Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Workplace Harassment: Trickster and Pied Piper

Welcome to Funding the Kryptonite, where we will look at the plans of comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

The issue of the day seems to be gay characters in comic books and the real world outrage by groups such as One Million Moms over the existence of these characters. Apparently, these issues are too complex and hard to understand for children and these parents are concerned about exposure to homosexual characters will harm their kids. I disagree with that position.

So today I’m going to discuss how a partnership between the Trickster and the Pied Piper in Countdown, already somewhat strained due to the circumstances of their situation, gets increasingly worse because the Trickster doesn’t want to focus on business and lets their makeshift work environment go down the drains over the fact that, horror of horrors, the Pied Piper is gay! It shouldn't be a problem, and yet is.

Let’s Lay Out The Situation:

Player #1 is the Trickster! James Jesse is the name, a Flash supervillain based on quirky gadgets with a prank theme. After the events of Underworld Unleashed, he reforms and joins up with the FBI against the Flash’s Rogues. However, just prior to Countdown, Trickster returns to his old habits and aids in murdering Bart Allen, the Flash at the time.

Player #2 is the Pied Piper! Hartley Rathaway is another gadget based villain. Born deaf, but later cured of it, he developed an interest in all things sonic and developed a supervillain persona based on the legend of the Pied Piper, taking the name even, and went into the crime business for fun. He eventually “goes straight” (yes, that joke was made in the comics) and becomes an ally to the various Flashes. He tries to infiltrate the Rogues as an undercover agent, but is with them when they cross the line and murder Bart Allen. Oh, and he’s gay.

Countdown kicks off with Trickster and Piper on the run together, being hunted for the murder of Bart Allen. They’re captured by the Suicide Squad, represented by Deadshot and Multiplex, and handcuffed together (one arm apiece) with an electrical/explosive device to keep them from splitting apart. They stage a daring escape and they’re off on a wacky adventure, tied together.

Hostile Work Environment:

So, we’ve got a pair of supervillains being hunted down for their involvement in the murder of one of the A-list heroes of the DC universe. They’re chained together with a device that can harm and/or kill them, depending on the situation. This is something that might be called a “high pressure” work environment. Tempers can flare, and it’s generally a good idea to not push the situation by making personal cracks at people. The way to handle it is to act professionally and calmly. If need be, as much as possible in a team setting, ask for some time to calm down and let cooler heads prevail. Or, at the very least, if you're going to snipe at each other then you would think they would use practical issues (incompetence, or whose fault it is that they're in this mess). With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Trickster and Piper handle the situation.

Homophobia At Its Finest!:

The duo hole up at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge in Gotham City, where he promptly sells the pair out to the Suicide Squad. The Squad show up to nab them and, in the ensuing firefight, Trickster is knocked out. Piper grabs him in a firemans’ carry and escapes with him. Trickster’s first comment on coming to: “You better not have touched me in my special area”.

They get caught by the heroes and brought to Green Arrow and Black Canary’s wedding, where the heroes get attacked by a massive group of villains. Trickster’s pointed comments while hiding from the carnage: “I realize you people can’t miss a wedding or a party” and then adds to it by telling Piper to “Relax, Nancy” when Hartley gives him the chance to back off of the “You people” comment. As they escape the scene, Trickster tosses in another shot about how all the weight they’re losing while on the run will allow Piper to “fit into [his] old prom dress”.

More escaping and they’re at a small diner, eating and catching their breath. The Squad catches up once again with them, and they manage to escape by using Piper’s technology to generate a light-refraction field around them. Hartley describes it as “Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak”, prompting yet another Trickster “Okay, now that’s gay” classic line. Escape once more!

Deadshot, of the Squad and later of the Secret Six, catches up to them once again. Here Trickster’s big concern is that he and Piper might die together and, horror, the newspapers might label him as a homosexual! They duck onto a train car for a climatic final chase scene, the entire time with James increasingly ragging on Hartley for his homosexuality and how he’s worried the gay might rub off on him. And then Deadshot shoots Trickster twice, chest and head, killing him.

Closing comments:

Given that both these guys are tech-heads, and Piper shows an aptitude for on-the-fly gadgeting, one has to wonder if they could have gotten out of their situation alive and faster if they had spent their time working together as professionals trying to avoid a bad situation. Instead, Trickster spends his time worrying more about how his corpse might look and avoiding homosexual associations.

Given the increase in activity regarding gay characters recently, with Marvel Comics marrying Northstar to his boyfriend and DC Comics relaunching a big-namecharacter as a homosexual (rumors are that it’s Alan Scott, and save the “weakness to wood” jokes), it’s important to recognize that far more can be accomplished by keeping people’s private lives and sexuality as a non-factor in how/why you do business with them. It’s about being professional, even in adverse circumstances. If Trickster had, maybe he’d still be alive.

On a different note, Countdown is pretty universally regarded as a terrible followup to smash hit series 52. That being said, I strongly recommend watching Linkara's review of the series. It's hilarious. Here's a link to the first part and second part.

Final Rating: Bad business!

Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

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