On My Planet, The “S” Stands For “Sucky”
Earlier this week, we discussed how nostalgia for the superhero comics of ’60s and ’70s, on the basis that the Big Two were creating more original characters and taking more risks, is misguided not because it’s false on its face, but because the original characters being created were fucking ridiculous. Today and tomorrow, we’ll duck back into the Geek Index to revisit some Marvel creations of that era, in hopes of dashing your childhood memories and ruining your lives. It’s what we do here, and you hardly have to pay us for it.
THE FACELESS ONE. The ’70s Faceless One, that is, not to be confused with the alien Faceless Ones from the ’60s, although not having a face is their shared quality. Here’s my favorite thing about this story, which somehow didn’t make it into the Netflix series: Dr. Doom once hired Luke Cage to track down some rebellious Doombots who had fled to New York. The fee was $200, but Doom stiffed him, so Power Man heads off to Latveria to collect. I can never decide what’s the most insane aspect of this story: that Dr. Doom, one of the most powerful men on Earth, would hire a dopey ex-con to do his work for him; that Luke Cage would agree to track down four highly dangerous killer robots for less money than he could have made in a month working at Burger King; that Doom would screw a guy out of such a pittance, even though he runs his own country and could probably spare it; or that Cage would go all the way to Eastern Europe to get the money back, even thought the air fare alone would certainly have cost him more than two hundred bucks.
FATHER DARKLYTE. Oh, boy. This Son of Satan villain is proof that someone — I was sure it was was Steve Englehart, but the internet tells me it was Steve Gerber — was heavily sidemousing the bong back in ’75. Aside from the trippy day-glo Sabbath poster name, the guy is described as “the cold in the midst of flame, the air in the midst of vacuum, the absurd in the midst of causality and the causality in the midst of the absurd” and was on a mission to “bring you soothing agitation” and “impart to you the wisdom of ignorance”. When he was defeated, his magic lantern broke open and an army of cockroaches poured out. Heavy.
GIANT-MAN. Created back in the day when every single black character was obligated to be called “Black (Something)”, in case we didn’t notice they were black, Bill Foster was originally “Black Goliath”. He was a biochemist, but he still talked like Luke Cage, looked like Luke Cage, and acted like Luke Cage. And, like Luke Cage, he wore a suspiciously flamboyant costume. Showing the racial sensitivity Marvel is famous for, Mark Millar killed him in Civil War and had him buried in a giant coffin, wrapped in chains.
GOLEM. Based on the ancient Hebrew legend, this version of the Golem fought Ben Grimm (who surely must have felt guilty about it) and, according to the text, was brought to life “through unknown supernatural means”, which is a lot more tasteful than saying “by a rabbi choking one off on top of of a glob of clay.”
HYPNO-HUSTLER. Oh, man, did I love this guy. He was a punk-funk guitarist with an outlandish outfit who used his music to cause hypnotic trances in the audience — basically an evil version of Eddie Hazel. And the name of his band was the Mercy Killers! I’d buy their albums.
MANPHIBIAN. I don’t know anything about this Creature from the Black Lagoon-lookin’ motherfucker, other than that I believe he teamed up years later with Manimal, Mansect, and Maneral.
KORREK. There were so many bad comics in the 1970s that even I wasn’t able to read them all. At first, I forgot where this guy came from: Fear? Legion of Monsters? Werewolf By Night? War is Hell? Super-Villain Team-Up? It turns out he was part of Howard the Duck’s cosmology, so that’s about it for Korrek.
JOHN KOWALSKI. This guy was a big fuckup who died right before WWII. As penance for his crimes, or possibly just for a giggle, Death decided to keep sending his spirit back into living people who were about to die until he either atoned for his sins or Death got bored. One of the funny things in his bio is that someone tried to warn him in 1939 that the Germans were about to invade his native Poland, but he blew the guy off as a crank, because, really, who mistrusted Hitler in summer of 1939?
THE LADY LIBERATORS. An Avengers offshoot dedicated to the principle of women’s liberation. Naturally, it all turned out to be an evil plot by the Enchantress to manipulate the female Avengers, rather than a perfectly reasonable reaction to the fact that the male Avengers were a bunch of jerks. But don’t worry, they all had a good laugh about it later!
THE MAGUS. A goofy cosmic villain thrown at Adam Warlock a few times, this purple-clad, afro-sporting nimrod started his own religion, similar to but less successful than the Church of Scientology, albeit just as plausible. In his first appearance, he attacked Warlock, saying “I am release! I’m your escape to fantasy! I’m everything you seek! I’m the madness monster!” Apparently, he had the power to spontaneously create Alice Cooper lyrics.
MAN-WOLF. See, okay, J. Jonah Jameson’s kid, he was an astronaut, right? And he, he went to the moon, and was bitten by a moon werewolf, or he found a magic rock called the godstone or possibly the weirdstone or the moonstone, and it turned him into a moon werewolf, but really, he was a wolf-god from another dimension, and then he married She-Hulk and…man, fuck comics.
MARTIAN MASTERS. To be clear, these were masters who were Martians, not masters of Martians. They were one of several manifestations of Martians in Marvel comics (like DC, Marvel was addicted to endless, mutually contradictory manifestations of Martians), but the salient point is, they looked exactly like the ones in War of the Worlds. Marvel musta had some hella good lawyers in the ’70s.
Tune in for more tomorrow! You vultures.