Wednesday, November 05, 2014

What The Fuck Were They Thinking!?: The Pied Piper

Happy Hump Day Suckas!!!!

Welcome to another edition of King's favorite column, What The Fuck Were They Thinking, where I spotlight and critique characters and concepts that just don't work.

Today's newest inductee to my hall of shame, is the Pied Piper.

Yep. The Pied Piper. 

And no, not the famous one from children's literature and fairy tales.

This Pied Piper debuted in The Flash#106.

Piper, who's real name is Hartley Rathaway, was born deaf, but thanks to genius Dr. Will Magnus(creator of the Metal Men) he regained his hearing. And because of that experience, he became absolutely obsessed with sound.

I imagine if he was created today, he'd have like 50 million blogs and fan-sites devoted to the concept of sound. He seems the obsessive/stalkerish type;)

It wasn't too much longer when Rathaway found a way to create a electronic flute that could hypnotize people. Once he had that, instead of oh I don't know, helping out other deaf children and adults, he decided to turn to a life of crime. You know, just 'cause.

And since he happened to live in the same city as a certain Scarlet Speedster(Central City bitches), He and the Flash often got it on like Donkey Kong.

After Barry's death, he wound up forming a strange friendship with Barry's replacement and former sidekick, Wally West. From there reforming was the order of the day, and the Piper went straight.
Well not that STRAIGHT, apparently....

Yeah, the Pied Piper's a butt-pirate. Wanna' fight about it?;)

He became a general stable of Wally's supporting cast over the years up until the Rogues War in 2005.
It was revealed that the rogue the Top(trying to be helpful to Barry) took a big page out of Zatanna's playbook and brainwashed certain rogues to be good guys. Only rogues like the Trickster and the Pied Piper stuck, and just like that, years of character development went up in smoke.

The Trickster(the original) and Piper would then find themselves chained together and hunted down by members of the Suicide Squad during the abortion that was Countdown to Final Crisis.

As far as I know he has yet to appear in the NU52 universe. Whether or not he will remains to be seen.

Now before King goes on the offensive here, let me be clear on that I find ridiculous about the Pied Piper as a concept.

The obvious first one would be his debuting outfit.

One look at that, and you'd know he was gay before he even came out.
I would also like to point out, that turning or revealing Rathaway gay was a pretty good move character-wise on the part of former Flash writer Bill-Messner-Loebs. Not because he was gay, but because it was used as a way to make the character more multi-dimensional. Great discussions and character advancements were made on both his and Wally's part because the topic of homosexuality was brought up and mentioned in a very realistic and intelligent manner. Not just, Piper going "Hey Mary, I love cock you silly goose!"

Getting back to the point I was making, Carmine Infantino did not do Piper any favors by using that redonkulous outfit.

To me, if you're going to go with a Pied Piper gimmick, he should be creepy and sinister. He should have an unsettling, almost pedophilic-vibe to him.

The last updated version of his outfit worked better, but seems to be missing something.

I'd also suggest tweaking his personality a bit. He seemed to finally be on the right path to being taken seriously before the reboot happened. I'd like to see that again. Maybe give him a slight inferiority complex because of the whole growing up deaf thing. Hell, maybe even make him deaf again, so as to really turn the pathos/emotional screws.

If he were to remain a homosexual, that's always nice fodder for discussion. Would he be harassed by both the villains AND heroes for being gay? If so, would that add to the resentment he may hold, turning that on society as well as friend and foe alike?

Again, I'd give him a darker edge. make him slightly more creepy but without falling into the stereotypical thinking that just because he's gay, he'd have to be a child-molester, or something like that.

There's usually a way to make most characters work, even oddball ones, if and when the right creative can find the right hook/angle.

Hopefully a new and improved Piper will debut that is totally believable.....even if its comics we're talking about.

Until then, and based SOLELY off his initial concept and costume,
Mr. Gardner Fox and Mr. Infantino.....



Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

well we know he was blowing more then just that flute of his.

Randomnerd said...

I was going to say something else about flute blowing, but yeah. THat works.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Shlomo and @Random: Yes, yes he was;)
And could still be if ever debuts in the NU52, and retains his sexual preference. We'll see.

The King of Thessaly said...

Yes- his original costume sucked much ass... there's no arguing that point. I've defended, even liked, past entrant's costumes- but Piper's? No. It's terrible.

That being said- he is one of my favorite Rogues. You're saying he did not have any real personality until they made him gay- then "gay" was his "personality", essentially. And to a point- I can kind of see that a little (even if I do still disagree, because as far as I'm concerned; Bill Messner-Loebs does GREAT character work!). -Especially when comics pull this trick these days... but back in 1991 this was a BIG deal. -He was a fictional pioneer over at DC. The fact that this was even done- or allowed to be done- at that time was amazing!
So maybe being gay was the only thing that made him relevant to some people- but he gets a pass from me. Nowadays there is no excuse for having a gay or lesbian character devoid of any characteristic other than they are gay... but it was one thing at a time with this one. -And I enjoyed the hell out of it.
It was a huge moment for comic-books.

