Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ask a Super-Villain: MODOK

Despite his reputation as a maniacal super-genius out to conquer the world from his rocket-chair, the super-villain MODOK proved to be a charming and witty conversationalist who did his best to make me feel at ease.

Image hosted by

We met at a small Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia to discuss his career, his plans, and the superhuman community at large. I settled into a chair, he enabled the silencing mechanism on his flying chair, and we began.


Harvey Jerkwater: Thank you for agreeing to meet with me. This is quite an honor for me, as I’ve been a fan of yours for years. I don’t know what I should call you. MODOK? Mr. MODOK? Would you prefer to go by your human name, George Tarleton?

MODOK: MODOK is fine. “Mister MODOK” is my father.

HJ: [Laughs] MODOK it is. Your name is an acronym, right?

M: Yes, it stands for “Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.”

HJ: Intimidating.

M: I don’t much care for it, but the name has a history. It’s too late for me to drop it and ask everyone to call me “Gary” instead. [Laughs]

HJ: I suppose not. Though it could work. “Puny humans! Beware the wrath of Gary!”

M: [Laughs] Hmm. I’ll have to think about it.

Image hosted by

HJ: I understand you’ve been in negotiations with the Ore-Ida company. Tell us about it.

M: The Ore-Ida company toyed with the idea of hiring me as the pitchman for Tater Tots. With a little makeup, I could easily masquerade as a floating Tot.

HJ: I see. What came of that?

M: Not much, I’m sorry to report. Though I was interested in the job, I grew peevish during negotiations and accidentally slew a number of Ore-Ida employees with psionic bolts of energy. Afterwards, they wished to have little to do with me.

HJ: Pity.

M: Yes, I would have enjoyed the work. A steady paycheck and no fear of the Hulk cramming his giant green fists into my skull would have been two great improvements over my usual working conditions.

HJ: I’m sorry to hear it fell through. Now, I understand you’re a fan of electro-pop music—

M: Oh, no.

HJ: Would you tell us about your college band?

M: Depeche MODOK? Oh good lord. Do I have to? Where did you find out about that? [sighs] I dyed my hair black, sang about religion and sex, and basically made an ass of myself in dingy bars.

HJ: Hm.

M: It was a way to meet girls.

HJ: Ah.

M: Unlike my latest musical project, which is much more of an avenue for personal expression.

HJ: You’re referring to your hip-hop act M.O.D.O.K., “Mental Organizm Designed Only fo’ Krunk?”

M: Yes, that’s the one. We’re touring Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina this winter. I’ve garnered a not-inconsiderable fan base. They say I have “flow.”

HJ: You’re known in the super-villain community for your candor. Would you be willing to share your impressions of various people you’ve known?

M: Of course!

HJ: Captain America.

M: A prince of a man and less of a stick in the mud than you’d think. He’s lightened up considerably over the years. The Captain does have one weird trait—he spits when he talks. A lot. That’s not sweat you see on the faces of the Avengers; that’s the leftovers from Captain America’s pep talk.

HJ: Iron Man.

M: In his heart, a monumental nerd. He tries to cover it up with fratboy behavior and antics, but he’d blend in with the biggest geeks in AIM’s research and development wing. A Poindexter who wishes he weren’t and pretends he isn’t.

HJ: The Hulk

M: Which one? The childlike Hulk was a temperamental pain in the ass who couldn’t figure out what was going on most of the time. And he smelled terrible. The Hulk with the ability to reason was a hundred times worse. A prima donna who acted as though you should fall to your knees and cry tears of joy that he graced you with his presence. Weird as it sounds, the smarter Hulk smelled worse than the brainless one. Even I can’t figure out how that happened.

HJ: Doctor Doom.

M: Lives up to his reputation as a psychotic tyrant, as you know. Let me think…something interesting about Doom… Ah! Victor has a high-pitched voice, though he masks it with a device in his armor. Also, though he publicly appreciates the big bombastic composers like Wagner, privately he loves REO Speedwagon,.38 Special and Night Ranger.

HJ: You’re kidding.

