It is fairly easy to assess a given superhero’s worthiness as candidate for Nobody’s Favorites. Picking supervillains for consideration is a trickier process, generic as such characters function in an antagonistic support role. Someone might have a favorite Spider-Man villain, link but such preferences are defined in relation to the affection that one has for the overall franchise.
There are only a handful of supervillains — Dr. Doom, Magneto, the Joker, Darkseid, King Oblivion Ph.D – who have fan followings in their own right. The rest simply aren’t considered with the same kind of fan passion associated with their heroic nemeses, and the utter absence of said passion is one of the principal criteria used to determine Nobody’s Favorite status.
It takes a rare kind of supervillian to qualify for that honor, and they don’t come rarer, or riper, than Crucifer…
Crucifer made his debut in JLA #94 (May 2004), the beginning of the “Tenth Circle” story arc crafted by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. If this sounds awesome to you, then you’re either a time traveller from 1979 or ought to get that concussion checked out by a doctor. (Jerry Ordway handled the inks, presumably because Terry Austin changed his phone number when he got wind of the project.)
Grant Morrison’s relaunch of the JLA might have been hit or miss for me, but there’s no denying that he managed to bring DC’s preeminent team franchise out of the wilderness of fan apathy and transform it into an insanely popular top-seller. He did so by indulging in some of the most balls-out, over the top superheroic storytelling since Jack Kirby’s heyday.
Though the ever-escalating concepts had started to sag under their own weight by the time the Wild Scotsman left the title, DC editorial was reluctant to change up the formula for one of their few critical and financial success at the time. Unfortunately for all involved, none of the rotating roster of creative teams that came in Morrison’s wake were able to pull off that style of storytelling with the same level of intelligence or charm.
Those who thought the JLA series had hit its nadir with the painfully protracted and completely unreadable “Obsidian Age” story arc were treated to a whole ‘nother magnitude of awfulness when the exercise in creative stunt casting known as “The Tenth Circle” hit the stands. (Hey, look! It’s the two dudes who did that incredible X-Men run a few decades ago…before they both pancaked into the side of their respective creative peaks!)
The story is essentially a game of Five Card Nancy played out across five issues of haphazardly stacked plot points. Vampires! Super teens! Microverses! Paradise Island! Elder gods! The hamfisted set up for John Byrne’s inexplicable reboot of the Doom Patrol! The sad proof of how far the mighty have fallen!
(Seriously. I am capable of reciting verbatim passages of dialogue from an issue of All-Star Squadron I read once when I was ten, yet I reread the “Tenth Circle” arc twice last night and still have no idea what exactly is supposed to be going in the story.)
At the center of this three-ring circus of crap is Crucifer, a vampric arch-baddie who resembles the bastard offspring of Adolph Hitler and Crispin Hellion Glover. While one might reasonably assume that his name is a play on “crucifx” (or “crucible”) and “Lucifier,” it is actually a shout-out to the Crucifucks, as he happens to be a huge fan of the Michigan-based punk rock outfit.
When he isn’t gadding about being GENERICALLY EVIL or, more likely, TALKING ABOUT BEING GENERICALLY EVIL, Crucifer spends his time chowing on his acolytes while honoring some contract he made with EVIL BEINGS OF GREAT POWER which somehow involves turning superhumans into vampires. (Not Superman though, who gets enslaved but not vampirized as Crucifer is kryptose intolerant.)
And, hey, look! Topical references! Wooooo!
Because, see, there was a JLA member named “Faith” which was also the name of a character on that show about the teenage vampire slayer and I think I need lie down for a bit before I lash out and punch someone…
The Cru-Monster’s main gimmick is that he managed to get some microscopic aliens to remove his heart and store it inside a fancy crystal carafe. This renders the vampire immune to his species’ traditional weakness against coronary transfixion, and allows him to indulge in some scenery-chewing mega-gloat action when the heroes attempt to run him through with a pointy object.
I suppose it would have been a clever tweak to the formula if:
- the vampire immune to staking trope hadn’t already been used in a billion other places before.
- it hadn’t been used several times in this one story arc.
Crucifer does get his comeuppance once Atom and the Doom Patrol’s Elasti-Girl locate the heart and free it from its crystal container, thus allowing Superman to use an heirloom Crucifix as some improvised brass knuckles and punch a hole through the vampire’s chest.
(That might sound really cool in summary, but I assure you that the actual sequence isn’t in the least.)
Crucifer’s sojourn in the DC Universe may have been mercifully brief, but his aura of unremitting banality, inexcusably stupid name, and association with one of the worst comic stories published in recent memory have earned him the distinction of being the first supervillain to be classified as Nobody’s Favorite.
Recommended listening: The Crucifucks – You Give Me the Creeps (from a 1985 emponymous LP; collected on Our Will Be Done, 1992)
The Cru-Man may have been a shitty excuse for an archvillain, but I can’t fault his taste in music.