What the Heck is Happening to Toad?
I don’t know if anybody else has noticed – or even cares, frankly – but the X-Men character Toad has been quietly turning into a goblin.
What’s up with that?
Alright, the answer is probably very obvious. I just don’t happen to like it. I’m a big fan of Toad, and all of his Brotherhood of Mutants cohorts. They’re probably my favorite villain team in all of comics. And I’ve absolutely loved Toad’s storyline over the past few years. That he’s now the janitor at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning is the perfect place for Toad in the current X-Men status quo. I’m loving him in Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men.
But why, oh why, does he have to go back to looking like a little goblin, ogre, thingy?
I much prefer his more human-looking movie makeover. At least then I can take him seriously. And Toad deserves to be taken seriously. Join me for more after the jump. Though I should warn you, this is basically a silly little rant about an entirely aesthetic problem. But it’s my personal opinion on a matter, and that’s what my blog is for: ranting my personal opinion on comic book matters. Plus it gives me a chance to talk about Toad. How many other people on the Internet would ever bother to talk about Toad? Exactly.
I have always been a huge X-Men fan. I like the characters, I like the concept, and the whole ‘minority against the world’ thing has just been very appealing. And with that concept, I’ve also always loved the Brotherhood of Mutants. Because these villains are, essentially, just like the heroes. This isn’t a matter of Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus or the Batman and Joker, where two individuals from different backgrounds happen to come together as enemies almost at random. With the X-Men and the Brotherhood, you have two groups of people cut from the same cloth, and some choose to follow the light, while others choose to follow the dark.
And yes, the Brotherhood would commit some crimes, but for the most part they were fighting against prejudice with violence instead of the X-Men’s tolerance. It’s the core concept of what makes Magneto such an amazing super-villain. Not all of the Brotherhood are as noble as Magneto, but most of them follow the same basic mindset as him.
There are few things I like more in the world of comics than a super-villain who is capable of recognizing his or her faults and having the occasional change of heart. Maybe they don’t become full-on heroes, but they can still exist as human beings capable of more than just petty evil. I just don’t really like psychotic villains who have no point to them other than pure hatred and desire for revenge against the hero.
Which brings me to Toad, who over the course of his nearly 50-year career, has become one of those types of villains. I was never really a fan of Toad until the X-Men movie in 2000 turned him into a worthwhile character. Toad got a new look, and I could actually take him seriously.
Today’s rant is all about Marvel’s decision to start taking Toad back to his old, silly look without any in-story reason. To me, it just seems like the writers want an ugly, squat little Toad because it’s a better visual. The movie was a decade ago, and there’s no real reason to keep him looking like a normal person. He just makes a better janitor if he’s all ugly and toad-like. Which I completely understand from an aesthetic standpoint, I just don’t like it.
Here is what Toad looked like when he first debuted as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants back in the 1960s:
The ‘master’ he is referring to is Magneto. Back then, Toad literally was a ‘toadie’ for Magneto. He was this hideous, grotesque, squat little mutant who was basically Magneto’s lapdog and whipping boy. His mutant power involved leaping, and I suppose he could fight, but he was little more than an ‘Igor’. And it wasn’t long before Toad was basically just a joke villain. He was an ugly, turdy little loser who couldn’t super-villain his way out of a paper bag.
As recently as the 90s even, Toad still looked like this, and was drawn wearing this silly little jester’s outfit.
I can understand why Toad looked his way. Not all mutant powers are as sexy as optic blasts or controlling the weather. Not all mutants are as super model beautiful as Cyclops or Storm. Some mutants, like Toad, get the short end of the stick. Perhaps that’s why they turn evil. But ugly can still be threatening and can be taken seriously. Toad was not that kind of ugly. Toad was comedic relief ugly.
Which brings us to the X-Men movie in 2000. After the success of Blade, X-Men really pushed superhero movies into the forefront of Hollywood. And considering The Avengers is expected to earn a bajillion dollars in its opening weekend, I think it’s safe to say that superhero movies are still going strong.
Someone in the movie-making process of X-Men had the brilliant idea of ditching the silly spandex costumes and instead giving the X-Men classier, more realistic leather outfits. It allowed the characters to be taken seriously, while also looking like superheroes. I can only hope this person won some kind of award somewhere. The moviemakers were going for realism, and it paid off a thousandfold. They were also looking for realism with their villains. Which is why they did not make Toad into a squat, Igor-looking guy in a jester’s outfit. Instead they gave him a pretty badass makeover, and he was played by Ray “Darth Maul” Parks!
