Devil-slayer is a little-known but badass character for whom I have great love. Let’s learn about Eric Simon Payne, the Devil-slayer.
History and Summary
Devil-slayer is an ex-marine and ex-mob hitman with a long history of PTSD, alcoholism, insanity, and existential despair. He spent time with a demon cult, learning their ways before turning against them. He was a member of the Defenders, and then later was a member of the Avengers Initiative. Payne's long history of mental disabilities, stemming from his original PTSD and the trauma of working with and fighting demons, eventually culminated in a breakdown where he was situated in an asylum for a time. He has recently, and somewhat against his longterm character arc, had some brushes with criminality, working with Wonderman’s Revengers and being sighted in the Pleasant Hill prison.
Devil-slayer is a natural psychic, with telepathic, telekinetic, and “6th sense” (danger sense) powers. He can create limited illusions and has very limited mind control. He also has a Shadow Cloak, which he gained from the cult. The Shadow Cloak contains a portal to another dimension, somewhat similar to Cloak from Cloak and Dagger. He can wrap himself or others in the Cloak and teleport to that dimension, then reappear in another location in our dimension after essentially no time has passed (which is also how Nightcrawler's teleportation works). He can reach into it to grab weapons from other dimensions. He can also control the ends of his cape like tendrils, allowing him to grab people with them.
Devil-slayer, who is white, was married to a woman named Corey, who is black. This was a highly unusual interracial marriage both in reality and especially in mainstream comics publishing, for the time it was first shown in the 1970s, so the character helped break ground in that area. His marriage was also notable for the realism with which it was written, as it showed them having real strife and marriage problems, based partly on his violent nature, but also on her religious evangelism, which he did not share. They eventually divorced, and later she was killed.
A Word on Scaling and Comparisons
I will be using some other characters to scale Devil-slayer's abilities, especially Valkyrie, and I will also show several other individuals who have used a Shadow Cloak. I will provide all the background information on these folks at the end of this post. The key thing to know about all the other Shadow Cloak wearers is that Devil-slayer is more experienced at using it than any of the others are, so he can do anything they can do. Devil-slayer does not have a huge number of appearances, so showing these subsidiary Shadow Cloak wearers provides useful additional insight into its powers.
Devil-slayer has multiple innate psychic powers. It is not 100% clear whether he always had them, whether he had them as a latent ability which was awakened by the cult, or whether the cult gives these powers to all its members. I tend to believe they were latent abilities awakened by the cult.
He has fine-tuned control over small objects as well, as he shows when he jams Deathlok’s gun:
He can also use it to fly with somewhat limited maneuverability:
He also uses his telekinesis to control the ends of his cloak like tendrils. He wraps the cape around people and holds them in place or throws them around. There is some ambiguity as to whether he does this entirely with his telekinesis, or whether the power is inherent in the cape.
The Cloak's tendrils are very strong: here he grabs the Hulk, lifts him up, and teleports him away:
Presumably he could create other kinds of illusions but he never has.
He has used his powers to make minor mental “suggestions,” as he does here when he makes the bar tender give him a drink:
This power has not been widely explored and he hasn’t used it in combat.
He regularly uses his “sixth sense.” This is a precognitive sense that warns him of danger or evil, and sometimes gives him an intuitive pull towards a place. It is nowhere near as developed as Spider-man’s spider-sense, and does not warn him of specific blows in the midst of combat. It’s more something that would warn him that combat is about to take place.
While fighting Valkyrie and the Hulk, he twice notes that he is surprised his sixth sense didn’t warn him about them—which is of course because it was a mix-up and they are not evil. But this supports the fact that his sixth sense would normally notify him of opponents’ presence.
So, his Sixth Sense may warn him of an attack well ahead of time, and then also immediately beforehand, and it may also be used to find the source of danger.
Devil-slayer's main abilities come from his Shadow Cloak, which he originally got from the demon cult he worked for. He lost his Shadow Cloak multiple times but either got it back or got a new one. Multiple Shadow Cloaks exist. Another assassin for the cult (The Agent of Fortune, see below) also had one, which Patsy Walker took from him. She eventually wrapped it up in itself so it disappeared.
I will show multiple people using Shadow Cloaks in this section. See Scaling/Comparisons for details on those people. All the Cloaks have the same abilities.
The Shadow Cloak is basically a portal to another dimension. It allows you to do two main things. If you reach into it, you can pull out any weapon you want. And if you wrap it around you, you travel to the other dimension, and then reappear in ours, in essence teleporting.
He can teleport pretty swiftly at short and long range by enveloping himself in his Cloak.
He not only uses it for transportation, but also tactically, during battle, and is able to do so quite quickly. Tactically, he uses it for optimal battlefield positioning, for BFR, and for evasion.
Here he swiftly teleports away as the Hulk rushes at him:
There do not seem to be any major limitations on how far Devil-slayer can teleport. He did become exhausted when he teleported a very large number of heroes in his Cloak multiple times in quick succession. However, he has otherwise never shown strain at teleporting.
Devil-slayer can grab all kinds of weapons out of his cape’s pocket dimensions in a way that has never been well explained. They can be literally almost any kind of weapon: melee weapons and guns; normal weapons and magic items; medieval and contemporary and future weapons. Seemingly they come from other places in the real world, not just in the Cloak itself, but this is not clear. It does not take a lot of skill to grab the weapon you want; Hellcat was able to pull weapons out without much training. The following is a list of known examples:
Devil-slayer often pulls out all kinds of classic melee weapons, for instance a morningstar.
Devil-slayer is officially a normal human in terms of physical stats, but in practice, like many supposedly normal humans in comics, his capabilities are beyond actual normal humans, especially his strength and durability.
Skill and Speed
Devil-slayer was a marine and a professional mob hit-man, so he has all the standard fighting and weapons skills one would expect from those careers.
Devil-slayer is particularly handy with weapons, and often fights two handed or with his off-hand:
Here he displays the skill and speed necessary to deflect a magic demon blast with his sword:
Valkyrie, considered one of the most skilled fighters in Asgard, says his skill almost matches hers. The narration backs up her reputation by saying that she is a grand master of fighting:
Valkyrie is superhumanly strong, so a normal human like Devil-slayer would require great skill to fight in such a way that his blows were not constantly dominated by her strength. She also exhibited superhuman speed a lot in this era. See Scaling below.
Although Devil-slayer is physically a normal human, he has shown surprisingly good durability. On multiple occasions, he has been hit by a traumatically damaging blow, only to recover very quickly afterward.
Devil-slayer doesn't have a huge number of high-profile one-on-one fights. Many of his fights are against hordes of demons. But he does have a few quality fights against Deathlok, Valkyrie, and Hulk.
Devil-slayer’s first fight is one of his best, against the original Deathlok. It should be noted that Deathlok back them was around a 1-tonner, nowhere near a contemporary ~100-tonner Deathlok. Still, Deathlok was a formidable foe with tech, strength, durability, speed, a computer processor brain, and skill. Devil-slayer telekinetically jams his gun, impressively grapples with him, takes some punches and kicks, notes Deathlok’s strength and speed, grabs him with his cape, gets hit again and tactically BFRs himself, then brings Deathlok to his dimension and hits him with an anti-matter mace, whereupon Deathlok sues for peace. (His internal computer thought a second hit from the mace would be fatal, showing its power.)
Devil-slayer also fought Valkyrie and Hulk. He telekinetically grabs his original target, Vera Gemini, then clashes several times with Valkyrie (whose skill is noted in the narration, as pointed out above) before she breaks his weapon. He is tossed by the Hulk, and eventually grabs the Hulk and BFRs him and himself. This shows his skill at arms and his variety of powers.
All together, these fights show a clear competence with martial combat, often against a large number of creatures that presumably have higher stats than him, as well as with the highly-skilled Valkyrie and the trained future-apocalypse-soldier Deathlok
I will also note that Slayer, another character who temporarily had Eric's Cloak, was able to defeat the skilled and Super-Soldier-Serum-enhanced Nomad twice in a row, and knocked out a slightly-serum-nerfed but still fully-skilled Captain America. And unlike Eric, Slayer was a completely un-skilled fighter. More on Slayer and all the details of his fights under Scaling, but it is an example of how effective the Cloak can be.
As noted above, I collected all the people I am scaling him with, and the other people who have worn a Shadow Cloak, here at the end in one place, so as to not clutter up his feats/capabilities.
They are: Valkyrie, who he fought with one-on-one for an extended time; Hulk; who he fought with and ultimately beat through BFR (twice); and Shadow Cloak wearers Agent of Fortune, Slayer, Hellcat, and a Lizard Man. In terms of the Shadow Cloak wearers, in each case, they're someone with less experience than Devil-slayer using his Cloak, or the same kind of Cloak.
Val’s reputation as an excellent fighter is well-earned, and not just statements.
Technical point: in the era that she fought Devil-slayer, Valkyrie’s spirit inhabited the human body of Barbara Norriss, and did not have the same level of strength as she does today. However she could still lift and throw tanks.
Valkyrie was also known at that time in particular for her bullet-blocking speed feats, so keeping up with her is impressive. Here Val shows her speed by spinning her sword fast enough to block fire, and to block bullets from single-shot and machine guns on multiple occasions:
The Agent of Fortune belongs to the demonic cult that Devil-slayer was temporarily a part of, and which gave Devil-slayer his Shadow Cloak. This cult is super-hierarchical. Every job category can only be achieved by beating someone at the level above. This particular guy is at the “Agent of Fortune” rank, which is below Devil-slayer’s rank, “Reaper of Souls.” This Agent wants to beat Devil-slayer so he can become a Reaper. But he can't. So again, anything the Agent can do, Devil-slayer can objectively do better, given the Cult’s very pragmatic ranking system.
The Agent of Fortune used the Cloak to dodge the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak. The Crimson Bands are very fast. As it says here, “no possible speed of flight” could avoid them. Here we see that Silver Surfer could be caught by the Bands (even if he can break out after), proving that the Bands can catch even those with very high speeds. Now, I am by no means saying that Devil-slayer is faster than the Silver Surfer in travel or reaction time. But clearly, dodging the Crimson Bands is a great example of how fast the Cloak's teleportation can work.
This seems to lend credence to the idea that the tendril usage of the Cloak is inherent in the Cloak itself, and doesn't come from Devil-slayer's telekinesis, but other times he makes statements to the contrary.
To sum up: a guy with no combat skills and without Devil-slayer's psychic powers was able to use Devil-slayer’s gear to very quickly knock out the Super Soldier Serum-ed Nomad, and then a partially-nerfed Captain America, and then beat Nomad again. Even with Cap’s serum partially negated, Cap’s tactical mind and skills were still fine, and the Serum was not totally negated (he doesn't even realize it is weakened until later).
Clearly, Devil-slayer, who is much more skilled, has more powers, and is more experienced with the Cloak, could have done even better in this fight.
The lizard man is from a race of mystic ancient lizard people who tried to take over the earth. He and his people defeated the Defenders. He took Devil-slayer's Cloak, and used magic to make himself look like Devil-slayer. Then he tried to trick Spider-man into helping his people. Spider-man eventually figured it out and the Defenders helped beat the lizard people. Since the lizard guy had almost no experience with the Cloak, Devil-slayer should be able to do anything the lizard guy could do with it.
Devil-slayer is a skilled fighter with psychic powers, including telepathy, illusions, mind-control, a sixth sense, and telekinesis. He has a Shadow Cloak which allows him to teleport himself and to BFR others, which enables him to pull out any kind of weapon from an anti-matter mace to a magic staff to a wrist-launching missile system, and which he can use to ensnare others with its tendril-like tips. Although a human, he has shown peak human (at least) strength and superhuman durability. He has fought Valkyrie, Deathlok, and a lesser version of himself was able to successfully fight both Nomad and Captain America.
I'm an artist, and I like making charts. I am also very interested in comics' character continuity.
I made twelve charts that visually chart every appearance of twelve sporadically-appearing comics characters. The idea was to see exactly what kind of patterns might exist in a character's pendulum of popularity. Do characters appear fairly continuously? Do they have big periods of popularity and big periods of nothing? Are the ups and downs more gradual? Does it vary by character? Can we link the events in a character's life--like them being killed and resurrected--with the ups and downs of their appearances? Can we link outside dynamics in publishing and other media to the ups and downs of their appearances?
I've shown these to other folks, and they liked them, but I figured Comic Vine is the place that would really enjoy the details of what's going on in these charts. And, of course, Comic Vine is the source of the information as well, since I got the appearance data from the wiki.
A word on process:
All dates are cover dates, not in-store dates. The appearances listed in these charts are accurate as of October 29, 2019. That happens to be the date where cover dates reached the end of the year (2019). Characters will obviously continue to have more appearances after this, and wiki-writers may find other old appearances that didn't make it onto the wiki by the time I created the charts. I defined "appearances," for the sake of these charts, as actual new stories or other new content. No TPBs, no handbooks, no other forms of reprints, nothing that was purely promotional. Thus, the number of appearances in the charts listed will differ from the number of appearances listed on the wiki. I got this information by combing through the wiki "by hand," writing down every comic appearance, and the month and year it appeared, and putting it in the chart; this is not the result of an algorithm scraping the data. I also designed the chart "by hand," meaning I didn't just type the data into a spreadsheet and it just built the chart for me; I made it block by block in Illustrator.
The charts have a black square for every single issue the characters were in. But the comics series listed in red under the charts are NOT every volume they were in. They're a subjectively-selected set of volumes that give you a good sense of what they were up to at that point. Generally speaking, the volumes listed in red are every series the character had 3 or more appearances in, and/or they were a recurring character/main team member/it was a solo series named after them. I do have the complete list of every issue for each character if anyone wants it.
See the charts for more detailed info on how to read them.
They were inspired by my Molecule Man charts (one, two, three), which first appeared here.
Why these characters?
I chose these specific characters because they had about a thousand appearances or less, to make it easier to do; because my impression before making the charts was that they appeared sporadically in comics and thus their appearances would make an interesting pattern; and because I wanted a diverse group in terms of gender and race, to see if that would make any difference.
They're all Marvel characters except Kite Man because Marvel is what I'm most intimately familiar with; but Tom King's use of Kite Man is one of the things that inspired me to do this project.
What can you get out of this?
I hope you all, as comics experts, have fun digging through the data and guessing at what made characters go up and down in their popularity. Just for instance, you can see the effect when Elektra died and (while being resurrected fairly immediately) went into seclusion when Frank Miller originally stopped writing her; when interest in Julie Power started up again after years of minimal appearances, due to the simultaneous explosion of the all-ages Power Pack books and her adult appearances in 616 in Runaways; or the way Groot's appearances exploded when the Guardians movies came out. Or, you can be curious about why, say, Misty Knight and Mantis didn't have big comics resurgences when they appeared in movies and TV.
Enjoy! Here are the charts, in order of the characters' first appearances. They're downloadable PDFs:
This is the current, updated, standalone version of a post I originally made on Fetts' "A Black Widow Respect Thread," which I kept adding to for years. However, probably due to the site's recent new redesign, the formatting got all screwed up and I couldn't fix it.
It had gotten somewhat convoluted over the years, and I had wanted to turn the thread into a more text-based-link format anyway, so I moved my post over here and updated it.
This is now where I'll be posting all Black Widow feats. Enjoy!
Nat's general tier of peers would probably include characters like Moon Knight, Punisher, Crossbones, and Lady Bullseye (most of whom she's beaten), but she occasionally punches up to the Cap and Elektra level, and has fought more or less equally against Bucky multiple times now.
• Vs Captain America
Takes out Captain America with a Widow's Bite to the head. This is a heavy-context fight, with Captain American on drugs that increase his rage, so he's essentially in a bloodlusted state where he's thinking less strategically, but is more aggressive and morals off. This same Cap beats the crap out of Daredevil (who in more context is somewhat off his game) to the degree that Daredevil is lying on the ground and too weak to stop Crossbones from looking under his mask. Anyway as you can see, Diamondback and Black Widow are both fighting him with no major damage to anyone until Natasha blasts him full in the face to KO him.
• Vs Elektra
Fights Elektra after Nat had major surgery. Dodges Elektra’s strike after Elektra has shown her speed by cutting a bullet. Kicks Elektra and strikes her in the head with the pistol. Ends with weapons at each other’s heads. After Elektra leaves we see how hurt Natasha still is from the surgery.
Beats "Hydra Punisher" in Secret Empire: dodges his shots, hits him twice and jumps off him, he shoots her, she misses with touch-Bite, he hits her with butt of gun, he kicks and misses, she kicks him, she disarms him, he grabs her by the neck and kicks her, she blocks his knives and kicks him, disarming him again, he grabs her foot and pushes her back, knocking her to the ground. He goes to get his gun and she picks up his knives and disables him by stabbing him in both legs (somehow getting in front of him in the process). In all, she strikes him 5 times, and he hits her 4 times, BEFORE she incaps him.
Fighting Bucky: granted that he is not fighting to kill and it’s broken off quickly, but she fights well against him, getting in two kicks to one tackle. He says: “What I didn’t know is how much she’s been holding back when we spar, how strong she really is.” “She’s gonna take my head off if I’m not careful.” This makes clear three things: one, when she has sparred with Bucky in the past, she’s so good she felt the need to hold back so as to not hurt him (what other reason would she have for holding back during sparring?). Two, he’s impressed by her strength, making it clear she’s not just normal. Three, even if he’s not fighting with the intent to hurt her right now, she’s good enough that she could kill him anyway—thus it doesn’t matter what his fighting intent is.
Natasha beats on Bucky pretty much at will as Hawkeye watches. There's context here: Nat has been resurrected in a cloned body after Secret Empire, and Bucky and Clint are shocked to see her alive. She is annoyed that they are unknowingly messing up a plan of hers. She attacks Bucky to stop them from interfering, and he fights back defensively. She basically runs all over him: she hits him, he disarms her, then she gets in every hit after that: 3 hits to his face, pulls his hair, grabs him with her legs and kicks him into Clint. Then she takes off. Even with the context, this is all in her favor: she is more serious in her intent, but doesn't want to hurt them; they are stunned and don't want to hurt her, but clearly they don't want to be hurt themselves either, and Bucky is fighting defensively as hard as he can, as shown by the fact that he needs to ask Clint for help: "She's gonna kill me in a second if you don't stop her!" I added the final page for Bucky's line about how she had the drop on them.
Nat and Bucky fight on a boat. Neither of them gets any major hits in on the other. What's notable is that they fight pretty much as equals, and her signature balletic fighting style, where she looks like she's dancing as much as she's fighting.
• Nat beats Hawkeye, although this was part of a plan and was staged to some degree. (Although since she let him actually shoot her in the side with an arrow right after this, they may also have been fighting to the best of their abilities to sell the fight's reality.)
In the continuation, Kraven is about to throw Daredevil off a cliff. Black Widow is still affected by the poison, as noted in the captions. She jumps at Kraven, who throws Matt off the cliff. A bunch of cops attack, and distract Kraven while Natasha comes from behind and one-shots him with a kick, knocking him out. Even as she does this, she notes that she is still “weak as a kitten” from the poison. Kraven is pretty durable, even in this era, and hadn’t taken too much damage in the first part of the fight, so taking him down with one kick, even by surprise, is pretty impressive.
• Vs. Lady Bullseye. Overall, they basically tie:
In the first fight, Lady Bullseye gets in the majority of the hits and is about to stab Natasha when the fight is interrupted.
In the second fight, Black Widow jumps into a train with some kind of protective energy net and gets Lady Bullseye on the ground, more or less at her mercy, when the train goes into another dimension.
In that dimension, after an unknown amount of time (maybe immediately, maybe much later), Natasha has Lady Bullseye at her mercy at sword point before being interrupted by a monster.
The first time they meet. This fight is full of context; Spider-man was feeling beaten up and tired, and almost like he was losing his powers. Even with that, she gets in some decent shots, but runs off. This is honestly not her best showing but I figured it was worth seeing.
