The week of January 14, 2009 brought two installments of DC Comics' Faces of Evil campaign, whereby the villains of the DC Universe take center stage in a series of one-shots and special issues of existing series. This week's installments focus on Prometheus and Enemy Ace.
Prometheus, described by co-creator Grant Morrison as the "anti-Batman," appears now in his own one-shot written by Sterling Gates and Illustrated by Federico Dalbochio, a prelude to James Robinson's forthcoming "Justice League" series. The second character, Enemy Ace, is not a traditional villain. Hans Von Hammer makes his appearance opposite Booster Gold, Goldstar and Skeets in the pages of "Booster Gold" #16.
With "Faces of Evil: Prometheus" and "Booster Gold" #16 on sale now, CBR looks back on the history of these intriguing bad guys.
Prometheus first appeared in "New Year's Evil: Prometheus" #1 (February 1998) by Grant Morrison and Arnie Jorgensen. Morrison's description of Prometheus as the anti-Batman is fitting, as the villain's origins bear that out. Prometheus, whose true identity remains secret, was born to hippies who traveled the country with their son and committed crimes. The police finally caught up with this modern-day Bonnie and Clyde and, during a gun battle, killed the pair before their son's eyes. The shock of the event turned the boy's hair white, and he vowed to one day annihilate the forces of justice. The parallels to the Batman's origin are obvious.
Following the Batman model, Prometheus inherited money from his criminal parents and then traveled the globe, developing a mastery of combat and assorted villainous skills. Prometheus worked as a mercenary in Africa, studied with terrorists in the Middle East, was a pit-fighter in South America, and learned Silat, an exotic martial form of martial arts in Malaysia. He furthered his education in the finest schoolsand became fluent in a dozen languages.
Finally, Prometheus came to the Himalayan city of Shambhala, a place where evil was worshipped. Prometheus studied with the monks that called the mountain kingdom their home. He became the prize pupil of the cult's leader and was shown their greatest treasure, the foundation of the monastery. Beneath the ancient structure lay a spaceship. The leader also revealed an infinite space of pure white nothingness that Prometheus called the "Ghost Zone" (incidentally, the angelic JLA member Zauriel has referred to Ghost Zone space as Limbo, and the Kryptonians have called it the Phantom Zone). As the cult leader revealed his secret, he changed form and became one of the aliens that piloted the spacecraft, and Prometheus slew him for possession of the key to the Ghost Zone. Once Prometheus unlocked the Ghost Zone, he built a secret hideout.
His skills honed and his headquarters secured, Prometheus made plans. He first killed a young hero named Retro, who had won a spot on the Justice League in a contest to be a Leaguer for a day. Prometheus assumed the man's identity and infiltrated the League. Once aboard the Justice League Watchtower, Prometheus proceeded to take down the League. Using a drug that turned the powers of shape shifters against themselves, he eliminated Plastic Man and the Martian Manhunter. Through other means, Zauriel was trapped in the Ghost Zone; the Huntress was rendered unconscious by hypnosis; Steel was made a puppet in his own armor; "Neural Chaff" was used to render Green Lantern incapable of exercising his will; and using combat software, Prometheus defeated Batman in hand-to-hand combat. In the end, Prometheus then used his defeated hostages as leverage against Superman, demanding the Man of Steel commit suicide.
Prometheus' defeat was at the hands of Catwoman, who had snuck aboard the JLA Watchtower disguised as reporter Cat Grant, who was meant to be there to cover the Retro story. Catwoman's plan was to case the Watchtower for things to steal, but instead encountered Prometheus. With a whip strike to the groin, Catwoman delayed Prometheus long enough to allow Steel to overcome the computer virus and take Prometheus's helmet. The villain escaped into the Ghost Zone, but vowed to return.
And return Prometheus did, as a member of Lex Luthor's Injustice Gang. Prometheus returned to the Watchtower with a White Martian spacecraft that had been abandoned in the Ghost Zone (which the Martians used for hyperspace travel). Prometheus tried for a rematch with Batman, but little did the villain know the Dark Knight had uncovered a way to access Prometheus's helmet, which turned out to be a device the villain used to download fighting skills directly into his brain. Batman, who had had access to the helmet after their original battle, replaced the martial arts software with the physical attributes of Dr. Stephen Hawking, who suffers from motor neuron disease. This rendered Prometheus helpless as the Batman handed him a thrashing of biblical proportions.
