Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
Big Brains We Forgot
Remember the good old days when all you needed to be a mental mastermind was a bit of surgery to envelop your brain within a transparent cranium so that everyone could see your big evil brain from a distance.
That's what happens to geniuses that go evil.
The criminal evil mastermind with the fantastic mental powers was always picked last in gym class.
It’s almost a law of the comic book universe. Being shunned is right up there with any ex-criminal janitorial worker stumbling across a glowing mass or a locked trunk with a radiation hazard warning on it – only to open it and be mutated into some dangerous super villain. The bad news is they thought they were being clever as some payrolls are hidden in these dangerously marked boxes and then they get severely disfigured… the good news is they get a set of fabulous mental powers.
I’m continuing my series on obscure Marvel characters with ones that specifically have some kind of mental power. These are the guys who are either really, really smart or the ones that can just do things with their minds. They are the poor man’s Professor Xavier. They are the discounted gamma ray Leaders. They are the medium powered MODOKs. These are the guys who when you see them you think, “Man! I forgot about this guy.”
I noticed that among the forgotten, there were an unusual amount of “big heads”. Well, some had larger than usual craniums, but others were these mega-level telepaths or telekinetics. These characters had made huge names for themselves during some of the 70’s plotlines and I really had to scour my own resources as well as bits of the Internet to see if they were still being used.
So, sit back and read about Mighty Marvel’s Mental Maniacs.
Quasimodo - Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organism
This character was the brainchild of the great Jack Kirby.
The Quasi-MOtivational-Destruct-Organism (Quasimodo) was a creation of the villain known as The Mad Thinker. For those of you who do not know who the Mad Thinker is (shame on you) he is one of the larger pains of the Fantastic Four. He is a soopah geenius. His mind is able to predict with 99.999% probability what will happen given all the elements of a situation. His biggest problem is when the “X-Factor” (an unknown chaotic element) is introduced into his equation.
The Mad Thinker has had several horrific inventions including The Awesome Android and Quasimodo.
Quasimodo was created to activate an explosive device that the Thinker had implanted into the body of the Original Human Torch (Jim Hammond). The Torch was an android construct invented by Phineas T. Horton (not Johnny Storm). The problem was that the activation of the device required the use of an electronic brain. So, the Thinker created Quasimodo to have a brain as complex as a human’s. He was programmed with emotions – specifically loyalty to his master.
The Thinker, being the bastard that he is, toyed with the creature’s emotions by telling him that as soon as he defeated the Fantastic Four he would replace his “washing machine” like body with that of a human being. Of course, the Thinker had never intended to carry out this promise and eventually left the creature in anguish. What the Thinker did do was give him a grotesque face that featured an enlarged eye (which could fire the Torch’s destruct signal).
Eventually, after being abandoned by the Thinker, Quasimodo was found by The Silver Surfer, who used his matter transmuting powers to reshape Quasimodo’s body to match his personality – to that of a hunchback’s.
Quasimodo discovered that he was now able to control all electronic equipment with his mind. That includes computer systems as well. He has managed to take over the computer system of Xandar and infiltrate Earth’s technology networks. He was defeated by the Vision when the Vision had taken the leadership role for the Avengers and wanted to monitor “everything”.
Quasimodo was last seen aiding Norman Osborne, when he was head of HAMMER, and has been a prisoner in SHIELD as an analyst who keeps track of superhero dossiers.
Quasimodo first appeared in Fantastic Four Annual #4 (1966)
Gremlin - Son of the Gargoyle
The apple does not fall from the tree.
In one of my other hubs on Dead Marvel Characters that Aren’t Coming Back, I mentioned The Gargoyle. The Gargoyle was the mutated monstrosity that faced off the newly created Hulk back in Hulk #1. He had a genius level intellect at the cost of his human appearance. He was grotesque. While he was an agent for the Soviet Union, he pleaded with Bruce Banner to see whether the scientist could cure him. Banner did. And the Gargoyle’s last act as a man was to trigger a bomb which killed him and the base he was on.
Well, prior to Hulk #1, the Soviets that mutated the Gargoyle into the monstrosity that he was, had him mate with a normal woman. Whether this was to keep the Gargoyle happy or to experiment with his mutated genes is unknown. What we do know is that the woman birthed a mutant son.
This child was born with an unusually large head and became adept at high level physics, science, and mechanical engineering as well as genetic engineering. Like his father, he was sent to be an enemy of the Hulk’s. He was also a member of the Soviet Super Soldiers.
In an effort to work with something more than his intellect, he created an oversized suit of armor and become the second Titanium Man. During the events called “The Armor Wars” when Tony Stark was looking for some of his stolen armor technology and fought The Crimson Dynamo, Gremlin, as Titanium Man, fought against Iron Man.
As the two fought against each other, Iron Man’s boot jets became so hot that when they heated the Gremlin’s Titanium Man’s armor, it reached the igniting temperature – thus blowing up the armor and The Gremlin in it.
He has never made another appearance and is presumed dead.
Gremlin first appeared in Incredible Hulk #163 (1973)
Overmind - The Collective Mental Might of a Planet
Meet Grom, aka Overmind, champion gladiator of the planet Eternus.
The Eternians were a highly advanced and highly belligerent race of aliens that had a planetary foreign policy of conquest. This worked well for the Eternians for several thousand years until they encountered the Gigantians, a new race that was as advanced and as powerful as they were – except they were peace loving. The Eternians attacked the Gigantians and while the Eternians thought they’d won the conflict after the first strike, the Gigantians struck back and devastated them.