M: No, I’m not. “Sister Christian” is his favorite song. Also, he also has a soft spot for his pet turtles. The only time Victor’s wept in the past two decades was at the death of his first turtle, Boppy.

HJ: Remarkable.

M: The world is a strange place, Mr. Jerkwater.

HJ: That it is, MODOK. Thank you for joining me and agreeing to be interviewed.

M: The pleasure was mine.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A round of big warm fuzzies, on me.

I love comics. Love, love, love.

My recent reviews in Comics Should Be Good were downright grumpy. This led me to think I owed the medium I enjoy a big fat love letter. So today I thought I’d write about two comics that meant a lot to me. Both were Captain America comics, seperated by about fifteen years.

First was Captain America #284, August 1983, written by J.M. DeMattis, drawn by Sal Buscema, cover by Mike Zeck. I picked it up off a spinner rack from the Lift Bridge Bookstore in Brockport, New York. That Mike Zeck cover drew my eye.

Image hosted by

The issue begins with Captain America rushing to the hospital to visit a dying friend. Along the way he stumbles across a standoff between the police and a rooftop shooter who has hostages. Cap, naturally, lends a hand.

Reaching the roof, he finds that the shooter is a drunken man and that his hostages are his own wife and children. The man, driven to despair by losing his job and his savings, is taking out his rage on anyone he can.

Rather than beat the hell out of the guy, Cap talks to him. He talked about his childhood during the depression and the need to fight despair. As Cap speaks, he notices a police sniper taking aim at the man. He lunges to save the man, only to have the police bullet crease his skull, rendering him unconscious.*

The shooter, enraged by the action, levels his gun at the unconscious Captain. Just before he plants a few slugs into the hero’s brain, the man’s wife intervenes. To save the Captain, she tells him that if life is so awful, he should kill her and the kids instead to spare them the horrors.

The shooter breaks down in sobs. Cap wakes up and takes the man into custody.

Okay, it’s simple and heavy-handed. Amazingly heavy-handed. But it blew my young mind.

A superhero comic with no costumed badguy? A comic that showed the difficulty of defining justice in a manner that a ten-year old boy could understand? Morality that extended beyond hero-villain? Whoa.

That simple piece of four-color melodrama showed me that comics don’t have to be about guys in silly suits trying to take over the world.

(Though I still love it when they are.)

Then there was Captain America (third series) #12, December 1998, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Andy Kubert.

Image hosted by

The issue continues a story involving the mystical bad guy Nightmare, who enslaved Our Hero at the end of the previous issue. Cap breaks free from the villain’s control and stomps the bad guy into the dirt. But that didn’t end the issue. Oh no. Nightmare had wanted to ignite a nuclear war and exploited the Captain’s security clearences to do so. Nightmare was on the verge of succeeding in his eeevil scheme, despite the beat-down administered by Our Hero.

At the climax of the tale, Cap finds himself unable to stop the countdown to one nuclear missile. To prevent the launch, he goes into the silo itself, climbs to the top, and jams the hatch shut. He then slides down the missile and manages to escape incineration by the narrowest possible margin.

An above-average action story. Nothing too memorable in the grand scheme of things.

But I had been away from comics for a spell in the late nineties. I had just come back to them when this story was published.

My life was deeply, powerfully crappy at that time. My long, long job hunt continued to come to zippy, my roommates and their hangers-on were driving me insane,** and my love life was a sick joke. I woke up in the morning only out of habit and a sense of resentment. (I refused to give the world the satisfaction of letting it know it had beaten me. I can be very ornery.)

As I read the book, for a few minutes, I escaped the suffocating ocean of crap that was my everyday life. When Cap slid down the side of the missile, using his shield to rip open the side of the rocket, I felt the same excitement and freedom I’d felt as a boy.

As I read it, I almost yelled out “Kick ass! Kick ass!” in an empty room.

So yeah, Captain America comics broadened my horizons a little bit and helped me get through dark times. So did a lot of other comics.

I love the stupid things.

*Man, how many times did that happen to superheroes in Los Olden Days? Were I a superhero, I’d invest in some protective headgear.

