Nova – a star that dies too early
In 1976 Marvel introduced the teenage hero Nova in the hopes of recapturing the success of the early Spider-Man series. Despite a big push, including an early crossover with Spider-Man, the comic was cancelled after a 25 issue run. The early ’90s had Nova return as a founding member of the New Warriors. This led to three more attempts at a solo series for him and many new appearances as a galactic hero. Nova seems to be the hero that Marvel wanted to succeed but that could never find his niche.
Perhaps that was because Nova could never develop the ideal rogues’ gallery.
The coming of the Condor
Condor was introduced in Nova #2. He was a genius-level villain with large wings growing out of his back. Amazingly, Condor gets more panels devoted to him than Nova in issue #2. It seemed that Marvel was priming Condor to be a major influence on the new hero. Condor’s rather simplistic goal is to become a crime lord (a fairly common goal of 1970’s villains). Standing in his way is the “Dreaded One”, who we later learn is the ultra-powerful Sphinx.
Condor gets a cameo in issue #3. In issue #6 he, Powerhouse, and Diamondhead form the Terrible Trio and capture Nova. Together they head into space aboard Condor’s ship to plunder Nova’s spaceship for weapons and knowledge.
Nova #10 features the big showdown between Condor and the Sphinx. The terrible trio easily defeats Sphinx’s henchmen. As Condor swoops down towards a climactic confrontation with the Sphinx, he is blasted from behind by an underling wiping his mind clean. Enraged that he did not get to read Condor’s mind, Sphinx casually turns him into an actual condor that flies off.
Wanted: A backstory
What??? A villain that was a significant opponent to Nova in over half of his first ten issues is turned into a bird and flies away?? No mention of why he had wings. No mention of his computer rich hideout or spaceship. No mention of his computers and powerful weapons (petrifying gas gun, mind wipe machine, space breathing spray)? Instead of becoming Nova’s arch-enemy, he gets replaced by the Sphinx – an overpowered villain that Nova has no chance of defeating. Small wonder that this series is cancelled after 25 issues!
Almost 20 years later Condor reappears in Nova volume 2. He is transformed into a bird-like humanoid and seeks revenge against Nova. After a brief battle, he seems to rethink his goals and flies off. However, in Nova volume 3 he appears again in full villain mode. He defeats both Nova and the Fantastic Four before they regroup and capture him. His latest appearances have him appear as part of a band of villains in subplots from a negative zone prison to the Avengers Standoff storyline.
Condor’s tie in with the bird people who date back to the Golden Age of comics is unresolved. His latest incarnation gives him even more physical strength, making him a capable hand to hand opponent for a variety of heroes. His predilection for using a variety of high-tech weapons makes him an unpredictable and flexible adversary. His 70’s wish to become a “Crime Lord” could be retconned giving him reasons why he became a villain (perhaps to confront Red Raven as leader of the bird people).
In terms of comic collecting speculation, it would be easy to overlook Condor. But when you consider that Marvel has tried to launch a Nova series 4 different times (5 if you include the Sam Alexander version), an MCU appearance of this hero is coming. If the MCU opted for the classic, less galactic version of the hero, Condor would be his most likely adversary. Until that happens or until a gifted creator gives this villain one more chance, Condor remains Almost Infamous.