You won’t find a Captain Nazi action figure in Toys ‘R’ Us, nor will you find a conveniently desk-sized Hate-Monger toy, and the last time you saw a serious Red Skull figure in stores was when Captain America: The First Avenger came out. Characters whose entire gimmick is based on hate make for great comic book punching bags, but they don’t really belong clutched in the sweaty hands of children, or even serving as talismans for the hateful. If a hate group can somehow claim ownership of an innocent cartoon frog, there’s really no limit to what they might do with the immortal, glowing spirit of Hitler, which is a real, in-canon thing. Captain America #47, 2001: Hitler’s weird reborn-clone is a being of pure energy, yet he decides to keep the ridiculous mustache. Poor choices all around, dude.
Bad guys who are defined by discrimination make for terrible toys. So, it’s strange that Mattel would dig deep into Wonder Woman’s history, which is replete with hundreds of weird and powerful villains, and make an action figure wave based around building Dr. Psycho, a little person whose entire deal is that he viciously hates women. Yes, Dr. Psycho has a pretty important place in Wonder Woman history; he first appeared in issue #5, and was created by Wonder Woman’s creator, a noted feminist. As a character, the hideous Dr. Psycho obviously represents the kind of emasculated, small man it takes to hate women as a gender, but that doesn’t make him easier to stomach.
Dr. Psycho reappears multiple times to harass Wonder Woman throughout her history, and compared to the main villain in issue #4, a racist Japanese caricature named General Blatsu who wanted to start a gender war with bioengineered gnats, Doctor Psycho doesn’t look so bad.
Except he is. He’s horrible. He’s just a garbage human being who focuses most of his crimes on women, at least early on, simply because they’re women. He’s the original incel. He’s the cartoonish mascot for every dude who believes that he’s owed something by a woman because he exists. And he’s right there, on the shelf of your local toy store. Why not Doctor Psycho’s twin brother, Ironsides, and a build-a-robot? Maybe some of those wacky corn people?
It’s a weird choice for a character to turn into a toy… unless you consider that Dr. Psycho is a character in the still-in-production, for-adults Harley Quinn animated series, where he’s reviled by heroes and villains alike for dropping a c-bomb on Wonder Woman in the middle of a fight. Which, to be honest, is a pretty hilarious turn for the character.
Dr. Psycho’s inclusion becomes even weirder when you see exactly who he’s packaged with: Wonder Woman, as interpreted by Frank Miller, a comic creator who is notoriously poor at writing female characters. He made sure Catwoman was rewritten as a prostitute. His cover drawings of Wonder Woman focus entirely on her butt. And his female characters who aren’t prostitutes are all violently murdered. And maybe one of every hundred drawings of his looks like he actually put in some effort, and most of those aren’t on covers.
His issues, and the ways that he infuses them into his work, don’t end there, but it’s his right as an artist to do so, especially when his one and only genre seems to be making other genres a kind of tone-deaf pulpy. When he introduces Wonder Woman in the pages of the problematically-titled Dark Knight Returns: The Master Race, the very first thing she does after beating up a monster is to expose herself. One might argue that it’s to feed a baby, but the more realistic argument is that Miller just wanted Diana to whip one out for his enjoyment. Why else draw it so clearly?
It becomes a weird, half-buried problem when Mattel blindly packages an action figure of a man who hates women with another action figure designed by a man who’s been accused of hating women. The question is always whether it’s coincidence, or context. And why not those corn people?
Charitably, Wonder Woman’s action figure has, at the very least, a few bra straps drawn on, which the comics themselves can’t decide on between panels. Of course, Frank Miller is also a guy who can’t figure out how to draw a swastika and has his colorist just cover for him.
The biggest question is why we give either of these guys. Dr. Psycho or his real-life counterpart in Miller, the time of day. There’s no such thing as tenure at DC Comics, but just like a Liefeld, he sticks around and keeps on getting work. Miller’s abject disregard for good taste, coherence, and bodily proportions aside rests in a pretty solid tradition of horrible mainstream comics. A vast proportion of major label stories are just not good, and that leaves plenty of room for a familiar name whose talent has basically run out.
Is it iconic? Sure, it made a big difference at one point in time.
That doesn’t mean it’s even kind of good.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.