March Madness – 5 Comic Book Characters Whose Sanity Teeters On The Edge Of The DC Universe

Earlier this month, fellow Biff Bam Pop! writer, Glenn Walker, gave us a harrowing (and thrilling) tour through the mad halls of Arkham Asylum, DC Comics’ home for crazy, wicked characters. You can read that fantastic article right here.

But there are other comic book characters from DC that are not of the mainstream, ones that could just as easily be locked up beside the Joker, Mad Hatter, Psycho Pirate and Clayface. They’re out there on the fringes, inducing a sense of crazed vertigo in readers everywhere! Here are five of them:

Crazy Jane

Oh, Crazy Jane. That is your name, isn’t it? Or is it Kay, today? No? Liza? Miranda? Penny, Sylvia, Lucy, Lizzie, Jill, Bill or Annis? Daddy?

God, where does it end?

Actually, with Kay Challis, it ends at the number sixty-four. You see, that’s how many personalities our young and pretty Kay has. “Jane Morris” is the dominant one, hence, Crazy Jane. It’s a sad, tragic story, really.

Created back in 1989 by writer Grant Morrison and artist Richard Case in the series Doom Patrol, Kay, we learn, had a traumatic childhood. First molested by her father when she was playing with a jigsaw puzzle at five years of age, that game and those broken pieces would be a motif that would follow her all her life. Later, after an attempted rape, Kay would be committed to a mental institution, her personality fragmented. In an ongoing storyline wherein a race of aliens called the Dominators drop a “gene bomb” on the earth, Kay mutates and each of her sixty-four personalities gain a super power.

It’s kind of cool.

Lucy Fugue has radioactive bones, see-through skin and can generate harmonic vibrations. Lady Purple can see the future and Flit can teleport. Of course, Kay’s harrowing experiences as a child plays a strong role in her various personalities. Scarlet Harlot is a nymphomaniac with the power to create ectoplasm projections and absorb psychosexual energy, Sex Bomb explodes when aroused while Black Annis hates men and wields sharp, deadly claws. Disturbingly, there’s a Daddy personality as well: a giant and imposing monster made of insects, excrement and puzzle pieces.

Crazy Jane, the dominant personality in Kay’s mind, has no powers, which, I think, says something important about us non super-powered individuals.

If you want to read a crazy trip of a comic, groundbreaking and satisfying to the end, pick up the Morrison and Case run of Doom Patrol.

Delirium

If you know the Sandman comic book series written by the award-winning author, Neil Gaiman, then you know Delirium.

First appearing in the Sandman, issue #21, in 1990, Delirium is the youngest sister in Sandman’s family, otherwise known as the Endless – personifications of aspects of the universe. They include: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Despair, Desire and, of course, Delirium, who, we are told, was once called Delight.

Delirium is no older than a skinny, young teenager and is often depicted with heavy make-up, ragged and ripped clothing, rainbow-coloured, messy hair and a distinctly scattered personality.

She’s got some dialogue throughout the comic book series that can be funny, troubling, thought provoking or easily dismissed. Sometimes, it’s all of these things at the same time. “Funny, she looks smaller from outside her head”, Delirium states matter-of-factly in one scene, while in another she asks, “If you don’t have a name, what do people call you? I mean, do they just wave and smile, or jingle little silver bells or what?”

The quirky character with the kaleidoscopic word balloons actually quickly grows on readers. I swear, I read her as if she were a cute but troubled kid sister and I’m always trying to discover if there is some truth, some credulity, some element of sense when she’s saying something like, “When you say words a lot they don’t mean anything. Or maybe they don’t mean anything at all, and we just think they do.”

Most times, however, with Delirium we get, “Have you ever spent days and days making up flavors of ice cream that no one’s ever eaten before? Like chicken and telephone ice cream.”

And that’s just crazily perfect!

Mister E

DC Comics has got a pretty large stable of supernatural characters thanks to its Vertigo publishing imprint through the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

No magical character in that stable is more troubled in the head than the b-list mystic known as Mister E.

