Happy Saturday, all youse folks. It's rainy here in John-Land, but I'm snug and warm in my new Orange Lantern shirt, thanks to a birthday sale-abration at Strange Adventures, the bestest comic store ever. Larfleeze would be proud, i think. No, wait. Larfleeze would kill me and take the shirt for his own.
Today we're going to be looking at the Monarch of Menace, a jaunty fellow who bedeviled Batman way back in Detective Comics No. 350.
The Monarch was a Batman villain in the classic "costumed thief" mode, except where, say, the Riddler spent his time working on death traps and ways to stick rebuses to downtown billboards, he put all of his energy into the fine art of getting away from the scene of the crime. This is actually a pretty good strategy, I reckon. Why risk Arkham for the fleeting joy of seeing Batman almost get squashed by a giant rubber duck when you can escape to the jungles of South America with millions of dollars and have trained monkeys act it out for you every night before you go to your extremely occupied bed?
And sure enough, just having escaped from Batman was enough to make the Monarch's name. Batman just stared sadly at his portrait every night, saying "Sigh... sigh..."
But just how did the Monarch achieve these goals? How did he evade the Dark Knight Detective where so many others had failed? Well, first off he had glue-dispensing shoes, to trip up pursuers, then a gas-dispensing cloak to sap their strength, a shock-dispensing scepter to stun them and finally a hypnotic lights-dispensing crown to keep them down. Here's an illustrated cheat sheet for you:
I'm calling these guys the Serfs, due to their lack of an actual name. Unlike poor deluded Birdmaster, the Monarch seems to have skipped the fanatical cultists and gone straight for the standard DC Comics Thug, of the kind that, throughout the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, infested every remotely urban area from Smallville to Star City - note, for instance, the accent. This makes sense: even though there is no actual evidence that a DC Thug ever got away with committing a crime more serious than jaywalking from the advent of Superman onward, they at least know how costumed law-enforcement operates due to having been socked inna labonza by it so many times. Of course, the Monarch of Menace is a theme-driven man, so he outfits them all in lime-green tunics, laced sandals and flowing wigs. I'm guessing that it's only his successful track record that keeps him from being force-fed his own crown by his loyal goons.
Attractiveness of Costume:
This is not a very nice-looking costume. The Medieval serf, hard worker though he might have been, has never been looked upon as history's fashion plate. These guys are probably dressed in material a hundred times better than any serf ever even saw, let alone wore, but there's no helping some outfits. Plus, taken out of context like this, it kind of looks like Batman is being attacked by a gang of poorly-dressed transvestites - I'm sure that there was a lot of confusion on the streets of Gotham.
Why the Monarch chose to go with a serf theme over, say, a gang of dukes or courtiers or something is a mystery to me - a sadistic streak, perhaps? He does gain some credit for letting his guys wear sweatpants and ditch the wigs while hanging around the jungle headquarters, but that doesn't absolve him of his design sins.
Utility of Costume:
While it's not really adding anything to these guys' job performance, this costume is certainly not holding them back: no long sleeves to get in the way when they go to pick something up, no binding at the crotch when they run, no splitting at the seams when they bend over... it's not losing any points here.
It's not really gaining any, either. About the only really useful descision that the Monarch made about this whole getup was to assign his guys pistols instead of training them all in the use of the polearm or something. Admittedly, they have to carry their guns in-hand all the time, unless there's some sort of highly-disturbing inner-thigh holster that I don't know about, but just think of the time he saved! While the Baron of Burglary is holding a two-week intensive course in how to deflect a Batarang with a glaive-guisarme, the Monarch of Menace has probably robbed five or six banks, slight thematic anachronism be damned.
Budget for Costumes:
I want to say that the Monarch of Menace just made a quick stop at a factory outlet for half a dozen surplus XXL green t-shirts, then robbed a discount wig store, but when I look at these outfits I actually think that they might be a cut above that. Oh, they're ugly, but they're so... uniform! I can't believe that the Monarch didn't have them tailored. Likewise, the wigs are meticulously if questionably styled, and where the hell are you going to get sandals like that nowadays? I'll bet that he had them custom-made.
Technically, I should give him some points here for budgeting his costumes so well, but I just can't get past how bad they are. One point off for not using the wig fund to hire some sort of fashion consultant.
Chance for Bonus Points: Does the Villain Have a Lieutenant With a Marginally Cooler Costume and Possibly a Name?
Well, kind of.
See, the Monarch has a son, a disappointing son. A son who he dresses up like a court jester and makes fun of with the help of his hired goons (quote: "You're th' greatest! And your son's the worst! HO - HO - HO!"). I'm not too sure what the kid did to draw such mockery - from the context of the story it might just be that he's a clumsy guy.
So no bonus points for you, Monarch of Menace. You could have made your kid the Pilfering Prince of the Dauphin of Distress but you just had to act like a jerk instead. That's no way to parent.
Don't worry, though, it all comes back to bite him in the ass. The son is so desperate to impress/show up the father that he heads to Gotham in a spare Monarch of Menace suit to prove that he's got the chops. He gets captured by Robin in about fiive minutes of course, but that's still showing some cojones. Seeing how Batman and Robin get along and don't constantly make fun of one another and Batman only sometimes forces Robin to dress in humiliating outfits, Monarch of Menace, fils throws in with the Dynamic Duo to help lure his father back to Gotham for capture.
Well, the Monarch rated slightly higher than the Birdmaster with a 7/15. Let's look at his final fate:
Well, I guess it beats getting torn apart by giant eagles. Any last thoughts, Batman and Robin?
There are reasons that people make jokes about you, guys.