…the Scourge of the Underworld’s identity?

3111208-nomadThe following guest post comes from AF McGill who has been reading comics since 1995 and collecting them since 2006. Despite that, she finds herself hating comics more often than not. She might be a contrarian, she might be wrong or she might just be passionate to the point of insanity. She has absolutely no love for several of the “acclaimed” creators or books, instead her favourite comics include mostly Mark Gruenwald, J.M. DeMatteis, Fabian Nicieza, John Byrne and Roger Stern stuff. Her favourite characters are a bit more traditional and include Spider-Man, Captain America, Quasar, Quicksilver and Emma Frost. She also likes some DC but not enough to ever write anything of meaningfully amount about them.  Over to AF:

Jack was the 1950s Bucky who took an incomplete version of the super soldier serum and wound up going a bit insane and becoming an evil racist. He was eventually rehabilitated by S.H.I.E.L.D. during the 1980s and became the real Captain America’s sidekick as Nomad.

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During J.M. DeMatteis’ Captain America run, Nomad is routinely shown to be a bit of a chump. He always falls into traps, he is headstrong and brash, pessimistic and defeatist and his old way of black-and-white thinking is too ingrained for him to truly accept the way things are now. One more than one occasion, Nomad uses excessive force on super-villains much to the protests of Captain America while Nomad debates Cap’s lake of finite action and how the villains will always come back and they don’t care for the sanctity of life the way Cap does for theirs.

figure-02figure-03DeMatteis wraps up writing the book with #300, and then we enter the “Gruenwald era” (although the first few issues aren’t by him, they still feel part of his run). One of Gruenwald’s first goals was to write Nomad out as he saw no point of having Captain America have a sidekick who had equal (or debatably greater) strength to him. There’s a lot going on with Nomad in this issue, firstly Nomad tries to establish a normal civilian life for himself as Jack Monroe and it seems to be going well but then it’s all ruined one day by the arrival of a super-villain called Madcap. Jack is fired from his new job, rejected by the girl he fancied and then pursues Madcap to exact revenge. Instead, Nomad ends up discussing philosophy with Madcap who is… well, mad. Eventually, Nomad, who’s agenda and views are portrayed as wonky throughout the tale, takes Madcap down by himself and announces to Captain America that he wants to strike out on his own and try being a hero in his own way.

figure-04Captain America #309 ends with Nomad and Cap parting ways.

figure-05And started pretty much then across all the Marvel books, Scourge arrived. A master of disguise who dispensed justice by executing supervillains. Of particular note in Captain America #311 – only 2 issues after Nomad left the book – Scourge makes one of his first appearances targetting Constrictor who is the first supervillain Nomad faced on his return in DeMatteis run, a supervillain who beat Nomad spectacularly. Scourge’s assassination of Constrictor is foiled by Cap but Scourge is more successful in other appearances.

figure-06figure-07In Captain America #319, after the mass murder at the Bar with No Name, Scourge removes his mask and his silhouette could match Jack.

figure-08Likewise on the cover to #320 shows Scourge unmasked and the person again resembles Jack.

figure-09However in the actual issue, he doesn’t have the same features as on the cover.

So, eventually, the storyline/crossover is wrapped up in the aforementioned Captain America #320 where Captain America draws Scourge out into the opening by disguising himself as a super-villain as bait. This is where the story gives us the great ambiguity with the ending. “Scourge” arrives to assassinate Captain America but is depicted in an entirely black catsuit costume which is neither Scourge’s costume nor a disguise.

figure-10Captain America subdues “Scourge” and unmasks him to discover he doesn’t know who the guy is. “Scourge” offers up a origin story but before Captain America can cart him off to jail, “Scourge” is shot dead from off-panel as a voice cries out “Justice is served!” (Scourge’s catchphrase).

figure-11figure-12The issue points out all the possible things going on here. Was that REALLY Scourge Cap caught? Or was Scourge still at large? Who killed him?

figure-13For the sake of this, we are going with the idea that Captain America going on the television to bait Scourge inspired a copycat to follow in Scourge’s steps. Cap fought the copycat and when captured the copycat offered up a pleasing sounding tidy origin story. He was in it for the glory (as echoed in his “went out with a bang”). The copycat was assassinated by the real Scourge who arrived later and discovered it was a trap when he found Cap fighting “Scourge”. Realizing this was also a perfect “out”, especially since Captain America was now investigating him, Scourge retired for a time following this.

