Bullseye. I ranted about this on a podcast a while back but fuck it, he’s still here so let me say it again: I do not know when Bullseye became the new Joker and I don’t care, because Bullseye fucking sucks. Bullseye was always perfectly decent in times of yore, and it wasn’t because the writers were golden gods or because I was twelve1; it was because Bullseye was used properly. IE, he would show up, kill some people, get his ass kicked by Daredevil, and then not appear for a year or two. Bullseye, back then, was something you could look forward to. He didn’t get tossed into world-beating events because he wasn’t a world-beater. He was a guy who the Kingpin hired. That was his niche.
Nowadays? He has his own miniseries. He’s in Dark Avengers, and being one of the Dark Avengers means he’s in six other comic books every other month as well. (It’s not like he was underexposed previously, either.) And every time Bullseye shows up, writers have to dance around the fact that Bullseye is fundamentally kind of a joke. “He can turn anything into the deadliest thrown weapon on earth!” Hooray for him. Half the people in the Marvel Universe are fucking bulletproof and the other half can dodge anything he throws, which basically makes Bullseye really good at killing Karen Page and people with their back turned.
At least when the Joker was this overexposed, you could kind of justify it mentally with a “okay, maybe he doesn’t have powers, but his sheer craziness makes him so unpredictable he’ll survive anything!” (See: Salvation Run, wherein that plus the reliable fact of the Joker’s odd charisma makes him not being killed in the first five minutes plausible.) Plus, even when the Joker is totally outmatched, he’s at least usually pretty entertaining; great Joker writing may be few and far between these days but even mediocre writers can usually manage one or two decent gags and maybe a clever double entendre.
Bullseye is just a cunning thug. He’s not particularly special; he’s just your garden-variety psychopath with a bit of extra talent. There is no reason he should survive any of these superhero fights. And most of his gag lines are “HA! I shot you in the face!” or about on par with that level of ingenuity. Having him elevated to the level he’s at would be like Mr. Zsasz being a big-time deal over in the DCU. People would be all “…so he kills people with a knife. Why doesn’t someone just toss him in jail?” And the Zsasz fanboys would be all “SHUT UP YOU DON’T KNOW HIM LIKE WE DO.”
Tucker Stone recently said that Marvel writers these days were mostly more interested in writing espionage and crime stories than superhero fiction, and he’s right. Which explains a lot about this, really: in crime fiction, Bullseye fits in just fine. He’s the Wack Job, the third-tier mope who gets memorable scenes for being the crazy guy who will do anything. But even with all the trappings, superhero comics are still superhero comics, and Bullseye in anything outside of an issue of Daredevil (or very possibly Amazing Spider-Man) is just a waste of space.
- Actually I didn’t read any of the classic Daredevil runs until my twenties. Does that still count? [↩]