Now that looks awesome! He’s clearly still Toad, clearly still ugly and warty. They even gave him a long, slimy tongue to make him even more hideous. So the aesthetic of Toad is still there, but he looks cool. He looks like a real threat and not a joke. And Toad was a real threat in the movie. He could fight, he defeated some of the X-Men, and was a legitimate bad guy. Perfect!
And not long after, Marvel totally ran with this idea in the comics. Toad went on a wild adventure with the X-Men and he was transformed to look more like his movie version. The explanation was that Toad had once been experimented on as a kid, which stunted the growth of his mutant powers and turned him into that little turd guy. With his mutant genes restored, he looked like a new man!
They also tried to make Mystique look like her movie counterpart with the scales. But considering she’s a shapeshifter, that didn’t last long at all.
But the point I’m trying to make is that Toad was still ugly and slimy – he just looked like a person now, instead of a cartoon character. And that made a world of difference in terms of taking him seriously. Toad didn’t exactly rise to the ranks of super-villainy, but he now had clout. Toad aided Magneto in another bid for world domination (turns out it was Xorn, not Magneto. Long story). He had a kickass role in the House of M crossover. And he even took on Wolverine in Bloodsport!
Then on M-Day, when 99% of all mutants lost their powers, Toad was one of the few unaffected. Being a mutant took on a whole new meaning in the X-books. Now they were an endangered species, and mutants had to stick together. The old war between Charles Xavier and Magneto was done. This is where Toad, and a few other characters, started getting cooler. Seeing as how they were all mutants, these guys started recognizing the limitations of being an endangered species, and started working with the X-Men for the betterment of the mutant race. They didn’t necessarily join the X-Men, but they could at least be more obviously pro-mutant.
Here’s a scene of Toad being a hero by saving a fellow mutant from a pack of mutant haters.
But rather than looking like some kind of feral frog person, who maybe gets a pat on the head for doing a good deed, Toad is treated as a real person who did a heroic thing. He’s able to converse like a normal person with the woman he saved, and then goes with her to join the X-Men’s refuge camp. Toad was becoming his own man! And it was awesome. Toad was easily one of my favorite characters in the X-franchise at this point. Here was a guy who, even though he was a slimy little asshole, was smart enough to recognize that the world around him was changing. He couldn’t be an ‘evil mutant’ anymore. He had to grow up.
This began Toad’s life with the X-Men. While he wasn’t a member of the team, he still kind of hovered in their general vicinity, including the Manifest Destiny journey to San Francisco. Toad also accepted Cyclops’ invitation for all mutants to join the X-Men on Utopia. Once over there, however, Toad started going stir crazy. The X-Men didn’t like him, but they put up with him. Toad lashed out a few times, trying to unite some of the other former bad guys into a sort of gang on Utopia. But he was always struck down. Still comic relief, but also still threatening.
Then when the Schism occurred and Wolverine took half the X-Men with him back east to reopen the school, Toad begged Wolverine to let him come too. Anything to get off Utopia.
That was the last time Toad would look even semi-normal.
Cut immediately to the new series Wolverine and the X-Men, which is about Wolverine running the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. There are a lot of cast members and a lot of stories being told, and one of them is about Toad. He’s definitely a supporting character, but I can tell he’s building towards something. Unfortunately, this is what he looks like:
He’s back to being short, he’s got very green skin, and you can even see he’s started wearing jester-like cuffs again. No reason has been given for this sudden change in appearance. It’s just happened. And it annoys me. Like I said up above, I understand the change in aesthetic. The movie was more than 10 years ago. He’s not bound to that look anymore. And considering all of the other good-looking mutants around (not that Toad was ever good looking), it simply makes sense for Toad to look like he used to again. He’s the janitor, and he’s being used for comedic relief. So an ugly Toad just works as part of the story.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
But then again, who knows, maybe it will grow on me. I have a lot of faith in whatever writer Jason Aaron has in store for Toad. Plus part of his look is based on artist interpretation. I’m probably just making a mountain out of a molehill. Yet I was able to write a big blog post about the finer points of Toad, and isn’t that what’s most important?