Tuesday, October 02, 2007

B-List Bad Guys From Back in the Day

I like old shit; sue me.

Once it’s had a chance to dehydrate and season a little, old shit is easier to handle than new shit. With new shit you get so hung up on the smell that it’s hard to value the form and texture of the shit itself. Old shit has been sitting there for a while in the grass, waiting patiently for you to come along and appreciate it, or just step in it. Yep, I like old shit and so do folks like Alex Ross, Grant Morrison, and my dog Trixie.

Oh my God, what the fuck am I going on about? Way to stretch a metaphor to the point of breaking, Dave.

I was going somewhere with the old shit analogy. Just be thankful I stopped myself before I stopped talking about nutty old shit. I think my point was, it’s OK to like old stuff, provided nostalgia doesn’t blind you to the fact that new shit can be pretty good, too. Wallowing in old shit is insular and regressive and unsanitary – if you’re just listening to old Freedom Rock all the time you’ll never get exposed to all the awesome new rock out there.

Let’s abruptly segue away from the poo talk and chat about old school villains.

Man, they don’t make villains like they used to, do they? Sure, there are some exceptions – I thought Prometheus from JLA was pretty cool, and Bearded Dude from Brubaker’s Captain America run, and Cassandra Nova from X-Men was creepy as hell – but most of the heavyweight comic book bad guys were created in the last century. Let’s face it – Doom reigns supreme. How you gonna top that? (psst... click on the picture of Doom to find out what his favorite breakfast food is. Thanks to Dave Lartigue for the pic.)

I've always been a sucker for minor villains in pretty much any medium (e.g., my love note to Arnold Vosloo and his character Pik from Hard Target). The arch-villain's henchman in the Bond movies is often more interesting to me than the arch-villain himself. While you could argue that Kobra is not a minor villain, let's face it, he's not on the A-list. Anyway, after this lengthy and feculent preamble, let's look at some bad ass bad guys.

Deadline - In comic books, if you've got a good character design you're half way there. For whatever reason, Deadline really works for me. I dig his armor, his little Mister Miracle hover discs, and his "NO" logo. A super-tech assassin who can phase through walls, Deadline first appeared in the pages of Starman (the purple and yellow version of the character). Talk about the minor leagues, yeeesh. He's appeared in Aquaman and Flash and Suicide Squad, but has never really caught on with the general public. Except me - I think he's neat-o.

Black Manta - What a cool costume. This Aquaman villain has the distinction of being a member of the Legion of Doom on the SuperFriends cartoon, where I think he was just called "Manta." Black Manta has appeared in tons of comics, but never seems to get the respect he deserves - perhaps because his initials are B.M. I described Black Manta's most hilarious and noteworthy appearance right here, which should give you all the reasons you need to love him as much as I do.

Titanium Man - An armored relic of the Cold War, Titanium Man could have been called Iron Man's Whipping Boy with some accuracy. This Russian juggernaut of emerald evil has been around longer than I have, but my favorite incarnation was in the pages of the X-Men/Avengers mini-series, where it was revealed that the green giant was being piloted by the diminutive and encephalitic villain The Gremlin. That's like two awesome villains in one! I particularly dug Marc Silvestri's design of T-Man. As long as you look cool and act like you know what you're doing, people will like you. I will like you. Wolverine is not so sure, however.

Silver Banshee - Come on, give it to John Byrne - that is a fucking awesome character design. I get the impression that this Superman villainess was intended only for one storyline, but artists liked drawing her so much that she keeps popping up. Art Adams drew a particularly busty version of Silver Banshee on one cover, if I recall. She's dreamy, in a Halloween sort of way.

BTW, Rob Zombie wrote the song "Living Dead Girl" about her, no lie.*

Johnny Sorrow - Cool name? Check. Cool design? Check. Cool power? Oh, yeah.

Geoff Johns created a fake Golden Age back story for this JSA villain, whose interdimensional trip to Cthulhuland gave him a creepy power. If he takes off his mask and you see his "face," you totally die. How does he shave?

Oh. Right. No face.

Crossbones - He's the Anti-Cap, a dirty-fighting son of a bitch who can go toe-to-toe with his nemesis Captain America. No, I'm not talking about Batroc.

