Supervillain Spotlight – The Riddler

For most people, The Riddler is seen as either Frank Gorshin’s iconic performance from the Batman ‘66 series or Jim Carrey from Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. This portrayal of the puzzle-obsessed villain mimics the persona of The Joker more than presenting how The Riddler was shown in the comics. It makes sense, The Joker is the villain we most associate with Batman, and that type of insanity is the element actors pick up on. Tommy Lee Jones’ performance as Two-Face in Batman Forever is another example of someone aping the mannerisms and behavior we would expect from The Joker. So just who is The Riddler then?

Continue reading “Supervillain Spotlight – The Riddler”

Supervillain Spotlight – The Penguin

Few Batman’s Rogues Gallery members have seen as many radical changes as The Penguin. He first appeared in Detective Comics #58, co-created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Like many new villains of the time, he had no secret identity and was simply The Penguin. Creators would come up with concepts for adversaries for their title heroes without any real plan for them to come back. They would merely gauge how the audience felt through letters or how the creators themselves felt after the fact. While most villains had an apparent gimmick (The Joker uses deadly pranks, The Riddler leaves riddles, Catwoman is a cat burglar, etc.), The Penguin was a bit of an odd duck (no pun intended). His crimes were often bird-themed, but he was also known for using gimmicky umbrellas…you know, like a penguin.

Continue reading “Supervillain Spotlight – The Penguin”

Superhero Spotlight – Doctor Fate

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have gotten relatively acquainted with Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme of that world. In the following year, Warner Brothers will release the Dwayne Johnson-led Black Adam, and audiences will meet Doctor Fate (played by Pierce Brosnan). Since the 1940s, Doctor Fate has been the chief magic-user of the DCU, mentoring and working with characters like Zatanna and John Constantine. Fate’s history is a complicated one, centered around a magic helmet that has been worn by several different people. Doctor Fate first appeared in More Fun Comics #55 (May 1940). It started as a six-page strip in an anthology of superheroes, pulp stories, and funny talking animals. He was created by the prolific creative mind Gardner Fox and artist Howard Sherman who didn’t really have a background or even secret identity. The character was just Doctor Fate.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Doctor Fate”

Superhero Spotlight – Doom Patrol

At first glance, Doom Patrol may appear to be an attempt by DC Comics to create an X-Men knock-off. Doom Patrol first appeared in the pages of My Greatest Adventure #80 (June 1963). This was an adventure anthology that evolved over time from pulp stories to science fiction to finally becoming the home of Doom Patrol. Over at Marvel, the X-Men debuted in the pages of their own title in September 1963. Now that doesn’t mean the X-Men are a rip-off of Doom Patrol either. Due to the writing and production schedules, both ideas were already in the works before either company was aware of the other. It’s just one of those strange coincidences.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Doom Patrol”

Superhero Spotlight – Martian Manhunter

Well, I just endured the Snyder Cut of Justice League on HBOMax. I watched it in four one-hour chunks, referring to it as my series of vaccinations to my wife. Next week, I’ll be reviewing it on my podcast’s inaugural episode, so make sure to listen to that. Meanwhile, one thing I did like was that it introduced the Martian Manhunter into the DC Films. He’s been a mainstay in the DC Universe since his inclusion in the inaugural roster of the Justice League of America in 1960. However, Martian Manhunter has never been a superstar and didn’t appear outside of the comics books until 1997.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Martian Manhunter”

Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (John Stewart)

Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (John Stewart)

In 1971, it was clear things needed to change in the comics industry. Frankly, they had needed to change for decades, but things move at a snail’s pace with most American institutions. One of the most significant changes made at the end of 1971 was the introduction of DC Comics’ first black superhero with John Stewart. He was the newest Green Lantern, temporarily replacing the book’s main character Hal Jordan for a short bit. Stewart would become an integral figure in the Green Lantern title as well as the DC Universe.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (John Stewart)”

Superhero Spotlight – Hawkman

One of D.C. Comics’ most notoriously confusing characters since the 1990s has been Hawkman. He wasn’t always this way, but some decisions during the Silver Age and the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths convoluted his history to the point editorial banned him from use in the late 1990s. Hawkman recently ended a run written by Robert Venditti that delved headfirst into his backstory, trying to iron out the wrinkles. More on that when I review the series next week. For now, let’s look at Hawkman’s evolution over the years and how he became such a confusing character.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Hawkman”

Superhero Spotlight – Green Arrow

We’ve looked at some characters with wildly convoluted histories, but Green Arrow remains one of the most simple concepts out of DC. Much like Batman and Superman, Green Arrow’s origins have remained relatively unchanged since the Silver Age, just updated with the times as they go. Wealthy playboy Oliver Queen has always been the Green Arrow (save for one brief instant) from his Golden Age origins to the present day. Despite his roots being kept stable, he has been changed mainly to distance himself from Batman, who he certainly came to resemble in those early years.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Green Arrow”

Superhero Spotlight – Adam Strange

If you enjoy what you read here on PopCult, please think about becoming a supporter on my Patreon. I want to grow this blog into something special in 2021. To learn more about the exciting reward tiers that let you decide what we will feature check out my Patreon page.

In 1957, superheroes were not the dominant subgenre of comic books. You had horror titles, humor books, and lots of science fiction. The editorial director of DC Comics, Irwin Donenfeld, called his editors Jack Schiff & Julius Schwartz together and wanted pitches for science fiction protagonists. Schwartz’s idea was a play on Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic Jon Carter of Mars character. This would be an Earthman struck by a beam of strange energy that transported him to a distant alien world. Because he was the first human on this planet, Schwartz named him Adam. The protagonists debuted in the pages of Showcase #17; the series was a tryout book for new characters before given them their own titles.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – Adam Strange”

Superhero Spotlight – The Atom

Ray Palmer was not the first hero named The Atom. However, unlike his Silver Age colleagues, The Flash (Barry Allen) or Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Palmer has little to nothing in common with his Golden Age counterpart. While the original Atom (Al Pratt) was the cliché 98-pound weakling who trained to become a two-fisted powerhouse, this 1960s reinvention was focused on his name’s scientific aspects.

Continue reading “Superhero Spotlight – The Atom”