FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE
GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 1 (August 1974) Nuklo: The Invader That Time Forgot
At this point in the 1970s sales at Marvel Comics were going so well that they introduced the short-lived Giant-Size versions of some of their titles, like Giant-Size Fantastic Four, Giant-Size Spider-Man, Giant-Size Defenders, etc. These were published every 3 months and featured original stories plus reprints.
The most famous of those editions was 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men Number 1 which introduced the new X-Men lineup of Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Banshee, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird and Sunfire.
In my quick research for this escapist Superhero Summer series I noticed that the 1970s creative team at The Avengers did the best job of incorporating the Giant-Size quarterlies into their ongoing storyline. The greatest examples of that lie in the near future.
For this tale, the Scarlet Witch encounters the father she never knew, just like Mantis with Libra and Moon Dragon with Drax the Destroyer. Coincidence? Stimuli in a bizarre nature vs nurture affair? Psychological tumblers tripped in sequence to unlock a certain something in one of those three women? The mystery WILL be resolved, in the days ahead.
NUKLO, THE INVADER THAT TIME FORGOT
Synopsis: The story opens in Avengers Mansion as the Avengers discover an unconscious Jarvis (their butler) and a trench-coated intruder standing over him. The intruder broke into the mansion past the security systems and tells the Avengers now surrounding him that he is there to claim the chrono-module.
That chrono-module is a mysterious pod-like machine that was unearthed about a week earlier during construction work in New York City. The Avengers were called in to assess the device and moved it into the laboratory at Avengers Mansion for further study.
So far not even Tony Stark’s technical genius has discovered the way to open the pod without damaging it so til now further study had been stalled. The Avengers didn’t even know it was called a chrono-module until the intruder said it.
The Avengers move in to capture the strange man. (NOTE: From letters pages it became clear that an error was made – with Captain America AND the Black Panther leaving the team at the end of last issue the Avengers lineup in this story SHOULD have been Thor, Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch, the Vision, MANTIS and the Swordsman. Instead, Captain America was on hand in the role that should have gone to Swordsy.)
The intruder is revealed to be Bob Frank, aka the Whizzer, one of Marvel Comics’ (Timely Comics during WW 2) Golden Age superheroes. The Whizzer has super-speed like Flash and/or Quicksilver and manages to outmaneuver the Avengers for a few minutes until the Vision subdues him. Mantis again expresses cooing admiration for the Vision’s abilities, upping the tension in the team’s romantic subplots.
Because the Whizzer wasn’t preserved in suspended animation like Captain America was, he is very old and the exertion of the brief battle has left him in danger of a heart attack. He insists that his own life means nothing compared to what may happen to the world if the chrono-module is opened, that’s why he came to prevent it.
Bob Frank tells his story: how after World War Two ended the All-Winners Squad (an actual Marvel/ Timely superteam from back then) was formed. The team consisted of the Whizzer himself, plus Sub-Mariner, the original android version of the Human Torch and the Torch’s flame-powered mutant sidekick Toro, the 2nd Captain America (taking the place of the original, who was MIA) … and the superheroine called Miss America (Madeline Joyce).
In between fighting supervillains like Isbisa, Madame Death and Future Man, the Whizzer and Miss America fell in love and eventually married. When the All-Winners Squad disbanded (probably because they were embarrassed by their stupid name), Bob Frank and Madeline Joyce became super-powered government operatives providing security for Top Secret scientific projects.
Eventually the Whizzer and Miss America got exposed to various levels of radiation from one of the projects they guarded. Realizing his heart is getting worse Bob Frank moves on quickly to the end of his tale. News reports about the Avengers discovering the module a week or so ago alarmed Bob to the point where he decided he had to steal the item to prevent it from being opened.
Before the weakened Whizzer can go on, the chrono-module bursts open, revealing the golden, hairless man-monster called Nuklo. With no other choice, Bob Frank cries out the reason he was reluctant to just TALK to the Avengers about the module rather than steal it: Nuklo is his and Miss America’s mutant son.
The Whizzer goes into full cardiac arrest while the Avengers fight the paniced and confused Nuklo, who has strength to rival Thor plus has nuclear energy powers like energy blasts. The Scarlet Witch orders the recovered Jarvis to call a doctor for Bob Frank.
Nuklo fights his way past Thor, I.M, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Mantis and Cap/ Should be the Swordsman. The nuclear-powered villain bursts out of Avengers Mansion, splits into three separate but identical bodies and spreads out across the city, spreading panic wherever he goes.
While the Scarlet Witch stays by Bob Frank’s bedside in the Avengers’ infirmary so she can pump him for information about his son Nuklo if he pulls through, Iron Man uses Avengers Mansion tech to track down the three Nuklos.
Thor and Mantis go after one of them, Iron Man and Cap/Swordsman go after another and the Vision goes solo after the third. Vizh encounters his Nuklo first and in the ensuing battle he cannot defeat the escapee but manages just enough of an upper hand to start herding the bewildered, unsuspecting mutant back toward Avengers Mansion.
Later, back at the infirmary, Bob Frank is stable enough that his doctor lets the Scarlet Witch talk to him about the rampaging nuclear menace terrifying the city. The Whizzer reveals that because of the radiation he and his wife were exposed to, Miss America gave birth to the mutant Nuklo, who was already glowing and malformed as he came out of the womb.
Unable to cure him the government kept the affair Top Secret and put Nuklo into chryo-sleep in the Chrono-Module, which would keep him alive for decades until hopefully science could cure him.
