Who's Blockbuster?

Who's This? Not the video store.

The facts: The original Blockbuster was created in 1965 by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino for Detective Comics #345. A Bruce Banner type who experiments on himself and turns into a super-strong, mindlessly-violent brute. Unlike Banner and the Hulk, this change is permanent. The man-monster would appear some three dozen times in Batman, Detective and JLA, as well as being a member of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. He is remembered today as the first member of Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad to be killed (by Brimstone in Legends). Mark Desmond's brother Roland who would follow in his brutish footsteps until Neron makes him a super-genius, one of the best revitalizations of Underworld Unleashed, but now we're talking about a different character. (And there have further been at least two other characters to work under that name.)
How you could have heard of him: In the New52, Mark was made Blockbuster again (though more overtly Hulkish), though by Rebirth, the super-smart Roland is back, despite having been killed pre-Flashpoint and even showing up as a Black Lantern. The classic Blockbuster has appeared in animation on both JLU and Brave and the Bold, and in more monstrous forms in Young Justice and Batman: Bad Blood.
Example story: Batman #194 (August 1967) "The Blockbuster Goes Bat-Mad!" by Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella
Wow, what a great cover by Infantino and Anderson! I'm afraid Blockbuster looks a lot sillier in Moldoff's interiors, however. At least he's integrating into society. After a brawl with Solomon Grundy in JLA #47, he's been a different person - happy, friendly, harmless - working as a handyman at the Wayne Foundation Building. He's even learned a few words like "Friend" and "Gyaa???".
What did Mark Desmond see? "No friend!" A life-size papier-mâché figure of the Batman who he still has bad feelings about. Yeah, I hate it when superheroes shill for products too. Have at 'im, Blockbuster.
But when the guards run in, he's happy to see them and follows them without trouble to the police, holding them by the hands. It's a very specific trigger. I would suggest Bruce Wayne should do the right thing and rest the I.P., but you can't stop a merchandising juggernaut. When Desmond's doctors mention Batman in his presence, the man-mountain busts through his cell wall on a rampage ton find and kill the Bat. So he's soon back at the store tussling with a standee, but not before - get this - stopping by the Wayne Foundation to get his Blockbuster clothes! He kept those rags?! AT WORK!? I guess Blockbuster has branding ideas of his own.

Batman doesn't understand why they're not friends anymore, so he unmasks to the giant simpleton, hoping to trade on Desmond's friendship with Bruce Wayne. He's done it before, but this time there's a risk Desmond could TALK. Well, it's all for naught because Blockbuster understands commutativity. If Batman is bad, and Bruce Wayne is Batman, then Bruce Wayne is bad. They fight.
Batman's pretty tough, taking hits from a guy who just busted through a cinder block wall, but he still has to resort to doing impressions before he's defeated. But Blockbuster doesn't buy it! His brother's bad too! Though Batman is surprised his punches have any effect - is Desmond getting weaker? the plot point is quickly forgotten - both he and Robin get knocked out and the monster runs into the quicksand bog from where Bruce Wayne rescued him as a child, where he has a traumatic flashback and relives the experience WITHOUT Bruce saving him, though he's just standing in shallow water.

When Batman comes to, he follows and is soon spotted. It even looks like he's gonna get Baned early!
Instead, Blockbuster throws him in the swamp. But the moment has been prepared for. The quicksand bubbles and up comes...
Well, Batman in a fright mask, but Blockbuster thinks it's Solomon Grundy who he identifies as friend. He pulls him out of the muck, and Batman kicks him in... which gives him the chance to in turn SAVE the monster from his greatest fear. Now that Batman has saved him, he can be a "friend", and all that's left to do is to look into the camera with a smug smile.
And hey! It fixed the secret identity problem too!

A character like Blockbuster seems kind of one-note, and not the best fit for the Dark Knight Detective (other than in the Gothic sense), but the story finds a way to make it about psychology so it works (well, within the parameters of what Silver Age comics called psychology). But there's only so many times you can reactivate and deactivate the monster until it becomes redundant. Though Blockbuster would return, Man-Bat would sort of take on the same role in the Batman canon, and be much better remembered.

Who's Next? A talking rock.

2 comments:

LiamKav said...

So... what's the deal with the weird sandals?

Siskoid said...

Sandals? Or what's left of his shoes after be busts through them?

 

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