Monday, May 4, 2009

Sardath Sucks. Seriously.

"Hate" is such a strong word. You like to think that even when it comes to something like you comic books, you reserve your hatred for those who really deserve it. And you like to think "those who really deserve it" are characters who are shoved down your throat and irritate you at every turn.

So since in this case the subject of my irrational comic book hatred is a Silver Age supporting cast remnant who doesn't even have his own Wikipedia entry, I'm going to downgrade a smidge and say I just strongly dislike Sardath.

Who is Sardath you may ask? An excellent question! Why he's the chief scientist of Rann, noteworthy for his invention of the Zeta Beam and being Adam Strange's father-in-law.

Yes, that Sardath.

So how could a guy who is lucky to be a footnote of a footnote in the history of comics have earned my rancor and more than twenty seconds of my mental consideration? I'm not sure I fully know.

I took a quick sci fi nostalgia trip back to circa 2004 over the past couple weeks during my daily commute, re-reading my trade copies of Adam Strange: Planet Heist by Andy Diggle & Pasqual Ferry and its onstensible sequel, Rann/Thanagar War by Dave Gibbons & Ivan Reis. The first of those two stories kindled (is that a real word) for me an affection for Adam Strange, a character who really embodies everyman wish fulfillment and the thinking man's hero.

However, both of these stories, coupled with recent memory of that Rann-based story from Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, less recent memories of Mark Waid's JLA two-parter, and having half-followed that Countdown to Adventure book and the several minis featuring Adam Strange that have come since, reminded/reawakened me of/to the disproportonate disdain I have for Sardath.

At some point (I believe in the Swamp Thing story), it was heavily implied if not ouright revealed that Sardath actually engineered the Zeta Beam "accident" that brought Adam Strange to Rann because Rannian dudes are sterile and he was cool with using his daughter, Alanna, as a broodmare. Also, the aforementioned males of Rann are basically aristrocratic pussies (for lack of a better term) and don't want to place themselves in danger against the planet's local predators or extraterrestrial invaders, so they needed an earthman to do their fighting for them (because we rule!).

So to recap: Sardath yanked some poor archaeologist off his home planet, pimped out his only daughter, and manipulated Adam into fighting wacky animals and making babies.

He's a douche (check out some more deets on Adam Strange here).

Aside from that pretty tremendous initial offense (and the fact that he lied to both his daughter and son-in-law for years about his role in manufacturing their seemingly storybook romance), in pretty much every appearance he has made over his 50+ year existence Sardath has been portrayed as a manipulator, an egomaniac, a coward, an opportunist and generally careless with the lethal technology he is able to create. Everybody from Diggle to Gibbons to Adam Beechen to that Moore kid and many more have agreed on this characterization.

And he's (supposedly) not a villain!

In the Swamp Thing story, Sardath regards Adam with the general disadain most Rannians seem to have for the alien who has pulled their collective fate out of the fire time and again. In Planet Heist, one of Sardath's experiments goes awry and Rann ends up on the other side of the galaxy (and he doesn't exactly go out of his way to get word to Adam, who think his wife and daughter got blown up). During the Rann-Thanagar War, Sardath sends Adam off into danger per usual and then while he's gone negotiates with the nasty Dominion, an action his daughter (who has shown considerable more backbone and smarts than her dad ever has) wisely disapproves of, leading him to brush her off while he goes back to dooming their race. In Countdown to Adventure, Sardath gets brainwashed with the rest of Rann (or so he claims) to become a bloodthirsty follower of Lady Styx and, in the process, kicks Adam to the curb in favor of making a stuntman from Earth named Champ Hazzard the new champion of Rann.


And just like Sardath's various writers have delivered a consistent portrait of him as a creepy jerk, the artists who have portrayed him, from Andy Kubert to Ferry to Reis to Eddy Barrows, et al, have found visual agreeance that he's a withered bald geezer with a huge cranium and a brow that redefines the word "furrowed."

Sardath is the father-in-law from hell who doesn't just ask you to shovel his walk, he asks you to risk your life constantly against all sorts of exotic alien beasties. I'm fortunate in that my father-in-law-to-be is a super cool guy, so this isn't any sort of transferrence; if anything, venting about Sardath makes me feel like an even luckier fella.

I've said this before in the past about other subjects, but I can't believe I just wrote that much about Sardath.


TJ said...

Sardath sucks HARD!

David Uzumeri said...

Wow, this post really made me realize just how much I hate that fucker too. You should do like a series of posts for the Comics Douchebag Hall of Fame, it'd be like a weird bizarro version of the Mindless Ones' Rogues Reviews.

David Uzumeri said...

He's like Niles Caulder in Space.

Ben Morse said...

I don't hate that many comic book characters, but the ones I do, I REALLY hate. There will definitely be more entries like this. Unfortunately, I can't do Hal Jordan because it would break Geoff Johns' heart. :-)

Seriously though, who could ever like Sardath?

Jesse T. said...

Sardath rules. He reminds me of Chris Sabo, my favorite Cincinnati Reds ballplayer.

Ben Morse said...

It takes more than a pair of goggles to make a man Chris Sabo. Shame on you, Jesse.

Ben Morse said...

Also, David, Niles Caulder does at least have a certain forthright "I'm a dick, deal with it" quality that I can respect; none of that with Sardath.

Brendan McGinley said...

...I never realized till now what bothered me about Sardath. I didn't even realize he did bother me.

On Earth he'd just be a middle-aged tool with a sensible car and a shockingly hot daughter.

Good call.