The Gigantians champion and mental amalgamated being of billions of lives, mental power, and physical strength is the being known as The Stranger - who is oh-so-full of cosmic might.
In an attempt to save their own existence, the entire populace of Eternus transformed all of their minds to energy and focused it into one being… Grom. They sent Grom into seclusion for eons while he learned to control his newfound psionic powers – the strength of an entire planet of minds. When he emerged, he waged war on the first planet he could find – which was Earth.
He met resistance with The Fantastic Four who were aided by The Stranger who easily overpowered the mind of Grom.
The Overmind has met defeat many times and has also gone to the side of angels. He was last seen under the influence of The Purple Man (Zebediah Kilgrave) and then aiding Baron Zemo’s Thunderbolts.
Overmind first appeared in Fantastic Four #113 (1971)
MODAM - Mental Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers
There was a time when AIM’s leader MODOK was believed dead. MODOK was an acronym for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) decided that MODOK had to be assassinated and had him killed by the Serpent Society. AIM quickly replaced MODOK with a female version MODAM - Mental Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers.
As the character was originally written, MODAM was believed to be Dr. Hank Pym’s first wife, Maria Troyvana. In reality, this was a lie as MODAM was a spy to get information out of Hank Pym and return to AIM. MODAM’s true identity may be Olinka Barankova - but according to MODAM (or SODAM - Specialized Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers) the Soviets change that information routinely.
Just as her predecessor, MODAM’s powers are primarily mental – what can you expect? She’s literally a gigantic brain. She’s a super intelligent cybernetically enhanced brain who can fire forced psibolts with her mind. Also, like her predecessor, she is permanently encased in an exoskeleton which helps her move and hover about. Her other extremities have been reduced as her brain has been enlarged.
While she has not been claimed as dead, she has not been seen since her encounter with a defective cosmic cube - and it breached, possibly killing her.
MODAM first appeared in West Coast Avengers #36 (1988).
Brainchild - Savage Land Mutate
There’s a lot going on in Antarctica that we’re just not aware of.
For example, there’s an entire tropical jungle in the coldest depths of the continent. It is called The Savage Land and it’s a hidden preserve full of prehistoric animals and men and women running around half dressed. Just so you know, a group of advanced beings called “The Beyonders” set up this area so that it would have a tropical climate (protected by several types of force fields) despite being located in a frozen wasteland. If you’re looking for Ka-Zar and Shanna the She-Devil – this is where you’ll find them.
Like all places with a population within the Marvel Universe, they have their mutants. New York has the Morlock sewer dwellers and the Savage Land has The Savage Land Mutates. The latter is very much like the former except they wear fewer clothes and smell infinitely better.
Magneto came to The Savage Land and performed some genetic experiments on some of the “Swamp Men” of the area. Among those subjects was Brainchild. Magneto boosted his intelligence but kept his emotional control to that of a child. He usually rises to the position of leadership among the other mutates.
His powers are obvious. A computer-like mind that can do advanced mathematics and strategies as easily as most of us breathe.
Brainchild first appeared in X-Men #62 (1969)
But that Brainchild is not to be confused with this EVEN MORE OBSCURE Brain-child from Earth 712, first seen in The Avengers #86.
The Avengers encountered this Brainchild after their encounter with the Squadron Supreme (essentially the Justice League of the MU). While trying to get back to Earth 616, the Avengers accidentally find themselves on another earth where Arnold Sutton, a mutant whose parents were exposed to incredible amounts of radiation, grew tired of his freakish looks and powers - which were like the Leader on steroids. Like all of the Marvel super intelligent mutants, Brainchild has an oversized head full of lumpy brainy goodness.
That Earth's government gets ahold of him and, of course, put him in Weapons Development and defense because of course they did.
Having enough of everyone else on this planet (because ten-year-old child freaks are sensitive about their appearance) as well as a fervent desire to end his own life, he planned to destroy the world.
The Avengers and the Squadron Supreme team up to stop this from happening. After several battles with Arnold's hench-monsters, Doctor Spectrum uses his magical space crystal to turn Arnold into a normal child.
As we can see, a mind is a terrible thing to waste – especially when it’s at the cost of losing a decent character.
All of these characters were and are pretty interesting. I have yet to find a big-brained character that isn’t. There wasn’t a lame one in the bunch. Because that’s the thing – these characters usually have nothing to go on but their brains. They only have their smarts or are so mentally dominant that the hero or villain doesn’t have a chance under their unfettered power.
Don’t believe me? Picture how many people would have a chance against Professor Xavier if he didn’t hold back his psychic might. The only time I’ve seen Xavier in true trouble was against the Phoenix. Xavier backed by Cerebro is pretty damn powerful. We also have to remember that he can create an entire reality within the mind of a subject and can upload entire languages to them with very little effort. So much so that the Rosetta Language course would go broke in a minute if they had to compete against him.
In comic books, we celebrate intelligence. When the stupid play in this arena, only luck can save them. It is only through the careful balance of intelligence combined with strength and resources that win the day.
The sharpness of being smart or the talent of being psychic or telekinetic is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that some of these characters have been forgotten or have met their end in a luckless fashion is a tragedy not worth of their creator.
© 2013 Christopher Peruzzi