Wednesday, July 6, 2016

1983: The Eros Avenger part I: A Starfox In The Hen House...

By Jef Willemsen (

The ever-changing nature of their lineup is one of the Avengers' biggest strengths. But you're never sure how a newcomer will do. Some work, others are just plain embarrasing. And then there's the guy who can make you like what he does. Yes, just what is the deal with Starfox?

"From Titan with love... Starfox!"

By the Summer of 1983, the Titan in red, white and yellow became an Avenger, courtesy of Roger Stern. But just who is he? Well... Long story short, introduced way back in 1973's Iron Man I#55, Eros is the brother of the power mad Thanos of the aforementioned Titan. Unlike his brother, who's literally in love with death and dreams of universal conquest and destruction, Eros' mission in life is all about peace and (a lot of) love. The fact that his primary metahuman ability involves the psionic stimulation of people's pleasure centres is something one shouldn't gloss over.

Yes, Eros does his own kind of conquering...

So, before the 80s even dawned, we're dealing with someone who can actively control minds and... let's not kid ourselves, manipulate and take advantage of anyone he comes across. As soon as Eros turns on the charm, you will love him even if he's setting your hair on fire. Yet, that slightly disturbing aspect of his powers was quietly ignored. For most of the 70s and even into the early 80s, he was written as Thanos' less genocidal sibling and Captain Mar-Vell's best friend.

His first notable 80s appearance was at Mar-vell's side in the gut wrenching 1982 Marvel Graphic Novel called The Death Of Captain Marvel.

"You're kind of young to be writing your memoirs, aren't you?"

An odd statement for someone who's technically immortal. But yeah, Eros wasn't wrong... Mar-Vell was in the prime of his life. So what could possibly be bothering him? Turns out: a heck of a lot. Several years earlier, Mar-vell had been exposed to a carcinogenic compound during a fight against the villain Nitro. His superior physique and stamina, plus the retarding effects of his negabands had kept the disease in check for a long time. But ultimately, the cancer mutated and began killing him in earnest. Mar-Vell was dying. A grim fate he'd already made peace with. So by the time he told Eros, he mainly wanted his friend to do him a favor.


The Death of Captain Marvel is filled with memorable moments arguably far more poignant than this talk. But even this low key exchange truly hits you where you live. Moments after learning his best friend is dying, Eros is asked to look after Mar-Vell's lover: the enigmatic Elysius. You'd think that'd be putting the not so proverbial fox in charge of the hen house, but Mar-Vell trusts his friend enough.  The eternal one accepts this responsibility and then has a very private, powerful, telling cry. 

Mar-vell ultimately succumbs to cancer. He's laid to rest in the presence of most of Earth's superheroes who'd come to pay their respects. And then, time passes... Eros honors his promise and does what he can to comfort the distraught Elysius. Who is appreciative, but by the time Avengers I#230 rolled around in April, 1983 she realized that forcing a cosmic Don Juan to be a grief counselor isn't very fair... even if it was kind of his idea.

"Why don't you fly off and have fun?"

Some might argue Elysius was mostly looking out for herself by sending the increasingly restless lothario away. She's right about one thing: it's in his very nature to wander. How long could he have lasted without (subconsciously) turning his power on her? But no, for my money this decision proved Elysius understood the nature of her friend and allowed him to be true to himself. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Eros gotta frolic and no, he won't die...

Needless to say, he's overjoyed...

"*sigh* Do as you must, Eros..."

There's something inherently comical about watching the equally immortal father and son team of Eros and Mentor interact. By now, dear old dad has accepted his son's never changing eccentricities and indulges him with a resigned sigh. Eros is about to go off a'wandering again... Sure, it's a little disappointing he refuses to grow up or act his age, but if your other son is a purple skinned death lovin' demi-god, you learn to pick your battles.

With some help from Titan's living computer I.S.A.A.C., Eros compiles a list of planets with the highest adventure potential. He's actually surprised that Sol-III, or Earth is mentioned. Considering it's practically next door, he boards a ship and hops over. He shows up in Avengers I#231, landing in the Avengers' backyard and quite rightly startling Jarvis who is ready to defend the mansion singlehandedly...

