(Metagame Archive) Risk Vs. Reward: Secret Origins of Janky Jesters

By Rian Fike

The fickle finger of fate twists wicked swirls into the character of comic book culture. The story of Harley Quinn is one of the most twisted examples ever. Since Harley helped hoist her Arkham Inmates team up to their first $10K championship in Brisbane last week, I think it’s time that you knew where she came from.

Harley Quinn was born in a soap opera. Arleen Sorkin was playing the role of Calliope Jones in the ever-popular Days of Our Lives. Calliope Jones was a quirky, mischievous girl, and one night she had a dream on the show. In her dream, she was dressed as a jester. Paul Dini was a real-life close friend of Arleen’s and a big fan of her work. He was also writing the script for the upcoming Batman: The Animated Series, which was about to debut in the fall of 1992. Paul put two and two together and created Harley Quinn as an homage to his good friend and her spunky soap opera character. The rest is Harley history.

 

Harley Quinn is hot, and she has been since her first appearance on television. She wore a police uniform with a miniskirt throughout most of her debut episode, but then she changed into the jester outfit and never looked back. As the perfect sidekick for The Joker, our killer little co-ed clown made the jump to official DC Comics canon almost immediately. In two short years, the character who was born in a real soap opera dream was winning both the Eisner and Harvey awards as the best comic of 1994.

 

Her solo myths have turned out to be some of the most enjoyable continuing series in the industry. Harley began her pulp version as an honor student intern at the Arkham Asylum. Upon observing the patient known as The Joker, she fell truly madly deeply in love. She began spending more time with him, and they formed an alliance that has endured to this day. Harley Quinn also became best of friends with Poison Ivy. The two have been partners in crime through thick and thin, and their relationship has caused quite a commotion; there are rumors swirling everywhere about a possible romance. DC Comics fuelled the speculation by allowing them to appear in bed together. Vs. System might actually have proven the deep connection between the two vile vixens, and Alex Antonios has a $10K trophy as evidence.

 

Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose may turn out to be one of the most powerful characters in the game. The ability to fetch any location and recycle redundant resources is almost as pretty as the girl herself. Anthony Macali saw the poisonous potential immediately and began developing a deck that could abuse the Lost City / Avalon Space Station interaction in a way we had never experienced.

Anthony is an editor of VsParadise.com in Australia and he is responsible for the most brilliant Fantasy Card Competitions. His deck keys on Poison Ivy’s green thumb, and it adds the awesome untapped potential of those wackiest of Arkham weenies, Harley Quinn and The Mad Hatter. Anthony just barely missed making Top 8 with his deck at $10K Sydney in January, and he finished 26th with the Arkham Brotherhood concoction at $10K Auckland two months ago. For $10K Brisbane, expecting a heavy environment of Titans and G’Lock, he abandoned his deck and played Andrew Corny’s Underground Sentinels instead. That decision was the final straw that broke the curse; Arkham Inmates finally won a championship!

Alex Antonios re-tooled the deck a bit, and he had more than enough play skill to achieve the unthinkable. Using Anne-Marie Cortez to shut down key plot twists while adding Adam Strange, Champion of Rann and Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster as single-copy representatives of the newly legal Infinite Crisis set, the seventeen-year-old former Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG champion got a little crazy with the history of Vs. System.

Alex Antonios

$10K Brisbane Champion

Characters
4 Harley Quinn
4 Mastermind, Jason Wyngarde
1 Mr. Mxyzptlk, Troublesome Trickster
1 Mikado and Mosha
4 Mad Hatter
4 Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose
1 Commissioner Gordon, James Gordon
1 Adam Strange, Champion of Rann
4 Mammomax
1 Rogue, Anna Raven
3 Blob, Fred Dukes
4 Anne-Marie Cortez
1 Magneto, Eric Lehnsherr
1 Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff

Plot Twists
4 Straight to the Grave
4 Enemy of my Enemy
4 Ka-Boom!

Locations
4 Avalon Space Station
3 Slaughter Swamp
2 Lost City
3 Metropolis
2 Genosha

The spectacular coverage of this event was a trip. $10K Brisbane was Golden Age and it was “anything goes.” Since a large section of the community was focused intently on Pro Circuit San Francisco and its first-ever Silver Age environment, the metagame in the land down under became a full-on funhouse. It was only natural that Harley Quinn came out on top.

Harley Quinn has been near and dear to me since the first-ever Pro Circuit in Indianapolis in 2004. We drafted DC Origins on Day 2, and I had two copies of her in each of my three decks. She helped me laugh my way to a $1,900 reward. Her power-up ability is one of the most underrated Vs. System powers, and when she gets to run roughshod through a Lost City in the Slaughter Swamp on her way to the Avalon Space Station, she is truly insane.

