Saturday, July 13, 2013

"You'd Better Watch Out..."


Name This Marvel Villain??

Let's just clear up something about this little guy right off the bat: he's definitely not one of Santa's helpers. In fact, given the choice, he probably would have shown up at the North Pole, pulled a gun on the old man, and fired on him without a second thought. So you might assume he spends a lot of his time as an assassin--and believe me, this is a guy who loves his job. Yet there's more to him than meets the eye.

Later, it was revealed that he was also performing services as an agent for a group of enigmatic masters who were surreptitiously trying to prevent the Earth from being destroyed. So it was more accurate to say that his former victims were "removed" rather than "killed," though technically they were probably just as dead as if they'd taken a bullet to the brain. Not that our little mischief maker here gave any indication of caring one way or the other. So if you spot him near your Christmas tree, err on the side of caution and frisk him for weapons before inviting him for egg nog.

The Elf With A Gun, as he came to be known, was created by writer Steve Gerber, and given segments every now and then in The Defenders, totally unrelated to either the main story or its characters. In those segments, we would be briefly introduced to an average person or persons, going about their everyday business--when, suddenly, the Elf would appear, draw a gun on them, and blow them away, seemingly without reason. And that was that. We were then taken back to the main story, without explanation.

This went on for four appearances--until, finally, the Elf met with an untimely end, just as he was about to take out his next victim. It was about five months after Gerber left the book, and was obviously meant to bring closure to this inexplicable character, who by this time was one big question mark in The Defenders but whose original writer could no longer bring him to fruition (assuming that was ever the goal). Yet his death, treated as lightly and casually as his prior appearances, only heightened the curiosity of readers as to just why the hell the character was brought into the book in the first place. His only targets were very average people who excelled in the mundane. There was no apparent pattern or reason to the Elf's wry assassinations--and even less remorse.

Here's a typical scene, dropped right into the middle of a story and lasting anywhere from just a few panels to a page:

If there was ever a planned purpose for the Elf, it left with Gerber when he ended his run on the book. It wasn't until over six years later, when writer J.M. De Matteis formed an entirely new team, that a story was created for him. The Elf was acting as an agent for a powerful group called the Tribunal, who had foreseen Earth's destruction and were trying to track down the cause through the timestream. To assist them, they dispatched elf-like agents to different eras in order to probe history and determine the focal point of the problem--finally discovering certain humans in the 20th century who were pivotal to the situation. So an elf was assigned to remove them from the timestream with a "time displacement gun"--sadistically, as it turned out.

The Tribunal finally determined that the continued interaction of the original group of Defenders--Dr. Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer--would in the future cause Earth's destruction. Confronted with the Tribunal's evidence, the four decided to disband--just in time for a retooling of the book under De Matteis, which shoehorned three of the original X-Men into the lineup, along with the Valkyrie and the Gargoyle. I was never a fan of the Beast, Iceman, or the Angel, nor was the Gargoyle setting my world on fire--but De Matteis wrote compelling stories for the team. And the addition of the conceited Moondragon--who was on probation by Odin and attached to Valkyrie's custody--was just the shot in the arm this fledgling team of boring members needed.

As for the original Elf--well, let's just say he met his end by the same state of surprise he brought to his victims.


Anonymous said...

I'm laughing as I'm writing this. From what I've read about Gerber, he kind of thrived on chaos, so I think it's quite possible he had no idea who the Elf really was or what to do with him. Maybe he thought, "welp, I'll figure this out later." It's characteristic of some of the goofiness and insanity that we all loved about Marvel in the 70's till the suits took over.

Nathan Adler said...

He's Padraic, the leprechaun of Cassidy Keep, of course!

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