Welcome to the 101st edition of ASK…THE QUESTION, the monthly column where we do our level best to solve all the mysteries of the DC Universe that you demand solutions for. I’m Alex Jaffe, your appointed champion of truth and inquisition, better known in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion. Your appetite for answers has proven nearly as prodigious as my own, my comrades in comics! Let’s see what this month has in store for us.
LL people are a big part of the Superman mythos. When was it first referenced in the comics?
The identical initials of Lois Lane and Lana Lang were the subject of a recurring joke through early issues of Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane—where Superman “settles” the rivalry between Lois and Lana by promising he’ll marry the woman with the initials “LL.” In Action Comics #252, the first appearance of Kara Zor-El as Supergirl, Superman notes with curiosity that his cousin has chosen an identity with the same initials as the other women in his life, before dismissing it as coincidence.
But the sheer proliferation of LLs in Superman’s life is overtly acknowledged in full for the first time in 1962’s Superman #157. In “Superman’s Day of Doom!” written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel himself, a prediction machine from a distant galaxy informs Superman that his life will be saved that day by someone named “LL, ”which leads him to consider for the first time just how many people in his life bear those initials. (It turns out not to be Lana Lang, or Lois Lane, or Lori Lemaris, or Lightning Lad, or Linda Lee, or even Lex Luthor, but a Little League baseball player.)
This is the Story of a(n Aqua)girl
Today I was reading Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years. In one story, before Mera, there was an Aquagirl who was also blonde. Whatever happened to her? Was she ever seen again as Aquagirl or was she turned into Mera?
You’ve stumbled upon a curious artifact of Aquaman history: the original Aquagirl, Lisa Morel, whose first and only appearance in 1959’s Adventure Comics #266 predates Mera’s debut by four years, and even the first Aqualad by three issues.
As we discover in the story, Lisa was an Atlantean who was exiled to the surface world due to the unreliability of her evolutionary adaptations and was raised by a marine biologist who hid her origins from her. When Lisa accidentally discovers her own partial Atlantean powers, she attempts to join Aquaman in maritime crimefighting as the first Aquagirl, but is forced into retirement when she learns it’s just a matter of time before her powers fade away completely.
Although Lisa Morel hasn’t returned since that story, it does introduce an element to Aquaman lore which has remained important to this day—the marker of purple eyes, like Lisa’s, being a cause for ostracization and exile from Atlantean society.
Has Dick Grayson ever donned the Robin uniform after becoming Nightwing to help out Batman or anyone else? Has there ever been talks of a series where we have a Dick Grayson who never became Nightwing and stayed Robin? With the New DCU kicking off, it seems like there should be a world where that is a possibility.
Since becoming Nightwing, Dick’s adopted a number of alternate identities, from Agent 37 to Batman himself, but he’s never gone back to being Robin. However, the world where Dick never became Nightwing and stayed Robin is not only possible, but well-established. Such is the case with the Pre-Crisis Earth Two, where Dick remains Robin into his adulthood (apart from a brief interlude in the role of Batman). After Batman’s retirement, Robin becomes the senior member of the Dynamic Duo, mentoring Huntress, Bruce’s daughter Helena Wayne.
The Longest Bench
Last summer in Stargirl’s Earth-Prime TV tie-in, James Robinson had the original Blue Beetle’s sidekick Sparky make his first comic appearance in decades. They also mentioned Fawcett hero Diamond Jack in the new issue of JSA. That caused me to wonder what was the longest time period to date between DC acquiring other companies’ characters and them actually using them?
DC acquired the Charlton Comics heroes like Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and the Question in 1983, from which DC inherited Sparky, previously of Fox Features Syndicate in the 1940s. Measuring from his acquisition to his first use by DC in 2022, that would be a span of 29 years. As for Fawcett, DC first licensed their collection of characters in 1972, acquiring them fully in 1994. From 1972 to 2023, when Diamond Jack appeared just recently, is 51 years. Mathematically, no character from Fawcett or Charlton can beat that number based on when they were acquired.
But what about Quality Comics? Quality, the original home of Plastic Man, the Blackhawks and the Freedom Fighters, sold its own collection of characters to DC in 1956. If there are any Quality characters who were first used by DC in 2007 at the earliest, that would potentially beat Diamond Jack’s record.
Originally, I thought I had an answer on lock. Miss Murder, once the name of a Doll Man villain from the Quality Comics years, appeared as an enforcer of the Fraction in The Flash #791 this January. But when I brought this up to Flash writer Jeremy Adams, he assured me the name was a coincidence.
Luckily, I’ve got an answer nearly as good. In 2018’s Harley Quinn #52, Quality Comics characters Biff Banks and Kim Meredith appear for the first time since the 1940s, formerly supporting characters to Crack Comics’ Captain Triumph. That’s a 62-year absence, beating Diamond Jack by over a decade. And until someone decides it’s time to bring Tommy Tinkle from Hit Comics #1 out of retirement, that’s where the record stands.
Speed Force Crash Course
Why have none of the Superman Family ever had any involvement with the Speed Force? Is there some kind of proprietary ownership by the Flash folks that doesn’t permit any “sharing” of the Force? Or is it something else?
Okay, here’s a quick and dirty lesson about how the Speed Force works. It’s not merely a matter of going really fast, but tapping into a subplanar realm of pure speed by establishing a connection to it. Barry Allen did this when he was struck by lightning while adjacent to an array of chemicals, which coincidentally, gave him the ability to tap into it.
Bursts of the Speed Force into our own realm are what empowers the Flash and his allies. It’s not speedsters who initially access the Speed Force, but the Speed Force which chooses them…sort of like a more localized Green Lantern ring. There have been a number of villains who have tapped into the Speed Force by, well, force, but that’s never been a good thing. Messing with the fundamental underpinning forces of the universe for your own gain always spells catastrophic imbalance. Which could explain why heroes like Superman have never sought a way to connect to it.
That’s not to say it’s never happened before. Take, for instance, Batman, who seeks out the Speed Force in Dark Nights: Batman – The Red Death. As I’ve alluded…the results are less than ideal. Best to leave the Speed Force well enough alone, until the lightning comes for you.
And that brings us speeding to the conclusion of another edition of our illustrious column. Until #102, you can always find me in my detective’s headquarters, poised and prepared for you to 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 DC.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.