Monday, August 21, 2017

I made you read this post using Mind Control.

This being the big Eclipse Day in the USA, and me being the biggest anti-fan of Jean Loring, I should be writing a post about her time as Eclipso, DC's eclipse-themed mystical version of Jekyll/Hyde.

But I'm not. Instead I'm writing about something that happened to Eclipso, something that has happened to a LOT of other DC villains: the Mind Control Vortex. Specifically, villains that start with one schtick don't maintain it and eventually the power set just evolves toward Mind Control.

Eclipso started, as mentioned as the Hyde persona of Silver Age solar scientist Bruce Gordon after he was magically infected by the mystical Black Diamond.   Billed as 'hero and villain in one man', Bruce Gordon had to constantly work to defeat his alter ego, who mostly used the black diamond's zappy powers to take potshots at people, including Batman and the Metal Men.

Eclipso also fought a giant red robot named Roger.
It was the Silver Age.

A lot of weirdness when down with Eclipso but the only person he ever possessed was Bruce Gordon.  He was Bruce Gordon in the same way that Captain Marvel was Billy Batson.  It wasn't until the early 1990s when DC decide to revamp his as a MUCH bigger threat than before, one would require all DC's heroes to confront (necessitating a giant crossover, natch).  That's when it was 'revealed' that there were actually a crap-ton of Black Diamonds, which Eclipso used to take over more and more characters (including the likes of Mon-El and Superman), with mystical possession, a.k.a. ... Mind Control.

It was a far cry from his days as Queen Bee's consort:

Queen Bee never really recovered from her realization that Killer Moth and Cavalier were more than just friends.

The same thing, in fact, happened to bee-themed crimelord Queen Bee; when she was brought back to fight the JLA in 1999, she was using 'hypno-pollen' to enslave citizens and heroes as a form of... Mind Control.

What's the point of being Queen Bee if you don't wear striped leggings?!

Another femme fatale, Poison Ivy, was originally just a plant-themed villain, introduced in the Batman comics mostly as a foil for Catwoman in her desire for Batman's attention.  Over the years her plant-based schtick evolved toward plant-men that she controlled and then plant-toxins that she would use to control men (often hidden in her lipstick)... another form of Mind Control.

And sometimes non-men.

Why, it's almost as if comic book writers have an inborn fear of women who's nature-based powers give them the power to turn men into mind-slaves.  I wonder what that's about.

She's not the only Gothamite to go this route. The Mad Hatter was originally a Wonderland/hat-themed villain until the Batman'66 show gave him a "super-instant mesmerizing" hat, which he could use to stupefy victims.

I mean, how ELSE would tiny sissy David Wayne be able to knock somebody out...?

When he was reintroduced into comics in the early '80s, that tech became 'mental over-ride' circuit built into hats that he could use to make people into mental slaves as a form of ... Mind Control.  With which he is now irretrievably associated.

So much so that, in Suicide Squad, he eventually faced off against fellow creepy short mind-controlling person, Dr Psycho.

Gothamites do NOT play fair.

Of course, Dr Psycho didn't start out that way, either.

A lot of people can make human bodies, Dr Psycho.
We call them "women".

I mean, sure, he used hypotism, like creepy Golden Age characters did, but his main shtick was the manipulation of living ectoplasm to create physical phantasms under his power.  Typical weird Golden Age Wonder Woman stuff.  But by the time he was brought back in the 1980s, nobody had the patience to make any sense of that, so they made him just another psychic with the power of ... Mind Control.

"IMRA! I KNOW WHAT YOU DID!"


Naturally, he has at one point been in conflict with one of DC's psychopaths, the Martian Manhunter.

I'm sorry, did I say 'psychopath'?
I mean to say "telepath".  Of course.

And he's another example; the Martian Manhunter himself wasn't a telepath during the entire Silver Age.  He had some mental-based powers, of course. 

I mean, how ELSE would he get an ice cream cone?


But reading and control minds he could not do. In fact it was pretty much the ONLY THING the Martian Manhunter couldn't do.  Yet, when he was brought back in the modern age, no one (again) had the patience to sort what he might or might not be able to do with his mental powers.  So he became just another telepath, with mind-reading and some degree of ... Mind Control.

That's still an awesome and extremely sad scene, though.


The Martian Manhunter's JLI colleague Maxwell Lord had a similar evolution.  Originally, he was nothing more than a rich man's Snapper Carr: an ordinary man around whom the Justice League managed to coalesce itself.

It's less painful if you can't read what they're saying.

But when some genius decided that having Max being manipulative wasn't enough, they gave him the power to 'push' people's minds in the direction he wanted.  His power of mild mental influence escalated in no time in Ridiculous Power Levels.

