Monday, December 04, 2006

Re-Fabulize Northwind!

Okay, I'll admit that this is dramatic-looking:
But this isn't really Hawkman; it's more like a Manhawk. I mean .... chicken feet. Really!

Transmogrifying Northwind into this form was a mistake. Sure, it was a dramatic move that helped pit Black Adam and Hawkman against each other, but mostly it was a sop to those readers easily-overwhelmed by the overwrought designs of Alex Ross in the vastly overrated Kingdom Come.

But such zoonification, as I've said before, is just a dead-end for the characters involved. Seen "Charaxes" lately? And Killer Croc hasn't had a real story in years; he's just trotted out to provide a fight scene in the middle of "epics" that consist of nothing but sequential cameos by all the members of Batman's rogues gallery.

It's one thing to do that to villains; but to the team members of heroic icons...? For pity's sake, this version of Northwind can't even talk!

At just the point when the revivified Hawkman was most in need of "team members" like Golden Eagle and Northwind to help him become a modern Dynastic Centerpiece, they were both brought back as, essentially, enemies. They need to be brought back with Hawkman as part of a stable base of characters that (I hope) can save the muddled mess that has been made of Hawkgirl's title.

I'm not an "old fan" of Northwind; the first (and, I think, last) comic I ever saw him in his original form was Crisis on Infinite Earths 20 years ago. In fact, I thought he was ridiculous.

But now, the idea that Hawkman has a black Scandavian half-birdmand godson seems so ridiculous to me that it slips over into fabulousness, at least in the Silver Age sensibility inherent in the Hawkman mythos.

Or maybe I just want to laugh ever time I see ultra-alpha-male testerone-drenched Hawkman traipsing around with this feathered fey in tow...

Northwind tries desperately to convince a teammate that
the copy of Vogue in his bedroom actually belongs to Vixen...


Axel M. Gruner said...

I would worry more about ultra-alpha-male testerone-drenched Hawkman's biological son, the Silver Scarab (seen to the left in the same panel).
That guy is Vogue-posing.

Tricia S. said...

Hector: Vogue posing?! What about Norda? He needs a makeover far more than I!

And here is my caption for the night;)

joncormier said...

Scipio, I totally agree - Kingdom Come is overrated.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it's a shame that noone ever bothered to follow up on the plot that Northwind was studing the mystic arts towards the end of Infinity Inc. That could have at least given him something useful to contribute somewhere. Yet oddly, he's still not as big a mess as Hector Hall was...


Your Obedient Serpent said...

As a general rule, despite my personal aesthetic bias in favor of anthropomorphics, I agree with you about the detrimental effects of Zoonification. Killer Croc was definitely the worst victim of the syndrome, going from a large and aggressive but capable and intelligent CRIME BOSS to Bat-Land's resident Dumb Muscle and, in the animated series, Running Joke.

On the other claw, Northwind was easily the WORST character design in all of Infinity, Inc. -- and that says a LOT. The stubbly scalp with the feather crest that never quire looked right. The feathers supposedly growing out of his arms that never quite looked attached, the mask that he stole from Selina Kyle's '60s wardrobe... ECCH.

Redesigning him to take after his mother's side of the family is a VAST improvement.

It's not like you can say that this "ruined the character", either. Even after most of the other Infinitors moved on to supporting roles or JSA memberships or much-deserved demises, Norda got shuffled into Limbo.

And why? Because he was EMBARRASSING. He didn't have the "I'm Absurd and I Know It!" geek-cool that makes Bouncing Boy and Matter Eater Lad fan favorites.

He was, in short, a prim candidate for Blockade Boy's makeover service.

But Alex Roth got to him first, and frankly, I think he came out the better for it.

Scipio said...

"As a general rule, despite my personal aesthetic bias in favor of anthropomorphics, I agree with you about the detrimental effects of Zoonification."

Maybe it's a directional thing...?

Animals that become like people -- Detective Chimp, Rex the Wonder Dog, Gorilla Grodd, Tawky Crawky and Tawky Tawny, the Manhawks -- are cool.

People that become like animals -- Croc, Charaxes, the Hellgramite, Cooperhead, Man-Bat -- are not.

Anonymous said...

So,any Furries out there want to weigh in on this puzzlement?

Your Obedient Serpent said...

Anonymous asked: So,any Furries out there want to weigh in on this puzzlement?

What do you think I meant when I referred to " personal aesthetic bias in favor of anthropomorphics"?

And Scipio: Harsh not upon the Man-Bat! Despite the poor handling to which he's so often been subjected, Doctor Langstrom has long been one of my favorite characters, since my hatchling days, when I proudly owned every single issue of his eponymous title --#1 and #2. No one-shot wonder he, naysayers! Messrs. Timm and Dini did not select him to introduce their definitive reinvention of the Dark Night by chance or accident.

However, I believe that, 'twixt the two of us, we've found the key to the successful blending of human and animal. It is indeed directional -- but not physically. You see, for me, Dr. Langstrom's alter-ego was the most interesting in that so-brief period in the 1970s, when he was written as a hero (or, well, a bounty hunter), someone in control of his transformation, and using the abilities it bestowed to fight crime.

I was gravely disappointed when subsequent writers returned to the Jekyll-and-Hyde mindless-monster formula -- not merely because of the loss of an intriguing protagonist with unusual abilities, but because it was the cheap, lazy route. "He looks grotesque, so he must be a monster; he looks like an animal, so he must be mindless."

And that's the key. It's not the physical changes that have so degraded Killers Croc and Moth, Copperhead, Doctor Langstrom or poor Northwind -- it's that they've been saddled with animalistic behavior, as well. It's the mental zoonification that has turned these characters into tired and tedious clich├ęs. It's a cheap and easy route that so many lazy writers have taken that it's easily confused with the physical changes.

It's not limited to Zooanthropic characters, however. Vandal Savage is at his least intimidating when he acts like a caveman -- and Gorilla Grodd is unimpressive when he acts like a violent, barely vocal ape, as he has all too often in recent years. On the other side of the aisle, the long, dreary years of "Hulk Smash Puny Humans!" are less than incredible -- and less than credible -- when compared to the complex psychological explorations of Peter David and those who followed.

The other side provides a counter-example, as well: Doctor Henry "the Beast" McCoy, mainstay of those uncanny mutants with the innumerable titles. As his character design has become increasingly animalistic (explained in-story as the progression of his mutation), his always-erudite persona has become ever-more intellectual. As a result, the big blue lion-man of current issues has become even more compelling.

To me, at least. But I'm one of those dratted Furries.

MaGnUs said...

I know that Scipio (and probably many readers too) is gay. I'm not, and I hope my comment is not taken as an offense... but Northwind and Silver Scarab are two of the gayest superhero designs EVER!

Scipio said...

Aren't they, though?

MaGnUs said...

Are they?

The Shadow said...

We all know who suffered the most from zoonification. That's right, Killer Moth, who went from rich supervillain with Godlike confidence, to being REPLACED (there, the truth is out, tell your friends and family the Drury Walker and Cameron Van Cleer are sperate people) by a wimpy, sniveling, loser who's biggest dream was to become a giant, cannibalistic moth. On a side note, I really miss the old mobster Killer Croc who was so awesome that The Joker had to lead an Arkham breakout just to take him out of power.

Sinister said...

Original Northwind is only funny because of his similarity to obscure Marvel villain and attempted-Scourge victim...
Yes, a man dressed like a rooster named Gamecock.
And Northwind looks just f'in like him!
Thats what I thought, dissenters, revel in my brilliance!

Hugh said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that's exactly what I suppose.
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