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WHO’S WHO: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe, Volume III

Who's Who: The Definitive Podcast of the DC UniverseThe Fire and Water Podcast Presents… WHO’S WHO: THE DEFINITIVE PODCAST OF THE DC UNIVERSE, Volume III!

The third episode of our WHO’S WHO podcast — the show that dares to tackle one of DC Comics’ greatest publications! Each episode Rob and I cover a single issue of the legendary 1980s series, Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe. This time around we discuss characters such as Black Lightning, Blue Devil, Blue Beetle, Brainiac, B’Wana Beast, and many more! We wrap up the show with Who’s Who Listener Feedback!

Be sure to check out our Tumblr site for a few pages from this Who’s Who issue:!

You can find the third episode of WHO’S WHO: THE DEFINITIVE PODCAST OF THE DC UNIVERSE on iTunes. Each episode is released as part of THE FIRE AND WATER PODCAST feed. While you’re on iTunes, please drop us a review. Alternatively, you may download the podcast by right-clicking here, choosing “Save Target/Link As”, and selecting a location on your computer to save the file (49 MB).

Thanks to my co-host Rob Kelly, Sea King of THE AQUAMAN SHRINE, for doing all the post-production on this episode! Special thanks to Daniel Adams and his band The Bad Mamma Jammas for our fantastic Who’s Who theme song!

Have a question or comment? Send us an e-mail at:

One of the coolest aspects of each Who’s Who issue was the amazing wrap-around cover! Check out this gorgeous George Perez and Dick Giordano cover for Volume III! Click the image to enlarge.

Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, volume 3 cover by George Perez and Dick Giordano

Here are your Firestorm-related Who’s Who entries from this issue…

Breathtaker, drawn by the outstanding Rafael Kayanan! This foe first appeared in The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #29 (Nov. 1984). Click the image to enlarge.

Breathtaker's Who's Who entry by Rafael Kayanan

Bug & Byte, again drawn by Rafael Kayanan! These foes first appeared in The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #23 & #24 (May & June 1984). Click the image to enlarge.

Bug & Byte's Who's Who entry by Rafael Kayanan

And finally, Blue Devil drawn by amazing Paris Cullins & Gary Martin! … okay… I’ll admit it, it’s a stretch considering Blue Devil as a Firestorm-related character. I can’t help it, I just LOVE this character! And he did have a crossover with Firestorm in 1986. That counts for something, right? Click the image to enlarge.

Blue Devil Who's Who entry by Paris Cullins and Gary Martin

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  1. Frank says:

    A. B’wana Beast looks like he’s doing something terribly untoward to Bronze Tiger. Also, Dick Giordano’s inks were friggin’ weak on this cover. Inks make a huge difference, especially when they’re bad.

    B. Due to the where and with whom of my growing up, I’ve always been the whiteboy cheering section for black super-heroes. I suspect that a byproduct of this was that certain “Oreo” characters never appealed to me, and Jefferson Pierce has always struck me as having creamy vanilla center. Ditto the Falcon, and they both had painfully underwhelming gadget powers to boot.

    C. Bill Willingham was always a cartoony artist, so it was neat how grim n’ gritty he went on Black Manta. The figure reminds me a lot of Mark Beachum, which is amusing, as Bill’s white and Mark’s black but Bill drew the black guy like a black guy. Terrible logo, though.

    D. It always pissed me off when they’d get guys like Jerry Ordway to draw characters like Black Pirate, tricking readers into thinking these characters in any way deserved such loving attention. I think Rob meant to say “screentone” or “Zip-A-Tone” instead of duotone, a technique I adored and deeply miss (Paul Gulacy was king!) Computer coloring and digital effects in general killed its usage.

    E. I always loved the look of Black Spider, and he seemed like a cool African American villain, so of course they killed and replaced him with inferior variants.

    F. Rick Magyar was a good inker in his day, especially over Denys Cowan. It goes to show how horrid Carmine Infantino’s pencils must have been.

    G. Didn’t Michael T. Gilbert do some work on Secret Origins? I’ll always remember the New Look Batman era Blockbuster first, crappy Kingpin knock-off second.

    H. You guys are nuts– the entire Lightle Blok image is dense with lush detail. Never cared for the character, though. You guys going to do the separate Legion Who’s Who mini-series?

