RSS Feed
Sep 3

Daredevil Villains #1: The Fixer

Posted on Sunday, September 3, 2023 by Paul in Daredevil

So, I thought we’d do something different.

Quick: Name ten Daredevil villains. Come on, the book’s been a mainstay of Marvel’s line since 1964, it can’t be that hard. There’s the Kingpin, the Hand, Bullseye, um, Typhoid… um… does Elektra count…? Admittedly, this is not really my area. But I googled a few lists of top Daredevil villains and almost all of them resorted to counting the Punisher. One of them was desperate enough to include Mysterio.

So I thought I’d read some Daredevil and find out what the hell he’s been doing all these years when he wasn’t fighting the Hand or the Kingpin. I’ve barely read any pre-Nocenti Daredevil before and I have pretty much no idea what happens in the book prior to Frank Miller, other than that there’s a wacky bit where he pretends to be his own twin brother. The general consensus seems to be that early Daredevil is completely skippable. Even at the time, Marvel don’t seem to have thought much of his commercial appeal – between issue #10 in 1965, and issue #100 in 1973, he made less than ten guest appearances in other books, even counting cameos.

And yet he must have been doing something right, because he hung in there when the likes of Dr Strange couldn’t. So I’m going to read through Daredevil and cover the issues that add new villains to his list. Some of these will be pretty short, and it’s going to be an irregular series (in other words, you’ll be getting these in quiet weeks).

DAREDEVIL #1 (April 1964)
“The Origin of Daredevil”
Writer, editor: Stan Lee
Artist: Bill Everett
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Colourist: not credited

This is the one early Daredevil issue that everyone knows, because it’s mostly an extended flashback setting out his origin story. The villain of that story is the Fixer, who is emphatically not going to be Daredevil’s arch enemy.

The original version goes like this. Little Matt Murdock wants to follow in the footsteps of his boxer father Battlin’ Jack. But Jack insists that Matt ignore sports and manly pursuits in favour of study, so that he can break out of poverty and “amount to something” – a promise that Jack made to Matt’s late mother. All the other kids think Matt’s a loser and nickname him Daredevil, which is thoughtful of them. But Matt trains in secret, while also getting straight As. Desperate to pay for Matt to go to college, Jack agrees to be managed by the disreputable Fixer. Meanwhile, Matt randomly loses his sight and gains super powers when he shoves a blind man out of the way of a runaway radioactive waste truck. Matt still goes to college, while Jack goes on an implausible middle-aged winning streak under the Fixer’s management. The Fixer tells Jack to take a dive in the first round of a key fight, but Jack refuses to disappoint his watching son, and wins by knockout. The Fixer has Jack shot dead in retaliation.

Matt comes up with the Daredevil identity as a hair-splittingly legalistic way to honour his promise that Matt Murdock will be a thinker rather than a fighter – it’s not Matt who’s fighting, you see, it’s Daredevil. Uh-huh. In his first outing, Daredevil tracks down the Fixer, who makes a break for it, but then dies of a heart attack when cornered. And that’s the end of the Fixer. He never gets brought back.

Nor should he, because he’s not that kind of character. The Fixer is to Daredevil what the burglar is to Spider-Man and Joe Chill is to Batman. It’s the dead dad that matters, not the specific guy who killed him. (Or, in the Fixer’s case, had him killed – the actual killer is a henchman called Slade, but he never shows up again either.) These characters actively benefit from being generic, because they’re supposed to motivate a wider agenda for the hero. The Fixer is there to be an icon of criminality in general, and corruption in particular, which plays into both sides of Daredevil’s dual identity as lawyer and vigilante.

I’m not normally going to read very far ahead for these posts, but for obvious reasons Daredevil #1 has been retold numerous times. Unusually, it tends to be done in ways that are either out of continuity or at least dubiously canonical. The 1993 miniseries Daredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr is comprehensively non-canon (even though some elements of it have been imported into continuity) because it has Jack dying, and Matt defeating the Fixer, all before Matt goes to university and becomes Daredevil. It does that because it’s not especially interested in the Fixer, and wants that bit of the story out of the way as soon as possible. It’s a Frank Miller story and it wants to talk about Stick.

