Wednesday, December 10, 2008

(Actually, Not So Much of A Placeholder)

Criminally Underused / Misused / Forgotten Marvel Characters

5. Unus the Untouchable - OK, it's a guy with an impermeable force-field. But the thing is, the field's involuntary, which means he can't touch and can't be touched. This guy was a villain back in the original-run 1960s X-Men book, but never made any kind of impression in the years since. He may have died at some point? Still: even though my first exposure to the dude was in a Handbook entry, he always struck me as a goldmine of untapped potential - sort of like how Madrox was a bad joke for decade and a half following his first appearance, until Peter David refitted the character in the 1990s. There's a lot of existential angst to be mined from the concept.

4. Firebird - OK, Kurt Busiek actually managed to wedge some nice character moments with her into the tail-end of his Avengers run, but aside from a part in Dwayne McDuffie's great Beyond! series, she's been M.I.A. Her shtick is pretty neat: she has pretty generic fire-powers, but she's also mysteriously immortal and invincible. No explanation why, but a couple decades back when the Silver Surfer and the Avengers (East and West) all guzzled a bottle of super-poison to travel to Death's realm for some reason or another, she was left standing unharmed. I repeat: a Catholic social worker mutant and part-time Avenger was left alive after drinking a mouthful of a poison that killed the Silver Surfer and Thor. Tell me there aren't some fun ideas there.

3. Dakota North - She's actually popped up again recently as a hanger-on and love interest for Daredevil, which means she'll probably be dead in six months. It took me a long time to track down a run of her extremely short-lived series: it wasn't very good. It reminded me a bit of that old show The Equalizer, in some vague way. And the printing was so horrible - real authentic late 80s Marvel flexographic printing. I maintain that even given these facts, there has never been a Dakota North comic published that came close to matching the promise of these initial ads, which still remain seared into my memory decades after the fact. Essentially: a Patrick Nagel painting come to life and sent gallivanting across the Marvel Universe, a Bret Easton Ellis-inspired funhouse of strange fashion and abrupt violence. And that chick, that smirking chick: that's not the kind of smirk you could imagine any other female crimefighter or private detective ever flashing. Dakota North has been one of my favorite characters for decades, even if the Dakota North that lives in my brain has never actually existed on the printed page.

2. Frankenstein's Monster - This is such an unbelievable oversight that I have to believe the majority of people currently working at Marvel don't even know this character exists within the Marvel Universe. Because, really, is there any reason why Frankenstein's Monster isn't a major player? Seriously: this isn't some watered-down Universal Studios / Munsters pseudo-Frankenstein, this is Mary Shelley's Monster of Frankenstein - the very same cruel, calculating, incredibly powerful and eternally tormented figure who has haunted the romantic imagination of Western culture for almost two centuries.

He's popped up here and there over the years, but since the 70s he's never had a starring or even recurring role. If you care about superhero comics and superhero universes at all, a large part of the appeal for these things is the Brownian motion of so many characters in a contained superhero universe as they collide and interact in strange, unexpected, sometimes lame and sometimes awesome ways. Dracula is still a fan-favorite Marvel villain even though he's been under-utilized and mistreated for two-decades running - because of the fact that he's an actual literary and cinematic celebrity, there's still that little extra bit of frisson which comes from seeing Drac interact with folks like Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. The Monster has been used so rarely since his original run that you can't even properly say he's been misused, to my recollection - just forgotten. Now, imagine how awesome it would be if Frankenstein's Monster just showed up one day and started whipping the shit out of Wolverine or Moon Knight or something. You cannot tell me you would not buy a series called Frankenstein's Monster Goes Buck-Wild In Marvel's Manhattan, because you would be a God-damned liar. Or, reintroduce him as a truly disturbing, scheming behind-the-scenes manipulator, just like he was in the original book - a smart, implacable foe with nothing but resentment towards the human race and the circumstances of his "birth", but filled with a hollow loneliness stemming from his solitary fate.

Anyway, this supposed "placeholder" post has metastasized. So, I'll leave #1 for tomorrow or the next day. Hint: it's not Quasar.

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