Armagideon Time

I used to be a big fan of the Champions role playing game back in the days when the Gipper sat in the Oval Office and Cutting Crew stood at the top of the pop charts. Where TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes and Mayfair’s DC Heroes games had licensed access to the rich tapestries of their respective fictional universes, hospital Champions had to make do with superior (and mathematically complex) game mechanics and a piecework campaign setting featuring familiar — yet non-actionable — organizations and archetypes.

Although the Champions folks attempted to weave these fragments into a rough approximation of a cohesive shared universe (complete with its own less than gripping funnybook title), they could never dispel the odd “off brand” aura which only grew stronger with each new effort to mirror the superheroic source material.

It was more that just the lack of historical-emotional context or generally subpar illustrations that accompanied these efforts. There was an inescapable sense of fandom twice removed and constructed around a reverse-engineered “superbeing” template:

[Civilian name] was [an occupation] who was exposed to [event or mental trauma] and thus gained the ability to [power or skillset]. Adopting the persona of [superbeing name], s/he has dedicated him/herself to [ethically appropriate motivation].

Throw in a “it’ll do” sketch by some unsteady imitator of the current art style du jour, and you have pretty much any character from any non-licensed superhero RPG sourcebook.

It was as generic as it was soulless, yet not totally out of sync with the realm of “real” superhero comics. After all, how else would you explain the sad super-simulacrum known as Geo-Force?

Brion Markov was a prince who was exposed to vague super-sciencey shit and thus gained the ability to tap into the power of the earth. Adopting the persona of Geo-Force, he has dedicated himself to slamming evil.

See what I mean?

Geo-Force was one of the key members of Batman and the Outsiders, a series which gained fleeting fame thanks to some fortuitous timing. Writer Mike W. Barr’s willingness to (mildly) push the boundaries when it came to murderous protagonists and 1980s Cold War geopolitics felt like a radical break from the perceived stodginess of DC’s status quo…as was the notion of Batman forming his own superteam after telling the Justice League to fuck off.

As the product of the Markovian civil war which brought the Outsiders together, Geo-Force was intended to be a core player in the team’s group dynamic — pretty boy powerhouse with a whiff of Namorian monarchic arrogance and a looming threat to the Dark Knight’s status as the pack’s alpha male.

Unfortunately for Geo-Force, it took more than a stupid costume and sullen sneer to pose a credible rival for Batman. Not much more, mind you, but still more than Geo-Force could muster.

Seriously, between the off-the-rack generic 1980s superhero duds and the hilarious “GF” insignia, the poor sap looked like he should have been a promotional mascot in some kiddie magazine. “Hey, kids! Mail in three UPC symbols to get a free coloring book featuring me, General Foods, fighting the fearsome Hungries!”

Even though the Outsiders’ stars faded pretty fast, their brief glimmer of success has guaranteed a unending cycle of attempts to restore the franchise and its components. If it modestly worked decades ago, the prevailing dubious wisdom dictates, it should work like gangbusters in the present day. Just look at child labor and whale oil lamps!

And so Geo-Force has periodically crawled back into the periphery of the public spotlight, usually in the context of yet another doomed as revival but more infamously as a pathetic plot point in Brad Meltzer’s Justice League run.

How pathetic? He tried to kill himself in a Meltzer book and couldn’t even pull that off successfully.

Halo may have been astronomically irritating and Looker may have committed unforgivable crimes against fashion, but Geo-Force’s utter lack of distinguishing characteristics made him an even worse character than his more egregiously awful teammates were. In the garishly camp realm of superhero comics, making a bad impression is better than making no impression at all…which is why I’ve assigned this royal refugee from a 2nd edition Champions sourcebook an out-of-way corner in the dusty hall of Nobody’s Favorites.

27 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Underwhelming force”

  1. John Perich

    Oh man – a “Nobody’s Favorites” about some villains from the Champions “CLASSIC ENEMIES” book would be amazing.

  2. Bully

    Well, okay. As long as you’re not ragging on Halo. (heart)

  3. SJB

    I feel for the exact things you listed (the timing, Barr;s writing, Batman gives the JLA the finger…plus Aparo’s and later Davis’ art), but this is one book I have never revisited. That says something

  4. Sallyp

    There really are no words that can adequately convey my deep and utter loathing for Geo-Force. God, how I hate him.

  5. Tales to Enrage

    After I went back and read some of the Outsiders, Geoforce always felt like someone who never lived up to his potential…within the storyline, that is. In real life he didn’t have much potential as a character of interest. But he could control the power of the earth (vague definitions are the best!), and yet he never felt like he could do anything useful.

  6. Casey

    What were the names of the Not-Iron Man, Not-Captain America and Not-Eddie from your Champions campaign, Andrew?

  7. Cary

    Finally. Been waiting to see this guy on here for a while, and I ‘m thoroughly satisfied. I’ve questioned your choices before (I still want to think that Morbius’s entry was an ironic joke that went over my head), but this guy is the perfect overlap of not-dynamically-terrible and completely unlovable.

  8. bitterandrew

    Casey: Armor X, Patriot, and Cyberkiller-or-something-like-that.

  9. Casey

    I toast your teenage self for Armor X. Can you believe that didn’t get used in a “real” comic book until 2009? Young Andrew was way ahead of the curve. That or the bar has lowered. As a name, Patriot lacks everything Armor X has going for it for my tastes. And Cyberkiller is a pretty terrible name, but I forgive it for the wisdom of putting Eddie in with the Avengers. He really would fit right in with the Ultimates.