Black Widow and Spider-Man vs Silver Samurai. First, Samurai vs Spidey. Then Black Widow joins in to help. Note Samurai's clear strength and speed in beating Spider-Man, and his claim to beating Daredevil. Since her Bite is not enough to penetrate his armor, Natasha spends what must be about a quarter of an hour dodging Samurai's katana while Spider-Man is wedging up the building--very impressive dodging.
• Vs Imus Champion
Fights Imus Champion. His strength here is unclear; in the past he had an exoskeleton and could lift planes and fight whole teams of Avengers (here's him--using gear--to take out the Avengers; two hightlights include Thor and Power Princess). Now he seems to be strong and fast but not as much, with no exoskeleton. Dodges, kicks in groin, kicks in head, uses Widow’s Line to garrote. He punches back at her, she shoots at him in h head, she dodges multiple times before being grabbed. Takes out his eyes with her thumbs, slashes his gut, kicks in face, has him at gunpoint. Then chops throat, and basically curb stomps him. TD:LR--she takes out a weakened version of a team-buster.
Black Widow vs the Weeping Lion. The Lion was presented as a pretty tough guy, although more through reputation than feats. Here she beats him fairly easily. In particular note the use of a touch-based Widow’s Bite (clearly influenced by the movies) and again, incap via Widow’s Line. She also gets up with no problem after being smashed against a wall hard enough for it to crack.
• Vs Iron Scorpion
She attacks Iron Scorpion (this is interspersed with flashbacks about sniping a guy way earlier), breaks his leg, throws him into an oncoming truck. Iron Scorpion seems to be enhanced—he easily cuts through pistols (twice), a thick log, and other hard objects with his sword, and has uncanny accuracy as well, throwing a dart into her pistol barrel earlier: One, Two
• Vs Recluse
Natasha and Bucky fight Recluse, who was trained in an updated Red Room. Recluse is tough enough to have captured Bucky in the first place, and then to fight both Nat and Bucky to a draw. Some nice acrobatics and unusual weapons use from Nat, also noted under Bite below.
Natasha has a rematch against Recluse, who notes again that it took her and Bucky to fight her to a draw before. This time, Black Widow beats her. (She comes back from the waterfall later, but Nat clearly has her at a disadvantage here.) Also note impressive strength feat holding back against the waterfall, also noted under Strength below.
• Vs Snapdragon
Sometimes I see assertions that Snapdragon could beat Black Widow, or beat her a majority of times. Looking at their full set of fights makes it clear that in a straight fight, Black Widow wins.
First fight: Widow is ambushed in the dark by Snapdragon when Natasha’s Bite isn’t working. Snapdragon, who has IR goggles, only beats Natasha because Natasha can’t see to fight back.
Second “Fight”: Black Widow kicks a guy while tied, but is subdued by Snapdragon with a pole. Not exactly a real fight.
Third fight: Black Widow is disarmed by surprise, while Snapdragon has multiple weapons. Natasha dodges and strikes, but is hit back. Then Natasha gets in four unanswered strikes, ultimately knocking Snapdragon through a hole in the walkway for a conclusive win in their only straight fight.
Takes on a whole group of powered assassins while tied up. Starting off tied up, she kicks one lady, then another. Kicks a pot at guy to KO him, kicks another guy (basically one-shorting four people in a row), then has a longer fight with a sumo guy. Does more tied-up fighting, dodges a bullet so it hits the sumo guy, dodges even more while rolling on the ground toward the shooter and takes him out. Is freed by Iron Maiden, whose armor tanks her blast and almost beats her before being stopped by James Woo from SHIELD (and later Agents of Atlas). All together, even given that these gimmicky assassins are mostly featless, an impressive set of moves for someone tied up almost the whole time.
Way back in the day when the Hand was just being introduced, she fights well against several of them, dodging throwing stars and swords, and getting in 5 unanswered strikes before being caught by poisoned caltrops.
• Spider-man and Widow are surrounded by armed henchmen. Spidey runs off to defeat the Owl, and is gone only a very short time. Then he runs back, clearly believing there are a dangerously high number of guys to fight, since he says she "has her hands full." However, she has easily beaten them all, saying Spidey took too long coming back. I count at least 12 guys. These guys aren't particularly tough, what's impressive is the speed with which she beats them, and that Spidey considers them to be enough to be a challenge:
• Shoots a thin string or rope three times. First, while riding a motorcycle, she shoots two strings that come out of a trick arrow from Hawkeye. Second, she shoots a thin rope that Hawkeye is walking on, from a fair distance. Third, she shoots Hawkeye's bow string, from a decent distance away again. Each is a very small target, under difficult circumstances.
In both these examples (one, two), shoots a gun out of a guy's hand while doing a complicated gymnastic activity (jumping in through a skylight and shooting in midair in one, flipping upside-down while dodging gunshots in the other).
• Multiple point-blank blasts, often to the face: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven, eight. (In one, she notes how she helped write the SHIELD handbook on fighting.) Plus once to Hawkeye; that was part of a plan they made and may have been staged, but it still shows how point-blank attacks are a tactic). The Bite is a good ranged weapon, but is also a bonus to her H2H combat. Note that these blasts are different from her touch-based attach, which is shown farther below.
• In addition to using her Bite at short range, she can also use it by direct contact: one, two, three, four, five, six.
Natasha is noted for her graceful agility, and is an extremely effective dodger. Also note some examples under FIGHTING SKILLS where she knocks away guns that are shooting at her from point blank range.
Numerous instances of dodging guns and other attacks, often machine gun fire, often from very close range. Note the grace with which she dodges--it's not hard for her to do this. In a couple examples her hair is blonde (this is when she was disguised as Yelena Belova):
• While she is mind-controlled, she dodges a bunch of close-range shots from Bucky. As it says, he's not trying to hit her, more herd her in a direction, but his comment about "she's too fast" implies that he probably couldn't hit her regardless. Also note the comment about her grace in dodging. And, she's playing him by actually dodging in the direction she wants to go. Slightly after he throws a knife and she dodges that too.
• Drives a car on an overpass above the car she is chasing, leaps out of her car, off the bridge, and onto the speeding car below, in a feat of both timing and agility, then manages to stay on the hood of the speeding, swerving car with only her feet—no hands. This is totally beyond human ability.
• Jumps out of a Helicarrier. This is interesting to compare with Elektra’s jump out of a helicarrier. Before this, she steals some stuff from SHIELD, and fights past a bunch of agents. Then, as shown here, she blows up the wall with some bombs and jumps out with no path for survival. SHIELD agents follow in a flying car and jetpacks. In the air, she maneuvers herself into the car and ejects the drive. Then she ties one of the jetpack guys to the car, which falls. She pretends that she’s scared so one jetpack guy grabs her, then steal his pack. When the agent blows up her pack, she falls safely on a car and drives away on a stolen motorcycle. As the agent says, “she turns a 40,000 foot fall into a ballet.” It is impressive to have made the jump without knowing for sure what would happen, but more so it is the grace with which she did it—doing something with grace like that makes it clear how easy it is for her.
Weirdly I haven't collected more examples of this.
As seen below, Natasha has some pretty solid blunt force durability with multiple falls from a great distance, and some excellent pain tolerance. It is almost a trope now for her to let herself get tortured to get some information from the tormentors, then to break out and kill them, as if prolonged torture was nothing.
Natasha took a Soviet version of an Infinity Formula or Super Soldier Serum, which increased her life and durability, but has never, to my knowledge, been stated to enhance her agility or strength. Despite that, she clearly is stronger than a normal--even athletic--human. See Stats, below.
• Stabs a fat guy and lifts him up at the end of a pole and tosses him:
These are only a few representative examples. Black Widow is noted for long-term strategies and cons, and for breaking into challenging locations.
• Outsmarts Tony Stark. Stark is after her for kidnapping the guy who helped him first build the Iron Man suit when she was much younger. She plays on Stark’s weaknesses by using a fake phone call and make up, then KOs him and breaks into his computer system (and steals some of his tech, not shown here).
• The entire plot of one miniseries is that she was willing to have painful plastic surgery done on her to look like Yelena Belova, and then have the surgery reversed after finishing the con. This is, just to point out, crazy! Then she does it again, this time using a drug.
• Works with Punisher to make complicated plan to fake Frank's death, where she shoots him off the side of a building, where he is caught by Ghost Rider.
STATS, RED ROOM CONDITIONING, THE SOVIET SUPER-SOLDIER SERUM, AND HER AGE
Stats: Intelligence 3 (learned), Strength 3 (peak human: lift twice body weight), Speed 2 (normal—“the ability to move over land by running or flight—next level, 3, is up to 700mph), Durability 3 (enhanced), energy projection 3 (short range and duration, single energy type), fighting skills 6 (master of several forms of combat).
• They also implanted false memories, such as of her training as a ballerina. These memories were unstable, and when asked directly by Red Guardian, she was unable to give a consistent answer. If a Black Widow tries to think directly about the memories, they get physically ill.
Soviet Super-Soldier Serum: The Winter Soldier, who worked for the Soviets at the time, also provided Natasha and her caregiver Ivan with a formula which expanded their life-spans and also healed him enough to recover from a mortal injury. This was in 1956. It is unclear if this serum is in addition to, or the same as, the treatment the other Widow trainees received.
As I mentioned while discussing her resurrection by the Hand many years ago, she could have arguably gotten some of her physical enhancement from that as well.
Age: How old is Natasha? Deadly Originshows her as an infant in 1928, and says she is 29 in 1957, which would also imply a 1928 birth year. The Avengers Roll Call handbook backs this up and says she was born around 1928. This is also supported by a plethora of stories, such as Uncanny X-men 268, a flashback where Captain America and Wolverine meet Natasha during World War II in 1941, when they were all alive (Natasha would have been, and looked approximately, 13).
However, in The Things They Say About Her (published before Deadly Origin), Yelena Belova says Nat is "nearly 40" (she would actually be 77 at the time TTTSAH was published) and that Yelena herself is "not yet 30." It is unlikely that Yelena would be so unaware of the history of the Black Widow program since she graduated from a later iteration. Perhaps we may take this to mean that Natasha looked like she was almost 40.
However, after the 2015 Secret War in which reality was rebooted, the Mark Waid/Chris Samnee Black Widow volume implies she is actually much younger. Natasha kills the uncle of a boy who later became the Weeping Lion when both she and the boy were children. Since the Weeping Lion seems to be a normal adult age, this is problematic. Further, only "several years ago," according to a caption, she captured Yinsen and brought him into captivity. Yinsen is the man who later helped Tony Stark build his first Iron Man armor when they were both captives. Natasha looks like a young woman in this story, which means that she is actually younger than Tony Stark at the time. The letters page in issue 8 takes on this confusion. It says she is 88 years old (at the time of the volume in 2016, thus a birth year of 1928), but then notes that there are some problems with how her age is portrayed in the story, and that they care more about the story than the math. It suggests a few possible solutions, such as that the Weeping Lion could have also had enhanced age, but basically leaves it open. The letters page to issue 10 follows up on this: a letter writer suggests that it was the reality-altering aspects of the Secret War that changed the timeline, and the editor gave him a No-Prize for the idea, seemingly endorsing the concept. The letters page in issue 11 continues the discussion, implying that it is not clear exactly when in her life she was in the Red Room.
WILLINGNESS TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES
Nat fights and kills pretty viciously under the right circumstances.
• Fighting SHIELD and Nick Fury. She breaks an agent’s neck and disarms him in one move. In fighting Fury, an agent says, “this is the Black Widow we’re talking about. There was never any questions about whether she’d get the upper hand, just how long it’d take her.”
This thread is a back-up and summary of my main Elektra respect thread. Comic Vine has recently screwed up its spoiler blocks, but they work in blogs, so I'm putting the content here where it can be seen in their correct format.
I am posting the main 616 summary thread here, plus the movie and Netflix summaries in the next posts.
This post gathers all the feats for 616-comics Elektra that are in this thread and organizes them by characteristic (strength, speed, etc.). It also includes many other feats for her that are not in this thread. This list will stay here at post 34 from now on.
The original posts may include more context on the feats and go into them in more depth (for instance, in the instance where she stabs Hulk in the eyes, the original post has a supporting scan that shows that same version of the Hulk was able to withstand Johnny Storm's Nova blast with no problem).
This post is where to find the main feats without context, but organized in a comprehensive, easier-to-use fashion.
Images/scenes will often be listed under more than one category, depending on their content. This is not an attempt to pad the list, but an attempt to be exhaustive about categories.
***Almost all of the scans in this post are mine, but I did include some from the Killer Movies respect thread in order to be more comprehensive, so credit for those scans goes to the creator of that thread***
Storms a militia camp. Blitzes two guards right in front of the child leader without him seeing her, then kills three in one run, looking like a blur without them being able to react. Then starts killing and intentionally scaring off the rest of the pretty huge army, being able to kill handfuls at a time without them reacting. By morning they are all dead or run off.
Jumps out of a helicarrier and steals the parachute off a HAMMER agent who jumped out 7 seconds earlier (while in terrible shape after continuous torture by Skrulls and HAMMER, and just having been shot twice and getting a broken ankle): one, two
Stabs Wolverine in such a way that she knows it will take longer for him to heal and make it hard for him to fight back (as seen by the fact that he stays on the ground and she is up and about on the next page): one, two
Beats up a squad of HAMMER agents, with some aim dodging, despite being in terrible shape due to continuous torture by the Skrulls and HAMMER (as pointed out), and in the process then being shot twice and having her ankle broken. She also starts off with only a knife.
Beats up two ex-SHIELD agents, despite all the injuries listed immediately above, and again having only her basic hand weapons against machine guns and a rifle.
Fights Wolverine in Enemy of the State. The fight starts with both of them knowing the other is there; there is no surprise. She incaps him with a nerve strike which he only gets out of due to an explosion, then strikes him again in such a way that it takes him a while to heal so that he is on the ground and she is up and about, and he comments on her speed and thinks that "another two seconds and I'm...", clearly implying "dead." Knowing he's going to lose, he runs off and decides to try to drown her, saying that's his "only way."
Elektra and Wolverine kill hundreds if not thousands of Hand. This is one of the most impressive fights against "fodder" that I've ever seen. Except they're not fodder, because these same Hand just defeated a Sentinel robot with just swords. Elektra clearly fights as well as Wolverine here, and in fact he would not have started the fight because he thought there were too many. (See post 23 above for estimates on their numbers).
In two parts (one, two) she brutally beats a bunch of Hand on jetpacks, plus two Hand that call themselves the "Sons of Death" and have magic powers. Then she steals their dragon.
In a montage, beats Blizzard, Crossbones, Whiplash, Shocker, Boomerang, Jack O'Lantern, Blackout, Whirlwind, and Tiger Shark in groups of ones and twos--all Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Namor, and Captain America villains.
Easily beats and almost solos the Serpent Squad (she gets a little help from Matchmaker): Black Mamba, Sidewinder, Death Adder, and Anaconda, the last two of which are physically very formidable, and Black Mamba has tough psychic powers.
Fights multiple Skrulls with super-powers. She kills three: one with martial arts skills with Ghost Rider powers; one with Wolverine powers; and one with Daredevil, Nightcrawler, and Cyclops powers. She is finally beaten by one with Invisible Woman, Colossus, and Thing powers.
(Any other fights between them are not canon, and are either alternate universe fights like Elektra Lives!, or they are actually the Skrull Pagon, such as the fight in the Murdock Papers arc in Daredevil vol. 2. The following four fights are the only canon fights.)
Fight One: She has the advantage over him (7 landed attacks against 4) until he throws a card at her throat, disabling her, and then kills her. So it's kind of a cheap-shot win. Here is Daredevil's fight against Bullseye right after for comparison (5 hits by Daredevil vs 2 by Bullseye, not counting any of the bullrushes since it's less clear who gets the advantage from them, before they get on the wire and Daredevil drops him. So about the same hit ratio).
Fight Three: She has just escaped from a HAMMER Helicarrier. Immediately previous to this, she had been tortured by the Skrulls, and then HAMMER, for months each, with many narrative notes about how she is in terrible shape. She just woke up at Night Nurse's place, got shot at, and then fights Bullseye. He tricks her into getting poisoned, which he notes is so lethal a poison that he can't believe she can stand. Then she falls off a four-story building (height shown in another scene). Then, when he thinks he's got her, she gets the hell up and acrobatically flips over Bullseye and stabs him in the back, in a mirror of how he killed her, completely defeating him. He's almost dead and only rescued by an ambulance.
Fight Four: Bullseye has been magically enhanced by the Hand to become faster and stronger. He admits (see links above) that he could normally never beat her. But, with his enhancements, he does beat her to the ground, severely, so she's half blind and has brain and skull injuries. Then she get gets the hell up and shakes it off (like in the previous fight) and proceeds to beat a bunch of Hand, the magic-powered white and black Hand leaders, and Bullseye (using the magic black ninja's skull to remove Bullseye's Hand enhancements and super-age him) for a complete victory.
Is able to quickly shake off the Hand's mind-control from her (second) resurrection. This mind control worked effectively for a very long time on Wolverine, getting him to carry out effective strikes on the Fantastic Four and X-Men, and was only able to be removed via intensive and lengthy official de-conditioning, despite his psychic defenses and healing factor. It also worked on hundreds of supervillains. One, two.
Has a psychic conversation with Gorgon "at the speed of thought," before SHIELD agents are able to react: one, two
Switched places with Sandy, a girl in a coma. This meant BOTH inhabiting Sandy’s body with Elektra’s mind, AND making Elektra’s body look like Sandy. Eventually the Beast, the Hand’s super-powerful demon lord, helped Sandy, and Elektra was almost trapped in Sandy’s body. (This is just a selection of pages from a very long episode.) (Assassin)
She is captured by SHIELD and they try to read her mind with a machine. Instead she simultaneously mind-controls Garrett and probes their security details through the computer, learning everything she needs to know about SHIELD. (Assassin)
For context on what kinds of chi abilities the Hand have, here are some examples of the abilities of Hand ninjas Thought (a telepath), Pain (a little unclear, but it seems like his strikes cause added pain), and Shadow (stealth, doesn't reflect in mirrors).
Elektra and Wolverine vs Gorgon. While Elektra and Wolverine are thoroughly beaten, it is worthwhile to point out that Wolverine and SHIELD chose her to be his partner in this attempt out of all the other heroes in the world.
A period by period history, with emphasis on his Son and his history of affecting organic molecules
I wrote a Character of the Week feature for the Daily Debater where I examined the history of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man. This blog post takes on the same basic subject but breaks it down differently. There, I looked at the many ways he has changed over his history, in terms of his personality, body, and powers, and discussed them by the kind of change. Here, I'll discuss them chronologically.
Owen Reece is almost defined by change. He has very different phases within his history. Sometimes on the battle boards, we act as if there were maybe four versions of Reece--classic inorganic-molecules-only Reece, pre-retcon Secret Wars II Reece, post-Cosmic Cube retcon Reece, and current post-Secret Wars 2015 Reece. However, there are several more distinct phases, and some of them are quite different from the general understanding--especially the idea that he couldn't affect organic molecules before Doom enlightened him at the end of Secret Wars I. I'll also get way more into the idea of the Molecule Man's "son," an obscure but key phase in his history.
To try to show exactly how complicated these changes are, I’ve made a chart that shows his most important historical moments, and ties it in to big evolutions in his powers, his various origin stories, and his personality.
I’ll go through all these changes and inconsistencies below. The summary: Throughout his career, Owen Reece has been one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. He has gone from loser who was mad at the world to someone who found peace and self-acceptance in love in what I believe was one of the great character-development stories in Marvel. Then he somehow lost all his self-worth and went totally bananas, until he was once again redeemed in the 2015 Secret Wars storyline, and once again found peace in his post-Secret Wars adventures with the Future Foundation.
You know I can’t hold back when I’m writing about the Molecule Man, so get ready for a long but hopefully very elucidating ride!
