Monday, January 9, 2012

Top 9 Solomon Grundy moments:

 I can’t have a list month without giving this blog’s mascot his due. So here are the top 9 most memorable Grundy moments, I say memorable instead of good, because some of these are just plain silly, but they’ve helped to define the monster from Slaughter Swamp just the same.
 I’m also aware that I’m neglecting a huge portion of Grundy’s history by not including his appearances in Infinity Inc., for the simple fact that I haven’t read them since they came out and can’t find any relevant scans online. Someday I’ll remedy that. So for now, in no particular order, here we go:
1) Grundy is unable to tell the difference between life and death:
 I’ve posted Grundy’s debut story on here for Halloween, but was surprised to discover that it’s been posted on the internet previously, several times. Oh well. I’m glad to see that a lot of people like it as much as I do, and all go out of their way to praise this scene in particular:
Brrrr. Sometimes they really do get it right the first time. This panel perfectly sums up Grundy; brutal, alien, titanically powerful, and yet in spite of it all, somewhat innocent at the same time, but no less creepy.

2) Grundy Smash!
 It’s been a long-running joke about how Grundy is basically the DCU’s Hulk, but what many comic fans don’t know is that there was actually a time when Grundy became green. In his second appearance (In Comic Cavalcade #13), the man-brute is revived by a mad scientist through an injection of Chlorophyll. To be fair, Grundy was still being drawn to look like the Fredric March Mr. Hyde at this point, not the more Frankensteinian appearance he would later take on. Either way, all he needs is some purple pants and he’s in business.
 Note: While I’ve read this story, courtesy of a friend who has a huge collection, I don’t actually own a copy and he refuses to let me scan it. These scenes are from a fan-site, likewise for the next entry.
3) Grundy surfs on light waves:
 After his defeat at the hands of the JSA, Grundy returned for his final Golden Age appearance. How he returned, and what he did is what puts this entry on the list. You see, in the JSA story, Grundy ended up being imprisoned….on the moon. Here’s how he returned:
 But that’s not all; Grundy also has the ability to shapeshift (unfortunately, I can find no relevant scans). Crazy man, crazy. Of the GA Grundy stories, I wish I could post this one in its entirety.
4) Enemy mine: Alan Scott becomes a Grundy:
 When the heroes of the Golden Age were re-introduced via all the Earth 2 weirdness in the 1960s, could Grundy be far behind? Nope, by 1965 he was back to ravage the world in Showcase #55, where the unlikely pairing of Doctor Fate and Hourman squared off against him when Alan Scott failed. In order to make Grundy get past the comics code restrictions, he was drawn as more muscular, less corpse-like, and with the explanation that he became what he is through radioactive swamp water, which led to this moment when Alan Scott is exposed to the same water:
 The only thing more terrifying than Grundy is Alan Scott turned into Grundy. I guess it could be seen as kind of funny looking, like Grundy all dressed up for Halloween, but it’s still a tough image to forget. Kill it with fire!
5) Grundy and Blockbuster become BFFs:
 Comics code restrictions aside, Grundy still managed to be a rather intimidating foe in his Showcase appearance, still retaining the horrible teeth he had in his earliest stories, and still being portrayed as a deadly menace whom multiple heroes were needed to defeat, with the art conveying a Halloween-ish mood. Grundy hadn’t been reduced to just another bad guy or a comical figure yet.
 Then this happened:
 In one of the many “Crisis” stories that appeared in 1960’s Justice League stories, Grundy runs afoul of Earth 1 Batman villain Blockbuster, and an epic battle ensues, that is until both villains punch each other so severely that the hate is knocked out of each of them. The story ends with Grundy hugging the entire JLA.
 Grundy’s days as the hideous, corpse-like plague-demon and walking embodiment of poverty and death were long gone.
 6) Grundy avenges Cyrus Gold’s murder:
 In Shadow of the Bat #39, Alan Grant established that he was one of the few who remembered Grundy’s sinister roots with a tale featuring multiple references to the original, but with a new twist to the origin. Here, we see that Cyrus Gold was a wealthy, middle-aged cad who was murdered by a pregnant prostitute named Rachael Rykel and her pimp for his money.
 Grundy, having recently been defeated and killed yet again, reforms in Slaughter Swamp with no memory (or pants). This Grundy is distinctively corpse-like compared to previous ones. Grundy goes on a rampage and ends up coming across a little boy and a tour guide named Karin. While they both try to help him, and both succeed in helping him regain his memories, Grundy’s savagery is still uncontrollable, and poor Karin dies for her troubles. Only a timely intervention by Batman saves the kid.

