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Saturday, June 10, 2006

A Brief History of Nemesis, Part One

Ladies and gentlemen, he has returned.

Yes, slamming into the pages of Wonder Woman like a bullet made of paralyzing neurotoxin is Nemesis, who rises from the shadows to balance the scales of justice against crime! And while there are certainly a few other reveals in the premiere issue of Heinberg and the Dodsons' run that people who don't spend large chunks of their free time reading mid-80s John Ostrander comics were more interested in, this was the one that got me excited.

Allow me to explain.

First appearing as a series of backup stories starting in The Brave and the Bold #166, Tom Tresser was a brilliant intelligence agent specailizing in developing equipment whose brother Craig, also an agent, seemingly went crazy one day and assassinated bureau head Ben Marshall, who had been like a father to them.

This, as you might imagine, didn't sit well with Tom, who promptly went underground, suspecting that his brother had been used as a pawn in the machinations of organized crime--here represented by The Council, the same outfit that opposed Paul Kirk in the totally radical Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Manhunter. So, forsaking his disgraced family name and adopting the name for an agent of righteous infliction of retribution, Tom Tresser became Nemesis, using his government training and inventions to strike back at the underworld, choosing the Scales of Justice as his calling card.

And even better, in order to keep track of his success, Tresser gave Marshall's widow a statue of the scale and a weight with her husband's name carved into it, and every time he'd take down a member of the Council who had been involved with Marshall's death, he'd place a single bullet inscribed with their name on the opposite plate, balancing their lives against the man they killed until justice was done.

And that... is awesome.

In order to battle the Council, Nemesis employed gadgets like a thin "razor-knife" he concealed under a patch of false skin and a gun that shot paralyzing "Mercy Bullets," butrelied chiefly on his Human Target-esque mastery of disguise. Aside from being an incredible actor, he was aided by masks made of a super-thin polymer he'd developed for the government that mimicked his own facial muscles and could be dissolved instantly with a gas, not unlike how the Question's mask worked.

Unfortunately, Nemesis decided to keep the mask-dissolving gas in his collar rather than his belt, and made it sensitive enough that it would go off whenever it was slightly jostled, which--what with all the face-melting that usually resulted--caused quite a few awkward moments.

Anyway, Nemesis stuck it to the Council for a while, taking the time to stab a man in the hand and then blackmail him into turning State's Evidence in the second comic book I ever read, and doing a little side-work for the MPAA on the side:

Remember, Kids: Video Piracy Is A Crime!

It goes on like this for a while, with Nemesis infiltrating the Council's highest ranking members and taking them out one by one until he teams up with Batman to take on the enigmatic leader of the Council, known only as the Head.

And for good reason:

Yes, the sinister mastermind behind the Council is none other than Arthur Digby Sellers, who wrote 156 episodes of Branded--the bulk of the series. Not exactly a lightweight.

But not exactly a match for Nemesis and Batman either, or for traitorous Nazi scientists with an affinity for yanking out life support cords.

So, with the Head gone, the Council pretty much devolves into chaos as the surviving members forget about running their global crime empire and instead turn their attentions to the death of one man, culminating in an attempt by would-be kingpin Jay Kingston, who models his lifestyle after a Roman Emperor, but with (I hope) significantly less vomiting. Kingston kidnaps Marjorie Marshall and uses her to lure Nemesis into a custom-designed deathtrap arena, a plot that in the entire history of comics has never, ever worked. Nemesis is no exception, but Kingston's done in by one of his own lieutenants, who himself is subsequently mauled by one of the lions that Kingston allows to roam his property, apparently in an attempt to keep Conan from scaling the Tower of the Elephant.

Nemesis, in a very My Name is Earl moment, considers this rather bizarre chain of events to be the work of the hand of Justice.

Even stranger is the Master Plan of the last Council member, Chicago's Irene Scarfield, who gets the bright idea to bankroll a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists, financing their attacks in an effort to keep an anti-crime bill from being passed.


Apparently, she thinks that a terrorist organization will deflect suspicion from her own crimnal empire, despite the fact that she's filling out the rather thin ranks of the People's Liberation Army with her local Chi-town thugs. That's the kind of crazy that you need two super-heroes to deal with, so Nemesis and Batman team up once again to foil the terrorists. Unfortunately, Irene's got a backup plan, launching a remote-controlled helicopter full of explosives at Senator "Longtom" White, the bill's chief backer.

Sadly, while Batman's busy dealing out five knuckles worth of justice to Bloodclaw, a terrorist enforcer armed with giant steel fingernails--fire-engine red, naturally--that he can shoot with deadly accuracy from the tips of his fingers, Nemesis is left to get to the chopper himself. Unable to take control of it, he whips out his concussion gun, blowing a hole in the roof and blasting off the propellers, crashing the helicopter right into Irene's bunker in a firey explosion of vengeance from which there are no survivors.

And so, as Batman realizes as he returns to the Marshall house, Nemesis has finally balanced the scales of Justice, sacrificing his own life to rid the world of the Council.

And that's the first time Tom Tresser died. But don't worry: He Got Better.

Tomorrow, On The ISB:


Be here as Tom Tresser rises from the grave to balance the scales against Crime alongside the Suicide Squad and... aw, for the love of -- Catwoman?!


More (Somewhat) Brief Histories:

| Firestorm, Part One |
| Firestorm, Part Two |


Blogger Winterteeth said...

Bravissimo! I, too, was most excited to see Nemesis really really back (not just implied back like at the end of the not-that-good Suicide Squad vol. 2). I had never read those Brave & the Bold issues, only the original Suicide Squad so thank you for the infotainment.

6/11/2006 10:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last night I was hanging out at a friend's house asking myself "Who the fuck is Nemesis?" Swear to God.

6/11/2006 12:23 PM

Blogger Dorian said...

I hate to have to say it, but Nemesis back-ups are my least favorite part of Brave and the Bold...He's always struck me as an attempt to "redo" Manhunter, but borrowing heavily from the Human Target didn't seem the best way to do that.

6/11/2006 2:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, The Head is kind of a let-down.

You hear a name like that and you expect a guy without a body, especially since Scott Free actually DID battle a disembodied head/criminal mastermind, and the Doom Patrol went one better and fought a disembodied brain.

Frankly, being a cripple just doesn't cut it in today's post-Dick Tracy superhero world.

By the way, did he ever meet 2000AD's Nemesis the Warlock?

6/11/2006 2:26 PM

Blogger Ragnell said...

He looks like loads of fun. Maybe he'll become a WW regular.

6/11/2006 5:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh. That's actually pretty cool.

6/11/2006 5:02 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Yeah, the Brave and the Bold Nemesis backups aren't the highlight of the book, but I do think they're pretty fun, especially the ones where he fights in Jay Kingston's death arena, and and I think they're pretty comparable to the team-ups that were going on in the main story at the time.

Plus, B&B #91 was literally the second comic book I ever read, so I've always had a lot of affection for the guy.

6/11/2006 6:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been wondering who this guy was when i saw him on Justice League Unlimited, thanks for the intell

6/18/2006 11:36 AM


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