Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black Superheroes: Rage

I pity the fool who denies me my chocolate milk!
Name: Elvin Daryl Haliday

First Appearance: Avengers #326 (1990)

History: A small, timid kid thirteen year old Elvin Haliday was often the victim of bullying. One day while hiding from his tormentors he accidentally got covered in toxic waste. Surviving the exposure he fell ill, needing to be nursed back to health by his grandmother. Elvin recovered but was forever changed; he had aged into a body of a man in his mid-thirties and also developed superhuman strength, speed and durability. No longer timid Elvin now possessed complete confidence. At his grandmother’s urging he decides to use his new found powers to fight crime, dubbing himself “Rage”. He almost immediately confronted the Avengers and demanded to be allowed to join, which they eventually allow for a brief time. He would go one to become a member of the New Warriors and find a mentor in Night Thrasher.

Beta Says: I have an extremely strong suspicion that in the creation stage of this guy someone wanted to call him “Black Rage” but was vetoed. Because why else would you call an angry black man superhero “Rage”? Despite being 1990 Rage feels a lot more like the early attempts in the 1970s to make black superheroes. Thankfully Rage wasn’t a criminal, just a kid who suddenly got to grow up. Of course this concept is childhood wish fulfillment (what kid reading comics doesn’t dream about being an adult superhero?) and in that regard Rage is very similar to Captain Marvel. However unlike Captain Marvel, who gains wisdom when he yells “SHAZAM” and ages up, Elvin still possesses the mind of a thirteen year old. I guess that makes him more similar to the kid from the movie Big. Or the movie 13 Going on 30, but probably better acted.

More Black Rage after the jump.

Just how many dudes joined the Avengers due to racism accusations?
As a young teen trapped in a man’s body Rage has a habit of being really loud and stupid roughly 90% of the time. In his first appearance he tried to bully his way onto the Avengers by accusing the team of being racist against black people. (But again, he’s just a kid. What was Triathlon’s excuse?) That alone wouldn’t bug me so much (well, it does bug me a bit) because the circumstances make it pretty believable. However over the years I haven’t seen Rage really grow as a person so even though the character is over twenty-years old in real time he hasn’t really changed from that loudmouthed asshole that he was when he first appeared. In fact the only real growth I’ve seen from him is that his grandmother was murdered in front of him and it made him angrier than ever. Um, I guess that’s kind of character development.

As a result I don’t have a lot of love for Rage. In fact I think he might be one of the few heroes I’ve profiled that I actively dislike. Every time I’ve ever seen the character he’s pretty much the same one note guy. I know superhero comics tend to remain in a fairly stationary state but in this case some f**king change would be nice.

Yeah, did I mention Rage is a 1990s character?
He’s kind of depressing character on paper, though I don’t know if Marvel has ever depicted him in this way. Think about it; Elvin was completely robbed of a childhood. For all of his strength and whatever benefits his new form granted him he lost his life as a kid and all the important development that comes with it. Rage will never have a normal life his relationships and interactions with other people will be deeply affected. Small things in life we take for granted Rage will never experience, partly because of what happened to him physically in addition to his chosen life as a superhero. A comic that addresses this, one where Rage has to face this, would be a comic worth reading. If I was writing for him I think I’d have him try seeking a way to reverse his condition, having grown weary of the fantasy of being “adult”. As is it’s mostly yelling and hot-headed antics.

We haven’t seen a ton of Rage recently. Apparently he briefly appeared in a Fear Itself tie-in but the last time re go to see him regularly that I’m aware of was during Avengers: The Initiative, a post-Civil War series dealing with the ramifications of the now 100% implemented Superhuman Registration Act (and, as I’ve said before, a truly awesome title that I miss reading). There Rage was one of many recruits and draftees being trained to get their superhero license. Along with characters like Slapstick and Justice (who was an instructor, not a trainee) he was often treated like something of a social pariah due to the involvement of the New Warriors in the disaster that sparked the SHRA in the first place. This was the most interesting I ever found Rage.

Nowadays we don’t see him much. As far as I’m aware he is not currently starring in any title and his whereabouts are unknown. I have not heard anything about him being involved in the upcoming New Warriors re-launch, but we might see him at point. He’s probably underage and currently with no known guardian so he may well be causing trouble somewhere. Is there a place for him in the current Marvel landscape? There could be but until Marvel learns how to make him a decently written, full-fleshed out character I say he can in limbo for a while. If they can make him interesting that by all means bring him back. Any bad character can be salvaged with good writing and Rage is no exception. 

The lesson is toxic waste makes you hate wearing shirts
For more on Rage click here. Next time we’ll wrap up Black Superhero Month with a member of the Teen Titans who had all the tools to be one of the coolest characters on the team but had to settle for being turned into a rip-off of the Wasp.

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