Tuesday, February 28, 2017

1977 - Anatomy of a Cover - The Avengers #162

By George Perez and Pablo Marcos 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1982: The Dreadful Druid part I: The Doctor is in!

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

Telepaths and the Avengers, it's never been a good match. Forget Moondragon, the most notorious mindreader to ever burden Earth's mightiest has to be Doctor Druid. His delusions of grandeur would lead to the team's 1980s destruction. Let's review the decade of the Druid! 

"I am Dr. Druid!" 

Well, technically, your name is Dr. Droom. Y'see, the character first saw print in June of 1961, a few short months before Fantastic Four I#1 hit the shelves and the Marvel Universe was born. Debuting in Amazing Adventures I#1, Droom was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and portrayed as a magician type adventurer who had a few typical run ins with monsters before vanishing into obscurity. Never one to waste a decent idea, Lee would later recycle most of the concept when he dreamed up Doctor Strange.

In the 1970s, Droom was salvaged and retroactively inducted into the Marvel Universe with a new origin and name: he was Anthony Ludgate, a psychiatrist who discovered his druidic ancestry after encountering the Ancient One who unlocked his mystical potential. This granted a paunchy, balding middle aged man considerable psi-talent, while also turning him into an expert hypnotist and master of the occult. Oh, and Droom became Druid to avoid confusion with a certain Latverian monarch.

In 1998, Roger Stern wrote the short-lived Marvel Universe that featured a band of adventurers called the Monster Hunters to go on, well, adventures. Remembering Dr Druid's original origin, Stern included him in the mix, thereby retroactively cementing his backstory well over 35 years after the fact. Clearly taking a liking to both the Doc and this team, Stern included the Monster Hunters when he wrote the 2000 limited series Marvel: The Lost Generation. They ran into the First Line around 1958, when hunting for a monster that turned out to be an early Skrull invader.

"As you wish" 

Mind you, the Marvel Universe still relies on the sliding timescale. This concept, introduced in the 1980s, means that the events in Fantastic Four I#1 always occured roughly 15 years after whatever year it happens to be. Imagine that, it's 2017 and the rocket flight that gave the FF their powers happened after 9/11. 

That still doesn't change the fact Anthony Druid was, physically speaking, past his prime by 1958 or even 1999 standards. Yet, as we enter the 1980s, he would slowly but surely rise to be a major player. Perhaps advanced meditation techniques, mental discipline or clean living slowed his aging but he didn't exactly look like a fitness guru. Not even when the Avengers first encountered him in 1982's Avengers I#225. To say they got off on the wrong foot is a bit of an understatement.

"They'll suit our purposes well!" 

Here's Druid using his powers to enter Avengers Mansion undetected, clearly testing the team and its abilities to see if they fit his needs. The doctor is looking for heroes capable of saving the Black Knight, a former Avenger currently stuck fighting the crusades, and about to be killed by the Fomor, an ancient band of demonic, Celtic baddies. But instead of simply asking for help, he does this...

"I am Doctor Druid... And my powers stem from the earth magic of my ancient namesake" 

So, can we talk about the codename "Doctor Druid" for a second? It has a nice, alliterative quality to it in the grand ol' tradition of smilin' Stan. But a druid is also a healer, a doctor if you will. This means his actual superhero name is "Doctor Doctor".Which is on a level of redundancy with the La Brea tar pits which translates as "the the tar tar pits". 

" Even if that power were not augmented by another's...
My super-hypnotism would still stop you in your tracks!"

Yup... During his first official encounter with the Avengers, Druid ambushes and kidnaps them in their own headquarters with a casual arrogance to rival many a supervillain. The team is then strong armed into fighting the Fomor on his behalf. In the end, they're successful and the Black Knight returns to the present, seemingly none the worse for wear. But you'd think they'd be pretty ticked off at Druid for treating them as pawns. 

You'd be wrong.

"Until we meet again, my friends!" 

And meet again they did... Apart from a brief and entirely too inconsequential encounter during the Contest of Champions published later in 1982 the Avengers and Dr. Druid wouldn't cross paths until Roger Stern was well into his fourth year as writer on the book and about to launch his defining story arc: the Mansion Siege.

