From Dogwelder to Kitty: The Irrational Character Fandom Index

Earlier this week, I wrote about the state of fandom in 2020, and how it has become such a fertile land of irrational thoughts and even more irrational behavior. It was a whole thing. But I wanted to follow it up with something a little more lighthearted that I’d been thinking about lately, and that’s a little something on comics and the often bizarre 6 characters fans can’t help but love.

Sure, plenty of people love the Batmen and Spider-Men of the world, but if you talk to any comic fan, they all have someone deeply silly they quietly – or perhaps not so quietly – rep for. God only knows I have a laundry list, as some of my favorites range from very dumb to the titans of comics. I wanted to examine this spectrum through a system I’m calling the Irrational Character Fandom Index. What is that, you may ask?

It’s a way to figure out how rational or irrational it is that your favorite comic book characters are who they are, ranging from “okay, that makes sense” to “what in the name of Matter Eating Lad are you thinking?” Everyone believes their favorite characters are in fact the best, but is that a legit take? This is a way to decide that, once and for all. It’s all built off answering five questions, with each question worth two, purely self-determined points, making this a deeply scientific exercise. What are those questions? I’m glad you asked. They are:

Are They a Lead Character? (2 Points): Has the character starred in their own book, or been a lead or co-lead of a team book? Have they starred in other media? This scale is determined by answering these questions. Deep cuts are worthy favorite characters, but the deeper the cut, the less rational they are, perhaps.

Have They Been Depicted in Forms of Mass Media? (2 Points): This includes all types of adaptations, including movies, television shows, games, toys, etc. etc. However, the bigger the adaptation and role within it, the closer to two points they get. Bonus points for volume, but a million cameos in things doesn’t do much.

What’s the Broader Awareness of Them Amongst Comic Fans? (2 Points): This is based on a personal interpretation of this idea, and there is recency baked in. Awareness all time is important, but awareness in, say, The Phantom isn’t high right now, but awareness in Harley Quinn is. Flip the date to 1940 and it’s obviously the opposite. So that’s important.

Are They Often Positioned as a Joke? (2 Points): This one was the easiest category to sort out. Two points means they aren’t. Zero points means they always are. Every other frequency is somewhere in-between.

How Do Their Intangibles Stack Up? (2 Points): This is the most difficult to pin down category, as it’s basically the je ne sais quoi of this exercise. The things that make a character special that are hard to express or even different than their peers. I’m leaning towards what I believe would be universal-ish opinions, which I’m calling The Dogwelder Rule, otherwise I’d wildly overrate that character. Only two characters earned the full two points in this category.

That’s it! Of course, the question becomes, what is the layout of the index itself? This is the Irrational Character Fandom Index, right? We need a breakdown of that too. That’s easy. Here’s how the index itself works:

  • 0 – 2.9: Completely irrational. You might be wild for this one.
  • 3 – 4.9: Somewhat irrational. This is a niche love. You love your comics.
  • 5: Character rationality equilibrium. Totally fair, but still a little weird. You like a mix.
  • 5.1 – 7: A good but perhaps underrated character. You rep a futures bet in character form.
  • 7.1 – 8.9: A near great, but something holds them back. Rational. You support a good character.
  • 9 – 10: Elite character. Completely rational. You support a great.

It’s all pretty straightforward, but to contextualize even further how this scale works, I’m going to showcase the scoring system in action by sharing my favorite characters and the ratings each received. Now, please, don’t debate these ratings. I received my PhD in Fictional Statistical System from Gotham University, and I don’t want to have to embarrass anyone with my bonafides. So without further ado, let’s get to the characters themselves.

Dogwelder’s the guy on the left. With the welder.

Dogwelder

Rating: 1

Why he gets this rating: While I myself am strictly against the act of welding dogs to other humans – even criminals who may deserve some sort of punishment – I still love Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Dogwelder. This character from the bonkers and brilliant Batman-adjacent series Hitman is absolutely insane, and arguably the most memorable member of the world’s worst super team in Section 8. He rarely appeared in the original comics and I’m 99% certain he died within the series, but there was just something purely comic books about this deeply stupid character and idea that just jived with me. But he is deeply stupid – I mean, his name is Dogwelder, for gods sakes – and naturally, one’s love of this character doesn’t belong in any world of rational arguments. I just love the guy!

