This weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post deals with Marvel’s enigmatic mercenary Paladin, whose activities on behalf of his clients often put him on both sides of the law.
He has no connection to the Paladin character from the Have Gun Will Travel radio and television shows.
DAREDEVIL Vol 1 #150 (January 1978)
Villain: The Purple Man (Killgrave)
NOTE: This was the first appearance of Marvel’s Paladin. To this day they have not revealed his real name, but he sometimes uses the aliases Paul Dennis and Paul Denning. Paladin is as agile and acrobatic as Daredevil, wears resilient body armor that does not restrict his movements and wields a Stun Gun.
That weapon’s ray-blasts stun and scramble the nervous system, so they are effective even against super foes but have no effect on unliving matter. Through some STILL unexplained biological mutation or scientific enhancement, Paladin is strong enough to lift an entire ton.
Synopsis: In this story, Paladin is hired by one of the victims of Killgrave the Purple Man to capture the villain for him. While tracking him down and fighting with some of Killgrave’s underlings, Paladin clashes with Daredevil, who is also on the trail of his old foe the Purple Man.
The emphasis is on introducing Paladin, so his swashbuckling, purely mercenary personality is highlighted as well as his flirtatious nature with female onlookers of his fight with Daredevil.
DAREDEVIL Vol 1 #152 (May 1978)
Villain: The Purple Man
Synopsis: One night while Daredevil is thwarting a mugging in Central Park, he once again crosses paths with Paladin, who now knows where to find Killgrave. The pair fight it out since Paladin knows that Daredevil will insist on turning the Purple Man over to the police instead of letting him deliver Killgrave to his client like he’s being paid to do.
Paladin at last manages to stun DD with a non-fatal blast from his Stun Gun. He leaves the unconscious hero and disappears into the night in pursuit of the Purple Man.
DAREDEVIL Vol 1 #154 (September 1978)
Villains: Purple Man, the Gladiator, Jester, Cobra and Mr. Hyde
NOTE: In issue 153, Daredevil was attacked by Cobra and Mr. Hyde at his girlfriend Heather Glenn’s empty apartment. After a lengthy battle that spilled out onto the streets below, the villains – under the mental control of Killgrave – knocked out Daredevil and made off with him.
Synopsis: Daredevil comes to at Marvel’s version of Riker’s Island prison, where plenty of supervillains are held in addition to normal felons. Purple Man greets him in the prison yard and points out that he has been secretly mind-controlling the warden and all the prisoners at Riker’s for weeks, hence why nobody could find him, little dreaming they should look for him in a notorious penitentiary.
Killgrave (who was played by David Tennant on the Daredevil tv series) tells Daredevil that he sent his old foe Man-Bull after our hero weeks ago. When Man-Bull failed to capture the blind hero, Purple Man decided on adding inmates Cobra, Mr. Hyde, Jester and Gladiator to his enthralled thugs. The villain has the mentally controlled Heather Glenn sitting next to him holding a gun to her own temple and he will have her kill herself if Daredevil refuses to play along with this “arena combat” that Killgrave has planned.
The villain also taunts our hero that he made Heather tell him that he is really Matt Murdock, so he can expose Daredevil at will now. Killgrave, surrounded by enthralled, cheering inmates, has Daredevil fight Gladiator, Jester, Mr. Hyde and Cobra.
The battle is barely underway when Paladin, who has been surreptitiously infiltrating Purple Man’s stronghold of Riker’s Island since he and Daredevil parted company the previous night, reveals his presence and fights alongside Daredevil against the four supervillains.
Eventually, Paladin’s Stun Gun takes out the massively super-strong Mr. Hyde and before long the two heroes defeat Gladiator, Jester and Cobra. Then they wade into Killgrave’s other enthralled convicts, save Heather Glenn and, as Daredevil and Purple Man fight it out on a high wall of Riker’s, the villain falls to what is assumed to be his death in the waves and rocks below.
Paladin good-naturedly tells Matt that he just cost him the $500,000 fee that he was being paid to deliver Killgrave to his client. Riker’s is turned back over to the now-free warden and guards.
NOTE: Needless to say, Killgrave turned up alive years later.
MARVEL PREMIERE Vol 1 #43 (August 1978)
Title: In Manhattan, They Play for Keeps
Villain: The Phantasm
Synopsis: Wealthy blonde socialite Marsha Connors hires Paladin to protect her from her former boyfriend Dennis Sutton, whose experiments have transformed him into a supervillain calling himself the Phantasm. One night the villain and several of his hired gunmen break into Marsha’s residence to kill her, but Paladin defeats them all. The Phantasm, however, escapes.
Not long after that, the villain and his new hirelings inflict a blackout on Wall Street and other areas of New York City so they can loot during the chaos. They also attack Marsha’s place again but are opposed once more by Paladin.
