Tag Archives: Chuck Dixon

Today’s Super Comic — Batgirl: Year One #1 (2003)

Batgirl: Year One is a fantastic miniseries from beginning to end…but I only had time to reread the first issue, so we’ll focus on that.

There have been a few different Batgirls over the years, but this book focuses on the original, Barbara Gordon, as she’s just starting out.

The issue jumps around in time a bit, kicking off with Barbara in her first outing as Batgirl against D-list costumed criminal Killer Moth, in a sort of “How did we get here?” set-up. Then we rewind to not long before that, where we’re reintroduced to Barbara as a young woman who wants to be a cop. Unfortunately, her father rejects her ambition outright, and being as he’s the police commissioner and all, he kind of has some say in the matter.

But Barbara isn’t one to let others tell her what to do with her life. So she hatches a plan to reach out to her hero. And no, it’s not Batman—it’s the Black Canary, in a nice nod to their future friendship in Birds of Prey.

Barbara makes a compelling protagonist and an excellent role model for younger readers. She’s intelligent, resourceful, brave, determined, and willing to put in the hard work. And, for the most part, she’s so positive. No angst-ridden darkness to be found here.

Writers: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Alvaro Lopez

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Batgirl: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Birds of Prey #13 (2000)

birds_of_prey_vol_1_13Comics have an unfortunate trend—a disproportionate number of crippling injuries happen to female characters. When Birds of Prey launched, it paired two characters who had been on the receiving end of that trend: Black Canary and the original Batgirl.

Barbara Gordon fell victim to a bullet to provide motivation for Batman and Commissioner Gordon, and she had been confined to a wheelchair since. Black Canary was brutally tortured to provide motivation for Green Arrow, and she lost her one superpower, her canary cry.

Really unfortunate. But none of this stopped them from being awesome in Birds of Prey.

In the earliest issues, they were the only two co-leads. Barbara had reinvented herself as Oracle, and she used her computer skills and intelligence to provide information to the superhero community. Black Canary served as Oracle’s field operative for highly dangerous covert missions, proving herself to be incredibly formidable even without her canary cry. The two balanced each other nicely—one was more rational and cerebral, and the other was more intuitive and idealistic, but both were highly likable leads.

Issue #13 shows how fun the series could be, and how writer Chuck Dixon made the right call in deciding this series shouldn’t be shy about inhabiting the DC Universe. When a mission goes awry, Canary and a certain party-crasher, the even more free-spirited Catwoman, end up stranded on the hellish alien world Apokolips—way out of either’s usual element. And back on Earth, Oracle and guest-star Powergirl try to piece together what the hell happened.

Great fast-paced action, great guest stars, great cliffhanger. It doesn’t excuse the unfortunate trend, but it fights against it.

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Pencilers: Greg Land and Patrick Zircher

Inker: Drew Geraci

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Nightwing #25 (1998)

Nightwing_Vol_2_25Nightwing and Robin have a nice conversation. But they converse while blindfolded atop a moving train—intentionally. This is how Batman’s boys bond. (For the few of you who might not know, Nightwing is the original Robin, Dick Grayson, all grown up, and this Robin is Tim Drake, the third to carry the name.)

Nightwing #25 is a charming issue that’s not directly part of any larger arc, but it’s possible only because of many years’ worth of accumulated stories. We already know Dick and Tim as Batman’s sidekicks, and we know them as the stars of their own solo series (both of which were launched by the writer of this issue, the always reliable Chuck Dixon). So now it’s fun to just watch these two hang out.

Of course, a “talking heads” issue doesn’t play to the medium’s strengths. They need to be doing something as they chat, and it needs to be visually interesting. So blindfolded on a moving train it is. The gimmick feels exactly like something Batman’s proteges would do for a workout, and Scott McDaniel’s dynamic artwork sells it. Between McDaniel’s fluid layouts and Dixon’s crisp, in-character dialogue, this “talking heads” issue moves.

The entire Dixon/McDaniel run on Nightwing is fun stuff, by the way.

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Penciler: Scott McDaniel

Inker: Karl Story

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Nightwing vol. 3: False Starts (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Detective Comics #646 (1992)

Detective_Comics_646This review series is basically an extended “thank you” to the industry that has provided me with ample enjoyment over the course of many years, particularly in my youth, so I have to acknowledge the first mainstream superhero comic I ever read.

