Thar She Blows!

Now that everyone’s had the weekend to see The Dark Knight and scrape their jaws up off the floor, the conversations have trended from talking about how awesome this movie was to speculating about how awesome the next one’s going to be.

I’ve had more than a few “wouldn’t it be great if…” conversations in the store over the past couple days and there was a good one going back and forth with the usual suspects over email this afternoon, mostly revolving around the villains, because really: Where do you go after that? Me, I wouldn’t even venture to guess.

But I can tell you who it won’t be.

Don’t get me wrong here: There’s plenty of bad guys you can just toss right out to begin with. I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing The Dodo Man again anytime soon, and unless Christopher Nolan decides that the thrill-a-minute pre-Crisis Jason Todd Custody Battle would make for some compelling cinema, things aren’t looking good for Nocturna and the Thief of Night, either.

If you want the sure bet, though, there’s only one to go with:




Orca–who I don’t think is ever actually called “Orca the Whale Woman” in the comics–is already pretty well-known on the comics blog circuit, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with the character, let me assure you: She’s even more terrible than she looks, and is pretty widely acknowledged as being one of the worst Batman villains of the past decade. I’d feel pretty safe in saying that we’re all glad she’s gone, but things being what they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were a bunch of degenerates on LiveJournal openly weeping when she was capped in Face the Face.

I’ll explain: Originally created by Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel during a run that also gave us such villainous luminaries as The Banner, who was essentially just Paul Wingfield (the crazy militiaman from GI Joe #4) with an American flag cape, Orca starred in the last story before Batman got good again with the arrival of Ed Brubaker. Seriously, I think the record’ll back me up when I say that I’ve got some love for Larry Hama’s comics, but goddamn, that run was atrocious. It doesn’t help that Scott McDaniel always seemed to draw Batman in mid-pelvic thrust…



…but it all ended up being justly criticized as one of the worst runs on the title ever, and Orca just might be the worst part.

So here’s how it goes: Orca is in reality paraplegic marine biologist Grace Balin, which I just realized when I was re-reading it is a pun on baleen whales. So there’s that.

Anyway, when socialite Camille Baden-Smythe, who is the kind of stereotypically evil plutocrat that spends her weekends plotting to tear down the local breakdance crew’s rec center to build a toxic waste dump, sets her sights on evicting Grace from her aquarium, the scientist is understandably upset. Fortunately, she minored in Evil Chemistry, and so she’s able to whip up a serum that blah blah blah etc.:



Thus, after sewing up a sufficiently elastic costume–and yes, it actually is a costume, begging the question of why she even needs one–and christening herself after her favorite Michael Anderson film, she sets off to steal Baden-Smythe’s huge-ass diamond necklace so that she can give a bunch of money to homeless people.

This, incidentally, is the best part of the story, as it deals with the fact that a marine biologist (generally speaking) would have no idea how to fence a six million dollar diamond necklace, although this being Gotham, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard. In any case, that part’s quickly tossed aside so that Batman, by complete coincidence can stumble on Baden-Smythe’s highly illegal business practices and bring her down.

This, as you might imagine, can only be accomplished by putting on his special Whale-Fighting outfit and shouting expository dialogue while kicking.



This is what happens when you write about a toy line for a hundred and fifty issues, folks. You start coming up with stories for action figure variants that don’t even exist.

In any case, it’s just awful and the worst part is that it goes on for three issues. That might not sound like much, since it’s about half of today’s standard story arc, but trust me, when you’re reading a comic where Batman argues morality and the class system with Orca the Whale Woman, three months feels like a Goddamn eternity.

To be fair, though, the story does have one redeeming quality, and that is this:



An inexplicably hilarious picture of Alfred using a billion-dollar Batcomputer to model Dr. Balin busting out of her jeans. Say what you want about Orca, but that makes it all worth it.

39 thoughts on “Thar She Blows!

  1. Damn you, Sims!

    I thought i could go one day, ONE DAY, without being reminded of that awful, awful character.

    As far as villains for the third one- howsabout Hugo Strange? He ‘dies’ at the end of every arc he’s ever been involved in, so he’s PERFECT for the movies.

  2. The run was terrible, but I still love that bat book trade dress from the turn of the century.

  3. Grace Balin, really? At some point shouldn’t the Gotham PD just go through the census logs and arrest anyone who’s name could possibly be considered a pun, it would save them and Batman a lot of trouble.

  4. My crappy memory also tells me that it felt like Batman got shot in the face a bunch of times in that run. Of course he was saved by a bulletproof mask, as the hoods knew if they shot his mouth, he’d CATCH THE BULLETS WITH HIS TEETH.

  5. There’s been like four hundred Batman figures produced between Mattel and Hasbro. I’m sure at least one looks something like that.

  6. Damnit, you beat me do it. I had enough discussions about the next villain that I started a lame-ass blog on it. But since I just did Calendar Man and have almost finished KGBeast, I thought I should spread out the more ridiculous ones.

  7. I like the villains with guns that spout lotus flowers.

    Alfred’s simulation more looks like what happens you make the Michelin Man angry.

  8. You wouldn’t want to see the Michelin Man when he’s angry. Actually, no I take that back, who wouldn’t.

    Yep. Bad character, bad run. And damn it, its too soon for people to start talking about a new movie. The internet can’t take this kind of stress! Or I can’t, one or the other.

    On a completely unrelated note: is `continuity’ pronounced `CON-tinOO-ity’ or `conTIN-youity’ or what?

