Or – “I Decided Not To Call It “Top Ten Characters Who Can Go $&@$ Themselves…”
There are a couple of tenets that I try to always observe in my work for Major Spoilers…
Rule #1 – Don’t assume that you’re right.
Rule #2 – At the end of the day, it’s just lines on paper.
Rule #3 – Your mileage, and everyone’s, may vary.
Rule #4 – Try to keep it positive.
Still, I truly believe that everybody needs to break the rules once in a while. Recently, my growing rage at a certain comic book character has led me to rant and rave and break three of the four rules all at once, and I figured, why not get it off my chest? They say catharsis is good for the something or other, right? Unbridled Nerd Rage in Three… Two… One!
Dance with the one what brung ya, I always say, and since the Hero Histories of the Legion are what brought me to the table, I had to ante up this loser immediately. Earth-Man’s entire raison d’etre is flawed for me by the fact that he was the villain in the issue where Tyroc (the first black character to join the Legion of Super-Heroes) joins. In 1976, DC was only able to hint that he was a racist, but Geoff Johns turned the former Absorbancy Boy into a full-blown psychopath with immense powers and a grudge against anything non-human. Here’s my problem with that: Nearly every alien in the LSH is a pink-skinned humanoid who wouldn’t look out of place in a Safeway in Brainerd, MN. Much as with Jean Grey’s lamenting her mutant nature and the prejudice that comes with it, Earth-Man’s silly crusade SHOULDN’T have worked, and the existence of his xenophobic silliness is now serving as a core concept behind the relaunched Legion series. Earth-Man himself was front and center in the first issue and promises to be around for awhile, but there’s just no meat behind him other than “rejection makes awkward teen mean.” Of all the characters to dislike in the 31st Century, Earth-Man hits the coveted hat trick of over-powered, unconceptualized, and obnoxious without motivation…
Speaking of awkward teenagers and rejection… Of all the entrants on this list, I wrestled most with this one, for a couple of reasons. I am NOT the target audience for his story, and moreover, Twilight hatred is pretty much old hat. Then I went to Burger King and my French Fries wanted me to choose Team Edward or Team Jacob, and I figured if I was going to give in to the power of the Dark Side of the Intardwebz, I might as well go all the way. Here’s the simplest reason of all to hate Mr. Cullen, simpler than his stalkery nature, the fact that his stalkery nature was aimed at an emotionally immature little girl, the vapid emptiness in his high-cheekboned face, even the fact that his existence made Robert Pattinson a celebrity… Even if we ignore all the unsavory connotations and psychological perversities in his romance, Edward is little more than a defanged version of Buffy’s paramour Angel. The upshot of it all is this: You can be a horrible cardboard Mary Sue boyfriend, you can be the spearhead of the most annoying cultural revolution since Pikachu shot lightning out of his ass, you can even be portrayed by an actor more wooden than Gepetto’s boy, but if you’re a blatant case of plagiarism? $&@# you.
Robert Kirkman is a very talented writer, and has a lot of good ideas. Invincible is the kind of comic that makes you want to believe it’s tagline of “The Best Superhero Comic in the Universe.” But Kirkman is as human as anybody, and since he grew up in the 90’s, has a soft spot for Sleepwalker, for Darkhawk, and for Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Spider-Man work. I love the chutzpah it took for Bob to stand up at Comicon and challenge Todd to draw a book that he would write, but did it have to be so on-the-nose? No matter how wonderful the interiors on this comic are, no matter if the story is William Shakespeare returning from the dead, there’s no getting past the fact that this character is the Amazing Spider-Spawn… Stupid comics written with love I can understand and condone, but something this derivative is lucky to have ever made it through the copyrighting process.
