Saturday, October 1, 2016

Discuss: Marvel's Second Decade of Villains

Martinex1: Not only did Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and the rest of the Marvel Bullpen develop an amazing pantheon of heroes in the 1960s, but the list of villains created in those first ten years reads like a Who's Who in the Comic Book Hall of Fame.  The roll call includes but is definitely not limited to: Dr. Doom, Magneto, Loki, Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, Kang, the Leader, Abomination, Kingpin, Immortus, Electro, Galactus, the Skrulls, and Ultron.  Less impactful (but still fairly recognizable) villains of the time include: Klaw, Mole Man, Count Nefaria, Living Laser, Kraven, Vulture, Attuma, Fixer, Scorpio, Mentallo, Gladiator, Prowler, Mr. Hyde, Cobra, Shocker, Purple Man, Sandman, Super-Adaptoid, and the Frost Giants. Teams of baddies consist of the Frightful Four, Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Zodiac, the Sinister Six, and the Masters of Evil.  Phew!  I'm sure you can think of dozens more as Marvel rode a creative wave that could hardly be matched.

What about the second decade of Marvel's output?   Looking at 1972 through 1981, the second wave of the Marvel creative force tended to take a fan's approach and used those same antagonists again and again.   And I have to say that era, as we recently discussed, really captured the Bronze Age Babies' fascination.   But there was much less output targeting a new villain class.   That is not to say there were not some fantastic new ideas, anti-heroes, and megalomaniacs.   Take a look below and let's discuss the second decade of Marvel's bad guys and gals.  





Anonymous said...
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Rip Jagger said...

Of all the baddies created in the Bronze Age for Marvel, the rogues gallery which always stood out for me were the villains developed for Nova. There seemed to be a real push to create new ones for him, especially early on. The Condor (a black man with wings and for once his race seemed to have almost nothing to do with him modus operandi), Powerhouse (a villain with a secret close to Nova), Diamondhead (a great name and a delirious fun attitude), Megaman (strange, just really strange), and of course The Sphinx (a great mastermind baddie with a fascinating agenda).

Of course Nova fought veteran Marvel baddies like Yellow Claw and Sandman, but his comic was defined by the villains created just for him, not unlike Spider-Man who he was inspired by in many ways.

Rip Off

Eric said...

For me, Emma Frost and Felicia Hardy were two of the best characters to come out of this era. Both of them have strong personalities and a great visual appearance. Plus over the years, writers as talented as Grant Morrison have added new layers to them or at the very least to Emma. Hardy to this day continues to have a strong presence at Marvel.

Redartz said...

Interesting, thought-provoking topic today Martinex! Just off the top of my head: Foolkiller, Hammerhead, Arcade and the Headmen (okay, they're not exactly A-listers, but I loved them).

Very generally speaking, the second decade villains seem less 'notoriously' well-known than the first decade's output. Major exceptions would include Morbius (good call, Colin), Dark Phoenix, Punisher, and Thanos. Some great villains, no doubt about it. Perhaps it's kind of like the evolution of life: there was an initial period filled with great expansion (of creatures, or characters), while all the options are open. The "Cambrian explosion" geologically, the "Silver Age" explosion in comics. Then, later a more gradual introduction of additional species (or new characters) filling in various niches over time.

Sorry, the science nerd just woke up and had to chime in there...

Martinex1 said...

Rip, you are correct that the Nova villains are an interesting lot. I actually backed into them when I came across Diamondhead in ROM in the follow-up to the FF space romp. I was so intrigued by his villainy and attitude that I hunted down old Nova comics. Fun character. And I didn't realize the Sphinx debuted in Nova.

Eric I think Emma Frost was particularly dastardly in her first appearance when she had the X-Men caged. It was one disappointment I had in the Hellfire Club arc that she didn't make it to the final battle. I also don't think the Hellfire Club ever was as good again as in their initial appearance. That was of course a classic storyline but to me they never seemed "A" list after that. I've always been surprised that their enemy base never really expanded. To me they seem naturals to be enemies of Captain America - some of that is in their costume styling but also in their elitist status.

