Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Legion of Doom, or Legion of Fools?

Karen: We're talking super-villain teams today. Talk about your favorites, your not-so-favorites, and discuss this question: can a group of selfish, nasty bad guys ever really work effectively towards a common goal?


William said...

"discuss this question: can a group of selfish, nasty bad guys ever really work effectively towards a common goal?"

I think so. There are plenty of real world examples with names like the Mafia, the Nazi Party, Al Qaeda, and the James Gang, just to name a few.

david_b said...

But.. "NO ONE EVER EXPECTS the Spanish Inquisition..!!!"

(Sorry, just felt Pythonish for a moment..)

It doesn't work well when your appointed leader's an idiot, like the Wizard in the Frightful Four.

Others here can profess more knowledge on this, but I'm always taken back by the buddyship in the Flash's Rogue Gallery especially in the final Infantino issues of the early '80s, very tongue-in-cheek.

It literally becomes a chummy 'treehouse club' for brainstorming these quaint little nefarious schemes against Barry Allen or some jewelry heist, afterwhich they all probably order out for pizza and catch the Lakers game on cable.

At least AIM and Hydra personnel have pensions and 401k's...

Edo Bosnar said...

The James Gang?! I'm not saying you have to like Joe Walsh, but calling them 'nasty bad guys' is going too far, William! ... ;)

As for the question at hand, the Masters of Evil in the Under Siege story were pretty damn effective. Otherwise, though, a lot of those super-villain team-ups, from the Sinister Six onward, seemed pretty inept.

Anonymous said...

William, I find it interesting that you led off this discussion with real life examples of effective evil. Yet when I think of the comic versions, I always think of teams beset with in-fighting, petty squabbles, greed, ego clashes, etc.

But I love all those goofy teams like Zodiac. Still, if I never see the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime again it will be too soon.


Doug said...

Daredevil fought the Emissaries of Evil... led by Electro. Nuff said.


david_b said...

THAT'S who I forgot to mention, I knew it..

Yes, many thanks to Doug for his DD Annual 1 review..:


The LAMEST collection of villains, but it's very hard to beat Colan's spectacular DD art here.

Under a lesser artist, it would have been laughed off the spinner rack ("Shades of Dozer, Batman"..). Leap-Frog..? Stilt-Man..? Matador..? Humanbelly pretty much spells it all out in the Comments section.

Despite all that, I consider it an early pinnacle of Gene's work, pure majestic beauty.

Doug said...

Tom - good call on the Circus of Crime. Lamest Thor villains ever.

I really do enjoy the different iterations of the Masters of Evil. They're usually a bunch of clowns, but Edo's right -- that bunch in Under Siege really created some tension.

"Salem's Seven" from the Fantastic Four?


William said...

I always found it funny that the bad guys frequently used the word "Evil" when naming themselves, such as The Masters of Evil, The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and The Emissaries of Evil. First of all, I don't think anyone really considers themselves to be evil. Plus, I think it would make it extra difficult for an attorney to defend one of these villains in court.

ATTY: "Your honor, I argue that my client, Carl Creel, did not know that the team he was joining was in fact a criminal organization."

JUDGE: "They're called The Masters of EVIL, what did he think they were-- the boy scouts? Twenty-Five to life without parole."

Anonymous said...

William, you are rocking this post. Love it. Back to your initial comment, hey Teacher Doug, do you think we might have had a chance to head off the Holocaust had it been called Hitler's "Evil" Nazi Party?


david_b said...

Mmmmm, but somehow 'Masters for a Better Tomorrow', just.. well, just doesn't sell as many comics, William.

J.A. Morris said...

I have to admit that when I first started reading comics I sort of enjoyed the Circus of Crime. I was a young boy, I guess I appreciated them because I'd been to circuses. Pitting them against Daredevil or Spider-Man was bad enough, but the Circus should never have been featured as Avengers villains.

Anonymous said...

Does Red Ghost and his Super-Apes count as a team?

They're my favorites, but I love comic book apes!

Also love the original Frightful Four.

"Can a group of selfish, nasty bad guys ever really work effectively towards a common goal?" - yes. esp. those that don't think of themselves as "selfish, nasty and bad."

Doug said...

Tom --

I went to a very interesting exhibit at the Newseum when I was in Washington in July. It was a Holocaust documentary based on the telling of the story in the New York Times as it happened. Rather than give a long explanation, I'd encourage anyone interested to read the story I've linked to:


So claiming to be "evil" or not, had many of the complexities of the time (and of the history before) not been different, then I'd unfortunately have to wonder if the outcomes would have indeed been the same.


Teresa said...

The "Injustice League" sounds clunky compared to the Justice League.

"Masters of Evil?" That actually sounds better than "The Invaders."

Legion of Super Villains is an odd group.
Many of the opposite numbers to the LSH had the same powers but altogether different origins.

Some had the same name structure and costume appearance but different powers. e.g.

LSH Cosmic Boy - Magnetic Powers

LSV Cosmic King - Transmutation. His name and costume was a copy of CB. But technically his power suite was the opposite of Element Lad.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why there arent more LSH fans...

Anonymous said...

Doug, thanks for that link. Very interesting.

I think it also points out one reason why we all love comics - in reality, defining evil in the world, and then deciding how to confront and defeat it, is not always so simple. In the comics, it's usually way easier to tell the good guys from the bad guys.

So to answer Karen's question: can a group of selfish, nasty bad guys ever really work effectively towards a common goal? I think the answer is "yes" but it's way easier to muster support for stopping them when they out themselves by calling themselves "Master of Evil" or "the Legion of Doom". Having super-powered good guys around helps too.


Fred W. Hill said...

I would rather hope that a group of selfish, nasty bad guys can never work effectively towards a common goal, although in real life such reprehensible people can win & maintain control for far too long. Of course, in our fiction, most of us might not have gotten hooked on superhero funnybooks if Zemo the Elder and his cohorts had wiped out the Avengers leaving us with Masters of Evil comics, or imagine seeing The Frightful Four, The World's Evilest Comics Magazine! Of course, the Brotherhood of Dada from Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol was entertaining enough (at least to me). Heck, even the evil FF made for some fun reading in both the Lee/Kirby and Thomas/Buscema & Perez eras. Their tryouts for a 4th member were highly amusing.

Rip Jagger said...

The Masters of Evil remain my favorite super-baddie team. The variations in membership over the years really make for some tasty stories. And it goes to the very point that no team of baddies can last long really.

The Masters are villains with agendas who are engaged by a mastermind (Baron Zemo or Egghead) and then aimed at the Avengers. There have been some great stories out of this conceit, a great way to slam a superhero group.

The Thunderbolts in their original incarnation of the Masters in disguise remains one of the best high concepts in the history of the medium, an exceedingly clever ploy and one which generated a wildly entertaining comic book. It's hard to believe we are way more than a decade away from those great stories.

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