The Mystery Men of July – part 4

I don’t know what the Hell happened to post number three. I can see it but it doesn’t appear on the Dashboard. Sigh. Anyway, today’s post looks at yet more heroes (and villains) from DC and Marvel  comics who made their début in July.

Black Cat: This T&A character was originally an element of the Amazing Spider-Man movie but  the prominence of a certain Princess of Plunder in the Dark Knight Rises ixnayed that idea. Marv Wolfman claims, astonishingly, that he never thought of  Catwoman when he originally came up with BC as a Spider-Woman antagonist. The twist with thrill-seeking thief Felicia Hardy is that she is attracted to Spider-Man but repulsed by Peter Parker. She also gained bad luck powers ( a crazy US  superstitious twist that means nothing to us).

Given her role in Ultimate Spider-Man, I remain surprised that Felicia never appeared in the Bendis Avengers.

Another (upside-down) iteration of the Black Cat appeared in the 90s Supernaturals miniseries but hasn’t been seen since.

New Universe: The mid-80s saw Jim Shooter’s  attempt to create a, well, new universe of superhumans for Marvel. The gimmick was that this was “The World Outside Your Window”. Ah, Jim. That was of course part of the appeal of a Spider-Man who swung through NYC, rather than a Gotham or Metropolis.

Shooter himself was the thinly disguised protagonist of Star Brand. The other characters gained their powers as part of some mysterious cosmic event in a slew of series that sounded like tv pilots or Eighties action movies. Psi-Force, Spitfire & the Troubleshooters, Nightmask, Justice  and Kickers Inc. were just some of the NU titles I never read. The only one I followed regularly was DP7: a bleak and cynical take on the X-Men following the therapy of a cast of super-powered freaks. I also skimmed a couple of John Byrne issues of  The Star Brand, where Shooter’s home city of Pittsburgh was destroyed, leading to The Draft of the “paranormals”.

I imagine these comics have an appeal for 80s kids but for those of us brought up on Galactus, Darkseid and the Celestial Madonna, they seemed mundane and plodding. Shooter went on to much greater acclaim in the early 90s with his Valiant Universe, spinning out of revivals of Dr. Solar and Magnus,Robot Fighter.

Hell’s Angel: Another, more intriguing attempt at world- building came, surprisingly, from Marvel UK in the early 90s.  Mys-Tech was a corporation founded by ageless, evil sorcerers ( a kind of Hellfire Club Inc.)  The group’s conspiracies wove through a number of comics, cleverly  exploiting two of Brit comics- fans favourite themes: occult imagery and computers.

Hell’s Angel was the daughter of one of the corporate chiefs who fought back with magickal techno-armour. Think of the pitch as a blend of Satana and Iron Man. She had to change her name to the more alluring  Dark Angel, allegedly to appease chapters of the biker gangs of the same name. I suspect it may have had more to do with prickly Bible Belt sensibilities. This is one Nineties creation I’d like to see again but I think she might be too infra dig at the House of Mouse.

Deathcry: A less sterling 90s heroine, this one. Deathcry was the daughter of X-Villain Deathbird and inducted as a bodyguard/spy in that period when the Assemblers wore leather jackets, affected stubble and were all stabby, like the X-Men. (Shh. I liked it at the time).

Teen Deathbird was killed off in Guardians of the Galaxy. The character Warbird in Woverine and the X-Men performs a similar function and is more appealing.

Brainiac: I first encountered this villain in a house ad; then in the cartoons, circa 1970 or 71, where he came from the planet Mega and spoke in the same piping, inhuman voice as Majel Barett’s computer on Star Trek. I didn’t really take any notice of Brainiac until Wolfman and Kane reworked him as a skeletal killing machine in the early 80s.

Resuscitated as a cliché Ming the Merciless type in the late 80s, Brainiac got a new twist in the Dini/Timm Superman Adventures cartoons. Here, he was the AI  responsible for the destruction of Krypton itself.

This idea links him to Supes on a mythic level and raises him above mere space pirate. However, as a Kirby fan, Timm made him a bit to similar to Darkseid.

The most modern iterations of Brainiac have depicted him as a cybernetic centipede, creepily insect-like. However, I think Alex Ross’ version from Justice in his clinical labcoat is pretty effective- especially since, naughtily, he’s been drawn to resemble Grant Morrison!


Doctor Octopus and  Green Goblin: As a kid, I always thought of Doc Ock as Spider-Man’s arch-foe. The Goblin was the Ditko mystery man, always scooting about above the heads of the Enforcers or generic thugs. The Goblin became infamous, of course, for the nightmarish death of Gwen, Osborn’s grisly crucifixion and  Harry’s awful breakdown. This cemented his status as Spidey’s Joker: a giggling psycho-killer, rather than a manipulator of petty crooks. The films followed suit, ending with a sickly, redemptive scene in Spider-man 3 (although Franco was the best actor).

I felt they missed a trick with Ock’s death in the second movie. There’s something blackly comic in his relationship with Aunt May, a Hitchcockian menace out of Shadow of a Doubt.  Let’s not forget he once masqueraded as the Master Planner and commanded a criminal army, to boot.

Anyway, I think The Spectacular Spider-Man should star the Vulture. Y’know, if they ask me.

Next: One hundred pages of Bronze Age Batman

All images are presume copyright of their respective owners


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