ARGH (Our) Top 10 Favorite Pirates
Ahoy! Aaaargh! argh argh argh argh RUM me matey’s argh argh Walk the plank with ya! argh argh argh argh landlubber n’ wot ye swashbuckled git argh argh argh argh n’ I’ll feed ye to the fishies n’ argh argh argh avast me left hand’s a hook but I sail the seven seas argh argh argh (more rum) argh ARGH!
TRANSLATION: In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here’s a list of 10 our favorite pirates. Argh.
1. CAPTAIN HOOK: Ah, yes. The scourge of Neverland, thus affirming the popular that all grownups are in fact evil pirates. Also known as “Black Stache,” the man we know as Captain James T. Hook (although even that is not his real name) is believed to have been a shipmate of the famous pirate Blackbeard, as well as the only man that Long John Silver himself ever feared. As for what brought him to Neverland in the first place, we may never know for certain, although storytellers have dared to reveal their own theories of this deep, dark secret.
Hook is perhaps the most iconic of the hook-handed pirates, having lost his right appendage in a swordfight with that rascally Peter Pan. In the true fashion of a deadly pirate, Hook fears only two things in the entire world: the crocodile that ate his severed hand, and the sight of his own blood.
2. LONG JOHN SILVER: The progenitor of all things that we have come to associate with pirates, despite the fact that he was merely the quartermaster, the man responsible for leading the boarding party onto the ships of their victims, and not a Captain of his own ship. With a prosthetic pegleg on his left side and a fast-talking parrot named Captain Flint (after the actual Captain of the ship, because he was such an intimidating figure that even his own boss was scared of him), the depiction of Long John Silver in Treasure Island set the bar for all fictional pirates to come.
His moral ambiguity, mutable allegiances, and strange sense of honor among thieves made him an intriguing and likeable rogue. Plus he has his own fast food chain, which is pretty much the most badass thing that any pirate has ever done.
3. THE SEA CAPTAIN FROM TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER: Because in a world with actual superheroes it wouldn’t make sense for anyone to read superhero comic books, people in the world of Alan Moore’s Watchmen read pirate comic books instead. Through the course of the series, there is a young boy sitting by a newsstand on the street and reading a comic book called Tales of the Black Freighter, and the panels and narration from that comic book end up being intertwined with the panels and narration from the Watchmen comic book that you’re reading because, metafictional parallel narrative devices I guess. Is that a good reason?
Tales of the Black Freighter tells the story of a man known only as the mariner or the Sea Captain who is the last serving member of his shipwrecked crew. He sees the ominous, evil The Black Freighter pirate ship approaching in the distance, and tries desperately to return to his home before the ship attacks and destroys his family. Not to give too much, but the story ultimately serves as a parallel to the story of Watchmen as a whole, and one character’s journey in particular. But this is not happy drunk pirates; this is dark, scary, evil pirates who do horrible, horrible things (let’s just say the story starts with someone building a raft out of the dead, bloated, waterlogged bodies of his former crewmates, and it goes from there).
4. ONE-EYED WILLIE: Not much is known about the life and career of the man known as One-Eyed Willie, but the fact that he was somehow able to navigate his ship Inferno into a cave off the coast of Oregon (what was he doing in Oregon of all places?) is an impressive enough feat to earn him a spot on this list. Willie was also a master at building incredibly elaborate traps to protect his treasures, although he still displayed that iconic pirate hubris by creating a map that would allow others to find his treasure in the first place. Of course, it took nearly 300 years for anyone to successfully navigate through his deadly catacombs and actually find his treasure, but that just goes to show that the Goonies R’ Good Enough.
Before the Goonies came along, the only legacy to One-Eyed Willie’s ingenuity and pirate-y-ness was a derelict restaurant built above his final resting place, but eventually he would be remembered as the man who saved the “Goon Docks” from being overtaken by the Astoria club, and memorialized with the greatest honor: he was named “First Goonie,” a title bestowed upon him by the Goonies’ asthmatic de facto leader, Mikey Walsh.
