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ComiConverse Contributor Carl Waldron analyzes the effectiveness of old versions of superheroes and villains.
How effective do you think you will be at 60? How about 80? 180? Superheroes and the villains they fight seem to be getting older and older with each passing issue. Despite all their abilities, they can not beat time. As our favorite characters grow ancient before our very eyes we must ask ourselves, do they still have what it takes? Are they still an effective member of the team? And, of course, are they still as awesome as their younger selves?
Old Snake: Metal Gear Solid 4
Solid Snake is the ultimate spy; the stealthiest of the stealth men. The bandana man with infinite ammo and the world’s strongest knees, regardless of age (you try to crouch run for any duration longer than 5 seconds). Hideo Kojima, in his infinite wisdom, felt like it was time to wind down the tale of Mr. Snake by the 4th game in the Solid series. How did he plan to do this? Rapid aging of course. Due to Fox Die and cloning and other plot devices, Solid Snake becomes an old, old man by Metal Gear Solid 4. You take on the role of an elderly man who battles metal, 2-legged cow machines and angry ladies with randomly generated names.
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Better with age?
Yes and no. Snakes advanced age has made him a sick, coughing mess (don’t smoke kids) but it hasn’t taken away from his spry movement and uncanny ability to hang precariously from ledges. There are many scenes of David (his real name) succumbing to the effects of age, but once the action kicks back in he is a super spy again. Game mechanics have kept him young in the hands of his fans. It’s the cut scenes that make him old and sick. This is no more evident than in the climactic, epic fist fight between Old Snake and Old Ocelot/Old Liquid Snake. It is the epic early bird special of brawls, peppered with liberal coughing and deep, labored breaths.
The Joker: The Dark Knight Returns
Oh Joker. How we love thee. Batman’s perennial albatross has endured alongside the Dark Knight for ages. What happens to a crazy person when they get old? Well, it seems they get crazier. In his elder years, the Joker’s resolve becomes as strong as steel. When The Dark Knight Returns was released, we were introduced to an older, more subdued Joker. Residing in a mental institution, seemingly comatose, Joker was dead to the world. That is, until word reached him that Batman has shown his pretty pointy ears once more.
Is He Old And Crazy?
Oh yes. Double yes. Triple yes? He is also much more manic and fully willing to murder. And not just Joker laughing gas, gag reel murder, we are talking full on shoot someone in the face murder. Joker’s clash with Batman is a sight to behold as Mr. J sets out to make this their final confrontation memorable. His advanced age doesn’t slow his crazy down a bit as he takes on his soul mate in the Tunnel Of Love. While this meeting spells the end for the Clown Prince Of Crime, he makes sure Batman remembers the name Joker. I am sure, if he had the time, he would have carved his name directly into that giant Bat on Bruce Wayne’s chest. As a side note, Joker looked pretty good for an old guy. Laughing really does keep you looking young.
Bruce Wayne: Batman Beyond
It would be easy to choose any of the old Batman’s out there and end this section with “He’s Batman. Never not good.” because when Batman gets old, he is rarely less Batman than the most Batman version of Batman. Batman Beyond introduces us to one super old version of Bruce Wayne. He is frail and no longer able to prowl Gotham the way he used to. You are even treated to the exact moment when he realizes it’s all but over as well. No amount of souped up Bat-suits can keep his frail body in the justice game.
Is He Still The Night?
Not at all. He is so far gone that he has to pass the cowl to a teenage Terry McGinnis. I am sure we all thought one of the many Robins would take up the mantle, but in this universe, they are all gone. Lost to time and probably the Joker, if history has taught us anything. In Bruce’s advanced age, he is relegated to Watchtower duties, guiding Terry on his path to becoming a true Batman. A far cry from grappling through Gotham, but I must say, even in old age, Batman does not stop fighting crime. He just changes his tactics.
Cranky Kong: Donkey Kong Series
Let’s go all the way back to the advent of games. The mecca of all arcade classics. Donkey Kong. It’s where it all began folks. Mario and DK battling it out for some lady named Pauline. Not the most progressive of storylines, but it was the early 80’s. Fast forward to Donkey Kong Country, where we are reintroduced to everyone‘s favorite tie-wearing ape. One of his allies is an old-timer named Cranky Kong. Much to our surprise, Cranky is actually the original Donkey Kong. While time has favored Mario, DK has aged terribly.
Is He Still Effective?
While his role has changed, he still offers sage advice to the new owner of the DK name. It seems in the years since his barrel-tossing days he has studied up and become well-versed in video game history, commenting on how the current DK stacks up against other video game heroes. I can only assume that if pushed, he could conjure up the infinite amount of barrels needed to defeat his foes. For now I think he is content in his rocking chair, doling out life lessons to doe-eyed apes.
Green Arrow: The Dark Knight Returns
The Dark Knight Returns is chock full of old heroes. One being everyone’s favorite emerald archer, the Green Arrow. The years have not been kind to Oliver Queen in this timeline (as if it has been kind to anyone). He is missing an arm, which would seem essential if your main job is as an archer. However, Olliver is never one to shy away from a challenge.
Is He Katniss Or Hawkeye?
Ollie doesn’t let old age or missing limbs slow him down. When in doubt, use your teeth, says Oliver. In Batman’s quest to teach Superman a lesson, Oliver volunteers his services. He is surprisingly effective as well, shooting a kryptonite arrow with his mouth, giving Batman the upper hand.
Clementine: The Walking Dead
Lets face it, Clem was an amazing little digital girl. She made you care about a bunch of 1s and 0s and you felt her pain when she was put in tough situations. How can you watch a little girl trot through the zombie apocalypse and not have your heart-strings pulled? The Walking Dead Season 2 by TellTale Games puts you in the shoes of an older, sadder version of Clementine, giving you a look at what it’s like as a kid at the end of the world.
Better With Age?
Teen Clem is still a great character, showing how a small child can be warped by horror, while still clinging to the things that gave her joy. Her effectiveness as a wasteland survivor jumps dramatically in the couple of years from the first game. So much so, in fact, that adults seem to value her opinion more than they value their own. Clem is ahead of the game.
Steve Rogers: All-New Captain America
How do you make Captain America older that he already is? After being frozen in the 1940’s and thawed out in the present, Steve Rogers is Marvel’s version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite.
After losing his super soldier abilities, Steve passed the torch of Captain America to Sam Wilson. Without the super soldier serum coursing though his veins, Steve began to age. Gray-haired and grizzled, Steve Rogers was no longer the handsome freedom fighter he once was.
Is He Still Effective?
Old age never kept Steve down. After losing his powers, Steve took up the title of Commander Steve Rogers, operations director of The Avengers. Though I was unaware of the levels of bureaucracy within The Avengers. Do they have an HR department too?
Logan: Old Man Logan
Wolverine has been old since he was introduced back in The Incredible Hulk #181. According to legend, Logan was conceived in 1886 making him around 130 years old in the comics today. The Old Man Logan series takes place 50+ years in the future, effectively making Wolverine 180.
Is He As Effective As His “Younger” Self?
The answer is a resounding yes. Apparently Wolverine has been completely and utterly potent since birth. Time seems to have no effect on the man. If anything, it has made him a better killer. In Old Man Logan #1, James (Logan’s real name) travels back in time somehow and takes revenge on a low-level criminal who terrorizes him in the future. No preamble. No explanation. Just murder. That’s not very heroic, but it is very Logan.
We can all agree that regardless of age, these heroes will always put it on the line to do what is right. We should all be so bold as to shoot arrows with our toes at 60+. That is truly the only way to live.