Friday, February 24, 2012


Why We Love Detective Comics

Theme Villains

I was going to write about The Riddler this week.

This guy:

The Riddler is great. He's the greatest B-list villain ever created. He's such a great B-list villain that he sometimes seems to be an A-list villian. And he knows it! Sometimes he acts like he really thinks he's an A-list villain! And this gets him into trouble.

But I read an issue of Detective Comics that made me change my plans. I'll be writing about The Riddler next week. This week I'll be writing about the fiendish crimes of Stanislaus Johns.

Who is Stanislaus Johns? He was the villain in Detective Comics #643, way back in in 1992. (I'll provide a link to the Comic Book Database here. That way you can check it and make sure that I'm not making this up.)

"What's so great about him?" you may well ask. The great thing about him was that he was terrible. Just awful. One of the worst theme villains - possibly the very worst theme villain - ever to appear in Detective Comics, a periodical known for an overabundance of theme villains who - to put it delicately - could have used a little more work during the creative process. Guys like The Spinner, Mr. Camera, Calendar Man, The Clock, The Gong, Mr. Polka-Dot, The Gorilla Gang (they dress in gorilla suits) and so on and so forth.

If The Riddler represents the very best of what it means to be a theme villain, Stanislaus Johns represents the very worst. And there is a kind of grandeur in that.

He didn't have a code name. Or a special car or device. Or a sidekick or a costume or anything like that.

Stanislaus Johns had the Dewey Decimal System. You know, those numbers on library books that are used to keep them in the right order at the library. Well, Stanislaus Johns was fired from his job as a librarian, partly because he was a total loon but also because he thought he had a way to improve on the Dewey Decimal System and the head librarian just didn't respect his shit.

And he went off the deep end when his mother died and he started killing people and leaving their bodies laying around with numbers sewed on their jackets and the number corresponded to where Stanislaus Johns thought they would go in the Dewey Decimal System. Like a psychologist had 130 sewed on his jacket. And a priest had 260 on his jacket. And so on.

I can imagine Batman rolling his eyes at this one. It's too damn DUMB for the Batman to mess with it, really, but he can't let the dude keep on killing people just because he's a glowing neon LOON.

With the help of the plucky head librarian, Batman puts a stop to Stanislaus Johns' silly reign of terror. And it's all beautifully drawn by Jim Aparo. But, man, is it silly. You have to see it to appreciate it.

Bonus YouTube Clip: Here's Parker Posey laying down the law on the Dewey Decimal System.


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