Making the Grade: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, Vol. 19

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Galloping gamma rays! Where the hell did the time go? Has it really been more than a month since I cracked open an issue of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead Deluxe Edition and made stupid jokes about 30-year-old Marvel storylines? Why, yes. Yes, it has. This time out: Issue 19 (Nuke to Stane, Obadiah). 

First funny line in this issue is on the inside front cover where the editors, introducing a bunch of corrections sent in my readers, say this: “Amazing as it sometimes seems to us, there’s a whole lot of you out there who are as interested in researching the history of the denizens of the Marvel Universe as we are.” It seemed “amazing” to the editors that their readers were obsessed with every trivial detail about hundreds of fictional characters? Did any of the editors ever MEET a Marvel fan? 

In any case, we’re almost near the end, people. Just one more issue after this one, and then you and I can say goodbye to the Marvel Handbook forever. 

Unless someone out there wants me to do reviews of the ’89 Update mini-series. 

(Please don’t make me do the ’89 Update mini-series.) (EDIT TO ADD: Dammit.) 

Excelsior! 

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Nuke
“Ah, excellent,” I thought to myself. “We’re starting this issue with the ultra-patriotic fellow who faced Daredevil during that smashing Born Again storyline. Well, let’s see what they have to say about him… wait, what the deuce? Who the hell is this guy?” Sorry, true believers — this Nuke is Albert Gaines, a nuclear plant worker on an alternate Earth who gains super-powers, joins the Squadron Supreme, and then goes insane with grief when he finds out his radioactive body gave his parents terminal cancer. That… really sucks. Still, it could have been worse; at least he didn’t fuck his wife to death with his radioactive semen. Yes… yes, I admit that was disgusting and completely unnecessary. Thank goodness no sensible comic writer ever thought to put that plot point in one of their stories. C

skullCause of death? Suffocated inside Doctor Spectrum’s energy bubble; his energy blasts burned up all the oxygen inside the bubble and he died. As one would.

Stayed dead? Far as I know. But give Marvel Studios time and they’ll have a Squadron Supreme film coming to a theatre near you, right after its Brother Voodoo and Squirrel Girl sequels.

Omega
Okay, short version is a bunch of aliens knew they wouldn’t survive the rapid planetary shifts they were facing, so they bio-engineered artificial humanoids who could survive their planet’s climate change and keep their culture alive. With me so far? Only thing was these aliens, the Protarians, weren’t humanoid, so they decided they needed to field-test their models, which they did by creating beings in the form of various humanoid races and observing them interacting with those other alien species from afar. They did this because they “believed it necessary to learn all they could about humanoid civilizations in order to program the minds of their humanoid creations properly.” I’m not sure if anthropology would be on my short list of things to do when my entire race is about to die, but whatever. There’s a lot more insanity here to make you go, “Oh, right, because the ’70s,” but I think my favorite part is where Omega (one of the bio-engineered humanoids from another alien race who ends up on Earth) finds himself working for a pawnbroker who uses Omega’s telekinetic abilities to cheat in Vegas. Sure, why the hell not? Wait a minute. The Protarians had spaceships for dropping their humanoid experiments on other planets and they didn’t think to use those same ships to escape their dying planet? What the hell, people? What the hell? C-

skullCause of death? Shot to death by Las Vegas cops while pursuing a disguised super-villain who stole his winnings. Which kind of stretches the definition of “super-villain,” if I’m being honest.

Stayed dead? Most definitely, though you should check out 2007’s Omega the Unknown, a 10-issue limited series by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple. Great stuff.

Parker, Ben
“Occupation: Former carnival barker, later occupation unrevealed: retired at time of death.” I like to think Uncle Ben spent his whole working career on the Coney Island midway, learning great quotes about power and responsibility while barking for the Yak Lady. Other things I learned from this entry: (1) Aunt May had a taste for the bad boys back in the day (2) She was also quite the dish in her younger years and (3) Ben had no known superpowers. Unknown powers, on the other hand? Well… Heh, now I’m imagining Ben as Gil Gunderson from The Simpsons: “Hey, there, little lady, want me to guess your weight, come on, ol’ Ben is feeling lucky today… Aw, please, lady, let me guess your weight, I really need the cash, my nephew is costing me a fortune in wheatcakes.” B+

skullCause of death? A worthless and ungrateful nephew’s deep and unabiding selfishness.