    Anyway, thanks for indulging me. You run a very nice blog. That superhero comics, creators and fans have always been kind of awful is an essential insight into the mystery of why they’re kind of awful today.

  10. Frank

    Terra has been killed twice, once in a classic story arc, and once to set her baggage out on the curb. I don’t know if Geo-Force has ever died, but I doubt it, because no one has ever cared enough for it to have shock value or seen potential in passing the awful costume or loser moniker to a successor. He’s not even a sweetly cornball conservationist like Captain Planet, as his name suggests. As you say, he’s such an absolute nothing, he fails to inspire even the basest of comic book tropes. I wish someone would sodomize him, because at least he’s be the guy who got man-raped, which would mean something. Maybe he could become a paraplegic, or turn out to be Hispanic, or basically anything at all to justify this character’s ever existing beyond reacting to Terra and filling out the ranks of the Outsiders.

  11. Casey

    “…because at least he’s be the guy who got man-raped…”
    Sadly, and I do mean sadly, even this would not make Geo-Force unique.

  12. Cary

    One thing I (and the writers) always forget is that he’s supposed to have a foreign accent. Vague Mediterranean, ala Balki Bartokomous. That’s almost one dimension right there.

  13. Batzarro

    “Sadly, and I do mean sadly, even this would not make Geo-
    Force unique.

    But who’s counting, right?

    No, seriously, who’s counting and why?

  14. ScienceGiant

    Remember that one issue when General Foods defeated the villians by distracting them with yummy Hostess pies and Twinkies? Good times.

    Actually, the ONLY thing I can remember about Geo-Force is an issue where fought Superman. His only distinguishing attack was flying faster than the speed of sound, so Supes couldn’t hear him. But all the while I kept wondering “If Asscrackistan can resources enough to produce it’s own superhero, surely they could do better then this!”

  15. Elijah Fly

    you would think one of the coolest super-heroes ever, Batman, would have good taste in other heroes. instead we get, ‘no seriously guys, Geo-force and Red Tornado are the greatest! you don’t even know!”

  16. Ryan H.

    Hey, now.
    Red Tornado IS great.

  17. Tristan

    Actually, I happen to really li-hahahaha no, no one has ever liked Geo-Force.

  18. Monzo

    Man, it is incredibly jarring to go from that top Jim Aparo art to the panel where Geo-Force is puffed up like a balloon, Metamorpho is wall-eyed and Katana looks like Moe Howard.

  19. Jeff R.

    Actually, Geo-Force was my favorite…

    (…non-Batman Outsider. Never did like Metamorpho or BL, and Katana didn’t get cool until years later in Suicide Squad.)

  20. Aberration, The

    Sorry, I liked the guy. I liked his relationship with Halo. I liked Katana’s relationship with Halo. I liked Halo.

    The book was never any great shakes (I remember the Force of July and New Wave stories to be particularly awful: the evil billionaire behind Force of July had a plot to somehow transform America’s television sets into spy cameras in every home; ironically I am typing this on a device that allows my every communication to be quietly and remotely documented) but I liked the characters (initially) created for it, even if those characters never gained any depth.

    Geo-Force did have his one bad-ass moment, when he went after Deathstroke to avenge Terra. (There was a period when everybody in the DCU had to take down Deathstroke to keep their membership.) Ultimately outmatched, and discovering his and Terra’s powers were the result of Yet Another Evil Conspiracy, he slashed his own throat…to make Deathy drop his guard and get close enough for GF to gut him. Naturally, this being DC, they both got better.

    Yeah, that green-and-yellow General Foods monstrosity, that was awful. And yeah, the whole concept of terrakinesis or whatever is was is also balls-stupid (although no more stupid than Magneto being able to effortlessly rend a bridge by holding his hand up in its direction). Terra III (Power Girl’s buddy) gets (got?) away with it because she’s fun and also because titties.

  21. Sumguy

    Thanks, Andrew! I think I can see it now. The guy isn’t Nobody’s Favorite because he fucked a dog or something, he’s Nobody’s Favorite because his sole reason for existing is to be the Tough Guy on a team that already has at least two who do that better.

  22. Joe Gualtieri

    Two weeks ago this article would have been fine. Now? Geo-Force is a favourite of Heroclix players because of the amazing version that came out recently in the Batman set.

  23. Joe Gualtieri

    Suggestion– King Snake, the z-list Robin villain who was revealed to be Bane’s father.

  24. Kid Kyoto

    Ah I’ve been waiting for this one, well well done.

    “you would think one of the coolest super-heroes ever, Batman, would have good taste in other heroes. instead we get, ‘no seriously guys, Geo-force and Red Tornado are the greatest! you don’t even know!””

    Y’know I’ve always thought there was room for a revisionist take on this, something like Batman sitting in his room weeping quietly as he realizes that giving the JLA the finger so her could have a team with Halo and Geo Force might not have been the best idea ever but there’s no damn way he’ll ever admit it to that smug farm boy!

    Anyway, next up has to be Katana, the vicious swordswoman who somehow never actually cuts anyone!

  25. Tony Goins

    I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite, but I have a little residual affection for Geo-Force. I spent way too much time talking about him on our blog a few years ago.

  26. LCB

    I did a little superhero RPGing in my time; one of the characters I came up with was an experimental war-robot gone rogue and he was called…the Mechs-ecutioner. (cringe_

  27. Sumguy

    Kyoto: Katana was on Suicide Squad for years, so I think it’s safe to say the Nobody’s Favorite stank has been burned off her.

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