Sunday, November 1, 2015

Five characters I'd like to see more of...

Ever flip open a comic or switch on some cartoons and think, "Hey, I love that guy! Why doesn't he show up more often?" Maybe I'm just a big kid at heart, but sometimes I harbor elaborate fantasies for characters with great narrative possibilities. I know the reality will probably never live up to my hopes and dreams, but I keep watching and reading anyway and maybe one day I'll be rewarded. 


Follow me on this; Dick Grayson is Batman. Jean-Paul Valley is Batman. Terry McGuinness is Batman. Bruce Wayne has had the cowl pretty much uninterrupted since 1939, even the brief periods he's been without it have been few and far between. In recent months, my favourite Batman stories have become the ones where someone else is under the hood; Knightfall, Batman Beyond, Batman Incorporated and Dick's brief run have all been pretty brilliant in their own ways. For starters, only Bruce has the tendency to grunt "I'm Batman" though clenched teeth and an impacted bowel. 
There's a fan theory that Batman in the Justice League and the Batman patrolling the streets of Gotham are two separate people. In the Freedom City setting of the Mutants and Masterminds RPG, this is exactly the case, two different heroes filling the same role in different places. Now imagine that with Batman. Bruce Wayne spends most of his time at the Watchtower, running operations for the League, Dick and Tim deal with the Gotham street crime while Jean-Paul and Red Hood deal with the big-league stuff that requires real firepower. A new take on Batman that gives everyone what they want; more Batman. 

Howard the Duck 

Need a wise-cracking, fourth wall-breaking, politically incorrect cameo character in your Marvel comic? Look no further. Stuck in a world he never made, Howard the Duck is an iconoclastic autodidact with a strong sense of social justice and a mastery of Quack-Fu. The original run of Howard the Duck is a 1970s counter-culture classic, culminating with Howard running for President on a platform of honesty and integrity, which, of course, makes him enemies at all turns. I really feel like Bendis, Fraction or Ellis would be great matches for Howard, bringing him in on Corporate Greed, American Imperialism and Civil Rights. Howard can point a finger at the world and say the controversial things we're all thinking because he's a Duck, a foul-mouthed fowl who just wants to get along in this crazy world of hairless apes. *WAAAUGH!* 

Future Trunks 

Seriously, what happened to Trunks? In Free The Future (one of my "Top 10" DBZ episodes), we see Trunks defeat the Androids and Cell, freeing his world and then jump into the time machine for one last trip back to say "thanks" to the Z Fighters. Not only do we not get to see that moment, we never find out what happens to the ruined world Trunks came from. What about Androids 19, 16 and 13? Is there a trip to New Namek in the works to use the Dragonballs and get a new guardian? Goku can't be resurrected, so will Trunks be the new leader of the Z Fighters, or will Gohan? Will Gohan's arm be restored if he's resurrected or will Bulma build him a cool robot arm? What about Babadi and Buu? Will any of the Z Fighters even want to be wished back after more than a decade of being dead? 
The pedantic fans out there will point out that Trunks' story is continued in the Dragonball Z: Xenoverse video game, but my complaint there is that Trunks mainly serves as a plot device and it doesn't continue the story of his world. The Dragonball Multiverse webcomic does a pretty good job as well, but again, it's bits and pieces that don't make a full picture. There's a whole world here that can be explored and I'd like to see what's there.

The Universal Church of Truth 

For those who have not read the Jim Starlin Warlock comics; you're missing out. Yes, they're  very '70s and a little trippy, but the story is amazing and Adam Warlock's struggle to deal with the destructive power he wields creates some great moments of superhero hubris. Adam's initial conflicts are with the Universal Church of Truth, a thinly-veiled metaphor for militant religious extremism in the United States lead by The Magus, an evil version of Warlock from the future. It's a classic story about power corrupting and attempting to escape one's own fate. If the Magus wasn't a big enough foe to overcome, the Church itself is well-equipped with Cardinals (epic warriors powered by their own beliefs), Black Knights (cyborg super-cops) and even the faithful who will kill anyone who defiles the Church. 
After the Magus' defeat, the Church is reborn as a faith that worships life. They love life so much, that if you don't share that love, they'll kill you for it. What makes the Church such a great antagonist for comics is the variation they can put out in terms of fodder for the heroes to beat on. Taking on an organisation rather than an individual bad guy makes a hero or team of heroes have to work a bit smarter to win. Sure, you can plow through ranks of mooks, but are you really getting anywhere? So go for the head right? Kill the space pope and watch the Church crumble. That's all well and good until a new guy puts on the pope hat and has a vendetta for your team. A really cool concept from Marvel's Golden Space Age that needs to see more print.


Screw The Joker, you know who Batman's greatest foe is? Bane. First up, Bane defeated Batman. Straight up wore him down to nothing and beat him into submission. Broke his damn spine, he's that badass. Bane is also the perfect antithesis for Batman. The man who would be Bane was born into the toughest prison on the planet with no hope of ever escaping. Rather than succumbing to his fate, the child trains his body and sharpens his mind to the peak of perfection, becoming the most dangerous man alive. Forget the Venom, forget roided-out hulk Bane, everything that happened before the Venom is everything you need to know about the character. Batman trained his mind and body to perfection so that he could become the ultimate champion for justice; Bane did the same so that he would be feared. 
Read some of the No Man's Land stuff, or watch Young Justice, Bane is a rogue element that can never be second-guessed and is always several steps ahead. Sadly, the Arkham video games have presented Bane as a mindless brute villain and it seems to have stuck, wasting so much of the character's potential. Perhaps Bane is scarce because he's not based in Gotham, but that hardly seems like an excuse, he and Batman are at a one-all draw at the moment, maybe now's the time to settle it.

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