2001’s Daredevil: Yellow, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, is a much closer retelling of the first few issues of Daredevil, but with quite a bit of artistic licence. So it still deviates enough to make it doubtfully canonical. As far as the origin story is concerned, Yellow‘s main addition is a sequence where Matt tries to take down the Fixer through legal channels first, but the Fixer buys off the judge. I think that’s an improvement – it gives Matt a stronger motivation to break his promise to his father.

Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock, by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Zeb Wells (both have co-writing credits), is a 2007 miniseries which retells the story from Jack’s point of view, although for obvious reasons it ends with when he dies. It has a couple of minor canon problems too – it seems to think that Matt was conceived out of wedlock, and that his mother only returned from the nuns to leave the baby with Jack, while other stories show baby Matt with both parents – but it’s relatively faithful to the original plot beats. By this point other flashbacks had re-cast Jack as an alcoholic loser, rather than the blue collar saint that Stan Lee intended, and that’s very much the approach that BJM takes.

It’s a clever interpretation, though, which sees Jack as a badly flawed and overprotective father, filled with self-loathing because he knows he isn’t up to the job, and sporadically abusive because he’s drinking so much. In this reading, it’s Jack’s need to protect his poor defenceless son that drives him into underworld dealings. A masked Matt saves Jack from underworld thugs shortly before the fight. During the fight, Jack figures out that it was Matt, and realises that Matt can look after himself. That frees Jack to defy the Fixer in full knowledge of what’s going to happen to him, and he dies with honour on his own terms. This isn’t what any of the narration or thought balloons in Daredevil #1 say, but it’s a better version.

None of these stories, though, see the Fixer as anything more than a generic crime boss for Jack to bounce off. The striking thing about Daredevil #1, with hindsight, is that it’s setting the series up as a street level crime book. That’s absolutely not the comic that Stan Lee is going to deliver. Yet ironically it’s a lot closer to the version of Daredevil that will eventually succeed in the 1980s. Stan Lee had the right idea to start with, but in the end he went for a more conventional superhero book instead. We’ll see in future instalments how that worked out for him.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    Re: Wonder Woman: I’d argue that George Perez and his co-writers, and later runs by Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka, worked very hard to give her a decent Rogues’ Gallery.

    Depending on the era, she’s got Circe, the Cheetah, Ares, Dr. Psycho, Giganta, Deimos and Phobos, Veronica Cale, Dr. Cyber, Silver Swan, Dr. Poison, and the Angle Man* as distinctive recurring foes.

    * Yeah, I know. But for some reason, I actually kind of like the Angle Man, a guy in love with his own cleverness, especially when he’s got a space-warping Penrose triangle so he can cheat his way to looking cleverer than he is.)

    The problem for Wonder Woman is that every writer wants to completely reboot the whole character and her backstory, so the villains drop in and out, or get reset, or go unused for a long while. As a consequence, none of them have a lasting history with her.

    Re: The Flash: Even in the Silver Age, the Flash had several villains with distinct personalities and motives. Gorilla Grodd was a would-be conqueror, the Reverse-Flash specifically wanted to either steal the Flash’s life or undermine it, Abra Kadabra was obsessed with attention, and Captain Cold had a running bit where he’d stage crime sprees to try to impress beautiful women.

    As Luis Dantas alludes to, this dissolved away when most of the Rogues started showing up as a big group with one simplified personality between them.

    Even then, Cary Bates eventually started giving them more distinct personalities, making the Mirror Master the nastiest and smartest of them, giving Heat Wave an actual origin story and reforming him, creating Golden Glider and playing her crazed desire for revenge against her brother Captain Cold’s criminal professionalism, and so forth.

    The Rogues did get reformed at least twice, of course, But it was generally due to writers not wanting to use them at all and effectively writing them out. Even then, Suicide Squad gave Captain Boomerang a very distinct personality.

    Geoff Johns managed to give each of the Rogues a distinct personality, I’d say for good and for ill.

    But they are admittedly still pretty two-dimensional. So the Scottish Mirror Master becomes the guy using his villain persona to escape himself, Weather Wizard is a guy who thinks he’s smarter than he is, Heat Wave is a compulsive, the Top is an elitist narcissist, and Dr. Alchemy is Hannibal Lecter without the cannibalism.

