Template:Superherobox The Destroyer (Kevin "Keen" Marlow) is a fictional superhero in the Marvel Comics universe, who first appeared in the 1940s during what historians and fans call the Golden Age of comic books. He is significant as being one of the earliest creations of industry legend Stan Lee. As comics historian and former Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas notes: "Stan's most popular superhero creation before the Fantastic Four was the Destroyer, debuting in Mystic Comics #6 (Oct. 1941). The artist co-creator is unknown; the story penciler-inker was Jack Binder, the cover-artist Alex Schomburg.
One of the World War II-era heroes of Marvel's Golden Age predecessor, Timely Comics, the Destroyer was less popular than the company's stars, the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner and Captain America. Yet the Destroyer's sleek, dark costume with a skull motif, his skin-tight blue mask that made him appear inhuman, and his occasional cover appearances worked to make the character more memorable than many others of his era. He was the company's most published character outside of its three principal stars and the Angel.
The Destroyer appeared as the cover feature on the last half of the 10-issue Anthology Mystic Comics. He went on to star in issues of nearly every Timely superhero anthology, although only one Golden Age story has been reprinted in modern times.
Artists associated with the feature include pencilers Al Gabriele and Mike Sekowsky, and inkers Vince Alascia and Allen Bellman. Comic-book giant Jack Kirby contributed the Destroyer cover of Mystic Comics #7 (Dec. 1941). The cover was inked by either Syd Shores or Joe Simon (sources differ).
Fictional character biography
The character's origin, highly similar to that of Captain America, posits American journalist Keen Marlow, who is captured for spying while reporting behind-the-lines in Nazi Germany. While imprisoned in a concentration camp — that specific phrase being used, though before its association with the Holocaust — Marlow is given a Super Soldier serum by fellow prisoner Professor Eric Schmitt, an anti-Nazi German scientist. Responding to the chemical (and without the beneficial "Vita-Rays" used to chemically stabilize Captain America's serum), Marlow becomes a prime human specimen who escapes, dons a costume, and adopts a fearsome identity with which he fights the Nazis on their own turf. He was occasionally abetted by an Allied agent with the, in retrospect, rather unfortunate name of Florence von Banger. Antagonists included the Scar, Herr Sin and Von Maus.
In Destroyer's 1970s retcon appearances, the same origin is recounted except for the his identity. Now he is reporter Brian Falsworth, brother of Spitfire (a member of the World War II superhero group The Invaders) and son of James Montgomery Falsworth, Lord Falsworth, who had been the World War I hero Union Jack. In this storyline, "Keen Marlow" was implied (but not expressly stated) to be a fictitious name; when Captain America asked if the Destroyer is or is not "an American named Keen Marlow," Falsworth simply declined to respond.
Brian Falsworth gave up the Destroyer identity in order to become the new Union Jack, while his friend Roger Aubrey (initially introduced as Dyna-Mite and member of Crusaders) became the new Destroyer.
The Aubrey Destroyer has made present-day guest appearances in such titles as Thunderbolts and Citizen V & the V-Battalion, where he was the leader of the titular V-Battalion before eventually stepping down in favour of the original Human Torch taking the position as leader. After the Torch's death, Aubrey reassumed command of the V-Battalion.
More recently, editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe have clarified that all three versions of the Destroyer—Marlow, Falsworth, and Aubrey—were active during World War II, with Marlow allowing Falsworth and then Aubrey to simultaneously use the Destroyer identity so as to tactically confuse the Axis. Marlow's post-1940s fate remains a mystery.
Bibliography of appearances
- Mystic Comics #6-10 (Oct. 1941 - Aug. 1942)
- All Winners Comics #2-12 (Fall 1941 - Winter 1944)
- USA Comics #6, 8-14, #16-17 (Dec. 1942, May 1943 - Fall 1944, Summer-Fall 1945)
- Amazing Comics #1 (Fall 1944), becomes Complete Comics #2 (Winter 1944)
- Mystic Comics Vol. 2 #1-4 (Oct. 1944 - March 1945)
- Daring Comics Vol. 2 #11-12 (Summer-Fall 1945)
- Kid Komics #4-6, 9-10 (Spring-Fall 1944, Spring-Summer 1946)
- All Select Comics #6, 10 (March 1945, Summer 1946)
- The Invaders #18-19, 26, 34
- Midnight Sons Unlimited #5
- Thunderbolts #40, 41, 45-51
- Citizen V & the V-Battalion Vol. 1 #1-3, Vol. 2 #1-4.
Golden Age reprints
- "The Beachhead Blitz" (from All Winners Comics #12)
- Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (Dec. 1967) [and]
- The Golden Age of Marvel Comics (1997) ISBN 0-7851-0564-6
Note: Marvel Super-Heroes lists Don Rico as artist; The Golden Age of Marvel Comics lists Mike Sekowsky
In other media
In the 1990s television program Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Keene Marlow (voiced by Roy Dotrice) appears as one of the Six Forgotten Warriors in the five-episode story arc of that name. He is introduced as the Destroyer, an old colleague of Captain America, now past his prime with his powers fading. After his wife had been fatally shot by a bank robber Marlow was attempting to capture, Marlow retired his superhero identity and joined the international espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., eventually becoming a high-ranking agent. Marlow was also a friend of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, and a mentor to Parker's father, Richard Parker.