A Guide to the Baron's Favorite Fictional Characters (SPOILERS)

(Hamlet of Earth-1948)

Real name: Hamlet, son of Hamlet

Aliases/Other Names: None,.

First Appearance: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Occupations: Prince of Denmark, student, avenger

Bases of Operations: Elsinore Castle, the University of Wittenberg

Place of Birth: Elsinore Castle, Denmark

Group Affiliation: Royal House of Denmark

Friends/Allies: Horatio, Marcellus, Barnardo

Enemies: Claudius, Polonius, Laertes

Height: Varies*

Weight: Varies*

Eye Color: Varies*

Hair Color: Varies*

Strength: Above average human

Speed: Above average human

Intelligence: Genius level human

Energy-Manipulation Ability: None

Magic-Manipulation Ability: None

Special Abilities: Excellent swordsman, skilled forger, gifted actor

Special Weapons/Equipment: None.

History: Hearing of his father's death, Prince Hamlet of Denmark returns home from Wittenberg, only to find that his uncle Claudius has assumed the throne and married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. Already suspicious, Hamlet is visited by a spirit purporting to be that of his father, which asserts that the elder Hamlet was murdered by Claudius. Feigning madness, Prince Hamlet, with his friend Horatio's help, schemes to trap Claudius into a public admission of guilt, which would allow Hamlet to avenge his father and assume the throne of Denmark. Claudius, aware of the threat that Hamlet poses to him, plots to find a way to eliminate Hamlet. Thus begins a game of trap and counter-trap, resulting in the deaths of almost everyone involved, leaving only Horatio behind to watch as young Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, assumes the throne of Denmark.

Why He's a Favorite: Hamlet is the protagonist of my favorite Shakespeare play. I own eight different versions of the play of on DVD, and I enjoy watching them all.  there's just something that I find enthralling about the play, and it's always interesting to see how various actors interpret the part, and how different directors choose to film the story. I enjoy the cat and mouse between Hamlet and Claudius, and Hamlet's interaction with the not-as-clever-as-he-thinks-he-is Polonius. I find it interesting that the only character who seems to be able to match Hamlet's at wordplay is the First Gravedigger. Anyway, you can find way more of what I think about Hamlet here.

*Depending upon who's playing him

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Real Name: Kamala Khan

Aliases/Other Names: Ms. Marvel

First Appearance: Captain Marvel #14 (September 2013)

Occupations: Student, Super-hero

Base of Operations: Jersey City, New Jersey

Place of Birth: Jersey City, New Jersey

Group Affiliation: The Avengers*

Friends/Allies: Bruno Carrelli, Medusa, Lockjaw

Enemies: The Inventor

Height: 5'4"

Weight: Unknown

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Brown

Strength: Average human

Speed: Average human

Intelligence: Above average human

Energy-Manipulation Ability: None

Magic-Manipulation Ability: None

Special Abilities: Can morph her body into a variety of shapes.  Also has an accelerated healing factor, but use of this interferes with her other powers.

Special Equipment/Weapons: None

History: Exposure to the Terrigen Mist caused Kamala to manifest super-powers. She decided to become a super-hero, taking the name "Ms. Marvel" in honor of the original, Carol Danvers.

Why She's a Favorite:  Kamala's my favorite new Marvel character in a long time.  She really re-captures something that Marvel has done really well in the past, the kid hero who has to balance super-heroing against the needs and struggles of quotidian life. She a charming, fun kid to read about, and she's got an interesting supporting cast.  Plus, the fact that she is a Moslem of Pakistani descent means that through the book's exploration of her relationship with her family,I get to learn a little bit about a culture that I know next to nothing about.  Who says comics aren't educational?

*Well, she'll be joining soon.

Sorry to nitpick:

Although "Moslem" was used widely in English until recently, "Muslim" is the preferred term among Muslims and people who work/live around Muslims. They are variant spellings of the same translated word, but the earlier term apparently sounds very different to Arabic speakers.

Interesting. Had never heard that.

Where I worked the last 20 years had a significant Arabic-Muslim population. I also have a sister-in-law who grew up in a predominantly Islamic country. So this really is one time where spelling counts, though older English texts of course use the "Moslem" spelling, and people generally seem to understand its use wasn't intended to be offensive.

The Baron said:

Interesting. Had never heard that.

Real Name: Lieutenant Frank Columbo*

Aliases/Other Names: None

First Appearance:  Prescription: Murder (1968), sort of**

Occupation: Police Homicide Detective

Base of Operations: Los Angeles

Place of Birth: New York City

Group Affiliation: Los Angeles Police Department

Friends/Allies: Various***

Enemies: Various

Height: 5'6"

Weight: Unknown

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Dark brown

Strength: Average human

Speed: Average human

Intelligence Above average human

Energy-Manipulation Ability: None

Magic-Manipulation Ability: None

Special Abilities: Columbo is an expert detective, with boundless determination and a razor-sharp mind.

