OBSCURE DC CHARACTERS
Amateurs made Batman nervous. There were exceptions including, he'd grudgingly admit, Batwoman but generally the would-be crimefighters who'd used Gotham as their launching pad were more trouble than they were worth. Particularly those with hidden agendas. Even now, Deadshot weighed heavily on the Dark Knight's mind.
All of these thoughts ran through Batman's head on a summer evening in 1959 (BATMAN #127, art by Dick Sprang and possibly written by Bill Finger). While making an appearance at the Gotham Book Fair, he and Robin had leaped into action to prevent the Joker's theft of the proceeds but found themselves locked in an armored car instead. In the darkened interior, the Dynamic Duo watched in astonishment as the reinforced metal doors crumpled before them. of course, they must have thought, Superman was paying one of his frequent visits to Gotham.
Not quite, they soon learned unless the Man of Steel had taken to dressing like a bird. the stranger was covered head to toe in an orange/tan feathered costume, complete with sharpened claws on his hands and feet and a beak to match, brown tufts on his forearms and calves, a feathery brown cape, and a red chest icon displaying the United States' noble symbol. "I must conceal the secret of my REAL IDENTITY, gentleman, but you may address me as the Eagle. With my unusual powers, we can battle against crime side by side."
With the Dynamic Duo bringing up the rear, the Eagle pursued the Joker towards some of Gotham's ubiquitous giant props, in this case gargantuan replicas of books such as "Treasure Island" and "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Escaping the heroes through a passageway in "Doorway To Laughter", the villain cackled that "there's nothing like losing yourself in a good book!"
If Batman and Robin had been surprised by a new hero muscling into their team, they were completely thunderstruck to find him waiting for them in the Batcave. the Eagle was Alfred Pennyworth!
While cleaning the Batcave's trophy room, the butler had lost his balance and become entangled in the wires of a super-weapon confiscated from "Doc" Cranium. the weapon, in turn, fired a bolt of energy into a crystalline space artifact contributed by Superman. the crystal reflected the force back at Alfred and the end result, he declared, was that "I'm INVULNERABLE! I can LEAP hundreds of feet and LIFT a ton. You WILL accept me as a third member of your team, won't you?"
Alfred had always aspired to be a crimefighter, even going so far as to borrow Batman's costume early on and masquerade as the Dark Knight (1944's BATMAN #22). and Batman had to acknowledge that he'd benignly supported such activities by asking his trusted friend to impersonate him on multiple occasions (BATMAN #55, 87, 94, 117, 120). What else could he say but yes?
The following morning's encounter with the Joker seemed to fulfill all of Batman's misgivings. Displaying the grace of his namesake, the Eagle soared into the air towards the rogue's perch on a podium. Unfortunately, he overshot the Clown Prince of Crime, leaving evidence of his passage in two successive billboards. Even as the Joker was climbing to the safety of a helicopter and Batman and Robin were swinging towards him, the Eagle was attempting to salvage his first attempt by using super-strength to tear a giant net from the billboard he'd just damaged. Instead of snaring his target, the Eagle only succeeded in tangling his partners in the webbing.
Undeterred, the Eagle promised "an amazing example of super-strength coupled with super-ingenuity" as the Joker and his gang fled the Museum of Egyptology. Blocking the underpass on the escape route with a looming bronze statue of Anubis, the Eagle swooped in to knock the villain out cold. Ominously, the Joker laughed off the blow and responded with one of his own that rendered his opponent senseless. Diving into the fracas with a pair of chariots, Batman and Robin deflected the Joker and company's barrage of spears and left the entire gang sprawled on their backsides.
His powers now evaporated, Alfred took a degree of satisfaction in that evening's Gotham Globe, which played up the Eagle's role in the capture. "I guess I WAS pretty good, after all. A little more experience and I might have surpassed you and Robin."
"No doubt about it, Alfred," Batman smiled. "Lucky for us, you lost your powers."