Stayed dead? Aside from a few what-if stories and movie retellings of Spidey’s origin, yep. Man, talk about a sweet payday: show up, mumble the line, death scene, home by six.

Patriot
This guy, no surprise, was one of those patriotic heroes who showed up after Captain America’s Hitler-socking debut. From a previous post about patriotic pugilists: “Reporter Jeff Mace was on a plane heading for Virginia, where a strike at a munitions plant was also attracting the attention of high-ranking government officials, who were also on the plane. The strike was the work of a group of dastardly fifth columnists, who were so determined to cause trouble they replaced the plane’s pilots with their own agents. After the agents parachuted from the plane, Mace became the Patriot and pulled the plane out of its death dive, bringing the officials safely to the airport and ensuring a settlement to the strike. And an important lesson was learned by all: striking is plain un-American!” Also? No matter how third-rate a superhero you might be, you can always count on wish-granting cosmic beings to do you a solid by conjuring up alternate Earths and letting you battle their arch-nemesis one last time before you croak. C

skullCause of death? “Died of cancer with his hero, Captain America, at his bedside.” I wonder if Cap gets a lot of requests like this from the Make-a-Wish people in the Marvel universe. I bet he does.

Stayed dead? Yup.

 

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Phantom Eagle
I talked about this fellow whilst discussing comic series set during the First World War. In a nutshell: German-American fighter pilot Karl Kaufman wore a mask to prevent Germans from learning his identity and taking revenge on his parents, who had moved back to Germany just prior to the war. Probably not the brightest decision, all things considered. Shortly before the war’s end, Kaufman and his parents were strafed with machine gun fire by a German pilot; flying a ghostly plane, his vengeful spirit later shot the pilot out of the sky. He then haunted and hounded the German pilot for decades after the war until the poor guy killed himself in a plane crash. Wow. I mean… okay, I’d be pissed, too, if someone offed me just before the war was over. But geez, Karl, couldn’t you find more constructive uses for your post-mortal time on Earth than chasing down some aging German? And how does a living person escape a ghost “for years at a time,” anyway? Did he put on a sheet with eyeholes and say “he went that-a-way” whenever the Eagle got too close? C-

skullCause of death? See above.

 

Stayed dead? You betcha. For a modern take on the character, check out 2008’s War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle by Garth Ennis and Howard Chaykin.

Phantom Rider
Not to be mistaken for the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider, the Phantom Rider is an Old West schoolteacher who uses “phosphorescent dust” and a white horse to convince hornswogglers and varmints he’s a ghost. Maybe bad guys were easier to fool back in those days. You’d think at least one of them would have aimed at him just to see if he really was a supernatural being. “I’m telling you, I heard him say ‘Ouch!’ when I shot him, Hoss. What kinda spook says that?” In any case, his Wikipedia page lists no fewer than seven characters operating under the Phantom Rider name, which makes me think either someone at Marvel thinks Westerns are due for a comeback or someone’s planning a time-traveling adventure for Cap and friends in a future Avengers sequel. Ooh, I’ve got a great idea for who should play Kang! B-

skullCause of death? Killed in a mine cave-in whilst chasing a no-good varmint. That was a common way to go in the Old West, right behind “high noon shoot-out” and “brothel-bred chlamydia.”

Stayed dead? Physically, yes, but his spirit came back to possess one of his descendants and make him do things without him knowing it. I think I’ll try that excuse the next time I’m late for work.

Pip the Troll
Did you see Disney’s Hercules movie? Remember Danny DeVito’s character, the satyr named Phil? Pretty much that guy. And yes, I expect DeVito to get the nod if they ever decide to include this guy in a future Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. “Occupation: former prince of Laxidazia, painter, lecher, companion.” I wonder what a lecher pulls down before taxes, because I feel like a chump for giving it away all these years. Also: “Laxidazia,” people? Sigh… C

skullCause of death? Had his brain destroyed by Thanos, who had no use for a troll. Warlock then drew his spirit into a soul-gem to live “peacefully within the verdant dimension” inside the gem.

