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JUNGLE ACTION Volume 2, Number 15 (May 1975)


Synopsis: As this chapter of Panther’s Rage begins, we are in the Forest of Thorns, where the Black Panther has followed Killmonger, his army and his long train of caged dinosaurs which they captured in Serpent Valley. T’Challa’s need for rest after his exhausting and trying battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex that Erik sicced on him added to the head-start which his enemy already had on him.

It is now a day or two later and our hero is deep into the Forest of Thorns. That forest is crowded to claustrophobic levels with nothing but thorned vegetation like trees, bushes, brambles, shrubs and even thorned leaves and fruits on the trees.

For literally millions of years the Forest of Thorns served as an impenetrable natural barrier which prevented Wakandans from penetrating into Serpent Valley along the gradual incline on which that forest lay.

The precipitous, Grand Canyonesque stone walls of the Chasm of Chilling Mist had always prevented foot traffic into Serpent Valley from that direction. Therefore even though the Forest of Thorns spread all the way up to the plateau on which rested Killmonger’s rebel capital of N’Jadaka, no one had ever used it as a downward route into Serpent Valley.  

Killmonger being Killmonger, he and his army were simply ramrodding their way through the Forest of Thorns with their machinery, sacrificing much of its natural beauty and leaving gaping pathways in their wake as they made the days-long ascent through this natural wonder.  

We join T’Challa as he has paused for a drink and to change the dressing on some of his wounds in the water of a stream which winds its way through the Forest of Thorns. Surreptitiously making their way toward the Black Panther with the intention of attacking him are a few of Killmonger’s soldiers plus their leader, Salamander K’Ruel.

Out of Erik’s most recent visit to Resurrection Altar back in the Land of the Chilling Mist, Salamander K’Ruel was the only one of Killmonger’s men to survive and gain superhuman powers from his exposure to the extraterrestrial rays of that Altar. The others, as usual, died agonizing deaths as their bodies were horribly mutated.

Salamander Kruel aims(Remember, as part of Killmonger’s callousness toward even his own followers he is content with those odds: gaining one super-powered minion per group of human guinea pigs, while the others in the group die painfully. Malice, King Cadaver and Sombre were the others who gained paranormal powers from Resurrection Altar while their fellow “offerings” died horribly.)

Salamander K’Ruel, as Erik christened him upon his survival of the ritual, grew raised, pimply sores all over his body and out of each of those sores his body hair continued to grow. Due to his mutation from the rays of Resurrection Altar, K’Ruel’s body hairs (except for those on his head) grew out of the sores as long, thin, needles.

Those long needles covered most of his body and not only served as a natural protection in close-quarters physical combat but could be shot from his body at will like porcupine quills. Salamander K’Ruel’s natural skin oils had mutated into toxic fluid which coated his needle-hairs/ quills and could either knock-out or kill anyone hit by his needle-hairs/ quills.

In addition, Salamander K’Ruel (easily the most whimsical Revolutionary Name that Killmonger bestowed on one of his followers) used a bow from which he fired Napalm-tipped arrows – years before Stallone in Rambo III and O’Keefe in Lone Runner.    

At any rate, K’Ruel and his handful of soldiers were left behind by Erik/ N’Jadaka to kill T’Challa just in case he survived his battle with the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They now launch their attack on the Black Panther. Continue reading


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Avengers 126AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 126 (August 1974)  All the Sights and Sounds of Death

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).


Synopsis: The exact amount of time between the last installment’s conclusion of the Thanos War and the beginning of this installment is another of those things that obsessive fans debate as they try to establish a timeline of Avengers stories. 

In any event this issue starts out at Avengers Mansion in New York City. Inside, Mantis is watching her romantic partner the Swordsman battle some robots in the Avengers’ Training Room. The Swordsman is trying to show off for her because he is still smarting with insecurity over the way Mantis and the Vision seem to be growing more and more attracted to each other. 

The various energy blasts from the Swordsman’s high-tech sword finish off the two remaining robots he’s fighting but Mantis still seems distracted. As they kiss it is obvious her thoughts are already turning toward the Vision.

The Vision himself is pondering his growing fears that his android brain may be malfunctioning. His panic attacks in Dormammu’s quicksand and Taurus’ pool combined with Ant-Man’s mysterious discovery in the Vision’s brain during the Kree-Skrull War all continue to hang in the air.     

Mantis miniMeanwhile, the Vision’s romantic partner the Scarlet Witch, is still torn with her own fears that the Vision may leave her for Mantis. (Two women fighting over him? The Vision really IS fully functional.) Wanda ponders her recent arguments with the Vision and how he always makes the arguments out to be HER fault. Continue reading


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Avengers 124 star stalkerTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 124 (June 1974) Beware the Star Stalker 

The Celestial Madonna Saga continues! Our previous installment ended with some of the Avengers (Thor, Iron Man, The Black Panther, The Vision and MANTIS) at the Temple of the Priests of Pama in the jungles of Vietnam. Meanwhile the other two Avengers (The Scarlet Witch and The Swordsman) were back in the capitol city with Wanda aiding the Swordsman, who had been tortured for information regarding the temple’s location.