    The exception is Captain Cold, who I’d argue is the character Johns has developed the best, and written consistently well, across quite a few years now. It’s genuinely weird that, even in the middle of dreck like Forever Evil, I think Johns’s take on Captain Cold still comes across as a rounded character.

    But it also means Johns writes the other Rogues as flawed accomplices that Cold has to manage, rather than as characters who can stand on their own. And no one else seems to write any of them with much consistency at all.

  2. Mark Coale says:

    On paper, Mysterio is an interesting villain for DD, because how does an illusionist/SFX artist thwart some who is blind and has hyper senses?

    Can Matt sense when the 619 is coming? 😉

  3. Thom H. says:

    Yeah, if you don’t know about planet Lexor then I highly recommend those stories. Not only are they the bridge between mad scientist/escaped convict Luthor and battlesuit Luthor, they’re also a good example of the transition from Silver Age to Bronze Age in general. And lots of fun.

    Personally, I enjoy when the new Luthor goes from successful CEO and/or U.S. President to full-on bonkers battlesuit maniac. The best of both worlds, IMO.

    Finally, the best thing about Superman rogues is that they each mirror some aspect of his character gone out-of-control. Luthor is the scientific genius who only cares about himself (back when Supes’ brain was as quick as his body). Bizarro is Superman’s strength without his intellect or awareness of the people around him. Zod is the Kryptonian who wasn’t tempered by the Kents. Parasite is Superman’s absorption of solar power turned monstrous. Even Toyman is the fun, cartoonish quality of make-believe embodied by Superman, but turned deadly.

    Batman’s rogues tend to be about fear or the grotesque. Flash’s rogues tend to be about scientific control of some natural element. And they all reflect back on their heroes in some way. But Superman’s rogues tend to be directly about Superman. What if he didn’t have the exact balance of alien, human, powerful, kind, moral, righteous, fun, paternal, smart, thoughtful, etc. that he does? How terrible would that be?

    And to tie this back to DD just a little bit, I really liked when Mark Waid was trying to organize DD’s villains around sight and sound. That, more than the street level hero thing, makes Daredevil interesting to me. Especially when he has artists who can render his radar sense well.

  4. Taibak says:

    One thing nobody’s mentioned yet is that a lot of the work done in developing a stable of recurring villains is done when the characters are adapted for TV and movies (and, to a lesser extent, video games). Batman is a good example here. The Riddler was a non-entity until Frank Gorshin made the character come to life. Harley Quinn didn’t even exist until Paul Dini created her for the cartoon.

    On top of that, if you asked the average person who Batman’s top villains are you’d probably get the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, the Penguin, Harley, Mr. Freeze, and maybe the Scarecrow and Poison Ivy because there the ones that keep showing up on screen. Very few people would think of the Mad Hatter or Hugo Strange. Even then, the only reason that list is so long is because there have been so many adaptations of Batman that screenwriters have to use more of his villains to keep things from getting too repetitive.

    You could make the same case for Spider-Man. Sure he keeps fighting the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom, but I would argue that the only reason characters like the Lizard, Mysterio, the Rhino, and the Sandman are so well known is from the movies.

    Daredevil is in the opposite situation. He’s only had one movie and one TV series and both of them used Bullseye and the Kingpin, with the TV series adding in the Punisher, the Hand, and a genericized version of the Owl. Nobody’s really had to look past the obvious examples and find a deeper cut, like the Riddler, and put them in the public eye.

