A ‘weirdness magnet’ is a storytelling device used to explain the draw of interesting characters or events towards a person or a fixed location so they/it can have adventures exploring the strange and unusual. In the medium of comics (the superhero genre in particular) where flying men, ancient gods and English-speaking space aliens are already commonplace, anything considered ‘weird’ must mean that the goings on are weird in an “all caps” kind of way. These weirdness magnets are also often used as licenses for comic creators to bring out the best of their imaginations to create new worlds within worlds that leave an impression on their readers.
First Appearance: Xombi #0 (1994)
Primed to make a return to comics after more than a decade, David Kim (aka Xombi) was granted practical invulnerability and immortality when a lab accident results in him being infected by nanites that continually regenerate his body. An unexpected side effect of his transition from man to techno-lich is that strange and supernatural events and people are drawn to him, such as the characters seen in his previous series: the clairvoyant catholic Nun of the Above and the brother/sister assassin duo Manuel and Manuela Dexterity.
First Appearance: Showcase #34 (1961)
Ivy Town is home to the Ivy University, one of the most prestigious schools of higher learning in the DC Universe. The school was also the home of physics professor Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) whose groundbreaking research into miniaturization allowed him to embark on a second career in super-heroics. Unbeknownst to Professor Palmer, his experiments had an unexpected effect on Ivy Town, weakening its connection to ‘reality’ and drawing to it chaotic forces that would plague new physics professor Ryan Choi. Ryan dons Ray’s size changing belt and becomes the new Atom to protect Ivy Town from Cancer Gods, a race of alien conquerors living in the fur of the town’s canine population, time-displaced puritans and zombie hippies. Unfortunately, Ryan would later be unceremoniously assassinated, leaving ivy Town unlikely to show up again any time soon.
First Appearance: Strange Tales #110 (1963)
Arrogant but brilliant neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange survives a career ending car accident but manages to reinvent himself as a powerful sorcerer charged with defending the Earth and its home dimension against a seemingly infinite variety of supernatural threats. Operating primarily from New York’s fashionable Greenwich Village district, his home, known as the Sanctum Sanctorum, contains a vast amount of arcane knowledge and mystical artifacts of great power. The brownstone building also sits upon a magical nexus point, making it a drawing point for forces both malevolent and mischievous.
First Appearance: Batman #4 (1940)
The classic argument surrounding Batman and his rogue’s gallery heavy bend toward individuals possessing psychological imbalances is whether or not they would even exist if not for the dynamic, intimidating presence of Batman, a man for whom psychology is a weapon in his arsenal. A rarely made argument in this discussion is effect that the notoriously gloomy, gothic metropolis might have on its populace. As described by an outside observer in Warren Ellis’ Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth, Gotham City is as “Old as New York, founded on the east coast and originally designed by English masons on opium…exacerbated by absinthe-fiend local architects in the twenties, basically not suitable for human habitation.” Villains like the Joker, Two Face and the Ventriloquist may have their conditions exasperated by the terrifyingly compelling Dark Knight, but maybe it could have been their surroundings instead? Call it a case of going crazy in a madhouse: it can happen, but who would notice?
Comic-Con International: San Diego
First Appearance: San Diego, CA (1970)
Once a year, if you can get a ticket, you can experience the weakening of the boundaries between the real world and an infinite number of fictional worlds. Growing in forty years from a small hotel’s convention room to overfilling one of the largest indoor spaces in the world, Comic-Con International: San Diego is a gathering of the creators and the fans of almost every creative property in the world. Generally peaceful, it attracts a crowd of cosplaying exhibitionists, free-huggers and various levels of celebrities looking for attention all jammed together, juxtaposing comic book worlds with the alien planets of sci-fi movies and supernatural monsters of popular literature.