Hello. I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our Community as HubCityQuestion. My personal mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe -- no matter how granular, obscure, or strange -- and present you with an answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I offer my time in this weekly column to address these inquiries. If you’d like to submit one of your own, you can stop by my office at any time in our lively Community to state your case, which I will address in turn to the best of my ability.
However, it is my duty to inform you that office hours shall be closed for the following two weeks, due to the holidays. In the meantime, however, you may still pose your cases in the appropriate topic, and I will do my level best to address them in the new year. All YOU need to do is ask… The Question.
RA'S THE ROOF
“Thanks to the Lazarus Pit, Ra’s al Ghul has lived an enormously long life, so far. And it’s only been a few short years (in DC Comics time) that he has run up against Super Hero opposition to his global plans for humanity. But, since even prior to Batman, he has failed to accomplish his goal. One has to wonder, why? What other heroes (or villains) in times past have stood in his way?”
Not too many. But those who have stood against the League of Assassins have generally been equally clandestine organizations, waging a shadow war against the Demon’s Head for centuries.
Early issues of Azrael suggest that Jean-Paul Valley’s own Order of St. Dumas may have been one such organization. Similarly, the Rebirth era introduced us to the existence a splinter counter-faction from within the League of Assassins, known as the League of Shadows… once led by Lady Shiva, the world’s deadliest assassin, but currently headed up by the Demon’s own daughter, Talia. Ra’s has also been long embroiled in a bitter struggle for dominance with the enigmatic “Sensei” — a figure who may either be Ra’s al Ghul’s father, or his own son, depending on the legend.
Another opposing faction to the League of Assassins is the mysterious All-Caste, an ancient order of mystic warriors who trained Jason Todd in the New 52 after his resurrection.
Robin: Son of Batman introduces us to the Lu’un Darga, an ancient family of immortals who seek to keep the likes of Ra’s al Ghul from exploiting Earth’s Lazarus Pits — but also to cleanse the world of all life and start over. Luckily, Damian was able to deal with them.
One of Ra’s al Ghul’s most recurring enemies in ancient times may have been I-Ching, the martial arts master who took upon the heavy burden of embodying both the light and dark essences of the universe. In his ongoing struggle against corrupting influences such as Ra’s, I-Ching has trained Batman, Wonder Woman, and China’s own New Super-Man.
Maybe the most enlightening encounter with the pre-Batman history of Ra’s occurred in 2009’s Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1. One of many time-bending stories in that anthology is set in the early 20th century, where the S.H.A.D.E. organization has dispatched their agent The Bride (as in, of Frankenstein) to keep Ra’s from exploiting another Lazarus Pit. Most surprisingly, it’s revealed through the course of that adventure that The Bride was once married to Ra’s al Ghul, as well.
In media outside of comics, Ra’s has had his fair share of enemies before Batman as well. The Batman: The Animated Series episode “Showdown” relates the 19th century tale of an aging Jonah Hex opposing Ra’s al Ghul in his own right. And in the Arrowverse series, we find Ra’s has long struggled for control against his ally turned rival Damien Darhk, and enlists Oliver Queen to aid in defeating him.
But here’s a thought for you. Despite all of that, before Batman appeared to oppose him… what makes you believe Ra’s al Ghul was ever truly stopped?
WHY IS A RAVEN LIKE A WRITING DESK?
“Hi, I had a thought watching Batwoman tonight and figured you could tell me: has the Mad Hatter ever met Alice? Batwoman’s sister, I mean, not someone Hatter was trying to force to be Alice.”
Nope! Seems like they really should have, though, right? Oh, well! Next question.
WE ARE CURIOUS ABOUT BATWOMAN (YELLOW)
“Hey Q, thanks for helping out on the history of Zatara. It’s led me to wonder about another Golden Age hero who disappeared; whatever happened to the original Batwoman?”
Before the modern Kate Kane, there was Kathy Kane: the yellow-clad, pocketbook wielding Batwoman introduced to straighten up Batman’s image a little by introducing an appropriately chaste yet decidedly heteronormative romantic interest. With the addition of Barbara Gordon to the regular Bat-Family, it was decided that there was no longer any need for the original Batwoman, and she was quietly phased out -- until concerns from fans about what had happened to her led to her death in 1979’s Detective Comics #485, courtesy of the League of Assassins. Well, that’s what you get sometimes for asking questions.