As an old-school Trekkie (every Sunday morning on Channel 41, and I loved the weeks that we got ‘Mudd’s Women’) there is no way that I could compile this list without putting SOMEONE related to Roddenberry’s masterwork on it. But, whom to choose? Wesley Crusher? Been done. William Shatner’s toupee? Too obvious. First season William Riker? I wouldn’t mind punching him, but he did mellow into a fine Captain with age. I even considered Q, but then I remembered him in a bellman’s uniform, lisping “Is there a Jeen-Luck Pickerd here?” As someone who watched every episode of Deep Space Nine straight through three times in order as a Master Control operator at a local television station, no character in the world is more in need of a knuckle sandwich than Kai Winn of the Bajoran Order. Initially drawn as a religious zealot who wouldn’ t hear of questioning the Prophets, Winn eventually revealed herself to be a vain, petty, venal, and jealous woman, who resented Captain Benjamin Sisko’s appointment to the post of Emissary. In later seasons, just the sound of Louise Fletcher’s honeyed tones raises my blood pressure… She’s the epitome of every smarmy television manager, every salesperson, every two-faced assclown who acted as though butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth before pushing you under a bus. Sure, it’s an exhilarating kind of hatred, but it’s a hatred that burns as hot as the plasma generators I would push our fine Kai into after embedding my carpals in her face…
Oh, come on, you knew this was coming. In deference to those who whine that professional wrestling isn’t real, I’d like to point out that I have never met Sean Waltman, the man who portrayed X-Pac (aka Six-Pack, Sixx, The One-Two-Three Kid, and ‘Him, Again?’) and so have little opinion about him other than what I’ve seen on the Surreal Life. No, I’m interested in the character he plays, seemingly a drugged-out proto-hippie punk who likes to point at his crotch and hop as though being electrocuted. ‘Pac even coined a piece of wrestling jargon (kayfabe, in industry speak) called “X-Pac Heat.” In the parlance, ‘heat’ is what a villain wrestler (a ‘heel’) generates from the audience with his actions. A good heel (think Triple H, or Ric Flair, or even Randy Savage when feuding with Hulk Hogan in the 80’s) is booed because the audience wants them to lose the match and get their comeuppance. X-Pac Heat is when the audience boos because they hate you, because your act is stale, because they just want you to GO AWAY. The fact that X-Pac has recently returned to the spotlight in TNA Wrestling reminds me that just because something is indefensible, doesn’t mean it won’t come back to infuriate you again. The saddest part is that I’d punch him and he’d probably no-sell my shot…
Does this really need an explanation? Some people don’t understand the X-Pac Heat (see, you’re learning things already!) aimed at poor little Comic Sans, but here’s the real steel deal: It’s offensive to me in the same way that the inevitable “Pow! Biff! Bam! Comics Aren’t For Kids Anymore!” articles that follow every Hollywood superhero outing are offensive to me. They marginalize and mock an industry that is far more mature than most will give it credit for. Comic Sans is shorthand for “superheroey!” in the same way a man screaming “Our prices are insaaane!” is short-hand for small-market commercial voice-over. As someone who likes a nice Serif on his fonts anyway, the bloopiness of Comic Sans is offensive to the eye, it’s offensive to me as a comic reader, and there’s no reason for it to be so ubiquitous. There are a lot of fonts that I dislike (Edwardian Script, I’m lookin’ at you, b!+c#) but Comic Sans is now specifically being overused BECAUSE pretentious font-haters hate it. I’ll say this once: If you use Comic Sans, the terrorists win.
Oooh, a curve-ball! Neil Gaiman’ Sandman is one of the few damn-near-perfect complete series out there, with so few flat notes or breakdowns as to make the listing of them a one-hand affair (kind of like Stephen’s internet browser history.) Dream and his family are truly awesome, once-in-a-lifetime concepts, developed with care, with skill, and with great affection. That’s what makes Delirium such a disappointment. Perhaps it’s that, going to college in the 90’s, I knew far too many girls who wanted to be her, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve now had comic-shop visitors breathily inform me that, oh my god, she’s based on Tori Amos, did you know??? Maybe it’s the fact that she has the fewest amazing bad-ass godlike moments among her family, or maybe it’s just the whole “Tee hee, I’m CRAAAAZEEE!” motif getting to me, but Delirium works best in small doses. Her child-like demeanor is probably the reason people love her so much, but since she’s not really a confused sixteen year old, I feel safe in quietly mentioning that I want her to hand me my leather, so I can wrap it around my fist for more impact…
Ultimate Captain America
There are many theories as to what makes Steve Rogers a long-lasting character, what makes him tick, what makes him awesome. Nowhere on that list would I list jingoism, racism, the ability to kick a defeated foe in the face to show off how badass he is, or a casual sense of his own (and his country’s) superiority swinging in your face like testicles off the back of a redneck’s pickup truck. Nearly everything that I like about Captain America (his timeless appeal, his leadership, his understanding of humanity, his innate sense of fairness, the big ol’ wings stickin’ out of his hat, his corsair boots) are missing in this iteration of the character, replaced with bravado and crudeness, as well as dialogue that sounds like a cross between an old man whining about what’s wrong with kids today and Bill O’Reilly putting someone on notice. Whatever your political stance, I think it’s safe to say that that A on his head clearly stands for @$$hole.