Redartz I like your scientific assessment; perhaps a further evolutionary spike would be nice. Graviton is a villain that I am always surprised wasn't created earlier than he was. He seems like a Stan creation with Stan's penchant for "naturalistic" powers.

The second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was also an interesting team. But they seemed to spike and then disappear.

Doug said...

There's no doubt that I had or have read most of the comics you pictured. But when you put those characters alongside the incredible lists presented at the top of the post... well, there's really no comparison. Aside from Thanos, most of the second wave might elicit an "Oh, you again?" response from both our heroes and us as consumers. I'm not saying I never had any fun with the second decade crew -- there are stories here and there that were "pulse-pounding". But give me an issue of the Fantastic Four where Galactus shows up, or the Avengers against the Squadron Sinister (or shoot - the Defenders against the Squadron Sinister) and I can't wait to read it.

I think Rip has a good point about Nova's stock of self-contained bad guys. Good running/rolling plot for most of the first year, and the expansion into the FF mag was a solid story. Diamondhead certainly could have had some crossover potential as mentioned by Martinex, but Condor and Powerhouse seemed to die with the 25th issue of Nova's monthly.

Over in the Champions, both Rampage and Swarm (how was that for tapping into then-current events?) had some potential, as did the Torpedo in Daredevil. But again -- we're not talking Kang or Ultron here.


Martinex1 said...

It is kind of amazing that in a decade how few memorable villains emerged. I think a lot of them started out very promising but they were mishandled as time went on. I liked the Taskmaster when he first appeared and I thought the "mutant" photographic reflexes, the Perez designed costume, the Adaptoid- like powers, and the trainer- of - thugs concept were all kind of fun. But every appearance seemed weaker. And I felt like the writing around the character was sometimes lazy ( his hidden identity was Tony Masters - get it - T. Masters). I don't like that kind of stuff.

Did the FF have a new villain that is memorable at all from that time? Perhaps some of the new Heralds of Galactus like Gabriel and Firelord. But compared to their years under Stan and Jack there is no comparison as nearly every month established an icon. The same goes for Spidey.

Doug said...

Hobgoblin falls just outside that second decade parameter, I believe. While a derivative villain, he is perhaps the most memorable in terms of impact, longevity of storyline, mystery, etc.

Instead, we got Hydro-Man within the parameter...


Edo Bosnar said...

I think Thanos, Bullseye, the Hellfire Club (in which I include White Queen, who should have remained a villain) and the "next-gen" Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are all pretty top-tier, and Sabretooth and Baron Blood are a pretty effective adversaries when written properly. Like Catwoman, I don't necessarily think of Black Cat as a villain, but she's a damn good character. Also, no one can deny that Punisher became a break-out character, although he basically became a hero, even though I considered him a villain, or at best an antipathetic anti-hero.

Doug said...

Bullseye -- I agree he's top-tier. Probably Sabretooth as well.

Black Cat, Punisher, and maybe some others become that sort of anti-hero, right? Crossover hero, schizo-hero... Somewhere in between a hero and villain.

I have always thought Tarantula had a great look -- fantastic costume. Until you consider walking in those shoes. Then it's ridiculous.

Speaking of Spidey, and I know we have a lot of clone-detractors here, the Jackal could have become a lasting Spidey villain. I like the way it ended, and Prof. Warren's revival as Carrion sort of continued the Jackal's purpose in the Peter Parker mag.

Martinex, you have us all thinking today!


Anonymous said...

I think we're forgetting the greatest villain of all...the Big Wheel!

Seriously though, I'd put Bullseye in the top tier of villains; also Sabretooth (though he was overused later). The X-Men probably had the best villains in that particular era (Black Tom, the Shi'ar, the Hellfire Club, and Dark Phoenix, among others).

I don't necessarily consider Punisher or Black Cat to be villains, but they are great characters. Unfortunately, Spidey wasn't really blessed with iconic baddies in this period: Will o'the Wisp, Rocket Racer, Hydro Man, Tarantula, Jackal, Carrion, Lightmaster...all somewhat interesting, but not up to Spidey's original Rogues Gallery.

