I'm not a writer, I'm not that good with grammar...honestly I'm hardly literate, but I love me some comic books and want to talk about them.
Somebody Asked Me #2
Comics are fictional...I get that, I really do. It's the exciting fictional aspects of comics that make us buy every issue, and cheer for our heroes, but I think it is safe to say that there are occurrences and events in comics that are SO ludicrous, they make you just stop and say, "well, I don't know about that." Whether it's Superboy Prime shattering reality with a punch, Superman having to "Super-Sing" to save the world, or even the countless reincarnations of characters that cause us to be numb to death (waiting on Alfred Pennyworth by the way...); we continue to read our comics despite the nonsense, because we love them! Nevertheless, these outlandish adventures are not what we are talking about here today...No, no, no; what I have trouble getting behind, are the villains...
Somebody asked me the other day, "You ever think that the villains get sick of losing all of the time in comic books?" To which I responded with a rant about a long grievance I've held with the comic book world for quite some time.
It is easy to love the bad guy in comic books. Many of them have such deep rich histories and backstories, that it's possible we feel we know them almost as well as the hero. They are colorful, terrifying, and even a bit electrifying...but those are just the big guys. But again, the big guys are not the ones on my mind. I get it; Joker, Green Goblin, Lex Luthor, Carnage, and on and on and on...They have their hatred for the heroes, they have their insanity, they are the plot devices needed to drive an action-packed story...I understand. Something in their head tells them, that they need to best their foe! That this evil plot will be the one; this attack will be the one that trumps them all...whatever. The issue comes into play, is with the simple fact that the master plan that these abominable antagonists create need a lot of setup work and diversion for the hero as he fights his way to the main event. The HENCHMEN, ladies, and gentleman are where I find issue in these books.
Henchmen...The Throwaway Bad Guys
The henchman is the disposable camera of the comic book world. You obtain them, you use them, you throw them out, and then every few years or so, you look back on the things that they created for you.
The main villain always has an extremely elaborate plan but, making sure the timing and actual construction of said plan comes down to the help that they employ. Right away, I can understand why the henchmen would continue to sign up. Especially in a place like Gotham City, where crime is rampant, becoming a henchman could seem like a great way to make fast, easy money, while all you have to do is stay alive. We even see in Red Hood and the Outlaws (2016-)#20, local henchmen using an app (created by a mentally enhanced Bizarro) to try and find work under one of the big league bad guys. There are a few pages where you can hear all the henchmen in the room trading stories about different jobs they pulled and who they worked for... This is absurd.
I have an incredibly hard time wrapping my head around this. It does not make sense, how in all of comics, the seemingly endless supply of henchmen keeps flowing. Imagine, if you will, running a simple job for Scarecrow. It could even be a simple job; such as raiding an old Ace Chemicals warehouse for supplies for Dr. Crane's next batch of fear toxin. As we all know, at some point during this job, Batman or at least one member of the Bat-Family is going to swoop in and absolutely dismember you and all of your peers. It doesn't matter how convincing the boss was when they describe how perfect their plan THIS TIME will be, and it doesn't matter how big the guns are they gave you. It is an undisputed fact that, when the protagonist shows up, you are going to wake up chained to a hospital bed, kept alive by breathing tubes and band-aids (I don't know I'm not a doctor). The pain and suffering just can't really be worth it. Especially when you see these big name bad guys get defeated every time!
Even IF you can somehow avoid a total beatdown from the hero, you're playing with fire even signing up in the first place! You could get caught in the crossfire, between Batman and Scarecrow and end up in a psych-ward when you're doused with fear gas, you could get thrown through a wall by Bane because he's on the way to the bathroom, you could get eaten by Killer Croc because we all know he gets hungry! I mean, for the love of Rao; the odds are you'll get shot by the Joker...just because!
What kills me the most is that these behaviors of the supervillains aren't secrets... None of them become supervillains by being nice to everyone that helps them out, so how is it possible these guys keep showing up?
As small of a part as the henchmen play during the stories we read, they truly are the building blocks of the whole story. To the best of my knowledge, the Joker is not an engineer. Without an entire roster of henchmen, I don't think that he would be able to turn an entire abandoned theme park into a series of death traps for Batman. Sure, he would be able to threaten some architects and engineers into drafting the plans and maybe even start building for him, but it would never get done in a timely manner. That type of project would take years without a full-scale team, and I just don't understand how time and time again, small-time criminals and gang-members would sign up just to get blown apart before getting paid...because we all know it's going to happen.
I would almost bet that, if the goons had a lick of commonsense, then most major crime and destruction would fall off the map; because if you think about it, elaborate plans are too much for a single bad guy to create. Even if you are a higher-tier more intelligent villain such as Bane, Hugo Strange, Kingpin, etc.; while you may have methods or resources to figure it all out, it would just take far too long without the help, if it was even possible at all. There are definitely exceptions such as Lex Luthor and Doc Ock, who are quite capable of crafting their own machines, weapons, or whatever else they need to go against their foes, but it's a thin line bordering nonsense.
This is my big issue with comic books, the complicated deathtraps we enjoy seeing in the panels, are a product of a system that I just can't get behind. Yes, there are less than intelligent members of society who can fall for an evil sales pitch, but at the quantity supervillains require?... I call B.S.