Dropping Acid in the Negative Zone

In this excerpt from Amazing Dope Tales & Haight Street Flashbacks (Summertown, TN: The Book Publishing Company, 1980, pp 16–17), Stephen Gaskin reminisces about his experiences with Marvel Comics in the San Francisco counterculture of the late 1960s.

Pop Culture

When I was in college, I hardly read anyone who was alive—that’s what you do in college, because everyone in the English Department is so competitive that none of them can agree on anyone who is alive, because they think they’re better than all the living ones.

I started tripping with Charlie and Linda and Paul and John and Bob and Kemo and them guys. We went over to this house, and it was far out. Charlie and Linda lived there together, just lived together. It blew my mind. They were one of the first young couples I’d met who just lived together. I was from square country.

They had lots of rock ‘n’ roll records, and they had lots of comic books. They had Doc Strange, a whole box, all in order. And they had a whole box of Fantastic Four, all in order. And they had a whole box of Thor, all in order. They had a lot of comic books.

There was a lot of pop philosophy coming out in the comic books at that time. They pointed out to me that comic books had changed: it used to be that they were very stick-figured like Superman and Lois Lane; but in the Fantastic Four, the characters had personalities, and interacted. They hassled with each other, and had problems and phobias and stuff; they had to conquer themselves to do things. Doc Strange had to do a lot of self-conquering. The battles he fought were not always something outside that could be done with a savate kick: he had to come in and get to himself inside. It was said that some of that continuity was being written by acid-takers. I don’t know if that was true, but that’s what was being said. And we believed it, because it looked like it.

So they were running all this pop culture, and they would use metaphors from comic books in their trips. On acid trips, they’d talk about how this was just like when Thor happened across the bridge in Valhalla when Loki and Thor were having it out.

I hung out and got stoned with these kids, and listened to the Who play Boris the Spider, and had it about scare me up my tree. Boris the Spider was scary, I realized. And the Who was even scary, some.

They taught me the Tolkien trilogy. They told me about Gandalf the Grey.

These were people who were students where I was teaching. We talked about magic and telepathy of every form. We went through and combed all of our experiences, and talked about it together. They were my first tripping partners, and some of my first teachers.


Captain Marvel is Here!

Have no fear...


Those Kinky Sixties 2

In the early 1960s, "kinky boots," which had been popular in the underground fetish scene for decades, began to emerge into the fashion mainstream, as demonstrated by this article from the January 3, 1964 issue of Time magazine.

Notably, the article makes no mention of the pervy provenance of the "lady-lion-tamer" boot that it breathlessly describes, making only oblique references to its impracticality and sexiness in contrast to the perfunctory rubber rain boot. The kinkiness is further obscured by references to wholesome characters from children's literature such as Christopher Robin and Peter Pan.

The specific examples given in the second paragraph, "made of fake leopard or silk faille or nylon mesh or even real leather" reference an article in the May 12, 1963 New York Times fashion section, which led off with four photos of those specific styles. Clearly the writer of the Time piece was using the previous year's newspaper article as a source. Even that article, written by Leonard Sloane, called boots "a seemingly unlikely prospect for fashion honors in the women's shoe industry" and marveled at the rapidity with which high-fashion boots had caught on in the American market. However, Sloane also ignores boots' long history as a prominent sexual fetish item.

The reference to the magazine's BOOKS section directs the reader to this photograph of teen-age novelist Caroline Glyn.

It's hard to imagine a world where even style-conscious women were dubious about wearing boots and had to be encouraged to do so by articles such as this one. But, just two weeks later, the New York Times would run a helpful article on the proper care of leather boots. And, unknown to the editors of Time magazine, the go-go boot craze was just around the corner.

Previous kinkiness


Emma Peel's Leather Catsuit

Though the character of Emma Peel is closely associated with the zippered black leather catsuit she wore in the title sequences and promotional materials for her first season on The Avengers, she wore the outfit only a few times in the episodes themselves.

Below, Mrs. Peel battles a well-dressed henchman in a photo-comic based on the extended fight scene from “Death at Bargain Prices,” which premiered in October 1965. Diana Rigg plays Emma Peel and George Selway is her opponent, with Patrick Macnee making a cameo as John Steed.




