised a big springboard in 52. Grant Morrison said he had big plans for Super-Chief, a Native American superhero; and sure enough, an updated Super-Chief appeared in 52 #24. The character’s unfortunate death, also in that issue, seemed to preclude future appearances. However, Morrison told Newsarama that “[i]f there had been space in the last issue I would have included a coda to the Super-Chief story. I had plans for [his] return but we couldn’t fit them in when issue #52 went from 52 pages to 40. I’m sure he’ll turn up somewhere else.”

Now, I have always been under the impression that Morrison was including Super-Chief in 52 at least in part because of the character’s cheese value. It’s not as if great cries were arising from the people for more Super-Chief. Still, if Morrison thinks the character’s been shortchanged, maybe he’s not gone for good.

Finally, I have tried to stay away from characters who are currently dead, because until I see how Blackest Night handles its body count I don’t want to presume too much. This means I can end with Tomorrow Woman, who was brought back to life by semi-complicated means in Trinity. (The short version is that she comes from an alternate timeline where she never died.) TW started out as the android creation of Professor Ivo and T.O. Morrow, designed to destroy the Justice League from within; but during her brief stint as a Leaguer she rebelled against her programming and sacrificed herself in the process. Trinity’s alternate timeline found her replacing Superman in Metropolis, even maintaining the secret identity of Clara Kendall, WGBS reporter. At the end of that series, the divinely-powered Trinitarians brought her into the restored timeline and made her human — but presumably with the “four-lobed mutant brain” which was part of the android’s original cover story. After all that, it would be the height of irony for her to become a Black Lantern, so don’t get any ideas, Johns! Might be nice to have “Tommie” help out the Birds of Prey, if she doesn’t show up first in Justice League.

* * *

Just to be clear, I recognize that recycling old characters in hopes of making them “cool” is often a futile task, and it plays into fannish impulses which may well be tremendously unfulfilling. By no means am I saying that DC’s professionals should stop creating new characters. Instead, it’s more like reforestation: for every Bushido or Pantha cut down in a big fight scene, let’s have a decent Signalman or Itty story. Pretty soon, your woods are nice and healthy again.

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Comments

45 Comments

I think Marvel is similar only in the fact that if a character doesn’t work, they forget about them. I would like to see some new characters at both of the biggies, new blood always helps.

No love for any Aztek successor.

And Moon Maiden. Can’t forget JLA’s missing member Moon Maiden, ret-conned into continuity in the same way as Marvel’s Sentry; last appearance in a panel in the JLAvengers crossover.

I believe the Butcher was actually creator-owned by Mike Baron and Shea Anton Pensa (a rarity for a character in the DC Universe), so the chances of him showing up again are probably fairly slim.

Two words: Wild Dog

you should have mention swamp thing since he has not been seen after his last book endeded though Dc still has to find a way to get him out of the clutches of vertigo.

Itty vs. Mr. Mind — nuff said.

For me it’s gotta be Zauriel. Number 2 is Resurrection Man. And also a new Aztek.

Zauriel and Resurrection Man would be great secondary members of the JLA. Aztek would be a fun member of any team.

Or put them all on one team, merge them with the remnants of the Seven Soldiers of Victory from Morrison’s mini, and have an incredibly low selling but potentially awesome book.

Scare Tactics, The Ravers, Chase, and Xer0.

Believe that Faith was “killed” at the start of the current, Keith Giffen incarnation. A technicality, to be sure…

Love me some Soyuz! Thanks for bringing back so many good memories!

The Irredeemable Shag
http://firestormfan.com

Chase has been a supporting character for Manhunter.

I’m not sure where Bloodhound ever fit in. Scare Tactics and The Ravers should be hanging out together. And I think Xer0 was creator-owned.

Signalman!!!!

This costume needs to be seen more often, at least. Team him with the Spook, and I can’t get my money to someone fast enough!

The Android Hourman, Zauriel, Resurrection Man, the Global Guardians, and Artemis should be used as guest -stars. DC has so many characters tragically left to rot in obscurity and so many who are simply overused, i.e., Superboy-Prime.

I agree with Amethyst. I’ve always liked her.

