The Secret Lives of Villains #231

Strip 229 lettered.jpg

Advertisements

Golden Age Showcase: Alfred

Happy post Father’s Day everyone!

Image result for father's day

For the non American readers of this blog, Father’s day is a holiday where we celebrate our fathers, and if marketing campaigns are to be believed it’s usually with MANLY gifts like ties and power tools.

Image result for father's day ties

Image result for father's day tools

Last year I did an article comparing and contrasting two of comics’ greatest deceased father figures: Superman’s dad Jor-El and Spiderman’s Uncle Ben.

Image result for jor el    Image result for uncle ben

This time I thought it would be time to break out the big guns and celebrate the career and achievements of the greatest living father figure in comic book history: Batman’s butler, Alfred.

Image result for alfred batman

Side note: if you disagree with the above statement please write a well crafted and polite rebuttal in the comments.

Origin and Career

Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth made his first appearance in Batman #16 in April of 1943.

On the cover of the comic it says he was created by artist Bob Kane.

Image result for bob kane

Although it is much more likely that actual creator was writer, and the man who got royally screwed out of getting the credit that he justly deserves, Bill Finger.

Image result for bob kane and bill finger

Artist Jerry Robinson was also heavily involved, since he was busy doing the actual drawing of the issues at this point in Batman’s career.

Jerry Robinson

Alfred made his first appearance on the cover of the issue, and he looked like this:

Image result for batman #16 1943

The original Alfred was a bit of an idiot.  At this point in the story Batman and Robin had been doing their thing fighting crime in Gotham when Alfred showed up fresh off the boat and claiming that he was fulfilling the wish of his dying father Jarvis in serving the Wayne family as their butler.

Image result for batman #16 1943

Naturally, Batman and Robin were not very keen on having a near total stranger snooping around the house with their secret identities at stake.

Despite his background as an intelligence officer Alfred was…kind of an idiot.

Image result for batman #16 1943

I only say “kind of” because he was actually a very good butler.  He did his job, he was loyal to Bruce and Dick, and when it came time to defend the Manor he wound up discovering who he was really working for by pure accident.

Image result for batman #16 1943

My favorite part of this scene is the dialogue that the two men exchange during the fight.

Of course Alfred reveals what he knows to Batman and Robin and the two gain a new ally in their fight against criminals.

You may notice that the original Alfred doesn’t look a thing like the way we normally picture Alfred.

Image result for batman #16 1943 ending

For that we can actually thank the silver screen.

See, the idea that comic books could be adapted to the silver screen is nothing new.  In fact, Hollywood was quick to jump on the wave of superhero popularity and started churning out short little movie serials staring the two most popular heroes at the time: Superman and Batman.

In 1943 Columbia Pictures began releasing short Batman serial movies with creative titles such as “Batman and the Electrical Brain”,

Batman1943SerialPoster.jpg

The effects and costumes were…not the best.

Image result for batman serials 1940s

but one of its lasting impacts was hiring actor English character actor William Austin to play the Batman’s butler.

Image result for alfred pennyworth william austin

The serials were so popular that the comics adapted and changed Alfred’s appearance to reflect the show.

So what happened?

Jesus, to describe everything that Alfred has done since his original appearance would take an entire book.

Image result for batman alfred pennyworth

Wherever Batman has gone, Alfred has followed.  He’s an integral part of the Batman mythos, and I would personally argue that he the most important supporting figure in any Batman story.  And yes, that includes figures like Robin and Batgirl.

Image result for batman bat family

He has fulfilled the role of a caretaker, a guiding moral compass to a whole host of emotionally crippled children and warriors, and most importantly an eternally patient father figure.

Image result for batman alfred father

So, in an effort to keep this short, I’m going to break his long and storied career down into some of the more prominent highlights.

In 1964 Alfred was killed in Detective Comics #328 after heroically saving the Dynamic Duo from a falling boulder.

Image result for detective comics alfred's death

He would be reborn as a mysterious villain known as “The Outsider” and fought the heroes off panel, usually using other villains as pawns and working behind the scenes.

