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CSBG Archive

The 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History – Day 11

Okay, in case you didn’t see the introduction, the concept is that each day up to and including the 31st of July, I’ll be posting six of the most memorable moments from DC Comics’ 75-year history. On the 31st, you folks will get a chance to pick your Top 10 out of the 100 choices. I’ll tabulate the votes and I’ll debut the Top 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History starting on August 8th. In the meantime, feel free to post suggestions for moments you think should be featured either at our Twitter account (twitter.com/csbg), our Facebook page (facebook.com/comicsshouldbegood) or just e-mail me (bcronin@comicbookresources.com)!

Here’s the next six moments! And click here for the master list of all the moments posted so far!

NOTE: Each day of moments will almost certainly contain some spoilers for past comic books, plus each day might include content that originally appeared in “Mature Readers Only” comics, so be forewarned!

59. Aquaman loses a hand (Aquaman Vol. 3 #2)

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The villain Charybdis is taken down by Aquaman and Dolphin, but not before he (using powers he stole from Aquaman) compels a group of piranhas to destroy Aquaman’s hand. The issue was written by Peter David and drawn by Martin Egeland.

60. The Justice Society of America has their first meeting (All-Star Comics #3)

Gardner Fox and Everett Hibbard deliver the first meeting of the Justice Society of America. The early meetings were just framing sequences to cover up the fact that All-Star Comics basically remained the same anthology it was before. To wit, in the first issue, the meeting just sets up Johnny Thunder asking each member of the team to tell a story, and they do so, with each story naturally being the story that would have appeared in the issue had they not all been on a team. Still, the first meeting of a superhero team was a BIG deal!

61. Frank Miller adds a little extra to Batman’s origin (Batman: The Dark Knight #1)

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This moment from the first issue of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight series features Batman being compelled to return to the streets while he watches the news and hears of horrors that remind him of the fateful night that his parents were killed. Miller added the striking visual of Martha Wayne’s pearls being broken during the ruckus that led to the death of Bruce’s parents, and that visual has become a key element of pretty much all future re-tellings of the origin, a rarity for origin re-tellings (to have that much of a permanent effect on the origin).

62. The very first “Bwah Ha Ha” (Justice League International #8)

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The Justice League became “International” in issue #7, so in #8 (written by Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis and penciled by Kevin Maguire) they began setting up embassies in different International cities. Blue Beetle, Booster Gold And Black Canary were in charge of the Paris branch. While getting lunch in their civilian identities, Beetle and Booster encounter a striking woman who Booster tries to pick up – when he fails miserably, we soon get the most famous laugh in DC history (only because Joker’s laughs aren’t consistent).

63. Johnny Cloud avenges his friends (DC Universe: The New Frontier #1)

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The Losers are sent on a mission and end up on Dinosaur Island in this opening to Darwyn Cooke’s acclaimed New Frontier series (telling the origin of the Silver Age from a different perspective). They get picked off one by one until only Johnny Cloud remains. His final act of heroism is incredibly striking. I was unsure if I was going to go with this one, but when three different people I was talking to about the moments suggested this moment unprompted, I figured it had to be here.

64. Dr. Manhattan silences Rorschach (Watchmen #12)

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Besides the sheer drama of having Dr. Manhattan be forced to kill Rorschach to keep him from revealing what Ozymandias did to achieve world peace, how awesome is it that Manhattan effectively explodes Rorschach into a bloody Rorschach drawing?!? Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are deeeeeep.

31 Comments

That Aquaman moment is going to be the goriest thing we’ll see on the list.

And yes, I think it’s worst than SBP versus the Titans, Ted Kord’s death and Maxwell Lord’s death. It’s all about the presentation.

New Frontier is awesome, and the death of Johnny Cloud is certainly the most memorable original moment in it, if not of all moments. I also love Cooke’s version of the origin of the Challengers of the Unknown, though.

I’m in the “Watchmen is well done but I don’t really like it that much” camp, but I’m wondering if we’ll see my favorite moment, which is the very end of the book with the diary sitting in the tray…

IMHO, the way he lost his hand in the cartoon was better. Nothing is more badass than cutting off your own hand to save you infant son from burning hot magma.

One thing that virtually nobody realizes is that Dr. Manhattan doesn’t kill Rorschach. He kills Walter Kovacs moments after Kovacs killed Rorschach.

Note the imagery of panels 1, 2 & 3 of that page. In his final moments, Walter Kovacs pulls the mask from his face, drops the Rorschach voice, and faces his killer man to man. In that last moment, there is no more Rorschach. He’s dead and gone.

It’s a subtle, but important character moment.

What a great batch of moments.

59. I have read too little of the PAD Aquaman, so I wish that it was all collected and easily accessible. This was a real defining moment. I know that the quips, the Manga-influenced speed lines and grimness are a bit out of style, but I really like this sequence.