Okay, okay, and an ab-cruncher. You don’t wanna see me in spandex just now. Stupid tasty donuts.

**Note to readers: do not, under any circumstances, live with a fledgling rock band. Not a good idea. It led to the first of my evictions.

Click here to read more!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I are snobby.

Normally I don't cross-pollinate my blogs, but dang it, this time I'm a'gonna.

I wrote a big long piece on the hunt for the great graphic novel and reviewed three contenders for the title: Blankets by Craig Thompson, The Buddy Bradley Stories by Peter Bagge, and that book I kept meaning to write about at length but put off until now, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid in the World by Chris Ware. Check it out.

On an extra-snobby note that also solidifies my comic geek cred, I've begun reading a new book.

Marvel's big summer extravaganza, House of M got me thinking. I had no interest in whatever the "event," but it reminded me of another book.

This summer, Harvey Jerkwater's big summer extravaganza is the original "House of M," The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. For what it's worth, it's one of the best novels I've ever read. Put down the Infinite Crisis tie-in miniseries where Booster Gold gets punched in the eyebrow by OMAC and pick up Wharton.

As a would-be writer myself, I mentally slot books into five categories:

1. I crap better books than this;
2. I could do better than this;
3. I could do this;
4. Someday I might be able to write like this; and
5. Sweet Holy Mother of Christ, not on the best day of my life could I write anything like this.

The House of Mirth falls solidly in the fifth category.

Read it, fanboy.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ask a Super-Villain: The Magus

Negotiations to fulfill a reader’s request and engage Raoul Bushman in "Ask a Super-Villain" have broken down. His insistence on having final say over the published text, as well as his personal demands (e.g., a bowl of M&Ms with all brown ones removed; sixteen bottles of Evian, kept at exactly eleven degrees centigrade, etc.) led to an impasse.

Instead, Filing Cabinet of the Damned has located one of the true icons of comics, the Magus. Requesting he be paid only a large supply of Hostess Fruit Pies,* the Magus was more than willing to answer questions emailed in by readers.

Magus Mailbag

Image hosted by

“What is the deal with you and that afro?”
--The Amazing Popeman

As I’m sure you all know, I was the god of the Universal Church of Truth for five thousand years. Over those five thousand years, I found that nothing imparted greater awe from my worshippers than a giant purple afro. A close second: the comb-over.

“You’ve been worshipped as a god, erased from existence, been reborn, and nearly conquered the universe at least twice. What do you do now?”
--D. Campbell

I’ve backed off from the whole “mad god conquering the universe” gig. The stress was incredible, and the hours punishing. Now I live on a small farm in Vermont, where I produce fine jams and marmalades. I’ve also formed a folk trio, the Universal Church of Tunes. Our second CD, “Flippin’ Over Sunshine!” will be available later this year. The first album, "Viva Las Magus," is available from fine record stores everywhere.

You didn’t know the Magus sang, did you? Well, I do. I play a mean guitar, too. I work the Peter, Paul and Mary songbook better than any time-travelling synthetic man you'll ever meet.

“In the seventies, you were a key figure in a cosmic and involving story about faith, free will, ethics, and really cool hair. It’s still considered a classic. Then you came back in the nineties in a brainless story about blowing things up real good. Fans try to forget it was printed. You even lost the ‘fro. What happened?”
--M. Sterling

In the mid-nineties, my son, Magus Junior, was about to start college. At the same time, my daughter, Trish, had a lot of orthodontic expenses. When some fellows approached me with a dump truck full of cash and asked me to “act all villain-y” in some big event miniseries, I jumped at the chance.

You know, I never read the stories. Apparently they were crap. But I don't care. Magus Junior made it through college, graduated cum laude, and now has a great consulting job with Booz Allen Hamilton. Trish has a beautiful smile.

Sometimes you just have to take the work offered.

As for the afro, my agent suggested I go with the ponytail for my comeback. It was the mid-nineties. Afros were out, ponytails were huge.

For those wondering, I’m back to the afro. The ladies love it.

