In honor of the recent attempt by DC to turn Suicide Squad head honcho Amanda Waller into the poster child of crash dieting, we’ve decided to look back at other incidents of what we’ve termed “Amanda Wallering” throughout comic history. Be shocked and amazed by incidents of polite British girls getting turned into feisty Asian assassins, bird men turning into Hollywood hunks, that little girl fromWelcome to the Dollhouse turning into a stacked blonde super heroine and a racial stereotype who grew up to become Boardwalk Empire’s most badass character.
Nick Hanover: Most of the characters we’ll address on this list got Waller’d by being turned into more conventionally attractive figures. But Smart Hulk happened because apparently what people were really clamoring for in their Hulk books all these years was… brains. Sexy brains.
Danny Djeljosevic: Bruce Banner is a guy who transforms into a giant, hulking expression of his own repressed emotions. Smashing aside, that’s a concept you could explore a lot, and back in the late ’80s writer Peter David did so. At one point Hulk developed a dominant personality that was a gangster called Mr. Fixit. After that Banner had the chance to address and confront all that childhood abuse that laid dormant in Banner’s mind. Then a new personality developed: Smart Hulk! Who was strong like the Hulk, smart like Bruce Banner, and often wore tank tops.
Nick: It was at this point that he began palling around with a group called the Pantheon, who were led by a perma-teenager named Agamemnon and really really liked their Greek mythology. I guess Smart Hulk was smart enough to realize Rick Jones was the world’s most annoying sidekick.
Hulk Makes a Major Upgrade in the Sidekick Department
Danny: Peter David’s run is a fan-favorite, but it’s funny that it’s best known for doing something very un-Hulk-like.
Nick: I don’t know, man, smashing decades of Hulk characterization sounds pretty Hulk-like to me.
Danny: Peter David: Meta-Hulk.
Danny: ‘less do it
Nick: Everyone knows Lex Luthor is a bald, beady-eyed man with a huge chip on his shoulder when it comes to a certain blue boy scout. But haven’t you always thought he’d be more interesting and sexy if he only had a luxurious red mane and a beard?
Danny: Lex Luthor had hair in his earliest appearance, but no beard. So I’d be interested in that!
Nick: He may have had hair, but he didn’t have hair. Long, beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen…well, you get the picture. And it was the result of the most extreme baldness remedy of all-time: cloning!
Danny: Lex Luthor got cancer from wearing a Kryptonite ring at all times, so he put his brain into a cloned body and posed as his own illegitimate son: Lex Luthor II.
Nick: This storyline stood out to me enough to make me think that Smallville was going to follow it, since Lionel Luthor actually looked like the cloned Luthor. So I watched that terrible show for more seasons than I should because I was certain some kind of mindfuck of this order would be happening.
Danny: What’s most hilarious about Lex Luthor II is that he shows up during the highly publicized Death of Superman, including this issue that probably everybody owns:
Insert Star Trek Joke Here
Nick: It’s important to note that at that time, Supergirl was actually a sentient protoplasm. Not even joking.
Danny: Yep! Doomsday punches her into pink gunk.
Nick: There’s probably a future Top 10 in there somewhere.
Danny: Top 10 Nonsensical Elements from Popular, Accessible Comics?
Nick: Back in Will Eisner’s salad days, his big break came in the form of The Spirit, a comic strip hero who danced with dames and took on gangsters all with the help of his little buddy, Ebony White. I’m just going to introduce Ebony White with an image, because…well, you’ll see:
Is This What Bamboozled Was About?
Danny: That is… unfortunate.
Nick: Yes, dear readers, even the almighty Will Eisner was not immune from questionable racial humor. But Eisner himself argued that the “humors” of the time were responsible for Ebony’s creation and that the only way for him to push a more progressive agenda was to give the character the appearance of a minstrel show character. For Eisner, Ebony wasn’t a morally debased attempt to exploit racial stereotyping but instead a way to criticize those same stereotypes. You know, like Mark Twain did.
Danny: Ebony White has become kind of a dirty word when talking about Eisner’s work.
Nick: Which is unfortunate because it simplifies the issue in a sense. Eisner was said to have received quite a bit of fan mail about Ebony and black readers were supposedly drawn to the character because he fit into the grand folk tradition of the trickster — sure he looked like racism incarnate, and spoke like a caricature, but Ebony was one of the few black characters to command respect in popular culture at the time, as other characters in the Spirit trusted Ebony and listened to his advice. More importantly, his popularity allowed Eisner to work in other, less visually offensive black characters, like Detective Grey.
