HERO HISTORY: Marvel’s Greatest Mutant!!

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Or – “The Best There Is At What He Does!!!”

May I just start by saying that, MAN, these Hero Histories take forever.  On average, I’m dealing with a couple hundred issues, sometimes spanning decades, trying to boil down a character to their essence (or, in some cases, their various differentiated essences) and find what makes them really tick, in my subjective opinion.  When a particularly busy character comes along, it gets doubly annoying.  This week’s Hero History entrant initially appeared as a mystery, his backstory unplumbed, and we only learned about him in fits and starts as his teammates pried whatever truths they could out of him.  Contradictions abounded, but during his tenure as a hero and his training under Professor X, the mysterious badass clearly established himself as the star of his team and a force to be reckoned with.  This, then, is your Major Spoilers Hero History of the greatest mutant in Marvel Comics history…

…the man called MARAUDER.

What, you were expecting maybe someone else? Oh, sure, the guy with the hair and finger utensils is cool and all, and he’s had a few interesting moments in his career, but The Marauder is the real deal, regardless of fickle fanbases or the vagaries of popularity.  In his very first appearance, the man known as the Marauder sets in motion the events that will eventually bring his teammates together, infiltrating a Hydra base with nothing but his wits and his steely sinews…

With the stealth of a ninja and the hacking skills of a young Chris Knight (not THAT Chris Knight) our hero easily cracks Hydra’s encryption, and erases a few key files from their records…

Ignoring bullets and electric shocks, the Marauder makes his way to a waiting motorcycle and roars off into the night.  Over the next few days, three men from completely unrelated backgrounds find themselves attacked repeatedly by Hydra:  James MacDonald, agent of SHIELD, Daredevil motocross racer R.U. Reddy, and the mysterious Wolf have no way of knowing that THEY are the secret that the Marauder is fighting to protect, but it’s clear that their lives are about to change…

Marauder works behind the scenes, maneuvering his pieces into place so that his charges band together to win the relay race in record time, and fighting off Hydra single-handedly, even bringing down a zeppelin in a one-man crusade against evil.  In the end, his team stands proudly, even if they don’t know what they’re standing FOR…

Even the villainous legions of Hydra are unable to outsmart the man known as Marauder, failing to find any information in their network of spies, thieves, cut-throats and malcontents.  (Please note that this is the organization that outsmarted Nick Fury for decades and discovered the secret of Captain America’s identity…)

And even without the benefit of nine monthly titles, the Marauder finds a way to be nearly everywhere, dealing with disasters both small…

…and massive, with equal aplomb.

It quickly becomes clear that the whatever is drawing the members of Team America together, the Marauder is an important part of it all.  Their mysterious bond confounds even the greatest minds of the Marvel Universe, as we discover when T.A. mainstays Wolf, Reddy and Honcho work alongside Captain America against the menace of the Mad Thinker…

The Thinker, as he prefers to be known, has plumbed the depths of time and space, and even created artificial life so realistic as to believe that it is fully human.  But when faced with the enigma of the Marauder, even his intellect is reduced to stupefaction…

The members of Team America quickly came to believe that the Marauder was one of their own, displaying at various times the acrobatic stylings of R.U. Reddy, the near-superhuman strength of Wolf, the tactical skills of Honcho, the mechanic prowess of Wrench, and the off-roading and lariat skills of Cowboy.  But, if one of T.A. is the Marauder, what happens when villains take the Team out of action?

I’ll give you a hint:  It rhymes with “Marauder’s gonna kick their candy@##es.”  (I think they used to chant that at the ECW arena, oddly enough.)  The villainous trio of Mr. Magic, Mr. Muscle and Mr. Mind have actually been dispatched to bring the black-clad hero out of hiding, and kidnapping his team does the trick, but even THEY aren’t sure of his true nature.

