Friday

OMU: POTUS -- Part Three

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.


Notes:

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
Avengers #92–124
Captain America #144–175
Captain Marvel #22–30
Cat #1–4
Daredevil #72–107
Defenders #1–14
Fantastic Four #117–144
Frankenstein Monster #12–18
Ghost Rider #1–5
Giant-Size Defenders #1
Giant-Size Super-Villain Team-Up #1
Hulk #142–176
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
Sub-Mariner #40–71
Supernatural Thrillers #5–15
Thor #182–228
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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Thursday

OMU: POTUS -- Part Two

One of the guiding principles I adopted when constructing my chronology of the Original Marvel Universe within an established historical context was to keep the fictional universe as close to the real world as the stories would allow. It became interesting, then, to see the points where there was significant divergence. Often the impact of the events depicted in the earliest stories did not seem to reach much beyond New York City, and so I assumed that, in general, both realities proceeded largely along parallel lines.

Inevitably, as the storylines grew grander in scope, the differences became more pronounced, as a result either of the direct actions of the superhuman heroes and villains or merely as a byproduct of the Marvel Universe’s superior technology. In the realm of politics, as well, there came a point of significant divergence which will be examined in detail in Part Three—namely, that President Lyndon B. Johnson lost the election of 1964.

As a result, his term in office was limited to approximately 14 months. But during that time, he made numerous appearances in various titles. In some of these appearances, he was drawn to look like himself, and in some, as a result of Marvel’s “sliding time scale,” he looks more like his real-world successor, Richard Nixon, who had taken office by the time these issues were published.

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, here is an overview of the role played by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Original Marvel Universe:


November 1963 – When John F. Kennedy is assassinated, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson is immediately sworn in as Chief Executive. As President, LBJ continues to promote the moon-landing project initiated by JFK. To honor his predecessor, Johnson orders that Cape Canaveral be renamed Cape Kennedy. Thanks to advanced technology from Stark Industries, the Apollo program is rapidly nearing completion.

December 1963 – President Johnson watches a TV news report about the Hulk having just saved New York City from a rampaging humanoid built by the Leader. Since the Hulk had also recently saved the city from a runaway missile, Johnson decides to offer the brute full amnesty, at the discretion of General Ross. However, after Ross witnesses the Hulk suddenly go berserk, the general decides the President’s offer of amnesty was premature.

January 1964 – President Johnson pays a visit to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier to personally congratulate the agency’s senior staff on eliminating the threat of HYDRA’s version of the Overkill Horn, a powerful sonic weapon. Although his schedule does not permit him to wait for Nick Fury’s return, Johnson delivers his speech and shakes hands with acting-director Jasper Sitwell. Then, following Nick Fury’s rescue of Laura Brown, daughter of the Imperial Hydra, the President agrees to offer her amnesty in exchange for information. A week later, LBJ cooperates with Nick Fury in a scheme to flush out a HYDRA impostor within S.H.I.E.L.D. after a new weapons test goes badly awry.

March 1964 – President Johnson orders S.H.I.E.L.D. to send a special taskforce to Vietnam to stop the construction of a hydrogen bomb. Nick Fury recruits the former Howling Commandos to tackle the assignment.

May 1964 – The Apollo moon landing is threatened when the base at Cape Kennedy is attacked, first by the Kree Sentry robot and then by the Super-Skrull. Both times, the installation is defended by a new superhero called Captain Marvel. The Cape’s commanding officer, General Bridges, assures the President that the situation is under control.

June 1964 – Captain Marvel suddenly turns traitor and steals the rocket intended for the moon shot, initiating an unauthorized launch and piloting the craft into deep space. Auxiliary units must be shipped to Cape Kennedy from Texas and the rocket reassembled. Later, the President is alerted when a large planetoid suddenly leaves the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, heading on a direct collision course with Earth at incredible speed. A few hours later, Nick Fury reports that the planetoid has been destroyed after being intercepted by a rocketship piloted by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Cliff Randall.

July 1964 – President Johnson is frustrated when frequent mishaps and unexplained problems prevent the Apollo moon landing from taking place as scheduled. He suspects sabotage, though no solid proof can be found.

August 1964 – Lyndon Johnson accepts his party’s nomination for President in the upcoming election, choosing Hubert Humphrey as his running mate. Johnson is worried by the rapid rise in the polls of independent candidate Paul Destine, who seems to mesmerize crowds with his fiery right-wing rhetoric, until Destine commits suicide after battling the Sub-Mariner in a television studio.

September 1964 – When an unknown force wreaks havoc with worldwide weather patterns, President Johnson declares a national state of emergency. However, soon after, the crisis ends as mysteriously as it began. The President’s scientific advisors are baffled. A week or so later, when the entire nation of Costa Rica goes incommunicado, the President orders a military taskforce to investigate. The soldiers discover the Hulk working in league with a group of strange beings, led by a madman named Maximus, and manage to drive them off. The country’s inhabitants then awaken from a trance-like state, and life returns to normal. Then, bowing to public pressure, Johnson establishes the Federal Council on Mutant Activities to study the mutant phenomenon. The plan backfires, however, when the Council’s Larry Trask unleashes his father’s robot Sentinels to search out and capture every known mutant in the country. The resulting public debate does not go well for the President. Meanwhile, as the new moon rocket is prepped for final testing, a robot calling itself the Man-Slayer tries to destroy it on the launch pad. Captain Marvel reappears and fights the robot off, but then manages to disappear despite Iron Man’s efforts to apprehend him.

