I offer my congratulations to Libra for making ersatzes of the Wanted villains (who were mostly captain carbon-copies themselves) palatable to me.
Thank you very kindly for the compliments, Grey Crusader, and please allow me to say that I'm glad to see that I can still produce a pastiche with the best of them - although I hope that my take on the Octagon isn't entirely derivative of WANTED, since I intended to add some Marvel homages to the mix (something Mark Miller curiously declined to incorporate into the tale when it stopped being a Legion of Doom elseworld).
The series, the protagonist, the sidekick, and all the secondary characters were just repellent to borderline disgusting.
The Wanted bunch just seemed like deviant creeps.
If I might speak in defence of my fellow Scot Mr. Mark Millar (and if I may be permitted to go on at some small length concerning his work in general, as opposed to WANTED in particular), I would suggest that this is precisely the point; one feels that Mr Millar was seeking to convey just how much a World run by Supervillains would SUCK and remind the reader just how nasty an individual full-blown supervillains tend to be (at the same time as he shows why someone might actually find the profession an improvement on their life to date and how they might enter it, an inherent contradiction somewhat difficult to reconcile at the best of times).
However I will not disagree with you that the WANTED antagonists and protagonist are extremely reprehensible individuals, even by the standards of Supervillains - but this seems very much of a piece with Millar's work before or since and there's a pair of very reasonable explanations why this should be the case, perhaps even a plausible justification for the frequent inclusion of somewhat off-colour elements in his creator-owned works (although it should be noted that his use of established properties tends to be much less objectionable; read the fruits of his work with Superman over the years, such as Red Son
, and I trust that you will agree with me):-
- First and simplest, I believe that Mr. Millar dislikes seeing fictional villains glorified for their more colourful qualities (such as a sartorial taste for leatherwork over fabric) and deliberately uses more sordid elements to deprive his villains of any excessive degree of 'Gangster Glamour' as a conscious choice by the author (in lieu of more subtle traits less easy to convey convincingly with brevity, which feeds into my second point).
- Secondly, I believe that the more distasteful elements of personality in WANTED are in a sense mandated by the limited time and space imposed by his choice to make it a miniseries/limited series, rather than an ongoing series in the longer term; given that he has limited time and space in which to tell his tale and introduce his original characters, make us see them as individuals distinct from the icons upon which they are based and include enough WOW! moments to make it worth our while to read about them (time and space further limited, I would note, by the necessity of focussing on Wesley Gibbon's character arc moving him from office drone to deadliest man known to the world of WANTED), it is perhaps unsurprising that Mr. Millar has chosen to make them as horrible as possible, in order to make them as memorable as possible (without being obliged to make making them too sympathetic, which feeds into my point above).
In all honesty I may be deceiving myself, but I suspect that Mr Millar's greatest problem as a writer lies in his preferrance for mini-or-limited series, which demands that he make as big an impact as possible while wasting as little space as possible and perforce obliges him to focus on making a BIG impression, rather than allowing him the luxury of time to ensure that this impression will be positive or negative.
Think about it; whatever else one may say about certain instances or characteristics of individuals in his work, one can seldom describe a tale told by Mr Millar as forgettable (however much one might wish to cast those aforesaid incidents and individuals from one's psyche).
I would also suggest that Mr. Millar tends to be somewhat at the mercy of a productive, yet eclectic imagination in the same fashion as Grant Morrison (perhaps not to the same degree or in quite the same style, yet I believe the similarity exists to be seen under scrutiny*) as well as a slightly perverse sense of humour all his own which frequently pops the odd element in under the radar of Good Taste and common sense (an affliction common to many, I fear but most evident in Mr. Millar because he tells stories for a living and tends to throw everything in his imagination into a story, in the same way a peacock will and must give his all to attract a hen away from his rivals).
Additionally note that a majority of Mr Morrison's work benefits from the luxury of forming part of the canon of DC, enriched by that canon while Mr. Millar is obliged to speak the final word on his characters on the final page of the story in which they debut.
Would the Crime Syndicate seems as grandiose if Mr. Kurt Busiek himself had not developed upon Mr Morrison's orginal story and developed the characters somewhat further?
In truth I will continue to defend Mr. Millar, partly due to the fact he has produced some very excellent work (search the web for his work on the Superman Adventures
of comics affiliated with the animated series, then read Superior
or Red Son
in print, as Kirby intended comics to be read - I would argue that even his work with The Ultimates
can be rather fun to read, if one looks at things the right way).
To an even greater degree, however, I will defend Mr. Millar for the same reason I can take an interest in movies one can most accurately term noble or basically-entertaining failures: quite simply there is nothing better than an imperfectly-executed High Concept to fire the imagination (not to mention tantalise a writer with the prospect of doing the job BETTER than the original). To put it in simple terms, why remake a good comic book/movie/tv show when there are a hundred bad comic books/movies/tv shows based on good ideas which you can get your hands on more cheaply and (hopefully) improve on to the sound of general acclaim, rather than public derision?
From this perspective, Mr. Millar is perhaps the finest muse working in comics today (just look at the films which have been based upon his works and see proof) for the very simple reason that he has a fine nose for a High Concept yet seldom quite manages to employ these concepts to perfection:-
-WANTED, for instance, would work far better as an ongoing than as a limited series since the luxury of more space and greater time in which to tell the tale allows one to (a) Add breadth and depth to the characters without being obliged to manifest wickedness in blatant (i.e. crude and nasty) fashion (b) take advantage of this longform tale-telling to develop some of the possibilities* which Mr. Millar was obliged to neglect as a result of the dedication to telling the tale at hand which is such a strength in his writing and indeed (c) show that the direputable career of Wesley Gibbons is merely a part of a greater arc, in a sense acting as the compressed New Hope
Trilogy to the untold 'Revenge of the Supervillains'.
- Nemesis would appear to suffer from the fact that Mr. Millar added too much of The Joker to the titular antagonist, declining to give him concrete motivations beyond "because I WANT to"; in my opinion the story would have been stronger if he'd stuck with the idea of the villain specifically revenging himself on the tales' Hero, as well as tending to sacrifice dramatic intensity for black humour by, most notably, over-egging the pudding with a booby-trapped womb rigged with incest babies - when simply presenting a devout catholic with the dilemma of a daughter pregnant with children from an unknown father and the conflict likely to ensue would have made Our Heroes' life hard enough.
I would also suggest that modelling Nemesis on Prometheus, rather than Batman, would have made the central conflict a bit more plausible to the reading public; conditioned to believe that Batman is invincible as they are, it is easier to swallow the idea that Jim Gordon's spiritual scion could take a man who relies on artificial enchancements in a straight fight (It also allows one to pull the old "I swapped out your Bruce Lee mix ... and substituted Stephen Hawking" ploy to the benefit of the plot, one hopes).
- I suspect that you can all think of further improvements one can make to certain of the works from the mind of Mr. Millar, so I'll conclude my defence of his work here and hope that any readers will judge him a little more kindly as a result.
*How was the villainous Fraternity formed, organised, led to victory over it's peers and opposite numbers? what thought went into the design of the maimed new world they would rule? how did they maintain themselves for an extended period of time against the complexities of a superhero universe like origin stories and alternate earths? how did they stave off internal division? what happens to supervillains when they have no heroes against which to measure themselves and fall short? (or stave off boredom), whatever happened to those villains who, absent superheroes, might seek to become vigilantes in their own right? How did The Killer (I) and Fox survive defecting from Rictus' faction? All these stories and more could be told, might very well DESERVE to be told.
After all, can you think of a better universe in which to tell 'The Sopranos with Supervillains' than a suitably-amended version of WANTED?
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