Saturday, December 15, 2012

SurVILEvor Island: Doctor Trap



Mister Bones could not negotiate entry into the Vile Menagerie, cast aside by 60% of 15 votes.

As with the outgoing Mister Bones, Larry Trapp was featured in the short-lived Chase, which was being cancelled as the 1998 Martian Manhunter ongoing series was launching. Co-creator Dan Curtis Johnson was at first flattered that John Ostrander continued to use his toys once they were taken from him, until certain liberties were taken. For instance, Larry Trapp's wife was killed during a clash between humble super-heroes and super-villains from a time after the Justice Society retired but before Superman arrived in Post-Crisis continuity. Trapp became a serial killer of capes, among whom the father of Cameron Chase could be counted. This established Dr. Trap as DEO Agent Chase's most significant foe, though I don't believe she ever faced him in her own series. Imagine Johnson's surprise when Trap instead was co-opted as a minor Martian Manhunter foe, and his confrontation with Cameron used as a throwaway plot to help wrap Ostrander's series once it was canned.



D.C. Johnson was still writing short stories with the Chase characters in issues of DC's series of Secret Files and Origins specials, and had plans for one of his forgotten period heroes, the Bronze Wraith. He was a bit miffed when the character was redesigned as a goofy Silver Age style hero who was secretly a false identity of J'Onn J'Onzz. Having the Bronze Wraith be an earlier heroic identity than the Martian Manhunter, and placing said hero in the Justice Experience before the Justice League of America, is exactly the sort of muddy retroactive continuity that fanboys loathe. Further, the Bronze Wraith was caught in a trap, and only much later teamed-up with the Justice Society to capture Doctor Trap. Seems a bit like overkill for a villain who can't even put together an appropriate prosthetic for his missing lower jaw. Yet, Dr. Trap also guest-starred in an issue of Harley Quinn alongside John Jones, Diane Meade and Bette Noir, which is far more of an afterlife than any of the Manhunter from Mars cast had when the original strip ended.



Still, Doctor Trap was created to be Cameron Chase's ultimate foe, which is why he debuted in her book, killed her father, and why his only appearances in the past decade and longest stint in any one book was a storyline that ran in the Kate Spencer Manhunter series featuring Chase. Even his major appearance in Martian Manhunter revolved around trying to murder Cameron and being stopped by the Alien Atlas. Trap is a Chase nemesis who has just crossed J'Onn J'Onzz's path a few times on his way to cut limbs off the Chase family tree. Trap lacks the technical expertise to be a true threat to the Martian Manhunter, which invokes the Joker Clause of the hero being culpable for the murders of a madman so long as it is within his power to end the creep but fails to do so. Dr. Trap diminishes the Martian Manhunter by association, and if you just want mad science gadgetry, Professor Arnold Hugo has a much greater claim to the role.

2 comments:

will_in_chicago said...

I voted no for Dr. Trap for several reasons. (I accidentally voted yes and changed my vote. Took two attempts to get my vote right.) Why the thought of J'Onn operating in secret between the Justice Society and Justice League is a nice concept, that continuity no longer exists. Furthermore, J'Onn with any of his power sets should not have a problem with Dr. Trap. Arnold Hugo is a much more iconic Martian Manhunter foe.

So, adios, Dr. Trap. Please bug Cameron Chase instead.

Diabolu Frank said...

When I started doing these, they were heavy on rhetoric so that I could play devil's advocate. As they progressed, I got more honest, but this one sounded more anti-Trap than I really feel. There's definite pros/cons to his presence in the Menagerie, and I'm reserving my own vote for now.