After months of careful preparation, Baron Helmut Zemo led his new Masters of Evil in a successful take-over of Avengers Mansion. Things were looking grim, with Hercules and Captain Marvel out of the picture, Captain America and the Black Knight captured and the mansion closed off by an impenetrable darkforce barrier, courtesy of the mentally addled Master known as Blackout.

Luckily, Dr. Druid happened to be in town promoting his new book...

"I've an old debt to repay".

By this time, Doctor Druid has made a name for himself writing books, dispensing advice and using his image as a professional celebrity guru to make a more than decent living. In essence, he's Dr. Phil with more incense. Now imagine Phil McGraw suddenly dressing in skintight hot red bodystockings and a cape, ready to use his knowledge of the mind to aid the troops. Sounds nuts, right?

Yet, that is exactly what is going on here. But, Dr. Druid actually has super powers...

"Listen to me! Do not resist... the barrier must fall! It must fall!

How else would he have gotten past the guards, mentally forcing the loopy Blackout to let him in? And yet, pay attention to his motivations here. Yes, he shows up to help out, but not to be a hero. He only wants to settle a self perceived score. And in doing so, he doesn't care about the military that has scrambled to secure the mansion. Unfortunately for dear ol'  Anthony, having a big brain doesn't mean he's immune to gunfire. As soon as Zemo spots him talking to Blackout on the roof, the Doc gets zapped. Druid's down, but not out...

"Though paralyzed by the needler, Dr. Anthony Druid reaches out with his powerful mind, desperately appealing to Blackout's psyche" 

Thanks to Dr. Druid, the Avengers manage to retake their mansion and defeat the Masters. In the aftermath, the team is in understandable disarray. With Avengers Mansion in ruins, Jarvis hospitalized and several members suffering physical and emotional wounds, it was an awful time to be with the team. You might say they needed a doctor and Druid happily stuck around, offering to accompany the Black Knight when he left the hospital for Hydro Base, the floating, artificial island the team had been using as launch pad for their Quinjets. 

"Quite sure, dear lady! There's not a thing to worry about!" 

Well, apart from the fact you actively helped an insecure, injured adventurer with brain injury get away from proper medical treatment would be a thing to worry about. Especially when Hydro Base gets attacked by the Atlantean strongman Tyrak a few pages later. Here's Doctor Druid showing he can mess with the best.

"I shall take no more such indignities!Foul air-breather, you will not entrance me!"

Silly Druid, you can't mess with the mind of a merman who's delusional enough to dress like that.
In the end, with a timely assist from the Wasp and Captain Marvel, it's the Black Knight that takes Tyrak down by puncturing his armor's water supply, after which Marvel quickly dehydrated him. Robbed of his strength, Tyrak is tied up and put in an aquarium of all things. Afterwards, Druid and Wasp have a heart to heart...

"Doctor, I held back because I wanted someone else to save the day!" 

Talk about irresponsible and self involved. No, not the Wasp, though she's no prize either. I'm talking about Druid, who once again proves his "heroic" actions were simply motivated by self interest. He only came to see the Black Knight at the hospital to study the man's magical sword. And when he realized Dane was dead set on leaving for Hydro Base, he did nothing to stop him while making sure he got to tag along. Not exactly the kind of behavior you'd expect from a physician, let alone a superhero. 

So, there's no way Doctor Druid would ever become an Avenger, right? He's temperamentally unsuited for the job, more of a pop culture oddity than a superhero and let's not forget he kidnapped the team and forced them to fight for their lives. 

"The ayes have it. Welcome to the Avengers, Druid!" 

... Never mind. 

It's easy to forget the Avengers have always been eager to hire criminals. After all, their first line up change saw the founders get replaced by two mutant terrorists and a criminal, commie loving archer who broke into the mansion and tied up Jarvis as part of his audition. But would Druid prove himself to be as heroic as Quicksilver, Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch? We'll find out in part II of The Dreadful Druid: The Doctor Is In Over His Head

The Fantastic Four by Michael Golden


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