Whatever Alfred's failings as a super-hero may have been, he was a truly good man and a selfless friend, facts that were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt only five years later. In 1964, taking the force of a falling boulder meant for Batman and Robin, Alfred Pennyworth gave his life for his friends (DETECTIVE #328).
A medical examiner had confirmed that Alfred was dead and yet, against all reason, the noble butler was discovered days later in a state of semi-consciousness within his refrigerated crypt. the intervention of an eccentric scientist saved Alfred's life that night ... and unintentionally gave birth to the butler's dark side while he tried to restore his health. In possession of an impressive complement of psionic powers, the strange albino-like being declared himself the Outsider, sworn enemy of Batman and Robin (DETECTIVE #356).
Did dormant super-energy in Alfred's body pull him back from the jaws of death and perhaps influence his transformation into the Outsider? the 24-hour career of the Eagle may have been more significiant than anyone realized.
See the JLA Appendix
See: DC Super Dictionary
» SEE: Super Friends
Weight: 130 lbs.
Hair: Green (as Urania: Blonde)
Eyes: Black (as Urania: Blue)
Element Girl was originally Urania "Rainie" Blackwell, a U.S. espionage agent who successfully infiltrated the European crime syndicate known as CYCLOPS (mentioned above in Mikishawm's "Queen Bee" biography. Unfortunately, the unsecure Urania fell in love with and married the leader, the terrorist codenamed Stingaree. She was spurned by the man she fell in love with, and volunteered for a mission to expose herself to radiation in an Egyptian temple. This action was duplicating the process by which a man named Rex Mason became Metamorpho, the Element Man.
Like Mason, Urania became an elemental being, looking almost exactly like the freakish Metamorpho (except for getting long green hair instead of Rex's baldness). Shocked by her new appearance, Urania sought out Metamorpho's help in defeating Stingaree and CYCLOPS. (METAMORPHO (Vol. 1) #10, January-February 1967)
Following this incident, Urania adopted the codename "Element Girl" and hang out with Metamorpho from time to time. Noted mostly for being inactive in the background (METAMORPHO (Vol. 1) #11, March-April 1967), or getting kidnapped by the evil Professor Zorb and turned against her allies (METAMORPHO (Vol. 1) #12-13, May-August 1967), she nevertheless acted as a full-fledged heroine against such menaces as the midget Thunderer, who actually managed to split Metamorpho and Element Girl into three beings apiece. Luckily, a teenage genius put them back together. (METAMORPHO (Vol. 1) #14-15, September-December 1967).
When Metamorpho was tried, sentenced, and executed (obviously, it didn't work) for the murder of a Wally Bannister (Sapphire Stagg's former husband), Element Girl was there to save him. Together, they then encountered Algon, an ancient Egyptian elemental like themselves, after which they went away to free Metamorpho from the false murder charges. (METAMORPHO (Vol. 1) #16-17, January-April 1968).
Shortly after this, the METAMORPHO series was cancelled, and the storyline remained unfinished. When Metamorpho next appeared, teaming up with the Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Vol. 1) #101 (April-May 1975), he was free from the murder charges and Element Girl was nowhere to be seen.
Fact is, she wouldn't be seen for another twenty-two years. Metamorpho himself appeared from time to time, in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, WORLD'S FINEST, ACTION COMICS, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, in the mid-80s as a member of the OUTSIDERS, and still later in JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE, but no writer seemed to want to bring Element Girl back. Neither did she show up in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARHTS, HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE, or even WHO'S WHO, where such obscure parties as Automan, Claw the Unconquered, and Chris Kl-99 appeared.
Enter the Sandman. Just like yours truly, Neil Gaiman always had a soft spot for many of the lesser-known characters in the DC Universe. In SANDMAN #20, he taught us what happened to Rainie. She had developed romantic feelings towards Metamorpho, but Rex only had eyes for his Sapphire. Heartbroken, Urania had a breakdown, and spent many years completely alone, abandoned by her employers and afraid to interact in society, because of her freakish appearance. She considered suicide, but couldn't do it a metamorph's greatest curse is that he or she is virtually immortal. No temperature, no poison, no known force on Earth can kill them.