Reece's Original Origin, and the Beginning of His Career as a Villain
Fantastic Four 20
The original version of the source of his powers is straightforward. In Fantastic Four 20, he is a social misfit working at an atomic power plant. There is an accident, and he gets powers. Pretty straightforward, basically just like Peter Parker getting bitten by a spider, or Hulk getting hit by a gamma bomb.
He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and his father wrong.
The Wand Period
Iron Man annual 3, Fantastic Four 187-8, Micronauts 23, Avengers 215-16
Noteworthy History, and a bit of Theorizing
However, his spirit seemingly goes into the wand and then over a series of random issues (Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Micronauts), his spirit possesses the body of whoever picks up the wand. (I'll show examples below under Powers.)
But—an important point. Since the original Molecule Man died in the other dimension, and the “son” is the one whose spirit seemed to go into the wand, and eventually made it out as we’ll see, then arguably every single issue after his second appearance is NOT the Molecule Man, but the SON of the Molecule Man!
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case, based on various handbooks and editorial comments, who have basically wished-away the son. What actually happened is not clear, but probably it is one or a mix of these things:
1) The Son of the Molecule Man was not actually a separate, different being from the original, but was just Reece’s own spirit, split in half. So in effect, the Son was actually a twin, or a clone, of the original, and so the Molecule Man that continued to appear past his second appearance was still essentially the same as the original. Arguably he started off crazier due to the trauma of having his spirit split in two, and slowly returned to normal over time.
2) The Son WAS a different being, but it wasn’t his spirit that went into the wand when the son died. Actually, when the original Molecule Man died, his spirit went into the wand (off panel, and in contradiction to the on-panel description of the son's spirit going into the wand), and then traveled with the son back to our dimension. So the spirit that possessed people who picked up the wand was really the spirit of the original Molecule Man. This doesn't really explain why he looked so much like the son in the next couple appearances however.
3) The Son was a different being, and the original’s spirit went into the wand when he died, but the son's spirit went into the wand too. The original spirit didn’t possess people right away. The Son was the one who possessed people over his next few appearances—which makes sense because in this wand era, he sure looks and acts a lot like the Son. But then in Avengers 215-216, when he gets out of the wand forever, it is the original Molecule Man’s spirit that finally manages to become dominant. This would mean that it is the original Molecule Man who appears in Fantastic Four 20 and all appearances from Avengers 215-216 onwards, but it is the son who appeared from Marvel Two-in-One 1 through Micronauts 23. Or, perhaps, if both of their spirits were in the wand, the original's slowly became dominant over its creation until finally recreating his body.
All these make it sound like the Iron Man annual 3 on-panel text about putting his spirit into the wand before he died referred to the original putting his spirit in before he died of old age, instead of the Son putting his spirit in before disintegrating after dropping the wand--despite the way that panel is actually drawn. My take is that the various writers of these early issues didn't all understand what had happened in the others. You can see here that Jim Shooter himself, who wrote the Avengers story, felt that important parts of his character had been lost; which is to say, he tried to write those problems out of existence by making the spirit in the wand belong to the original, not the son.
Anyway, despite the handbooks, based on a reading of the comics themselves, where his first few wand-era appearances tend to use his muscled, hyper-aggressive Son's body and personality, I tend to go with option 1 (he split his spirit and it eventually reverted to normal) or 3 (the spirits were both in the wand and eventually the original's became dominant) myself.
But wait, you say, how does any of this make sense? Sure, the Son got his powers from a machine that replicated the original accident and allowed him to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, but the original Owen Reece could still not affect inorganic molecules. How could he create a separate son’s body, let alone create a spirit? Well, that’s a damn good question, and I think the answer is, (a) when the Son story was originally written, he really was meant to be a son, but later on they changed that. And (b) as we’ll see next under Powers, Owen Reece has been able to affect both organic and inorganic molecules, and energy, throughout his pre-Secret Wars history, albeit in an inconsistent way.
He needs the wand for most of this period, until Avengers, where he recreates his own body instead of possessing someone else’s. From then on, he no longer needs the wand.
Depending on whether he is himself, and/or his son (and if that son is really himself), he got his powers either by a complete accident, or by intentionally replicating that accident.
He’s an angry geek, out to get revenge on a world that done him and/or his father wrong. By Avengers, he is pretty insane, with real obsessive and delusionary issues. But then, at the end, he decides to try to be a nice guy and see a therapist.
Secret Wars I
Secret Wars I, 1-12
At this point, Reece has his body and original spirit back, and he goes off to Secret Wars I. There, he mostly works with the villains, but not very enthusiastically, due to the effect of his therapist. He falls in love with Volcana, one of the most significant events in his life.
Reece is now the second-most most powerful being in the multiverse, above all abstracts, and only below the Beyonder himself. He is explicitly able to affect all matter and energy.
He still got his powers completely by accident. But technically speaking, if his son was really a double of him all along, and it was that double’s spirit that continued to possess people and then eventually evolved itself to having the personality of the original, then that spirit got its powers on purpose by replicating the original’s accident. This is technically a possibility from here on out, but I’m not going to mention it again, partly because it is unlikely.
In part because of his enlightenment, and in part because he found love with Volcana, he turns into a geek who is at peace with himself and the universe.
Secret Wars II
Secret Wars II 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, Avengers 266
He befriends the Beyonder—one of the only friends Reece ever has—and then kills him. Then he saves the Earth from the fallout of the Beyonder’s destruction, in Reece’s most heroic act. This seems to leave him without his powers, so the heroes ignore him for a while, but really he still has his powers.
Still the second-most powerful being in the multiverse and able to do anything.
Now things really change. Dr. Doom manipulates things so that Reece, the Beyonder (still alive in another dimension), Kubik, and the Shaper of Worlds all end up talking. Kubik and the Shaper of Worlds are Cosmic Cubes who became sentient. Cosmic Cubes each get their power from a pocket dimension of pure power controlled by a race called the Beyonders. These Beyonders release the energy from one of these pocket dimensions into the Cubes as part of their experiments with our universe; they are very interested in evolution and development. The Cubes start as pure objects, then gain personalities.
Reece’s power is now redefined as being that of a portion of a Cosmic Cube. So, he can still do anything—and arguably now his power should no longer defined as matter/energy manipulation but reality warping, since that’s how Cubes work—but to a lesser degree than before. For instance, Kubik later notes that the Cubes are less powerful than the Celestials. Another appearance of Kubik notes that they are "minor omnipotents." He also says that the Cubes are "insignificant" compared to the main abstracts. Reece also notes how he is below Eternity and the Tribunal.
Previously, when Reece got his powers, it was so significant that it made a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, and the Beyonder noticed it. But, the Molecule Man’s powers came from the machine itself.
Now, the accident opened a hole into the Beyonder’s universe, which allowed part of the power from the Beyonder’s universe to flow into Reece. Thus, his power and the Beyonder’s power are the same kind of thing (Cube energy).
Still a geek at peace with himself and the universe. Even heroic and capable of self-sacrifice.
Fantastic Four annual 23 and 24, Fantastic Four 372-3, Fantastic Four Annual 27, Avengers Unplugged 4, Incredible Hulk 441-2
This whole period is just a series of minor, terrible, largely embarrassing appearances. Why they felt the need to destroy his relationship with Marsha I'll never understand. It would have been so easy to say he lost his powers and he lived happily ever after.
This period is one of the least consistent and logical periods when it comes to his powers. First, when he comes back, he gets back his “bit” of power from Volcana. This is, by definition, a very small portion of his own original power, which was in turn less than half of a Cosmic Cube’s power. And yet, he is eventually able to beat the Beyonder. How?
Still gained his powers from a Cube universe, but then lost most of it, but then regained it through “practice.” That regaining of powers may be supplemented by the innate psychic potential that all humans share.
So, so, so lame. Starts off as a self-hating pathetic geek, then eventually turns into an angry geek when he battles the Beyonder, then after the battle he super-super briefly becomes a geek at peace with himself and the universe again. This peace is gone by his next appearance, when he is immediately pathetic and self-hating again.
This phase is the start of the idea that he has multiple personalities and is truly insane. Until now, he was just a bad guy who eventually learned to be good in a natural progression. Starting with his battle with the Beyonder, and continuing on in his appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has a split personality with diametrically different good (but pathetic) and evil sides.
There is one interesting thing about his “dark side” self. This dark side, as seen in Fantastic Four Annual 27 (seen here) and Incredible Hulk 442 (seen here), looks an awful lot like the Son—muscled and bald. So it is arguably a way they tried to settle the original inconsistencies with the Son—maybe he wasn’t another person/spirit, but just the original Molecule Man’s dark side made in physical form. Then perhaps when the Son died, and his spirit went into the wand, it merged with remnants of the original’s spirit, which eventually took over. But the dark side Son-self was always waiting to come out, as it eventually did in Fantastic Four Annual 27. (This fits our original option 3, regarding the Son.)
Falling off the Map
New Avengers 1; maybe Spider-man: Breakout 1; Fantastic Four Foes 1, 5; Secret Invasion 1.
After his embarrassing appearance in Incredible Hulk, he has no 616 appearances for about 9 years. We learn from implication and handbooks that he was apparently somehow caught by SHIELD and kept in the Raft. Then he escapes with the rest of the criminals during the breakout. He shows up (off panel) to a meeting of villains organized by the Mad Thinker and Puppet Master. However, the Fantastic Four track down and capture all the villains at the meeting, including Reece. This time he and the others are put in a special prison in the Negative Zone. However, some of them escape. Either Reece escapes with them off-panel and is eventually recaptured and put back on the Raft, or the prison is eventually closed and he is just transferred to the Raft. In any case he is seen on the Raft during Secret Invasion, and once again presumably escapes with the rest.
Basically, he is imprisoned and escapes three times, almost all off panel.
Unknown, because he only shows up in super-brief one-panel appearances. But seemingly he must have been depowered to some extent, in order for them to be able to imprison him in the Raft and the Negative Zone prison. Consider that he was powerful enough to defeat the Beyonder immediately before this, but not powerful enough to break out of the Raft.
This brings up the question of his subconscious mental blocks. When he first started, his own self-doubt and self-hatred caused him to limit his powers so he couldn’t affect organic molecules (usually). Then Doom removed these blocks, and with the additional help of his therapist and his love with Volcana, he could do anything. But, after his break-up with Volcana, his old self-doubts and self-hatred returned, and he also started having severe psychological disorders such as split personalities. I would argue that it was this severe mental and emotional breakdown that caused him to be so weakened that he could be imprisoned.
Still got his powers from the Cosmic Cube dimension, in conjunction with the Beyonder.
But, at this time, the Illuminati series comes out, and says that the Beyonder was actually a mutant Inhuman, and that’s where his powers came from. While this new origin for the Beyonder was never mentioned again, it would throw a huge loop into the origin of the Molecule Man—because if the Beyonder got his powers from being a mutant Inhuman and not from a Cosmic Cube universe, then where did Reece get his powers from?
Seemingly an angry, pathetic geek.
Dark Avengers 10-12
A few years later, Reece eventually shows up again, seemingly at relatively full power. He has been living in seclusion in the small town of Dinosaur, Colorado, where he grew up. It is telling that this story treats him more respectfully than he has been in years, and he still gets beaten by the Sentry, and banished to an unknown location.
Presumably still got his powers from a Cosmic Cube universe in conjunction with the Beyonder (who was last seen, at this point, having changed its name from Kosmos to the Maker and was seemingly depowered by a fair amount. She was also, ironically, imprisoned around this time period, and then defeated by Thanos and later killed by the destruction of the Kyln space prison).
I will note that this is different from the “dark side” self in Fantastic Four Annual 27 and Incredible Hulk 442; while he does change from one body type to another a bit, there is no hugely muscled bald self that is reminiscent of the Son anymore. The Son is done.
New Avengers 24, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33
Finally, Jonathan Hickman picks him up again, and his story becomes respectable, and changed, once again.
First we see Reece helping out Doom in his search for solutions to the Incursions. Somehow he ended up here after his fight with Sentry. This makes some sense since Reece does have a long history with Doom in Secret Wars I and the Cosmic Cube storyline.
His power is enough that, if set off, would destroy the universe and presumably everything in it, including the abstracts.
Reece’s accident was not an accident, but part of a plan by the Beyonders to give him enough energy that he would become a living bomb. (In some other universes, he sometimes got his powers in other ways, or had no powers, however.)
While this whole “living bomb” concept does fit in somewhat with the Cosmic Cube origin, in that either way he ultimately gets his powers from the Beyonders, it fails to explain the Beyonder. Did the Beyonder get his powers at the same time as Reece anyway? Why bother making the Beyonder (singular) if the only real point of the accident was to give Reece enough power to destroy his universe? This may partly be explained by several references around this time to the Beyonder being a child member of the Beyonders. If that is the case, the Beyonder was just an infant member of the Beyonders, and his power was not connected to Reece’s power, except that they are both Beyonders-derived. Potentially, it could be argued that all the Beyonders gained their sentience when the energy in these pocket universes become sentient, and some of those happened to become Cosmic Cubes instead of remaining in their own realm. Perhaps other, non-sentience-gaining realms were utilized to empower the multi-dimensional Reeces.
Fairly insane geek, in the sense that he is babbling and wacky. However, he also seems wise, in that he knows what’s going on with the Beyonders. See the next entry for a discussion of multiple different explanations for his insanity here and in other periods.
He does NOT have multiple personalities any more, however.
Secret Wars 2015
Secret Wars 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
Working with Doom and Dr. Strange, Reece gets all the remaining alternate Molecule Men together, and they destroy the Beyonders with their bomb capacity. (Thus implying that there is more total power in a fraction of the original total number of Reeces than there are in the whole race of Beyonders. This implies that killing his other-dimensional selves was actually counterproductive.) He takes the former-Beyonders’ powers into himself.
It is unclear whether Reece’s power now, with all the Beyonders’ power, is more powerful than previous version of himself. He is certainly more powerful than his Cosmic Cube version, since that was a clearly limited form of omnipotence, but is he as powerful as the Secret Wars II version of himself, that was for instance capable of destroying several billion dimensions? He is clearly capable of, at a minimum, creating many new universes.
It is unclear whether he retains any of his original powers. Does he now only have the power of the Beyonders—did that wipe his power-slate clean, and provide new and different powers? Or does he have the combined power of all the remaining Molecule Men, including himself, plus the Beyonders? This is implied when one of his selves peels off in each new universe.
A warbling, gibbering insane geek, who has a clear moral center. At the end, when one of his selves peels off and goes into each new universe, that is supposed to be bringing him back to sanity.
It's worth summarizing the explanations for his mental and emotional instability here. (I'm just copying this part from my Daily Debater Character of the Week piece.)
First, let's recall that his early psychosis around the wand period was due to simple anger, and potentially the merger of his Son's spirit with his own. Then much later he started having multiple personalities, such as an "evil side," usually with physical manifestations of new bodies to go with those selves, which harkened back to his old Son-era persona. By Dark Avengers he was full-time delusional.
Post-2015 Secret Wars (below), when Reece talked with Galactus in Ultimates, he was crazy. But, the version that was simultaneously voyaging with the Future Foundation was fine. One possible explanation for this difference may be that the Ultimates version could have been one of the split-off selves, which were possibly not as sane as the core self; or maybe the Ultimates version was him in a not-yet-sane era, where he had not yet split off enough other selves. Whereas the version in Fantastic Four 2 was him five years later, after he had split off many of those selves and had become more sane.
Post-Secret Wars 2015
Ultimates 5, 6, New Avengers 17, Ultimates2 7-9, Fantastic Four 2
Most of Reece’s appearances or mentions came about in stories that seemed to take place separately from his mission with the Fantastic Four to recreate the universes.
In Fantastic Four 2, we find that he has been traveling with Reed, Sue, and the Future Foundation for five years (although time has moved at different rates for them) to create new universes, and see some examples of them doing this. Reece gives Franklin power, then he creates the universe.
Then Reece is quickly killed in a battle with the Griever, an abstract who represents entropy. However, Dragon Man and the Future Foundation go on a mission to see if they can find any remnant of him, and bring him back. Also, what does it mean to kill him, if there is a different version in each universe that they’ve made? And also, consider that the Griever destroyed most but not all of the universes that those splinter selves were in, so she actually killed many versions of him.
This was a good way to end Reece's life and career--but based on comments in the letters pages, and the Future Foundation's quest, it seems likely he'll be back. I only hope that he'll have some peace of mind when he returns.
I want to address the question of whether Elektra: Assassin is canon within the mainstream Marvel continuity.
I don’t consider this to be a clear-cut situation. There are many who do not consider it canon, and others who do. I have had both opinions over the years. Here, we will look at the evidence on both sides.
WHY IS ITS CANONICITY IN QUESTION?
First, why the question of its canonicity? One reason is that Elektra displays powers beyond what people normally expect her to have—the silent shout, the ability to possess people, to create illusions, to deflect bullets off the back of her hand. To be clear, Elektra DOES shows psychic powers in many other 100% canonical comics—but usually not at this level. However, while these powers are of an arguably greater extent, they are not of a different kind. (Note: Elektra: Assassin usually refers to these powers as magic. In other Elektra and Hand-related comics, these powers are also sometimes referred to as psychic or chi-based. It may be a mix of all three. The magic in particular derives from the Beast, about whom more later, and may be either granted by the Beast directly or potentially learned as a ritual and thus within the character’s permanent power set, while the chi or psychic powers are more individually-learned abilities.)
Assassin has some slightly different historical details from the standard 616 storyline, in particular the circumstances of her mother’s death and her implied abuse at the hands of her father. However, Elektra’s early history has changed over time, so these differences in history are not necessarily damning in themselves. For instance, the ElektraFlashback issue had a clearly different story of her training from other current tellings, and the exact timeline of when she first met Stick, the Chaste, and her first sensei have all changed a bit over the years. Interestingly, Marvel’s various changes in history, like updating the invention of Iron Man from the Korean War to the war in Afghanistan, and the 2015 Secret War event, have made these minor continuity differences less important than they may have seemed a couple decades ago.
However, Daredevil 322 is part of the Fall from Grace story arc, which specifically brings SHIELD agent John Garrett, a character from Epic’s own Elektra: Assassin, into the 616 continuity. Even more, the same letters page in 322 has a reader bring up Elektra: Assassin right before the reader who asks about Elektra Lives!, and the editor discusses Assassin without in any way demoting its canonicity. I would argue that if Assassin was also not canon, or not fully canon, then the editor would have noted that they were both not canon, instead of only saying that Lives! in particular was not canon—especially since the Assassin storyline was the basis for the storyline taking place in that very issue.
Bill Sienkiewicz has noted that Jim Shooter required Sienkiewicz’s and Miller’s Daredevil: Love and War comic to come out as a graphic novel instead of as a normal comic due to its experimentation and adult topics; it is possible that Assassin came out under Epic for those reasons, and not due to continuity.
This is pretty good evidence that this Daredevil story arc took Assassin as canon—but it uses the cover of Garrett’s delusions to make it so anything that is a little too over the top could be explained away as the delusion. As far as I know, the end scene, where Garrett’s mind is transferred into Wind, is the only part of Assassin that has been explicitly retconned or discounted. He is, however, a somewhat unreliable narrator in regard to some topics due to Elektra’s psychic influence on him.
In addition to his appearances in Daredevil in and after Fall from Grace, Garrett has appeared in recent issues of Secret Warriors and Al Ewing’s 2015 Sunspot-led New Avengers so his continued existence in the 616 universe is not in doubt. (He also has an MCU existence in the Agents of SHIELD TV show.)
These kinds of nods to Assassin’s existence have shown up in a few other comics. Here in a Punisher comic, it refers to “telepathy, body-swapping, mind-control, and ‘for want of a better word, magic’” taking place in a “badly compromised SHIELD operation in the eighties”—i.e. the Assassin storyline. It makes it clear that Castle is suspicious of these powers, but then he also specifically buttresses the credibility of the sources, saying “these are Fury’s people talking, not some bunch of clowns.”
