This super-villain killed an X-Man (way back when that was still a difficult thing to do) as well as an Avenger. First appearing way back in the 1960s, Count Nefaria is the head of a major crime family. He has faced the might of the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Thunderbolts. A number of individual heroes from Iron Man to Captain America to Spider-Man to Moon Knight have battled him. Master assassin Madam Masque is his daughter. For someone whose super-villain resume is every bit as good as Doctor Doom’s, this criminal mastermind has flown under the casual reader’s radar for far too long!
Count Nefaria: The Biggest Bad Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
Count Nefaria first appeared in Avengers #13 as the head of the Maggia – a thinly veiled reference to a real organized crime faction. He came into conflict with early versions of the Avengers and the X-Men – and this was before he gained his superpowers. Using his genius and limitless wealth resources he developed brainwashing techniques and holograms designed to discredit these teams.
The Death of an X-Man
A decade later he resurfaced in an attempt to ransom the United States by taking control of their missile defense system. A newly formed group of X-Men stopped him, but the X-Man Thunderbird was tragically killed trying to stop him from escaping.
Desperate to regain his wealth and status he developed a plan to gain superpowers for himself. He duped Power Man (now known as Atlas), Whirlwind, and the Living Laser into robbing banks to finance his scheme. Secretly, his machines were siphoning off their individual powers and transferring them to Nefaria, multiplied a hundredfold. The Avengers defeated his Lethal Legion, only to be confronted by the new super-powered Count Nefaria.
A “Super” Battle with Count Nefaria
Writer Jim Shooter and artist John Byrne collaborate to pen one of the greatest non-stop, super-powered battle sequences in the history of comics. In Avengers #165 and Avengers #166, a powerful iteration of the Avengers team battles Count Nefaria. Nefaria’s super strength, speed, and laser eye beams can’t help but bring to mind DC Comics’ most powerful hero. The pace and artwork of this protracted battle should be a template. Showing future creators how to best use the comic book medium when a group battles an individual opponent. The combined efforts of Wonder Man, Iron Man, Thor and Vision finally overcome him.
We are forced to wait twenty more years before he battles another supergroup. He returns, evolved into ionic form to battle the combined might of the Avengers and the Thunderbolts. His daughter, Madame Masque, turns on him to aid the heroes and he is once again defeated.
An Echo of Count Nefaria’s Former Status
He returns to his roots as a “behind the scenes” opponent in Moon Knight Volume 4. Here, writer Brian Michael Bendis re-establishes Nefaria as the head of the west coast Maggia. He comes into conflict with the hero in a search for Ultron’s head. In issue #6, Nefaria kills Moon Knight’s ally, the former Avenger Echo, with a laser eye blast. Echo was the first of many people to wear the Ronin costume in the Avengers series. In Moon Knight #12, our villain defeats the titular hero. However, Moon Knight’s plan had the Avengers ambush Nefaria to again defeat him. He later appears as a foil for the likes of Squirrel Girl and Superior Doctor Octopus.
Count Nefaria has the background, the superpowers, and has done the dastardly deeds that would enshrine most villains into the Marvel hall of fame (or shame). Despite being featured by big-name comic creators, Count Nefaria can’t seem to make the step into the super-villain nobility that some of his peers have been able to. Thus I believe he still belongs in the “Almost Infamous” category. Do you?
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