Armagideon Time

The late Mark Gruenwald once stated that every comic book character was somebody’s favorite. Kind of an ironic view coming from the man who oversaw the Scourge storyline, pills but I tend to agree with Gruenwald’s gentle editorial admonishment to play responsibly with the lesser lights of a shared fictional universe.

Even as incorrigible a fan of b-through-z listers as myself, allergy however, surgery has to admit that there is a tier of characters to which Gruenwald’s maxim does not apply. Below Jack of Hearts (who is RAD), below Spoiler, below even Pantha lurks the realm of the truly unloved, characters so forgotten or despised that even the fanfic and cosplay crowds won’t sup at their table.

They are, in short, “nobody’s favorites,” and I can’t think of a better place to start my examination of such characters than with this sartorially-challenged lass:

Looker, a one-time member of The Outsiders so ill-conceived that even the talented Alan Davis couldn’t make her look good.  Look at her.  She resembles the 4th runner up in the Miss Neapolitan Ice Cream pageant. 

Earning the title of “Worst Outsiders Character” is no mean feat. The team was assembled by Batman upon his resignation from the JLA, and one can only assume his spite led him to gather together some of the most god-awful rookie superheroes ever (along with Metamorpho and Black Lightning, who must have been in on the joke) in order to show who really was the driving force behind the League’s successes.

“Yeah, Clark, I just defeated Starro and Despero with the help of a glowing blonde girl with brain damage and an ethnic stereotype with a magic samurai sword. What’s that? The Key pantsed you and stole Hal’s power ring? And you can’t figure out how to run the Satellite’s photocopy machine? Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Yet from the crowded field of utterly bland (Geo Force), absurdly pandering (Katana), and completely irritating (Halo) entries arose a single decisive winner, a dark horse contender introduced in BaTO #25 (Sept 1985) as Emily “Lia” Briggs, a homely bank teller:

“Homely,” that is, in the 80’s rock video sense of the word, where it would only take the simple application of a swelling guitar riff — with or without an accompanying image of a smashed mirror — to set her inner sex kitten free to crawl on the hood of a rented sports car.

Unfortunately for Emily and The Outsiders, both Jack Blades and Kevin Cronin were busy with prior engagements (they should have called twenty years later). In their absence, Emily’s transformation from “nottie” to “hottie” is forced to take a more circuitous route, involving a hidden underground race seeking to use Halley’s Comet and some super-science hoodoo to transform the poor woman into their queen and thus take over the world.

Their plan nearly succeeds, until the newly empowered (and quite stacked) Emily rebels against her creators and uses her telekinetic powers to free the captive Outsiders. Emily, as Looker, abdicates her claim on the Abyssian throne in favor of returning to America, her rather confused husband, and a role as the DC Universe’s most tragic fashion victim.

Looker’s costume, complete with aureole headlight panels, armpit chain, and giant bow swiped from a remaindered prom dress bin, was more than enough to qualify her as “nobody’s favorite,” but that only scratches the ghastly surface of the character. As Emily, she was a mousy (yet quite attractive) woman with a supportive husband, decent job, and a tendency to publicly cry about her lot in life. As Looker, she turned out to be the superhero equivalent of Zsa Zsa Gabor, right down to the frequent conversational use of “darling” and making life generally miserable for her husband.

With the addition of Looker to the team, the female contingent of The Outsiders encompassed a super-sexy (if horribly wrapped) bit of eye candy capable of occasional flashes of competence (Looker), the naive waif who wields Great Power (Halo), and a tough character with a wounded soul (Katana).

Huh. I wonder if Joss Whedon was an Outsiders fan.

The mid-1990s relaunch of The Outsiders — one of several brought about by DC’s confusion between a transitory success and an enduring franchise — saw the highly unanticipated return of Looker and her impeccable fashion sense…

…and because there’s always room for a few more lumps on a triple-decker turd sandwich, she was transformed into a crimefighting vampire.

Okay.  Now I’m absolutely convinced Joss Whedon was an Outsiders fan.

13 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Not a good look”

  1. philip

    A one-legged unitard? Even by superhero costume standards that seems a bit too much. Also, colossally impractical.

    I do love this post and hope you have a few more in the offing.

  2. Dave Lartigue

    Whedon probably threw every issue against the wall in frustration, since none of the women were kissing each other.

  3. David Thiel

    I’ll admit that Looker herself is pretty cute on that BatO cover, but yes, that is one fugly outfit.

    I’ll be interested to find out who else you choose as “nobody’s favorite.” My money would be on someone from the Blasters or the New Guardians.

  4. Martin Wisse

    I think that comment stems from when Gruenwald recanted his villain killing days, didn’t it, as he realised it’s not the lameness of the character, it’s what you do with it…

    Poor old Looker, gets no respect whatsoever. I’m not sure I would call her a favourite of mine, but I don’t hate her (or the Outsiders in general) as much as what seems to be the current trend. For some reason the Mike Barr Outsiders were reasonably popular during the mid eighties, at least enough to get their own hardcover / softcover programme ala the Titans and the LOSH, but after it was cancelled suddenly nobody had ever liked them. One of those titles changing tastes and fashions rendered ridiculous in hindsight.

  5. Nimbus

    I’m with Martin. I’m not sure why the original Outsiders gets so much grief. They’re no worse than many a superteam, such as the X-Men or the Teen Titans. I quite like them – enough that the only DC Showcase I own is the Outsiders one. Though I must admit that Looker is, erm, not a favourite.

    The art on the books was always very good. Aparo, Davis, even Pelletier are all fine artists.

  6. Greg Burgas

    It’s funny you should start with Looker, because while she’s not my absolute favorite, I do have a soft spot in my heart for her, mostly based on the “Mud Pack” story in Detective, where I first saw her. She’s never been written particularly well, but I don’t know – I’ve always thought she had potential in a comics universe where looks are everything and she wasn’t all that attractive until, as you pointed out, John Hughes and Molly Ringwald got a hold of her, but that’s an interesting idea, at least.

  7. Wolter

    Unless you are Aladdin Sane, you are not allowed to wear one-legged unitards. Not now, not ever.

  8. adam

    Yeah I liked her guest appearance in that Detective Comics “mud pack” story. Thought Breyfogle did a good job with the costume – better than Davis up there. Haven’t really read anything since tho.

    Vampire crime fighter, hey? good stuff.

  9. Scott Rowland

    Not one of my favorites, granted, but I liked her. Definitely one of the thousands of characters that only work as team members and not as a solo characters, but she added something to the Outsiders.

    And I liked the Outsiders series quite a bit . . .

  10. Rob a.k.a. "A Hero"

    I have to agree with Greg Burgas about Looker. Like him, my first exposure to her was in “The Mudpack” storyline in Detective Comics. She definitely came off better in that storyline than pretty much any of her other appearances.

  11. NBarnes

    The people writing Young Justice must have thought that Looker was hilarious and ripped her off for the Mighty Endowed.

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