Perhaps the single greatest Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe reached its climax in a series of issues of Captain America by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema. At the very end of the story, Captain America unmasked the diabolical mastermind behind this latest plot to conquer the world and was shocked by the face which the readers were not permitted to see. The villain then committed suicide, and Cap sank into an extended bout of disillusionment, during which he abandoned his star-spangled persona and became the black-and-gold garbed hero called Nomad. The implication of the story is that the villain was none other than the President of the United States.
The story was published in 1974 at the height of the Watergate scandal, and years later, Steve Englehart admitted that the story was meant to be a bit of wish-fulfillment for Richard M. Nixon’s disgrace. For obvious reasons, at the time neither he nor Marvel Comics could openly admit that they were having President Nixon shoot himself in the head. Therefore the exact identity of the Secret Empire’s “Number One” remained nebulous, and the after-effects of such a major event were minimized. Still, it is unlikely that Cap would have reacted so strongly were it anyone less than the Chief Executive, and we can therefore assume that this is the case.
However, when plugged into the timeline for the Original Marvel Universe, this story falls in November 1966, which means the President must be either Lyndon Johnson or someone who defeated him in the election of ’64. Clearly, the latter is the better answer. The ramifications of this fact, however, are enormous, for any appearance or reference to the President of the United States since that time must be the same man who is the leader of the Secret Empire.
By tracking the events between the election and the villain’s suicide, we begin to see the incredible scope of the conspiracy, as seemingly unrelated events suddenly become fraught with sinister new undertones, and previously-unrecognized motives become apparent. But the man at the center of this conspiracy remains a total mystery.
Who was he? His name was never revealed in any canonical story. That means we must create a new character to play this role, and I have taken it upon myself to do so. I have named him Morris N. Richardson, and he, in effect, takes the place of Barry Goldwater in the Marvel Universe. “Morris,” of course, being Goldwater’s middle name, and “N. Richardson” is derived from Richard Nixon, who, as we have seen, was the inspiration for the character.
Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.
And so, for the first time anywhere, here is The True History of President Morris N. Richardson, a.k.a. Number One of the Secret Empire!
October 1963 – A subversive organization called the Secret Empire, originally an offshoot of the international terrorist group HYDRA, is infiltrated and destroyed by agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. All surviving members of the Secret Empire are jailed.
February 1964 – After HYDRA meets a devastating defeat at the hands of Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a new incarnation of the Secret Empire rises from the ashes of the old, with new personnel and new schemes for world conquest. The leader of this organization is a corrupt, power-hungry United States Senator from Arizona named Morris N. Richardson. Unsatisfied with high political office, where his power is constrained by legalities, Richardson plans a coup of epic proportions. The Secret Empire will do whatever it takes to get him elected President of the United States in the fall, and will then plunder the resources of the American government to enable them to bring the nation to its knees, as well as to cripple its super-powered defenders. Richardson can then institute a totalitarian dictatorship.
July 1964 – Morris Richardson accepts the nomination for President at the Republican National Convention. He chooses Congressman William Miller of New York as his running mate. Miller is not part of the Secret Empire, but is chosen in part for political reasons and in part to provide an unwitting smoke screen for the conspiracy. Meanwhile, agents of the Secret Empire inside NASA prevent the Apollo mission from landing on the moon as scheduled. Their plan is to delay the historic event until after the election, to prevent President Johnson from benefiting from it.
August 1964 – Senator Richardson is frustrated by the meteoric rise in the polls of independent candidate Paul Destine, who seems to mesmerize crowds with his fiery right-wing rhetoric. He decides that the Secret Empire will have to destroy Destine before he becomes a spoiler in the race. However, such plans are abandoned when Destine commits suicide following a battle with the Sub-Mariner in a television studio. Richardson then easily draws Destine’s supporters to his own campaign.
September 1964 – In the wake of the Johnson campaign’s controversial “Daisy” television spot, Richardson engages the Madison Avenue advertising firm of Quentin Harderman and Jordan Dixon to sell his candidacy to the American public. Richardson is aware that Dixon’s brother is the super-villain known as the Eel and has ties to the Maggia, a European crime cartel. Thus, he is confident that Harderman & Dixon will be ruthless in achieving their objective. Then Senator Richardson begins his campaign in earnest, hammering away at LBJ for his inability to deal with a worldwide weather crisis. But the cornerstone of his campaign is based on fanning the flames of anti-mutant hysteria in the general public. In response, President Johnson establishes the Federal Council on Mutant Activities, led by federal jurist Robert C. Chalmers, a noted expert on the mutant phenomenon. Almost immediately, however, the council is taken over by Chalmers’ special assistant Larry Trask, who unleashes his father’s robot Sentinels to round up the country’s mutants. Senator Richardson makes the most of the fierce public debate that ensues.