October 1964 – The Johnson campaign stumbles in its response to an attack on New York by the war fleet of Atlantis, since the Sub-Mariner seemed to exhibit divided loyalties. The President slips further in the polls as the Atlanteans then disrupt the transatlantic shipping lanes for the next month. Early one morning, about a week before the election, President Johnson learns that Manhattan has been invaded by the international crime syndicate called Zodiac and is being held for one billion dollars ransom. Fortunately, the Avengers and Daredevil manage to save the city and defeat the villains.

November 1964 – Lyndon Johnson loses the presidential election to his Republican opponent. Polls suggest the President lost primarily on the so-called “mutant” issue. Soon after the election, the Apollo mission launches successfully and lands American astronauts on the moon. While there, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin discover a mysterious globe on the lunar surface and bring it back with them. The government’s top scientists are unable to discover anything about the seemingly harmless sphere, and so it is brought to the Oval Office for LBJ to see. As soon as the President speaks, the image of Doctor Doom appears in the globe and mocks American technology as hopelessly inferior to his own.

December 1964 – President Johnson is alerted when Thor storms the United Nations and declares his intention to conquer the earth, but is later informed that it was only an impostor. When the Sub-Mariner threatens war with the surface world, Reed Richards contacts the President to ask that the Fantastic Four be given the chance to deal with Namor before the armed forces are sent into battle. Now a lame-duck president, LBJ reluctantly agrees to give the FF a shot at resolving the crisis. Not long after, following an Atlantean invasion of New York City, Reed Richards contacts the President again and asks him to be patient, since the FF have learned that Magneto, not the Sub-Mariner, is the real enemy. Though skeptical, Johnson agrees to wait a little longer. His gamble pays off when Magneto is defeated, Namor calls off the invasion, and the crisis is ended with no casualties. A week or two later, as things are winding down at the Johnson White House, LBJ takes a call from General Ross, who asks the President’s permission to turn Project Brain-Wave over to the criminal mastermind known as the Leader. Though it sounds insane, Johnson still has faith in the old soldier and gives him the go-ahead.

January 1965 – Lyndon B. Johnson leaves office as his successor is sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.


Notes:

December 1963 – Lyndon B. Johnson makes an appearance in the Hulk story in Tales to Astonish #88, courtesy of artist Gil Kane.

January 1964 – Although not identified, the V.I.P. seen in Strange Tales #152 echoes Lyndon Johnson’s famous catchphrase “Come, let us reason together,” suggesting it is in fact meant to be LBJ. After a mention in the following issue, the President then appears in Strange Tales #155, speaking with a Texas drawl and bearing a faint resemblance to LBJ, thanks to writer/illustrator Jim Steranko.

March 1964 – The Howling Commandos regroup for a mission to Vietnam in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos Annual #3.

May 1964 – The President remains behind the scenes as Captain Marvel defends America’s space program in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 and Captain Marvel #1–3.

June 1964 – Captain Marvel deals the space program a major setback in Captain Marvel #11. The government’s response to the crisis is seen in the following issue, though the President does not appear. Cliff Randall’s heroic sacrifice is depicted in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #6, in which the President is mentioned in passing.

July 1964 – See Part Three for further discussion of the problems with the Apollo program in the Original Marvel Universe.

August 1964 – Paul Destine’s brief presidential campaign is shown in Sub-Mariner #7.

September 1964 – The President works behind the scenes to deal with the bizarre weather crisis seen in Hulk #109 and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #8. Incidentally, artist Frank Springer draws Lyndon Johnson into Nick Fury’s Psycho-Projector dream depicted three issues later. Next, the President makes a brief cameo appearance in Hulk #119, which features the first of many caricatures of Richard Nixon drawn by Herb Trimpe. The Central American nation is obfuscated as “Costa Salvador” in this story, but is clearly on the Atlantic side of the region. The Federal Council on Mutant Activities is introduced in Uncanny X-Men #57. Captain Marvel returns to Earth to defend the new moon rocket in Captain Marvel #12–14.

October 1964 – The Atlantean incursion occurs in Sub-Mariner #21, and their disruption of sea traffic over their realm is shown four issues later. A silhouetted President deals with the invasion of Manhattan in Avengers #82, but is given Nixon’s distinctive profile by John Buscema, a “topical reference.”

November 1964 – The Apollo moon landing occurred five years earlier in the Original Marvel Universe than it did in the real world, thanks to the advanced technology provided by Stark Industries and others. The landing itself is shown in Fantastic Four #98, and the subsequent exploration of the lunar surface, and the finding of the mystery sphere, is presented in the Doctor Doom story in Astonishing Tales #1. Here, the President, as drawn by Wally Wood, looks like the sort of generic figure often seen in movies and TV shows.

