Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Comic Book Parodies Gone Wrong (Or Right?)


A couple of months ago, DC announced the release of a new Magog ongoing series, and the two most common reactions to the announcement were "Why? and "Who wanted a Magog ongoing series?". The first issue of the new series hit a couple of weeks ago, and while we won't know the sales numbers it got for some time, it was (generally speaking) positively received by reviewers. As some readers know, Magog was originally a parody character, but time has proved him popular enough to receive the aforementioned ongoing series. Hit the jump for a closer look on Magog and other parodies that exceeded expectations.



Magog-a-Go-Go

Magog originally appeared in the pages of the popular Elseworlds story Kingdom Come. In the story, the older generation of heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) face off against the new, edgier and more violent heroes, of which Magog is the de-facto leader. Created by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, Magog was designed as a clear parody of the excess of the early 90's superhero designs (pouches, glowing eyes, metal limbs) and their aggressively militaristic attitude. Visually based on a mix of Cable and Shatterstar, Magog was presented as the villain in the series who eventually gets defeated by Superman and the older heroes. The story in itself is very divisive among fans, some hating it, others loving it, but that was all we heard of Magog for years.

Flash forward ten or so years and Magog gets reintroduced in the pages of Justice Society of America in the story called Thy Kingdom Come, which borrows heavily from the previous mini series, including the Superman of that Earth (Earth-22, for those keeping track) joining the JSA briefly. Although it is uncertain if this is the same version of the character, Magog's origin story is revealed: he is a former member of the army that was killed in action, only to be revived by the villain Gog as one of his "gifts". Visually and attitude-wise, he is exactly like the other Magog, and Earth-22 Superman was worried that he is indeed the same person (or an earlier version anyway).

After the events of Thy Kingdom Come, Magog remained with the Justice Society, although in a reserve-like role. That's where his new ongoing comes in, which is written by Keith Giffen, who has some experience with writing parody characters, such as Ambush Bug and...


The Main (Parody) Man

Lobo was originally created by Giffen as a parody of Wolverine: chain smoking, big hair, and his bike were among the character's trademark look (along with the black-metal-make-up-like face). Even Lobo's nickname "The Main Man" is play of Wolverine's catchphrase "I'm the best at what I do".

First appearing in the pages of Omega Men, Lobo started climbing in popularity that warranted him several guest appearances in other series (such as Justice League International), mini-series, one-shots, an ongoing series that lasted 64 issues, and more inter-company crossovers than you can count over the years. All his appearances are remarked by his rude and violent demeanor, and often poking fun at pop and comic culture tropes. One such example is Lobo's language, which contained words like "Frag" and "Bastiche", a play on the way comic book publishing companies policy of censuring swear words.

Ironically, a character that started as a parody of the ultra-violent heroes of the time became an ultra-violent character that reached it's zenith during the ultra-violent 90's. Lobo's success surprised just about everyone, even Keith Giffen. But the character has seemingly evolved past the original joke and to this day has many, many fans. Enough fans that just recently they announced a Lobo live-action film.

There have been talks of a Lobo film for as long as the character has been popular, and this looks like it will finally come to fruition. Of course, he is not the only parody-character with a possible movie deal...


The Merc with a Mock

Oh yeah, everyone's favorite marvelous mercenary started as thinly veiled parody too, or something along those lines. Deadpool first appeared in the pages of New Mutants, by Fabian Nicienza and Rob Liefeld. Deadpool looked exactly liked Deathstroke from Teen Titans except with a color swap. Both were mercenaries, highly-skilled martial artists, with a wide arsenal of weapons, that served as foils to a group of teenage heroes.

Nicienza was the one that decided to play off in these obvious similarities and gave Deadpool the civilian name of "Wade Wilson", a direct parody of Deathstroke's name, which is "Slade Wilson". Deadpool became a recurring and popular character, which warranted him two mini-series and an a critically acclaimed ongoing series during the late 90's.

After a period of rest, the character came back with a vengeance and is more popular than ever, and is on his way to having THREE ongoing series, something unheard of outside of extremely iconic characters like Superman, Batman or Spider-Man or popular franchises like X-Men or Justice League of America.

This reborn-popularity is probably helped by the fact that he made a guest appearance in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie and other media such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance video games and a appearance in the Hulk vs. Wolverine animated film. Deadpool's own spin-off film was announced some months back, but we have yet to hear any more substantial news, and there are rumors of some conflict with star Ryan Reynolds, who is also going to be playing Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern movie.


Conclusion

Well, those are just some of the most recent popular parodies-gone-wrong tales. What other ones are there out there? I know the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is another one (I reviewed the original issue of that series as part of the FCBD 2009 reviews), but feel free to let me know what other ones I missed in the comments section. Either that, or tell me how much you are looking forward to the inevitable Magog & Deathstroke series from DC.


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22 comments:

Nick said...

You know, I never realized that Deadpool was visually a parody of Deathstroke before. I mean, the names (both Deadpool and Wade Wilson) were pretty clear, and the general mercenary fighting teen heroes thing wasn't too hard to figure out. But visually I always just saw him as Commando Spidey, so I completely missed the Deathstroke stuff there.