  9. Whats the matter with you?! Orca was amazing and Hama is a legend writing Batman!!!!

    …Na he was shite on it really

  10. You just hurt me in my soul.

    And the pelvic thrust comment + formulaic writing = me imagining Batman singing the contents of the caption boxes to a Depeche Mode-style beat.

  11. Earlofthercs, that depends, are you talking English or one of its regional dialects?.

  12. To think someone saw an outline of this story (for three issues worth!!!) and said: “Yeah, okay, I can see this being good!”

    Anyways, personally I’m saving my vote for Dr. Double X.

  13. “Grace Balin”? I’m guessing Larry Hama was a huge Jefferson Airplane fan, too, since that name is a hybrid of the names of that band’s two lead singers, Grace Slick and Marty Balin.

    Too bad Orca’s abilities came from a serum and not a pill, or we could have dialogue like “One pill makes her larger, and one pill makes her small.”

  14. I miss Nocturna and the Thief of Night…
    of course, Dr. Fang – the crimelord/boxer/actor was just awful.

  15. “…I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were a bunch of degenerates on LiveJournal openly weeping when she was capped in Face the Face.”

    Ever since DC brought back the fucking Spoiler, the fact that Orca doesn’t have a case is the scans_daily member’s current rationale for whining and downloading comics instead of buying them.

    “The run was terrible, but I still love that bat book trade dress from the turn of the century.”

    Same here. Nothing but love for Chip Kidd!

  16. That story was reprinted in one of the earliest Panini reprint comics, along with an issue of Hush up the front and some 60s dealie starring Sergeant Rock/The Flash/Bruce Wayne’s new evil ward/etc at the back. I found it quite entertaining, and I was so disappointed when I found out it was a costume.

    That said, I cannot believe that Mattel haven’t come out with a Whale Wrestler Batman yet. After seeing the first wave of Dark Knight figures (5 Batman variants, many with dayglo suits/accessories, one Scarecrow and NO Jokers) I wouldn’t put anything past them.

  17. At least the Hama run on Batman had the counterpoint of Greg Rucka’s ridiculously awesome Detective Comics.

  18. I read “Balin” as “Ballin” and suddenly got the idea for a basketball themed Batman villain.

    It basically writes itself: some kind of bomb attached to the shot clock and Batman just has to make that last second half court shot to save Gotham.

  19. Escape from LA did it better, Jon.

    And Orca… well, hrm. I think I’m just going to curl up in a corner and cry for a while.

  20. Penguin should slowly replace all the other Outsiders with arctic marine life themed people. Orca 2! Um. Are there any polar bear, sea lion or walrus themed bad guys already? Maybe from Firestorm’s rogues list of creepy furries?

  21. Chris:

    “Grace Balin, really? At some point shouldn’t the Gotham PD just go through the census logs and arrest anyone who’s name could possibly be considered a pun, it would save them and Batman a lot of trouble.”

    But half of the people with pun-based names will eventually become heroes!

  22. Oh man, Orca. Didn’t think I’d ever see that again.

    The Orca story was one of the very first Batman stories I ever read. (The UK reprint title ran it in one of its first issues, as a backup to Hush.)

    The only part of the McDaniel run I remember actually liking was BKV’s run, which was pretty cool.

  23. I’m sorry, i’m absolutely SOLD on this arc you’re talking about. Sounds like everything I could ever WANT in a comic. I’m scouring the backbins NOW.

  24. Those Panini Batman comics were all the caped crusader you could wish for. Modern grim & grittiness up the front, mind-boggling 60s cheese up the back, and in the middle, like an adult female killer whale between two pieces of woefully inadequate bread… or one piece of bread a thick slice of cheese, this. Oh yes.

  25. Really, you can only go one way after The Dark Knight: The Dark Knight Returns.
    With Wilford Brimley as Bruce Wayne.

    “You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mudhole, it’s an operating table. And I’m the–hold on, I need to check my blood sugar.”

    And the dude would totally wait there while he checked his blood sugar.

  26. The next movie must be a Bat-Mite movie.

    Are you saying Christoper Nolan couldn’t make an awesome movie about a man going insane as his knowledge of the world becomes increasingly unreliable?

  27. That 2nd panel by McDaniel….

    It’s like a 15-year-old Tobey Maguire dressing up in a Wal-Mart Halloween costume.

    (All the while, muttering “I’m the god-damn Batman!”)

  28. Trekker Nerd Alert….

    George and Gracie were also the names of the humpbacked Whales in Star Trek IV….coinicidence?

  29. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  30. I kinda like the character , but a woman the size of a cement truck doesn’t bother me the way it does some dudes. That said , certainly the writing on that tale is stilted and awkward to read.I’ve read a lot of good stand-up material masquerading as criticism in this thread , but no real analysis of why Orca’s so lame in particular.”She’s big , she’s fat , she’s a she-whale.” Brilliant. As a whole , Batman has had some of the stupidest writing and stories inflicted on him over his whole existence in comics. Certainly has had some standout work occasionally , undeniably. I don’t find Orca and her motivations any stupider than any other of a half dozen Bat villains you could name. I mean , I’d kick the Mad Hatter in the ass just for his appearance alone.

  31. I like oddball characters and to some extent so must all of you who read comics. Come on; are you really going to wear longjohns in your search for justice? I think every character should have a shot at earning some respect: I felt that if anyone could have helped Barbara Gordon out of that wheelchair, it could have been Orca and her healing abilities. And I think she was a good, full shaped woman.