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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sleeper unit

24 October 2005 08:43 EDT Posted by Highlander

I was going through my latest Big Box o' Comics from Steve Tice this weekend and I noticed that there is, apparently, a new sheriff in town... or, rather, there's a new meme running through superhero comics in general, anyway...

Entirely adversary-referential opponent groups are now 'terrorist cells' or 'terrorist organizations'.

This is excellent. HYDRA is no longer 'that pack of weenies with green Hefty bags over their heads who live only to make Nick Fury's life miserable'. Now, they are an international terrorist organization. And the Wildebeeste Society isn't just 'a bunch of pathetic hosers implementing really retarded ambushes on the New Teen Titans that would never work in a million years if Marv Wolfman didn't mandate it', oh no. Now they are a 'terrorist cell'. Whew. Well, THAT's a relief.

I don't object to someone trying to come up with some kind of rationale for, you know, groups of bad guys whose only purpose for existence is to fight specific good guys. Far, far too many of these groups came into being in Marvel's Silver Age as thoughtless writers and unthinking editors just went creatively berserk, tossing out whackier and whackier ideas for who the Avengers or the FF could fight this week. (And it should be noted that while Marvel was the company that really went overboard with these entirely other-referential villain groupings, DC blazed the trail with the Superman Revenge Squad, a bunch of interstellar losers who had nothing better to do with their time than come up with truly half assed strategems to aggravate Superman.)

Somewhere in the late 60s, many writers seem to have lost sight of the idea that supervillains really should have some kind of agenda that is entirely separate from 'let's go get the superheroes', and for much of the Silver Age, the various battles between heroes and villains at both comics universes became largely incestuous, as Lex Luthor and Dr. Doom stopped creating intricate, labrynthian schemes to take over the world, and instead started coming up with more and more complex maneuvers meant to avenge themselves on whoever their arch enemy was.

The first time I saw HYDRA referred to as 'an international terrorist organization', I was more or less pleased. I think it was Roger Stern who first came up with that appellation, in an issue of MARVEL UNIVERSE, and it made me realize (as the best writing often does) that I'd never really pondered before exactly why HYDRA exists. The 'international terrorist organization' tag made things seem much more sensible, and I liked that. (In point of fact, HYDRA isn't an 'international terrorist organization', they are, well, a generic thug group with no real agenda of their own who only exist to get beat up on by various superheroes, generally in fill in issues by writers too lazy to come up with a better plot. But at least Stern took a shot at it.)

Apparently I wasn't the only one to be impressed by the 'terrorist' tag, as I see it everywhere in comics now, usually affixed to either single supervillains or supervillain groups who otherwise apparently exist for no reason except to give certain specific superheroes a hard time. And when I've seen it heretofore, I've more or less nodded my head and moved along. So R'as al Ghul is an 'eco terrorist' now instead of a world conquering megalomaniac. Okay. So Killmonger and all his buddies were 'terrorist insurrectionists' instead of, you know, bad guys. Fine, sure, whatever.

But... the Wildebeeste Society is a 'terrorist cell'? I'm sorry? All these guys ever did in their lives was dress up in dopey looking armor, ambush the Teen Titans, and stuff them all into test tubes. If that's terrorism, well, I say for God's sake, let's let the terrorists win.

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