Friday, August 21, 2015

Discuss: Do-badder Super Groups



Anonymous said...

One of the few, 'classic moments' in comics outside of the Silver and Bronze Ages was the last page reveal of Thunderbolts #1.
A touch of magic by Busiek!

Edo Bosnar said...

I really like the Hellfire Club, but I never thought of them as a super group, since most of what they did in the stories I read involved a lot behind-the-scenes scheming with only sparing use of their super-powers in open confrontations.
The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants put together by Mystique is quite an effective group of baddies, and another personal favorite is the Masters of Evil assembled by Baron Zemo Jr. in the "Under Siege" story in Avengers - those guys did some serious damage...
On the DC side, I think my favorite is the Fatal Five. Together and individually they're just a wonderfully nasty bunch, and they've always been formidable opponents for the Legion.
Honorable mention goes to Red Ghost and his super-powered apes, because, well, super-powered apes!

Humanbelly said...

What's the closest analog to them in the real world, do you suppose? Or at least in western society/culture? Motorcycle gangs, perhaps?

Oh, I've always loved these assemblages of infamy, no question, but even as a kid it struck me that it would take an almost impossibly shallow, non-self-aware individual to attach to a group that self-identifies as "The Lethal Legion" or "Masters of Evil" or "Secret Society of Super-Villains (hoo-boy)". While there's no lack of base thuggery in those ranks, the considerable majority are still educated individuals, many of them having been successful to a degree in their previous life, and the majority are definitely active, alpha-type personalities. The inescapable silliness of having an "Evil League of Evil"-type team name (or gang name) just doesn't sync up with those personalities at all, y'know? I mean, these folks generally aren't nihilists or satan-worshipers--- they're just selfish sociopaths who put their own immediate comfort and concerns above anything or anyone else's (for the most part). Y'know what I mean?

Heh-- this should be a fun discussion, hope I can get back!


Ewan said...

Bring on the Bad Guys!

I love every one of these groups pictured (especially the Legion ones), and those are often the stories I looked forward to and enjoyed the most.

One other villain group I was always fascinated with was the Crime Syndicate of America, loved the Earth 3 concept (it was like Star Trek "Mirror, Mirror" for DC!).

Ozone said...

I really enjoyed Marv Wolfman's Fearsome Five in the New Teen Titans. Dr. Light, Psimon, Mammoth, Gizmo, among others. Not particularly impressive but certainly entertaining. The new Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants featured in Days of Future Past was quite memorable. I loved the elemental tandem of Avalanche and Pyro, and Mystique made for a nasty leader with effective powers. Destiny, the elderly pre-cog, was an original choice for membership in a group of super-villains.

I recently re-read Joss Wedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men run. The third arc "Torn" featured a re-vamped Hellfire Club that was actually pretty damned chilling. Its line-up consisted mostly of psychics and they really did a number on the X-Men, and in their own home to boot. It's a compelling "Enemy Within" attack, one of the better ones I've ever come across. Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw were the carry-overs from the original group. Well worth checking out if you haven't already. Wait 'til you see what they do to Wolverine! -JJ

Colin Bray said...

The Avengers are my passion so it has to be The Masters of Evil.

Ultron's Masters of Evil included two of my favourite villains - Klaw and Radioactive Man - while Egghead's team starred in a personally important comic, Avengers #229, which was my return to comics as a 12-year old after a two-year gap.

And of course 'Under Siege' was the last truly great story of the first Avengers series.

DC-wise I always enjoy seeing the hokey and visually great Royal Flush Gang.

Colin Jones said...

The Frightful Four is the one that sprang to mind (before seeing the pictures) - was it ever explained how Medusa went from being evil to good ? I'd also choose the Squadron Sinister for nothing other than their cool name - for some reason Squadron Sinister sounds a lot better than Sinister Squadron. And picking up on what HB said, evil people don't consider themselves to be evil no matter how appalling their actions - "Evil Nazi Party" ? "Evil Al Qaeda" ? "Evil ISIS" ? Magneto would never have called his team Brotherhood Of Evil Mutants - he was the saviour of mutantkind as far as he was concerned and definitely not evil, it was oppressive Humanity that was evil.