    I. It’s weird that the Steve Rude Blue Beetle illustration is so nice, yet so inappropriate. He seems stiff and conventional, where he should be Ditko spry and queer. For the record, the Fox Blue Beetle is in the public domain, which might explain Dan Garrett’s lack of an entry. I believe trademark issues and a potential frivolous “intimidation” suit are what kept Dynamite from using him in Project: Superpowers (not to mention not going by the original title of just “Superpowers,” similar to the toy line.

    J. I love that Blue Devil and Bolt were on facing pages. How does Rob feel about Blue Devil, as I don’t recall his ever expressing an opinion of the character, just slagging on Shag’s love? Well, how much love could Shag have if he forgot that Bolt (who later became a Captain Atom foe) could fly (like he did after the Trickster, dude?) Cullins & Martin were a sweet team!

    K. My reaction to most of the Kirby art/concepts as a kid was very much “ugh.” I still struggle with his DC stuff. Boy Commandos was, if I recall correctly, the last hit property of the Golden Age for the entire industry. I think the romance/crime/horror booms were in the nebulous period between super-hero “ages.”

    L. That Sienkiewicz Brain anticipates the bizarreness of Morrison, and it sure works. He did do the First Comics version of Moby Dick.

    M. Looking at Ed Hannigan’s redesign for Brainiac, I’m reminded that nobody but Perez could draw the damned thing, and it’s best that it went away. It’s kind of silly. Vril Dox is one of my favorite DC characters, by the way.

    N. I liked the post-Zero Hour Brainiac 5 better, and Karl Kesel totally rescues Swan’s art. For instance, see Al Williamson inking Swan for Brain Storm on the next page.

    O. Never been a big Brain Wave fan, nor a Joe Staton one. Ordway once again shows up to make his kid look way cooler than he could ever possibly be. WHOOOOOA Ordway! WHOAOrdway?

    P. Breathtaker looks really badass. I can’t believe they wasted him on Firestorm. I was always confused about whether that Marc Hempel mini-series had something to do with him (answer: no.)

    Q. Denny O’Neil co-created the Kung-Fu Fighter(s) for a novel he co-wrote, then licensed/sold to DC. In the ’80s, this allowed him to create a martial artist hierarchy with Richard Dragon at the top, followed by Bronze Tiger and/or Lady Shiva, and then arguably Batman. Benjamin Turner was O-Sensei’s pupil before Richard Dragon, and they both joined a spy agency. Dragon went on to beat Batman in a fight once, and they used him to train other heroes like the Question and the Huntress. Ben Turner got brainwashed by the League of Assassins to also beat Batman, then force him to watch helplessly as Batwoman was murdered in front of him. Bronze Tiger is a straight up pimp, and he should have his own New 52 team-up series like Brave and the Bold, except in each issue he ninja stomps his co-star to death, and then uses the corpse to brutalize the issue’s villain.

    R. I like Shawn McManus on the right book (Sandman: Yes, Grimjack: No, Omega Men: Who cares?)

    S. Brother Blood was a fantastically designed villain who ended up being a wimpy evangelistic Dr. Doom wannabe. Major wasted potential as he kept showing up to look inadequate and dumb until readers couldn’t stand him anymore.

    T. The Brotherhood of Evil were kind of okay, but the keener/stranger members were always brought down by the stupid looking ones (Warp especially.)

    U. I didn’t need to google Valentino to know it was Normalman‘s Jim Valentino, because I’m the shizzle. Brother Power pisses me off. He was a novelty that got way out of hand specifically because of this entry.

    V. The Atom is a scary competent powerhouse, but his villains are the worst of any well known hero. Bug-eyed Bandit is painful to look at, despite and perhaps in part because of the great art.

    W. Bug. Byte. So appropriately descriptive. Shag is a deluded fool.

    X. B’wana Beast looks very nice under Chuck Patton’s pen, and he’s fun in the DC cartoons.

    Y. Joe Kubert manages to make Byth look dangerous despite the short pants and booties. He was redeemed in Hawkworld as a grade-A junkie sociopath. I thought he was dead within the first year or so, wasn’t he?

    Z. Luke likes the Outsiders about as much as Shag does the Detroit League, which is to say a lot of lip service but no devoted blog.

    Zz. The Def-Directors?

  2. As for your award name….how about like the Tonys, the Grammys, and the Emmys you name them….The Whosies?

    Or take a page from The Oscars and call them The Georges (for Perez’ covers).