October 1964 – The Richardson campaign cleverly exploits the incursion of Atlantean warships into U.S. territorial waters and Johnson’s failure to deal with their subsequent disruption of transatlantic shipping routes. Furthermore, Richardson’s anti-mutant rhetoric finds a receptive audience, and the mood of the country grows ever uglier. The X-Men, mutantkind’s staunchest defenders, are nowhere to be seen.
November 1964 – In an extremely close election, Senator Richardson defeats incumbent Lyndon Johnson. Polls suggest the “mutant issue” was the deciding factor, though many Democrats complain of massive voter fraud, which was, in fact, carried out by the Secret Empire. Shortly after the election, the Apollo mission is at last launched successfully, and President-Elect Richardson skillfully steals much of the glory from lame-duck President Johnson.
December 1964 – When the infamous mutant terrorist Magneto tries to trigger a war between Atlantis and the United States, President-Elect Richardson speaks out publicly to decry the mutant menace that threatens all humankind.
January 1965 – Morris N. Richardson is sworn in as President of the United States. One of his first acts in office is to authorize the creation of the Alien Activities Commission and appoint H. Warren Craddock as its head. The Commission immediately publicizes the presence on Earth of members of the Kree race and demonizes the Kree-born superhero known as Captain Marvel. The Commission then uses the Avengers’ connections to the alien hero to discredit the super-team as well. Soon after, the Avengers regain some of their reputation when Craddock is revealed to be a Skrull spy and is beaten to death by an angry mob. The real H. Warren Craddock is rescued by S.H.I.E.L.D., but the trauma of his abduction and imprisonment spells the end of his political career. The Alien Activities Commission is disbanded, but the seeds of paranoia, fear, and unrest have already been sown.
February 1965 – President Richardson is annoyed when Tony Stark, head of America’s largest defense contractor, gives a speech at the United Nations on the vital importance of turning scientific research towards peaceful ends.
Nick Fury and Captain America contact the new President to ask for a special appropriation for S.H.I.E.L.D. President Richardson stonewalls the request, telling them it’s not the sort of thing he can make a snap decision on, but will have to discuss it with the brass at the Pentagon, get input from his cabinet, then run it through a gamut of congressional committees, et cetera. However, after the fiasco of the Alien Activities Commission, Congress passes legislation creating Project Safeguard, which President Richardson signs into law. The Project’s stated aim is to seek out and make peaceful contact with any and all extraterrestrial races, but its true purpose is to detect alien infiltration of the earth.
Despite persistent attempts by Senator Winters, a crusading young Democrat, to secure amnesty for the Sub-Mariner, the President issues an executive order that says, in effect, that Prince Namor is to be captured dead or alive. A federal warrant is issued for Namor’s arrest.
March 1965 – President Richardson and Vice-President Miller make an inspection tour of Gamma Base in New Mexico. While they are there, the base comes under attack by the Hulk. The super-strong psychiatrist Doc Samson holds the Hulk at bay until the base is invaded by an army of artificial humanoids, controlled by the criminal genius known as the Leader. With Doc Samson’s help, the Hulk destroys the humanoids and defeats the Leader, but Richardson returns to Washington and announces that the he intends to see the Hulk captured and destroyed.
Two weeks later, President Richardson is moved to a place of safety when both Thor and the Silver Surfer battle a monstrous brute called Durok in the streets of Washington, DC. The military proves ineffective in the face of Durok’s power, but the battle finally ends when the Silver Surfer causes both Durok and himself to dematerialize. The Surfer is seen later flying over the city, inspecting the damage caused during the fight.
