Posts tagged origin
Anyone who reads these columns know that I am a big fan of the Flash. I previously showed the origin of Barry Allen as the Flash in the very first Secret Origins column, before the current format took shape. Even though his origin was recounted, I figured that Barry’s tale needed a revisit, because I didn’t tell the true story. You’ll need to take an aspirin to protect yourself from the barrage of facepalms you’re bound to give yourself in this, The Real Origin of the Flash!
Our tale starts innocuously enough, with Barry (Flash) Allen tracking down a bunch of jewel smugglers. Being just normal-type thugs, the Flash routes them easily, even toying with them. Just when he’s about to wrap things up though, the unexplained ”aura” that protects Barry from friction-heat just goes away…
Since Barry is conveniently fighting at the docks, he takes a dip to douse his spontaneous combustion. Before he can figure out a reasonable explanation for what’s happened, the answer is given to him as he emerges from the drink. A stout fellow in green robes and too-big spectacles explains it was he who removed the friction aura and furthermore he had to, as it is the first step in removing Barry’s super-speed entirely! The Flash, rightly so, asks who the heck this guy is and what right does he have to do take his gifts away!? Well, he’s Mopee, Initiate 10th Class of the Heavenly Help-Mates! A mere description doesn’t do the guy justice though…
Which is MUCH less likely than this, don’cha know?
Mopee is nonplussed. He even taunts Barry a little, saying “Do you really believe that’s what happened, a scientist like you? I deliberately brought that lightning down!” You know, much more scientific. Anyway, Mopee decides to start at the beginning. When he reached the 10th class initiate level, he was tasked with giving a human the gift of super speed. He picks Barry because he’s honest, brave, and sincere. While that’s all true, it seems good ol’ Mopee took a wrong turn on the way back from Earth. Because of this, he wasn’t able to report to his (much more competent) superiors for a few years, during which Barry because one of the more celebrated crime fighters on the planet. Normally, that’d be a “no harm, no foul” situation, but when he does make his report to his betters, we find Mopee made a pretty grievous error in bestowing powers on Barry.
I dunno. That seems like a pretty arbitrary rule for people with that kind of power.
Barry, nice guy that he is, believes this crazy story, mainly because he doesn’t have much of a choice. He muses that it might be nice to be powerless, no responsibility or anything. Also, he wouldn’t have to tell his new bride Iris his secret identity. Win-win, right? Barry quickly reconsiders though, because he wouldn’t be able to go adventuring anymore. It doesn’t really matter though, because Mopee is all like, “Hey man, the law is the law, you’re losing your speed no matter what!” That is, until Barry convinces him to check his bylaws for a loophole. As it turns out, there is, and it’s just as ridiculous as the rest of this tale so far!
Just between us, I’m starting to think that the Heavenly Help-Mates are a celestial frat house who just like to torment humanity. At any rate, Barry, who has gone this far and just wants to keep being the Flash asks how much money he’ll need to buy said chemicals. Math (among other things) isn’t Mopee’s strong suit and tasks Barry with figuring it out himself. It turns out to be $94.36 which equates to about $660 in 2013 dollars. Since Barry is married, he can’t hire himself out as a gigolo, so he does the next best thing, take an ad out in the paper! Mopee think that Barry’s ad lacks panache, so he alters it a bit to sound more urgent.
“Yes, this trial will suffice. ‘The paddling of the swollen ass… with paddles“
Seriously though, the Flash is tasked with making high-speed deliveries cross-country. What follows is an Indiana Jones-esque series of stops on a map, until there is only one package left, back in Central City. As luck would have it, Mopee is being his old self and Flash loses his friction aura again, resulting in this…
Oh, that explains EVERYTHING! He’s just drunk!
Before we can find out what’s in the package, we’re given a flashback back to last night when Flash was fighting the jewel smugglers. In a case of being too smart for their own good, the hoods figure Flash isn’t following them so he can shadow them and find their boss. As far as criminals in comics go, that’s pretty astute. So of course, he’s dead wrong, what with Flash having lost his friction aura instead. Anyway, the crooks get the bright idea to put the Heart Diamonds they smuggled into a package in the warehouse they pass by. You can probably guess where this coincidence is going to take us, and sure enough, we find the Heart Diamonds in the burning package. Not knowing the crooks themselves are behind this, Barry assumes the fine gent who hired him is, so he doubles back to the shipping company. There, the bad guys just happen to be there to retrieve their diamonds. The Flash then unleashes some built up stress on them…
You’d think a force 12 times more powerful than a Tornado would kill a man. Thugs were made of sterner stuff then.
You’d think Flash has the upper hand, and you’re right. However, being pinned against a wall thanks to centrifugal force won’t stop these guys, as one somehow manages to pull a gun and fire! Again, you’d think with his fears expressed in the above panel, Barry would just move out of the way at super speed, but he instead opts to vibrate his body and let the bullet pass through him! A valid tactic, even though his body would be torn apart if his protective aura did in fact fail. Let’s watch, shall we?
Hooray for unnecessary suspense!
So, after that (literal and metaphorical) bullet was dodged, Flash proceeds to knock out the crooks with a series of super speed punches while they’re still stuck to the wall. Mopee offers to catch the falling baddies for Barry, seeing that he’s just been so wonderful about his
hazing ordeal. Mopee recreates the accident that gave Barry his Flash powers. Barry has one last question for Mopee, but he has to return to his home planet.
And Mopee was never seen again. DC in fact pretty much disavowed this story almost immediately. This issue has never been reprinted, and Mopee has been relegated to an comic continuity joke. All joking aside though, I freaking love this issue. It’s so absurd, that you can’t help but love it. It’s also the very first Silver Age comic I ever bought for myself, based purely on the cover. That Julius Schwartz sure knew what he was doing to get kids to buy comics.
This story appeared in The Flash v1 #167, February 1967. As mentioned above, it’s never been reprinted.
I am a humongous Steve Ditko fan. He intrigues me. No other creator I know puts so much of themselves in their characters except for possibly Kirby. Couple that with his famous (or infamous) reclusiveness and general outlook on life, it’s hard to deny that the man is fascinating. Of course, his most lasting legacy is the wealth of characters he’s created over the years. Aside from Spider-Man, today’s Secret Origin subject is probably my favorite creation of Ditko’s. So let’s get on with the show and the Secret Origin of the Blue Beetle!
Our story starts out a bit suspiciously, as police lieutenant Fisher visits the laboratory of Ted Kord. Fisher suspects Kord in the disappearance of one Dan Garret on the mysterious Pago Island. Ted has nothing to say about the matter, and the lieutenant having no real evidence, leaves. Ted is fed up with the accusations and when all is clear, he jumps into his specialized flying vehicle, The Bug, and switches to his secret identity of The Blue Beetle to blow off steam. Unfortunately for him, the city is pretty quiet, so he decides to take a joyride before calling it a night. As he flies by Pago Island, he sees a light shining on the supposedly deserted archipelago, and decides to investigate.
Landing on the island, Ted finds none other than his girlfriend Tracey. She explains to the Beetle that she’s looking for evidence to clear her boyfriend, Ted Kord, of the aforementioned suspicion of murder. It’s obvious Tracey is at the end of her rope, since even before this, she knew something has been eating at her beau. Touched by her devotion and plight, the Beetle does the only thing he can…
So, with that, Ted decides to tell Tracey (and in turn, us) the whole story. It all started when Ted’s uncle Jarvis asked him to help with certain experiments. Ted was never actually privy to what he was working on, always given just a part of a job, never seeing the whole. Ted really thought nothing of it, just being happy to help his uncle. Still, scientists are naturally curious, so Ted persists and Jarvis finally capitulates, saying all will be revealed the next morning. Unfortunately when Ted arrives at his uncle’s lab the next day, there is a massive explosion and a body is burned beyond recognition. It is assumed this is the remains of Jarvis. In mourning, Ted finds a metal box that somehow survived the blast, and when he inspects its contents, he rightly freaks the heck out…
“Now no one will be able to tell the difference between regular and diet Dr. Pepper!”
