Chris Peruzzi is a comic book superhero historian who is passionate about how today's comic book heroes are the new mythology for America.
Really? You're a Marvel Character?
The Marvel Universe has an insane amount of characters in it.
As much as I think I can cover some really obscure characters, someone will read one of my other articles and ask me, “Who’s that?” Then I can either address it in one of the comments or write a new piece about it. When I get to five, I write a new one.
I don’t want to do a profile on one character because I know that there are other hubbers that are more than happy to do that on a regular basis. Plus, there are zombie things I should be writing about as well as other more diverse topics.
When I do hit five obscure villains, it’s like a treat. It’s free license to find new and interesting things about characters that are rarely used and perhaps… just perhaps… some comic book writer at Marvel may see my article and go, “Hmmmmm.”
It’s a dream I have.
The fun part about doing this is that you can’t swing a dead cat in the Marvel Universe without hitting one of them. As a matter of fact, if you look at any crowd scene in The Amazing Spider-man, you can almost be sure that some super villain in his civilian identity will be looking up to the skies thinking, “That damn web slinger. Once my plans reach fruition, I shall rid the world of that do-gooder and then… and then… I SHALL RULE THE WORLD!” Then he’d carefully muffle his maniacal evil laugh and buy his newspaper.
However, most of these guys leave the super villain biz. Heck, even Crusher Hogan became a janitor. (Okay, this one’s free. Crusher Hogan was the champion wrestler who fought the pre-costumed Spider-man challenger in Amazing Fantasy #15 for some prize money – leading Spider-man to a show biz career.) You can usually determine the likelihood of a villain going into retirement or quitting the biz completely by the volume and severity of the butt kicking he gets against one specific hero.
And some of them just wind up dead. It happens.
Here are five more bad guys that may have escaped your notice in the comic books.
This guy has the coolest powers going.
Just when you thought that heat vision and flying were really awesome, here comes the Taskmaster (aka Tony Masters) with something called “photographic reflexes”. While he doesn’t have super strength, invulnerability, vision powers, or flying, all he needs to do in order to replicate anyone’s fighting ability is to SEE IT ONCE.
Imagine, if you will, a desire to become the best martial artist in the world. If you are the Taskmaster, all you need to do is watch a few hours of MMA and then watch every Bruce Lee film ever made. What’s more, it’s all cumulative. The knowledge and abilities seem to stay with him permanently.
So what makes the Taskmaster so dangerous?
Well, he’s watched tapes of Captain America, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Shang-chi (which would be enough), Iron Fist, The Swordsman, Elektra, The Punisher, Bullseye, The Black Knight, The Black Panther, and about a hundred others. He has replicas of Cap’s Shield (although obviously not as hard), Daredevil’s billy club, a broadsword, a gun, nunchakus and a bow and arrow. This guy can most likely kick everyone’s butt.
Once caught, he’s usually able to plea bargain with a service to train operatives in combat. He was personally responsible for training Captain America V (aka USAgent) in how to use and throw his shield. He has trained the criminals Crossbones, Cutthroat, Diamondback, Spymaster, and Agent X.
Now, here’s the downside to his powers. The more he learns, the more significant memories he loses. You know – like the memory of family members. So on one hand, awesome physical skills – on the other hand, sucky personal life… that he can remember.
The Taskmaster was later revealed to be a sleeper S.H.I.E.L.D. agent sent to infiltrate the underworld. Which, considering his memory problems, is the best place for him.
The Looter aka Meteor Man
Some powers just fall from the sky.
As if we don’t have enough scientists having a lab accident and trudging down a twisted dark path toward cackling insanity. This guy really isn’t much of an exception. He finds a meteor rock and wants to get a sponsor to help him research it. The scientist, Norton G. Fester, is a poor “crackpot” scientist to begin with. He solicits sponsors that are looking for a commercial use for the meteor.