Incredibly – incredibly! – Dogwelder was the titular star in a series, Sixpack & Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz. It wasn’t the original Dogwelder because, again, dead, but it was a Dogwelder! Someone picked up the mantle, or at least the welding mask and welder, to carry on that legacy. It was a weird comic, even for Dogwelder, and because the character wasn’t the same in a way that felt demonstrably different, I’m not counting it! #NotMyDogwelder

Where he does receive points in the scoring system is due to his origin story. This character was created when Garth Ennis challenged Steve Dillon to come up with a superhero name dumber than Green Lantern. Dogwelder was Dillon’s response, and while the character was definitely a joke, it was such a good one I’m giving Dogwelder a bonus of one point. Which is the totality of his points. Because he’s Dogwelder.

Recommended Read: Hitman, although if I’m being honest, he’s barely in it. But read it anyways!

Stilt-Man

Rating: 2

Why he gets this rating: Stilt-Man is arguably an even more irrational favorite than Dogwelder. At least Dogwelder resided in a transcendentally great comic. Stilt-Man did not, nor has he ever technically “starred” in any comics. He largely only shows up anymore when someone wants to make a joke about bad villains in a Marvel comic, which he is definitely good for. He is definitely an absurd character, and deserving of his low (or high?) result in the Irrational Character Fandom Index.

But he finishes higher than Dogwelder for two reasons. First, my guy may be a joke, but he is a joke Marvel fans know! That means his awareness level is surprisingly high for, well, a criminal who uses stilts to commit crimes. 7 Second, his intangibles come out decently well because of my personal fan theory that there’s an interesting story to be told about how the Stilt-Man costume and identity – which is, again, built around walking around on gigantic, telescoping legs so you can better commit crimes, an identity that seems like a low upside, 8 high downside identity – became a legacy, as multiple people have considered it a good idea to become Stilt-Man 9 within the Marvel universe. Was the real reason because a bevy of writers thought Stilt-Man was deeply entertaining in his dumbness, as I do? Yes, probably. Does it set up interesting opportunities if someone wants them? Also yes. I stan Stilt-Man and you can’t stop me.

Recommended Reading: My fan fiction? Stilt-Man’s best found in a random assortment of comics throughout Marvel history.

TAO

Rating: 2.5

Why he gets this rating: Time for me to get irrational for a second. TAO – or Tactical Augmented Organism – is a character from WildC.A.T.S. That might immediately line him up as a bad character in your mind. WildC.A.T.S. is a high variance series, and it was extremely 1990s. But keep in mind, this was the Alan Moore and Travis Charest era for that book, and because of that, TAO was rad. He was a super smart human-ish creation that effectively could dominate those who are far stronger than him thanks to said smarts – poor Fuji, whose noodle was cooked when they first met simply because they had a conversation 10 – making him Lex Luthor on steroids, but cooler and better drawn, because Wildstorm. That alone makes him an incredible character, but when you add his time as the man who runs the world in secret in Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper to the mix, you get an extra amazing character.

At the same time, he’s a villain who hasn’t been used in well over a decade and – to my knowledge – has very limited awareness to the general world of comic fans. His greatest strength in this scoring system is my dude TAO is no joke to anyone. This guy is deathly serious and a straight boss.

Does this scoring system underrate villains from Wildstorm titles from the 1990s and 2000s? Maybe. But you could argue that’s a feature and not a bug when it comes to the rational appreciation of comic characters. TAO, definitely amazing, but arguably an irrational favorite.

Recommended Reading: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper

The Celestials

Rating: 3

Why they get this rating: There is nothing at all rational about my love of the Celestials. It’s entirely built off of one trading card from the Marvel Universe Series III series from the 1990s, in which their power levels were so great, they broke the scale, only saying “Not Applicable” in the place of real ratings. That blew my mind. “How could they be so powerful?!” I wondered. I only sort of know now, as they’re barely in comics, and mostly in there as looming figures rather than unleashing said Not Applicable powers because they’d wreck everyone if they did.

The system backed up the irrational nature of loving the Celestials, as they rated low on every part of my index, even earning a “Not Applicable” on intangibles. Their real saving grace was their position in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as they’ve appeared multiple times (if you count Ego the Living Planet being a Celestial, which I do not) and their pending role in The Eternals. But when we’re talking about actual comics, my favorite appearance of theirs was in Nextwave, when they appeared entirely so they could call Machine Man a loser. It was great.

Recommended Reading: Nextwave! Not because it’s a good Celestials comic, but because it’s Nextwave!

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  1. And sometimes Bizarro!

  2. You can feel the 1960s pouring off of him.

  3. Except in literal height.

  4. Or Lady Stilt-Man! Not even Stilt-Woman! Lady Stilt-Man!

  5. Never talk to TAO!

  6. And sometimes Bizarro!

  7. You can feel the 1960s pouring off of him.

  8. Except in literal height.

  9. Or Lady Stilt-Man! Not even Stilt-Woman! Lady Stilt-Man!

  10. Never talk to TAO!