Friday, November 15, 2019

Justice Is Swerved


Name This Marvel Villain??

Meet Dr. Elias Wirtham, who might better fit into the category of "vigilante" rather than villain, given his modus operandi: targeting so-called "legal" criminals who accomplish their goals by using laws to their advantage and thus slip through the justice system. Men such as Wirtham are usually driven by some event or events in their past where they had personal experience with the kind of men they later hunt, and Wirtham is no different in that respect; but like those men, he has no scruples about breaking laws himself in order to see justice done, the ends justifying the means.

A wealthy man who owns a tower building in Midtown Manhattan, as well as his own (adjacent) hospital, Wirtham has the money and the resources (both financial and social) to conduct his agenda--but to operate in the field, a glimpse behind the scenes at the man who calls himself Cardiac reveals that Wirtham decided he needed to become more than just a man.

We first learn of Cardiac when he moves against a chemical company for shipping catalysts to South America--materials necessary for processing illicit drugs, but declared as being for "agricultural purposes only," making the shipments perfectly legitimate. But his methods bring him into conflict with a crime-fighter whom he views as a kindred spirit, in terms of operating outside the law; nonetheless, he and Spider-Man aren't likely to see eye-to-eye on this.

Eventually, Cardiac prevails by knowing precisely how to cripple the company in terms of both this particular shipment and in the market--and with his departure, establishes himself as a recurring figure in the ASM title.

In their next meeting, with both Spider-Man and Cardiac taking action against a toy manufacturer which produced an electronic doll that maimed a child, the Daily Bugle has already done an exposé on the company, TechToy; but Cardiac is using the Bugle's investigations to target such companies, and it's clear that his views and those of Spider-Man continue to clash.

And if you're expecting Wirtham in his civilian guise to be any less driven in achieving his goals, think again.  Traces of his conscience notwithstanding, he's a virtual Norman Osborn in training.

It's in this issue that we're given the basic background on exactly what drives Wirtham, which can be boiled down to the death of his brother due to decisions at the corporate level based on greed:

...but it's only in Wirtham's next appearance where we learn not only the details of his transformation, but how Cardiac can be such a force in the field, as well as a viable foe against the likes of Spider-Man.

Of course, what seals the deal for Cardiac are the clever visual and sound effects of his staff, which respectively correspond to the "rhythm strip" displayed on a cardiopulmonary monitor in tandem with an approximation of the sound of a heartbeat. Nicely designed, Mr. Wirtham. (With a nod to artist Erik Larsen and letterer Rick Parker, rendered here by artist Chris Marrinan.)


Big Murr said...

I wasn't familiar with Cardiac before today. Panels with him debating Spider-Man struck me with the immediate label of "a white collar crime Punisher". Not to mean this in a dismissive way. If I had some serious mojo superpowers, I'd probably dabble in a little of Cardiac's action myself.

Since I've never heard of him, I assume he met with an untimely end? At a guess, something poetically ironic like a heart attack?

Anonymous said...

Name This Marvel Villain...what villain?? Cardiac is a hero in my opinion.
So he has to break laws to bring down the greedy and what?? The greedy and corrupt use those laws to protect themselves. More Cardiacs in the world would be a good thing!!

Tiboldt said...

From investigating this character, I did learn something. Cardiac is not only an adjective, but can be a noun, and not just in the British slang use of the word. There you go.

Still, I can't help thinking that he could have had a partner called Renal, the Kidney Kid.

Cardiac and Renal: if they fail, you're dead!

Comicsfan said...

Murray, as far as I know, Cardiac is still ticking... er, that is, at large, and immutable in terms of his modus operandi.

Colin, the problem I see with that way of thinking is that there are those who have their own ideas of who should answer for a perceived crime, as well as how transgressors should be dealt with no matter the rule of law. Look at Wirtham, for instance--"Wrong is wrong!", a blanket judgment that leaves no room for misjudgment. How would such a man characterize his own behavior in the private sector, manipulating the actions of politicians with a well-timed bribe? Does he sound like the type of man to ever hold himself accountable, or does he simply set the standards for others? There's no shortage of Marvel villains who justify their actions toward others according to their own moral or ethical compass (off the top of my head, Foolkiller, for starters)--Cardiac, his brand of justice served with extreme prejudice, is in their company whether he might agree or not.