Danny: And, thankfully, he became less of a caricature over time.
Nick: Making him a rare example of a Wallering that actually improved a character. Before long, in fact, Ebony had realized his full potential and grew up to become…Chalky White.
“These Here My Daddy’s tools.”
Nick: Steel Spider, motherfucker
Danny: To me, he’ll always be Spider-Kid, the chubby fella with Doc Ock-like arms.
Nick: That’s because for guys like you and me, Ollie was what we aspired to be. Except I’m going to go ahead and let everyone know that neither of us were chubby nerds. No matter how hard we tried. (sniffle)
Danny: I was a chubby nerd when I read about Spider-Kid for the first time, but the comics treated him like a loser so it was hard to identify with. In fact, most comics are hard to identify with. So I slimmed down and listened to music.
Nick: Danny’s just trying to fool you into thinking he hasn’t always been a Best Dressed Award Winner, don’t listen to him. But yes, Ollie was a loser, but all I cared about was that he was hanging out with Spider-Man despite that fact. Which makes the transition he took in the EXTREME ’90s from that chubby little nerd to a musclebound guy who gets vengeance for his girlfriend after she gets shot by some gang members by beating the ever loving shit out of them just a bit awkward.
Danny: I saw Steel Spider in Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts, as drawn by Mike Deodato. I had no idea this was the same bro as Spider-Kid.
Nick: Yes, folks, after the EXTREME ’90s, Ollie only got more extreme and soon looked like a character that was rejected from The Tick for looking like too obvious of a parody of the grim and gritty era.
Danny: Ollie got muscles! AND NOW HE’S PISSED.
Nick: Probably because that issue of Spider-Man Unlimited where he went all EXTREME ended with his girlfriend in a coma. And I don’t think anyone ever bothered to write her out of that coma.
Danny: Morrissey: still relevant in the 616.
Nick: Yeah, well, I’ll bet Morrissey never got his arm bitten off by a lunatic in a living alien symbiote suit. So point to Ollie.
Danny: Who’s Johnny Marr in this situation? The readers?
Nick: Is Ollie not on speaking terms with us now?
Danny: I think he joined Modest Mouse.
Nick: Odds that our own readers will understand this exchange: 10-1?
Danny: Also, what the hell is a Sharon Ventura? I think my dad used to drive me to school in one when I was little.
Nick: Haha, oh man, Sharon Ventura, I have no idea where to even start, her continuity is so confusing. I don’t know how she escaped the Top 10 Crimes Against Women, either. Apparently she was raped?
Danny: Sharon Ventura is a character I only remember from a random issue of Fantastic Four I had as a kid. It was one of those where the FF was not Reed, Johnny, Sue and Ben. Actually, it was this issue:
For some reason, it was Human Torch, Crystal of the Inhumans, Sharon Ventura and an even rockier Thing.
Nick: Sharon Ventura is an immensely complicated character. She started out as a wrestler, back when that was a thing. But she wanted to get into the really big leagues, so she went in to get herself some super strength and apparently got raped for her troubles. And also, forced into taking some kind of super drug and getting addicted. Wikipedia tells me this all “caused her to temporarily develop an intense hatred and distrust of men,” which sounds pretty warranted to me.
And then, as if this wasn’t convoluted enough, she ran around doing the bidding of someone named Auntie Freeze while taking on the moniker of Ms. Marvel, because there weren’t enough super strong women running around calling themselves that at this point. It was only after teaming up with Captain America to take on the decidedly frat bro-like scientists who ruined her life that she became a member of the Fantastic Four. And of course once that happened she became She-Thing.
Danny: Did that happen in some sort of Giant-Sized She-Thing special? Also, SHE-THING? Wasn’t her self-esteem low enough?
Nick: She-Thing is maybe the worst name in the entire Marvel universe, and lest we forget, that universe also contains Lady Stilt-Man.
Danny: I love comics. So, is this a reverse-Waller? Did she just get ugly?
Nick: I’m glad you asked, Danny. Because no, it’s not. You see, She-Thing was only She-Thing for a little while. Then she hooked up with Doctor Doom and he turned her into a mighty red haired vixen. And she kept working for Doom because he promised to do the same for Ben Grimm, which is weird because I don’t remember Ben Grimm ever expressing a desire to go through a sex change operation.