It quickly becomes clear that, regardless of your intentions, much like Wendy Testaburger, you DO NOT $&@$ with Marauder.  Tracking the trio back to their lair, Marauder trips their alarms and sets off the Mayhem Group’s security systems…

With the grit of Lee Marvin, the tenacity of Clint Eastwood, and the bravado of John Wayne in his prime (none of that ‘Conqueror’ stuff here, kids) Marauder tears through the villains’ defenses like tissue paper.  Mr. Mind’s machines tried to kill the Marauder, but he failed, and was smote to the ground.   Mr. Magic is the next to try his luck against the ebony biker…


HE FAILS!  AND IS STRICKEN DOWN, TO THE GROUND! Mr. Muscle then tried to destroy the Marauder…

…but the Marauder was too strong! No one can destroy the Marauder!  The Marauder will strike them down with a vicious blow! The Mayhem organization are vanquished foes of the Marauder, who tried to win, but why they did not know. METAL! Um…  I mean…  Bygones.  Either way, The Marauder out-thinks the thinker, out-powers the powered, out-clevers the clever, retrieving his team from their imprisonment and seemingly proving that he cannot be one of the core five Team America riders.

Marauder’s combat skills seemingly combine all the abilities of a ninja with those of a street-fighter with those of Evel Kneivel, and a complete disregard for fear…

…or even Newtonian matters of motion and inertia.  For the Marauder, they are merely the SUGGESTIONS of physics.

Even as his legend grows, it becomes clear that no force on Earth can stop the human tornado that it Marauder.  With ten tons of dynamite in one hand and a neutron bomb in the other, he faces terrorists…

…and even would-be world conquerors.  When he battles the self-styled ‘Emperor of Texas,’ Marauder even stops the madman from destroying Austin with a nuclear warhead!  Let’s see that Wolferino guy pull THAT off, hmm?

But lest you think him ALL bluster, you should also know that the Marauder has a softer, nurturing side, as he shows when his teammates hit dire straits (and not the Marc Knopfler kind, either.)

With the survival of his charges hanging in the balance, the Marauder takes a moment to address the situation, centering his thoughts in the manner he has become accustomed to…  AT 175 MILES PER HOUR!

That, by the way, is how you know you’re a badass:  even your pensive moments are Michael Bay action sequences.  After weighting the options, Marauder chooses to sacrifice his own needs for the greater good, and the members of Team America are awakened by the sound of a revving engine…

Sadly, though, the Team’s thirst for glory leads them into an ill-advised sponsorship deal with a large conglomerate, and the soulless lackeys of said corporate giant want only to exploit the Team’s resources.  The name of this terrible entity?

Come to think of it, this may be the source of my quiet undercurrent of disdain for Tony Stark, seen most often during ‘Civil War,’ but occasionally bubbling to the surface even these days.  The riders of Team America wash out of Stark Internationals racing program, but they are completely horrified when Wrench tells them what has happened to Marauder’s motorcycle…

But where the mere mortals of T.A. lament the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Marauder rises up and takes arms against a sea of troubles and also, a silver-spoon millionaire with tinfoil pants.  Here’s where the true measure of a man is found, as he matches off with a founding Avenger, a technological legend, a man who stands side-by-side with a Norse gawd and is treated as an equal.  How does Marauder measure up?

He doesn’t even blink, and stands ready for combat.  Better still, he avoids conflict by resorting to parlay, which sadly robs us of a chance to see him lay some smackdown on Iron Man, but gives us more dramatic satisfaction in the long run.  Marauder’s appearance in his factory gives Tony Stark pause, and causes him to call Team America into his office for a full apology, something almost NOBODY gets out of Anthony Stark.

In fact, at this point, there’s only a hair’s breadth of difference between Marauder and all those intarweb memes about that Norris fella.  But did I tell you about the time Marauder chased down and caught an AIRPLANE with his bare hands?

The Cessna is loaded with a chemical payload of ‘Deadly Dust,’ a fatal dose of biological warfare aimed at the unwitting city of Las Vegas.  Marauder knows that the ship is rigged to blow, and that the slightest contact could mean a horrible writhing death.  Does he hesitate?

Yeah, that’d be no. Best of all, he didn’t even insist on repeating over and over that he’s the best there is at what he does.  Heroes, villains, natural disasters, flood, fire, frost of frippery, the mighty Marauder stands tall.  Then, comes the day when he crosses swords with an honest-to-gub’mint cheese demon from aitch-ee-double-hockey sticks!