The Avengers themselves had only found that temple through the aid of Libra, from the supervillain team Zodiac. Libra had been revealed as the father of the mysterious superheroine Mantis and claimed both he and his daughter had been trained by the Priests of Pama.

The Vietnamese drug and vice lord Monsieur Khruul (no relation to Mademoiselle Unkhiind) had used his super-powered minions to slaughter every single Priest of Pama. The Avengers and Libra defeated Khruul’s men (his “Khrewe” you might say) then found the dying crime boss himself slashed to ribbons in the temple’s dungeon.

The criminal chief’s dying words were “Beware the Star Stalker.” Unknown to the Avengers, the Star Stalker – a giant, red-scaled dragon-like creature – was watching them from above, seemingly poised to strike.     


Synopsis: The Avengers have no idea who or what the “Star Stalker” might be. From hiding, the creature itself continues to observe our heroes as they split up and search every nook and cranny of the temple but find nothing.

Despite her continued claims that she remembers nothing about this temple, her father or the Priests of Pama, Mantis eventually intuits the location of a device to open a secret passageway. The Black Panther expresses suspicions that she might simply be lying about not remembering anything but Mantis sarcastically inquires if she is “on trial.”

Mantis star stalkerAt any rate the hidden passageway leads the Avengers right into the chamber that the Star Stalker had slunk away to. The creature now stands up on two legs and threateningly addresses the Avengers since, during its years of captivity in the temple, the Priests of Pama had taught the Star Stalker Vietnamese, English, French and presumably other languages as well.   

The Avengers attack the creature, whose very scales seem to ooze energy. After a furious battle it becomes apparent that physical attacks on the Star Stalker do little damage and energy blasts like Iron Man’s repulsor rays simply feed it and make it more powerful. That prompts the Vision to refrain from using the solar rays he shoots from his eyes and our heroes attempt to regroup.

The group also notes that the temple itself is in danger of collapsing from the damage the battle has inflicted. The Star Stalker points out that such destruction is nothing – he intends to destroy the entire planet as he destroyed countless others during his thousands of years of life. He further states that other life forms are meaningless and he is all that matters.    Continue reading


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Avengers 123 An Origin For MantisTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 123 (May 1974) An Origin For Mantis

As our homegirl MANTIS here passionately defends her father Libra’s eccentric decision to wear hot-pants into battle, I’ll welcome you to Balladeer’s Blog’s latest installment of The Celestial Madonna Saga.

NOTE: This issue is titled AN Origin For Mantis, not THE Origin. For reasons that will become clear later Libra is not telling the full story this time around but he still fills in a LOT of background regarding his mysterious daughter. 

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor (Donald Blake, MD), Iron Man (Tony Stark), The Scarlet Witch (Wanda), The Black Panther (Prince T’Challa), The Vision (not applicable), The Swordsman (Jacques Duquesne) and MANTIS (Mantis Brandt).


Synopsis: Our previous installment ended at the skyscraper headquarters of the international supervillain team called Zodiac. In the aftermath of the Avengers’ defeat and capture of the entire group, Libra (Gustav Brandt) revealed that the only reason he betrayed Zodiac was to save Mantis, claiming she is his daughter. 

Mantis reacts furiously, accusing Libra of claiming to be her father as some cruel attempt to garner sympathy from the Avengers, possibly for a lighter prison sentence.

The argument is cut short by Iron Man, who insists that the conversation continue ONLY away from the prying ears of their deadly foes in Zodiac. The Vision concurs, all the while hiding his fear that his android brain is beginning to malfunction and that THAT is the reason for his frantic panic episodes in Taurus’ penthouse swimming pool last time around and in Dormammu’s quicksand at the end of the Avengers-Defenders War.

So, after the authorities arrive to occupy Zodiac HQ the Avengers take in their prisoners with the sole exception of Libra. After the usual post-mission press conference and such for our heroes they gather back at Avengers Mansion with Libra temporarily released in their custody.

Mantis hai ahhThe injured Swordsman is well enough to listen from his wheelchair as his teammates interrogate Libra. Mantis impatiently insists that she never knew any father and calls Libra a liar once more. Given the way the blind member of Zodiac handles himself in battle as well as the blind superhero Daredevil does, the Vietnamese woman even goes so far as to accuse him of FAKING his blindness.

