Before I begin, I’d just like to take a moment to apologize for the lateness of this post; no matter how much I say things like, “Oh, I’ll take my laptop to (insert vacation destination here) so I can blog from wherever I am,” it just doesn’t happen. Vacations always seem to happen in a strange parallel dimension where the laws of time and space don’t apply normally. But now that I’m back, normal service has resumed!
And it resumes with me talking about obscure comics characters. Every comic-book universe seems to accumulate these after a while; maybe they’re attempts to create a new hit that never caught on, maybe they were deliberately comic or strange characters, or maybe they’re supporting characters that linger in the memory long after the book they were in got canceled. (Rick Jones, for all that he’s become the linchpin of the Marvel Universe, started out as the Hulk’s sidekick before his book got canned after only six issues.) But they pop up with an absurd irregularity as different creators revive them (usually out of nostalgia…) It’s almost as if they live their own strange, private lives that only occasionally intersect with the comics we get to read. (Which is, of course, the whole joke behind Squirrel Girl.)
So who are my favorites? I’ve always had a soft spot for the Constrictor. He’s developed a wonderfully fatalistic personality over the years; he’s a C-lister and he knows it, but he gamely soldiers on in his career as thug and assassin, hoping not to bump into a super-hero and taking his lumps when he does. The Taskmaster sometimes falls into the same class; you have to admire someone who cheerfully takes government money to train the new Captain America just as readily as he hires himself out to fight Captain America.
I like the obscure villains who shouldn’t be obscure. Flag-Smasher is a great character and should be an excellent foil for Cap, even though he’s rarely used well; he’s an anarchist who wants to tear down the entire concept of nationality, and he’s got a huge freaking mace. (And henchmen with a lovely chiaroscuro design scheme. And berets.) Ruby Thursday is genuinely fucking creepy in a way that Steve Gerber exploited to great effect and almost nobody has ever used since; she’s completely normal from the neck down, but her head is just a featureless red sphere. THAT CAN GROW TENTACLES THAT STRANGLE YOU. Oh, and she’s chillingly remorseless and casually murderous. And Doctor Demonicus is a wonderful seething cauldron of resentment and rage; he’s a scientist who exposed himself to radiation…and got skin cancer. And he’s still trying to conquer the world.
And I like the heroes who you don’t see very often. I’m always a sucker for Hawk and Dove (thank you, Gail Simone!) and I love Jolt. What’s not to like about a young, idealistic super-heroine who finds out that she’s become the new team mascot for the Masters of Evil? I adore the Guardians of the Galaxy–the originals, that is (nothing against the new team, but I miss the classic squad.) I’m even a fan of big, bland blond Wendell Vaughn, AKA the Quasar that keeps dying. He’s just so refreshingly normal.
Characters like Rocket Raccoon, Ego the Living Planet and Cloak and Dagger make the universe a more enjoyable place. They’re like the tiny brushstrokes in a landscape painting; barely noticeable individually, but adding up to a portrait of an entire world. I cherish every strange, silly, entertaining one of them.
Feel free, in the comments, to add a few of your own favorites!