Root of Evil, an early miniseries, deliberately echoed and confirmed some specific scenes in Assassin when it had the young Elektra read Stick’s mind, and showed her ability to walk on snow without a trace (Assassin scene with snow and telepathy; Root of Evilsnow, telepathy).
Since there’s no reason for writers and editors to bring up these Assassin powers and events at all if they’re not canon, these kinds of references make it clear that the events happened to some degree. At the same time, they give some cover to the idea that individual aspects of Assassin may not be confirmed, partially due to Garrett’s somewhat unreliable narrator status, allowing future writers to selectively use whatever parts of the story they want.
FROM BILL’S MOUTH TO OUR EARS
I was lucky enough to talk with Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist of Assassin, at the New York Comic Con this year. I asked if he and Miller thought of Assassin taking place in the mainstream Marvel universe, or an alternate universe. He laughed and said that they saw it taking place in its own universe, and even had ideas for other characters to populate it with if they had been able to continue to work on it.
This is pretty straight evidence that Assassin was originally conceived as being out of 616 continuity. On the other hand, Miller had originally asked Marvel to promise that they would not bring Elektra back from the dead, and that no one could write Elektra other than him, but Marvel eventually broke that promise and brought her back in the Fall from Grace storyline. It seems reasonable to me that if Marvel reneged on keeping her dead and for Miller’s use only, they’d also feel free to change any previous appearances’ canonicity issues as well, especially since prior to Fall from Grace, her total appearances were very limited.
DETAILS FROM THE FRONT MATTER OF ASSASSIN
The Introduction fromAssassin provides some further clues. First, it says that Miller wanted to write a book about her after she died. Presumably this is Lives!, although it didn’t come out until later. Then he wanted to write an early-days book—Assassin, which would avoid the issues being dealt with in the other graphic novel he was working on, and the fact that she was dead. This implies that it was meant to take place in continuity, otherwise why worry about contradicting anything?
The subtitle of Assassin is “The Lost Years.” This implies not only when it took place chronologically (before her first appearance in Daredevil) but that it was in continuity; if it was an alternate universe, why mention when it took place at all? The years of an alternate reality couldn’t be “lost,” because the rest of that reality would also be unknown.
We have not seen her engage in possession or body switching since then, at least as far as I am aware.
For those who think the Assassin feats are far beyond the norm, it is helpful to consider what the Hand has done in the clearly-canon universe:
• The Hand worship the Beast, a magical being of great power, who for example was seen in Daredevil recently, where he was able to repeatedly bring Ten Fingers back to life (and was the source of Ten Fingers’ original stolen power), and it also did the same to Daredevil. It also created new eyes for Blindspot and could steal people’s souls. The Beast possessed Daredevil in Shadowland and gave him the power to defeat numerous other heroes. Earlier in Glimpse and Echo, it possessed a basketball player named Lyle, whom he also gave extra power (and whom Elektra defeated).
• The Hand has repeatedly resurrected characters, sometimes giving them superhuman stats in the process (as with Ghost Maker) and sometimes using mind control (as in the Wolverine Enemy of the State storyline).
So the psychic feats Elektra shows in Assassin, including possession, illusion-making, and bullet-stopping, are fully within the realm of possibility of Hand magic/psychic/chi powers in general, and her highest canon psychic feats are approximately the same level as her Assassin feats. The question is the degree to which she uses them consistently, which I would generally attribute to the degree different writers are interested in her mystic side. I would phrase it this way: her use of specific psychic powers is not consistent, but her use of psychic powers in general is consistent. For example, she has only used the silent shout once, and has only telekinetically pulled down stalactites once; but she uses psychic powers in general pretty consistently from Assassin onwards (especially telepathy).
Overall, I have come to the conclusion that Elektra: Assassin is largely canon: the story in general took place, but individual events within it cannot be 100% confirmed. However, I think we can generally assume feats are largely accurate, with anything narrated by Garrett, especially toward the end, being the least reliable.
I will be straight-up: this is a 60+ page Word document. I don’t really expect anyone to read from beginning to end. But if you are interested in the evolution of Molecule Man, or in the way comics use visuals to connect to character, then skip around read whatever parts you are interested in! And of course, I would welcome anyone to read the whole thing.
This is a history of the visual portrayal of Owen Reece, the Molecule Man, over the years, focusing in particular on the evolution of his costumes, the rendition of his face (in particular his nose and scarring), his body type, and his personality.
Now, you all probably best know this look of Reece’s, right?
But, do you know all of these?
That’s not even all of them! Reece has had numerous costume changes, big and small, over the years, and I’m going to give painstaking detail on all of them.
Hey, do you remember when the Molecule Man was a woman? A lizard? African-American? We’ll talk about all those too!
I will also go on the occasional tangent about other issues of note as we go along. For instance, I’ll note times when Reece controlled organic molecules and energy prior to Secret Wars I, contrary to the general understanding and editorial statements to the effect that he could only affect organic molecules and energy after Doom lifted his mental blocks. (He actually manipulated energy and/or organics in every issue before Secret Wars I!)
So: This will itemize every appearance of the Molecule Man, including his standard 616 appearances, appearances within flashbacks (largely other characters recalling Secret Wars I and II) and imaginary sequences, appearances in alternate universes, and handbook entries. These are all issues I own myself, so if you have questions about anything, let me know.
These stories include:
• 6 stories pre-Secret Wars I
• Secret Wars I & II, Avengers 266
• Cosmic Cube version: 13 appearances, although really only 9 actual stories, ending in Dark Avengers
• 6 appearances in New Avengers’ (vol. 3) run-up to Secret Wars 2015
Click the text links above to download full-size PDFs of each. Smaller JPGs below.
Over time, I will add “Takeaways” entries in separate posts that analyze the information below.
Owen Reece, while generally identified with what I will call his “classic” costume—the Secret Wars I & II costume I showed at the top—has actually had several costume changes over his career.
Artists have also rendered his face, body, and posture quite differently, depending on whether he is being portrayed as a villain, hero, or schlub in a particular storyline.
Again, you’ve seen his normal face, and his “Molecule Man” face before:
But we will see that the portrayal of his facial scars in particular is hugely inconsistent. Of course, every character has been drawn and written differently over the years, but as can be seen, his portrayals have changed quite radically from appearance to appearance, and these physical changes often track changes in his character.When he's more heroic, he's drawn more handsomely, and when he's a loser or evil, he's drawn differently to enhance those qualities. Just for instance, compare these two versions, one super-schlubby and the other drawn in the same style they’d use for Peter Parker:
I will describe and analyze these various costumes and visual portrayals over the course of his history, going his appearances in chronological order, organized into four categories:
• Present-tense Earth-616 Appearances
• Earth-616 Flashbacks
• Alternate-universe Appearances
For each entry, I will provide a brief summary of the issue, then describe his costume, his face, his body, and his personality. [Note: if you just want a list of all his appearances, download the chart of the creative teams. If you want a list of them via these categories, you can download the costume chart.]
Representative images from each issue will be included at the end of each issue's entry.
Finally, before I begin, I’d like to give a shout-out to Jim Shooter, who made Reece respectable in the ‘80s, and Jonathan Hickman, who brought him back to respectability after a long time in the wilderness in the last few years.
PRESENT-TENSE EARTH-616 APPEARANCES
Fantastic Four 20 (first appearance)
Writer: Stan Lee, Penciler: Jack Kirby, Inker: Dick Ayers.
Uatu the Watcher contacts the Fantastic Four about the danger posed by Reece. Reece is described by Uatu as being able to destroy universes. His origin is recounted, and he goes on a rampage. The Fantastic Four create feedback when he tries to control their bodies, since he cannot control organic molecules. He does, however, control electricity in this issue. Uatu transports him to another dimension.
His costume on the cover is slightly different from his costume in the interior, as noted below.
Interior Costume: Reece’s first costume is fairly close to his now “classic” costume—a sort of tunic or Mao jacket and pants with shoulder pauldron—but differs in various ways. It is mostly pure green, with light green belt (square buckle and vertical ribbed texture, which I will tend to refer to as cylinders, below), black bracers with green edges, and brown boots with light green tops. The clothes are loose, not skin-tight. His shoulder pauldron goes around and under his armpits, usually with something close to the “classic” lightning/zig zag pattern on the edges. His wand is black, thin, tapered at the end, and has no ornaments.
The biggest difference from his “classic” costume is the lack of purple.
: It has the same pauldron shape, but with a star-shaped light green shape around his collar. The bottom of the jacket has pockets. The boots are brown, with the top part light green and black right above them. He has a red wand.
: His face is shown with varying numbers of scars, which cover his forehead and cheeks, from 2 to 5 per cheek, 3 to 10 on the forehead, and up to 3 on his chin. Both his upper and lower lips are usually scarred and shown as jagged lines. His hairline is sometimes shown as receding, or almost bald, but other times he has a full head of brown hair. He is not classically handsome (no strong cheek bones etc.), but his face is not otherwise of note.
Normal, with a tuft of brown hair on top; the sides look shaved. 5 scars on his forehead and 2 on each cheek, perhaps 3 on the chin. The lips are unscarred.
Reece has a standard human build that is not heavily muscled, nor unusually thin or overweight, which I will call “average” or “normal” from here on.
Reece is a maniac who wants to rule the world and get back at people for his terrible life. Generally speaking his physiognomy does not reflect his character as much here as it does in later issues.
Marvel Two-in-One 1
Writer: Steve Gerber, Penciler: Gil Kane, Inker: Joe Sinnott
After his first appearance, a dramatic change is made in the character: having been sent by Uatu to an alternate dimension, and apparently robbed of his powers, he dies of old age in the dimension’s sped-up time, and creates a “son” to live on in his place. The son recreates his “father’s” powers by recreating the original accident with his own advanced technology (consider what this means, given the post-Secret Wars origin of his powers from the Beyonders’ Cosmic Cube universe, and its intertwining with the original Beyonder’s power). The “son” seems to have its own personality, and in fact can create and manipulate organic molecules with no difficulty (the father fixed the organic molecule problem when he set up the machines to recreate the accident). He comes back to earth and goes on a rampage as well, until he is stopped by Thing and Man-Thing: when the “son” drops his wand, he ages super-quickly and dies. However, the original Molecule Man’s spirit and power is still in the wand. For unknown reasons, he did not tell his “son” about this; perhaps the son’s spirit and power was really a portion of his father’s spirit and power all along. I tend to believe that the “son" is really just an alternate personality of the father; for instance when Reece’s spirit is shown in Iron Man Annual 3, he has the same brawny, bald physical appearance as the son has here, as he also does in Fantastic Four 187-8, although technically that’s because he possessed a boxer who just happened to be bald and brawny. The idea that the bad, brawny son is really just an alternate personality of the father also makes sense given the much later idea that the bald muscular version seen in Fantastic Four Annual 27 and Incredible Hulk 441-2 is his “evil” side. Basically the argument is that Reece splits his self in half, and puts half of it in the son, which represents his more evil side. Then this side has ascendancy until he recreates himself in Avengers 215-6, at which point the physical re-creation of his original body perhaps brings back some of his original personality, and when he subsequently sees a therapist, he fully submerges the evil side of himself, as represented by the son. Much later, after going through the trial merging with the Cosmic Cube and then being ejected from it, his personality becomes less stable and the “evil” side is able to re-emerge a few times. Eventually it seems that this side is perhaps more fully integrated into him and he become unbalanced in general, but no longer split into good and evil, as seen in Dark Avengers 10-12 and the New Avengers/Secret Wars2015 stories. (At least this is one explanation; Secret Wars 2015 has its own explanation for his mental imbalance.)
Note that Uatu says, in Secret Wars II, that he “reinforced the mental blocks which limited him” while in the other dimension, thus explaining why Reece had no powers there, and “confused his self-perceptions,” possibly explaining how he made a copy of himself without really knowing it.
For his next several appearances after this comic, people find the wand and are possessed by his spirit.
: Light blue lightning-bolt-style pauldron on chest and back. No shirt, green speedo and no pants, green tight boots, and yellow bracers with four round studs. His costume for his next several appearances is based on this costume. His wand is red, with oblong shapes at each end. The oblongs have holes at the end, and have stripes around them. He briefly wears a purple hooded robe while in his original dimension.
Bald. 4 scars on the forehead and 3 on each cheek. None on the chin. Both lips are scarred.
Bald, with around 5 scars on his forehead and 3 on each cheek, and none on his chin. Both lips are zig-zags. The son has no scars (or powers) until after the “father” dies, and the “son” replicates the accident that gave the original his powers.
: Normal, frail.
: Highly muscular.
: Desirous of vengeance on the Fantastic Four.
: Hyper-aggressive, violent, and cruel. He can control organic molecules and uses them, for instance, to turn a normal human into having Mr. Fantastic-like powers. He then stretches the human until his body rips apart. He also changes Thing and Man-Thing into their normal human forms. His powers reside in his wand, and when the wand is taken away, he turns to dust, and his spirit goes into the wand. Uniquely, the son and the father are both apparently technological geniuses, having rebuilt an atomic reactor from scratch in order to recreate the accident.
Iron Man Annual 3
Writer: Steve Gerber, Penciler: Sal Buscema, Inker: Jack Abel
His spirit can now possess anyone who finds the wand: first a girl named Cynthia, then others.
The boy the Thing gave the wand to plays with it with his friends. A girl tries to grab it when it falls in the swamp, and drowns in a radioactive pool of water. Reece’s mind, in the wand, combines with the radioactivity, and is able to resurrect her and transform her into an adult weeks after her death. Angry with her parents over a rough upbringing, she attacks her mother, and then Iron Man gets involved. The Man-Thing later grabs the wand, and Reece’s spirit leaves the girl (who stays alive). A snake bites the wand, and Reece transforms it into a humanoid. Then Iron Man grabs it and Reece starts to control him, but then the Man-Thing grabs it again, and since it has no intelligence, Reece can’t possess it, and his spirit is trapped in the wand. The Man-Thing walks off with the wand.
It is notable that Reece is able to control organic molecules in multiple situations: he makes a mirror out of wood and water; he resurrects the girl’s body and then transforms it into an adult body; he turns a log into a bicycle; he turns her mother into a doll; he animates some skeletons; he transforms a snake into a snake-man. Multiple handbooks note that the “Son of” the Molecule Man from Marvel Two-in-One 1 was an exception from his normal pre-Secret Wars I inhibitions, and could control organic molecules, probably because the “Son” didn’t realize it was Reece, and thus was not held back by the original’s mental blocks. However, there is no explanation for why Reece, from this point on, could control organic molecules, since he no longer considers himself the “Son.” (There is no explanation for why he no longer thinks of himself as the Son.) It notes, at the end of the events of Marvel Two-in-One 1, that “at the instance before his ‘death’ [he] funneled his essence into his wand.” This caption is placed next to a picture of the Son dying, implying that the “Son of” Molecule Man is the same “spirit” as all the later incarnations of them. However, OHOTMU A-Z 7 says the original Reece channeled his spirit into the wand the instant before his death. So perhaps that is what the text meant.
Note that when inhabiting the girl Cynthia’s body, the narrator calls him the “Molecule Person.
The cover, interestingly, shows Reece largely looking like Cynthia, but male!
Green skintight suit with light green pauldron. Green gloves. No bracers.
: After he takes over Cynthia, she has a full-body, skin-tight, all-green costume, with a light-green pauldron, “underwear,” and boots, and the yellow bracers, now with six bumps. The wand is like in Two-in-One 1: red with ovoid ends. However there are no lines on the wand.
: In scenes showing the battle between his spirit and Cynthia’s spirit, he is shown with his bald, muscular male body, as in Marvel Two-in-One 1, and a costume like Cynthia’s: skin-tight, all green with light green boots, underwear, and pauldron.
As the humanoid snake, he wears the light green pauldron, underwear, boots, and the yellow bracers.
: When he possesses Iron Man, his costume continues to look like Iron Man’s armor.
Male face with 4 forehead scars and 1 on each cheek. No lip scarring. Long blonde hair.
Around 3 scars on her forehead and 3 on each cheek, and none on the chin. Her lips are both zig-zags. The scars are specifically described as “black lightning,” and the lips as “bear traps.”
: In the psychic battle and similar scenes, he has 3 scars on his forehead and 2 on each cheek, with both lips scarred.
The lizard has 3 scars on the forehead and 2 on each cheek. No scarred lips.
: As Iron Man, his facial scars appear on the outside of the helmet! 3 on the forehead and 2 on each cheek, but no scarred lips.
A decidedly male muscled body.
As Cynthia, she has a standard female comic book body, although she is fairly heavily muscled.
: Muscular, as in Marvel Two-in-One 1.
Normal heroic Iron Man body.
Psychotic and murderous, as reflected in his bald head and muscular body. It takes him a while to take over Cynthia, and until he does, her own emotions sometimes take over. The snake fully submits to him. He does not fully take over Iron Man.
Fantastic Four 187-88
Writer: Len Wein, Penciler: George Perez, Inker: Joe Sinnott
Klaw runs into the Man-Thing, who drops the wand. Klaw picks it up. Reece is unable to possess him due to his nature as living sound, so they travel to New York City where Reece possesses a boxer, who very coincidentally is bald and muscular, just as Reece appeared in Marvel Two-in-One 1 and Iron Man Annual 3. Reece wants to use Mr. Fantastic’s tech to permanently transfer his consciousness from the wand into his new body. After a battle with the Fantastic Four and the Impossible Man, he takes over Reed Richards’ body. Richards fights to keep him from control and remains partially aware. Uatu appears but only watches. Reece tries to kill the Fantastic Four with a major blast, but the unstable molecules in their costumes create a feedback that makes him drop the wand, reverting Richards’s to himself. (This is very similar to, but different from, what happens in Fantastic Four 20, where it is the heroes’ own molecules that causes the feedback.) The wand goes into a chimney.
Note that he turns the Thing to glass, once again controlling organic matter, but is unable to control the Impossible Man’s body because he controls his own molecules, the Invisible Woman’s forcefield because it is not made of molecules, or the Fantastic Four’s costumes made of unstable molecules.
Costume as the boxer and Reed Richards: In both cases, very similar to that in the psychic battle in Iron Man Annual 3: a green skin-tight suit with light green lightning-style pauldron, light green speedo, and light green boots, with yellow bracers with six bumps. There are two minor differences: a light green line delineating a belt on the speedo, and the tops of the boots are no longer straight lines, but have 3-5 jagged angles jutting upward in the front. The wand is the same as in the last two appearances, red with oblong ends. The wand connection to the oblongs is slightly more detailed, with a few ringed details.
: Bald, with 3-5 scars on the forehead and 2 on each cheek. 0 chin scars. Both lips are jagged.
: Richards’ normal face, with 3-5 forehead scars and 2-3 on each cheek. Both lips are jagged. 0 to 3 chin scars.
: Muscular in both forms (more obviously as the boxer).
: Still angry and aggressive. Fully in control as the boxer, partially in control as Richards.
Micronauts 23 (vol. 1)
Writer: Bill Mantlo, Penciler: Pat Broderick, Inker: Danny Bulanadi
Reece now possesses an African-American homeless man, who grabs the wand when it ends up in a junk yard. He battles the Micronauts and is eventually knocked out by falling electrical wires. He drops the wand into a river.
He is able to transform hubcaps into flowers, again showing the ability to control organic molecules, and also channels electricity from some wires (he is later struck by them and knocked out).
: The same as the previous issue, albeit without the subtle belt line. The boots now have three jagged angles.
: Now African-American, he has 4 scars on the forehead and 2 on each cheek. His lips are normal, not jagged. In one image, the scars have more of width than the normal single line. On the cover only, they appear as two actual two-dimensional lightning bolt shapes that narrow to a point on the forehead, with one more on each cheek. The only other place this appears is New Avengers 33. He wears a short Afro. Interestingly, his face and body are all colored in a purple silhouette on the cover, so you can’t easily tell that he is African-American from the cover.
: Muscular, although perhaps not as much as before.