“You’re the future version of an existing super hero. Sorta. Then you didn’t exist. Then you became a portion of your foe’s consciousness, given life. Then you became some sorta ghost-thing. Seriously, dude, WTF?”
--G. Burgas

Tell me about it. My therapy bills are beyond belief.

Like a lot of people, my problems began with my family. I started out as a synthetic person, built by a bunch of scientists called “the Enclave,” trying to create “the perfect man.” It worked. Though I immediately decided the scientists were a bunch of jerks and flew off. For a while, I was a cosmic super hero guy called “Adam Warlock.”

This is enough to give anyone issues. Three fathers? The pressure to be “perfect?” The name “Warlock?” Then there was my messiah complex, which was only made worse by my actual crucifixion, death and resurrection.**

But it doesn't end there. Oh no no no.

After a few years of bumming around the cosmos thinking I'm Space Jesus, I get hassled by a purple man called The Magus. Then I end up captured by a couple of Big Cosmic Entities: “Order,” “Chaos,” and “The In-Betweener.”*** Long story short, the trio torments me for ages, drives me completely loony, and gives me both enormous power and a purple afro. They had their reasons.****

So now I’ve got a full-blown psychosis on my hands, right? At least I got the kickass hairdo.

Image hosted by

Once they got me barking mad, hopped up on cosmic power, and looking great, the bastards sent me back in time five thousand years and stuck me on another planet. Yeah, thanks a lot, Big Cosmic Entities. Assholes.

Trapped in the ancient past and on some godforsaken planet somewhere, I make the best of a bad situation. I kill a bunch of people and become declared a god. Which, okay, was pretty sweet.
Everything was great, on the surface. Deep down, it wasn’t healthy. Neuroses grew, my obsessive-compuslive ways became even stronger (“I have to wash my hands nine times after smiting the unrighteous!”), and, of course, all those codependent relationships. By the time my own birth as Adam Warlock came around, I was such a wreck. But you couldn’t talk to me about it. Oh nooooo.

To make sure I’d exist, I started messing with my past self. I mocked him, tormented him, and did my best to make sure he’d end up in the clutches of the Big Cosmic Entities so he’d become me. (My guilt at doing this is tempered by the fact that my past self was a whiny, self-righteous little bitch.)

Things went wrong. My past self somehow hosed everything up, I’m not sure how, and I was never created.*****

That really hurt.

Later on, Adam Warlock split off his “good” and “evil” sides, bringing me back into the world. I’d argue I’m not his “evil” side (I’m his stylish side, thank you very much), but existing again was nice.

Then came that whole fiasco involving six magic gems, a big gold glove, and more evil twins than a season of soap operas.

Image hosted by

My past self destroyed me again, this time reducing me to a ghost. A ghost. Considering my intimacy issues, this was the absolute limit.

But things are better now. I have a solid body again. My ‘fro is large and in charge. My jams are selling throughout New England. Through a lot of work with my therapist, I’m happier, my relationship with my family has never been better, and I haven’t destroyed millions of lives on a whim in, what, at least a year!

Remember: the Magus says "Keep your eyes on the prize, your feet on the ground, and time-travelling versions of yourself as far away as possible."

Love and kisses,



That’s all the Magus Mailbag we have this time. Come back soon for another round of “Ask a Super-Villain!”

*A common request among super-villains. Those comic strip ads in the comics of the seventies and eighties where villains were captured and/or thwarted by distracting them with Hostess Fruit Pies? More accurate than you’d think. My cousin Steve once saved himself from a homicidal Two-Face by offering him a cherry pie. When traveling to areas with high concentrations of super-villains, always carry at least one fruit pie with you at all times. An important safety tip from us here at Filing Cabinet of the Damned.

**I’m dead serious.
Warlock’s first series tried to model him directly on Jesus, to hilarious results.

***Hee. That name slays me.

****Don’t ask.

*****Remember how a few posts back I mentioned how Marvel Comics of the seventies were really, really weird?

Click here to read more!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ask a Super-Villain: Batroc the Leaper

The second installment of “Ask a Super-Villain” will use a slightly different format. While Stilt-Man is an accomplished scientist and engineer and thus comfortable with computers, today’s super-villain, Batroc the Leaper, is not. Rather than spend a week teaching Batroc how to use the internet, I met with him and asked questions based on reader mail.

