Roads to Regrettability : Homegrown International HeroesThe League of Regrettable Heroes – soon to be published by Quirk Books and written by yours truly – features write-ups on 100 of comicdom’s weirdest, most unfortunate, most misunderstood and flat-out strangest superheroes. The book debuts June 2, 2015, so in the meantime let’s discuss the many paths a character can take on the road to regrettability.
America loves an anti-hero – up to a point. Superheroes who skirted the edge, like Wolverine or the Punisher, have proven more than capable of capturing the comic-reading public’s attention, but there’s almost a built-in timer for heroes whose penchant for fatality and cruelty exceed that of their foes. Eventually, a character like the Punisher, who may have begun his career as an edgy new take on the superhero genre better reflecting the sifting morality of the modern day, eventually becomes a problem that has to be addressed.
|Here's THIS terrifying old murderer.|
Of course, the hero who kills isn’t native to the modern day. Possibly the most famous straight-up murderer in the ranks of herodom was always The Shadow, a pulp hero who leapt into battle with both guns blazing. His later entries into comics kept the Shadow’s madcap thrill for high body counts, but his brief run as a character published by – of all things – Archie Comics put a different twist on the character. Now a spy fighting America’s enemies with clever gadgets, the Shadow even lost his unnerving laugh along with his daisy-pushing penchant.
A few homicidal heroes who didn’t enjoy such long careers, though, include:
The short-lived and short-statured Golden Age hero The Black Dwarf (later rechristened The Blue Monk) not only planted his foes six feet under, he did it gruesomely and gleefully. Backed by a squad of crooks-turned-crimefighters, the Dwarf made his point by masquerading as a crimelord and then dispatching his supposed rivals with everything from a hangman’s noose to a sharp stiletto (and, of course, faithful ol’ lead). Even more off-putting may have been Mother Hubbard, a genuine witch who fought the typical Nazi baddies of the day, but also supernatural menaces and weirdos whose forays into crime involved – and no joke here – stealing children’s eyes and eating babies. Gruesome goes two ways, I guess.
|The "H" in "SHAZAM" stands for "Huckin' guys off |
of the roof of a parking garage."
Alternatively, some heroes have walked away from the blood on their hands. Possibly the best example of a hero who kills and then gives it up is Captain Marvel, famously the most kid-friendly long-running superhero of all time (if you ignore all the racism in those old comics and, oh boy, was there a lot to ignore). When his adventures were translated to film, Cap took no guff from baddies of any stripe. Despite having powers which made him the world’s mightiest mortal, he was pretty happy to mow down a rampaging group of desert nomads with a machine gun and, later on, fling a gangster off a roof. Holy Moley indeed!