Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Character Reclamation Bin, or "Hey, I could make it work!"

What character feels wasted to you?

My pet “wasted” character is Pietro Maximoff, known as Quicksilver.

Quicksilver has been revealed as a major part of the “House of M” mega-crossover event, tied in with the warping of reality and all sorts of insane jibba-jabba. He’ll probably be either a new villain, or at the very least, end up all confused and turned into a black hole of plotting.

Dang it. I think he could be a mainstay of Marvel instead of a plot-tangle character with bad hair!

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Check out his backstory:

Born to a master villain. Raised with his twin sister by gypsies. (Yes, early Marvel loved using gypsies.) Developed the mutant power of super-speed. Recruited by his father into a mutant terrorist organization, though neither knew of their familial relationship. Rebelled against the villain and joined the pre-eminent heroes of the age, the Avengers. Married a princess of a secret kingdom of superhumans. Had a daughter who proved to be totally human. Split from his wife. Worked as a government agent.

Now factor in his personality: he’s a prickly, arrogant bastard, overprotective of his (much more powerful) sister, prone to fits of temper. He’s also one of the very few characters who bridges the gulf between X-books and the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Think of what you could do with this guy. His backstory boils down to “poor country boy develops powers, is recruited by his father for evil, rebels, and tries to do the right thing.” That he’s a less-than-admirable person adds to the stew. Yet he is not insensitive to injustice.

Why Pietro? Quicksilver won me over in an issue of X-Factor when he surveyed the damage from a mutant terrorist group’s assault. During the hospital visit, he learned that the anti-mutant Sentinel robot program had been re-established. The rest of the X-Factor team was horrified. His reaction? It was the right decision; humans need to protect themselves from mutant zealots. *

Let’s hear an X-Man state that patently obvious truth. Ever.**

He has a couple of juicy conflicts built right into him:

--Father versus son.
--Nature (son of a world-conquering madman) versus nurture (adopted son of a nice everyman sort of fellow).
--Outsider who married into royalty, then spurned by it.
--A villain who became a hero.
--An arrogant jackass who understands the price of arrogance better than most.

He had his own series briefly. It was awful. The writers felt the need to bring in the High Evolutionary and his Knights of Wungadore. (Use of the High Evolutionary is a guarantee of a crap story.) The series was both silly and overly serious from the get-go.

No, no, no, no.

Quicksilver is a perfect straight man. He is the Frasier Crane of superheroes: intelligent, pompous, a little ridiculous sometimes. Give the man an opportunity for some humor, dammit.

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He’s also very disconnected from normal peoples’ lives. Fer cryin’ out loud, his ex-wife lives on the moon and his father’s come back from the dead at least six times. How about making him the Superhero of Tampa or some such weirdness. Have the Prince of Mutants and a member of the Royal House of Attilan live in the land of strip malls and defend regular people from superhuman threats?

I dunno.

Enough about my pet idea. Here’s the question for the blog-reading public:

What character do you feel could be great if given a day in the sun?

*Peter David's run on X-Factor showed Quicksilver to great effect. A fine run it was.

**Okay, okay, given the trillions of X-books, I’m sure somebody else said it at least once. Still, a remarkable moment of clarity from the son of Magneto.

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Blogger Joe Rice said...

Hm. I remember enjoying his solo series quite a bit. Tom Peyer wrote it, right? It wasn't the Quicksilver you were looking for, obviously, but it was a fun, crazy adventure about a man with a very weird background.

10/20/2005 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

Fair enough. Maybe "awful" was too harsh. Instead, how about "I really didn't like it."

But I stand by my equation:
"High Evolutionary = Crap Story."

Know it. Live it.

10/20/2005 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian (not Cronin) said...

The now-legendary X-Factor 87 (from the sublime Mr. David) did more to humanize Quicksilver for me, in just a couple of pages, then his 30 years of previous history. To summarize what he said then, "You know how you get annoyed when you're at a bank machine behind someone who doesn't know how to use it? My whole life is full of people who can't use the bank machine."

Every since then, I've never wondered why Pietro is so grumpy -- I wonder why Wally West isn't.

Of course, now that Harvey's pointed it out, I wonder when in his life Pietro has ever used a bank machine.

10/20/2005 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous jacob munford said...

In terms of other characters who have potential (even though I love Quicksilver)...