I'm kind of disappointed in myself.

Primewax said...

Worry not, I missed it too. I've always been a big fan of the Merc with a Mouth (enough to where I actually follow the series of the same name) and I've never really cared for Deathstroke, so I guess I just put Deadpool before Deathstroke in my mind and never really gave it any thought. Good info, though. Its fun to learn the creative origins of some of your favorite characters.

The Dangster said...

yeah Magog had a good first issue. I think Magog and Ambush Bug would totally beat Magog and Deathstroke.

The Dangster said...

You I don't think this counts, but Elongated Man was created because Julius Schwartz didn't know DC had the rights to Plastic Man.

Marc said...

Don't forget Groo, whiich parodies of Conan the Barbarian, among other things. A number of Groo's early appearances are being reprinted in a week or two in The Groo Treasury, Volume 1.

Cerberus also began as a sort of parody series, but developed into something more as time went on.

PMMJ said...

I still don't get the revival of Magog.

Lobo's best feature was his appearance in 52.

Deadpool, on the other hand, teamed up with Taskmaster to some highly comedic ends, and thusly takes the cake. Also, little yellow boxes.

Ryan Schrodt said...

I'm still not sure how Magog can be headlining his own book. A miniseries, maybe, but an ongoing seems a little much. Personally, I think the recent version of the character is best left in a team book or, at most, a co-feature.

There are dozens of other characters I'd rather see get an ongoing and are probably more deserving.

Also, bonus points to Marc for pointing out Groo and Cerebus as parody characters that took on lives of their own (both originally parodies of Conan).

Klep said...

Whenever I see Lobo in the DCAU, I have the same reaction as the relevant Justice League members involved in the episode. I groan and want him to go away. I've had no exposure to him in comics and I have no particular desire to change that.

Daryll B. said...

No Black Cat to Catwoman? - By far the best 'female villain' parody to grow into her own character.

No stupid Elite to The Authority? - A take that was supposed to promote the values of Superman over 'extreme' heroes but had the inverse with me at least of getting me to hate the franchise more.

No Imperial Guard to the Legion of Super Heroes? I love this one because it was the first parody that I got right away on my own but it was fun trying to figure out who was who.

Other than those (Guardian to Captain America you can take or leave), pretty good list.

Daryll B. said...

(P.S.) I know it was supposed to be ongoing series, but I couldn't resist throwing in those who all had minis. And it gave me an excuse to throw in The Legion and The Authority who themselves are popular parodies 'inspired' by other heroes.

(P.S.S.) At least I think the Legion still is or did Johns destroy the whole "Legion inspired by Superman and the Justice League" angle already? Like DC seems to do to continuity every other year...

Kirk Warren said...

I think there's a difference between homage and parody. Black Cat isn't meant to lampoon Catwoman like Deadpool is for Deathstroke or Magog to the extremes of the 90's. Similarly, The Authority, while a direct JLA homage, isn't mean as a parody of the team. Just takes the analogues of the JLA and twists them to extremes. I suppose it comes down to what you view as parody and homage though.

Anonymous said...

What about planetary? The entire series riffs off all kinds of pop culture sources.

Daryll B. said...

@ Kirk ah thanks man..I see the angle you are coming from now.

Matt Ampersand said...

@The Dangster: I did know about the Elongated Man/Plastic Man thing, which is similar to what happened with Watchmen and the Charton characters. But yeah, it did not fit into the "parody" aspect.

@Marc: I have never read any Groo or Cerberus. I had never heard of Groo before, although I am familiar with Sergio Aragones' work. As for Cerberus, I have heard so much about Dave Sims that it kind of turns me off from the whole book, even though people tell me that the first few books/years are great.

@PMMJ: A lot of Lobo fans didn't like his appearance in 52. It was an interesting take on the character, and I know I laughed more than a few times at the "pacifist-but-not-really-" aspect, but it did feel like a completely different character at times.

@Daryll: What Kirk said, I was concentrating on characters that began as parodies, not just homages. Hell, I could do a whole post on famous Superman homages alone.

Monch said...

Where is "The Boys" in this list? The premise is to parody Super Heroes comics and concepts (G-Men anyone?)

smkedtky said...

I never caught on with the DEADPOOL/DEATHSTROKE connection before it was pointed out to me here. I always saw DP's creation as Rob Liefeld sitting down to draw Spider-Man and saying "boy these webs are hard to draw but maybe...wait maybe if I give him a sword...oh nice. Now let me reach into my hat of random nouns and see what I get for a name." And Deadpool was born (that may still be the history to his design for all I know).

fodigg said...

Wow. Deadpool - Deathstroke. I am embarrassed. In my defense, I had been reading Deadpool for a couple years before I started reading DC more and discovered Deathstroke.

Matt Ampersand said...

I am honestly surprised that people didn't know about Deadpool/Deathstroke, I thought everyone knew about it already. I am glad I decided to mention it.

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