As a young boy, Erik grew up being repeatedly beaten by his extremely fanatical father who believed the world (and mankind) was absolutely corrupt and evil. Of course, it’s those types of men that harbor the greatest sorts of atrocities as Erik discovered when he happened across degrading pictures of his mother and sister, hidden under his father’s bed. Incensed that his proclivities had been discovered, his father took out Erik’s eyes with a sharpened spoon, believing that he was saving his son from the visual horrors of the world. Erik blocked out the true reasons for this violence, convincing himself that he needed to be punished for his curiosity.

Those emotions, bottled up in his subconscious, would rule Erik’s mind, even as it unraveled in adulthood.

Fighting evil as a paranormal investigator, a sorcerer able to tap into the arcane arts, Mister E banded together with others like him including Doctor Occult, the Phantom Stranger and John Constantine. Together, they attempted to teach the up and coming mage, Timothy Hunter (a precursor to Harry Potter – black hair, British accent, round-frame glasses and all) about their art. Mister E, able to see what he believed were visions of the future, thought Hunter the ultimate threat to all mankind and attempted to murder him. The long-standing psychosis inherent in the character, revealed itself all to tangibly!

Although Hunter survived, Mister E is still out there on the periphery of the DC Universe, still carrying his demented childhood experiences with him – rigid, harsh and crazed.

Shade The Changing Man

Originally from the planet Meta, under British writer Peter Milligan and artist Chris Bachalo during the 1990’s, Rac Shade found his way to earth in order to fight a growing madness that threatened to consume the planet. Armed with his M-Vest (or Madness Vest), Shade fought all sorts of surreal antagonists, let loose by the American Scream, a sort of amorphous entity that epitomized the insanity of twentieth century America.

Shade would often lose his grip on reality and change his form. The seventy monthly issues of Shade The Changing Man saw the crazed hero as a red-headed, mopey poet killed off to return as a woman, changed again to the form of a black-haired lunatic, then to an emotionless mod and finally as a bedraggled, unshaven obsessive. So who was the real Rac Shade? All of them and none of them. The various character interpretations allowed Milligan the freedom to explore politics, transgenderism, hidden desires, love, Americana and even parenthood.

In one of the most crazy and disturbing moments of the series, a serial killer named Troy Grenzer takes control of Shade’s body and, under that guise, sleeps with Shade’s new love, Kathy George, unbeknownst to either of the couple. It isn’t until the real, inadequate and inexperienced Shade makes love to Kathy for the first time, wherein Kathy exclaims that it’s “nice to know that their lovemaking could also be tender”, that Shade really begins to understand the madness that is his world. It’s absolutely harrowing when Shade sees a reflection of himself with the visage of a smiling, knowing Grenzer. Sheer hell.

The comic book had a small but strong cult following and Shade The Changing Man, in all his craziness, has never been far from the mainstream DC Universe. Most recently he was part of the Flashpoint mini-series and is also currently one of the main characters that makes up Justice League Dark.

If you’re in the mood for mad brilliance, seek out the Shade The Changing Man trade paperback compilation.

John Constantine

And then there’s everyone’s favourite charismatic rogue.

John Constantine “dabbles” in the arcane arts by running with bad men, angels, demons and other sorts of strange nastiness. A fairly outlandish occupation if you ask me. He’s seen his share of evil, death and dismemberment and has even spent time in the Ravenscar mental health facility.

Of course, for a short time, Constantine was also singer and chief lyricist of the late 1970’s punk rock band, Mucous Membrane. Do you remember Venus of the Hard Sell, the band’s big hit? Mad, I tell you! Mad!

And oh yeah. Constantine? He flipped the bird to the devil himself! How crazy is that?

The “Laughing Magician” indeed!

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About JP Fallavollita

JP Fallavollita is the Consulting Editor and regular contributor to Biff Bam Pop! He has been an avid reader of comic books since he was this tall and is currently busy writing and drawing his first graphic novel. He lives and works in Toronto with a port of call, beyond the local comic shop, of www.jpfallavollita.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JPFallavollita

Posted on March 10, 2012, in 2012, comics, DC Comics, Grant Morrison, JP, JP Fallavollita, March Madness, Vertigo and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Great stuff, man, love it!

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