Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Riddle Me This

Why is it that

DC's funniest villain, the Joker, is the scariest villain in comics


Marvel's scariest villain, Dr. Doom, is the funniest villain in comics?



The Icon said...

Because guys that refer to themselves in third person are just funny, no matter how high tech their armor is. Throw in a eurtrash accent, and you've got gold.

And clowns with acid squirting flowers that have no problem shooting your kids in the spine and murdering babies and generally doing evil things? I think that one explains itself.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Doom's eeeeevil is always abstract. He wants to conquer the world, he wants to squash dissent in his home country, he wants to locate a can of WD-40 to fix the squeaking in his left elbow joint.

The Joker's eeeeevil is concrete. He murders a dozen people in a bus. He shoots a woman in the spine and takes pictures. He wears a purple suit with tails.

Plus, Doom has delusions of nobility, in that Chris Claremont-Magneto sort of way. Bad writers play this up.

Mark Waid wrote a great Doom. He pointed out in an interview that the concept of Victor as an honorable and decent man come straight from Vic's mouth. When he brought P to the Fantastic Four in Waid's story, he proved what a delusional liar he was.

When the FF finds Doom's execution chamber in Latveria, a simple structure with a guillotine and a small crematory, it was shocking. Because we'd never seen Doom acting truly evil; he usually comes across like a comic opera villain, bloviating and creating death rays instead of actually hurting people.

Give Vicky some concrete victims and he becomes a lot scarier.

(I like his comic-opera "Muh-ha-ha-haaa! The world is mine!" style. Of all of Marvel's villains, Doom has the most potential for DRAMA!)

You know, every time I see the Joker now, I hear Harley Quinn's voice calling him "Puddin'." Heh.

Anonymous said...

The Ambush Bug reference in the previous post reminds me of something that ties in here.

The old DC Heroes role-playing game categorized "Motivation" for heroes and villains into about 5 categories for each. For heroes, things like "Seeks Justice," "Upholds the Good" or "Responsibility of Power."

For villains, categories like "Power Lust" or "Thrill Seeker" or "Nihilist."

They actually did an Ambush Bug adventure, which was fun - sort of the same approach to RPG conventions that AB comics take to comic conventions.

The Ambush Bug supplement provided a new Motivations rule that simplified things into 2 categories for villains:

1. Villains who say "Bah!"
2. Villains who don't say "Bah!"

Brian said...

It seems to me that Joker's scariness stems primarily from how UNLIKE a classic comic villain he is. Think on it this way: Doom does bad things, but they're always big, sort of funny bad things. It's a guy in armor, ruler of a small European country -- you never forget that his destiny is to do battle with folks in multi-colored spandex.

Short of the acid bath makeover, Joker's pretty much like any other homicidal maniac, or even moreso. Joker is pure fricking EVIL. Not cute, funny evil that you stop by dismantling his Zapotron Ray (tm), but real evil, driven, relentless, the kind of thing that would make most Marvel heroes curl up into a ball and cry, because their angst-ridden world can't handle people like this.

Doom is so over-the-top EEEEEEVIL that he might as well paste a handlebar mustache on his mask and twirl it while tying a girl to train tracks. Joker is so down-to-earth evil that you either laugh, or you wet yourself.

Devon has a theory that if you were to stick any DC villain into the Marvel universe, they'd be carried back an hour later by a horde of superpowered slaves, basking on a throne made out of the bones of the X-men. Think about it. Who in Marvel could stand up to the sheer force-of-nature malevolence of the Joker?

Jeff R. said...

(Actually, the 'semi-Nihilist' category from the Ambush Bug module was darn useful in non-comedic DC games.)

Anyhow, this can be explained by the simple two facts that (1) clowns are scary and (2) Megalomaniacal dictators [sufficiently far away from yourself] are funny. See 'It', 'The Great Dictator'.

joncormier said...

It's simple. Anyone who saw Poltergeist as a young enough age is severly traumatized by clowns and not guys in futuristic armour/green capes.

We've all seen clowns and at some point were creeped out by them. Guys in armour - probably not such a common sight.

thekelvingreen said...

Think about it. Who in Marvel could stand up to the sheer force-of-nature malevolence of the Joker?
Cap or Daredevil, because they're Like Batman. Thor wouldn't take the Joker's shit and would snap him in half (as long as it's Angry-Busiek-Thor).

Or Deadpool, who'd play the Joker at his own game. Or most likely, not even realise that there was a game. Yeah, Joker/Deadpool. I'd like to see that.

Jon said...

My God, Deadpool/Joker would be the best thing ever.

Anyway, on the flip side, I can't think of a Marvel villain that would last more than twenty minutes in the DCU.

Anonymous said...

Magneto? I mean, if freakin' Dr. Polaris lasted this long...

Ragnell said...

