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DC Comics’ Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie, Marvel’s Thanos, Adam Warlock, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, James Gunn, Gamora, Chris Pratt, Peter Quill and Starlord: Lynn News From The Newsroom

From the Newsroom opinion by Peter Woodhouse:

I received an email last week saying DC Comics character Harley Quinn is the world's most popular supervillain, beating Marvel's most well-known ‘big bad’ Thanos to the top spot.

According to https://www.njcasino.com, Harley - played by Margot Robbie in the films - is the most popular villain in 85 countries worldwide; with a combined average of 1,834,000 global Google searches each month. That’s over 22 million every year!

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3

Marvel’s Thanos is most popular in 43 countries in total worldwide, with prominent popularity across African and Asian countries such as Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. Thanos is searched over 1.3 million times each month globally.

I won’t bore you with more stats, and what’s the point, you may ask? Well, that without the huge wave of money-spinning blockbusters released during the past two decades, knowledge of these characters would be confined to roughly 50,000 comics geeks worldwide.

The actual printed comics nowadays are merely intellectual property generators, designed to be strip-mined for merchandise and those billion-dollar MCU (Marvel) or DCEU (er, DC) films and TV shows.

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

The trouble is, for the sake of brevity, identity politics and because Hollywood’s first rule of adaptations is “what can we change”, many of these characters bear almost no relation to their comics origins.

Exhibit A: Adam Warlock in the current release Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3; latest reported global box office: $542.6 million. Poor British actor Will Poulter had to pout and moan one-dimensionally, amounting to a complete waste of role and character. It does make you wonder whether Warlock was imposed upon writer/director James Gunn (Warlock was originally in the script for the second Guardians movie) by the ‘suits’.

The tragedy is Warlock was originally a multi-nuanced enigmatic figure, created by ‘Kosmic Komics’ legend Jack Kirby as ‘Cocoon Man’ in the 1960s, under editor Stan Lee, developed as a sort of counter-culture Christ in the hippie early 1970s and finally fell into the hands of Guardians favourite Gamora and Thanos creator Jim Starlin, who elevated Warlock to a whole new level.

The freelance writers or artists who sweated out these creations up to the 70s did so for little pay and (until recently) no financial stake in the product such as royalties, unlike the rest of the book publishing world. Chris Pratt probably got paid more for playing Guardians lead Peter Quill/Starlord than some of these poor schmucks got paid in their careers.

A desultory $4,000 cheque and, if they’re lucky, a spot at the film’s premiere is not unheard of as ‘reward’ for a creator’s character being used in an MCU film, as uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter and others.

Starlin cut himself a better deal with Marvel; Kirby’s family had to attend court to gain legal co-creator status of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, and so on. Scores of other comics professionals weren’t so lucky.

My advice? Read the original comics for a semblance of proper storytelling depth and ‘Google’ Kirby, the real unsung hero of the Marvel Universe.

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