5. CAPTAIN MORGAN: Captain Henry Morgan was one of the most successful privateers in history, having made a great deal of wealth for himself and his crew by serving as mercenaries for the British Empire and the Royal Navy, namely in the Caribbean. More importantly, he is a delicious spiced rum. In true pirate fashion, his life was full of mystery and intrigue (as well as adventure); there is virtually no record of his existence until 1655, when he was believed to have been about 20 years old.
As a rum, he was first produced in 1944. He later served as Acting Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, and it is believed that he died of liver failure due to his heavy drinking, so I suppose naming a popular brand of alcohol after him is either incredibly fitting, or incredibly insensitive. Or both. He also mixes quite well with cola (the rum, I mean, not the person).
6. CAPTAIN CROOK: The perpetually curmudgeonly brigand from McDonaldLand, with a strong affinity for McDonald’s Filet-of-Fish sandwiches. Captain Crook never truly smiled until he tasted a McDonald’s hamburger (even though we never actually saw him smile, because the character wore a big creepy rubber mask that that didn’t move, but still, we were told he smiled by Ronald McDonald himself, and if you can’t trust Ronald McDonald, who can you trust?). He was a known associate of the Hamburglar, and often served as his unofficial translator.
Sadly, Captain Crook was phased out of the McDonald’s marketing line in the mid-80s, and has not been seen since. Rumor has it that he has spent the intervening years sailing the seven seas in search of the secret to McDonald’s Special Sauce.
7. CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW: While Long John Silver might be responsible for the iconic imagery of fictional pirates, most modern perceptions have been associated with and inspired by Johnny Depp’s infamous portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. A rockstar of the Seven Seas, Captain Sparrow tends to rely more on his wits than his fists, a fact which has probably saved his life just as often as it’s gotten him into more trouble.
He is flamboyant, charismatic, and almost cartoonish, with unique sense of honor and goodness despite his many years plundering without prejudice. I mean, so pretty much he’s just Johnny Depp in a pirate costume, which is still enough to make him awesome.
8. CORSAIR: You know what’s cooler than pirates? Pirates in space! Though hardly the first space pirate, Corsair and his Starjammers still remain some of the best. The father of founding X-Man Cyclops and his brother Havok, Major Christopher Summers was abducted by aliens called the Shi’ar who murdered his wife and tossed him into their slave pits. He eventually escaped alongside several other alien prisoners and stole a starship, dubbed The Starjammer.
Taking the name Corsair, he and his fellow Starjammers took to the stars, hijacking and stealing from the ships of corrupt alien forces — and occasionally lending a helping hand to the X-Men. He also started up a romance with a sexy skunk-like (but in like, a sexy way) alien named Hepzibah, making him the only one on this list to have sexual relations with an extraterrestrial being, which I think earns him a spot if nothing else does.
The Crimson Permanent Assurance 1983 by Terry Gilliam from memorialist on Vimeo.
9. CRIMSON PERMANENT ASSURANCE: Despite having first appeared in 1983, the Crimson Permanent Assurance are truly a pirate band for the modern day. Consisting of a group of accountants whose jobs, security, and general well-being have all been endangered by the evil Very Big Corporation of America, the Crimson Permanent Assurance rebel against their supervisors, turning their office building into a giant floating pirate ship-building-hybrid thingie and attacking the Very Big Corporation of America who has ruined their lives. They assault and ransack the skyscraper headquarters, literally battling their way into the corporate boardroom and fighting CEOs with filing cabinets and other office supplies. And then they turn into cartoons and sail off the edge of the world.
10. CAPTAIN NEMO: Pirates aren’t generally renowned for their intelligence, since it doesn’t require an extensive education to raise a sail and rape and village some small villages, but Prince Dakkar, the man more known as Captain Nemo, is hardly your typical pirate. Armed with a fierce hatred of Imperialism and an all-consuming thirst for vengeance, Captain Nemo took to the seas in a submersible feat of nautical engineering known as The Nautilus to battle injustice and oppression across the Seven Seas (man, I love that phrase). Unlike many pirates, he cares for little for treasure or material desires, other than those that originate under the sea. He is an honorable leader, with deep concern for his crew, and welcomes castaways and others who hold the same disdain for the civilizations of land as he does. Besides, how many other pirates do you know from India?
Thom Dunn is a writer, musician and comic book fan. Follow him on Twitter (@thomdunn) and visit his blog at thomdunn.net.