  5. Michael says:

    @Taibak- that’s more true for DC than Marvel. It’s true that at DC that, for example, Batman the Animated Series saved Mr. Freeze. Freeze was a minor villain who had been killed off at the time of the Animated Series but the Animated Series turned him into one of the core villains of Batman’s rogues gallery.
    Another example is Zod. Before the Superman movies, Jax-Ur was the most prominent of the Phantom Zone villains and arguably one of Superman’s top five villains. Now, Zod is the leader of the Phantom Zone villains and Jax-Ur is a footnote in history. To be fair, Zod’s design was much better than Jax-Ur’s. (Pre-Crisis Jax-Ur was fat, and not in a look-this-fat-guy- is-really-a-dangerous-fighter way like Kingpin or Blob but in a how-could-anyone-think-this-was-a-good-villain-design way.)
    But that’s not true for Marvel. Take the Sandman. He was one of Marvel’s most frequently used villains before DeFalco reformed him the first time in the ’80s- the only villains which appeared more often were heavy hitters like Doom, Loki and the Red Skull. Sandman fought both Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. This was a quarter century before his appearance in Spider-Man 3.
    The Rhino was also one of Spider-Man’s most frequently appearing foes long before a minor appearance in Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014. The Lizard was appearing frequently both as an ally (Connors) and a foe (Lizard) of Spider-Man long before the 2012 Amazing Spider-Man film. (Shed, the story which was criticized for “ruining” the Lizard, was in 2010.) And as for Mysterio- Spider-Man: Far From Home was only in 2019. He was already playing a major role in Spencer’s run. Spider-Man had one of the best rogues galleries in comics long before the Raimi films.
    That being said, appearing in films has boosted the profile of certain minor Marvel villains. William Stryker had been in limbo since his first appearance before X2- but writers could never stick with a consistent gimmick for him and he was eventually killed off. (While other human villains like Donald Pierce and Graydon Creed have appeared in the Krakoan era.) Killmonger has become Black Panther’s sole archenemy since the Black Panther film instead of sharing that title with Klaw. And Nebula has appeared much more frequently since the Guardians of the Galaxy films. (Although making her part of the Guardians of the Galaxy means ignoring that she’s been portrayed in the past as just as crazy as Thanos and so dangerous that the heroes have to ally with people like Thanos, Doom or the Skrulls to stop her.)

  6. Mark Coale says:

    Off the top of my head, most of the Silver Age Spidey villains were in the 60s cartoon (goblin, doc ock, rhino, scorpion, electro, mysterious, lizard) before it got weird under Ralph Bashki. Don’t remember who was and wasn’t used in the 90s cartoon off top of my head.

    Heck, IIRC, Mr Freeze was Mr Zero before being renamed for the TV show and then had 3 different people play him.

    I don’t think we have even brought up the Batman 66 villains created for the show that migrated into the comics (book worm, king tut, …).

  7. Krzysiek Ceran says:

    All of them were in the 90s cartoon. As well as Vulture, Venom, Carnage and others. (Alistair Smythe turned into a bio-cyborg of some kind was a pretty big deal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a comic book).

    Also in the 90s cartoon Kingpin was the main bad guy, appearing way more often than Goblin or Doc Ock.

  8. Mike Loughlin says:

    @Mark Coale: “I don’t think we have even brought up the Batman 66 villains created for the show that migrated into the comics (book worm, king tut, …).”

    There were rights issues involved. The few that have appeared (the only one I can think of is King Tut) had their appearance heavily altered for the comics.

  9. Mark Coale says:

    I haven’t read the Batman 66 comic in a while, but I think they use Book Worm and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. But they may have changed their looks to not clash with image rights for Roddy McDowell and Carolyn Jones. But those may have had a deal with Fox, not being part of DCU. I should ask Parker about that sometime.

  10. Josie says:

    I’m going to try to name 10 Daredevil villains off the top of my head, in addition to the ones Paul already named, and see if I can add anything about them. I’m not including Turk, who’s almost always a henchman and not a proper villain, or Lady Bullseye, who is derivative.

    1. Gladiator, a guy who’s often Daredevil’s ally but suffers mental problems and becomes this ridiculously strong brawler.

    2. Mr. Fear, uh, he drove Matt Murdock’s blind wife insane in the Brubaker run, and I guess that effectively got her written out. I remember liking that run, but I don’t remember Mr. Fear.

    3. The Purple Man, who’s become attached to Jessica Jones almost exclusively. Besides Daredevil Yellow, and the children of the Purple Man stuff under Soule, I don’t think I’ve read a proper Daredevl/Purple Man story.

