From Doorman to Micro-Face

By | Monday, March 01, 2021 2 comments
Great Lakes Avengers #2
I just caught the recent episodes of Planet Money where they're looking to buy (and exploit!) a superhero. It's mostly an excuse to study intellecutal property using a real world example. They start by going through Marvel's back catalog, as they clearly have more characters than they can reasonably wwork with at any given time and some of them have bound to be misses creatively anyway. They decide they want to buy Doorman. Because it's such an an absurd name and power set.

Although they don't say so, I'm sure they went into this fully expecting NOT to be able to buy Doorman. Or any Marvel character, for that matter. I'm sure hosts Kenny Malone and Robert Smith went into this knowing that offering $10,000 for a Marvel character was laughable, even when looking at Marvel's "lesser" characters. But Doorman seems a particularly lousy choice.

In the first place, yes, Doorman wasn't used in 2020 or in 2019 as they point out, but he has appeared as recently as 2017. So it's not like he's been sitting around collecting dust for ages. Second, most of his appearances have been with the Great Lakes Avengers. As you may have noticed over the past few years, anything Avengers-related has been pretty popular. Even if Marvel were inclined to unload any of their characters, they're not going to go with one that's been used fairly recently and associated with a mega-popular brand like Avengers. They even note in the show that Doorman's debut was in West Coast Avengers so they clearly know there's an association there. Third, Doorman (and the rest of the Great Lakes Avengers) was designed to be something of a knock-off character. He was never meant to be a success in the way that Spider-Man was; from his point of inception, he was meant to be a joke. John Byrne basically said, "What kind of a characters could I come up with that would that no one would take seriously?" So of course Doorman's costume and powers are going to be absurd.

I get that they intentionally set up the story so there wasn't a chance Marvel would even consider selling them an actual character. But, for anyone who's familiar with Marvel, this part of their experiment was clearly designed to be a failure. If they wanted to even pass for making an attempt, why not go with, say, Darkoth who hasn't been used in a story in thirty years, is a loner character, and only has just over a dozen appearances in total? Caledonia? Only a dozen appearances, all in one title under one author, hasn't been seen in 20 years. Wildstreak? No appearances since 2007, and only half a dozen before that.

And those are me just going off the cuff on characters that debuted in Fantastic Four without doing any real research! All characters that I'm sure Marvel would give zero consideration to selling and would be more plausible than Doorman.

I know the Planet Money folks aren't stupid. I know they chose a character that just sounds funny to a radio audience, just to get the basic IP discussion rolling with a bit of comedy. But it strikes me that the choice of Doorman also pretty clearly signals they were never even remotely serious in intending to actually buy any character, certainly not one from Marvel. Which is a shame because they talk to some name comic professionals, and hire several to create a superhero comic just a couple episodes later. The overall discussion of intellectual property is an interesting one, and one worth pursuing, but by starting it off with trying to buy Doorman..? That just struck me as a deliberately and awkwardly contrived way to skip ahead to the discussions of the public domain.
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Matt K said...

I remembered the other two, and even recall (probably own) their most recent appearances. But I had to look up Wildstreak. Now I vaguely remember, sorta. :-)

Honestly, the only thing I remember about Wildstreak was the she was on a trading card that came with that one annual. I remember zip about the story.