60. This image has always given me the creeps. Something about the Atom’s bare thighs, the way Hawkman refuses to look at the camera and the underfed look of the Spectre gives me the feeling that Irving Klaw is behind the camera. The whole idea of men in strange costume sitting in a room telling stories about their private adventures makes a little sad. Maybe that is why I resist happy and glorious stories of the Golden Age.

61. This bit from DKR still blows me away. I love how the window panes on the half-page spread echo the 16 panel grid on the facing page. I love how Miller plays with time in his use of panels. The debut of the “Batman voice” on Page 2 has made a lot of people money over the last couple decades.

Oh, and I am willing to bet that no one who has read this has ever forgotten those pearls.

62. I always liked the JLI version of the Black Canary costume. The headband is pretty dated, but it suited my impression of the character a lot better than recent tweaks to the classic have. Unlike Wonder Woman (or The Huntress), Black Canary strikes me as a character that would studiously avoid showing her body “at work”. If you are going to move away from the original in that case, then you might as well go all the way.

Anyway … JLI is easily my second favorite Justice League run. Playing DC’s main super-team as a workplace comedy was a stroke of genius. Wrapped inside the “Bwa-ha-ha” is a pretty major plot point about the Justice League establishing a network of embassies. If it were done today, then it would be one splash of Booster standing in front of the Eiffel Tower saying “The Justice League is now worldwide”, or something. It would twice as cool and half as fun.

63. It is hard to beat “soldiers vs. dinosaurs” as a concept. This sequence did such an amazing job setting the tone for NEW FRONTIER. It added weight to the Big Bad, which was sadly not paid of as well as you might have hoped. Still, this is a great moment from an otherwise great story.

64. I never thought I would feel like I was going out on a limb by saying this, but WATCHMEN remains amazing. It so densely layered that I really do pick up something new every time. Poor Walter Kovacs, he just wanted the world to make sense.

It took me maybe three readings of Watchmen to notice that the huge bloodstain that’s left of Kovacs/Rorschach is the same shape as that famous bloodstain on the smiley face. (That shape can be found in many other places in Watchmen, as well as the “smiley with a stain/armageddon clock at ten to midnight” motif – it’s amazing how many Easter eggs Gibbons managed to hide in the comic.)

Stephane Savoie

July 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Not only does Manhattan explode Rorschach into a Rorschach blot, but he leaves behind the telltale blood splatter pattern from the smiley face.
So good.

(JLI: I though Bwah-Ha-Ha got a bit old, but it’s pure gold in this particular scene.)

“Not only does Manhattan explode Rorschach into a Rorschach blot, but he leaves behind the telltale blood splatter pattern from the smiley face.”

I’ve only read Watchmen two or three times since it was first published, including last year, and I don’t think I ever noticed either of these touches. Next time I’ll have to pay closer attention to see what else I’ve missed!

i was wondering how long before watchman pops up on this list. for still chilling how Mannhattan just zaps Roarsche without having second thoughts. the jl the look on black canary face when beetle keeps laughing is priceless. dark knight figured another moment was coming one could almost do a list just for that story alone. new frointer glad to see a moment from it.

The “35 minutes ago” scene from Watchmen was included earlier in the list.

Great moments that leave me with questions.

How can mere fish eat Aquaman’s hand? Isn’t he supposed to be massively powerful because he can survive the pressure of the ocean’s depths?

Rorschach’s face is clearly evoking the Hiroshima Lovers in the first panel. What is his face showing the very last time we see it? The Bat Symbol?

IIRC, the first pages of New Frontier made it read like this was Johnny Cloud’s diary. He wrote about his own death?

And BTW, I loved Peter David’s run on Aquaman. Particularly how he wrote all of the other DC characters that appeared in the book.

Ooops. I should be clearer.

I’m talking about the first of the two pages shown here. On the second page, we get a long shot that really shows nothing, and a shot with the face halfway pulled off. I’m wondering about the last full-face shot we ever see of Rorschach.

I’m not seeing the Rorschach blood splatter as the same pattern found on the smiley face, but what I do see and have seen is the way the smoke and the tunnel entrance forms that blood-and smiley face pattern seen through out the book.

The Crazed Spruce

July 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I’ve pretty much given up on seeing one of my favourite moments from Suicide Squad (when Slipknot ran away on a mission, and got his hand blown off) on this list. There are still a few slots left, though, so you never know….

"O" the Humanatee!

July 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I feel enormously dense writing this, but in what sense does Dr. Manhattan explode Kovacs into a Rorschach blot? Rorschach blots are bilaterally symmetrical (as is always the case on Rorschach’s mask), and I’m just not seeing anything bilaterally symmetrical in the last two panels of the sequence shown here. Can someone help me out?