By this point in his own career, Johnny Blaze has completely lost control of Zarathos, the creature that lives within him, and actively fights to keep the demon Ghost Rider at bay.  But when his resolve fails, Marauder steps up to the plate to protect the innocent from the fury of the Spirit of Vengeance…

Though he is not as strong or as fast as Ghosty, Marauder uses skill, deceit and resourcefulness to keep the demon biker at bay, and amazingly, uses his engineering skills to turn the tables on the former Champion!

The battle with Ghost Rider leaves Marauder incapacitated, and leads to a shocking reveal for the members of Team America…

The face under the ebony helmet is revealed to be…

…Wrench’s girlfriend?  It becomes clear that Marauder is even more brilliant than we thought, as he has created a decoy and set events in motion.  The secret of the link between the members of the team is revealed to be the result of a Hydra eugenics experiment years previous…

The members of Team America go into battle for the first time without the aid of their black-clad protector, and are victorious in battle against an entire TOWN of Hydra agents, winning not only their freedom but self-respect.  As they go their separate ways, the team believes that Marauder is nothing more than an effect of their mutated nature, a gestalt being who doesn’t REALLY exist.  Of course, were that true, then who is it that rides off into the sunset as the last member jets away into their new life?

It ain’t Wendell Wilkie, folks.  The very existence of Team America was brought about BY the Marauder, making it a seeming impossibility for him to have not existed until they were brought together.  Which came first, the chicken, or the egg?  Whichever answer you choose, you can’t deny the fact that Marauder in combat versus Silver Samurai is an awesome sight to behold…

Okay, maybe he didn’t quite stick the landing, there, but still…  Impressive.  The members of Professor Xavier’s New Mutants squad find that one of their own is under the helmet this time (Dani Moonstar, who has had as many hero aliases as Hank Pym, if memory serves) but the Professor and the kids are impressed by the Marauder (who is called Dark Rider here, for probably contractual reasons.)

So, is the Marauder an individual entity, or is he nothing but a gestalt being, a tulpa brought to life by Team America?  When the team is once again endangered by Silver Samurai and the Viper’s henchmen, Wolf calls on the power of Marauder directly, and it is quite clear that he is more than the sum of his parts…

Leaping into action, the man called Wolf is empowered by Marauder to have powers far beyond those of mortal men (and this is a man who can bend steel tools in his bare hands.)  The power of the Marauder compels him!

In my mind, it’s clear that there’s more going on here than just “by your powers combined,” that Marauder exists as a separate entity from the Team America kids.  But, in the Marvel Universe, there exists an unwritten rule, a truism that can be put off, but never completely ignored:  You’re nobody until you meet Spider-Man or the Thing.

The Marauder fulfilled this particular trope late in the game, encountering a returned-from-the-Secret-Wars-walkin’-the-earth-like-Caine-in-Kung-Fu Thing after the team reunited under the (somewhat awful) name of The Thunderiders!

For his seeming lack of polish, the Thing excels at being a battlefield general and at clobberin’, and it’s a rare opponent who puts him off his game long enough to take control of the battle.  Marauder engages the Thing, taking the advantage away from one of the founding members of the Marvel Universe and even showing the FFer some new tricks…

The upshot of the entire battle comes when The Thing discovers, once again, that Marauder is more than what he seems.  It seems that the one thing you can count on about The Marauder is that there will always be unanswered questions.  Though he contains elements of superspy, roughneck, redneck, showoff and big brain, he transcends the limitations of each, and manages to turn a limited number of appearances into a memorable whole.  Perhaps he’s not as well-regarded as some mutants, nor do I suspect that he’ll ever be played by Hugh Jackman, but nonetheless his adventures are thrilling tales and he is more than capable of earning his legendary status.

(Plus, no yellow spandex or whiskers, so he’s got that goin’ for him.  Which is nice…)

**If you’ve enjoyed this Hero History, you might want to ‘Read All About It’ at your Local Major Spoilers! You can just click “Hero History” in the “Columns” section on the main page, and read about a hundred or so other guys and gals who are likewise awesome as heck. The adventures of the mysterious Marauder came from Marvel Comics during the dark time known as the seventies, and will likely never be reprinted, since Team America was licensed from Ideal Toys back in the day.  I recommend digging up the single issues, as they represent awesome Bill Mantlo wackiness, and Marauder is truly worth the price of admission.

Next up: HAWKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

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