I always loved the American immigrant view of Mr. Miracle, with him being a New God from a planet in another dimension trying to live in the Midwest or something like that. Relatively down-to-Earth Harry Houdini type + Amazon wife trying to get a job as a real estate agent or something + cranky Oberon as a neighbor + constant supervillain assaults on their neighborhood = sounds like a fun series to me.

10/20/2005 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems a shame that no one has been able to recapture the early glory of the Fawcett Captain Marvel. He has a great gimmick, a fun supporting cast, and bizarre bad guys. Jerry Ordway never really had the imagination for him. Someone shove Grant Morrison onto this guy pronto.

10/20/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Eli said...

I fell in love with the Pietro character during David's X-Factor run as well. I thought it was a great example of how to write a superhero with some depth - he added layers to the personality without scrapping the archetype he represented in the first place. Arrogant Pietro was still Arrogant Pietro, just 100 times more interesting. Kind of the opposite of trying to make Superman interesting by making him weak, or trying to make Batman interesting by making him incompetent, and so on...

I still believe in my heart of hearts that there is a great story waiting to be written about Warlock (the New Mutants, back-from-the-dead version). He's tied into one of the few permanent X-Book deaths, he's got amazing visual potential, and he's incredibly powerful while still falling short of Silver-Surfer-absurd. He has his dead best friend's memories totally stored in his head all the time, but does almost nothing with them. I think there is a deeply weird, awesome Warlock book that could be written, if a writer would just not ruin it by trying to be too CyberpunX0r.

10/20/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger CalvinPitt said...

For my choice of underused characters, I go with The Ray (in interests of honesty, he did appear with the Freedom Force in Infinite Crisis #1, but come on the Freedom Force?! Christ?! And he lasts for about one page until Dr. Light kicks his ass. Sigh).

Anyway, I was a fan of the miniseries and the first 10 issues or so from the monthly series. I missed his time in Young Justice, I'd fallen out of love with comics, I think the Clone Saga did that. Honestly, I'd like to see him on the Titans. Starfire's jumped to the outsiders, they need a flier with energy powers, and Ray could be a kind of bridge between the more established vets (cyborg, Changeling) and the Speedys and Superboys. Heck, he's worked with some of them, and he was in the Justice League.

Basically, I'd just like to see him in at least some team book on a monthly basis.

10/20/2005 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Peyer was on the book for six issues, then John Ostrander and Joe Edkin took over.

As I understand it, Peyer was more keen on using the Knghts than Quicksilver, according to a Casey Jones interview.

After that I decided it would be a good idea to not read any Tom Peyer comics.

I have high hopes for David Hine's Son of M actually. It might be cool.

10/20/2005 11:02:00 PM  
Blogger John Lombard said...

Free Spirit, from the last issues of the Gruenwald Captain America run, is my pet fantasy project.

Cathy Webster was a brilliant college student whose GPA was being brought down by poor performance in physical education. She was approached by Doctor Wentworth, supervillain Superia in disguise, to be a test subject for a series of self-actualisation tapes that she claimed would improve her physical performance.

Cathy turned her down, telling Superia she didn’t believe in shortcuts as a substitute for hard work, but finding herself with nowhere to sleep after being expelled from college while covering for a friend decided to accept the offer. It would give her time to work up the courage to tell her parents she’d been kicked out of school.

But Superia lied to her, secretly supplementing the subliminal tapes with a mysterious radiation treatment. When the week of treatments was over, Cathy was stunned -- she now had the physique and prowess of an Olympic level athlete. Superia, applauding her progress, offered her a job as a spokesperson for the new actualisation therapy -- provided she could pass a small test.

Fashioning a costume out of dancing tights, on Superia’s orders Cathy crashed a toga party and denounced everyone there for perpetuating the male myth of female servitude. When some of the men grabbed her, she violently lashed out, a mantra taking over her mind: “Hate men! Hunt men! Hurt men!”

Horrified, she fled back to the lab -- now empty, the equipment gone. All that was left was a tape recorder playing the message Superia had used to brainwash her. Doctor Wentworth, the genius who liberated my body, had actually sought to enslave her mind? She made a vow: “you have moulded my body but my spirit remains free! You wanted me to be a campaign of something. I will! But I’m the one who’ll determine how I put my new body to use -- I, the Free Spirit!”

OK, so it’s not the best origin story, but there’s a lot to work with there.