Emma Peel, Queen of Sin

Diana Rigg made quite a splash in “A Touch of Brimstone,” an episode of The Avengers first broadcast in February 1966. Her character, Emma Peel, is made over into a kinky “Queen of Sin” while investigating a group of subversive anarchists called the Hellfire Club. Her climactic scene is presented below in comics form. This is appropriate since the episode inspired a similar storyline in Uncanny X-Men nearly fifteen years later. The scene also features Peter Wyngarde as villain John Cartney and Art Thomas as the hapless lackey who takes a beating.




Emma Peel in Black Leather

Emma Peel is world famous for her zippered black leather catsuit, which was featured in the opening and closing segments of her first season on The Avengers. Curiously, despite the iconic status of this costume in the realm of television adventure, no one seems to know who actually created it. Fashion designer John Bates is celebrated for the avant-garde outfits he designed for Diana Rigg to wear on the show, but he was not hired until the season was well underway. And in fact, after his arrival, Rigg no longer wore the leather fighting suit in the episodes themselves.

In her 1997 book Fetish: Fashion, Sex, and Power, Valerie Steele suggests that Emma Peel’s costume was inspired by the work of prominent fetish fashion designer John Sutcliffe, whose leather outfits were popularized through his magazine AtomAge. Though Sutcliffe was not directly involved in the program, producers Julian Wintle and Brian Clemens were certainly familiar with his ideas. Furthermore, Steele claims that the producers originally intended Mrs. Peel to wear a leather hood and facemask with her catsuit, but then changed their minds. No source is cited for this statement, so I don’t know where she got this curious bit of information.

The credits on the episodes pre-dating Bates’s arrival name wardrobe supervisor Jackie Jackson, whose job it was to provide costumes for the actors to wear. If anyone were to know the actual origin of Emma Peel’s most famous outfit, I suppose it would be she.

Below, Mrs. Peel makes like a thief in the night in a photo-comic based on “Dial a Deadly Number,” which premiered in December 1965. Diana Rigg wears the iconic catsuit as she plays opposite John Carson as the villain.



Steranko Uncensored

Jim Steranko’s artwork proved to be a bit too sexy for Marvel in 1968, when the company was operating under the censorious Comics Code Authority. He left the comics industry soon after, due in large part to frustration over the changes made to his finished drawings by Marvel staffers.

I have endeavored to reverse the change made in one famous example, the full-body shot of Contessa Valentina Allegra de La Fontaine on page 5 of the “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” story in Strange Tales #168. Here is the page as Steranko intended for it to be seen.

The page as published by Marvel in the May 1968 issue:

Steranko’s uncensored version of Val’s derriere was revealed in the Spring 1989 issue of Betty Pages magazine. The online version can be found here.


The Doctor Strange Game of Mystic Power

Playing pieces from the Doctor Strange Game of Mystic Power, from Crazy Magazine #88. I can remember playing this game with my nephew in the summer of 1982.

Art by Steve Mellor


A Strange Horoscope

There’s been some controversy in astrological circles since scientists pointed out that the stars have significantly shifted since the zodiac was first described many centuries ago. Certain parties have even suggested revisions, including new signs and symbols, to bring astrology back in line with astronomy. These ideas have been largely rejected by the purveyors of traditional horoscopes. However, such problems are unavoidable when trying to reconcile a static system rooted in tradition with the chaotic, ever-changing universe surrounding the Planet Earth. These inconsistencies will only worsen with time, especially as science increases our understanding of the true nature of outer space.

Therefore, perhaps the time has come to abandon the well-worn zodiac, with its curious menagerie of animals, chimera, people, and inanimate objects. A much more reliable system can be devised using instead the various mystical powers invoked by Marvel Comics’ resident Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Not tied to the physical universe we can observe through telescopes, this system cannot be so easily debunked.

In order to be as helpful as possible, I have prepared a sample horoscope using this new mystical cosmology. I’m sure you will find its words of advice to be eerily relevant to your own life!