Let that be a lesson to you kids. If you’re looking to finance a science project, don’t go to Madison Avenue. They’ll want to know it’s all “wow” and ask if it has “pizzazz”. It’s a damn rock. Granted, someone made millions on the pet rock proving that the average consumer will buy anything.
But I digress.
Fester couldn’t get anyone to sponsor his project. So, instead, he decides to experiment on his own. While chiseling into the meteor, he hit a gas pocket which immediately envelops him. He gains super strength and agility. Naturally, being a scientist, he decides to turn to a life of crime. Because, let’s face it, the average scientist only pulls money in the six figure range doing legitimate work. Crime is much more stable with fewer things that can go catastrophically wrong.
Long story short, despite having powers and abilities, this guy gets his butt handed to him constantly. Usually, it’s by Spider-man. However, he’s been known to fight others like Nighthawk and the Valkyrie. He’s changed his name from the Looter to Meteor Man – not that it made any difference in his success rate. At one point, he ends up a homeless alcoholic* and tries to rob Nate Lubensky (Aunt May’s paraplegic ex boyfriend). There are consequences to robbing poor old crippled men that are a romantic interest of a certain wall crawler’s mother figure. So he gets his butt kicked by Spider-man… again.
Lately, he’s gone a bit batty in the head and has been known to talk to his meteor rock on a relatively consistent basis. For the most part, he’s just a lame loser who let his talents go in the wrong direction.
The Grizzly - What to do after a bad wrestling career.
Some bad guys you just have to feel bad for.
As a card carrying member of the state of New Jersey, I saw “The Wrestler” – it’s a rule. I found it was a tragic story of what even the better wrestlers have to go through. They need to make all of their money for this bit of entertainment and if it doesn’t work out, they’re screwed.
This brings me to The Grizzly, aka Maxwell Markham. Really, all in all, not a bad guy. He’s just one of the thousands of people whose lives were damaged by the incessant rantings of Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson. The Grizzly was just a bit overzealous in his career. He beat people up in the ring – which is essentially his job.
Jameson got him expelled from his wrestling career.
He’s found by one of Spider-man’s nastiest enemies, the Jackal. (If you don’t know of the Jackal, he was Peter Parker’s college science professor, Miles Warren. He’s the guy responsible for the entire clone saga thing.) The Jackal offers to give Markham a powerful exoskeleton to enhance his strength. He wears a bear costume over it and, naturally, makes his way to open a can of whoopass on Jameson at the Daily Bugle. As expected, Spider-man stops him.
The Grizzly gets a tech upgrade from the Tinkerer. In an effort to save some face in front of his peers, he challenges Spider-man to a fight. Spider-man takes pity on Markham and fakes defeat.
For the most part, he plays an enforcer kind of role. He’s landed in S.H.I.E.L.D. interrogation prior to their “Secret War” and was also a member of The Thunderbolts.
His most notable appearance was in a one shot of a Spider-man and Stephen Colbert team up – of course the bad guy had to be The Grizzly.
Next to scientists and janitors who accidentally mop up a glowing mass, botanists are the most likely go evil.
And I always thought that gardening was such a peaceful serene pastime.
Having power over earth’s greenery is a natural comic book thing. It’s like commanding an army of unthinking slaves to do your bidding. When you have plants it’s green and a renewable resource. Need more organic henchmen? Grow some more and cause some chaos by growing a tremendous weed that will destroy the city by virtue of its sheer volume.
Samuel Smithers was a lab assistant to a famous botanist who was researching intelligence in plant life. The scientist died and Smithers decided to continue his mentor’s work. Unfortunately, the scientific community was not ready for such radical ideas. I mean if you think that plants have an intelligence you might just go on thinking of things like the Gaea Theory – and who needs that?
Well, by a pure fluke of an accident, Smithers gets struck by lightning while working on an experimental plant ray gun. This accident connects him to earth’s biosphere and makes his plant gun the nexus of that link. When he uses the ray gun, he can control plants.
Smithers got so good at doing this that he decided it was time to take revenge on all the scientists that laughed… LAUGHED AT HIM!! THE FOOLS!!
