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Back You are here: Home Reports from Real Life Oh, The Things We've Seen! Reviews The Lamest Sequential Art Rotter
Tuesday, 17 September 2013 04:29

The Lamest Sequential Art Rotter Featured

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This week we pass-the-parcel from world’s greatest villain to a lesser medal-of-honour: The lamest rotter. Ever.

Not surprisingly when it comes to comic books, there are dozens to choose from. Same goes for cinema — hands up anyone who remembers the chainmail-vest-wearing Bennett from 1985 Schwarzenegger flick Commando? In particular, the man’s comeback when Arnie utters his recyclable “I’ll be back.” Bennett’s cutting response is “John... I’ll be ready, John.” And that’s it.

Anyway, where was I? Comics, that’s right.

FF-11 The Impossible Man

The litany of flabby monikers (and so-called skills) include the Impossible Man (not a villain per se, who first showed up in Fantastic Four #11 in 1963 and has popped-up occasionally thereafter to plague other Marvel titles), Captain Boomerang (a fellow Aussie who made his debut — with ‘villainous’ boomerang accoutrements — on the cover of The Flash #117, drawn by Carmine Infantino in 1960), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (no, not the dynamic duo from the pages of Lewis Carroll, but hardly-arch-fiends Dumfree and Deever Tweed bouncing about Batman and Robin seventy years ago in Detective Comics #74).

Flash 117 Captain Boomerang

Actually, DC was a leader in its day for lame-arse villains. Others include the Fiddler (murderous violins, anyone?), Codpiece (no words necessary) and Blue Snowman. But Marvel and its predecessor Timely also had their share: Lady Stilt-Man, Gin Genie and Asbestos Lady for starters.


Funnily enough, the final choice I made is a character that wasn’t conjured up by either major American comic book sweatshop.
In my new novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, a key riff balances on a character we never actually meet: Bullet Gal — revealed in a picture on Page 181, drawn by JGMiranda.


This woman is a smidgeon Black Canary (the domino mask), Lara Croft (those twin thigh-holsters) and Sand Saref from Will Eisner’s The Spirit (the attitude).
But name and costume-wise she’s a loving homage to Bulletgirl, a golden age comic book heroine from the 1940s.

Ad for Bulletgirl March 1941 Master Comics 12

The daughter of a police sergeant and girlfriend of Jim Barr (a.k.a. costumed crime fighter Bulletman), Susan Kent made her debut as Bulletgirl in the April 1941 edition of Master Comics (#13) through publication company Fawcett — the people behind Captain Marvel.

Master Comics 13

She’s not the villain I’m talking up, but I’m getting there. Gimme time.
After discovering her flame’s secret identity, Susan basically adopts the same drug-taking regimen (killing germs and toxins in the blood; creating great strength), gets her own gravity-defying helmet, and starts socking it to cheap hoodlums.
While researching Bulletgirl further, I stumbled across the January 1942 Bulletman #3, with art by Mac Raboy (Flash Gordon) and Bob Rogers, though it's unclear who wrote the script — possibly Otto Binder. Regardless, it’s hard to believe they jammed 64 pages (only 14 of them actually a Bulletman/Bulletgirl adventure) into this issue for a measly 10c.

Bulletman 3 Jan 1942

In this month’s exciting instalment, our heroine flies solo to investigate the murder of distant relatives. Meanwhile, bowler-hat-wearing gangland boss Bugs Jonker nabs one of those cousins. Nope, Jonker’s not the scoundrel we’re set to focus on, despite the silly name — hold your horses.
Turns out Jonker is less kingpin than lackey to Lightning King — an individual in an orange boiler suit, with a beehive keeper’s basket doohickey on his head and gloves that look like they were nicked from Lon Chaney Jr. when he played The Mummy.

Lightning Man Appears

This archfiend’s opening lines would do Bennett (from Commando, remember him?) proud: “Prepare to die, Kent! Kent, Kent, Kent! ...How I hate that name!” Yawn. He does lots of jabbing into people’s chests to accentuate his tired point, but Bulletgirl has followed her cuz into the dragon’s lair and busts up the gangsters’ pistols.

Lightning Man Meddler

This is where Lightning King gets down and dirty — and pre-empts the language of Scooby-Doo villains 30 years later. “Stand back!” he commands, “I’ll take care of this meddler!”
Of course he fails, electricity charges and all, but while Bulletgirl is dazed and confused the rascal makes good his escape.

Bulletgirl dazed and confused

He then goes on a killing spree of anybody bearing the family name ‘Kent’ (a bit like Arnie terminating all the Sarah Connors of the world), including electrocuting one down the phone line from his candlestick telephone.
Why the Kents?
Well, on Page 7 we get the traditional villain’s soliloquy, and I wish to god I could call this one classic. Ends up the man in the basket is one Professor John Willoughby, and “twenty years ago the Kents of Kentucky tried to finish off our feud by killing all Willoughbys... just because we burned down the Kent plantation. But they failed to get me! And now I’ll blast down all the Kents on the face of the earth, with my wizard control of lightning!”

Lightning King close-up

I swear I’d tuned out before it was over and I’m sure Prof Willoughby’s victims felt the same, even if they were about to be fried by an over-excessive ten million volts of electricity.
Which is precisely when Bulletgirl, this time accompanied by her paramour, bursts through the door (overleaf on Page 8, of course). While these projectile twins produce their own cheesy repartee over the course of six panels, Lightning King again scores kudos for the best banal remarks. “Stop them!” he shouts. “They’re spoiling everything!”

Dialogue insert

It’s odd, then, that Willoughby wins this round. He knocks out Bulletman while Bulletgirl escapes to go fetch the cavalry — but she’s promptly kidnapped along with her police officer dad (they are Kents, after all).
Meanwhile, Bulletman breaks out of a completely unguarded cage to discover how exactly Lightning King gets his mojo... from cables leading out of a power station. Obviously the man packs a set of seriously long extension cords. Simply snapping the wires defangs him, giving our hero free-range to knock about the diabolical rotter, until Prof Willoughby grabs the wires, recharges — and is promptly dispatched by an accurately lobbed wrench.

Death by Wrench

Thus a spanner destroys everything.
“Electrocuted,” says Susan’s cop father as he inspects the charred corpse. “Well, he got his own electric chair a little ahead of time.”

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Last modified on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 04:38
Andrez Bergen

Andrez Bergen is an expat Australian writer, journalist and DJ who's been entrenched in Tokyo for the past 12 years. He published the noir/sci-fi novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011), slipstream tome One Hundred Years of Vicissitude in 2012, and now Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? through Perfect Edge Books - a novel that combines classic comic books, noir, pulp, fantasy and sci-fi.

Bergen has published short stories through Crime Factory, Snubnose Press, Shotgun Honey and Another Sky Press and worked on adapting the scripts for feature films by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell), Kazuchika Kise and Naoyoshi Shiotani.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/andrezbergenauthor
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