Redartz said...

HB- your comments on the nomenclature of evil super-groups brought a smile to my face! If you were to ask many members of such organizations, they would probably say that they weren't 'villians', per se; merely misunderstood iconoclasts. In that spirit, the Squadron Sinister comes to mind; later to become the Squadron Supreme. That classic arc in Avengers with the Squadron, Serpent Crown and Roxxon makes a fine example of 'one man's villain is another man's hero'...

As for favorite groups, how about the Sinister Six? Unlike some evil supergroups comprised of second-tier characters, the Sinister Six featured the cream of Spidey's rogues' gallery. Of course, Otto Octavious generally used the group to further his own agenda, but else would one expect?

Doug said...

Colin B -- That's a great point concerning the visuals of a group. Thus far all of those named had a striking combination of members. The Fatal Five in particular (in my opinion) had it all with the weirdness of Tharok combined with the Empress and that crazy eye and of course Validus. Shoot -- just the three of them would have carried the day in the "looks" dept.

Colin J. -- excellent points on the names, and something I've thought about in the past. Doesn't really make sense, does it? But I agree with HB in that the more over-the-top, the better four-color fun we're about to have.


Anonymous said...

What about the Suicide Squad? That technically fits the bill, dunnit? :-) The John Ostrander version still ranks up there, IMHO (altho that debuted just after the Bronze age; close enough, yeah?).

Martinex1 said...

I like to think that these evil super groups have a sense of irony in their names. I compare them to rock bands or entertainers that lean toward dark and edgy or sarcastic. I have to assume they are just kind of poking a finger at everybody. I think of bands like The Stranglers, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, etc. I know in the Silver Age that is probably not what was intended; the naming was just over clarifying. But, I like to think these characters are giving a big “ &#*@ You!” to the heroes and populace.

I mean, heck, I would even say “The Avengers” is a little creepy and over the top and aggressive and frightening.

But form a “villain’s” perspective if you are going to call yourself Defenders, or Champions, or Fantastic Four, expect some counter balance from our groups! To me it is like the difference between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Now the Stones didn’t have the moniker, but their attitude was there. They should have been the “Beat You Uples”

As far as groups I liked to see: Masters of Evil and Squadron Sinister as already mentioned, but I also had a liking for the Lethal Legion and Zodiac.

William said...

I've always been partial to the Wrecking Crew! The first time I ever saw them was in Iron Fist #11-12, and I've been a fan ever since. I even hunted down their first appearance in Defenders #17-19. They are just the ultimate in raw power. Each member could stand his ground against Thor on his own, so imagine how tough they are together? I've always loved the bad guys who can give the Avengers, Defenders, or the FF a true run for their money. It makes for an exciting story when the heroes are the underdogs.

Anonymous said...

Gimme Zodiac! When I read Avengers 120-122 I didn't know what their Zodiac related powers were or how they could possibly challenge the Avengers but there were 12 of 'em and they looked cool.

Martinex: Love the "Beat You Uples"!


Humanbelly said...

Oh, the Wrecking Crew is a PERFECT example of what I think a "real" team of super-villains would present as. Basically a gang of might-makes-right crooks whose ambitions are really no higher than keeping themselves in comfortable bling; who get a kick out of their themed gimmick. Except for. . . Thunderball, right? With a doctorate in physics, how could he possibly even hang around in the same room with the other three dimwits? Let alone take orders from the Wrecker?

Another group that rings a little more true for me (which is EXTREMELY ironic, given their schtick) is the Crazy Gang from Excalibur. They're just a bunch of rather hedonistic crooks, each with a very particular skill set. Not bent on Evil or Vengeance or Power at all-- just the acquisition of loot, and the occasional dust-up w/ Capt.Britain. . .

