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Wanted_(comics)

Wanted (comics)

Wanted is a comic book miniseries written by Mark Millar, with art by J. G. Jones. It was published by Top Cow in 2003 and 2004 as part of Millarworld. It features an amoral protagonist who discovers he is the heir to a career as a super-villainous assassin in a world where such villains have secretly taken control of the planet.

The series is adult in nature, similar to titles such as The Authority or The Ultimates. Like the Authority or the Squadron Supreme, several characters are based on DC Comics characters and super-villains (See below). Critics agree with Kiralee in that the series also bears resemblance to the 1999 films Fight Club and the The Matrix, as it is about a despondent man in an unfulfilling white-collar life who attempts to change himself, but becomes extremely violent and marked as outside of 'normal' society. It differs from these stories in that the main character has no desire to improve the world through this violence, but only embraces it in the pursuit of an escape from his previous life and selfish and egocentric pleasures.

The Sunday Times dubbed the title "the Watchmen for super-villains.

A film adaptation was released on June 27, 2008.

Plot

The premise of Wanted is that all the world's super-villains decided to band together in 1986 and use their vast collective powers — including mad science, magic and mind control — to eliminate all the world's superheroes and rewrite reality in a darker image. Prior to this the world was a brighter, more hopeful place. Superheroes are only remembered as vaguely as fiction (as they are in the real world), and behind the scenes a cabal of the leading super-villains runs the entire world.

Milquetoast office drone Wesley Gibson discovers that his recently-assassinated father was a super-criminal called The Killer, and that Wesley has inherited his perfect aim and uncanny skill with any weapon. Wesley enters a new life, and must deal with the most dangerous and powerful people in the world — whose ranks now include Wesley himself. After being approached by the Fox, another super-villain, Wesley quits his job and joins the Fraternity, the super-villain society's moniker. Wesley goes through a period of training, in which he is desensitized to violence and given licence to fulfill every desire, including rape (which is referenced but not actually depicted), racially motivated violence and random murder. He then goes on to sever the last connection to his previous life by breaking up with his girlfriend, knowing she cheated on him with his best friend, whom he has already killed. Wesley becomes the bodyguard of the super scientist Professor Seltzer, who is a member of the Five, the leading council of the Fraternity.

At a council meeting, the main antagonist, Mister Rictus, calls a vote that the Fraternity come forward as the ruling body of the Earth, which is defeated narrowly, thanks to the hypnotic manipulation of the Emperor, the swing vote, by Professor Seltzer. Mister Rictus, tired of hiding in the shadows and of controlling only Australia (a nod to Superman II), has Professor Seltzer executed and marks the Fox and Wesley for death. Wesley strikes back after infiltrating the Fraternity's North American headquarters, killing many of the villains as well as Mister Rictus. After killing him, Wesley finds his father alive and well. The original Killer explains that he faked his death and got Wesley to join the Fraternity to make Wesley into a man. He explains Wesley's childhood was essentially carried by his mother, who encouraged him to never fight under any circumstances, knowing that his instincts as the Killer would come forward. After telling Wesley of instances where he'd visit Wesley as he slept, he asks Wesley to kill him, explaining that he's getting old and slow, that he missed a target at under a half mile. Wesley obliges after resisting, and tells the Fox that he's returning to his former life of misery and oppression, not wanting to die like his father. After expressing incredible disbelief, the Fox realizes he's joking, and they depart back to former headquarters of Professor Seltzer, now under his partial leadership. Similar to the film, the end of the comic breaks the fourth wall with Wesley addressing the audience, contemptuously calling them out about their pathetic lives, succinctly ending with: "This is my face while fucking you in the ass.

Background information

As with Superman: Red Son, Millar claims that the concept for the series occurred to him when he was a child. In this case, it came to him after his brother told him that there were no superheroes any more because they had all disappeared after a great war with their respective supervillains. It was modified from a pitch by Millar for a Secret Society of Super-Villains series.

1986, the year of the aforementioned war in which the supervillains took over and made their world "darker and grittier", has real world significance to the world of comic books. It marks the publication of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, and the completion of the 1985-86 Crisis on Infinite Earths series.

With regards to character design, the physical appearance of Wesley is based on rapper Eminem. The original Killer's face is based on actor Tommy Lee Jones, and Fox's appearance is clearly modelled after actress Halle Berry. Millar had originally planned to not have the characters in costumes, and that they would only be worn for initiation. However, he and J. G. Jones forgot about this, and the characters were indeed rendered wearing familiar supervillain costumes by midway through the series.