    4. Blackheart? Okay, I didn’t actually read the Nocenti run, but she used Blackheart, right?

    5. Mr. Hyde? Is he a Daredevil villain? I think he was in the Kessel/Nord run?

    6. The Owl. Almost forgot. Bendis used him quite a bit, not to great effect, but still. And there was that bizarre Spider-Man/Daredevil series with covers by Alex Ross.

    7. Stiltman. Right. Um, definitely a Daredevil villain, not an Iron Man villain?

    8. Okay I give up.

  11. Josie says:

    “But it also means Johns writes the other Rogues as flawed accomplices that Cold has to manage, rather than as characters who can stand on their own.”

    I loved the two-part Weather Wizard story Johns told in his first year. I really wish there was more solo Weather Wizard, rather than making him just part of the Rogues. The upside is we saw a lot of him, just not specifically him.

  12. Josie says:

    “The Riddler was a non-entity until Frank Gorshin made the character come to life.”

    I am actually reading Batman chronologically, and I’m up to 1964, and there were a couple (comparatively good) Riddler appearances in the early 1950s and that’s it. I hear it the way you tell it, that the show rejuvenated the character.

    And there’s the fact the show basically invented Mr. Freeze. Oh, “Mr. Zero” had one previous appearance, but it barely the character we know and love.

    Besides that, Catwoman had been written out years earlier and the show reinvented her. The Penguin had been neglected for a while, but does have an appearance in 1962 or 1963. The show adapts the second Mad Hatter from the comics (which Grant Morrison later dubs “Hatman”). And around 1963, we get multiple appearances by Clayface II Matt Hagen, but he never made it onto the ’60s show and is basically forgotten until Batman TAS.

    Scarecrow, Hugo Strange, the original Mad Hatter, these guys had one or two appearances each and disappeared for decades.

    Late ’50s and early ’60s, in addition to the extended Bat-family, gave us Kite Man, Signal Man, Catman, Zodiac Master, Zebra Man, a lot of those z-list characters who would turn up in the Lego Batman film.

  13. Loz says:

    Was it Marvel’s bankruptcy and near-destruction at the end of the nineties that made them stop the character development of turning some villains like Doctor Doom and Sandman good?

    Does the Silver Surfer still have any rogues? He seemed to lose Thanos after the Infinity trilogy when the Titan became part of Adam Warlock’s group and then he seems to have spent his time fighting other people. Now he just seems to spend his time wandering between planets and acting as the mysterious stranger solving local problems before heading off again.

  14. Andrew says:

    Wonder Woman is an odd one in the sense that she’s an iconic character whose for the most part has no especially memorable stories that she’s the star of.

    Batman has a whole stack of well-known and frequently collected volumes (Year One, Long Halloween/Dark Victory, Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, Hush etc), While Superman several (many of which involve his origin being retold), and of course Green Lantern, Green Arrow, the JLA and more all have famous storylines or collections.

    Wonder Woman’s best, or at least most fondly remembered run is the Perez one but even that I’d argue isn’t especially well-known.

  15. K says:

    The Black Panther movie should remind us all that the most absurd stories can be made iconic and character-defining.

    Remember the original version of the Killmonger fight, where they fight for two straight weeks and then T’Challa gets sucker-punched to death due to comic relief?

  16. nrh says:

    ” And around 1963, we get multiple appearances by Clayface II Matt Hagen, but he never made it onto the ’60s show and is basically forgotten until Batman TAS.”

    The Mudpack story was in ’89. Those few years, with Denny O’Neill editing and Alan Grant as more or less the head writer, did a lot to cement the modern Batman villain group.

  17. Michael says:

    @Josie- the idea that there was a second Mad Hatter was a retcon in the early ’80s. Until then, all of the appearances by the Mad Hatter were assumed to be the same person.
    @nrh- “The Mudpack story was in ’89. Those few years, with Denny O’Neill editing and Alan Grant as more or less the head writer, did a lot to cement the modern Batman villain group.”
    But the first Clayface, Basil Karlo, disappeared for years after that story and didn’t return until 1998. And they kept introducing new Clayfaces until Hush. Karlo didn’t really become a core member of Batman’s rogues gallery until the 2010s- and oddly, he started getting portrayed as sympathetic, when previously he’d been the least sympathetic of the Clayfaces.

