Today we continue our feeble contribution to the marketing campaign of the new Wonder Woman movie by talking about one of the villains of the movie: Doctor Poison.
Now, it’s widely accepted that the Ancient Greek god of war, Ares, is going to make an appearance as well and will probably be the actual main villain of the movie,
(and before you go complaining about spoilers, understand that he’s credited in the movie’s Wikipedia page so it isn’t exactly a secret) and this makes sense. After all, Ares is probably Wonder Woman’s greatest and most powerful foe from a comic viewpoint and a moral viewpoint (we’ll cover that later) but today I want to talk about Doctor Poison.
Why? Because it’s my blog and because her Golden Age comic debut was a bit…well…
Origin and Career
Dr. Poison made her first appearance in Sensation Comics #2 in February of 1942.
This was one of the earliest issues of Wonder Woman which makes Dr. Poison one of her first true villains.
Fun fact: this was also the first appearance of Etta Candy, a long standing Wonder Woman side kick of the Golden Age and character in the new movie.
Dr. Poison was created by Wonder Woman’s creator: William Moulton Marston,
and artist Harry G. Peter.
Marston in particular has a very interesting backstory, but we’ll get to that later.
In her first appearance, Dr. Poison’s role was very straight forward. She was working for the Nazis and was tasked with disrupting the Allied war effort through her knowledge of poisons and toxins.
Since this is a superhero story, which practically requires the villain to kidnap someone, she manages to hold off Wonder Woman by kidnapping her “friend” Steve Trevor.
Her plan was to dose Allied soldiers with a chemical she called “Reverso”, a chemical compound which messed with people’s minds and forced them to do the opposite of what they were ordered to do.
It’s a very comic book style plot but who knows? Maybe it could have worked.
By now I’m sure you’re noticing something peculiar. I’ve been calling Dr. Poison “she” and “her” while all the pictures suggest that it’s a man under those robes. Well, after Wonder Woman foils her plot (because of course) it is revealed that “he” is actually a woman named Princess Maru.
She did manage to escape (because again, of course) and she would make two more appearances in the 1940’s. First in 1943 where she tried (and failed) to help the Japanese by developing a gas that would clog up the engines of the Allied planes.
Her final Golden Age appearance was in 1948. After the war was over Wonder Woman imprisoned a whole bunch of her villains on an Amazonian prison called “Transformation Island”. In Marston’s last book, he had several of the bad guys escape and form a group known as Villainy Inc.
So what happened?
Doctor Poison was the polar opposite of Wonder Woman in every way. While Wonder Woman sought to bring justice to man’s world, Doctor Poison sought to bring tyranny.
While Wonder Woman embraced her feminine side and challenged the men around her to accept her as a woman, Doctor Poison actively suppressed it and attempted to use her disguise to convince the men around her she was worth keeping.
While Wonder Woman believed in honorable combat, Doctor Poison believed in using cheap and underhanded tricks to win the day.
Basically what I’m trying to say is that the two should have gone one to become long standing rivals. Sort of like Lex Luthor and Superman or Batman and the Joker.
Sadly, this was not the case.
The well known backlash against comics in the 1950’s hit Wonder Woman hard, especially given her…well let’s just say some of her early stuff wasn’t really for kids.
Like I said, we’ll get to that.
Dr. Poison wouldn’t make another appearance until December 1999 in Wonder Woman #151. The new villain was actually the granddaughter of the original Dr. Poison and…
yeah…yeah that’s terrifying.
In an interesting twist, she revealed that her grandmother had actually been killed when she was doused with Reverso and discovered that the drug made her younger and younger until she was just a baby.
The new and revived Dr. Poison also joined the new and revived Villainy Inc.
‘before moving on and joining another group, the Secret Society of Super Villains.
While this might have worked out DC Comics had other plans.
When the company launched a massive reboot of their comic universe known as “The New 52”.
Dr. Poison was brought along.
She lost the costume and the Japanese heritage and became a Russian biological and chemical weapons expert with a grudge against the United States.
