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Post By
Tiger Shark

In Reply To
Omar Karindu

Subj: Oh, I Agree, And I Thank You For Your Intelligent Post
Posted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 11:12:04 am EDT
Reply Subj: But let's be honest about why Todd "Tiger Shark" Arliss is treated thusly... [SPOILERS]
Posted: Wed Apr 04, 2007 at 10:29:43 am EDT (Viewed 1 times)

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If Namor or Stingray are in the story, you can generally rely on Tiger Shark being written as a proper character; it's his "dark mirror" relationship to Namor and his familial relationship to Stingray that allow his more rounded dimensions to emerge.

But when Namor doesn't have a series or Stingray isn't being used anywhere, Tiger Shark's rather personal motivations and his water-dependent powers tend to turn him into a rent-a-thug with a "shred his water-suit" Achilles heel.

Kurt Busiek seemed to be setting something up by making him more animal-like in Thunderbolts, following up a Roy Thomas plot from Namor's 90s series, but the payoff wasn't quite there. And Archie Goodwin and John Byrne attempted to turn his bitterness at having intially been crippled into some sort of hero-hatred, but ended up reinforcing the generic quality of that as a motivation anyway.

The best of his stories, as you note below, play off of his hidden, bitterness-crushed desire for heroism; and that has always played out best as a counterpoint to Namor's own brashness and occasional bouts of antiheroism, or against his sister's and bro-in-law's relative normality. The worst of his stories treat him as a gain-motivated criminal...and unfortunately, that's most of them.

Tiger Shark's basic problem for writers is that it's fairly hard to work out why, for example, he's joining the Masters of Evil under Egghead or teaming with Whirlwind to rip off an experimental gadget. Those kinds of stories helped rapidly reduce him to generic muscle. I'd argue that he's a villain who really has to be used sparingly and in very specifically tailored stories in order to be more than a thug with an often inappropriate or seemingly random "ocean predator" gimmick.

The Grey Gargoyle, whom you discussed some time back, has much the same problem. His original motivation was that he desired immortality, after all, and the stories that have worked best with him have been those that played to this notion. Indeed, the best Gargoyle story I can remember other than his debut was in Michelinie/Layton's second run on Iron Man, in issues #237-8 or so, the one in whih the Gargoyle fakes a career as a sculptor by using a plastic sheath to permanently (and horrifically) turn his victims into stone and sell them as sculptures to the idle rich.

His other great problem is that he's very much the product of a 1950s B-movie kinf o mentality. The gargoyle-come-to-life bit is a rather 50s-ish take on the Gothic, after all, and the aesthete whose medium is his weapon seems at least tangentially inspired by of House of Wax and its like. That Michelinie /Layton tale essentially is House of Wax's plot, come to think of it, right down to the villain's preference for gorgeous women as his artworks/victims.

Again, what works with the Gargoyle is the realization that he is, at some level, a horror character, and a specific type of horror character at that. The magic of the Marvel Universe is that he can actually become his own favorite artwork, his demand for a mobile immortality in stone metaphorizing the perverse, ultimately stunted and childish ambitions of a purer narcissist than even Doctor Doom. (Doom is too grand and too worldly in his desires and self-entitlement to be simply self-obsessed.)

He was created to battle Thor, after all, and Thor's best-concieved enemies invvariably partake of either the godly or the monstrous. Even the seemingly "human" villains follow this pattern -- the Absorbing Man is explicitly compared with Thor's monstrous mythological foes in his early appearances and has always had an apelike, subhuman appearance, one especially pronounced under Kirby, Buscema, or Byrne as persisting in his various transformations; the Wrecker's original concept was a mortal thug given the physical and magical powers of an Asgardian god, and the Wrecking Crew (much as I love Len Wein) is a horrible dilution of this essential idea in the character.

It also helps that Jack Kirby's original visual concept for him was somewhat grotesque -- the splash page of Journey Into Mystery #113 even depicts an inhuman gargoyle monster akin to others of that type Kirby had created in Marvel's monster comics. But aside from his first, eerie appearance and the Michelinie/Layton story I've mentioned, that's never been played up. (I did rather like Cary Nord's much more gargoyle-like rendition of him in Kesel's Daredevil run, though. The story itself wasn't a great use of Paul Pierre-Duvall, however.)

And as much as people tout the Gargoyle's battle with the Avengers, in all honesty, he's rather undermotivated for most of that story, only becoming compelling (as opposed to merely physically dangerous to the heroes) when he discovers the "silly woman" who has taken over his apartment and thrown out his life's work. His tantrum at this discovery, coupled with his hideous and peurile sense of entitlement -- fantasizing about riding in a Presidential limo, absurdly expecting that a posh NYC apartment would remain unrented because it's his -- bring back elements of his monstrous aestheticism.

