My last post on Emperor Mollusk Month!! was long and involved and offered a peek at Emperor’s universe. Today, I’ll endeavor to keep things more concise.
Let’s talk about Emperor Mollusk himself. He’s our hero and our villain. Or is he our anti-hero and anti-villain? The line is not quite clear. even to him. It’s safer to call him the protagonist of the story since he is the guy at its center.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Emperor did some nasty things in his past. He has hurt people, endangered worlds, and otherwise acted in irresponsible ways that have put the galaxy at risk. Even after retiring, he still does that. Emperor has a bad habit for supervillainy, often unintentional. He just can’t help himself.
Retirement for Emperor is less about not being a bad guy and more about keeping himself in check. He doesn’t always succeed. Boundless curiosity and enthusiasm mean he’ll usually build a doomsday device before considering whether he should. He might have no intention of ever using it, but he MUST build it. If he unlocks some incredible research with terrible potential, he MUST see it through. And afterward, provided the planet doesn’t explode, he puts those secrets away somewhere safe because he can’t just destroy them.
What if that place isn’t so safe after all?
Aside from its pulpy origins, its epic journey from one exotic location to the next, its mutant dinosaurs and giant robots, what is Emperor Mollusk all about? It’s about how, in the right situation, we’re all the bad guy. It’s about our desire to be important, to make a difference, even while somehow thinking we can do so without a downside. It’s about struggling to find satisfaction in our lives even as we achieve the goals we think should do just that.
I’ve always felt that was what made the supervillain an interesting character. A good supervillain is admirable in some regards, tragic in others. Those writers who choose to make their evil masterminds psychotic serial killers aren’t usually attempting to explore what it would really be like to be smarter and more capable than everyone around you. It seems like it would be both exhilarating and endlessly frustrating. Like spending your whole life stuck behind that slow dude at the checkout line who takes ten minutes to operate the debit card machine or listening to politicians hash the same old issues over and over and over again. It’s being surrounded by animals that gleefully pollute their own environment and spend more time Keeping up with the Kardashians than trying to help one another. It’s staring at the back of a bumper sticker of someone urinating on BLANK and thinking, “Jeepers, a deathray would be sweet right about now.”
We all have our supervillain moments. Few of us actually have a deathray.
Emperor Mollusk does.
I’ve always thought Lex Luthor needs Superman. He needs a problem he can’t solve. If he didn’t have Superman to obsess over, to blame his failures on, to battle endlessly, Lex would only have himself to fight. He might rule the planet, but he’d be just as miserable and unsatisfied. Nothing can ever be enough for Lex.
In that way, Lex has an advantage over Emperor Mollusk, who managed to achieve his dream, only to discover it lacking. With no Superman to stand in his way, Emperor conquered a world, brought it peace and prosperity, kept it safe from other threats, and managed somehow not to blow it up himself. Something even he found surprising. In the end, it didn’t satisfy him. But because he is brilliant in a way only a fictional character can be, because he’s one step ahead of nearly everyone, he also can’t just abandon a world that has come to depend on him so very much.
We all want to be important. Emperor actually is.
It might be expecting too much to pity the poor guy because that’s life. We’re all stuck trying to work it out. So maybe Emperor is a bad guy. Or a good guy. Or something in-between. But I’d like to think we can all relate, even if we don’t have access (thankfully) to an earthquake machine.