May 13

marvel: a character guide

FT23 comments • 1,175 views


As a kid I only read British comics (Beano, Dandy, Topper, Beezer, Sparky et al), and never graduated to — or really understood — Marvel or DC. They were too vast in conception to catch up with, I felt: too big a universe, filled with too much backstory. As a consequence I only recall two ministories, a Spiderman vs Doctor Octopus which ended on a cliffhanger as the latter hefted one of those water-coolers that sit on top of New York buildings at the former OH NOES, and a Silver Surfer spread where this gentleman floated unconscious in space while a squamous and bubbling mucous-beast crawled though a mirror from an eldritch dimension into an empty (excuse alliteration) marbled mansion OOOOH NOOOOOES. So anyway, I didn’t get much of a bead on what Superheroes were like as people. Lately I have embarked on a study of same — for other purposes eventually to be revealed (possibly) — and have drawn up a table, based on Iron Man1&3, The Hulk (second half only), Capt America, Thor, and Avengers Assemble.

At-a-glance guide to male Marvel character qualities:

Arnim Zola: . . . . . . . . a d!ck
Captain America: . . . a d!ck
Emil Blonsky: .. . . . . . a d!ck
Hawkeye: . . . . . . . . . . a d!ck
Iron Man: . . . . . . . . . . a d!ck
James Rhodes: . . . . . . a d!ck
Loki: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . a d!ck
Mandarin: .. . . . . . . . . a d!ck
Nick Fury: . . . . . . . . . . a d!ck
Odin: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the alld!ck
Phil Coulson: .. . . . . . . a d!ck
Red Skull: . . . . . . . . . . a d!ck
The Hulk: . . . . . . . . . . tries not to be a d!ck, fails
Thor Odinsson: . . . . . not a d!ck


1: various male characters of lesser screen time (or non-humanoid structure) not included; plz quiz Hazel on same (she says: all d!cks except Volstagg and Hulkling who isn’t in the films anyway).
2: No one included from the Fantastic Four or X-Men or Spiderman movie franchises, since there it’s hard to separate bad writing from being a d!ck (they are all d!cks, but the evidence merely on-screen and in-script is blurred and boring)(I am not going to read the comics obviously.)
3: Hence, as Tom pointed out when I first debuted the table yesterday, “this fine collection… will never get to interact with the godfather of Marvel Universe d!ckery, Reed Richards” (Hazel: RR is “the ILX of superheroes, the Pitchfork hip hop review of science”)
4: Hulk summary slightly adjusted after accurate protest from Kat.
5: All this also sorta ties in with an essay I made notes for, years ago, about Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Which in boiled-down form (hurrah!) was that where Buffy was a study of various types of strong women, Firefly broke no new ground here, and was really (as per its roots in the classic Western) about modes of masculinity. And that Whedon’s basic thesis is: men, gotta love em, but they’re all d!cks.
6: (I do love the men in Firefly, the worse the better — Jayne! — but even Wash and Book are in fact d!cks).


  1. 1
    Pete on 8 May 2013 #

    Whilst it is a valid observation that there is a shortage of strong female characters in Marvel movies, most have more screen time than Hawkeye, so you need to consider them too please.

  2. 2
    Tom on 8 May 2013 #

    Reed Richards is such an omniversal dick that major comic storylines and indeed entire comic series not even published by Marvel have been devoted to proving his dickery. The most successful of these is Warren Ellis’ PLANETARY, which took 27 issues over 10 years to demonstrate that Reed Richards ruined everything in a metafictional as well as actual sense, and is furthermore a dick.

    This theme has been enthusiastically taken up by Marvel themselves. Alternate Universe Reeds have always been dicks and remain so, but most of Marvel’s major storylines over the last decade have the d1ckishness of Richards (R) front and centre, viz.

    CIVIL WAR: Reed’s contribution to this is to clone Thor in order to kill other superheroes, and to build a Super-Guantanamo.
    WORLD WAR HULK: Hulk attacks the world, having been exiled into space by a collection of “super-brains” helmed by, yes, Reed Richards.
    SECRET INVASION: The Skrulls attack the world, their hatred for Earth in part originating in the decision of Dr. Richards to humiliate prisoners of war from this warrior race by hypnotising them into believing they were cows.