IT'S OVER 9000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm calling BS on all this.  Mind Control is a lazy writer's short-cut to making a character comprehensibly threatening and DC needs to stop handing out like hard candy at Halloween. At the VERY LEAST, writers needs to learn to make some distinctions between TYPES of mental powers, like telekinesis (tactile or otherwise), mind-reading, telepathy, and mind-control.  Marvel would have already written an encyclopedia explaining all the difference and powers levels (numbered, naturally), with an irrelevant and embarrassing forward by Stan Lee. 




16 comments:

SallyP said...

Yep... generic mind control is a bit on the rampant side. I miss the days when J'onn could extract gold from sea water. And I miss the days when Max Lord was just a slightly shady business man and became a raging psychotic instead.

Anonymous said...

I kind of hate admitting it, but hypnotism is a cool power. It's always a challenge for heroes to beat and it lets you turn heroes against each other. So, I guess I'm not surprised when writers want to "trade up", power-wise, when writing villains.

This is a VERY incomplete list of hypnotists (I know hypnosis isn't technically the same as mind control, but the distinctions are pretty slight):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_hypnotists

The article reminded me that the Black Widow got her start hypnotizing Hawkeye into attacking Iron Man. But I forgot even more that Bluto, yes Bluto, used to hypnotize people into doing his bidding.

Bryan L said...

I find mind control tiresome as well, but I also think it has proliferated as a matter of convenience, much like survivors of Krypton. If a hero is essentially physically invincible (like Superman), then mental attack is really the only avenue left for humans to take to operate on some kind of parity.

So to physically take on Superman, you need someone similarly godlike, and therefore we need more survivors of Krypton (Zod, Doomsday, etc.) In fact, there's so many Kryptonians floating around now that Superman really isn't unique at all.

But for a standard human to take on Superman, it's got to be done mentally. So you have characters like Manchester Black, Eclipso and others of that ilk.

That said, yes, it's lazy.

Redforce said...

Whatever happened to good-old kidnapping dependents and making the hero do your nefarious bidding? You can throw in a twist (for example, the hero can't tell anyone why he is doing what he is dong for some reason). It makes a better story.

Speaking of mind control, didn't Magneto of all people get it (by controlling the electromagnetic neural pulses of something).

Bryan L said...

"Speaking of mind control, didn't Magneto of all people get it (by controlling the electromagnetic neural pulses of something)."

I believe that did happen at one point -- I thought it was controlling the bloodflow to the brain using iron in the blood or something like that. I think Marvel walked that back a while ago and concocted some no-prize explanation because it a) made NO sense and b) made Magneto virtually omnipotent.

Anonymous said...

Not only is mind-control super lazy, it makes writers (even good ones) take the hero with mental powers out of the story in order to make sure the comic isn't over in 3 pages. Martian Manhunter gets taken out way too easily way too often. Even worse, every alien he fights has to have some sort of telepathic resistance. Even worser (more worse? Worst?), the writers forget/ignore the power; much as I enjoyed the JLU episode "Task Force X," J'Onn could have mind-blasted/controlled the Suicide Squad members as soon as he was aware of their presence... but didn't.

Mental powers can be used well if they have some limitations. Tommy Monaghan could read minds but not control them. Karma of the New Mutants could control a handful of people at a time but that left her vulnerable to physical attacks. Full-blown telepathy leads to Professor X spending most of the '80s out in space or Saturn Girl rarely going on active duty.

- Mike Loughlin

Brian Hague said...

To be fair, Roy Thomas's first set of Dr. Psycho issues relied heavily upon the character's Golden Age roots as Psycho was mesmerizing Steve Trevor as I recall to summon ectoplasmic idealized forms for his minions, including Steve as Captain Wonder and the first Silver Swan. It was only Post-Crisis that they went "edgy" with the character and turned him into a cackling, telepathic madman.
And Zazzala, the Queen Bee, started off as a body, if not a mind, controller, turning the JLA into her "drones." Kanjar Ro and Despero were able to exhibit similar controls over the JLA members, but Zazzala later went on to shrink them down and put wings on them, turning them into mind-slaves as well.
The Bwahaha-wa-wa-wacky Justice League's Queen Bee used mechanical devices implanted in her victims' brains to control them. Control has seemingly always been a component of that character to one degree or another, regardless of iteration.
The entire point of the whole, lame Underworld Unleashed event was to amp everyone up to eleven on the power scale and turn every would-be target of Marvel's Scourge into a slavering, child-murdering Baaadasssss. Because Baaadasssss is the only thing to be these days. All of this amping up and leveling out of psychic abilities is more of the same.
Since mind-control is vaguely rapey and can be used for that explicitly if the writer decides to do so, modern writers feel very cutting edge turning villains into mind-controlling puppeteers. Simply inventing a new character is seen as less creative somehow than re-imaging, say for instance, the Balloon Buster as a villain who somehow controls thought balloons, and is able rewrite the heroes (and, heh-heh-heh, heroines) to do his bidding...
It's an now-well-traveled pathway to everyone becoming their own personal Bendis. (Cue Depeche Mode...)

