Monday, November 1, 2010

Villains With Potential-Mandrill

Oh God, is there anything about Mandrill that is not creep-tastic? He's basically a poster-boy for latent misogynistic impulses and rape-fantasies. A baboon man with mutant pheromones who reduces women to submissive zombie playmates.


I mean, that's kind of hard to redeem or do anything constructive with right there. The squick-factor on such a character pretty much reduces your available avenues to either screwball comedy or outright body-horror. Now, I know which I prefer, but let's explore both avenues in the interest of me being bored.

First off, going the humor route with a case like Mandrill is going to be tough. On the face of it, his power just ain't that funny-he subdues and dominates women. But, with the proper context, you could likely wring some bawdy fun out of things. Maybe Mandrill decides to go into black market couples counselling, selling jars of his sweat to troubled spouses in order to reignite the flames of passion. Or maybe he gets hired by a parody of the Axe Body Spray guys, who want some Truth in Advertising. You could even have Mandrill as an inadvertent Lothario, attempting to lay low or commit his crimes while being pursued by women that he has no interest in, including super-heroines who show up, drawn by his pheromones, just in time to foil his crimes.

Granted, this reduces Mandrill to a joke character, but frankly 'Rape-Baboon' isn't any great shakes as it stands. Better to be funny, than offensive to a segment of your audience, right?

Or maybe not.

If you were of a more unpleasant frame of mind, you could go the opposite route with the gentleman in question. Remember my post on Mr. Hyde? There are some characters who are built for nastiness and MAX situations and Mandrill is one of them. The writer could play up Mandrill's utter inhumanity to great effect in this instance, making him a truly nightmarish figure. The animal lurking inside every man, the abuser you can't help but love, the incestuous father/uncle/brother. Something that makes the reader cringe. He'd be a vile, disgust-inducing nightmare of a character.

Especially if he got away. Again and again. Always slipping away thanks to his abused coterie of followers. The eternal victimizer, never being punished, always lurking. The pay-off, when it finally came, would be amazingly cathartic. Granted, you'd have to put Mandrill in a box for a year or three before you could use him again, but as literary weapons go, he'd be a useful one. Foulness personified, and with a deft touch he'd make for a compelling (if unpleasant) story.

Unfortunately, I believe that there's no such thing as a deft touch in comics these days, and what you'd end up with is not a horrifyingly compelling villain, but a slobbering sex-bully in a monkey suit. He'd wind up an excuse to give the readers a lot of T&A and degrading situations to toss the token female character of the month into. Less a character and more an ambulatory plot device.

Which is why, in the end, I believe that to rehabilitate Mandrill as a villain, you have to remove his power. Or, at the very least, alter it. Make him able to manipulate both men and women, as opposed to just the latter. Or give him the ability to control the 'monkey-brain' of his victims, reverting them to savagery (I know, I know, that's the Lizard's schtick now, but monkeys are different to lizards, so shut up). Even better, make the effects of his pheromones more subtle. Like hypnosis. His victims do what he wants within reason, i.e. nothing they wouldn't ordinarily do. Have Mandrill ditch the disco outfit for a power-suit and make him Marvel's version of Gorilla Grodd, manipulating the stock market or bank managers or even the population of a town. Make him interested only in his own comfort, using his mutant abilities to simply provide for himself, rather than indulging in sadism or humiliation.

Basically, remove the squick-factor, and you've got yourself a relatively plug-into-plot character with an interesting power set and cool visual. And in the end, isn't that more preferable to 'rape-baboon'?


joe bloke said...

man, Daredevil always had the suckiest villains. . .

notintheface said...

Here's my idea: It's the misogyny and rape-fantasy elements of Mandrill that are the problem, so get rid of those aspects completely.

Instead, make him all business, almost to the point of being asexual. But make him more ruthless and devious. It's not about sex with him, but rather money and power.

And don't make the women he controls sex slaves. Make them agents. Sleeper agents when necessary. Infiltrators. Agents who would fight to the death for him. Kill for him. Even die for him. And make them able to disguise their true nature from their intended victims until too late. If Mandrill wants a man dead, what better means is there than through the man's wife or other female loved one?

These female agents would supply him not with sex but rather access to governments, corporations, and other levers of power. And because of his appearance, make him more of a behind-the-scenes villain, heavily in the shadows. And dress him in conservative suits and ties ala Nightwing-era Blockbuster.

Remove the sadism, misogyny and humiliation aspects of his personality, but leave him a sociopath. Human life means nothing to him. His agents are not sex slaves to him, but rather pawns on a chessboard, part of Mandrill's bigger grand design.

CainisAwesome said...

So, from my understanding, to fix Mandrill, you could make him monkey-Purple Man?

Josh Reynolds said...

Yep. Only less mind control-y. And with less sadism.

On the face of it, it does seem a bit of a cheat, but the power-sets are dissimilar enough that you could get away with it.

I prefer the humor route myself (which, incidentally, seems to be the way Marvel is actually going).

Anonymous said...

I think that the mandrill should be like dc comics the penguin from the batman returns film. He's a complete & irredeemable monster, but thats because he received no love as a child and instead received constant verbal & physical abuse from his parents & from most of the people in the small town he grew up in. In terms of story construction, this could make him come off as completely terrifying while making him pityful enough the reader doesn't feel cheated when he just goes back to jail (granted #1 you would have to be careful not to sensationalize or trivialize the sexual abuse aspects of a story & #2 you would have to make him try a lot and be terrifying but unsuccessful most of the time.)

Anonymous said...

(continued) IMHO, i think its kind of weird to make characters that were born looking like freaks and must deal with being constantly ostracized from and mocked by everyone since the day they were born continuing into adulthood (toad from x men also comes to
mind) into humour characters to ridicule. I could be wrong, but i believe this sends a bad message to some younger readers