Illuminations
Page 13 of 14

Return of the Cybernauts
by Jonathan Woods

Who the hell is this BENSON guy? Paul Beresford is easy to decipher (more on him later), but BENSON is a much more insidiously dispassionate evildoer, one who keeps his cards cannily close to his vest. First off, he never looks all that happy to be in the trenches doing evil. Why does he keep showing up? With all his knowledge of cybernetics, there must be a very rewarding career awaiting him elsewhere in weapons development and/or the private sector—but no, he chooses to hang out with the wrong crowd and to very little fanfare. This mystery is particularly incidental in television, where characters are underdeveloped because nobody cares and "underdeveloped" is a word overused by armchair intellectuals whose sexual experience might be characterized by the same term. The Avengers, though, is uniquely sophisticated in its use of supporting characters, and BENSON possesses far greater meaning than is suggested by his limited airtime.

BENSON is, in fact, the jellified soul of the Cybernauts, the essence to them that is not hard and indestructible and that does remember every insult and has no discreet outlet to express rage. He is one of the anonymous millions with private dreams that dwell not on being popular or committing acts of high altruism, but on possessing raw power without consequence, accompanied by a potential for idle cruelty. Instead of finding a nice bell tower where he can eat lunch before firing a rifle at passersby, BENSON focuses his rage and boredom and ego into a man of bulletproof metal that hollowly kills while protecting his master's anonymity.

Still, does BENSON have anything to do with the construction or design of the Cybernauts, or is he merely the technical lackey to his deceased mentor, Dr. Armstrong? Perhaps he is the Harley Earl of cybernetic design, adding unseen tail fins or some other signature touch he can call his own. His mystery does not end there. More like Charles Whitman, whose August first '66 crimes as observation deck sniper embody our fears of the madness that can lurk under a veil of sanity, BENSON hides within his pressurized skull all of his motives minus those acts that plainly demonstrate that he is not a nice man.

Paul Beresford, on the other hand, is The Devil. He clues us in to this fact with his Marcel Duchamp abstract self-portrait/demon bust—but Emma, sharing the sentiments of so many women, finds the hint of danger attractive. And like The Devil, Beresford commits his acts of evil through the greed, treachery and weakness of others (watch how quickly he unearths the scientific ruthlessness of Professor Chadwick, who gets a delicious kick out of being bad). Those he cannot corrupt, he kills or enslaves, taking away their free will while perverting their bodies. His revenge motive is serviceable, but he is much more directly enthusiastic about hurting people, and he is a natural in the art of deception. Nobody knows where he came from. And he definitely knows that when evil is to be done, BENSON is good to go.

Illustrations Copyright 2001 Jonathan Woods. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in any form is strictly prohibited.

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This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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