Danny: “I couldn’t be wit’ Suzie, so I decided ta BE Suzie.”
Nick: Apparently people were a little disturbed by seeing a Thing with breasts, so she was a redheaded wrestler lady for a while. Until she pissed off Doom and he turned her back into the appropriately named She-Thing once again. And apparently she’s been stuck this way for a while, probably as penance for beating the crap out of Suzie. Also, a Skrull form of her got killed. Or something. My brain feels like a she-thing now.
Danny: She-Thing looks kind of lumpy. Kind of like the original Jack Kirby rendition of The Thing, or if you took Ben Grimm and removed all his rock plating.
Nick: And without rock eyebrows.
Danny: Oh, and apparently Doom made her into an even worse form:
So she got reverse-Waller’d, then Waller’d, then extreme reverse Waller’d, which I think I saw someone pull off at the X-Games once.
Nick: Does that mean that in the future we could see Amanda Waller become the mom from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Danny: After this controversy, I predict every future issue of Suicide Squad will depict Amanda Waller snacking on donuts.
Nick: “Five years of artery clogging later…”
Nick: Barbara Gordon may be the trickiest character to address on this list. As a character created specifically at the request of the people behind the campy Batman TV show, Babs was suitably a campy, goofy character. And then Alan Moore had her shot in the spine and molested by the Joker, a development even he regrets writing.
Danny: It was a blessing in disguise in some ways, because John Ostrander ran with it in Suicide Squad and made Barbara Gordon into Oracle, a tech genius and information source. That Gordon couldn’t walk was almost irrelevant.
Nick: But now we’re in the middle of a major reinvention on DC’s behalf, where the company wants to “lure in new readers” but not alienate old fans and so they’ve rolled out a new Barbara Gordon that hopes to combine the two. Which leaves us with Babs as a heroine who can stand but also spent several years in a wheelchair as a result of the Joker’s attack. Whether those years were also spent as Oracle remains unseen at this point, but it also leaves us with the question of whether the Babs that was Waller’d was the campy original or the tech genius Oracle that so many of us grew up knowing and being inspired by.
Danny: It’s a weird situation: Barbara Gordon Batgirl is the one people have seen in cartoons, on the Adam West TV show and on T-shirts, but Oracle really came into her own for fans, many of whom weren’t even alive (or at least conscious) to see Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. From a business perspective it makes sense, but from a story perspective… why?
Nick: Because Ray Tate demanded it?
Danny: THE BOYCOTT IS OVER
Danny: Grant Morrison created a bunch of characters for his run on New X-Men. Some of them got out unscathed (Fantomex), others got supremely retconned in ways I still don’t even understand (Xorn), but Beak is the relevant guy here. As a quick refresher, he was a scrawny birdlike teenager who was telepathically forced to beat Beast half-to-death with a baseball bat and ended up fathering a litter of winged babies with Angel Salvadore. Among a few other things. But this was before M-Day…
Nick: While other mutants died as a result of M-Day or went into depressive states due to the loss of their powers, Beak was granted an all-new power: the looks of a Hollywood hunk.
Danny: He changed his name to Blackwing and joined the New, New, New Warriors along with Angel, who adopted the name “Tempest.”
Blackwing and Tempest: Partners in Aesthetic Tampering
Nick: And now they travel the globe adopting babies from impoverished nations.
Danny: Beak fans can take solace, though, because Nick Dragotta draws him to look more like a human version of himself in Vengeance. No fake ass bird costume here. Or muscles, for that matter.
Nick: But the tabloids still refer to him and Angel as Barangel, right?
Danny: Angeak? Salvahusk? It’s disgusting no matter which way you try it.
Nick: Before there was X-23, there was already a female Wolverine. And her name was Marrow. She had a hair cut like Jean Claude Van Damme in Street Fighter and kind of dressed like that to boot. And she had bone protrusions all over the place, which were ugly but practical, functioning as defense and offense as once, since she could snap them off and use them as weapons if she so desired, regrowing as needed.
And then this happened:
Danny: She turned into Leelu Dallas Multipass?
Nick: I’m not sure if that’s the best reference ever or the worst. I suppose if you take out the planet savior aspect and the naivety, sure. What happened was that Marrow decided to let Weapon X “upgrade” her from fierce skeletal warrior to… um, a pretty lady who just grows bones sometimes.