Boy Doug-- that image of the Hellfire Club? Given the level of vanity that seems to be a prerequisite for membership, I find it impossible to believe that those chunkier fellows would EVER consent to putting on tights like that! There are ways to clothe even an obese frame that can still have visual and aesthetic appeal. Definitely not the case with that group! (And MAN what an appallingly sexist double-standard they operate by, eh?)


J.A. Morris said...

I'm with HB, "evil" people don't run around saying "We're EEEVILLLLE!." It's silly. W

I've always been partial to the Frightful Four, the Wizard doesn't run around calling himself diabolical, he just believes he's the person who is best suited to rule the world.

Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry for the threadjack with something that is quite the opposite of do-badders, but I saw these earlier today and had to share them: the new Supergirl Melissa Benoist and, I'm assuming, her new sidekicks showing DC how to do this super-heroing stuff right.

Doug said...

Edo, thanks very much for sharing those. The spirit of those two photos is how I'd imagine a "real" Supergirl. However, the real Supergirl would have on a royal blue costume, not that dark, muddy, break-Zod's-neck blue color.


Colin Bray said...

If we are talking striking visuals I give you...The Headmen.

Doug said...

Oh, and by the way -- I saw on Twitter yesterday that Zod will be in Batman v Superman. Not sure if in a flashback or if he's alive. I wonder if DC is looking to make amends to all of us who were put off by Superman's last action in Man of Steel.


Edo Bosnar said...

Colin, good call on the Headmen. Truly an excellent group of villains.

Doug, I've liked so much of what I've seen surrounding the new Supergirl series, i.e., the teasers and previews, and Benoist's various publicity activities like this one, that I'm willing to forgive the muted colors (besides, outside of the slightly too-high boots, the costume's general design is otherwise spot on).

Doug said...

I'm tossing this link into today's post, as I figured not too many people would see it if I put it where it belongs -- back in Martinex's photo covers $1 Challenge. Marvel will be doing cosplay variant covers soon. I think after seeing these, no matter how creative they are, we can all be thankful for the tweaks, liberties, and CGI of the Marvel Studios films. Some of these are kinda dopey looking.


Humanbelly said...

Uh-oh-- gettin' all fragmentified, here--!

Love the Supergirl photos, edo. But man, her basically traditional (other than muted colors) outfit simply does work for me at all. I think. . . I think it's the skirt. I don't know-- it somehow reads to me as being just this side of Sid & Marty Kroft. . .

We did catch the Dawn of Justice (*yawn*) trailer, and there was a brief shot of what appeared to be a recovery of Zod's severed head (??). HBSon said that he got the impression that dealing with Superman's swath of destruction in that fight may have had something to do with what appeared to be the direction of the film. (That all went right past me, though-).

The Headmen, Colin! That's another great call! Gerber set a very, very unique tone with them, as the three guys came across as middle-aged lab-workers more than supervillains. Even with loopy Ruby Thursday tossed in, it seemed modeled more after a volatile garage band than anything else. Loved the fact that they all called each other by their first names. . . which of COURSE would be the case in real life. . .


Colin Bray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I always liked supervillain groups that were actually effective...that beat (or had a good chance to beat) the good guys. I loved the Masters of Evil when they took over Avengers Mansion, early Frightful Four almost beating the FF, the Fearsome Five did well against the New Teen Titans, and the LSV when they attacked Orando.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...supervillain groups that were actually effective, eh Mike...? I guess that explains no love for the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. Or what about the Enforcers? Ox, Montana and Fancy Dan - now those are names sure to strike fear into the heart of any hero.


Doug said...

Jack Kirby often came up with some real goofs in Thor and the Fantastic Four -- I can't think of any names off the top of my head, but the group I can "see" would rival the Enforcers. Runs in my mind I'm thinking of FF Annual #5 (is that the Psycho-Man issue?).


