by David R. Black
Having made it's debut in Fanzing #2, the Hall of Justice has been a part of Fanzing almost from our inception. But however, all good things must come to an end, and this is the last the Hall of Justice column. Be on the lookout for HOJ's successor column, though, beginning next month!
This month we feature two villains who have been in limbo for 19 years, and most likely, will be in limbo for many, many more years to cooe. Some might say we're closing the column out on a whimper, as opposed to a bang, but so be it. Without further ado, here's the lowdown on Agent Orange and the Cryonic Man!
First (and only) Appearance - Batman and the Outsiders #3
While Batman traveled to Markovia to rescue the kidnapped Lucius Fox (see BATO #1 & #2 for details), the mysterious Agent Orange began his reign of terror in Gotham City. First, he and his followers - dressed in matching orange gasmasks, orange berets, and orange fatigues - stole numerous barrels of toxic chemicals from Horton Chemicals. When confronted by Horton security guard Gus Baxter, Orange's men kill him with a blast of toxic gas spewed from a flame-thrower type weapon. A few nights later, he and his men bomb the ACME Chemical plant causing the death of "lots of people."
All this terror begs the question: Who is Agent Orange? What does he want?
A disgruntled Vietnam vet whose secret identity is never revealed, Orange's master plan involves dropping toxic gas on Gotham. The gas, dubbed "bitter orange" and comprised of the stolen chemicals, will serve as a wake up call to America, an America which in Agent Orange's own words, "Didn't worry about us when they sent us to fight in Vietnam....Didn't worry about us when we couldn't finds jobs, when they called us 'baby-killers'...And didn't worry about exposing us to disfiguring chemicals."
The gas bomb Agent Orange plans on releasing will force America to wake up to the plight of Vietnam vets everywhere, he says. "They've been ignoring us for years, hoping we'd go away" shouts the charismatic leader to his followers, "But they won't be able to ignore us anymore! They'll listen or Gotham City will be terminated!"
All this time, however, Alfred Pennyworth had noticed the heightened criminal activity involving chemical plants, and upon Batman's return, the dedicated butler dutifully reports it to his master. Agent Orange's reign of terror was to be very short lived, indeed.
Deducing that Ames Farm, a storage area used by the US Government to bury military toxic waste, will be Orange's next target, Batman places electronic monitoring devices around the farm's perimeter. When the devices are disturbed, Batman prepares to strike! With Katana and Halo assisting him, he manages to prevent Agent Orange from stealing any chemicals, but the villain escapes. Interrogation of Orange's captured followers, however, leads Batman and the Outsiders to Gotham Square Garden, an old sports complex scheduled for demolition that also serves as Agent Orange's base of operations.
A tremendous battle royal ensues, with Black Lightning and Katana battling Orange's troops while Halo, Geo-Force, Metamorpho, and Batman pursue the helicopter carrying the toxic bomb. Releasing the bomb, Agent Orange attempts to flee. While his three teammates collaborate to contain the bomb's poisonous gases, Batman apprehends Orange despite the villain planting a bomb aboard his own helicopter. Orange is then turned over to the authorities and led away to prison.
Agent Orange has not been heard from since, but he does turn up in the occasional DCU trivia question. Why? Despite all the other DCU characters who use colors as part of their name (i.e. Blue Beetle, Yellow Peri, Black Lightning), he's the only one who uses orange.
The Cryonic Man
First Appearance - Batman and the Outsiders #6
In 1947, Professor Niles Raymond (I often wonder if he's any relation to Ronnie "Firestorm" Raymond) built four cryonic sleep chambers because he feared a world wide nuclear holocaust. Niles, his wife Bella, his assistant Philip, and Philip's wife Melissa entered the chambers and slept for years. In order to monitor the state of the world and maintain their equipment, Philip was selected to awaken every so often.
During one of the times he was awake, Philip discovered that his wife Melissa was slowly dying of a progressive degenerative disease. Only complex organ transplants could save Melissa's life should she ever leave the cryonic chamber. Philip reasoned that the transplant technology would be developed in the near future, so in order to keep Melissa in the chamber he lied to Niles and Bella - telling them that there had been a horrible nuclear war which devastated the world. In the meantime, Philip began illegally gathering organs and transplanting them into Melissa's body. Sometimes, Philip even used Niles' and Bella's bodies as "spare parts" as his own body withered with age.
Waking up in 1983 (the year BATO #6 was written), Philip makes himself a costume comprised of blue tights, metallic gloves, a blue hard hat, and a metallic mask which covers all of his face except his eyes. He also develops a backpack type machine which allows him to shoot liquid nitrogen out of hoses attached to the wrists of his costume. Dubbing himself the Cryonic Man, Philip goes about stealing organs from local hospitals in Gotham. This eventually brings him into conflict with Batman and the Outsiders.
While stealing a kidney from Gotham General Hospital, the Outsiders confront Philip, and chase him into one of Gotham's underground car tunnels. The Cryonic Man gets the best of the Outsiders this time, and escapes with the kidney and Katana as his hostage. Philip plans on using Katana as the source for all the other body parts Melissa needs. With the help of Soultaker (Katana's sword), the Outsiders track Philip to an underground bunker in an abandoned house just outside of Gotham.
The heroes and villain battle, and the Outsiders ultimately defeat the Cryonic Man. (The highlight of the battle scene occurs when a bound and nearly sedated Katana frees herself and destroys one of the Cryonic Man's robots using only a tiny surgical scalpel.)
Eventually, the Outsiders discover the other three cryonic chambers and the people inside. Black Lightning is able to use his powers to "communicate" with them using the cryonic chamber's electric field. When Bella, Niles, and Melisa discover the truth, they become enraged and overload the chambers' electric field. This unleashes a backlash of electric energy which strikes Philip, either killing him or just knocking him out (We're never told, we just see smoke rising from the Cryonic Man's fallen body). The overload however, does cause the deaths of Bella, Niles, and Melisa.
"Their souls died long ago," philosophizes Batman, "When they decided to run from the world instead of facing it!"
All characters are DC Comics
All images are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by David R. Black.
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