Tag Archives: BATMAN

Supervillain

Hollywood seems to be continuing their love affair with superheroes. I’m not surprised. Despite the current supersaturation, they are a big deal to people. I’ve talked about superheroes before. Specifically, in the following post if you didn’t read it yet:

https://theballadofabetamale.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/superhero/

It seems fair that I now give some time to the other side of the coin. Supervillains are just as important as their heroic counterparts. On some days, what they do makes a little more sense to us. At least it does as we get older and a little more jaded, and if we’re honest with ourselves. Not that we’re anymore likely to behave like villains than we are like heroes. We do, sometimes, like to root for the bad guy. A lot of them do seem to be having more fun than some of the heroes do.

Have I ever thought of myself as the villain? I’d be lying if I said that I saw myself as the paragon of good. I’ve got flaws and a lot of the time they get the better of me. So as much as I’d like to think I would be the next Spider-Man if I did get super powers, I don’t think I’d handle power very well. I’m just a little too human.

Let me now take some time to focus on a few of my favorite supervillains. I do find that I’m drawn to a few particular rogues galleries (Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men) but, for the sake of focusing on different motivations, I’ll try to mix it up a bit.

THE JOKER: I have to start with the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime. This character, more than any other, has a grip on pop culture with no signs of letting go. People are fascinated by the Joker and have very strong opinions regarding him. Look at the many interpretations of him in comics and other media. He’s been portrayed differently in television and multiple films (with another on the way), and they’ve all focused on specific aspects of the Joker’s personality. He is a crime lord, a prankster, a psychopath, and a violent anarchist.

He is chaos personified and is guilty of numerous horrors in the Batman canon. The Joker has crippled people, committed physical and psychological torture, and flat-out murdered more than once. And perhaps the most terrifying thing about him is that you can never be a hundred percent sure about the reason. Is it an obsession with Batman? Is it revenge for something we don’t know? Possibly, it may just be the reason given in the Nolan interpretation. He just wants to watch the world burn.

VENOM: While the Joker is definitely Batman’s arch-nemesis, Spider-Man has other villains who could make that claim before Venom. Doctor Octopus and, more notably, the Green Goblin. But Venom is my favorite because it’s a little more personal. Peter Parker gets a new costume that turns out to be an alien symbiote. He rejects it. The symbiote now feels hatred for its former host and merges with ex-journalist Eddie Brock, himself a man with a grudge against Spider-Man and Peter Parker. They become Venom, consumed with desire to hurt and kill Spider-Man. Now Spidey has an enemy who has more intimate personal knowledge of him than any before.

Venom is a psychotic, obsessed, force of destruction. He knows Peter’s secret identity and can bypass his Spider sense. But at the same time, he’s a little conflicted. He’s actually had the occasional temporary alliance with Spider-Man to go after bigger threats. It never lasts, but it has still happened. In recent years the alien has moved on from Eddie and joined up with others, sometimes in a partnership and other times taking full control. However, Venom is a walking time bomb. The symbiote will always explode into violence at some point. It is just a question of when.

DARKSEID: While he’s not the most recognized foe of Superman and the Justice League, Darkseid is serious bad news. I mean, you pretty much have to be when you’re one of the New Gods and rule a place called Apokolips.

Much like another favorite of mine, Doctor Doom in the Marvel Universe, Darkseid is obsessed with domination over destruction. But Victor von Doom has somewhat pure intentions corrupted by his arrogance. No so with Darkseid. He wants to break the universe in both body and spirit. All must be subjugated and worship the power that is Darkseid. And the thing that makes him dangerous is that he could do it. He has THAT much power. With an entire destructive world under his control, Darkseid himself is damn near impossible to take down one on one. The Man of Steel hasn’t really done it. This is why when Darkseid shows up, Superman tends to call for all hands on deck. It usually takes the combined efforts of members of the DC Universe to put the ruler of Apokolips down.

When you are dealing with hatred personified, you really can’t hold back.