If you ask me this was a poor move. She went from intimidating and creepy bad guy to stereotypical comic book scientist with a grudge and that seems like just a waste.
Thankfully, DC seemed to get the idea that the entire New 52 universe was a bad idea and rebooted their universe again with an event called “Rebirth”.
Once again, Dr. Poison was brought along for the ride.
This time the writers brought back the Asian heritage and her original name, only this time she was a soldier in charge of an organization called Poison and went around infecting people with a rage inducing bio weapon known as “The Maru Virus”.
Sure, it’s a step in the right direction, but someday comic book creators are going to have to come face to face with the fact that sometimes readers actually LIKE crazy backstories and weird costumes.
So that’s an abridged history of Dr. Poison, one of the main villains for Wonder Woman in the new movie that’s coming out soon. Honestly, I think this is a good move. She’s got a great set of of skills, she’s intimidating and can provide a great challenge for our hero, and she’s intimidating as all hell.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry.
When I started this blog nearly two years ago (holy crap! It’s been two years!) I started this series to talk about the strange and peculiar superheroes of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Sure, we’ve covered some weird ones,
and ones who have gone on to have long and illustrious careers,
and some heroes who had a cool idea behind them but either didn’t quite make it or were relegated to a life behind the scenes.
But today…today is different.
This superhero is so obscure, strange, and downright silly that I feel ashamed to have not brought him to your attention sooner. Thankfully, he was brought to my attention by a reddit commentator named “apocoluster” (thank you for that by the way) and this blog is better for it.
Today we’re talking about the one and only…Dr. Hormone.
Origin and Career
The unfortunately named doctor made his first appearance in Dell Comics Popular Comics #54 in August of 1940.
He didn’t even get a text advertisement on the cover, not the most promising start.
He was created a mysterious figure named Bob Bugg.
I have no idea who this person is, no idea what he or she looked like, and no idea if that is an actual name or a pseudonym.
I’m willing to bet the actual creator wanted to keep his or her identity secret out of shame.
Like most Golden Age characters, his origin was quite simple and explained in a single page.
The man was on death’s door and managed to make himself younger again, thus cheating death. I like to think this origin is a metaphor for the actual creation of this character.
So what does this character do with this revolutionary formula? Go into business for himself and make millions? Give it to the world for free out of the goodness of his heart?
This is the early 1940’s and America is soon to be at war. Clearly, the best thing to do is to militarize this miracle formula and sell it as a weapon.
The “we’re a stand in for continental Europe being oppressed by the Nazis but we can’t actually call them Nazis because America isn’t TECHNICALLY at war yet” country this time is the hilariously named Novoslavia, who is offering the princely sum of $25 million to whoever can provide their country with a means to defend them from the encroaching Eurasians.
The Professor decides to play war profiteer and brings his invention to Novoslavia, along with his granddaughter Jane.
Because countries on the brink of war are perfectly safe for little kids.
Sadly, their goods are stolen and they come up against the most evil and wretched enemy of all, incompetent and vindictive bureaucrats.
This takes the form of War Minister Rastinov who immediately throws the Doctor and his daughter into prison. However, Jane manages to secure their release by slipping something into the war minister’s drink.
Remember, if you want to get on someone’s good side, always make sure they make an ass of themselves.
The Novoslovians award Docotor Hormone the prize, and prepare for war using his miracle serum.
What I find hilarious is that the serum brings everyone to the age of 25, even babies.
Meanwhile, former war minister Assinov (not my joke) has defected to the Euraseans and proceeds to launch a full scale invasion of poor Novoslovia.
Another thing I find interesting is how the Eurasians don’t really look like Nazis. Instead they look a lot like the Soviet Army.
The war goes poorly for the Novoslovians and their leader, General Battlesky (groan!) prepares to execute the Doctor and his niece via firing squad.
but Dr. Hormone manages to save the day in the end by spraying all the Eurasians with a special hormone that makes everyone like each other again and stop the fighting.
Assinov isn’t done yet though. He manages to disguise himself as the Doctor and turn everyone into animals using the Doctor’s own hormones.
