Doctor Karl Malus was born in Mud Butte, South Dakota, and was fascinated by superhuman powers ever since he first read a newspaper article about the Fantastic Four and their abilities. After graduating with a biology degree from the University of California in Los Angeles, he applied to various institutions for a grant to launch an invasive study of superhumans, but was rejected repeatedly. Unable to get his funding through legal means, Malus instead turned to wealthy investors involved in the Los Angeles criminal underground. He was set up with an extensive laboratory facility under the agreement that his investors could exploit the results of his research, to which he agreed, and he immodestly called his new facility the Institute for Supranormality Research - despite the fact that his staff consisted of only himself.
Through his criminal connections, Malus was provided with a virtually limitless supply of human test subjects for him to experiment upon - with his subjects typically being individuals the mob sought to liquidate. None of Malus' early test subjects managed to survive his experiments unfortunately, and so he hoped to one day find an individual who already had superhuman powers that he could study. In the course of his research however, Malus did create a number of special toxins and other chemical-based weaponry, which he sold to criminals like the Enforcer.
Over the years, Doctor Malus has created Armadillo, the Power Brokers, restored the powers of Goliath, and augmented Sharon Ventura, amongst many others. Whatever his endeavors, Malus never hesitates to satisfy his interest in the superhuman community.
Doctor Karl Malus was created by Micheal Fleisher, Steve Leialoha, and Jim Mooney. He first appeared in 1980's Spider-Woman #30, although he'd technically had a behind-the-scenes appearance in 1978's Marvel Team-Up #67 where he invented and sold a mnemonic scrambler to Kraven the Hunter, which the villain would use to control Tigra in order to use her to try and destroy his nemesis, Spider-Man. Malus' official first appearance is still in Spider-Woman #30 however.
Major Story Arcs
Come Into My Parlor ... Said the Fly!
When the Human Fly's powers began to fade, he sought out Doctor Malus to cure him. Malus had the Fly steal the equipment he needed for the task, but this led the Fly into a confrontation with Spider-Woman. After managing to escape, the Fly returned to Malus who decided that he could cure the Fly by transferring Spider-Woman's powers to him, but it would only work through a full blood transfusion. To lure her to Malus' facility, the Fly kidnapped Spider-Woman's partner, criminologist Scotty McDowell, who'd been rendered comatose by one of the Enforcer's bullets. Spider-Woman wound up defeating the Fly yet again, but Malus offered to resuscitate McDowell for her in exchange for a more lenient treatment. When Malus injected McDowell with the antidote for the Enforcer's bullet however, he also secretly slipped in a dose of the Fly's blood as well.
The Sting of the Hornet!
While imprisoned, Malus listened with avid interest to radio reports of McDowell going about as the Hornet following his manifestation of powers similar to the Human Fly, as well as his encounters with Spider-Woman. After it seemed like the Hornet was going on a rampage, Malus managed to get himself released from jail by offering to help the police capture the Hornet. They provided him with a high-powered tranquilizer gun, but he instead used it to keep Spider-Woman from beating the Hornet, as he wished to capture her for his personal study. In the resulting confusion he then managed to escape police custody.
The Fangs of Werewolf by Night
Winded after his fight with Spider-Woman, McDowell staggered home, only to find Doctor Malus waiting for him. Malus told McDowell of how he was responsible for his transformation into the Hornet, and also revealed that this treatment unfortunately also could cause McDowell's otherwise repressed hostilities to surface. He then gave McDowell a larger dose of the Human Fly serum, renewing and enhancing McDowell's Hornet powers, but Malus knew this would also cause him to act even more erratic and mentally unstable than before. Under Malus' influence, McDowell then tipped Spider-Woman off on where she might be able to find the Hornet in order to lead her into an ambush. After Spider-Woman beat the Hornet yet again however, Malus decided he needed a back-up plan.
Malus therefore contacted Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, who had come to Malus before in the hope that the doctor could provide him with a means to control his werewolf transformations. Claiming he could now help him, Malus outfitted Russell with a device that was meant to control his transformations. This device was actually Malus' mnemonic scrambler however, and it allowed him to bring Russell directly under his control. Malus then sent both the Hornet and Russell the Werewolf out to capture Spider-Woman together, but they instead only wound up getting in each other's way. After Spider-Woman removed Malus' control over Russell she fills him in on what happened and the Werewolf storms away to find Malus. Realizing his plans had failed, Malus tried to flee, but wound up being caught by the Werewolf Russell, who throws him against a wall and accosts Malus for trying to control him.
When Giants Walk the Earth!
At some point, Doctor Malus was approached by Daddy Longlegs who wanted a cure for his freakish height. Malus did just that, bringing Daddy Longlegs to a reasonably average height, and in the process learned how to harness the power of Pym Particles like those which had originally transformed the man. Malus put this new-found knowledge to use when Erik Josten, the super-criminal known before as Power Man and the Smuggler wanted to find a way to regain the strength he had lost. After extensive tests, Malus was able to not only make Josten stronger, but also to grow in size thanks to his Pym Particle knowledge. Josten then became known as Goliath, but when it came time for him to repay Malus by working for him Josten refused, deciding he was powerful enough on his own. After terrorizing Los Angeles, Goliath was eventually defeated by the Avengers West Coast, and Malus resolved that all of it had been a terrible waste.
