Proteus: Villains vs. Threats

Stan Lee liked his villains straight and simple: evil characters to be defeated by heroes.  Mark Edens and I once got in trouble during a “Thor” development meeting (the series didn’t get produced — it would have been great fun) when we tried to show some sympathy for Loki, neglected-son-of-Odin.  In the orignal myths, a measure of such sympathy can be found.  Stan, an advisor on the project, hated this: to him, a character was either a villain to be hated or a hero to be loved.  Loki was a villain, end of discussion.  Given Stan’s amazing track record, it was hard to argue that day that he was wrong.  For X-MEN:TAS, however, we took a different approach.  We had some out-and-out villains, but they tended to be evil, corrupt humans.  When we used a mutant to pose a threat, either to people or to the X-Men, we tended to find them far more interesting if the threatening mutant had a sympathetic side.  Magento is the prime example — supremely threatening, but still sympathetic (in our version, anyway).  We took the idea of a sympathetic threat to its limits with the two-part episode, “Proteus.”  The title creature is a huge threat to himself and humanity.  He is such a violent force of nature that he makes Wolverine break down and cry from fear.  But at the same time, he is a troubled teenage boy, the son of Professor Xavier’s first love, scientist Moira MacTaggart.  The true villain of the story is Proteus’s abusive politician father, but the threat driving the action is his troubled son.  So we had the best of both worlds: we had a spectacular creature for the X-Men to fight, but, within the same character, a loved one to save.  Luckily Stan wasn’t much invovled with X-MEN:TAS after the first season, so we didn’t have to fight him over it.  (By the way, the first part of “Proteus” was written by the late Bruce Reid Schaefer, a gentle soul and fellow Tennesseean who left us far too young.)

proteus

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