Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
The Last Chance to See
Marvel has been in business a long time. Longer than most people think.
I’m counting the time that Marvel was really Timely Comics and worked with Captain America in the golden age of superhero stories. Granted, the stories back in the forties and fifties were uber-lame, but they said a lot about the time and their fan base. I won’t be the first comic book analyst to point out how politically incorrect comic books were back then and stayed that way all the way up to the seventies and beyond.
But Marvel is going to change all of that with a reboot of their “616 Universe” and their “Ultimate Universe” in what promises to be the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” of Marvel’s characters. Some heroes will stay. Some heroes will die. Nothing will be the same. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
It’s like living 1985 all over again.
As a man who is one year shy of seeing half a century (that’s 49 for those of you bad at math), I thought it was a really good run and I spent a huge bulk of my life reading its history. That being said, I think it’s a good time to introduce to you some of the characters you probably missed and will most likely not see come up in the new incarnation of the Ultimate/616 mash-a-palooza of Marvel.
Obscure or Not?
It’s also good for you because according to my account statistics, you guys love reading about really obscure and really lame comic book characters. I’m here to bring you a bit of both.
Personally, I can’t let Marvel close the curtains on its continuity without you knowing about some of these really precious gems of what-were-you-thinking-ness.
Once again, I must make my standard statement that men like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Stan Lee were giants and my poking fun at them in this arena where I have produced nothing but excrement and they’ve contributed to a billion dollar brand should only be viewed as “you can’t win em all”. For every one Peter Parker/Spider-man you have at least ten Robbie Baldwin/Speedballs in the mix. No one bats a thousand and not every character is memorable.
So, let’s start with these three.
The Terrible Trio
Back when Marvel was making its bones, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made an unforgettable superhero team called The Fantastic Four. The chemistry was simple and quite standard for its time – almost right from the silver screen of B-movie characters. Stan took a detached scientist and teamed him with a Brooklyn kid (based on Jack Kirby) and brought in a young teenager with… a woman who seemed to be there for eye candy.
And not even that considering that her powers at the beginning were her super ability to hide from danger by turning invisible. She’s even subdued in her name by comparison – MISTER FANTASTIC! THE THING!! THE HUMAN TORCH!!! and the invisible girl.
I could go on for pages just on the “girl” part, but I digress.
Marvel who does not miss a beat when it comes to coming up with a Moriarty for a Sherlock Holmes comes up with the character of Doctor Doom. Doctor Doom (Victor Von Doom) is Mister Fantastic’s (Reed Richards) opposite number when it comes to intellect and doing sciencey things.
One of Von Doom’s big raison d’etres is to make Reed Richards look ridiculous. So he reasons that if Richards can have a superteam, he needs to have a force to counter it. Doom comes up with three members to join him in his battle and he amps up their powers a bit.
And they are “The Terrible Trio”.
We have Bull Brogin who after Doom gives him a power boost has twelve times the strength of a normal man (he can press about five tons). We also have the mysterious Yogi Dakor who is fire-proof, has a “magic carpet”, and some other mystical abilities. And finally, we have “Handsome” Harry Phillips who is good looking and (through Doom’s power boost) can hear twenty-five times better than an average man.
Scary stuff, right? Well, maybe, a bit. Kinda. Sorta.
WHAT WAS DOOM THINKING?!!! He’s supposed to be a super genius and he takes these clowns into battle against The Fantastic Four – not the Mediocre Men, not the Average Avengers, not the Kind of Competent Quartet – THE FANTASTIC FOUR! He’s sending a stronger than average thug (granted, back in the early days, the Thing’s strength was nowhere near what it is now), a man who is essentially a charlatan in an asbestos suit, and the poor man’s Daredevil.
The results were predictably comical. Not only were these guys lame, they couldn’t stop bickering among themselves to beat the FF. Doom, who was not a good sport about this, banished them to another dimension.
They’ve shown up a few times since, but they’re as lame now as they were back in the day.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking of Bea Arthur in a skin tight gold super costume. Really, I apologize for that. Get whatever mental Brillo you need to get rid of that image.
Golden Girl is not the name of one character but two equally obscure ones.
The first Golden Girl made her premier back in 1947 and was Captain America’s sometime sidekick/love interest. No, I’m not kidding. Fortunately, she was retconned to be the partner/love interest of Captain America III (Jeff Mace – The Patriot) after second Bucky’s (Fred Davis) tenure. Her outfit was every bit as ridiculous as you could imagine. She had her little Captain America cowl with the wings and a bullet proof cape along with a fashionable skirt.