March 21—April 20

You may feel like you’re stuck with some pretty tough restraints, but this doesn’t mean you should be seeing red. Constraints are not always a bad thing, for often they force you to be more creative. In the end, you may find yourself being more effective than if you had been free to barrel ahead like a juggernaut.

Element: Air
Energy: Male

April 21—May 20

If you’re feeling a bit like a charlatan, there may be a reason for it. Perhaps you need to polish your skills so you can reach the level of success you desire. You can’t be an in-betweener about it, though. It requires commitment.

Element: Earth
Energy: Female

May 21—June 20

If you think you’ve been a bit too hot-headed lately, this may be a good time to step back and make some long-range plans. Family can often help with this process, but they can just as often be an impediment, so be careful. However, don’t take so long that you lose the fire in your belly; it’s the source of your strength.

Element: Fire
Energy: Male

June 21—July 22

When life starts making you feel like you’re trapped in a maze, take a moonlit stroll and make a list of 12 things you hope to accomplish. You may find it illuminating.

Element: Water
Energy: Female

July 23—August 22

You’re not alone, so be ready if a helping hand must be given or accepted. Your wealth of experience will make you a most valuable team player, especially when the path ahead seems unclear.

Element: Air
Energy: Male

August 23—September 22

You’ll be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to if you trust in yourself. Aim for the skies, and you’ll soon feel right at home. A keen eye and a steady hand will help you hit the target, so take good care of yourself. Remember, there’s no such thing as “too smart.”

Element: Earth
Energy: Female

September 23—October 22

You have a vision of your current project, and no one can see it as clearly as you. Trust your own innate wisdom and let your mental “third eye” guide you. You don’t need a crystal ball to know where you need to direct your energies. Whether you see yourself as a lion or a caterpillar, you can be a leader.

Element: Fire
Energy: Male

October 23—November 21

Don’t be fooled by imitations, and accept no substitutes, especially when it comes to friendship. People may try to get the better of you, but you can see right through them. Watch how the phonies fade away when you start calling them out for their deceptions.

Element: Water
Energy: Female

November 22—December 21

A breezy manner and a light, effervescent personality may be your best defense when storms blow up, as they inevitably do. Remember, the right attitude can accomplish more than any magic wand.

Element: Air
Energy: Male

December 22—January 20

If someone is raining on your parade, you don’t need to go over to the dark side. A sudden change of direction may be all that’s needed, and you’ll soon be running rings around your competitors.

Element: Earth
Energy: Female

January 21—February 19

Things can seem pretty dark at times, and others may be counting on you to light the way. However, you can accomplish much more working with your significant other than you’ll ever be able to do by yourself. Help each other to be knights in shining armor.

Element: Fire
Energy: Male

February 20—March 20

When life gets murky, it can be hard to tell right from wrong. Watch out for the snake-in-the-grass who comes in friendship but means to lead you astray, and, more importantly, make sure you’re not the viper in someone else’s bosom.

Element: Water
Energy: Female

In the name of the Venerated, Everlasting Vishanti, so mote it be!


Marvel Universe Relaunch!

In my previous post, I suggested that the time had come for Marvel to reboot their comic book universe. Rather than start completely from scratch, though, I thought Marvel would do better with a starting point developed by updating where the Original Marvel Universe stood just before the Fantastic Four first gained their superpowers. Thus, I outlined the “current” circumstances of over 240 characters, which offered myriad tantalizing story possibilities. I thought this would serve as a firm foundation on which to rebuild a shared universe in the tradition started by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and all the others who contributed.

As I continued to think about it, I realized this was just the first step. As others have done, I came up with a plan to relaunch the entire line of Marvel Comics as a response to DC’s recent “New 52” initiative. For what it’s worth, here’s how I would do it.

Fifty-two being an arbitrary number, and somewhat unwieldy, I would trim it down to forty titles a month, released ten per week. This isn’t too far off from Marvel’s current output of regular ongoing titles. Next, I felt variety was extremely important -- variety of subject matter, tone, genre -- which has been sorely lacking in the tunnel-vision strategy of mainstream comics for some time. This also keeps readers from feeling they need to buy all 40 titles to keep up with what’s going on. Some are more interconnected, more “plugged in” to the shared universe, than others. Some can easily stand alone, though all share common elements that reward taking a completist, or “big picture” approach to collecting. A “win-win” for everybody.

