Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Power Nelson for President!

Public Domain Superheroes wrote:

The President in Project Superpowers is another hero-turned-villain. Power Nelson, aka Gene West, who fought against Emperor Seng I in Prize Comics, is now President West, a member of the Supremacy with Emperor Seng II. Yeah, they need to revive some real villains...

I had not made that connection. Power Nelson was an interesting character. He came from the then future of 1982, to fight against Emperor Seng I who had conquered much of the world. He then traveled into the past, the then present of the 1940s. As he didn't wear a mask, he wore an eye patch as Gene West (ala Superman wearing eye glasses as Clark Kent). If you notice, President West does wear an eye patch. Something else that makes him a little unique: his name. It wasn't uncommon for heroes to use proper names as part of their superhero moniker: Shock Gibson, Bob Phantom, Mary Marvel, and the numerous sidekicks Sandy, Bucky, Dusty, Rusty, etc. What is different is that "Nelson" is not part of his real name (unless his middle name, we hardly get those in comics).

So, we have not just the US President being part of a secret cabal of super villains, but the President is another compromised hero.

The presence of Power Nelson as President with an Emperor Seng II suggests a much bigger and complex story. Is this the same Power Nelson that traveled into the past or did he change his history and future and thus this is the present day Gene West now elected President and the relationships between him and the Emperors has changed? Would that give us 2 Gene Wests, one the Power Nelson who traveled into the past (and possibly one of the heroes trapped in the urn) and the one now the President? Or did he travel into the past and then back to the present to become President? And, who is Emperor Seng II and his relationship to I? If Nelson had succeeded in changing 1980's, why is there a Seng II?

It suggests a bigger and complex story being told. None of it is addressed actually in-story. For it to even be suggested it's ONLY if you know who President West is AND if you know the story of Power Nelson. Like almost all of the characters, changes have been made without any set-up being provided. An over-reliance on the readers having prior knowledge, providing their own contextual connections to the characters and backstories. Where's the actual storytelling?

It seems the characters of Prize Comics are playing a big role in Project: Superpowers. Green Lama and Frankenstein's monster both had homes in this title. As did Black Owl and Yank & Doodle whom we have seen in the back-up sketches (with the Black Owl displaying strange unrelated powers and no hint as to which Black Owl he is). Have to wonder how long it is before we'll see Bulldog Denny, Doctor Frost, Flying Fist, and Airmale?


Chuck Wells said...

Yeah, take a whole bunch of fairly obscure (yet available due to the public domain) mystery men, and then arbitrarily change them to suit your tastes (& to better fit in with current sensibilities) and then provide no explanation for any of this conceit, even as you assume that everyone in the audience knows about the specific vagaries of these largely forgotten heroes.

I can't wait for Dynamite to fade from existence!

Sean Levin said...

It is very irritating, isn't it? Almost as bad as Straczynski (I have no idea if that's the right spelling) casually altering or dismissing as lies or delusions characters' origins in THE TWELVE (ironic, given that he wanted an Alan Smithee credit on Brand New Day). These characters may not be high profile, but they certainly deserve better treatment. Lord knows if I created a character and 60 years later, someone completely overhauled them, I'd be irked.

cash_gorman said...

It's funny because there could be a very interesting time-travel story here. Both Power Nelson and Super American were characters that came from the future to the 1940's to help America win the war. In Nelson's case, the future is our present. He obviously changed things since our 1980s were nothing like his and presumably, the history of Project: Superpowers isn't too divergent from ours as we've not seen any big signs of a divergent history other than the sci-fi/fantasy trappings of superheroes.

But, I don't know if anyone has ever done a story where a time traveler returns to the time he came from only to discover in the new history, he's become a world leader and possibly a very corrupt one in league with the type of people he had been created to oppose. And the worse part, it's because of things he did in the past that helped shape his future self into this great enemy. Power Nelson vs. President West would have been a great subplot/over arcing story.

Roygbiv666 said...

Well, one reason for changing them is to create characters that can be protected under intellectual property laws (trademark and copyright). Of course they're going to be changed, Dynamite is creating a line of comics.