Saturday, November 10, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Effigy

Vandal Savage was an early entry into the Vile Menagerie, as I worked my way backward through history, of which the immortal and J'Onn J'Onzz shared much in the '90s. Still, that was the decade before last, with no sign of a renewal in the New 52. Vandal Savage belongs to the greater DC Universe, but he's a personal favorite, and a great foil for the Manhunter from Mars. 53% of 19 votes isn't much of a mandate, but he'll be around when I think of interesting things to do with him on the blog.

Effigy was one of those horrid prefabricated nemeses that comic book creators order out of a Swedish catalog, build into one story, but they can't be moved beyond it without falling apart. One of the easiest telltale signs of this in the modern era is when a character debuts in a reference book, working under the hubristic assumption that they will be significant enough to rate a biographical entry before they've even been in a story. Martyn Van Wyck's first appearance was on such a page in 1998's Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins #1, where it was revealed that he sampled "Under Pressure" and somehow rode a fad of whiteboy rap into his own feature film and the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

After musical fame died hard and fast, Van Wyck (who led a life of tragedy and destitution common for young white males named "Van Wyck") was kidnapped by the Controllers, who were the tall pink cousins of the Guardians of the Universe who never bothered pretending not to be jerks. They had their own rent-a-cop parallel to the Green Lantern Corps called the Darkstars, who got killeded by Darkseid's possible illegitimate son who sucked so hard that they just drowned him in the river without bothering with a paternity test. Martyn Van Wyck was supposed to be the vanguard of a replacement for the Darkstars, and there was in fact very briefly a loser Effigy Corps, but that swiftly fell by the wayside.

If you hadn't figured it out, Effigy was supposed to be Kyle Rayner's Sinestro. He could create flaming constructs, but like Rayner he had it all handed to him, and unlike Rayner never proved worthy of it. Effigy was a weasel who figured that once he had the strength to poop all over the world, why not? Well, because it makes for weak character motivation, which in turn makes for a poor adversary and a tepid story. Once it was clear that he couldn't headline, Effigy became a novelty act as half of an elementary romantic duo with the Firestorm villainess Killer Frost. After that, Effigy developed multiple personality disorder that was manifested by constructs named Blaze, Ember and Torch. Blinky, Inky, and Pinky were taken, I suppose. Effigy was so used up so quickly, the "team" were one issues foes for Kyle's girlfriend Jade. A successive writer created very nearly an exact replica of Effigy named Nero, who despite being a Villain Sue who took down the JLA still wasn't as interesting or well designed as, well, Effigy.

Once he underperformed against Green Lantern, Effigy bopped around the fringes of lesser crossovers like Joker's Last Laugh when he wasn't an outright throwaway villain. It was in that latter capacity that Effigy ended up on the salvation planet where the U.S. government tried to strand hordes of super-villains. There, Effigy helped to capture and contain the Martian Manhunter, until Libra decided to make an example of him in Final Crisis. There, Effigy helped to capture and contain the Martian Manhunter, until Libra killed him. Effigy was then executed by the Spectre for his crime of accessory to the murder, as was Doctor Light. There were at least half a dozen guys just as culpable, but apparently not as expendable.

When Bullseye murdered Elektra, it was one of the most important events in comic book history. It was hard to miss the subtext of the woman's throat being slit and her own sai piercing her abdomen, elevated splay-legged while her killer held her at his lower torso. In The Killing Joke, the effete Joker took out his big gun and crippled Batgirl with a blast through the pelvis. There was something to that. Comparatively, Effigy and Martian Manhunter being tangentially involved in one another's deaths was more equivalent to an embarrassing drunken blackout hook-up that neither party much remembers, or cares to. When Effigy returns in the New 52, he'll either still be that guy in a crowd scene of nogoodniks, or he'll get reassigned to a lower tier hero that he could potentially trouble. Martian Manhunter never died in the new continuity, so no harm, no foul, no foe.


will_in_chicago said...

As J'Onn never died in the new continuity, having been abandoned by Batman and other "allies" to an empty planet in the old continuity, Effigy is out of here. He is useless and has less of a soul than plastic wrap.

Diabolu Frank said...

Very surprisingly, our opinion appears to be in the minority.