Hello, I’m Alex Jaffe, better known to the DC Community as HubCityQuestion. Every day, I take your most burning questions about the vast expanse of the DC Universe and employ my personal trove of knowledge and tireless research skills to present you with as satisfactory an answer as I can achieve. And every month, I highlight a few of these questions in this column for the curious minded DC fans out there. It’s a simple enough task to get in on the action—all you need is to swing by our illustrious community and drop me a line. After all, you’ll never know the answers if you don’t dare to ask the—
Well, I’ll leave the wordplay for later. For now, let’s get into the column.
Whither the Walrus?
Is Tusky the Walrus alive in the current DC Universe?
That’s a little bit of a loaded question, especially considering the asker. I’ll say this: nobody killed Tusky the Walrus. For all we know, Tusky is doing perfectly fine, but just doesn’t hang out with Aquaman too much anymore. Despite a heavily featured role in the 1967 Filmation Aquaman animated series, the King of Atlantis’s once most stalwart of walruses hasn’t made any appearances in continuity since 1997. Aquaman’s Silver Age pal gets a proper send-off in Aquaman Annual #3, where Arthur discovers he’s taken up a new home at an aquarium, craving the applause and adoration of all its visitors while avoiding his wife back home. I’ll leave the social commentary and ethical implications of that particular coda up to you.
Since then, Tusky has made a brief cameo in the 2006 Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis series, where Aquaman’s successor, Arthur Joseph Curry, recognized Tusky as a character from the in-universe Aquaman animated series he watched as a kid. And in the always excellent, frequently underrated Scooby-Doo Team-Up series, Tusky returns to Aquaman’s side once more as Scooby and the gang dive 20,000 leagues to solve a deep sea mystery.
Master of the Rhyme, and the Rhyme Routine
Why does Etrigan always speak in rhyme?
This is one of the most common questions I receive, so I’ll just go ahead and say this up front: he doesn’t! At least, not always. When Jack Kirby first introduced the Demon in 1972 in his eponymous series, Etrigan rarely rhymed at all when summoned. The spell itself for the change always rhymed, to be sure, but Etrigan himself seemed only to rhyme when he felt it necessary to punctuate a particularly dramatic point, as Shakespeare’s characters often do at the end of important scenes.
It was Len Wein who first introduced the concept that Etrigan spoke entirely in rhyme a decade following Kirby’s series, in 1984’s DC Comics Presents #66. It was a one-issue idea that Alan Moore would take and run with. In his own definitive Swamp Thing run, which took many reverent cues from Swamp Thing creator Len Wein’s work before him, he first classified Etrigan as a “Rhyming Demon” in that same year’s Saga of the Swamp Thing #27. The concept of “Rhyming Demon” as a class in the hierarchy of Hell was reiterated with an Etrigan appearance in the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, and that’s pretty much the way it’s been ever since. It’s elaborated upon that Etrigan doesn’t necessarily have to rhyme, but does so as a demonstration of his class and station in Hell.
John Byrne, however, has offered an alternative explanation. In Byrne’s Wonder Woman #132, Morgaine le Fey reveals Etrigan’s rhyming to be a side effect of the spellcraft placed upon him by Merlin and herself, as he was bound to Jason Blood—a concept which Byrne brought back for his own Etrigan series, Blood of the Demon, in 2005. But, other than Byrne’s own work, most who take on the character tend to stick with Moore’s “Rhyming Demon” class explanation.
First to the Fest
The recent DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration special has me wondering: who was the first Asian American DC hero?
I’ll be completely honest here, when I first read this question, I was pretty confident I already knew the answer. Wing, the Chinese-American sidekick to the original Crimson Avenger, first debuted in Detective Comics #20, making him seven issues older than even Batman. As a refugee from Axis-occupied China in World War II, Wing teamed up with the Crimson Avenger to protect his newly adopted homeland. Wing was even a member of one of the first superhero teams, the Seven Soldiers of Victory. As we eventually learned in 1972’s Justice League of America #100, Wing selflessly sacrificed himself to thwart the team’s greatest enemy, Nebula Man…but readers of this year’s Stargirl Spring Break Special know that this forgotten hero of the Golden Age may be due for a comeback.