Good article, Grumpy!
I always thought Alpha Centurion had some untapped potential. Given the popularity of movies like “Gladiator” and “300″ i’m surprised no one’s thought to dig him up.

Son of Vulcan would be cool too. the mini series a few years ago was pretty good, and i know he had a cameo in teen titans when they fought the “future titans.” He might even make a good sidekick for the above mentioned Alpha Centurion!

Global Guardians has so many possibilities in this day and age, it seems like a no-brainer. I hoped their recent appearances in Green Lantern would lead to something.

Gotta second the love for Amethyst. Why DC hasn’t reprinted her series or properly re-introduced her, I will never know. Amy Winston is awesome.

Wild Dog appeared recently in Booster Gold of all places.

I’m hoping to see more of “Tommie,” too.

I LOVED Alpha-Centurion, and I agree, another powerful hero in Metropolis could be cool indeed. I was very pleased when they brought back Agent Liberty, and was disappointed that he got taken out so quickly – another character from the Weekly Superman era that I really liked, and could have stood to see more of.

I think Meltzer’s take on Rocky Davis as the father confessor of the DCU from Last Will & Testament, and Giffen’s picked it up in Doom Patrol. I think the role of the Challs are as the elder statesmen of the DCU, they guys you can go and get advice from about the actively weird crap. Prof Haley is and should be the Reed Richards of the DCU – he’s certainly in that top ten smartest people of which Michael Holt is #8, and he’s likely higher than Michael.

I’ve been saying that Amethyst could easily be a new property for young girls if they chose to bring her back to her roots, or a strong mystical character if they chose to stick with what they’ve done so far.

Of course, creating new characters would have the same effect as bringing back old and obscure ones – give new readers someone to get excited about. Both James Robinson and Grant Morrison have recently created a mess of new heroes from England and all over the world, characters that are somtimes nothing more than a name, but were interesting enough that I want to know more in a big way. With all the villains Grant created and referenced in the latest B&R, I’m amazed he didn’t fold in Lord Marmaduke Fogg and Lady Peasoup.

I’d like to see Kole brought back, and re-united with the REAL Titans. It would be good to see Amethyst again as well – as long as they DON’T start up the Dark Opal war again.

I loved the Super-Chief part of 52 (especially the brief JLA membership…is it wrong that I looked forward to a Firestorm/Ambush Bug/Firehawk/Bulleteer/Super-Chief line-up than I have anything in the proper book) and hope that Morrison will bring him back at some point (or somebody will take a cue from Morrison).

I’d also be down for more Alpha Centurian and Tomorrow Woman.

Two notable (at least in my mind) exclusions: The Heckler and Argus, a New Blood character who I really dug during Waid’s Flash run.

An itty like character appeared when Hal Jordan meets Larfleeze as, I’m guessing a homage. I think Larfleeze ate him.

didn’t Black Lantern Super-Chief appear in the BN Weird Western Tales issue?

at some point, I’d like to see Tyler, the android Hourman make a full fledged return to the DCU.

“now that the dark period is apparently coming to a close,”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

After all, it’s people like Didio and Johns who are to blame, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere. And they already ran the “things are going to get less dark!” line by us once (back during Infinite Crisis.)

I also believe that Amethyst could be reinvented in a way that would appeal to female readers or fantasy-loving ones today. But they already screwed her *horribly* in her final issues and have no reason to believe they would handle her any better now, so I hope she remains in limbo.

I enjoyed Hero Hotline. I always thought it’d be interesting if Miss Terrific from that series turned out to be Roulette from the JSA series. I think JSA should pick up on this since writer Bob Rozakis intended the mysterious Coordinator to be Tex Thompson, though he didn’t reveal this until 12 years after the fact.

I usually don’t speak well of the 1990s in comics, but DC had an amazing number of interesting introductions from about 1997 on: Hourman III, Aztek, Resurrection Man, Walker Gabriel, Zauriel, Cameron Chase, Young Heroes in Love, Vext, Young Justice. That was a great time to be reading DC with solid JLA , JSA, and Flash books and great crossovers like DC one Million. It’s shame that period seems to get ignored.

Now Carter, Barry, Ollie, and Hal are back and that period they were gone seems like a hiccup.

The Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon has used a huge number of obscure characters.

I always liked the third Atom (aka Adam Cray) who was Ray Palmer’s hand-picked replacement. Cray recently turned up as a Black Lantern. Also: Whatever happened to the version of the Harlequin from Green Lantern Corps Quarterly who was set up as Alan Scott’s nemesis, appeared six or seven times, and vanished? A slew of second drawer mystics haven’t been seen in a while including Mr. E and Mark Merlin and space heroes like Star Hawkins and Chris KL99.

I’d enjoy seeing Agamemno (2000 Silver Age crossover) again. Here are a few characters I think have a lot of untapped potential: Carnivora (Power Girl), Chllier (Booster Gold), Damien Darhk (Titans), New Conglomerate (JLA- Qwardian duplicats of a few second stringers with cool designs), Moonman (Batman/Superman- ultra obscure but was in a c omic I bought for a quarter way back when), SKULL (Superman- where have they been? and their friends at SPIDER?), and Warlock of Ys (Green Lantern- I thought he was much better than a two panel brush off in JSA a few years ago).

Thanks.

This is the first time I have read Grumpy Old Man. Obscure superheros are a thing with me.For some reason, BACK IN THE DAY, there I said it in caps no less, I was always reading titles like Turok Son of Stone,Solar,Magnus and other Gold Key denizens over Superman,Batman and their related universes. I hope their Dark Horse reboots do them justice. I wasn’t following comics during their stint with Valiant.When I did read DC I tended to follow Green Lantern and Flash until Fantastic Four, early X-Men,and early Spiderman came along.I think the main problem with reviving some of the older characters is both DC and Marvels obssesive need to drag older characters into the DCU and Marvel’s current continuity whether they belong there or not .I mean with the current Red Circle/JSA team ups between Shield and Magog working quite nicely could we leave at that without Shield or Web becoming adjunct JSA’ers or Kid Magog joining Teen Titans? Bring them back in their own continuities First Wave style and leave it at that.Same thing with new characters. Do we really need the Milestone group grafted on to the sometimes not so greater DCU?

I believe Young Heroes in Love was creator-owned or something. An amazing series that I still feel nostalgic about! Amethyst was pretty good too, but she really works better in a series set in her own weirdly creepy high fantasy world than as just another mystical superheroine helping out the other DCU heroes.

Soyuz and Global Guardians, not so much potencial, IMO. What is it about international heroes in the DC Universe that makes them always bland, except when they’re created AND written by Grant Morrison? To tell the truth, I don’t really remember Soyuz very well, but since it’s John Ostrander, then may be I should re-read.

I want some Triumph redemption….I loved the character, but hate that he turned evil…..

Also, some of the New Bloods would be nice, like Edge……He was pretty cool, but hardly ever seen again…Joe Public, Layla, and Loose Cannon need to comeback as well…

Monkey Knuckles

February 8, 2010 at 2:50 am

Air Wave – Harold Jordan, in the original green and yellow costume. I loved him back in the day as a back up feature in Action Comics and Green Lantern. I hated the yellow and blue Superfriends derivative costume they gave him prior to his death. Bring him back!

Cheers

Faith has not necessarily died by Giffen – she simply disappeared with the gorilla. Giffen has said in Doom Patrol boards it is not the end of her story.

I forgot to mention The Extremists! I’m talking about the original, Bart Sears-designed version of the team. i don’t know what they tried to do with them during Countdown, but i think it’s safe to say that everything that happened in that story can be ignored.

David, Salt Lake City, UT

February 8, 2010 at 8:29 am

I could have sworn I saw Amethyst in a BN issue somewhere. Triumph died when the Watchtower was destroyed by Superboy Prime. He didn’t go evil, he just became maniacal and obsessed with his “destiny.” Maybe he will return as a BL. Apparently in a recent BATB story it was revealed he had a son.

I’d like to see some reference to Moon Maiden but don’t necessarily need her to return. The story that featured her wasn’t all that great anyway.

Aztek, the new one, would be nice to have back. Liked Zaurel though I hate that new costume. Resurrection Man was cool and I’ve wondered how he plays into the Blackest Night story since he’s died a million times.

