Tuesday, 6 October 2009

10 Second-Stringers

Following up on yesterday's post, I thought it'd be nice to take a closer look at these guys, a posse of criminally underexposed characters introduced in 1974, who, if not for the cult of Wolverine, might well be far more respected in comics circles. Or they might not. You judge...

Nuklo was the son of a couple of golden age heroes, and briefly, the brother of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Created by Roy Thomas in the pages of Giant-Size Avengers, Nuklo, unfortunately, possessed the power of being highly radioactive, which probably scuppered his chances of joining any of the big-name teams. So naturally, he ended up appearing in the pages of Thunderbolts later on.

Created by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart, Nitro's proved one of the more successful of the class of 1974. Not only was he indirectly responsible for the death of Captain Marvel, who died as a result of an illness contracted during this very issue, but, depending on your viewpoint, he was either indirectly or directly to blame for the disaster which led to Marvel's Civil War a couple of years back.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you, unfortunately. That really is a man dressed up as a giant chicken. To be fair, he is a voodoo priest, so a chicken costume is not entirely inappropriate, but I'm not sure most comics readers are discerning enough to take that look seriously. Time remains to tell whether Black Talon ( a creation of Len Wein and Gene Colan) will once again show up as a foe of Brother Voodoo, now that he's the Sorcerer Supreme.

Oh, my... Mid-70s Marvel was many things, but subtle it wasn't. Mahkizmo, the Nuclear Man, came from an alternative future world where men enslaved women, a world at war with another alternative world, this one the female-dominated world of Thundra. Created by Gerry Conway and Rich Buckler, Mahkizmo disappeared after his first appearance, only resurfacing when She-Hulk author John Byrne was looking for some bottom of the barrel villain to make fun of.

OK, so they can't all be winners. Marv Wolfman and George Tuska brought the Piranha into the pages of Sub-Mariner, as they were beginning to seriously run out of good ideas. Originally, a real piranha fish, this chap was mutated by radiation during one of Subby's many battles, and, rather than count his blessings, Piranha decided to hunt down Namor. Other than a couple of guest shots in the Defenders, alongside other fish-based foes, he's never been seen since. Good.

And talking of the Defenders, here's Nebulon. Introduced by Len Wein and Sal Buscema, Nebulon made a couple of half-hearted efforts to conquer the Earth, before vanishing into the mists of time.

Luke Cage had some wacky bad guys in the early days of his title. Created by Len Wein (him again) and George Tuska (and him again), Cottonmouth was a drug-dealer with ambition, a taste for snake skin shoes, and, when the occasion demanded, a bazooka. Like so many other animal-themed characters, he seems to have been a one-shot character, with his name being pinched later by a member of the Serpent Society.

From the mailbox: "It had to happen. Marvel was first among comics publishers to feature black superheroes - and villains. Marvel was first to recognise the women's movement in comics with characters like the Black Widow. And now, in this issue of STRANGE TALES, we're proud to introduce the comics' first Jewish monster-hero. Needless to say, we're looking forward to your reactions[]. So ... grab a sheet of paper or a post card or last week's leftover bagel and WRITE!!" I think you can guess how filled-to-the-brim the Mighty Marvel Mailbag was that week. Brought to the world by Len Wein (it's that man again) and John Buscema, the Golem lasted all of three months, before vanishing for the rest of the century.

Jeez, Len Wein gets about, doesn't he? Equinox, a curious blend of the power of fire and ice, turned up a few times in the pages of Marvel Team-Up, and even showed up a couple of years ago during the Secret Invasion, but despite having one of the more interesting visual looks of the era, never really seems to have found his groove.

Brought to us courtesy of Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, Grizzly must be the character who must resents the ol' Canucklehead. I mean, look at the guy. With that surly attitude, coupled with the ridiculous costume, he must have reckoned he had at least as good a chance as Wolverine of making the big time. If not for a quirk of fate, Grizzly could have found himself on the cover of Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and we might now be reading three or four monthly books about the exploits of the world's favourite ex-wrestler. There's no justice.

So there you have. Ten of the, er, best creations of 1974 who didn't go on to become superstars. I like to think that in some parallel universe, these guys are world-famous, with legions of fans. Well, except for Piranha. That guy sucks.

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