Thursday, March 11, 2021

Something Fatal This Way Comes


Name This Marvel Villain??

(With a tip of the hat to Scott Edelman for providing the drawing!)

We have artist Dave Cockrum to thank for the costume design of... whoops, almost gave away the goods there. But as it happens, our villain's name has everything to do with how he attacks and kills his victims--human or otherwise.

As we've seen, this man seems particularly interested in Captain Marvel--or, more to the point, the man he now recognizes as Mar-vell's human identity, which only deepens the mystery of his own. To gain the answers, let's first bring ourselves up to speed on Mar-vell's present circumstances--having resolved to making a life for himself on Earth, and, after having dealt with the return of Nitro, deciding to forgo hiding his true identity. That decision takes him to a Colorado observatory, where he petitions its director for, of all things--employment.

With Mar-vell on staff, that understandably leads to a spike in tourist visits once the news gets out. Unfortunately, now our killer knows just where to find him--and he has no intention of waiting in line.

Yes, Deathgrip--a man for whom the deaths of others by that grip renews his own life and vitality, and a villain who makes his first and, to date, only appearance in this 1978 story. Yet the question remains: What does he want with Mar-vell, or, rather, the man he believes him to be?* The short answer--Mar-vell's death--seems obvious, but we'll discover he has another motive for seeking him out, as Mar-vell responds to Deathgrip's horrific acts.

*The details of Dr. Walter Lawson's untimely death, and why Mar-vell assumed his identity, can be found in a prior post reviewing Captain Marvel's second appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes from 1968.

Clearly it's Deathgrip's need for "Lawson's" knowledge which has spared Mar-vell for now--but Deathgrip's need has made him ruthless, and in an observatory packed with vulnerable innocents he has the means to compel Mar-vell's cooperation.

To comply with Deathgrip's terms, Mar-vell returns to a site in the Florida Everglades where lie the ruins of the underground headquarters of the crime cartel known as the Organization (which came across as a template of sorts for the Secret Empire, but otherwise no relation) where he locates the wrecked eon gun which Deathgrip spoke of--a device he brings to Tony Stark in the hopes of making it capable of nullifying Deathgrip's power. Stark's efforts are unsuccessful, though he at least restores the device's functionality which includes its ability to reverse its effects on its victim(s) prior to death.

Meanwhile, the clock has ticked down, and Deathgrip prepares to act on his hostages--starting with Director Carr, who indeed ages to near-death in the grip of Deathgrip before Mar-vell arrives in time to use the eon ray to restore her. Unfortunately, that leaves Mar-vell at square one in dealing with this man--but the answer comes with a discarded pair of gloves, and an iron resolve to end Deathgrip's threat.

(Mar-vell doesn't show up in the strength lineup of Marvel's powerful stable of characters--but he's just kayoed a foe who has the strength of hundreds, so he really should have fit in there somewhere.)

Game and set to Mar-vell--but as he ushers everyone out of the observatory to safety, Deathgrip has recovered and decides to use the eon gun to play out the one question which Stark couldn't answer in regard to what would happen if the gun were used on him.  In so doing, he attempts to end his existence--one way or the other.

The entire episode provides some food for thought on the wisdom of Mar-vell's identity (and location) being common knowledge--while Director Carr herself likely has some thinking to do on whether Mar-vell's value to the observatory outweighs the potential danger that his presence invites.


Three years before Deathgrip debuted, another Deathgrip was making his appearance in the second issue of The Destructor--part of the fledgling Atlas/Seaboard comics group launched by former Marvel publisher Martin Goodman. (Who brought along some of Marvel's notable talent: story by Archie Goodwin, art by Steve Ditko and Wally Wood, with cover art by Larry Lieber and Frank Giacoia.)

(Anyone getting a strong Baron Strucker vibe off of this guy?)



lordjim6 said...

Great design on that villain.

Jonathan Hendry said...

I like how the Atlas Deathgrip has a deadly burning grip superpower, but also... a longshoreman's hook. Just in case, I guess. A backup.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding work from Scott & Pat!


Comicsfan said...

Could just be trying to "hook" a few new readers, Jonathan!

Anonymous said...

Oooohh, bonus Atlas content. Nice one Comicsfan, good to see a bit of class round here.
Hopefully this is the start of a trend - lets see some Tiger Man or Morlock 2001 next time...


Anonymous said...

Don't listen to him, C.F.!


Anonymous said...

He doesn't really mean that Comicsfan, you know what he's like.


Big Murr said...

I recall Atlas Comics exploding out of the starting gate like the proverbial unknown underdog in any horse race movie. Atlas was bold, it was fast, it was shining in the sun.

By the halfway mark, Atlas was losing speed and ground rapidly, having changed jockeys and silk colours 53 times. Not even sure they were still riding a horse...

As the competition thundered on to the finish line, Atlas wandered off the track, riderless.