A new column from Zechs talking about what he enjoys best: VILLAINS, cartoons, and toys.
Why is the bad guy so entertaining? Is it because they enjoy their work more than the hero? Their charisma? Their design? Their motives? Their depravity? All of the above? We all have our reasons for liking, loving to hate, or rooting for the antagonist. When they're that good at being bad, you just can't help yourself. For me it always boils down to a little of everything. After all, a hero cannot be as great if not for the villains he must foil time after time.
So what's the point of me writing this column? This column will look at the villains currently plaguing our heroes and look into the past for even greater ones. It will examine the reasons why, even after so many years, certain villains have so many fans as well as showcase new villains that will be sure to fan favorites in the years to come. So come with me as we journey down a path of shadow and as I reopen the old Dark Book (Wizard's villain themed specials for those too young).
So which character was my first choice to turn the spotlight on? It wasn't hard for me to think up a fiend that has been haunting my mind for many months now. I speak, of course, of James Gordon Jr. from Scott Snyder and Jock's Detective Comics run.
Here's a character that has had an intense, almost yearlong build-up. The hints were nicely sprinkled throughout the run that something wasn't all that right in the son of Commissioner Gordon's head. But all we had was utter assumptions and theories via Papa Gordon himself and the flashbacks seeing James Jr. as a young child. There were no true facts for the reader to think that this somewhat odd man could be such a sick man.
Well, that ended the moment Detective Comics #878 hit when we saw fully the scope of James Jr.'s madness. The last page and look on his face haunts me more than the victim. His actions are something that mainstream comics haven't done in awhile: shock and horrify me in a good way.
With the story now finished and the finale out, for the first time I honestly can say I've never been more terrified of a characters simple words and use of suggestions as the scene in Detective Comics #881 having James Jr. suggest he did something to Barbara's legs even though we nor she (given she's tied up and for at least one more month still paralyzed from the waist down) can see it given there's a blanket across them and we have only our mind to ponder he's done something horrific to her.
The sickening thing is, that wasn't the disturbing moment, when it was actually revealed James stabbed her legs with a pair of knives. No, it was his little talk to her about their father putting him next to a cell of the Joker and suggesting he had something to do with the Killing Joke. Then he jokingly says he was kidding. The look on Barbara's face was pretty much mine as well at just how sick James Jr. sense of "humor" is. When a comic has gotten me that much hinged on the mere words of a villain then kudos must be given to the writer and artist for doing so. Of course there's another moment of that issue that had my eyes bug out, but I'll let anyone who reads that issue be as shocked as I was and enjoy this new Batman rogue. Scott Snyder's arc with James Jr. is the most I've enjoyed a story from opening to end since Bane was first introduced in the early 1990's.
Ever since Bane's debut in the 90s, I have found any new addition to the Rogues of Batman to be somewhat lacking. No villain seemed to have that serious punch typified by the modern era. For Bane, both his design and motivations were as extreme as the 90s were. However Bane worked due to the simplicity of his plan to "break the Bat", namely to wear the Batman down to the point he couldn't fight any longer. Of course, the only flaw with Bane's plan was he didn't take that extra step in breaking the Batman mentally as well as physically, which ultimately led to his defeat.
Regardless, the plan was solid enough that any reader was wide eyed to see Batman utterly defeated and handled in a way he hadn't before. Nowadays, creators try to think up the ultimate Bat Rogue, resulting in the creation of characters such as Prometheus or Dr. Hurt. Those characters ultimately fail to captivate an audience because their whole purpose is to showcase how superior Batman is and become jobbers for various creators writing fanwanking fantasies about Batman.
Still, whatever grandiose scheme these modern villains have, nothing they did compared to what previous Bat villains had done in the past. We've already seen these sorts of schemes or meddle testing from Hugo Strange or the Wraith. I guess that was the true purpose for Hurt in the end as a so-called deuce (as described by the Joker who lamented Hurt's inability to live up to his lofty ambitions). Hurt was just a cookie cut villain with no true presence that was only created to be spectacular defeated.
Alas, that's all Hurt will be remembered for unlike Bane, who did what Hurt couldn't fully. The simple nature and the execution of the plan worked so well with Bane. Despite Bane's example, every Batman writer since Chuck Dixon have created characters who try and challenge Batman in a similar manner and utterly fail. The failed to understand that what made Batman villains so enduring was a quality that made them unique and what they brought to the table.
So yes, no new rogue has come close to Bane's level until now. There's just something about James Gordon Jr that touches on that's so surprisingly ripe. James Jr. brought something completely new to the table. He is just a normal human being who has done inhuman things. If you look at him walking across the street, you'd never know this was the face of a VERY twisted man. Then there's the fact he's connected to the Gordon family which demonstrated how much Commissioner Gordon has given and how much he's lost to help maintain order in Gotham City. For James Jr., his philosophy on what Gotham City does to people is a nice perversion to what Dick Grayson, and no doubt Bruce Wayne, believe Gotham City represents . That's the hook with James Jr for me. It's so utterly simplistic and it works so well in Batman. The pieces Snyder had were all there and he connected them perfectly.
