…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.

…the origin of Rick Jones?

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Have you ever stopped to consider the strangely fortuitous life of Rick Jones?  To say he is at the right place at the right time is quite an understatement.  He has led such a charmed life that it begs the question is there more to it than simple coincidence?  Writer Jim Shelley thinks he has an explanation that explains Rick’s incredible good luck.  Borne out the dark, dismal days of the 2000’s era of comics, Jim and artist Pierre Villeneuve vowed to create comics that would hearken back to the glory days of Marvel and DC – comics that were bright and colourful, fast paced and fun.  They also felt that digital would be the wave of the future, so they made their comics available for free in cbr format on his website www.FlashbackUniverse.com.   That was back in 2005 when digital comics were dismissed as a mere novelty, but they have since grown into an entire industry.  As a result Flashback Universe comics have been adapted for both iPhone and Android platforms and more than 100,000 copies have been download from their site.  Currently, Jim and Pierre are working with a gaming studio to bring the Flashback Universe characters to game consoles as well as working on other publishing projects.  Now before we jump into Jim’s explanation, let’s refresh our memories with some of the more notable high points on the Rick Jones Timeline:

1962 – Somehow he slips by military police and sneaks onto a nuclear testing facility (whereupon he is the catalyst for the origin of the Hulk.)

Figure 01_Rick-Jones-Hulk

1963 – Sends out a random ham radio message that results in the formation of the Avengers

Figure 02_RJ-AvengersRadio

1964 – With absolutely no powers or training, becomes an honorary Avenger fighting alongside Captain America

Figure 03_avengers-RJ

1969 – Is “Drawn” to the Nega Bands which allow him to bond with Captain Marvel

Figure 04_RickFindsNegaBands

1971 – Somehow becomes a conduit for the Destiny Force which he uses to end the Kree/ Skrull War

Figure 05_RJ-DestinyForce

1984 – Teams up with Rom Spaceknight

Figure 06_RomAndRJ

1986 – Is cured of cancer by the Beyonder

Figure 07_Beyonder-rick_jones

1986 – Becomes a Hulk-like creature

Figure 08_RJ-HulkOut2

1994 – Marries Marlo Jones (who he will later bring back from the dead).   At their wedding, both Death and Mephisto will be in attendance.

Figure 09_RickMarriesMarlo

Let’s call that the first phase of Rick’s life. I’m going to try and condense the second phase here:

After that, Rick’s fate would have him assisting the Pantheon, Wolfsbane of X-Factor, Genis-Vell, the son of the original Mar-Vell and The Runaways.

During World War Hulk Rick is impaled in the chest and the last we see of him he is being loaded into an ambulance. The very next time we see him, he has escaped from a secret base in Alaska.

Currently, Rick has been transformed into an Abomination analogue called A-bomb by the supervillain team called The Intelligencia

Here’s what we know:

Rick doesn’t know much about his past.

We know this because when serial killer Jackie Shorr shows up in Hulk 390-391, Rick accepts her as his mom.

jackie2

We later discover that Shorr was supposedly a day care worker who worked at an orphanage Rick grew up in. She was fired for being mentally unstable and became obsessed with tracking down all the children she once cared for and killing them. Rick is captured by her and taken down to her basement which is filled with the withered corpses chained to the walls.

jackie3

After a battle with Marlo and Betty, Rick is rescued and taken to a mental institution.

Later, Shorr is released(?) from the mental institution because of a case of mistaken identity. She just happens to cross paths with a recent acquaintance of Rick Jones at a diner. She is eventually found out and stopped by Moondragon.

When Rick questions how Jackie managed to get the sealed adoption documents from the orphanage, her only reply is that she stole them because dangerous people were after her. She also mentions that she spent time in Europe hiding from “some men.”

Rick has some powerful untapped potential within himself

While associated with Genis, Rick encounters an older version of himself who has become a super-villain named Thanatos. Thanatos is obsessed with creating the “ultimate Rick Jones” but he is stopped by another incarnation of Rick who is wielding Thor’s hammer.

Figure 10_thanatos4

Questions:

How did a mentally unstable woman managed to stay undetected by the authorities for so many years? Her targets all had a very easy to see commonality (orphans from the same facility.) How did no one spot that when investigating the other missing persons cases?

  • Who were the “some men” Shorr had to flee America to hide from?
  • How did she escape her mental facility so easily?
  • What was Ultimate Rick Jones that Thanatos wanted to create?
  • Why would both Death and Mephisto up at Rick’s wedding?
  • How did Rick slip onto the military base during the Gamma bomb test?
  • How has been able to command the Destiny Force and Cosmic Awareness at various times in his life?

