The late Mark Gruenwald once stated that every comic book character was somebody’s favorite. Kind of an ironic view coming from the man who oversaw the Scourge storyline, but I tend to agree with Gruenwald’s gentle editorial admonishment to play responsibly with the lesser lights of a shared fictional universe.
Even as incorrigible a fan of b-through-z listers as myself, however, has to admit that there is a tier of characters to which Gruenwald’s maxim does not apply. Below Jack of Hearts (who is RAD), below Spoiler, below even Pantha lurks the realm of the truly unloved, characters so forgotten or despised that even the fanfic and cosplay crowds won’t sup at their table.
They are, in short, “nobody’s favorites,” and I can’t think of a better place to start my examination of such characters than with this sartorially-challenged lass:
…Looker, a one-time member of The Outsiders so ill-conceived that even the talented Alan Davis couldn’t make her look good. Look at her. She resembles the 4th runner up in the Miss Neapolitan Ice Cream pageant.
Earning the title of “Worst Outsiders Character” is no mean feat. The team was assembled by Batman upon his resignation from the JLA, and one can only assume his spite led him to gather together some of the most god-awful rookie superheroes ever (along with Metamorpho and Black Lightning, who must have been in on the joke) in order to show who really was the driving force behind the League’s successes.
“Yeah, Clark, I just defeated Starro and Despero with the help of a glowing blonde girl with brain damage and an ethnic stereotype with a magic samurai sword. What’s that? The Key pantsed you and stole Hal’s power ring? And you can’t figure out how to run the Satellite’s photocopy machine? Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Yet from the crowded field of utterly bland (Geo Force), absurdly pandering (Katana), and completely irritating (Halo) entries arose a single decisive winner, a dark horse contender introduced in BaTO #25 (Sept 1985) as Emily “Lia” Briggs, a homely bank teller:
“Homely,” that is, in the 80′s rock video sense of the word, where it would only take the simple application of a swelling guitar riff — with or without an accompanying image of a smashed mirror — to set her inner sex kitten free to crawl on the hood of a rented sports car.
Unfortunately for Emily and The Outsiders, both Jack Blades and Kevin Cronin were busy with prior engagements (they should have called twenty years later). In their absence, Emily’s transformation from “nottie” to “hottie” is forced to take a more circuitous route, involving a hidden underground race seeking to use Halley’s Comet and some super-science hoodoo to transform the poor woman into their queen and thus take over the world.
Their plan nearly succeeds, until the newly empowered (and quite stacked) Emily rebels against her creators and uses her telekinetic powers to free the captive Outsiders. Emily, as Looker, abdicates her claim on the Abyssian throne in favor of returning to America, her rather confused husband, and a role as the DC Universe’s most tragic fashion victim.
Looker’s costume, complete with aureole headlight panels, armpit chain, and giant bow swiped from a remaindered prom dress bin, was more than enough to qualify her as “nobody’s favorite,” but that only scratches the ghastly surface of the character. As Emily, she was a mousy (yet quite attractive) woman with a supportive husband, decent job, and a tendency to publicly cry about her lot in life. As Looker, she turned out to be the superhero equivalent of Zsa Zsa Gabor, right down to the frequent conversational use of “darling” and making life generally miserable for her husband.
With the addition of Looker to the team, the female contingent of The Outsiders encompassed a super-sexy (if horribly wrapped) bit of eye candy capable of occasional flashes of competence (Looker), the naive waif who wields Great Power (Halo), and a tough character with a wounded soul (Katana).
Huh. I wonder if Joss Whedon was an Outsiders fan.
The mid-1990s relaunch of The Outsiders – one of several brought about by DC’s confusion between a transitory success and an enduring franchise — saw the highly unanticipated return of Looker and her impeccable fashion sense…
…and because there’s always room for a few more lumps on a triple-decker turd sandwich, she was transformed into a crimefighting vampire.
Okay. Now I’m absolutely convinced Joss Whedon was an Outsiders fan.