In desperation, Ted seeks out his college friend, Dan Garret, who he knows to be trustworthy and happens to have a background in archaeology. They review the film together and see a behemoth of an automaton, wrecking everything in its path. Then Ted reveals this is the old model. With the unknowing enhancements Ted added, they could now be very well unstoppable. Dan tries to assure Ted that there’s nothing to worry about, what with Jarvis being “dead”. Regardless, Ted convinces Dan to investigate Pago Island, and insists on accompanying him. No sooner do they arrive than they are abducted by multiple models of those fearsome robots. They are brought to the inner sanctum of Uncle Jarvis very much alive and “well”. In the great villain tradition, he then explains his master plan…
“Unless you stop monologuing and kill us, that is!”
Of course, Jarvis has to continue to humiliate Ted, and show him that the fruits of his labor actually have made his robot minions pretty invincible. Ted is very distraught, as you may understand. Not only has he seemingly doomed the world, but he also dragged his dear friend Dan along for the ride. Old Dan Garret however, tells him not to fret when he reveals a mysterious blue scarab he’s been concealing, and quicker than you can say “Khaji-Da!” a spectacular transformation takes place!
“Yes! I’ll stop him by running in the opposite direction! I’m a &^%$# genius!”
Dan, the original Blue Beetle, is holding his own against the robotic horde, so Jarvis unleashes them all to take down the Cobalt Crime-fighter. Dan is still faring relatively well, but he knows the he’ll be overwhelmed soon. Ted meanwhile is looking for an escape route for the both of them. Just then, Jarvis shows just how far gone he is, saying he’ll stop the Beetle even is he has to destroy all of his robots to do it! Now, since his whole evil plan is based on these self-same robots, you’d think he’d have thought this through a bit better. I guess he thought he could just build more later. Anyway, he issues the command to overload all of the robots at once. Ted tries to warn Dan of the danger, but…
Even depicting death, Ditko is spectacular
While the resulting explosion also seemingly destroyed Jarvis’ lab (again), Ted’s most immediate concern is seeing to Dan’s well-being. Dan is a crumpled mess, and knows that his time is short. He asks Ted to attend him, and asks a dying favor that will change Ted’s life forever…
“Dan! Quick! Who’s your tailor?!”
In the aftermath, Ted somehow finds his way to the shore of the island, but he soon collapses from the strain of the day’s activities. Soon, he is rescued by a fisherman passerby who heard the explosions and decides to make up a story as the truth is too unbelievable. The police are obviously not buying Ted’s tale of not remembering anything. Really Ted? You’re a brilliant scientist who unwittingly made a nigh-unstoppable robot army, but you can’t come up with a convincing story? Oh well. So now, the police are trying to pin Dan’s murder on Ted, because as far as anyone knows, Jarvis already was dead! Ted can’t dwell on it though, foremost in his mind is how he’s going to carry on Dan’s legacy. Honestly, he has no idea how to do it, since the mystic scarab Dan used to become the Beetle seems to have been lost along with Dan. Eventually though…
“It’s like an omen! I shall become a beetle!”
So with his technical skill combined with months of practice and training, the new Blue Beetle is born! Ted has more story to tell Tracey, but as luck (or the plot) would have it, it seems that Uncle Jarvis’ robot brigade isn’t quite as finished as previously thought! Ted quickly gets Tracey into the Bug and valiantly tries to fight the invincible androids. Ted is not faring well, and Tracey looks on helplessly, not able to operate any of the Bug’s systems. As he’s getting pummeled, Ted stumbles upon an idea. There is a gigantic crevice between them, seemingly bottomless. He manages to donkey kick one of the monstrosities to its seeming end, but in response, the remaining robot steps up its game, not letting the Beetle catch his breath. It looks like the second Blue Beetle’s career will be prematurely shortened, when Ted finds that he has a slight advantage if he keeps the monster off-balance. He finally manages to get the upper hand, but the robot will not go quietly!
“I really wish I had the proportionate agility of a spider right about now!”
Ted manages to right himself, and rejoins Tracey in the Bug. He then uses the arms of the Bug to fill the crevice and any other means of egress, hopefully ending the threat of Pago Island forever. Now that the immediate threat is over, Ted asks Tracey how she feels about him being the Blue Beetle. She assures him that, to her, he was a hero long before he donned a mask. Tracey also promises that no matter what trials face Ted she wants to meet them head on with him, no matter what. That’s love and devotion, right there. So all is well, right? Well, maybe not…
Dun dun duuuuuun!
This story first appeared in Blue Beetle Vol. 4 #2 August 1967. It has been reprinted in The Action Heroes Archives Volume 2.
Over the past month, The CW has seen fit to bestow on us a superhero show that is surprisingly not a crap-fest! The show of course is Arrow. Aside from being apparently colorblind, the show is based on the exploits of Oliver Queen, also known as Green Arrow. I’ve been keeping up with the show, and am generally approving of it. I did have a little problem though. The flashbacks to Ollie’s island origin are infuriating little snippets, and I feel we’re never going to see the full story. To that end, I decided to just relate the tale myself, with the help of the inimitable Jack Kirby. So without further intro-padding, the Secret Origin of Green Arrow!
Our tale starts as Oliver and his young ward Roy Harper are lounging and watching TV, when a convenient to the plot news item pops up: an expedition is sailing to Starfish Island to explore this previously unknown area! Usually, we would say “Who Cares?” Ollie however just about has a coronary! He orders Roy to suit up as Speedy and get to the Arrowcave and board the Arrowplane! You see, aside from having a severe case of Bat-envy, Oliver knows that if they don’t reach Starfish Island before the expedition, his secret identity won’t be worth diddly. En route, Green Arrow explains why his identity would be compromised, and being a captive audience, Speedy has no choice but to listen…
In later re-tellings, he fell because he was drunk. I like to think this version of Green Arrow is just a clumsy guy.
Stranded on the island, Ollie, not being a complete idiot, tries to get his bearings. On the other hand, he muses to himself that the shoals of the island are so rocky that rescue would be impossible. I might believe that, except we now know an expedition is sailing to the island. Maybe boating technology in the DC Universe skyrocketed in the time since Oliver became Green Arrow. Regardless, Ollie soon finds a cavern that he can call “home”, and then realizes that he’s going to have to find food if he’s going to survive. Using techniques he learned on the Discovery Channel, Ollie fashions some rocks into arrowheads and ties them to perfectly straight branches to make some shafts. I’ll spare you the training montage, but suffice to say, Oliver practices for days before he gets a nosh, so it may explain his lack of common sense…
“Yeah, this time I’ll remember to reel the damn thing in!”
With Ollie finally getting some food in his belly, he starts to get a little obsessed with his trick arrows. He modifies his rope arrow to actually launch a net to catch many fish, which is indeed genius. However, his aplomb for figuring out nifty arrows is akin to a stoner. “Hey, that rock would make an excellent arrow!” “Whoa, that pile of bird crap would make a kick-ass arrow, dude!” This culminates with the invention of the drill arrow. Admittedly, it’s a cool concept, but the execution of such a device using only the items found on an island is just a little hard to swallow.
You have no idea how difficult it is not to make this article one long stream of “gripping the shaft” jokes.
And so, Oliver is content to spend the rest of his days on an island, with only his ideas for new arrows keeping him “sane”. More power to him, but we still haven’t learned why present-day Ollie was freaking out so much in the beginning. Did he mark his territory in such a way that it’d lead back to his civilian identity? Well, yeah, kind of.
“Here I sit, broken-hearted…”
And so ends the story of Oliver Queen, washed-up billionaire, destined to spend his days as a strange combination of Gilligan, the Skipper, and The Professor. Then one day, Oliver sees a ship off the coast. He’s either thinking they’ll be good for a rescue, or at least an opportunity to show off his cool arrows to other human beings. Luckily for him, it turns out to be both! As he swims out to the freighter…
Oliver makes short work of the villains, using the drill arrow (I guess he still had some elastic left) to bore into an oil drum, causing them to slip and fall in a truly stooge-like fashion. Then he uses the net arrow to well, net them. Ollie and the badguys make their way back to civilization (with help from the non-mutineering crew, no doubt). When the authorities on land ask who this green-clad fellow with the impeccable aim is, Oliver now knows the path his destiny will take!
