My Supervillains And How They Came To Be

So, yesterday, I finally drew some bad concept art of supervillains I’ve had in my head for a while. They are known as the Dead Hand, a reference to both a Russian nuclear system AND the “Four=Death” similarity found in East Asian languages. And yes, there are only three of them in the picture. That’s all I had room for. Forgive my terrible drawing.

 

So, each one of these has a story.

  • Empat (Malay for ‘Four’) started off with just the camera powers. Then I realized she was in a “what does Aquaman do without being in the water” situation and made her leverage her camera powers to superhuman accuracy. Then I gave her incredible intelligence and reaction time too, so her brain can process looking through countless cameras at once and switch images before even a supercomputer can react. Her look, I have to admit, owes a lot to the Payday series.
  • Ceathair (Irish for ‘Four’, although it’s a complex language that way) started off as Peter Walsh, the protagonist of One Two Three Dead. Then that fizzled out and I went with him being past the point of no return, because let’s face it, Darth Vader is more interesting than Anakin Skywalker. Then I realized he’d been one of my dime-a-dozen Punisher types and turned him into someone with a magic sword. His durability keeps increasing-as of now, he can easily survive being splattered. The shirt and tie is actually a reference to the pro wrestlers Irwin R. Schyster and Mankind, who wore similar clothes.
  • Cztery (Polish for “Four” is the newest. Originally, the leader of the Dead Hand, Richard Shi, was going to be a member, but his Q/Ellemist level powers made him too strong. So I had to swap in someone who had an indirect power. I’ve had a concept for “chemists” who mixed packs of chemicals in ramshackle arrays of tanks, and leveraged it into making her.

Better Supers

So, I’m finally ridding myself of the “Punisher Syndrome.”

See, an awful lot of my envisioned superheroes were basically variations on the theme of that skull-chested vigilante. Which is to say, they’re walking arsenals that achieve their superhuman qualities simply through ridiculous amounts of training.

Not all of them have gotten changed. But I’m very thankful that enough have-and that I’ve had the imagination to make them different. After all, I don’t want the walking arsenals to overlap too much.

The Artist Was Too Good

Sometimes, an artist is meant to mock or attack something, but they end up actually looking good. DC was mocking the 90s belts and pouches fashion with Magog. Not only was he drawn so well that the garments flowed a lot better than their targets, but the authors ended up actually liking his design.

Similarly, the irreverent One Punch Man set its sights on Dragon Ball villains and spiky-haired power-ups in particular with villain Lord Boros. Instead of something like an even more disproportioned Broly, Boros ends up as an interesting and effective design himself.

So, a mockery can become art by itself.

Arcade

Ah, Arcade.

Arcade, one of the Marvel villains ideal for one story, yet utterly unable to work in anything beyond it.

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Arcade, for most of his existence, was/is a normal human in a bad 70s suit and giant bow tie who builds deathtrap amusement parks called Murderworlds and has an inexplicable ability to capture superheroes and plop them in there. Appearing in the second-rate title Marvel Team-Up, by all means he should have been a one-issue wonder who would be “lucky” to be a victim of the Scourge, a character created to eliminate “embarrassing” villains.

Instead, the legendary Chris Claremont liked the character and used him as an X-Men villain, and he became a B/C-list supervillain, even earning a place in Marvel Ultimate Alliance.

There have been multiple attempts to make Arcade a “serious” threat, the largest and most recent being the Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff Avengers Arena. None have worked. How could they work? It takes so much effort to force a character whose gimmick is ridiculous even by comic-book standards that one might as well make a new character or use someone more appropriate.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Thankfully, the version that I call “Classic Arcade” is an ideal ‘filler’ villain that almost any low-mid level superhero can face. The amusement park gimmick can make for some interesting visuals, and Arcade rarely facing the heroes directly means his reappearances aren’t quite as contrived as-well, everything else about him.

The Ultimate Alliance appearance uses Arcade well, with his presence being an excuse to have a carnival level and some extra-hammy voice acting.

Even crossovers can work-there is nary a Marvel crossover I’ve come up with that doesn’t involve the other crossover characters being tossed into Murderworld.

A Superpower Coincidence

Now, there’s arguably little that’s truly original. This is why, when I make my superhero fantasies, it’s not difference of powers that I focus on so much as difference of character.

But one bizarre coincidence, notable in almost how exact it is, and how coincidential it is, has stood out. See, there’s a character who can manipulate time, using it as de facto teleportation to outmaneuver enemies.

That describes Overwatch’s hero and mascot Tracer. But it also describes a supervillain in a notorious tie-in comic made twenty-five years before. The comic was NFL Superpro, one frequently trotted out as one of the worst of all time. The villain was, with a name fitting the football style, Instant Replay.

Instant Replay appeared twice, the second time also having an oddly coincidental connection to Tracer, as he had been phasing in and out of time uncontrollably, then semi-controllably. In both cases, he was defeated in a few panels (although the second time, the Superpro needed the help of his non-superpowered niece. Really).

So, either this is a massive coincidence, or someone at Blizzard decided to base a prominent figure in their newest flagship game on a throwaway villain in a decades-old throwaway comic. The latter is unlikely, and Instant Replay’s own style bears similarity to GI Joe’s Snake Eyes.

But it’s still an interesting thing to behold.

 

Weird Clothing

I have a strange liking of supervillains wearing bad 1970s suits. I think it’s a combination of  two characters. The first was the Marvel supervillain Arcade, who was (note the past tense) a ridiculous filler villain who threw superheroes into ridiculous dangerous amusement parks.

(Sadly, he turned into a bloodthirsty long-haired figure who gained plot-induced superpowers of his own and presided over a ridiculously blatant Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff. That story is one of the few that I’ve removed from my personal continuity-I like the classic villain too much)

The other was Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in the 1978 Superman movie. Hackman refused to go bald for the film (save for one scene), so he had to wear ridiculous “wigs” on top of his bad 70s suit. Both characters were made in 1978, and I doubt their styling was a coincidence.