Stayed dead? Nope; he, Warlock and Gamora returned to life by taking over the bodies of three car-crash victims. It was cool; they all had organ donor cards in their wallets.

Porcupine
I have a soft spot in my heart for those C-grade super-villains who started out as a frustrated scientist/engineer/inventor with a cool invention and, instead of patenting the hell out of that puppy, turned to costumed crime as a way to get rich. Sometimes there’s a logical reason why their freeze-gun or jet-pack can’t be mass-produced or monetized legally, but most of the time the writers are just, “Eh, screw it — he just hates society.” Such is the life of Alex Gentry, a bitter weapons designer who builds a porcupine-themed combat suit and then decides there’s more money in being Ant-Man’s punching bag than handing his battlesuit over to Uncle Sam. This is a real shame, because I personally love the idea of American soldiers in combat looking like human-shaped lumps of carpet samples. C+

skullCause of death? Impaled on one of his own quills when he fell during a battle with members of the Serpent Society. Considering he never really hurt anyone, that’s a crappy way to go.

Stayed dead? Quite so — and considering someone else has carried on in his name while wearing a variation of his battlesuit, it’s a fair bet he won’t be coming back soon.

Professor Power
“Occupation: Historian, teacher, adviser to the President of the United States, later head of subversive organizations.” So… like Kissinger, then? As I’ve said before while taking potshots at perfidious professors: “Professor Anthony Power started out as a teacher, historian and White House advisor, but he lost faith in the American system when his son came home catatonic from the Vietnam War. Power became convinced that American universities and political leaders were instilling apathy and cowardice in the populace, and he decided that world peace could only be achieved if one nation, led by one person, dominated the Earth. And since he didn’t see anyone else qualified to step up to the plate, Professor Power (convenient name, that) humbly nominated himself. Along the way, he started a secret society, picked up a nifty robotic exoskeleton suit and used a machine to transfer his consciousness into his injured son’s catatonic body… which is five ways to creepy, no matter how hard you try to sell that to the masses.” D

skullCause of death? Beaten to death at the hands of Captain America — not the real one, the one brought in after Steve Rogers resigned his commission. What can we say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Stayed dead? Nope; his fanatical followers turned his battlesuit into a life-support system and resurrected him to continue his mad mission of American supremacy. Meh, still better than voting for Trump.

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Purple Man
His given surname is “Killgrave” and he still gets filed under “Purple Man” because of the color of his skin. I bet that really pisses him off (as it should). Although judging by the preponderance of purple in his wardrobe, I’m guessing it doesn’t. Immortalized by David Tennant in Netflix’s Jessica Jones (who deserves many mad props for not going Method and dying himself purple for the role), Killgrave is your average spy who gets the magic “experimental gas” flibbedy-doo and winds up with the ability to mentally control anyone who hears the sound of his voice. And not just the “poorly educated” as is the case with certain political candidates. B-

skullCause of death? Trapped by Doctor Doom to exploit his ability, Purple Man was saved — well, “saved” — by the Sub-Mariner, who smashed his prism-prison open and killed him in the process.

Stayed dead? Not on your life; he survived through unexplained means and went on to cause much mayhem in the Marvel universe, including messing with Jessica Jones.

Rawhide Kid
All the usual Western gunslinger tropes are here — dead parents, mission of vengeance, fastest horse in the West, etc. But here’s the part that gobsmacks me: “Barker threatened to kill the Kid and began reaching for his gun. The Kid rapidly drew his own guns and wounded Barker in his gun arm. Riding up, the sheriff accused the Rawhide Kid of shooting Barker without giving him a chance.” So hold up. You could out-and-out kill a guy all fair and square in the Old West as long as you shouted “1, 2, 3, go!” first… but if you shot to wound you could get arrested by someone who wasn’t even there to witness the showdown? And “shooting to wound in the first degree” carried a harsh enough sentence to justify a life on the run? That’s messed up. But no less strange than having our hero face off against bad guys like the Ape, the Masked Maverick and the Living Totem, I suppose. C+

skullCause of death? “It has not yet been revealed how, when, or where he died.” Leaving open the possibility he never died and still walks among us. Oooga-booga!