One of the interesting things about the first Golden Girl was that her civilian identity was Betsy Ross – the aunt to Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (aka – The Red Hulk) and, by that reckoning, grandaunt to Betty Ross-Banner (Bruce Banner’s wife and aka – The Red She-Hulk).
The second Golden Girl was Gwendolyn “Gwenny” Lou Sabuki. You see when Marvel started to make some retro stories back in the 1970’s about the further adventures of the Invaders and the All-Winners Squad, they started to add new characters. One of them was the second Golden Girl who came aboard the same time as another character named “The Human Top” (equally obscure and I should make a reference to him in another future article). In any event, they formed a team of “Teen Titans” like adventurers called the “Kid Commandos”.
The second Golden Girl had the power to generate light, energy, and force from her hands, making her vaguely powerful. Apparently she was bright and her powers were genetically passed to her children and grandchildren.
Ironically, from a continuity view, the second Golden Girl came before the first one as the Kid Commandos were formed under the Invaders and were assembled under Bucky Barnes and Toro.
Bova, the Talking Cow
You know that every time you eat a hamburger this character sheds a tear.
I really don’t know what to say about this character. Anything that I can come up with would be utter nonsense… or maybe udder nonsense. See what I did with that?
Bova is an evolved cow. You heard me right.
Whenever I think about Bova, I always think about the one scene in Douglas Adams’ “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” where that waiter introduces Zaphod and Ford’s dinner to them (a space cow). The cow tells the two what she’s been eating and how they’d certainly enjoy some of her parts. These are the things that keep me from sleeping.
What I can say is that Roy Thomas has a lot to answer for.
Bova made her first appearance in Giant Sized Avengers #1, what she is mostly remembered for is that she was the nurse that delivered Pietro and Wanda Maximoff in Wundagore. When Magda, their real mother, came to Wundagore and gave birth to her twins she did not stay long and left the children with Bova (who I guess served as midwife or midcow) while she went into the snow and died. Meanwhile, Madeline and Robert Frank (aka – Miss America and the Whizzer, respectively) arrive there as well and Madeline is also ready to give birth. The High Evolutionary offers shelter to the Franks and has Bova assist with the birth. Miss America and the baby die during the labor and Bova having two conveniently placed twins offers the children to the Whizzer as his. (It should be mentioned that 1) the Whizzer ran away and 2) that the Wundergore healthcare system sucks.)
Marvel Obscure Quiz
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What is the name of the Inhumans Dog?
- What World War II hero got her powers from a blood transfusion with the Human Torch?
- The Destroyer
- Miss America
- Who has not been a "Goliath"?
- Hank Pym
- Tony Stark
- Clint Barton
- William Foster
- Which one of the following has not used the name Captain America?
- Martin Fletcher
- John Walker
- Jeffery Mace
- William Naslund
- What cosmic entity gave Captain Marvel cosmic awareness
- Tony Stark
- Martin Fletcher
Interpreting Your Score
If you got between 0 and 1 correct answer: You might want to try again
If you got between 2 and 3 correct answers: I see you read A comic book
If you got 4 correct answers: Perhaps I you didn't read the questions correctly
If you got 5 correct answers: Are you sure that you don't want a try out with the Avengers?
Bova’s true origin after her peaceful cow grazing past came after she was taken by the High Evolutionary to be part of his “New Men”. The New Men were a bunch of animals that the High Evolutionary used to experiment on and bring to the near human stage of evolution. So this is a bit like the island of Doctor Moreau but in a Germanic country base situated over the demon Chthon’s domain where just any whacky old thing can happen.
The High Evolutionary makes his Knights of Wundagore where he has all of his humanized animals (including Jessica Drew for a time to cure her radiation sickness). But the bad part is that the High Evolutionary really wasn’t particular about what kind of animals he made human because 1) he made the Man Beast (Roy Thomas’ answer to a Biblical Devil) and 2) he thought, “Hey, a cow! Why not?”
Now, outside of the derogatory message of “mothers are cows”, it’s a mystery to me why Marvel should choose a beast human evolved cow to be a care giver. After all, the one thing that would give me nightmares to adulthood and make a therapist a rich man would be the experience of being a two year old and seeing a giant cow that walked on two legs and spoke in a low female voice.
I get no comfort from that and I’d constantly be wondering where my next cup of milk came from.
Skull the Slayer
I guarantee you’ve probably never have heard of this guy. His title ran eight issues and died a predicable death.
Meet James Patrick Skully, former washed up Viet Nam POW, now alone in the world after his wife divorced him in his absence and his parents managed to die on him has nothing to lose. Marv Wolfman, who created the character, also was making his own statement about the lives of the men who have returned from that war. How the country turned its back on them when they needed them the most.