December 1964 – The President remains behind the scenes when Loki masquerades as Thor in Thor #181. Then the President, again drawn to look like Richard Nixon, this time by artist John Romita, appears in Fantastic Four #103–104 to discuss the Sub-Mariner/Magneto crisis. Next, Herb Trimpe continues to refine his Nixon caricature when the President takes a call from “Thunderbolt” Ross in Hulk #139.


Previous Issue: OMU: POTUS -- Part One



Tuesday

OMU: POTUS -- Part One

There is a character in the Marvel Universe of great power and mystery, who, from the earliest days, has made numerous appearances in a wide variety of titles, often working behind the scenes and exerting tremendous influence over the lives of both the heroes and villains. And yet, this character remains almost completely unknown.

Though he has never received a profile in any official Marvel index or handbook, he does not have an entry in the online Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Nor are his many appearances reliably cataloged in the Marvel Chronology Project database. Who is this mystery man to whom even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes defer? None other than the President of the United States.

Occasionally, when the American government’s Chief Executive appears in Marvel comics, he is the sort of generic President that one often sees in movies and TV shows. More often, however, he is drawn to look like whoever is holding the office at the time the story is created, as a means of adding some realism to the comic or to make it more “relevant,” as they used to say. However, due to Marvel’s infamous “sliding time scale,” such appearances cannot be used to date the events depicted, nor can they even be taken as a reliable depiction of what “actually” occurred in the Marvel Universe. Continuity-pioneer George Olshevsky dubbed these “topical references” that can be discarded when constructing an overall timeline or chronology for the stories.

As a result, if the President appears looking very much like Richard M. Nixon, we cannot necessarily take it as read that it really is Tricky Dick. We can only make the assumption that it is a representation of the President of the United States. Who it might “actually” be depends on whether your chronology begins in the present and works backwards or begins at a certain fixed point and works forwards.

As I have detailed in previous posts, my timeline for what I call the Original Marvel Universe is of the latter variety, anchored to November 1961 as the first public appearance of the Fantastic Four. Therefore, the stories set during the first two years after this point occur during the administration of John F. Kennedy. By taking a close look at the stories from the period available to me, I compiled a list of the President’s appearances, both on-panel and “behind the scenes,” that is, when he is specifically mentioned but not actually seen. Then I plugged the appearances into my overarching continuity. The results were interesting, but they really serve merely as a prelude to the shocking events that would soon follow after Kennedy’s assassination.

As ever, some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Here, then, is a breakdown of the role played by President John F. Kennedy in the Original Marvel Universe:


January 1961 – John Fitzgerald Kennedy is inaugurated as President of the United States after defeating Vice President Richard M. Nixon in a tight race.

May 1961 – When an alien invader called Gormuu attacks California, the military requests permission to use nuclear weapons against it. The President agrees to a nuclear strike, but the Soviet Union refuses to endorse it, citing treaty restrictions. Acting without authorization, a local scientist named Reed Richards manages to defeat Gormuu with a very risky plan. Realizing the earth is vulnerable to further alien incursions, President Kennedy decides to make America’s space program a top priority. Thus, the President announces his decision to pursue the goal of landing men safely on the moon before the end of the decade.

July 1961 – During a review of spaceflight-related projects receiving government funding, Kennedy decides that the work coming out of Richards Laboratories in California is too radical to be of practical use for the moon landing, and that the money should be diverted to other projects. Kennedy’s staff then informs project director Reed Richards of the decision.

August 1961 – Kennedy is informed that Reed Richards went ahead with an unauthorized test of his rocket, which crash landed near a populated area in upstate New York, and that Richards and his crew were mutated in bizarre ways by exposure to high radiation levels while in orbit. Kennedy decides Richards is reckless and orders his government contracts cancelled and his security clearance revoked.

November 1961 – Kennedy learns that Richards and his three partners have pledged to use their newfound superhuman abilities to aid and defend humanity, calling themselves the Fantastic Four. Since they have just saved the world’s nuclear plants from subterranean attack, the Fantastic Four are granted a wary acceptance by the government, as well as the general public.

December 1961 – President Kennedy becomes concerned when an ingenious but criminally-insane scientist named Dr. Karel Stranczek tries to take over the world and is dubbed “Dr. Strange” by the news media. Luckily, the villain is apprehended by U.S. military paratroopers and sent to jail.

February 1962 – Kennedy is informed that one of his nuclear weapons research labs in New Mexico is being terrorized by a super-strong green-skinned brute called the Hulk. Speculation about where this creature came from is rampant, but the President is unable to get the answers he needs. The base commander, General Thaddeus E. Ross, assures the President that he can handle the situation.

June 1962 – As “superheroes” appear on the scene in numbers not seen since the end of World War II, Kennedy and his staff ponder the administration’s stance toward the mysterious adventurers. So far, public reaction seems largely positive.