  3. Ryan Daly says:

    Great job, fellas! I never collected these Who’s Who issues, and listening to your podcast takes all of the effort out of looking characters up on wikipedia. You know, much like how a Dim Sum restaurant takes the effort out of eating at a buffet. I never realized there was so much to know about Brother Power the Geek, like his existence, for example, and now I can’t un-know this.

    I agree with Frank’s comment above that Bronze Tiger, given the right support and guidance, could be DC’s most prominent and exciting African American character. Book’s like Marvel’s recent “Immortal Iron Fist” showed there is a market for this type of character and story, without shoehorning him into the latest version of “Suicide Squad”.

    B’wana Beast is AWESOME! His potential is limited only by the imagination of the writer working with him. An Aquaman fan should sympathize.

    Also, don’t over think it: call the award the Whoozy and move on.

  4. Luke says:

    Frank, I have an Outsiders blog. It’s just not launched yet.

  5. Keith Samra says:

    I just realised… Blue Devil doesnt wear pants!

  6. Frank says:

    Luke, heaven help us all. Don’t even dare to ask me to cross over with anything involving the prefix “Geo-.”

  7. Luke says:

    You started this Frank. You threw the gauntlet down, and I had no choice but to pick it up.

    Welcome To The Edge.

  8. Keith Samra says:

    Just finished listening to the episode! I totally love the Who’s Who Episodes… And I agree, Jerry Ordway deserves more credit than he get’s. He’s an excellent artist aswell as a writer!

  9. Keith G. Baker says:

    Finished this episode and I cannot express in words how much I am enjoying this series, so I’ll end my post here.

  10. De says:

    Great job on the podcast. Just listened to it during my commute yesterday.

    One note, if I may: Monsieur Mallah from the Brain and Brotherhood of Evil entries. Monsieur is pronounced in English as “Miss-yuh,” not “Mon-senior.” A monsignor (pronounced “Mon-senior”) is an honorific among Catholic clergy.

    Looking forward to Episode IV!

  11. Luke says:

    Just finished up the episode today. I have had to migrate to listening in my car since I started working on the job site instead of in the office. So I get it in 20 minute snippets. Still very enjoyable, though. My local comic shop had a bunch of these in their dollar bins so I need to go hunt them down and see if I can find them.

    Breathtaker does have a great look. Reminds me of the Iron Man foe Black Lama, who similarly looked awesome and ended up being really lame.

    Shag, one thing I wanted to mention. A few times on the episode you referred to the ape from the Brotherhood of Evil as Monsignor Mallah… his name is actually Monsieur Mallah. Because he is not just an evil militant talking ape, he is an evil militant FRENCH talking ape.

    Keep up the good work on both shows guys!

  12. Luke says:

    Frank, I disagree with you about Black Lightning being an “Oreo” character. What makes a local kid who makes good and then comes back to the old neighborhood to take out the trash because the police won’t touch it and the hyper-white Superman is too busy to care an “Oreo” character?

    I compare this to someone like Black Goliath, who is clearly part of what you are referring to. Or Vykin The Black, who is an alien and really doesn’t count.

    The fact that I am a big fan of both Black Lightning and Luke Cage means that as a white guy I have thought about Black superheroes quite a lot over the years.

    As to the Falcon, I can’t speak to him, haven’t read much with him in it. I have a bunch of the trades from that era so I should read up.

  13. Martin Stein RIP says:

    Bringing it back to Firestorm… is Jason Rusch an oreo character because he’s interested in science?

    I have always thought it’s a dangerous thing to assume that intelligence meant a sign of “whiteness” for black people.

    I’ve never thought of Black Lightning as an oreo character either. If he had gotten his powers and went to work for a fortune 500 company to make a crapload of money, maybe you could make an argument, but like Luke said, he went back to his roots to try to make things better.

  14. Mr_Oddly says:

    I’m new to podcasts, but I’ve listened to all three of your Who’s Who shows over the last couple of days and have really enjoyed them. Who’s Who is one of my all-time favourite comic books and, as a kid, I read it so much that I’ve had to buy a whole new set over the years because my originals are so dog-eared. I still remember spending a holiday in Wales drawing up Who’s Who style entries for my own superheroes.

    Over here in the UK during the 80s the availability of DC and Marvel comics was pretty sketchy. Lots of newsagents sold them, but you could never be guaranteed to find the same comic each month, and several titles just didn’t make it over here (including Who’s Who). Eventually, I learned that there were actual Comic Shops and eventually tracked one down. At the store I found my first copy of Who’s Who (#15) and over the next few years managed to pick up the complete series. The book remains one of the treasured possessions in my collection, and always keep it to hand almost 30 years later.