While traveling across the Bermuda Triangle on his way to prison for accidentally killing his brother in self-defense, his plane enters a time portal and crashes into a weird dinosaur age where cavemen and dinosaurs exist together. While in this strange dimension that couldn’t possibly exist, he finds an alien strength belt and uses it to be a 70’s version of Turok the Dinosaur Hunter.
Most of the stories are about his surviving in a strange land with a bunch of modern people while he goes all savage and thousand mile stare on everyone. Eventually, he gets rescued by the Fantastic Four and has adventures with a whole bunch of equally vague Marvel heroes (N’Kantu, The Living Mummy and The Blazing Skull from the hero’s golden age – once again, that’s material for future articles) and heads toward an alternate dimension with Lee Forrester (X-men) to safeguard an alternate Earth dimension.
The thing I got from reading Skull the Slayer was that he continually got the short end of the stick to the point where characters like Peter Parker could go, “Would you look at that poor bastard?” After all, it’s not every day when your wife deserts you for a douche, you find out that your parents are dead from your druggie brother and then accidently kill him after he pulls a knife on you for NO F%$#ING REASON. Then after you try to get away, you get caught by the government who is sending you to jail for a BS charge and on the way there you end up in a dinosaur dimension as a possible lunch. Were it not for the fact that you’d been regularly tortured in a Viet Nam prison camp you’d never be able to deal with this.
So the lesson here is that torture has its upside.
The Prime Mover
There are some old timey comic book guys who some people worship but my hat’s off to Jim Steranko.
Steranko made S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury into the Marvel legends they are today. Well, not today, but just before today – before ABC and the television stories decided to focus on Agent Coulson and while Nick Fury was a holdover from World War II. Back when Nick Fury wasn’t Samuel L. Jackson and was never really David Hasselhoff, Nick Fury was the superspy of the Marvel Universe and was made cool by Steranko.
I promise I won’t go on too much longer about him, but you have to know that he was a writer, artist, and REAL LIFE ESCAPE ARTIST. It’s like seeing the real Kavalier and Clay. Seriously, writers of that generation got their material from real life experience. Go ahead, google Steranko and check out his escape artist thing.
See? Wasn’t that cool? Yeah, it was.
Anyway, he came up with the concept of The Prime Mover. The Prime Mover is actually a robot that makes real scenarios using robot duplicates in a “chess game” like competition against people like Doctor Doom to see how people can be manipulated. Some people think that Doom created the Prime Mover, but in actuality, that has never been confirmed. What we do know is that Doom plays against this mechanism and the mechanism supplies the Doombots that go around posing as real people.
Just for a game.
People get killed and lives are ruined just so Doom can say "Well played" to a robot.
The Prime Mover has shown up a few times to play against Doom, Kristoff Vernard (as Doom), and the Grand Master (Elder of the Universe). The thing is that most of the time, the people involved in the game have no idea that they’re involved in a game and that their antagonist is probably a robot.
What I love about this is that you’ll be really invested in one of these plots and then at the end of the story when everything has gone insane, you break to a scene where Doom is conceding the game to the Prime Mover.
It’s the Marvel writers going to the reader, “Gotcha!!!”
Anyway, the Prime Mover hasn’t been seen in a bit, but he could come back at any time. It’s good to be aware of him.
I was driven to write this hub because lately I’ve seen a bunch of characters in both the Marvel and the DC Universe brought forth on the live screen. One of the characters that I think I did in some other article was Deathlock the Demolisher. And what happens? He shows up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I was watching the DC produced Flash on the WB and I was shocked to see the Bug Eyed Bandit brought back from oblivion. A character so hated by the DC writers that back in 1986 when they did the Crisis on Infinite Earths that Marv Wolfman said that the only two characters that would not be brought back into the current continuity would be the Ten Eyed Man and the Bug Eyed Bandit. Why? Because they were lame. Then some enterprising young writer for television thinks, “Hey, I can make the Bug Eyed Bandit NOT LAME!”
And then he does.
The point being is that there are a whole bunch of old, obscure characters that are being brought forward because they are all part of the Marvel or DC mythos. Someone sees them like an Aladdin’s lamp and thinks that maybe… just maybe, if I shine this up a bit, something will happen. Then in one sparkling moment, it does.
My other reason for doing this is to just point out the volume of unique characters and archetypes that the Marvel Bullpen (and the DC writer’s as well) have created. It’s just staggering. I have gone through a whole bunch of collections, graphic novels, essential guides, and individual comic issues where I sit back for a moment and think, “Who the hell is that?”
