Funnybook Babylon

February 6, 2009

The Banality of Evil: Prometheus

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , , , , — Matt Jett @ 11:32 pm

I was chatting with Chris Eckert and David Brothers about how a lot of villains in comics seem to have no plausible motivation for doing what they do. This seems pretty obvious; for every Dr. Doom, who has an overabundance of motivation, you have a Bullseye who is just CRAZY and HARDCORE. If you’ve listened to last week’s podcast, you’ve heard the crew talk about Prometheus, who got a revamp last week as part of the Faces of Evil pseudo-cover theme. Here’s why that revamp sucked.

Prometheus, in Morrison’s JLA, was the kind of one-dimensional badass that worked for that title. He was a murderer and a villain, but it was implied that there was something a bit deeper to him. prometheus1He, for example, knew enough super-science to build his signature goofy helmet and build a house in limbo. Morrison, for better or worse, never really got around to fleshing him out, so that job falls to Sterling Gates, writer of Supergirl.

Gates blames Prometheus’s parents for his character traits. They stole stuff and shot cops, so Prometheus does too. That’s what you get as far backstory goes. Being a part of this family made him irrevocably, completely crazy. So crazy that he spends years going on the exact same journey as Batman, meeting (evil) monks, honing his (evil) skills. Only he kills a bunch of cops first. And then kills a bunch of cops after he’s done with the journey. Why? Because they’re cops and cops shot his parents while they were resisting arrest and shooting back.

It is revealed in this issue that the Prometheus who has been getting beaten like a chump in the DCU for the past few years is a fake Prometheus, because the real one is far too awesome to lose fights to people like Green Arrow or Robin. When the real Prometheus finds out about the fake one, he sets out to kill him and get back his stuff. Along the way he encounters the Blood Pack, a mostly-forgotten team of superheroes spun out of the Bloodlines event in the early 90’s. The fact that they’re mostly-forgotten is the key reason for them being in this issue; nobody cares about them so Prometheus can murder them all in various horrible ways to show how awesome he is. He does… something to Gunfire’s hands that leaves him unable to hold things, and then cuts Anima in half by closing a teleportation portal on her, giving us two heroes maimed or killed in as many pages. If you add the pair of cops he killed in the beginning of the issue, his body count is already up to 4 people.

Did I mention he\'s a badassIn the next part of the book, we find that Prometheus wanted to have a sidekick, a “Robin.” Did we mention he’s like the evil Batman? So he finds and recruits another CRAZY KID who shot his dad because he wouldn’t let him play more video games. While kids doing this sort of thing has sadly been happening in real life lately, it still comes off as patently ridiculous in this comic. But, luckily, this character being terrible doesn’t matter after this reveal, as on the next page Prometheus sets him on fire, killing him off for good. Why does he do this? Well, he stole Prometheus’s fire. Yes, really.

Sterling Gates, in one issue, manages to take everything that made Prometheus fun as the “anti-Batman” and take it one step too far, reducing him to a complete cartoon. While trying to show off how awesome he is as a Batman who kills people, he pushes the envelops so far that it takes whatever plausibility the character had under Morrison and ditches it for cheap OH MAN HE’S SUCH A BAD DUDE points. I’ll take the Prometheus that got beaten up by Green Arrow, thanks. At least he’s only a poorly executed character, not a poorly conceived one.


  1. Truth be told, Gates didn’t blame the parents; Morrison did. Go re-read “New Year’s Evil: Prometheus” for Morrison’s origin.

    All Gates did was show the steps Morrison said Prometheus took to be the anti-Batman, and retconned out the loser-Prometheus of the last few years (flunky to Hush? The guy who took down the JLA? Really??!).

    Anyway, I can dig where you’re comin’ from, but credit (or blame) where credit (or blame) is due, right?

    Comment by Dan R — February 7, 2009 @ 4:16 am

  2. Thanks for pointing that out, I completely forgot the New Year’s Evil issue actually existed. Doesn’t quite make up for the rest of the comic, but it’s good to know that not everything on the anti-batman side of things is a new terrible idea.

    Comment by Matt Jett — February 7, 2009 @ 7:45 am

  3. I love opposite number characters when they’re done right. They’re not always done right. Bizarro bores me. But I really liked the Wrath (the inspiration for Prometheus).
    This retcon is stupid. The fact that the JLA would brainwash the original and hide him away in a cell is pretty freaking draconian. And weren’t we supposed to be all surprised a couple years ago to discover that Zatanna had erased some memories? Suddenly it turns out they do this kind of thing without blinking all the time?
    And another thing. In the flashback they have Prometheus unconscious, and they’re debating what to do with him, and they’re all “no cell could ever hold him.” Excuse me, but why would no cell ever hold him? Because he’s such a bad-ass? He’s still just a human being, no matter how well-trained and ruthless. Put him in a cell with no door, that can only be accessed via a JLA transport tube. Problem solved. I don’t care how much meditation he does, that cell isn’t getting broken out of.
    I never had a problem with Prometheus losing to heroes in such ignominious fashion. Even from his inception he was portrayed as being very skilled but a little too confident of his abilities and therefore defeated in humbling ways. Not as good as he thought he was. He lost to a nutshot from Catwoman. All that preparation and he never thought to wear a cup.
    I just never got the “master criminal” vibe from him.

    Comment by John Foley — February 7, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  4. “Suddenly it turns out they do this kind of thing without blinking all the time?”

    Yep. And you don’t wanna know what they do to the kids.

    Comment by Doctor Blasphemy — February 8, 2009 @ 4:45 am

  5. Anima may not have mattered to anyone, but she mattered to me, and though Gates is a good writer- just like Geoffy boy was- once- this pissed me off so much, that I’m done with DC.

    Comment by Dan Coyle — February 9, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  6. I hate to be that guy, but done with X, is the emptiest threat ever.

    Comment by Pedro Tejeda — February 9, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  7. […] wrote an article dissecting the recent Faces of Evil: Prometheus one-shot last week, and Jon has one in the pipeline […]

    Pingback by Funnybook Babylon · Archives · The Banality of Evil — February 10, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  8. Pedro: I know, I know. I’m gonna try, though.

    Comment by Dan Coyle — February 11, 2009 @ 12:17 am

  9. “Thanks for pointing that out, I completely forgot the New Year’s Evil issue actually existed. Doesn’t quite make up for the rest of the comic, but it’s good to know that not everything on the anti-batman side of things is a new terrible idea.”

    the ONLY thing Gates really added was the whole “it wasn’t me” retcon. everything else was in the original story. the monks, the evil parents, everything.

    Comment by Nathan — February 11, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

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