Dear Mr. Silver Age,
My boyfriend says that Wonder Woman had the goofiest rogues’ gallery during the Silver Age! I say that some of his favorite Marvel super-heroes — especially Daredevil — had some pretty iffy villains too! Who’s right?
Mr. Silver Age says: A strong case can be made for both galleries, Bets, and that’s not a compliment to either. One factor tilting the call to Wonder Woman is that her tales were more whimsical than standard super-hero fare, focusing on gods, giants, and genies as much as traditional evil masterminds and invading aliens. That said, she was a full-fledged member of The Justice League of America and should be held to the same standard as any Silver Age super-hero.
The other factor is longevity. Diana Prince had a much longer history than Matt Murdock, even if we look only at her Silver Age adventures. Daredevil began as a bimonthly magazine, whereas Wonder Woman ran about eight times a year starting the instant the Silver Age began. That means she faced many more villains, both good and bad.
That doesn’t mean we can’t compare their rosters, of course. And the only sensible way to do it, in this month of basketball madness, is with that most rigorous of measuring sticks: brackets! As the NCAA has proven, bracketology offers the most scientific, consistent, and equitable approach for comparing and contrasting two units at a time that may otherwise have numerous dissimilarities until an ultimate winner can be determined.
Nah, just kidding. Brackets are an arbitrary, subjective way to compare anything, with “winners” changing every time the two match up, with some matchups being far stronger than others. But they’re a heckuva lot of fun anyway, so let’s do it.
We’ll put limits on Wondie’s candidates, owing to her longevity. Calling up an all-star team of her pathetic foes wouldn’t be fair. So I’m declaring the eligibility period to comprise Daredevil’s first 12 issues (Apr 64 to Jan 66) compared to WW’s villains from the same starting point (#145) but extending to #178 (May 67).
Wondie gets more issues for two reasons. First, the aforementioned mythical creatures, gods, and other entities don’t make good candidates. Plus, beginning with #159 (Jan 66), Wonder Woman rode the crazy train back to a Golden Age style for six issues that are off the scale in wackiness. Rao only knows what they were thinking with that one.
Even so, restricting Diana to that period cuts out some choice options, such as the terrifying triple-team-up of Angle Man, Mouse Man, and The Human Fireworks in WW #141 (Oct 63). That one still gives me the shivers every time I think about it, but not for the right reasons.
As you can see, it’d be tough for anyone to beat Diana’s team, but that’s why we play the games. Keep in mind: These contestants score points for doing goofy stuff, so any sign of something kinda cool could ruin their chances of moving on:
The Embarrassing Eight
Killgrave the Purple Man vs. Egg Fu: This is our “Let’s You and Them Fight” category. The Purple Man made his one and only Silver Age appearance in “Menaced by the Mystery of Killgrave the Unbelievable Purple Man!” in Daredevil #4 (Oct 64). Technically, I’m not sure Killy’s mystery menaced DD a whole lot, but maybe Stan figured more words would make this guy seem more dangerous. (They didn’t.) Killgrave had the unbelievable ability to make others do things for him — rob banks, attack DD, whatever.
DD ultimately tricked him into revealing his plans and recorded his confession with his handy billy-club tape recorder. That this confession was given while KTPM was threatening to kill DD while holding a gun seems to compound an already arrestable offense. Ultimately, DD defeated Killy with a menacing … roll of plastic sheeting! Apparently, it cut off Killgrave’s influential rays, allowing the police to decide they did want to take him to jail. Are you surprised he laid low after that?
Sadly, KTPM is up against Egg Fu, whose plans were hatched in the novel-length “I — the Bomb!” in Wonder Woman #157-158 (Oct-Nov 66). Mr. Fu was a gigantic egg-shaped entity with stereotypical Oriental features (slanted eyes and a Fu Manchu mustache he used as a whip) and speech pattern. There was no explanation for where he came from, which is just as well, as nothing would have sufficed. He was the leader of the Pacific Island of Oolong (that’s right) and had his army create a doomsday bomb to launch at America.