April 1965 – When the world-devourer Galactus returns to Earth demanding that the Silver Surfer become his servant again—and Reed Richards interferes—President Richardson contacts the Fantastic Four to read them the riot act. The President is not impressed by the FF’s assertions that they have a plan and that Galactus cannot be trusted to keep his word, and he orders them to turn over the Silver Surfer and be done with it. The Fantastic Four hold their ground, and the President realizes he has no choice but to trust them. Later, Reed Richards appears in the Oval Office, as if by magic, and tells the President that the earth is safe from Galactus once more. President Richardson contacts the military and tells them to stand down. Moments later, the voice of Mister Fantastic reaches the minds of everyone on earth, again as if by magic, to assure them there is nothing more to fear from Galactus, since the Fantastic Four tricked him into entering another dimension.
The President attends the launch of Starcore One, a space station bound for close orbit around the sun. The mission is headed by American physicist and Nobel laureate Dr. Peter Corbeau.
May 1965 – The Secret Empire tries to create its first superhuman operative by altering the body of a small-time crook named Johnny Horton through chemical and surgical means. As a result, Horton is transformed into a monstrous freak that his masters call “the Griffin,” due to his vague resemblance to the mythical chimera of that name. Horton is at first outraged by his metamorphosis, but he is eventually brought to heel and trained to be an efficient killer.
June 1965 – Dr. Carl Maddicks, an agent of the Secret Empire placed within the Brand Corporation, reports to his masters that a new research project has been initiated at the facility, headed up by a genetics whiz-kid named Hank McCoy. The purpose of the project is to isolate the hormone that triggers human mutations. The Secret Empire decides they must have the formula so they can create mutants to serve their interests, and so they assign Number Nine, a beautiful young blonde who has infiltrated Brand under the alias “Linda Donaldson,” to seduce McCoy and gain his confidence.
September 1965 – President Morris Richardson authorizes a top-secret mission to the moon, which takes off in the dead of night and receives no publicity. Among the crew of astronauts is Colonel John Jameson. The primary goal of this mission is to retrieve a powerful artifact from the mysterious Blue Area of the moon, which will be called, simply, the Moonstone. The Secret Empire believes it can use the object to create a superhuman agent.
October 1965 – When the Air Force’s Hulkbusters finally succeed in capturing the Hulk, General “Thunderbolt” Ross calls the President immediately. President Richardson then contacts his Attorney General, who charges the Hulk / Bruce Banner with “conspiracy to destroy public property and endanger human lives.” Overruling Ross’s intentions to cure Banner, the President and the Attorney General move to put Banner on trial for his life. During the trial, however, an attempt made by Reed Richards to change the Hulk back into Banner goes awry, and the green-skinned goliath breaks free and escapes.
President Richardson is furious when Stark Industries officially announces that it is changing its focus from munitions to peaceful applications of technology, such as pollution control, weather satellites, the space program, and consumer goods.
At the Brand Corporation, Hank McCoy succeeds in isolating the hormone that triggers human mutations, but the Secret Empire’s efforts to steal it are frustrated by the sudden appearance of an ape-like monster called “the Beast.” The subversive organization first hires the mutant illusionist known as Mastermind to get rid of the Beast, and when he fails, they send their own monstrous lackey, the Griffin. When the Griffin reports to Richardson, now operating as the Secret Empire’s Number One, that his battle with the Beast was interrupted by the Angel, a member of the X-Men, they begin to suspect that this new Beast is also a mutant. Although the Griffin is defeated and taken into custody, the Beast is apparently driven away from the Brand facility. Unfortunately, Hank McCoy is fired for excessive absenteeism and subsequently disappears, and the Secret Empire finds his unfinished research unusable. Thus, Number One decides that, if they can’t create their own mutants, they will have to try the much riskier strategy of capturing some.
November 1965 – President Richardson learns of the secret FBI files on the X-Men housed in the office of Special Agent Amos “Fred” Duncan, who has been the team’s liaison with the government since its inception. Not wanting to raise Duncan’s suspicions, Richardson sends agents of the Secret Empire in for a black bag job to obtain the files. Thus, the Secret Empire is now privy to all the X-Men’s secrets, including the location of their headquarters. At the same time, Number Nine tries to hunt down the Beast, investigating sightings of the creature in New England around Halloween.
