Five DC Characters You've Probably Never Heard Of
Going for the Obscure
This article had to be written. It was inevitable.
I just didn’t want to write it, that’s all. You see, while coming up with obscure Marvel characters and villains is easy, doing the same with DC is a different story altogether. Marvel churns out heroes and villains like a cereal maker churns out corn flakes. You can’t possibly know them all. And, when you get to the few that are used often, they eventually get forgotten and put onto some writer’s shelf of unused characters.
Not DC, that’s not how they do things.
If you hear of a DC character, they will use them despite how obscure. I’ve seen characters make appearances on the animated The Brave and The Bold that made me sit back and remember that some of these characters still had some life. For example, the rarely used character Batman Zur-En-Arrh was recently unearthed in both television and in print. Although the silver age version of the character was essentially “Batman from another planet”, the modern age version is a backup personality that Bruce Wayne programed into his own head in the event his own mind was compromised. Yes, I know how insane that sounds.
I know, you’ve probably never heard of him. That’s okay; I’m just making a point.
I’ve gone through my list of DC Characters and have tried to filter out the seldom heard from the rarely heard. It really wasn’t easy as DC is perpetually remaking modern age versions of characters that used to be really lame and now, after revamp, are pretty interesting.
The other thing is that I tried to avoid using characters that have died in the current continuity. I figure if I’m going to talk about them, there should be a possibility that they’ll make an appearance.
Here are the good guys.
Knight and Squire
Even here, these two characters have made a minor comeback within the last few years or so with the appearance of the Ultramarine Corp in the JLA title.
Also known as “The English Batman and Robin”, the Knight and Squire are not altogether different from their American counterparts. Percival Sheldrake, after his parents were killed in North Africa, was taken in by the time lost Shining Knight during World War II. The Shining Knight and Percival became the first Knight and Squire and fought together with the Seven Soldiers of Victory and the All Star Squadron.
After the war, when Percival reached adulthood and became the Earl of Wodenshire, he became the second Knight and trained his son to be the second Squire fighting alongside the international team of heroes known as The Global Guardians during the silver age.
Percival Sheldrake eventually died, leaving his son, Cyril, the mantle of the Knight (and title of the Earl of Wodenshire). He has since joined the Ultramarine Corps (a group similar to the Global Guardians with a more extreme position on justice). In turn, he has recruited a new female squire, Beryl Hutchinson – who brings with her a talent for hacking computers.
I find this team interesting as it is one of the few heroic titles that seems to be handed down from father to son and continues to endure since WWII. Like Batman and Robin, they have their own gallery of rogues which are apparently just as strange and just as deadly as Gotham’s dynamic duo’s.
Jemm, Son of Saturn
This guy had his own title back in the 80’s.
Jemm is Saturn royalty. That’s right, somewhere in the depths of space the concept of a monarchy exists. It’s good to be the king. Only Jemm was a prince and exiled to Earth. You see that Saturn was originally colonized by three different types of Martians. The green Martians cloned red Saturnites. The white Martians cloned white Saturnites. And, well, the yellow Martians (who knew there were yellow Martians?), they kind of disappeared.
In any event, Jemm was a prince of the red Saturnites. When the white Martians/Saturnites made a coup against Jemm’s father. Jemm hides out in a cave with his mother, the queen, while a white Saturnite teaches Jemm how to use his powers.
Jemm is an empath/telepath of sorts, very much like the Martian Manhunter, but Jemm can read emotions. He’s also really strong, can fly, and can heal really fast. Unfortunately, he also has the Martian weakness of being a pyrophobe.
He lands on Earth in search of his lover and manages to find a life in Harlem. His friend, an orphan named Luther Mannkin, and they have some adventures on Earth. He’s also allied himself with J’onn J’onzz (The Martian Manhunter). He eventually returns to Saturn and gets married as part of a political peace wedding to settle the war between the red and white Saturnites. He is now the new king.
Jemm still makes some appearances in titles like the JLA and Superman. He’s about any time there’s a need to show an alien ambassador and they get Jemm as a familiar face.
Pow Wow Smith
So. Very. Wrong.
