The story of that generic fighting guy in beat ’em ups who wore jeans and a white t-shirt

While we’re on the subject, behold this odd-ball story I penned for GamePro in 2007:

At the height of beat ’em up popularity, there existed one archetype character most publishers didn’t mind sharing. He was a slender, blond white male in his early twenties. His only attire was a lucid white t-shirt, skin-tight blue jeans, Chuck Taylors, and those fancy racing gloves presumably used to protect his knuckles while pummeling baddies.

His name: Cody… or Axel… or Hawk. No, he didn’t enjoy several aliases; he was just shamelessly recycled by some of the biggest game makers at the time. Here’s a profile of the top three offenders in all their infamy. 

Final Fight (1989)

Credit the invention of the genero-fighter dude to none other then Capcom. Cody Travers, as he was called, was even less distinct than a bowl of white rice. Though he was the first of our high-profile trio, he was hardly original. Like Billy Lee from Double Dragon before him, Cody’s girlfriend was randomly kidnapped by a gang of godless, marauding killing-machines. He would be the first of many characterless heroes to play the role of the guy with a balance of speed and power but zero specialization. As much information as we have on him, you would have expected Cody to don more original clothing, especially considering his ninja-approved fifth-degree black belt.

Streets of Rage (1991)

Soon after Final Fight made its name in beat ’em up history, Sega decided to follow with its own game in an effort to boost Genesis sales. The choice of leading characters was many that year, but the company decided to blatantly rip-off Capcom instead sparing one exception – Axel Stone sported a wife beater in lieu of the commonplace Hanes tee. Other than that, everything remained the same including the bodacious headband. But even though Axel looked identical to Cody, at least Sega didn’t repurpose the missing girlfriend storyline. That and Sega’s game would be remembered as one of the best, if not the best, beat ’em up of all-time.

Riot Zone (1993)

Hudson’s Riot Zone was as cookie-cutter as they came and far too little too late. Just listen to this riveting description at a time when fighting games had already begun to replace the once-beloved beat ’em up: “Your police team is corrupt. Take the law into your hands to save your girlfriend…” again! The person so daring to engage in such an impetuous act was a James Dean called Hawk. We don’t know his last name, but we do know his bruiser buddy went by Tony. How’s that for creativity? Hijack the name of the most well-known skater in history, and then bifurcate it.

Out of the 100+ beat ’em ups available, a dozen more Cody knock-offs are sure to exist. And let’s not forget others who bare a striking resemblance such as the Bad Dudes, Alex and Ryan from River City Ransom, and Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury.

Why all the greaser-esque characters? We may never know for sure, but one thing’s certain: they may be gone, but they are not forgotten.

Well, maybe a little.