: Still a maniac, although perhaps slightly less so.
Writer: Jim Shooter, Penciler: Alan Weiss, Inker: Dan Green
He recreates his original body by himself after his wands is picked up by the Surfer. He notes his inability to control organic molecules (this assertion is repeated multiple times in this arc), but it’s explained that he can make a new body for himself because it’s encoded in himself. He is able to disintegrate the Surfer’s board, Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, and Iron Man’s suit, but when he recreates them, he is unable to recreate Iron Man’s armor because it is too complicated. It is interesting that Iron Man’s armor is more complicated than Mjolnir’s magic, one of few instances where he affects magic directly. He is also unable to make working plumbing in his base for the same reason.
Avengers 216 is the first issue where his name, Owen Reece, is revealed.
: This is a step towards the “classic” costume, the first use of purple, and the first giant hat. He also returns to a lose-fitting tunic and pants. They are green, with a purple jagged design on the front and back of the bottom of the tunic. He wears purple gloves, with have a jagged edge design, and purple boots, which have a jagged design incised on the side. His pauldron is now seemingly thicker, with a simpler set of three jagged angles at the bottom. This connects to a cowl, featuring ear-pieces with antennae, and a giant hat, mostly blue with purple jagged panels. His wand, returning to the original black, tapered at one end and with no oblongs, can fit in the front of the hat, to stand up like an antennae. However, he now realizes he no longer needs the wand. He wears a belt with a square buckle. The belt is usually drawn plain, but occasionally has vertical ribs. He creates the hat to look more like Galactus, who he decides to act like. Also wears a blue business suit at the end.
(When he first recreates himself, he wears a slightly different costume: the pauldron is less jagged, he has bracers instead of gloves, and he has no hat.)
: Usually 4 forehead scars, 2 on each cheek, and 3 on the chin, with 2 on the space between the nose and lips. Sometimes the lips are jagged, sometimes they’re not. This is the most scarring he’s had since the beginning. His hair is slicked back and black, and his head is noticeably round in shape.
: Shorter, perhaps somewhat overweight, in any case decidedly non-heroic.
: Now much dweebier, he is a super-geek loser. Creepy sexual attraction to Tigra. Wants to destroy the world by eating it like Galactus, but loses interest in that. Ultimately is convinced by Tigra that he needs to see a therapist to overcome his personal problems. A big switch from the previous very masculine, aggressive persona of the last few appearances. More of a restoration of the original, but still dorkier than that.
Secret Wars I, 1-12
May 1984-April 1985
Issues 1-3, 6-12: Writer: Jim Shooter, Penciler: Mike Zeck, Inker: John Beatty
Issues 4-5: Writer: Jim Shooter, Penciler: Bob Layton, Inker: John Beatty
After seeing his therapist for a while, he is still brought to Battleworld as part of the villains’ group.
He starts off trying to show off to the villains, but falls in love with Volcana and shows that he has been learning to be good from his therapist. His mental blocks are removed by Doom, and he gains his full power. He then helps the villains and the people of a suburb of Denver return to Earth, and feels much more at peace.
Although there are some differences in his appearance from issue to issue, I will treat the series as a whole and not individual issues.
: The first appearance of his now “classic” costume: loose-fitting tunic and pants, purple bracers, purple belt with no buckle and vertical ribs, purple boots with flat tops, lightning-style pauldron. In this case, the pauldron does not end in a point, but has a flat bottom ending flush with the belt, with a vertical line dividing the right and left sides. No wand for the first time.
: Normal human face—not ugly or geeky, not alpha-male bald. Brown tousled hair. 5 forehead scars, 2 on the cheeks, both lips are normal.
: Normal human—not muscular, not skinny, not overweight. Sometimes with broad shoulders and a slightly more heroic build—usually more towards the end of the series, as he gains in confidence.
: Geeky and with low self-esteem, but in meeting Volcana he falls in love and begins to gain self-confidence. After Doom lifts his mental blocks, and can now control all matter and energy, he becomes much more at peace with his self.
Secret Wars II, 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9
July, September, October, December 1985, January, February, March 1986
Writer: Jim Shooter, Penciler: Al Milgrom, Inker: Steve Leialoha
Reece meets the Beyonder, who has come to Earth. He tries to help him gain peace as he has himself. After Volcana pretends to leave him to trick the Beyonder into not hurting Reece, Reece is very hurt, but then finds even more solid peace with himself and a more mature love with her. Eventually he kills the Beyonder to save the universe.
Although there are some differences in his appearance from issue to issue, I will treat the series as a whole and not individual issues.
: The continuation of his classic costume. No changes from Secret Wars I: loose fitting green tunic and pants, purple pauldron ending in a blunt end at the belt, purple belt with square buckle and vertical ribs, purple boots and bracers. He often appears now in normal clothes, such as a turtleneck sweater and pants, or in his janitor’s smock. The normal clothes are usually well-fitted.
: Usually 3-6 scars on his forehead, 1-3 on the cheeks, and 0-3 (usually 0) on the chin. It varies from panel to panel, let alone issue to issue. Usually, his upper lip is jagged, but not the bottom. His brown, sometimes reddish brown, hair sometimes has a bit of an tousled uplift in the back—a slightly swankier looking haircut. His face usually looks pretty angular, and is probably his most handsome.
: Normal body. Looks trim.
: Calm, at ease, enlightened. Has a fall-out with Volcana, which is healed, bringing them to true love. Acts as a mentor to the Beyonder before killing him. Is shown as being his most handsome when he is most confident and heroic.
Writer: Roger Stern, Penciler: John Buscema, Inker: Tom Palmer
Epilogue to Secret Wars II. Reece heroically saves the Earth, and pretends to lose his powers.
: Doesn’t wear a costume, wears normal clothes. On the cover, he wears his classic costume, with the pauldron only going halfway down his chest, a belt with cylinders and no buckle, and green cuffs.
: Starts off normal, with 2 to 6 scars on forehead and 1 to 2 each cheek. Both lips are jagged. Hair is brown and tousled like in Secret Wars II. Then he seems to lose his powers and his nose becomes rounded and more protuberant, his hair more generic, and he loses his scars. His eyes are even more rounded, and he gains eyebrows. Then he returns to his normal form, getting the scars, pointier nose, no eyebrows, more slitted eyes, and jauntier hair. (Note: he has eyebrows in Secret Wars I & II.)
: Possibly his most heroic. He seems to sacrifice his powers to save the Earth, although actually he does retain his powers. The switch from his somewhat geekier looking “normal” self to his more handsome “powered” self is pretty overt and shows how he seemingly either intentionally changes his body to fit his self-image, or does so subconsciously. It’s possible that the more rounded-nose version is what he looked like before the accident, given his appearance in flashbacks before his accident.
Fantastic Four 318-319
Writer: Steve Englehart, Penciler: Keith Pollard, Inker: Joe Sinnott
Reece appears for the first time after his most powerful appearances (in Secret Wars II), only to have the origin of his power retconned into being created at the same time as the Beyonder, from a pocket universe meant to power a Cosmic Cube, which was in turn created by the Beyonders.
Note that when Doom blasts Reece into unconsciousness, it seems to make him less powerful than the way he is presented in Secret Wars II, showing that his body is still vulnerable to standard attacks, but simultaneously shows that the power is always working in the background, since it saved him from dying on its own, giving it a semi-sentience.
: Starts with normal clothes (button up shirt, pants, dress shoes, jacket), switches to his “classic” costume. The purple pauldron doesn’t reach his belt, which is made of large squares. He has purple boots and bracelets. The costume is somewhat loose/baggy on him.
: Somewhat skinny, big hooked nose. 2 to 4 scars on the forehead, 1 or 2 on each cheek (different in different panels, even though close up), lips are unscarred. When he is walking around in public with Martha before Doom attacks, he has covered up/erased his scars; however, they show up when he’s unconscious. Tousled hair.
: Somewhat skinny. A bit dweebish or weak-looking, especially after he gets in costume, but not completely consistently. Significantly shorter than Martha—more of a height difference than in Secret Wars I & II and Avengers 266.
: Kind of nerdy, but not weak. Especially once he realizes what’s going on with the Beyonder, he is confident and philosophical, willing to fight for what’s right, and accepting of the change of his origin.
Fantastic Four Annual 23
Writer: Len Kaminski, Penciler: Greg Capullo, Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Reece’s life-force is sent out of the Cube, back towards Earth. A flashback is also shown, see Flashbacks below.
Appearance: In the present-time panels, Reece appears only as the Cosmic Cube, and then as a bolt of pure orange energy shooting out of the Cube. See Flashbacks for his other appearance in this issue.
Fantastic Four Annual 24
Writer and Pencils: James Brock, Jr., Inkers: Jeff Albrecht and Tim Dzon
Reece describes how he split off from the Cosmic Cube and flew back to Earth as energy.
He appears both in normal clothes and in new armor.
He gets his powers back (which he had hidden within Marsha) and wears a suit of armor inspired by, but different from, his “classic” costume. This is the only time he wears this armor. He has a broken arm at the end, since he can no longer affect organic molecules (this time, the limitation is attributed to organic molecules being too complex, as opposed to having a mental block).
: Green pants and tunic. His boots are purple and somewhat looser-fitting than usual. He has purple bracers and belt; the belt has cylinders and a square buckle. The pauldron is technological-looking; it is made of various plates and much more like metal than his normal pauldron; it is also missing the lightning bolts. It does not go all the way to the belt. His helmet is open on top and on the face; it has two “horns” or spikes on the sides. It is relatively “cool” looking—it’s not as absurd and ego-compensating as some of his later helmet-wearing silly costumes.
: His nose is larger and clearly not a “bold, superhero” nose, but he does not look nerdy. He is unshaven. His hair is relatively long. When he comes back after the fight, his hair is shorter and he is shaven, looking more kempt. No jagged lips. While wearing the helmet, his forehead is not visible, but his scars return on his cheeks, 2 on each side.
: He has a normal body, not being skinny, paunchy, or muscled. He is again much shorter than Marsha.
: He goes back and forth. He starts off being very unconfident and worried that Marhsa wouldn’t want him back without his powers, but gets confident again after getting his powers back—which, very uncharacteristically, he had hidden in Marsha without telling her. When she dumps him, he is crestfallen. This issue is a turning point in their relationship, inconsistently throwing out their time-tested trust and instead making him seem manipulative and untrusting of her (and for that matter she is not very forgiving of him, either).
Fantastic Four 372-373
Writers: Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan, Penciler: Paul Ryan, Inker: Dan Bulandi
Reece starts by pining absurdly for Marsha. He now lives in a self-created futuristic-looking home outside Denver, where he has made multiple statues of Marsha. He is then mind-controlled by the Puppet Master and fights Aron the Watcher. He is still unable to control organic molecules.
Interestingly, the Puppet Master’s statue of Reece shows him wearing his classic costume, which is not what he actually wears here (or in his last appearance). The statue also makes him look much more respectable and less nerdy looking in his posture and body.
The first of his absurd helmets since Avengers 215-216. This is the basis for his next several costumes. He has tight green pants, like spandex, and unusually they run over his feet and act as foot coverings, instead of him having boots. The “skirt” part of the jacket is unusually split in the front. The purple lightning bolts on the chest appear to be part of the shirt, and are connected with a purple band across his neckline. They dip below his belt, forming a tetrahedral shape below the belt. His belt is unusually more of a fabric wrap. He has purple gauntlets, with metal rings. He has a purple cape, which is a first. His helmet is chrome, and runs from two large shoulder pads through a neck piece to three swooping metal pieces that end in a purple circle on his forehead.
: He is explicitly nerdy-looking, with a large hooked nose. He usually has 1 scar on each cheek, and 4 on his forehead. No jagged lips. His hair is a bit wavy but not really tousled.
: He is skinny.
: This continues the turning point from Fantastic Four Annual 24. Reece now makes a full turn into patheticness and absurdity, similar to his early days, like Avengers 215-6, but without the anger. He seems divorced from understanding emotional reality.
Fantastic Four Annual 27
Writer: Len Kaminski, Penciler: Mike Gustovich, Inker: Don Hudson
Reece, still dealing with the fallout of his breakup with Volcana, starts off normal, then goes insane, turns into the bald muscled version seen in the early days of Marvel Two-in-One 1 through Fantastic Four 187-8, and ends up fighting the Beyonder-persona that evolved from the Cube. In both personas, he can control organic molecules again, and for the first time, is shown to be more powerful than the Beyonder.
: He first appears in normal, respectable working-person clothes. His costume has tight green pants and a green shirt with baggy arms. The “skirt” is open in the front to show a purple metal codpiece. He has green “shoes” with purple metal calf armor. He has purple metal bracers. His cape connects at the shoulder and weirdly goes under the armpit to connect from the front as well. He has a metal purple belt divided into two horizontal strips, which dips down in the front. His chest has a purple jagged design that is part of the shirt which uniquely is one piece, not two separate lightning shapes coming together. He has a large chrome helmet that is attached to the shoulder pads again, but in a different form than in Fantastic Four 372-3. It is jagged around the head.
: As his normal self, he has a skinny face with a large hooked nose, but while he looks decidedly like a normal person and not a heroic face, he does not look particularly nerdy. He essentially looks like a specific (non-archetypical) and non-heroic person. He has 1 scar on each cheek and 2 on his forehead. His hair is combed and parted in the middle. As the “evil” self, his face is notably rounder and has 1 scar on each cheek, 3 on his forehead, and has the jagged lips for the first time since Avengers 266. The scars are much more distinct than usual—they have width, and are darker pink than the rest of his skin, instead of just being black lines.
: As a normal person, he is trim and short. As the “evil” version, he is taller and muscled.
: As a normal person, he starts off despondent about Marsha. He then goes into a rage as the “evil,” insane version of himself, similar to the Son of Molecule Man/villain who possessed people through his wand, full of arrogance and aggression. He then reverts to himself and has learned a lesson in love and humility, and seems to have once again found some measure of self-respect for the first time since returning from the Cube (unfortunately this only lasts for this issue). His transformation into an evil version, who is said to be repressed under his normal self, becomes a minor theme after this (it is seen again in Incredible Hulk 441-2), and to a certain degree tries to resolve the problem of the different physical forms and personalities he has had in the past. However, in the past it wasn’t shown to be a completely different personality (other than in Marvel Two-in-One 1), just one he slowly modified through therapy. Similarly, the last time he had the crazy muscled bald persona/body was in Fantastic Four 187-8, when he coincidentally possessed the body of a bald boxer; since the time when he finally his own body instead of just possessing someone else’s (Avengers 215-6), he has just had a normal body with hair.
Avengers Unplugged 4
Writer: Glenn Herdling, Penciler: John Statema, Inker: Scott Koblish
Absorbing Man and Titania hold a wedding with many villains in attendance. Volcana, as a childhood friend of Titania, is there, as is Reece, but they did not arrive as a couple.
: He is only shown in normal clothes: a shirt, tie, and jacket.
: Skinny, and a mostly normal nose. He has 5 scars on his forehead and 2 on each cheek. His lips are unscarred. Based purely on his face, he looks pretty “normal” and not nerdy. His hair somewhat stands on end.
: He is first shown picking his nose and wearing an “I hate everybody” yellow pin. The entire issue is somewhat of a parody/comedy issue, and Reece here is certainly the epitome of his pathetic “nerdy/outcast” persona—perhaps only to be matched in his next appearance the following month in Incredible Hulk. He has lost whatever dignity he seemed to reclaim in Fantastic Four Annual 27. When he runs into Marsha, she has turned into her plasma form and burned off all her clothes. She greets him with an enthusiastic “My Dinky Winky!” but he only turns away and hands her his jacket, asking her to cover herself. (Even though normally her clothes are not burned, and she wears a pink bathing suit for a costume.) He says, “Don’t expect a smile from the man you drove out of your life months ago.” She realizes that their separation has affected him strongly, seemingly more than it did to her, and second-guesses her enthusiastic greeting. This is the second-to-last time we shall see her response to their relationship. (I don’t describe it here, but she does have a few appearances in comics without him, where she tries to get on with her life).
Incredible Hulk 441-442
Writer: Peter David, Penciler: Angel Medina, Inker: Robin Riggs
Reece has gone insane once again, with the bald persona now acting essentially as a secondary personality. However, he seems to be able to switch back and forth to his primary, dweebish, personality at will. In issue 441, we only see shadow monsters that he created, which capture Doc Samson. In 442, the bald persona interrogates Samson, asking him for counseling about his relationship with Marsha. She-Hulk shows up and Reece turns back into his “normal” self, thinking for an instant that she’s Marsha. He is unstable, and starts switching back and forth, before finally taking Samson’s advice about trying to pull himself together. He decides he needs to win Marsha back, and then walks off and add Marsha’s face to Mount Rushmore. (No mention is ever made of her face being removed.)
: Casual Hawaiian shirt and tan pants
: Variant on his “classic” costume, with a larger-than-normal trapezoidal buckle, the cylinder belt texture, the pauldron reaching his belt, and metal-looking purple bracers. The green clothes are tight and show off his muscles. He also briefly shifts into a pure energy form.
Casual Hawaiian shirt and tan pants
Variant on classic costume, this time with a normal-sized buckle, looser clothes, less-metal-looking bracers, and a limper-looking pauldron. The left and right sides of the pauldron don’t quite meet: there is a thin vertical green line between the two parts.
Strong-faced, tough-looking guy. He has 2 scars on each cheek and 5 on the forehead, and his lip is not scarred.
Strong-faced, tough-looking guy. He has 2 scars on each cheek and 5 on the forehead, and his lip is not scarred.
Somewhat longish, combed back hair. His face looks significantly less strong and more cartoonishly dweebish, with a large nose and weaker cheekbones. He now has 6 scars on his forehead, 2 on the cheeks, and unscarred lips.
: Somewhat longish, combed back hair. His face looks significantly less strong and more cartoonishly dweebish, with a large nose and weaker cheekbones. He now has 6 scars on his forehead, 2 on the cheeks, and unscarred lips.
: Standard build—not skinny, not muscular, but a bit tough-looking.
: Extremely muscular, to an absurd degree
: Much shorter and slighter
: Significantly shorter, almost dwarf-like. This marks the epitome of his trend towards being portrayed as physically slight, starting with his proportionally smaller size than Volcana in Fantastic Four 318-9. (Volcana is in fact much taller than Reece, 6’5” to 5’7”, but originally the size difference was not portrayed as being so great.)
: Angry and clearly somewhat delusional, but also somewhat in control of himself.
: Melodramatic maniac, akin to in Fantastic Four Annual 27.
: Extremely pathetic, lonely, and unsure of himself, and almost a complete idiot. He misunderstands advice from Samson in a way that no adult human would, essentially acting like a buffoon—dramatically stupider than in Secret Wars II or Fantastic Four 318-9, or even Fantastic Four Annual 27. The fact that he puts Marsha’s face on Mount Rushmore is obviously completely insane. (Marsha, in her last documented commentary on their relationship, says, “Ohh, Owen…what have you done now?”) He does specifically call his bald self “an alternative personality problem,” thus continuing the approach that started in Fantastic Four Annual 27 in which the bald self is a separate personality that he’s trying to repress, as opposed to the original interpretation, where he was just evil in general, and eventually learned to be a better person through therapy. This issue, and the Avengers Unplugged appearance immediately before it, are the low point in the way he is presented by the writers and artists: i.e., absolutely without respect.
New Avengers 1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciler: David Finch, Inker: Danny Miki
When Electro breaks all the prisoners out of the Raft, Molecule Man is one of them. He only appears in a crowd scene. His original capture and placement on the Raft was not shown on panel anywhere; the New Avengers Most Wanted Files say he was apprehended during a moment of mental instability, obviously some time after Incredible Hulk 442, which was nine years previous to this issue.
: Prison uniform.
: Nerdy face with a big nose, and slicked-back hair. No scars, which is interesting because normally that’s a sign that he’s using his powers to cover them up, or in unpowered, as last seen in Fantastic Four Annual 24.
