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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Legion of Regrettable Super-Villains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History

By Jon Morris

Publisher: Quirk Books (March 28, 2017)

Hardcover 256 pages

Finished 9/11/2017

Amazon Listing

       The sequel to the fun League of Regrettable Super-Heroes, this volumes delves into the insane and ridiculous villains faced by various superheroes over the decades. Quite frankly they could easily make two to three more volumes in this theme, as the number of super-villains must outnumber the superheroes by ten to one. It can’t be easy to have to come up with interesting and new villains over time. As the book points out eventually all of the cool animal names will be taken, leaving the dregs such as Preying Mantis Man and the Magpie.
    The book breaks down the villains into the three generally accepted eras of comic books: The Golden Age (1938-1949), the Silver Age (1950 - 1969), and the Modern Age (1970- Today). Though I think that comics have progress sufficiently to reasonably add a fourth age, perhaps being demarcated by the collapse of the Comics Code Authority or earlier (maybe the rise of the Vertigo imprint or the publication of Preacher). Certainly if you glimpse at a comic from 1970 it is miles away from anything put out today. Thus the modern age should be repackaged as the Bronze Age. 

    As you dig through the comics you can see through them the eventual rise of the twin comic giants, DC and Marvel. The first section has a wide variety of different publishers from Fawcett Comics, to Quality Comics, to MLJ (which eventually just became straight up Archie comics). By the time of the Modern Era it is almost exclusively DC and Marvel. Not that it really diminishes the fun of the book, bad villains have been produced in abundance in every era. Such is the way of things.
    One name that kept popping up in the list of creators of these villains was Otto Binder. He was one of the old school pioneers of comic writers up there with Will Eisner, C.C. Beck, and Bill Finger. He wrote 986 out of 1,743 golden age Captain Marvel stories (that’s Shazam to those not in the know), nearly half of them. Then he went on to work with nearly every other comic company over the next four decades, creating Kid Eternity and the concept of the Phantom Zone in Superman. Check out his wikipedia page for a full list of his credits which is impressive. 
Otto Binder

    My favorites of these groups had to be: The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, for of the Doom Patrol, whose powers are self evident;The Human Flying Fish, whose very specific skill set was foiled by Aquaman; Generic Man, from the short lived but still great DC title The Heckler; and Angar the Screamer, a latter day hippy whose powers caused him to give up all that peace and love bullshit.
The only flaw was that occasionally the author delves into garbage PC progressive argot while describing a few villians. Quite frankly I don’t need hear about “mansplaining” while reading up on some goofy character from over eighty years ago.  Still this happens in only two of the hundred and six entries in this book. Soenjoy. You’ll probably have more fun reading about these villains in this format than in their original stories.  

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

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