    It is only with the most recent line-wide events that Reed has finally handed over his position as Dick Supreme to his long-serving apprentice dick, Iron Man. Reed was last seen neglecting to inform his wife, brother-in-law and “best friend” that they were likely to develop terminal space cancer and instead taking them all on a holiday.

    As his Wikipedia page stresses, a kinder and more noble hero you are unlikely to find.

  3. 3

    #1: As the table-label is intended to suggest, this is a guide to the qualities of male characters. Female characters will get their own table. There may be overlap (possibly I have over-ambitious expectations of the contents of Thor 2). Spoilers: Black Widow and the Lady Sif are d!cks.

  4. 4
    lonepilgrim on 8 May 2013 #

    please to define d!ck/d!ckishness

  5. 5

    Lady Sif is the best d!ck. <33333

    Most Marvel ladies are also d!cks, it comes with being a superhero, especially in the Marvel universe where this manifests more as a personality disorder than anything else.

    NB: being a d!ck, except in certain instances where a critical mass of d!ckery is met and a character becomes Reed Richards or Tony Stark, basically means ‘being unrepentantly awful as a character trait’ -this may be only a small aspect of the character’s character but nevertheless features a little. Often it is what makes me love them so much.

    DEFINITELY D!CKS (a completely non-exhaustive list):
    Janet Van Dyne (IN THE BEST WAY)
    Wanda Maximoff (COLOSSALLY but later rationalised as going nuts and having to wear a really crappy trenchcoat in contrition, which is a shame because no one rly rationalises the same level stuff that Reed and Tony do with anything more than 'eh, they're like that innit')
    Jean Gray
    Lady of the Lake (SUCH A D!CK)
    Amora Enchantress
    Lorelei (altho to be fair her main d!ck crime is really wanting to bang Loki)
    Dani Moonstar
    Captain Marvel
    Mockingbird (nb: she makes it onto the d!ck list for her habit of hanging around with Dominic whoojaflip and running clandestine organisations/hitting people with her new super soldier powers; she has also been cleanly not a d!ck on many occasions) (altho she should make the d!ck list just for marrying Clint Barton rly)
    Jessica Jones/Jewel

    NOT D!CKS:
    Faiza Hussain
    Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff, the *other* Black Widow exists exclusively to be a d!ck) except for that time when it turned out she’d been using a computer chip embedded in her liver to record every conversation she’d had for 40 years or something, WHOOPS
    Pepper Potts
    Hope Summers (except when she's being r00d about Namor banging hott lobster queens)
    Misty Knight
    Delphyne Gorgon
    Spider Woman (this has a high controversy rating! But I can't think of anything specifically d!ckish she's done when she wasn't a Skrull)
    Kate Bishop

    The ladies come out surprisingly well!


    Rat Loki


  6. 6
    Tom on 9 May 2013 #

    I can never remember if Lockjaw is a pet! I remember at some point someone claiming he was a mutant who just looked like a dog, but this was later retconned as that someone trolling Ben Grimm. Or was it? And who was the someone? Good work that man. This is one of my favourite terrible Marvel “reveals” anyhow.

    Rising VERY RAPIDLY up the current Marvel d!ck list – Hank McCoy, whose sanctimony in All-New X-Men gets even more irritating when you remember he’s also just got a special buzzer fitted in his hand to remind him when it’s time to go and murder a universe along with his special D!ck Club buddies (who include GO ON HAVE A GUESS).

  7. 7

    Beast is SUCH a d!ck! It’s his best thing. I liked that they brough Dark Beast over from Age of Apocalypse and it was like ‘well, this is pretty much just a less devious and slightly stupider/more misguided form of Beast isn’t it?’ I love Beast.

    Lockjaw is sort of a pet- he’s the transport of the Royal family of Attilan but I think he is actually an Inhuman who just happens to look like a big wrinkly dog?

