Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Makeover: The Great White Shark

There are no bad characters, just characters that no one has spent far too much time thinking about how to make work. I intend to fix that.

February is Supporting Supervillain Month

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Warren White, the Great White Shark of Wall Street, made his first appearance in 2003's Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #1.  One of the world's leading Wall Street tycoon, Warren White got caught embezzling billions of dollars from his investors and his company's pension fund.  Assuming he could buy his way out of jail, his crack legal team successfully convinced the jury that he was not guilty by reason of insanity.  Unfortunately for the Great White Shark in Gotham City that meant a trip to Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane.  The rest of the Living Hell mini-series explored Warren White's physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his fellow inmates, including Killer Croc slashing gill like scars into his neck and Jane Doe leaving him to die of hypothermia in Mr. Freeze's cell so she could steal his identity.  While the ordeal cost him his nose, hair, ears, and several of his fingers, it left the Great White Shark no longer afraid of his fellow illustrious inmates, and using his well hidden assets and business connections to procure pretty much whatever a psychotic supervillain might desire.

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Since then, he's made sporadic appearances as a major crime boss in Gotham City.  Sometimes he's shown to be running his empire from within Arkham Asylum, sometimes he's out on the loose.      The key features of all his appearances are that since his ordeals in Arkham he no longer fears any of Batman's rogues gallery or indeed the Dark Knight himself, he drives a hard bargain, and ruthlessly destroys those he perceives as in his way (going so far as to re-scar and psychologically break a reformed Two Face because a crusading Harvey Dent might be a problem for him).  Other than that, he's pretty much your run of the mill crime boss whose been hideously disfigured to look like a shark and acts as a procurer for other supervillains.

There's a lot I like about the Great White Shark.  For one thing, his introductory mini-series Arkham Asylum: Living Hell is just a fantastic and darkly funny look behind the scenes at the world's most famous fiction madhouse.  It was also somewhat prescient making it's new supervillain a corrupt stock market mogul long before Bernie Madoff became a household name.  And the Great White Sharks embezzled billions squirreled away in off shore bank accounts provides a perfect explanation for how Batman's rogues gallery afford personalized (and weaponized) vehicles, weapons, and killer robots: They get them from Warren White on a consignment basis.  It's supervillain venture capitalism.

That's not to say that the Great White Shark is without flaws as a character.  The crime boss angle frankly doesn't make a huge amount of sense, after all why take the risk of putting himself in the sights of the cops, Batman, and rival crime lords, when he can just invest in various other supervillains, let them take all the risks, and he makes money either way.  Furthermore, from a story telling standpoint there are already literally dozens of crime bosses and different gangs running around Gotham, most of them better designed for the role than a Wall Street fat cat.  He should focus on what he's good at.  Pure business.

When he was working on Wall Street, Warren White never would have guessed the twists and turns that life had in store for him.  But every good businessman knows to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.  The Great White Shark didn't fear the freaks of Gotham City, and he had the capital to provide them the resources needed to fulfill their wildest dreams.  Then it's simply a matter of diversifying your investments: mad scientists, colorful bank robbers, those with psychotic breaks from reality; all key to a balanced portfolio, all with their own unique wants and needs.  Of course if you want your business to keep growing, you eventually need to expand into new markets.  Now to do that you can either go toe to toe with competitors who know the market better than you do, or you can just buy them out and bring them under your umbrella.  The Great White Shark always preferred the latter, delegation is key after all.  So he found those who could provide services his clients desired and he hired them.  If Killer Croc wants a run down aquarium with sewer access, the Great White Shark simply sends him to the Broker.  When Colonel Blimp is sure this time his aerial armada can conquer Gotham if only he can keep Batman from getting on board, a call is placed to the Trapper.  If Signalman is having a hard time recruiting henchmen for his next heist, the Great White Shark suggests that he try out some of the General's men, they're impeccably trained.  And of course if by some chance their plans happen to go awry, not to worry, he has Egghead on retainer.  Business is all about people.  And for the right price, the Great White Shark is happy to work with anyone.

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