Tigra. Artists: John Romita Jr. and Frank Giacoia.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1972
Creators: Roy Thomas, Linda Fite, Tony Isabella, (writers), Marie Severin and Don Perlin (artists)
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Before becoming a superhero, a character must usually get through an origin, which generally consists of a sequence of events that is doubly improbable — improbable first, that …

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… any such sequence of events could actually happen; and in most cases improbable second, that if it did, the person it happened to would come out of it intact. Tigra (no relation) beat the odds even more than most — she had two origins.

The first was in The Cat #1, published by Marvel Comics with a cover date of November, 1972. Greer Grant Nelson was working as assistant to Dr. Joanne Marie Tumolo, who was involved in a project to create a technological means for enabling people to reach their full physical and mental potential. But Tumolo didn't trust the motives of the project's financial backer, industrialist Malcolm Donalbain, so she had Greer secretly undergo the process along with the regular test subjects. Sure enough, the project (which was really designed to create an army of super-powered slaves for Donalbain) degenerated into a superhero fight, which left Greer, not just powered up but also equipped with a high-tech costume that conferred additional powers of its own, the only one standing.

The story was written by Roy Thomas (The Invaders, Infinity Inc.), who also edited the comic, and Linda Fite (who has done very little other comic book scripting). The penciller was Marie Severin (Not Brand Echh, EC Comics), and the inker was Wallace Wood (Sally Forth, Power Girl).

It wasn't a very well-received comic book. In fact, it lasted only four bimonthly issues. If Marvel hadn't been in the habit of clinging to stars without series and finding new uses for them, The Cat would no doubt have retired from superheroing, and that would have been that. But they were starting to get the idea that superheroes were on the way out (and the failure of her comic probably reinforced it), so the next time Greer was seen, she was revamped into something resembling a monster.

In Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July, 1974), writer Tony Isabella (Black Lightning, Everett True) and artist Don Perlin (The Defenders, Ghost Rider) gave her that second origin. It seems Dr. Tumolo (who was merely hospitalized, not killed, in the earlier origin) was secretly a member of a species of Cat People who had been co-existing with humans for many years. Greer teamed up with Marvel's Werewolf character to rescue Tumolo from Hydra, the organization that had been giving Nick Fury a hard time for the past few years. In the process, Greer took a hit that would have killed anyone outside comic books. To save her, the Cat People used mystical means to transform her into one of their own. She abandoned the power suit (which eventually fell into the hands of former teen star Patsy Walker, who used it to become Hellcat) in favor of a bikini to show off her tiger-striped skin, and (in case that didn't make her monster-like enough) ringed the bottom of the bikini with teeth.

At first, she was able to use a magic amulet to switch back to human form, but like the later She-Hulk, came to prefer her transformed self. Later, she lost that ability and, as a side effect, grew a cat-like tail.

In an era in which Marvel headliners included such creatures as Man-Wolf, Morbius the Living Vampire and Frankenstein himself, this looked like the beginning of a beautiful series. But Giant-Size Creatures (the title of which referred to the comic book, not the creatures, by the way) lasted only one issue. It was more than a year (the February, 1976 issue, to be exact) before she displaced Modred the Mystic as the star of Marvel Chillers. There, in keeping with the monster motif, she was billed as "Tigra the Were-Woman".

But by then, Marvel's monster stars were on the wane, and the Chillers series lasted only five issues (as did the "Were-Woman" subtitle). After a few guest appearances and suchlike, she got a regular gig in The Avengers, where she became a member in the 211th issue (September, 1981). That, too, didn't last long. She left New York, where most of Marvel's heroes are located, and in September, 1984, became a charter member of The Avengers' newly-formed West Coast branch. She stayed with that group for years, but declining sales eventually forced it to be re-absorbed into the parent group.

Since then, Tigra has been like The Black Panther, Moon Knight and The Angel — one of dozens if not hundreds of characters kicking around the Marvel Universe, sometimes a regular in a series and sometimes not, but always available for guest shots, graphic novels, mini-series and whatever else a former minor star can be used for.


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Text ©2004-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.