July 1962 – President Kennedy watches the televised ultimatum delivered by Dr. Karel Stranczek, who has just escaped from prison and detonated a 200-megaton nuclear bomb in high orbit. Unwilling to surrender without a fight, JFK orders a full-scale nuclear strike on the mad scientist’s island stronghold. Unfortunately, a force field renders the bombs ineffective. Although Iron Man foils the scheme of the evil “Dr. Strange,” the villain escapes, disappearing without a trace. Later, after Kennedy learns that the Hulk was responsible for defeating a powerful alien invader dubbed the “Metal Master,” he offers the green-skinned goliath a full pardon. Then, both the President and his staff are irked when the Fantastic Four travel to the moon by their own means, thereby stealing NASA’s thunder. Kennedy decides that the government project will go ahead nonetheless.

September 1962 – When President Kennedy receives a tape from the megalomaniac known as Doctor Doom, on which he demands a post in the President’s cabinet, JFK and his top advisors meet and decide the United States must not allow any villain to dictate terms, no matter how powerful or dangerous they may be. Weeks later, while walking through the West Wing with his daughter Caroline, President Kennedy is swept to safety by the Secret Service, who inform him that an intruder wearing a wizard’s get-up and calling himself “Merlin” has somehow gained unauthorized access to the White House. Although the troublemaker is defeated by the hero called Thor, Kennedy orders security to be tightened.

October 1962 – After a mutant calling himself “The Vanisher” steals strategic defense plans by using his powers of teleportation, Kennedy is informed that the X-Men, who just saved the military installation at Cape Canaveral from another mutant terrorist, have a plan to deal with the situation. The X-Men meet the Vanisher and his army of gangsters on the White House lawn, where the criminals are quickly defeated. Meanwhile, Kennedy agrees to negotiate with a new group of superheroes, calling themselves the Avengers, for the granting of special security clearance and official recognition and sanction of their crimefighting activities. However, for the remainder of the month, the President is occupied with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

December 1962 – President Kennedy meets with the Fantastic Four when they are in Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Although they take full advantage of the photo-op, there is no love lost between the President and Mister Fantastic.

February 1963 – Kennedy comes to regret cooperating with the Avengers when the super-team suddenly demands the reins of power be turned over to them—or else. He declares a national state of emergency and sends military troops to try to defeat the renegade adventurers. As the situation becomes critical, martial law is declared nationwide, and other teams, such as the Fantastic Four, are advised to keep a low profile. Finally, the Avengers prove they were framed by Count Nefaria and his international crime cartel the Maggia. Relieved, the President lifts the state of emergency.

March 1963 – When the original Executive Director of the new international espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is assassinated by the terrorist organization HYDRA, President Kennedy approves the selection of Colonel Nick Fury of the CIA as his replacement. Fury accepts the assignment and immediately takes over operations at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

May 1963 – President Kennedy receives a visit from Rick Jones, who uses his association with the Avengers to get a meeting in the Oval Office. There, the desperate teenager reveals to JFK the astonishing truth about the Hulk—that he and nuclear scientist Bruce Banner are one and the same. Since Banner has been jailed on suspicion of treason, Jones decided he had no choice but to confide in the President. JFK contacts his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and gets the charges against Banner dropped. President Kennedy decides the public interest is best served by keeping Jones’s revelation in confidence. Therefore, a week or so later, when Major Glenn Talbot meets with the President to try to convince him that Banner is both a red spy and in league with the Hulk, JFK knows Talbot doesn’t have a clue. He orders the Air Force officer to take Banner immediately to test the anti-nuclear device called the Absorbatron.

June 1963 – When the unpredictable Hulk is spotted heading directly towards Washington, DC, President Kennedy and other high-level officials are moved to a protective bunker. The Hulk drops out of the sky and lands on the White House lawn, only to be blasted by the “T-gun,” invented by Bruce Banner. The little-understood weapon fires energy rays that cause the Hulk to vanish into thin air.

August 1963 – A mysterious impenetrable dome suddenly forms over Washington DC, and President Kennedy assures members of Congress that it is not an American defensive device but some form of enemy attack. At first, it appears to be the work of the mutant X-Men, in an attempt to blackmail the nation, but it is soon revealed to be another scheme of Count Nefaria’s. Thanks to the X-Men, the plot is foiled and the nation’s capital is set free.

September 1963 – Kennedy and his staff watch on television as Iron Man battles his Soviet counterpart, the Titanium Man, throughout the nation’s capital. After an epic battle, Iron Man defeats his Communist foe in full view of the world.

November 1963 – On a visit to Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.


Notes:

May 1961 – The President’s voice is heard coming from the White House in the flashback in Fantastic Four #271. This coincides with Kennedy’s real-life speech announcing his administration’s goals in space.

July-November 1961 – Kennedy is behind the scenes during the origin story depicted in Fantastic Four #1.

December 1961 – The initial defeat of the evil “Dr. Strange” is shown in flashback in Tales of Suspense #41. See the notes section in part one of my Doctor Strange Chronology for more about this obscure villain.

