Thursday, February 19, 2009

Best Supervillains Who Deservedly Just Kept Coming Back And Should Keep Doing So.

Ever noticed how supervillains never really go away? Whether it's a "mad scientist" or a "deranged Army general" or "Jeff Bridges stealing an idea for a suit, thereby creating a supervillain who would not have existed if not for the creation of the suit in the first place, serving as an ad hoc justification for the creation of the suit in the first place" type of supervillain, time after time, supervillains just keep on coming back. But do they deserve to come back? Ask yourself that.

And ask yourself whether I used ad hoc correctly in that sentence above?

While you're at it, ask yourself whether yesterday I tried to describe the rather alarming increase in a mortgage insurance premium as logarithmic only to learn that I meant exponential?

The answers to those questions are, in reverse order: yes, probably, and Maybe not. Most supervillains who just keep on coming back aren't all that great to begin with. The Green Goblin? The Joker? Lex Luthor? The Dirty Bubble? What makes these villains so great that we just keep seeing them pop up in movies and comic books and cartoons? Sure, Heath Ledger did a great job with The Joker, but The Joker wasn't all that fascinating or great a villain before that, so why bring him back yet again when there are so many other, more deserving villains out there, villains who in the past used to come back over and over and over again but now have been banished, apparently, lost in the mists of time, living somewhere in a forgotten valley waiting to be discovered by Will Ferrell in the upcoming "Land of the Lost: Ricky Bobby's Excellent Adventure"... Or are they? Maybe they're not lost, but instead, are here, on The Best Of Everything, where I'm feeling lazy and tired and so I'm doing what I do whenever I feel lazy and tired: think about comic books, and present:

The Three Best Supervillains Who Deservedly Just Kept Coming Back And Should Keep Doing So.

These are supervillains the way God meant supervillains to be: Crazy, full of strange beliefs, hyped up with unusual and practically-useless powers, and crazy. Yes, that deserves saying twice.

Let's begin...

1. Ace: Ace has actually existed in several incarnations. "Ace" was an original member of the Royal Flush gang, a name that did not so much strike fear into the hearts of people as laughter into the hearts of teenage boys; apparently, the "Atomic Wedgie Gang" was already taken. The Royal Flush Gang all wore outfits with the "Club" suit from cards on them. The first "Ace" wasn't much at all: a guy in a suit running in a gang created by Professor Amos Fortune (is there anyone in real life called "Professor?" Wouldn't they go by Doctor?) to fight the Justice League and... rob people in an attempt to prove that Fortune's theory of a "luck gland" was real.

No, I don't get that, either.

The "Royal Flush Gang" didn't last long, what with high school bullies and all, but the idea was too good to be dropped entirely, and it was recreated later on in the comics by a guy named "Hector Hammond." Hammond was apparently not a professor but was a better super villain. For one thing, he changed the team's card suit to spades -- clearly a better choice than clubs. He also didn't rely on "luck glands" but built a team of actual bad guys, including guys with laser eyes (but only one laser eye, so no fair suing, X-Men), an immortal who could control minds but who was for some reason not the leader of the group, and the second Ace, a super-strong android. "Ace" the android's "real name" was Derek Reston. I don't know why an android needed a "real name." Maybe it was difficult to get frequent flier miles without it.

At some point, the Royal Flush gang expanded from five members to 52 members, thereby making their name even more ridiculous (which, it turns out, was possible), but this did little to help them because when The Joker tried to join them and was rejected, he killed them all.

So your gang of 52 supervillains, some with the power to control minds, and armed with explosive playing cards, was wiped out by a madman with no special powers whatsoever. Hammond was a better supervillain than Professor Fortune, but just barely.

Ace came back to life again, this time as a young girl in the Jokers' "Royal Flush Gang." This "Ace" was a moody girl who could put people into a hallucinatory, comatose state while performing on TV -- obviously a precursor of Britney Spears. As time went on, this "Ace," who was apparently named "Ace" for no better reason than to fit into the Joker's "Royal Flush Gang" motif, developed the powers to create whatever she wanted simply by thinking about it.

Before the world could turn into a rainbow-lit realm of ponies, oddly-sexless cute boys, and puffy hearts, though, the Justice League decided to kill "Ace," sending for the job the only hero capable of brutally murdering a young girl: Batman. But Batman changes his mind (wimp!) and decides not to kill Ace, who then helps out the world by dying in his arms anyway.

2. Solomon Grundy: Remember this children's rhyme?:

Solomon Grundy:

Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
This is the end,
Of Solomon Grundy

The more you think about it, the more you'll realize I was right when I pointed out how scary things intended for kids are. What is a kid supposed to think about that? Half of Solomon Grundy's life was spent in horrible misery -- more, when you consider he was married on Wednesday! (Ba dum Bum! I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip the waitress!).

