Why I Hate The Hood: Problems with the Big Marvel Crossover Villain

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Charles Webb: One of the characters to receive the greatest profile boost since Norman Osborn became a member of the 616's Obama administration is The Hood (a.k.a. Parker Robbins). In the last year or so he's become head of a vast criminal empire rivaling that of the Kingpin, entrenched in Osborn's cabal, and a mystical threat to Dr. Strange. He's also one of the least interesting and most poorly-fleshed-out characters in recent memory who more often than not comes off as some kind of villainous Mary Sue.

Parker Robbins: The Hood

Created by Brian K. Vaughan, Kyle Holt, and Eric Powell, the Hood inauspiciously began as a lowly thug with good intentions (he takes care of his comatose mom and pregnant girlfriend) who finds a demonic cloak that imbues him with mystical abilities. In recent pages of New Avengers he has assembled the members of New York's supervillain underworld into a gang that we're told time and again is pretty impressive. In practice, they beat up Tigra and got into a couple of rumbles with the New Avengers.

Where the Hood fails for me is in his utter lack of personality or viability as a threat. Much of the impression we're supposed to have of the Hood is based on his ubiquity by having him appear so frequently in so many books we're supposed to believe he's important. Unfortunately, I believe that Bendis has skipped the step where the character has actually done anything important to warrant all of the attention.

Dave Wallace: That's a good point. As originally created, Parker Robbins was set up to be the anti-Spider-Man of the Marvel Universe: all of the power without any of the responsibility. Vaughan's original miniseries took quite a lot of time to explore his character's selfish reaction to stumbling across a source of demonic power, providing Robbins with a complicated home life with familial responsibilities that helped to sell the idea that he could be tempted to use his powers for all the wrong reasons.

Charles Webb: As Dave characterizes him above, he seems like the quintessential Marvel character, wracked with conflict with a compelling personal life (and above all human). It often comes as a surprise to me when this essential formula is ignored when new characters are created (both at Marvel and elsewhere).

Dave Wallace: It's interesting that you say that, because when Bendis decided to pick up the character for use in his New Avengers series, he neglected to maintain this focus on his characterisation, instead setting him up as a wannabe Kingpin whose only function seemed to be that of supervillain gang leader. This helped the writer to quickly put together a large group of C-list villains for his Avengers to fight, but had the effect of reducing the Hood to yet another overly simplistic villain whose only motivation to commit crime seemed to be money. I'm not sure that I'd call him a "Mary Sue" so much as an empty vessel for the plot.

The Hood puts the gang together.

Charles Webb: Yeah, the "Mary Sue" thing has more to do (for me) with his "oh, isn't he so cool" ubiquity. Every time we see the Hood it's in the context of some other character telling us how particularly badass he is (with very little proof outside of the severe beating of poor Tigra).

The Hood vs. Tigra

I always get the feeling when a character is pushed as hard as the Hood that someone in editorial (or the writer themselves) is playing an odd game of favorites. They're so in love with a character that they reuse them in the hopes that others will "get" them. (cf. The Sentry or Jason Todd).

Narratively, the deck is stacked in these characters' favor, but ultimately giving them a one-size fits all personality. They react how the story needs them to, regardless of how little sense it makes in the context of previous appearances.