CASB: On Nonstarting Upstarts

Non-starter villains fascinate me.  Lately, they seem to be epidemic in comics, but I chalk that up to the current wave of nostalgia for the pre-collapse 90s.  That was when you got some real prize specimens of the non-starter species.  In the very first X-Men comic I read, I got a whole team of 'em.

Remember the Upstarts?  The gaggle of new villains that largely existed to slaughter whole supporting teams so the Gamesmaster could reward them with... something or other?  Yeah, they mostly sucked.  But like most things I encounter, they didn't have to.  In fact, the initial plans that were trickled out before the "reveal" of their purpose actually showed they had a decent foundation.

Y'see, the original plan was that Selene, one of my favorite creepy X-baddies, would have been the ringleader instead of the super-vague Gamesmaster.  The Upstart kids indicated a few times that they were expecting immortality as their prize, while Selene gloated to herself at one point that they wouldn't like the prize's true nature.  So I have a theory that Selene had a two-fold plan for the Upstarts.  First, she'd have them kill & kill as part of the "game" to unwittingly give her lots of souls to devour (that was kind of her schtick, even if Claremont couldn't straight-up say so thanks to the Code); then, once a "winner" was crowned, they'd be her immortal slave and probably a perma-snack.  Sadly, whatever the initial plan was wound up shelved in favor of what we ultimately got, and Selene was mostly shelved with it.  It's interesting to me that this plan basically came to fruition in a manner via the "Necrosha" storyline (I cannot hate any storyline that revives Doug Ramsey after decades of waiting).  But back in the day, it meant we wound up with a youth group for loser supervillains.

Of course, maybe those villains wouldn't have been such jokes if the Upstarts had continued down this alternate path.  I could easily see their ranks being bolstered by more established villains (the whole "hunt people for fun" thing sounds like it's right up the alley of a sleazeball like Empath), but those new villains who were Upstarts first weren't interesting enough to stand on their own.  It took some time and some new role placement to make Trevor Fitzroy & Fabian Cortez even vaguely interesting.  Sienna Blaze was a joke from day one, since every reader knew she'd never make good on her threat of accidentally destroying the planet.  And I blame Shinobi Shaw's creation for the mire that that Hellfire Club entered for the vast majority of the 90s & early 00s.  (And before anyone says anything, I'm apparently in the minority that actually enjoys the messed-up all-kid version of the Hellfire Club in the current books.  They're FUN.  So sue me.)  They really had no thought put into them or to the whole Upstarts concept once the creators bailed, and frankly, in the era of gimmick covers & Wizard magazine, "thought" just wasn't needed.

I like to play "what if" with comics, and the X-Men lend themselves quite well to it.  I based a whole terrible, horrible, perpetually revised, overlong, never to see the light of day fanfic around just that; and that's basically where I came up with this whole scheme.  If you're looking for an era of "decent ideas, botched executions" concepts, that gap of time has a treasure trove.  It's stupidly fun, and I just felt the need to share it with the class.


  1. This post, like everything you have to say about superheroes, was pretty much perfect.

    On an almost-but-not-quite-totally-unrelated topic, I was wondering if you've seen The Avengers yet and, if so, have you written anything about what you thought of it?

    1. I actually plan to write about The Avengers for my year-end review. I thought it was excellent, so you can probably guess the category I'm giving it.


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