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Unearthing Batman's Rogues

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As the Blackest Night spreads across the DC Universe, Broken Frontier unearths the histories of several of the players in the event.

SPOILER WARNING: Read no further if you’ve not had the chance to dig into your most recent Blackest Night titles…

Abattoir first appeared in Detective Comics #625 (January 1991), the creation of Marv Wolfman and Jim Aparo.  Stalking members of his own family, Arnold Etchison was a serial killer, who sought to claim the souls of his victims through their murder.  Unbeknownst to Etchison, his second encounter with the Batman was actually with his replacement, the mentally unbalanced Jean-Paul Valley (Batman #505, February 1994).  Once again, Abattoir’s plans were foiled, but this time the killer escaped, motivating Valley to adopt a more offensively-armed version of his Batman armor.  When the two next met (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #27, May 1994), Valley took a much more aggressive stance against the killer.  Ultimately, Abattoir found himself dangling precariously above a vat of molten metal (Batman #508, June 1994).  Rather than reach out to the killer, Valley allowed Abattoir to plummet to his death, unwittingly dooming a final victim (whom Abattoir had left in a hidden death trap).

Since then, Abattoir has twice returned from the dead – first in the thrall of Felix Faust (Batman Annual #22, 1998) and now as a Black Lantern (Blackest Night: Batman #1, October 2009).

Blockbuster II (Roland Desmond) was a petty criminal initially, the puppet master behind the original Blockbuster (his brother).  Following his earliest appearance (Detective Comics #345, November 1965), Desmond was re-imagined in his brother’s image by Roger Stern and Tom Lyle for the Starman series.  Utilizing a series of experimental steroids to combat a severe illness, Desmond became a rampaging behemoth with limited cognitive skills (Starman #9-10, April-May 1989).  Not long after, Blockbuster made a deal with devil Neron, gaining enhanced intelligence in exchange for his soul (Underworld Unleashed #1-3, 1995).  After clashing with several different superheroes (including Impulse and Steel), Blockbuster settled in Bludhaven, setting himself up as that city’s new crime lord.  This quickly brought Desmond to the attention of Bludhaven’s protector, Nightwing, beginning a long running rivalry between the two (Nightwing #7-8, April-May 1997).  As their mutual hatred grew, Desmond came to blame Nightwing for his mother’s death and, having uncovered the hero’s dual identity of Dick Grayson, embarked on a campaign to break his rival down.  Having destroyed and murdered most everything and everyone Grayson cared for, Blockbuster positioned a final insult - Nightwing would need to save him from the vigilante, Tarantula.  Instead, a broken Nightwing turned his back and allowed Tarantula to fatally shoot Blockbuster at point-blank range (Nightwing #93, July 2004).

Deacon Joseph Blackfire was a relatively minor Batman character, as the central villain of Jim Starlin and Berni Wrightson’s Batman: The Cult (1988).  Gathering followers from the homeless of Gotham City, Blackfire sought to eradicate crime through murder.  Rumored to be immortal (thanks to immersing himself in the blood of those killed by the Cult), Blackfire actually succeeded in capturing and brainwashing Batman.  With the help of the second Robin, Batman eventually broke the conditioning and Blackfire’s hold over the city.  During their final confrontation, Batman realized that Blackfire was trying to be killed, in the hopes of becoming a martyr to his cause.  Instead, the Dark Knight systematically broke the Deacon down in front of his followers, leaving him a shattered man.  As the Dynamic Duo walked away, Blackfire’s cult mobbed their leader, killing him.

KGBeast (Anatoli Knyazev) was an assassin for a secret cell of the Soviet KGB known as “The Hammer.”  Seeking to derail the warming relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, The Beast was dispatched on a mission to kill 10 highly placed US officials (Batman #417-420, March-June 1988).  During his first confrontation with Batman, the Dark Knight snared The Beast’s arm with his batrope.  Rather than risk capture, the Beast cut off his own hand with an axe, enabling him to escape.  When they next met, The Beast began using a cybernetic gun attached to his ruined arm.  Despite this new armament, Batman still managed to prevent the death of US President Ronald Regan.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, KGBeast began his own war against the United States, coming into conflict with several members of the Batman family of characters – both heroes and villains (Robin III: Cry of the Huntress #1-6, December 1992-March 1993).  Following a failed scheme to hold Gotham City hostage with a nuclear device (the Troika arc in several Batman titles, February 1995), KGBeast found himself serving as a hireling and lackey to other super villains (Nightwing #35-37, September-November 1999).  In his final days, The Beast came to lament his fall, once a man capable of besting the Dark Knight, reduced to nothing more than a mercenary.  The Beast was later himself assassinated by the Tally Man (at the order of the Great White Shark) in a bid to both create a power vacuum in the Gotham City underworld, as well as drive Harvey Dent back to his Two-Face identity (the Face the Face arc, May – August 2006).

The Beast’s corpse was later stolen, as part of a plan to create undead soldiers (Nightwing #142-143, May-June 2008), although the assassin was never reanimated….until a Black Lantern ring bid him to rise (Blackest Night: Batman #1, October 2009).

King Snake (Sir Edmund Dorrance), a British mercenary, came to prominence living a dual life in Hong Kong.  By day a brilliant legitimate businessman, Dorrance also was one of the world’s most deadly martial artists (despite his blindness) and heavily involved in the drug trade.  Backed by the young gang known as the Ghost Dragons, King Snake first came into conflict with the third Robin and a rival martial artist named Lady Shiva.  Thwarted from destroying Hong Kong (Dorrance would rather see his adopted home destroyed then be relinquished to the Chinese), Dorrance was left for dead by Shiva, his back broken by a near fatal fall (Robin #1-5, January-May 1991). 