Martinex1 said...

If we consider visuals, I always liked the U Foes. They have a name I still don’t truly understand and were definitely a knock off of the FF, but I liked how they looked… particularly Vector and X Ray.

A team I hated was that Western team the West Coast Avengers fought….the one with the Cactus guy. If you have not seen him, check out the cover of WCA# 17. Seriously second rate and ridiculous.

Great call on the Wrecking Crew. One thing I liked about them is that they stayed together consistently; they were a team not a revolving door of mix and match criminals.

Colin Bray said...

Oh yes, the U-Foes. The battle they fought with The Hulk at the interdimensional crossroads during Mantlo's run was a great issue.

Colin Bray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Humanbelly said...

Ah, to answer your question, MX1, the "offical" reason they were called the U-Foes is because their leader (Vector-- the Reed Richards slot) was named Simon Utrecht. Beyond that, though, yes the name is pretty darned stupid 'cause the team has NOTHING to do with UFO's as we conventionally think of them. This was at a rather weak point in the Hulk's run, IMO-- either late Roger Stern or early Bill Mantlo, possibly?-- and this team's initial appearance was mediocre at best (the forced parallels to a "dark" FF were beyond cumbersome), and yet it still was a relative high point for that time.

Hunh-- they totally should have joined forces with one of the earlier incarnations of the Frightful Four and taken on the FF! The friction between the Wizard and Utrecht alone would have been scrumptious!


Anonymous said...

My faves have always been The Sinister Six, the Squadron Supreme and of course Magneto's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!

- Mike 'hmm wonder what the union dues are in the Brotherhood' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hate to get all geek purist on everybody, but the Squadron Supreme, despite a few knockdown drag-outs with the Avengers, are NOT villains. And they're not the same thing as the Squadron Sinister. They're a group of (mostly not-too-bright) heroes on an alternate Earth. The Squadron Sinister consists of villains from the standard Marvel U Earth - what's it called? 666? ;) - to which Nighthawk belonged before he went straight and became a Defender. So basically, the Squadron Sinister is the Crime Syndicate to the Squadron Supreme's JLA.

Humanbelly said...

Right-- very good clarification, edo. The Alternate-Dimension version are the good guys in this case, and the "Home" Dimension guys are a bunch o' villains. Boy, that may have been the first snowflake 'way back when (Avengers #71?) that got the avalanche of too-many-alternate-universes rolling. It was just a long time in coming. . .


Redartz said...

Thanks for straightening that out, Edo! It's been a long time since I read those stories, and too many pages have turned since for me to recall the actual difference between "Supreme" and "Sinister"...

William said...

The trial of Whirlwind.

"Mr. Cannon, or would you prefer to be called Whirlwind, are you trying to convince this court that you didn't know that what you were doing was illegal at the time these alleged crimes took place?"

"Yes, that's what I'm saying. I thought me and my friends were just going to go hang out and have a few laughs."

"Sir, you joined a group called 'The Masters of EVIL', and you're trying to say you didn't know they were… well… EVIL?"

"Yeah, I thought is was just a joke. I'm mean who would call THEMSELVES evil, right?"

"The prosecution rests, your honor."

Martinex1 said...

(Ha William ..great courtroom scene)

"I'd like to call Captain America to the stand for the Defense".

"Captain America, sir, I'd like to know if you consider these people to be your compatriots, associates, and heroes".

"Of course. I am under oath after all. Not that I wouldn't always answer truthfully. The U.S. Justice system was designed..."

"Just answer the question... did you work closely and honor the heroism of The Beast?"

"Yes, I see where you are going here but it wasn't THE beast if you know what ...."

"Just answer the question.... Dr. Strange?"

"Yes, but you know ..."

"Your honor, if the witness could just answer the question. Sir, did you ever hang out with Hellcat or... Son of Satan?


