Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Vile Menagerie: WILEY DALBERT

Francis Wiley Dalbert worked under a government contract with Plains University's Physics Department in Keystone City, yet he held no degrees, doctorates, nor other title. "He's a researcher with a dozen published texts on radiation and light theory. He's some kind of genius in that field but has no record of formal education past the eighth grade." Dalbert then used his mind and connections to traffic in national security secrets, for which he was discovered and had warrants posted. Picked up on a drunk driving violation in Gotham City, Dalbert escaped the custody of both federal agents and GCPD officers Harvey Bullock and Rene Montoya. During a rooftop exchange, the entire area was bathed in light, into which Dalbert strolled to freedom. All the while, Dalbert was nonplussed, softly singing the lyrics to Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming To Take Me Away."

A slew of evidence continued to bring up the question not just of where Dalbert was headed, but when. He had cased the garage rooftop days before the GCPD knew where they would meet the agents. Dalbert carried legitimate U.S. currency dated two years from the present.

While Batman and Robin began their own investigation of the matter, Bullock and Montoya were joined by private detective John Jones, who had been tracking Dalbert for months. The disguised Martian Manhunter assured the officers Dalbert's buyers were "not locals," alluding to extra-terrestrial-or-temporal elements that drew his special attention. Meanwhile, Dalbert hired the services of the aerial arsonist Firefly, and visited the local library to brush up on history circa 1905 (specifically the quiet little town of Ginger Springs, Kansas.) While Dalbert had a wealth of currency to spare, he needed help pulling a heist to acquire diamonds. "I plan on traveling... where I'm going gems are less... troublesome than cash."

John Jones joined the GCPD officers in a raid on the hotel Dalbert was staying in, but he again escaped under cover of blinding light, as well as "A change in the barometric pressure. A static charge in the air." In his stead was the Firefly, who preyed on the Martian's weakness until he too escaped. This led Jones to join forces with the Batman, as he felt "that we have one more shot at nailing him. If we fail, he's gone forever."

Dalbert seemingly teleported into a bank vault in a flash of light, and was pleased by what he found in the first safety deposit box he opened. It served to distract him, as a previously undetectable John Jones materialized to lead his collar out through the vault door. There he was again set upon by Firefly, who was now targeting his former partner-in-crime, but was apprehended by the Batman. In the meantime, Dalbert reentered the vault and swiftly disappeared.

Jones explained, "Dalbert already knew what was going to happen... He was certain of the future because he'd lived it before... Wiley Dalbert was, is, will be a scientist from the far future. He was traveling through our time from future to past. These events occurred to him in reverse order from the sequence in which we experienced them. Dalbert unlocked the secret of the neutrino. He harnessed their energies and abilities to defy the normal progression of time. And he began his one-way journey toward his dream. To a simpler place than the one he came from. And a place where the law can never reach him-- a time before any of us was born."

This proved not quite the case, as Dalbert reappeared years earlier in Gotham City, masterminding a heist involving Killer Moth. However, the "Moth" was in fact the time-travelling hero Booster Gold, who had come to this point in history to correct a temporal anomaly caused by Dalbert. Rip Hunter, Time Master, had revealed to Booster Gold that Dalbert was a 27th century physicist who used a tachyon-based device he'd invented to traverse time, but only in reverse. Booster Gold accomplished his task, and Dalbert moved on.

Dalbert was last seen in a scrapbook photograph from early in the 20th century. "Local philanthropist Wiley Dalbert attends opening ceremonies of the children's library made possible by his selfless gift of the necessary funds." Dalbert had christened the very library he checked out the scrapbook from.

First Appearance: Detective Comics #714(October 1997)
Approx. Height: 5'4"
Approx. Weight: 130 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red
Powers: None
Quote: "I can't imagine how this happened. This will take some studying. Surprises can be so unpleasant."

Created by: Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Eduardo Barreto

See Also: Detective Comics #714-715 (Oct.-Nov.'97)

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