December 1965 – The government donates the Moonstone to a small midwestern university, with ample publicity of the event. Then, an agent of the Secret Empire, posing as a European collector, hires a criminal thug named Lloyd Bloch to steal it. During the heist, Bloch is surprised by two security guards, who are also in the employ of the Secret Empire. One of the guards fires a bullet into the Moonstone while Bloch is holding it, causing the stone to reach critical mass. It immediately changes into pure energy which is absorbed by Bloch’s body, granting him superhuman powers. Bloch decides to use his fantastic new powers to become a super-villian called “Moonstone.” Agents of the Secret Empire then contact Bloch through his underworld connections and direct him to the offices of Harderman & Dixon. Once there, the ad men promise Moonstone a piece of the action if he agrees to lay low until they are ready to act. Dixon has created the costumed identity of the Viper for himself, and he comes into conflict with Captain America and the Falcon. He and his super-villain allies are all defeated and sent to jail.
Near Christmas, the President schedules a trip to Chicago. However, the Secret Service learns of an assassination plot and sends a decoy by train. The ploy is successful, although several Secret Service agents are killed battling the assassins. The President arrives safely in Chicago aboard Air Force One.
January 1966 – President Richardson rails against the United Nations when the UN decides to take no retaliatory action against the Sub-Mariner after he leads his undersea legions on an invasion of Manhattan to rescue an Atlantean citizen from a holding tank in the UN building. During the invasion, several prominent landmarks in New York City receive extensive damage, and the President demands restitution.
Agents of the Secret Empire break into Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to capture the X-Men. They find only the Angel, lying unconscious on the floor, and they kidnap him. A week later, after Number Nine discovers that the Beast is hiding out in a remote cabin in the Canadian woods, agents of the Secret Empire ambush him and take him prisoner as well. Both mutants are taken to a hidden underground complex somewhere in the deserts of the American Southwest.
Meanwhile, the Viper and his brother, the Eel, are busted out of jail by the Cobra to serve in his Serpent Squad. Wanting revenge on Captain America, the Viper contacts Quentin Harderman and suggests he mount a smear campaign against the star-spangled hero in the media. Harderman takes the plan to his masters in the Secret Empire, and they immediately see the value in discrediting America’s most symbolic super-hero. Captain America and the Falcon quickly capture the Viper and his allies and send them back to jail.
February 1966 – Agents of the Secret Empire kidnap the mutant hypnotist called Mesmero and imprison him in their secret base. Then, with the Viper facing a long prison term, Quentin Harderman initiates his plan to slowly destroy the public’s faith in Captain America.
March 1966 – The mutant criminals known as the Blob and Unus the Untouchable are both kidnapped by the Secret Empire. Number Nine, still posing as “Linda Donaldson,” is transferred to the Brand Corporation research facility in Dallas, Texas to try to steal an experimental device called the electron-gyro. Concurrently, President Richardson orders the military to begin developing the deadliest nerve gas ever created.
April 1966 – Mastermind, who is still recovering from a recent mental breakdown, is kidnapped as well. Then, when General Ross is captured by the Soviets while pursuing the Hulk into the Arctic Circle, President Richardson consults with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. about a rescue mission. However, at the last minute, the President pushes Fury to the sidelines and hands the mission over to Air Force Colonel John D. Armbruster. The ensuing commando raid is successful and Ross is brought back to the States.
Meanwhile, Quentin Harderman’s media blitz is finally ready, and begins with a series of radio ads that call Captain America’s motives into question, accompanied by a catchy jingle. He soon follows it up with half-page newspaper ads calling Cap a lawless vigilante. Over the next several months, the campaign will slowly escalate, carefully orchestrated by Harderman’s keen instincts for mass manipulation. The ads are publicly sponsored by a PAC called the Committee to Regain America’s Principles—really a front for the Secret Empire.
May 1966 – Alex Summers and Lorna Dane are next to be kidnapped by the Secret Empire, both taken from the remote house in New Mexico in which they are living together. Then, during a strange global wave of violence, a mob of protesters storms the White House lawn to throw rocks at the executive mansion and to demand an escalation of the war in Vietnam. In response, National Guard troops open fire on the crowd, killing and maiming numerous protesters. No sooner has the outbreak of mass insanity subsided then all Hell seems to break loose—literally—as the world twists into an infernal realm and people everywhere are transformed into hideous demons. However, the phenomenon ends suddenly, and all the damage is miraculously repaired. The Avengers claim to have defeated a demonic being from another dimension, but the government maintains that it was all an illusion created by a mutant terrorist.
