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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 10:01am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

It has often been noted that there are no unworkable heroes... they just need the right treatment. I'm minded of some characters who were thought laughable until they got the correct creators... Daredevil, the Atom, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman*, the Punisher, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist, the Hulk, etc.

Are there any who can't be salvaged? Or who would need stories that were so contrived that it would be painful reading such? Or would have to be radically transformed to be popular?

For instance, to my mind, Man-Thing just doesn't work. The main character is mindless, so any story has to be about him reacting to situations around him. There's a setup for a lot of stories, yes... but would they actually require Man-Thing to be in them to work?

I know that the Hulk fell into that slot a few times. Until they gave him some intelligence and awareness, it seemed that the only story was someone out to get the Hulk - the military, super villains, or whomever else. And I know that Ted Sallis' intelligence could be brought to the fore, and great stories might come from that... but again, that's a radical change to the character.

Is there anyone you can think of that doesn't quite work?

*I know that Wonder Woman has been continuously published since 1940, but I seem to recall that, save for needing to publish to maintain the copyright, DC would have cancelled her books more than once.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 10:48am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

It was Neal Adams who said there are no bad characters, only bad writers. Sadly, in the past couple of decades (more>) those bad writers have made such a hash of so many characters it is difficult to imagine any of them to be salvageable -- especially with an audience that contains so many who insist that everything is sacrosanct.*

_______________

* Except what they don't like -- but good luck trying to get a consensus there!

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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 11:20am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I wonder when a character reaches the point of being irretrievable. Years of failed relaunches and attempts to "freshen up" the character can only make them LESS worthwhile.

I don't know if there are any characters who couldn't be redeemed by the right creative team, but that's the big X factor here--the *right* team.

By the same token, it is damned easy to wreck a character by giving a book to hacks who happen to be buddies with the right editor.

If you're going to redeem a character or team, though, maybe employ the strategy Marvel is doing with the FF. Make them disappear for a while. Build up reader interest organically, then return them when you feel the time is right.

That said, don't then screw it up. It is vastly easier to squander reader interest than to earn it.
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Vinny Valenti
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 11:47am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Cyclops shacking up with the White Queen and killing Professor Xavier pretty much puts him in the "unsalvageable" column.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 12:01pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Time for the Shaper of Worlds!
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 12:37pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

In fiction, any character can be salvaged. The means to do so can be dodgy at times, but it can be done.

As for a character like Man-Thing, heck, look at how many Godzilla movies have been made. Being a non-speaking character doesn't make the character unsalvagable.


Edited by Matt Hawes on 05 January 2018 at 12:38pm
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Bill Guerra
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 1:19pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The first one that came to mind for me was Cyclops. He's been through so much outright character assassination that it's ridiculous. And sad.
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Dave Phelps
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 1:31pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I guess the question I would have is what do you consider to be "unsalvageable"? There are certainly characters who are more commercial than others but that doesn't necessarily make the "lesser ones" bad. I don't think it's impossible to tell good stories about any character. It's just that some are harder than others.

It's a weird thing about comics where if a character only has, say, a dozen or so good stories told about them, they're a footnote at best. Meanwhile there are lists galore of "classic characters in literature" who only had one or two stories apiece. Doesn't seem fair. :-)
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Phillip L Lightfoot
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 1:35pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Gerber, Mayerik, Ploog, and Mooney did Man-Thing just fine.
 She-Hulk was considered an idiot character until Roger Stern, and JB found a better take. Heck, JB even made US-1 interesting, at least for a few pages. 
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 1:54pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I love "dopey" characters. Remember, Chris thought the Sentinels were "lame," and I said "that's because you write them that way!" Did my own spin, and "Days of Future Past" was the result.
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Andrew W. Farago
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 1:57pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

The best Man-Thing stories were written by Steve Gerber, who had a clear vision for the character. As long as he's not a superhero and there's intriguing action happening around him, he works as a character. Some of Will Eisner's most memorable Spirit stories featured The Spirit as a supporting character, or relegated him to a cameo appearance in his own comic.

There are some characters I'd argue aren't worth the effort of dusting off and trying to write a great story about, but I wouldn't say that makes any of them impossible.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 2:48pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I will defer to other people's knowledge of characters - I certainly don't have the historical knowledge - but Eric named the likes of Daredevil, Punisher and Ghost Rider as being laughable early on in their run. 

What happened exactly?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 3:05pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I don't recall any of those as "laughable".
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 3:06pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

My history is not as exhaustive as others (I have read many reprints) but was surprised to read them described as laughable.