Faith would be cool in a new group I think. Outsiders maybe. I wish Tomorrow Woman had stayed dead. If they acknowledge that the new one is an alternate-timeline version in-story I’d be good with that though.

Airwave maybe if he could be given the right role to play. I’m always about Snapper Carr though, wish DC could decide what to do with him. Last seen in the abysmal 52: 4 Horseman and mini-series and Final Crisis: Resist he was now a Checkmate agent though his characterization and (lack of) powers has been wildly inconsistent ever since he resurfaced for good back during the Hourman series in the late 90′s.

That wasn’t Faith who died in the newest Doom Patrol incarnation, it was Nudge, one of John Byrne’s additions from the previous incarnation. Faith is presumably still out there, somewhere, doing who knows what.

I want to know what ever happened to Baby Boom, Kritter, and Penny Dreadful, the only members of Helix not to show up in any major way since the end of the first Infinity Inc’s run. (Though frankly, given what James Robinson did to those he brought back in Cry for Justice…)

Since Loose Cannon was mentioned I won’t do so again (oh, wait. I did.) I would like to see the return of Gunfire. He needs no weapon, he is a weapon.

It would also like to see the return of Thorn, she was last seen (by me) in the Superman titles of the 90s with her ankle wrapped.

I’ve thought for a long time that Amethyst would be perfect for a revival in a manga style–she was probably the first “magical girl” that a lot of us here in the states encountered, long before anything significant of that genre of manga/anime hit the U.S.

But personally, I’d settle for her original maxi-series being reprinted in a nice trade collection. I’ve been making an effort to give the gift of comics to my friends’ children for birthdays and Christmas, and Amethyst would be an excellent candidate, but picking the series up as back issues would be a tad pricey.

There’s a gorgeous pic of Amethyst over on Colleen Doran’s blog. I know who I’d like to see drawing that book.

http://colleendoran.com/2010/02/07/02072010/

I believe Gunfire was killed of by Prometheus also in the Faces of Evil issue (along with Anima- whose been killed 3 times I think.)
Actually you can find the Amethyst issues for pretty cheap online if you know where to look. I’d recommend Comiccollectorlive.com which is where I got the majority of them for less than a $1 each.
As far as obscure charecters go I’d like to see a new NuLL and Void (The originals appeared in Worlds Finest Comics- and the new ones could be their kids or grandkids even.)

I’ll absolutely put in another vote for Amethyst.

As long as they don’t try to make her into a villain again, as they did with a few of her 90′s appearances. =(

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a HUGE Tomorrow Woman fan. After Trinity she only made a small appearance is JLA vs Kobra 3 as Clara Kendall making a news report.

Plenty of characters should make a comeback like the remaining Bloodlines characters, like Mirage and Sparx.

And I too think Triumph should be brought back he’s one of the most tragic DC characters I can think of. He’s like Barry Allen in that he saved the day and Earth but nobody cares about him.

Bring back the Team Titans too, I loved them! And Power Company.

philfromgermany

February 9, 2010 at 4:42 am

Instead if Soyuz, could you not bring back Stalnoivolk, the Steel Wolf? He was awesome in Suicide Squad.
Some others I would love to see are the Black Pirate, Black Orchid, Chase, Chronos (Gabriel Walker), The Heckler, Hourman III, The Body Doubles, Resurrection Man and the Man called Nevermore (you can’t get more obscure than him) !

I can’t believe people are nostalgic for the Bloodlines characters. Except for Hitman, they’re all dreadful examples of the worst the 90s has to offer. Let them remain forgotten.

Most of the other characters mentioned have potential.

I always liked Razorsharp from the Bloodlines characters.

What about EVERY character from Major Bummer?

Hell yeah! I just couldn’t BELIEVE that no one (until Brett, above) suggested MAJOR BUMMER!

… Especially with all the late-’90s-DC love being dished out here.

I loved the Young Heroes in Love, but I don’t think they’d work for a comeback. I doubt the essential tone of the series could be recaptured.

On the other hand, I’d just about kill for some new CHASE stories. Most especially by the original creative team of Dan Curtis Johnson and a little-known-at-the-time artist… J.H. Williams III.

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