Fan-Cast: FF Villains, part 1: Mole Man and Puppet Master

“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…

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

Puppet Master

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.)

Clint Howard

Clint Howard

Mackenzie Gray

Mackenzie Gray








Mole Man

Mole Man

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.

Paul Giamatti

Paul Giamatti

Timothy Spall

Timothy Spall







So far, so good? Doctor Doom is up next, so, until next week…

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2017.

From the Mind of Mr. Zeus, part 6

New entry from the Official Mr. Zeus Fanclub Newsletter…

“Criminal Categories”

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” — Obi-Wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi to Luke Skywalker, looking down on the city of Mos Eisley

The other day at an event I made some comment — only semi-serious, I assure you — about enjoying beating up on villains and scum. Someone asked me in passing afterward, “How do you tell the difference between villains and scum?” Figuring the person was being a wiseguy, I cracked some joke and left it at that. But, I was thinking later that we — or, at least, I — really do categorize bad guys differently, even if only subconsciously. So, having now given the matter a bit more thought, here is a more serious(?) attempt at answering the question:

It’s usually easy to tell the difference. But, sometimes a villain will temporarily pretend to be mere scum in order to minimize the attention drawn to them. Also, scum sometimes think they are a bigger deal, bigger threat, than they really are. (Of course, I guess you could say it’s all relative.)

Condiment King -- more of a joke than a threat

Condiment King — more of a joke than a threat

“Scum” are typically the low-life, common criminal or thug — pimps, street-level drug dealers, petty crooks, mob soldiers, thieves, rapists, etc. They generally have rather limited “vision”, limited resources, and limited intelligence, all of which works to the benefit of the cops, costumed crimefighters, and (sometimes) the scum’s potential victims. They may or may not wear a costume or have a special weapon or ability.

Your average “villain” is higher up the food-chain, if you will. These are often the guys (and gals) who run criminal organizations and, therefore, are one of — if not *the* — major target(s) in a big case. These typically include mob bosses, big-time gang leaders, violent cult leaders, serial killers, assassins, shady CEOs, dirty politicians, drug cartel honchos, terrorists, slave-traders, mercenaries, arms dealers, etc. Some of them are the ones with illegal (and unethical) agendas, making the plans, pulling the strings, wielding influence, gaining money & power, etc. Others might be called “operatives” or even vendors & consultants for the first group. Still others are sick individuals with motivations all their own. But, they don’t typically have any unusual psychopathy or affinity for costumes or strange weapons.

“Supervillains”, on the other hand, kick it up a notch in their villainy. They have something special about them that makes them “super”. It usually involves some type of superhuman abilities, armor, weaponry, etc., though there are exceptions. Like many “superheroes”/crimefighters, they typically wear a distinctive costume of some sort, though not necessarily tights-and-a-cape. These guys-n-gals come in a variety of flavors and threat-levels. There are a handful that are just goofy and not much of a threat, and some can be somewhat of a challenge to most law-enforcement but not for a trained crimefighter or team with superpowers or techy gadgets. The more powerful and/or crazy ones can be very dangerous, especially if they are known to have little regard for human life. I say “crazy”, and some of them are certifiably insane. (Of course, some of the regular villains are, too, I suppose.) This brings me to what I call “mega-threats”. These are supervillains — arguably suffering from megalomania or some other extreme psychopathy — who try to take over or destroy entire cities, nations, the planet, or even all of reality. Sometimes, they come waaaaaaaay too close to achieving their goals, too. And that scares the crap out of me!

Something tells me I’ve put way too much thought into this…. Anyway, it was kind of fun to do, and I thought you might like it. However, I reserve the right to revise it at any time. 😉

Moving on…

“Training the Next Generation”

Have you heard of the Independent Law-Enforcement Administration Division (ILEAD)? (The acronym is pronounced ill-ee-ad, like Homer’s epic poem (“The Iliad”), and not eye-leed.) It is pretty low-key, but sometimes it gets mentioned in articles, papers, and reports about federal law enforcement in the U.S., especially where the caped-and-masked set are involved. ILEAD is sort of an odd duck. It began as a temporary, joint task force between the Dept. of Justice and the Dept. of Defense. As most government programs do, though, it grew much bigger and more expensive than planned and its charter is (almost) automatically renewed by Congress every three years.

college-textbooksILEAD’s primary function is to liaise with superhuman/costumed/etc. heroes and vigilantes and the occasional paramilitary group — call ’em all “heroes” for short –, trying to establish and maintain friendly (or, at least, cooperative) relationships with local, state, and federal authorities. When said heroes have defeated a villain that they are unable to personally deliver to the authorities, they can call ILEAD to arrange pickup. When a hero comes across information of impending criminal activity that is too much for them and they think it best to hand it off or get assistance from the proper authorities (e.g., FBI, CIA, military), they call the ILEAD hotline. If a hero gets into trouble with local LEOs, sometimes a call to ILEAD can help get them out of it or at least ensure better treatment. On the other hand, if a hero gets out of line, ILEAD may assist in his/her arrest and then take custody. Finally, not long ago ILEAD took responsibility for arranging new identities for retired superheroes (and, sometimes, villains), particularly if their real name is publicly known (at least to villains) — what you might call WITSEC for “supers”.

I have worked with ILEAD and even got to be friends with one of the agents. His kid is a big fan of mine and gets this newsletter (Hi, Jason M.!), which the agent confessed that he reads, too. (As you all probably know, I have fans of *all* ages!) As it turns out, he really liked what I had to say a few months ago about aspiring superheroes needing to make sure they train not only their bodies but their minds, learning about many different topics that will help in their missions. He brought it up with his superiors, and — long story short — ILEAD now wants to be involved in helping to make sure young heroes get that training. And they want me to help create the program from the ground up!

Crazy, right? I’m no dummy, but I’m no professor, either. Physics, biology and anatomy, mechanical and electrical engineering, world history, etc. I can’t exactly teach any of this stuff. But, they want me to lead a team of heroes and educators to design a curriculum covering several topics. The courses won’t be full-length college courses, and they won’t be transferable for credit. (Though, we encourage students to take relevant college courses on their own, too.) They will cover certain basics and, when applicable, give particular attention to situations likely to be encountered in crimefighting and similar adventures. There will be pre-recorded lectures online, with instructors interacting online. Only registered heroes and heroes-in-training will be allowed to sign up. (Sorry, guys!) The end goal, of course, is to save lives — heroes, civilians, even villains.

Pretty cool, huh? It’s a great project, and I look forward to working with ILEAD and the team of experts that I (hope to) recruit. If all goes well, who knows what other opportunities this might lead to….

Stay strong!

Thus endeth another newsletter….

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2016.