MAGNETO: The last villain I want to talk about is Magneto, and I was a little torn about including him in this post. One of the primary foes of Charles Xavier and the X-men, Magneto is complicated. He has been defeated by the X-men countless times but, at the end of the day, they are still not able to accomplish one thing.

They haven’t proved that Magneto is wrong.

The Master of Magnetism is motivated by anger. He has seen firsthand the atrocities that mankind is capable of, having himself been a survivor of Nazi persecution. He sees his fellow mutants facing the same. And unlike Xavier, he does not see peaceful coexistence as even a possibility. The only way to save his people is by force. Humans will never change, and so they must be struck down. If it is truly humans or mutants, then Magneto will see that mutantkind prevails. He doesn’t see himself as a villain, but as someone who is making the hard decision to protect his people by any means necessary.

It’s hard not to sympathize with Magneto. Look at the world we live in. Racism still exists. Homophobia still exists. People get killed far to frequently due to fear and hatred of a difference. The same thing that Magneto sees happening to mutants.

What if he’s right?

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Weird trees and their apples

My wife and I are two people who have been called weird at different points in our life. In fact, we have called each other weird. This is one of those words, along with geek and nerd, that has taken on different meanings. I tend to think of it as a good thing, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t caused a struggle or two.

My kids are weird. I say this with every ounce of love I have for them. Holy crap, are Phoebe and Zoe two weird little girls.

Phoebe has barely reached the levels of weirdness I know she’s capable of evolving. She has Disney princess dolls who spend most of their time naked, because it’s apparently summer and that’s what you do. She has dipped a toy or two into applesauce to use like a spoon, leaving a perfectly functional spoon untouched next to her. The other day, Phoebe walked across the house with a pile of socks on her head so she could see what it looked like in the mirror. She likes to point out the cat’s snowflake bum, which she has for poopoos. Phoebe has also been know to pretend she’s a pirate while using the potty.

Zoe isn’t even two yet, but we are starting to scratch the surface with her. She will throw Cheerios on the floor like she doesn’t want them, but as soon as she is out of her chair she begins to forage for what is now known as “Floorios” in our house. She loves to grab anything she can get her hands on, then run off giggling like she has committed the crime of the century and she must flee Batman. She likes to put the dress-up crowns they have on her head backwards. Who knows what she’ll be doing by the time she’s her sister’s age?

Now of course, I say all these things about my girls being weird with full certainty that the term “normal” is pretty loose and subjective. The weirdness is also very entertaining. Phoebe is a lot of fun and Zoe is just a pile of cuteness and sweetness. I think they are wonderful, even if they are occasionally buttheads. I’m very happy to be their daddy. And it’s not like the weirdness came out of nowhere. This is a guy who starts singing whatever pops into his head when he’s bored. My wife once took the dress off a stuffed animal and had a fashion show with the cat.

Genetics. It’s not just eye color anymore.

Superhero

Does every little kid, at some point, want to be a superhero?

I love superheroes. When given the opportunity, I still like to read comic books. I’ve always wanted to go see the movies, even before they turned into the new Western and EVERYONE saw them. If I stumble across a good superhero cartoon ( or even-semi entertaining) I want to watch it. When I was little, I would try to make up what kind of superhero I would be. Hell, I still do that now. That’s not too weird, right?

I love the DC and Marvel canon, though I’m a little hard pressed to say what I like more. Maybe a little more Marvel since it always seemed to exist a little closer to the real world. Then again, DC always sparked my imagination a little more. So I don’t know. Hey, I said it was hard! No, you shut up!

One of the things I’ve come to think as an adult is that superhero stories are a lot like a more modern folklore. I definitely think that the heroes of ancient myth are like the superheroes of today. Actually, in some cases (hi, Thor) they are the same hero.

I don’t think I’ll spend much time talking about why I think other people like (or don’t like) superheroes. But maybe if I talk about what I like and why, it will make sense to you. I already feel like this is a topic I can spend a lot of time with, but I like to keep these posts from being too long. And this is a topic I can talk about for AWHILE. So I will probably come back to this. For now, I’ll stick with a few “franchise players” of the superhero world.

