Welcome back to another Guide to Geekdom. Now I promised this article all the way back in my April update. If you never read that update, this was the last article I promised on it and I simply haven’t gotten around to writing it down. Today I wanted to talk about the abused super villain. It’s an abuse that has been wildly commonplace among today’s comic book writers. It’s something that has been bothering me every time I see a long standing villain returns to the public light and they act in a certain way that doesn’t make sense. Let me explain.
An abused super villain is an older recurring villain that actually does have a long standing history that is usually ignored by a current writer in order to fit the needs of the comic that the character is in. For an example let’s talk about Dr. Curt Connors, better known as the Spider-Man super villain The Lizard. This character has had a long well established history as a tragic character. Curt was simply trying to find a cure for lost limbs by have the body re-grow the body part similar to how a lizard can. Using the lizard cure on himself to try and re-grow his own lost arm (he lost it on the battlefield because he use to be a field medic), Curt transformed into The Lizard. The relationship Curt has with The Lizard is similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that Curt has no control over his other side and on occasion slips into this persona through circumstances out of his control. Curt has tried to cure himself of The Lizard persona multiple times and has quite frequently gotten help from Spider-Man in this goal. Peter and Curt have become good friends over the years, with Curt helping Spider-Man in any way he can.
I remember reading a Spider-Man story arc called ‘Feral’ where everyone in the area was becoming more feral (due to an ancient artifact) especially the animal based super heroes/villains. In this arc, Curt was beginning to slip back into The Lizard persona and immediately called Peter to help stop him before he did something horrifying. Peter, being a worried caring friend, rushed over to try and help him all the while talking to him over the phone telling him that they’ll get through this.
Now the reason I am bring all this up is because of the White Tiger book. White Tiger is a supporting character of Daredevil that has been slowly making her way to becoming a full fledge super heroine. In order to fully make her a super hero, Marvel gave her a small book that detailed her full transition to crime fighting. To fully prove that she has the skill to fight super villains, one of her issues has her fighting The Lizard in Central Park. What happened to Curt? How did he regress again? Is his family okay? Where is Spider-Man, shouldn’t he be aware of his friend’s dire situation? None of these questions get answered. White Tiger simply beats The Lizard, proves herself as a super hero and goes off into the sunset. The Lizard was used as a throwaway character in order to help establish a new superhero.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? This is a really big problem that keeps coming up in today’s comics. Writers think that they can simply throw villains into a story because they are convenient plot devices, but what their really doing is abusing well established characters in order to help their real focus move forward. Curt is a well established character and most people do remember him as a Spider-Man villain, but that doesn’t mean you can just shove him in anywhere and have readers be okay with it.
Let’s look at another example of this issue: returning a villain to their roots for storytelling purposes. I recently read the New Avengers annual. In it Wonder Man decides to form a team of disgruntled superheroes to go attack the Avengers because of the belief that the Avengers are actually making the world worse due to their decisions. This depiction of Wonder Man is bizarre at best. Simon (Wonder Man) comes off as being unhinged from his mind (not something uncommon knowing his character) and simply shouts “I TOLD YOU THIS WAS COMING, I WARNED YOU!” as he viciously attacks his friends. I get that they wanted to try and have Wonder Man return to his super villain roots, but this completely ignores the well established relationships he had with a lot of these characters and his motives for doing this seem flimsy at best. The other heroes on his team are no better. I honestly think the other heroes are only there because Marvel thought that Wonder Man needed lackeys in this battle. They come off as bumbling idiots, not the heroes they used to be.
Another example of returning a villain to his roots can be seen with the Spider-Man villain, Sandman.
Did you spot him in that picture? Sandman is right next to Hawkeye. No, Sandman is not a lone villain randomly sneaking up behind the Avengers in an attempt to bring them down. SANDMAN WAS APART OF THE AVENGERS. Maybe you didn’t know about this, but Sandman was a former villain seeking redemption for his past actions and has teamed up with Spider-Man on multiple occasions and even became a member of the Avengers at one point. After the Avengers Sandman was briefly a villain again though at the end of the story it was revealed that his powers had stretched his consciousness thin and he was having trouble controlling his actions. He then returned to the life of a redeeming super hero teaming up with Spider-Man on various occasions.
Currently, writers have returned him to the life of a petty villain who is merely a thug lackey of Doctor Octopus. A recent Iron Man story arc which had Doc Ock take Iron Man’s building hostage had Sand Man joining him in the endeavor and even taking joy in torturing some of the people in the building, before joining Electro in a fight against Pepper Potts (if you don’t know that she is a current super heroine, look it up yourself). Both Sand Man and Electro get their butts handed to them by Pepper and they flee the scene like cowardly Saturday morning cartoon villains. Whatever happened to all the progress with his character?
Let’s discuss Harvey Dent for a second. Harvey is a well established character within the Batman universe. You probably know him better as the villain Two-Face. He suffers from an obsession with duality due to bipolar and multiple personality disorders. My question stands as, will he ever be cured? Will he ever (again) show signs of progress that he is being cured. I only ask because Harvey is a rather tragic character and it’s a shame to see him go down the road of a villain again and again without any signs of hope for his future. He suffers from what I call: The Ben Grimm Syndrome. The Ben Grimm Syndrome is the problem The Thing faces with comic book story telling. Ben Grimm is constantly looking for a cure to his current Thing state, but will never find a permanent cure, because it would most likely mean an end to his storyline. Harvey will never be cured of his problems because interesting story lines simply cannot be written about the character if they have finally been cure of their affliction. This too is super villain abuse.
I hope you understand what the point of all this was. I wanted to point out the shoddy workmanship writers today put into writing super villains. To the writers, they are simple tools to write a story with, not actually characters with histories and goals. If you are going to be writing a super hero story, you have to make sure that you not only fully flesh out the hero, but the villain as well.
I’m your Guide to Geekdom, and thank you for reading.