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Now my heart is blackened by sin and my soul devoured by evil. So, I walk where Tanya walked before me into the searing light which banishes all darkness.. surrendering my face and form to atoms of dust; seeking the true darkness of peace, the cool shadows of eternity and the unknown fate of nothingness.

Batman: Crimson Mist
↪ Written by Doug Moench
↪ Art by Kelley Jones; Malcolm Jones III

6

Lego presents: a brief history of Riddler’s henchgirls (part 1).

The idea of the Riddler having female companions probably began with the Adam West show (where almost all the male villains had a gun moll sitting around and looking pretty), but the idea of him having henchgirls that actively participated in his crimes is somewhat newer. As a favor for Captain Sugar-Frosting, I’ve compiled what I believe are all the appearances of said henchgirls (in comics, anyways). Because I have no life, you see.

Fig. 1: The tradition of comics!Riddler having henchgirls can trace its lineage back to the great Neil Gaiman himself, with the 1989 story “When is a Door?” from Secret Origins Special #1. How well that story holds up as a Riddler story is a matter of debate, but it was undoubtedly a love letter to the Adam West show, and the henchgirls (here named “Query” and “Probe”) make their first “appearance” in the old, faded photograph that Riddler hands the reporters who came to interview him, courtesy of Gaiman and artist Bernie Mireault.

Fig. 2: 1995’s The Riddle Factory, a graphic novel released to coincide with the release of Batman Forever, featured writer Matt “Grendel” Wagner giving his all to create a follow-up to “When is a Door?”, only with a bit more plot and action thrown into the mix. Wagner established several continuity ties with “When is a Door?”, including introducing the henchgirls (now called Query and Quiz) as active members of Riddler’s gang. The art here was done by Dave Taylor, and is cited as one of the book’s most detracting factors.

Fig 3: Mid-to-late 1995 saw DC’s line-wide Year One event, where pretty much every book was ordered to set aside an annual to (re)tell the origins of some cast member (I suspect this was at least partially done to take advantage of the continuity-reset of the previous year’s Zero Hour event). Chuck Dixon, who I regard as quite possibly the finest Riddler writer to come down the pike, revamped and expanded the Riddler’s origin into Detective Comics Annual #8’s “Questions Multiply the Mystery”. In doing so, he created possibly the most lasting iteration of the henchgirls: Query and Echo, daredevils extraordinaire (drawn here by artist Kieron Dwyer).

Fig. 4: Dixon’s version, however, would take a while to catch on. In the meantime, writers continued using the Query and Quiz iteration. Seen here is “A Christmas Riddle” from the ‘95/’96 holiday season, courtesy of Batman and Robin Adventures #3 - by DCAU legends Paul Dini and Ty Templeton.

Fig. 5: From the winter of ‘96, The Batman Chronicles #3 put out one of the most underrated (in my opinion, anyways) Riddler tales of all time: “Riddle of the Jinxed Sphinx”. Writer Doug Moench, like Dini, uses the Query and Quiz iteration (here drawn by the oddball team-up of Brian Stelfreeze and Bill Sienkiewicz). The story is also significant in that it’s the only time the henchgirls actually straight-up betray their boss.

Fig. 6: We’re back with Chuck Dixon, and his longtime regular artist Graham Nolan, for a three-part arc that ran in Detective Comics #705-707 circa late ‘96 and early ‘97. Tons of action and the girls being their sexy daredevil selves, coupled with a scene where Eddie makes them dress up as giant ducks (no, really).

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Gene Day, renowned for his unconventional page layouts and for his punishing work habits (“He works eight hours,” reported inker Joe Rubinstein, “never leaves the table, has his brother there to bring him coffee, eats, gets back to work for eight hours”), was by all accounts a wholly dedicated Marvel employee who held no grudges about work-for-hire terms. He and writer Doug Moench threw themselves fully into their work on Master of Kung Fu, resulting in the title’s artistic ascendancy. Unfortunately, Master of Kung Fu wasn’t selling terrifically. It was still making a profit— just about everything Marvel published was, now— but it was on the lower rungs, and Jim Shooter felt that it had fallen into a rut. He was unhappy with Day’s atypical approach to visual storytelling and regularly ordered pages redrawn. Soon, even the committed Day couldn’t hack it anymore. In what he called “one of the most traumatic experiences in my life,” he quit the title. Shooter phoned Moench and said that sales had been piddling for a long time, and that he wanted “drastic, sweeping changes” to the title.

(From Marvel Comics: The Untold Story)

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Mister Miracle v2

Mister Miracle was created by Jack Kirby in 1971 and was included as a part of Kirby's Fourth World storyline which was introduced in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 (1970). Mister Miracle’s first ongoing series lasted 18 issues from 1971 to 1974, and was then revived again for another 7 issues from 1977 to 1978. It would appear that the Fourth World interest had fizzled out by the end of the decade and Mister Miracle and the rest of the New Gods went into comic limbo after a 1980 Justice League of America appearance (issues #183 - 185).