Yeah, but Dr. Polaris lacks "Delusions of Nobility." Villains with the weakness "Delusions of Nobility" are highly susceptible to Wonder Woman's lasso, and verbal attacks of unparalleled good sense like Superman and various Green Lanterns have used. In DC, the villains have become resistant to redemption attempts made by idealistic heroes. Even in the Crisis climate, the heroes didn't ever side with the "injured" villains. You can easily tell who's a good guy and a bad guy, even when the good guys are crossing moral lines. In Marvel, heroes are just as likely to join the villains as vice versa.

thekelvingreen said...

How about The General? He took down the Sentry, so he shouldn't have any trouble with Supes and the gang.

Oh wait, that was just Bendis hackery...

Anonymous said...

"Devon has a theory that if you were to stick any DC villain into the Marvel universe, they'd be carried back an hour later by a horde of superpowered slaves, basking on a throne made out of the bones of the X-men. Think about it. Who in Marvel could stand up to the sheer force-of-nature malevolence of the Joker"

What a load of nonsense.

Do you mean AFTER Wolverine stabs him through the face?

"What's with the getup, Bub? SNIKT"

Spraying Wolverine with acid or shooting him don't do much.

Joker only lives because Superman doesn't kill as a plot point. Scratch that, ALL BATMAN VILLIANS live at Superman's sufferance.

Tegan O'Neil said...

Man, DC villains are so unbelievably lame I'm surprised the people who write the comics actually sign their real names.

Scipio said...

"Superman doesn't kill as a plot point."

Really? I thought it was because killing other people is illegal...

"DC villains are so unbelievably lame I'm surprised the people who write the comics actually sign their real names."

Ah. Well. That would explain everything, then.

Anonymous said...

No, Superman doesn't kill as a plot point. It's illegal, but who could arrest him? What jail could hold him? Superman's lawyer would probably argue that Human law does not affect Kryptonian Immigrants, right before Superman vaporized the jury with his heat vision. If he wanted to kill, no one could stop him. When the cops came, he could just fly into space.

Superman does not kill because stories about a man with godlike powers who kills his vastly underpowered enemies is not heroic. It is morally distasteful (or written by Alan Moore). The appeal of Superman is a plot point- that a man from the sky comes to Earth and does only good. He has the moral fortitude to not kill- a convenience, not a realistic examination of how someone who is completely unaccountable would behave.

It's the same thing with Batman and guns- he has no problem with dressing like a nut and beating people within an inch of their lives without following any of the rules that govern police, but a gun? BEYOND THE PALE. Yeah, yeah, a gun killed his parents. That makes beating suspects and forcibly institutionalizing them without benefit of trial totally OK.

But killing Joker to prevent the deaths of thousands? Unacceptable

P.S. I am loving this Crisis series, please keep it up.

Anonymous said...

The interesting thing is that killing bad guys would *not* be illegal for super-heroes under most circumstances, as they can use the "self-defense" justification (which includes defense of others.) Hypothetically, in a world with supers, you might get some more detailed "proportional response" statute, but the way the law works in the real world would be something like:

1. Was the bad guy using or threatening violence? Then you can invoke self-defense.
2. Was the bad guy using deadly force? If not, then you can't either (i.e., if a guy slaps you in the face, you're not allowed to shoot him.) If so, then you can use deadly force yourself.

But there's no requirement to look at how much the *hero* is threatened, or whether use of deadly force on his part was necessary. If, say, a random bank robber fires a gun at the cops, Superman would have the legal justification to kill him.

Incidentally, acquiring legal knowledge pretty much ruins the "Trial of the Flash" that came at the end of Barry Allen's run. I actually found it to be a pretty compelling story at the time, but you'd be hard-pressed find a more cut-and-dried case of self-defense. The prosecutor's case likely would've been dismissed without Barry even having to offer a defense.

Anonymous said...

I also can't imagine the Central City DA suddenly developing a jones for prosecuting a local hero who was also a longterm police employee. IIRC, Flash is a deputized local law officer as well.

Marvel at least has a premise that Spider-Man is a vigilante who is vilified in the Press. The X-Men suffer racial discrimination.

The Flash has a MUSEUM DOWNTOWN about how awesome he is. If O.J. could walk, Barry Allen would get a parade for snuffing Thorne.

Anonymous said...

"That would be illegal."
How much of being a superhero would be legal?
Punisher/Joker written by Garth Ennis, can you imagine anything more distasteful?

Anonymous said...

I suppose it's easier to find the Joker frightening as a crazy person with a knife is much more of a potentially real threat to most of us than vain techno dictators. Also in the comics (until Mark Waid's run) the FF and the rest did a pretty good job of containing Victor's evil plans ("My giant plants will choke your cities unless you submit!"), whereas the brilliantly heroic DCU are pretty much stymied by a serial killer.
I'd like Bruce to run for President and sign the Joker's deathwarrant as Governor Wayne to secure his victory. Is human sacrifice mandatory now in US presidential elections, or merely customary?

steve mitchell said...

"Who in Marvel could stand up to the sheer force-of-nature malevolence of the Joker?"

The Punisher, one shot, one kill.

Time-traveling back to 2012 now.