Red Guardian
The Soviet answer to Captain America. Also the guy whose death — first faked, then not-faked — made Black Widow a literal widow. Is there anything else you need to know? Judging from his two-issue lifespan, not really. C-

skullCause of death? Saves the Avengers by shoving his erstwhile ally’s gun aside, triggering an explosion in their volcano secret base. Exactly how Rocky IV ended in Sly’s first draft.

Stayed dead? Well, we couldn’t call her Black Widow if she wasn’t a widow no more, now, could we? Just kidding. Yeah, he came back with a bug up his ass about Natasha leaving him.

Red Raven
This human adoptee of “the city of the bird-people” debuted in the Golden Age, which the Handbook series insists never existed. So instead we’re told he first appeared in an issue of X-Men, where we find out he put his entire city in suspended animation to prevent them from waging a suicidal war on the human race. There’s apparently no endgame to his plan, though, as he hits the snooze button when the X-Men’s Angel discovers his island and accidentally wakes him up. He later blows the whole thing up by accident after realizing the suspended animation capsules malfunctioned and everyone died. Well… that’s one way of keeping the peace, I suppose. How do you suppose he built all those capsules without anyone noticing? D+

skullCause of death? Accidentally blew up the entire island while lashing out in grief. Seems only fitting given how thoroughly he mucked up everything else.

Stayed dead? Of course not — it’s later revealed he faked everything: his death, his peoples’ death, the whole bit. Why? Who cares? We’ve got our island of bird-people, that’s all that matters.

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Red Skull
Things you might not know about the Red Skull:

1. His real name is Johann Schmidt, and he strongly suggests you keep that “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” nonsense to yourself.

2. He began his Red Skull career when Hitler, seeing a “hatred of all mankind” in a bellhop’s eyes, decided on the spot to mold the young man into the Reich’s supreme terrorist. This is the kind of out-of-the-box HR planning that frankly one expects from a guy like Hitler.

3. Hitler’s advisers would have pointed out the stupidity of his plan, but they were just grateful it stopped him from pushing his other plans for laser-mounted Nazi sharks.

4. Hitler “personally took over Schmidt’s training,” and now all I’m seeing is Hitler in sweatpants and blowing a whistle while Schmidt is doing chin-ups in an ’80s sports movie montage.

5. It was also Hitler who gave Schmidt his name and mask, which makes me wonder where the mask came from, and what other uses Hitler might have had for it before giving it to Schmidt. Hey, fuhrers have needs, too, yo.

6. Hitler financed the building of secret bases around the world for the Red Skull’s personal use, filling them with all manners of top-secret weapons designed by top Nazi scientists. I bet the German soldiers on the Russian front really appreciated that allocation of wartime resources.

7. “Wow, my hand-picked master terrorist has murdered all his political rivals and positioned himself to take over after I’m gone, which means I’m now fearing for my life. How did I not see this coming? Oh, right, because I suck.”

8. Red Skull survived the fall of Berlin when a bunker cave-in accidentally released “experimental gases” and placed him in suspended animation. I love the who-gives-a-shit hand-waving that goes into these kinds of editorial decisions. “How is the Red Skull still alive to take on Cap after all these years? Uh… experimental gases. What, he can’t be a terrorist and a mad scientist? Look, kid, just cough up 12 cents, okay?”

9. There was a second Red Skull stirring up trouble in the 1950s while Original Flavor Red Skull was taking a nap, but no one ever pretended to notice they were two different people. Kind of like there was a second Becky for a while on that Rosanne show when the first one went away. No, wait — exactly like that.

10. There’s a picture in this entry I absolutely adore of the Red Skull stepping aside while the Kingpin lunges forward and rams his big fat head into a wall. Olé!

11. Under “Weapons,” we learn he used a deadly red dust that turned the faces of his murder victims into facsimiles of his own skeletal mug, and he often hummed or whistled Chopin’s funeral march while committing murders. One, it’s nice to see someone make the effort to bring their love of the arts into their work. Two, I wonder if he ever considered updating his music. “Another One Bites the Dust” feels thematically appropriate. Or if he wanted to be a real asshole, he could arrange to have his victims hear “Copacabana” as they’re checking out. “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl…” A

skullCause of death? Rapid aging due to the effects of the life-prolonging gases he inhaled wearing off. Oh, and the poison he gave himself. Dude was thorough, you gotta give him that.

