Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Return of the Leopard Lord!
OR: "Because You Demanded It!?"
During the three-issue pile-up where the Defenders were inundated with applicants for membership (thanks to an unauthorized documentary by Dollar Bill, an overzealous E.S.U. film student), one character was conspicuous in terms of the amount of name-dropping he received by writer David Kraft and appearances he made throughout the story--especially considering that Tagak, the Lord of Leopards, had only one earlier Marvel appearance to his name.
For whatever reason, Tagak was pulled out of the obscurity of his one-shot Daredevil tale, dusted off, and given a generous amount of attention (all things considered) in a new story nearly eight years after the fact--a story where his character had no real reason for being present, much less any reason for joining the Defenders. Though admittedly, it's hard to raise such a quibble in a story that's mostly done with a wink and in an atmosphere of "all in good fun." Perhaps the fascination lies in the fact that the choice settled on was Tagak, about as nondescript a character as you could find in comics.
Tagak is really only the "lord of leopards" for marquee purposes, his pairing with a leopard in his appearance in the 1971 Daredevil story being more complex than, say, what you would have with Ka-Zar and his tiger, Zabu.
As we learn here, Tagak hails from an other-dimensional world where presumably all of his race are blind; when traveling to other dimensions, they mentally link with a leopard which acts as their eyes on an unfamiliar world. Tagak had come to Earth in pursuit of Quothar, a thief who travels inter-dimensionally to steal artifacts and thus leaves a cold trail to follow--yet he reckoned without Tagak's people, who have had one of their own artifacts stolen and who can travel as he can. When he arrives on our world, Tagak is understandably disoriented--and it's only Opar, his leopard "guide," which allows him to proceed, though it's clear that Opar's protective instincts are no different than Zabu's.
Once Daredevil clears things up with Tagak, he acts as his wingman when Tagak returns to the site of Quothar's earlier theft in order to hopefully capture him. But with the museum's owner still convinced of Tagak's guilt in the thefts, things quickly go sour--and Tagak is deprived of his means of sight in our dimension.
Daredevil quickly spots Quothar and deals with him, and returns to find that Tagak, at least, has survived the encounter. With Quothar in tow, Tagak returned to his dimension--and that seemed to be that, until Tagak inexplicably showed up on the Defenders' doorstep with all the other applicants for membership.
Dollar Bill would no doubt be ecstatic at discovering that his documentary had received inter-dimensional exposure; but in all seriousness (if such a word could even apply to the story in question), it's mystifying how or even why Tagak would come to know about the Defenders, or why he would return without a leopard at his side to provide his sight, when he doesn't even have the ability of DD's radar sense to hold his own in conflicts with super-beings. Equally interesting is why either Kraft or artist Sal Buscema would take an interest in him, given that neither had any direct connection to the previous Daredevil story. In any event, Tagak, like the other applicants, eventually had the good sense to realize that the Defenders wasn't what he was looking for--that is, whatever that was.