“I was going to go for Hawkeye, but M.A.S.H. & Disney have lawyers, man!”
And there you have it, the origin of Green Arrow! But wait! There’s still the little matter of the expedition discovering Ollie’s cave-diary. Sadly, Green Arrow and Speedy get there a smidge too late, and the expeditioners are about to enter the cavern! Ever the crazy arrow-inventor, Green Arrow just happens to have an arrow for the occasion. I will warn you though, this particular arrow is as inexplicable as it is hard to swallow.
Pardon me while I ready my “suspension of disbelief” arrow.
And so, the day is saved… again. You’ll note that the expedition did actually enter the cavern, though. If they bothered to look up, Green Arrow’s crimefighting career may well have been over. As it is, the expedition just figures a primitive people may have lived on the island at one time. Yes, primitive people who somehow discovered how to make a net arrow. Way to go Green Arrow, not only did you do some self-serving identity protection, but you’ve also screwed up a small piece of history for generations to come!
So, forgive my “mistake” yesterday regarding the original Black Widow being in Joss Whedon’s Avengers film. Of course I knew that was the case, and just used it as an excuse to showcase an otherwise obscure and offbeat character. Now, when it comes to the “real” Black Widow, her comic origin is actually pretty convoluted. The movies thankfully make it incredibly succinct. Essentially, she was a Russian spy, met Hawkeye, and had a change of loyalties. The comics had her on a nearly 8-year journey to end up on the side of the angels full-time. As such, it’s really difficult to pin down an origin issue for her, per se. Instead, We’ll be looking at the moment where Natasha Romanov emerges from her cocoon and because the Black Widow we know today. Enough mixed metaphors, let’s get on with the Secret Origin (kind of) of The Black Widow!
As our tale begins, Black Widow is observing Spider-Man swinging across the New York City skyline, as he likes to do. The Widow is apparently looking to re-invent herself as is looking to the wall-crawler for inspiration. I guess that makes sense. They’re both kind of spidery, after all. As such, she decides to learn the secret of Spidey’s powers so she can make them her own. Instead of actually going and you know doing that though, she swings into the apartment she apparently keeps for herself. It’s there where she laments on her convoluted past. This means we get a handy montage/flashback so I don’t have to explain it all to you guys!
Natasha continues to get her reminisce on, recounting her romance with Hawkeye, how Nick Fury recruited her on her first S.H.I.E.L.D. mission that ultimately resulted in the death of her husband… So um yeah, I’d probably be having a bit of an identity crisis myself. To wit: Natasha decides her jet-setting Madame Natasha persona isn’t getting her anywhere, so it’s time to focus on being the Black Widow. What better way to do that than an impromptu costume change!
And so, with an outfit from the Emma Peel catalog, Black Widow sets out to catch Spider-Man in her web. This is actually a bit odd to me. Her whole deal for hunting down Spidey is to find out his shtick, but she already seems to be aping it pretty well. In fact, she’s doing such a fine job imitating the web-head that a certain crotchety publisher makes a (chauvinistic) note about it…
Since this is a Marvel comic, and coincidence is the word of the day, it doesn’t take too long for the Widow to encounter Spidey. Not one for formal introductions, Natasha announces herself in a way only she can…
What follows is an interesting cat & mouse game between two spiders. Now, it should be noted that Spidey’s not exactly bringing his ‘A’ game here. Last issue the Kingpin knocked his keister around pretty good, and he’s having some performance issues due to grogginess. With the playing field relatively even, Spidey falls back on his other great tactic, talking. Once he finds out he’s up against the widow, he pretty much point-blank asks her why they’re fighting, seeing as she’s already teamed with the Avengers at this point. The Widow isn’t really one for giving up information like that though, so she kicks the webspinner around a bit more. Because of said grogginess, he doesn’t put up much of a fight so Black Widow ends up with one trussed up spider in no time flat.
Thinking she has the upper hand, she gloats about how the vaunted Spider-Man is such a pushover. At this moment, Spider-Man decides that maybe he shouldn’t let it get out that he’s in such a bad way, so he breaks out of the Widow’s snare and pours on the bravado. The Widow takes the bait, thinking Spider-Man has just been toying with her the whole time. Simultaneously, she realises that a hasty retreat is in order, because she’s not finding out what makes the wall-crawler tick today.
Returning to her loft, the Widow ruminates on the events of the day, and starts upon the path that makes her the prominent figure she is today…
After this, Natasha would join the Champions, eventually becoming their leader. Becoming more confident in herself and her abilities, she would be Daredevil’s partner/lover for a time. After that series of adventures, she became a full-time S.H.I.E.L.D. agent & would of course come to join the Avengers on a more permanent basis, even becoming leader of that illustrious group for a time. All in all, from KGB spy to honored member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, ‘Tasha has certainly come a long way.
Spider-Man has one of the best collections of villains ever concocted. Sure there are terrible ones, for every Scorpion, there’s a Hypno Hustler lurking around the corner. When it comes to A-listers though, Spidey has some really good opposite numbers. I wanted to spotlight my personal favorite today. Sure the Green Goblin usually gets top billing as Spidey’s #1 nemesis, but that didn’t happen until he decided to get all personal and murder Gwen Stacy. Before that, the Web-head’s best baddie was always considered to be the guy you see above. He of the bowl cut and multiple appendages, the one, the only Doctor Octopus!
As our story commences, Spidey is on a routine patrol when he comes across some nameless miscreants. Spidey makes such short work of them, that he laments his lot in life. He longs for a villain that can give him a run for his money. I guess that whole “power and responsibility” thing kind of slipped your mind there for a bit, Pete. At this point we leave the cocky web-spinner and cut to one of the many, many nuclear research facilities that existed in the early Marvel Universe. We’re introduced to a man named Otto who with a special harness can well, harness the awesome might of nuclear energy. This apparatus has already earned him the nickname of Dr. Octopus!
As these things usually go, something goes horribly awry and Octavius is caught in a bit of an explosion. Taken from the wreckage, it is discovered that the good doctor is alive, albeit with a great deal of radiation absorbed into his body. If you think that means he’s slowly dying anyway, you’ve never read a Marvel comic! Welcome to the blog, by the way! Anyway, what the radiation actually does is fuse the arms to Otto’s body somehow. This is comics, we don’t need real science to explain awesome things! As it is, Ock’s brain is also been a bit addled. When he wakes int he hospital some time later, he assumes he is being imprisoned for his vast intellect. Because of this, he lashes out, and finds that the arms now respond to his mental commands rather than clunky analog controls. That’s right, Doc Ock has bluetooth arms, apparently! Of course being the fresh off the operating table maniacal genius he is, Doc Ock decides to just take over the whole damn hospital. Although he does it in a hilarious way.
Meanwhile a the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson assigns Peter Parker to get some pictures of the scientist. All they know at this point is that no one is being admitted to the hospital. Actually, the whys and wherefores don’t matter. It’s a good excuse to get Spider-Man on the scene! When the titanic teen stumbles across Doc Ock hassling the staff and generally being a bad guy, he jumps through the window, itching for action! What follows is quite a heated battle that introduces many staples to the Doc Ock/Spidey mythos, such as Spidey getting punched by a tentacle and the hero subsequently webbing the arms up. Sadly for the webhead, the battle is not in his favor. In fact, Doctor Octopus makes such short work of the hero, he adds insult to injury by not even bothering to remember Spidey’s name…
So, after this exchange, Doc Ock literally slaps Spidey around for a bit, and then tosses him out of the 3rd story window like so much garbage. This leaves Peter devastated, as this was his first ever defeat. His confidence is shaken so much, that he goes home as Peter, not Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Doc Ock takes this opportunity to leave the hospital before the police arrive. In the interval, he goes to yet another nuclear research facility (told you there were a lot), and takes it over as well. Thinking himself invincible, Octopus takes the time to gloat.
Cut back to teenage Peter Parker who is being incredibly mopey just because he got his webbed behind handed to him. He goes through his daily routine of getting picked on in school. Not even the promise of the Human Torch coming to school to give a speech can rouse his spirits. In fact, if he wasn’t so mopey, he’d be on the verge of heckling the Torch, thinking it’s easy to exude confidence if you’ve never been defeated. As the Torch’s demonstration continues though, a chord is struck within Pete that truly galvanizes the young lad into action.
