That’s the kind of unexpected question that would give me pause before answering. Roger didn’t hesitate. Without hesitation, as if he’d done his research in advance of such a query, he responded, “Doctor Doom.”
The twelve-year-old didn’t ask why Roger had made that choice. Roger didn’t explain himself, either. He didn’t have to: Doctor Doom. Great answer. The doctor’s name alone tells the audience that he’s All Evil, All the Time. If he wasn’t All Evil, All the Time, he’d have done something to soften his name’s impact.
“You can call me Vic,” the leader of Latvaria said. “Although, officially, it’s Victor von Doom-Markovich. I was willing to take Fruzsina’s last name, but she insisted we hyphenate. Such an angel.”
(If you’re wondering if Doctor Doom has ever fallen in love, he absolutely has. Fruzsina was only one of the lucky ladies that caught Doom’s eye.)
In fiction, names are often the telltale clue to someone’s soul. Prince Charming? Of course, you can pet sit for my cat. Professor Sinister? Fluffy Foo-Foo will not be left in your care.
During our long drive home, I had time to reflect on this. I told Harrell about the exchange I’d overheard in Yuma, then asked if he thought we should change the name of the baddie in our next story. “Instead of Charisma,” I said, “maybe we should use something stronger.”
“The Evil Empire would sue us.”
“I didn’t mean –”
“Who’s your favorite supervillain?” he asked.
Robert Underdunk Terwilliger Jr., a.k.a Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons. The brilliant but easily distracted nemesis of Bart Simpson. Bob’s also a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan, and someone who often bursts into song with little provocation. I’m not saying that I can relate, but, like Bob, I grew a little tired of Bart Simpson some twenty years ago.
“Not exactly a name to inspire fear,” my car partner told me.
“Who’s yours?” I asked Harrell.
If you haven’t heard of Lasso, join the club. The character first appeared in Flash Comics #85 (1947), where he attempted to take down the heroic Hawkman and failed. Decades later, he was updated as one of a team of malefactors (2005). It was this version that Harrell enjoyed.
“Lasso dresses like a cowboy,” he said, “and the only thing he can do is throw a lasso. Not a super lasso, or a magic lasso, just a regular rope with a noose on the end. The same kind of rope that anyone can buy at a hardware store. Over the course of several issues of Hawkman, he talks big, does a little gambling, and hits on a woman. Just lingering in the background. He throws his lasso one time. Once. The rope is immediately taken from his hand by a more powerful baddie.”
“Then why is Lasso your favorite supervillain?” I asked. “He’s a weenie.”
(Look, I’d just spent several days with kids. It takes a little time to get back into adult-speak.)
“That’s why he’s my favorite supervillain. He makes me laugh.”
If you’re wondering why our writing royalties have never approached five figures, there's your answer, right there. My partner would rather laugh than create a memorable super foe. Although, I guess I would, too. It's one reason I love Sideshow Bob.
But Charisma Treadwell is going to overcome her name and be a great baddie. Wait and see.