I’m beginning to think that Doctor Hormone’s credentials might be a bit suspect. Also, ethics are something of a concern.
The war is won when the Novoslovians turn Assinov’s human animal hybrids against Eurasia and thousands of human/rat hybrids sneak in and chew through their army’s ammo and swarms of human/locust hybrids swarm the enemy soldiers.
That…is actually really dark and downright terrifying.
After defeating the vile forces of Eurasia, Dr. Hormone travels back home to America. After a brief run in with new foes of the dreaded Nazians (really?) he comes across…
Hormone manages to save himself with an army of fleas, who manage to smother the flames and drive the clansmen to madness by biting them. In fact, they’re driven so mad that they commit mass suicide.
You sure this isn’t a horror comic?
His last adventure ended on a literal cliffhanger as the Doctor was attempting to stop a Nazian invasion of Texas. Unfortunately, the Klan manages to find him and forces him down a bottomless pit where he and his niece fall through time and reach a mysterious voice that instructs them to wait.
So what happened?
After the good Doctor took a left turn into insanity he never made another appearance. I’m just going to assume he’s still below, waiting for the day where he might rise up and continue the story.
As for why he was cancelled it’s pretty easy to see why. He was never a main attraction and I’m willing to bet that the kids didn’t take too kindly to the name. Plus there’s the fact that the artwork…well it isn’t very good, even for time period.
Also, while we’re on the subject of quality, why doesn’t the man have a costume? I mean sure, I’m willing to bet the creator of this story was probably tired of drawing superhero costumes (assuming he or she was a working artist at the time) but come on! You have a brilliant chemist who has manged to find a way to live forever, invents crazy chemical compounds that turn people into animals, and you’re going to dress him up in a suit!?
In all seriousness I actually do think this guy could make a halfway decent superhero in the modern era. Hell, he’d actually make a kick ass super villain!
Dr. Hormone was the personification of almost everything crazy about the Golden Age of Comics. He was weird, he had an annoying niece as a sidekick, and his adventures were filled with all sorts of insanity that would have gotten any normal person arrested and tried for crimes against humanity.
God, I love comics so much!
I said this year would be a bit different for this blog series by focusing on some of the more creative villains of the Golden Age of Comics and I intend to keep that promise.
The problem with Golden Age villains is that many of them were never meant to have any serious staying power. Sure, you’ve got classics such as the Joker,
and the Red Skull,
but even these guys were simply reduced to being cackling mad men who were given the simple job of being evil for the sake of being evil and crumpling like wet cardboard once the hero started punching things.
It’s important to remember that during this time comics were built around the heroes and it was simply accepted that the hero always had to win. I’m not trying to mock the hard working and underpaid writers and artists who created these guys, it’s just that the comic book scene of the 1940’s and 1950’s was a bit different than it was today.
Couple that with the fact that a lot of superheroes at the time weren’t above killing the bad guys,
and it’s pretty easy to see why creators didn’t really focus on making great bad guys.
So here’s a blog post about an old foe of the Whizzer, Doctor Nitro.
Origin and Career
The evil doctor made his first appearance in U.S.A Comics #16 in 1945.
He was so obscure and one note that this is the only photo I have been able to find of him.
If I could describe the Doctor’s motivations in one word it would be generic. He didn’t have an interesting or compelling backstory, he didn’t have some sort of special mutant ability, and he wasn’t particularly memorable or crazy.
While his motivations may have been generic, his methods certainly weren’t. The Doctor was an explosives expert (with a name like Nitro that really isn’t surprising) who developed a special explosive that could only be detonated by being exposed to a certain type of ray.
Nitro manages to smuggle this explosive into his prison cell by pretending that it’s hand lotion and manages to escape after detonating a bomb that kills two guards.
After escaping and rejoining his gang, Doctor Nitro planned on becoming rich by blackmailing the wealthy and elite into paying him or he would kill them with the explosive.