But, we’re not going to focus on the general bad taste of what silver age comic book writers put together to sell comic books about Westerns. We’re looking for obscure characters and Pow Wow Smith hit his stride in the 50’s.
Ohiyesa "Pow Wow" Smith decided that he wanted to live among the white pale faces. So, naturally, being an indian, he’s able to get a job with the Sheriff’s office because of his superior hunting and tracking abilities. As he was also good with a gun, he’s made to be deputy sheriff and eventually sheriff of Elkhorn.
Originally, this character was part of an old west storyline. However, after the DC retconn, his character was very much like that of Knight and Squire where the current Pow Wow Smith is the latest in a generation of lawmen and becomes a U.S. Marshall.
Pow Wow Smith has no superpowers. Rather he is a trained huntsman and detective who uses his skills to his advantage in his role as a law enforcer. He usually pops up when there are stories regarding a western theme.
Richard Dragon, Master of Kung Fu
This is a character who is used nearly enough.
He’s one of the best there is - a master at all forms of empty hand fighting. He is responsible for training The Question, Oracle, The Huntress, and Batman (and through Batman – Nightwing), Connor Hawke, and Renee Montoya, the second Question. Nowadays, he’s the guy you call when you want your new fledgling hero to learn how to fight extremely well.
Originally, Dragon was a thief, who was learning martial arts by mail. When circumstances get him to meet The Bronze Tiger, he is then taught how to REALLY fight. In addition to the Tiger’s tutelage, he is also trained by Lady Shiva Woosan.
It has never been clear, which one of the two is better.
Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel tried to bring this character back in his old title a few years back. The writing was superlative and there was a spirit of fun within McDaniel’s art. Why it did not succeed is anyone’s guess.
I like a lot of these nonpowered comic book heroes as they represent what human potential can actually accomplish without science fiction getting involved. They are easy to understand and usually have the best stories.
Doctor Thirteen, Occult Detective
There have been a whole plethora of supernatural investigators within the DC Universe. I can name several off the bat – Jason Blood, The Detective Chimp, Zatanna, Zatara, Madame Xanadu, and Ibis the Invincible. However, Doctor Thirteen is the gumshoe “Harry Dresden” paranormal detective we all like to have on our side.
He is a hero of contradictions. His daughter, Traci Thirteen, is a sorceress. However, despite that, he does not believe in magic – so it never works for him. On the other hand, because he doesn’t really believe in magic, it makes him more invulnerable to magic when spells are cast upon him.
I picture this man as the Humphrey Bogart of the supernatural set. There is a supernatural threat, so they look for a natural skeptic. Naturally, there are going to be things that he just can’t explain and he needs to come to terms that the universe is a lot larger and complex than he thinks it is.
Unfortunately, Doctor Thirteen does not get as much play as he really deserves – especially given the amount of magical mystical heroes and villains there are floating in the DC Universe. He is a natural ally of John Constantine and Zantanna.
Have you heard of any of the following DC Villains?
Okay, I took a chance on Richard Dragon. You may have heard of him, but then again…
Really, I’m very happy that the DC Universe is as vibrant and as complex as it is. Normally, I look at attempts of resuscitating old characters as an impossible task. There are some characters that are just impossible to make cool and interesting – like the Inferior Five (Don’t ask). But somehow, through the genius of authors like Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Alan Moore, and Grant Morrison, they are brought back, fresher than ever.
Sometimes they even introduce an edge that was never originally there. For example, a few years back, they tried a retconn of Dial H for Hero. This was a great title in the sixties, albeit a bit hokey and innocent. Robbie Reed gets an alien device that looks like a telephone dial. Through experimentation he dials H-E-R-O and gets transformed into a random hero for an hour.
Pretty cool, right? Somehow DC made it uber lame.
Fast forward to the 2012 52 Reboot, Dial H for Hero gets a facelift and a bit of grit and it’s pretty serious comic book fiction. Incidentally, if you get a chance, you might want to mosey over to your comic book shop and pick up this series. It’s actually pretty good.
So, with DC, everything is new again. I’m certain that they have a huge list of characters that are just queuing up to be made new again.
With few exceptions, they’ll get the face lift they desperately need.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi