Sunday, March 12, 2017

1987: The Dreadful Druid part II: The Doctor Is In Over His Head

By Jef Willemsen (

The year is 1987 and thanks to their newest member, Earth's mightiest were about to become Earth's most diverse heroes as well. That is, if you consider adding a balding white guy in a cape diversity. Don't worry if you don't... Doctor Druid will literally change your mind. 

Who will lead the Avengers?

A fair question. After an extended tenure as chairperson, the Wasp officially stepped down in Avengers I#279. Exhausted following the Masters of Evil's recent, devastating invasion of Avengers Mansion, Janet van Dyne was in desperate need of a break. Doctor Druid was the one who helped her decide to resign, thereby cleverly creating a slot in the roster he could fill.

"On to new business! I invited Doctor Druid to be here today"

With Jan gone, the obvious question was who would replace her. Normally, with founders like Thor and Captain America on the team, the answer would be easy. Either one of them would step up, but this time around, Cap was too wrapped up in his own affairs and Thor was secretly a cripple after the vindictive Norse goddess of death cursed him. His bones had become so brittle, the only thing keeping him going was the elaborate Asgardian armor he's wearing.

Instead, Captain Marvel gets the nomination much to her own surprise. Not to mention Druid's!

"If only new members were allowed to take office during their probationary period...
But, no matter... I shall bide my time."

... Talk about major foreshadowing, even if writer Roger Stern wasn't planning on turning Druid into the deluded, manipulating mastermind he would turn out to be. In fact, Stern has gone on record to state his original plans for Druid were to have him be a cultured, somewhat pompous and self important elder statesman of the superhero scene. He planned to pattern him after major Charles Winchester III, the snobby surgeon played by David Ogden Stiers on the classic comedy M*A*S*H*.
Visually, there are certain undeniable similarities...

But while Winchester often found himself the butt of the joke because of his snootiness, Doctor Druid went the other way and proved to be something of a cruel practical joker. For instance, in Avengers I#279 he used his mental powers to make the unsuspecting She-Hulk believe Hydrobase was attacked by Gorgilla, a monster he'd once encountered when he was still Dr. Droom. Oh, what fun!

"No good will come of this... I just know it!"

Yeah, definitely not the kind of stunt to pull during your probationary period. And I'm not just talking about parading around the beach in bright orange speedos. Still, Druid proved to be a welcome addition to the team because of his unique abilities. For the first time, the Avengers had a member skilled in telepathy and mysticism. That added a totally new flavor to the book and the team dynamic...

All that didn't amount to a hill of beans when the Grandmaster used the Avengers and their west coast counterparts during the 1987 annuals. Over the course of the adventure, Druid had two major fights: one against Tigra and a little while later he faced Dracula. Though his fellow Avengers could sniff out Druid's illusions, she was no match for his hypnotic mind power.

As for Druid versus the undead vampire king...


Druid fared slightly better in the Avengers versus X-Men limited series published that same year. He tricked the Soviet Super Soldiers into believing the X-Men were the Avengers and he even succeeded in infiltrating the mutant team when they managed to escape with Magneto, who the Avengers were tasked to bring in for trial.

"I have managed to mentally screen my presence from them so far...
But I cannot do so indefinitely."

Very true, he was discovered and taken captive in the next issue, but not before his astral form mentally contacted his teammates which led to the eventual capture of Magneto. So, Druid's earliest outings showed him to be a pretty handy guy to have around. Let's see how he did on his first proper mission with the team in their own book. In Avengers I#281, the team is called in to investigate the disappearance of Hercules, who at the time was still comatose and hospitalized after the Masters of Evil almost beat him to death. His sudden departure baffles them too, until Thor spots someone and rushes off without bothering to explain who he's chasing and why.

"The public shouldn't see the Avengers discuss internal matters...
If nothing else, it's bad form"

Lines like that clearly show what Stern was trying to do with Druid: slightly haughty and devoted to decorum, the good doctor uses his powers to hypnotize half of downtown Manhattan. It's best not to wonder why unsuspecting New Yorkers weren't bumping into the now invisible giant crate She-Hulk was lugging around. Speaking of She-Hulk, while the others discuss Thor's possible motives, she  decides to get some ice cream from a nearby street vendor... Only to get the worst possible case of blood sugar rage.

Turns out the friendly vendor was the Greek god Dionysus who scooped her up some elixir of frenzy. The Avengers tried to slap some sense into the now murderously furious She-Hulk, but when she remained a raging loon even after Captain Marvel's shock therapy, it was time for Druid to try his headgames on her.

                                             "This Doctor Druid is quite talented..."

I'll say. But this wasn't a fight the Avengers were supposed to win. Not yet, anyway. Turns out Hercules had been taken to Olympus by the fleet footed Hermes under orders from Zeus who blamed the Avengers for his son's injuries. That's why he sent his other children to Earth to capture the heroes in preparation for their Olympian trial. But that didn't mean ol' Dionysus couldn't have a little fun along the way.

"Hard as nails despite his rotundity"

In the end, the team is captured, brought before Zeus and quickly sentenced to suffer for all eternity (or as long as they live) in Pluto's Hades. The Avengers would probably still be there, if Zeus hadn't made the mistake of going after Namor the Sub-Mariner. Why? Well, though absent during the Mansion Siege, he was still on the roster at the time and technically counts as an active Avenger... Boy, for a god that liked to turn into a bull to impregnate women, that Zeus is quite the stickler for technicalities.

Namor is captured by Poseidon in Avengers I#282, and delivered to Hades as well. There, he quickly escapes and with a little help from the mankind loving Titan Prometheus finds out his teammates are being held in fortress Tartarus. Namor frees the Avengers who fight their way to Pluto's palace where Thor is being tortured by his old enemy Pluto. Druid does his part...

"I can still cut into their numbers"

Once they liberated Thor and pissed off Pluto, the team crossed into Olympus proper in Avengers I#283, fighting their way past a Centaur or two before Prometheus showed up again to inform them what Zeus was up to. Turns out he was still mad as heck at the heroes, especially because none of his attempts to heal Hercules were effective. Unsure what to do next, the Avengers decided to try and convince the other Greek gods of their innocence so they might try and intercede on their behalf. While Aphrodite was receptive, her brother Hephaestus was decidedly less eager to hear the heroes out. The god of blacksmiths even sent his golden girls after the Avengers. 

"... No psyches to be deceived by my mental illusions!"

Here's where Stern showed the audience that Druid was more than a Uri Geller knock-off in a bedsheet. Not only did Druid defeat the golden warriors by telekinetically tossing them in Hephaestus' nearby foundry, he even showed off his powers of levitation when the foundry was smashed and the place got flooded in liquid metal. Clearly, Druid's mental mastery was on full display and he wasn't done!

"Let your mind join mine... let me show you the way back!" 

After Aphrodite helped convince Hephaestus of the Avengers'  good intentions, the two gods make sure the team gets to Apollo's temple where Hercules is being treated. However, Ares spots the heroes and runs off to tell Zeus who arrives right in the middle of Doctor Druid's mental probe. Now, before you ask why Druid didn't try this back when Hercules was still in the hospital... Because that would have eliminated the need for this awesome story. Even in good storytelling, logic sometimes has to take a backseat. 

Avengers I#283 ends with a furious Zeus unleashing his signature lightning bolts at them. This attack seriously injures both Captain America and Doctor Druid, but as the opening pages of the next issue show: Prometheus is on the scene to take care of them. Teaming up with Zeus' wife Hera, he has Hermes take the injured off the battlefield and when they come to, they're surprised to find the Wasp there as well. Janet van Dyne had been taken during her holiday, as part of Zeus' completist kick that resulted in Namor being there. Cap and Druid literally remain on the sidelines as Prometheus tries to heal Hercules... However, that results in him reviving in a delusional, hopping mad state.

So, head injury or not...

"TRICKS! You play tricks with m-m-mind!" 

When even a brain damaged dimwit as Hercules catches on to your shtick, it's time to get a new act. Still, Druid's desperate attempts at calming the maddened Hercules in Avengers I#285 proved that he wasn't a coward, But does it make him a hero? Did he act because people's lives were in danger or did he intervene because he'd be a dead man if he sat this one out? We'll never know for sure and the point is moot anyway. 

Druid is unable to stop Hercules who stumbles out into Olympus and happens to come across the Avengers who were fighting Zeus. When the all father accidentally strikes his now ambulatory offspring, he calms down and listens to what Hercules has to say about the Avengers. After a serious attitude adjustment, Zeus extends the proverbial olive branch and the Avengers bathe in the lap of Olympian luxury for a few days, with Apollo healing Druid and Captain America in the process. Then, they're returned home and all seems right in the world...

Only it isn't, as we'll see in part III of The Dreadful Druid: The Doctor is Insurrection Bound

1 comment:

  1. Great comics. I liked The portrayal of Doc Druid as a bit of an egotist and such, it made a good contrast to the others. What came after Stern was an abomination. I haven't read the Avengers since then.



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