  18. Mark Coale says:

    One person I don’t think that’s been mentioned so far is Deadshot. One appearance in the 40s and I think none again he got revived by Englehart and Rogers in the 70s. And now, he gets played by an A list Hollywood actor.

    Also, since I just remembered him, Blockbuster. Oddly revitalized in the 90s by inverting the character.

  19. Josie says:

    “Until then, all of the appearances by the Mad Hatter were assumed to be the same person.”

    Not at all. When Mad Hatter II first appears, this is treated as his first appearance. He is not treated as the same character as Mad Hatter I; Mad Hatter I is just ignored completely, just as Clayface I is ignored when Clayface II first appears, and the same goes for the two Firefly characters.

  20. Josie says:

    “Remember the original version of the Killmonger fight, where they fight for two straight weeks and then T’Challa gets sucker-punched to death due to comic relief?”

    That was . . . not the original version. The original version was the Don McGregor story. The Priest version paid homage to that story.

  21. Nu-D says:

    Love this project. Daredevil needs more love.

    Off the top of my head:

    The Hand
    Typhoid Mary
    White Tiger
    The guy who does his tech (Buzzsaw, or something?)

    And my all-time favorite, Madcap!

  22. Nu-D says:

    Oh, and Nuke, of course.

  23. Mike Loughlin says:

    Funny thing about “Mudpack:” Matt Hagen, the Clayface we became familiar with from Batman: The Animated Series, is barely in it. Basil Karlo, Clayface 3, and Clayface 4 (Lady Clayface) are the main villains. Also, Looker shows up! It’s a wild story.

    I thought it was weird that the post-Rebirth Clayface was Basil Karlo in B:TAS-Hagen’s body, but I liked that run of Detective. His friendship with Cassandra Cain was a highlight.

    Also, Killmonger was a serious, interesting character from the beginning (the MacGregor/Buckler/Graham/Janson run on Jungle Action). The best Black Panther villain update was M’Baku in the movie (but started during the Priest/Velluto/Almond run), they managed to avoid the codename”Man-Ape” and find a unique spin on him.

  24. Omar Karindu says:

    Lots of Batman rogues talk! I’ll split this into a couple of comments for length reasons.

    Golden Age Villains in General:

    Golden Age comics didn’t really use “recurring” villains in the ways modern comics do. They’d introduce a new villain, use them a lot in a relatively short amount of time, often give each episode a hook such as an identity the hero hadn’t yet exposed or a talent for getting away at the end of this story, and then drop them by having them finally get caught or exposed.

    Superman and Batman stand out because they had some villains really stick: the Joker, Luthor, Catwoman, the Penguin, the Prankster, the Toyman, and Mister Myxyztplk/Myxyzptlk just “stuck” in ways most Golden Age villains didn’t and each appeared much more frequently than most Golden Age baddies.

    By way of contrast, the Cavalier was introduced in Batman’s comics, given a big push, and then dropped after four stories told within a very short span of about two years.

  25. Omar Karindu says:

    Golden Age villains continued:

    Two-Face, for example, had a somewhat distinct arc in the 40s: his first two=part story — told in non-consecutive issues despite a cliffhanger in part 1 — mentions a doctor who might be able to cure him.

    After that story, there’s a last appearance where said doctor is found and cures him, and then a couple of stories where other people pretend to be Two-Face and try to frame him. Finally, there’s an early 1950s story where his disfigurement comes back, now apparently unfixable, and he goes back to being Two-Face,

    Even into the 1950s, Killer Moth, Cat-Man, and some other villains were introduced this way. Each had some hook — Killer Moth’s secret identity, Cat-Man returning from seeming death thanks to his “nine lives,” and so forth — that played out across three of four loosely connected stories. In the last of them, they’d lose this gimmick or finally be arrested, and then they just stopped showing up for a long time.

  26. Omar Karindu says:

    Re: Clayface:

    Batman: The Animated Series made a Clayface with elements of all four prior versions from the comics. He had the name and general powerset of Matt Hagen, the unwanted mutation angle from Preston Payne’s iteration, Sondra Fuller’s feelings of ugliness inadequacy with the powers as compensation, and Basil Karlo’s acting career and a chunk of his narcissism.