Thank God for the Internet.
Oh, I grant you, there have been a few characters that I know exist that are so obscure that even the majority of the sources I’ve checked refuse to acknowledge that they are canon. For example, one character, Doctor Weird (yes, I know), seemed to be a Kirby/Lee creation within the Fantastic Four. I could hardly find any other interesting information regarding him and saw that he really was only one shot in a one off title. He was both obscure and lame. To me that’s gold.
Did I think he’d ever come back? No. The closest I saw was that Jim Starlin gave life to a character very much like him in an alternate comic line. Still… close but no cigar.
I have a lot of respect for Stan Lee and his generation – especially Jack Kirby. What they came up with built a world larger than any you will ever see. It’s bigger than Star Wars, Star Trek, Tolkien, and Harry Potter’s universes COMBINED.
And no one, not even me, will ever know all of it.
© 2015 Christopher Peruzzi
Carrie Peterson from Colorado Springs, CO on June 10, 2015:
These are great! Shared on Facebook.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on May 17, 2015:
The "girl" thing. This is stupid, but I'm going to address this now - I'll also add this could easily be its own hub.
Regarding The Invisible Girl and Supergirl, the situation is apples and oranges. Because the example of Supergirl was brought up, I'll address this first.
Supergirl is a girl. She was a girl when she landed in her ship and she's a young woman now. The brand "Supergirl" came when she landed during a time when the title of "girl" was thrown around despite the age. Think of Mad Men and you'll know the culture. The fact that someone like Cat Grant (a character whose genesis was essentially the Daily Planet's loosest woman on staff and not the Rupert Murdoch figure in the trailer) is saddling Kara Zor-El with a "girl" name says more about marketing and what plays better with the public than what she should be named. And make no mistake about this; any being with the power scale of Kara Zor-El can and should be called "Anything-She-Wants-To-Be-Called-Or-She'll-Toss-You-Into-Orbit". The fact that the character herself wants to be recognized as a woman and allows the press to run wild with a "girl" alias says more about her own personality and lack of character for not insisting on "woman".
But let's be real. DC is not going to change the character's brand of "Supergirl" just to make a point for the show. Until the comics rebrand the character as "Superwoman" (a name already taken by the evil anti-matter version of Wonder Woman of Earth-3), it's not going to happen.
This argument has little to do with how Sue Storm (or Sue Richards) got saddled with the name "The Invisible Girl". ALL OF THAT BLAME can be placed under Stan Lee. Smilin' Stan is many things, but a guy who understands the women's movement is not one of them. Once again, think Mad Men. The Fantastic Four came out in the year 1961 - a time where girls were the women who got the coffee for the male executives and took a memo. Stan's philosophy really hasn't changed altogether that much within the last decade or so as he is still the guy who came up with Stripperella.
For that crime in itself I'd like to condemn the man to comic book writer's Hell by letting him listen to the dialogue he's written - but that's too cruel. After all the man is 92 years old - I don't think he'd survive it.
The reason why Susan Richards is not the Invisible Girl anymore and is "The Invisible Woman" is because she said so. She was the one who declared it. And considering that she is arguably the most powerful member of the Fantastic Four we should agree with her before she puts an invisible globe around our heads and lets us suffocate from lack of air. She went from being the member who was to be hidden away to the secret weapon who kept the FF from being blown away with her handy-dandy force fields to being a wife and mother to being a self sufficient leader of the FF.
Being a strong female role model and being called a woman should come when you f$%#king demand it. Or because you choose to be called girl because you realize that it's your name and you should freaking own it.
Sharon OBrien on May 17, 2015:
I'll have to check it out, Samantha!
Samantha Sinclair from North Carolina on May 16, 2015:
SM OBrien- have you seen the new Supergirl trailer? Check out what Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart, aka Mrs. Solo) says about the word "girl." I think I like what she says.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on May 16, 2015:
So, you and your brother... And me. :)
Awesome. I think he falls somewhere between The Demonslayer and Combat Kelly as far as popularity.
Keith Abt from The Garden State on May 16, 2015:
I remember Skull the Slayer! Damn. He may have only run for eight issues, but they turned up constantly in my local comic shop's "quarter box" back in the '80s. My brother is probably the only person in the world who bothered to collect all eight.
Sharon OBrien on May 16, 2015:
The habit of calling female superheroes fill-in-the-blank girl has always irritated me. Unless they were, in fact, not an adult it is just insulting. I suppose in that time period they may have thought that they were being complimentary, but it comes off as condescending. Then again, they probably weren't considering a female audience at the time.