A Canadian Super Villain??
Today’s featured villain is Frank Hall, a Canadian researcher working on a machine to enhance gravity. When a mistake in his work causes graviton particles to merge with him he discovers that he can control gravity and becomes the supervillain, Graviton!
Taking on the Classic Avengers
Graviton’s first story arc in Avengers #158 (in 1977) had so much going for it. The cover of his premiere issue featured a visually stunning battle between Vision and Wonder Man drawn by Jack Kirby. Inside, Jim Shooter and Sal Buscema put together one of the most iconic Avengers teams. It featured Captain America, Iron Man, Vision, Wonder Man, Scarlet Witch, Yellowjacket, Wasp, and Beast.
Graviton defeats them, only to have Thor and Black Panther join the team in the next issue. Together, arguably the most powerful team of Avengers ever put together battle the villain only to be defeated again.
Luckily for our heroes, every great villain has an Achilles heel. For Graviton it is his co-worker, Judy, and his need for companionship. His desire to seek her approval leads directly to his defeat as he loses control of his newfound powers and collapses in on himself like a miniature black hole.
The challenge of one villain versus a team
Writer Jim Shooter had just accomplished an incredibly challenging task for a comic book author. He created a villain powerful enough to defeat the Avengers – a much harder task than designing a foe for a single hero. His character had a power that translated well to the visual style of comic books (thanks again, Sal Buscema). Picture Captain America being pinned by his own shield and Thor’s hammer being halted in mid-flight. His power could be used in a variety of ways to challenge heroes ranging in strength from Black Panther to Wonder Man. The gravity manipulation power allowed for different and creative ways to confound the heroes (not just brute strength like many villains). In just two issues he also gave Graviton a weakness (his need to impress Judy) that could be expanded upon in future appearances.
Perhaps Marvel felt that Graviton’s power set was too similar to another villain about to get a big push from the company – Magneto. Whatever the reason, when he appears over two years later in Marvel Two-In-One Annual #4, they mutate him into a 50 foot tall monster to battle the Thing and Black Bolt. While the issue continues to develop his character, I fail to see the need to redesign him as a huge creature just to be a better physical opponent for the Thing.
The decline towards insignificance
He gets resurrected again back to his human appearance to face Thor, then the West Coast Avengers, then Spider-Man in a downward spiral of opponents. He does get several quality appearances against the Thunderbolts. Unfortunately, much of what happens in the Thunderbolts comics fly under the casual reader’s radar. Most recently he has struggled with his sanity and fallen into henchman status with the Hood’s crime syndicate.
Many only know him as a villain in Marvel’s Agents of Shield (depicted as Glenn Talbot, not Frank Hall). While I enjoy Agents of Shield, super villains depicted there are notoriously underpowered and often don’t translate well to a limited budget TV series. Thus, Graviton’s appearance on the small screen may be as close as he gets to fame. But for a character with so much potential, especially against a group of heroes, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. Especially when his powers can be depicted and defined so well in both comics and on the screen. Only time will tell. Until then, Frank Hall’s Graviton remains Almost Infamous.
Next up: Condor