Redartz: May I also extend a warm welcome to both our regulars today, and a special "hello" to anyone visiting us for the first time under the auspices of the illustrious Super Blog Team-Up. As my esteemed partner Marti noted, we cover a lot of ground here, but generally tread lovingly upon the fruitful footpaths of the Bronze Age. Please feel free to scan over some of our 'back issue' posts, and by all means check out the other Super Bloggers today!
Martinex1: Now that we have gotten past the formalities for the great blog crossover, let's dive right into what we hope will be a spectacularly fun conversation. When challenged by the topic of replacement characters, Red and I wanted to focus on the less recognized yet often intriguing substitute protagonists and antagonists that were scattered throughout Marvel's history and catalog. Hopefully you will find these tidbits of super-heroic craziness entertaining as well
Redartz: Marti and I will banter back and forth a bit here, but I'm bowing to his expertise on some of these references! I'll be a bit more vociferous regarding a few characters from the purview of the ever-Amazing Spider-Man (anyone familiar with us here knows I'm a bit of a Spidey nut). And with no further ado, take it away Martinex1!
Eddie March: Iron Man
Martinex1: Tony Stark, on the other hand, was living through a bit of a crisis and trying to come to terms with his ailing heart and diminishing interest in being Iron Man. He and Happy Hogan (who knew Iron Man's true identity from pretty early in his career) brainstormed about who could take on the gauntlet and replace Iron Man. Strangely they did not pick Happy himself, but simultaneously concluded that the champion boxer Eddie "Iron Man" March should be the second Iron Man. Little did they know though that Eddie had been diagnosed with a potential blood clot in the brain and was on the verge of being forced out of his boxing career because of doctor's orders. The pugilist was honored with Tony's request and quickly took on the opportunity to don the armor instead. It is fascinating to me that Eddie, being the first Iron Man replacement many years before the next, gets little notice or accolades for his brief time in the role.
Martinex1: Perhaps the lack of attention to Eddie is because in issue #22 of the series, in his inaugural battle in the suit, the fighter is seriously beaten. Unfortunately the novice Eddie runs into both the Titanium Man and the Crimson Dynamo, two of Iron Man's most notorious foes during the cold war. Not only do they leave Eddie unconscious and near death but along the way Tony's girlfriend Janice Cord is killed. It was not a great first appearance by the new Iron Man. Tony had to throw on a spare armor and to save his friend.
Martinex1: Eddie went on to have some further adventures. I liked when he appeared, still recovering from the brain injury with his head bandaged, always jumping into the fray to help. He also transformed into the Freak to battle Iron Man, but I prefer to focus on the hero Eddie March and hope that Marvel will find a more noticeable role for him in the future.
Redartz: Fascinating tale, there; one totally unfamiliar to this reader. I was late to the Golden Avenger, and the only replacement Iron Man I knew was one James Rhodes. Interesting how Eddie was portrayed with serious health issues, just as Stark himself was famous for. Perhaps that golden metal suit serves as a symbolic invulnerable exterior, concealing a quite vulnerable interior.
Ultron Mark 12:
Martinex1: During the same arc, the mysterious Crimson Cowl was revealed to be a second iteration of Ultron.
Martinex1: The Avengers did a number on this Ultron resulting in a series of replacements..
Martinex1: He constantly returned again and again, renumbering himself with upgrades including an Adamantium shell.
Martinex1: But I want to pay particular attention to a version that appeared in the pages of West Coast Avengers. I believe this Ultron to be the most compelling yet frightening to appear. In this iteration, Ultron has a better relationship with his "dad" and christens himself "Ultron Mark 12" to sound more human. He loves Pym and even hugs the man. I found that strangely creepy because up until this point there was never a reason to trust Ultron, who was indeed a free thinking Artificial Intelligence. The uncertainty of the situation and its unexpectedness makes it all the more strange.
Martinex1: Eventually Ultron 11 reactivated itself to confront the odd and friendly robot, and Mark 12 ends the fray while destroying himself in sacrifice. The story was relatively brief, but as it was ongoing I had a hope that a reformed and very different Ultron would be placed on the Avengers team. It would have been fascinating to have had a character that created such a sense of discomfort and uncertainty. It was a motif missing from the Avengers for some time - the unknown and perhaps unpredictable partner. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity.
