Tuesday 18 January 2011

Aggressive amphibians: Terror among the lilly pads.

Daredevil's Leapfrog, Gene Colan
Who can explain why a villain with this kind of class
never caught on?
People often ask me why I always take my nunchucks with me whenever I go to Betty's Tea Rooms, and I always tell them that harsh experience has taught me that peril may lurk in even the most unlikely of places.

Well, no place is less likely a spot for peril to lurk than your garden pond but it seems like Stan Lee spent most of the 1960s convinced that the most dread menaces imaginable lurked beneath those shallow waters, as he repeatedly dredged them for new threats to inflict on our heroes.

We got the Toad. We got the Frog-Man. We got Leap-Frog.

What they all had in common - apart from being named after amphibians - was they were all completely and totally useless.

The Toad's deadly power was, of course, jumping about a bit.

The Frog-Man's deadly power was also jumping about a bit.

But, for me, worst of the lot had to be Leap-Frog. Here's a man who decided that the way to become an unstoppable super-villain was to attach a couple of bed springs to a pair of flippers and dress up as a frog. The only super-hero I ever remember him fighting is Daredevil, causing me to suspect Daredevil was only there to see off the villains no other hero could be bothered with. I seem to recall Daredevil once beating him, in the Gene Colan era, by throwing him in a lake. Yes, that's right, he defeated a villain based on a frog by throwing him in some water. That's like beating Gorilla Man by throwing him at some bananas.

But there was more. I seem to recall both the Avengers and the X-Men coming up against a character called Amphibius. Amphibius' deadly power was, inevitably, jumping about a bit. This time, Roy Thomas was the culprit.

Was this obsession with boingy amphibians a purely Marvel thing? Did other comic book companies share it? DC had Bouncing Boy who could jump around - and could inflate himself, as some toads do - but he clearly wasn't frog based. Image Comics had Spawn. I'd just love to be told Spawn was inspired by frogs' eggs but I fear I may be disappointed.

So, what's the lesson of it all?

Mostly this. If you're considering becoming a super-villain, first ask yourself one question; "With my powers in place, could I be defeated by being locked in a cupboard?" If the answer's yes, don't become a super-villain. Become a broom handle. I myself can be defeated by being locked in a cupboard. And that's why, no matter how long it exists, Betty's Tea Rooms will never see the back of my nunchucks.


Bear Boy said...

In response to your latest poll none of them could hold a webbed foot to Garko the Man-Frog - at least until the effects of 'the Juice' wore off leaving a literal case of Police overkill!

Steve said...

I must admit I'm totally unfamiliar with Garko the Man-Frog. Would his powers involve jumping?

Boston Bill said...

Actually, I got a reprint of the first appearance of Leap-Frog, and it was pretty good! Yes, the concept was silly, but 90 percent of comics are silly if you examine them close enough! Leap-Frog's strong point came from Gene Colon, who could draw any scene with more drama than it seemed to deserve!

Steve said...

I must admit it must be four or five years since I last read that tale. I wonder how it'd look to me now.

Anonymous said...

Leap Frog was a buffoon, but so was the district attorney at his trial. The prosecutor directed him to put on his spring-loaded shoes to prove that they fit him. Naturally, the villain then escaped by leaping out a window. BTW, he later reformed. In an issue of Marvel Team-Up in the early 1980's, his teenage son found the frog costume in the attic and tried to become a super-hero with it. When he offered to help an old lady cross the street, she screamed and clobbered him with her purse. Which is probably what would happen IRL.

Anonymous said...

The Toad lived up (or down) to his name by toadying, i. e., being a sycophant, for Magneto. Magneto constantly bullied and berated him. Finally, in Avengers #53, the Toad got fed up and pushed his boss into the ocean.