Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Discuss: Super-Baddie Prisons

Doug:  The Raft, the Vault, Arkham Asylum, Project Pegasus, and others...  What are memorable stories or anecdotes featuring the many places of incarceration used to keep those nasties locked away?


Inkstained Wretch said...

For me the thing about these prison is ... they are ALWAYS having breakouts. Granted, these are super-powered criminals and the writers need the villains for storylines BUT STILL...

I imagine in the comics universe some 60 Minutes-type TV series are always doing exposes or congressional committee are perpetually holding hearings into why these facilities despite their massive, highly-expensive security are not doing the job.

I imagine it would go something like this:

Questioner: "Commissioner Gordon, under your leadership the Joker alone has escaped Arkham Asylum 237 times in the last 8 years. How do you explain this?"

Gordon: "Well, first off, the asylum is not directly under Gotham police control. The state mental health board sets the policies..."

J.A. Morris said...

I'd say Project Pegasus gave us more memorable stories than the rest of them.

I've never been crazy about Arkham. I think it worked better before they decided that every Batman villain (except for Catwoman & Penguin) has done time at Arkham. But I suppose the point of having a mental hospital instead of a supermax prison is that it's easier for Mr. Freeze or Deadshot to escape from there.

Doug said...

Any prospective commenters should feel free to expand the list. Phantom Zone, anyone?

Inkstained -- love it!


Edo Bosnar said...

The Phantom Zone is pretty cool, but mainly because of that excellent mini-series by Gerber from the early '80s.

Otherwise, there's also a much more obscure one from the DC Universe, that only appeared a few times to my knowledge: Superman's Island. It was complex with cells designed to specifically counter whatever power/ability a given Superman villain had, and it floated in the skies above Metropolis, I think. And yes, the baddies found ways to escape from it, as well. There was a pretty entertaining story in Flash #293, in which Flash teams up with Firestorm to get the Atomic Skull, who broke out after Flash unintentionally aided his escape by creating a sonic boom under the complex (?).

I'm with J.A., though: I love Project Pegasus, mainly on the strength of the 6-part storyline in Marvel 2-in-1.

Bruce said...

The Bullseye prison escape from Daredevil #181 is fantastic. As I recall, he knocks a tooth out of his own mouth and spits it in the eye of a guard, whom he quickly overpowers. Before long, he's hijacked a helicopter and is on his way to freedom - until Daredevil puts him in a body cast.

I don't think that was a "super prison" per se, but it was a great prison break-out story.

Arkham is deeply entrenched in the Batman mythos. Far more so than any other prison or detention facility in comics. But the "Bad guy breaks out of Arkham" story has been overdone in recent years. It almost makes Batman look ineffectual, in that he never can keep his villains locked up. With a few exceptions, I'd rather just see the villain getting out on parole after an undetermined period of time.

William said...

I've always loved the idea of super villain prisons. It just makes sense after all.

My favorite story revolving around one of these faciliteis is the classic Project Pegasus saga from Marvel Two-In-One. It's the main reason that I've always had a soft spot for Bill Foster (aka, Black Goliath, aka Giant-Man). It was a six part story in which the art chores were handled by John Byrne and then George Perez. It don't get much better than that.

Speaking of Bill Foster, that brings me to the WORST story ever involving a super prison. The terrible debacle that was Marvel's "Civil War". (The series in which Bill Foster was needlessly killed by a Thor clone). And even worse, it saw Reed Richards design and build a super prison in the Negative Zone, but not just to house bad guys, it was also used to imprison anyone (including his fellow super heroes) who violated the government's super powers registration act. Talk about out of character. Wasn't Reed Richards the renegade scientist who defied the government and illegally launched a rocket into space with his untrained girlfriend and her kid brother as members of the crew? But now he's portrayed as a government stooge who would screw over his friends and allies and imprison them for life in another dimension simply for standing up against an unjust law. I don't think so.