: Average body type.
: Just standing there, but his expression looks beaten down and sad; he does not look particularly proactive.
New Avengers 4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciler: David Finch, Inker: Danny Miki (although the actual image of Reece is by Keith Pollard and Josef Rubenstein)
He only appears on an Avengers video screen of the characters that escaped.
Costume: He is wearing the costume from Fantastic Four 372-3 (1993), using a drawing from the OHOTMU Master Edition 31 (1993) handbook. This same drawing is soon reprinted in the New Avengers Most Wanted Files handbook (December 2005).
: It’s not easy to see in the video screen image, but the full-scale handbook drawing has a distinctly nerdy face, skinny and with a large nose and big ears, with 2 scars on the forehead and 1 on each cheek. The lips are unscarred.
: Slightly skinny.
Not apparent, but looks kind of harmless.
Spider-man: Breakout 1
Writer: Tony Bedard, Penciler: Manuel Garcia, Inker: Raul Fernandez
A wiki lists this as being an appearance of Reece, but I am not totally convinced that he actually appears here. There are three images that MIGHT be of Reece. The character in question has no scars, but in New Avengers 1, Reece is shown without scars, so it’s possible that it’s him.
: Prison uniform.
: Thin, a bit haggard and/or conniving, with hair: long and parted in the middle and hanging in front of his forehead in the first panel, short and somewhat standing up in the second, short and hanging down in the third. Otherwise unremarkable.
: In the first panel, he holds Spider-man’s mask as Jigsaw grabs Peter. In the second panel, he is hit in the face by Captain America’s shield. In the third panel, he is vomiting or dripping blood from his mouth and nose. Beyond questions of whether any of these are Reece or not, the character in the first panel may not be the same as the character in the second and third panels, who seem to have somewhat shorter hair.
Fantastic Four Foes 1 (mentioned), 5
March, July 2005
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Penciler and Inker: Cliff Rathburn
In issue 1, the Thinker and Puppet Master gather a number of villains together for a meeting to discuss defeating the Fantastic Four. None of them agree to join, but the Thinker and Puppet Master collect all of their genetic information while they’re there, which they plan to have the Puppet Master use to control the villains (instead of his standard clay statues). Later, Reed Richards mentions that Reece was among those whose information had been collected, although he is not shown in the picture of the villains when they are assembled. This takes place soon after the Raft breakout; seemingly Reece was at least considering a villainous career again.
In issue 5, the Fantastic Four use the Thinker’s information to track down many of the villains and put them in a new super-prison in the Negative Zone. Reece is one of those who are captured; as with many of the others, this is shown in a single panel. It is unknown how he was defeated, but the presence of his wand (see below) indicates that he was in a highly unstable mindset.
In issue 6, a few of the villains escape the new Negative Zone Vault; it is unknown whether Reece is among them.
: Only his upper body is shown, but it seems to be his classic costume, with three exceptions that are all more similar to his appearance in Avengers 215-6: his pauldron goes all the way to the neck, with no green collar; he wears purple gloves and no bracers; and he carries a wand, which he hasn’t used since Avengers 216, and has not carried again since this issue. This wand is significantly different in appearance than any previous versions, being much shorter, grey, and being the same width for its whole length with no oblong shapes at the tips. It has a line demarcating the top end, somewhat like a classic magician’s wand.
: Normal, with hair tousled and slicked back. He seems to have 2 scars on the forehead and 1 on each cheek, which are more organically jagged and less like a classic lightning bolt. No lip scarring.
: Mostly not visible, but seemingly normal.
: Seemingly villainous.
Note: in pics below, one shows the assembled villains without Reece in issue 1, another shows the time Richards mentions him in issue 1.
Secret Invasion 1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Penciler: Leinil Francis Yu, Inker: Mark Morales
If Reece escaped the Negative Zone Vault at the end of Fantastic Four Foes, then he was apparently recaptured off-panel and returned to the Raft. If he did not escape the Negative Zone Vault, perhaps it was closed; in any case he was apparently transferred to the Raft.
A guard walking through the Raft counts off the prisoners, including Molecule Man. Reece is only mentioned, not seen. The Raft is then hit by a Skrull technology virus and many of the prisoners escape, including Reece (off panel).
: Not seen, but presumably a prison uniform.
: Not seen.
: Not seen.
: Not seen.
Dark Avengers 10-12
December 2009-February 2010
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Artists: Mike Deodado (drawn pages) and Greg Horn (painted pages on 11 and 12)
This is Reece’s first appearance as a major character in a storyline since Incredible Hulk 441-2, thirteen years beforehand. After escaping the Raft a second time (the first in New Avengers 1, the second in Secret Invasion 1), he went to the town of Dinosaur, Colorado, where he was born. He hides out, but is insane, and makes everyone in town disappear. The Dark Avengers get wind of this and come to deal with him. He defeats them easily, but in the process, Sentry learns that the basis for his own powers is also in molecular manipulation, and defeats the insane Reece, either by temporarily disintegrating him, or teleporting him away somewhere. See here for a detailed breakdown on how Sentry could have overpowered Molecule Man.
In some scenes with Sentry, he appears in painted artwork, with a different costume. These are noted below.
A variant on his classic costume, which has now carried on to some future issues. The jagged points of the pauldron now go down, instead of sideways, and the inside of the pauldron is a v-neck, instead of more zig-zags. The pauldron goes partway down his chest. His belt is now replaced by a lightning-style design around his waist. He doesn’t have gauntlets.
The belt looks a bit more like the belt in Fantastic Four 372-3 and Fantastic Four Annual 27. The pauldron is also similar to their design, with a somewhat more right-angled, rather than zig-zag, edge. It appears to be metal rather than fabric. He has purple bracers.
: Thin, almost handsome and intelligent-looking. Most similar to his Secret Wars II face. No lip scarring. 2 scars on each cheek, and 4 on the forehead. Hair stands on end in highly-tousled wisps.
The same, but with 2 scars on the forehead and 1 on each cheek.
average, perhaps a little skinny.
: Insane and emotionally wounded. Highly desirous of being left alone, and feeling emotionally vulnerable. Does not have villainous or aggressive intentions, except in defense of his solitude. Seems unaware of the fact that he has been killing people. Would have liked to be friends with Sentry, who he sees as a kindred spirit. He has, strangely, created versions of the Beyonder, Ghost Rider, Enchantress, and Mephisto to act as alter egos and friends (this is especially odd since he has never met Ghost Rider before, and didn’t interact with Enchantress much during Secret Wars I), and seems to live with them in a hell-like pocket dimension inside one of the town’s buildings. The hell-like dimension indicates the deep-set negative feelings Reece has about himself. All together, this is Reece at his most deluded and insane—usually when he was insane in the past, he was psychotic, and a megalomaniac, with some delusions about Marsha’s love for him. Here, he is deluded about the nature of reality, creating imaginary friends, and unaware of his own actions, in a deep but non-psychotic way.
New Avengers (vol. 3): Contrary to how I dealt with Secret Wars I & II, I will deal with all his appearances in this issue individually, because the various artists that worked on it each gave him their own visual treatment.
New Avengers 24
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Valerio Schiti
Reece is shown in only one panel. Somehow, he has returned, or been found, after his fight with Sentry. Doom is using him to work out a plan regarding the Incursions.
: Pretty close to his classic. He has a slight collar, and green cuffs rather than bracers. The belt has large square shapes instead of tubular shapes. The biggest variation is the boots, which have a more obviously pieced-together construction, with a piece riveted on the front and holding the two sides together.
: Normal, thin-ish. Similar to Secret Wars II. His hair is tousled in that era’s fashion. No lip scar. 4 scars on the forehead and 2 on each cheek. His eyes are white while using his power.
: Unknown, but seemingly serious and focused.
New Avengers 26
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Kevin Walker
Doom and the Mad Thinker talk with Reece about the Incursions. He alludes to the gradual killing of Molecule Men from other dimensions
: As in New Avengers 24.
: Thin, a somewhat hooked nose, unusually large teeth in a gritted, insane expression, and wide eyes. 2 scars on each cheek and 4 on the forehead. No lip scarring. His hair is on end.
: He chatters as if insane. He desires to help the universe.
New Avengers 27
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Szymon Kudranski
Doom and Reece discuss how Reece’s power has a similar energy signature to a rock from a world destroyed by an Incursion. Reece teleports himself and Doom away.
: Somewhat different from in New Avengers 25 and 26. The pauldron is similar in the front, and reaches to his belt, but uniquely, the back is different from the front, and only goes halfway down his back. His belt’s nodules are about halfway between the squares of issue 25 and the normal cylinders. He has purple bracers, or perhaps just cuffs. The boots are not shown in detail but seem to lack the details of issues 25 and 26. Most interestingly, he has created (or found) a copy of Dr. Doom’s iron mask, which he wears in front of his face, lifting it up briefly. It is unclear why he wears it, other than to annoy Doom.
: A bit pudgy. His nose is protuberant. He has 2 scars on each cheek, 4 on the forehead, and no lip scars. His hair is on end.
: Perhaps slightly pudgy.
: He is insane and his conversation bounces around, but is also knowledgable and wise, telling Doom details about what’s going on in the multiverse and how people understand the world.
New Avengers 29
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Kevin Walker
Reece has teleported himself and Doom into an empty space, perhaps the Beyond Realm. Reece says this is where it all started, and that he used to live here. He says he can take Doom, but that while he can show him the way, Doom needs to open the door. Doom magically creates a machine that creates a dimensional opening, and they follow it.
: Largely his classic costume, including purple gauntlets. The pauldron goes halfway down his chest and back. The belt is not well-seen, but seems to have wide cylinders. The boots are not seen clearly.
: Thin, with wide eyes. 2 scars on each cheek, and 4 on the forehead, with no lip scarring. He strangely has purple eyes. His hair stands up on end.
: Somewhat thin.
: He seems to still be insane, given his dialog’s mysteriousness and lack of clarity, but he also seems to know what he’s talking about, and Doom respects and trusts him.
New Avengers 31
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Kevin Walker
Doom introduces Dr. Strange to Reece, who is helping Doom. Doom calls him a disciple and an oracle for the times.
: Basically his classic costume. He has no cuffs or gauntlets. His pauldron, unusually, does not rest on his shoulders, but curves up above them.
: Thin, with a large hooked nose. 2 scars on each cheek and 4 on the forehead, with no lip scarring. His hair stands on end.
: Somewhat thin.
: Still rambling, but clearly aware of what is going on cosmically, and keeping an eye on things.
New Avengers 33
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Mike Deodato
Doom and Reece explain to Dr. Strange what they’ve been doing. Reece was created by the Beyonders to self-destruct after 25 years, taking his universe with it. Moreover, the Molecule Man is the same in every parallel dimension (this is contradicted by his many actual appearances in parallel universes), so when each of him goes off, the entire multiverse will be destroyed. We learn that in issue 29, Reece was taking Doom back in time to when one of those parallel Reeces gained his power. Then 616 Reece kills his other self. He tells Doom that Doom must now do this to all the other Molecule Men across the multiverse. Doom attempts this but is not able to kill enough for their purposes. In the present, Doom, Strange, and Reece attack the Beyonders with a strange device, and a great flash of light goes off.
: The same costume as he wore in Dark Avengers—which was also drawn by Deodato. All the Molecule Men seen to be killed in alternate dimensions have the same costume. In the last panel, but no other, his cauldron’s fabric has a surface pattern of lightning bolt designs.
: Thin, with a fairly normal nose. His hair is on end. Interestingly, his scars look like the same 2 scars on each cheek and 4 on the forehead that he has had recently, but on further examination, they are actually 1 single lightning bolt on each cheek, and 2 on the forehead, but each lightning bolt is drawn with two edges, and ending at a point—so the bolt is two dimensional, not just a single line. The only other time the scars are illustrated this way is on the cover of Micronauts 23. In the last panel, there are now 3 two-dimensional lightning bolts on his forehead and 2 on each cheek. No lip scarring.
: Thin. When the alternate Reece is shown at his origins without a shirt, he is shown to have very defined, fit muscles—but he is still thin, not bulky like he was in, for instance, Marvel Two-in-One 1 or Fantastic Four Annual 27.
: When Reece brings Doom back in time and explains his mission, Doom notes that he has lost his “psychotic wildness…the hysterical chatter.” Reece explains that his insanity came from his slow progression to his “terminal state,” i.e. the time when he would explode. The closer he got to that time, the more unreliable and fractured he would be. This explains his increasing insanity over the character’s arc. He is presumably sane when explaining the problem because he is back at his time of origin, and thus reversed his mental regression. He says that his selves have a single, shared consciousness, so presumably he now cares the consciousness of that origin era. Reece is also quite aware of the multiversal situation, and willing to sacrifice his self to save the universe: his morals have returned along with his sanity. Back in the present, he is once again raving but intent on helping.
Secret Wars 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9
As with New Avengers, I will deal with many of these issues separately, since his costume appears in differently in some of the issues.
Secret Wars 1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
The scene from New Avengers 33, where Doom, Strange, and Reece confront the Beyonders, is shown again, but this time Reece wears a different costume.
: Only the waist-up is seen. His chest and pauldron are quite different: the purple lightning bolts on his chest end at shoulder pads that have no zig-zag pattern, and instead simply lay flat on the shoulder and rise at a 90-degree angle to wrap around his neck.
: Normal. Seen from too far away to see the scarring. His hair is tousled, not really standing on end as it was in New Avengers.
: Silently stands by Doom.
Secret Wars 3, 8
August 2015, February 2016
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
We see that Doom has erected a statue in respect of Reece outside Doom’s castle. The following refers to the statue.
: Classic costume, but all in grey stone. The belt has cylinders. The pauldron reaches to the belt. He probably has defined cloth cuffs rather than hard gauntlets.
Normal. Strangely, no scarring is visible. His hair is tousled.
: The statue was created, and is posed, to show Reece in a respectful, heroic manner.
Secret Wars 4
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
The scene where Doom, Strange, and Reece confronted the Beyonoders is again shown. We se them from behind and from a distance, and very little can be seen of him.
: Unknown, presumably as in issue 1.
: Just standing there.
Secret Wars 5
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
The Molecule Man statue is seen again, and looks the same as before.
Doom also goes to a chamber below the statue, where the Molecule Man resides, alive, in an all-white space, hovering upside-down. They discuss how the universe was saved: when they realized they couldn’t kill enough Molecule Men, they decided to get them all in a group, and set them all off at once in the Beyonders’ faces, destroying them and absorbing their power. He also states, contrary to New Avengers 33, that his insanity is due to the killing of the Molecule Men—that the more of them that died, the less his mind held together.
: Pretty close to his classic costume. However, he has a collar, and the part of his shirt between the pauldron opening seems as if it may be attached to the pauldron, rather than having the pauldron just sitting on top of the shirt. The pauldron reaches the belt. The belt has cylinders. Despite the fact that the parallel-universe Molecule Men in New Avengers 33 were all shown with the Deodato version of his costume, here they are shown with the costume he wears here.
: Thin. Somewhat hooked nose, but not geeky; with his somewhat maniacal expression, he looks more insane and intelligently dangerous than dorky. The scars are not so much of a classic lightning bolt as scraggly lines: 1 on each cheek and 2 on the forehead. No lip scarring. Hair is tousled.
: Insane, but wily and intelligent. Very desirous of something to eat, and matches Doom in a back and forth of conversation.
Secret Wars 6
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
The statue is seen again, and looks the same. Peter Parker and Miles Morales visit Reece’s space under the statue, and give him a cheeseburger. Reece reveals that he is the source of Doom’s power.
: From this vantage point, it looks like the green space between the purple lightning shapes of his pauldron is connected to the purple lightning shapes; the whole thing sits on top of his shirt. It may also have a collar, as Reece does in issue 5. Reece’s actual costume is the same as issue 5. His cuffs seem to be fabric rather than hard gauntlets; their color isn’t clear here.
: As in issue 5.
: As in issue 5.
: As in issue 5, but once he eats the hamburger, his mind and speech is more collected and sane.
Secret Wars 9
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Penciler and Inker: Esad Ribic
Reed Richards and Ultimate Reed Richards go to Reece’s underground space. Reece asks for something to eat. Ultimate Reed attacks 616 Reed; Reece cuts Ultimate Reed into horizontal slices (and, we later learn, sends those slices to different universes). 616 Reed then tries to convince Reece to turn on Doom. Doom shows up. He tries to use the Beyonders’ power against Richards, but Reece won’t let him use the power, because neither of them brought him something to eat. Doom and Richards fight. When Doom admits Richards could have ruled better, Reece sides with Richards, and gives Reed access to the Beyonders’ power. Later, Reece says he owes Morales one for the hamburger; this is presumably why Morales is allowed to exist in the new universe. Afterwards, they all create a new arrangement where Reed gets an idea for a universe from Franklin, and then creates the universe using Reece’s power. They also anchor it with a slice of Reece, akin to those who were in parallel universes before, which also heals Reece’s mind, one at a time—he is more whole as he splits apart. (This supports the Secret Wars 5 explanation for his increasing insanity over the New Avengers explanation.)
: Reece’s costume is more clearly shown to have the pauldron be continuous across his chest, including the green, and the collar. The purple lighting bolts are fairly separated and don’t even connect at the belt on the back, which is different from the statue and from Secret Wars 5. Otherwise it is the classic costume. The Reece that helps create the new universe seems to have the same costume, although the cylinders on the belt aren’t visible. He has purple cuffs and a purple collar.
: Same as issue 5.
: Same as issue 5.
: Seemingly sane now, although he doesn’t talk. From what Valeria says, he should be getting more sane and emotionally healed as they create more universes—which is counter to what we see of him in Ultimates. The Reece that creates new universes seems at peace as he waves to the new, split-off Reeces.
Writer: Al Ewing, Penciler and Inker: Kenneth Rocafort
The scene of Reece helping to remake the universe with Reed and Franklin Richards is shown again.
: Based off his classic costume, but the pauldron is different—the two zig-zags coming off the shoulders don’t connect together, and instead just barely touch at the belt, as in Secret Wars 9. Uniquely, he has some pouches hanging off his belt.
: Normal. Probably 2 scars on each cheek and 4 on the forehead. No lip scarring. Brushed-back hair.
: Seen standing intently, but smiling in a nice way.
Writer: Al Ewing, Penciler and Inker: Christian Ward
Galactus talks with Reece about the multiverse’s condition.
: Largely his classic costume. He has bare feet, as he is relaxing in his man cave of a pocket dimension. He has no belt or bracers, except randomly in one picture where he has a plain belt and gloves. The shirt and pants seem to be a onesie.
: A bit oddly shaped, with somewhat of a big nose and forehead. No scars, strangely. His hair stands on end, and is longer than usual.
: Somewhat crazy sounding, but not totally babbling—more like he is trying to be mysterious and manipulating. Not evil, but not necessarily good. He is trying to help Galactus, but also toying with him.
New Avengers 17
Writer: Al Ewing, Penciler: Paco Medina, Inker: Juan Vlasco
It is revealed that when Reece cut Ultimate Reed Richards into slices, he sent those slices across the multiverse, each to become their own version of Ultimate Richards. Richards says he did it because Reece knew he needed someone in each universe who would make things happen.
: Reece is shown mostly as a glowing silhouette, but clearly it is his classic costume. Details can’t be seen.
: Can’t be seen clearly.
: Given Richard’s statement about wanting a version of him in every universe in order to make things happen, it seems as if Reece is trying to manipulate the way the universes roll out to some degree.
This is an experiment in writing and disseminating a more academic-style paper through the Vine.
PART 1 OF 3
In the Netflix Daredevil show, Wilson Fisk’s white painting, and the white walls associated with it, play a fairly big part in the storytelling. It’s very unusual for any quote-unquote fine art to be so prominently featured in a movie or TV show unless it’s part of a heist or a biography of an artist, let alone for it to be used so thoughtfully, so I would like to analyze the painting both aesthetically and how it is used within story.