It could've been worse, though. Whoever hated kids enough to think up that rhyme could have instead thought up:

Solomon Grundy:

Murdered on Monday.
Reanimated as a corpse on Tuesday.
Kills two men on Wednesday.
Moves into a hobo camp on Thursday.
Discovers he's mostly made of wood on Friday.
Hurled under a train on Saturday.
Reanimated AGAIN and then trapped in a green bubble until he ultimately gets imprisoned on the moon (on Sunday.

That's the story of Solomon Grundy, a partially-vegetative-material zombie corpse who exists as a villain, it seems, primarily for the purpose of allowing superheroes to actually kill a bad guy. You know, because they keep chickening out when asked to slaughter 13-year-old girls.

And, oh, how they kill Solomon Grundy: they hurl him under a train, put him on the moon, bury him, and put him back on the moon (Zombies On The Moon will probably be the sequel to this, now that I think of it.) Even that doesn't do it, though, as Solomon Grundy is reborn, this time by being grown from residual cells of his that were living in the sewers.

Yes, Solomon Grundy is a partially-vegetable reanimated corpse grown from sewer debris. But does that mean he shouldn't be allowed to fall in love? No. In between periodically gaining intelligence, mastering the "residual green energy" in his body that's stored there from fights with Green Lantern, and gaining control over wood, Solomon Grundy finds a little time for the fairer sex, falling in love with both "Jade" and The Huntress and briefly trying to be good.

Affairs between green women and sewer zombies are probably doomed from the start, but it doesn't help when another supervillain disguises herself and tricks poor Solomon into killing a hero named "Skyman." Solomon Grundy, shocked that he could do such a thing (even though for most of history he's been a horrible creature) beats the villainess "within an inch of her life," ending his heroing career.

If you're keeping track, then: planning to kill a thirteen-year-old girl = okay; savagely beating a supervillainess who just killed a man = no good. And if you think that distinction has something to do with whether you are a billionaire playboy moonlighting as a psychotic crimefighter, or are instead a zombie made up of sewer muck, then you're catching on.

3. The Top: The things you find fascinating in childhood can often foretell the career you'll choose. Take me, for example: I loved the ocean. I loved sharks and whales and crustaceans and ocean currents, and the Marianas trench, and more. I had, in fact, plans to become an oceanographer, and used to tell people that's what I was going to be when I grew up. You'll rarely find a kid more destined for the "cool group" in high school than the one who says "I'm gonna be an oceanographer." While other kids were playing sports and learning to smoke and meeting girls, I was reading World and Ranger Rick and learning about tidal pools... tidal pools that I then never saw in real life, even though everytime I was near the ocean I'd look for them, hoping to find that little microcosm of ocean life waiting patiently for the tide to come in and whisk them back to their life.

I never saw them. Never. And my disappointment led me, in classic supervillain style, to abandon my dreams of oceanography as a career and follow a path of evil, destruction, villainy, and more evil: law school.

That childhood trauma never seems to have happened to The Top, who appears to have become a bad guy for no better reason than the fact that he had nothing better to do. As a small-time crook, though, Roscoe Dillon -- there's your first problem, right there: Roscoe? Nobody named Roscoe ever amounted to much of anything, and naming your kid Roscoe probably shoots him straight into the arms of petty thugs in the area -- Roscoe Dillon was looking for a hook, a gimmick, that would shoot him to the top of the local crime arena. Everyone needs a hook -- whether it be What's the deal with airline peanuts? or changing your name from "Mapother" to "Cruise" -- and Roscoe found his in his childhood love of tops.

From that day forward, he was The Top, and before you go thinking man, that's ridiculous, consider this: Roscoe's inspired choice of gimmickry led to him having mind-over-matter abilities. It seems that if you spin around enough, you will eventually develop telekinesis or similar abilities, although you may not want to try this route because you will also overheat your brain and die.

Which means that The Top is not only a great supervillain, but a natural spokesperson for one of these energy drinks/athletic sodas that everyone's all into these days. Picture this:

Voice over: What is G? G is the ability to control matter with your mind without fatally overheating your brain...
(As the voiceover starts, the screen goes from black to a scene of The Top whirling around and generally wreaking havoc on Smallville, or wherever it was he lived, but he's slowing down and panting and holding his forehead)

The Top:
What's going on... brain, so hot... can't ... wreak... havoc.

(Cops start to close in. Sirens wail. A little kid stands nearby and pipes up, all innocence and moptoppery):

Kid: Mr. Top, do you want some of my "G" energy drink?