But, let's end this on a positive note. Another really excellent use of the super prison concept was in the recent "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" show. It had the Avengers uniting to combat a simultaneous "Breakout" at The Vault, The Cube, The Big House, and The Raft. I thought it was a really cool way to introduce all the main characters and all the classic villains as well. Great stuff.

mr. oyola said...

I'm glad brought up the Negative Zone Gitmo so I didn't have to. . .

I many others, it seems, I like Project Pegasus, b/c it was more than merely a prison - there was something creepy about their experiments and the Orwellian way they'd try to get people to stay there against their will even if they weren't criminals (like Dazzler).

Not Bronze Age: But there is a great story in the first Dan Slott run of She-Hulk with tiny super-villains shrunk down with Pym particles escaping from the Big House.

J.A. Morris said...

The prison Bruce mentioned (in re Bullseye's escape) was Ryker's Island.
Ryker's held both the superpowered and the "normal" criminals, with special facilities for the superpowered.
As a kid I always thought it was cool that it had the same name as the real Rikers Island jail in the East River. It was another thing that made the Marvel Universe a little more "realistic" than DC.

Not from the Bronze Age, but I've always thought the graphic novel titled 'Death Trap:The Vault' was pretty good. Besides the prison break & fight scenes, I thought it was interesting to see heroes testifying in a supervillain's trial, something rarely depicted in comic books.

mr. oyola said...

Jeez. I need to proofread my comments before I submit them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with J.A. and Edo, the Project Pegasus stories from Marvel Two-in-One were cool. I also liked the story in Avengers #236-237 (guest-starring Spidey) where they prevented a breakout from the Project by Moonstone and her cronies.

I also liked Captain America #340 (an Armor Wars x-over) where Iron Man caused a breakout at the Vault and Cap and his allies (Nomad, D-Man, Falcon) had to stop the escapees; D-Man got tossed off a mountain by Titania and Cap beat the hell out of Mr. Hyde single-handed!

Mike W.

Garett said...

I thought the Phantom Zone in the Superman movies was neatly done, with the stylized plane spinning through space.

Edo, I picked up Flash 293 recently for 50 cents--good deal with the Flash/Firestorm teamup drawn by Perez, and the main Flash feature well-drawn by Don Heck. Heck draws Flash's motion very well, plus some nice elephants...I think the problem with his art is a kind of nervous quality, herky-jerky rather than say, the solid and pleasing Perez. Atomic Skull has a cool look, with skull face, yellow and green outfit, and jet packs.

William, the whole deal with the superpowers registration act didn't sit well with me. Felt oppressive to read, rather than independent and exuberant, like comics and heroes should be.

Garett said...

Wasn't Solomon Grundy imprisoned on the moon, by Green Lantern?

Anthony said...

Kyln, Crossmore and the Cage from Marvel. Salvation and Takron Galtos from DC. Monster Land. I also like Salusa Secundus from Dune. Though not really s super baddie prison those that survive become Sardaukar.

Anonymous said...

To me, Arkham Asylum is always on the top of the list when it comes to housing super baddies. How many times has the Joker escaped from there?

I can also remember Seagate prison where Luke Cage got his powers, and over at DC the Legion of Super Heroes had Takron-Galtos to house their super baddies.

- Mike 'I'm too pretty to go to jail' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Monster Land! From the Godzilla-verse? I loved Monster Land from Destroy All Monsters.Hard to believe they could really keep all those kaiju trapped there.Well, actually, I guess they couldn't.

William, the whole Registration Act and 42 prison were pretty awful.I felt a lot of heroes were acting out of character just to play out Marvel's version of Guantanamo Bay and the debate over security vs liberty. It was all ugly and certainly felt nothing like the characters I'd grown up with.

Fred W. Hill said...