In modern continuity, Kathy Kane was introduced back into continuity by Grant Morrison as the enigmatic “Agent Zero” of Spyral. It’s revealed in early 2011’s Batman Incorporated #4 that Kathy Kane was originally Bruce Wayne’s aunt by marriage, and for a time his lover as well. (Yeah, I’m not sure what to say about that either.) After her apparent death at the hands of the League of Assassins, Kathy went undercover with Spyral- not unlike a certain Dick Grayson- and became their most capable and secretive assassin. But now that this year’s Event Leviathan has cleared Spyral from the board, the long ago Batwoman’s current whereabouts remain unknown.
CRISIS ON INFINITE CALCULATORS
“Hi Q, With CW’s [Crisis on Infinite Earths] having started and DC Daily having gone through each issue [of the original comic], I reread it again. So I’ve got a two part question for you. How many “named” characters are in COIE? Given the large number does that make George Pérez the artist who has drawn the most DC characters? (If not [Pérez], then who holds that title?)”
You’re really living up to your name, acolyte, because this question was downright sadistic. Nevertheless, for my hungry readers, I endeavored to identify and tally every single named character in the entire 12 issue Crisis on Infinite Earths epic, from Abra Kadabra to Zirral of the Omega Men. Throughout its myriad crowds and costumes, I counted 518 characters in total. I will not list them here. (Curiously absent, though? Hal Jordan. Interesting, that. True, he was retired at the time, but you’d think he’d have at least made a small appearance somewhere.)
As for whether Pérez has drawn the most DC characters… I believe that title would actually have to go to Keith Giffen, thanks to his legendary crowd scenes. (Infamously, the “Great Darkness Saga” storyline once required him to draw the ENTIRE POPULATION of the planet Daxam.) But in terms of NAMED characters, I’m going to call it for Pérez, with nothing but instinct to back me up. Prove me wrong!
I KNOW A HAWK FROM A HAWKGIRL
“Hey, can you think of something that explains why [Hawkgirl] Kendra is reborn while [Hawkwoman] Shiera is still alive in the current [Justice League] run? I know it’s kind of a soul split thing, but how does that work?”
Sure, I can think of something. Or rather, a writer much cleverer than I am already has. All of the answers to your Hawk questions are elegantly provided in Robert Venditti’s ongoing Hawkman series, which somehow solves the complex conundrum of Hawkman further in every issue. One of Venditti’s many enlightening clarifications to the Hawkman timeline is that the reincarnations of Hawkman and Hawkwoman do not necessarily occur in linear time. Upon his or her death, their next reincarnation could occur thousands of years BEFORE the last… or even simultaneous, as was the case recently with Hawkman and his Earth-3 counterpart, Sky Tyrant. It’s entirely possible- probable even, at this point- that Shiera Hol of Thanagar and Kendra Saunders of Earth are two different reincarnations of Hawkgirl which just so happen to be occurring at the same point in time. To quote another wise man, “You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally.”
My own dad(???) asks:
“Have there ever been any DC characters who dressed up like Santa Claus?”
First of all, thanks for taking an interest in what I do, Dad! It was your early gift of an oversized Shazam! comic when I was a kid that was my initial gateway into the DC Universe, and I’ve never forgotten that. In some small way, you’re responsible for all of this.
But to answer your question, practically EVERY character in the DC Universe has dressed up as Santa Claus at one point or another. Given a certain number of obligatory holiday specials over 80 years of publication, it becomes something of an inevitability. Here are the Santa costumed DC characters I have found in my travels through the DC archives.
A note about rules for this venture: upon a great deal of deliberation, I have decided that a “Santa costume” must include at LEAST two the following three elements: a Santa hat, a Santa beard, and a Santa suit. When The Joker shows up just wearing a Santa hat and his regular costume, for instance, that’s not enough to count. With that in mind, here are… let’s say twelve? Sure, twelve- of our DC Santas.
Plastic Man (The Brave and the Bold #148, 1979)
Bibbo Bibbowski (The Adventures of Superman #487, 1991)
Detective Harvey Bullock (The Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1, 1994)
The Riddler (Batman & Robin Adventures #3, 1995)
Impulse (DC Universe Holiday Bash #3, 1998)
Etrigan the Demon (Action Comics #762, 1999)
Robin (Teen Titans Go! #25, 2005)
Superman & Batman (DC Universe Infinite Holiday Special #1, 2006)
Supergirl (DC Universe Holiday Special #1, 2008)
Adam Strange (Batman: The Brave and the Bold #12, 2009)
Green Arrow (DC Holiday Special 2017)
Wow, that was fun! Let no one say that my father doesn’t know exactly the kind of gifts I like for the holidays. And it’s one you can give to me, as well. After all, the only thing you need to do is ASK… THE QUESTION.