Bring Back The Annihilator Family

This isn’t going to be a particularly deep one, but I just want to say I think that the Superman villain called the Annihilator and Annihilator Junior should come back.

Daddy-O.

In one multi-part story in the Silver Age comics, the Annihilator was Karl Keller, a Nobel prize winning chemist who used Kryptonian chemicals to fill his body with explosive energy that made him powerful enough to defeat even Superman (because, as I’ve said, people who think Superman is too powerful are too lazy to remember you can just make powerful foes). Annihilator used his powers for a successful supervillain career and, on a whim, adopted a teenage criminal named Pete as his son. They did crime together, even managing to conquer America. It couldn’t last of course, and Annihilator soon realized that the biochemical process that empowered them was bad for their health. He tried to warn Junior, who assumed the old man was turning on him. In the end, somehow Junior was de-aged to a toddler and Annihilator, now reformed, got a chance to raise him right this time. It’s as dumb as the comics of that era always are, but it doesn’t mean there’s not potential for real stories there.

As far as I’m aware the characters have only appeared since in a Jimmy Olsen book that was going for comedy and treated them as jokes. That’s fine, that book was fine, it’s fine. But these characters don’t need to be jokes.

All it would take is for a story that treats the characters more seriously than a Silver Age Superman comic. That’s not difficult. We can keep the idea that Karl is a brilliant scientist who dislikes Superman (a bit overused, but it’s fine), but we need to establish that he’s been raising Pete for more than a week. If he’s a single father trying to raise an adopted son who has been getting into trouble, you wind up with a villain who can go up against the Man of Steel but who has more complicated motives. Does Karl want to keep Pete out of the life of supervillainy? Maybe that could work. Or we could position Karl as an opposite of Pa Kent, actively teaching his son to abuse his power. I’d probably go with that latter take, because it was the fact that Clark is also an adopted child that made me think it’d be good to have the Annihilator(s) around for stories about adoption and family.

Of course, we also need to give them a Super-Pet. Some sort of Annihilator Ferret or something? Look, we can take the stories seriously and still have goofy fun, okay?

Darkseid Is Not A Superman Villain

You will often find Darkseid on lists of the best Superman enemies. As I always seem to be doing here, I’m going to go contrary to the popular opinion and say, no he ain’t. And by that I don’t mean that he’s not a good villain, but that’s he not a Superman villain.

Regarding the quality of Darkseid’s villainy, it’s fine. He’s okay. He’s nothing special in my opinion, but I can see the reasons people like him. But he’s at most a “DC Universe” villain, to be dealt with by teams like the Justice League and in my ideal world, he’d be recognized as a New Gods villain, because that’s what he was actually created to be.

Sure, Darkseid first appeared in Jimmy Olsen’s book, a Superman Family title, but I am unconvinced that Jack Kirby did that for any reason other than that was the book he was writing. He wanted to establish his Fourth World stuff, so he did it there. If he’d been writing the Flash or something, he’d have done it there. I strongly feel that Darkseid, and Apokalyps and related story elements, belong in the Fourth World stories. The fact they show up in Superman all the time feels to me as it would feel if Loki showed up as Spider-Man’s biggest enemy every few months, or if the Red Lanterns set up their base in Gotham so they could appear in Batman’s books all the time. Crossing elements can be one of the funnest parts of shared universes, but certain story elements still belong where they belong. And any time Darkseid is a villain to anyone other than the New Gods, I feel like the whole Fourth World concept is being mined and left as a husk of what it should be.

It’s similar to how I don’t want Batman and Superman in stories together. I will admit that good stories have been done with those crossovers, but the ideas are being cheapened by constant exposure.

There are other elements from Kirby’s run on Jimmy that I welcome a lot more. Intergang is nice as a simplification of organized crime and it doesn’t need to be tied to Darkseid (and in several other media, they are not). The DNA Project with the Hairies and especially Dubbilex work well for me because they are a sort of attempt to create literal “Men of Tomorrow” through science, who can contrast and compare with Clark. The Habitat as a wild space outside Metropolis is a great addition, and Dabney Donovan is in keeping with the super-scientists that Superman deals with all the time. I’ve already mentioned that I like Morgan Edge, and even there I cut Darkseid out of what I want from the character. But the Fourth World is a story of its own, and trying to make it a part of Superman’s story weakens the Fourth World and distracts from the Superman elements I want.

Anyway, if you just want a big alien warlord for Superman to punch, use Mongul. If you just want an alien to be providing alien technology to Earth mobsters, use Grax. If you want a cosmic boss with soldiers and minions, use Rava and the Superman Revenge Squad. Use Drang the Destroyer, aka Dr. Supernatural. Use Amalak the Kryptonian Killer. Use the Galactic Golem. Use Intellex the Brain Bandit. Just stop using Darkseid.

And most importantly, use Clawster.

Morgan Edge Can Just Be Some Jerk

Morgan Edge was introduced in the 70s as the new boss of Superman and friends but then after a while it was revealed he was a servant of Darkseid, a big bad alien supervillain. But here’s the thing: After that reveal, they did a further reveal in which we learned that that Morgan Edge had been a clone and there was a real Morgan Edge who could come back and be the new boss of Superman and friends and who stuck around for the better part of a decade in that role. But why, one might ask, did they bother with that second reveal?

That question is most likely to be posed by people who are only familiar with other iterations of Edge. For example, in the “post-Crisis” era the story was almost identical: Edge was a businessman who had ties to Darkseid, Superman stopped him and the even went further into supervillainy. On shows like Smallville and Supergirl, he’s just a generic businessman with ties to the mob. To people who know Morgan only from these depictions, he’s bound to seem like a boring character.

