This will never end. It’s happened twicebefore, and here we are, a month down the line, staring down the barrel of the same gun. To catch you up, I am a person who has never been into comics, and knows so little about the genre that I may as well be illiterate. Paste editor Sean Edgar uses this ignorance for his own amusement, sending me illustrations of five characters I have never seen before and forcing me to describe their names, origins, superpowers and arch-enemies. When I’ve finished making a fool of myself, he mocks me and explains the character’s actual story. It’s literally the worst part of my life.
(We’ve also done this twice with wrestlers.)
Initial thoughts: My first instinct is that we’re looking at a sadistic version of Roller Girl from Boogie Nights, which is an interesting start. Unlike the real Roller Girl, this fine young lady actually attends roller derby events, and judging by the blood stains on the end of her giant mallet, she doesn’t carefully observe the rules of the sport. Which, of course, doesn’t stop her from wearing a league-sanctioned outfit, full of diamonds and stars, and complete with feminine touches like the pom-pom balls on her shoes. Also, a gun. Classic roller derby attire. My question here is, why does she bash in the heads of the other skaters with a weapon she seems to have stolen from that county fair game where you try to ring the bell? Is there a reason for this violence (by the way, the teeth lying all over the ground = nice touch by the artist)? Or is it indiscriminate, like something you’d see from that one character Heath Ledger played in the movie about the bat guy? (Just kidding, I know the Joker.) I’m leaning toward the latter, because I don’t necessarily think you’d see superheroes congregating at a skating arena. Speaking of which, this violence is absolutely going to destroy the roller derby economy in her town.
My guess at her name: Terro-lle-rist! (God that’s horrible, sorry.)
My guess at her superpower: Somehow escaping notice as she enters the roller rink with a giant mallet and a gun.
My guess at her arch enemy: Some dude who plays water polo with a spear gun? I don’t know, man.
The truth: Shane! I’m so proud of you! Your reference to the Joker was astute? (Yes, on the third round of this exercise, I question myself calling Shane smart after he thought Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy was an Ent from The Lord of the Rings). Harley Quinn is the Joker’s sociopathic, adorable girlfriend. Before she transformed into Harley Quinn, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was the Clown Prince of Crime’s psychiatrist on Batman: The Animated Series before entering an incredibly unethical doctor/patient relationship with her client. Now she runs around with a giant mallet and incendiary pastries, fighting “bat guy” and inciting cartoonish mayhem. She’s pretty whimsical. And cute. I named my half-coyote half-dog after her. (Not that I name animals I’ve adopted after fictional characters that I find cute. Well…in this case I did).
Margot Robbie will play Harley Quinn in the new Suicide Squad movie that will also star Jared Leto as Joker. But, your suggestion makes me think that Roller Girl actress Heather Graham would have been a damn fine Harley Quinn, too. She deserved more than that waitress cameo in Horns.
Initial thoughts: GAH. Son of a b#*@$. There’s always one photo in these things that I really wish I had never seen. This one seems like an atheist’s nightmare: Not only does God exist, but it’s this evil grimacing fire-eyed entity with a goatee and alarming teeth who spawns planets and fire creatures and tendrils and apparently one honeycomb. I don’t like this, Sean. I wish you hadn’t shown me this illustration. I don’t know what I believe, vis-a-vis the universe, but it is not this. To put it in really harsh terms, this is the kind of deity who would be responsible making people who think The Big Bang Theory is funny. A WHOLE WORLD OF THOSE PEOPLE.
My guess at its name: BAD BAD GOD.
My guess at its superpower: BAD BAD CREATION.
My guess at its arch enemy: Sir Ian McKellen. After much deliberation, I think he is the opposite of this thing.
The truth: Ego the Living Planet debuted in the pages of Thor (the blond guy with the large hammer in those movies who all humans with the xx chromosome want to do terrible things to) in the ‘60s. The being emerged when a scientist genetically bonded with a planet as the solar system’s sun went Nova. Ego then started to absorb other orbiting entities and grow a goatee, because in space nobody can question experimental fashion statements. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for Marvel, the character shortly preceded the space opera hallucination fodder of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Kirby also wrote and illustrated a comic for. The legendary cartoonist even invented bunch of hippy deities called The New Gods for rival company DC. To the best of my knowledge, Kirby never did drugs, but he did hang out with Frank Zappa. Listen to Montana while staring at the above image and everything will make sense. And then watch The Big Bang Theory. Remember the time Sheldon had to present a lecture on thermodynamics but accidentally locked a priceless Dr. Who statuette in his boss’ particle accelerator? I couldn’t stop laughing.