His identity and appearance would be revealed two years later in Detective Comics #356.

Image result for batman the outsider villain

It…wasn’t the best look for him and I can see why they kept him out of the way.

In terms of backstory, Alfred’s has remained pretty consistent.  The comics have always given him some sort of military and/or intelligence background and in the 1960’s he worked as an intelligence agent during World War 2.  We know this because he had a daughter named Julia with a French co worker.

Image result for batman alfred julia remarque

In 1985 DC reorganized its comic books with the even “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and reworked the backstories of many of their most famous characters.

Alfred got a few minor tweaks but didn’t change that much.  He was an actor as well as an intelligence agent and instead of introducing himself to a much older Bruce, he became Bruce’s butler and confidant at a young age.

Image result for post crisis alfred

The new Alfred had some pretty awesome moments as well and a lot of writers love giving him some really badass lines and small fight scenes.

alfred cool redhood

Seriously, the man’s gone toe to toe with Superman both in quips,

alfred cool master

and with fisticuffs.

alfred cool superman

So he’s amazing in the comics but I would have to say that his film and television appearances deserve a special mention as well.

Alfred has appeared in every single movie, television, and cartoon adaptation of Batman since the beginning and has provided a steady stream of employment to classy senior British actors.

Image result for alfred in batman movies

All of them have been fantastic, but special mentions go to the Alfred from Batman: The Animated Series,

Image result for batman the animated series alfred

where he was voiced by actor Clive Revill (who was actually the original voice of the Emperor from Star Wars)

Image result

and the gloriously named Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Image result for efrem zimbalist jr

Personally my favorite Alfred at the moment has to be the one from The Lego Batman Movie where he was voiced by Voldemort himself, Ray Finnes,

Image result for the lego batman movie alfred

but if you ask me the best Alfred of them all would have to be the late great Michael Gough from Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and the infamous Batman and Robin.

Image result for batman and robin alfred

I would actually go as far as to say that Michael Gough was so good that he actually made Batman and Robin halfway watchable.

Image result for batman and robin

That’s right, I’m defending Batman and Robin, fight me.

Alfred is one of the greatest comic book characters ever created.  He is wise and talented beyond even his considerable years and has been at Bruce’s side through thick and thin.  Not only has he been a faithful and dutiful butler but he has been a kind, patient, and loving father to a boy who needed it most in order to become one of the greatest superheroes of all time.

Image result for alfred pennyworth

Golden Age Showcase: Hydroman/Adam West tribute.

So before we begin talking about the ridiculous old school hero of the week I feel obligated to bring up the passing of the great Adam West.

Image result for adam west

The man was a fantastic actor, a great human being, and for the longest time he WAS Batman.

Image result for adam west batman

The reason I created this blog was to showcase some of the crazier and goofier aspects of the early comic book industry.  Granted, many of these heroes were blatant cash grabs and lazy copies of other popular heroes but there was a crazy energy to those early comic books that was so captivating that it demands your attention and respect.

I bring this up because the 1960’s Batman show was one of the first attempts to bring that crazy energy to mainstream audiences and holy crap did it succeed.

Image result for adam west batman pow

Sure the show was campy, sure the show was goofy, sure the show is the antithesis of everything that modern comic book audiences think Batman should be, but underneath the camp and celebrity appearances was a show that had razor sharp wit and writing, awesomely cheesy effects and fight scenes, and acting so gloriously hammy that you could put it between two slices of bread and make a sandwich.

Hell, the show won a freaking Emmy and is the reason why the Riddler is my favorite Batman villain!

If you want to check it out for yourself the show is available on Blu Ray, the Batman movie is on Netflix, and you can read the modern take on the show in the DC comics series Batman ’66

Image result for batman 66

Okay, so that’s enough mainstream acceptability for one week.  Let’s dive right back into another crazy Golden Age hero.

Hydroman seems nice.

Image result for golden age comics hydroman

Origin and Career

Hyrdo Man was one of the first characters created by Eastern Color Printing in 1940.

