Your Favorite Character You Don’t Like
You ever fall in love with a character, only to grow frustrated that nobody who’s working on him or her seems to do anything to validate that opinion?
I was putting together a “beginner’s list” to good Batman stories (which I’ll post next week, and would like some input on), and it struck me how few really knock-it-out-of-the-park Batman stories I’ve seen within my own lifetime.
I was trying to find anything from the post-KnightFall era that encapsulated what feels like a “regular” Batman story – Batman investigates odd crime, turns out it’s the work of one of his rogues’ gallery, fisticuffs and gadgetry ensue – and generally the best I could find were occasional, brief runs of “normalcy” inbetween the world-shaking (sometimes literally) crossovers.
That said, when you fish through the deluge of available collected material, you’re gonna find a lot more classics than duds. More Strange Apparitions than War Games. And once you start digging around for “deep cuts,” you’ll probably unearth the Alan Grant/Norm Breyfogle stuff, or Chuck Dixon’s brief but memorable Detective issues.
And then if you add in the great TV shows and movies…it’s pretty easy to be a Batman fan and point people to why you are a fan.
But then there’s a character like Doctor Strange, for whom the title ALONE should be enough to draw readers in. He’s a character I am continually fascinated by and constantly hoping to read a great story about…but am so often left wanting.
I think the way I got into the character was when, during college, I did a few bargain-bin hunts for old mid-90′s Warren Ellis comics, and came across his single issue of Doctor Strange.
Fell in love right there. Beatifically weird guy. A plotter, not a fighter, preparing for mystical assaults that were too outlandish and alien for a reader to find old-hat. A quick burst of research told me the only other thing I needed to know: his hands were for shit.
The origin – skilled surgeon wrecks his car, ruins his deft touch, goes in search of a mystical cure and ends up a student of magic – was brilliant in its simplicity. But that added detail, that despite his mastery of the otherworldly, his hands, his one natural ability, would always be somewhat deficient, always made me deeply sympathetic.
(Thanks to a thoroughly stupid condition known as “essential tremors,” the use of my hands is also not 100% reliable, so I’m an easy target.)
Anyway. Point being, I am clearly in the tank for this character…so why can’t I find any good stories?
Outside of Mark Waid and Emma Rios’ mini-series from last year, and Brian Vaughn and Javier Pulido’s before that…finding a really good Dr. Strange comic is like pulling teeth. I had to go back to the earliest stuff – the Lee-Ditko run – to get that fix.
Granted, it only takes one really good creative team to turn it all around. I had
similar feelings for Iron Man – loved the idea of the character, but was bored to tears by so many stories – until Warren Ellis found a strong angle, and Matt Fraction built on it.
So here I sit, waiting for someone to look at Dr. Strange, say, “Oh! I see what needs to be done,” and start the ball rolling. But man, some days I grow quite impatient.
(And yes, the recently-announced Matt Fraction Defenders book does give me some hope.)
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had to deal with this. And it’s not always relegated to what I grudgingly accept as “b-list” characters – I found a lot more chaff than wheat when I went on my Superman walkabout last year – SUPERMAN, of all characters!
So I’m just curious to hear who else has been disappointed by a lack of glory in characters who might deserve it.
*A brief note about that first picture of the good Doctor – everyone got to wear a trenchcoat in Marvel comics back then, but only Dr. Strange managed to find an in-story reason for it: his cloak of levitation had been practically destroyed, leaving only the fancy collar. So Strange had it sewn into a flowing red overcoat. If they’d only designed in the blue shirt with the snakey logo thing, I’m sure this design would still be in use today. It just works nicely.