Initial thoughts: The first thing I notice about this dude is that he’s leaning back in a sort of slovenly way, like a king who has servants feed him grapes, or an American watching football on a Sunday. He’s also a clear manspreader with no concern for other people’s space. I bet feminists hate when this guy gets on the subway. Otherwise, he seems to exist in the scary universe created by BAD BAD GOD, and is probably one of his main warlords. I mean, look at that helmet—the thing just reeks of evil and power. Why does he have the weird antennae? What’s with the pink-and-blue color scheme? Why the golden throne? It’s all about power, baby. In the creationist myth of this awful world, he sits at the right hand of the ruler.
My guess at his name: BAD BAD SAVIOR.
My guess at his superpower: BAD BAD SACRIFICING HIMSELF TO ENSURE THAT NOBODY EVER GETS INTO HEAVEN.
My guess at his arch enemy: Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen’s best friend.
The truth: Yes, Shane! Galactus does exist in the same world of Ego the Living Planet. But, they’re enemies; Galactus has tried, to um, “eat” Ego. But not digestively. Galactus just kind of absorbs the energy of various planets, destroying them in the process. He also fights The Fantastic Four, a family of interplanetary explorers who gain powers from cosmic rays. It’s all based in Cold War Space Race fever, but Galactus did cameo in 2007’s Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer movie as a giant cloud. Mention this to people who like comic books and they tend to get angry. Purple’s also apparently a popular space color. I initially thought Galactus was asexual, but then I remember that he has a daughter named Galacta, so he was able to find a partner despite his obnoxious manspreading.
Initial thoughts: He’s got insect eyes! I don’t like those! The rest of this outfit seems pretty standard—consistent color scheme, ninja sword, weapon belt with trademark symbols and some shit on it that I can’t identify, lots of muscles everywhere, crossed arms, harsh stare. But it’s those insect eyes that get me—what does it mean? Is he sporting some wings on his back that we can’t see? Is he another one of those characters like the accidental spider that has a whole inhuman gimmick but still fights with man-made weapons? Now that I’m looking closer, that face is also alien-like. Sean, just tell me that none of his equipment is an anal probe, please. I don’t want that to be a thing right now.
My guess at his name: Are there any red insects? Oh yeah, the ladybug. But this is not a lady, so: DUDEBUG.
My guess at his superpower: Completely taking over parts of my house in the spring, and making me feel bad for killing him because he’s neat-looking.
My guess at his arch enemy: The accidental spider. Because why not have a disgusting insect battle to complete my misery?
The truth: Deadpool, or Wade Wilson, was infused with super healing powers by Weapon X, a military branch of the Canadian Government that also endowed Wolverine with an Adamantium skeleton. Deadpool has little to no associations with bugs, but the metaphysical struggle of being an insignificant creature in a massive world rings true; Wilson breaks the fourth wall and talks to comic readers, completely aware of the fact that he exists within the realm of an inescapable sequential art prison. Initially an enemy of various characters spun off from the X-Men, Deadpool eventually gained ridiculous levels of popularity and stars in his own solo comic book, multiple videogames and action figures. Ryan Reynolds even played the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is slated to reprise the role again in an exclusive Deadpool movie next year. Actually, here’s a bug connection: Reynolds auditioned for the character of Matthew/Martha in the 1992 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Ladybugs, though Jonathan Brandis ended up landing the role. Good job, Shane. (Note: that probably didn’t happen).
Initial thoughts: So here’s the thing: I think I’m supposed to know who this is. Every fifth picture, Sean gives me a character that is supposed to be obvious. The first time, it was Superman, and I nailed it. Last time, it was a tree person from a movie that was apparently huge this summer, but the problem is, I literally have no involvement with comics, and so I got it wrong. I’m facing a similar problem here—I have no idea who this guy is, but I think I should. For some reason, the first words that came to my mind when I saw the illustration were “Phantom Menace,” but a quick Google search reminded me that it was the Star Wars movie I had actually seen, and not the right answer. So who the hell is this, with his purple pinstripe pants and weird Rorschach-blot facial features?
OH MY GOD, I GOT IT. I don’t expect anyone to believe that this just happened, but typing Rorschach just now triggered my memory—this guy is from Watchmen, which, no joke, I actually read part of in a bookstore one time. I legitimately got a tough one! Holy shit, this is the greatest moment of my life. Eat it, Sean!
My guess at his name: RORSCHACH!!!!
My guess at his superpower: RORSCHACHING!
My guess at his arch enemy: CARL JUNG!
The truth: Alright. Whatever. So you actually mistook a good comic book for a Sports Illustrated because you drank too much amino acid Red Bull or something. Go you. Looks like we’ll have to turn up the heat on this. Good thing I’ll be hitting some conventions up in the near future, and I’m guessing you’ll have a much harder time identifying random human beings dressed up as manga, anime and cult fantasy figures. You think this is the worst part of your life? Identifying Cosplay characters will either force you into a) early retirement or b) one of those jobs where you drive trucks across miles-long sheets of ice. Prepare to look at tons of people inexplicably wearing cat ears.