The Scourge saga resolved then in #320. And what do you know in #324, Nomad – who has been absent from the book since #309 – returns! This time Nomad is planning to murder a drug dealer called the Slug and is employing disguises to get close to his target. How appropriately Scourge-like.

figure-14Captain America eventually confronts Nomad and the two engage in a debate and a fight over killing a villain.

figure-15Eventually, Nomad relents but makes no effort to save the Slug’s life, firmly establishing that Nomad can’t argue with Captain America but doesn’t agree with Cap.

figure-16Nomad remains a supporting character in the book for the next 20 or so issues. This debate continually rears it’s head. Nomad is always quick to suggest fighting or killing baddies and in #340, when Captain America isn’t around, he proudly allows super-villain Vibro to fall to his death.

figure-17Honestly though, I’m glancing over a lot, there is loads of more evidence in both these issues and the DeMatteis issues to support Jack’s uneven character but they usually are a lot of very similar debates about brutality/killing, Nomad acting suspicious or being unstable, Nomad being cynical about the whole superheroes v supervillains dichotomy. I’ve not even mentioned his frequent bouts of anger with “boy scout” D-Man.

Eventually, Captain America and Nomad lock horns over these issues in #345 and a drunk Nomad, after suggesting “storming” the Commission on Superhuman Activities, gets mad and basically calls Cap a pussy. This is Nomad leaving the book’s supporting cast. Forever, actually. He never does return to the book.

figure-18That was #345. In #347, you’ll never guess who returns? Scourge. This time Scourge is shown assassinating the 1950s Red Skull – one of Nomad’s MAJOR enemies.

figure-19figure-20A subsequent appearance (#351) has Scourge arriving at the Commission on Superhuman Activities office and assassinating a member of the Watchdogs (after he in turn attempted to assassinate John Walker). This neatly aligns and mirrors with Jack’s proposed attack on the CSA.

figure-21But by then the Scourge thing more or less fell apart. There was contradictory appearances and a complete lack of success of Scourge’s part to actual do anything. The character was shown to be associated with the Red Skull but also shown to be operating independent. He was killed in one issue by the Red Skull and re-appeared in another completely fine. Eventually we got the explanation that Scourge was basically an organization funded by the Golden Age Angel and there were loads of them.

Meanwhile, Nomad eventually pursued his whole Renegade Easy Rider solo series when he began to notice the complexities of villainy and the law (that’s the actual canon reason for that cosmetic change). Many many years later, Nomad did actually become Scourge in Thunderbolts #33-50. At this time, it was the result of brainwashing.

Here’s where the more tenuous stretches come in.

I’m not sure how to handle Nomad’s relationship with GA Angel. On one hand, the first time around with Scourge, it’s not necessary. But if I want the Scourge who appears in #346-351 to be Nomad, it needs to be established. However, that second round can also be attributed to a subsequent Scourge – but it does ruin the neatness Nomad’s storming out and returning next issue as Scourge.

Secondly, a lot of people cite the Scourge appearance in an issue of Thing where Scourge was disguised as a female wrestler as early evidence there were more than one Scourge because he passed himself off as a scantily clad female.

figure-22However, in Captain America #320, we see Scourge disguised as a pretty convincing woman.

figure-23He also disguised himself as women in other issues such as Cap #311.

figure-24In one issue of Nomad’s solo series, he dresses up as a woman to go undercover.

figure-25When Nomad was Scourge in Thunderbolts, he used an image inducer. He could use one here but that makes the idea of disguises a bit redundant. But Scourge was a MASTER of disguise, he could disguise himself as a bulked up female wrestler.

It’s actually pretty easy to rationalize that Nomad and Angel have met or have a previously unseen adventure together. For what it’s worth, Nomad was shown to interact and have unseen history with some other Golden Age heroes in New Invaders #2 and #9.

figure-26Nomad and Angel (along with “sidekick” Domino, Scourge’s info supplier) could have been behind the original Scourge and when Nomad abandoned the guise he convinced Angel and Domino that they should lay low for a while until the heat dies down so Captain America or others don’t investigate them. Or perhaps first time around it was just Nomad and Domino and Angel only came onboard to finance the second round. Either way, After Nomad returned to Captain America’s side, Angel received funding and support from “John Smith” (a.k.a. Red Skull).

I also think it’s a very very smart way of explaining the sudden change in the Scourge organization as being the suggestion of Red Skull – who himself was exploring capitalist ventures, as a means of spreading his evil. He gave Angel the idea to restructure the Scourge idea now as an actual organization with several Scourges (unknowingly ultimately in the Skull’s pocket). But this may have come before or after Nomad’s brief return.