As soon as classes for the day end (Peter is responsible, after all.), Spider-Man gets ready to take the fight back to Ock. We even see the first use of the web-catapult to get Spidey past Doc Ock’s defenses. While inside the facility, though, surveillance devices track the web head’s every move. Using his innate cleverness and the trusty ‘ol spider-sense, he manages to evade detection and makes his way to the chem lab. Methinks our young hero has a clever plan.
Spidey finishes his concoction just in time as he is then ambushed by Doc Ock. Using his newly created chemical formula, Web Head manages to fuse two of Ock’s arms together! Doctor Octopus is having none of it though, and still advances on Spidey, backing him into a wall. Worse yet, the arms that got fused together now give Ock a formidable club to smash spiders with! Spider-Man is running out of options, and decides to make a desperate gambit. He manages to web Ock’s glasses to his face, but the arms don’t need eyes to bludgeon the young hero, so that plan was a bit futile. Ock gets the webbing off of his face and is about to deliver the coup de grâce. Spidey makes one last attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with his handy spider speed.
So, getting by with the skin of his teeth, Spidey wraps the unconscious Doc Ock in copious amounts of webbing and leaves him for the cops, because of course they’ll be able to handle him now that the dirty work is done. While Ock is defeated, this origin tale does a superb job in establishing that he is more than a match for the webbed wonder. In subsequent appearances, Octopus would go on to become a proto-Kingpin as the Crime Master, the de facto leader of the Sinister Six, among other things. Possibly the worst offense was when he very nearly became Peter’s new uncle when he wooed Aunt May. Currently, Ock is kind of a mess, with a debilitating disease leaving him a dying husk. That doesn’t have him down though, he still has the entire world in the palm in his hands with his current machinations. Over the years, Doctor Octopus has been all over the map in terms of his place in Spidey’s pantheon of villains, but he’ll always be my number 1, thanks in most part to this story here.
This tale was originally printed in Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963. It has been re-published too many times to count, notably in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 1 and Marvel Masterworks: Spider-Man Vol. 1. It is also available digitally.
Today’s featured origin is an interesting one, and probably can use a bit of setup. Captain America was of course created in the early 1940′s by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, he fought in WWII and all of that fun stuff. Eventually super-heroes fell out of favor and Captain America sort of went away for a while. Then, in the mid-50′s Stan Lee decided the time was ripe to bring Cap back to fight the “Red Menace”, but it didn’t take and Cap went away again. Lee decided to resurrect Cap again in the 60′s at the dawn of the Marvel Universe. This time it stuck, but there was a problem. Lee gave the in-story reason for Cap’s absence since the war due to the whole “frozen in a block of ice” thing. Because of this, there was no explanation for Cap’s 1950′s commie smashing adventures. Then in the early 70′s Steve Englehart came along and came upon an idea that fit those stories back into continuity without negating any of Stan’s stories. If he were a fan, Englehart would have won the ultimate No-Prize, but instead we got… The Secret Origin of the 1950′s Captain America!
As our tale begins, caption boxes nicely set the scene: Steve (Captain America) Rogers and Sharon (Agent 13/Cap’s girlfriend) Carter are vacationing in the Bahamas, unaware that two madmen calling themselves Captain America and Bucky are out to kill them! Cap and Sharon are oblivious to this fact for the time being, and they have some beach fun, until Steve catches a glimpse of a boy who looks amazingly like his former partner, Bucky! Cap gives chase. He can’t be sure the boy was Bucky, but he has to make sure, even though “Bucky looked like a lot of boys”. Sadly for Cap, but not for the story, Steve is ambushed by a flurry of fists, and we find that his attackers are of course the impostors mentioned before.
With Cap subdued, “Fake Cap” says all that’s left is to capture Sharon. He switches outfits to dupe Sharon, but the lady is a smart cookie and knows something is up. You see, her Cap has a bit of a sunburn from going shirtless in the Bahamas for so long. Sharon turns tail and flees. Ersatz Cap and Bucky are in hot pursuit, and things aren’t looking good for her, as she is about to be caught. Just as hope seems lost, fate (or the Falcon) intervenes! He initiates a stand-off, Sharon gets him up to speed, which causes Falcon to launch into a rage. Fake Cap recovers from Falc’s initial attack to shout some racial epithets and implies that Sharon and Falcon are Russian agents. Falcon is fed up with the bigotry of Fake Cap (they had words last issue, apparently) and calls upon his partner to deal with it, and Redwing, the Falcon’s, um falcon rakes his claws on Fakecap’s back. The evil Cap recovers and spouts more hate-speech. Falcon says what everyone else is thinking and Fakecap replies in such a way that makes it really hard to take him seriously.
The fight continues, but Fakecap is full of rage at being called “A Hitler” so he channels said rage… by beating a black man and a woman into submission. Very un-Hitler-like indeed. Once everyone has regained consciousness, Fakecap (now in full costume), reveals why he went to the trouble of capturing them all: So he could have a captive audience for his origin story! He then introduces himself as the Captain America of the 1950′s and turns on the flashback machine (not literally)! You see he was 11 in 1941 when Captain America came on the scene, and the young lad was enraptured. His world came crashing down when he read the news of Cap’s apparent death. Instead of being overcome by grief with the death of his hero, the boy decided to make it his life’s work to study Captain America’s life, in essence, he was the ultimate fanboy. As the years passed, the young man graduated summa cum laude in American History, writing his thesis on Captain America, because in the Marvel Universe, you could get away with that. It wasn’t enough though! Sure, the guy knew everything there was to know about Cap from the American perspective, but what did the Nazis think about the Star-Spangled Avenger? It turns out they didn’t like him. On a trip to Germany, the young man is poring over many volumes of text, most untouched for years, when he makes a startling discovery!
Of course the young man takes his finding directly to Washington, because a nameless guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Captain America apparently has that kind of access. The government suits decide it’s a good idea seeing as the Korean War is going on and they could use a Sentinel of Liberty. They want to hand-pick someone to be their super-soldier though, but ‘ol Fakecap won’t give them the formula unless he gets to be Captain America. The government must have been desperate for a super-solider, because they agree to these insane terms. After some tests on monkeys (because why not?), our nameless “hero” is ready to undergo the process himself, but not before a makeover…
It wasn’t to be though. As soon as Fakecap is ready for his injection, the government gets cold feet, because the war has ended, so why bother? Fakecap is pretty PO’ed about this, but goes with it, seeing as you know, he’s not about to defy his government… yet. As it is, he is a little on the odd side. He decides to legally change his name to Steve Rogers and becomes a teacher. Life seemingly goes on until he comes across one of his young charges that is as big a fan of Captain America as he is.
So you’d think sharing his sordid tale would ease “Steve’s” burden. This Bucky is a bit of an enabler though. “Bucky” keeps egging “Steve” to don the costume he made and take on the commies. “Steve” insists that he can’t because the Soviets would take that as a personal affront or somesuch. It isn’t until the twosome hear on the radio that the Red Skull has returned that “Steve” finally gives in. While “Steve” is still unsure about this course of action, he decides that this is fate. He offers to give “Bucky” an injection as well, to which the youngster is super-enthusiastic about. Their destiny lies ahead, so it’s time to shoot up!
And so America’s Fighting Force is reborn! They easily topple the Red Skull (who isn’t REALLY the Red Skull, but that’s a whole other story), and go on to smash commies left and right! All is not well though, it seems that as time passes, Cap and Bucky start seeing communists everywhere (much like America itself– zing!) When the star-spangled duo start seeing Reds in Harlem and Watts though, it’s apparent to the higher-ups in the government that things have gone very wrong. The government bigwigs try to talk them down, going in for treatments, that sort of thing. “Captain America” isn’t really receptive to this though, so drastic measures are taken.
And so, because the government never learns from their mistakes, the two were freed in the 70′s. The catalyst? Richard Nixon’s trip to China. Their emancipator was afraid that America was about to be swallowed in a Red Tide, so not only did he let them out, he told them about the real Captain America, saying that he was a poseur. Now back in the present day, Fakecap is smug about his capture of who he thinks of as his successor rather than his predecessor. It’d be deliciously ironic if it wasn’t so tragic. Falcon continues to be ballsy and calls out Fakecap as a loser. Why? Well, have a look!
Not to take you out of the story, but I wanted to make an interesting observation here. Both the Captain America of the 1950′s and the Captain America from the movie serial lack stripes on the back of the costume. Both are also not the real Cap. Coincidence? Probably, but it’s still interesting. Anyway, Falcon’s gambit paid off. His tirade caused Fakecap to run off in a huff, giving the real Captain America a chance to free himself and the others. Now knowing the full scope of Fakecap’s madness, Steve Rogers vows to take him down, because as he says “It’s not his fault he’s dangerous, but that doesn’t make him any less malignant!” Now this is where the issue ends, but I didn’t want to end the column there without finishing the story. I’ll be back with part two of the 50′s Cap saga… right now!
As it turns out, Falcon, Sharon and Cap were aboard a plane after their capture. They wisely decide to bide their time until landing. As soon as they get back to U.S. soil it is, as they say, on. Cap takes the fight to his captors and is so clearly the superior fighter than Fakecap resorts to using a gun. He blows a hole in the side of the plane and the fight kind of comes full circle on the beach.
A Coast Guard cutter happens to be off shore and orders the Caps to knock it off, but like that’s going to happen, this is a Bronze Age Marvel comic! Fakecap’s atom gun misfires and ends up putting a massive hole in the cutter as well. Cap is galvanized by this, and disarms his foe. Fakecap and Fakebuck know they aren’t on the winning side of this battle so they scurry away, but not before challenging Cap to a rematch. In the interlude, Cap, Falcon and Sharon save the members of the Coast Guard and inform the local authorities to the trouble. Cap intends to face his impostor one-on-one, but his partners nix that idea, reminding Cap that with the fake Bucky it’s wouldn’t be mano-a-mano anyway. The trio make their way to the appointed rendezvous with fisticuffs, but before they can reach their destination, “Bucky” ambushes them. His job is to distract Sharon and Falcon so the Caps can indeed duke it out without any interference. I could go on about the fight between a super-powered Bucky and our two protagonists, but suffice it to say “Bucky” lets out more epithets, pisses our heroes off and they end up using the power of teamwork to lay him out in a spectacular way.
With “Bucky” laid out, It’s time for some Cap on Cap action! As they fight, the two Steve Rogers talk about their ideals and how Fakecap is twisted by his tainted super-soldier serum. Now, if you think that Cap was able to reason with Fakecap, you’d be very wrong. All of the things “our” Cap tells Fakecap just further incense him. It isn’t until our Captain America reveals that he is indeed the original that Fakecap truly goes off the deep end.
With that, Cap has actually won the battle. The overwhelming madness has made Fakecap lash out blindly and Cap takes him out with one mighty fist of justice! While the battle is won, Cap can’t help but feel down. You see, if he had gotten the same dose of the serum that Fakecap got, he very well could have gone down the same mad path, albeit he’d be obsessed with goosesteppers and not pinkos. So the story closes on a somber note…
That isn’t the end of Fakecap’s story though. In later years, he was revived as the “Grand Director”, a true villain, albeit a mind-controlled one. Recently, he was used to great effect in the pages of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, where his real name was finally revealed as William Burnside, although he’s as crazy as ever. I personally think it’s really cool that what was originally a Stan Lee afterthought could be turned into such an interesting story in the hands of clever writers. That’s all for this week, why not hit the theater and see the real Captain America in action on the big screen?
This story originally appeared in Captain America #155-156, reprinted in Essential Captain America Volume 3.
Marvel has a tradition. Ever since the vast success of Spider-Man, they’ve tried once a decade or so to recapture lightning in a bottle. In the 70′s they tried it with Nova, in the 80′s with today’s subject, they skipped it in the 90′s to make 765 Wolverine clones, but in the 00′s they did it twice with Gravity and Ultimate Spider-Man. Sometimes worked better than others, but today’s hero had a lot going for him. He had Spider-Man’s co-creator, Steve Ditko co-plotting and drawing his adventures. He also had Roger Stern with along for a writing assist. So confident was Marvel that they started the character with his own #1 issue! Sadly, after 10 issues, that run ended. The character would go on to be a mainstay of the New Warriors, which would ultimately be his undoing. I’m getting ahead of myself though, let’s find out the Secret Origin of the Masked Marvel, Speedball!
Our tale opens by painting a picture of the Robbie Baldwin, and the predicament his life is currently in. His home life is pretty idyllic, what with two loving parents, and nary an Aunt or stack of wheatcakes in sight. Rob does have a problem though, his body contains incredible energies (which we’ll discover later), and he’s having issues keeping them in check. But first, let’s have a couple of crooks describe the town they’re in, why not?
Then Mr. Career Criminal ties our threads nicely together, when he swears vengeance against the D.A. who just happens to be Rob’s dad. The narrative gives us a quick peek into D.A. Justin Baldwin’s life, where he turns down a plea bargain because he doesn’t want to see a criminal go free. Ah Marvel, sometimes I forget how unrealistic you can be. As the plane continues its tour of Springdale, we fly over the Hammond Research Center where Rob’s mother, Madeline is giving an impassioned speech about the importance of art in our culture. I will say this, while these things aren’t super important to the story, it is a unique way of introducing our cast. Finally, the plane motors by the local High School where we finally meet Robbie himself. He’s mulling about the campus in classic Ditko-Spidey style, worrying that the slightest wrong move could unleash his dread power on an unsuspecting populous. Then, he’s angsting about his future in the world, and how he’s torn between what his father wants and what his mother wants for him.
As he’s lost in thought, Rob is almost pelted by a mis-thrown football, and he freaks out again, and walks off, wondering how he’s ever going to stay in control. Meanwhile, the plane has landed, and the crook and his pilot (also a crook, don’t get me wrong) meet with a third man, and their plan for revenge starts to get underway. Then, we jump back to Rob. Seriously, this story bounces around quite a bit, which I suppose makes sense, given out hero’s powers. Anyway, Rob is wondering if there is anyone he can confide in, who can possibly help him control his powers. Not being a mutant, I guess Charles Xavier is right out. A pack of winos see Rob moping away and decide to roll him because “kids these days always have money”. Now, I was a kid when this was published, and I didn’t even have an allowance, but Springdale does its own thing. The bums decide to give Rob the Bum’s Rush under a bridge, but as they throw him against the wall, they find out they’re getting more than they bargained for.
The winos are (rightly) scared off, and Rob is able to calm down and return to what passes for normal in the Marvel Universe. We then cut to the Baldwin residence where Thuggy McGee and company are stalking the place so they can get the drop on the D.A. Madeline is also there, and they discuss their son and argue about his future. Too bad they aren’t including their son in the conversation, but I digress. Johnny Roarke (I like calling him by my name better), pulls a gun on the bickering couple, and it looks bad for them, seeing as there aren’t likely to be witnesses, what with forest surrounding the Baldwin estate. As fate would have it, Robbie’s trek home from school gets him there in such a way that he sees what’s happening without being seen and decides to leap into action. Well, “leap” probably isn’t the best term…
As Speedball accosts the villains, his parents are still debating, now over whether or not their son’s super-heroic alter ego is altruistic or not. Nevertheless, Speedball’s bombastic bouncing is keeping the criminals distracted enough to not want to shoot the incessantly bickering couple in the face, so good on him, I guess. Rob doesn’t really have control of his powers, so his victory and his downfall are how unpredictable he is. Eventually, he gets the hang of things and knocks the baddies out, and his antics have gathered a crowd. Incidentally, the fracas has given Robbie both of his monikers, Roarke calls him “a speedball” and one of the gathered onlookers refer to him as a “masked marvel”. The fervor dies down, the cops haul Roarke and his accomplices away, and Robbie returns to his old self and meets up with his parents, but all is not well in Springdale, as Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin aren’t done arguing.
And so the day is saved for what it’s worth. I kid about Robbie’s folks, but to be honest, it’s refreshing to have a character who isn’t defined by tragedy (more on that later). In the aftermath, Robbie is still in full on mope mode. People know that Springdale has a super-powered citizen within their midst. Robbie just wants to be normal, but feels like he’ll be hounded more than Michael Jackson. I don’t think that’s possible, but hey, dare to dream Rob!