First introduced during Mark Gruenwald's legendary run on Cap, Crossbones has been used to good effect in recent years by writers who are as fond of the guy as I am. I think Kieron Dwyer came up with Crossbones' distinctive pro-wrestler/pirate aesthetic, which is part of his charm.

Kobra - The budget-rate Dr. Doom of the DC Universe, Kobra is my favorite B-list master villain. I love him so much I actually devoted an entire week to him. Check it out here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here. Here. Here. And here as well. And finally, here. Man, I had a lot to say about Lord Naga Naga. It's because there's so much to love.

OK, let's wrap this up. I think I'm going to have to do another one of these because I didn't even touch on Bolt, Merlyn, Marvel's Jack O'Lantern, or The Bros. Grimm. Next time, I guess. There's a lot of old shit out there...

*This is a lie.


Anonymous said...

This post made me want to poo for some reason.

chris said...

How creepy - iTunes shuffled to "Living Dead Girl" right before I started reading this. Do I get a prize, Dave?

Anonymous said...


THIS is why I love your site.



ghostman said...

Heh--I like pretty much all the characters you mentioned. Well, I'm not really all that familiar with Silver Banshee, but her look is interesting, especially Art Adams' Boob War version. Hell, I like Black Manta just because he had a cool voice on the Super Friends.

Nothing wrong with the Gremlin version (Titanium Man II), but I'm more partial to the original Boris Bullski incarnation--it was all huge and clunky, but it had weapons systems out the wazoo. And back in the day it was always nice to see a minion of Soviet oppression (if not the T-Man, it was the Crimson Dynamo) get his ass kicked by the leading edge of capitalist technology, the Invincible Iron Man. It was like the Miracle on Ice, only with high-tech powered armor.

David Campbell said...

Ghostman, thanks for the link to the Art Adams cover - that is one healthy living dead girl right there. BA-DOW!

PrimeOp said...

It's nice to see current writers moving away from the 90's templates like Evil-Man-In-Suit, Shoulderpad Despot (with minions), Muscleman McLittlehead, Faceless Badass and Lady 3/4thsNekkid.

Black Manta had his real name in the Legion of Doom/Challenge era, but there was an ep in a different Superfriends season where he shows up as just "Manta" with no Frampton voice jive and he's green for no reason. Not that anyone asked, BUT STILL.

All in all, a great post even though there's more feces that the FDA allows.

ghostman said...

Anytime, Dave. Yeah, for a gal who doesn't need to breathe, she's sure got a healthy set of lungs.

Speaking of Art Adams and Boob War,
here's a little more BA-DOW.

And feel free to mock the rest, primeop, but please don't pick on Lady 3/4thsNekkid.

Edward Liu said...

Dr. Doom loves waffles. Who knew? (Bwah-hah-hah on that, BTW.)

I always loved Black Manta's voice on "Challenge of the Superfriends," too. My phone has a Voice Changer function for some reason, and I'm still pissed that it doesn't come with a "Black Manta" setting.

While I'm at it, I will join in defending the honor of Lady 3/4thsNekkid, but also step up for Faceless Badass. No-face characters like the Question and Dick Tracy's No Face are cool and creepy.

Anonymous said...

Ghostman gets +10 awesome points for Silver Banshee Boobwar art !

Jeff Rients said...

I love the Superfriends version of Black Manta. His voice is awesome. His Manta Sub can fly through outer space. And he's got tremendous moxie. Several episodes feature him shooting Superman with whatever laser is handy.

SallyP said...

Hey, thanks for including Johnny Sorrow! Man is HE messed up. He's so over the top and nasty, that I love him. And Black Manta really should get more credit for being a badass than he does.

Anonymous said...

Crossbones was beat by NFL Superpro. Does he still qualify for the list? After all, he RECEIVED...a pounding, that is.

Quilty said...

Isn't Deadline er, dead? I seem to remember him being killed in some comic or other.

Anonymous said...

Yep, Deadline ate it from Warden Wolfe in that Joker-ized issue of the Flash.

primeop said...