Firstly, why did Superia leave Cathy her free will? Cathy doesn’t know it, but Superia wants her to voluntarily choose the path of female superiority. Superia sees Cathy as a potential successor to her great work, recognising similarities between them. For her part, Cathy is determined to track down Superia, confront her and force her to account for what she tried to do to her.

I imagine a Free Spirit title reading like “Captain American Year One” -- she has the heroic values and enough potential but she’s inexperienced and makes mistakes. Occasionally, she would have to be bailed out by another hero. The arc of the series would be watching her come into her own, a kind of bildungsroman in tights.

It’s obvious to everyone but her that she’s a potential successor to Captain America (even Captain America knows it, and he’s comforted that should he fall she’ll be there to carry on for him. Because her personality’s similar to his and she is trying to represent the same values, she easily comes into conflict with the Captain America rogues gallery. So, she could end up confronting Modok, AIM, The Serpent Society, Flag-Smasher, etc. Ready-made rogues gallery, hurrah!

I don’t want to turn her into a champion of women, however -- I see Free Spirit as an egalitarian feminist, not a separatist like Wonder Woman. She’s an equal-opportunity opportunity superhero because she has to be -- the alternative is Superia’s way. She’s Professor Xavier and Superia’s Magneto: she believes men and women should be equal, Superia believes they can’t and that women should dominate.

Personality issues: basically, she’s a female Steve Rogers. She’s healthy, she’s wholesome, she’s liberal. Like Steve, she was once wimpy, so she appreciates the sudden gift of an amazing physique and works hard to be worthy of it. She’s not good with men, though, because they were never interested in her -- now she’s a hottie and they’re all over her but she has no idea how to handle it. Also, she’s very close to her family and has to balance time with them with her super heroics. The love of her parents helps sustain her as a crime fighter.

But if she has one flaw, it's a stain of callowness. She can mouth platitudes and doesn't really understand how the world really works. She's set up for some nasty shocks but she'll be a better hero out of it.

Basically, points I would touch on are the contrast between the geeky girl she was versus the belle she is now; the meaning of freedom and subjugation; the choice between emancipationist feminism and separatist feminism; issues of youth versus experience; and finally the contingency of dumb luck versus the grind of hard work. The fundamental lesson would be that the qualities that make a hero must be within.

Yes, it’s corn, but this is a proto-Captain America -- it’s supposed to be corn.

10/21/2005 05:06:00 AM  
Blogger joncormier said...

Captain Britain or Angel. To me these two were always bristling with potential but seemed to be the punching bags of the marvel universe and its writers. They've both had really good moments but then it's like the writers let go of the balloon and their characters go "blltttzz" all over the place.

10/21/2005 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

My pet reclamation project?

ROM Spaceknight.

Seriously. Exiled SpaceKnight defends humanity from cosmic threat no one can see but him? Doomed to wear his armor for the rest of time? Unrequited love with chick-babe from this planet?


ROM rocks.

10/21/2005 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous David C said...

"I always loved the American immigrant view of Mr. Miracle...."

I've always thought this was a great unexplored angle of a super-hero universe, one which I've recently thought would be a great angle for my own pet "wasted" character, Shayera Thal, Hawkwoman (the one from "Hawkworld" who was just, er, wasted in more ways than one in "Rann-Thanagar War.)

You've been caught up in events that have made you an exile from your homeworld, granted political asylum by the United States government. And your beloved, Katar Hol, is gone. Not dead, just "merged" with this other Hawkman guy you don't really know anymore. But you're still around, and everybody's pretty much forgotten about you.

Which is all right with you to some extent. You never really thought of yourself as a "super-hero," anyhow, and revolution was Katar's thing, and while you sympathize, you're not an inspired leader like him, and still half-think it's a noble but doomed idea. But you're here, and you've got to eat, got to have a place to live.... So what in the Seven Hells do you do with your life now?

Well, what are you? What do you see yourself as? Well, you were a cop, and a damn good one. Why couldn't you be again, even if cops here don't usually wear wings?

So... I'd love seeing Shayera Thal as a new addition to "Gotham Central."

10/21/2005 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I ever got to write the Avengers (and I'm sure that'll happen right after I win the lottery), Quicksilver would be on the shortlist of characters I'd want to use. (And yes, the X-Factor issue with the team talking with Doc Sampson is a truly great one.)

But my true favorite would have to be the female Captain Marvel.