Meanwhile, back out in the city, Thor and Mantis find their Nuklo feeding on power from the elevated train system. They battle him to the point where they can, like the Vision, start herding him back to Avengers Mansion. Once there they hope to force all three Nuklos back together into one and then defeat him.
Back at the infirmary, Bob Frank wakes up and is still weak but able to talk. He tells the Scarlet Witch about how he and his wife left government service after the incident with their son and traveled the world. In Marvel’s fictional European nation called Transia the couple toured Wundagore Mountain by car and were welcomed by the High Evolutionary, who sensed their superhero status and that Madeline was pregnant again.
NOTE: The High Evolutionary was – at the time Whizzer and Miss America met him – still just a human scientist in high-tech red and silver armor. He was working on his race of New Men, to experiment with what would have resulted if humanity had evolved from animals other than primates.
Because of his obsession with his own experiments over all moral and ethical considerations the High Evolutionary is sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain in the stories where he appears. Long after this story he was the Avengers’ foe in the storyline called the Evolutionary War.
Back to Bob Frank’s story, the High Evolutionary let the pair stay in his castle because he could tell Madeline would give birth that night. She did, to twins. A little boy and girl that Maddie and Bob named … Wanda and Pietro.
The Scarlet Witch exclaims that SHE is Wanda and her brother Quicksilver is Pietro, meaning that Bob Frank is her long-lost father. (I’m ignoring later ret-cons to this on grounds of irrelevance. For years Bob and Madeline Frank were considered Wanda and Pietro’s parents.)
Anyway, as mentioned above, ANOTHER father and daughter reunion under traumatic circumstances, like with Mantis and Libra plus Moon Dragon and Drax the Destroyer. All will be explained in the installments to come.
Back out in the city, in the Borough of Queens, Iron Man and Swordsman/ Captain America find and fight their Nuklo as he feeds on power lines. They coordinate strategies with the Vision, Mantis and Thor. The pair begin herding their Nuklo back toward Avengers Mansion.
Returning to the Whizzer’s hospital room, he explains to Wanda that his wife Madeline died a few days after giving birth. In his sorrow he left the castle for a time to grieve and have his wife buried, since Bova, one of the High Evolutionary’s female cow-people, was caring for the twins.
When Bob went back to the castle on Wundagore Mountain the High Evolutionary apparently lied to him about the children being gone (They should have just said he lied and claimed the twins were dead. With all of his biological equipment and human tissue on hand the High Evolutionary could have easily faked two dead babies).
At any rate Bob searched for them for years but found no trace of them, eventually giving up. Wanda tells her newfound father how she and Pietro were kept and observed by the High Evolutionary, who no doubt found them to be fascinating subjects since they were mutants, Marvel’s next stage in human evolution.
Eventually, not fitting in with the H.E. and his animal people she and Pietro ran away. Years later Magneto saved them from a mutant-hating mob of Europeans and recruited them into his original Mutant Brotherhood. After a time they defected from the Brotherhood and sought to make amends for their past by joining the Avengers.
Back at Avengers Mansion, all three Nuklos have been herded to the same spot. The trio WILLINGLY reunite into one body, making the Avengers realize that Nuklo separated himself just to feed. Reassembled into one body Nuklo is now more powerful from the way his three separate bodies absorbed energy all over the city. Soon he will reach critical mass and blow up much of the Tri-State area of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Nuklo is clobbering the Avengers on the cordoned-off street outside Avengers Mansion while crowds and news crews look on. The Scarlet Witch and the Whizzer realize SHE is the only one who can stop him.
The Scarlet Witch walks past the other groggy Avengers who lie scattered at her feet, watching her move toward Nuklo. She is able to survive his energy blasts because of a Marvel Comics bit of pseudo-science: mutants who are related are largely immune to each other’s powers. And Wanda now knows Nuklo is her older brother.
For instance Cyclops and his brother Havoc’s metabolisms mostly cancel out each other’s blasts and leave them merely a bit stunned if they shoot each other with them. Same deal with Banshee and his villainous cousin Black Tom Cassidy and any others I’ve left out.
The Scarlet Witch survives Nuklo’s energy waves long enough that her hex powers – in this case NOT touching Nuklo so his metabolism cannot neutralize them – surround the confused creature in a force field that drains his energy from him. Soon, Nuklo collapses, too weak to stand.
Iron Man plans to repair the chrono-module and put Nuklo back into slumber in it until science DOES find a cure. The Whizzer has another heart attack from the confrontation between the Scarlet Witch and Nuklo. Thor transforms into his secret identity of Donald Blake, MD and performs an operation to save him.
The Avengers comfort Wanda over the incredible shocks she’s just undergone while they are all awaiting the outcome of the surgery. When Bob Frank recovers, the others leave the Scarlet Witch and her romantic partner the Vision alone with Wanda’s father.
She tells Bob she will inform Pietro so that they can be reunited as well. As he falls back to sleep, Bob tells Wanda to take good care of her brother, Nuklo. This brings tears to Wanda’s eyes but the Vision is there to comfort her.
NOTE: Yes, I know that the later change to Magneto really being the father of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver negates the reason for Wanda being able to defeat Nuklo in this story. That’s one of the MANY reasons why ret-cons can be such a pain in the neck when it comes to established continuity. +++
I’LL COVER THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MAIN LIST OF CENTAUR COMICS SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE
FOR MY ARTICLE ON THE MEMBERS OF INFINITE HORIZON CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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