It took two issues before Wondie cracked this case — literally. She finally flew over Eggy in her invisible plane, wrapped her lasso around his enormous body and cracked him like an, um, egg. I don’t even want to know what the gooey stuff inside was supposed to be.
Killgrave’s decision to shoot DD, rather than have one of his mesmerized minions kill him, combined with his defeat by a roll of plastic sheeting, is embarrassing. But Egg Fu is way too over the top in his Democracy-destroying philosophy and outrageously stereotypical appearance. Egg Fu wins, hands down — at least, if he had any hands.
Ani-Men vs. Gorillas from Outer Space: This is our Gorilla division, which you knew would have to be here. The Ani-Men arrived in “While the City Sleeps” in Daredevil #10 (Oct 65) and continued their reign of terror into the next issue as underlings to The Organizer. Despite their formidable appearance, they were, in fact, four criminals dressed as humanoid versions of an ape, bird, cat, and frog. Their costumes provided some of the abilities of their animal namesakes.
DD ultimately beat them by defeating Frog-Man, swiping his costume, infiltrating the gang, and revealing their plot. When he was revealed, he made short work of three guys dressed like animals. No kidding.
Meanwhile, the Gorillas from Outer Space arrived in “Wonder Woman — Gorilla!” in Wonder Woman #170 (May 67). That’s about as catchy a Silver Age title as we’re gonna find, I think. Basically, the gorillas wanted to make Wonder Woman their queen, as so many aliens did when Supergirl wasn’t available. Wondie turned them down, so they captured her and transformed her into a gorilla. She tricked them into changing her back and used her magic lasso to force them to leave Earth and be haunted by her beauty in their dreams (as they said they would be).
The competition comes down to gorillas from outer space versus a guy dressed as a gorilla. That’s not even close. “Gorillas from Outer Space” is too cool a Silver Age concept for them to advance. The Ani-Men move on.
The Paper Man vs. The Matador: This is our Weak Link division, since neither contender had much going for him. The Paper Man made his debut in “Perils of The Paper-Man!” in Wonder Woman #165 (Oct 66). He fell into a vat of chemicals for processing “experimental paper” (don’t ask) and was turned into living paper. Oooh, I’m scared. When he pulled himself out of the vat, everyone laughed at him rather than, you know, call a doctor or something. Diana stood up for him, making him fall in love and decide to (wait for it) make her his bride.
That didn’t work out so well — but, since his best move involved hitting Wondie with a “paper cut” attack and then folding up as a paper airplane to escape, he didn’t have the most impressive ways to strike back at his unrequited love target.
But, then, neither did “The Mysterious, Masked Matador!” He bedeviled our hero in Daredevil #5 (Dec 64) by committing crimes using his powers as, um, a matador. He didn’t even have enhanced matador powers from falling into a vat of matador-processing chemicals or something. He had been cruel to bulls in the ring, causing audiences to turn against him, so he vowed “revenge upon all mankind.” Oookay.
DD made short work of him, once he adjusted for Matty’s above-average athleticism. But he did have a sword, which could’ve done way more damage to The Man Without Kevlar than “paper cuts” would have done to Wondie. So Paper Man wins the battle between two guys with dubious powers.
Glop vs. Stilt Man. This is our Shape-Shifting division, with two strong contenders. Glop arrived in “Wonder Girl vs. The Teenage Monster!” in Wonder Woman #151 (Jan 65). He was an alien substance that fighter pilots blasted out of the sky, as his spaceship attacked the planes. The gloppy orange gunk digested the missiles and gained strength from them. As he wreaked destruction upon the world, he digested a stack of 100 rock ’n’ roll records at a teenagers’ picnic, causing him to pick up rhyming English as his communication method. As I said, a strong contender.
Seeing how feisty Wonder Girl was, Glop (wait for it) fell in love. “Glop … Glop … I’m not a mop! I’m a Glop! I want my Pearl — Wonder Girl!” That was really beyond the pale, but Glop wound up shooting atomic missiles at Wonder Girl, which she had to take seriously.
