Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Needs More Tombstone

Every Wednesday over on, we do a feature called Take 10 where we come up with top ten lists dealing with various categories related to Marvel. This week, the topic was Crime Lords, and in putting the list together, I had something of a surprising revelation: I think I'm a fan of Tombstone.

That's this guy...

Tombstone is a not too well-known but not exactly obscure Spider-Man who came on the scene back in the late 80's. He's basically a super-strong, super-tough albino badass who shows up every now and again as hired muscle then inevitably decides to take over himself. He was also sorta friends with Peter Parker's father-figure at the Daily Bugle, Robbie Robertson, when they were both in high school; by "friends," that means Robbie was nice to poor, outcast Lonnie Lincoln (aka the future Tombstone), and Lonnie repaid him by bullying him, extorting him, and later getting him sent to prison.

Not a nice guy.

Thing is, I don't think I've ever read a Tombstone story all the way through. The only one I can recall even scratching the surface of was an old Spectacular Spider-Man arc from around the time of the Clone Saga that Sal Buscema drew. I believe it was called "Death by Tombstone"?


Two things Tombstone seems to always be doing: smiling and choking dudes. Seriously, if given the option between shooting Spider-Man in the face and choking the shit out of him, T-Stone is gonna choke that sucker. And his smile is absolutely creepy.

Still, I haven't read all that many Spider-Man comics in my life (relatively speaking; I've read plenty of Spider-Man comics, but there are a lot more I haven't read) and even fewer Tombstone comics. However, as a kid, I did see this.

Spider-Man: The Animated Series did an awesome job of bringing Tombstone to life and making him one scary motherfucker. Dorian Harewood did an incredible job voicing him with the perfect mix of menace and eerie self-confidence. And they really played up his connection with Robbie, which pushed a button with me, as he's one of those characters who is just always portrayed as being so nice, like the Kents, and seeing somebody be such a prick to him is kinda heartbreaking.
Also, this may sound dumb, but I had no idea Tombstone was black; I probably should have put two and two together given that he went to an predominantly black high school with Robbie, but I never did. I kinda dug the fact that you had Robbie and Lonnie, two inner city dudes, one straight as an arrow and one not at all, but both were well-spoken and articulate. That shouldn't be a rarity in this day and age or have been one in the 80's or 90's, but it's still always nice to see.

Last year, Spectacular Spider-Man debuted and carried on the tradition of excellent animated Tombstone, this incarnation an established big bad crime boss voiced by the great Kevin Michael Richardson.

So on the strength of a handful of covers, a few cartoon episodes, and only one or two actual comics, yeah, I'm pretty convinced Tombstone is a couple decent stories away from being a grade A villain. It's always nice to come across a character like that kinda randomly, and another reason I love my job.


KP said...

I know the whole "Dress villains in a '40s gangster suit" is kind of a classic, but the open-chested vampire collar look is severely under-appreciated.

Ben Morse said...

No matter what he wears, Tombstone is unquestionably a fashion plate.

criticpapa said...

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