However, Death of the Endless felt Rainie's despair, and comforted her. She herself couldn't give Rainie the peace she wanted, but she pointed out that one of her kin, Algon, had actually died (in METAMORPHO #17), so eternal peace was not impossible. Death then helped Rainie get into contact with the Egyptian Gods that had granted her her powers in the first place.
Rainie looked into the face of the sun god Ra, and finally made her peace with the Gods. She was transformed into dust and claimed by Death. (THE SANDMAN (Vol. 2) #20, October 1990)
After her death, Element Girl finally got her own Who's Who page in the loose-leaf format WHO'S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE #10, June 1991, featuring art by Colleen Doran and Malcolm Jones III.
Recently, she had a retrospective one-panel cameo, showing her interacting with Metamorpho, in SILVER AGE SHOWCASE #1, July 2000.
I think those are actually all of her appearances. I know Rex mentioned her in an issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE, but can't remember when.
The Emerald Eye of Ekron
As he was brought into custody, the Bounty Hunter assured the Fairfax police that he was going to reveal a spectacular story. Before he could utter another word, the assassin was gunned down by a robotic orb known as the Pupil. The Master did not tolerate betrayal (ADVENTURE COMICS #484, by Marv Wolfman, Don Heck and Dennis Jensen).
Within two weeks, the shadowy Master had gathered another eight operatives. His targets were the mysterious string of super-beings that had popped in Fairfax over the last few months. The Master insisted that were only two people behind the multiple heroes. Addressing his operatives, he announced, "I KNOW they are the same, for I know their SECRET they possess the mystic power-dials. Dials I have been searching for ever since I KILLED the man who created them. And you my Evil Eight you will help me FIND those dials ... and then help me CONTROL the world, as well!"
Who were the Evil Eight?
- Covered in varying shades of green armor (with a red visor and belt), Arsenal declared that "no matter WHERE (his enemies) hide, I got me a weapon that can blow 'em straight ta kingdom come!"
- Chondak was a super-strong blue ape whose brain was visible in a clear dome.
- The woman with reddish-blonde hair had a crimson costume covering her torso, an orange cape and golden bracelets, necklace and belt. She was the Familiar. "Whatever I TOUCH, I can BECOME. This plumbing pipe is made of steel ... now, so am I."
- Ice King was capable of manipulating cold in a variety of ways, sending out blasts of frigid air and solid ice darts and well as travelling through the air on ice sleds. The bare-chested villain wore a silver helmet and blue and silver pants.
- Imagine Wolverine in his orange costume with a wolf's head and hairy pelt covering most of his head and chest and the leftovers making up gloves and boots. This was the feral K-9. "I move like the wild dog whose blood I share. And I lust for your death ... like the man-killing wolf."
- Dressed in a black body suit covered by a white jacket and boots that climbed up his thighs, the reddish-brown haired man was a somewhat demented acrobat dubbed Maniak.
- Primarily outfitted in white (with a red cape and black face), Phantasm could turn himself immaterial and was capable of summoning demonic entities to attack his foes.
- The hulking Piledriver seemingly possessed steel arms and a matching torso along with long purple hair and red pants. "There ain't nothing I can't smash!" he boasted.
The heroes behind the "H" dials, Chris King and Vicki Grant, won their first skirmish, using the powers of Gravity Boy and the Hummingbird to defeat Chondak and Ice King. A second battle against the entire group left Chris and Vicki (as Blast Boy and Hydra) frozen in an iceberg, courtesy of the freed Ice King. The marauders' plan to steal an ion cannon was a success!
On orders of the Master, the members of the Evil Eight planted ion couplings at strategic locations throughout Fairfax in anticipation of a full-fledged takeover the following morning. With the push of a button, the city was sealed in a force field, "an incredible, unshatterable ion curtain." Within hours, the Justice League of America had been called to the scene but even the combined might of Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern failed to make a dent in the violet dome.
