Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marvel derivative characters

Marvel doesn't really have sidekicks like DC. I mean Marvel has had a few, the most well known of course being Bucky, but DC has had tons. So many in fact that they stuck a bunch of them in a team together and thus we had the Teen Titans.

But Marvel has had something that was kinda similar but also very different. If there is an official term for them I've never heard it, so I will call them derivative characters. These are character who are clearly spin offs with the same or similar powers, schtick, and M.O. They aren't like sidekicks, because they usually aren't protegees of the originals, in fact they usually aren't even partners, they often go off to have their own adventures, and often in their own book. I always got a kick out of these characters and thought it would be fun to take a closer look at some of them.

War Machine is probably the most well known of these characters, he's the only one to be on the big screen. Jim Rhodes was one of Tony Stark's closest friends and took over for him as Iron Man during a time when Tony was thought dead. After he returned Stark gave Jim his own armor and he took on the name War Machine. War Machine decided to be more 'proactive' then Iron Man and traveled the world attempting to bring peace to war torn areas. I never understood the 90's obsession with super heroes declaring that other super heroes aren't proactive enough. What does that mean? Super heroes respond to crime and disasters. What else are they suppose to do? Go after people who MIGHT commit a crime? I kinda feel this 'proactive' bullshit was just used to show these heroes are more hard core, or just make the book more violent. Anyways getting back to War Machine, he managed to have two ongoing regular Marvel Universe series, and one alternate universe MAX series. I think he has a great character design, sure it's simple, basically just a black and grey Iron Man with a shitload of guns on him, but it looks great. After a while it was decided to update his look, giving him a more advanced alien armor.

Holy shit did that look awful. I love the tag line "This is War Machine. Seriously." It almost sounds like "Yeah, even we don't believe how shitty this looks." It should have read "This is War Machine. Sorry." This is similar to what was done to U.S. Agent's look, which I talked about in an earlier post. See, Marvel seems to have an odd relationship with these characters. They bring them out there to cash in on the success of the character they spin off of, but then I guess they get all afraid they will water down that character's brand so they get rid of them or change them around so they bare no resemblance to the original character. Marvel can't really decide if they want to really have these characters or not and most all of them have suffered as a result. Eventually War Machine was back in a more classic armor and even had another ongoing series recently.

Eric Masterson took over for Thor during a time when he was dead, or something. Anyways, when Thor got better, Thunderstrike was given his own hammer by Odin and his own series by Marvel. His outfit is half of Thor's with a leather jacket and a ponytail cuz it was the mother fucking 90's. It looks pretty dated today, but to be fair it has aged better then some 90's designs. I mean at least he doesn't have like 80 pouches or a fucking belt on his thigh. Thunderstrike was killed off after a couple of years and has remained dead since. Recently his son has taken over his mantle.

Pretty much the same deal as the other guys. John Walker took over for Captain America, then got is own ID. He served in the West Coast Avengers, Omega Flight, and recently as a prison guard in the pages of Thunderbolts. I actually think he's an interesting character. Whereas Cap is all about the ideals of freedom and liberty, and goes against the government when he feels they violate those ideals, Agent is a patriot through and through. American right or wrong and everyone else can suck it. If Cap was Ron Paul, Agent would be Sean Hannity. Except, unlike Hannity, U.S. Agent isn't a cowardly chickenhawk. 

Not as well known as the other three, we have Vengeance. Sorta the same formula, Vengeance took over for Ghost Rider while he was dead, only it was Vengeance who killed him. See Vengeance was a cop who hated Ghost Rider for some bullshit reason and made a deal with Mephisto to get Ghost Rider power of his own. Later him and Ghost Rider became sorta allies and once the 90's were over Vengeance rode off into comic book limbo for a few years. He's been involved in some recent Ghost Rider stories and is currently a member of a Masters of Evil team appearing in Secret Avengers. He's a full on shit bag villain now and I have no idea why. I like his character design, sorta taking the Ghost Rider concept and cranking the dial up to 11. All the spikes on his body he can pull off and throw and new spikes grow back. Other then that same powers as Ghost Rider.

Here's the last not-sidekick I'm gonna take a look at today. Scarlet Spider. This was Spider-man's clone Ben Reilly. While all the others took over for the original hero then got their own ID this one was Scarlet Spider then took over for Spider-man. He was killed by the Green Goblin. Currently Spidey's other clone Kaine has taken over the mantle of Scarlet Spider in an ongoing series, that if you're not reading, you should be.

I suppose there are more. Certainly Marvel has lots of spin off characters, just look at how many damn Goblins there have been. But I thought these four were in a special category. Again though it seems like Marvel wants to have them and doesn't want to have them. They all die, or turn evil, or end up changed to where they bare no resemblance to the character they spun off of. And in a way all four of them simultaneously represent to me some of the best and worst things about Marvel in the 90's. 


  1. Yeah I suppose Red Hulk is the most recent of these types of characters.