They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you
– Philip Larkin
Today sees the first week of DC's Villains Month. A while ago, I was told that DC editorial was insisting across the line, that there be no justification expressed for the villains featured, no sympathy, no moral complexity. Checking around, it appeared that one creator had been told this – but no one else had. And certainly that's in evidence today.
There are two main strands here. Many books choose to tell the character's origin, going back to their childhood and finding the roots of their behaviour there, generally looking at the failure of mothers and the absence of fathers. While others take the plot aspect of Forever Evil, with a world gone dark, and taking advantage of that scenario. Some manage both.
Darkseid doesn't do that. Tied up in Earth 2 and Batman/Superman continuity, we get a Darkseid who was always like he was, even when he was a farmer. No explanations, no learning, just Darkseid. By the way, I'm running a very silly Darkseid swipe file later. Look for it.
So we have Deadshot. Whose origins go down to his parents being killed for their crimes and his sister another casualty. A rejection of his fantasy world, and the creation of one made up of quantifiable numbers, almost autistic in its outlook.
In Count Vertigo, it's all down to a dead father and a mother who mentally abuses her child, then abandons her responsibilities, oh, and is also possibly a prostitute. So that makes it doubly bad.
Cyborg Superman gives us Jor-El's brother transformed by a new parent, Brainiac, into something "perfect". And then asked to bugger off and find more perfect beings to transform. That potential sibling rivalry doesn't go well.
While in Bizarro #1, Lex Luthor has fatherly ambition for his "son". And no, that doesn't work out well either.
The Joker, in a flashback story, also flashbacks to his childhood, brought up without parents and an oppressive abusive aunt, giving him the impetus to bring up a gorilla in a much more loving fashion.
Creeper #1 also begins with dead parents. It's one hell of a trope this week. It's interesting that Killing Joke came up again recently, the tenet of that book is that both the Joker and Batman became what they were after the death of someone close to them. But that's not enough, Commisioner Gordon is also put through a similar ordeal, but he feels not need to put pm a costume and seek revenge. The book abandons the traumatic experience as justification for the supervillain or the superhero, wanting to look deeper, blame a psychological condition.
To that end, Ventriloquist #1 is possibly the most interesting of the books this week, in the way that it escapes the trope. It straddles the storyline of a dark, lightless Gotham, and the power afforded to someone with light, food and heat, and it is power most hideously abused. But we get no excuse, no justification, we get a child with loving parents, in a good family home, with all she could wish for, who somehow has power at a young age, and uses it in the cruel, amoral, unthinking nature of a child, blind to consequences. And, such power never challenged, the person never growing or maturing, still playing with people as a child plays with toys. She is Viz Comics' Spoiled Brat, all grown up. Why should anything change?
Two-Face takes on the new situation in Gotham and makes it about the character's own personal responsibilities. No daddy or mommy issues here, it's all about taking charge, even as the Society tries to take charge of him, he relied on the coin to decide – even if it's the Forever Evil coin that they gave him.
Poison Ivy #1 gives us the murder of her mother by her father and Ivy's subsequent secret murder of her father in revenge.
It's the only justifiable action of murder in the issues this week, possibly acceptable as Poison Ivy dies play a heroes role on occasion, but the issue is mostly taken up with Ivy playing judge, jury and executioner in a blacked out Gotham, as Two Face does. Abusers, muggers, all fall victim to her actions – but she also takes out a couple of innocent cops as well, just to make sure she's on the Villains roster as well.
Relic couldn't be further from Gotham, but thematically is closer to Krypton, as he takes the Jor-El role in trying to save the universe he came from. And does also give us the thematic reminder that the Pre-52 is never coming back…
And dealing with the darkened world, we have Grodd taking advantage of his new powers (that seem absent in Forever Evil #1 for some reason) and his new Secret Society status.
And a rather familiar line…
Not many daddy issue there.
Desaad also skips his parents, but very much has Darkseid as a father figure, formed by him, working in his shadow, his influence and the desire to impress. But in his actions, he uncovers a true father, as we mentioned earlier, the man in whose shadow we all read and work…
Sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, there's a lot of that this week in DC's Villains Month. And lots of justification to go around. Consider it your own personal therapy session.
And as a checklist, Forever Evil tie-ins are Grodd, Poison Ivy, Two Face and Ventriloquist, Earth 2 readers need Darkseid and Desaad, everything else, you're pretty much on your own.
And getting reports of fast sellouts for Deadshot,Vertigo, Ventriloquist and Relic…
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London. This weekend, launching their gallery by photographer Steve Cook of Sophie Allred, in the Doctor Who years.