Also, many of the titles below would be designed to have a limited life-span, to be replaced by “all-new, all-different” properties after they’d run their course. This would help keep things fresh as the new Marvel Universe rocketed onwards and upwards.

If it were up to me, I would relaunch the Marvel Universe as follows:


1. Fantastic Four
While testing an experimental warp-drive spacecraft in high Earth orbit, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and her brother Johnny Storm are exposed to strange energies that transform them into something more than human. Celebrated as the Fantastic Four, they use their superpowers to explore the world’s most mysterious places, and battle whatever weird menaces they find there.

2. Spider-Man
High school student Peter Parker receives superhuman abilities in a bizarre laboratory accident, and does what any self-respecting teenager would do: he tries to cash in! Unfortunately, his show-biz career as the mysterious Spider-Man is cut short by personal tragedy, forcing Peter to learn a bitter lesson about responsibility. Desperate to earn money as a news photographer, Peter uses his Spider-Man identity to get spectacular shots of New York’s most infamous criminals, whom he invariably ends up fighting.

3. X-Men
Professor Charles Xavier has created a school for mutants, where he trains his first class of students in the use of their uncanny powers. Fearing persecution, the students have adopted the codenames Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, Beast, Banshee, Havok, and Polaris. Xavier dreams of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants, but realizes his students may have to fight for their place in a world that hates and fears them.

4. Iron Man
Tony Stark has felt like a target since his parents died under mysterious circumstances, leaving him in charge of the family business, an international technology firm. When he is nearly killed during a kidnapping scheme, Stark constructs an invincible suit of high-tech battle armor and swears he’ll never be vulnerable again.

5. Thor
Thor, son of Odin and prince of Asgard, has been banished to Earth because of his bad attitude. Good for Asgard, bad for Earth. This is one thunder god who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, least of all foolish mortals. His hair-trigger temper and unstoppable magic war-hammer spell trouble for anyone who gets in his way. But learning to be a better man is his only hope of returning home. The beautiful emergency-room doctor Jane Foster wants to help, but can she survive the chaos that surrounds Thor long enough to try?

6. Hulk
A laboratory accident turns withdrawn scientist Bruce Banner into the ultimate Jekyll & Hyde. His green-skinned alter-ego Hulk is a distorted mirror image: physically strong but morally weak, and may prove to be the most dangerous man on the planet. After Hulk makes a shambles of Banner’s life, the fugitive scientist goes on the run, trying to keep his inescapable “enemy within” from hurting anyone else.

7. Black Panther
The noble king of the prosperous African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa, the Black Panther, upholds his sacred duty to protect his people’s greatest treasure, the unique substance called vibranium. He’ll need all his intelligence, cunning, and fighting skills to fend off spies, mercenaries, and thieves from every corner of the globe. He soon discovers, however, that his greatest enemies may lurk within his own government.

8. Ant-Man & Wasp
Pym particles are the key to all superpowers, but only one man understands how they work: Dr. Henry Pym, the molecular biologist who discovered them. Of course he becomes a target for every terrorist group, subversive organization, and two-bit crook with delusions of grandeur. However, the wealthy young socialite Janet Van Dyne has taken a shine to Dr. Pym and is determined to keep him from meeting the same tragic fate suffered by her renowned scientist father. When Pym’s wife Maria is murdered by his enemies, he agrees to empower Van Dyne and himself to fight back. As Ant-Man and the Wasp, this unlikely couple finds action, adventure, and romance!

9. Black Widow
International superspy Natasha Romanova goes rogue when her handlers try to have her killed after a botched operation. She searches for allies she can trust while tracking down and getting revenge on the men who betrayed her.

