In 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.
The 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.
Metal 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.
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!