Over the next three posts within this blog thread, I will discuss the actual painting and the two white walls as if all three are paintings, or even as if they are all the same painting, in a sense. I will also tend to call it “the white painting,” instead of Rabbit in a Snowstorm, for reasons described in the second post, below.
In this post, I’ll recount the details of the painting’s appearances in the show, but first, a summary: when Wilson Fisk is a boy, his father tells him to stare at a white wall as a punishment, and think about what it means to be a man. His father then proceeds to beat his mother, upon which Fisk tears himself from the wall and kills his father. When WIlson is older, he buys a painting that reminds him of the wall.* He seems to get some level of comfort from it. It also leads him into a relationship with Vanessa, its dealer, seemingly one of his only mature relationships in his life. When he finally goes to jail, he stares at the wall in his cell as if it were both the original wall and the painting, with a new sense of intensity and anger.
* This is my one unanswered question about the painting—why did Fisk go to the gallery in the first place? Did go there on purpose to buy it, having perhaps seen it in the gallery’s publicity? Did he randomly show up at the gallery by chance, going out to some art openings as other rich people in the city might do for an evening’s entertainment? Did he have some ulterior motive for showing up, like planning to extort the gallery or someone else in the area? I don’t think it was to arrange a “meet cute” with Vanessa; she seems to almost intrude on him when she introduces herself. He does clearly have a refined aesthetic taste, based on his apartment and his music, so perhaps he did just go out for a tour of the local gallery openings.
A DETAILED BREAKDOWN OF THE PAINTING’S SCENES
Times are approximate.
Episode 3: Rabbit in a Snowstorm
Starting at 49:04 in (3:40 remaining)
It is an opening reception for a group show at the Scene Contempo Gallery. Vanessa is strolling through. She sees Fisk staring at the white painting, with the shot centered from a few feet away.
The rest of the exhibition also seems to be pure abstraction, with most of the work consisting of monochromatically-colored canvases of a basically similar size.
Vanessa comes up and says, “There’s an old children’s joke. You hold up a white piece of paper and you ask, what’s this? A rabbit in a snowstorm.” She smiles and laughs, with no response. “Are you interested or just looking?”
“Interested,” he says.
“People always ask me how can we charge so much for what amounts to gradations of white. I tell them it’s not about the artist’s name, or the skill required, not even about the art itself. All that matters is, how does it make you feel?” Her eyes scan back and forth across the painting in an appreciative, searching way.
We finally see his face, which turns to look at her, longingly. “It makes me feel alone.”
They stare at each other. He turns back to the painting, while she continues to look at him.
Episode 4: In the Blood
Starting at 18:40 in (34:21 remaining)
Fisk comes to the gallery to see Vanessa.
V: How are you enjoying Rabbit in a Snowstorm? [It’s unclear if she’s using the title ironically, or if it’s the painting’s real title.]
F: You remember?
V: Of course. It’s one of my favorite pieces.
F: I hung it in my bedroom. It’s the last thing I see every night.
V: That’s either very romantic, or very sad. [smiling]
F: I like to tell myself it’s the former.
V: Don’t we all.
After some stumbling he asks her out.
Episode 5: World on Fire
Starting at 40:22 in (16:09 remaining)
Fisk and Vanessa are talking about friends.
V: So you do have those. And yet the man says he was lonely when he looked at my painting.
F: MY painting.
Episode 8: Shadows in the Glass
Starting at the beginning of the episode
Fisk wakes up after a nightmare and looks at the painting, in a sort of desperate need for calm. Classical music starts to play in the background. The first shot is of Fisk’s face, then it switches to the painting, and then the camera zooms in to a close-up on the painting. Fisk makes an omelette with the music continuing. The painting is part of what makes him feel civilized, under control, calm—“alone” doesn’t really feel like part of what he’s feeling. He feels like himself.
He picks out a black suit with black shirt and his dad’s cufflinks. Then he sees his young self in the mirror, soaked in blood.
Starting at 29:43 in (24:13 remaining)
Fisk wakes up again. Once again, the camera starts with his face, then does a reverse shot to look at the painting, except that this time it zooms out, and out of focus, instead of in. He stares at the painting. This time he looks more sad, wishing for something like love or hope or redemption. Wishing things had been different. It almost feels as if the painting is failing him, he wants it to do more but knows it can’t. He makes an omelette again. He picks out the same clothes. You get more of a feeling of “aloneness” from the process this time—it is sad to be doing it the same every time. He is lonely with himself. Classical music again.
Starting at 35:24 in (18:32 remaining)
Fisk’s father is angry with the young Wilson: “Think of the man you want to be. You sit here, and you stare at that wall. And you think about that. You’re my son. You should be a king, not some fat little pussy.”
The mom shakes her head.
Father: “Sit. What I say? Don’t look at me, look at the wall,” as Wilson looks briefly up at him for guidance. Now Wilson looks at the wall.
Father: “Don’t take your eyes off till I get back.”
The camera focuses on the wall and we see it has a similar texture to the painting.
The mom and dad talk about his loan to a loan shark. Wilson continues to look nervously at the wall. The dad starts beating the mom. Wilson continues to look at the wall, and we see it close up again.
Then we switch to Wilson in the present, staring out the windows of his apartment into the dark night, similarly to how one might stare at a painting. Wesley shows up with Vanessa, wearing white, his emotional savior. At one point they both stare out of (or at) the window together.
Starting at 38:43 in (15:15 remaining)
Wilson’s father continues to beat his mother. Wilson is now crying and staring at the wall. He gets up and kills his father.
Wilson screams “keep kicking him” while hammering in his father’s head, in reference to when his dad made him repeatedly kick a bully.
We see (and Wilson sees) the wall again when he hugs his mom. He is finally alone with his one ally in his life at the time, and for the first time with nothing to interfere with him accessing her; but his father’s murder seems to have created a new distance of a sort between them.
Starting at 47:04 in (6:56 remaining)
Wilson wakes up from a nightmare and looks at the painting again, but this time we don’t see his face in a reaction shot. The painting comes into focus behind him, but then he looks around at Vanessa in his bed almost immediately, and the focus is back on him, and his face. The reaction shot is to Vanessa, not the painting. He doesn’t have to rely on the painting any more. He isn’t alone any more. No music this time—Ben Urich’s voiceover starts instead. Fisk and Vanessa have breakfast together. His solitary habits are no longer a reminder of his lonesomeness. She picks out different clothes for him than what he’s worn before: a grey suit, grey shirt, and cufflinks that are both black and silver. She still wears white; during the press conference she wears a grey coat.
Episode 9: Speak of the Devil
Starting at 20:28 in (37:39 remaining)
Vanessa and Murdock are talking in the gallery.
V: You don’t need sight to appreciate art, but you do need honesty.
M: Sight helps.
V: Sure, but there’s something very intimate in experiencing art through someone else’s eyes.
V: Art isn’t furniture…if you knew exactly what you were looking for you’d just be decorating. Art should speak to you. Move you.
V: This one, for example, one of my favorite pieces. [This is the same thing she said about Fisk’s painting.]
V: Imagine a sea of tonal reds. The color of anger. Of rage. But also the color of the heart. Of love, hope. It strikes a perfect balance between the two.
M: I don’t know, it sounds aggressive.
V: It all depends on your point of view.
M: Maybe something a little less challenging.
Episode 13: Daredevil
Starting at 53:14 in (3:05 remaining)
Fisk settles down onto his bed in his prison cell. He is intense, angry, focused, the ill-intent. We see him staring at the wall from the side, but don’t understand. The camera looks at him directly in the face, zooming in. Then the camera moves behind him, and we see what he sees: another wall, which comes into focus similarly to how the painting came into focus after Fisk slept with Vanessa. The wall takes on new meanings. We see his face in close-up again. The ill-intent.
[Since I will be discussing the “ill-intent” concept a fair amount below, here’s the dialog from that scene, earlier in the episode:
F: There was a man, he was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was set upon by men of ill-intent. They stripped the traveller of his clothes, they beat him, and they left him bleeding in the dirt. A priest happened by, saw the traveller, but he moved to the other side of the road and continued on. And then a Levite, a religious functionary, came to the place, saw the dying traveler, but he too moved to the other side of the road, passed him by. Then came a man from Samaria, a Samaritan, a good man, he saw the traveler bleeding in the road and he stopped to aid him, without thinking of the circumstances or the difficulty it might bring him. The Samaritan tended to the traveller’s wounds, applying oil and wine. He carried him to an inn, gave him all the money he had, for the owner to take care of the traveler. The Samaritan, he continued on his journey. He did this simply because the traveler was his neighbor. He loved his city, and all the people in it.
I always thought that I was the Samaritan in that story. It’s funny, isn’t it, how even the best of men can be deceived by their true nature.
Guard: The hell does that mean?
F: It means that I’m not the Samaritan, that I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill-intent, who set upon the traveler, upon a road that he should not have been on.]
SOME OTHER DETAILS ABOUT THE WHITE PAINTING’S ART GALLERY
A few comments on the other art tidbits found during the gallery scenes.
Episode 3: Rabbit in a Snowstorm
The gallery has perhaps the cheesiest name ever, the “Scene Contempo Gallery.” Honestly this name is so unlikely to be used by a New York gallery that it makes me hard to take the rest of the art content of the show seriously, so let’s move on.
The gallery is hosting a group show that features selected work from seven artists, some of whom may be intentional references to real artists:
Eric Blum: there is a real Eric Blum who does abstract painting similar to what is in the show
I have searched to see who made the actual white painting seen in the show, but have not found anything. I would be interested to know the artist’s name. We also don’t know which of the above fictional artists is supposed to have painted it within the show’s universe. I am guessing that perhaps one of the people listed above may be the actual artist who painted the prop painting. (Another question is, was it painted specifically for the show, or was it an already-existing painting that was just loaned to the show by an artist?)
Episode 4: In the Blood
We can see the above artists’ complete names more easily.
Episode 9: Speak of the Devil
The gallery has a new show up, it looks a bit post-Cubist, some more general abstraction with a bit of an ‘80s neo-expressionism feel, and some that look a lot like Richard Diebenkorn’s work. It features selected work from:
Mike Crupi: there is a real Mike Crupi who is a documentary photographer
Michael Dave: there is a real photographer named Miki Davcev who uses Michael Dave as a pseudonym, and there is also a real Michael David whose work includes abstract painting like those in the gallery, and finally there is a real Michael David Lynch who has worked on several comic book movies
Based on how many of these people are either artists or people in the TV/movie industry, presumably Citaire is as well, and probably the other names in the first show too, although I was unable to find out their connection. Anyone who has any information on these people, please let me know!
Iceman being Gay, and the Curious, Mostly-Forgotten Case of the Romantic Quadrangle of Iceman, Angel, Moondragon, and Cloud
X-Men 600 has confirmed that the mainstream Earth-616 Iceman is gay. Previously it had only been revealed that the version of him from the past, who had come to live in the present, was gay, and many fans thought that perhaps 616 Bobby would remain straight, as his past version might come from an alternative timeline. Of course, with Secret Wars, who knows how this will affect any version of Iceman going forward, but the main point is, 616 Bobby is now gay, and always has been--he was just in the closet this whole time before.
Many people feel this new gay identity contradicts his past too much to be believed, and upends old romances or flirtations with various women. As someone who started reading comics in the original X-Factor days, for instance, I always liked his relationship with Opal. The new explanation is that these were basically attempts on his part to cover up his gay identity, and even to force himself to try to be straight. This explanation essentially invites us to reinterpret the past in light of the present.
Everyone will accept or not accept these explanations on their own. What I would like to do here is present one of the only storylines from the deep past that does, to some degree, actually provide what could be interpreted as evidence for Bobby's homosexuality. I'm not saying that it was originally intended to be evidence that Bobby is gay; I'm saying that now, as we look back on it, it can be interpreted in a new way--a way that supports his confusion and turmoil over his hidden, and maybe personally-misunderstood, sexual identity.
The storyline in question is from the Defenders, in the early 80s--an era where mainstream comics just did not feature any gay characters or characters with non-typical gender (although the Defenders was actually known for forward-looking relationships, including the interracial marriage between the white Devil-Slayer and his black wife, Cory, and various other plays with identity and body-switching). But the story I'm about to explain, written by Peter Gillis, took all that to a new level.
It tells the story of the romantic entanglements of Cloud, who starts the story as a teenaged girl and ends up with both male and female identities, and how Bobby, alone of the Defenders, has some major issues with his feelings about her male identity. I will interpret it--against the original meaning of the story--as Bobby wrestling with his suppressed gay feelings for Cloud's male identity.
While my interpretations about Bobby's suppressed gay identity are totally invented after the fact and only make sense in the new light of this year's revelations, the story does include what was very much a provocative story of a transsexual transformation and a lesbian relationship between Cloud and Moondragon, both of which were, again, highly unusual in the early 80s and honestly I am shocked it was passed by the comics code, which was still very much in effect at the time. Angel also takes part, a bit.
Here's what happened.
Moondragon joins the team. Odin considered her dangerous, so he put a headband on her that hobbled her psi powers if she used them too much for evil. But, she used them that way anyway. She made both Angel and Iceman have sexual/romatic feelings towards her, in the hope that eventually they would take her headband off. This manipulation went unknown for many issues. Check out these hilarious scans of Iceman and Angel thinking the same romance-drenched things about Moondragon in Defenders 126, 128, and 130.
Eventually Cloud joined the team. Moondragon's powers accidentally made Cloud attracted to her too. Essentially, Cloud totally fell in love with Moondragon, to an extent which seemed to even shock Moondragon. I should point out that while Moondragon has had lesbian relationships in recent times, this was not the case back then, so this is essentially her first female relationship. However, Moondragon mostly acted as a kind mentor back to Cloud, she never fully overtly reciprocated Cloud's declarations of love. But the relationship clearly went a little beyond that.
Here is Moondragon first reaching out towards Cloud, in what for Moondragon is an unusually warm embrace (of a mostly-naked girl dressed in wisps of cloud) (Cloud is presented as being probably around 18 or 19 years old) in Defenders 130, followed later on by Cloud's full declaration of love in Defenders 134. I can't stress enough that this was a fully openly lesbian declaration of love, at a time when such things simply weren't dealt with in mainstream comics even if that love was caused by Moondragon's powers--which we didn't know at the time anyway. Then we see another time they share a tender moment; here again Moondragon talks down to her a bit, she's not as fully into this relationship, and is basically using Cloud.
At the same time, Bobby and Cloud started a flirtatious relationship as well. It wasn't as serious, but they were kind of crushing on each other. These are from Defenders 132. Please note Moondragon's line about subconscious hostility towards women, which takes on an entirely new light when you know that Bobby is really gay and suppressing his true sexuality.
In what can now be seen in a heartbreaking struggle between her personal feelings and societal norms, Cloud eventually felt that her lesbian desires for Moondragon were wrong, illicit, unnatural. She used her powers to turn into a boy instead of a girl, so that her love would be more "natural"--i.e., fit societal norms by then being heterosexual instead of homosexual, even if abrogating other norms about gender-switching. I should point out that Cloud is really a sentient nebula (like, from space), and so she doesn't really have a natural human form at all, let alone a male or female one. But when this was all first happening, no one knew that. As far as the readers knew, she was just a girl with powers.
First there's this panel where she painfully wrestles with her feelings towards Moondragon, which she feels are "wrong," "unthinkable," "sicko," but which she can't stop feeling.
Then she has a dream, in which she and a dream-Moondragon (really Moondragon psychically inserting herself in her dreams) discuss their feelings, with Moondragon saying that "it can't be wrong unless you think it's wrong." (See scans way below.) Moondragon has ulterior motives here, but I think her feelings about sexual identity are still genuine. But upon waking, Moondragon is surprised to find out that Cloud has found a unexpected solution by turning male. Now Cloud feels "I can love you, Moondragon--everything that was wrong is now right! I can love you--and I do!" As she later explains to the rest of the Defenders, "I just couldn't go on like I was! I couldn't fall in love with Moondragon--and be like I was!" Now I want to emphasize that I don't think writer Peter Gillis is really against gay love. I think he's actually trying to make it OK for love and gender to take all forms, which again is an amazing statement for 1984 or so under the comics code.
So this made her one of the first transsexuals in comics, if you will--someone who felt that her natural gender must be wrong, and so she wanted to change to the other gender. Now obviously this is not quite a realistic situation, but it does provide a powerful example of someone who felt uncomfortable in their current gender and chose to do something about it, and who then felt the social ramifications of their choice.
Because after she turns male, the Defenders are of course shocked. They always knew her as a girl. However, most of them get over it fairly quickly. Bobby, however, has real issues. He alone can't deal with her new gender, because of his feelings for her. He says, "How can you be so comfortable, Val--with HIM sitting next to you?" When Cloud responds, since she's right there, he says, "Oh sure--just your regular average guy/girl." He sarcastically asks if he should kiss her or shake his hand. He basically reacts to Cloud the same way that some people still have even today with transsexuals. Val puts him in his place, but Cloud is really shaken by her lack of acceptance. (I should note that while Val has in recent years admitted to lesbian relationships of her own, her quote here about "I once had a mortal woman partake of my nature" is not a sexual metaphor, it just means she and another woman switched bodies for a while.)
This is all in Defenders 136.
There's also this panel from a little later in Defenders 140, where he is "nervous" when she is a boy, and the whole thing is "too weird to deal with."
Now in the original interpretation, I think we'd say Bobby's issues are because Bobby is straight, and likes her as a girl, and when she becomes a boy, and he still likes her, he doesn't know how to deal with that. That's already a pretty interesting story of sexual and gender identity.
However, with the current revelation that Bobby is in fact gay, there are two slightly different ways to interpret this old story: either Bobby knows he's gay, and is pretending to have a crush on her (as, for instance, he was pretending to luridly watch girls' aerobics taps with Angel in another issue of this time), but is actually just friends with her. Then when she turns into a boy, he now finds that his pretend crush is a real one, but he can't do anything about it because he's in the closet, so he has to pretend that he doesn't like her new male gender in order to reinforce his outwardly-straight identity. In other words, he doth protest too much. The other option is that Bobby hasn't even personally come to terms with the fact that he's gay, and doesn't understand his own male desires, submerging them deeply into his subconscious. Therefore his flirtations with Cloud are innocent and meaningless, but when she turns male, he suddenly feels all-new feelings of desire for him that he himself can't explain, and starts to get angry with himself over what he can't admit to himself. This could be, to borrow a term from former Defenders writer J.M. Dematteis's story of Moonshadow that was written about the same time, the beginning of his journey to awakening. He's "nervous" and feels the whole thing is "too weird to deal with" because he doesn't want to deal with the truth about himself as a gay man--something he won't come to accept until today.
We later see Cloud still trying to have a relationship with Moondragon, although Moondragon is clearly having none of it any more, in Defenders 138.
Cloud tries to make up with Bobby. She is freaked out when she accidentally turns into a girl again, clearly feeling more comfortable in her new male gender, and talks about how she's the same in either gender, but Bobby can't see that. She wants Bobby to shake her hand as a man, to at least be friends, but Bobby has a totally visceral reaction that makes him back away. Inside, at least, he knows he's a hypocrite. Again, in the new understanding that Bobby is gay, this takes on a whole new light: he's physically reacting to his suppressed desire for her as a man, and knows he's a hypocrite because of his own sexual identity. Defenders 138.
Eventually Moondragon admits that she used her powers to amp Iceman, Angel, and Cloud's feelings for her. Cloud rejects this possibility, and insists that it was real love, but ultimately seems to accept it. Moondragon seems conflicted over what she actually felt towards Cloud, answering that she doesn't know what love really is. She certainly feels tender for Cloud, at least. I feel like this is Moondragon coming to terms not so much with her innate gay or bisexual nature, but the fact that she actually felt love for someone, and this was so unusual for her normally cold self that it felt unnatural to her.