Special Equipment/Weapons: None

History: (Note: Columbo was known to occasionally fabricate personal details in order to thin order to put someone off their guard when he was questioning them. What follows is what he generally seems to have held to.)  Columbo was born and raised in New York City. He served in the Army during the Korean War, and then joined the NYPD, being assigned to the Twelfth Precinct.**** In 1958, he moved to Los Angeles at his cousin's urging, and joined the LAPD. Eventually he became a homicide detective, and rose to the rank of lieutenant. 

Why He's a Favorite:  I first saw Columbo when it was part of the Sunday night NBC Mystery Movie in rotation with McCloudMcMillan & Wife, and others. The episodes with Columbo were always my favorites.  I liked the character for the way he hid his intelligence and skills behind his amiable, disheveled exterior.  Falk really played the part well. I understand that he got it after Lee J. Cobb and Bing Crosby turned it down. No offense to those gentlemen, but I just can't imagine anyone else playing the part. Falk mad ethe part believable.His stories had an interesting format, too. The viewer would be shown the murder up front, so that the story was not "Who done it?", but "How will Columbo figure out and prove who done it?"  That made the show unlike any other detective story that I knew of at the time.
In fact, the one character I can think of that was similar to Columbo was Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor in Doctor Who.  Both Columbo and the Seocnd Doctor hid a keen intelligence behind a disheveled exterior and a disarming, occasionally clownish manner.

*Columbo's first name was, to my knowledge, never spoken aloud in any of the stories.  However, in my research for this entry, I found that in the episode  "Dead Weight" , Columbo's ID card shows his first name to be "Frank".

You may see some sources that give his first name as "Philip". This is apparently false, at least according to this story here.

**This is the first appearance of Peter Falk in the role.  Form what I have read, Columbo first appeared in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, played by Bert Freed.  In 1962, "Prescription: Murder" became a stage play, starring Thomas Mitchell.

***While I eagerly await the Commander's correction, I don't recall Columbo ever having much of a regular supporting cast.

****I wonder if he met a young Barney Miller?

There was a wannabe sidekick in one episode that kept finding and bringing him a new coat that he didn't want and was trying to get rid of.

An attempt was made to give his wife her own show, ignoring the fact she was nothing like the character he described over the years. They eventually removed any mention of their relationship after a lot of complaints she couldn't be his wife came in, including I believe from Peter Falk himself.

Falk never used a first name for his character, only referring to him as "Lieutenant". I think as far as he was concerned Columbo didn't have a last name.

He tried to make one last episode in 2007 but the network turned it down.

Oh, uh, one more thing:

"Hey, perfessor! Where are you?"

"Behind the rock!"

"Behind which rock?" (Trips over the professor.)

"This rock, you idiot!"

Yeah, I remember Mrs. Columbo, now that you mention it. As I recall, it starred Kate Mulgrew, who later went on to play Mrs. Picard Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager. She's a fine actress, but the show just didn't work.

If Lee J. Cobb or Bing Crosby had done it, they probably would have only made Prescription: Murder. In which case it would have probably been decided that Peter Falk was too different from either of them to be believable in that part.

I've never noticed the similarity to Troughton's Doctor. That's a sharp comparison.

I think if anyone other than Peter Falk had done it, it would have disappeared like the other "mystery wheel" shows.

We are currently watching it from the beginning on Netflix.

Ron M. said:

If Lee J. Cobb or Bing Crosby had done it, they probably would have only made Prescription: Murder. In which case it would have probably been decided that Peter Falk was too different from either of them to be believable in that part.

Mrs. Columbo was wholly a creation of the network, done without the permission or participation of producers William Link and Richard Levinson or star Peter Falk, who all were against a spinoff, actively argued against it and bitterly complained about it after it was launched. That said, had Mrs. Columbo instead been, oh, Mrs. Jones, the show itself might have fared better.

As it was, the show really wasn't much different than Murder, She Wrote, which came years later, featuring the adventures of a busybody who finds herself solving crimes.* The Columbo tie was weakened pretty quickly, with the show being renamed Kate Columbo, Kate the Detective and Kate Loves a Mystery -- and Kate getting a divorce from her off-screen husband and going back to her maiden name Kate Callahan -- before being canceled with its 13th episode.

* Ed McBain, writer of the 87th Precinct series of police procedural novels, often held that he wrote about police detectives because nobody else has any business going around solving murders -- not burglars who moonlight as bookstore owners (The Burglar Who ... series), or doctors (Diagnosis: Murder), or little old ladies (Miss Marple), or know-it-all dilletantes (one lives at 221B Baker Street in London, another is from Belgium), or mystery writers (Murder, She Wrote), or housewives (Compromising Positions) or anybody who doesn't have a gun and a badge and isn't a sworn member of a police agency.

By the way, McBain reworked a couple of his 87th Precinct tales into Columbo episodes when the show was revived in the late '80s/early '90s for ABC.

But nobody will watch guys taking pictures of cheating husbands to give to their wives so they can get more alimony, which is what private detectives usually do in real life. Thirteen episodes of that would get pretty dull.

That's why superheroes have secret identities. They're not afraid of their enemies coming after them, they're afraid of getting arrested for being vigilantes.

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