February 1962 – JFK is once again behind the scenes in the origin story presented in Incredible Hulk #1.

July 1962 – President Kennedy makes his first Marvel Universe appearance in the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #41. Although his face is not clearly seen, it is obvious the sequence of panels is meant to show world leaders watching the would-be conqueror’s ultimatum. Thus, this is also the first appearance of Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev. The Hulk’s presidential pardon is delivered at the end of Incredible Hulk #6, though the President remains behind the scenes. The Fantastic Four’s trip to the moon, and their celebrated return, are shown in Fantastic Four #13–14.

September 1962 – Both JFK and his famous rocking chair make an appearance in Fantastic Four #17, to discuss Doctor Doom’s threats. Then, he and daughter Caroline turn up for a cameo appearance in Journey Into Mystery #96. Pierre Salinger also appears in this story, courtesy of artist Joe Sinnott.

October 1962 – The “Chief Executive” is mentioned, but operates strictly behind the scenes in Uncanny X-Men #2. He is also certainly involved in the Avengers’ organizational period, which occurs between the first two issues of Avengers. The Cuban Missile Crisis happens behind the scenes.

December 1962 – The Fantastic Four’s trip to the District of Columbia occurs in Daredevil #2. Although the newscaster Electro is watching reports that the FF are to receive a “Presidential medal,” this story occurs at a point in the OMU timeline before the Presidential Medal of Freedom was reinstated. Thus, they were likely receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, the government’s highest civilian award at the time, but also meeting with the President for a photo-op. The news anchor probably just conflated the two events

February 1963 – The President again works behind the scenes during the crisis portrayed in Avengers #13.

March 1963 – The White House’s approval of Nick Fury’s selection as the new head of the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage and Law-enforcement Division is mentioned in Strange Tales #135. For more on the origins of Marvel’s top spy bureau, see Whence Comes… S.H.I.E.L.D.

May 1963 – In the Hulk stories in Tales to Astonish #64 and 68, the President’s face is not clearly seen, and he appears to be a sort of generic figure, not meant to represent any real-world officeholder.

June 1963 – The President is behind the scenes once again in the Hulk story in Tales to Astonish #75.

August 1963 – The President remains off-panel in Uncanny X-Men #23, but is on the other end of a phone conversation with an unidentified United States Senator.

September 1963 – In Tales of Suspense #83, we see two men who bear striking resemblances to Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert S. McNamara watching Iron Man’s battle on television. As it is clearly meant to show even the President of the United States is glued to his TV set, this could be considered a “topical reference,” and listed as an actual appearance of President Kennedy in the OMU chronology. However, since LBJ was Vice President at the time, it could also be considered an actual appearance for him. Since it could reasonably go either way, I’ll leave it to the individual reader to decide.

November 1963 – Kennedy’s assassination occurs behind the scenes, naturally.




OMU: X-Men -- Year Two

After getting off to a somewhat shaky start, the X-Men soon found their stock decreasing in the Marvel Universe as sales remained tepid. After the eleventh issue, Jack Kirby turned the penciling chores over to others. He would continue to do rough page breakdowns for a further six issues before abandoning the book altogether. His replacement, Werner Roth, was a dependable, experienced illustrator, though his style was less than exciting. It was not long after that Stan Lee gave up writing the scripts as well, turning it over to his protégé, Roy Thomas. Roy had a lot of big ideas for improving the book, all of which were nixed by Stan, who remained as editor. Therefore, the work that Roy turned in was, perhaps understandably, rather lackluster. In fact, many of the Thomas / Roth issues are simply bad. Nevertheless, they managed to introduce some enduring concepts during the next twelve months experienced by the characters: Ka-Zar and the Savage Land, the giant mutant-hunting robots called the Sentinels, the Juggernaut, and the Banshee. Unfortunately, the downward slide would continue.

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.


Here, then, is the third installment of… The True History of the X-Men!


January 1963 – The X-Men battle the Blob again when Magneto attempts to recruit him for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. The Blob rejects both groups and returns to the carnival. Mastermind then tries to recruit Unus the Untouchable, but the force-field projecting mutant is defeated by the Beast’s technical wizardry. Meanwhile, Professor X travels to the Balkans and confronts Lucifer once again. The X-Men follow him to Europe, where they have a run-in with the Avengers. Lucifer’s plans are then foiled as the two teams join forces.

February 1963 – Bobby Drake celebrates his 15th birthday.

March 1963 – The X-Men attend Sue Storm’s engagement party. Later, investigating mysterious sightings in Antarctica, the X-Men discover the prehistoric Savage Land and meet Ka-Zar and his sabre-tooth tiger, Zabu.

