Armagideon Time

Nobody’s Favorites: Out of time

November 30th, 2009

I suspect most people, at some point in their lives, have longed for the ability to go back and selectively edit parts of their personal history. The notion of retroactively applying hindsight to dodge a lamentable pitfall or chance a road not taken is an alluring one:

“If I stayed home that day.” “If I didn’t spend my life savings on Pets.com stock.” “If I didn’t tell the wife that I’d be sad when derby season ended because I liked being home alone three nights a week.” (Yes, I know. Okay?)

Wishing and having are two different things, however. Since life does not imitate a Wikipedia page, there’s nothing to do but learn from our experiences and try do better in the future…or spend your remaining days in stuck in a feedback loop of recriminations. (At least until George Wilson finally shows up to put you out of your misery.)

Those petty constraints of the time-space continuum hold no sway over the wondrous world of superhero comics, where tinkering with narrative history is common practice. If done with the proper level of forethought and care, “reboots” and “retcons” (“retroactive continuity”) are effective ways to freshen up sluggish franchises, sweep away creative missteps, or otherwise rekindle reader interest in a given property.

Because of the drastic and sweeping nature of the changes involved, these devices are best used as a narrative “nuclear option,” a method of last resort deployed only when the usual genre chicanery fails. If the franchise reset button is hit too frequently, there’s a very real risk of alienating even the most dedicated of fanbases (see: The Legion of Super-Heroes). It should also never be undertaken while influence of the foul brew known as the Terrible 90s, lest something like today’s featured trainwreck be set loose upon the world…

Triumph (a.k.a. William MacIntyre) made his debut in Justice League America#92 (September 1994), as part of a story arc linked to the Nexus of Nobody’s Favorites otherwise known as the Zero Hour miniseries. Possessed of the vague, yet deus ex machina friendly power of “harnessing the electromagnetic spectrum,” Triumph was presented as a founding member of the original Justice League who had been obliterated from memory during the superteam’s first adventure.

Though the underlying concept had a bit of potential, it was fatally and painfully undermined by Triumph’s inherent lameness and excessively Poochiesque presentation. As I’ve stated before, superhero fans can stomach — if not forgive — a lot of creative sins, but having a dude in a turquoise unitard and parts cribbed from a 1959 Cadillac upstage the likes of Superman and Batman reeked of desperation.

Triumph’s ‘tudey brand of timelost heroism earned him his own incomprehensible miniseries as well as a slot in Justice League Task Force, which avoided being the worst Justice League title by sole virtue of not being Extreme Justice…though the matching team jackets with “TF” on the backs made it a very close call. His stint with the team was characterized by:

- moaning about how much the world has changed for the worse during his decade-long absence. (Granted, he could have been an R.E.M. fan, which would more than justify his disgust.)
- moaning about how he was more qualified to lead the team
- moaning in general

After being cut from the team, Triumph reappeared as a villain during the “Crisis Times Five” arc of Grant Morrison’s JLArun, turning his vague energy powers and incessant whining against those who failed to give him the respect he deserved….only to be transformed into an ice sculpture in the process.

There are many reasons why Triumph qualifies as Nobody’s Favorite — his stupid costume, his nonsensical powers, an origin as presumptuous as it is preposterous — but if I were forced to narrow it down to just one, it would be the fact that the character was awful enough to be booted out of Justice League Task Force.That’s the kind of indelible stain which even a multiversal linewide reboot could never erase.

Related posts:

  1. Nobody’s Favorites: Jumping the pterodactyl
  2. Nobody’s Favorites: No lesser glory
  3. Nobody’s Favorites: Whose swill be done?

8 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Out of time”

  1. Ken Lowery

    If ever a phrase portended doom and stupidity in superhero comics, it is “a hero for our times.” They might as well condense that to “shit sandwich.”

  2. buttler

    Alas, too true. And I could say “See also: Sentry” to pretty much this entire entry.

  3. Dean

    Even when I first read that Morrison JLA arc, when I’d never heard of Triumph before, I got the impression that Superman was trying desperately to keep a straight face in that last panel.

  4. Martin Wisse

    “One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how deeply resented Triumph was. Triumph was hated, deeply loathed, by a great many DC staffers, some of whom would go postal at the mere mention of the character’s name. I’d kind of patiently look these folks in the eye and, with some trepidation, remind them that Triumph is a comic book character. That Triumph doesn’t actually exist. I mean, I’d hear things like, “That guy (Triumph) is such an asshole.” And I’d kind of shrug and go, “Yes. Yes, he is. That’s the idea.””

    From http://www.digital-priest.com/comics/triumph.htm

  5. nate

    That’s why you move to DC, our venue makes us have derby season run 12 months a year :)

  6. Skeeter

    Ugh, I remember Triumph all too well. Marvel did the concept much better with Sentry, though his incorporation in the rest of the MU was a bit rocky.

  7. danjack

    i actually enjoyed JLTF quite a bit when Priest was writing it, but the themes did get repetitive. i can’t say Triumph is my favorite, but i did enjoy reading him.

  8. PyroTwilight

    Hah. It’s a shame DC’s staff didn’t like him as much as they could’ve, I LOVED this guy. Still do. Even Marv Wolfman wanted to take a crack at writing a story related to him (Brave and the Bold 17-18). I always considered his story a huge tragedy of a character who just couldn’t get any love.

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