First, a bit of background. Georges Batroc is a master of savate, the French art of kickboxing, and a widely-employed mercenary. His most frequent superhero sparring partner is Captain America, though most recently he found himself enmeshed in a failed coup d’etat in Wakanda, and thus on the bad end of that country’s monarch, the Black Panther.

Georges met with me for lunch in a small restaurant near the Capitol here in Washington, DC. To capture the flavor of the afternoon, I decided to transcribe the taped conversation with Batroc’s accent intact.*

Mon Dejuner avec Georges


Harvey: Thank you for your time, M. Batroc. I know that you’re a busy man, and that you’ve only recently returned from Wakanda.

Batroc: Not at all, M. Zherk-watair. I know zat I ‘ave many fans in America, and it is only right zat I ansser zair questions, zat zey may come to know the true Georges Batroc.

Image hosted by

Harvey: Let me see. “Where did you learn savate?”

Batroc: Ah, I learned eet in zee French Foreign Leezhon, when I was stationed in Djibouti.

Harvey: Djibouti?

Batroc: Not a pleasant land, my friend, but a fun name to say aloud, n’est-ce pas?

Harvey: Next question: “You get beaten up an awful lot. Have you ever defeated a superhero?”

Batroc: Of course! Captain America ‘as met defeat at my feet many times. Othairs to fall before my prow-ess include ‘awkeye, Iron Feest, and ze Mighty Thor.

Harvey: Uh, Georges, that’s not true.

Batroc: Truth, lies, eet’s all a web of subjectivity, no?

Harvey: No.

Batroc: Pfah! Ce n’est pas important.

Harvey: [Laughs] Oui, oui, c’est vrai. Next question: “How do you keep your moustache so delightfully pointy? Even when someone punches you in the face, it never droops.”

Batroc: Years ago, I engaged the services of a man of whom you may ‘ave ‘eard, a Docteur Victor Von Doom. ‘E created for me a most powerful moustache wax made from…qu’est-ce qu’on dit…”unstable molecules.” Mère de Dieu! Should, zrough some ‘orrible tragedy, Georges Batroc should be incinerated or...struck by lightning, destroying my body, my beautiful moustache would retain its beauty forever. Such is zee power of zis wax.

Harvey: Amazing! I must say, your moustache is impressive.

Batroc: Bien sûr.

Harvey: It looks quite sharp. Have you ever stabbed anybody with it?

Batroc: ‘Ave you ev-air wondaired why zat peeg Nicholas Fury ‘as only one eye?

Harvey: You don’t say…

Batroc: Such is the wrath of Batroc zee Leapair! [Laughs]

Harvey: Next question: “What is your opinion of the efforts of the new Prime Minister, Domenique de Villepin, to reduce unemployment in France?”

Batroc: Hm. Zat is a difficult question, requiring much in zee way of thought. [Batroc takes a sip of coffee, thinks.] Perhaps someone should keek heem in ze face?

Harvey: Perhaps. I see our time has run out. Thank you so much for this rare opportunity, M. Batroc.

Batroc: Zee plezh-air was mine, I assure you. To you on zees “inter-nets,” I say watch for Batroc zee Leap-air, for soon he will enlarge his legend! [Sound of Batroc leaping onto his chair] Weeth courage indomitable and skeel beyond compare, ze world, she is mine for ze taking!

[Sound of Batroc leaping to the tabletop and his head colliding with a light fixture.]

[Sound of large Frenchman collapsing onto table, then floor.]


Come back soon for the next round of “Ask a Super-Villain!”

*Dialect Humor + High School French = Big Time Comedy Laffs.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ask a Super-Villain: Stilt-Man

In the grand internet tradition of letting comic book characters speak for themselves (e.g., The Hurting’s “Doctor Doom’s Mailbag,” the Red Skull’s Livejournal, and Hulk’s Diary That Is on the Internet), Filing Cabinet of the Damned has engaged the services of a number of respected villains who have been aching to make their presences felt on the internet.