April 1963 – The enigmatic alien called the Stranger comes to Earth and Magneto attempts to recruit him into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Irritated by Mastermind’s attempt to intimidate him with mentally-projected hallucinations, the Stranger turns the mutant illusionist to stone. Suddenly, the X-Men show up and a fight breaks out. However, the Stranger teleports away, taking Magneto and the Toad with him. Fed up with Magneto, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch tell the X-Men that they’ve decided to leave the group and return to Europe. As soon as the X-Men track down the Stranger, he kidnaps Magneto and the Toad and, transforming into energy, leaves Earth again. Professor X decides to take the petrified Mastermind back to his lab to see if anything can be done to help him. Soon after, Jean Grey celebrates her 16th birthday.

May 1963 – Cain Marko, magically transformed into the Juggernaut, attacks the X-Men in Charles Xavier’s mansion, where Marko’s father died twenty years earlier. With the help of the Human Torch, the X-Men defeat the Juggernaut, but only after he has smashed up much of the house. Xavier puts his comatose stepbrother in a room in the basement until he can figure out a way to make him less dangerous.

June 1963 – Once the X-Men have recovered from their injuries, Professor X decides to send his students on vacation. But first, they all attend the chaotic wedding of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl at the Baxter Building in Manhattan. Later that night, Professor Xavier debates Dr. Bolivar Trask on network television. Trask unveils his mutant-hunting robots, the Sentinels. The X-Men rush to the studio amid an outbreak of anti-mutant hysteria. Upon infiltrating the Sentinels’ underground headquarters, the X-Men are taken prisoner. They escape, but it is Dr. Trask’s self-sacrifice which destroys the Sentinels. Upon returning home the next morning, the X-Men are captured by Magneto, recently returned to Earth, but he is again defeated and re-imprisoned by the Stranger.

July 1963 – The X-Men’s next attempt at going on vacation is interrupted when they meet Calvin Rankin, a power-duplicating mutate who calls himself the Mimic. Rankin’s attempt to lure the X-­Men into a trap leaves him temporarily stripped of his powers and memory.

August 1963 – When Unus the Untouchable and the Blob commit a series of crimes dressed in X-Men uniforms, the X-Men battle them in the streets of Manhattan. Upon learning that the criminals were pawns of the alien Lucifer, the X-Men track him to his hideout within a mesa in the New Mexico desert and foil his plan for world conquest. Weeks later, the X-Men make yet another attempt at going on vacation, only to be taken prisoner by Count Nefaria and his costumed henchmen: the Unicorn, Plantman, the Scarecrow, the Porcupine, and the Eel. The battle takes place in Washington, DC. After the villains are defeated, the X-Men attend the famous rally at the Lincoln Memorial and hear Martin Luther King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

September 1963 – Marvel Girl’s parents decide to transfer her to a private school in New York City for the new school year, where she meets the athletic Ted Roberts. Although having officially left the X-Men, she helps her teammates defeat the Locust and his horde of giant insects.

October 1963 – The X-Men (minus Marvel Girl) battle a soldier-of-fortune called El Tigre, who is mystically transformed into the Mayan god Kukulcán. They track him to South America, and in the ensuing battle, Cyclops inadvertently injures the Angel with an optic blast. Meanwhile, Jean Grey encounters Calvin Rankin at school.

November 1963 – While Angel is recuperating, Professor X tries to bolster the X-Men’s ranks. He telepathically contacts Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, but they say their first duty is to the Avengers now. He directs Beast and Iceman to make contact with Spider-Man, but nothing comes of it. However, Calvin Rankin regains his memory and demands the X-Men admit him as a member. Jean returns with them to Westchester and gives new, modified uniforms to her teammates. The Mimic defeats them single-handedly, but the team discovers he is being influenced by the Puppet Master. Once the villain is defeated, Professor X names the Mimic as the X-Men’s new deputy leader. Later, the team is shocked and saddened by the assassination of President Kennedy.

December 1963 – The X-Men come under attack by the Banshee and the Ogre, and with Marvel Girl’s help, the assailants are defeated. Banshee reveals that he was an unwilling participant, and that the attack was orchestrated by a shadowy organization called Factor Three, which is bent on world conquest. The Professor helps equip Banshee for a counter-mission to locate Factor Three’s headquarters. While the X-Men are away, Mastermind suddenly reverts to human form and awakens in the Professor’s lab. Hank celebrates his 20th birthday. Later, the Mimic’s attitude gets him kicked off the team. Suddenly, the X-Men are attacked by the Super-Adaptoid. At first, the Mimic cooperates with the villain, but then turns on him. Defeating the Super-Adaptoid causes him to lose his powers, so the Mimic agrees to leave the X-Men voluntarily.


Notes:

January 1963 – Uncanny X-Men #7 begins with the first of several “graduation” scenes that would be introduced, and later forgotten, whenever Stan Lee decided that the whole “school” aspect of the series wasn’t working. If anything, the students are here celebrating the completion of their first full semester together.

February 1963 – Bobby Drake’s birthday is established in Uncanny X-Men #32. Although that story claims to show his 18th birthday, in fact the X-Men are somewhat younger than Stan Lee at first led us to believe. Being able to keep track of the characters’ ages is one of the benefits of using a contextualized historical framework such as this. It’s also worth emphasizing that the X-Men are not all the same age.

