Ever since I did my ranting jeremiad against Charaxes not long ago, I’ve had this itch to make a little ongoing series for the Obsessive Geek Blog. I tried doing that back on my old BlogSpot site, but never really kept myself to a schedule for too long on any of them. And while I can’t promise this one will either, I think you guys might enjoy it. Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, I welcome you to Fix It ‘Til It’s Broke!, where we’ll be
taking cheap shots looking at times when someone tried to improve a comic book character or idea and failed miserably. We’ll cover it all here, from bad revamping, terrible transformations to even new characters taking up old mantles. Think of it like Armagideon Time’s Nobody’s Favorites, except I’m limiting myself to concepts already that already existed and were changed for the worse.
(Author’s Note: Andrew, If you’re reading this and feel it rips you off too much, tell me and I’ll end it right now.)
First, let me tell you a little story. In the long-lost days of 1995, an African-American woman in her mid-30s, just off from work, picks up her five-year old son from his grandma’s house and goes grocery shopping. While heading to the checkout aisle, the boy spies his first ever comic books. Perhaps he had noticed them before on other trips, but this day was unlike any other.
You see, the boy was a humongous fan of superheroes. His favorite things in the entire world were karate, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman. He loved the ‘90s animated series and was more than likely on his way to wearing out his VHS copy of Batman Forever. So upon seeing comics featuring the Caped Crusaders, his eyed widened with excitement and glee. He begged, begged his mother to either buy the comics for him or let the boy use his allowance to get them. This being the ‘90s, comics were still priced where a kindergartener could just pick up a few. And so he did, and he would not pick up another superhero comic until at least 2003.
As you’ve probably guessed, the little boy in that story was yours truly. I don’t really have all that many memories from early childhood, but I remember picking up Detective Comics #690-691 specifically. I didn’t remember the numbers of the issues of course, but the content has stayed with me for over two decades now. And since I’ve already talked about 690 a few days ago, I decided to finish off my look back at my first experiences with the four-color page. Also, while I may be being facetious as to implying those issues put me off of comics for years, I’d like to ask: wouldn’t you not pick up a comic again if Lady Spellbinder was one of the first villains you ever saw?
The soon-to-be supervillain started life out as Fay Moffit, girlfriend to Delbert Billings, the Spellbinder with a Y-chromosome.
After escaping the Dynamic Duo and running to ground at a cheap motel, Fay and Delbert were visited by the demon Neron. You see, Underworld Unleashed was going on at the time, and the demonic nogoodnik wanted to recruit new pawns for his game of annoying superheroes in order to get Captain Marvel’s soul and somehow become king of hell. I don’t know how giving a bunch of random jerks superpowers actually helps you become king of the underworld, but hey, I’m not a demon.
Delbert, knowing a Faustian screwjob when he sees one, politely declined the offer. Fay, on the other hand, did not share her hubby’s perception.
Shooting Delbert in the head, Fay took the deal and became the new Spellbinder, befuddling Batman and Robin with generic hallucinations and sub-par one-liners. This lasted until Detective Comics #692, when Batman knocked her out and sent her butt to the GCPD, exposing her weakness: her powers are negated whenever her eyes are closed. Hope all that was worth your immortal soul, honey.
The major problems with Lady Spellbinder are twofold. First, let’s look at the costume. This new Spellbinder seems to want to give off the feel of being both badass and modern. As such, she’s eschewed anything related to mesmerizing or hypnotism and instead went for the most generic ‘90s ensemble possible for a female character. I mean seriously: the superfluous chain, the sunglasses, the black bikini shorts to show off the maximum amount of leg, midriff-exposing top, dangling black scarf-thing and hoop earrings all scream of American comic’s Dark Age. The only thing saving the leather jacket is that she at least had the decency to use a pink one to match her hair.
Her personality, though, is what really kills any hopes she had. Fay’s essentially any random henchwoman who threw in with the villain of the week from almost any Batman ’66 episode, only with severe delusions of grandeur. Her attempts at witty banter leave a lot to be a lot to be desired, making her come off like she’s seen way too many bad ‘90s action movies. She has confidence and did get one over on old B-Man, but that just seems like the machination of narrative contrivance and luck. As for the hallucinations she causes, well….
…let’s just say they aren’t the most imaginative.
Fay would kick around for a full decade after her first appearance, annoying the Birds of Prey every so often until meeting her final end in Infinite Crisis. This was met with the ire of absolutely no one. And since the 2011 reboot of DC’s entire line has given us no mention of her, I think it’s safe to say that the mundane threat of Lady Spellbinder shall never darken DC’s halls again. Good riddance.