SECOND CHANCE BRACKET ROUNDUP
We’re near the end of a long journey with this bracket. These days, The PopFilter offices look like a cross between a warzone and a nursery. The writers are bloodied, worn from battle and very, very cranky. Earlier this month I screamed in tears, “I DON’T WANNA DO THIS ANYMORE! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!â€ to an editor whose rapidly waning patience has resulted in a facial tick and mild PTSD. This is not an uncommon episode around here. This bracket was suppose to be a summer special, and much like the brutal heat-wave going on in Southern California right now, the bracket simply will not die. There’s a subdermal panic in the south land these days. A secret, horrifying fear that summer and the drought will never end. No one is talking about it, most are not even conscious of it. But like the radioactive television and radio microwaves wafting through the air, it pulses through the living without permission. In the middle of October, we have reached our final three. Sadistically, at this time, we are taking a short detour. We call it the Last Chance Bracket. Because fuck it. We’re beginning to get a horrifying pleasure out of the pain, thirst, and the heat. We brought back 16 comics that were thrown out in the first round and make them fight each other to produce a wildcard for the final 4.
(To hear how the individual rounds went, listen to Mike and Ryan on this episode of The Super Hero Hour Hour: https://popfilter.co/2015/10/battleworld-battleworld-second-chance-bracket/ )
The wildcard winner is:
HANK JOHNSON AGENT OF HYDRA
This comic follows the doings of one of Hydra’s henchmen. He’s a nothing special, blue-collar family man who happens to work for an evil organization.
Marvel asked themselves, “what if one of the Battleworld worlds gave the sitcom treatment to one of the nameless Hydra goons?â€ and the result was this single issue comic. He’s a regular guy whose job it is to get his ass handed to him by superheros while just trying to avoid going to his kid’s school’s boring fundraiser and pissing off his wife. He’s balding, hates his boss, his kids are monsters and his spare tire gets a little bigger every day. He’s basically Al Bundy in green and yellow. Hank Johnson Hydra Agent is the single weirdest wildcard that could have possibly emerged from the Second Chance Bracket.
It’s a very modernist approach to examine a character usually relegated to the role of an extra. Sitcoms are suppose to be a funhouse version of everyday life; it’s why so many of them revolve around families, and not, say, astronauts. They put a spotlight on mundane situations and show how awkward or silly our day-to-day behavior/lives/beliefs/rituals are. The sitcom format is perfect for a character like Hank Johnson. It both humanizes him as a faceless man and underlines the absurdity of an average person’s life in a superhero-populated world. Sitcom-ish situations are what bring him to life. Situations like him being kept up all night because his baby accidentally drank Red Bull or the family casually dressing up like the Avengers for Halloween.
These two panels say a lot about the dynamics of the American family. Halloween and trick-or-treating are a uniquely American, which is why it’s typical sitcom fodder. Children, typically costumed as whoever they idolize at the moment, go door to door asking strangers for candy. In the world of this comic, children don’t have to look to fictional characters for heros because the Avengers are real people who really fight crime. And the average-in-every-way children of a Hydra agent would be no different. They look up to heroes like Iron Man and Captain America who are gods next to their average joe dad who, by the way, fights those gods to put a roof over their head and superhero costumes on their backs. And the ultimate dick-punch is that he is willing to don an Avenger costume himself if it means making them happy. Because what is middle-class white suburban fatherhood is not a series of quiet, resigned compromises? And doesn’t that just describe every sitcom dad ever?
This comic stacks these typical sitcom plot lines one after another. Here is where this comic differs from television sitcoms. Rather than taking one situation and stretching it over a single issue, like TV sitcoms do with each episode, the writers and artist of this comic chose to do a single issue with many situations. That kind of decision would be a disaster on the small screen, but works crazy good for a single issue of a comic book. This could be a show, featuring a different plotline each episode (this works because of charismatic actors), but it would just belabor the point as a multi-issue comic. The point of this comic isn’t wacky situations and how silly/absurd they are, but one guy and how silly/absurd he is. And this issue does that without seeming too busy because it remembers: it’s all about him. And the reason it does that so well is that it doesn’t sacrifice character for jokes. Hank Johnson has depth, flesh and bones.
There is only one question that remains: does Hank Johnson have what it takes to beat Civil War and go on to the finalfinal round? Stay tuned to find out!!