March 1963 – The engagement party, attended by a variety of costumed adventurers, was featured in Fantastic Four #36.

April 1963 – Though it suffers from numerous violations of established continuity, the third story in X-Men Unlimited #42 (2003) nevertheless reveals that Marvel Girl’s birthday is around the same time as Uncanny X-Men #39, which places it in early to mid-April. The story is definitely non-canonical, but I welcome this minor biographical fact.

June 1963 – The wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm was presented in Fantastic Four Annual #3.

August 1963 – The historic rally at the Lincoln Memorial is not mentioned in the original story, but the X-Men’s presence is suggested by the date. That the X-Men just happened to be in Washington DC at this point in the timeline is one of those fact / fiction convergences that makes the Original Marvel Universe chronology so interesting to me. The intersection of the burgeoning civil-rights movement and the recent outbreak of anti-mutant hysteria would doubtless lead to a consciousness-raising experience for the teenage heroes.

September 1963 – Again, since the characters turned out to be somewhat younger than at first thought, Jean Grey is not old enough to attend “Metro College,” as claimed in the original storyline. Instead, her parents must have sent her to a private prep school in Manhattan that may have been affiliated with Metro College. Regardless, it is noteworthy that Jean spent the entire academic year (11th grade) not enrolled in Professor Xavier’s school. Incidentally, this would imply that both Ted Roberts and Calvin Rankin are slightly younger than they seemed, as well.

November 1963 – The X-Men’s modified uniforms, introduced in Uncanny X-Men #27, are virtually indistinguishable from their original costumes, except their belts are red instead of yellow. However, the dialogue suggests a more drastic color change was intended, but somebody goofed.

December 1963 – The revival of Mastermind was never adequately explained, and therefore presents something of an Untold Tale of the Original Marvel Universe. Unknown to the X-Men or their adversaries, Mastermind was transformed back into human form by the Stranger himself, almost as an afterthought, at the conclusion of the Hulk story in Tales to Astonish #91. In that issue, the Stranger changes his mind about destroying the human race, kidnaps the Abomination and leaves the earth, using his cosmic powers to undo much of the chaos he was responsible for. Since Mastermind had no way to know this, he assumed the “spell” merely “wore off.” After which, Mastermind must have wandered around the empty mansion trying to figure out where he was. He doubtless discovered Jean Grey’s bedroom, and this was the origin of his sexual obsession with her that would have such dire consequences—for everyone involved—six years later. Then, returning to his old haunts, Mastermind was immediately recruited into Factor Three by the so-called Mutant-Master and the Changeling. The Mimic’s battle with the Super-Adaptoid brings us up to Uncanny X-Men #29.


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Monday

OMU: X-Men -- Year One

When Stan Lee & Jack Kirby introduced the X-Men in the first issue of their own title, the team of young superheroes was distinguished in two main ways. First, they came by their powers naturally, being born as mutants, rather than gaining them later through exposure to radiation, magic, technology, or what have you. Second, the creators opted to skip over the usual origin story and get right down to business. The issue begins with the fifth and final member of the team arriving to join the rest of the group, but how they all came together in the first place was left for later. Much later, as it turned out. Eventually, most of the characters’ origins were explored in a series of back-up stories which supplemented the primary narrative.

Otherwise, the book got off to a mundane start, and the team was seen as rather derivative of the Fantastic Four model. Plus, the team’s arch-nemesis, Magneto, turned up again and again in the first year or so, giving the book a somewhat repetitive feel. Stan’s scripting was uneven, Jack’s pencils were uninspired, and the inking of Paul Reinman and Chic Stone left much to be desired. Who could have guessed that this modest effort would eventually develop into Marvel’s flagship title and eclipse the popularity of all the rest of the company’s heroes?

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 now, on with the second installment of… The True History of the X-Men!


March 1962 – Charles Xavier travels to Washington, DC and meets with FBI Special Agent Amos “Fred” Duncan. He and Duncan make a deal to help each other track down potentially dangerous mutants. One such mutant, Jack Winters, bullies Scott Summers, who has run away from the Nebraska orphanage to New York City, into being his partner in crime. Xavier rescues Scott, and Winters perishes in the fight. Xavier and Scott return to Salem Center, where 16-year-old Scott Summers becomes Cyclops.

Meanwhile, Magnus, who has been working as a Nazi hunter for the American and Israeli intelligence services, turns on his handlers when they murder his girlfriend Isabelle. He determines there is no hope for mutantkind unless they conquer the world for themselves.

April 1962 – While Xavier trains Cyclops in the use of his powers, young Warren Worthington III sprouts wings at his private school. A fire in the dormitory prompts Warren to disguise himself as an angel to rescue his classmates.

May 1962 – While on a date, Bobby Drake and his girlfriend are attacked by some local hoodlums, prompting Bobby to lash out with his mutant powers. A mob attacks his home and drags him off to jail. A report in the next day’s newspaper draws the attention of Charles Xavier. Cyclops goes to Long Island, but gets into a fight with Bobby after busting him out of prison. The mob is about to lynch the two boys when Xavier, realizing things have gotten out of hand, uses his powers to erase the memories of the incident from the townspeople. Bobby Drake becomes Iceman at the age of 14.