    Further additions to the lady list bcuz I can’t edit my comment any more-

    Tinkerbell or whoever that punk fairy who’s sh4gged Pete Wisdom in Capt. Britain and MI:13 Secret Invasion is
    Kitty Pryde
    Dazzler (interestingly, all universes of Dazzler are d!cks as proven by X-Treme X-Men; this made me like her)
    Pestilence or whatever that one with the umbrella and the bugs from the En Sabuh Nur fanclub is
    Everyone in the Ultimates universe
    EMMA FROST <333333
    Red She-Hulk
    Darcy Lewis
    Maria Hill (I was going to say 'in a good way' but honestly I mean nearly 100% of these in THE BEST WAY because it is why I LOOOOOVE THEM- also why I generally like Marvel's ladies, they are not afraid to make them be d!cks, which is an important trait for the vast majority of us)
    Becky from The Order
    That other one from The Order
    It's not really fair to call characters from The Order d!cks I mean they have not had a good life have they?
    Nico Minoru
    The youngest one from Power Pack, can't remember her name argh
    Toxic girl from Avengers Academy
    Vapour Girl from Avengers Academy
    Taskmaster's Daughter Girl from Avengers Academy (CHIEF D!CK)

    Not d!cks-
    Green She-Hulk
    The ladies come out surprisingly well!
    Jane Foster
    The eldest girl from Power Pack, I can't remember her name?
    Old Lace (possibly also a pet?)

    I want to put Sigyn on the non-d!ck list for being an A++++ Sybill Fawlty character who just wishes Loki would stop embarassing her and is getting bored to bailing him out of All-jail but tbh I am not sure where she is at the minute (she seems to have been stuck in limbo since Ragnarok- I have a lame idea about how to reboot her but for some reason no one at Marvel has asked for my consultation on this matter) so WHO KNOWS? (I hope she is being an INTEGALACTIC D!CK or sutin)

    Ok I will stop now.

  8. 8

    (in case this wasn’t clear — rereading i don’t think it is — my own evidence is drawn ENTIRELY* from the recent movies, which are what is listed in the pre-table preamble)

    *(plus a few things mog posted on tumblr)

  9. 9
    omni-mog on 9 May 2013 #

    Haha yes WOOOPS sorry I was making an initial effort to restrict it to ladies in movies but they all turned out to be X-Men and then I got carried away.

    I draw my references from the OMNIVERSE.

  10. 10

    Am quite happy for it to be drawn out! Just not by me. I am not so much daunted now by the vastness of the comics backstory, as aware that I am meant to be reading 1 x fvckton of other things first :) :(

    In reading-other-things news, I was just now glancing at the LRB’s piece on North Korea, China and the USA and it struck me that A, as sketched here China’s relationship to the DPRK is *uncannily* like that of Thor’s to Loki, and B, thinking in international relations terms, with nations (and other very very large orgs and entities) considered as characters, the companions and beefs of superheroes and supervillains — especially the endless complex diplomatic churn of alliance and falling out and allying again — is not a bad first approximation [ie to international relations]. I guess bcz these guys are individual units except with the “strength of ten” (or ten thousand or ten million or whatever), plus all kinds of internal tensions and conflicts and contradicitions even when they’re not actually (as per the Hulk) “bipolar” (to slightly glibly borrow a word from its more usual and only appropriate useage).

  11. 11

    (Note: re China-as-Thor, I do not endorse the extrapolation that China is not a d!ck. ALL nations (and other very very large orgs and entities) are d!cks, obv.)

  12. 12
    Alex S on 9 May 2013 #

    Lockjaw is categorically a pet (at the moment, anyway) – the alternate explanation of his being an especially mutated Inhuman was retconned as Karnak? iirc trolling Ben Grimm, even if whoever wrote the original scene had meant it seriously at the time. It was a terrible old bit of emo bollocks, though, so good riddance to it (see also: the aborted ‘Wolverine is in fact a mutant wolverine DYS?’ plot).

  13. 13
    Andrew Farrell on 9 May 2013 #

    My reaction to this post is basically going to be leaving in floods of tears one way or another, but.. how is Captain America from the movies a Dick? In the sense (which I’m aware may be Moggy-only) of ‘being unrepentantly awful as a character trait’?

  14. 14
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 9 May 2013 #

    Cap in the movies is probably the closest to not being a d!ck of the male d!cks, and plainly he’s not a d!ck on the colossal scale of Red Skull or Loki or Tony Stark — but he still never ever for a moment loses that Head Prefect Teacher’s Pet thing, even when he’s cheerfully breaking rules or challenging the teachers. Hence: d!ck.

    I’d refine mog’s definition thus: unrepentantly awful as a character trait in some particular aspect of your character, despite possibly being lovely in many (or all) others. I like Cap’s corn-fed courtesy as a style, something out of time that’s refreshing and charming in an abrasive wisecracking world. But as well as generally being the Better Person in an exchange, you kind of always know that he sees himself as being the best at being a straight arrow.