What’s interesting is that Eastern Color Printing was a well established publisher by the 1940’s.  In fact, they were the first company to produce what we would call a comic book in 1933,

In an attempt to cash in on the Superman craze of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s Eastern created the title Reg’lar Fellers Heroic Comics.  This was cover of the first issue published in August of 1940.

Image result for reg'lar fellers heroic comics

Yes, that is actually how it was spelled and yes, Hydro Man was their main hero deemed worthy to be placed on the cover of the title.

The hero was created by comic book creator Bill Everett,

Image result for bill everett

who co created Marvel’s Daredevil,

Image result for daredevil comic

and Timely Comics’ Namor the Sub Mariner.

Image result for namor the submariner

The origin story for Hydro Man combines elements from Everett’s two most famous heroes: water and chemical spills.

The story begins when an unassuming scientist named Harry Thurston accidentally spills a harmless mixture of water, alcohol, and “a little sulfuric acid” onto his hand.

3 (1).jpg

Why did he do this?  Because he wanted to see what happened.

At this point I have to ask.  Where would superheroes be without a near casual disregard for lab safety and basic human caution?  Nowhere, that’s where.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly since this is a comic) the explosion doesn’t kill Harry.  Instead it turns his hand into a waterfall.

So what does he do?  Does he call the hospital?  The police?  The Nobel Committee?

Nope!  He calls his best friend Bob Blake.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #1

In another stunning display of stupidity, another man named Tom trips, and spills the same chemical all over Bob.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #1

Thankfully Tom has a gallon of a counteractive chemical (somehow) and manages to return Bob to human form.

Naturally the men decide to abandon all safety and common sense and decide to inject the chemical directly into Bob’s veins.  Then they decide to dress Bob up in a costume, give him weapons, and go and fight off a group known as “The Oriental Invaders”.

Oh right, did you know about the Oriental Invaders?  They mentioned it in a couple of panels.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #1

Bob’s girlfriend has a point, he is a nut.

It turns out  that the Oriental Invaders are a real threat to our country and way of life.  Complete with ridiculous costumes and almost all of the offensive stereotypes that 1940’s America can muster towards Asians.

Thankfully, Hydro Man is there to over compensate like a true American hero and responds by drowning one of them.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #1

In the next issue he gets a see through suit made out of a fictional bulletproof material similar to cellophane in order to go after this mysterious enemy organization.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #2

It should be noted that while Pearl Harbor was still over a year away from pushing America into the war, it was still a time where comic book publishers could get away with calling Asians “a Mongrel Race”.

He was able to find out more information by spying on the guys in charge by dissolving himself into a glass of water.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #2

All silliness and casual racism aside, that’s actually pretty clever.

The rest of his adventures were pretty similar.  He fought against so called “Fifth Column” enemies, secret agents who were working for the Nazis and Japanese in the United States in an attempt to sabotage and otherwise subvert the war effort.

He would later get a kid sidekick in 1942 named “Rainbow Boy”,

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #14

Sweet Jesus that costume is terrible.

Rainbow Boy could transform himself into a rainbow, create brilliant flashes that disoriented enemies, and could travel at the speed of light.

Comic Book Cover For Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics #14

Seriously, that costume is just the worst.

So what happened?

Hydro Man and Rainbow Boy were actually one of the most successful comic book superheroes of the 1940’s.  If he had continued we probably would have gotten to see a gritty reboot (although we did get a Spider Man villain named Hydro Man in the 1980’s)

Image result for spider man hydro man 1981

Unfortunately, our hero fell victim to forces outside his control when his publisher got butchered in the 1950’s with the rise of the Comics Code.

Eastern Color Publishing would hobble on until the 1970’s until they stopped creating original work and existed by printing books from other companies.  They finally closed their doors in 2002 when they couldn’t keep up with advances in modern printing technology.

The Golden Age Hydro Man would go on to have a single modern day appearance in Dynamite’s Project Superpowers series in 2008.

That’s him on the far top left of the drawing.  His name was shortened to “Hydro” in order to avoid a copyright lawsuit with Marvel.

