Thursday, April 26, 2012

Monday Makeover: Captain Stingaree

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.  (And yes, I'm a little late this week.)

April is Pirate-Themed Supervillain Month

Karl Courtney, better known as Captain Stingaree, first appeared in 1976's Detective Comics #460.  He ran a pirate-themed restaurant and nightclub on his ship the Stingaree and had someone become convinced that his three brothers (they were all quadruplets) were actually working together as Batman and being funded by the Wayne Foundation.  This wasn't entirely as crazy as it sounds because his three brothers did in fact run a detective agency together (and of course the Wayne Foundation does fund Batman).  The next part is pretty undeniably crazy though, Captain Stingaree, who up until this point in his life has never committed a crime decides that he must murder his brothers/Batmen and proceeds to set up elaborate traps to catch them (my personal favorite being rigging Commissioner Gordon's car to explode if he slows down 20 years before Speed came out).  What happens next is weird though, Batman somehow figures the entire plot out from the beginning, talks the other three brothers into dressing up as Batman and allows them to all get kidnapped by Captain Stingaree (luckily guessing right that he wouldn't kill any of them until he had all of them) before teaming up with the Flash to make it seem like there are even more Batmen and saving the brothers.  This drives Captain Stingaree even crazier and he's hauled off to jail, where he's only seen again occasionally in crowds of supervillains.  He later is revealed to be gay and in a relationship with fellow Batman supervillain the Cavalier, showing that even in Arkham Asylum love can blossom.  Oh, and then they both get murdered in a giant supervillain fight.

Let's start with the bad.  Captain Stingaree has absolutely no motivation for becoming a supervillain at all.  While he's implied to be the black sheep of the family (I wonder why), deciding that your brothers are collectively a superhero and you must murder them is bizarre.  He also only picks the identity of Captain Stingaree and the pirate theme because he worked at/owned a pirate themed nightclub.  So if he'd been working at McDonald's Gotham would presumably have a second clown themed supervillain.  Even worse, he doesn't even really do anything pirate related.  Besides the Speed inspiring trap mentioned above, he captures another brother using sewer rats to force him to stay underwater too long, and fake freezing Robin into a block of ice.  Maybe you can claim the attempted drowning as pirate themed, but that seems like a stretch.  Other than that though, he just has a sword and lives on a pirate ship.

On the other hand, Captain Stingaree does have some redeeming qualities as a villain.  His visual design is fantastic, from the tip of his bald head down to his ruffled pants.  And while the whole thing with his brothers is pretty bizarre, it takes a certain kind of intelligence to intuitively guess a connection between Batman and the Wayne Foundation, let alone come up with three deathtraps that conceivably could have caught Batman.  Finally, I like the Stingaree.  Gotham City is known for it's extravagant nightlife (there's got to be a tradeoff for the high crime rate), and the Penguin's Iceberg Lounge could probably use some competition for the tourist dollars.  And Batman fighting his way through a pirate crew to question Captain Stingaree on his ship has to be at least as visually interesting as fighting through a bunch of guys in suits with an Iceberg floating in the background to get to Penguin.

So how do we make Captain Stingaree work moving forward?  His obsession with his brothers and Batman puts his sanity during his introduction into question at best, and when with the help of the Flash Batman makes it seem like there's a softball teams worth of Batmen in existence he probably lost it completely.  Which in Gotham City means that after a short stint in Arkham Asylum, he would be free to return to his life as a nightclub proprietor having made a few new friends (including the love of his life).  His brief career as a costumed supervillain had taught him one thing: while his whole conspiracy about his brothers and Bruce Wayne was crazy, there were multiple Batmen.  He'd seen them with his own eyes.  Now he wasn't up for fighting them personally anymore, but he still felt a certain kinship with his brothers in Arkham and he'd help them whenever and however he could.  After all, they were outnumbered.  And while the Penguin might not let the likes of Signalman, Killer Croc, or Spellbinder into the Iceberg Lounge even when there wasn't a warrant out for their arrest, there would always be a table reserved for them at Stingaree.  And really, who wouldn't want to visit a supervillain dive bar at least once, if only for the story.

I wasn't making it up.

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