Whatever happened to the art of the super villain lair? In classic superhero comics, a the malevolent headquarters was a shorthand for the evil group and what defined them. But as we’ve entered the modern era, hideouts have reflected the push towards realism by using more conventional designs for bases, meaning warehouses and nondescript rooms full of computers. But what’s the point of being a super villain if you’re not going to have fun with it?
That’s why it’s so exciting that this week saw bonkers super villain lairs from both major superhero publishers: The Joker’s Throne in Joker/Daffy Duck and Shocker’s Above-Ground Lair in Ms. Marvel #33.
The Joker Throne
Part of the ongoing DC/Looney Tunes line of crossovers, this week saw the release of Joker/Daffy Duck by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth. As with the other entries in the crossover, DC's characters must deal with the ramifications of the Looney Tunes concepts and characters appearing in their universe.
After coming to Gotham to yell at ACME customer service, Daffy Duck ends up stumbling on a warehouse currently occupied by the Joker and his goons. When Joker threatens to kill the confused mallard, Daffy bluffs his way into tricking Joker into thinking he’s here to help him out. Of course this works, and Joker tells Daffy to get to work fixing up his base. Daffy goes all out on this, managing to find a new abandoned location to use. He draws up blueprints, hires construction crews, even barters with other henchmen to get all the right supplies so he can put together this massive throne for the Joker.
It's impressive enough, if a tad obvious. It’s got all the touches someone like the Joker would first think of - fire, death, that sort of thing. The throne itself serves as a homage to Emperor Joker, although the best touch might be giving the Joker a robot raptor to serve as a counterpoint to Batman’s signature giant robot T. Rex. In short, it's an old-school villain lair.
And then, we head over to the Marvel Universe...
The Shocker’s Above-Ground Lair
There’s so much to unpack about the Shocker base that appears in G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon's Ms. Marvel #33. Constructed like a Rube Goldberg machine as envisioned by Bart Simpson, this pile of rooms (it’s more accurate to call it that then a building) is immediately hilarious and distinctive. This should be Mr. Shocker’s base, forever.
It’s also hilarious that Shocker, what with his “sometimes accidentally make earthquakes” gauntlets, has decided against having an underground lair. That’s very practical for someone who is so clearly out of their mind.
Plus, that distracting Rube Goldberg design turns out to be useful. It lures heroes into a state of pure confusion, because honestly? Even people who fight aliens don’t typically see this kind of ridiculous. Then it uses springs and a wrecking ball to play a giant game of Mouse Trap with a hidden fulcrum, shooting the hapless hero into the base and at the mercy of Shocker. The craziest part? It totally works.
So, Who Did It Better?
Here’s the clincher: Joker’s base went through land purchase and construction. Money exchanged hands, and given how big that throne was, it was probably took a lot of ill-gotten gains to finance the project. Three bank robberies worth, at least, and Joker didn’t even get to show it off to Batman!
The Shocker, on the other hand, simply went to the dump, found a lawn chair and a bathtub, and spent the rest of his time building an effective super hero trap.
Shocker was a better villain than the Joker this week. What a time to be alive.