Rehabilitating the Lame
I think it’s possible to rehabilitate the nineties-era whipping boy and poster child of lame superheroes, Darkhawk.
No, really. It could work.
For those unfamiliar with the character, here’s the rundown, courtesy of the Wikipedia:
While spying on his father at an abandoned amusement park, teenager Chris Powell discovered a mysterious amulet that, with concentration, transformed him into a powerful android. Suspicious that his father, a policeman, was accepting bribes from a crime boss, Chris vowed to use the amulet as "an edge against crime."
Darkhawk's powers include "darkforce blasts" which emanate from the amulet on his chest, a small energy shield from the same source, a grappling claw on one arm, retractable gliding wings and night vision. Darkhawk's face, covered by a helmet, is intensely ugly or terrifying, a feature that can be used to stun enemies. When the android body was damaged, Chris could heal it almost instantly by transforming into his human form, and then back into his android form again (injuries to Chris' human form could not be healed this way). Darkhawk originally glided through the air, but later gained the power of flight…
Chris discovered that the source of his powers was a living vessel in deep space, where his and other Darkhawk bodies were stored and repaired. When Chris was Darkhawk, his human body was stored in the ship in the android's place
If’n you search online, you’ll see that a lot of comic fans regard Darkhawk as a symbol of bad nineties comics. I read the series back in yonder days, and I agree it wasn't great.
He has a lot of weird junk in his story, but what’s the essence? What’s the core of the character?
Darkhawk is a fusion of Captain Marvel (“Shazam!”) and Batman. That’s it. Darkhawk’s core appeal is “being a powerless teenage kid who can transform into a scary-ass killer robot superhero is cool.”
I think it could work, though striking the right tone would be a bear. Play up the powerlessness and confusion of Chris Powell with the terrifying appearance and kickassitude of his mysterious alter-ego. Chris goes from being scared to scaring, from being the powerless victim to the powerful avenger of wrongs.
It’s a very straightforward power/revenge fantasy, with the advantage of the main character remaining a kid. Batman required fifteen years of incredible training, a Nobel Laureate’s brain, and a fabulous fortune to get his revenge. Darkhawk required a “magic amulet.” That could be a plus for reader identification.
Imagine the ad for Darkhawk: The Movie. Chris Powell is the son of a dirty cop. His family is falling apart. His school life sucks and involves frequent beatings. Crime is rampant in his neighborhood. Then one day his father disappears and Chris finds a strange amulet. Smash cut to a scary vigilante with razor-edged wings flying around and kicking ass. Revenge on crooks! Revenge on bullying schoolmates! Muh-ha-ha-haaaa!!!
Not Proust, I grant you, but I think it could work. Teenage nerd and perennial victim can become a killer robot badass whenever he wants? You’ve got Big Action (“The Menacing Man-Mollusk is attacking downtown!”), Big Drama (“Dad’s a dirty cop and he's missing! The family’s falling apart! Stacey won’t talk to me!”), and, if desired, Big Komedy Laffs (as a nerdy teenage boy trying to act tough could be hilarious).
I think Darkhawk could be transformed from a punchline to a good character, consarn it.
To throw the topic open to the world: are there lamewad characters you think have promising woo-giving traits?
Who has the stuff to be big but never was, and why?