June 1966 – President Richardson decides to relieve General Ross of command, and appoints Colonel Armbruster the new C.O. of Hulkbuster Base. Armbruster soon succeeds in capturing the Hulk, but the President immediately receives a call from Dr. Peter Corbeau, who demands to be put in charge of dealing with the captive Hulk. Richardson balks initially, until Corbeau threatens to exclude the United States from the benefits of his Starcore One space station. However, Corbeau’s attempt to send the Hulk into a limbo dimension goes awry and the green behemoth escapes from the facility. The President is furious when he learns that General Ross put Corbeau up to it. Meanwhile, agents of the Secret Empire attack Iceman while he is on a solo mission and defeat him. He is sent to the hidden base to join the rest of the captured mutants. All nine prisoners are hooked up to a machine that siphons off the peculiar mutant energies within their bodies and stores it for use in the Empire’s sinister plans.
July 1966 – The President is alerted to a crisis in the Middle East when the Egyptian capital, Cairo, is conquered by a trio of extradimensional invaders and sealed within an impenetrable force field. The Avengers are mobilized, but the resulting political chaos in the region prevents them from taking action. However, after about a week, freedom fighters within the city manage to liberate Cairo, though details remain sketchy.
September 1966 – When word leaks out about the deadly new nerve gas, President Richardson is forced to do some damage control. He announces that the nerve gas is too dangerous to ever be used and all stocks of it will be destroyed. The gas is sealed inside pressurized canisters and loaded aboard a Navy vessel for disposal at sea. However, an accident causes the ship to sink near Atlantis, and, during a battle with his enemies, the Sub-Mariner collides with the wreck, causing the canisters to explode. The chemical spill settles over Atlantis, causing its entire population to fall into a state of suspended animation.
Agents of the Secret Empire murder FBI Special Agent Duncan when his investigation of the “missing mutants” phenomenon brings him too close to the truth.
November 1966 – Around the middle of the month, President Richardson sends General Ross to a small island in the Pacific to ask the French not to conduct an above-ground nuclear test, knowing full well Ross will fail. Sure enough, the detonation goes forward as scheduled. Soon after, the Cobalt Man attacks Sydney, Australia and threatens the world with nuclear devastation. The Hulk attacks him and their battle carries them high into the atmosphere, where the Cobalt Man reaches critical mass and explodes. Discussing the loss of the two mutated scientists with his Secretary of State, President Richardson decides that work must begin immediately on developing the Cobalt Bomb.
At the same time, Quentin Harderman calls Moonstone to action, and together they frame Captain America for the murder of a small-time costumed crook known as the Tumbler. After Cap is arrested, the Secret Empire’s Sanitation Squad shocktroops stage a jailbreak and Captain America reluctantly goes on the lam, hoping to prove his innocence. However, the ubiquitous television spots sponsored by the Committee to Regain America’s Principles have succeeded in turning a large segment of the public against Cap, and Harderman wastes no time promoting Moonstone as a true hero for the American people.
A week later, the Secret Empire’s plans to conquer America are at last ready to be carried out. Claiming to be headed for Camp David, President Richardson actually travels to the hidden underground base somewhere in the deserts of the American Southwest and again dons the concealing robes of Number One. A disguised Captain America and the Falcon are brought before him, posing as potential recruits to the organization, but Richardson is aware of the deception and has them placed in a deathtrap. However, the heroes escape and, now joined by Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Professor X, they try to free the captured mutants, only to be cut down by the Empire’s energy weapon called the “atomic annihilator.” While the bodies are dumped in the basement, the captured mutants are reshackled to the energy-siphon and loaded into the flying saucer with which the Secret Empire intends to make their bid for total power.
With Morris Richardson on board, the Secret Empire’s flying saucer lifts off from their desert base, zooms across the continent, and lands directly on the White House lawn. Number One appears on a large video monitor and demands America surrender unconditionally or face nuclear annihilation. His champion, Number Two, then defeats the Secret Empire’s straw-man “hero,” Moonstone, in a calculated attempt to dispirit the public. Number One then emerges from the ship to gloat, and is suddenly tackled from behind by Captain America, who has once again escaped certain death. Leaving a stunned Number One face down in the dirt, Captain America goes on to kick Moonstone’s ass.
The defeated Moonstone then turns to the television cameras and starts to tell everything he knows about the conspiracy to discredit Captain America, defraud the public, and take over the world. This gives Number One a chance to recover his senses and make an escape attempt. He runs into the White House, intending to dump his robes somewhere and emerge as President Richardson, but Captain America is hot on his heels. Cap tackles him, pulls off his hood, and recoils in horror. Admitting that even the considerable power of the Presidency was not enough for him, Morris Richardson pulls out a pistol and shoots himself in the head.