    The comics seem to have, in turn, rebooted Basil Karlo with the animated version’s more sympathetic dimensions.

    Looking back, Matt Hagen’s Clayface was introduced using that Golden Age model: in his first two appearances, Batman doesn’t know the secret of his power. In his third, Batman works it out, defeats him, and cuts him off from the weird pool of gunk that he’s been using. After that, he gets one last story feuding with the Joker, then gets shunted off to World’s Finest Comics before being dropped entirely.

    Gerry Conway had some plans to bring Hagen back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and wrote him into the original version of Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 before it was revised with a changed cast and plot structure. And Conway brought Hagen into the big anniversary celebration in Detective Comics #526.

    Conway’s angle seemed to be that Hagen was trapped in his clay form, and mostly had “master of disguise powers,” not his super-shapeshifting from his original appearances.

  27. Omar Karindu says:

    Re: The Mad Hatter

    The two Mad Hatters are a really odd case. I think Josie’s right that the original from 1949 was not meant to be connected to the later mustachioed version.

    That’s partly because the original Mad Hatter story is built around introducing Vicki Vale and her efforts to learn Batman’s secret identity. The Hatter is a pretty incidental element of the story, more of a plot complication than the focus of the story.

    The “second” Hatter was the one who really stuck, using hat-based weapons, and he was the one who actually got the name Jervis Tetch.

    But then a weird thing happened in Gerry Conway’s early 1980s run. Conway decided to get clever with the Earth-1 (Silver and Bronze Age)/Earth-2 (Golden Age) distinction. So he started reintroducing Golden Age villains as if Batman had never fought them before. New versions of Doctor Death, the vampiric Monk and Dala, and the Scarlet Horde (now the army of Colonel Blimp) turned up across his run.

    This was actually a continuity problem, since the editorial line hd been that Golden Age and Silver Age Batman had broadly parallel cases and careers up until the GA version retired and the SA version switched to the yellow circle logo.

    The Mad Hatter, though, Conway reintroduced knowing there had been a rather different Silver Age Hatter, who had kept appearing on and off into the 1970s.

    So he decided to establish that that guy with the mustache was an “impostor” who had stolen the hat theme and even the name “Jervis Tetch” from the 1949 version. Oh, and the original implied he’d killed the Silver Age “Impostor” version. Conway further distinguished the “original” Hatter from the Silver Age version by introducing a computer-based mind-erasing, and later mind-control gimmick.

    The Silver Age, mustachioed Hatter was brought back by Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis in their run a few years later. I’m not sure if Grant Morrison was trying to rename this version as “Hatman” or if that was just meant to be another villain giving him a nickname, but it would work to distinguish them….

  28. Omar Karindu says:

    Re: Blockbuster

    The original Mark Desmond iteration of Blockbuster had a suprisingly durable career as a brute obsessed with killing Batman, but otherwise a sympathetic victim of science gone wrong.

    He was killed off in Legends to establish that anyone in the newly reintroduced Suicide Squad cvould die, and probablybecause he was too science-fictiony for the Batman comics of that era.

    Roger Stern remembered that Blockbuster’s first appearance had him as the pawn of his crooked brother, Roland Desmond, so he had the 1989 Invasion crossover give the Roland the power to assume a superhuman form like his brother’s thanks to using steroids and set him against Stern’s co-creation, the Will Payton version of Starman.

    This Blockbuster was meant to have his normal intelligence, and was written as a callous, petty criminal and murderer exulting in his new power. His first story ended with the brother stuck in his superpowered form,. btu with his normal intewlligence. His appearance in the final arc of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad a couple of years later kept this status.

    He only became as mentally addled as his brother when Mark Waid wrote him into Underworld Unleashed, where he needed to be that way to motivate his deal with the demon Neron. Thanks to the deal, Roland Desmond got back his intelligence and was made a balding, hulking genius. Waid was pretty clearly thinking of the Silver Age Mark Desmond version here.

  29. Mark Coale says:

    If I remember that Two Face story right, cured Harvey stumbled into some bomb, perhaps meant for Batman, and it blows away the plastic surgery he had to fix his scarred side. What horrible luck.

