Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Roads to Regrettability : Heroes Behind Bars

The 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.

There's no shortage of superheroes who started out their careers on the wrong side of the track - heck, you don't have to limit yourselves to superheroes to find fictional characters who saw the light and changed ponies midstream, keeping in mind outlaws like Robin Hood and The Saint. 

But in the spandex set, there's a whole generation of superheroes who began by boosting banks and occasionally murdering a couple dudes if the mood struck them. Looking at the roster of the Avengers who populate the cast of the latest movie, keep in mind that all of them except Thor, Iron Man and Captain America started as bank robbers, enemy spies, mutant terrorists and death-machines on a mission. Even the Hulk, it can be fairly said, was at best only ever a really destructive chaotic neutral dude.

This is where he belongs.
Comedic character Ambush Bug - who has been numbered among the memberships of the Doom Patrol and a sort-of Justice League, at different times - began his career, amazingly enough, as a straight-up murderer. Heck, he was a political assassin right from the git-go! Somehow, though, his green bodysuit and dangling orange antennae didn't seem to cut a sufficiently sinister profile, so he was wisely tuned up for comedy.

The Harvey Thrillers line was heavy on baddies turned good at the last moment, with apian-centric Bee-Man starting off as the agent of an evil alien bee empire, while Tiger-Boy originally intended to wipe out all of humanity with his amazing powers. 

But the Golden Age manages to have everyone beat with not one, but TWO superheroes who waged their war on crime from BEHIND BARS. Sporting strikingly similar origins - they both temporarily stood in for pals who were being sent to the big house, and then were trapped there when the pals unfortunately snuffed it without clearing up the confusion - both the cloaked figure 7-11 (named for his prison number, but the convenient all-night junk food market) and the stripe-bedecked Zebra (so named for the prison uniform he actually wore while fighting crime) battled baddies while serving sentences. 

That may be the apex of the form, unless there's a superhero out there who fought crime following his state-sponsored execution.

1 comment:

Bram said...

"Asphalting an officer" might be my favorite shaggy dog joke ever.

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