 

The deck that Alex Antonios won the trophy with is a skill player’s dream. Using a double complement of card searchers (Straight to the Grave and Enemy of My Enemy), Poison Ivy, Deadly Rose turns the resource row into a bright green toolbox of recursion toys. Adding Lost City to Harley Quinn with a Metropolis allows any character whatsoever to become the big beatstick finisher. With fashion and flair, The Mad Hatter outfits us with the ability to KO the opponent’s own characters to fuel Ivy’s fertile tricks. The crazy combo potential in this strategy looks kooky enough on paper—watching it in action on the top level can flip your wig.

On his way to the crown, Alex was seen confiscating Kyle Rayner, Last Green Lantern left and right. The Mad Hatter giggles maniacally as he feeds Poison Ivy with people from the other side of the table. This psychotic tea party can even Arkham its way out of Child Lock. To add insult to injury, Alex Antonios won a key match via Lost City pumping The Mad Hatter seven times for the win. That’s what I call a nervous breakdown.

The metagame breakdown of the Top 8 at $10K Brisbane did not approach anything close to sanity. Eight completely different archetypes met on Day 2 and none of them were Teen Titans or Squadron Supreme. It was a bizarre and beautiful thing, and when the psychedelic dust settled, this was the order of finish:

  1. Arkham / Brotherhood
  2. G’Lock / Diabolic Genius: “Gloom”
  3. Shadowpact / Fate Artifacts / control: “SPC”
  4. X-Stall ala Donkey Club
  5. Avengers reservist toolbox with Grodd
  6. Ten Teams Child Lock
  7. Rigged Elections
  8. High Voltage burn

 

I said it before and I’ll say it again: only a character kooky enough to have been born in a dream inside a soap opera could claim victory in a tournament like that. Harley Quinn, however, is not the only myth in Vs. System that was formed within a whirlpool of freakish fortune. Xallarap, I’m looking at you.

 

The origin of the Xallarap mythos is a very special case of smiling fate. In 2001, Rome Maynard was creating fabulous fan-based websites full of wonder and wackiness. His favorite tales revolved around the Green Lantern Corps. When he finished his adoration of the ring-bearing superheroes, he decided to turn his talents toward Qward. Xallarap was born.

Here is the historical account of our beloved, big, pink, fan-created lug by its author, Rome Maynard:

To begin with, I created the website Emor’s Obsidian Universe as a sister site to my Green Lantern website, Rome’s Emerald Universe. I wanted to focus on the Anti-Green Lantern Corps from “Green Lantern” issue #150. I loved the concept of the Anti-Green Lantern Corps. It was a concept that made sense, and I think DC could have made them a continuing problem for Hal Jordan and the rest of the GLC to deal with.

 

Xallarap was born from the idea that the Anti-Matter Universe of Qward would be well served with an evil equivalent to Hal Jordan. Xallarap was the name that came to mind. I manufactured an image of the character and a history. Like Hal Jordan, he had a major crisis later in his career that forced him to change into something he never intended. For Hal, he became Parallax. For Xallarap, he became a force for good—something that runs counter to the value system of Qwardians everywhere since they relish evil. It is no coincidence that Xallarap is Parallax spelled in reverse. Basically, what happened to Hal happened to Xallarap, but to the opposite extreme.


I never realized until later that Xallarap had been published as a game card until I did an Internet search and discovered someone had created “micro hero” images of Xallarap, as well as two other characters I created, Kyll Ranyer and Onyxx. That connection led me to discover the card!

 

Needless to say, it felt good to see that someone took my idea seriously. I have received emails stating that people were searching for the comics these characters came from; I have to inform them that I just made it up! It feels good to know that I have contributed something to the Green Lantern mythos.

 

Rome’s contribution has not only expanded the Green Lantern mythos in ways it would have never otherwise seen, but Xallarap also forms one of the keystones for a very successful Vs. System strategy. As I type this article, Pro Circuit San Francisco is still ninety-six hours away. By the time you read this, it will be over. Will Xallarap have contributed to a bigger money-winning finish than Nian Perion’s 4th place at $10K San Francisco? Will an Anti-Green Lantern deck actually have made it through the Draft portion of the tournament and into Day 3? Only time will tell. I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed. Especially the fickle finger of fate.

Rian Fike is also known as stubarnes, and the metagame in Australia has him pining for koala bears and Tasmanian devils. Send travel plans to rianfike@hattch.com.

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