Here’s The Theory: Rick Jones is one of many bio engineered test subjects created by Arnim Zola using Moon Boy’s DNA during the American Operation Paperclip program.

Figure 11_ZolaMoonBoy

His latent psionic powers are the result of genetic tampering with the human race that goes all the way back to prehistoric times by a villain from the future.

To understand the secret origin of Rick Jones, we must look at the machinations of Michael Korvac aka The Enemy.

Figure 12_KorvacAvengers_177_02

When Korvac was originally discovered by the Collector, it was determined that he would one day be more powerful than either the Elders or the Eternals. The Collector sent his daughter to try and trick Korvac, but she fell in love with him instead. She would have undoubtedly revealed her father’s plans at that point. I suspect that is when Korvac realised he would have to take precautions against the Eternals and the Elders.

Korvac knew that his enemies might try to wipe out his bloodline starting with his first human ancestor, so he went even further back to the ape-like humanoids known as the Small Folk. He choose Moon Boy as the herald of his bloodline. Using his incredible cosmic powers, Korvac gave Moon Boy the power to subconsciously alter reality (much in the same way as Wanda’s Hex power works) which Moon Boy has often used to unwittingly travel through time and preserve his youth.

Moon Boy’s unique abilities did not go unnoticed by others however. In the Devil Dinosaur mini-series, he is captured and studied by aliens. This happened on numerous occasions usually ending with Moon Boy escaping. Most recently, he was captured and held in the custody of SHIELD until a rescue attempt by Stegron and Reptil (from Avengers Academy) returned him to the Savage Land only to be recaptured by Reed Richards.

Sidenote 1: The last appearance of Korvac was in Avengers Academy after they had just been involved in an adventure with Moon Boy. In that conflict a newly revived Carina aged all of the young heroes into older versions of themselves to fight Korvac. However, after the battle, she was unable to de-age one of them. Reptil. Coincidence? I think not.

Figure 13_MoonboyFF

How Arnim Zola found Moon Boy’s DNA we may never know, but it is possible it was among the notes, devices and other thing he found when he discovered the Deviants lab which set him on his career as a bio engineer. It is entirely possible that the Deviants had already started experimenting with Moon Boy’s DNA and Zola simply picked up from where they abandoned the project.

Sidenote 2: In Earth X, Moon Boy’s skeleton is discovered on the Blue Area of the Moon and it is revealed that he is an ancestor of Wolverine.

After World War II, as one of Germany’s top scientist, it seems likely that the American government would have tried to recruit him during Operation Paperclip. It’s also likely that his early experiments would not have been as ambitious as those Captain America discovered in the jungles of Central America.

I believe that Zola was asked/ allowed to create clones of Bucky Barnes (which explains why Rick Jones resembled Bucky so much.)   During this cloning process Zola mixed in the Moon Boy DNA (recognising it had had certain extraordinary recombinant properties) which resulted in a successful batch of Bucky clones.

While raising the clones in a government facility some of their latent psionic began to manifest. Jackie Shorr was a nurse in this facility. She underwent psionic training to protect herself from the children’s errant mental blasts. The training was crude but effective. As a result she became a bit insane. Later when Moondragon encountered Shorr, Moondragon finds herself unable to read Shorr’s mind.

As the clones grew older, their psionic powers seemed to dissipate. Still, the government kept an eye on them occasionally calling one or two of them in for testing and medical check ups. As a result, military police become accustomed to the sight of Bucky Barnes looking teens driving in and out of military gates. It is because of this that Rick Jones is able to enter the military base when a Gamma bomb is about to be tested.

As time goes by, and the government catches wind of how many times Rick Jones has been at the centre of some major super hero origin or battle, it becomes apparent that his psionic powers are altering chance. News of Jones using the Destiny Force to end the Kree/ Skrull war only makes matters worse.

The government decides to take drastic steps.  A clandestine program to brainwash the already mentally unstable Jackie Shorr into killing the Bucky Barnes clones is begun. Aided quietly by the government, Shorr begins capturing and killing the clones. She is quite successful until she encounters Jones whose latent powers cause all her efforts to fail.

After the Shorr project failed, the government has taken on a nervous wait and see approach to the Jones Problem.  Even higher powers (Mephisto and Death) are interested in Jones. While they do not realise that his powers stem from Korvac’s bloodline, they know he has untold potential and they are a little afraid of him. It was this potential God Jones that Thanatos was trying to create. In that timeline, it is possible that Rick Jones discovered the truth about his origins and was able to unlock his powers.

Since Avengers Disassembled until Avengers vs X-Men, Rick Jones seems to have fallen off the map of government concerns.  It is possible he is no longer a cosmic level threat.

Unless there is something they don’t want you to know.