Tuesday, June 29, 2010

B is for Blockbuster

So, as some of you may know, I'm a huge fan of the Mindless Ones blog. In spite of the moniker, they never fail to offer insightful comics criticism and commentary, and I love them for it even when I don't agree with them (which isn't too very often). Anyway. Zom of the Mindless has begun a series of articles in which he'll be dissecting and analyzing all the Bat-Villains, in alphabetical order. He recently did the Bs, where he serves up an interesting look at Black Mask, links to an earlier (and absolutely stunning) Mindless piece on Bane, and gives a short dismissal of Blockbuster.

Now, I've always kind of dismissed ol' Blockbuster myself. He was originally a "Hulk-Lite" sort of character, a mindless monster controlled by his criminal brother. His primary threat was his great strength, and his primary weakness was that he was dumb as a box of rocks. He never appealed to me. You could get the same sort of stories far more entertainingly out of Solomon Grundy, for one thing. But for another, Blockbuster was just boring as owl shit. They tried to alleviate this problem sometime in the last decade or so by having him make a deal with Neron the Spandex Satan to get super intellect. So all of a sudden, Blockbuster (still a hulking monster) got a giant brain in addition to his giant muscles, and started running around in white gangster suits.

Zom doesn't have much use for either version of the character, and I can understand that. But I've always liked super-smart Blockbuster (even if I hate the character that made him that way). I'd never quite put my finger on why, but Zom's dismissal made me really think about it. Now, keep in mind that I’ve read maybe three panels that featured the character in any significant manner, so this is all just speculation. Pure potential that I’m sure has already been trod upon by unimaginative writing. But…

I think what I like most about super-smart Blockbuster is that he’s not just another super-strong criminal mastermind. He’s the Hulk in reverse. Instead of being the brainy poindexter that turns into an angry roided-up freak, he’s a mindless monster who’s suddenly given access to a massive intellect. I love the idea that he’s the same guy he always was, just a lot smarter. Terrifyingly smarter. Smarter than Batman. Genuinely SUPER-intelligent. But he’s still got the same blinding anger inside him. Only now he’s smart enough that it bothers him a little. Maybe he’s ashamed of his mindless past, and every time he feels that boiling red rage building up in his gigantic brain, he considers it a personal failure. Which of course only upsets him more, trapping him in a vicious circle of anger and violence he’s completely incapable of escaping, no matter how smart he is.

And of course, intellect doesn’t equal knowledge. So, having started as a mindless lout, he’s got a lifetime’s worth of culture and science and art to absorb. Maybe he’s obsessed with it. I envision scenes of him furiously pumping iron while sweatily absorbing volumes of Proust, or the teachings of Machiavelli. And, as AmyPoodle (another of the Mindless) pointed out about Bane, there's a whole sexual side to the Blockbuster concept to be exploited, as well. You could sexualize that huge, veiny brain of his every bit as much as the muscles, by playing to similar bodice-ripping fantasies. He doesn’t just learn things, goddammit! He TAKES the knowledge he wants, ripping it forcefully from whatever sources he can get his engorged frontal lobes on, his mind hyper-active with a violent eroticism, a seething lust for IDEAS.

And he takes all that rage, all that obsession, all that furious pumping intellect, and he points it straight at the Caped Crusader. Determined to defeat Batman with his brain as well as with his fists, he creates maddeningly complex webs of crime based on his latest reading! He builds pointlessly intricate and devastatingly brutal death traps! He employs a gang of Pop Crime henchmen made up of vicious thugs in graduation caps, and computer hackers in gorilla masks! And, if Batman survives all that, Blockbuster still stands at the far end of the game, waiting to beat Our Hero into a bloody pulp. Or maybe just beat him at chess, depending on how red the rage is running that day…

Or, you know. Maybe he’s just the Penguin on steroids. Minus the interesting bird fetish. Which I’m sure is how he’s been written to date, and more’s the pity. Sometimes, the characters I see in my head are far more interesting than the ones I get on the actual funnybook page.

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