Image’s Scumbag is a Twisted Take on Marvel’s Strongest Avenger, the Sentry

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The Scumbag follows the worst man on Earth, Ernie Clementine, after he gets superpowers. In many ways, Ernie’s a warped version of Marvel’s Sentry.

In Rick Remender and Lewis Larosa’s Image Comics series The Scumbag, the protagonist Ernie Ray Clementine has some noticeable similarities to Marvel’s hero the Sentry. However, it is his differences that make him stand out, as Ernie may very well be the most pathetic, unlikable degenerate ever to get superpowers and save the world. While both of these characters have different arcs, they can perhaps best be understood by considering the two things they have in common. Both characters struggle with their addictions, and both got their powers out of a needle.

The Scumbag‘s logline summarizes the series’ premise: “The world’s fate rests with the worst person on it.” Ernie Ray Clementine is that person, a man who has dedicated his life to becoming total scum. His struggles are played for laughs as he is a man completely devoid of dignity, decency or common sense. The first issue opens in a rundown dive bar where Ernie hits on women half his age while trying desperately to gain access to both drugs and a public toilet. His “best friend” is actually just his drug dealer, Spanish Larry. After stealing cash from a Salvation Army donation bin to buy heroin, Ernie heads to the bathroom, but finds it closed. The scene cuts to him bent over with his pants down, shooting up heroin in the middle of a crowded street while simultaneously defecating on the sidewalk in front of children. Then he drops the needle, which rolls away, and he chases after it on all fours.

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The Scumbag by Rick Remender

Meanwhile, two rival spies fight in a nearby alley, battling over who will claim the formula maxima, a powerful nanotech drug that grants incredible superpowers. The formula maxima is also in a needle, and as it falls to the ground, Ernie seizes it and injects it straight into his veins, even as the spies simultaneously kill one another. There was only one sample of the formula maxima. Since Ernie took it, he is recruited to join the spy agency Central Authority to stop terrorists from bombing the city. However, Ernie hates people and is okay with them dying. In exchange for his help, he demands a flying sports car, a sentient sex-bot, and briefcase filled with drugs.

While the two characters are quite different, Sentry (whose real name is Robert Reynolds) does have some similarities to Ernie. Both men are reluctant heroes who have addictions (in Reynolds’s case, alcoholism) and difficulty socializing. Both also received their powers via injection. The Sentry’s abilities came from an exponentially stronger variant of the Super Soldier Serum, giving him the power of 10,000 suns and making him one of Marvel’s strongest heroes. It also released his own inner demons, which manifested as a separate entity called the Void (though the Void has changed dramatically over the years). Due to extreme trauma, Sentry developed severe anxiety, depression and agoraphobia, but he has been able to manage these with help.

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Sentry Serum

The Sentry does not like confrontation, but for all of his personal demons (both psychological and corporeal) he chooses to help others. He has been manipulated at times by people who became his handlers, notably by Norman Osborn who was placed in charge of the world’s security organization, H.A.M.M.E.R. He has also lost control and unleashed the Void on occasions, resulting in widespread devastation. However, Sentry has tried to use his powers for good.

By contrast, Ernie could not care less about people. After stopping the terrorist bomb threat on his first mission, he threw the bomb at the dive bar where he hangs out, killing every single person willing to tolerate his company. He hates authority of any kind, and seems motivated entirely by the pursuit of drugs, sex, money, and heavy metal music. In many ways, Ernie is a dark reflection of the Sentry who is ruled entirely by his inner demons. His work with Central Authority even mirrors Sentry’s time working for H.A.M.M.E.R. Thankfully, Sentry never demanded such over-the-top payments for his help. But there is another big difference between these two, as Ernie’s powers have a major catch: they only work if he is acting selflessly. This forces him to actively think about helping others. That said, while he has shown some reluctant growth, so far Ernie Clementine remains a total scumbag.

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