10. Tales from the Swamp
An anthology of strange tales of suspense featuring a rotating cast of eccentrics in the steamy swamps of the southern United States. In the Florida everglades, disgraced biochemist Ted Sallis agrees to help Dr. Wilma Calvin re-develop the lost “super-soldier” serum of World War II, unaware that his sexy girlfriend, Ellen Brandt, is working for a subversive organization. Her meddling causes Sallis to be transformed into a terrifying monstrosity called the Man-Thing. Meanwhile, not far away, young sorceress Jennifer Kale explores the astonishing alternate worlds she finds within a spacetime rift called the Nexus of All Realities. Elsewhere, Jericho Drumm battles zombies in the bayous of New Orleans and southern Louisiana.


11. Doctor Strange
Master sorcerer Stephen Strange protects the earth from all manner of mystical menaces as he travels the world collecting occult artifacts. Whether he’s exploring mind-boggling alternate dimensions or fighting off demons and monsters, the dashing Doctor Strange knows how to use magic with style.

12. Hawkeye
Former carnival performer Clint Barton uses his unparalleled skill with a bow-and-arrow as a modern-day Robin Hood on the streets of Chicago. He is equally adept at busting corrupt corporations and protecting the people from street crime, all while living according to his mantra: free-wheeling, free-loving, and freeloading!

13. Logan
The Canadian secret agent known only as Logan is the best there is at what he does, and what he does is covert-ops! A mysterious experiment stripped him of his memories, but left him with an unbreakable skeleton and razor-sharp claws that can slice through anything. His most closely guarded secret is that he is a mutant with enhanced animal-like senses and the ability to rapidly heal any wound. The rough-and-tumble Logan frequently crosses paths with straight-shooting CIA agents Carol Danvers and Michael Rossi, as well as their gruff superior, Nick Fury, in the course of his globe-spanning missions.

14. Inhumans
Since the dawn of time, the Inhumans have dwelled apart from humanity in the lost city of Attilan, hidden deep in the Himalayas. Each member of their race possesses a devastating super-power, which makes ruling them a challenge for their young king, Black Bolt. Palace intrigue and Machiavellian machinations are the order of the day as Black Bolt pursues the beautiful princess Medusa while fending off his traitorous brother Maximus. But how long can the Inhumans hide their existence from the world outside?

15. Department H
As head of a secret project within the Canadian Ministry of Defense, James MacDonald Hudson has been tasked with creating the perfect superhero to protect his nation and its people. High-tech research & development, radical biochemical experiments, tracking down mutants, and even magic and mysticism are all fair game as Hudson and his team seek to accomplish their mission.

16. Ka-Zar
Since he was a boy, Kevin Plunder has been lost in the mysterious Savage Land at the bottom of the world. Now calling himself Ka-Zar, this brutal and savage young man sets out to conquer his jungle home before he is enslaved by its bloodthirsty inhabitants or eaten by its prehistoric flora and fauna. But the greatest threat of all may prove to come in the form of beautiful scientist Bobbi Morse, the last survivor of a doomed expedition who sees Ka-Zar as her only hope of getting home alive.

17. Mystique
Mutant shape-changer Raven Darkholme is perhaps the world’s most devastatingly effective covert operative, due to her ability to precisely mimic the appearance of anyone she meets. However, when she stumbles on a top-secret multinational initiative to build mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels, her priorities change. Raven begins investigating the Sentinel project while continuing her government missions, knowing that tipping her hand could make her lover, Irene Adler, a target.

18. Patsy Walker
Former reality-TV child-star Patsy Walker is having difficulty settling into life as a celebrity “has-been,” a process not made any easier by her vicious and demanding “stage mom,” Dorothy. Patsy’s sunny, Orange County lifestyle suddenly takes a dark and frightening turn when dabbling in the occult gets her involved with a mysterious orphan named Daimon Hellstrom.

19. Where Monsters Dwell
FBI agent Jimmy Woo takes the cases no one else will touch: crimes so gruesome they could only be committed by inhuman monsters. Jimmy has learned the hard way that humans are not necessarily at the top of the food chain, especially after the sun goes down.

20. Werewolf by Night
High school student Jake Russoff has a problem. He’s a werewolf. Luckily his mother, Laura, and his step-father, Philip, know all about it, because Jake’s father was a werewolf too, until the night a silver bullet brought him down. Jake has another problem: his annoying little sister Lyssa. She’s not a werewolf yet, but in a few years, who knows? Jake is ready to run away and lose himself in the Sierra Madre Mountains when he meets a mysterious teen beauty named Topaz Taboo, who tells him if he helps her find an ancient book of spells called the Darkhold, it contains the cure for his curse. Topaz then leads Jake into a dangerous world, where he finds there are worse things than being a werewolf.