The Body in Question
Doctor Malus was later sought out by Antonio Rodriguez, a small-time criminal who was desperate to cure his wife's paralysis. Malus agreed to treat his wife, but since Antonio had no way to pay for the doctor's services, he instead had to agree to serve as a test subject for Malus. Through the use of gene-splicing, Malus transformed Antonio into the monstrous Armadillo. Antonio was then tasked by Malus with bringing Goliath to him, who was currently held at the Avengers West Coast Compound.
Stuck at 50 feet tall, Goliath was to be shrunken by Armadillo with a supply of Pym Particles Malus had given him. In a fight with Captain America however, the container broke and the particles dissipated. Armadillo returned to Malus for more particles, unaware that Captain America had followed him. Malus threatened to kill Antonio's wife if Captain America didn't stand down, but the Avenger managed to throw his shield before Malus could act, breaking his left arm. Captain America was about to take Malus away, but Antonio pleaded with him no to do so, as Malus was the only chance his wife had to be cured. Captain America therefore left Malus to his work, although he did alert the local authorities about Malus' operation. In the end, Malus managed to cure Antonio's wife after all.
While in prison, Malus was contacted by Curtiss Jackson a.k.a. the Power Broker, the head of an underworld corporation known as Power Broker, Inc., whose main business was supplying superhuman manpower to various clients. Malus agreed to join the corporation in exchange for getting out of jail. Power Broker, Inc. supplied Malus and its other criminal scientists with all the test subjects they could desire. One major source of the corporation's clients were wrestlers looking to have their strength augmented in order to join the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. In order to ensure that these wrestlers kept paying twenty percent of their earnings back to Power Broker, Inc., Malus administered a highly addictive drug to the wrestlers during the course of their treatment. Only the wrestlers who met their payments were supplied with more of this drug by Power Broker, Inc. They were also told that they would die without the drug stabilizing their powers, although in reality they would merely experience intense withdrawal symptoms.
In order to join the UCWF's Grapplers team, stunt-woman Sharon Ventura came to Malus for strength augmentation. Before he could administer the drug that would ensure her obedience however, she changed her mind about the procedure and broke free from her restraints with her newly augmented strength. While fleeing, she came across several of Malus' monstrous, failed experiments.
Under Malus' direction, a faction of the Corporation was able to reorganize itself, and relocated to Taylor, Mississippi. The Corporation made great profit through their development of superhumans, as well as through their private superhuman army, the Assassin Nation, comprised of Contract, Kickback, Manslaughter, and Troubleshooter. Malus stressed the importance of the Corporation successfully remaining America's best kept secret in order to maintain its prosperity.
Malus later made plans to turn James Lucas into their next operative: Coldfire. The Corporation also captured the Agent at roughly the same time in an attempt to coerce the Agent's father, the Tinkerer, into working for them. The Tinkerer instead recruited Luke Cage to rescue his son, and Cage gladly accepted the job when he learned from the Tinkerer that his brother James was also involved in the situation. Together with Dakota North, Cage infiltrated the Corporation's headquarters and freed the Agent. They also freed Cage and James' father, who the Corporation had secretly kidnapped in case James had to be forced into compliance. When James learned of the Corporation's capture of his father, he turned against Malus and the Corporation, using his new powers as Coldfire to attack them. Coldfire wound up sacrificing himself to save his father and brother, as well as destroy the Corporation's headquarters, although Malus and many of the Corporation's agents managed to escape.
The Nefaria Protocols
The Maggia hired Doctor Malus to assist them in controlling Atlas (Erik Josten) and Wonder Man by using Baron Zemo's old ion ray machine - which was what originally empowered the two ionic heroes - from his South American lab. The lab wound up being invaded by the Thunderbolts and Black Widow however, who captured Malus before his bodyguard, Cyclone, could get him to safety.
After his capture, Malus offers his aid to the Avengers, Thunderbolts, and Madame Masque in exchange for a lighter sentence. He reveals that the Maggia's leader, Count Nefaria, had taken control of Atlas and Wonder Man through their ionic energies as a test to see whether he could fully control any person in this way. It was then discovered that Nefaria had built an ion emitter that would affect every person on Earth, allowing him to turn everyone into his slaves. Malus aided in the construction of the Nefaria Protocols: the Ion Lock, a device which could control ionic energies and so was then used to greatly decrease Nefaria's powers, eventually allowing the assemblage of heroes to defeat him.
Malus joined the Wizard and Klaw in a new Frightful Four, not realizing the degree to which the Wizard's sanity had deteriorated. Inspired by the government's transformation of Venom into Agent Venom, the Wizard worked to control Carnage, but Cletus Kasady's brain proved too damaged for the Wizard to dominate. He decided to make Malus the new host for the symbiote.
Powers & Abilities
Doctor Karl Malus has no superhuman powers, and is physically a quite average human being with little to no combat training or capability. Mentally however he is well above average - he is a brilliant surgeon with great knowledge in the fields of biology, chemistry, genetic manipulation, and radiology. Malus even has a working knowledge of Pym Particles and ionic energies. He is highly experienced at instilling superpowers in others, especially strength augmentation.