Carol Danvers in her original series, as written by Chris Claremont, was pretty awesome. Her resurgence in the current Marvel Universe pretty much ruined that for me, giving her a drinking problem that made her whiny in Avengers Volume Three, and eventually leading to her being the head stormtrooper of Tony Stark de facto Gestapo of SHIELD. Of all the heroes who currently number themselves Avengers, she’s the only one whose actions haven’t really been examined or accounted for, and it’s telling that I started being interested in Ms. Marvel again when Karla Sofen (who is, in her way, a much bigger and more strident bitch) took over the title near the end of it’s run. Carol Danvers has worn a lot of hats in her time in the Marvel Universe, but recently we’ve been beaten over the head with her military background. Nick Fury pulls off ex-military well, as does Batwoman, but Ms. Marvel’s channeling of her Air Force days reminds me of nothin so much as Napoleon Dynamite talking about his karate skills. All it would take to make me stop hating her is for her to say, just once, “That came out bitchier than I intended…” Until then, I’ll just quietly white her out of my New Avengers issues and attribute all her dialogue to the much-more-likable Thing.
The man. The myth. The legend. The reason why this list even exists… When I started reading comics, Hal Jordan wasn’t Green Lantern. He was just a guy who gave up power for love, and let John Stewart act as GL while he courted Carol Ferris. He got old, had three or four series cancelled out from under him, was turned into a villain and finally killed off in the 90’s, leading to him actually being interesting again as the host of The Spectre. Then, Geoff Johns had the brilliant idea of how to revitalize the character and bring him back to relevance, and it WORKED! Even better, it sold comics, getting Big Hal back his own book and making for some good stories. Then, the malaise set in. Flyboy cock-jockey posing started standing in for character, and Hal’s more obnoxious tendencies again came to the forefront. When partnered with Green Arrow in JLA, Hal was insufferable, but the return of Barry Allen was the true nail in the coffin of any sympathy or love I have for Hal. The return of the quiet, steady one allowed Hal’s characterization to go further afield into brash and arrogant, and when he told Carol Ferris, “I would shoot myself in the head if we were married with kids” he reached a nadir of jerk from which it will be hard to redeem him. The only hope he really has for regaining my love is the posibility of Van Wilder’s performance being a revelation that pushes him back from the brink of jackassery to a somewhat more balanced portrayal…
Dishonorable Mention: Anakin Skywalker
Since we’re squarely in the realm of Andy-Rooney-if-he-knew-what-the-internet-was, have y’ever noticed how much you hate Anakin throughout the entire prequel? Seriously, for all the talk about unintentional racism, dumbing-down of concepts and Jar-Jar Binks, the torpedo that sinks the trilogy is the cutesy, then whiny, character who we are supposed to believe grows up to be Darth Vader. The honest truth is, no matter how awful the dialogue or the lovey-dovey crap could ever have gotten, it might have worked, if only the character had guts enough to act decisively rather than spend the all three movies being blown about like chaff. His motivation is the most Freudian statement since Oedipus (though Spider-Man has it worse these days.) It’s telling that his dismemberment scene got cheers in the theatre I was in, hoping that Dooku would go for the head next and we’d discover that Darth Vader was really somebody cooler, somebody who deserves to look that good as a cyborg… And while I’m ranting about last decade, what’s the deal with airline food?
*Deep Breath* There. Now I feel better, and I can return to my usual position as Only-Guy-Who-Remembers-Which-Hero-Is-Really-Named-Dan-Cassidy-And-Wants-Nachos. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Major Spoilers.
And, as always, your mileage may vary…