21. Avengers
There are some menaces too great for any single superhero to withstand. Thus, Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, and Wasp band together as the Avengers. Their first mission leads them to recruit both the Black Panther and Hawkeye, as the renegade robot Ultron and its spectral android servant the Vision try to steal a sample of vibranium from the University of Chicago. A loose-knit, ever-changing membership roster allows the Avengers to respond to all manner of threats with just the right force. Captain America, the Black Widow, Hercules, and others soon join their ranks as well.

22. Sub-Mariner
Prince Namor is forced to leave his undersea kingdom of Atlantis to search the ocean depths for three ancient artifacts: Neptune’s Trident, the Sword of Kamuu, and the jewel known as the Eye of Zartra. However, the despotic warlord Krang is determined that Namor’s quest should fail. Mystery and adventure await as young Namor tries to prove himself worthy of being the one, true Sub-Mariner.

23. Captain Marvel
The world believes Captain Marvel to be one of its greatest superheroes. No one suspects he is really a spy for the galaxy-spanning Kree Empire. His mission is to test earth’s super-powered population, to determine who will be allowed to serve the Kree and who must be destroyed when their invasion armada eventually arrives. What better way to do that than to help superheroes battle supervillains? Only one thing threatens his mission: his own emerging sense of justice.

24. Magneto and the Brotherhood of Mutants
The mutant known as Magneto knows a war with mainstream humanity is inevitable, and it’s a war he is determined that mutants will win. As such, he has rallied a group of militant mutants to his cause: Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Mastermind, Toad, Pyro, Gypsy Moth, Mesmero, and Unus the Untouchable. Though strong-willed and fractious, Magneto believes they may be mutantkind’s last, best hope for survival.

25. Hercules
Bored with life in eternal Olympus, Hercules has defied the edict of his father Zeus and come to earth in search of adventure. His love of wine, women, and song quickly earns him as many admirers as do his amazing heroics. But he must stay one step ahead of the implacable Huntsman the gods have dispatched to drag Hercules home. Like all challenges, Hercules meets this one with a hearty laugh.

26. Sunfire
Teenaged Shiro Yoshida hates living in New York, but his father’s job at the United Nations gives him no choice. His attitude begins to change when he manifests mutant powers that enable him to fly and shoot flames from his body, inspiring him to become the brash superhero Sunfire.

27. Cable
The mysterious cyborg soldier-of-fortune known as Cable knows something bad is going to happen in the year 2025, because he’s traveled back in time to stop it. Unfortunately, he arrived twenty-five years early and has been forced to live in an era that seems very primitive to him, while trying to pick up the threads of his original mission. His inscrutable motives make Cable shockingly unpredictable as he tries to avert the coming global catastrophe.

28. Mantis
Though only a teenager, the girl called Mantis may be the world’s greatest practitioner of the martial arts, and she will need all of her skill as she leaves the temple of the Priests of Pama to search her native Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia for her missing father, a German mercenary named Brandt. Her unique philosophy makes Mantis an enigma to everyone she meets, from international financiers to drug-smugglers and pirates. But those who underestimate this young girl soon regret it.

29. Red Wolf
Will Talltrees joined the military to escape life on an Indian Reservation in Montana, and is now a member of Navy SEAL Team 11, performing special-ops missions around the globe. Will has a unique advantage over his fellow SEALs, though—the mystical entity Owayodata appears to him in the form of a red wolf to guide him in times of danger.

30. Tomb of Dracula
Dracula, Lord of Vampires, is revived after a century entombed in his castle in Transylvania, and is horrified to discover that the modern world has nearly wiped out all the other vampires. He sets out to rebuild his legions of the undead, despite the opposition of expert vampire hunters like the elderly Quincy Harker and his young assistant Rachel Van Helsing. Dracula’s personal code of honor and air of sophistication belie his ruthless, savage instincts, and he knows how to use the seductive power of evil to his advantage.


