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 strange, granular, or obscure -- 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 Community to state your case, each of which I will in time address to the best of my ability. Let’s take a look!
TEARS OF A BAT
“Has Batman ever got so emotional in a battle that he cried either during the fight or after?” -jsmsiggy
The issue over when and whether Batman cries is a surprisingly contentious one amongst his fans, especially considering how his tears have been a cornerstone of the character since a newly orphaned Bruce Wayne shed them over the deaths of his parents. Any time Batman is depicted crying on screen, usually in relation to his parents or a lost loved one (most often, a Robin), there’s a vocal group of Batman devotees who decry this emotional response as “out of character.” He’s “too badass” to cry, they say. As if expressing his sorrow makes him any less of a man. In truth, Batman’s tears usually mark the most memorable moments of his career, from “A Death in the Family,” to the heart-wrenching, wordless “Requiem” after the death of his son Damian, to my personal favorite, a besotten, guilt-ridden Bruce pleading at his parents’ grave for them to forgive him for wanting to be happy in his greatest story of all time, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
But these incidents are usually reserved for his most private, intimate moments, as opposed to the heat of battle. One exception is 2012’s mind-bending BATMAN #6, where a lost and nearly broken Batman sheds tears of desperation while preyed upon by the Court of Owls. But here’s the interesting part: the only reason we see Batman crying here at all is because through the tribulations of the Court’s punishing labyrinth, one of the opaque lenses of Bruce’s cowl had been cracked open. This begs the question: how many other times has Bruce cried in battle, only for his opponents- and readers- to be none the wiser? Does he cry when his friend Harvey Dent falls into darkness time and again, the redemption he seeks forever eluding him though the fate of a coin toss? When he’s forced to confront Jason Todd, whose death he still sees as his greatest failure? Or does Batman cry when he’s moments away, a mere flick of the wrist, from killing The Joker, knowing his own moral code prevents him from ever putting a real end to his reign of death and chaos, and all the tragedies that will follow from his own obsessive inflexibility? Only Bruce knows for sure, and he’ll never tell.
“How wicked awesome is Jack Knight?! Seriously! Hahaha! And other than his series where can I find more of him?” -RiffPowerchord
The literal definition of “awesome” is to invoke awe. Since all superheroes are designed to inspire the civilian and terrify the criminal, then, indeed, Jack Knight, the Starman, is awesome. Particularly to his evil-doing enemies, the “wicked.” So yes, I suppose by design, Jack Knight is pretty wicked awesome.
On to your second, less rhetorical question: James Robinson designed Jack Knight’s STARMAN saga of 1994-2001 to be self-contained, introducing the hero to us at the start, and giving him a tidy end (which I won’t spoil here) by the series finale. But Starman is one of the richest legacies in the DC Universe, and it was inevitable that Jack’s appearances bleed out at least a little into the larger world.
First, it’s important to know that Jack Knight’s actual debut was not in STARMAN #0, but a couple months earlier, in the event comic ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME -- a soft reboot of the publishing line which would herald the arrival of new directions for titles and new concepts altogether, such as this new Starman for the ‘90s.
Jack’s next canonical appearance outside his own series, somewhere between issues #24 and #25, was GREEN LANTERN #81, as one of many attendants for the funeral of Hal Jordan. After that, he played a notable role in 1997’s GENESIS event, which you may have caught wind of after reading tie-in issue STARMAN #35. Jack sticks around for a GENESIS aftermath story arc in THE POWER OF SHAZAM!, which plays out through issues #32-36. Then, in 1999, came the special 2 issue limited DC/Dark Horse crossover of BATMAN/HELLBOY/STARMAN, a collaboration between Starman’s James Robinson and Hellboy’s Mike Mignola. A favorite amongst fans of either character.
As the series entered its Autumn years, Jack Knight embraced his family legacy and prepared to pass on the Cosmic Staff by getting involved in the turn of the 21st century resurgence of the Justice Society of America. 1999’s ALL STAR COMICS #2, STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. #0 and #8, JSA SECRET FILES, JSA #1-15, the multi-title “Day of Judgment” event, the age-swapping SINS OF YOUTH series, MARTIAN MANHUNTER #18-19, and HOURMAN #18-19 all feature Opal City’s unlikely protector in its pages as an ally of the world’s first team of superheroes. JLA #40 even lists Jack as one of their reservists. Jack is one of many former heroes in a world where all superpowers dissipate overnight in the Elseworlds tale JLA: ACT OF GOD.
STARMAN #80 is, for reasons which should be clear when you read it, the final chronological appearance of Jack Knight. Flashbacks and time traveling cameos are afforded to him in 2003’s JSA: ALL STARS #4, JSA #75, JSA CLASSIFIED #8, the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA WEDDING SPECIAL, 52 #8, BOOSTER GOLD #6, DC UNIVERSE: LEGACIES #10, and a quick cameo in James Robinson’s own JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRY FOR JUSTICE #4.
TALKIN’ BOUT REGENERATION
“Just who in the DCU now lists ‘accelerated healing ability’ on their super-power resume?” -Wrightline1.42741
The ability to recover from injury faster than your average mortal man is one of the most common superpowers in the DC Universe - or, dare I say, any comic book universe. And there’s a simple reason for that: nobody wants to read 6 months of your favorite hero slowly recovering from an all-out climactic brawl while their bones knit back together in full traction. A regenerative factor is the easiest way to keep characters in the fight issue after issue, no matter how much of a beating they take. Alphabetically, this includes, but is not limited to:
Amazo -- has basically every power anyway.