That's my take, anyway; the pop influences behind the villains have to be taken into account when crafting stories that will involve them. If you can;'t come up with an appropriate story to make use of that, then you're not going to write a worthwhile adventure featuring that villain. You're going to, no matter how hard you try, contribute to the "villain-of-the-month" syndrome.

> He has been hugely mistreated and cast aside during the last two decades, and is, in a way, ripe for slaughter under Nu Marvel.
> But he was treated very, very respectfully in the recent handbook, and, if you read the CW Battle Damage report, you know that many villains and former villains are being considered for SHIELD employment as registered agents by Tony Stark.
> So Tiger Shark, who has had well-documented periods of heroism before, may find that Tony approaches him and helps him control his human-to-shark mutation, and asks him to join. Certainly, an underwater team of heroes will be needed, including Stingray, so why not Todd as well?
> Regardless, if he's going to be chopped up for fish bait, your appeal is coming wayyyyyyyyyy too late. It's already a done deal.
> Orka's death was utterly pointless and so indicative of Nu Marvel. They just brought him up from the watery ranks, dusted him off, introduced him to a new generation of readers, made him viable...and then they kill him. Ho Ho Ho. What a waste.
> That's why I've dropped HFH and will encourage others to do so too...seeing the Man-Ape in a terryclothe bathrobe was clearly just the beginning...and the Reaper's head in a toilet. I'm surprised the artist didn't include a 'floater' in the john just to make the Reaper's indignity all that more undignified. Marvel is not above that these days.

- Omar Karindu

"A Renoir. I have three, myself. I had four, but ordered one burned...It
displeased me." -- Doctor Doom

"It's not, 'Oh, they killed Sue Dibney and I always loved that character,' it's 'Oh, they broke a story engine that could have told a thousand stories in order to publish a single 'important' one.'" -- John Seavey

I've long-advocated for a kind of new 'Night Shift' criminal group located and active in the Midwest (and not necessarily in urban areas by any means) which would only strike at night, which would play off of humanity's fears of them in and of themselves, being all fairly spooky types.

When you think of what happened with the 'Mad Gasser of Mantoon' 'hysteria' in the 40s, you see, or at least I see, how this could play out very nicely. Like the Maruaders, they could strike and withdraw, strike and withdraw. They wouldn't introduce themselves by shouting our their monikers or group name, or easily be identified by the press or those investigating the attacks.

I see Quasimodo, the Corruptor, the Owl, the Grey Gargoyle, the Man-Bull, Headlok, the Vulture, the Scarecrow, Nekra, the Black Talon, the Flying Tiger, the Griffin, the female Halflife, Mr Fear, a Hate-Monger, the original Jester, a new Hangman, even perhaps Diablo, and Amphibius, being members. And having Mr. Hyde, Glob, and Vermin on hand as needed (and otherwise contained) might be a good idea for emergencies.

They could all be using this group to eventually fund their own plans and obssessions (like the Gargoyle's desire to live forever).

The Grim Reaper--the classic Grim Reaper--is, of course a natural for this group to me, and, with the Owl, the Corruptor, Quasimodo, and the Grey Gargoyle, would have to be in some kind of leadership role.

They're all physically and mentally bizarre and/or grotesque in their own way, and, knowing this, set out to strike fear into the hearts of sleeping citizens, small towns and communities who wake up to find themselves confronted by...well, essentially monsters.

The Griffin, Amphibius and the Gargoyle in his stone form are monsters, to my way of thinking, and Mr. Fear is certainly monstrous in his costume. Do they have larger motivations and goals as a group? Of course they do.

Like Ray Bradbury's 'The Clown At Midnight,' who would want to answer the door at midnight and find the Jester standing there in the moonlight, smiling or sneering? Not me. or the Griffin, or the Scarecrow either. Writers need to responsibly exploit the weirdness about these characters That's Already There.

And no member would be treated as extraneous by the group or the writers.

I agree with you wholly about Tiger Shark--he should be used sparingly and only when his 'real' personality and motivations can come into play or be carefully elaborated upon---not as he was portrayed in Egghead's ludicrous MOE. I thought Byrne did a fairly good job back in Wolverine.

IMO, the whole essentially, specifically unexplained shark-mutation thing has been a big bust and also ruined his wonderful classic appearance. It certainly wasn't an improvement, and I was glad to see the recent handbook addressing/acknowledging it in some way.

TS was the prototype of Sabertooth and many others, and should be respected. With his long history and often-heroic work (as in the later part of the 'Namor' series with Tamara), there's no reason why he can't evolve as a character and still remain true to his roots, and perhaps even become a full-time hero.

He's well-conected to Walter, Diane, Tamara, Namor, Triton, Attuma, Llyra, Krang, the FF, the Avengers, and others, in ways both 'good' and 'bad.'


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