There is a massive cover-up of the fact that President Richardson was actually the Secret Empire’s Number One, and Captain America begins to lose faith in everything he believes in. Vice-President William Miller, cleared of any connection to the Secret Empire, is sworn in as the nation’s 38th President. The remainder of the Secret Empire’s members within the Richardson administration are ferreted out and quietly taken care of by S.H.I.E.L.D.
October 1963 – The original Secret Empire was seen in various issues of Tales to Astonish, in both the Hulk and Sub-Mariner stories. Their defeat was mentioned at the time, but not actually depicted until a flashback sequence in Captain America #175.
February 1964 – This particular defeat of HYDRA was presented in the Nick Fury story in Strange Tales #158.
July 1964 – Congressman William Miller accepted the nomination for Vice-President at the 1964 Republican National Convention in the real world as well, but since he hitched his wagon to Barry Goldwater, he was considerably less successful than his OMU counterpart. NASA’s Apollo moon-landing project was ready five years sooner in the Marvel Universe, thanks, no doubt, to the advanced technology available from Stark Industries and elsewhere.
August 1964 – Paul Destine’s brief presidential campaign is documented in Sub-Mariner #7. Both his rise and fall were the result of his use of the Serpent Crown, an ancient artifact that drew its power from the demonic Elder God Set.
September 1964 – In Captain America #163, Jordan Dixon brags that they “sold the President through the media.” The worldwide weather crisis was featured in Hulk #109 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #8. Judge Chalmers and the Federal Council on Mutant Activities were introduced in Uncanny X-Men #57.
October 1964 – The Atlantean fleet threatens Manhattan in Sub-Mariner #21, and in #25 they begin harassing ships that pass over their sunken realm. This is also the beginning of the period during which the X-Men are said to have “gone underground,” mainly because their low-selling comic was cancelled and featured only reprinted material for a few years.
November 1964 – NASA’s first moon landing is chronicled in Fantastic Four #98 and the Doctor Doom story in Astonishing Tales #1. It should be noted that this comes two years after the Fantastic Four went to the moon, but this is the first landing that does not involve super-powered people. Neil Armstrong appears in both issues, and Buzz Aldrin can be found in the latter, though they are both wearing bulky, opaque spacesuits.
December 1964 – The Magneto / Sub-Mariner team-up / double-cross was featured in Fantastic Four #102–104.
January 1965 – H. Warren Craddock’s Alien Activities Commission formed the basis of the epic “Kree-Skrull War” storyline in Avengers #92–97.
February 1965 – Tony Stark mentions having given his speech to the U.N. in Iron Man #41. Richardson makes his first actual appearance in Captain America #144, although, as in most of his subsequent appearances, he is drawn to look like Richard M. Nixon, a “topical reference.” Project Safeguard is described in Rom, Spaceknight #11 as having been created some four years earlier. Ironically, within a year the Project will be completely taken over by Dire Wraiths in order to prevent the detection of their own presence on Earth. The President’s order to apprehend Prince Namor is announced in Sub-Mariner #44. Senator Winters makes an appearance three issues later.
March 1965 – The President and Vice-President appear in Hulk #147, although in the previous issue we see android duplicates of them that the Leader was hoping to substitute for the real ones in order to take over the country. This is a prime example of super-villains working at cross-purposes with each other. Then, the President is behind the scenes as Thor and the Silver Surfer tag-team Durok the Demolisher in Thor #193. Earlier, President Richardson had found himself dealing with the end of the world—along with everyone else on the disintegrating planet—during Thor #185–188, but luckily Odin erased those events from the time stream, so they never happened. How the various other denizens of Marvel Earth dealt with that crisis might make a worthy What If...? story.
April 1965 – The President has a supporting role in Fantastic Four #123, and even appears in a small inset on the cover. Starcore One was launched a few months before its first appearance in Hulk #148.
May 1965 – The Griffin is introduced in Amazing Adventures #15, which features the requisite origin flashbacks.
June 1965 – The Beast becomes involved in the Secret Empire’s machinations in Amazing Adventures #11–15.