UK reprint title MIGHTY WORLD OF MARVEL reprinted the early Daredevil tales (in black and white) and it seemed to be totally straight and non-laughable to me.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 3:09pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Altho mostly described as "mindless ", there's really more to the Man-Thing than that. He/It is kind of a "reactive agent", triggered to action by outside events. Sometimes, the function can also be that of a catalyst.
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Phillip L Lightfoot
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 3:41pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Even the goofiest character is only one good take away from being a superstar.  Look at Rocket Raccoon!
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Joe Hollon
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 5:15pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Two things:

1- Man-Thing is one of my very favorite characters,
glad some others already chimed in to comment on that
one.
2- Ghost Rider- not sure what the public opinion was
at the time of the original comics but reading the
ESSENTIAL collection years back Ghost Rider makes a
great example of a character who was written so people
would think he was lame...constantly people are
referring to him as the "guy in the skull mask" or the
"flaming mask". That's bad writing! He's a guy WITH
A FLAMING SKULL!!! People seeing him should be
terrified not commenting that he looks like a guy in a
mask! Bad writing...or at least bad scripting...
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Adam Schulman
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 6:37pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

JB nailed it re: Man-Thing. I tend to think of him as a "plot device" more than anything else. 

As for the Hulk -- he was no joke when Stan Lee wrote him. Or Roy Thomas, or Roger Stern, or Len Wein (granted, it depends on which story), or Steve Englehart (same -- I hated the idea of Betty Ross as the Harpy), or Peter David (at least during the Gray Hulk days). 

The biggest problem with writing the simpleton version of the Hulk is that writers often made him talk too damn much. Then he sounded absurd. Lee didn't even have him talk in the third person all the time. He actually said "I" and "me" sometimes.

I'll admit that for a time Marvel had so many goofy villains that I had no problem with Mark Gruenwald's "Scourge" character killing them all. Justice is served, indeed. 
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Joe Zhang
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 7:19pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Depends on what a "hero" is. Many of the early-era Image characters are just generic costumes given a name like "StryfeFire" or "BluddWulf". You can't salvage something that was not fully created in the first place. 
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 7:40pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

I'd say that Aquaman might be unsalvageable simply because the public has come to see him as a joke.  The movie version had to change him so much, it's like another character--and I still think his solo movie might flop.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 7:44pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

JB, ever have any interest in doing the Man-Thing?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 9:27pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

JB, ever have any interest in doing the Man-Thing?

Yes and no. I find the character very intriguing, but only in an abstract sense. Too much would have to change for me to actually work on the book.

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Brian Hague
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 10:13pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

For what it's worth, Cyclops was allowed a certain amount of "redemption" in the death of Xavier, the logic being that he was under the influence of the Phoenix Entity at the time and not in full control of his actions. While the storyline lacked the slow build that the original Phoenix Saga had (despite the number of issues thrown at it), the idea was that Scott was not ultimately responsible for his actions remained more or less the same as the logic used in the original story, before the reveal that Jean was never on-panel as the Phoenix at all. 

As for the romance with Frost, well, he's got a weakness for shapely telepaths who are at the top of their game. Who among us doesn't have a similar blind spot in their romantic history? They have since broken up if that helps at all. Now he's dating the Shadow King. Okay, no, not really...

I don't believe any character is a complete non-starter. I do think it would be problematic to make a series centered around Marvel's Aquarian. From his origin as a lame Superman joke to his pacifistic role as a Christ figure, and his name referencing the late Sixties in American culture, it would be a chore to recontextualize and reimagine everything to make him sell. 

Another Gruenwald concoction*, the Grapplers, a pro-wrestling themed Female Furies tribute band, seem awkward as well, but who knows? A little of Netflix's G.L.O.W. thrown together with a dash of Orange Is the New Black, seasoned throughout with some of Lena Dunham's Girls, and you might have something. Gail Simone fans would flock to the book if it had her name on it.

Jazz, a particular low point in one of DC's character-generation summer crossovers, was a vacuous skatepunk who liked to use his power of suggestion to have Legionnaire heroines take their clothes off for him. Dated, politically tone deaf, repulsive, and I'll bet Peter Milligan or Warren Ellis could still sell the hell out of him as a Vertigo-style book.

Any character can have some sort of potential somewhere, somehow. Whether it would be worth the effort of doing is another matter.

* The character started as Steve Gerber's Wundarr, but the Aquarian re-imagining is Gruenwald's, I believe.


Edited by Brian Hague on 05 January 2018 at 10:20pm
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Joseph Gauthier
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Posted: 05 January 2018 at 11:18pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

I don't believe any character is a complete non-starter.
........

Remind me to tell you sometime about the Iron Man villain I made up when I was 12.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 06 January 2018 at 12:06am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

You mean Rusty the Oxidizing Killer Klown? I made him up too...

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