You may have noticed that we’ve gotten through the story without actually revealing the origin of Speedball. That’s true, but I felt it important to establish the character, plus the issue I am sourcing from lists this story first. Now, on to the actual origin antics!
In our next story, appropriately titled “Origin of a Masked Marvel”, we open with a quartet of criminals in very unique, yet incredibly Ditko-y masks. They are discussing an upcoming heist at a place that is getting a rare metals shipment. It is a scene that screams “THIS IS THE SETUP FOR SOMETHING COMING LATER!” Of course, that means we cut to young Rob at his weekend job as a gofer at the Hammond Research Lab. There’s no way these two plot threads will converge! Rob is doing a quick clean-up job so he can sneak into the lab and witness the day’s exciting experiment. So if you have ever read a Marvel comic, you probably know where this is going. Witness said experiment now…
So yeah, in the space of two panels, things go incredibly wrong. While the big brain scientists are spouting technobabble explanations with they’re going out of style, the energy wave itself lashes out at Rob, who was peeking in on the situation, and he takes the brunt of… whatever this junk is…
As the scientists curse the fact that they’ve lost months of work, Rob is still undergoing his metamorphosis. Before you know it, he’s in full Speedball regalia, complete with a weird, otherworldly change in his voice. Not wanting anyone to see him in this state, he flees to the roof, and futilely tries to peel his costume off. Before the narrative can hit a wall, the be-masked criminals arrive to steal their rare metals or whatever they were after. For plot’s sake, they decide to enter from the roof, so of course they run into Robbie who is still in mid-freak.
Dispensing with the pleasantries, Mr. Mask casually tosses Speedball off of the roof. Here, Rob gets a quick lesson in how his abilities work, as instead of dying or breaking a leg, he bounces back up. In fact, he bounds around so much that he can’t control himself. It seems that this is fast becoming his de facto method of crime fighting. One of the hoods finally gets a hold of the Masked Marvel, but his tactics aren’t the best way to go about things to be sure.
Eventually, the villains manage to dogpile Speedball and things are looking dire, until police sirens wail and the thugs decide to rabbit. While the baddies try to make their getaway, Rob gets all introspective and slumps on the roof trying to make sense of everything that’s happened to him in the last couple of minutes. As the police chase rages, the miscreant’s van take a turn badly and they all wind up dying in a fiery wreck. Regardless, the police decide to check the roof, because they need to make sure that the van wasn’t just a decoy. As they reach the roof, the police find Rob, back in his jumpsuit. Even after explaining himself, one of the officers isn’t completely satisfied.
And after this, Rob is still unbelieving about his situation, so he tries to replicate conditions by hitting the wall, and this does indeed cause him to bounce off the walls and become Speedball again. As the story ends, Speedball questions his place in life and what the heck he’s going to do with himself, which leads into our first story quite nicely. It’s not a perfect debut, but there is a lot of fun to be had.
And there you have it. As mentioned before, after his short-lived solo series, Robbie Baldwin ended up being the heart of the New Warriors, and overcame his angst to be a fun and fun-loving character. That is until the Marvel Civil War, where he inexplicably takes responsibility for a villain blowing up a town and starts living in an Iron Maiden-style super suit and calling himself Penance. Fans of the ‘real’ Speedball were given a version closer to the Robbie of old recently, but he turned out to be a damn dirty (Marvel) ape. Time will tell if a future writer will restore Rob to his former glory, but until then, there are always back issues for those of us who aren’t fans of darkening comics for darkening’s sake.
These stories originally appeared in Speedball #1 October, 1988. It has been reprinted in various places in part over the years, and is also available on Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited.
The 90′s get a bad rap in the comic world, and mostly for good reason. The market could only take so many variations of Death Blood Force Strike Works #1 before the bubble burst on lame concepts and lamer costume choices (pouches). While some aspects of the generic term “the 90′s” indeed lasted throughout the decade (again, the pouches). In the latter half of the decade, comics toyed with some very fun concepts. Probably the biggest and most fun concept was Amalgam Comics. The idea behind Amalgam was a simple one; “What if the DC and Marvel Universes were combined?”. Sprouting from the pages of DC vs. Marvel, Amalgam, is indeed greater than the sum of its parts. Of all of the Amalgams, my very favorite is the subject of today’s column. A mixture of the “cloned from Superman” version of Superboy and the ever-Amazing Spider-Man. A character whose appearances can be counted on the fingers of a career shop teacher, yet epitomizes the fun inherent in the Amalgam-verse. I give you the Arach-Kid himself Spider-Boy!
Our story starts on the ground running, as Spider-Boy and the scientists at Project Cadmus (Including the Challengers of the Fantastic) are facing the albino menace of Bizarnage (a mash-up of Bizarro and Carnage, natch). Bizarnage’s deal is that he wants to be like the Kid, but there’s only one Spider-Boy, so it’s a whole stalker murder/replacement thing. Biz is wreaking havoc, having bizarnagized Johnny Storm, aka Red of the Fantasti-Challs. Being the only spidery-powered teen in the area, Spider-Boy plans to sacrifice himself to save the denizens of Cadmus. Bizarnage is amicable to this plan, so he leaves Red and charges the Arach-Kid. Ah, but our be-jacketed web walloper is a clever teen. Just as Bizarnage is about to possess/kill the Kid, Spider-Boy jumps off the wall he was sticking to, revealing the door to a containment unit. Having trapped the imperfect symbiote, Spider-Boy takes a second to enjoy his victory…
In the aftermath, we find Johnny and his 6-inch clone trooper are perfectly ok, so their trip to the Phantom-Negative Zone is still on. This doesn’t really pertain to the story at large, but it is awesome, so I included it in my recap anyway. Speaking of, we cut Senator Ben Grimm, calling for the head of Dabney Donovan, who is suspected of letting Bizarnage out in the first place. While in the DC Universe, Dabney is an evil so-and-so, in this case, he did not release the monster. Reed Richards did. Donovan is responsible though, thanks to the steady diet of “Evil DNA” he’s been adding to Reed’s food. We’re then treated to an inner monologue by Reed himself, masterfully conveyed by Mike Wieringo.
Then, before anyone can catch their breath, Sue Storm, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the final member of the Fantasti-Challs enters the facility with a hurt Dr. Curt Connors. It seems when Bizarnage was wreaking havoc, the power grid went down and another monster imprisoned at Cadmus escaped! Namely, King Lizard (an amalgam of the Lizard and King Shark) has torn through the facility, Sue, Curt, and Dr. Pym’s particle accelerator! Now, the monster is growing at an alarming rate and is on track to decimate the city! Dr. Connors is cursing himself, but our hero comforts him, sort of…
Ben Grimm (aka Rocky) is ready to call the Army as well as the Challengers of the Fantastic to stop the threat. Spider-Boy intervenes, reminding Ben that Cadmus is a secret facility and it’d be in their best interest to let him go after King Lizard instead. Tough as nails Sue Storm give him the go ahead, but promises to call in her boss, Bruce Wayne, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. if things go tits up. Before Spider-Boy can jump into action, he’s stopped by Professor Ray Palmer, who asks if the Kid has had the chance to test out his White Dwarf Star device yet. Spider-Boy gives with the small talk that it shrank him down into a sub-atomic universe, and we get an editor’s box referring to the non-existent issue this happened in. Then, to jam pack this issue with even more awesome, Dr. Palmer has a quick tête-à-tête with Dr. Pym about whether micro or macro is the way to go in their respective scientific endeavors. Finally, Spider-Boy is ready to make the scene, and he’s ready to clear the zoomway in his rocket car, prepped by none other than Dr. Otto Octavius. Some quick banter between the two, and a simple newspaper reveals how Spider-Boy is treated by his world’s public…
Anyway, while Spider-Boy is on auto-pilot in the zoomway, he decides to reminisce about his origins. Whew, I knew we’d get to it eventually! Spider-Boy thinks back to his “Uncle Gen”. Honestly, I think that’s really a stretched analog for Uncle Ben. Seriously, General “Thunderbolt” Ross doesn’t shorten well. I’ll let it slide though, because the rest of the origin is pretty inspired.