Detective Comics #646. Part three of a three-part storyline. Also the conclusion of writer Chuck Dixon’s first story arc on the title. Starring Batman and Robin as they try to save Commissioner Gordon and his girlfriend Detective Sarah Essen from an electrically powered lunatic hell-bent on revenge.

Previously, my main exposure to Batman was reruns of the Adam West show, which of course I loved. It was so much fun, and innocent fun at that, with all the bright colors and POW! BOP! ZAP!

Then I open this comic, and the villain actually zaps a man—and kills him—right on the second page. It’s nothing gory, and it’s not gratuitous. Rather, it serves the (at the time) new Robin’s ongoing development, as young Tim Drake continues to learn just how dangerous his new life is. A tense confrontation with the villain later in the issue hammers the lesson in a bit further.

At the time, of course, I didn’t realize this Robin was new and wasn’t Dick Grayson, and I doubt I could have articulated how the stakes appeared much higher and more genuine than in the old TV show. Nor did I notice that Robin grew up a little more somewhere between page 1 and page 22 (that certainly didn’t happen on television).

But I did understand that this comic was far better than POW! BOP! ZAP! and I would be coming back for more. Lots more.

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Penciler: Tom Lyle

Inker: Scott Hanna

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology;

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Robin #56 (1998)

Robin_56_coverAmong Chuck Dixon’s many Batman-related accomplishments in the 1990s was turning Robin the Boy Wonder into a viable solo character. Technically, he did this with two Robins if you count Nightwing. But he did it first with the then-current Robin, Tim Drake.

Robin #56 is a typically solid example from the middle of Dixon’s long run on the title. Yesterday, I raved about Ms. Marvel as a stellar example of a teen superhero book, and many of the same compliments hold true for 1990s Robin stories.

Tim’s heart is torn between two girls—his girlfriend Ari from his civilian life, and the Spoiler, whom Robin has been spending more crimefighting time with lately. Meanwhile, the Spoiler’s criminal father, the Cluemaster, is up to something (cue ominous music).

This Robin was such a great role model for kids. He was smart and resourceful, and though he’d make mistakes, he would always try to do the right thing (such as insisting that Spoiler pay for the soda she takes from the convenience store they save). Plus, Dixon took the time to develop Tim’s personal life, giving him school friends who had nothing to do with Batman’s world. For a Bat-character, Tim Drake was downright well-adjusted.

And the Spoiler was an excellent supporting character (a creation of Dixon’s, if I’m not mistaken; he at least wrote her debut). If you enjoyed her brief stint as Batgirl, as I did, these were her formative years.

Track down the back issues and grab them for your kids (or yourself!).

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Artists: Staz Johnson and Stan Woch

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Detective Comics #647-649 (1992)

Detective_Comics_647And now I present the first complete comic book storyline I ever read (that didn’t involve mutated sentient turtles, that is). The previous issue of Detective Comics was my actual starting point, but it was a part three of three. These were my first parts one and two. If this storyline wasn’t any good, I might be blogging about basket weaving or something now.

While those Matt Wagner covers certainly didn’t hurt, Chuck Dixon’s story is what sold me. And that story is notable for more than my own personal reasons—it’s the introduction of Stephanie Brown, a.k.a. the Spoiler, who years later would become a Robin and then a Batgirl (an excellent Batgirl at that, for too short a time). Here, we meet her as the daughter of the Cluemaster, a second-rate costumed criminal who’s basically a poor man’s Riddler. Stephanie is not a fan.

The story also serves as a good showcase for then-newish Robin, Tim Drake. (I was initially very confused when Batman called him “Tim” instead of “Dick.” I was all like, “How does Batman make a mistake?”) Tim was a great Robin and generally a great character in the 90s, and he really began to soar in Dixon’s stories. He’s smart, resourceful, not above goofing up—relatable and a solid role model for kids.

I enjoyed these issues when I was nine, and I’m delighted to say they hold up just fine. (I had excellent taste as a child, clearly.) A great new character and, for me, the birth of a lifelong hobby…all in three unassuming issues at a mere $1.25 a pop (the good ol’ days!).

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Penciler: Tom Lyle

Inker: Scott Hanna

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up