31. Captain America
The lost hero of World War II is found frozen solid in the Arctic, but miraculously revives upon being thawed out, due to the legendary “super-soldier” serum that made him the ultimate fighting man. Now a man out of time, Steve Rogers must find a place in this daunting world of the future, while bringing old-fashioned justice to criminals of every stripe.

32. Daredevil
Blind attorney Matt Murdock has made a reputation for himself with his skillful defense of super-villains who are brought to trial. However, using the hypersenses he developed in a freak childhood accident, he has also become the masked vigilante Daredevil, to ensure that justice is done, whether in the courtroom or on the streets.

33. Ghost Rider
For most people, the Ghost Rider is a legend they tell around campfires, a frightening skull-headed demon said to haunt the loneliest back roads of America. But for Johnny Blaze, the legend is horrifyingly real, for Blaze is the Ghost Rider, cursed to wander the highways and byways of North America on a flaming motorcycle, searching for evildoers to punish with his soul-searing hellfire.

34. Falcon
Los Angeles street gang member Sam Wilson turned to crime in the wake of his parents’ unsolved murders, but now his 13-year-old nephew Jim has convinced him to make up for his past misdeeds. Adopting the masked identity of the Falcon, Sam uses his insider’s knowledge to thwart the crimes of both his and rival gangs. It’s a dangerous game as Sam must protect his secret identity at all costs, or see young Jim pay the price.

35. Punisher
Frank Castle returns from his tour of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps only to witness his wife and daughter gunned down by mobsters. He dedicates himself to a one-man war on crime, using all his military skill and hardware to become the fearsome Punisher.

36. Moon Knight
Marc Spector is a special-ops commando for the United States Marine Corps with a gift for unconventional warfare. Deployed to hotspots around the world, Spector battles terrorists, insurgents, traffickers, and anyone else who threatens America or its interests. His personal code of honor and preference for striking by night have earned him the codename Moon Knight.

37. Nekra
Nobody knows the power of hate better than Nekra Sinclair, an albino African-American goth chick who also happens to be a mutant. When she whips herself into a frenzy of negative emotions, Nekra becomes super-strong and invulnerable, as well as savagely violent, which serves her well living on the streets of Los Angeles. Her only friend is Jerome Beechman, a boy who looks like an ape but can bend women to his will using his mutant pheromones. Life is a bitter struggle for survival for these two teenaged outcasts, who are determined to live free or die.

38. S.H.I.E.L.D.
As head of the new clandestine agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Alan Chamberlain is responsible for keeping America’s ever-growing superhuman population under control, and he’s going to do it by the book. Unfortunately, the terrorist group HYDRA, led by Wolfgang Von Strucker, has other ideas, and they’ve got Chamberlain in their sights. Besieged on all sides, will S.H.I.E.L.D. survive the forces seeking to tear it apart?

39. Masters of Evil
From his hidden lair in the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil, mercenary Helmut Zemo has decided to create an unstoppable army of super-villains. He’ll use any means necessary to imbue his unscrupulous recruits with the requisite superpowers, which leads them on a worldwide campaign of murder and extortion. With Nathan Garrett, Erik Josten, Sergei Kravinoff, Karla Sofen, Elihas Starr, and Calvin Zabo willing to do whatever it takes, Zemo’s Masters of Evil quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

40. Sword of Atlantis
In the twilight years of the legendary Age of Atlantis, some 20,000 years ago, Lemurian princess Zartra escapes from her Deviant captors and battles her way to freedom. With the help of the sorceress Zhered-Na, she seeks to forge an alliance with Prince Kamuu of Atlantis, the only kingdom still unconquered by the subhuman Deviants. Encountering vampires, werewolves, and the enigmatic Eternals, Zartra relies on her warrior skills to get her safely from one adventure to the next.

Of course, even the best approaches can be wrecked by poor execution, such as “writing for the trade,” and whether the current editors and creators at Marvel would be capable of turning around the company’s declining fortunes is open for debate. I might just have to fire everybody and get all new people in there to make my idea work. Well, almost everybody.