Stayed dead? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA (pauses for breath) HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

Ringer
Why, yes, now that you mention it, this guy does look a lot like someone else I know. In fact, you could say he’s a….

(•_•)
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■)

…dead ringer. (YEEEEEEEEEEAH!) Ahem. Anyway. C-

skullCause of death? A massive surge of lead in his diet, courtesy of Scourge during the “Bar With No Name” massacre.

Stayed dead? Are you kidding? He survived the massacre, got himself a sweet cyborg body, and kicked ass as an A.I.M. operative. Admit it, you don’t want to know if I’m making this up.

Ross, General “Thunderbolt”
Blowhard military leader straight out of Central Casting over here, with the bonus humiliation of spending most of his days thwarted by a massive green dumb guy who was often barely aware of where he was. “The overall military operation to capture the Hulk was now known as Operation Greenskin, after the color of the Hulk’s body.” GEE THANKS, MARVEL EDITORS, THAT NAME WAS A REAL HEAD-SCRATCHER UNTIL YOU CLEARED UP THAT MYSTERY! Sheesh. C+

skullCause of death? Died heroically in his daughter’s arms after releasing the last of Zzzax’s electrical energy (long story) from his body to save her life.

Stayed dead? You know how they say some soldiers never die? This guy, only without the “fade away” part. Currently stomping around as Red Hulk, if you’ve been away from the books for a while.

Salem’s Seven
Yep, that’s exactly what I want from my super-team of cosmic adventurers unlocking the secrets of the universe and exploring the farthest reaches of science: a pit stop in a hidden town of witches who look like furries putting on a Renaissance fair. At least Vakume looks like he’d come in handy for after-party clean-up duty. The rest? Ehhhh… D+

skullCause of death? As God is my witness, I have no idea. Something about a magic book? It’s always a magic book with these types.

Stayed dead? Resurrected when the Scarlet Witch’s mental breakdown and manipulation of magic brought them back to life. Now best of buds with the Fab Four and Doctor Strange.

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Satana 
Um… yowza. Yeah, the hang-glider eyebrows are a bit of a turnoff, but I can work around that. And yes, I know she’s a succubus who spent her formative years with her demon dad in a “hell-like extradimensional realm,” but she’s a good girl now. Really. And it’s not like I was keeping my soul in pristine condition anyway… B

skullCause of death? Sacrificed her life to free Doctor Strange’s spirit from demonic imprisonment. See? She’s a good girl! She also loves her mama, and America, too. (“And I’m free, free fallin’…”)

Stayed dead? Wikipedia: “As a supernatural being, however, Satana’s death was not permanent.” Unlike all the un-supernatural beings in the MU who stay dead when they die. (Cough.)

Savage Land Races
Tree People, Zebra People, Swamp Men, Man-Apes…  somehow I don’t see any of these guys showing up in a future episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m against the idea of a hidden prehistoric jungle in Antarctica, or the idea that ancient Atlanteans turned the place into their own private amusement park complete with genetically altered slaves-slash-park employees (note to self: do not give Disney executives any ideas). But where are we going with this? What’s the point of having all these different races running around beyond giving guys like Ka-Zar someone to get all White Man’s Burden, without the uncomfortable subtext? Let’s just move on. GRADE NOT APPLICABLE

Sawyer, General Sam
Nicknamed “Happy” by his irony-loving subordinates, this is the no-nonsense military guy who first brought Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos together. Best part of his entry are his final words before he dies: “It’s too late for me… You and your yowling yahoos have been the biggest pain in the neck this nursemaid had, but you were the best! I’m proud to have been your commander… and friend!” And then we cut to the funeral, Nick Fury chokes up saying “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human,” and they shoot his coffin into space. Excuse me, I have to go watch something again. B-

skullCause of death? Mortally injured by a robot programmed to take out Captain America and the Howling Commandos when he jumped on a bomb to save them. You know, a manly death.

Stayed dead? Alas, yes. But if it’s any consolation, SHIELD named a heli-carrier after him, and there’s a veterans hospital in the MU named after him, too.

