Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Friday, February 1, 2008

That which does not kill you...makes you stranger

How does an average Joe become comic book’s greatest villain?

He never had wealth.

He never had power.

He was granted no special abilities.

He is the definition of a self made man, and we’ll probably never know how he did it. There have been attempts at sketching his past, references to previous identities. But these accounts are as quickly dismissed as they are told. Luckily for us these flashbacks are uncommon; as I’ve posted before, the writers of characters haunted by memories both true and false typically use these recollections as a crutch. Over the years Wolverine’s past went from cool to commonplace to “Why did they do that?”

But not him. Even in his world, where the steadfast hallmarks of the universe are oft debunked (Bucky’s not dead?); his mystery might prove the one constant. What we do know is he broke one of comic book’s first rules and became a repeating villainous character. In order to survive he adapted with the changing times alongside the heroes, ranging from homicidal to mischievous, and back again. And while motivations shifted throughout the years, he never lost his direction; he always kept his eyes on the goal.

He wants to defeat his city’s greatest hero, and the distinction between the two is striking. The hero is handsome, wealthy, physically trained, born of tragedy and dedicated almost to the point of obsession. The villain is none of these save the latter, but this dedication is to proving how ludicrous the hero’s efforts are ultimately. The hero has been shown to stand shoulder to shoulder with those of near god-like power, using intellect, cunning, and a seemingly inexhaustible array of weaponry. His adversary has nothing, and yet he endures.

Other villains who clamor for supremacy invariably boast a variety of special attributes like wealth, strength, superhuman power or a combination thereof. And yet the common consensus is they claim no right as comicdom’s greatest antagonist. Those who virtually own entire cities, rule over sovereign countries, wield mystical energies, manipulate the cosmos, and devour entire worlds are forced to concede their place behind a common, everyday man; a man who could be any of us.

And to top it all off, to add great insult to injury, as his lasting legacy, he does it all with a smile...

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