 However, the story ends with a twist, you see, Karin was none other than a descendant of Rachael Rykel!

 Personally, I can’t really say this story works as a “poetic justice” story since Karin is a total innocent and her descendant’s pimp was the one who actually murdered Cyrus Gold. Also, does this mean that Karin was technically a descendant of Gold? This story is no great shakes as a story, but has far more going on than it gets credit for. It’s definitely essential reading though, for fans of Grundy. It’s also far superior, at least in concept, to the recent Grundy mini-series which also had Grundy/Gold having to track down his murderer.
7) Grundy enjoys a Thanksgiving dinner, and Two-Face is an asshole:
 Although Batman had had some encounters with Grundy, the first person to really exploit that was Jeph Loeb in The Long Halloween. Personally, I have several problems with his portrayal of Grundy; Grundy can only repeat the nursery rhyme, and despite this easily being the most massive he’s ever been drawn, Grundy goes down fairly easily against a relatively inexperienced Batman. Loeb also missed a great opportunity to explore Grundy’s roots as an embodiment of poverty when he teamed him up with Two-Face, since Two-Face started his career as a twisted Robin Hood figure and sort of functions as one here.
 That said, this little moment makes it all worthwhile:

 In the sequel Dark Victory, Loeb gets in some good, touching scenes emphasizing the monster’s loyalty to Two-Face.
Unfortunately, since Loeb was hell-bent on making the reader lose any empathy for Two-Face, we get this scene. Two-Face and his gang come across an escape route that is protected by an electric fence. Two-Face coldly orders Grundy to touch it:
 This could have been a heartbreaking moment reminiscent of Of Mice & Men, where Two-Face did this to spare Grundy from the police or the Falcone mob, but it all comes to naught. Goodnight sweet Grundy, may flights of Drumsticks and potatoes sing thee to thy rest.
8) Grundy befriends Jack Knight:
 Part of the appeal of James Robinson’s Starman run was that he took the tired cliché of a novice hero and made it work by having Jack Knight learn and discover new things throughout the series. Exploring characters, especially villains, was part of the fun. The Shade went from a two-bit villain to one of the most intriguing anti-heroes in the DC universe, the Ragdoll went from a joke to a creepy Manson-like figure, and the idea of Solomon Grundy as a misunderstood, childish creature took flight. There was a lot of pathos and comedy generated by “Solly”, and his sacrifice provided one of the series’ most touching moments.
 Incidentally, this series introduced the idea that each time Grundy is reborn he is different. An intriguing idea to be sure, as well as one that plays into the Mr. Hyde-subtext of the original story, I just don’t know if it’s really necessary or not.
9) Grundy dies on the Justice League cartoon:
 Another sacrifice! That said, this is far from a hackneyed moment, it’s one of the most touching moments from the entire show. Why can’t mainstream comics be as good as this? Just watch it for yourself.

3 comments:

  1. Regarding the last Grundy of 1947, he kidnapped the son of a wealthy business man and he was discovered when a photo was taken of him. the image showed Grundy in true form. Strange but interesting. NOW here is the kicker... The end of that story has Green Lantern sending Grundy to the center of the Earth! Apparently Fox thought he wrote the last Grundy story, but he didn't. it was somebody else, so he screwed up in the Brave & Bold team up of Dr. Fate and Hourman when grundy veered his prison buuble back to Earth thanks to a comet!

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  2. Roy Thomas explained all that in All Star Squadron with a time-displaced Grundy.

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