Kirby's Fourth World characters experienced a revival in the mid-80s, thanks in part to Darkseid’s appearance in the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Great Darkness Saga storyline (1982) and Kenner deciding that Darkseid and his crew would make the perfect villains for the Super Powers Collection toy line (and accompanying cartoons and comic books) in 1984. Part of the revival included a deluxe format reprint of the 1971 New Gods saga in 1984 and a Hunger Dogs graphic novel in 1985. Kirby's Fourth World characters really hit their stride in 1986 when Darkseid was revealed to be the villain responsible for the Legends cross-over event, and it wasn’t much later that all of the New Gods became integrated into the DC universe and Mister Miracle became a member of the new Justice League (written by Kieth Giffen and J.M. DeMatties) in 1987. Coinciding with Mister Miracle joining the Justice League was a one-shot special published in 1987 reminding readers who Mister Miracle was.

Mister Miracle would finally get another ongoing series in 1989 as the Fourth World's involvement within the DC universe was at all-time high: the Cosmic Odyssey event was just wrapping up, the Forever People had just concluded a six issue mini-series, Mister Miracle and Big Barda had become prominent members of the Justice League International, Lashina (of the Female Furries) was on John Ostrander's Suicide Squad roster, and another New Gods ongoing series was about to debut. It really was a good time to be a Fourth World character.

The premise of Mister Miracle’s 1989 ongoing series was pretty simple - Mister Miracle and Big Barda want to escape all of the crazy superhero shenanigans and just settle down for a quiet ‘normal’ life in the suburbs. J.M. DeMatteis was the first writer for this series - which made sense since Mister Miracle (and Big Barda) had become a permanent fixture in DeMatteis' Justice League International and no other writer (save for Keith Giffen) probably had a greater hand in fleshing out the character since his 1987 return. As you can suspect, the new Mister Miracle ongoing series had many humorous elements as seen in DeMatteis and Giffen's JLI and really played up the whole ‘superheroes trying to settle in a small town without drawing attention to themselves’ aspect. Len Wein became the writer after issue #8 and, while he still kept the humor, the series shifted direction and started to move toward Mister Miracle heading on an intergalactic tours sans Big Barda. I’m not sure if I mentioned that Mister Miracle and Big Barda were heavily integrated into the Justice League universe, and just to demonstrate that point, Justice League Special #1 (which occurs between issue Mister Miracle v2 #12 and Mister Miracle v2 #13) is a pivotal issue in the series and Mister Miracle subscribers would not have received it unless they had ordered it (or sought it out at the local comic book shop). The series then focuses on Mister Miracle’s adventures across the galaxy all while a subplot about a robot Mister Miracle being introduced and killed off within the pages of Justice League America (also by Giffen and DeMatteis) ran subsequently. It should be noted that Doug Moench picked up writing chores at Mister Miracle v2 #14. The final big story arc in this series is about Mister Miracle returning to Earth, moving to Manhattan with Barda and company, deciding that he no longer wants to be a hero anymore and begins to train his old protegé Shilo Norman to become the new Mister Miracle. Ian Gibson illustrated the first 5 issues and was then promptly replaced by Joe Phillips who became the regular artist for the rest of the series (minus a few fill-in issues by various illustrators).

If I had to describe this series to someone, I’d tell them it’s very very good with many elements of Giffen's Justice League incorporated into it (the humor, anyways). A gritty realistic mood was trending as far as comic books were concerned in the late 80s, and to have a series jump on the humor bandwagon (à la JLI) was a refreshing change. Many fans pointed out that this conflicted with the OTHER Fourth World series at the moment (The New Gods) which had a much darker tone, however this may have been done in respect to Kirby's 1970s Mister Miracle series which also kept a light tone.

Big Barda plays just as much a role in this series as Mister Miracle does, and I’m somewhat surprised she didn’t get her name included in the title. If you are a fan of Kirby's Fourth World universe, I’d recommend checking this series out as A LOT of Fourth World characters make appearances. One of the interesting things about this series is that it picks up on a lot of the story lines and characters that appeared in the 1971 Mister Miracle series, meaning that Mister Miracle’s history/existence was NOT rebooted by the Crisis On Infinite Earths event. I guess there was no point in messing with perfection? While this series is being reviewed in a blog about DC comics from the 1980s (because the first issue was published in 1989) it really is more of a 1990s series - it even contains the obligatory Lobo cross-over (as Lobo was appearing EVERYWHERE in the early 90s). 

This series ended at issue #28 (1991) and Moench managed to wrap up any loose ends by the final issue (although it was revealed that he did have plans to have Barda’s new Female Furies battle her former team, but plans had to be scrapped). Mister Miracle continued making appearances in the DC Universe until he got another ongoing series in 1996. Shilo Norman (who was reintroduced in this series) also made sporadic appearances throughout the DC Universe and is still a fan-favorite to this day.

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