    Also, I hate the modern day thing where villains with real names that foretell their criminal name are normalized. The Riddler isn’t nearly as great if his real name is Edward Nash, not Edward Nygma.

  30. K says:

    It is delightful that I have been reading the Priest run wrong this whole time. I might be doomed to have some of his jokes go over my head for the rest of time.

    Thanks Josie!

  31. Steven Kaye says:

    Aww, no love for The Jester?

  32. Joe I says:

    Speaking of Wonder Woman’s enemies, sometime during the Jimenez or Rucka run a pal and I noticed just how many of her villains are explicitly Doctor Something or have some tie to higher education or STEM (Giganta the college professor, Cheetah the anthropologist, Veronica Cale the tech magnate) and started to wonder if the real story was all these intellectuals banding together to suppress Princess Diana’s creationist views…

  33. Mark Coale says:

    Well, her views do include actually knowing gods like Mars/Ares , Zeus and people like Hercules.

  34. ylU says:

    >Remember the original version of the Killmonger fight, where they fight for two straight weeks and then T’Challa gets sucker-punched to death due to comic relief?

    But that ruled.

  35. Josie says:

    “It is delightful that I have been reading the Priest run wrong this whole time.”

    You read it correctly. Your mistake was assuming that this fight was the basis for the fight in the movie. Both were inspired by McGregor’s Killmonger story.

  36. Josie says:

    “The two Mad Hatters are a really odd case. I think Josie’s right that the original from 1949 was not meant to be connected to the later mustachioed version.”

    Not to mention that the original (and current) version is obsessed with the Wonderland characters and motif, and the second version just really likes hats a lot. He was consistent with other characters from that era like Kite Man and Zodiac Master who had one gimmick they reiterated throughout the story.

    To be fair, I always thought importing a character (original Mad Hatter) from a completely different work of fiction, and basing his stories entirely around that other work of fiction, is kind of weird in a metafiction sense. For example, I don’t think we’ll ever see the Mad Hatter in a Batman film (unless he’s on screen for like 10 seconds), because audiences will rightly wonder, why is a Batman film being used to explore Lewis Carroll stories?

    I like the (original) Mad Hatter, and I’m fine with the Wonderland references, but it’s best not to think too hard about them.

  37. Mark Coale says:

    Not surprisingly, I’m a big fan of the metatexual super villain, if you have a good gimmick.

    I once pitched a retro Golden Age 8 pager based on a villain who committed Gilbert and Sullivan related crimes, which didn’t go anywhere.

    When Will Pfeifer wrote Catwoman, he created a bad guy called Film Freak, who based his crimes on famous movies.

  38. Omar Karindu says:

    Mark Coale said: When Will Pfeifer wrote Catwoman, he created a bad guy called Film Freak, who based his crimes on famous movies.

    Film Freak was originally co-created by Doug Moench as a Batman villain back in the 1980s. The version was killed off during the Knightfall crossover, so Pfeifer created a second version.

  39. Josie says:

    Film Freak 2: Metafictional Boogaloo?

  40. James Moar says:

    “I once pitched a retro Golden Age 8 pager based on a villain who committed Gilbert and Sullivan related crimes, which didn’t go anywhere.”

    To be fair, it’d be hard for DC to publish a comic with that much ruddy gore.

  41. Jason says:

    Fun fact: The guy who played Daredevil in “Trial of the Incredible Hulk” in the ‘Eighties also appeared as Frederick in the film version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, just a handful of years earlier.

  42. Mark Coale says:

    He (Rex Smith) also had a top ten single and replaced Andy Gibb as host of Solid Gold.

    I still remember him best for Street Hawk, like Knight Ridder but with a motorcycle.

  43. Dave says:

    Coming to this late, and not having read it yet, here’s my attempt to name DD villains:

    The Owl
    Mr. Fear
    Typhoid Mary
    The Beast/Hand
    Purple Man
    Mr. Hyde


  44. Chris M says:

    Coming in to this way, way WAAAAY late, but one of my favorite pre-Miller DD villains is Death-Stalker. The guy had a killer design and interesting power set, and his death was pretty memorable to boot.

Leave a Reply