When Nomad abandoned Captain America he briefly returned to being Scourge for a few hits. He was happy to assassinate 50s Red Skull at the command of “John Smith” due to his past with 50s Skull. Or perhaps “John Smith” is receiving the report from GA Angel and Nomad really isn’t aware of the outside source of target selection.

figure-27Either way his next hit was again personal; U.S.Agent.

However the first new recruit appeared in #350…

figure-28However, he was beaten and killed (latter off-panel) by U.S.Agent. (originally I came up with that this could be Jack, and the reason he stopped being Scourge was when he realized “John Smith” was also aligned and working with terrorists, but you see a big pool of blood coming from Scourge on a later page).

figure-29Nomad soon went to the building housing the CSA to kill U.S.Agent but instead found he’d been beaten to it by what was apparently a member of the Watchdogs. Nomad killed him instead and fled.

Following that Nomad hastily abandoned the guise forever, either realizing that the Scourge organization was being played by “John Smith” (and suspecting that the information he was fed about U.S.Agent had also been supplied to the Watchdogs). He may also have been aware of the new recruit who died in #350 alongside other terrorists which further made him realize Scourge was being made into a puppet. Or he didn’t agree with the idea of franchising the Scourge character.

However, Angel was either not made aware of Nomad’s concerns or didn’t care where the funding was coming from since it seemed sincere in support and he continued the program with what was now an organization with it with multiple new recruits to be Scourge. At least one of whom was loyal to Skull.

(Note: In actual fact the “Watchdog” was a CSA agent in disguise)

The Skull had high expectations for his new Scourge organization but found them to be incompetent without a dedicated operative like Nomad and abandoned them – killing (one of?) his inside men and cutting off funding.

figure-30figure-31Despite this, Angel had enough money to continue on. Nomad’s hatred for John Walker from those issues in the #340s could also contextualize why the Scourge organization / GA Angel spent so long screwing with U.S.Agent in U.S.Agent #1-4. Maybe they even held him responsible for Nomad retiring as Scourge.

figure-32And that’s more or less it. Nomad pursued his solo career as a hardened but complex character and along the way began to realize the Scourge M.O. didn’t really work. There was evil that escaped notice, there was innocent people, there were victims who turned to crime. And his care for Baby Bucky also helped him find the humanity and balance to stop him from going full-on Scourge again.

Also worth noting is following the original Scourge saga, Jack hooks up with a woman Priscilla Lyons who is the basic reason Nomad was going after Slug that time. They eventually fall apart but she goes on to becomes one of the subsequent Scourge recruits in U.S.Agent #1-4.

In all his publishing existence Nomad has been brainwashed 6 times and he has been “dead” 3 times. If ever a character was so messed up in the head to justify dramatic psychotic breaks in becoming a serial killer, it’s Jack Monroe. But, as you can see, it takes quite a lot of legwork to reconcile the latter appearances, but in my mind, the original Scourge was definitely Nomad. While I think the Scourge well has been tapped well past the point of dehydration and adding anything else to it would be pointless, if I was writing Captain America or an appropriate book, I would try and find some way to hint at this idea. Even if it was just adding a few big hints that Nomad was the original Scourge without actually pursuing the idea beyond suggestions.

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…the outcome of the Celestial Messiah saga?

Celestial Messiah SagaDuring Fantastic Four #323, written by Steve Englehart, the Cotati deemed they were the only ones fit to raise the Celestial Messiah, and thusly removed the powers his mother Mantis had bestowed upon her when she became the Celestial Madonna, stealing away the pod that was their offspring. The High Cotati travelled within a pyramid to Earth, standing alongside Kang and revealing the pod that would become the Celestial Messiah. They asked Mantis to cease her vendetta to reclaim her son. She refused, and a battle involving Mantis and the Fantastic Four against the Priests of Pama and Kang ensued.

The High Cotati, unable to stand up to Mantis’ mental assault, fuelled by her burning desire to be reunited with her son, fled with pod supposedly to their chosen realm, a realm of pure thought.

Despite Steve’s later revelation, during Avengers: Celestial Quest #2, that they had in fact taken him to the planet Tamal, I suspect that had he not been forced off West Coast Avengers he would reveal that the Cotati had NOT returned with the pod to their chosen realm, but rather engaged the services of Immortus, with whom they had a covert alliance, to deliver the pod back in time a few years. Otherwise, why else form an alliance with a Master of Time unless you’re going to request use of his time-travel abilities!