Meanwhile, “The Stilt Man Cometh!” in Daredevil #8 (Jun 65). He was a guy with really long, adjustable legs. His first robbery consisted of growing really tall and confronting a helicopter delivering payroll money to a bank. Rather than swerving around him and flying on, the guards shot at him, but the bullets bounced off. When he threatened them with a grenade, they had no choice but to surrender the money in mid-air. Well, technically, they had about a million other options, but they didn’t choose them.
Stilty later used a vacuum cleaner to steal money from a penthouse party — a vacuum so good it sucked the pearl necklace off a woman’s neck. That’s some sucking power. DD attacked, but Stilty simply lowered his legs a few feet, and The Man Without Common Sense flew right over his head. Dang!
Glop was silly and horribly awful with his rhyming dialogue, but he could throw around atomic missiles. Stilt Man’s capabilities at sucking are too impressive to ignore. Your round, Stilty.
The Final Four
Egg Fu vs. Ani-Men. This one isn’t even close. They both needed two issues to battle their foes in their first appearance, but the Ani-Men made some semblance of sense. Their combined abilities to fly, see in the dark, etc., made them at least plausible foes for DD.
Whereas Egg Fu was an enormous egg who cracked at his first encounter with Wondie. Just to be sure we didn’t wipe him, Mopee-like, from our brains, Egg Fu returned for another adventure in “The Sinister Scheme of Egg Fu the Fifth!” in Wonder Woman #166 (Nov 66)!
The audacity of reviving him through the implication that he’d somehow sired descendants and left three additional Fus out there ready to show up any time we turned a page, makes him — and the other Fus — too goofy to lose this round.
The Paper Man vs. Stilt Man. Another tough contest, with two super-powered guys whose super-powers do not exactly make our pulses pound. Even worse, Stilt Man was just a guy who stole his super-deluxe legs from a scientist and got visions of superiority. “Once these stilts are again on my feet, I’m more than a match for anyone!” he gloated, apparently not counting virtually every hero in the Marvel Universe (except, possibly, Daredevil).
DD never even tried the most obvious stunt with a super-top-heavy guy — tripping him. Instead, Stilty ran amok, eventually stealing a ray gun that condensed matter. Sadly, it accidentally got turned on him, and he shrank away to nothing, as a horrified Daredevil watched.
The Paper Man’s end was just as severe. During their battle, Wondie used her super-breath (don’t ask) to blow him into a printing plant. There, he fell into the presses and became yesterday’s news.
Two bad ends for sure. But Paper Man’s death was grotesque and sorta cool in an E.C.-kinda way. Stilt Man’s end was exactly an E.C.-kinda death — specifically, the cover story in Weird Science #12 (among others). In a tight contest, Stilty moves on.
Egg Fu vs. Stilt Man. Think three issues of Egg Fu was goofy enough? Then take a gander at “Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot!” in Metal Men #20 (Jun-Jul 66), where a robotic twin called Dr. Yes battled our robotic heroes!
Think that Stilt Man shrank away, never to be seen again? He returned four more times just during the Silver Age (Daredevil #26-27, #48, #67, and Annual #1). How did he escape disappearing forever? The shrinking process wore off! He returned to normal, none the worse for wear. Great googly-moogly, what an anticlimax!
Even so, three issues of a gigantic, stereotyped Oriental egg, with no explanation or origin, plus a robotic twin who tainted yet another title (albeit one nearly as goofy as Wonder Woman) wins the prize. It was a stirring contest, but the winner of the Goofiest Rogues’ Gallery Challenge has to be Wonder Woman, thanks to Egg Fu! The brackets never lie.
Known to fans worldwide as “Mr. Silver Age,” Craig Shutt has waxed nostalgic about comics of old in CBG since 1992. Send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Ask Mr. Silver Age” is © 2012 Craig Shutt