The series began publication in 2004 as part of Millar's Millarworld line.

The complete miniseries, along with the Wanted: Dossier (which includes additional and 'behind-the-scenes' material on the series), has been collected as a graphic novel, available as both a softcover (ISBN 1-58240-497-6) and a hardcover (ISBN 1-58240-480-1).

Wanted characters and their likely antecedents

Many of the major characters within Wanted appear to be clear analogues of famous fictional super-villains and super-heroes.

The two major characters are:

  • Wesley Gibson/The Killer, based on Deadshot and Bullseye (never misses a shot)
  • The Fox, based on Catwoman (animal-based jewel thief and joy-killer, former girlfriend of "The Detective"/Batman)

There are five arch-villains in charge of the world. Two are analogues of specific DC villains, while the other three are pastiches of prototypical comic book arch-villains:

  • Professor Solomon Seltzer, based on Dr. Sivana and Lex Luthor (super-intelligent inventor/megalomaniac)
  • Mr. Rictus, based on The Joker and Black Mask, with a touch of the Red Skull (sadistic, nihilistic, joke-using murderer)
  • The Future, a time-traveling nazist villain in the vein of Kang, Per Degaton, or The Lord of Time (neo-Nazi madman)
  • The Emperor, an anachronistic autocrat reminiscent of "sophisticated" villains such as Ra's al Ghul, The Yellow Claw, The Mandarin or Fu Manchu
  • Adam-One, a primeval immortal that's a pastiche of Vandal Savage and others, such as the Ultraverse's Rex Mundi (immortal conqueror)

The Professor's Gang (based on Superman's enemies) is:

  • Brain Box, based on Brainiac (alien intelligence)
  • The Imp, based on Mr. Mxyzptlk (hyper-powerful trans-dimensional dwarf)
  • Fuckwit, based on Bizarro (imperfect clone of powerful super-hero)
  • Sucker, based on Parasite (steals powers)
  • Doll-Master, based on Toyman (commands lethal toys)

Mr. Rictus's gang (based on Batman's enemies) is:

  • The Avian, based on The Penguin (chubby, bird-based villain)
  • The Frightener, based on The Scarecrow (uses fear and viruses as weapons); also similar in appearance to Carnage from Marvel Comics
  • The Puzzler, based on The Riddler (puzzle-themed villain).
  • Shithead, based on Clayface (shape-shifting mud-monster, actually composed of feces)
  • Deadly Nightshade, based on Poison Ivy (plant-based villainess)
  • Johnny Two-Dicks, based on Two Face and Ventriloquist/Scarface (a milquetoast controlled by a nefarious second personality, centered in his pants)
  • The Mad March Hare, based on The Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland-themed madman)

The series also features former heroes, now convinced that they have been ordinary people all their lives. The Superman, Batman & Robin and Wonder Woman counterparts are clear analogues of Christopher Reeve, Adam West & Burt Ward and Lynda Carter. The Superman-like hero is confined to a wheelchair and the Batman & Robin analogues think that they were part of a cheesy television show in which they merely played superheroes (see Batman). The Wonder Woman analogue similarly believes herself to be merely an actress (see Wonder Woman).

Covers

The Wanted covers are particularly distinctive, featuring a single character (often in a clear space) with thick black bars above and below them containing title and text in bold, white letters, creating an effect similar to police wanted posters. This design element is carried across all of the Wanted comics and trade paperbacks. One of the two covers for Savage Dragon #128, was painted by J. G. Jones and designed similarly. Also, a number of comics unrelated to Wanted have featured similar covers in humorous reference.

Merchandise

Merchandise based on the series includes a Wesley Gibson mini-statue.

Savage Dragon

Several of the characters from Wanted appear in Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon #127 and #128. This story, published after the end of Wanted, seems to take place during one of The Fraternity's raids on parallel universes, as seen in Wanted. In this case, the characters appear in the Savage Dragon's universe, in search of the 'God Gun'. Two covers were created for #128, one featuring the Savage Dragon as rendered by J.G. Jones and done in the style of the cover of an issue of Wanted.

Film

A film very loosely based on the comic was released in June 2008. It was directed by Timur Bekmambetov and starred James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. The film focuses on a league of self-righteous assassins rather than super-villains.

References

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