As comics-type experiments are wont to do, this one didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Peter Parker is killed in a power surge/explosion, and the clone is liberated before the process (whatever it was) is completed. The clone does has the odd ability to change his personal gravity, giving the illusion of walking on walls. He also has a modicum of super-strength, but he’s certainly no super soldier. General Ross does take the young clone under his wing (although he apparently never gives the lad a name). The General does however impart the famous “Great Power/Great Responsibility” speech, attributing it to Super-Soldier (the amalgam of Superman and Captain America). Despite the tragedy that “birthed” him, the Kid has a pretty ok life, thanks to the General, so of course we have to do something about that.
After the tragedy, the Kid displays a massive amount of sangfroid, presumably brings “Uncle Gen’s” murderer to justice. And then decides to take to the spotlight so no one ever underestimates him again. He becomes Spider-Boy to be the over-the-top media darling. Wealth and fame are definitely not ignored when it comes to the Arach-Kid. The flashback ends when Spider-Boy arrives at his home. Apparently, King Lizard isn’t as big a threat as we were led to believe. Anyway, he uses his rooftop mounted catapult, the “Web Slinger” to arrive at the Daily Bugle, ostensibly to get a lead of King Lizard. Really though, I contend that you don’t need a lead to find a 35 foot tall Lizard! In his admittedly clever guise of Pete Ross (a mash-up of Peter Parker and General Ross, his “parents” and a reference to Superboy’s best friend), he’s instantly caught up in the newsroom drama, and we get a glimpse of this universe’s J. Jonah Jameson…
Finally, there are reports of King Lizard at the city docks, wreaking havoc. Spider-Boy uses his amazing web-gun to travel across the city, signing his theme song all the way. Truly, this guy doesn’t have a problem with using multiple forms of transportation. Before you can say “does whatever a spider can”. the Kid is on the scene, taking King Lizard on directly. While the battle rages, Spider-Boy tries the whole “witty banter” thing, but King Lizard isn’t exactly receptive to it. The Kid leads King Lizard on a merry chase through the city, where he makes a pretty astute observation…
Rather than waiting until King Lizard grows so large that his skeleton can no longer support his weight (comics don’t always use you know, physics), Spider-Boy manages to lead the green gargantuan back home where he grabs Dr. Palmer’s White Dwarf Star device. Unfortunately, King Lizard smashes it, causing it to go into some sort of overload. Spider-Boy doesn’t want to find out what’ll happen when the thing explodes, but luckily he has a plan. He leads King Lizard up to the roof, where the device is prepped on the web-slinger. Spider-Boy pushes a button and…
And so, King Lizard starts to shrink, so much so that Spider-Boy assumes he’s now in the sub-atomic universe himself! There’s nothing like foisting your problems on another group of people, I always say. Anyway, with the day saved, Doc Ock comes out of the woodwork to congratulate the Arach-Kid. He has an ulterior motive though, as he’s also there to set the Kid up on a blind date. Just like in the old Spider-Man comics, the Kid is reluctant to go on a date with someone named Mary Jane Watson. Just like Peter Parker, the Kid is in for an unexpected surprise…
Sadly, despite the tag, the story wasn’t continued since it was intended as a one-shot. Spider-Boy would return the next time DC and Marvel decided to mesh, in an even crazier adventure though. He hasn’t really been seen since, as the two companies don’t really even have crossovers anymore. It’s not terribly likely that we’ll see the Arach-Kid again, but this book is a testament to the fact that if it’s obvious the creators have fun with a book and its concepts, the readers will too. That’s a good litmus test for any comic, in my opinion!
This story originally appeared in Spider-Boy #1 April, 1996. It was reprinted in The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection, which is out of print, but still available on Amazon… for a price.
Well, This is the last entry for Green Lantern month here at Secret Origins. It’s been a wild ride, but let’s be honest, most Green Lantern origins are startlingly similar. “Ooh I inherited a ring, I am gonna make giant boxing gloves and stuff now, I guess.” Today’s Lantern is decidedly different. Not only is he not a member of the Green Lantern Corps, but he’s also the prototypical Lantern. How can that be, you may ask? Well, it’s because he’s the first, and still one of the greatest. He’s Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern!
The story of the original Green Lantern starts eons ago with the Guardians of the Universe. One day, those “lovable” blue overlords created the Central Power Battery and the Green Lantern Corps themselves. This was considered good, but those wee totalitarians also decided to banish all magic in the universe into the heart of a star, because hey, why not? Eventually, the Starheart gained a kind of sentience, and broke a part of itself off, and it in turn found itself approaching a small blue/green world of little importance in the milky way galaxy. Gravity did its work and drew the fragment of the Starheart into the Earth. Smack dab into ancient China, specifically. When it landed, the Starheart made an ominous statement…
One man, named Chang the Lampmaker, was unafraid to approach the meteor. While many of the townsfolk were afraid of the glowing green rock (Kryptonians visiting ancient Earth maybe), Chang takes it and forms it into an ornate lamp. A historical note, here, Alan Scott was originally called Alan Ladd, evoking Aladdin and his lamp. At the time, there was a famous actor by the same name, so the publisher changed it at the 11th hour. Back to the story, the lamp itself looks pretty great, but because this is taking place in a time of extreme ignorance, the other villagers assume that Chang is an evil guy for messing with green fire. So when his work is complete, poor Chang doesn’t get to admire his handiwork for long…
And so, Chang dies. You might think this fulfills the prophecy that the Starheart recited earlier, in an ironic Twilight Zone twist, but you’d be wrong. This is comics, so as soon as one of Chang’s murderers touches the lamp, it emits its green flame and incinerates the attackers and the house when the murder took place. After that, the lamp passed through the hands of many owners. It brought luck and fortune to the good, and destruction to the wicked. That’s what I want out of my magic lamp, a moral compass. Eventually, the lamp made its way to 1940′s Gotham City, because yes, the city can exist without Batman. You’re forgiven for instantly thinking Batman though, because it does come into the possession of an inmate at Arkham Asylum. The inmate murdered his stockbroker after the 1929 crash, he also liked to work with metal, so he fashions the lamp into a train lantern. After this task is completed, the lamp decides after many centuries to fulfill the second part of the prophecy…
And so, the man inexplicably is allowed to walk free. What of the newly minted train lantern, though? Well, as luck would have it, it came to be used on a train! And while it took centuries for the second prophecy to be fulfilled, the third would only take a few days. We find Alan Scott and his assistant Jimmy Henton testing a new trestle bridge built by Scott’s company. Jimmy is concerned with a man named Dekker, who lost out on the bid for the bridge. Jim thinks Dekker is going to somehow sabotage things. Jimmy is a pretty astute guy, because the bridge is blown up. In the wreckage, Alan finds Jimmy dead, but what is in store for him will change his life forever…
The Starheart/Lantern continues with its spiel, tell Alan to fashion a portion of itself into a ring to be a focus for the power. As such, the ring must be touched to the lantern every 24 hours to recharge its link. To me, this actually makes more sense than the Corps’ version of the 24-hour limit where it seems much more arbitrary. Anyway, as Alan forms the ring, he has thoughts of revenge on Dekker, even contemplating murder. The ring has other ideas, though. It seems to give Alan some clarity of mind, and ultimately Alan decides to bring Dekker to justice rather than vengeance.
Alan is surprised to find himself streaking through the sky like a green comet, making a bee-line for Dekker’s “place of business”. Once there, Dekker immediately outs himself as the mastermind of the bridge explosion, going so far to say some of the overhead he’s going to charge the government when they’re forced to take his bid will cover the costs of the explosion itself. So yeah, he’s kind of a dick. At this point, Alan makes his appearance and freaks everyone right out by his method of entry.
Of course, bullets are pretty futile. Really now, the guy just walked through your wall! Do you really think bullets won’t go right through, too? Dekker is convinced Alan is just playing up the “superstitious, cowardly lot” aspect of villainy and tells his goons to keep at it. These thugs are apparently paid pretty well, because they comply, even though they aren’t very effective.