Cloud and Bobby finally have a heart-to-heart. He says, "There's no way I can let myself fall hard for you when I know that somewhere inside you is--a guy." (Again, protest too much?) She admits she loves Moondragon, not Bobby, but does have warm feelings for him. She knows he's only comfortable when she's a "cute girl"--which we can now interpret as meaning, because he doesn't have to wrestle with his gay nature when he's around her as a girl. Bobby eventually manages to get over himself and tentatively accepts Cloud, whatever her identity. Defenders 142.
Later, Cloud's feelings about Moondragon, who both manipulated and spurned her, turn negative.
Here, she talks with Bobby about being mad at her in Defenders 143.
Then she helps defeat Moondragon, who has now temporarily turned evil and accepted the power of the Dragon of the Moon, by channeling her rage against her, in Defenders 144. Moondragon's own emotional journey over this time is also very interesting and impactful, but I can't sufficiently get into that here.
And later, Cloud uses that same rage against Moondragon to help defeat a demon, Hotspur, in Defenders 147.
However, Cloud's old friend Seraph eventually says she can show Cloud her true identity. Cloud is extremely fearful of finding out the truth, and in a desperately sad scene, begs Bobby to not make her find out, saying that she'll even stay as a girl for him, something she clearly doesn't want to do. This just reeks of so many of the kinds of painful, unnecessary compromises that gay and pre-transformation-transsexuals are forced to make for their families and friends and society. Happily, Bobby is past this now and tells her to find out the truth. (It turns out that Cloud took on both male and female forms because she based them on two humans who were in a coma that she met when she first came to earth.) Defenders 149.
When she eventually finds out who she really is, and leaves the Defenders to return to space, she has a particular moment of goodbye with Bobby, talking of acceptance and how identity and love are the same regardless of gender. Defenders 150.
Later, when Seraph leaves, Seraph also talks about how Cloud and Bobby had a particularly strong relationship, leaving the whole relationship on a positive note. Defenders 151.
This story of Cloud, Bobby, Moondragon (and tangentially Angel at the beginning) would be a pretty unusual and even transgressive story in the early 80s. No matter how you read it, it's the story of a girl who found herself in love with a woman, and changed her gender to make herself feel better because she thought it was wrong to love another woman, and the way that Bobby was unable accept that new gender due to his feelings for her. And that over time, Cloud was able to come to terms with the fact that she was in fact both genders, and Bobby was able to come to terms with his feelings for her.
But I do think that now we can interpret this story in new, additional ways, given Bobby's new identity as a gay man, and read extra reasons as to why he might have felt uncomfortable with her as a man. I do see it as just about the only evidence that could support the interpretation that he was gay from his past history. I'm sure many will say that since this wasn't the original intent, this new interpretation makes no sense. But I'm a believer that any text can be read in any way, and that authorial intent doesn't trump the reader's interpretations. Now that we have new evidence, we can reinterpret the old evidence in new ways, and that's what I wanted to do here.
In this thread I plan to discuss Owen Reece’s mental state during the Dark Avengers story arc, which culminates in his battle with Sentry.
I plan to show that Reece was heavily mentally and emotionally unstable, full of self-doubt, self-hate, and fear, that this affected his powers at multiple points during the Dark Avengers arc, and that due to this fact, the battle between him and Sentry does not prove which one of them was more powerful, or better at matter manipulation, at that point in time.
Please notice that I am NOT arguing here that Molecule Man was more powerful than Sentry, that’s a whole different subject—that's a completely different subject. I am simply arguing that, due to the effect of Reece’s mental and emotional problems on his powers, the fight itself does not prove which is more powerful, one way or the other.
I am only going to deal with issues leading up to and including the Dark Avengers arc, and won’t discuss the current Incursion/Secret Wars 2015 storyline, in which it is made clear that the background reason for the increase in Reece’s madness and instability over the years is the long-term murdering of Molecule Men from other dimensions.
Please see links for scans.
REECE’S OVERALL MENTAL HISTORY (AND ALSO A HISTORY OF HIS POWERS)
Reece has obviously had a long history of mental and emotional problems. These have included general paranoia, an antisocial tendency, and low self-esteem, all of which led him to become a villain in the first place. However he also created subconscious mental blocks for his powers right from the start.
Original Power Limitations
The most well-known of these is that he used to be limited to only affecting inorganic molecules. However, this limitation was pretty inconsistent in practice. For instance, he was able to affect electricity right from the start (examples 1 and 2), and was also able to affect such things as the Surfer’s Power Cosmic. He created multiple new bodies for himself (examples 1 and 2: in the first example, it says the second guy is his son, but later on we discover he really recreated himself as his own son), which clearly were organic, and also possessed multiple people’s minds—minds that were also obviously organic (a few examples of people he possessed: a girl, a guy, Reed Richards and a snake whose body becomes humanoid after he takes it over). In fact, he even alters the girl's body and turns her mom into a doll. He even turned the Thing into glass, and turned another guy into Mr. Fantastic and stretched him to death. He turned the Thing and the Man-Thing into normal humans. So there were tons of examples of times when he affected organic molecules very directly. Sometimes the writers tried to make up explanations for how he could do this, but they were always pretty lame excuses. And, he also was able to do things that seemingly have nothing to do with matter control, like traveling between dimensions (pages 1 and 2). But regardless of all these examples of him affecting organic matter and energy, the official storyline was that he had subconsciously limited his power to only affect inorganic matter, and this was often repeated in narrative captions, or by Reece himself.
He also, from the start, created a subconscious need for a metal wand, through which he directed his power. This wand wasn’t actually necessary, but he handicapped himself so that he couldn’t use his power without it (and in fact later on, his consciousness became stuck in it for several appearances, as seen in several of the links above).
But, he was sent to Battleworld to be on the villains team by the Beyonder in the first Secret Wars anyway. Eventually, as is well known, Dr. Doom gained the power of the Beyonder, lifted the mental blocks from Reece’s mind, and all his former problems fell like scales from his eyes. He was now the consummate matter manipulator, and since matter can be converted to energy, the consummate energy manipulator as well. However, he clearly had capabilities well beyond that, since he was able to travel interdimensionally, sense the private communications of far-away Abstracts, etc. By Secret Wars II he was really more of a general omnipotent than someone who was just a very powerful matter/energy manipulator. But anyway I digress. The point is, at this point in time he was at his mental best, feeling confident in his relationship with his newfound girlfriend Marsha, and at peace with his role in the universe.
Problems Begin Again
But then he found out his powers came from to the same energy found in a Cosmic Cube, and he merged with the Beyonder to become a Cosmic Cube for a while. When he came back to Earth, he had lost his powers, and with them he had lost his confidence in his relationship with Marsha. He got his powers back, but Marsha left him, and he has been mentally and emotionally troubled ever since. He had used her as a crutch; once she was gone, his previous confidence and happiness were shattered.
He snapped, and turned straight up evil again (page 1 and 2). He found the Beyonder’s mental remnant in the now-sentient-Cosmic-Cube Kosmos, and battled him/her, this time defeating him/her. Together, their power was able to affect distant times, space, and dimensions—clearly he was still pretty powerful even as a Cube derivative. Kubik, another sentient Cube, even said Reece was the most powerful of the Cube brotherhood because of his human nature, since the others were only abstracts and didn’t have the added potential of human emotions (pages 1 and 2). However, this emotional “strength” of his has never really shown up since then—Reece’s human nature has pretty much entirely been a weakness for him since then (until the current Incursion/Secret Wars story). Anyway his evil side went back into his subconscious, and he was just poor, pathetic, emotionally weak Owen Reece again.
Now I’ll break it down, with links to excerpts from the scans above:
Reece has some new "friends"
Reece is in Dinosaur, Colorado. He wants the town to be all his, regressing to an emotionally “safe” space, and rejecting any strangers. He is paranoiacally protective of the town and his solitude, believing that everyone is out to get him. He is controlling the townspeople’s minds, and when any strangers come, he disintegrates them. But, and this is important, HE DOESN’T REALIZE HE IS DOING THIS, as we’ll see later. So right from the start we know that he is not only paranoid and clutching to his birth location essentially in a desire to revert to his childhood, but he is DELUDED—that is, what he thinks is reality is not the same as actual reality. Also, like any paranoid, he is full of fear and severely lacking in confidence: if you think everyone is out to get you, that means you must believe yourself to be supremely vulnerable.
These killings are noticed in the outside world, and Norman Osborn sends Sentry to investigate. Sentry notices the town seems depopulated, and then sees Owen, who disintegrates Sentry—not from any specific ill will, he just doesn’t want any strangers around.
The Avengers attack in full force. Reece makes most of them disappear. Then he teleports Osborn to what seems like another dimension (but turns out to actually be in a barn), where Reece is accompanied by his new “friends”—Mephisto, Beyonder, Enchantress, and Zarathos. These are not the real beings, just copies Reece has made out of his imagination. These “friends” are amazing examples of how far down Reece’s mental and emotional state has plunged. First, as we will see in a minute, they are his ONLY friends now. They are, in their own words, the friends he “deserves.” Again, this shines a pretty harsh light on his confidence and self-image, if he thinks the friends he deserves include characters like a demon of deceit, a goddess of seduction and deceit, and a demon of vengeance. He has gone from a situation where he basically had a two-person version of multiple personality disorder (his normal personality and his bald, “evil” personality) to one where he has even more personalities, each intended to embody a different aspect of his thoughts. The current psychological term for multiple personalities, dissociative personality disorder, is actually even more descriptive than the old term in this instance. He is dissociating his negative and dangerous (including the danger of sexuality, in the case of the Enchantress, since his sexual confidence is very low due to his failed relationship with Marsha) thoughts and emotions from himself, because he can’t deal with the fact that they actually exist within himself, forcing them to embody themselves into other physical selves so that he feels less responsible for these feelings. (But still sees them as the “friends” his degraded self deserves.) This is a prime example of how his personality is completely weak and unable to come to grips with itself, let alone exterior reality. He is completely undermining his potential, and setting limits on what “he” can do (as opposed to what his other “friends” might advise) as a person, as completely as he did when he limited himself to inorganic molecules or the need for a wand.
So already we’ve seen that Owen has a unstable grasp of reality, and an unstable sense of who he is himself. Sounds like he’s in great shape for a fight, right?
It is worth pointing out that Reece seemingly-confidently tells Osborn that he controls all the molecules of the world, and gives some seemingly sophisticated examples of how he can do that. Right after this he even puts Osborn through a psychological gauntlet of hallucinations from his past. However, these examples are honestly not that complicated for Reece (as he himself notes later), and he is just acting confident while feeling scared. He is still massively powerful compared to normal people. The questions that we will be getting to, eventually, is how he fares when he goes up against another truly massive power (like the Sentry’s) as opposed to garden-variety humans like Osborn, and whether his powers even work effectively in normal situations right now (as he thinks they do), or if he is only DELUDED into thinking that they are working well. Spoiler: I am going to argue that he is deluded :)
Anyway, after talking with Osborn, he talks with Enchantress about how he just wants to be left alone. Basically he’s caught in the grip of a desire to return to a sort of fetal state, metaphorically speaking. He says that if he just kills Osborn, others would come after him, and he’d have to kill them, and so on, until eventually Reed Richards would get him. I think this is a really telling moment. This whole scenario of continually killing people is NOT really what he would have to do. All he has to do is psychically control everyone in the world and make them simply not notice what’s going on in Dinosaur—make it a mental blind spot in everyone’s mind. For someone with his power, this should be EASY. It is actually not that different from when Sentry made everyone forget him. Cosmic Cube beings are easily capable of this; consider when a very early Kubik was able to alter the entire Earth and its inhabitants and culture into a new form in such a way that everyone forgot about their old lives. Reece could make everyone ignore him, without killing anyone, easily. But instead, he is so far down the rabbit hole mentally, that he doesn’t see this obvious solution. He retreats into blunt force approaches, despite the subtlety of his powers, deluded into simplicity. He is clearly not at his best on a tactical or strategic basis.
So then he goes ahead and mentally tortures Osborn, as I mentioned. Meanwhile, Sentry reforms. Reece goes to him and notes that Sentry is made of different matter than anything he has experienced before, showing that fighting with Sentry will take a higher level of competency than a fight against a random high-powered being. Reece “kills” him again, this time not simply by disintegrating him, but by blowing his body to bits, actually ripping his limbs and body apart in an explosion before fully disintegrating him. Then he says that they could have been friends, presumably because both Bob Reynolds and Reece are both crazy (as is Osborn; the story makes an intentional comparison among the three of them). This method of destroying Sentry really stands out to me. The Molecule Man doesn’t normally kill people like this—he has transmuted people, he has disintegrated people, but he has never eviscerated someone physically like this. To me it is a further example of how far afield he is from his normal self.
Problems with his Powers
Then we see what he did with all the other Dark Avengers. Some of these examples are also very telling and show that his powers are very much NOT working at their best, or as he would expect them to. If he can’t deal with these essentially normal humans, how could he be expected to be at his best when fighting someone of Sentry’s power?
He tries to turn Daken into a tree. Reece comments on how Daken’s healing factor is fighting back against the transformation. By the end, Daken is transformed as Reece wished. But the idea that Daken’s healing factor could in any way be trouble to someone of Reece’s power, the idea that it could slow down his transformation for even a second, is laughable. Reece is still, in terms of his potential, capable of creating planet-wide physical changes at the minimum. And we’re supposed to believe that one guy’s healing factor could fight back against his power at all? There’s no way. The only explanation of this is that Reece is not in full control of his powers, due to his weak mental state and lack of confidence. He has been attempting to project confidence against, say, Osborn, but clearly the rest of the context shows that that’s just bravado; one does not attempt to live in a metaphorically fetal state, under extreme paranoia of fear and doubt, with a bunch of friends that are dissociated embodiments of one’s own feelings, while being truly self-confident.
Reece then talks about Ares, and how to send these guys back so he won’t be noticed. Again, the fact that he doesn’t see that he can just send them back and make it so no one notices, using his powers, is astounding, and a sign of his inability to think straight. His “friends” Enchantress and Zarathos tell him he should run, and that everyone wants to kill him, again showing that he’s not confident in how to deal with other challengers to his power.
Then we see that he turned Bullseye into a barrel of water, but that water is “angry” and can move. Again, this is a stunning push-back against his powers, like Daken’s. Is it a funny scene? Sure, but there’s no way that a normal human like Bullseye could somehow fight back against Reece’s powers in such a way that he can retain a degree of his emotions while being supposedly inanimate matter. Again, this is a crystal clear example that Reece’s powers are not working at their full extent.
Reece once again violently bursts Sentry asunder (again, in a far more violent and bloody way than he’s ever acted outside of this arc). Reece starts to fight back against SHIELD, but Sentry reforms a final time, and starts to control Reece. Sentry says he needs Reece to put everything back, because Reece has more experience with these matters.
Reece famously says, “How are you doing THIS TO ME?!?! I CONTROL THE MOLECULES! I DO!” In other words, he is . What else would one expect from a fractured mind that doesn’t understand reality or itself, that is in fear and doubt of everything?
Reece does put things back, and Sentry tells him to “go away,” and it looks like Reece explodes in the same way Reece exploded Sentry, but presumably he teleports away somewhere, and eventually shows up again in the Incursion storyline. Sentry then explains that he is also a matter manipulator.
Osborn Sums Things Up
On the last pages, Osborn supports this whole notion of Reece’s mental and emotional state: “You don’t want to end up like Owen Reece, do you? Not knowing what’s real and what’s not? Not having friends.” (Of course, this is the pot calling the kettle black, since Osborn has his own paranoid, delusional, dissociative issues.) He confirms that Reece’s grasp on the outside world was his problem. Not knowing what was real and what was not, constantly drowning in illusionary friends he made, and being unaware of whole aspects of reality that he was subconsciously affecting (like dead visitors), he was incapable of dealing with his powers on any large scale, and even on a small scale in some instances. Daken and Bullseye were both able to resist his powers to different degrees and in different ways; sure, Daken was eventually turned into a tree, and Bullseye was turned into water, but no normal humans should have ever been able to resist his powers in that way, even for a second. He killed 44 people without knowing it. He made imaginary friends for himself without being aware of their origin. And when he was forced into combat with a character whose power level is near his own (whether above or below), he was simply unable to deal with the level of that challenge, due to his severe mental delusions, emotional and cognitive instability, and lack of confidence. Before he came to Dinosaur, he had been imprisoned on the Raft, where his power level was so low, due to his low mental state, that even SHIELD was able to capture him. Since then, his mental state seemingly deteriorated even more—at the very least he is worse off here than he was when he met Doc Samson (which was his last appearance before he went to the Raft), since in that story he wasn’t experiencing delusions and hallucinations on the scale seen here.
A Q&A to clear up a few extra points
Q. Why would his mental state make him weak now, when his most powerful post-Cube state came about during another psychological break (the fight with Kosmos-Beyonder)?
A. While he fought the Kosmos-Beyonder, he wasn’t really emotionally troubled or deluded, he had released a whole secondary personality that took over his body. That is to say, his normal self was emotionally troubled, AND THAT FACT allowed his untroubled evil self to come forth (see the scans of this linked to above). That evil self had no emotional weaknesses; it was his “strong” image of himself, macho (as seen in his muscled form) and very capable. That self was thus able to fully utilize his power and take down the Kosmos-Beyonder. (To quote from that issue, Reece calls that side of himself "a side which knows no restraint or control," and Beyonder calls Reece's normal personality "a weak, sniveling creature afraid to fully use the awesome energies at his command", which makes the comparison between the two, and their ability to use his power, pretty clear.)
His Dark Reign self, on the other hand, still had his normal personality in charge (with various evil selves split off as “devils on his shoulder”), and thus was full of weakness. This unconfident, delusional, meandering, unenthusiastic self had far less capacity and initiative to control his powers effectively than the vindictive, ambitious, self-assured evil personality that fought Kosmos-Beyonder.
Q. Sentry, Osborn, and Reece are all insane here. Why would Reece’s insanity cripple him more than the other two?
A. Sentry and Osborn are basically high-functioning in their insanity. Sentry’s mental weaknesses don’t make him any less effective as a fighter; when pushed to extreme his weaknesses push him to becoming the Void, much as Molecule Man's “evil” side that came out in his fight with Kosmos-Beyonder. The Void and the Molecule Man’s evil bald persona are both beings/personalities that are energized to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals, and have no mental blocks that they put in their own way to stop themselves from achieving those goals. They are more dangerous than their normal selves. Whereas Owen’s normal personality’s mental problems are the opposite; he is always retreating, always causing himself problems. Also, as it happened, the Sentry that MM fought was a very confident Sentry, in the end; a Sentry that had just woken up to the full extent of his powers and found peace in a new sense of self-identity, similar to when Doom first unlocked Reece’s full potential. So this battle was, in its last moments, a very self-doubting, deluded Reece against a fully-confident Sentry. Osborn, as later becomes clear in Siege, eventually loses his ability to function and becomes more like Reece’s self-doubting, disassociated personality when Loki pushes his Goblin self to the forefront.
Propositions that I have shown:
Reece was delusional, with a poor grasp of reality
Reece was desirous of a return to an imaginary perfect state of being where there is no conflict
Reece has had a long history of creating mental blocks on his own power based on his lack of self-confidence and instability, and constant self-undermining
Reece’s recent mental history affected his powers so much that he was able to be imprisoned by SHIELD
Reece was unable to use his power at its normal full effectiveness even against two essentially human characters, Daken and Bullseye
Reece was not utilizing one of his confident alter egos, like the one that fought Kosmos-Beyonder, but his own self-doubt-riddled, always-second-guessing main personality, in the fight against Sentry
Reece was not in the mental shape necessary for him to combat Sentry, who was in contrast fully confident in his own newfound abilities
Therefore, given that Reece was full of his classically power-hobbling self-doubt, self-hate, and fear, and due to the limitations on his powers shown directly in this story arc, he was almost certainly not in full control of his powers. Thus this fight does not tell us which is innately more powerful, Reece or Sentry.