But I have to admit, there was a character I had overlooked. As pointed out by DC Community user a2.ton.51072, Wing is preceded by “Nadir, Master of Magic.” I read up a little on the character and discovered that Nadir was a brilliant and cunning Indian prince well-versed in science and magic alike, who emigrated to America in his 1937 debut, New Adventure Comics #17.
Long before the tragic origins of Superman and Batman were written, Nadir was motivated by the untimely deaths of his parents to dedicate himself to the pursuit of justice. With a vast inherited fortune, a well-studied background in the arcane and scientific arts, and a knack for both gunplay and fisticuffs, Nadir made for a formidable protagonist of comics’ Golden Age. Take, for instance, his magic ring, which would alert him of danger, like a certain spider might sense years later. Or his crystal ball, which could show him with perfect clarity events of the past or present…but only at night. Or even his ability to read minds like an open book. And yet, just a scant year after his debut, Nadir, Master of Magic took a walk down a dark alley in New Adventure Comics #30 in a cliffhanger ending where two toughs jumped and strangled him.
That was in July, 1938. And since that story, Nadir, Master of Magic has never been seen again. But this is comics we’re talking about. I wouldn’t count even the most obscure parts of DC history out of the picture forever. Someday, when we least expect it, this forgotten Master of Magic may yet return.
Crisis of Infinite Casualties
What would you estimate is the death toll for each Crisis?
Current common understanding of the “Crisis” event in DC history is a list of seven major events with reality-altering implications, codified some time before the “Anti-Crisis” of Dark Nights: Death Metal. The death toll in those crises range more or less from zero, to millions, to infinity, to negative infinity in their ramifications for the reorganization of reality. I’ll go through them one by one:
Crisis on Infinite Earths – Countless infinities of lives. Thanks to the Anti-Monitor, for reality to survive, the infinite multiverse was reduced to a single universe.
Zero Hour: Crisis in Time – Essentially zero. Just a timeline restructure, courtesy of Hal Jordan and Damage.
Infinite Crisis – Millions, as the war between Earth’s heroes and the Secret Society of Super-Villains unfolded in this reality with relatively few reboots. The entire city of Blüdhaven was the heaviest loss.
Final Crisis – The death toll from Final Crisis is unclear, but likely much less than Infinite Crisis. No major population centers were destroyed, and Darkseid’s goal in Final Crisis was more about control than destruction.
Flashpoint – Also essentially zero. It was a significant timeline restructure, but few if any lives were lost.
Convergence – Negative infinity. By the end of Convergence, the destruction of the infinite multiverse from before Crisis on Infinite Earths is reversed, and countless other worlds born since then are added into the larger omniverse, retroactively making the casualties from that first event zero.
Dark Nights: Metal – This last “Crisis” is a strange case in that it reveals that universes in the Dark Multiverse are being born and extinguished all the time. So, the death toll is technically somewhere around Crisis on Infinite Earths, except it’s happening constantly without us knowing about it. Which is to say that countless infinities of lives are getting extinguished all the time, but Metal is the first time we’ve noticed it.
Well, it’s not happening in our universe, so it’s not our problem, right? At least, not until the evil Batmen from those dead worlds all come to call.
And speaking of crises, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for the column this month! But fret not, I’ll be back in this space next month with a brand new batch of mysteries to be solved. And in the meantime, you can always drop by my office in the community, where I’m always taking on new cases. All you have to do is ASK… THE QUESTION.
Got something that's keeping you up nights? If you have a question about the DC Universe that you'd love to get answered, you can head on over to the DC Community and ask it here.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DCComics.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.