Danny: There simply aren’t enough pretty ladies in comics!
Nick: What’s worse is that this wasn’t exactly something Marrow had shown an interest in becoming, unlike Sharon Ventura. I mean, Marrow used to run around with a combover and used her “ugliness” as a weapon itself:
Table Manners Are Not a Virtue Amongst Morlocks
Danny: I think she’s a positive role model, someone showing Morlocks around the world that it IS possible to get out of the sewers.
Nick: It’s true, Morlocks. If you can just find yourself an editor who wants another character who can make ridiculous poses on X-covers, you too can be a star!
Leech Could Never Look This Good
Somewhere, Leech is calling his agent.
Danny: Wonder Girl is the subtle version of Psylocke. To crib from The Simpsons, she turned into a hardcore sexpot so gradually nobody even noticed!
Nick: For some reason, I’ve always thought Cassie Sandsmark was John Byrne’s attempt at replicating that Buffy the Vampire Slayer magic. But I just discovered that she predates the Buffy TV show, so there goes that theory.
Danny: I remember Cassie from Young Justice, where she was a nerdy girl with a homemade costume. It was cool.
Nick: But what I really want to know is, do you remember when Cassie starred in Welcome to the Dollhouse?
The First in a Long Series of Fruitful Partnerships Between Cassie and Todd Solondz
Danny: God, John Byrne makes her look so freakish.
Nick: I’m pretty sure that’s how John Byrne imagines his imaginary female fans look.
Danny: Women, if you’re a fan of John Byrne, you probably shouldn’t be.
Nick: Or maybe you should be, so that you too can stand a chance of going from looking like a female Buster Poindexter to Bustabooty McBlondie
Danny: Over the course of a couple of years, Cassie managed to fill out and become hot blonde, just like how Superboy stopped being a bejacketed little shit and suddenly became such an awesome jock that he could only wear a T-shirt and jeans to do his superheroing in the 21th century.
Nick: Which took her from being an innocent, unassuming character trying her damnedest to be a hero and standing out as a result to…yet another pose-friendly Barbie heroine.
Danny: I liked Wonder Girl as someone who was actually really distinct from her adult counterpart. But alas, comics don’t work that way.
Nick: Her hair’s blonde, that’s different. What more could you ask for?? Weirdly, like Psylocke, nobody even remembers what Wonder Girl looked like at the start. Is this the fate that Amanda Waller is doomed to?
Danny: I feel like Amanda Waller is already an iconic character, which is why the sudden svelteness is a scandal. Psylocke and Wonder Girl hadn’t been around for 20 years beforehand.
Nick: Well, Psylocke had already been around for more than a decade. But I’ll give you this one, Mr. Djeljosevic.
Nick: Speaking of Psylocke…For whatever reason, getting your mind placed in another body is a pretty common thing in comicdom (it even happens again on this very list!). But seldom is the change as permanent as it has been for Betsy Braddock…
Danny: Originally Betsy Braddock was a quaint English woman with purple hair and sensible style of dress… then she became a hot Asian ninja woman… still with purple hair for some reason.
Nick: Amazingly being turned into a a hot Asian ninja wasn’t even the craziest thing to happen to Betsy. At one point she was “merely” a psychic agent for a shadowy government organization. But that wasn’t an exciting enough career path for Betsy, so she wound up blinded by Slaymaster and sent away to the Mojoverse, where she was brainwashed and fitted with robot eyes. And then the ninja stuff happened. COMICS!
Danny: A lot of characters just progressively get drawn more attractive over the years. It’s pretty rare for their attractiveness to be a contrived story element.
Nick: By contrived story element, Danny means awesome opportunity to take a stuffy British woman out of the green hooded outfits she was obsessed with and put her in barely there, vaguely Asian thong suits.
Danny: I wonder if anybody took umbrage at this back in the day like they did with Amanda Waller almost immediately.
Nick: You can’t be racist to British people, Danny, that’s just not possible. So no, definitely not. REVERSE IMPERIALISM DUDE!
Danny: Imperialist dogs!
Nick: I’m pretty sure this is what the Boxer Rebellion was all about in the first place.
Danny: Reacting to a plot point in Uncanny X-Men?
Nick: Clearly the Boxers were fighting to see a day when a British woman would be turned into an Asian assassin.
Danny: That actually makes sense considering modern global politics. (shocked emoticon)
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.