Almost Infamous: Mr. Kline

by Dan Gagnon

Daredevil-84-203x300 Almost Infamous: Mr. KlineIn 1971 references to the mysterious Mr. Kline had appeared in over one-third of the superhero comics published by Marvel!  In more recent times that would equate to the type of hype crossover events like Civil War, Secret Invasion or Empyre would generate.  Despite this push, Mr. Kline and his futuristic master Baal, had their storyline wrap up in a one-issue battle against Daredevil and the Black Widow.  The time-traveling villains and their cryptic views of earth’s future never received another reference in comics.

Teen Prodigy Gerry Conway

Comic geniuses Gerry Conway and Gene Colan created Mr. Kline.  Amazingly, in 1971, Gerry Conway scripted the comic books Daredevil, Iron Man, Sub Mariner, and Captain America.  Even more amazing is that he was 19 years old at the time!  Many of Conway’s early stories were dark, moody tales (making Gene Colan the ideal artist to work with him).  It was quite a surprise to see the science fiction element of the robotic time traveler Mr. Kline appear in his Daredevil comics.  The villain made at least a cameo appearance in all of the books Conway was writing at the time.

Mister-Kline1-198x300 Almost Infamous: Mr. KlineThe Man in the Shadows

Mr. Kline first appeared in Daredevil #78.  He was depicted as a figure in the shadows monitoring his agents’ actions against the heroes.  Readers typically viewed him from behind as he studied television monitors with a defining cigarette holder in his hand (an odd vice for a robot).  These appearances bring to mind the way that DC comics introduced the Monitor leading into Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Early on we only knew that his goals included preventing certain people from coming into power.  He stopped Matt Murdock’s long time partner, Foggy Nelson, from campaigning for governor of New York with a blackmail plot.  While we never learn what he found in Nelson’s past, it was important enough to force him to jail the Black Widow on a false murder charge.

Iron-Man-44-201x300 Almost Infamous: Mr. KlineMetal Men vs. Iron Man

A second goal was to ruin Tony Stark and his company.  This plot was revealed in Iron Man #41.  Mr. Kline plagued Stark and his bodyguard with the androids Demetrius, the Slasher, Mikas, and even an American Senator.  After their failures, he unleashed the Night Phantom robot on Iron Man.  With the help of the Guardsman, Iron Man barely defeated the robot and learned that Mr. Kline was behind the attacks.  I’m sure most fans expected these confrontations to lead up to a climactic battle with Mr. Kline.  Instead, the golden avenger moved on to other adventures, and the unlikely hero left to wrap up the time-traveling robot story was Daredevil.

Street Hero vs. Time Traveling Robots

Daredevil first stumbled across Mr. Kline while tracking down a kidnapper.  He defeats the villain’s pawns Man-Bull and then the Owl.  We then learn that Mr. Kline is actually the robot MK-9, sent back from the future by the super-computer Baal to alter his timeline.  Baal awards Mr. Kline the title “Assassin” as he sends robotic versions of the Scorpion and Mr. Hyde against Daredevil and the Black Widow.  The lengthy lead up comes to a finale in Daredevil #84.  Posing as a Russian surgeon, the Assassin lures Black Widow and Daredevil to his base in Switzerland with the promise of curing Matt Murdock’s blindness.  The heroes discover the deception and defeat him.  As he struggles to repair himself the Final Sons of Man, two-time travelers who we had only briefly seen in Sub Mariner #42, appear and destroy Mr. Kline so that their timeline can be saved.

Mister-Kline-300x204 Almost Infamous: Mr. KlineTerminated

Astoundingly, that abruptly ends the saga of Mr. Kline, his master Baal, and the enigmatic Final Sons of Man.  More than a decade later Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator film franchise would begin with a very similar premise.  Marvel is currently promoting their big Empyre crossover based upon some classic Avenger and Fantastic Four storylines.  Marvel loves pulling events from their broad history and tying them into new stories.  Could Baal and his servant MK-9 someday get a proper wrap up in a future crossover event?  Let’s hope so… otherwise, the mysterious Mr. Kline will remain Almost Infamous.

A big thank you to Steve C. for the suggestion to feature Mr. Kline.  If anyone has ideas for future villains to feature please add them into the comments! 

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steve centonzo July 8, 2020 - 7:37 am

Dude!! great article…

Dan Gagnon July 8, 2020 - 11:49 am

Thanks Steve! I’m looking forward to some more great villain ideas from you!

steve centonzo July 8, 2020 - 1:59 pm

i thought of a few. If I’m thinking right, the characters who inhabited silver and bronze but would be out of place in today’s books?
Dr. Jonas Harrow (super villain maker)
Dr Demonicus (Evil Kaiju maker)
The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. (wow, who goes to circuses anymore. They’re all unemployed now)
Machine Smith
We were separated at birth, you and I. I sit here among a 45 year long collection of 186 short boxes. and 200 marvel masterworks that i read constantly. I taught High School Social Studies in NYC for 20 years.

Dan Gagnon July 8, 2020 - 4:39 pm

Ha! I fear you may be right. These are great suggestions (Ringmaster being my favorite). I will get to work on these right away!

steve centonzo July 9, 2020 - 7:43 am

one last suggestion..(.See what you started? )
Supervillain buddies.
The Fixer and Mentallo
Cobra and Hyde
Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker
The Enchantress and The Executioner
Plant man, the Eel and the Porcupine
You meet a guy at work and become buddies. Same thing happens to supervillains, right?

Dan Gagnon July 9, 2020 - 2:07 pm

Great idea! Please keep throwing names out as they pop into your head. It’s greatly appreciated!

steve centonzo July 10, 2020 - 7:38 am

i’m trying to suggest characters whose life story is a little “twistie-turnie”…another thought was Dragon Man. Have a great weekend.

Dan Gagnon July 10, 2020 - 9:54 pm

Thanks! Same to you. Stay safe.

steve centonzo July 13, 2020 - 10:19 am

last comment before i go on va-ca
You could explore who was a better Supervillain maker? Jonas Harrow or Harlan Stillwell?
I am reading my collection of Silver and Bronze Spidey’s straight thru and I am up to issue 169…between both, you are looking at the creation of about 6 or 7 villains


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