The heroes on the interior now known as Electrostatic and Hyptella evaded a tree trunk tossed their way by Chondak and the ghosts conjured by Phantasm. A fierce attack by K-9 left Electrostatic reeling but Hyptella seemed to have the lupine villain under her mental control. Smashing the ground with his fists, Chondak sent out "ripples of pure power ... shock-waves which cause the ground to fairly tremble." The staggering force was enough to knock the heroes unconscious.
Imprisoned by the Master, Electrostatic and Hyptella were stunned at just how much knowledge he possessed regarding their "H" dials. Aware that they would revert back to their normal forms within an hour, the villain simply needed to wait until that moment to take the talismans for himself.
Turning away from his captives for a moment, the Master placed a phone call to President Reagan, demanding "Fairfax as my own independent country." Advised that the resident heroes of Fairfax might yet pull off a miracle, Reagan stalled the terrorist, insisting on at least ten minutes to weigh his options. "Sighh ... nothing like THIS ever happened in my movies."
While the Master had been on the phone, Hyptella unexpectedly changed back to the smaller form of Vicki, quickly freeing Electrostatic, whose own electrical powers opened their cell before he reverted back to Chris. After that, the kids played a game of cat and mouse, evading the Evil Eight for an hour until the dials recharged. In the interim, they watched the Familiar touch a steel pipe and become a gleaming metal woman and dodged the explosive darts fired by Arsenal.
After an agonizing sixty minutes, the kids became Lumino and Sonik, now able to project constructs of light and sound. Arsenal was taken down by Lumino's powers and the Familiar was sealed in a cage of solid light. Transforming herself into a being of the light, the villainess seemed triumphant until Sonik blasted her with "a shrieking wail ... a horrible, ear-shattering scream." The remaining sextet quickly fell behind their allies. With the exception of Piledriver, who resurfaced in 1998's JLA #18 (now sporting blonde hair), none of the eight rogues ever reappeared.
As the Evil Eight were taken into custody and the ion dome shut down, Lumino found a note from the now absent Master: "I know your secret, and one day I shall return to make that secret my own" (1981's ADVENTURE COMICS #485).
The Evil Eight were created by Roger Banham (Arsenal), Stephen Cappiello (Maniak), Marshall Ferguson (Ice King), Nelson Jimenez (Chondak), George Longley (K-9), Sixto Miguel (Phantasm), Ben Stillwell (The Familiar) and David Wile (Piledriver). The heroes were conceived by Gilbert Fein (Blast Boy), Karl Heitmueller (Lumino and Sonik), Christopher Kraska (Hyptella), Stephen Moore (The Hummingbird), Jeffrey Odenweller (Gravity Boy), Alicia Shing (Hydra) and J.P. Thill (Electrostatic). Putting it all together were writer Marv Wolfman, penciller Carmine Infantino and inkers Dennis Jensen, Frank Chiaramonte and Larry Mahlstedt.
The threat of the Master continued to loom in the background of Chris and Vicki's lives over the next several months as he menaced them from behind the scenes over and over again (ADVENTURE #488, 490; NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY #28, 35-37, 42-45). In one key adventure, Chris and Vicki joined forces with Superman to discover the source of the Master's seemingly endless supply of super-powered minions. From the Bounty Hunter and the Evil Eight onward, they'd all been clones, created using technology from the DNA Project and Simyan and Mokkari's Evil Factory (1982's DC COMICS PRESENTS #44).
A final clash with the Master's army culminated with the capture of Chris, Vicki and their cartoonist friend Nick Stevens, whose creations were somehow being manifested as the duo's heroic identities (NAOS #46-48) . Incredibly, the Master no longer remembered why he'd sought the dial. At that moment, a being known as the Wizard appeared, used a third dial and merged with the Master. In their place stood Robby Reed, the hero who originally dialed "H" for hero! (#49, plot by E. Nelson Bridwell, script by Bob Rozakis and pencils by Howard Bender)
During a battle with the villainous Shirkon, Robby found it necessary to become two people and dialed "D-I-V-I-D-E." He became both "the Wizard filled with all the power of good magic" and an evil scientific genius that was Reed's double. The evil Reed commanded the dial to "H-I-D-E." The dial vanished...and with it, the memories of (Reed's) previous life." (NAOS #49). The dial reappeared on the parallel world of Earth-32 with the lost memories housed in an addled duplicate of Reed (PLASTIC MAN (second series) #13).