Mike Wilson

Unknown said...

I always thought Hobgoblin was a great, menacing villain. I liked the Punisher and Wolverine during their Bronze Age appearances, before they became grossly overused and overhyped (to jack up sales). I'm partial to Bullseye as well--he was interchangeable as a Daredevil/Spider-Man villain. Likewise with the Punisher--a ruthless antihero who gave Spider-man/Daredevil/Captain America trouble time and time again. I liked him, despite obviously being a rip off of Don Pendleton's Executioner.

Certainly it would seem that the most classic and iconic villains emerged from the Silver Age, for the most part, and of course, it's very hard to replicate success and popularity--to recapture lightning in a bottle, so to speak. With few exceptions, most of Spidey's and DD's Bronze Age villains were lackluster--second tier and third tier, unfortunately.

Humanbelly said...

How does the Serpent Squad (or was it Serpent Society?) in CAPTAIN AMERICA fit into this conversation? And did they fall into this decade, or were they just a touch later? IIRC, most of them were much earlier B & C-listers-- but as a group they kinda had a whole new identity, yeah?

But, boy, not a lot there overall, is there?

Say, what about that made-to-order, TRULY design-impaired major baddie for The New Teen Titans--- Trigon? He was a recurring challenge for them, yes?


Doug said...

Thomas --

Did Bullseye fight Spider-Man? I am drawing a blank as to when and where. Or are you saying he could have been a good Spidey villain (to which I would agree).


Anonymous said...

When you create a super-hero, you create one character with super-powers and a costume. When you create super-villains, you have to create several. Some super-heroes have great rogues galleries- Spider-Man benefitted from Ditko's creative mind, while the Flash had Broome and Infantino's. Outside of the super gifted creators like Kirby, Ditko, Lee, Finger & Co on Batman, Romita, and a handful of others, most people can't come up with a compelling villain every story.

Think about the big name super-heroes and teams- how many memorable baddies do they have? Superman, the Hulk, Daredevil, Hawkman, Green Arrow, the JLA & JSA... each have a handful of good villains and a whole lot of forgettable filler. Batman, Spidey, the FF, the X-Men, and the Flash have the deepest benches but they are outliers. If you take away the Silver-Age creations (or Golden Age for Bats) you're left with very few keepers.

The Bronze Age villains are mostly okay with a handful of standouts. Darkseid, Thanos, Deathstroke, Bullseye, and Sabretooth are the only real A-listers. Korvac, the Hellfire Club, Brother Blood, Proteus, Hobgoblin, & Dark Phoenix each had a great story a piece followed by severe diminishing returns and only occasional later appearances. The rest... your mileage will vary but I don't think there's any that are as fun or interesting as Galactus, Dr. Doom, or Magneto.

On the other hand, post-Bronze Age? There's Venom, Harley Quinn, and Apocalypse and... uh.... It fits my brilliant theory that coming up with good bad guys is, like, totally hard and stuff.

- Mike Loughlin

Unknown said...


What I meant to say is that I think Bullseye would be a good villain for Spider-Man, possibly even as good a villain as he was for Daredevil. A battle between them would be an interesting scenario. I suppose I was thinking of Kingpin, who frequently battles both Spider-Man and Daredevil. Come to think of it, I don't recall any instance of when ol' Spidey and Bullseye did fight. And if they haven't clashed at some point, I'm surprised, since it would be a pretty good idea.

Doug said...

Thank you, sir. I didn't know with all the shenanigans in Marvel Comics over the past 10 years if it had happened and I just didn't know about it.

And I totally agree that in the 1980s it seems a match-up that should have happened... somewhere.

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...
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johnlindwall said...

Are you my long-lost twin? I totally agree with your assessment of Nova's rogues gallery!

Initially it seemed like Condor was the big bad; what a cool surprise to learn about the Sphinx! What a cool, major villain! Diamondhead was fun and simple but visually super neat!

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