“You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies.” — Oscar Wilde
At the end of last week’s “fantastic fan-casting” exercise, I said I might do some villains next time. I was right! There are many to choose from, of course, but I picked three of the FF’s earliest foes, whom I also happened to have some pretty good candidates for. (Well, I think so, anyway.) While working on it, I realized I needed to limit this post to two and save the third for next week. As with the last post, I’m attempting multiple characters, so I’ll try not to expound too much on any of them. First off…
The villain known as “Puppet Master” is Phillip Masters, a native of Transia whose boyhood hobby was sculpting figures from clay found near the base of Wundagore Mountain. Moving to America with his parents, young Phillip continued to sculpt as an escape from the bullying of his classmates. What no one knew at the time was that continued exposure to the slightly radioactive clay was causing a mental imbalance. (The clay was later revealed to have mystical properties, as well.) Following a difficult childhood, Masters studied biology in college and became business partners with his college roommate, Jacob Reiss. Reiss died in a tragic explosion, and Masters married his widow. His new step-daughter, Alicia, was blind but a very talented artist. Many years later, she would become the girlfriend of Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) and a trusted friend of the Fantastic Four. (Unfortunately, that also meant she would become a frequent pawn of her stepfather, despite the fact that he genuinely cares for her.)
Phillip, on the other hand, became increasingly unstable and criminal in his pursuits. He discovered that, by fashioning a “doll” from his special clay in the likeness of a real person, he could mentally control that person. By manipulating the doll, he could make the person move in the same way, even when many miles away. With enough concentration, he could completely take over the person’s mind and even alter his/her memories. I should also note that Masters became quite skillful at building toys, too.
Masters was always a bit strange, quirky, but his growing insanity over the years made him increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. Early depictions made him out to be rather “dumpy”-looking, and he wore colorful clothing. But, his more “classic” look is the slender, odd little man in the above pic, often wearing an artist’s smock. He is white, bald, and appears to have an unusually wide mouth. (Or, maybe it’s just his diabolical grin.) Marvel’s wiki page lists him as 5’6″. As for his age, I’d say somewhere in his 50s, maybe 60-ish.
I think the actor that comes closest to Masters’s unusual looks and also roughly the same height is Clint Howard (5’7″,b.1959). (Not sure how slim he is these days, though.) Howard, of course, is the older brother of actor/director/producer Ron Howard. He is known to Trekkies for playing a very odd child/alien in the TOS episode “The Corbomite Maneuver”. His adult credits in genre fare include The Rocketeer, “Space Rangers”, “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, “The Outer Limits”, “Total Recall 2070”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Heroes”, “Fringe”, etc. Now, if we wanted to go with someone taller and more sinister-looking, I think Mackenzie Gray (6′,b.1957) could be terrific! Seen recently as a Kryptonian in Man of Steel, Gray will also be a regular in the new “Legion” series. (Debuting tonight!) He has also been in “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues”, “La Femme Nikita”, “The Net”, “First Wave”, “Andromeda”, Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, “Knights of Bloodsteel”, “Smallville”, “Spooksville”, and he has done a bunch of voicework, too. (Somewhat ironically, he stars as a dying sculptor in a drama this year titled Heart of Clay.)
Harvey Elder is an overweight & squat, extremely near-sighted man, 4’10” tall, with poor posture and a humongous nose. Not surprisingly, he suffered a lot of ridicule both as a child and an adult. He became a skilled scientist, but the taunting and pity (including by the woman he loved) led him to quit is job. He traveled a lot, following legends to find a “land at the center of the Earth”. While he didn’t find quite was he was looking for, Elder did stumble upon Monster Island and later an underground realm dubbed ‘Subterranea’. In Subterranea he found a race of semi-humanoid creatures known as Moloids, who made him their king. He discovered and mastered some highly-advanced machinery long-abandoned in the caves by the Deviants. Elder has also encountered and learned to control several large, non-humanoid monsters within the wide network of caverns lying miles beneath Earth’s surface. Finally, he has somehow gained a measure of longevity and developed a “radar sense” of sorts, while living & working for years in his dark, subterranean empire.
Calling himself the Mole Man, Elder uses his monsters, Moloids, and advanced tech to wreak havoc on “surface-dwellers”, steal various objects, and, of course, get his revenge on his enemies and the world at large for treating him so poorly. His long-time enemies include the Fantastic Four, as he was the very first “super-villain” they encountered after gaining their powers. (Fantastic Four, vol. 1, #1) Elder may be sensitive about his physical form and a resentment for those who mocked him, but he has developed a superiority complex over those who live above ground. While not much of a physical threat on his own, his loyal minions, familiarity with the subterranean geography, and use of technology have made him a surprisingly dangerous and resilient foe.
Casting this poor guy is really tough, and obviously no one is going to be this short, fat, and ugly. (Not without prosthetics, at least.) I’m happy to cast a couple of talented actors who are somewhat on the short side, though. Paul Giamatti (5’9″,b.1967) played a (disappointing) variation of another Marvel villain, the Rhino, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 not long ago. He has had roles in Saving Private Ryan, The Negotiator, Safe Men, Planet of the Apes, American Splendor, San Andreas, and has done some genre voicework, as well. My second choice is Timothy Spall (5’8″,b.1957), whom you may remember as Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies. He has also appeared in Crusoe, Dream Demon, “Red Dwarf”, “Young Indiana Jones”, Immortality, Death Defying Acts, Enchanted, From Time to Time, and Assassin’s Bullet. (Downsides are that he’s about to turn 60, and he has slimmed down since this pic was taken a couple years ago.) I’d be quite happy with either of these guys.
So far, so good? Doctor Doom is up next, so, until next week…
* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.