Ahem… Excuse me.
Plant Man has faced a whole slew of enemies and has been part of many super villain teams. In many respects he’s no push over. One of the things that he’s been able to do is create fake human automations made from plant life. Why hypnotize a person to do your bidding when you can just grow someone in a pod that looks just like them? You can just snatch his body and replace him.
There’s some copyright infringement in there if you look hard enough.
Plant Man’s connection to the biosphere got stronger and he no longer needed the gun anymore. He could control the plants directly. As a side effect, he’s started to look a bit like DC’s Floronic Man – a blend of man and wood. Like many villains that want to try to walk the straight and narrow, he joined the Thunderbolts and changed his name to Blackheath. Eventually though, he quit – volunteering to return to prison where he thought he might be able to reclaim his human side which he believed he was starting to lose.
You try scrubbing them out. You try rinsing them out. But still you have super villains that are lame with pretty interesting powers.
How would you like to be able to make dimensional shortcuts to anywhere you want? Pretty neat, right? It’s sort of like that scene in Yellow Submarine where Ringo finds a hole in his pocket and then uses it as a hole somewhere else. How about if you could even make them so big that you can use them as a dimensional portal? There would be no door that could ever be locked from you. Now if you could keep all of these doorways as dimensional “spots” on your body, you could use them in combat to keep your vulnerable places untouchable (a spot on your stomach would keep you from having the wind knocked out of you as your opponent would be sticking his fist into a dimensional black hole).
Think of the possibilities.
It’s too bad that these powers went to a complete smeghead who has the intelligence of not-too-bright brick.
Johnny Ohnn, a scientist (imagine), was working for the Kingpin. His project was to find a way to replicate the powers of the vigilante, Cloak. When he did, he noticed that this was causing a power outage across New York. So, to keep his discovery, he jumps into the artificial portal he created.
Ohnn realized that he was in another dimension. This dimension had little spots all over it making it a center nexus to go almost anywhere he’d want. When he returned back to his home dimension, he found that he’s been changed. He had little space warps in the form of spots all over his body. He could remove these warps and expand them, making them either small windows for his extremities or make them into doors that he could pass through. If he merged all of the spots on his body, he could return to a normal appearance.
He challenged Spider-man to a battle – which Spider-man should have taken more seriously – and defeated him by putting dimensional portals in other places and grabbing and attacking Spider-man from unexpected angles. Spider-man defeated The Spot when he tricked him into removing too many spots, making him vulnerable to attack.
This guy’s continuity is a bit tricky because he’s been killed, brought back, killed again, and brought back again… then killed and brought back in Spider-man’s Brand New Day storyline. Lately, he’s been made to be an underling of larger better known more successful villains.
A shame, really.
What is it about going into a career in science that turns some people into insane nutballs?
Scientists are intelligent men and women who put years of study into a particular discipline. They get a good job, test a hypothesis, log the results, and make interesting discoveries in the fields of physics, chemistry, botany, or the biological life sciences. They usually pull some decent coin and contribute to the common good.
There have been plenty of brilliant scientists and inventors that did not get the credit or money they deserved. Tesla, Gray, Hertz, Faraday, Popov, and others who belong in better places in history never put their giant intellects into crime. Ironically most engineers I’ve known, would find the thought repugnant. Engineers work to fix things and almost, by default, are too lazy to rule anything except their own kingdoms in World of Warcraft.
Wanton destruction is usually the work of Marketing.
One of the reasons why guys like this don’t make the big leagues is that they have some fault with their cerebral wiring and somehow their plans always go awry. Sometimes, they’re just plain stupid. What do you do with someone who is blessed with talents and abilities that so far exceed many of their peers that they don’t fit in any pigeon hole?
To them, they don’t see the hard road that serves humanity – they see the opportunities in either monetary reward or in personal power to dominate their fellow man. These are the guys that need to be taken out of the game quickly because if they’re left unchecked and run amuck, they are liable to make the lives of ordinary people unbearable.
Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with using your talents for profit. That’s the way life is. You’ve been given a gift and you should be able to use your gifts constructively, improve the world in some way to make someone else’s life a little better… and turn a profit. It is finding that resource that will pay you for what you do exceedingly well that’s the trick.
There is also nothing wrong with seizing opportunities when they come along. Provided that you’re doing it in an ethical way – go for it. Evil is when your mind says things like, “Well, I have this heat vision. Why don’t I find fifteen people at random and threaten them if they don’t give me money.” Remember, there is money to be made in welding. Apex Tech says so.
The successful villains are the ones that not only use the talents that they have, but they also work hard to ensure that their crimes go undiscovered or unsolved. They plan, execute, and keep organized. There’s a reason they call it organized crime. The guy who robs the liquor store is more likely to be caught than the mastermind that siphons billions of dollars by rounding pennies down and keeping the fraction of a result for themselves while routing the profits through shell companies.
Characters like the five I mentioned have their uses. If they apply themselves and use a little discipline in their crime execution, they can play in the big leagues. Until they do, they will either wallow in obscurity or become the fodder for fledgling vigilantes.
These guys usually work for the successful villains as enforcers, allowing them to do what they do best – beat people up. “Beating people up” isn’t usually mentioned at the top of a resume, it’s something you have to work through “word of mouth”. It’s also not good to mention it during your interviewing process unless asked.
*Note: I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of the homeless. Being homeless does not make you a loser. Things are tough. Don’t give up. And alcohol is never the answer.
© 2012 Christopher Peruzzi
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on August 19, 2013:
THAT IS AWESOME!!!
Just so you know, I got the picture from Wikicommons. I was looking for pictures of people dressed up in comic book superhero costumes (not necessarily cosplay).
The Christopher Reeve passing hit comic book fans my age relatively hard as he was the first real incarnation of Superman since George Reeves and not only influenced movie goers but also comic book artists as the image of Superman was drawn to look more like Reeve. If you are a Reeve Fan (in all his movies), I highly recommend you reading his autobiography, "Still Me" - written after his accident. He pulled no punches and told a great story of growing up in New Jersey as well as his recuperation at Kessler in Newark.
Petruza from Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 19, 2013:
LOL! I'm the guy in black in the picture. This is funny.
The picture was taken at a concert of my band we made in honor of Christopher Reeve's passing away.
Christopher Peruzzi (author) from Freehold, NJ on September 01, 2012:
There's always a few. Finding the truly obscure ones would baffle most of the fans out there. I just found it really interesting on how many people did not know of the Taskmaster's existence at all. The new wrinkle in his character is that he loses pertinent memories with the addition of new skills.
With the advent of the Avengers Initiative, we're finding a lot of characters that have not seen the light of day in years. Still, I suppose you deserve to hear about another character as Taskmaster is making his "comeback".
How about Cyrus Black? He was a magician who was an annoyance to Doctor Strange and the Defenders. His big thing after a zillion losses to the good doctor is that he learned how to attack his opponents through his dreams (like DC's Doctor Destiny). It fell apart when Namor realized that time was passing and he did not need to replenish with water. After realizing that Black was attacking through dreams, all Strange had to do was shatter Black's confidence in his dreams.
There you go.
Eric Mikols from New England on September 01, 2012:
Taskmaster seems a little bit more well known than these other guys, if only from the overexposure of Deadpool and his teamups with Tasky. Plus, they used him (poorly) in that bad Moon Knight reboot a while ago. The others guys, still, I have never heard of!
One Eyed Dragon on August 13, 2012:
I think the Spot is kindof decently known, if only because he appeared in the 90's cartoon series and appears on and off randomly in the comics. Taskmaster is slightly known too, or the name is mentioned a few times. But yeah, these are pretty obscure villains.
Dominique L from Oregon on August 10, 2012:
Okay, I think this is your best Hub yet. It's brilliant, well researched and very well written. Good job! And, yes, there are zombie things you should be writing about. Though I'm probably a bit biased.