Since that time, Prometheus has taken a backseat role from the major threat he was during earlier appearances. He has appeared working for the Batman villain, Hush, but was defeated after he took part in the murder of Poison Ivy. During that altercation, Prometheus was infected with a terminal illness by one of Ivy's minions.
His illness presumably cured, Prometheus has most recently appeared battling Lady Shiva to an embarrassing defeat, as well as under the control of Starro the Conqueror in the pages of "Teen Titans."
Following such unremarkable appearances, the villain's solo outing in "Faces of Evil: Prometheus" promises to place Prometheus back in the spotlight as a man who can single-handedly take on the world's mightiest heroes and quite possibly triumph.
War comics tend to focus on what we would consider the good guys; our side. But with his first appearance in "Our Army at War" # 151 (February 1965), Hans Von Hammer, the Enemy Ace, became something unique. He was the first featured character in a war comic that was on the other side. As a German pilot in World War I, Enemy Ace gave readers the German's side of the Great War.
Enemy Ace was portrayed as a man of honor and a chivalrous aristocrat. The Hammer of Hell was obviously based on the character of Manfred Von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Both German pilots were aristocrats, flew the distinctive Fokker Dr.1 Tri-Wing airplane, and both were men attributed a noble character.
Hammer was a complex fellow, melancholy and haunted by the deaths he caused in the name of duty. He was a lone knight on the battlefield of the sky, a fierce enemy and a good friend. His companionship with a lone wolf in the depths of the Black Forest showed a kinder side to the man, while his thirst for bloody revenge at the death of that beloved pet showed the darkness in him that was born of war.
While Enemy Ace proved to be a popular enough character, his two-issue run in "Showcase" #57 - 58 (August and October 1965) was not successful enough to warrant his own title. Von Hammer did take the cover spot of "Star Spangled War Stories" beginning with issue #138 (May 1968) and held it until issue #151 (July 1970), when he lost it to the Unknown Soldier. Enemy Ace continued from that point as a back-up feature through 1972, returning again in 1974 in a crossover with an American character, Steve Savage, Balloon Buster.
The Enemy Ace would not be beaten, however, and returned in the 1989 graphic novel "Enemy Ace: War Idyll" by George Pratt. In the story, Hans is shown to have lived to the ripe old age of 73. The tale concluded with Von Hammer dying peacefully in 1969, after giving his memoirs to a young Vietnam veteran who had become a journalist.
Tim Truman's 1998 miniseries "Guns of the Dragon" featured Enemy Ace in a story set in the 1920s alongside Bat Lash, Chop Chop (from the Blackhawks), and Biff Bradley (older brother of private detective Slam Bradley). The group was employed by Chiang Kai-shek to recover mystic artifacts from a place called Dragon Island. After battling dinosaurs and the immortal Vandal Savage, the group returned to Shanghai with the artifacts, but never revealed the location of the island.
In "Enemy Ace: War in Heaven" (2001), written by Garth Ennis and Robert Kanigher, Hans once again took inspiration from a real life German ace, Adolf Galland. In the series, Von Hammer was inducted into the Luftwaffe during World War II. While he had nothing but contempt for the Nazis, the Enemy Ace once again racks up an impressive number of kills against the Russians on the Eastern Front in his Me-109 (which is painted red in tribute to his Fokker Dr.1) and later against American bombers. The story took a broad turn when, in 1945, Hans was shot down parachuted into the Dachau concentration camp, where he and discovered Hitler's mass murder of Jews. Outraged, Von Hammer attempted to mutiny, but failed. In the end, the Enemy Ace surrendered his JV 44 jet aircraft over to Sgt. Rock's Easy Company, after setting his unit's remaining aircraft on fire.
With "Booster Gold" #16 (January 2009), Enemy Ace returns to the World War I for the "Faces of Evil" event. While the Hammer of Hell probably can't be considered evil in the conventional sense of the word, he will certainly be a challenging foe for the time-traveling Booster.
Stay with CBR as we bring on more bad guys as Faces of Evil continues with the former Teen Titan, Jericho, and the Green Arrow's enemy archer, Merlyn.
"Faces of Evil: Prometheus" and "Booster Gold" #16 are on sale now from DC Comics.