    I definitely agree about the art on Who’s Who compared to the Marvel Universe stuff. The Who’s Who panels are by far the best and resulted in some gorgeous, creative art from such a variety of great artists. Saying that, I always wished the entries were longer as felt we missed quite a lot from some characters’ long histories.

    Anyway, listening to you two has been a great excuse to dig out the old issues and I’ve been flilcking through them as you go along. You two obviously know you stuff. I’m not entirely convinced this isn’t a secret Christopher Guest project, coz every now and then you get a bit Best In Show with your banter and thats making listening all the more enjoyable.

    I’ve subscribed via iTunes, and I’m hoping I’ll still be listening in a couple of years when we start flicking through the loose leaf series!

  15. Charlemagne says:

    I hate Rob and Shag. There i said it. Why? Because they make me want to go out and spend money thats why. Not only did i go out and re-buy the Who’s Who’s set to act as a companion piece to the podcast, now they’ve made me go track down the 1968 2 issue series for Brother Power The Geek! Thats right, I did it. Found them on ebay and I bought em. Maybe I’m not alone, maybe there will be a run on Brother Power back issues (because of this podcast) and those books will turn to pure gold!

    Oh, and Bug N Byte. LOVE EM!

  16. […] Who's Who: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe, Vol 3 – Firestorm Fan […]

  17. Frank says:

    Conversation continued after I left, but I’m laying links, and stumbled upon it again. When I call Black Lightning an “Oreo,” it’s not because of specific elements so much as a gut reaction to a perceived lack of verisimilitude. White guys created Black Lightning, Jason Rusch, Black Goliath, Luke Cage, the Black Panther and the Falcon. Jason being a science geek doesn’t make him less black, but I suspect having CrissCross design him and Jamal Igle draw him makes him feel more black, not to mention his being written in a more sophisticated manner than ’70s liberal tropes. The white Tony Isabella’s “ownership” of Black Lightning always left a bad taste in my mouth, as it led to Black Vulcan and the marginalization of Trevor Von Eeden and Eddy Newell. Most of my experience with Jefferson Pierce coming from Mike Barr and Jim Aparo didn’t help. Growing up with black kids reading their Black Panther and Power Man comics written by Owsley/ Priest or Marcus McLauren or Dwayne McDuffie and drawn by Billy Graham or Denys Cowan or Mark Bright established their legitimacy to me.

    Basically, Jefferson Pierce was a college educated guy whose idea of helping the ghetto was talking “street,” wearing an ugly costume with a plunging neckline and an afro wig stapled to a domino mask. Luke Cage might have been almost as silly, but he wasn’t shooting for an intentional parody of his own people like Black Lightning and his belt-powered taser.

  18. Siskoid says:

    I missed two whole podcasts?! Gotta get back in the groove! Be back with comments later… like in the next couple weeks I guess. (Why do I have to WORK?!)

  19. Siskoid says:

    Black Manta: Most definitely swimming, or rather, floating. It works with the surprint where his feet are likewise pointed. I find it strange that it’s SHAG defending the pose!

    You mention Monsieur Mallah and made me smile that you pronounce it Monsignor Mallah as if he were a member of the clergy. French tip: It’s more like Mess-yer. Oh, De got ahead of me (not surprising given I’m more than a month late listening). A related question: Why does Madame Rouge (“Mrs. Red”) only dress in blue?

    Another great one, Episode 4 awaits!!

  20. Siskoid says:

    Oh and something I don’t think you mentioned, but Black Canary II is one of those costumes whose first appearance was IN Who’s Who, premiering before it did in the post-Crisis universe. There are others, collect them all!

  21. Siskoid says:

    Who’s This gets to Vol.III and I ask Who’s Captain Compass?

  22. Siskoid says:

    Sorry Shag, the one I should have been shilling for Vol.III was Who’s the Black Pirate?

    Got my wires crossed this morning.

  23. […] My buddies Shag and Rob covered this entry on their most excellent podcast Who’s Who: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe.  You can check out the episode Blackrock was featured in by clicking on this link. […]

  24. […] My buddies Shag and Rob covered this entry on their most excellent podcast Who’s Who: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe.  You can check out the episode Blackstarr was featured in by clicking on this link. […]

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