The Mystery Men of October

A little early, here’s our list of Marvel heroes who first appeared in the tenth month of the year:

The Original Human Torch: this blazing android was one of the Timely superstars of the Golden Age. A transfusion of his synthetic “blood” gave super-powers to his Invaders ally Spitfire. Revived in FF Annual 3 for a battle with Johnny Storm, the Torch was then deactivated by the Mad Thinker. For most of the Bronze Age, it appeared that Ultron had modified the Torch to create the Vision.

However, John Byrne revived the Torch in Avengers West Coast and for a short time, he served as a member of the team. He has been killed and resurrected a few times since then, most recently acting as one of the Secret Avengers. To be honest, I think the character is redundant outside his original milieu.

Wonder Man: another Avenger inextricably linked to the Vision, Simon Williams was a pawn of the Masters of Evil. Apparently dying in battle, his brain-patterns formed the basis of the Vision’s personality. Although Simon’s subsequent revival from his death-like coma unsettled the Vision, they eventually developed a fraternal bond. This was soured considerably when Simon, battling his own emotional insecurities, also fell in love with the Scarlet Witch. The Vision’s traumatic disassembly and malfunctions only made this triangle more dysfunctional.

Wonder Man has died and been resurrected several times. His generic strongman abilities have also mutated into energy powers. Most recently, he became an ideological and physical opponent of the Avengers. Simon is a C-list hero and plot device whose function is to shake up the emotions of the team.  Fortunately, he had a believable friendship with the Beast.

Nighthawk: introduced as a villainous pastiche of Batman, Kyle Richmond reformed and became the linchpin of the Defenders. He also had one of the best costumes of the Bronze Age.  One of the most introspective- not to say neurotic- heroes since Henry Pym, Kyle had an equally difficult career, including paralysis, demonic visions and death.   His Squadron Supreme counterpart, meanwhile, was an amoral hero who spiralled into  megalomania. An indefatigable  C-lister with a hugely sympathetic story,  Nighthawk’s  jet-pack powers of flight are the reason why the Falcon should never have won his wings.

Morbius: a Living Vampire created by a scientific experiment gone wrong, Michael Morbius was originally a popular, high-profile Spider-Man villain. He was also Marvel’s first tentative step into the horror genre after the relaxation of the Comics Code. A modification of the tormented anti-hero of the Silver Age ( Namor, Hulk, Dr. Doom), Morbius went on to star in a colour, sci-fi tinged series and painfully pretentious b/w  adventures in Vampire Tales.

In the Nineties, a Goth version of Morbius was relaunched as part of the Midnight Sons line. The Ultimate version of Morbius, meanwhile,  is the son of Dracula- and a vampire hunter.  This is, of course, a terrible idea.

Satana: Marvel’s answer to Vampirella , the sexy, skimpily-clad horror hostess from Warren Magazines. Satana was the half-sister (unsurprisingly) of the Son of Satan. She initially appeared as a more provocative version of the Golden Age Black Widow, in Vampire Tales. An exile from Hell, she was a succubus- a creature who fed on human male souls. She was given an exotic, fetishistic European makeover but was killed off in Marvel Team-Up in the late 70s, at the end of the horror cycle.

An upstart called  Mephista appeared in Doctor Strange comics about a decade later but the real deal has been active again since the Noughties.

Son of Satan:  Damon Hellstrom, exorcist and Quicksilver-lookalike is, of course, Satana’s brother. The grindcore Dr. Strange,  Damon is also a  blend of  the Human Torch and the Hulk…and the  offspring of the Devil!

SoS blazed out of the Ghost Rider comic into his own Head Shoppe series, tinged with the 70s unease and anomie of The Exorcist (and the earlier Rosemary’s Baby ). Steve Gerber took Damon on an occult voyage of discovery and later, JM Matteis wrote him a doomed romance with Patsy Walker. Damon was eventually given a super-hero makeover in the mid-80s as Hellstorm. But it didn’t take.

After a more horrific iteration in the Nineties, the former Prince of Lies has been a part of the  supporting cast of the New Avengers, where he’s been less the tormented rage-monster and more the sleazy smart-ass. It’s weird to think the House of Mouse owns one of the most transgressive super-heroes of the Seventies.

Wolverine: the Canadian mutant introduced in the Hulk was an abrasive, unwelcome member of the All-New X-Men. He stole the limelight from Nightcrawler with the advent of fellow-countryman John Byrne. The subsequent miniseries by Frank Miller made the diminutive  X-Man a Marvel superstar in the 80s. In the early Nineties, the lethal but principled Wolverine supplanted Spider-Man’s position as Marvel’s signature character, achieving megastar status.

An uncannily (ahem)  faithful  portrayal on screen by Hugh Jackman in four movies (and one cameo) and a multiple membership in Marvel’s premier super-teams ensures Wolverine’s continuing unshakeable popularity. Personally, I preferred Thunderbird.

Marvel Presents Bloodstone Oct 75

Bloodstone: a monster hunter and adventurer with a career that predates the Fantastic Four. Retroactively speaking, that is.  Introduced in 1975, Ulysses Bloodstone is an immortal with an origin reminiscent of DC’s Vandal Savage and Immortal Man: a caveman imbued with an unnaturally extended lifespan.  In addition to membership in Nick Fury’s 1950s Avengers, Bloodstone led a team of Monster Hunters including Namora and Black Panther‘s mother. His own daughter, Elsa, is Marvel’s version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Captain Britain: Marvel’s attempt to create a homegrown hero for the UK market was overshadowed somewhat by Roy Thomas’ continuity implant Union Jack. I am surprised that, given his simple and striking design, a third-generation Falsworth wasn’t launched in 1976.

Instead Claremont and Trimpe delivered a mash-up of Spider-Man and Daredevil with Arthurian overtones. But stone the crows and dash it all, despite his derivative nature, he was ours, gor’blimey! I followed him faithfully through all his mediocre battles with Lord Hawk, Slaymaster and the Highwayman into obscurity. Then in the early 80s with a blend of Byrne/Claremont angst, Jeff Hawke, Moorcockania and a dash of Orwell, Captain Britain made an astonishing comeback.

As I’ve said before on previous blogs, I now prefer the original Lion of London (complete with quarterstaff) to Moore and Davis’ interdimensional guardsman. The current iteration reminds me too much of that other 80s deconstruction, Miracleman.

X-Factor mk. II: in the wake of the phenomenally successful Jim Lee version of the X-Men, twenty years ago Peter David and Larry Stroman replaced the five original X-Men with a quirky grouping of X-allies. Havok and Polaris were joined on a government -salaried team by the New Mutants’ Wolfsbane, Madrox and Guido aka “Strong Guy”: a grotesque, distorted mutant created by Bill Sienkiewicz. For a while, this odd assemblage was critically successful thanks to David’s playful, self-referential tone. In the mid-to-late Noughties, X-Factor returned as a mutant detective agency.

Coming soon: The Thor Treasury and DC Mystery Men of the Golden and Silver Ages.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

One comment on “The Mystery Men of October

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Dougie, where does that Captain Britain cover come from? (One Minute Later.) Was it a pin-up in a U.S. mag?

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