THE LEGION OF REGRETTABLE SUPERVILLAINS
by Jon Morris
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
For every superhero in the comics, there must be multiple super villains for them to fight. Batman vs. The Joker in every single issue would get old, especially if Batman never faced any other villain. That means that comic book writers must consistently create new villains. Unfortunately, they can’t all be classics of the form. For every Joker or Red Skull or Doctor Octopus out there, they must be several villains whose creation seemed like a good idea at the time, even if that time was 3AM before a deadline. Not all of them were good ideas in the bright light of day. In The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains, Jon Morris has looked through the history of comics dating back to 1938 and presented fifty of the worst concepts for supervillains to grace their colorful pages.
Each of the villains are presented in a single page or two, including a sidebar that explains who they fought, when and where they debuted, and who created them. They are also illustrated not only with a picture of the villain, but often with the recreation of an entire page (or more) of the adventure the inflicted them upon the world. Morris’s descriptions generally relate the scope of their initial (and often only) adventure and gives a little background about the world they appeared in.
Many of the characters described within the book are minor villains from defunct companies. The Seaweed Queen fought against Kinks Mason (Mason was there hero) in a book published by Fiction House in 1944. Neither the characters nor the publisher are known names in the twenty-first century. In other cases, the characters described, or at least the heroes who fought them, have been given a new life by modern publishers. Uncle Sam, Ibis the Invincible, and Mary Marvel (all heroes) have been used by DC Comics after their original publishers went bankrupt. The villains they fought: The Horrible Hand, King Killer, or Mr. Night, haven’t been as lucky.
To be fair, many of the great villains sound regrettable when you boil them down to a single page, as Morris has done. In Spider-Man 2, J. Jonah Jameson points out the ludicrousness of the villain by saying “Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. Four mechanical arms welded right onto his body. What are the odds?” However, it is clear that even from the strangest idea, a great villain (or hero) can be created as various authors expand on the original concept.
Morris points out the villain Brother (who fought Twilight) in 1943. The secret behind Brother is that he is an intelligent ape, which certainly does sound like a strange conceit for a super villain, however, in 1959, the idea of an intelligent ape supervillain would become one of The Flash’s greatest villains with the introduction of Gorilla Grodd. Although Morris doesn't mention Grodd in the book, he does acknowledge the long pedigree of sinister simians, as he calls them, by including a two-page spread with short descriptionsof sentient ape criminals who fought Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and others, in addition to the various apes described in the regular sections of the book.
. The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains is a fun, if cursory, look at one lesser aspect of comic books (and a companion to Morris's earlier volume The Legion of Regrettable Superheroes. Morris doesn't attempt to explain how these villains came into being or why some silly ideas are more successful than others. This book is about looking at often forgotten aspects of pop culture. It is also only a part of a longer work which Morris will publish next year, and offers a tantalizing look at what is yet to come.
***NOTE*** This is a review of the edition issued by Loot Crate. An expanded edition will be published by Quirk Books in March 2017
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