Meanwhile, the evil Reed (as the Master) gained access to the DNA Project (SUPERMAN FAMILY #194) and began creating his army of villains. To combat these marauders, the Wizard created two new "H" dials (NAOS #45) and arranged for two youngsters named Chris King and Vicki Grant to find them and become super-heroes themselves (LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #272). In a subsequent confrontation, the Master erroneously became convinced that he'd killed the Wizard (NAOS #45).
Ultimately, the Wizard located the original "H" dial and restored Robby to normal. Exhausted, Reed proclaimed himself retired from the super-hero game and presented his dial to Nick. "Obviously my good side saw a strength of character in ALL THREE of you and since YOU are the one whose ideas became the heroes, you deserve to become those heroes too! Good luck ... all of you" (NAOS #49). "And then there were three!"
1982: Star City was in turmoil thanks to strikes and dissension among its city workers. The situation was being aggravated by a conglomerate of white collar criminals and Green Arrow had learned that the mastermind was Machiavelli, a charismatic would-be politician with ties to the mob. The Emerald Archer had reckoned without Machiavelli's bodyguard, however. The flame-tressed assassin wore a red costume with long white boots and announced that "it's MY job to stop you ... if you intend to make yourself a pest." Pulling out "a pair of hand-held, high-tech, pinpoint-accurate lasers," the Executrix made it clear that she meant business.
Green Arrow leaped for cover behind an overturned table that was soon shredded by the onslaught of deadly beams of light. Crawling amidst his scattered arrows, GA spotted his "reflector-signal arrows. I normally use them to reflect sunlight ... and flash an occasional morse code S.O.S. ... but they've just been drafted for military service." The assassin's lasers bounced off the polished arrows, destroying her weapons in the process. With the Executrix pinned to the wall with half a dozen arrows ("You you wouldn't hit a woman, would you?"), the Emerald Archer learned the details of Machiavelli's scheme and prepared to expose him (DETECTIVE COMICS #523-524, by Joey Cavalieri, Irv Novick and Ron Randall).
The Executrix, after escaping from a Star City holding cell, went back into business, selling her services to those who could meet her price. By 1985, she'd altered her costume, retaining the red and white color scheme but exposing more flesh and pulling her darkened hair into a knot on her head. Rather than rely on a single weapon as she'd done with Green Arrow, the Executrix added a variety of pieces to her arsenal, ranging from a rifle to an assortment of knives and daggers to more "outre weaponry" that was only hinted at.
Her latest target was Ron Page (WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #313) , a whistle-blower who threatened to expose a cost-cutting move at Metrosteel that had resulted in tragedy. "A new, cheaper process in making steel ... also turns steel brittle, so that it shatters after a short while." Page revealed the details to a Daily Planet reporter but the Executrix murdered him before he could file the story.
Superman and Batman agreed to watch over Page until the story was publicized but the Executrix managed to capture him while on a train. Immobilized by sleep gas, Page was dragged to the Gotham City Bridge, where the villainess planned to throw him to his death. The Batman arrived but found himself held at bay as long as the Executrix was holding a knife to her hostage's throat.
Leaning against the bridge, both kidnapper and hostage suddenly fell backwards as the rail manufactured by Metrosteel began to crumble. Page grabbed onto the fragile rail while the Executrix clutched at his jacket, screaming, "This isn't happening! This wasn't supposed to happen! Save me!" As Batman pulled Ron to safety, the woman in red plunged into the river. "Fitting," the Dark Knight said. "You can call it justice."
"YOU might call it justice, Batman," noted Superman, bursting from the water with the unconscious Executrix in his arms, "But DEATH doesn't fit MY definition of the term" (WFC #314, by Cavalieri, Stan Woch and Alfredo Alcala).
Original text copyright DC Comics unless otherwise noted. Used without permission.