The Whizzer witnesses one of Nitro’s henchmen kill a man named Standards and manages to trace the killing back to the Doctor. While Nitro does manage to douse the Whizzer with his special explosive formula the hero is just too fast for him and manages to round up the evil Doctor and his gang in order to save the day.
Doctor Nitro was last seen in police custody, his current fate is unknown.
How can he be remade/reworked?
The Doctor was only given one appearance in 1945, he didn’t have a career after that.
So instead we’re going to try and remake/rework him for a modern audience and see if he could be a good fit for modern day readers.
Honestly, I think this guy could work, mostly because during my research Doctor Nitro reminded me of this guy.
That man’s name is Howard Payne. He was played by Dennis Hopper as the villain of the hit 1994 movie Speed.
Howard is a retired bomb squad officer from the Atlanta police force who took a group of hostages on board an L.A bus and demanded a ransom of 3.7 million dollars or he would blow up the bus and all the people in it.
Besides sharing similar motives with Howard Payne, Doctor Nitro shares a similar love for explosives and creative ways of blowing things up.
What’s even better is that in the world of comics, Doctor Nitro can still fit in quite well.
Personally, I wouldn’t change the character and motivations at all. He’s an incredibly talented bomb maker who has a knack for creating explosives that are undetectable and can be utilized in interesting and unorthodox ways.
Granted, there are a couple of comic book characters that utilize new and interesting technology,
and there are even plenty of super villains that use the power of explosives as their main weapon,
but I think the best place to put Doctor Nitro would be as a smart, capable, and behind the scenes antagonist to S.H.I.E.L.D.
If I was writing him, the new Doctor Nitro would be half mad scientist, half bomb maker, and only interested in selling his services and products to the highest bidder. Perhaps he could have had a previous job as a scientist for S.H.I.E.L.D but decided that they didn’t pay him nearly enough and decided to go freelance.
As for the villain’s tools, I think that he could not only be fun, but also pretty socially relevant.
It’s no small secret that improvised explosive devices (IED’s) are a favorite and well known tool for terrorists in and around places like the Middle East, but with the new Doctor Nitro and his explosive expertise there is a whole new world of bizarre and interesting ways to challenge our heroes.
For example, if Nitro’s explosive can be disguised as hand lotion, what’s stopping him from creating an edible explosive? If the charge doesn’t need a detonator to blow up maybe Nitro’s intended target could be killed off after eating a meal laced with explosives and detonated when exposed to a certain type of radiation? How would S.H.I.E.L.D manage to stop a bomb maker who leaves no trace and doesn’t work with conventional materials?
There are plenty of interesting things that could be done with Doctor Nitro, it would be an absolute shame to waste him.
Hey, thanks for reading! Just a quick heads up, we also publish a web comic called “The Secret Lives of Villains” ever Tuesday and Thursday and we have our first printed volume available for sale on Amazon! If you would like to support this blog, and read some pretty awesome comics, please feel free to pick up a copy here.
So last week was a success, what other heroes from Gold Key Comics that made their way to other publishers after the company folded can we talk about?
Origin and career
The hero shown above is Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom. He has the honor of being the first original character created under Gold Key Comics after their parent company split from Dell Publishing in 1962. He first appeared in his own #1 issue in the summer of 1962.
He was created by writer Paul Newman and editor Matt Murphy. While I can’t find any pictures of Matt Murphy I’ve talked about Paul Newman last week.
The man has the honor of being the most prolific comic book writer in history after publishing over 4,000 comic books over the course of his career and if I ever decide to talk about Silver Age comic books I’m pretty sure his name will definitely be coming up more.
Art responsibilities fell to artist Bob Fujitani.
Who was a well established comic book artist who had done work on titles such as Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and even worked on Black Condor for Quality Comics.
We’ve talked about him on this blog before.
Doctor Solar was definitely a hero for the times. In the 1960’s the Cold War was in full swing and we came terrifyingly close to ending the world as we knew it in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Solar’s origin was a harsh reminder of the dangerous new times we lived in. He gained his powers after stopping a catastrophic nuclear meltdown that killed his co worker.