She strips off the blindfold that serves as Libra’s mask and she plus the other Avengers are shocked and disgusted at the burns and scars that surround the empty eye sockets of Libra – Gustav Brandt. He re-ties the blindfold around his eyes and begins his tale. Continue reading


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These days when it comes to pop culture it’s Marvel Comics’ world and the rest of us are just potential LMDs. You readers wanted more Marvel and I’m delivering. FOR PART 1 OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF MARVEL’S SUPERHEROINE MANTIS CLICK HERE   

Mantis 8 cover To the DeathTHE AVENGERS Volume 1, Number 118 (December 1973)  To The Death

AVENGERS ROSTER: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, The Scarlet Witch, The Black Panther, The Vision, The Swordsman and MANTIS

DEFENDERS ROSTER: Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, The Hulk, The Silver Surfer, Valkyrie and Hawkeye

Last time around the globe-spanning war between the Avengers and the Defenders came to an end in Los Angeles when both teams at last compared notes and realized they were being manipulated into fighting each other.

The 14 assembled heroes had recovered all six fragments of the Evil Eye of Avalon, which relic was hastily stolen by Dormammu. That flame-headed man-god who ruled over the Dark Dimension was a foe of Dr Strange and the Defenders.

Mantis torsoFor years Dormammu had been bound by his Galactus-like vow not to invade Earth’s dimension ever again but the reassembled Evil Eye of Avalon gives him the power to bypass that vow by simply MERGING our dimension with his.  

As Dormammu taunted the Avengers and Defenders, our entire universe was becoming one with Dormammu’s vile domain. The landscape and buildings were all turning surreal and distorted, the sun’s light was fading and some people were transforming into the kind of monstrous beings who inhabit the Dark Dimension.  


Synopsis: This story resumes right where we left off, with the Avengers and Defenders defiantly telling Dormammu that they’ll do whatever they have to do to save the universe from him. In typical pulp fiction fashion there’s an arbitrary but dramatic deadline to race against: Dormammu tells the heroes that in one Earth-hour the merging of dimensions will be complete and irreversible.

Dormammu merging dimensionsWhile the other superheroes fight off the demonic creatures beginning to surround them, Dr Strange casts a spell to prevent the Avengers and Defenders from turning into Dark Dimension creatures for the necessary hour. He tells his comrades that he can’t protect everyone on Earth the same way or he’ll be too weak to help them fight Dormammu.

The Doctor wants the Avengers to join him and the Defenders in a direct attack on Dormammu but – rather foolishly, given what’s at stake – the Avengers argue that they can’t abandon the innocent people of Los Angeles to their fate. Strange counters that the entire damn UNIVERSE will suffer if they don’t act quickly.

Avengers 118 to the deathAs the argument continues amid battles with Dark Dimension demonoids, Nick Fury, Countess Valentina Allegro de Fontaine and Dum Dum Dugan arrive with dozens of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury’s outfit was as much a paramilitary organization as an intelligence unit and, with guns blazing they tackle the monstrous beings now reproducing geometrically out of the local population.

Satisfied that S.H.I.E.L.D. will be fighting to help the locals the Avengers agree to accompany the Defenders. Dr Strange casts a spell that takes the 14 superheroes out of Los Angeles and into the heart of Dormammu’s realm. Meanwhile the Countess and some of Nick Fury’s other agents turn into demonoids themselves.

MORE bickering breaks out among the heroes as Thor calls out to all of those Avengers and Defenders who can fly to join him in racing to the far-off spot where they can see Dormammu and his ally/ pawn Loki standing.   Continue reading


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Superhero-mania shows no signs of abating! Since Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at the defunct Centaur Comics superheroes was such a hit I decided to post an entry on another of their neglected figures.

Nightshade splash pageNIGHTSHADE

Secret Identity: Howard Hall, scientist

Origin: Wealthy young scientist Howard Hall found both science and his life of luxury to be ultimately unfulfilling. Immersing himself in the secrets of Eastern Mysticism he discovered he had a real knack for one particular Dark Art: endowing his shadow with life, solidity and super-strength.

Calling himself Nightshade, Hall costumed himself in a white tuxedo and white hat with a pair of large sunglasses serving as a mask. He used his new abilities to fight crime and other forces of evil.  

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Powers: Continue reading

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Everywhere you turn these days you see superhero movies and/or series. Balladeer’s Blog examines another neglected superhero from Centaur Comics.

King of Darkness 2KING OF DARKNESS

Secret Identity: Bruce King, radio engineer.

Origin: Bruce King’s experiments with ultra-short radio waves led him to some incredible discoveries. Utilizing his finds he built what he called a Black-Zero Transmitter, donned a costume and took to the skies to fight crime with his new inventions.

First Appearance: Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942. 

Powers: The King of Darkness’ Black-Zero Transmitter enveloped him in a field of darkness – which he called “a queer pillar of darkness.” This field/ pillar which surrounded the King of Darkness enabled him to fly by negating gravity and to shoot black rays from his hands. Continue reading


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