D'oh! Replace FacelessBadass with FullMaskAssassin. FullMaskAssassin wants to be Boba Fett without the girly-scream and sometimes likes to stand beside Shoulderpad Despot. Lady 3/4thsNekkid is awesome in moderation like salt or something. She's fun to draw, but people start looking at you funny if that's all there is. That Art Adams pic shows that you don't always have to rely on nekkid for hotness. Thanks for posting that, Ghostman!

Anonymous said...

There is something face-rockingly awesome about the Gremlin/Titanium Man concept. They're like evil Russian Nesting Dolls, right? You open up the big villain and a different little villain pops out!! Outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Yo, Death Stalker, man, Death Stalker, Death Stalker yo.

Hoosier X said...

Death Stalker! Yeah!

He's another one of those vilains who turns out to be another villain!

Just like Machinesmith!

Did Daredevil have an exclusive contract on this for a while.

Mister Sinister said...

I read one of those "resurrected" Green Arrow comics & he fought Black Manta! He sucked ass! Hook-Aquaman had to bust in and kick his ass! He ripped his mask off & he looked like a Deep Six guy (NOT BLACK)

THE SCOURGE is the greatest villain team of all! They kill the ones we dont like!
And then it turns out there's more than one?! I win! He also beat Cap several times. Cap is comin back from the past! Invaders!

Brian Cronin said...

Deadline and Crossbones are two big faves of mine.

Anonymous said...

Worth mentioning? "Bearded Guy" from Captain America is Dr. Faustus, a longtime Cap villain from the 70s. He gave Moonstone her start, and gets credit for killing Sharon Carter for over 10 years once, so, not the best example of a new villain. :)

Kristin said...

Of course you like old shit, you're totally old and not cool now.

Matt T. said...

I like that Kobra is basically in the same stance as Dr. Doom. They're both doing that "spread your arms and curl your fingers, arch your upper back, throw your head back and curse/mock your foe" maneuver that's the mark of quality would-be world conquerors. “I have conquered the accursed Richards, now give me a hug” sort of thing.

Matt said...

If Johnny Sorrow counts as "back in the day," than let me put forth my favorite B-rate back-in-the-day supervillain, the second Mist. Crazy.

Lightfailure said...

Black Manta was actually called Black Manta in the Superfriends cartoon , as was "superbolt" er i mean Black Lightning

Anonymous said...

In his pants.

ghostman said...

anonymous said...
There is something face-rockingly awesome about the Gremlin/Titanium Man concept. They're like evil Russian Nesting Dolls, right? You open up the big villain and a different little villain pops out!! Outstanding.

It really was a clever idea, and an interesting twist on the battlesuit concept. (Although no matter how cool an idea it was, something still looks wrong about this.) And the Gremlin, with his big ol' brain, was smart enough to pull it off. Unfortunately, Marvel hasn't done anything--as far as I can find, at least--with the Gremlin version of T-Man since he "died" during Armor Wars almost 20 years ago. (Iron Man #229, April 1988. Check out Shellhead in the black Stealth Armor.) Which is a big waste, because explaining how he survived would be easy even for a Marvel death. You be the judge. (And yes, Iron Man does change color--that armor can do that. He'd turned white to blend in with the snow.)

ghostman said...

Dammit, I forgot to include the tiny panel that shows Titanium Man diving, legs on fire, into the frigid Siberian waters in a futile attempt to extinguish his burning armor. Futile because, according to the story at least, titanium burns until it's completely consumed. And even if he ejected from the suit underwater, he'd get hypothermia almost instantly--it's fucking Siberia.

Well, the Gremlin's no dummy, so I see a few easy ways out if it was me writing it. The easiest would be to say that his T-Man suit's arms and legs are modular and detachable, so he just ditched the legs and let them burn. It's really more of a vehicle for him than a suit of armor, and from an engineering standpoint it makes sense to make the limbs easy to swap out when damaged instead of having to rebuild the entire limb from scratch.

Sorry for the post whoring, but I've been waiting 19 years to see how they brought him back. But the Gremlin gets no love from Marvel.

Hodge said...

Looking forward to the Red Baron.

Kobra v Ace Hunter of Megaforce: someone make this happen!!!

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