Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pratfalls of Working With Established Characters #539

So, I'm reading Villains United #3, and there is a scene that really reminded me of how restricting it is to work on a book where even the toadies are established characters.

Spoilers ahead!

To wit, when the Secret Six escape, they have to fight their guards.

Their guards are Captain Nazi, Weather Wizard, Count Vertigo, Killer Frost, Knockout, Sledge and Hyena (I didn't even notice Hyena was there at first. I also only vaguely remember that there WAS a character named Hyena...this becomes more important later).

As an aside, another of the difficulties of writing established characters is keeping them sounding sorta consistent with past portrayals, and Gail Simone handled this quite nicely with Knockout, who really has not been seen since her time in Karl Kesel's Superboy in the early-to-mid-90s, where he made sure that she was not some grim and gritty villain. And she is not a grim and gritty villain in THIS issue either. Nice touch.

Okay, so the Secret Six escape and come across their guards.

So here's where the pratfall comes into play.

We know that none of the famous villains are going to die right here.

And that is a major shot to the drama of the scene if we know that there will be no killing of Weather Wizard or Killer Frost or Count Vertigo.

Then there's the other side of that coin.

Let's say Simone HAD Weather Wizard or Killer Frost or Count Vertigo killed, then THAT takes the reader out of the scene ALSO, because the reader is now irked that a famous villain was just killed off in a minor scene in the middle of a mini-series.

Which would be uncool

So it's a real catch-22 situation for the writer.

The next thing is, the scene also calls for MAJOR outside writing, as there is no real reason inside the story as to why the Secret Six WOULDN'T kill these characters...but because this would be a bad time to kill off a bunch of notable bad guys, they can't, which hurts the realistic flow of the story.

And then, just to address that it really did not make sense for them not to kill someone there, the Secret Six "randomly" chooses a villain and kills that villain as message to the villains' bosses.

That villain?

You guessed it - Hyena.

Hyena, she of, what - 4 previous appearances ever? In the pages of Firestorm? 20 years ago?

Note that I'm not knocking the writer here, I am just saying that it is yet another pratfall (#539) of working in a universe with established characters.

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Blogger Michael said...

I think you mean "pitfall."

7/09/2005 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Blockade Boy said...

What makes Hyena doubly lame is, not only did she show up in this series out of total oblivion and get almost immediately offed, but the "Hyena" identity is a magical werewolf-type curse. So this Hyena may or may not be the same one that appeared in those old Firestorm stories. So if somebody wants Hyena to show up again in another comic, they don't even have to bother referencing this one. She's a generic, easily disposable character. Of course, I'm still reeling from the 1st issue's death of the Fiddler (yawn). All kidding aside, though, I am enjoying "Villains United" a great deal.

7/09/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

I can understand not killing everyone to send a message, but the logical choice in such a situation would be killing everyone with exception of the lamest villain (I think that if they want to send a message 'mafia-style' that would be it). So in the real world, the only villain not killed would be Hyena, exactly because he is too lame for they care, and because he would probably be killed by Luthor & Co. for sending such a grim message.

7/09/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous HMM said...

Weather Wizard, Killer Frost and Count Vertigo are "famous" villains?

Simone could have offed everybody in that room and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid.

7/09/2005 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

In the case of Weather Wizard, he's kind of property of the Flash. In the cases of Killer Frost and Count Vertigo, they're both "friends" of Floyd from the Suicide Squad days, so he may not want to kill them.

And they're beloved Suicide Squad characters.

But I mainly think Catman doesn't want a bloodbath, and Floyd was willing to defer to Catman. In this particular case.

7/09/2005 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Pratfall is a cooler word.

And it IS a word!!

7/09/2005 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

And yes, Blockade Boy, I have liked Villains United as well.

The fact that this scene jumped out at me in a "sucks to work with established characters" sense shouldn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the series.

7/09/2005 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Tim O'Neil said...

Didn't the Fiddler die during Underworld Unleashed? Or an I misremembering?

7/09/2005 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, but I didn't mind the Fiddler one because he had not made a real (in other words, non-cameo) appearance in fifteen years!

And in that appearance, he DIED!!

And THAT appearance had been his first appearance in TWENTY years!!

7/09/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a valid point, Brian, but not the best example. DC would have been fine with a lot more bloodshed in that final scene.

Next issue might make it a bit clearer why it didn't happen.



7/09/2005 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Hisham Zubi said...

No! Not Hyena! Anybody but her!

7/11/2005 04:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like I say, it was my choice not to have the cliche slaughter scene, and I think it'll make more sense in context as the series goes on. :)


7/11/2005 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

I remember my first thought when I saw the scene in question was "You want to send a message... you only NEED one villain..."
But yeah, if Gail's got a plan, I'm cool with that.

7/13/2005 01:43:00 AM  
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