September 1965 – The top-secret mission to the moon was revealed in flashback in Amazing Spider-Man #125. It was on this same mission that John Jameson found the bauble that transforms him into the Man-Wolf. The connection to the Secret Empire and Moonstone’s origin is never made explicit, of course, but it makes perfect sense.
October 1965 – The trial of the Hulk is presented in Hulk #152. Tony Stark announces his company’s new direction in Iron Man #50. Then, Richardson first appears as Number One in the Beast story in Amazing Adventures #15.
December 1965 – The original Viper makes his debut in Captain America #157. The origin of Moonstone is detailed in a flashback in Captain America #170. The Secret Service agents aboard the doomed decoy train receive some clandestine help from Frankenstein’s Monster, as seen in Monsters Unleashed #10. Only a dummy of the President appears in this story.
January 1966 – The President would surely be called upon to respond to the events depicted in Sub-Mariner #60. The Angel is kidnapped after being knocked out by Magneto in the story featured in Avengers #110–111. The Beast’s kidnapping is shown briefly in flashback in Captain America #173. The rest of the kidnappings occur behind the scenes, and are either mentioned in Captain America #173 or revealed in #174. The Viper comes up with the idea to discredit Cap in Captain America #163.
February 1966 – Quentin Harderman is seen putting his plan into action in a flashback in Captain America #170.
April 1966 – The President is behind the scenes as Colonel Armbruster arrives in Hulk #164. Harderman’s radio ads debut in Captain America #165, with the newspaper ads following in the next issue. The Committee to Regain America’s Principles (CRAP) is revealed in Captain America #169.
May 1966 – The first wave of violence is caused by the invading demons of Sominus, who are driven back to their domain by the Cult of Zhered-Na, with the help of the Man-Thing, as seen in Adventure into Fear #14–15. Immediately afterward, the dread Dormmamu tries to merge our solar system into his Dark Dimension, only to be defeated by the Avengers and the Defenders, as chronicled in Defenders #10–11 and Avengers #118. The President is not seen during these events.
June 1966 – The President remains behind the scenes as Col. Armbruster takes charge in Hulk #168 and as Peter Corbeau strongarms his way into Hulkbuster Base in Hulk #172.
July 1966 – The Elementals hold Cairo prisoner within their force field during the events of Supernatural Thrillers #12–15, until being defeated by N’Kantu the Living Mummy and associates. The President makes no appearance in the story, but the crisis is international in scope.
September 1966 – The government’s nerve gas project is revealed in Sub-Mariner #67. The death of Special Agent Duncan was never detailed in any canonical story, but he disappeared after his cameo with Professor X in Shanna the She-Devil #5. This scenario makes perfect sense, and his murder probably served to give the X-Men their big break in the case.
November 1966 – The President seeks to embarrass General Ross in Hulk #173. The discussion between the President and his Secretary of State is shown in the next issue. It is clearly the Secretary of State he is talking to, since he is drawn to look like Henry Kissinger. Then, the Secret Empire storyline is chronicled in Captain America #169–175, with some of the fallout discussed in the following issue.
The Richardson administration spans these issues:
Adventure into Fear #10–18, 20–26
Amazing Adventures #9–16
Amazing Spider-Man #103–128
Astonishing Tales #8–24
Captain America #144–175
Captain Marvel #22–30
Fantastic Four #117–144
Frankenstein Monster #12–18
Ghost Rider #1–5
Giant-Size Defenders #1
Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1
Iron Man #41–67
Ka-Zar: Lord of the Hidden Jungle #1–2
Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1–16
Marvel Feature #1–12
Marvel Premiere #3–10
Marvel Spotlight #2–13
Marvel Team-Up #2–18
Power of Warlock #1–8
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #100
Shanna the She-Devil #1–5
Strange Tales #169–173
Supernatural Thrillers #5–15
Tomb of Dracula #1–23
Werewolf by Night #1–25
Curiously, a shade of Morris Richardson haunts Doctor Strange a year and a half after his death, in a tale also written by Steve Englehart. In Doctor Strange v.2 #11, the Sorcerer Supreme, trapped in an illusory world, encounters a fascistic doppelganger of himself hiding behind a mask of the former president’s face. (As ever, he is portrayed as Richard M. Nixon.) This story, which falls in April 1968 on the OMU timeline, raises the question of whether Doctor Strange, too, is aware of the President’s dual role as Number One of the Secret Empire. Perhaps the all-seeing Orb of Agamotto revealed the truth to him at some point.
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