The Mystery Men of June

How time flies! Here we are in the middle of the Jubilee Holiday Weekend already. I have a werewolf and The World’s Wickedest Worm coming up in the Super-Spec reviews. But first, it’s  time for this month’s initial Mystery Men post, featuring the first appearances of four Avengers and Dracula’s daughter!

Dr. Druid: I only vaguely recall the mystic adventurer Dr. Droom from Alan Class reprint comics in the 70s. When he returned as Dr. Druid in a Hulk-tastic guest role, I was quite intrigued then promptly forgot him again. Joining the Avengers in the 80s, after the Under Siege storyline, Druid seemed like a diluted version of Dr. Strange. In fact, it was eventually revealed that he was  the Ancient One’s back-up in case Stephen Strange didn’t work out as his disciple.

When Walt Simonson disassembled the Avengers in the late 80s, he made Druid the pawn of the villainess  Kang Nebula. Druid seized mental control of the team and fell badly from grace. Marvel de-aged him but he was later ritually murdered by the Son of Satan as the Goth Era of Marvel became ascendant in the early 90s.

Sadly, for badly-balding men with thickening waists, Dr. Druid remains  one of the most unpopular Avengers of all time.

The Wasp:  Janet Van Dyne was a member of the Avengers ( as one half of “Giant Man and the Wasp”)  when I first discovered them in Power Comics. These were their squabbling, conflicted Don Heck days. For most of my teenage years, she was a flighty heiress; a clotheshorse playing at superhero. Then the tragic fall of Yellowjacket propelled the pixieish heroine into an assertive leadership role for most of the 80s.

Unfortunately, her story  ultimately became Hank’s story: the coldly logical route to redeem Hank was for him to become Janet’s avenger and she was killed at the end of Secret Invasion. However, I’m sure this foolish and gimmicky turn of events will be reversed some day- it’s comics.

The mutant Janet from the Ultimate Universe was also a  victim of domestic abuse and, more notoriously, was eaten by the corpulent Blob. Another modern comics triumph.  If the Wasp is featured in the Avengers sequel, I think they may go with the Ultimate version, for her Asian ethnicity.

Ares: the hypermasculine Avenger and Dark Avenger was originally introduced in Kirby’s Thor stories as a shifty, villainous type, like Prince Byrrah or Loki. I was very surprised to see him lumbering around as a Bendis-era Assembler when Hercules had seemed such an obvious choice. Ares was a modern Conan the Barbarian, like Hawkman in the Justice Society. Then of course he was ripped in half by The Sentry, in one of the most grisly and inexcusably sensationalist sequences in modern comics.

Luke Cage:  Sweet Christmas! I read about Cage in Foom for two or three years before I ever read any of his comics. The issues I started with were the poetic, urban melodramas of Don McGregor, drawn by Frank Robbins. I found them a bit too challenging  but became a little more interested when Power Man initially teamed up with Iron Fist.

Although I’ll probably never be a passionate Cage fan, one the biggest achievements of the Bendis Era of the Avengers is to make me accept him both as a member and as their leader. I can’t see him appearing in the movie sequel however since he may be too similar a character to Nick L. Fury.

Lilith: I also first read about Lilith in Foom: probably issue 8.  She sounded illicit and thrilling; a vampire character who drank blood for fun. I actually first encountered her in an X-Men annual while I was on holiday in That London in 1982.  She was drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz who was still imitating Neal Adams at that point.  Whereas DC’s Lilith was a Gothic Romance heroine -cum-Go go chick, Marvel’s version is a disembodied spirit cursed to hunt down her father, Count Dracula: a blend of Satana and Deadman. Her over- the- top slinky bat-outfit is like something Fenella Fielding would wear to a Blackpool disco in 1979

In the next instalment, we’ll be discussing three of the most iconic DC characters of all time. Any guesses?

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “The Mystery Men of June

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Dr Droom’s origin is so similar to that of Dr Strange (and Droom came first) that it seems likely that the latter is merely an imitation of the former. Ditko even inked the first appearance of Lee and Kirby’s Droom, so if (as has been claimed) he came up with the idea of Strange, he was surely influenced (whether he was aware of it or not) by the earlier character. Interestingly, Droom’s appearance assumes an oriental aspect in his origin, and Dr Strange likewise had such features in his first appearance – although they seem to have disappeared by the time his origin was revealed.

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