The Destroyer behind enemy lines. Artist: Al Gabriele.

THE DESTROYER

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: unknown writer and Jack Binder (artist)
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Long before the United States entered World War II, the superhero fad in American comic books was in full swing — and Nazi Germany was already proving to be a ready source of villains for them to …

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… fight. With elements of Iron Man and elements of Captain America in his origin story, The Destroyer debuted in the sixth issue of Mystic Comics, dated two months before Pearl Harbor, with the destruction of Nazism as his sole raison d'etre. The writer of his first story is unknown, but the artist was Jack Binder, later responsible for heroes at several publishers, such as Fighting Yank, Mary Marvel and Daredevil. It was published by the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics.

According to that story in Mystic #6, The Destroyer started out as Keen Marlow, an American reporter in Germany, investigating Nazi atrocities. The German government didn't take kindly to this, and threw him in jail. There, like Iron Man a couple of decades later, he met a liberty-loving scientist, who, like the ones who had powered up Captain America a few months earlier, was working on a formula to make a man stronger, faster and more durable than normal. The scientist, Prof. Eric Schmidt, administered the potion to Keen, hoping to escape with him, but died before achieving freedom. Keen got out, however, and did what any newly-superheroized American would do behind what would have been enemy lines if his country had been at war. He went on a destructive rampage, wearing striped pants, a full-face mask, and a skull emblem on his chest.

Aptly calling himself The Destroyer, the hero continued his destructive activities in subsequent issues of Mystic Comics, and when that title bit the dust, he kept on doing it in USA Comics, All Winners Comics, Kid Komics, Complete Comics and elsewhere, more than three dozen stories in all. His last appearance was in All Select Comics #11 (Fall, 1946).

Revival-wise, he lagged far behind such characters as The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and even Red Raven, and when they did bring him back, he was a completely different person — or at least, had a different name. He was found doing his usual thing in The Invaders #18 (July, 1977), where the claim was made that most of the events of Mystic Comics #6 had happened not to Keen Marlow, but to somebody called Brian Falsworth, who happened to be the brother of Spitfire (who had recently become a member) and the son of Union Jack (a recently-created World War I superhero). A few months later, this new Destroyer passed on the name and the costume to Roger Aubrey, who was already an Invaders member under the name Dyna-Mite. After the war, these two were retroactively involved in a Nazi-hunting organization called The V Battalion.

The Keen Marlow character was eventually revived as well. In 1997, the TV cartoon version of Spider-Man depicted him, with Captain America, The Black Marvel, The Thunderer, The Whizzer and Miss America, all World War II relics, getting together as The Six Forgotten Warriors, for one last adventure. The Destroyer's voice was done by Roy Dotrice, a face actor whose biggest toon connection before that was a bit part in Batman: The Animated Series.

But in comic books nowadays, Keen Marlow is just an alternate name sometimes used by Brian Falsworth. Exactly why he was rewritten into another person, beyond a simple desire to fold it all together so everything fits unnaturally into everything else, has never been explained.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.