June 1962 – Charles Xavier creates Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, based in his home at 1407 Greymalkin Lane, Salem Center, New York.

July 1962 – Warren Worthington III is spending his summer in New York City fighting crime as the costumed superhero “The Avenging Angel.” Cyclops and Iceman go to NYC and persuade him to join the X-Men. Warren transfers to the new school and becomes the Angel at age 16. Meanwhile, The Fantastic Four discover the mysterious Blue Area of the moon.

August 1962 – Professor X trains Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel in the use of their powers. He perfects the mutant-detecting computer CEREBRO.

September 1962 – College freshman Hank McCoy is kidnapped by a criminal calling himself the Conquistador, who is holding Hank’s parents hostage to force him to assist in a major robbery. Hank complies, but when the Conquistador refuses to keep his part of the bargain, Hank attacks. The McCoys are rescued by the X-Men and the Conquistador perishes during the battle. 18-year-old Hank McCoy joins the X-Men as the Beast. Shortly thereafter, Jean Grey transfers to the school as well and becomes the 15-year-old Marvel Girl.

October 1962 – Magnus, now calling himself “Magneto,” launches his first attack against homo sapiens in the name of homo superior—mutants. He captures the U.S. military base at Cape Canaveral, home of America’s most advanced weaponry. Professor X sends the X-Men on their first public mission. They manage to drive Magneto from the base, but he escapes. Shortly afterward, the Vanisher steals vital defense plans from the U.S. government. The X-Men travel to Washington, DC, where Professor X neutralizes the Vanisher’s powers. The X-Men are hailed as heroes. The Vanisher is turned over to a government research program headed by Dr. Steven Lang.

November 1962 – The X-Men meet Iron Man when an accident over Stark Industries causes the Angel to become unhinged. After he returns to normal, the X-Men battle the Blob. Later, Iceman meets the Human Torch and they battle Captain Barracuda. Meanwhile, Magneto gathers his Mutant Brotherhood.

December 1962 – Professor X and Magneto confront each other on the astral plane after Magneto conquers the Latin American republic of Santo Marco. The X-Men travel to Central America and battle the so-called “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.” Quicksilver prevents Magneto from detonating a nuclear bomb, and the X-Men return home. However, Magneto soon kidnaps the Angel and takes him to Asteroid M. The X-Men rescue the Angel and Asteroid M is utterly destroyed. Then, the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master goad the X-Men into battling the Fantastic Four. The villains escape, but the two teams part on friendly terms. Hank celebrates his 19th birthday. Later, the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants both fight the Sub-Mariner.


Notes:

March 1962 – Xavier’s meeting with Agent Duncan and his subsequent recruitment of Cyclops was chronicled in the back-up stories in Uncanny X-Men #38–42. Magneto’s early career as a Nazi hunter is shown in Classic X-Men #19.

April 1962 – Warren’s fateful choice to don a costume and rescue his classmates was presented in the second story in Uncanny X-Men #54.

May 1962 – Iceman’s origin was shown in the back-up stories in Uncanny X-Men #44–46.

July 1962 – Warren’s early career as the Avenging Angel was revealed in the second stories in Uncanny X-Men #55–56. The Fantastic Four’s discovery of the Blue Area of the moon, which would gain tragic significance for the X-Men years later, was shown in Fantastic Four #13.

September 1962 – The backstory of the Beast was detailed in Uncanny X-Men #50–53, fleshing out the flashbacks presented in Uncanny X-Men #15. The often-neglected Marvel Girl, who didn’t get a storyline in the first “Origins of the X-Men” series, had to wait until the black & white magazine Bizarre Adventures #27 (July 1981) for her early years to see print. She joins the team in Uncanny X-Men #1. Although it seems like she arrives in the morning and they all go off to battle Magneto in the afternoon, I believe the events were condensed for dramatic effect.

October 1962 – The X-Men begin their confrontations with the world’s evil mutants in Uncanny X-Men #1 and following. Magneto’s target is called “Cape Citadel” in the original story, then later referred to simply as “the Cape” in Captain Marvel, and finally revealed as Cape Canaveral (or Cape Kennedy) in Ms. Marvel. Steven Lang is seen examining the Vanisher in a flashback in Uncanny X-Men #100. The Vanisher is experimented on for about six months until his memory is inadvertently restored and he makes his escape.

November 1962 – Iron Man encounters the merry mutants in their first crossover appearance, presented in Tales of Suspense #49. Iceman guest-stars in the Human Torch story in Strange Tales #120.

December 1962 – The Fantastic Four take the X-Men’s measure in Fantastic Four #28. The Beast’s birthday is shown in X-Men: The Hidden Years #22. Although John Byrne’s ill-considered series is distinctly non-canonical, I am willing to occasionally accept pieces of biographical information such as this. The X-Men and Magneto both first meet the Sub-Mariner in Uncanny X-Men #6.


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