-Aquaman’s dismemberment is gross and always struck me as “we’re desperate to make Aquaman badass, let’s maim him!” which is sad. Still, it is pretty hard to forget.
-That JSA meeting scene is pretty iconic.
-Ehh, adding a visual bit to an existing moment shouldn’t count separately. Otherwise a lot of other moments would also count.
-Pointless sacrifices do not impress me either.
-That Watchmen moment feels pretty forced. A godlike being like Manhattan could have prevented Rorschach from talking in many was. But dying for your beliefs is more dramatic, right? OK, well known too.

Oops, forgot to comment on the Bwa Ha Ha thing. Sorry, that one is pretty lame and unremarkable. The “One Punch!” thing (including its inversion when HAL JORDAN PUNCHES OUT BATMAN!) counts better.

Do you notice the yellow smiley face behind Rorschach when he blows up?

@ The Mutt:

You just blew my mind.

"O" the Humanatee!

July 26, 2010 at 5:53 pm

@The Mutt: Do you mean in the last panel – the image formed by the pipe/tube, the dripping something, and the melted streetlamp? Because that I do see. But assuming you were replying to my question (which you may not be), that’s still not a Rorschach blot.

I never noticed the blood splatter looking like the original blot, but I saw the smiley face right off.

This is why you can read Watchman 57 times and still get off.

@ Sijo:

Sure, Manhattan could have approached this a number of ways but this was the simplest solution for the mere fact that Kovacs ASKED to be killed. He preferred dying for his convictions to living in a world that he can no longer look at as black or white.

The colours can’t mix for Rorschach.

I hate to nitpick on such a great feature, but I’m not sure I’d even have placed the pages from New Frontier if you hadn’t identified them. My favorite pages were of Martian Manhunter squirreled away in his apartment, trying to learn about human culture via TV, and morphing into the characters he sees (including Bugs!). So funny, and yet right on the money. It’s the first time I really identified with Jonn and felt like I knew who he was.

You guys are blowing my mind with the deconstruction of the Watchmen scene. That’s great, perceptive stuff. I’m clearly zipping through the book too quickly.

I love all of those bits in Watchmen. One I’m not sure people get is that in Rorschach’s very first (in costume) appearance when he’s climbing over the railing, his pose is echoing the blood splat with one leg hanging lower than the other one the same way one bit of the blood splat hangs lower. He uses that pose a few times in the book. (and of course the crack in the snow on one one of the covers).

I’d long since forgotten that New Frontier scene – but then again I found the whole of New Frontier quite forgettable.

Just to make it clear: unlike someone above claimed, the blood splatter left of Rorshach is not a Rorschach stain, but it is roughly the same shape as the blood stain on the smiley. I’m sure this is not coincidence, as the same shape can be found in many other places in Watchmen. (Most notably on the cover of issue #11, and in the panel where the newspaper vendor and the comic book kid are incinerated.) Of course the “smiley face with a stain”/”clock face at 10 to midnight” motif is even more prominent. When you start looking for those two shapes, it’s almost ridiculous how many places they appear in: for example, there’s a few hidden among the scenes of carnage at the beginning of issue #12.

He uses that pose a few times in the book.

There’s also at least two Rorschach “faces” (i.e. specific blot patterns) that appear more than once in the comic. There’s the “surprise face”, which can be seen when he discovers The Comedian’s hidden cabinet, and when he realizes what happened to the kidnapped girl. And there’s “no compromise” face, which can be seen both times he’s making his “never compromise” speech. That makes me think that the last face seen in the page above, before he takes off the mask, might’ve appeared in the comic before too…

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 27, 2010 at 5:31 am

Did Aquaman ever get his hand back? If so, how?

@Tom Fitzpatrick:

I may be missing a couple steps, but I believe the evolution of Aquaman’s hand goes something like:
– harpoon
– much better STAR Labs designed harpoon
– EVEN better harpoon that can turn into a robot hand
– Water-hand granted to him by the lady of the lake after he’s exiled from Atlantis (which sounds like a premise that should be more interesting)
– Squiddy-hand when he morphs into the dweller of the depths
– DEAD, then returned to life with all his parts intact

Michael Howey

July 27, 2010 at 8:55 am

The last time I read Watchmen, I got this scene.
Earlier we get the tale about the rape that people ignore. Rorscharch can’t comprehend how people can just stand by and watch a bad thing happen, doing nothing. At the very end of watchmen all the heroes decide to stand by and do nothing. His closest allies and friends (ha) all betray the ideal he holds most dear. No wonder he cries.

That Watchmen moment feels pretty forced. A godlike being like Manhattan could have prevented Rorschach from talking in many was. But dying for your beliefs is more dramatic, right?

Are we so sure that he’s dead. It would be well within Manhattan’s powers to make someone disappear, and to make it look like they had exploded. Remember that he’s about to go off and create life. Perhaps Rorschach is going to be his new Adam.

Yeah I think we can safely say he’s dead.

Of course that would no doubt change if any third party ever wrote a sequel.

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