Scourge’s Victims
Just a laundry list of the lethal vigilante’s super-villain victims up to that point, most of whom have already been covered in other entries. The ones who didn’t rate an OHOTMU entry include: Megatak, Wraith, Hellrazor, Grappler, Jaguar, Hijacker, Mind-Wave, Rapier, Shellshock and Steeplejack. Man, how bad do you have to fuck up your career as a super-villain to rate lower on the shout-out scale than guys like Ringer, Commander Kraken and Turner D. Century? GRADE NOT APPLICABLE

Serpent Crown
Can we get a ruling here? The issue is subtitled “Book of the Dead,” and far as I can tell a crown can’t die, not even an evil magic one. So I’m not entirely sure why we’re including four immensely packed pages of text here about Elder Gods and Lemurians and alternate Earths and evil oil companies and secret government energy projects. Making its inclusion here even doubly pointless is the fact that just two years after this issue was published the Serpent Crown returned to play a big role in Marvel’s Atlantis Attacks summer crossover. So… yeah. Weird. GRADE NOT APPLICABLE

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Snowbird
Short version: human father, Inuit goddess mother; grew to adulthood within a few years; offered a place on Canada’s Alpha Flight team; spends her off time as records officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I feel like I should find her more interesting than I do, if only out of national pride, but… meh. Even the gender-bending comedy of her physical form being overtaken by her male body-hopping colleague sounds doesn’t do it for me. I will admit I’m intrigued by her “I can only stay healthy while I’m on Canadian soil” limitation. How exactly does that work? Does that include airspace? If she’s on a space shuttle high above Canada, does that count? If her team time-travels back to before Canada was a country, will that have any effect on her health? Does she feel only so-so when she’s standing right on the 49th parallel? If Trump wins and Vermont secedes to join Canada, will Snowbird then be able to go there as soon as the terms of confederation are ratified? Our embassies abroad are technically on Canadian soil, so can she still do her thing if she travels to one of those places? Quick, someone start a royal commission to get some answers! (Sorry, calling for a royal commission is our answer for everything up here.) C

skullCause of death? Shot with a plasma blast from her teammate to prevent a malevolent spirit from taking possession of her body. Or as the X-Men would call it, “Tuesday.”

Stayed dead? See Satana and “supernatural being” above.

 

Solarr
After a few days in the desert triggered his latent mutant abilities, he “initially used his superhuman powers to rob banks.” My God, it’s so refreshing to read that, what with every modern super-villain turned into a rapist/cannibal/serial killer/would-be destroyer of all the cosmos just to make them “edgy.” Still dressed like a dork, though. Hold on a minute. “Solarr was considerably less powerful when he was in shadow or in the blackness of night.” So are we to infer this guy inspired the Nuclear Man in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace? If so, then he should be grateful that corpse got to him before I did.  C-

skullCause of death? Killed by the charred re-animated corpse of a security guard that was manipulated by an imprisoned alien trying to escape its prison. Um, ew.

Stayed dead? Far as I can tell.

 

Sphinx
“Place of death: Los Angeles, California.” Well, if you’re going to die anywhere, it might as well be where so many dreams go to die. I also love how his listed base of operations is “a mobile flying pyramid,” which is absolutely how I would expect an immortal Egyptian-themed wizard to roll. After spending 5,000 years looking for a way to end his inflicted immortality, he plugs into an alien computer in search of answers. “Now, at last, [he] had sufficient knowledge and power to end his life. However, he abandoned his goal of suicide and instead decided to return to Earth to destroy it.” Well, that’s… capricious. Just like that, huh? Not even so much as a so long and thanks for all the fish? Thanks, assholeC-

skullCause of death? Succumbed to rapid aging when he removed his mystical gem from his forehead, an act he was forced to perform when the Puppet Master showed up to help the Thing.

Stayed dead? I want to say… yes? No? Maybe? It gets tricky when you’re dealing with characters involved with magic and time travel and alternate histories. Let’s go with “nah.”

