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There’s a common problem that exists in comics these days - it has become increasingly difficult to create new villains for the heroes that actually stick around. The beyond talented writer Gail Simone, on the topic of Wonder Woman, said that the Amazing Amazon doesn’t have a very deep dugout in terms of baddies because writers rarely read the stories that came before them. Every writer takes on a character, in Gail’s example, Wonder Woman, and thinks that they will bring a fresh new idea to it, but in reality they spend their time creating new villains when there are plenty of old ones who can do the job.
Sure, you have exceptions to the rule of new villains. Every now and then, a Bane may pop up, but even then, I can’t think of a second example of a villain who has been created in the last 30 years that has really stuck around in the consciousness of the readers. Venom, the Spider-Man meanie, may be the last great villain creation when we really look back.
All of this is a long way of saying today we’ll be discussing Tar Pit, a fine enough Flash rogue created by Geoff Johns and Scott Kollins, then pretty much ignored by everyone else.
Making his first appearance in Flash volume 2 issue 174, Tar Pit was once a normal guy named Joey Monteleone. Well, kind of normal. Joey was the younger brother of Keystone City drug lord Jack “The Candyman” Monteleone. Joey didn’t have a taste for the drug kingpin life, instead deciding that he liked petty crimes better. Along with most petty criminals, Joey got caught and ended up spending some time in Iron Heights.
It was while he was in Iron Heights that Joey started meditating, and it was through meditation that Joey learned he could astral project and enter inanimate objects. Joey honed his ability, learning to turn these inanimate objects into things he could move around. It was when Joey astral projected himself into a vat of tar that he had a real blast. Joey attacked a hockey game that Flash happened to be in attendance at. They fought and Flash won, but Joey put on a good show, trapping Flash in tar and being all cool looking.
After his fracas with Flash, Joey found himself trapped in the tar, unable to return to his own body. From that day on, his body lay comatose in Iron Heights as Joey, now calling himself Tar Pit, wreaked havoc in Keystone City.
Tar Pit came in early into Geoff Johns’ run on Flash, and you can kind of see where the idea for the character came from - he’s a Clayface knockoff. Clayface is a classic Batman villain whose powers would work great with Flash - the fastest man alive trapped in clay! This isn’t to say that Johns didn’t create a cool new Flash baddie, he did - I would say that Johns created a few good new villains for Flash during his time on the book - but Tar Pit never really connected with readers. He showed up a few more times, mostly as background. Geoff Johns, along with artist Scott Kollins did their best to make a new group of Rogues for Flash, but pretty soon, Johns decided to give up his guys for a return to the classics.
Of course, as one of the main guys behind the CW show, Geoff Johns has brought more than just Tar Pit over. Of his new villain creations from his time as writer of Flash, Tar Pit will be the third to show up on the series. We’ve already seen Girder, who was way cooler in the comic, and Peek-a-Boo, who I think worked better on the show. Even on the show, these creations have been used mostly as fluff. Girder was killed off, and Peek-a-Boo was last seen during the Rogues breakout at the end of season one, so maybe she’ll come back.
Another Johns creation for the Flash comic, the villain Double Down, whose skin is covered in tattoos of playing cards that he can peel off and use as razor sharp projectiles, was in the third episode of the latest season of Arrow. Personally, Double Down never worked for me in the comics, his powerset is too creepy for a Flash baddie. Flash’s enemies work best when they are colorful, and Double Down was too dark.
That said, I would love to see another Geoff Johns creation, Cicada, show up in the show. In the comics, Cicada is a cult leader who sacrifices people Flash has saved and uses their life force to not only prolong his own life, but to try and resurrect his dead wife who he murdered. It would be a great chance to show off Barry’s forensic science know-how and remind us all that he is a smart cookie. Plus, who doesn’t love serial killer mysteries?
Ethan Van Sciver