Hydro Man was a popular hero of the 1940’s and it’s easy to see why.  Despite the ridiculous appearance he had a pretty cool power set and a halfway decent artistic team that did their damnedest to keep his stories and powers interesting.

He’s actually available in the public domain, so if anyone wanted to use him in a story, there would be nothing stopping you.

Golden Age Showcase: Hippolyta

So this little movie is coming out in a couple of weeks.

Image result for wonder woman movie

I’m excited.

The funny thing about this movie is that it promises to be huge but strangely enough, DC and Warner Brothers aren’t doing a whole lot to market and promote the film.

Granted, there is a precedent for this lack of marketing push, but I like to think that part of the reason why the film isn’t getting a lot of love is because the producers and film makers are banking on the hoards of angry nerds who are so desperate to see a female superhero succeed that they are willing to give this film a bunch of free advertising.

Thankfully, I am incredibly desperate and angry and I intend to do my part and contribute to the madness.  For the next couple of weeks leading up to the release of Wonder Woman I intend to devote this blog to Wonder Woman and her supporting cast.

And since yesterday was Mother’s Day, I thought it might be fun to talk about Wonder Woman’s mother: the Greek Amazon Hippolyta.

Image result for wonder woman hippolyta

Origin and Career

Unlike almost all the superheroes of the Golden Age, who can trace their origins to the popular culture of the day, Hippolyta has one of the most accomplished and famous pedigrees in comic book lore.

In fact, probably the only modern day superhero who has changed less than DC Comics’ Hippolyta is Hercules himself, and that’s only because Hercules is an integral part of Hippolyta’s story.

Image result for hippolyta greek mythology

Hippolyta was the queen of the Amazons, a group of savage warrior women who claimed to be descended from Ares, the god of war.

As part of his twelve labors, Hercules was tasked with stealing an item called the Golden Girdle, a belt that gave Hippolyta incredible strength.  Hercules was successful in seducing Hippolyta into giving him the belt,

Image result for hippolyta greek mythology

but sadly perished when he goddess Hera convinced her battle sisters that Hercules was kidnapping her.

This story must have struck a chord with a man named William Moulton Marston,

Image result for william moulton marston

because he used this exact myth to inform the creation of Hippolyta in All Star Comics #8 in October of 1941.

Image result for all star comics 8

We’ll save the specifics for later but for now all you need to know is that the story of Hipppolyta remained relatively unchanged from its classical roots.  Hippolyta was the queen of her people and the mother of the book’s main character so she was tasked with talking to the ancient gods, looking after the welfare of the Amazons, and trying to control her daughter without much success.

Image result for hippolyta golden age dc comics

So what happened?

What do you mean “what happened”?  She went on to have an illustrious career as the mother of one of the most successful superheroes on the face of the planet!

Image result for hippolyta dc

Granted, there have been some changes to her story.  Various versions of the character have her as a blonde badass,

Image result for hippolyta dc

and at one point she actually took up the mantle of Wonder Woman,

Image result for hippolyta dc

(yes that is actually Hippolyta and not Diana with a different hair do)

Her origin story with Hercules was changed up a bit in 1987 by writer George Perez.  It was a bit more…uncomfortable than the original with the new version of Hercules forcing himself on Hippolyta after he drugged her and her Amazons.
Image result for hippolyta dc

It’s worth mentioning that he did this after she beat him in fair combat and attempted to reason with him.

Hippolyta has played an integral part in the DC universe, both in the comics and in other forms of media as well.  She has made regular appearances in a whole bunch of cartoons and animated movies,

Image result for hippolyta dc

and is often treated with the respect and reverence that a queen and leader of her stature deserves.

In the upcoming movie the director decided to go the blonde route and have her played by the actress Connie Nielsen.

Image result for hippolyta dc movie

To list every achievement and important event that Hippolyta has been part of would take forever and I highly encourage you to do more research on your own.  All that I really have to say is that while Wonder Woman is considered to be one of the greatest superheroes in existence, she would be nobody without the strength and wisdom of her mother behind her.

Image result for hippolyta wonder woman

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.