(Title courtesy of Sir Walter Scott writing that the man with no love for his native land shall “go down to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonour’d and unsung.”)
I wrote a few months back about DC and Marvel killing off characters who still had potential to be stars. But what about the opposite — characters who stick around through inertia even when they suck?
A lot of times this is because a writer creates a character they’re convinced is utterly awesome and readers — or at least me — find them insufferable. Case in point: with Changeling aging into adulthood, Marv Wolfman created telekinetic spy kid Danny Chase as a new, younger Teen Titan in the third annual. Chase never worked for me — just an annoying smartass constantly carping how his secret agent parents trained him to handle danger so much better than the Titans.
Mark Gruenwald’s Maelstrom fell into the same category, though he didn’t appear as much. A hybrid Deviant/Inhuman with advanced genetic technology, he was supposed to be an amazing new villain. I found him almost completely lacking in screen presence.
Elihas “Egghead” Starr is a more interesting example because as far as I know, creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber didn’t think he was the sensational character find of 1962. He kept showing up anyway.
In Tales to Astonish #38 we meet Egghead as a government scientist selling secrets to the Reds. Patriotism? Duty? Those are for losers, not a genius like him. The feds don’t have evidence enough to prosecute but Egghead loses his government job. Deciding a career switch to super-villain is the best way to maintain an income stream, he tells the underworld he’s willing to kill Ant-Man, for a price. Egghead figures he can turn the ants of New York against their master by appealing to their ego; ants don’t have egos so he fails.
It’s a forgettable debut but Ant-Man was a forgettable series. Part of the problem is Egghead’s name, riffing on then-current slang for a brainiac; it’s the equivalent of having a high-tech criminal today who gives himself the villain-name Nerd. It’s justified in-story by Starr having a literally egg-shaped head but that’s pretty feeble.
Then there’s Starr lack of a personality or anything else distinctive. He’s an evil scientist who wants money, and after that first encounter wants revenge on Ant-Man. That’s about all there is to him, and nobody ever developed him beyond that. Roy Thomas tried, giving Egghead the habit of constantly quoting Shakespeare; it’s not a bad trait as quirks go but it still didn’t give him screen presence. Though no question, Gene Colan gave Thomas Egghead vs. Avengers story a cool cover.
Somehow, being completely dull didn’t stop Egghead. He kept appearing all the way into the 1980s without developing any more of a personality (he even lost the Shakespearian quoting shtick). I don’t know if he’s still around; even if not, that’s still a longer run than he deserved.
So, any nominations for characters you wish would just get forgotten? Or at least shelved until someone has a good idea what to do with them?
#SFWApro. Covers by Mitch O’Connell, Kirby and Colan.