See, here’s the thing: the Spider-Man cartoon theme was, well, amazing. No sane person could argue against that. But the Captain America and Hulk cartoon themes were dumb as shit. And have they gotten any less shit-dumb in the last 40 years? No, they have not. All that has happened is that there are a lot more people now who are super into comics, and thus willing to pretend like they are not terrible songs.
Such is the case with comic book characters of the past, as this week’s final excerpt from the Geek Index will attempt to further clarify.
MATADOR. A minor Daredevil villain whose real name was Manuel Elongato (HO HO, if you know what I mean, HO HO INDEED), this guy, after the 1970s, became sort of a running joke in Marvel comics, held up as a paragon of a lame, useless villain. I’ll be damned if I can understand why, though; sure, he’s stupid, but he’s not one iota stupider than a million other comic book villains who aren’t singled out for such shabby treatment. He doesn’t even have a purple costume!
THE MISSING LINK. The actual missing link! Of course, he was buried alive in a volcanic explosion; of course, he was unearthed thousands of years later by a Chinese H-bomb test; of course, it gave him radioactive superpowers. He eventually ended up working as a coal miner in rural Kentucky. These days, he’d wind on YouTube reviewing video games.
MISTER KLINE. This was an android from the future, sent back by a supercomputer to prevent a catastrophe that would someday destroy humanity. His first job, of course, was to prevent Foggy Nelson from running for governor, which he accomplished by blackmail. Why he didn’t just murder Foggy with his super-strength or deadly eye-blasts is not made clear, any more than why a robot from thousands of years from now would have a name like like a high school geometry teacher.
MR. ZODIAC. Despite being a Persian, Mr. Zodiac was blond, blue-eyed and light-skinned. Which is fine. He appeared in a book called Spider-Man Zaps Mr. Zodiac, which, by giving away the ending right there in the title, spares you from having to read it.
MS. MARVEL. The Farrah Fawcett to Captain Marvel’s Lee Majors. Carol Danvers had a strange career path, starting out as an Air Force pilot, then becoming a spy and a private-sector security consultant and then ending up as an editor at Rolling Stone during the Jann Wenner era. Presumably now she works for the DNC.
NOMAD. In a misguided but noble attempt to be politically relevant, Steve Englehart, around the time of Watergate, had Steve Rogers become disillusioned with politics and take on the identity of the Nomad, Man without a Country, even though he never actually left the United States. Of course, since then, we’ve had him turned into an ultra-violent version of John McCain, who would defend America even if the flag came to life and started eating babies; an ultra-violent version of Harry Browne, who would forsake America in five seconds if its people passed a law he didn’t agree with; and an ultra-violent version of Richard Spencer, who has been playing the world’s longest con by constantly doing good things for 60 years. Curiously, two of these interpretations came from Mark Millar, for whom the words “plausible characterization” are too long to understand.
POWER MAN. Luke Cage, we are always told, was in prison because the cops found a bunch of drugs in his apartment, planted there by a jealous rival. What is rarely mentioned is that Luke had just recently gone straight after having been a gang boss for years and enforcing his authority with a series of brutal beatings. Hey, the point is, he was not guilty of something!
PRIME MOVER. This was a robot built by Dr. Doom to play chess with. Which is pretty sad, if you think about it.
THE ROYALIST FORCES OF AMERICA. A bunch of wannabe aristos who longed to overthrow the U.S. government and return control of America to Britain, these assholes needed a hard lesson in realpolitik. For some reason, they dress like figures from pre-Revolutionary France rather than pre-Revolutionary England, and one of them was a black scientist named Tinkerbell (!), because who would want to return to the state of affairs prior to the American Revolution more than a black man?
SLITHEROGUE. I’m sorry, I just have nothing to say about a character named Slitherogue that his name doesn’t already say.
SONS OF THE TIGER. The stars of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu were a boffo assortment of ’70s stereotypes. The black guy, Abe Brown, grew up in the ghetto and learned martial arts to protect himself from racist gangs; the white guy, Robert Diamond, was rich, blond and handsome, and was an Oscar-winning actor who was learning kung fu in order to piss his career away by making a chop-socky flick; and the Asian guy, Lin Sun, was an inscrutable mystic type who spoke in koans and was the descendent of a samurai even though he was clearly Chinese. Later, for diversity’s sake, they brought in a woman and named her Lotus, because, I guess, Jasmine and Jade were already taken.
TAGAK THE LEOPARD LORD. This schmuck came from an alien dimension where everyone is blind, but they can see through the eyes of their pet leopards. No, really, he is. He was one of the infamous “Defenders for a Day”, so-called because, when the Defenders announced open membership enrollment, a ton of people showed up to join, but on their very first mission, they found the work too dangerous and quit immediately. In other words, a bunch of losers who couldn’t even make the low, low standards of the Defenders.
THEY WHO WIELD POWER. These dolts are described as a cabal of power-seekers from El Dorado, so shouldn’t they actually be called “They Who Seek Power”? Or “They Who Want to Wield Power, But Don’t Have Any Yet, The Bunch of Schmucks”? Plus, how did they refer to themselves? Did they say “Hi, we’re They Who Wield Power”, or did they say “Hi, we’re We Who Wield Power”? I think they need to get together with She and I…Vampire and figure this shit out.
VICTORIUS. In the end, he wasn’t.
VIRAGO. There’s some crazy-ass backstory for this Sub-Mariner villainess involving the, ahem, “Golden Submarine” that traveled to many different alien worlds and dimensions, but I’m just gonna gloss over that as another example of overworking the Bullpen bong. The point is, she was called Virago, and she was a hard-ass, man-hating bitch who later transformed into a grotesque monster called “She-Beast”. Between this and the Lady Liberators, feminism really took it up the ass in the Marvel ’70s. And people wonder why girls didn’t like comics! Oh, no, wait, nobody wonders that.
THE WRAITH. Speaking of feminism, who would have predicted that Jean DeWolff, the sister of this incredibly convoluted Spider-Man villain would end up as the most recognizable character in his mythos? Someday I’ll have something to say about how female policemen in comics are invariably lesbians, thus allowing us to accept a physically tough woman without blowing our minds, but not today. For now, I’ll just present without comment this utterly ridiculous description of his powers: “The Wraith possesses a variety of psionic powers. He could read thoughts, and control the mind of a single victim. He could cast illusions indiscernible from reality into multiple minds; among other uses he employed this to make himself appear invisible, to override Spider-Man’s spider-sense, and to induce mental pain in others equivalent to the physical pain which would be caused by what they were perceiving. He also carried a smoke pistol.”
XORR THE GOD-JEWEL. Once there was this planet, a really super-awesome mega-planet called Xorr that was so terrific that it had spawned the Kree and the Skrulls and a bunch of other troublesome fuckfaces, but their sun was going nova. So they built this impenetrable crystal shell to protect them, and when the big blow-up finally came, it send them hurtling through space. Unfortunately, the forces of the universe eventually led the shell to contract, destroying all the people inside. Whoops! Bad plan. Anyway, eventually it came to life and went around fucking with Thor, but it never got a chance to go to high school, since as its bio informs us, this “sentient condensed planetary biosphere” had “no formal education”. It just goes to show you, you can be a living god-jewel and spawner of worlds more powerful than Galactus, but without that diploma, you’re working the fryer at Burger King.