They have already cast him to be in an upcoming episode of The Flash and rumor has it there is no reconning the gay away- nor will there be any shying away from it. All fantastic news! Can't wait to see it.

And sure- you can say the original character, as created, is lame and gaudy and should not be... but you can say that about ANY old character, really. Even The Joker was fucking terrible back in the day. Have you ever read some of his early appearances? He was fucking lame! Can't have what we have now- if what we have now wasn't created then...

Dale Bagwell said...

@King: Oh uh, someone's got a man-crush on ol' slippery lips;)
Ha ha, no I hear what you're saying, and definitely agree about how almost any old/older character can be easily shit on. Yes hindsight is indeed 20/20, but some characters are just so bad you have to wonder what the creative was smoking when they came up them. Paste Pot Pete for example, just off the name alone, makes you scratch your head. And this Marvel we're talking about, Stan always said he never wrote or talked down to kids, but then he gives him THAT name?

Piper was indeed a pioneer. No argument there, but he basically was a cipher, no personality or anything to distinguish him from other villains, hell even the lame Batman ones.

Slick Willy did Piper a huge favor by turning him gay, and then proceeded to build on him from there. Now there's not saying he could've been potentiality made more interesting w/o the gay gimmick, but someone like Piper really needed that as building block to build a personality around. I will say his loyalty as a damn good friend to Wally, especially considering his then criminal past, is admirable to every possible level. But again, until the, he was just another bad crook with an even worse gimmick. As bad as they were back then as well, at least Captain Cold has a cold gun, Heatwave a fire gun, etc.

I will say it's a bit of a damn shame that while Johns did help build back up the Rogues and gave a more defined motivation and back-story during his run, he also gave them too much unneeded grief and drama for the sake of being edgy.

Waid was able to work with the Rogues in an interesting way without making them too blood-thirsty or drug addicts, as was the case for Mirror Master.

As for the Joker, sure some of his stories weren't always inspired, especially during the silly Boner years of the 50's, but that can be forgiven to a degree because of the comics code pussifying comic characters for a good while.
He always retained that badass, psycho clown look, and obviously made enough of impression to be brought back immediately after he was killed off.

So Piper's going to be on the Flash huh?
I'll be very interested to see how he;s portrayed, how often, and what his relationship t Barry will be on the show.

The King of Thessaly said...

Hey, I have a man-crush on lots of comic-characters! The only thing more homoerotic than super-hero comic-books is professional wrestling. And the only thing more homoerotic than professional wrestling is gay porn.

But look at how fucking cool The Trapster became! And how great it was to have heroes knock him by calling him Pate Pot Pete again... Any character can be awesome. From Killer Moth to Kangaroo- it just takes the right writer.

As for his personality- "his loyalty as a damn good friend to Wally, especially considering his then criminal past, is admirable on every possible level." See- he's not JUST gay. That may be the first thing one thinks of when the character is mentioned. But his relationship with Wally is the 2nd.

Speaking of Heatwave- The Flash show! ~Ahhhh! *squeee*
Also; fingers-crossed for the inevitable Firestorm spin-off!!!

Ha-ha-ha! -Wait until Batman sees his latest boner!!! It's a HUGE one!

Dale Bagwell said...

King: Yeah, I know Pro-Wrestling is super gay on a lot of levels, especially wrestlers that look like Dolph Ziggler. He even has a fucking porn name if I ever saw one.


Trapster was indeed redeemed in later issues once he dropped the name. Can someone seriously ask Stan why he choose that name? Dude was asking for an atomic wedgie for that.

Kangaroo though? I love Killer Moth but I don't think I could ever justify or excuse that bad export from Dan's neck of the woods.

Yes, Heatwave! Probably like me, you geeked out for Cold wearing his signature Parka. SO that means Mick's GOT to rock the suit and goggles.

The King of Thessaly said...

Mr. Ziggles RULES! Watch your mouth, son!!!
Honestly- the Attitude Era was my least favorite... I can't stand Stone Cold.

Have you seen that Key & Peele skit with "Stan Lee" yet? YouTube it- if not- because it's HILARIOUS!!!

The Kangaroo is awesome! As a comedy piece, sure- but still awesome! Dan has posters of The Kangaroo all over his bedroom! -He's his favorite!

Oh, I absolutely geeked-out over the parka!!! And Felicity dressed as Death!

"Get Snakey"

Hey whattaya' know, it's a brand new skit this week. Enjoy this fun little homage to one of the more recently popular "danc...