"Oh, come on! You can tell me!"

The Avengers aren't home, they're off fighting Plantman of all people, but that's not the point. Here we have an alien intruder immediately using his mind control powers to get his way. It should be creepy, and if Eros had looked more like his brother it would have been. But no, Eros flashes his foxy smile and Jarvis is persuaded to reveal classified information. The Titan steers his ship towards the fight, making a flashy entrance by lobotomizing the big ol' plantmonster.

"Greetings, my friends! Eros of Titan bids you well!"

Understandably surprised to see him, the Avengers get another surprise as soon as the fight is over...

"Why, I should think it's obvious. I've come to join the Avengers!"

Again with that grin. A case could be made he's already using his powers to help sell the premise of him, a virtually unknown, becoming a member. You'll note the male members are all perplexed, with Hawkeye being instantly annoyed. But She-Hulk cracks a naughty smile, while Wasp and the new Captain Marvel appear more than a little intrigued. Their curiosity ever so slightly piqued, they take Eros home to talk it over...

In Avengers I#232, the founders discuss the current state of the team and how Eros might fit into it. Hawkeye had broken his leg during the Plantman fight and Iron Man was incapable of serving because of his alcohol addition. In other words: the Avengers had some slots to fill on the roster. But did Eros have the right stuff?

"Training! That's it! We could try him out as an Avenger-in-training! 
It worked for Captain Marvel!"

Well yeah, but Captain Marvel only had her powers for about 5 minutes before she met the Avengers. She actually stood to benefit from the basic training she received. One wonders what even a World War II vet, not to mention a ditzy socialite turned winsome heroine could teach an immortal outerspace powerhouse. But Janet makes a few calls and gets through to the president to set it all up (she and Nancy had the same hairdresser). 

After ironing out the nuts and bolts of the arrangement, the founders join the other Avengers to grill Eros. Essentially, they want to make sure he isn't really a nut about to bolt.

"Eros, you say that you want to be an Avenger. Why?"

It's an obvious question that gets an obvious answer. Why wouldn't you want to be an Avenger if it meant satisfying your taste for adventure? It's every kids' dream to be a superhero and the Avengers are the gold standard. So, why not indeed? And when it comes to having fun, Eros is a big kid with the power to back it up. He's also a very cunning linguist.

"You know most of my talents, I aided you in the past"

True, though by this point the Avengers weren't aware he could manipulate emotions. Note how he cleverly admits to having more powers without going into too many details. It's called plausible deniability. But that beaming smile of his should creep anyone out. Thor tries his best to play up the fact Eros is related to Thanos, but if your own evil halfbrother is the main reason there's even an Avengers to begin with, accusations like that really don't fly.

Now, bring it home, Eros!

"Nice line!"

It is indeed... And if you ever needed more proof that Eros was working his charms to get in, look at how the female members respond to his words. They're charmed, and then some. So it's decided, the Eternal gets to be a trainee. But it's morning in America which means there's no room for indecency and filth... And having an Avenger called Eros didn't sit well with Ronnie. Clearly, a codename is required and that's where the Wasp gets to display her very special brand of creativity... 

"You're a pretty foxy guy... and you've been among the stars. How about "Starfox"?

... Yeahhh. Well. It's like the song goes...

But speaking of codenames, during his first mission with Thor and his fellow trainee Monica Rambeau, Eros has a little heart-to-heart about her appropriating the Captain Marvel name. She was hoping to have his blessing, but surprisingly, this happens...

"Eros, I begin to wonder if your reputation with the ladies is truly deserved"

You'll note that Eros didn't look at Monica when he unthinkingly made his rather insensitive comments. Considering his powers only work with direct eye (and smile) contact, that would explain why Rambeau was hurt by his words. But they soon have bigger fish to fry because they catch up with Plantman who had commandeered a submarine to escape them last time. Now, he isn't quite so lucky even though he had the heroes fight enlarged, semi-sentient tangleweed.

"What grand sport! Yes, I think I'm going to enjoy being an Avenger!"

So far, it's all fun and games... We'll see how the larger Marvel universe responds to the Avengers' newest member in part II of The Eros Avenger: Don't Mind If I Do!

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