When it comes to comic-book story-telling, there are a number of repeated themes and familiar plot-points that seem to recur and recur.  The old “Misunderstand, Fight, Team-Up” chestnut gets a pretty regular workout, but close on its metaphorical heels is the moment where a new character shows how strong/clever/awesome he or she is by taking out the established bad@$$.  This trope is sometimes referred to as ‘The Worf Effect’, after the security chief of the Starship Enterprise, whose primary duties seemed to consist entirely of this.  When used effectively, this kind of moment can be a breathtaking shock-and-awe intro, but abuse of it gives us the sad trombone of a character that is Alpha.  (I generally appreciate the Dan Slott spider-verse, but no matter how many times Peter Parker informs me that Alpha had massive potential, he’ll still be bland, derivative and dull.)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) finds it fascinating that creators like Rob Liefeld, Vince McMahon and Sylvester Stallone have carved careers/empires out of this trope, asking:  What’s the most ridiculous “New Guy Shows Up And Beats Old Toughest Guy” (Worf Effect) moment in pop-culture history?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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10 Comments

  1. Mike S.
    June 26, 2013 at 11:21 am — Reply

    The one that comes immediately to my mind is from Spider-Man, during the clone saga…when Kaine killed Dr. freakin’ Octopus.

    It bugged me because they killed off my favorite Spider-Man villain, just to make this new character seem edgier and more dangerous.
    And like I knew was going to happen, I was glad to hear that the doc had eventually been brought back to life.
    Mystic Hand ninjas seemed like kind of a dumb way to do it, but I didn’t care…As long as it meant that Doc Ock was back.

  2. Dino
    June 26, 2013 at 11:24 am — Reply

    For those who don’t remember or are too young to remember there was a show called Star Wars: Clone Wars (which is different from Star Wars: The Clone Wars) produced by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky. At the climax of the first season a group of Jedi Masters find themselves outmaneuvered by the droid army for the first time in the entire war, so they’re forced to regroup in the wreckage of a star ship. Enter General Grievous, who delivers an epic Curb Stomp to the most powerful warriors in the galaxy. One by one each of the Jedi are cut down until only one remains. Desperately grabbing one of his fallen comrades lightsaber, he faces down the literal killing machine knowing the fight is hopeless. Cut to Yoda sensing a disturbance in the force.

    If you ever have a couple of minutes, I would recommend watching this scene on Youtube.

    • June 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm — Reply

      There was a great short series. They took everything I loved about Samurai Jack and put it into the Star Wars universe

  3. Gary
    June 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    Bill Goldberg

  4. June 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm — Reply

    Onslaught turning the Juggernaut into a bottle rocket. As muddled and hated as the storyline was, my problem was with the (insert proper noun for whatever Onslaught actually turned out to be) of a master of magnetism and the world’s most powerful psychic basically fighting like Doomsday with a hangover.
    Upon reflection, I guess my main problem (beyond the heavyhanded tactic of the trope) was how muddled that storyline was and how much I hated it.
    p.s. any chance of making your homework assignment from last week’s MSP into a MS-QOTD? I would understand if it would produce some kind of paradox.

  5. Goofball814
    June 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm — Reply

    Doomsday killing Superman.

    Bane breaking Batman.

  6. SmarkingOut Adam
    June 26, 2013 at 3:18 pm — Reply

    I loved ECW, but when Taz(z) beat Kurt Angle in Taz’ debut match, I was very annoyed.

  7. Frank
    June 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm — Reply

    I really have to agree with you about Bane. Ras al ghul or Joker would have made more sense, even Kalabak would have been better.
    Instead, we get a no-name ‘tactical’ genius that appeared out of nowhere.

  8. Oldcomicfan
    June 27, 2013 at 5:14 am — Reply

    I was going to vote for Batman defeating Superman in “The Dark Knight Returns” but on reflection, I would have to echo Goofall814’s statement about Bane and Doomsday. The only thing worse than an unknown badass suddenly showing up and destroying the hero for no apparent reason is a cardboard badass who serves no purpose other than to suddenly show up and defeat the hero, only to be quietly swept back under the carpet after their moment in the spotlight. Sure, both Doomsday and Bane have put in other appearances later, in some form or other, but neither have become the defeated hero’s main arch enemies. Probably because they were both bland, uninteresting cardboard badasses who were only created to “break” the hero and therefore are of no real interest to both later readers and writers. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

  9. Frank
    June 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm — Reply

    I thought of another newcomer. Hush. A character retconned into Bruce Wayne’s life. He figures out his secret and jerks his chain through minions, then poses as him for a while. That character is one of the reasons I dropped the Bat titles.

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