Even though he is full of green fighting fury, Alan is felled by a wooden paperweight, revealing his ring’s only weakness. Alan is a hearty specimen though. He gets right back on his feet, and although the ring isn’t working, his fists still do! He takes out the remaining thugs easily and it’s just down to Scott and Dekker…
Alan gets Dekker to submit, and flies him across the Grand Canyon, scaring the ever-loving crap out of the unscrupulous cretin. At this point, Alan makes him write a confession admitting all of his wrongdoing. I don’t think that this confession would be considered valid seeing that Dekker is obviously doing it because he’s being threatened. It really doesn’t matter though, because as soon as the confession is signed, Dekker dies of fright. Alan scoffs, saying it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Alan Scott, but the way this is written, it really seems like Alan is just protecting his business interests rather than being truly heroic.
Thankfully, Alan Scott realizes that he has been given great power, and he can use it to help the weak and oppressed, because that’s what Golden Age heroes do, dammit! But to be a Mystery Man, he needs an alter ego. Using the source of his power as his new moniker, he dons one of the most
garish unique costumes ever…
After these humble beginnings, Alan Scott, aka Green Lantern, has had one of the most storied careers in comic history. Other than a brief hiatus, Alan has brought emerald justice to the world for nearly 70 years, and is still serving actively today. While DC Comics has said that they’re putting the Golden Age heroes, Alan included, to the side for a while, you can’t keep a good ring-slinger down. I’m certain that the first Green Lantern will grace many a comic page in the years to come!
This story was originally published in Secret Origins vol. 2 #18 September, 1987. It’s never been reprinted to my knowledge, so keep an eye on your back issue bins!
Of all the Green Lantern origins I planned to do for GL month, this is the one I’ve looked forward to the most. When this character debuted, he was the center of one of the first big internet fan outbursts. While I would have to agree that the circumstances behind this characters debut could have been handled better, ultimately it was worth it. I had been out of comics for a while, and hearing about this guy got me excited. I mean, a brand new yet familiar character that I could get in on the ground floor with? That’s a no brainer. While his early adventures are a bit clunky, he remains one of my favorite characters. Don’t think that my affection for the guy means I’m going to pull any punches with the comedy though. Without further ado, let’s delve into the Secret Origin of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner!
Kyle’s debut starts with a “SKRASSH” as he’s thrown through a shop window on Rodeo Drive! Yup, we’re joining the nascent Lantern on his first mission, and if his internal monologue is any indication, he has no clue what he’s doing. We find Kyle battling an armored foe called “Ohm”, you know like the electrical unit? Three guesses as to what his power is. GL hasn’t really got a handle on what exactly a Lantern ring can do, but as we’ll see, it’s not like he was given an instruction manual. Still, being rather brave (possibly stupid), Kyle leaps at his foe, and he’s met with a fisttodaface!
And so, we’re taken back to the previous night where a Nine Inch Nails be-shirted Kyle (he’s so edgy and 90′s!) knocks on the door of his ex-girlfriend Alex. He begs her to let him in, espousing about his boundless charm. She, not being stupid, isn’t buying it. She reminds him (and tells us) that Kyle is a bit of a slacker with no sense of responsibility. For whatever reason (plot), she lets him in, and as she shuts the door, Kyle puts the ring on and tries to surprise Alex…
Alex is pretty unimpressed, telling Kyle that this is the dumbest stunt he’s ever pulled. Kyle pleads his case, explaining that yeah, it’s ludicrous and nigh-impossible for him to just end up with a genuine GL ring, but that is indeed the case. To convince her, he recounts his origin, which takes all of one panel, so uncomplicated it is. Being believable is another story, however.
So after that quick recap, Kyle goes on to say he doesn’t know what the heck is happening, but he had to tell somebody. Alex pretty much tells Kyle that he’s a dumbass for not making the connection to Green Lantern. Kyle is still playing the idiot, so Alex explains that it’s the same costume and everything, while also establishing her profession as a photojournalist. It seems she got some pictures of Hal Jordan right before he went nuts and killed a bunch of his fellow Lanterns, but it really turned out he was just possessed, and the Lanterns weren’t quite dead, and, that’s really another story. So let’s just put it out of our minds, shall we?
Anyway, Kyle finally puts two and two together. He wonders if he can fly like Hal did, and lo and behold, just by thinking about it he starts to levitate above the couch. He takes off the ring, seeing as he really doesn’t know how to use it. Alex asks what’s he going to do with it. Kyle thinks the answer is obvious: he’s going to be a hero! Alex scoffs at that, because Kyle can’t even get steady work in his day job of Freelance Artist. If nothing else, Kyle is supremely confident. He lays out his master plan to Alex. They’ll move to New York, Kyle will do the hero thing, and she’ll take pictures. It can’t miss! Alex is really uncertain, but eventually she comes to a decision…
Cut to the next morning, Alex whisks Kyle off the couch (good for her) and tells him to hurry up and get dressed. Apparently, some whackjob is tearing up Rodeo in an armored suit. Managing to avoid police cordons, Alex sets out to take pictures of the fracas. Kyle suggests that he should ring up some heroics, but she tells him to stay put. Well, she actually tells him not to do anything stupid like he usually does. Kyle assures her he’s all about responsibility now. That lasts for say, three seconds or so…
Admittedly, when Kyle jumps into battle, he looks sufficiently impressive, but seeing that all he knows how to do is fly, it really quickly becomes apparent that he’s fighting a losing battle. In fact, when he confronts Ohm, Kyle tries to intimidate him instead of making a giant green boxing glove or something. Ohm instantly sees through the false bravado and start beating the bejeezus out of our hero’s emerald derriere. We’ve finally come full circle, and Kyle to his credit, keeps coming back up to the plate, but Ohm easily counters Kyle’s clumsy attempts at fisticuffs. Alex decides that her would-be boyfriend needs some coaching, so she tells him to you know, defend himself instead of getting trounced repeatedly. Kyle does what he can, managing to make his first ring construct, but Ohm is still pretty unimpressed.
Ohm’s electrical assault continues and Kyle manages to eat a few thousand volts. At this point, Kyle has about had it, and gets a bit cocky. Normally, you’d think this would spell doom for the rookie hero, but it works for him, thankfully.
This really turns the tide of battle. Having knocked Ohm down, Kyle uses the ring to laser cut the suit open with little effort. While fearlessness and honesty are the main requirements for a Green Lantern, Kyle proves that a quick, creative mind and supreme confidence have their uses as well. When Ohm is out of the suit, he’s laid out with one punch from Kyle’s mighty energy-infused fist. The battle over, Alex is snapping pictures and asks if Kyle is all right. Kyle, still coming off the high of the battle, feels pretty great actually. Before they can say too much more, a crowd gathers to thank their hero. It’s pretty clear that he’s being mistaken for Hal. Kyle lays it on a bit thick for the masses…
Alex pulls Kyle away before his head gets any bigger, and later that night, they discuss the day’s events. After a while, the conversation comes to Kyle’s look. Kyle contends he likes the costume, but Alex explains that if they want to do this right, Kyle needs his own identity as a Green Lantern. They don’t want him to continually be confused with Hal, because honestly, who wants that? Kyle thinks about it for a while, using his skills as a graphic designer to come up with something that is quintessentially 90′s, but is still somehow endearing, crab mask and all.
And so, a hero is born! True, it’s not the best start a hero ever had, but considering that the Guardian gave him the ring pretty much threw him into the deep end of the pool, he did pretty well. As his career would go on, he’d unfortunately lose Alex, but that’s a can of worms I wont be opening here. Kyle went on to have a great run as the only Green Lantern, eventually resurrecting the entire Green Lantern Corps and paving the way for Hal Jordan’s return. He gets poo-pooed on more than he should, but in my opinion, he eventually became a better Lantern than Hal. While he hasn’t been as much of a headliner since Hal’s return to prominence, the fact that he’ll be leading his own team in the DC relaunch gives me hope for Kyle’s future.
Ah, but that’s not all! Lantern month isn’t over! I wanted to make sure all of Earth’s GLs were covered, but we still have two more columns to go, and over 100 prominent Lanterns and their respective villains that I could cover! That’s where you come in! Do you have a favorite GL that you’d like to see featured on Secret Origins? Let us know in the comments!