Amazons -- unclear if all Amazons have regenerative abilities, but those especially “gifted” by the gods do, such as Wonders Girl and Woman, and Donna Troy.
Apollo and Midnighter -- it’s the only way they keep up with each other.
Atlanteans -- Healing and regeneration is one of the most essential skills in Atlantean sorcery, and its related six kingdoms.
Avatars -- cosmic avatars of life or those who can directly channel the morphogenic field, such as Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy, Animal Man, and Vixen, or Avatars of Chaos and Order, such as Hawk and Dove, are granted regenerative abilities to fulfil their missions.
Bane -- thanks to the properties of Venom. This applies to other Venom-based characters as well, such as Gotham Girl.
The Body Doubles -- a pair of mercenaries who stay in the game with their nanite technology.
Clayface -- the whole Mud Pack.
Cyborg -- thanks to a nanobot upgrade.
Czarnians -- like Lobo and his daughter, Crush.
Daemonites -- big deal alien demons in WildStorm mythology.
Damage -- Ethan Avery, of the New Age of Heroes.
Daxamites -- See Kryptonians.
Deathstroke -- applies to his progeny as well, who inherited his metagene.
Demons -- Full-blooded or half-blooded, from Etrigan to Brimstone to Blue Devil.
Doomsday -- you can’t kill him the same way twice.
Gods, New Gods, and Demigods -- generally hard to kill all around, regardless of denomination.
Grunge -- the garage rock Seattle sound-inspired member of Gen13.
The Joker -- possibly. Depends who you ask. If true, always off screen.
Kryptonians -- under the light of a yellow sun.
Lion-Mane -- chimerafied enemy of Batwing.
Loose Cannon -- face of the oft-forgotten “Blood Pack.”
Mongul -- how the master of War World stays in the war.
Monitors -- the caretakers of the multiverse are afforded a lot of power to oversee their tasks.
The Monster Men -- products of Hugo Strange.
Sofia Ramos -- fledgling recruit of Batman and the Outsiders, infused with the Lazarus Pit.
Red Lanterns -- one of the key perks of joining the cosmic angry mob.
The Shazam! Family -- including Black Adam, and other champions of the Wizard Shazam, thanks to their godly gifts of Stamina.
Sideways -- another alum from DC’s “New Age of Heroes.”
Speedsters -- speed-healing is one of many fringe benefits.
Talons -- thanks to the magical science of “electrum,” these agents of the Court of Owls can’t be stopped by pretty much anything but extreme cold.
Thanagarians -- not naturally, but when harnessed to the healing properties of Nth metal.
Vampires -- as previously discussed, the DCU is teeming with ‘em.
Vandal Savage -- since the dawn of man.
“What were your thoughts on Dick Grayson and Zatanna being in a relationship in Young Justice? I found it to be a rather different take, and I will battle the hill liking it more than Dick and Babs.” -Zuberi
Dick Grayson’s love life (and sexual orientation, for that matter) has been a hotly debated topic in comic book fandom since the 1950s, and one of the favorite topics of our own community to speculate upon. But whether you’re a fan of keeping it in the Bat family or keeping it “chalant,” in the Robin/Zatanna shipper parlance, Babs and Zatanna do have two things in common: first, a rejuvenating retcon to fit them comfortably within the romantic age range of the first Boy Wonder. And second, before they considered Robin, they both had a history with Batman.
When Barbara first appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS #369, she was already out of Dick Grayson’s league. Babs was in her early twenties, having already completed her post-graduate program as a library scientist, and Robin was still a young teenager in short pants. In fact, Babs’ first romantic interest in the Batfamily wasn’t Dick, but Bruce- with her father setting her up with the playboy millionaire on a blind date for her first appearance in the ‘60s Batman TV show. (Due to their secret crime fighting schedules, however, that date never came to pass.)
Believe it or not, the Dick and Barbara pairing is a relatively new one. The first writer to seriously entertain the notion of making them a romantic pair was Chuck Dixon, in 1999’s BIRDS OF PREY #8. It’s still considered a gold standard issue in the pair’s romantic history to this day, with the grown-up Nightwing taking Babs, now the paralyzed Oracle, for a thrilling date on the flying trapeze. This Post-Crisis incarnation of the pair aged Dick up to meet Babs rather than aging her down, and ultimately found resolution with wedding bells in 2015’s CONVERGENCE: NIGHTWING/ORACLE.
After 2011’s “New 52” initiative, many of DC’s characters were made younger in order to shorten and refresh the universe’s timeline, and that included Babs- who was now, for the first time, younger than Dick Grayson. That same year, on television, Zatanna, too, had regressed in age, allowing for a playful flirtation with Robin over the first season of Young Justice. But before that, Zatanna had been a favorite of Batman writer and showrunner Paul Dini as a dark horse romantic interest for Batman himself, in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, as well as his own run on Detective Comics -- even establishing their romance as first having blossomed as children. Today, Zatanna still continues to be a part of Batman’s early romantic history, particularly as written by current Batman lead writer James Tynion IV. The point is that Zatanna wasn’t the first hero to have her age reduced to date a Robin, nor would she be the last. (Looking at you, Raven and Damian.)
As for me: of all the romantic interests and flirtations that Dick’s ever shared on page or screen, none has been more interesting or salient to me than his salty, sweaty chemistry with Spyral agent Tiger King.
Well, that’s all for this week. For more detailed chronologies, character accountings, trivial ephemera, and piping hot takes, remember to stop by the community where I’ll be holding court every day over the column-associated thread, and saving the juiciest of cases for this weekly feature into the foreseeable future. Your role in this endeavor? Only to ASK… THE QUESTION.