The Big Man and Crime-Master:
Martinex1: Now let's leap from a character that in some forms had an Oedipal complex to the Romeo and Juliet style reappearance of the Big Man and Crime-Master from Spider-Man comics. The two were featured rather prominently in early Amazing Spider-Man books. and upon first reading of their activities I thought they were destined to be key enemies of Peter Parker in their roles as opposing New York crime bosses. Alas, that was not to occur and both were killed off rather early during Spidey's career.
Martinex1: But reappear they did in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. While still operating in opposite factions, they were involved in a cockamamie scheme to kidnap the Human Torch and sell him to the highest bidder. In issue #40, Spider-Man teamed up with the Sons of the Tiger (in their first color appearance) to take down the villains.
Martinex1: The book featured one of the Sal Buscema's best double-page spreads. The Sandman and the Enforcers were thrown into the mix for an added element of mayhem.
Martinex1: One of my favorite villain teams is the Zodiac, for really no other reason than their appearances trigger a nice memory from when I was first introduced to the team. Little did I know that they would be resurrected in different forms over the years. From crime lords to LMDs, from the pages of The Avengers to the stories in The Defenders, I enjoyed every moment.
Nomad and the Ameridroid:
Martinex1: We all know that Steve Rogers adopted the identity of Nomad during an iconic story arc in the pages of Captain America. While questioning the actions of the government and his role as a symbol, Rogers changes his look but continued to fight crime. But did you know that many years later another Nomad came along. The character Edward Ferbel, a B-movie star, put on the costume and stole the identity much to Cap's dismay. The goofy and incompetent hero put civilians at risk during his seemingly lazy and untrained adventures.
Martinex1: The new Nomad was being manipulated and used by the Ameridroid and a villain named the Teacher (who later turned out to be the Red Skull). This all occurred in a three-part story during the early part of J. M. DeMatteis' stint as the Cap writer.The Ameridroid himself was a twisted replacement. His android 20 foot frame was given the mind of a dying Nazi and the physique of Captain America. The villain quickly realized that his large stature made it impossible to interact with other humans and live a normal life. Why he chose a 20 foot body to begin with was a mystery.
Martinex1: When the Ameridroid returns after years off the radar, he confronts Cap and the new Nomad. It is all supposed to be an act in a manipulative scheme to further the credibility of Edward Ferbel, but the poor buffoon was just a pawn in a vicious game and the giant guns him down. I was about 12 years old when I first read this tale and it blew me away. Mike Zeck's pencils leapt off of the page. I still like this story. In the history of Marvel Comics though it has a strange pedigree. This arc ran shortly after John Byrne and Roger Stern left the book; according to the legends of their departure it was over a dispute in which they wanted to publish a three issue Red Skull story. If true, I don't know why DeMatteis and Zeck's version made the cut but Byrne and Stern's did not.
Phil Urich: The Green Goblin
Martinex1: You may remember Ben Urich, the dedicated crime reporter from the pages of Daredevil. But you may not realize that his nephew also had a role in Marvel comics. For a short period Phil Urich adopted the role of the Green Goblin and he was a hero. We don't cover comics from the '90s much here at BitBA, but this particular book I found rather entertaining. This Goblin was reminiscent of early Spider-Man tales with a sometimes reluctant but fun hero doing his best but often coming up short. Tom DeFalco wrote the series and he seemed to carry that lively, humorous, yet emotional approach to his Spider-Girl character as well. Unfortunately, later iterations of Phil Urich transformed him into a villain and that never sat well with me.
Barton Hamilton: The Green Goblin
Redartz: And here we have another iteration of the Goblin. Most any Marvel fan knows that Norman Osborn was the original Green Goblin, and most also know that Osborn's son Harry (and Peter's best friend) also assumed the Goblin's identity. But for a short but memorable story arc in 1978, there was another Goblin: one Barton "Bart" Hamilton, who happened to be Harry's analyst. One would think that would violate patient confidentiality somehow...
Martinex1: This one is all yours Red. I am very curious about this story, but until you mentioned it I had no idea it existed. You are the Spider-Man expert, fill me in...
Redartz: The second Goblin, Harry Osborn, has a long history of ,shall we say, mental difficulties. So it's not surprising that he ended up in a psychiatrist's chair. Unfortunately this one, Bart Hamilton, made some rather improper use of hypnosis, learning Osborn's Goblin secrets, and even sending the unsuspecting Harry on a mission photographing Spider-Man (while disposing of the clone's body).