When was the last time a normal human in a Batman book was so thrilling? Hush aka Tommy Elliot? He had no true motivation until Paul Dini added some in Heart of Hush and made him somewhat compelling. Before that, he was a cookie cutter, Bane-wannabe trying to break the Bat. Mario Falcone? Anything from Tony Daniels' Batman run has been meh to poor so both Falcone and Black Mask II are utterly excluded from this discussion of great villains (no matter how much writer David Hine tried to salvage Jeremiah Arkham in his various Batman tales). Professor Pyg? While his design is great, the dude needs another appearance of him doing his own thing then being the pawn to another (in this case Hurt for the two stories that had him). What about the Great White Shark? While he had a great origin, nobody really has done anything with him, save for making him Gotham's Underworld Kingpin for a few months. There's possibilities with the Great White Shark, but at the moment nothing to make him stand out. The Carpenter? To quote Batman, "Seriously?" The Carpenter is a fun character who I wish appeared more in Gotham Sirens, but that's it. She's no mort (a term used by Wizard Magazine for bad characters) but she isn't A-list, she's more D-list. David Cain? He's more of a Cassandra Cain rogue than a Batman villain per say.
Really, the only new Batman Rogue I found as compelling as James Jr. is the Ventriloquist II aka Peyton Riley. The tragedy surrounding her sad tale of vengeance was very compelling. However, I think her chapter has fully closed since the original is walking around in NuDC (I like Wesker, but Batman: Broken City was the highest point that character will ever have). It's a shame since she brought a nice feminine touch to one that has been lacking since Talia (yeah it's been that long since we've had that great of a female villain plague Bruce or Dick).
Back to James Jr., I'm still hoping more out of the character, even though his tale is effectively done. There's so much tragedy to the tale that shows you why it could continue on. I want to see him continue to hammer that point of how rotten Gotham City is. To test the meddle and philosophies of Dick, Bruce, Barbara, and Jim Gordon Sr. However, bringing him back would hamper the original story. So if this was the final "solo" appearance of James Jr., then so be it. The impact that Detective Comics run (871- 881) by Snyder and Jock had on me and other readers will be felt for quite a long time. With that thought I bid you adieu, but I'll be back to tell another tale of another rogue on the Marvel side of evil with the big, bad Serpent.
So Thundercats has debuted, and well... I think it's kind of meh. While the character designs for the most part rock and the possibilities for good storylines are there, Mumm-Ra already had a good design and I'm not fond of the hump of this new version. I do like the whole devil of Third Earth thing they have going on with him though. Also, all the heroes are very entertaining and there's a lot of plot potential. Ultimately though, it is airing on Cartoon Network, so I stand lukewarm to accepting a show from the network that still hasn't finished airing the first season of Young Justice or the final season of Batman: The Brave & the Bold (though it has aired in other parts of the world proving sometimes it pays to be Punchy or Twiggy).
I guess there's always Star Wars: Clone Wars Season 4 to look forward to (the only show that keeps up a regular pace given CN fears George Lucas) as long as they don't have another preachy three part go nowhere story like last season. Wait they're having a sequel to that story that it's finale I gave a 0 too? ......
On the other side with the Hub, G.I. Joe Renegades wrapped up their first season (or is it the entire series? Who knows other then it's on hiatus until possibly the fall of next year). For anyone who turned their nose up on this show, give it a try now that you can fully view it online. I did and I'm glad I gave this series a second look. The writing really did a nice job melding the cartoon plots from the 80s with Hama's Marvel work leaving a nice melding of the two together. Plus, you have Charlie Adler reprising his role as Cobra Commander (which he started with G.I. Joe Resolute). It's a nice reprisal since he literally made the movie for what it was and his voicing of the character is again top notch here.
Also, Ben Linus as Dr. Venom or X the Eliminator as Firefly. How can you go wrong with such well voiced villains?
-From the Chest of the Toy Shed-
Marvel Universe: Frost Giant with Loki – Okay I confess fully I bought this figure only for the Loki action figure, since I haven't seen hide or hair of wave two of the Thor toyline. Instead, now having owned the figure I'm in a complete reversal of why I love the set now. The Loki figure just sucks alas. The articulation is there like any Marvel Universe figure, but for some reason his legs are VERY fragile. I bended his leg a tiny bit and the entire thing just snapped off. Then there's the fact that he isn't fully painted. What the heck? In the past Hasbro has done this, but given this new era of details (MU Cable, Taskmaster, and Apocalypse I'm staring at you) this figure feels like it came from the first wave of Marvel Universe toys. Loki is utterly disappointing. Hopefully the movie line corrects this flaw whenever the heck they release their version of the horned trickster costume.
As for the Frost Giant himself, yeah he's the reason to buy this set. I mean why else are you paying the $25 for? (Other than me being a fool as I bought it originally for a Loki figure) This figure clearly outweigh his smaller counterpart. The Frost Gaint looks ripped from the pages of X-Force (during Necrosha when a trio tried making Wolfbane and her Asgard lover into flapjacks) and JMS's Thor run. The details on the figure are just amazing as is the articulation, which even features movable fingers on his left hand. If you're looking for some actual giants in your Frost Giants collection, you can do no better than buying this set. Just dump or sell the Loki figure when you get a chance. He so isn't worth it. So yeah MUST BUY!
Written or Contributed by: Zechs
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