Though I lack the connections to engage Magneto, the financing to pay what the Kingpin would demand, or the patience to put up with seventeen thousand alternate-timeline Kang the Conquerors each with an opinion, I do have a few links to the super-villain world. (Hi, Mom!)

For this first installment of “Ask a Super-Villain,” Filing Cabinet of the Damned is proud to give you my mother's cousin’s ex-boyfriend and frequent foe of Daredevil, Spider-Man, and others: Wilbur Day, the fearsome Stilt-Man!

Image hosted by

Wilbur will take your questions on live internet chat for the next hour!


Stilt-Man: Thank you, Harvey. It’s a pleasure to be here. Go ahead folks, and send me some questions! Stilt-Man’s high-level perspective can help you!

KewlDood44: Stiltman, u r lame.

Stilt-Man: “Ur lame?” Yes, I’ve always considered my suit to be the prototype of the lamé outfit. You could indeed call me the ur-lamé. The Stilt-Man stands ever in the vanguard of fashion.

VanessaR112: You fought DareDevil a lot. Did you ever beat him?

Stilt-Man: There’s an expression in sports that sums up my clashes with all superheroes: “I never lost, time just ran out.” Though in my case, replace “time” with “consciousness.” I like to think I always win, even if I end up in jail or trapped in a parallel dimension or some such. Optimism is the key to successful super-villainy.

Yaddo: My brother is a jerk. He’s sponging off of me and my wife, and I can’t take it anymore. But he’s still my brother. He’s making me crazy and straining my marriage, but blood is blood. What should I do?

Stilt-Man: To gain perspective on this problem, I recommend building a pair of stilts no less than ten feet high. Climb onto them and look at your brother and your wife. From this lofty perspective, your choice will be clear. Decide who deserves your support. Crush the other one beneath your stilt.

FLOalt: The job market for graduate students is terrible. I can’t find a job anywhere in academia. Any suggestions?

Stilt-Man: This is a problem I know a lot about. My brother, Chip Day, has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in English literature. You know what that means: searching the journals for a whiff of a chance, going from adjunct job to adjunct job, living like an overeducated peon, it was awful. My recommendation to you is the same I gave to him: build a large pair of stilts and go on a crime spree. Aside from the financial gains to be had from theft, there’s the emotional satisfaction of stomping across your hometown, ray gun in hand, fifty feet tall. And let’s face it, the ladies love a super-criminal. My stilts aren’t the only things that [edited by chat moderator].

Po23FF: What’s the best way to get wine stains out of a carpet?

Stilt-Man: Wine stain removal requires a four-step process. First, build a pair of stilts, no shorter than six feet tall. If the carpet is a light color, the stilts should be at least eleven feet tall. Second, use the stilts to rob neighboring houses, crushing any and all who stand in your way. Third, get into a fight with a superhero. Don’t get into a fracas with the first pair of tights who comes along. Pick the hero carefully. I’ve tangled with all sorts, from street vigilantes to Norse gods of thunder, and I’ve found it’s important to face one who matches your style. Fourth, apply club soda to the stain and blot it up with a dry paper towel. Don’t rub—you’ll just spread the stain.

hittah311: What’s with the ice cream scoop on the back of your head?

Stilt-Man: Ha ha. Everyone asks me that. My helmet contains a sophisticated sound system-- that “ice cream scoop” is a reflective echo chamber, enhancing its effects. Most folks don’t know this, but whenever I’m on the job, I crank up Led Zeppelin IV as I go to town. The sound inside the chamber is phenomenal. Duh-nuh-NUH! Duh-nuh-NUH!

Moderator: Thank you, Wilbur. That’s all the time we have for this installment of “Ask a Super-Villain.” Come back next time, when Batroc the Leaper will be here. Does he also type in that ridiculous “Frrrranch” accent? Return to Filing Cabinet of the Damned to find out!


Click here to read more!