    I don’t now enough about Marvel to judge whether this is how they approach things, but since Firefly, I’m reasonably confident Joss is conceiving his life’s work as an Exhaustive Bestiary of Types of Male D!ckishness, minor and major. There are dozens of ways of being a d!ck — and maybe more. This has been some of them (definition by range of example); Whedon wants to catch em all.

  15. 15
    Tom on 9 May 2013 #

    #14 Marvel’s generally-credited innovation in the world of comics is to introduce “heroes with flaws”* so this is very close to the original gameplan.

    (This is not to say rival heroes were not d!cks but not in the same consistent way – in the immediately pre-Marvel era the foolishness of Superman is a plot exigency – “GASP TO SAVE LOIS I MUST GO BACK IN TIME AND FLIRT WITH CLEOPATRA” etc – fsvo ‘plot’ – )

    *Stan et al were not very good at imagining lady-flaws beyond “being flighty”, “being insecure” and “wanting to shag Namor”, which may be the root of the gender imbalance.

  16. 16
    Kieron Gillen on 9 May 2013 #

    Wanting to shag Namor is not a flaw!

  17. 17
    Andrew Farrell on 13 May 2013 #

    I can sort of see that in the Avengers film (though I think he sells being fucked-over and PTSDy when he doesn’t have soldiers to order and nordic nazis to punch), but he spends a lot of of his own film low man on the totem pole – even when he gets buffed up he spends another twenty minutes shilling for the war effort and feeling like this sucks, but what can he expect? Tho of course any dickishness may just be overshadowed by sharing a lot of the movie with one of Tommy Lee Jones’ finest King Dick performances in a career studded with them.

  18. 18
    Andrew Farrell on 13 May 2013 #

    The Tale of Captain America has of course been made more horrific as the arrow of time drags his arms steadily onwards while his feet are stuck in the war – on his initial defrosting it was just 20 years out, now it’s “FYI everyone you know is probably dead and at best a faded scribbled-over photo of themselves. Or Namor.”

  19. 19
    Andrew Farrell on 13 May 2013 #

    Disclaimer: my increasing fondness for Steve Rogers is almost certainly less to do with Johnny-come-Stormly playing him in the films as is it to do with American Captain

  20. 20
    omni-mog on 14 May 2013 #

    Yeah, I nearly disputed Captain America- he’s definitely the most ‘for fvck’s sake, kids’ in the Avengers and I am periodically prone to crying at him in the comics.* I think Joss Whedon couldn’t resist putting a bit of d!ckery in for him (I think what we are actually saying here is that Joss Whedon is probably a d!ck but we know that) so he just slips under the radar, MCU-wise.

    I think Chris Evans is spectacular as him. Casting rly lucked out by getting him and Hemsworth as these big, anxiously polite warriors (Ok Thor is not enormously anxious. But he does try to be polite.) it would be an enormous shame if the current rumors that they’re not willing to increase pay for sequels do mean they lose them both.

    That Tumblr is amazing and now I am going to get no work done.

    *See also: all other Marvel characters.

  21. 21
    Andrew Farrell on 14 May 2013 #

    Oh bah, I assumed you’d seen it! Sorry, Mog-ployers!

  22. 22
    omni-mog on 16 May 2013 #

    Reading all of that led to me re-reading Fallen Son at c. 1am last night *lies down on the floor*

    Captain America sads are some of the saddest sads. (Maybe this is a good argument for calling him a d!ck)

  23. 23
    Sabina on 18 May 2013 #

    American Captain is basically the Captain America fic I kept trying to write, right down to the “Pepper and Steve talk contemporary art” scenes (I had Wesselman instead of Hirst, but Hirst is genius). It works a *lot* better in comics format.

    I like Marvel d!cks when the narrative in no way tries to sell me on the idea that these dudes are not d!cks, which explains my vast love for Illuminati stories (oops let’s “forget” to mention to anyone why Skrulls have bafflingly invaded us for “no reason”, etc.). I laughed and laughed when they mindwiped Captain America in New Avengers (which is perhaps the best argument for the latter not being a d!ck in current comix continuity and Beast conversely being one).

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