Once having recovered, King Snake relocated to Gotham City, taking control of Chinatown as a new powerbase.  During this time, Snake came into conflict once again with Robin, as well as Batman (Batman #467-469, August-September 1991) and the Huntress (Robin III: Cry of the Huntress #2-6, January-March 1993).  The volatility of the Gotham underworld eventually proved too much for Dorrance however, and he was unseated from Chinatown during a short, violent gang war (Detective Comics #685-686 & Robin #17, May-June 1995).  Following another conflict with Robin and Lady Shive (Robin #49-52, January-April 1998), King Snake shifted his focus, trying to wrest control of the Kobra cult.  Initially successful, the cult restored Dorrance’s eyesight, leading he and Robin to their first eye-to-eye showdown.  Unaccustomed to his restored sense, Dorrance was overwhelmed by the Boy Wonder’s fighting prowess.  Accidentally blinded once again in the conflict, King Snake was left defeated and stranded within the cult compound (Robin #88-91, May-August 2001).

Much later, a weakened King Snake was found by Bane, another rival of Batman and the Snake’s long lost son.  Initially seeking vengeance for his father abandoning him, Bane was nearly swayed by the Snake’s apparent desire to once again take control of the Kobra cult, this time as father and son.  When Batman and Robin inserted themselves into the situation, Bane ultimately sided with the Dynamic Duo against his father.  In the ensuing conflict, Dorrance fell to his death (Batman: Gotham Knights #47-49, January-March 2004). 

Magpie (Margaret Pye) was a jewel thief, who also had the distinction of being the first criminal to face the pairing of Batman and Superman (Man of Steel #3, November 1986).  Following another encounter with Batman (Batman #401, November 1986), Magpie largely disappeared from the public eye.  She recently resurfaced in the employ of the Penguin, but was murdered by the Tally Man and the Great White Shark as part of a scheme to create a power vacuum in the Gotham underworld (Face the Face arc, May – August 2006).

Tom and Tad, The Trigger Twins (real names unknown) were a pair of identical bank robbers, who met by chance when they both held up the same bank.  Adopting the look of a pair of Old West gunslingers, the duo were captured by Jean-Paul Valley during his time as Batman (Detective Comics #667-669, October-December 1993).  The duo would continue to pester the Batman family of heroes over the years, facing Robin (Robin Annual #6, 1997), Nightwing (Nightwing #35-37, September-November 1999) and Batgirl (Batgirl #59, February 2005).  Given that much of their careers were spent serving as henchmen to other villains (including Blockbuster and the Penguin), it was appropriate that they were recruited as part of Alexander Luthor’s Secret Society of Super-Villains.  During Infinite Crisis’ climactic Battle of Metropolis, the Trigger Twins were gunned down by anti-heroes Vigilante and Wild Dog (Infinite Crisis #7, June 2006).

The Ventriloquist (Arnold Wesker) was a meek man born into a prominent mafia family.  Emotionally repressive, a brief angry outburst left a man dead and sent Wesker to prison.  There he met an inmate with a talent for ventriloquism.  Becoming obsessed with the ventriloquist’s dummy, Wesker actually began to hear the doll speak to him, urging him to killer the other prisoner and escape.  During the jailbreak, the dummy was damaged, leading to its name, Scarface (Showcase ’94 #8-9, July-August 1994).  The duo soon carved out a place in the Gotham City underworld as distributors for a designer drug (Detective Comics #583-584, February-March 1988).  The two came into conflict with Batman several times, with Wesker becoming reluctant as Scarface continued to grow as the far more dominant personality.

During one jailbreak from Arkham Asylum, The Ventriloquist was separated from Scarface for an extended period of time.  Wesker found himself barely able to function, adopting a series of “stand-in” puppets, before settling for an old sock named “Socko.”  Upon recovering Scarface, Wesker attempted to mediate between his two puppets, but the pair eventually shot each other.  Socko was “killed”, Scarface “wounded” and the Ventriloquist ended up with bullet wounds in both hands (Detective Comics #664, July 1993).  The Ventriloquist manifested yet another identity several years later (The Quakemaster), claiming responsibility for the massive earthquake that devastated Gotham City (Robin #53, May 1998).

The Ventriloquist and Scarface would face Batman and his allies several more time over the years, but both were killed by the Tally Man and the Great White Shark as part of a scheme to create a power vacuum in the Gotham underworld (Face the Face arc, May – August 2006).

Now, all these men and women have returned from the grave as Black Lanterns, feeding on the people of Gotham City…

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Oct 15, 2009 at 6:49am

    King Snake, my god, they're really getting desperate at DC ...

  • Fletch Adams

    Fletch Adams Oct 16, 2009 at 1:57am

    With all those "superstars" there, it's King Snake you take issue with? :)

  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Oct 16, 2009 at 3:10am

    I'm loving this series of articles, Fletch. As usual, I'm familiar with the characters but you've revealed things I didn't know or had forgotten about. Ventriloquist was the Quakemaster? Were the Trigger Twins not actually brothers?

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Oct 16, 2009 at 5:58am

    Give me a break, Fletch! I really liked The Beast when I read his first apearance, The Trigger Twins were drawn by Graham Nolan the first time around so I really liked them too (whatever happened to Graham Nolan?), I'm not familiar with Magpie and the Ventriloquist is awesome! :p

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