Despite the fact that the radiation killed Dr. Bently, Solar remained unharmed with the exception of his skin turning green.
A fun fact: Doctor Solar didn’t get his costume until issue #5, when his title switched artists and he was drawn by Frank Bolle.
The uniform was designed by the Doctor himself,
and actually looked pretty good.
As for bad guys to fight, Doctor Solar didn’t bother himself with petty bank robbers and villains of the week. His principal nemesis was a man named Tanek Nuro, a shadowy power broker who never showed his face.
The man looks like a cross between Kingpin and Lex Luthor and was one of those villains who never directly interfered with the hero, he just manipulated and created threats for the hero to face.
It’s a good thing that Nuro didn’t engage Solar directly because Solar was a hero who could have probably gone toe to toe with Superman at his most powerful if he really wanted to. The man’s power set was pretty wide ranging. From super senses
to energy blasts,
to size manipulation,
and the ability to manipulate the environment around him in whatever way he saw fit.
The man was basically a god, and with this incredible power came the standard problems of what to do with a man who could vaporize you without batting an eyelash.
Since his body was now a giant nuclear battery he no longer needed food, sleep, or air. However, like any battery he had to recharge himself and if he used up too much of his power he would die.
So what happened?
Solar reached his peak popularity in 1965 but then the 1970’s happened and Gold Key went out of business.
Solar would have a brief revival in the 1980’s under Gold Key’s successor company, Whitman Comics,
but he only lasted four issues before the series was cancelled.
Solar took a hiatus in the 1980’s when Whitman went out of business. He was later revived when Valiant Comics licensed the character and decided to use him in their budding superhero lineup.
He kept his costume but his origin was tweaked a bit.
The new Doctor Solar’s name was Phil Seleski. He was a physicist working on an experimental fusion generator that went critical. Seleski shut down the reactor but was exposed to a lethal dose of radiation that should have killed him but gave him superpowers instead.
The new Doctor Solar, who just went by the name “Solar” in the Valiant Universe, actually played an important part in the larger story. After gaining his powers he attempted to use them for good by attempting to destroy the world’s nuclear weapons.
The world’s governments were not partial to Solar’s actions and branded him a criminal. During their attempt to stop him, Solar lost control of his powers and sucked Earth into a black hole.
Solar then travels back in time and splits into two personalities: Phil Seleski, who remembered everything that happened to Earth when it was destroyed, and Doctor Solar who was a representation of Peter’s childhood hero and believed that Phil was a dangerous criminal.
They meet, they fight, things get weird and very meta.
Eventually everything gets resolved and it is revealed that Seleski didn’t travel back in time, he simply recreated his ideal Earth after it was sucked into the black hole.
It was also revealed that Doctor Solar could split his personalities even further into various forms such as the Destroyer.
This new Earth would establish the foundation for the Valiant Universe and the new Doctor Solar would play a crucial role. From fighting evil aliens to defeating a super powered being named Mothergod who just so happened to be a former co worker of his,
Doctor Solar was an important part of the Valiant Universe.
In the comics he blew himself up in the year 4000 A.D to prevent an alien invasion of Earth.
Solar would live on when Acclaim bought Valiant. This time the hero’s identity was twin brother and sister Frank and Helena who were given their powers after Peter left them with a portion of his own strength.
Acclaim Comics would go out of business but in 2004 Solar was picked up by Dark Horse Comics.
Dark Horse published reprints of Solar’s original adventures until 2008 when they started releasing an original series that lasted eight issues.
In 2013 he was picked up by Dynamite Entertainment and had a twelve issue run from 2014 until February of 2015.
Doctor Solar is, and remains, a pretty popular comic book character. Like Turok, he was a product of comic book culture during the 1960’s and while he may not be as well recognized as some of his older superhero rivals such as Superman or Batman, I like to think he holds a special place in the hearts of dedicated comic book fans everywhere.
Speaking of legacies, did you know that Doctor Solar was a major inspiration for Radioactive Man, the superhero spoof that is a mainstay on the popular tv show The Simpsons?
As legacies go…that’s not half bad.