I would posit that the Cotati had Immortus deliver the pod into the hands of the scientific complex called The Beehive.

What I’m suggesting here is that the cocoon Him awoke from was not a chrysalis, as previously explained, but instead a seed pod.

Recall that the Enclave described Warlock as the PERFECT HUMAN, and there was a prophecy that one day the Celestial Madonna would join with the Elder Cotati and from their union would spring the PERFECT CHILD…

…the Celestial Messiah…

…who was destined to change the universe!

I would reveal that Mantis’s son, Quoi, would go on to become Adam Warlock, and his destiny as a force for ‘Life’ to defeat Thanos, the champion of Death, further explains why the Cotati had been active on Titan for so long.

Postscript
This might further explain the matter of Mar-vell and Rick Jones encountering a temple of the Universal Church on Kree-Lar toward the end of Englehart’s run on that title, in Captain Marvel #41, a location previously dotted with Cotati temples.

Was this meant to suggest that Adam’s devolution into the Magus began altering events backwards in time, and temples previously established for worship of the Celestial Messiah were being transformed as a subtle indication of this?

If Quoi fell into the wrong hands, would he grow up to be the flipside of Adam Warlock, the Magus?

Tom Brevoort previously claimed that the Celestial Messiah was originally intended as the *Great Terror*/*Crossing Menace*, so perhaps this is how it could have been revealed…

the ending of Steve Englehart’s “The Occult History of America” storyline?

Occult History of America

During the 1970’s Steve Englehart began a time-travel story in which Dr. Strange meets a variety of historical figures including Sir Francis Bacon, whom he revealed not only as having been assigned to choose the Englishmen who colonised the “New World,” but as a telepath and the leader of a secret society of English and European elites, the later leader of whom would become Benjamin Franklin.

“The Occult History of America”, as the story was titled, was written by Englehart for two issues before his deteriorating relationship with Marvel forced him off the book and Marv Wolfman was brought in to finish the storyline in a way that didn’t use Steve’s ideas.

So what were Englehart’s intended ideas for remainder of “the secret occult history of America” storyline?

I’m not sure, but it is interesting that in real life, Benjamin Franklin was infamously associated with the Irish Hellfire Club. So why not in the Marvel Universe proper?!

I would reveal that the initial colony that Francis Bacon was said, in Englehart’s two issues, to have handpicked candidates for, were mutants shipped out of Britain to secretly avoid persecution, since the “secret society” that was the Hellfire Club realised the existence of such beings becoming public knowledge would result in another break-out of witch-hunts, what with their opponent King James acceding the throne.

With all this talk of “secret societies” I would further reveal those Bacon handpicked to settle the “New World” as the Roanoke Colony and that the colony of New Salem are not the “witches” they proclaim to be, but rather the remainder of the Roanoke “mutant” colony. Their reason for not admitting to being mutants is a result of their having experienced the dark times for mutantkind, and fear of again being persecuted.

I would suggest this is why the Scarlet Witch approached Agatha Harkness for tutelage in the use of magical energy, despite the fact that her ability to channel it existed as a result of her mutant powers. How else would Agatha know how to train someone in the use of their powers if its basis was due to their mutation? I would reveal that Agatha Harkness was able to assist Wanda due to herself also being a mutant… as are the colony of New Salemites.

Their being mutants would better explain why all of the town’s inhabitants have powers, and would better explain why Reed and Susan chose Ms. Harkness as Franklin’s governess. That is, it made no sense why they would choose someone who was a practitioner in black magic, when the origin of Franklin’s ability was due to his being a mutant.

However, with Reed and Sue’s knowledge of the emerging prejudice towards mutants at the time, they would have been reluctant to enrol their son in Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

But if Agatha was secretly a mutant, she would seem a sound choice, since not only would she have the required skills to train a being of Franklin’s potential, but she would realise the importance of keeping his mutant nature a secret, after having first-hand knowledge of humanity’s prejudicial nature towards mutants.

This could provide a more conclusive explanation for what Agatha was doing mixing it up with the ancestors of the Hellfire Club in that mini from a few years ago. That… and I would love to perhaps make Agatha analogous to the missing Virginia Dare. Now, why on Earth a writer of Neil Gaiman’s calibre never took this approach when he wrote his “1602” series, I’ll never understand, since Agatha would have fitted his “no character created after 1969 will appear in 1602” rule, perfectly.