Superheroes need to change. That's how stories work, right? People change and learn and grow, even ones wearing tights. As the years have gone on, superheroes have grown too. Remember when Wonder Woman didn't have any powers and was a spy? Or when Batman was replaced by a brainwashed knight? How about when Superman was blue and red and had electric powers and also two different people?
Okay, so sometimes changes aren't for the better. But genuine change does come from time to time, like Batman gaining a Robin, or Wonder Woman becoming not-a-secretary, or Superman gaining the ability to fly. None of those were baked into those comics at the beginning, but all are now intrinsically part of the fabric of those heroes.
With that in mind, let's look at the weirdest and most messed up changes that are happening in comics right now, and hope that at least some of them stick around.
It's tough to sum up DC Rebirth in a timely fashion, but here's the relevant info: At one point there were two Supermen, and then the young one died, and later it turned out they were the same Superman and -- look, comics can be overly complicated sometimes. Suffice it to say, there was a period in recent comics history that Superman was dead and there was no one around to take up the mantle.
It was at this point that the Chinese government decided it needed its own superheroes, and so it launched a program to recreate the Justice League. It started with Batman, training dozens of kids. The first one who succeeded was a fat kid named Baixi, who became Batman-Man. Then there's Wonder-Woman, who's just as cool as you might imagine.
And finally, it came time for China to get its own Superman. Instead of a squeaky-clean Clark Kent type, the local scientists decided to imbue a petty bully named Kong Kenan with unthinkable superpowers. Thanks to being in the wrong place at the right time, a book-dumping, lunch money-stealing jerk was granted the abilities of the Man of Steel. Enter: New Super-Man by Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovic and Richard Friend.
Eventually Kong sorta stopped being a jerk long enough to form a team with Wonder-Woman, Bat-Man and a new, American-imported Flash. They all worked together to take down evil supervillains who were attempting to install their own nefarious form of government: Democracy.He was a jerk who bullied others and stole their lunch money and then, by being in the wrong place at the right time, he was granted the powers of Superman. Eventually he sorta stopped being a schmuck. Kinda.
As it turns out, one of those guys Kong's dad. And his mom? She's the manipulative scientist who gave him his powers. It's a weird book.
Now that vanilla Superman is back, the powerful pair have teamed up occasionally and Kenan is even attempting to be a better person, although he's not always successful. Soon his comic will be relaunched as Super-Man and the Justice League of China so, hopefully, he's not going anwyhere anytime soon. And hey, if the DCEU keeps sucking, just reboot it in China. Worked in the comics.
You might know Robin as Batman's closest advisor, his best friend, and Dark Knight's chosen successor. But there have been quite a few Robins over the years, some very different. There's Dick Grayson, Nightwing -- the one with the nice butt -- who became Batman and did a pretty great job. There's his son Damian, whose future as Batman will end the world. Then there's Jason Todd, a killer who tried to be Batman and failed. Finally there's the genius Tim Drake, the eternal and best Robin.
Tim might seem like the natural choice for the next Batman, but we recently got a glimpse at future Batman in and around the Super Sons of Tomorrow crossover. It doesn't look good for Tim.
It's not long before Future Tim ditches the old cowl altogether and dons a new outfit, calling himself Savior. There's a lot of odd background info involving time-travel via Doctor Manhattan (as in, the Watchmen dude) and Future Tim being kept captive by Jor-El (as in, Superman's dad). After breaking out, the newly-christened Savior decides he's going to prevent the grim future he knows from happening, by any means necessary. By any means necessary here means, by shooting lots of people. Including his past self. And Superman's son.
After encountering Savior, Robin starts to turn into him, getting darker and more manipulative, even building an army, to defeat Batwoman because she's building an army and it's just a mess. Told you comics can be overly complicated sometimes.
Clayface might not be an A-list Batman villain, but that doesn't mean he's not memorable. You might remember him as the big muddy man who sometimes shapeshifts to disguise himself but mostly punches things real hard while screaming. It wasn't always that way, though. Before he was Clayface, Basil Karlo was an up-and-coming actor. Then you know, there was that whole chemical mishap, the clay powers, the screaming, the murders, etc.
But these days, Clayface is a hero. Most recently seen in Detective Comics, Clayface found himself on Batman's good side. Karlo worked alongside Robin and Batwoman and Cassandra Cain to clean up Gotham. And for a while, it was working. Karlo stretched his powers to the limit, turning himself into hundreds of police officers to help with an evacuation.
Eventually Clayface became close friends with Cassandra Cain, and the two have often been seen sharing their love of Shakespeare together. Maybe it was because of this soft spot that Batman felt that Clayface had enormous potential and could be a good guy, despite all of that pesky killing and torturing he had done. Lucky for Karlo, transgender super scientist Doctor Victoria October might be coming up with a cure using leftover parts of monsters. Or maybe the "cure" might just make Clayface go haywire again.
We won't spoil the latest storyline but it's never a good idea going into a Clayface story expecting a happy ending.
Okay, this one's cheating a bit since it revolves around an out-of-continuity comic, but it's definitely worth a look.
In addition to her hectic schedule, which is fairly common in comics, Harley Quinn also has two rather different appearances -- one a more traditional Animated Series outfit (seen above right) and the other is most well-known for being her Suicide Squad look (left). So what's the deal?
According to Batman: White Knight, it's simple -- there's two Harley Quinns. The idea being that an "original" Harley hung around Joker for a time but up and left after she got sick of his constant abuse. This is the one that wore the red and black jumper. Then, another woman came around Joker's place, he started calling her Harley, and she fell in love with him despite his insanity (or because of it). The "new" Harley dresses in the movie-friendly tattered tees and short-shorts.
Seems like everyone gets what they want, right? That is, everyone except Jack Napier, aka The Joker. In White Knight, something unsnaps in the Joker, and he decides he's had enough of Batman, Arkham, and insanity -- and so he starts taking his meds and becomes sane. His skin clears up, his madness fades and he becomes, in essence, a normal person. Albeit one with ridiculously bad hair.
Fixed Joker is still working against Batman because in his mind, the really unhinged one is the dude stalking the streets at night beating on mental patients. So now everyone is getting what they want, right? Well no, because New Harley didn't sign up for Fixed Joker. But before she can shake the sense out of her puddin', Original Harley comes back to retake her newly cured man.
Sometimes comics are better than we deserve.
The Joker being "cured" isn't the only isn't the only big twist for the character in recent years -- heck, it's not even the only time he's been cured. Recent mainline Batman comics saw the Clown Prince of Crime restored to a natural-looking appearance, but he hasn't been seen in a couple years. At least, not that version of the Joker.
The Dark Nights: Metal miniseries is a different story. All you need to know here is that Batman accidentally released seven evil alternate universe versions of himself, including a sinister Jokerized Dark Knight. Known as The Batman Who Laughs, this twisted hybrid commands a pack of rabid Robins who only say one thing: "Crow."
What's the significance of "Crow?" Well, the word that makes the rabid Robins heel is "Bar." Take a minute and put that together.
But even that's not the wildest revelation. See, a couple years back, Batman briefly attained the powers of a god by sitting in a magic chair that contained all knowledge, and yes that is a true sentence. One of the first things he asked was the true identity of The Joker. He wasn't expecting the answer: There isn't just one Joker. There are three.
Judging by that image, it appears as though the trio of Jokers in question are comprised of the original old-school Joker, the Killing Joke-era Joker and the Modern Joker. As of early 2018, this thread has still been left dangling, supposedly due to be followed up on in the Watchmen-flavored event Doomsday Clock.
Until then, we'll just have to enjoy this Joker dragon.
Don't ask questions. Just enjoy.