And I want to be clear, I like it when Superman opposes criminal businessmen. That’s my ideal setup. The list of villains I’d use in a Superman run easily has a dozen of them. But Morgan Edge isn’t one of them, because in the 70s and 80s, after the clone reveal, Morgan Edge stopped being a villain and became a supporting cast member. Someone on the creative staff realized that Edge added an element to the setup. He was a capitalist jerk, but he could also have some depth. We got to learn about his life, and he could present viewpoints that weren’t the same as everyone else, but which didn’t need to end in a fight scene. They did the clone thing so that they could have him around again.

So what’s my point? I guess it’s just that I wish they’d bring him back for that purpose. I’ve said that journalism would play a bigger role in the Superman books if I were in charge and I think it’d be great to have the WGBS news team out there as supporting cast members outside of the main Planet cast, and Edge would be a part of that. That’s it.

I suppose that really this is just me continuing my exclamation that superhero comics need to put more effort into their supporting casts. Is that so much to ask?

General Zod Is All The Super-Jerk We Need

It’s a vastly overdone story idea: What if Superman was actually a jerk. It’s also very unnecessary considering that you’ve got a Jerk Superman already built into the lore. That is exactly the best possible use for General Zod.

Zod is a great mirror to Clark. What if Superman was the type who saw his powers as something that places him over other people? What if he thought that violence was the best way to solve problems? What if you had a Might Makes Right Superman? That right there is General Zod.

And like Superman, Zod comes with a whole family of his own. His wife Ursa may not directly parallel Lois in any real way, but just being a superhuman like her husband is a contrast to Lois. I bet there’s a plot to be mined from Lois and Ursa having to team up to save their husbands or something. Lois could show her that brute force isn’t the only way. And Zod and Ursa’s son Lor-Zod is a natural foil to Jon Kent, Lois and Clark’s son, the current Superboy. Given the chance I’d find a way to have Jon and Lor-Zod going to school together.

The Eradicator has been teamed up with the House of Zod in recent years. It’s probably not how I would have done it, but even that can parallel the Superman family. These days Eradicator is Zod’s Steel (or maybe his Kelex?). And Zod’s other soldiers, like Non or Faora, are basically his equivalents to Conner and Kara and so on.

Nothing I’m saying here is extremely revelatory. Mostly I think the books get what to do with Zod and friends. They may not do it exactly how I want, but nobody is getting is exceptionally wrong either. Given control of the franchise, I’d probably keep them out of the Phantom Zone and give them a base on an asteroid or something. They could commute to Earth and to other planets regularly, without needing a thing about breaking out to begin each plot. Let’s just have them all around when we need them. If nothing else, maybe it’d allow writers to go to the “Superman-Turns-Bad” well quite so often.

Bloodsport: Superman’s Gun-Havingest Villain

Bloodsport is a relatively minor Superman villain. Actually, Bloodsport is three relatively minor Superman villains. We’re going to ignore the second Bloodsport for now (I’ll possibly do a whole post on him in the future), but the first and third are very similar, so I’ll talk about them today.

Bloodsport’s deal is that he is a militaristic type who can summon any gun he can imagine to appear in his hands. It isn’t easy being a gun-themed villain when your protagonist enemy has this whole iconic thing where he’s bulletproof. Good thing Bloodsport can whip up weird sci-fi guns.

The first Bloodsport was named Michael DuBois and the third never really got a real name. They both looked the same, being black men whose costumes were mostly just red bandana mask things. The thing is that the DuBois version of the character was written off fairly early and I suspect that part of the reason for that was that he was given an overly complicated backstory I don’t even feel like getting into right now, but which limited his use in stories. The third Bloodsport took the right tack for the character: He’s just a mercenary villain who shows up now and then when such a villain is needed. If it were up to me, we’d cut the chaff and we’d have Bloodsport be Michael DuBois and he’d just be a mercenary type villain. Well guess what! That’s how the Supergirl show went with it when they had him show up! Well done, Supergirl show.

But the Supergirl show did not let him have his powers. Without being able to summon guns, there just isn’t much to Bloodsport. But then, I’m not thrilled with how those powers have existed in the comics either. In his first appearance, Bloodsport’s weapons were teleported in from a stash somewhere far away (Luthor owned it, I think). In spite of DuBois’s claims above, if the weapons exist before he summons them, he can’t really summon ANY weapon he can imagine. They have to already exist. And also, that first appearance showed how Superman was easily able to counter the teleportation anyway. Bloodsport, as he is, doesn’t seem like much of a threat. I’ll now fix that:

First, I’d cut the teleportation angle. My Bloodsport would instead have nanotechnology coursing through his bloodstream that he can control to grow weapons at will. The first way this improves the character is that it justifies the word “Blood” appearing in his terribly generic mercenary villain name. But also, this way we actually could make the claim that any weapon he can come up with on the fly. And, I gotta be honest, if we’re going to have one Superman’s few black villains be a gun-toting guy, we should at least have him be a skillful and imaginative designer of weapons.

Anyway, here’s some cool weapons Bloodsport could use:

  • A sniper rifle where the red light is capable of making a weak spot in a Kryptonian’s skin red-sun radiation-style.
  • Like a flamethrower, but instead of fire it shoots molten lead that could harden on Superman’s face obscuring his x-ray vision.
  • Bullets full of werewolf serum that turn Jimmy Olsen into a werewolf if he gets to much as scratched.
  • A gun that fires a weighted chain to attach to victims and pull them off a roof so Superman has to abandon a chase to save them.

And so on. You know the drill.