Redartz: Note the warehouse Hamilton is making use of; it looks to be the same as the one presented in Harry's Goblin debut in Amazing Spider-Man 136. Nice bit of visual memory on the part of Ross Andru.
Hamilton decided he would make a better Goblin, and planned to take over the NY mobs (interestingly, the same goals Norman Osborn had as the Goblin way back in the days of Ditko).
But not so fast, Silvermane and the Maggia had other plans, requiring the neo Goblin to finish off Spider-man before they'd consider him. A series of battles ensued, Goblin vs. Spidey vs. Silvermane, from Radio City Music Hall to the incinerator where the clone's body was dumped. And to add to the mix, Harry eventually escaped his captivity and joined the battle. This led to Hamilton's death; blown up by his own explosive device. It just goes to show; don't cross Harry Osborn. A few years later, he took on another Goblin (a Hobgoblin, to be specific) whom he felt was trying to steal his thunder.
Martinex1: Wow that is a weird tale, but I see that you have even more Spidey villains in store for us with one of my all time favorite villains next.
Danny Berkhart: Mysterio
Redartz: Also presenting my personal favorite Spidey foe, Mysterio. That is, a Mysterio. The original, Quentin Beck, has died and returned as frequently as Norman Osborn himself, a fact pertinent to this tale...
In ASM , the story begins with Spider-Man at the wheel of that infamous Bronze age device, the Spider-Mobile. Evading the police, Spidey speeds down what he thinks is an alley, but this mysterious fog swirling around is actually disguising a pier. So, car and driver end up in the Hudson River.
Later in the book, when Peter returns to the pier seeking an explanation for his error, Mysterio appears, leading our hero on a merry chase involving a Mack Truck and a variety of Spider-man's other foes. And when Peter shows up at the Daily Bugle offices at the end of the book, Ned Leeds informs him that Mysterio actually died in prison, causing Peter to begin doubting his sanity (a tactic which Mysterio has used ever since his first appearance).
In the story's second part, Mysterio's deceptions continue: illusions of Spidey's rogues gallery keep appearing, including a poorly-timed vision of the Kingpin during a phone call to Aunt May.
Anyway, the furious Spider-Man tracks down Mysterio and a quick battle ensues in his lair. But this Mysterio's inexperience shows, and when Spider-Man unmasks him, he is revealed as Danny Berkhart- a stunt man friend of Beck's who was given the original Mysterio's equipment. Thus ended the tale of Berkhart, but the Quentin Beck Mysterio was to return again, and again, and again...
Martinex1: I am curious to see what they do with Mysterio in the upcoming Spider-Man movie. I believe it was just announced that Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast in the role of the villain.
Blackie Drago, the Vulture
Redartz: When you think of the Vulture, if you're like me, you picture the avian-appearing Adrian Toomes- the original Vulture, as introduced in Amazing Spider-Man 2. And old Ade made several more appearances before a replacement tried to steal his wings.
ASM 48 introduced us to Blackie Drago, the Vulture's confidante in prison. Alas, Adrian is literally on his deathbed, and is revealing to Blackie the secrets of his famous wings, including where to find them (intending that Blackie finish off the web-slinger for him). Of course you know what they say about honor among thieves, and so Blackie takes the opportunity (and the costume) to enrich himself, looting the city in the process.
Eventually he does run up against Spidey, and actually comes out on top...
However, never count a good villain down. Toomes, enraged and energized by Blackie's betrayal, pulls himself back to the living and escapes, facing down his younger version in an aerial battle (which also involved Kraven the Hunter, but that's beside our point today). Sadly for Blackie, experience counts, and he was soundly defeated by the aged flier. Both Vultures battled again a bit over a year later, in ASM 63 and 64. As far as I know, Mr. Drago never appeared again. Mr. Toomes, however, continues to fly the skies over NY to this day.
Redartz: Thanks for joining us today, everyone! And if any moral can be gleaned from the stories of all these replacements, it is this: To Thine Own Self Be True!
Martinex1: It was a wild ride today and we were glad to be a part of the Super Blog Team-Up. We hope you enjoyed this brief roll call of replacements. If we don't post this Saturday, it is because we are taking a nap after digging through the piles of back issues. So please read the post twice if you get bored! Or better yet, hop on over to the other blogs from today's team up...
Bronze Age Babies
And be sure to check us all out regularly and come on back in July for another Super Blog Team-Up! Cheers!