A column in which we highlight, for better or for worse, a comic character you may not know and give a brief history of why that is and who the hell they are.
In the 1980s, a new era for comic books was beginning to take shape. Stories got grittier, characters went darker, and the idea of what a comic book character and story could be was completely redefined and taken to a new, deeper level.
And while the world of comics was beginning to take these hefty steps towards humanity and exploring our inner demons, from out of seemingly nowhere emerged a brand-new Marvel superhero for the world to chew on. Now, I hear you saying, “Hey, Matt, if this character was created during this massive culture shift, they obviously encompass and represent the complexity and entropy of this brand-new comic book world, right?” Hahahahahahaha. F*ck no.
This character is a halfhearted concoction of third tier superhero ideas, powers, and backstory with a dash of devastatingly bad body odor. I am speaking, of course, of Demolition Man!
Not to be confused with the 1993 cult classic of the same name that made waaaaaay more money than you probably think it did, this Demolition Man has everything you wished that movie had: Professional Wrestling, superheroes running a call center, and becoming a champion amongst homeless people. No. Wait. The movie had that last one. Created in 1987, Dennis Dunphy first made his appearance in The Thing #28 and appeared later as his alter ego Demolition Man (or D-Man) in Captain America #328. Dennis Dunphy, an aspiring athlete, receives strength augmentation treatments by Power Broker, Inc., a criminal corporation which provides individuals with superhuman physical abilities, but for a price. Kinda like He- lloFresh, but instead of organic treats, it’s a drug addiction to superpowers.
Under the influence of his newly acquired habit, Dunphy finds himself too strong for normal sports, so he turns to the only other logical option: professional wrestling. Obviously. But not your janky human professional wrestling, Dunphy joins the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (UCWF), a superhuman professional wrest- ling organization. But, unlike regular professional wrestling, the UCWF was scripted. And after refusing to throw a fight, Dunphy is tricked into attacking everyone around him, has his powers taken away, and goes through severe withdrawals. And that’s just the first para- graph on his Wikipedia page. Eventually, Dunphy regains his powers and looks a gift horse in the mouth by investigating the people who gave him his powers in the first place.
And it is at this point in which D-Man is given his infamously plagiarized costume by none other than Mr. Subtle Fashion-Statement himself: Captain America. He may be able to fight Nazis all through Europe, but do not ask him to dress you. Now, if D-Man’s costume looks familiar to you, it’s because you have eyes. And yes, what you’re seeing is literally someone wearing DareDevil’s yellow suit with Wolverine’s mask on his head. I’ve tried looking into why D-Man’s costume is such a bla- tant rip-off and the best I could find was someone yelling into the internet void: “Yo, that looks better on DareDevil, just sayin’.”
The rest of D-Man’s history is kind of a sh*tshow. It’s discovered that his superpowers give him a heart condition, so even though he can lift up to 15 tons, he actually can’t or he’ll die.
He then has a heart attack due to said condition and takes a break from crimefighting to run Captain America’s Hotline as a call center manager. After that, he becomes delusional and unstable, leading him to steal a civilian’s jewelry thinking they were the infinity stones, go on the run, become the leader of the criminal underworld, win a pie eating contest at an Avengers picnic, and finally… find his way back to crime fighting as a partner to Sam Wilson’s new Captain America. And what, pray tell, is Sam Wilson’s explanation to all of D-Man’s previous nonsense? “He’s a survivor.” Geez, can I use that excuse?
Now, look. I am aware that creating superheroes is difficult to do. And I know that inventing a unique superpower mixed with an interesting backstory for said superhero can be an impossible task, but holy sh*t Demolition Man is rough. He is the comic book equivalent of someone saying, “Okay, you can copy my homework, but make it look different” and someone, aggressively not listening, then rubs said homework in the dirt for an hour. And the worst part is, I really don’t think Marvel hides the fact that D-Man’s a walking punchline. There are countless times since his creation that have seen him be the butt of other heroes’ jokes. However, in recent iterations, it seems as though D-Man has begun to receive some much-needed upgrades: They’ve cleaned him up with a cool new hipster look (the rich kind, not the bike riding kind), given him a loving boyfriend, and even upgraded his costume with the addition of battle armor. Does this mean that Demolition Man has begun to take some long awaited steps out of obscurity and into the spotlight of cool? Perhaps. Although, it doesn’t help his case when the writers have him try on his brand-new battle armor for the first time and his first words are, “I finally look cool!” D-man, from all of us here at Comic Con Magazine, you’re doing great sweetheart.
I AM AWARE THAT CREATING SUPERHEROES IS DIFFICULT TO DO. AND I KNOW THAT INVENTING A UNIQUE SUPERPOWER MIXED WITH AN INTERESTING BACKSTORY FOR SAID SUPERHERO CAN BE AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK, BUT HOLY SH*T DEMOLITION MAN IS ROUGH
Best Appearance: Captain America asks Demolition Man to join the Avengers for a mission to stop Flag-Smasher. On said mission, the heroes discover a doomsday weapon at an enemy base, leading D-Man to crash a plane into the base to save everyone. D-Man was not killed, but was later found living among the Inuit, having suffered wounds that rendered him mute and in a stupor. Thank you for your service, D-Man.
Worst Appearance: At one point, D-Man becomes a hero of a subterranean group of ho- meless people called the Zero People and, while doing this, (and I swear to Christ this is real) became so smelly, he would drive off villains and heroes with his stink. So, in essence, his stench became a superpower.
Marvel, you sonuva b*tch.
Random Fact: In New Aven- gers #7, D-Man is one of many heroes interviewed to be a nanny for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones’s newborn child. He apparently cries the whole time and his only lines are “I am so lonely…”, “I think I came off desperate before–” and “Does Captain America ever talk about me?”. Yikes. Worst of all, when Jessica Jones says her mind is made up on a nanny (Squirrel Girl), Luke Cage quips “D-Man
it is.” to which she responds “Cute.” The guy is a war veteran, people! Leave him alone!