Scipio said...

"Balloon Buster as a villain who somehow controls thought balloons"
GIVE THIS FAN A CONTRACT!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The balloon buster also works as a villain who changes word balloons. Just imagine the headline: "Superman's Expletive-Laden Racist Tirade Baffles Metropolis; Black Lightning to Take Over as City's Champion". (with a related op-ed "Don't Be Too Quick to Judge Our Heroes You Lazy ... Oh Sht You're Doing It Again, Keep It Together Clark" by an unnamed Daily Planet employee)

Sr. Favo Posso deixar vazio sim said...

With bodies like that, does Zazzala and Ivy even need mind-control? Most men would already do their bidding, anyway.

Sr. Favo Posso deixar vazio sim said...

I think its because mind-control is such an easy power to write. Its a "unbalanced" as hell tho, especially the super-instant no-range mind-control with a thought.

Of course, of all the mind-controllers listed here, every one of them is different::

- Eclipso's is limited to people giving in to their rage and anger. One thing writers forgot is that this also means the "Eclipsed" must often destroy the target of their rage, which can backfire if Eclipso himself or one of his "Eclipsed" are the ones which caused the rage - like when Will Payton Starman made Rampage go eclipsed, and then they both squared in a deathmatch because Rampage was made to want to kill Will Payton. Also his weakness is solar light.

(also to be fair, classic Eclipso was a really lame baddie and his horrible visuals suck and were probably dated since day 0. Eclipso nowdays is one of the big bads now.)

- Poison Ivy's control is chemical/biological/sexual. So, no controlling robots and probably not energy beings. Even for some cases she needs to augument it, like when she used kryptonite on Superman.

- Dr. Psycho is indeed a curious case. Hypnotism + making ectoplasmic contructs is way cooler than simple mind-control.

- Maxwell Lord didn't enter minds, he could command minds. He wans't quite a telepath. Now they've made it so he "Pushes" people to do things they supressed, but wanted to do anyway. He also had his nosebleeds and his biggest feat (commanding the entire world to forget he exists) took a lot of preparation and planning.

- Didn't Mad Hatter had to put his hats into people to control them? They seem to be treating him sorta like a electronic telepath nowdays.

Here's one character everyone seemingly forgot could do mind-control: Killer Frost, of all people, when she once froze Superman's brain into a obedient zombie-like state. Who she then sent to beat Firestorm to a pulp.

Not to mention there's a lot of different methods of mind-control. Controlling the body only (sometimes the person can even speak), controlling the mind, controlling perceptions, More Than Mind Control, etc.

I think that in the UDC, the golden standard of mind-control is and should always be the Anti-Life Equation. There is no "I know you're there, fight" speeches, no easy cure, etc. There is only Darkseid. Darkseid is.

cybrid said...

"Whatever happened to good-old kidnapping dependents and making the hero do your nefarious bidding?"

They realized that the same effect could be achieved by kidnapping just any random shmuck off the street. The hero's not going to needlessly risk the life of ANYONE. That's part of the deal of being a hero.

The thing is, any random shmuck off the street could be kidnapped by any other random shmuck off the street. No loved one required, no super-villain, required there's nothing to personalize any of it.

cybrid said...

Surprisingly, you omitted any reference to what was, for years, Doctor Psycho's defining characteristic: His virulent misogyny.

Of course, if he with that trait received prominence today, he'd probably be perceived by some disturbing demographics as an underdog hero in the way that "conservative America" perceived Archie Bunker as an underdog hero.

A "Dr. Psycho" movie wouldn't even need a script, they could just slap some passages from the internet together...

Anonymous said...

Modern Dr. Psycho would run PUA bootcamps, and he would battle Wonder Woman with his mastery of negging and Neuro Linguistic Programming. "At last we meet Wonder Woman! That's quite a costume, you had a team of people come up with it, right?"

Romspace said...

Marvel : pg. 206 appendix 77 : US 1 has truckpathy: big rig truck telepathy

DC: ehh Hugo Strange, the original fear gasser, controls ... minds

cybrid said...

Okay, I'm going to give in and ask the question that any number of correspondents want to know:

Where's that scene of Poison Ivy with Supergirl from?

Thanks. :-)

BTW, should any female correspondents be wondering something to the effect of "what IS the deal with guys and women kissing anyway" -- and hopefully I'm not in trouble for just approaching the topic -- the answer (at least, the one I'd give to such a question) is:

1 woman = pretty

2 women = twice as pretty

It's every bit that simple. YMMV, of course.