Spirit of ’76
Not to be confused with another Spirit of ’76 who showed up in another publisher’s books back in the day, this guy put on a tri-corner hat and cape and started punching Nazi spies when America went to war. No, you don’t get an explanation for why he did this. Dammit, people, it was war! There was no time for namby-pamby talk about “motivation” or “making a lick of sense!” After Captain America and Bucky disappeared in 1945, he was called up to replace Cap in the All Winners Squad; a year later, he learned of a plot to murder and replace a Congressional candidate — one, er, ah, John F. Kennedy of Boston — with an evil android. He investigated and was mortally injured when another robot crushed him, but he survived long enough to signal his teammates and save Kennedy’s life. And then nothing else bad ever happened to Kennedy for the rest of his life. C

skullCause of death? See above. In terms of dignified ways to go, I’m putting “crushed to death in the bear hug of an evil robot” way down the list next to “heart attack while taking a dump.”

Stayed dead? Yep.

 

Spymaster
Hey, didn’t I see this goober back in the non-Book of the Dead portion of OHOTMU? Oh yeah, here he is:  “Okay, picture in your mind a master spy. Who are you imagining? James Bond? Emma Peel? Jason Bourne? Maxwell Smart? Is the person you’re picturing wearing anything like a ski mask, little pockets up the side of his tights, a belt buckle with the letter S, and a picture of a knife on his chest whilst conducting official spy business? No? I wonder why.” So what’s happened since then? Well, he tried to kill a bad guy, was prevented from killing that bad guy by Iron Man, then accepted the bad guy’s offer of escape since Iron Man was after both of them. But then that other guy, whose shtick was using a device to phase himself through solid objects, removed Spymaster’s device and he re-materialized while partially inside a wall. A master of the spy arts, you say? That’s nice. D-

skullCause of death? His own stupidity, apparently. “No, no hard feelings about that attempt on my life. Here, let me adjust that doohickey that’s keeping you from dying a horrible death.”

Stayed dead? Brought back during “Dark Reign” in one of those “I faked my own death for… reasons” deals. Hired by Norman Osborn to steal a photo of Stark’s parents for shits and giggles.

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Stacy, Gwen
Pepsi or Coke. Big Mac or Whopper. Betty or Veronica. Gwen or Mary Jane. As with so many other decisions in life, there are no right answers; it all comes down to personal preference. As for me, I think Parker would have been just as happy with Gwen as he was with Mary Jane all those years (until he wasn’t… or they’re back together… Christ, who can tell anymore?), and I don’t necessarily agree with those who say she had to be killed off because there was nowhere else (except marriage) for their relationship to go. All I know is she was an awfully sweet gal, she deserved a chance to live her full life, and all that cloning nonsense was totally, definitely not her fault. B+

skullCause of death? A snapped neck from the whiplash that happened when Spidey’s webbing caused her falling body to stop too soon. As if Parker didn’t have enough to feel guilty about.

Stayed dead? Yes. Sadly. (RIP, Gwen.) 

 

Stane, Obadiah
This guy, on the other hand — yeah, I don’t see anyone getting choked up about him taking a dirt nap. Not even being portrayed by “the Dude” himself in Iron Man’s first film changes the fact this slithery CEO was an irredeemable scumbag. Sure, he had a shitty childhood, what with his dad killing himself right in front of him — that’s got to suck for sure. ironman173But when you’re a teenager and you’re killing dogs and stuffing them in lockers just to win a chess tournament, that’s not an early example of “Stane’s use of psychological warfare” — that’s evidence of him being a bloody psychopath. And not even a very smart one; you want to upset a competitor before the big game, you put poison in his dog’s food and let him find his dead dog in his backyard. Slitting the dog’s throat and shoving it in the kid’s locker? A bit overkill, no? Plus it’s hard to wave off a dead dog in a locker as mere coincidence when you do it right before the big chess match that you easily win because your opponent is a sobbing mess. Also, his adult obsession with chess pieces was kind of dumb, threatening to kill a  baby to gain the upper hand in a fight is major uncool, and I’m convinced the only reason he targeted Stark’s company for a hostile takeover is because he thought he could save money by having to replace only 40% of all corporate signage. C-

skullCause of death? Dead by his own hand, literally; after Iron Man defeated him in battle, he turned his own suit’s repulsor ray against himself and fired.

Stayed dead? Yes, but his mantle has been taken on by his son, Ezekiel, who continues the family tradition of designing weapons and being an all-purpose a-hole to Tony Stark.

 

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