"Just a few more questions...favorite musical band since coming off ice?"

"Bad Company (d'oh)"

"Favorite food?"

"Deviled eggs... But I really like angel hair pasta."

"But for the record deviled eggs ARE your favorites?"

"Uh, yes."

"One last question, you are a motorcycle enthusiast, who inspired you to ride like you do?

"Why Evel Knievel of course... He inspired so many youths of the 70s ... And you have to love his costume color scheme..."

"EVEL ...pronounced evil... Your honor the defense rests"

Cap throws down his shield in disgust. "This is a travesty. I quit. What's in a name anyway? I'm going back to being Nomad... And no it doesn't mean I'm NOT MAD"!"

Anonymous said...

Take a bow, William & Martinex! Funny stuff.

I'm a fan of the "Under Siege" Masters of Evil. It just makes so much sense to assemble a super-villain army and overwhelm the Avengers with sheer numbers. None of this 1:1 evil-opposite junk!

I like that the Hellfire club aspired to rule the world from behind the scenes and still dressed like 19th Century Cosplayers.

My favorite super-villain team was Suicide Squad. John Ostrander & co. created a title in which the main characters' behavior was unpredictable, especially Amanda Waller's. Even the super-heroes who supervised the team were damaged; Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, snd Rick Flag went through seriously dark times. None of the post-Ostrander versions worked as well, although Gail Simone's Secret Six and Jeff Parker's Thunderbolts made for good spiritual successors.

- Mike Loughlin

Karen said...

Regarding the possibility of Zod being in the Batman vs Superman film, I have heard that Doomsday (or some version of that character) will be the major threat, and I could imagine that Luthor might use Zod's DNA to create him. I think a similar origin was used in the cartoons...or maybe I'm getting confused.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment that they always liked groups that were effective - and then specifically mentioning the Ringmaster and Circus of Crime - you should read Hulk #2 (or if you can, the golden age appearance in Captain America).

In the first appearance in the Hulk, the Ringmaster is going around hypnotizing whole towns; cleaning them out; and then leaving the population as zombies. It's actually pretty scary. The next time they show up, Amazing Spider-Man 16, they're played more for laughs, but they do hypnotize Spider-Man and send him after Daredevil, and they're fairly effective. However, by the next time they show up (Amazing 22), they (and particularly the Ringmaster) is a joke.

This is kind of a hallmark of Marvel, and one of the drawbacks of Stan Lee's lighter touch. There are a bunch of characters who start of as dangerous and/or scary, and then through repeated appearances, the get less and less scary/dangerous - and a lot of then end up as jokes. So much so that when you go back and read the early appearances, it's somewhat shocking.

Bringing this back to bad guy groups, I would say that would really apply to the Frightful Four. If you look at their first few appearances (FF 36, 38, 41-43), they totally take out the FF. In FF 38, the completely beat the FF, ending in them actually nuking the FF and all but killing him.

Going down the road, they get less and less effective - and in later appearances they become kind of a joke (see FF 177-178).

I think part of it comes down to the later writers come at it from the outside - if these guys have lost so many times, they can't be that dangerous, and then they write the villains to reflect that view.

BobC said...

One of the first comics I ever bought as a kid, which I think still stands as one of the greatest Marvel issues off all time, was Fantastic Four #129. This issue was when the Frightful Four attacked Ben Grimm when he was alone, and Medusa came to the rescue. Great art, great writing, and for me it was exciting seeing Medusa in action which at the time wasn't exactly commonplace. I really liked the Frightful Four. The Masters of Evil too.

Doug said...

Hey, everyone -- hope the weekend was a good one!

We actually have a reading list for you! It's been awhile! For tomorrow, please check out Avengers #158 (at least the first half of the book) and for Tuesday see if you can scare up DC Comics Presents #26. That will help you come along for this week's ride.

See you Monday morning --

Doug (and Karen, too!)

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