Y'know, Karen, that's one of the main reasons I'm reluctant to get back into reading any of my old favorite ongoing series -- seems most of the characters have changed to such a degree that they are no longer recognizable except that most of them mostly look the same. And it seems few of the changes can really be attributed to realistic growth, but rather to the arbitrary whims of the latest creators and/or their editors. Certainly, the Peter Parker, Reed Richards, Tony Stark or Hank McCoy, etc., etc., of 1974 were not the same as they were in 1963, but then those of us who had been reading about them in both the then current stories as well as the reprints could see the gradual changes and occasional dramatic changes (as when the Beast went furry!).
BTW, I'll join the chorus in praising the Pegasus Project tales in MTIO -- great story & great art.

Karen said...

Fred, it just seems to me like the needle has tilted too far into the 'realism' range, and is too far away from the 'fun' range. If I want to see people acting like jerks and ruining each others' lives, I only have to look around me. I don't need to see that reflected in my entertainment -certainly not by heroes!

I have my doubts that 7-12 year olds are reading these comics, but if they are, Lord only knows what sort of moral lessons they would be learning. What constitutes a hero nowadays anyway? Whoever can kick the most ass?

david_b said...

Karen, agreed and agreed. I wouldn't be reading today's comics either.

I don't trust today's comics, basically. I don't trust the motives behind the writers to reflect how I admire 'true heroes', as I did growing up.

Having said that, I occasionally resist getting on my high-horse about 'too-much-realism-today' bandwagon, yet on another column discuss the realism of Gwen Stacey being killed or the marriage of Reed-Sue breaking up back in the '70s.

I totally understand that there are perhaps 'layers' to the amount of realism we enjoyed as kids versus today's realism. I see it as more 'guiding moral principles' as the issue here, which I accept today's creativity perhaps lacks.

Again, a totally subjective take on the subject. :)

William said...

I have to add my agreement to the previous comments concerning the current state of comics. I've been thinking for years that I'm glad I'm not a kid today, because I sure wouldn't be into reading comics. (And my love of comics is one of my favorite memories of childhood). Which I guess is why I frequent a website dedicated to my favorite era of the medium. :)

I also agree with Fred that a lot of the problem is that the companies basically let the inmates run the asylum. Too many creators are given free reign to do whatever they want with classic and iconic characters. (Brian Bendis I'm looking at you). I'm all for creative freedom, but not to the point that it totally ruins a character that has been around for 40 plus years. In seems they forcefully insert too many of their personal preferences and beliefs into the books they are writing, and as a result it has changed (usually for the worse) many characters that I used to love.

And in my opinion the art is just as bad as the writing. It's all over-rendered and darkly colored, so it's not even fun to look at anymore. It really seems that there has been a concentrated effort to suck all the fun out of comic books over the past 10 years or so. For example Spider-Man is pretty much unrecognizable from the friendly neighborhood, everyman superhero he used to be.

On a more positive note, there is one exception to the dark, grim and gritty formula that is so prevalent in comics today. That is Mark Waid's Daredevil, with art by Chris Samnee. This is one book that is definitely inspired by the comics of old. It's much lighter in tone, and the art actually looks like a comic book. And to prove that people still want comics like this, it is one of Marvel's best sellers and both writer and artist were nominated for Eisner awards. It is the only modern comic that I read regularly. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think. I personally picked up all the trades (which are up to Vol. 4). I'm sure it won't last, but I'm enjoying it while it's around.

Bruce said...

I agree with the comments about today's comics. There are a few series that I've liked, but by and large, I don't buy or read what Marvel and DC are publishing today.

One big problem for me is that to be "realistic" or "edgy," heroes no longer act, well, heroic. Superheroes can have flaws and shortcomings, but at the end of the day, they should be decent, honorable characters. That's why we root for them. But too many of today's comics are just so depressing and the supposed "good guys" aren't likable.

The Civil War and Identity Crisis series spring immediately to mind as examples. But there are plenty of others.

Thankfully, there is no shortage of Bronze Age reprints to keep me entertained!

Related Posts with Thumbnails