The Top: (Takes it, kneeling in agony and red-faced. Guzzles it.) Thanks, kid. (Stands up, grabs cop who was about to shoot him. Super-spins cop into other cops, knocking them down like bowling pins. When The Flash shows up, The Top easily knocks him out with a series of cool toplike moves. We see The Top standing over an unconscious, bloody Flash, smiling victoriously and drinking a little more "G," only to look over his shoulder and see Moptop.)

The Top: Hey, kid...


The Top: Here. (Picks up the Flash's limp body, tosses it to the kid, who grabs it and smiles.)

Kid: Thanks, Mister!

The Top: Now get out of here before I kill you and your whole family.

Kid: (Hesitates) Mister?

The Top: Do you think I'm joking? I'm a supervillain, for god's sake. Run.

(Fade out as the voiceover says): G. It's what lets you dominate the world and create a top-based society of evil.

That would be far better than yet another wacky beer commercial, wouldn't it?

The Top didn't stop with spinning and overheating his brain. He also developed the power to come back from the dead, and he didn't have to do that by being reincarnated out of a toilet bowl. The Top's ghost kept living on somewhere, and kept coming back to life by inhabiting others' bodies, like Heaven Can Wait crossed with... well, crossed with a guy who's obsessed with tops. The Top took over The Flash's father's body -- and used that old guy's body to re-woo his old girlfriend, the figure-skater-turned-supervillainess Golden Glider (really!) and also to try to kill The Flash, and later on was released from Hell when an experiment went bad. The Top eventually used his powers to take over the body of a Senator and run for president, ultimately settling for the vice-presidency because he was unfamiliar with politics, but setting up a scheme wherein he would get elected and have his running mate assassinated.

(No, it was not Joe Biden, but the similarites are remarkable, aren't they?)

The scheme failed when his running mate declined to take office, a move that shows the writers, too, were unfamiliar with presidential politics, since such a declination would likely have elevated The Top into the presidency without the necessity of having to kill someone (making it a little less fun, I suppose), but that might have been academic because by then a bunch of damned souls had somehow gotten out and taken The Top back to Hell.

The Top then came back again, later, and became, briefly, a good guy, a move that made him go insane. While insane -- things get a little muddy here -- The Top tried to convert all the bad guys into good guys, and it worked on most of them, except that then The Top was cured of his insanity, which naturally made him go back to being a bad guy, at which point he vowed to un-good all the other bad guys, or something, resulting in a giant battle of dumb Flash villains, but somewhere in there, The Top was killed... again... by Captain Cold.

Captain Cold, by the way, later became the supervillain Chillblaine. A "chilblain" is an inflammation of the hands and feet typically caused by exposure to cold and wet. With the addition of the "e" on the end, Chillblaine became not just a supervillain with the awesome power of... making you slightly uncomfortable... but also a bit of a preppy.

(Chillblaine? That's not a name, that's a major appliance!)

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lisapepin said...

"Chillblaine," that's the perfect brand name for your business leg warmers. Though it sounds like you should add a line of mittens as well. But they'd have to be mittens you could type in. Or they'd have to be so expensively-priced that they would inspire the kind of awe and respect that would get you out of doing such mundane tasks as typing while at work. Also, thanks for posting a picture of Duckie Dale. I didn't realize how much I had missed him until I saw his face (and gold jacket and ultra-feminine lapel pin) again.

Hannes said...

lol, that pic is funny :)

Anonymous said...

Dear sir, I apologize in advance for the nerdery.

However, I must make a few corrections on your Top entry (for I am the world's biggest Top nerd...yes, such a thing exists). Firstly, Captain Cold never became Chillblaine, and thank god for that, because they were all having sex with his sister. They were a bunch of mostly-anonymous himbo thugs.

Secondly, the "damned souls" the Top encountered at the end of the presidential storyline were actually soulless Rogues fresh from Hell -- Captains Cold and Boomerang, Mirror Master, etc. They didn't take him back to Hell, they just did something traumatic to him and left him an incoherent mess. He was actually taken to prison.

Thirdly, your post is awesome and I enjoyed it very much. Especially the energy drink ad!

Anonymous said...

Just so that you know:

A "doctor" is someone who has either a medical degree or a Ph.D.

A "professor" is someone who teaches at (and therefore has been verified by) a college or university or other recognized institute of higher learning.

There are college and university teachers who have only Master degrees or, in very rare cases, only a Bachelor degree (but more than enough experience and professional accolades to make up for the lack of a Ph.D.), and they are called "professor" just as much as would be someone who taught with a Ph.D.

So if Amos Fortune is known as "Professor Fortune" rather than as "Doctor Fortune", that means that he teaches at a college or university but never earned a Ph.D.

The lack of a Ph.D. may be why he convinced himself of the existence of "luck glands" in people?