That sound effect – from both early issues of Marvel Team-Up and Uncanny X-Men — is what I recall most about the evilly wonderful appearances of the villainous Arcadein days of yore. Like Batman’s Joker or WWE’s early Doink, there was more to this clownish rogue than his costume and wide smile would demonstrate.
Much more! And it was all rotten.
But somewhere around his 33rd appearance, by Silver Surfer figuring (check out the current Greg Pak Silver Surfer mini for the ref), Arcade and, yes, Murderworld itself started to become boring, routine. By the time Nightcrawler made it there by his lonesome, it was kinda like watching the last season of Match Game, remembering what had been.
Now, after a pretty good appearance along with one of my faves, the Impossible Man, in a fairly recent Fantastic Four, Arcade is set to return in the incredibly humongous-sized AVENGERS ACADEMY GIANT-SIZE #1 during May! In the summer sizzler, by writer Paul Tobin and artist David Baldeon, Arcade decides to rebuild his tarnished reputation by setting his sights on the “easy pickin’s” of the Avengers Academy and the Young Allies. But when one of his teenage victims escapes, is it a setback for Arcade, or all part of a master plan to turn the entirety of New York into a Murderworld?
I cannot wait to find out!
For the uninitiated, Arcade is a combination of evil genius and hitman and affects a manner of dress and speech that makes him appear to be a comedic character. This is part of his overall theme, which extends into his preferred method of murder: an underground funhouse of colorful deathtraps, usually decked out in cheery colors and disguised as an amusement park, which he has dubbed Murderworld!
Arcade’s past remains largely unknown, even to this day. This is mainly the result of his knack for escaping once he has been defeated. According to the man himself, he was born into an extremely wealthy family and lived for much of his early life in, depending on the telling, a ranch in Texas or a mansion in Beverly Hills. At the age of either 18 or 21, again depending on the telling, his allowance was cut off by his father, who declared that he did not deserve it. In retaliation, Arcade murders his father, thus inheriting all of the man’s vast estate. Given his propensity for deception, this origin story can hardly be taken at face value, IMHO.
Now independently wealthy and free to do as he pleased, Arcade became a freelance assassin, traveling across the world, killing people in rather mundane fashions and amassing even more wealth than he already had. He quickly grew bored with doing business as an ordinary hired killer and resolved to find a way to continue his work in a manner more suited to his sensibilities.
Discovering an aptitude for technology, Arcade designed and built his first Murderworld: a subterranean lair disguised as a very deadly amusement park. From this base, and with the help of two mysterious assistants named Miss Locke and Mr. Chambers, he reemerged as the world’s most expensive hitman. For the price of $1 million (actually a token sum, since Arcade doesn’t need the money and, in any case, never turns a profit), he will tailor Murderworld to exploit the specific weaknesses of his target and then watch, with unconcealed glee, as they are killed by the variety of colorful deathtraps strewn throughout the facility.
However, one of his “gimmicks” is that he always deliberately leaves each target a small chance of survival. In one instance, when the girlfriend of one of his captives begged him, “If you’re going to kill them, at least have the decency to do it quickly, painlessly!” Arcade laughs and replied, “Decency’s dull … besides, Miss, your way, they’re dead and that’s that. My way, they’ve got a chance. Not much of one, but a chance.” This sets Arcade notably apart from most other villains who use deathtraps; while most villains believe that their death machines are infallible, Arcade likes to give them a chance on purpose, for the sport of it.
Which brings us back to my memory: Sflang! It is, if you will recall, the wonderfully cheesy sound of Arcade’s roving trash truck which made its way down the concrete canyons of Manhattan and other locales picking up Murderworld victims.
How delightlfully … murderous!
Avengers Academy Giant-Size #1 hits stores in May!