BATMAN: Let’s just start with the obvious. Batman is a badass, plain and simple. Individuals with a lot more sheer power are wary of Batman. Why? It doesn’t have much to do with the cool tech. It has a lot more to do with the fact that this is a normal man who pushed himself to the absolute limit. He is about as mentally and physically honed as a mere mortal can be. Yes, he is dangerously obsessed with his personal war on crime. He will never have a remotely normal life. He often alienates himself from those that would help him. He is dangerous. I can’t think of a psychiatrist who wouldn’t love to pick at this guy’s head. But at the end of the day, Batman is very human. I’ve read story lines with Batman helping children, grieving over friends, and sacrificing more of himself to make sure others don’t have to see what he has seen. It makes him all the more heroic.

On a side note, out of all the movies and TV versions, my favorite Batman is Kevin Conroy. The 90’s animated series is just great, and I think the Arkham video games have been some of the best Batman “movies” in recent years.

THE HULK: I love the Hulk. He is one of my absolute favorite characters and always has been. I always identified with the Jekyll and Hyde meets Frankenstein that is Bruce Banner/the Hulk. Here is a guy who is smart but is constantly having to repress himself. He has this other side that is all primal, emotional, explosion. The Hulk has on many occasions been an accidental hero, stopping the bad guy while trying to get away from whatever made him angry in the first place. Banner wants to connect with people, but he is always a little withdrawn for fear of the Hulk coming out. As for the Hulk, most of the time he just wants to be left alone. Still, if he sees someone as a friend, he’ll fight for them with everything he has.

The Hulk is not your basic good guy, but there is definitely more hero than monster to him. But let’s be honest. Who out there hasn’t wanted to let loose that way? Who hasn’t wished that they could respond to something with “Hulk smash” and have that be okay? That’s absolutely part of his appeal.

Speaking of your basic good guy….

SUPERMAN: This is a tough one. I’ve always preferred Superman within the context of the Justice League versus his solo stories. I think the character works better when he has other heroes to interact with. The thing about Superman is that he easily goes to extremes. He is often either the flying Boy Scout or a god with little depth. Attempts to make the character “gritty” haven’t often worked. But when you focus on Superman’s humanity, things get interesting.

I thought the TV show “Smallville” did a great job with this, in addition to making the whole stupid Superboy concept believable. While Bruce Wayne is the secret identity of Batman, Superman is the secret identity of Clark Kent. He is a man who wants to do the right thing. He is unwavering in his belief that his powers should be used to help people. At the same time, he has to live with the knowledge that he can’t help everyone. He sets a standard. He gives hope. But when he fails (which is rare) he takes it really hard. Still, Clark will put the cape back on and try again. He will be Superman. He will be that symbol of hope that people look for. How can I not respect that?

SPIDER-MAN: I will close this post by focusing on Spidey. He is another of my lifelong favorites, which I find a little funny seeing how I am a bit arachnophobic. I think one of the things that attracts me to Peter Parker/Spider-Man is that he might be the most imperfect superhero out there.

This is a guy who messes up a lot, both as Peter and as Spider-Man. He has problems with relationships. He doesn’t always stop the bad guy. He tries to protect a city that doesn’t completely trust him. And the sheer level of loss that Spider-Man has experienced is staggering. Friends, allies, and loved ones have all been taken from him over the years. He still fights the good fight. He still keeps his sense of humor. He hasn’t let it break him.

Maybe it goes back to the line. I think at this point, EVERYONE knows the line. Say it with me. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter could very easily be a criminal. He could be the menace that some of his fellow New Yorkers claim he is. But instead, he uses his power to make things better for the people in his world.  In the end, he is doing what I think a lot of people try to do. He does what I try to do. Spider-Man goes out there and does the best he can with who he is. He takes his mistakes, and tries to use them to be just a little better. He does what he can to make a positive difference.

Everyday, Spider-Man tries to be a better person than he was the day before. I think we should all be doing the same.