The mercenary chases Phantasm and his thugs into the middle of a Chinese New Year celebration, where he defeats all the remaining gunmen. He also outfights the Phantasm and turns him over to the police. Paladin and Marsha give into their feelings for each other and become a couple, violating his usual “no hanky-panky with clients” policy.
THE DEFENDERS Vol 1 # 62-63 (August and September 1978)
NOTE: No action for Paladin in these two issues, he just showed up at Defenders headquarters on Long Island after the documentary that exposed the group’s existence to the world as well as their base of operations at the Richmond Riding Academy.
Once he found out that they don’t get paid to perform their heroics he declined to join the team and departed. (The Defenders at that time consisted of Hulk, Valkyrie, Nighthawk, Son of Satan and Hellcat.)
MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol 1 #108 (August 1981)
Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Synopsis: One night Spider-Man and Paladin happen by a crime in progress. In typical Marvel Team-Up formula, the two heroes each misinterpret the other’s actions, so they fight, reconcile, then join forces against the villain.
Paladin has been hired by the wife and best friend of a scientist whose experiments transformed him into Thermo, who replenishes his immense physical strength and bio-energy blasts by draining all the warmth from his victims, killing them.
As Thermo’s body count increases, more and more attention has been paid to him, that’s why Spider-Man was out looking for him this night. Though Spider-Man is at first disgusted with the fact that Paladin works only for pay, the two heroes work together over the next few days and nights.
After they survive a few clashes with Thermo, the finale of this issue features Paladin and Spider-Man fighting Thermo across the street from a nightclub where the singing mutant superheroine Dazzler just finished performing. As Thermo is gaining the upper hand in the fight, Dazzler notices and rushes to the aid of our heroes.
MARVEL TEAM-UP Vol 1 #109 (September 1981)
Title: Critical Mass
Synopsis: Dazzler helps Paladin drive off Thermo, who was on the verge of killing Spider-Man. Spidey is so injured that Dazzler and Paladin get him to Dazzler’s apartment to recover. The next day the three heroes reassemble at that apartment to plan their next moves against Thermo.
Meanwhile, the villain gathers a band of underlings to aid him. Ultimately, Paladin, Spider-Man and Dazzler trail Thermo and his gang to their vacant warehouse hideout.
In the end, the underlings are defeated, Thermo is temporarily drained of his power and turned over to the authorities and Paladin gets paid his huge fee. The mercenary and Dazzler kept flirting, but circumstances were not conducive to a hookup, as Paladin ruefully notes at story’s end.
NOTE: Dazzler went on to join the X-Men years later.
AVENGERS Vol 1 #251 (January 1985)
Villain: Baron Brimstone
Synopsis: The Wasp takes a leave of absence from the Avengers in order to vacation in the Caribbean. The rest of this issue follows her in the islands, where she meets Paladin, who is also vacationing there.
The pair hit it off and become inseparable in the days and nights ahead. Eventually, they have to don their costumes and go into action to stop the supervillain Baron Brimstone, an old foe of Machine Man.
Working together, Paladin and the Wasp defeat the Baron and his plan to rob tens of millions of dollars from a resort casino. After that, the two hedonists return to their wild partying.
PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #105-106 (August & September 1985)
Titles: United We Fall & No Fury
Villains: The Vince Granetti Crime Family
NOTE: Paladin fights alongside Spider-Man and the Wasp against the Granetti drug empire in this two-part story. No supervillains in sight, so the three heroes just kick the butts of normal human gangsters.
Paladin starts out as a hireling getting paid big bucks to safeguard merchandise that he does not realize are drugs until the Wasp and Spider-Man show him. He then walks away from his fee and joins the other two against the Granettis.
To me, superhero stories without supervillains have limited appeal, so I don’t have much to say about this tale. The good news is that Paladin and the Wasp rekindle their affair during this adventure and the Granetti Crime Family gets completely obliterated.
### And 1985 seems like a good year to stop. From that point on, Paladin continued to make scattered and infrequent guest appearances here and there. Sometimes he worked with Power Man and Iron Fist at Heroes for Hire, other times he fought alongside superheroes who worked pro bono.
In one adventure back when Paladin was still romantically involved with the Wasp, he helped her and the other Avengers against the latest roster of the supervillain team called the Masters of Evil.
Despite Paladin’s 44 years of history with Marvel Comics there are still certain mysteries about him. I mentioned above how his real name is STILL not known, nor is the origin of his super-strength.
You can add to those items enigmatic references that Daredevil’s girlfriend Elektra once assassinated someone close to Paladin AND hints that the supervillains of the Hellfire Club (X-Men villains) hired Paladin for a dirty job at least once.
This figure has also had romantic flings with Diamondback and Silver Sable.
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