10/21/2005 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous tenzil said...

"I always loved the American immigrant view of Mr. Miracle, with him being a New God from a planet in another dimension trying to live in the Midwest or something like that. Relatively down-to-Earth Harry Houdini type + Amazon wife trying to get a job as a real estate agent or something + cranky Oberon as a neighbor + constant supervillain assaults on their neighborhood = sounds like a fun series to me"


There was a Mister Miracle solo series in the late 80's-early 90's Giffen league era with EXACTLY THIS PREMISE. It was very good, and funny. Available in a quarter bin near you. They lived in a small town in New Hampshire. I think Barda WAS a real estate agent. It even had the 7 Soldiers Mr. Miracle, Shilo Norman, in the later issues.

It got me into the character.

My pick for underused that I would love to write: The classic New Mutants team (Mirage, Cannonball, Karma, Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Magma and Warlock). I know there was a mini that came and went but these were great characters and I hate what was done with Cannonball (the only redneck superhero) in 90's X-Force. I LOVED this book as a kid. LOVED IT.

If I really had my druthers I would also bring Cypher back from the dead. Talk about an underused power- I always thought "any language" included talking to computers, animals, aliens, whatever. Lack of imagination killed this one.

10/21/2005 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Insensible said...

"Seriously. Exiled SpaceKnight defends humanity from cosmic threat no one can see but him? Doomed to wear his armor for the rest of time? Unrequited love with chick-babe from this planet?"


But seriously, how would they manage to get him back into his armour? From what I understand, the threat of the Dire Wraiths was eliminated by a team-up of "most" of earths superheroes and that completed his quest allowing him to regain his humanity.

10/21/2005 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Not only that, Parker Brothers owns the rights to Rom's name and armor likeness. The closest he's appeared in costume since the series ended was Universe X.

10/21/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Death's Head (the first one), Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar, Dragon's Claws, Solomon Grundy, Doctor Doom.

I also have a "great" idea for a teen hero which I'm not going to talk about because I may pitch it to Marvel one day. :)

10/21/2005 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Oh, and Fing Fang Foom too.

(Yeah I know that FFF and Death's Head are back)

10/21/2005 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cypher's death was such a waste. His powers could have made him the perfect superspy. He can speak any language, is a total wiz with computers, and he can even read body language (which could've been applied to hand to hand combat). Even his name is perfect for being a spy.

10/21/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Johnny B said...

Understand that I haven't exactly been the most devoted Marvelite around in the last 25 years, so it may be that this character has been ruined so much that nobody can reclaim him...but I always thought that Red Wolf, one of Marvel's first Native American characters, is a great limited series waiting to happen- between the social issues, supernatural elements, and his association with the superhero community, I would think that there's a lot of stuff to work with.

10/22/2005 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous jacob munford said...


There was a Mister Miracle solo series in the late 80's-early 90's Giffen league era with EXACTLY THIS PREMISE. It was very good, and funny. Available in a quarter bin near you. They lived in a small town in New Hampshire. I think Barda WAS a real estate agent. It even had the 7 Soldiers Mr. Miracle, Shilo Norman, in the later issues.

It got me into the character."

I LOVED that series. I think it was DeMatties that did that. It would just seem even better now in the DC Rapeoverse. Imagine it, Mr. Miracle and Booster Gold endorsing competing Ice Cream Parlors in the same city, Barda attempting to sell houses but is being stopped by D-Grade supervillain like Fastball, etc. If there were a Mr. Miracle series today like this, it would be the perfect complement to She-Hulk's balls-out fun. Which is something that I believe is necessary in a
DCU with no place for the Scarlet Skier.

10/22/2005 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'm with you on Doug Ramsay. He was killed because they couldn't thnk of what to do with him. That is always the worst reason to nix a character.

Iron Fist always seemed like a cool character that no one coul gdt their head around. I think a "white boy with Asian background" fish out of water stpry could be really good.

10/22/2005 09:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Brendan H. said...

Now that Darkhawk's making a decent comeback in Runaways, and Nomad was killed over in Cap, my dream characters for a return are Quantum & Woody. A hysterical book with a really unique central relationship. Shame Acclaim died and brought the characters with them.

Also on the Priest-written front, I'd buy a Queen Divine Justice series.

10/24/2005 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous said...

Quite useful info, thanks for this article.

4/03/2012 07:25:00 AM  

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