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Ask Chris #329: The Official Handbook Of Extremely Obscure Batman Villains

Ask Chris #329, background art by Kevin Nowlan
Ask Chris #329, background art by Kevin Nowlan

Q: Hey, so in The Lego Batman Movie, there's a character called The Mime. What's the deal with that? — @comicsfan4life

A: That signal, shining in the sky --- someone needs me to explain an extremely obscure Batman villain to them! I have been training for this day my entire life.

It might come as a surprise, but I actually haven't seen The Lego Batman Movie yet --- although I definitely want to. As I understand it, though, the Mime is only one of several c- to z-list Batman foes who show up and somehow also manage to get toys out of the deal. So my question is, why stop with the Mime?

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Ask Chris #328: The WildStorm Blues

Ask Chris #328, background art by Jim Lee
Ask Chris #328, background art by Jim Lee

Q: Why aren't the Wildstorm characters a comfortable fit in the modern, edgier DC Universe? — @jdkrach

A: With Warren Ellis and Jon Davis Hunt reviving it in the pages of The Wild Storm --- and with characters like Midnighter and Apollo experiencing some of their best stories ever in the core DC Universe right now --- it seems like the WildStorm characters have been on everyone's mind lately. And Real talk? I kinda love the WildStorm Universe.

It's a universe built on an interesting twist on what it means to be a superhero, shaped by creators like Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, and Adam Warren, a roster of world-builders that somehow came together beautifully to make it all work. But the flipside to that is that a lot of what I love about it comes from the nature of the universe itself, and when you remove them from that kind of thematic setting, it makes it a lot harder for them to fit anywhere else.

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Ask Chris #327: The Thin Line Between Love And Hate

Ask Chris #327, background art by Curt Swan

Q: Is it possible that Lex Luthor is actually in love with Superman? Is it the reason for his obsession and jealousy? — @RedEarth18

A: No.

Don't get me wrong: As much as it's been overused and misapplied over the years, the trope of a villain who's lashing out at a hero through some twisted kind of love isn't exactly one that I'm opposed to. It can be the source of some genuinely great storytelling, like Noelle Stevenson's Nimona, and it adds a lot of layers to villains that you don't often see in straightforward adventure stories where someone wants to punch someone else because they robbed the Crossword Puzzle Museum. I just don't think it works for Lex.

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Ask Chris #326: Solaris The Tyrant Sun

Ask Chris #326, background art by Val Semeiks

Q: I’m going to fall for it: Why would Solaris make a much better movie villain than Darkseid? — @robotfrom1984

A: In case anyone out there missed it, I made an off-hand reference in last week's column to my feeling that Solaris the Tyrant Sun would be a better villain for a Justice League movie than Darkseid, and as is usually the case, readers picked up on the fact that I'm obviously fishing --- er, seeding future columns, I mean --- and decided to follow up. Honestly, though, it's not really that complicated.

It basically just comes down to the fact that Solaris is a giant evil bad guy from space that you can beat by punching.

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Ask Chris #325: Operation Justice Incarnate

Ask Chris #325, background art by Ivan Reis,

Q: Superman just reintroduced Justice Incarnate. Can this team make sense outside of The Multiversity? — @EfremOshinsky

A: One of the great things about superhero comics is that over the past eight decades, it's been twisted into so many different forms that there aren't a lot of concepts that don't at least do something interesting when you remove them from their original contexts. That's half the fun of the genre, right? The idea that you can take a character like Batman and make him work in gritty street-level crime stories or cosmic Justice League sagas and have it all work with the same core ideas.

That said, I'll agree that Justice Incarnate --- aka Operation Justice Incarnate, aka Justice League Incarnate, a pretty confusing string of names for a team that's only ever appeared in three issues --- is a bit of a special case.

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Ask Chris #324: Strong As Iron, Homely As Sin

Ask Chris #325, background art by Jack Sparling

Q: I've always felt like Metamorpho could be a much bigger star, but he's just too ugly. And not like The Thing, who's ugly in universe; Metamorpho is a truly awful design. Are there characters who you think could be better if they didn't look horrendous? — @EvilKeaton

A: Whoa whoa whoa, my dude. It's all well and good to ask a question about good ideas for characters that were held back by bad designs, but you can't just roll up in here and disrespect Rex Mason like this! It's certainly true that he's never quite caught on the way he probably should've for how good his original appearances were, and there are plenty of reasons for that, but to chalk it up to a "truly awful design?" I have to disagree.

It might not be the best design to ever hit the comics page, but that affable ugliness is only part of what makes it work --- not just for the character, but as a visual signifier of one of the most interesting eras in comics.

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Filed Under: , , Category: Ask Chris, DC, Opinion

Ask Chris #323: Like The Batmobile, But Funnier

Ask Chris #324, background art by Dick Sprang

Q: Where does the Jokermobile fit in Batman’s canon? Is it a necessary piece of their rivalry? — @thybmb

A: Okay, the way I see it, there are really two questions here. The first is a pretty easy one, too: No. Strictly speaking, the Jokermobile is by no means necessary, and there's nothing that it adds to or illuminates about the enmity between Batman and the Joker that you can't get elsewhere, especially when it comes to characters who are built far more explicitly around the idea of mimicking Batman's approach to crime fighting.

The second question is one that's more implicit in the fact that you asked: Can I write an entire column about how the Joker used to ride around Gotham City in a car with his own face on it? And, c'mon. It's me we're talking about here.

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Filed Under: , , Category: Ask Chris, DC

Ask Chris #322: A Tail Of Two Splinters

Ask Chris #322, background art by Dan Duncan

Q: Which is the better version of Master Splinter: Hamato Yoshi's pet, or a mutated/reincarnated Hamato Yoshi himself? — @RandallJSanders

A: Okay, first things first: The history and minutiae of the Ninja Turtles are weird. By its very nature as a franchise that started out as a goofball parody drawn on a kitchen table over pizzas, and then became the breakout hit of the '80s black-and-white boom that then became Literally The Most Popular Thing In The World, and then became a tenured franchise that's spawned multiple iterations over the past 30 years, things get really complex, really quick when you start trying to figure out how it all works.

And for Splinter, that's even more true than it is for the Turtles themselves. As their mentor figure, the one who's responsible for handing down all the ninja knowledge that makes up a full quarter of their identities, his complications spring from an entirely different set of problems --- and that's before you start figuring out how a bunch of turtles wound up with a rat as their dad.

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Ask Chris #321: Legacy And Distinction In The Green Lantern Corps

Ask Chris #321, background art by Robson Rocha, Jay Leisten, and Rod Reis

Q: What should differentiate the Green Lanterns as Green Lanterns? — @jtlevy

A: How legacy works, and how different iterations of the same idea have to be made distinct and interesting on their own, is a fascinating topic in the context of the DC Universe. But when it comes to building in distinct traits that differentiate legacy heroes, the Green Lantern franchise has been doing that job from the start.

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Ask Chris #320: The Justice League’s Holiday Mixtape

Ask Chris #320, background image from "All I Want For Christmas Is You"

Q: What would be each member of the Justice League's favorite Holiday song? ---- @XavierFiles

A: I've been asked a ton of questions that follow the pattern of asking about what the Justice League does at the holidays, and answered many of them, but asking about their favorite holiday songs raises a lot of really interesting questions that can't just be answered by posting Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" seven times.

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