Thursday, September 18, 2014


Despite being the red-headed stepchild among Marvel’s superteams, the Defenders still managed to rack up wins against some truly class-A villains, including the Headmen, the Walrus, Plantman, um, the guy who looked like a baboon, ah … well, okay, maybe they weren’t facing down Galactus on a regular basis, but you have to admit that The Defenders certainly fought bad guys. And among those bad guys, Tapping Tommy was definitely one of them!

An all-singing, all-dancing Maggia operative, dressed to the nines in top hat and tails, Tapping Tommy debuted by kidnapping Kyle Richmond (a.k.a. Defenders team leader and landlord for their upstate clubhouse Nighthawk) for cash ransom in Defenders vol.1 No.30 (December 1975, in a Bill Mantlo story delightfully titled “Gold Diggers of Fear!”).

While not exactly posing a world-class threat in his formal eveningwear and tap shoes, Tommy at least gets points for style. Punctuating his periodic threats with flourishes while explaining his master plan – hey, maybe this guy IS a Republic Serial Villain! – Tommy explains his background. Explaining his musical theatre modus operandi, he explains that his parents had been bootleggers during prohibition until they’d been snagged by the Feds. Adopted by a studio crew regular named  Hodges, Tommy scraped by as an extra during Hollywood’s golden age while his darling momma and poppa rotted in prison and eventually hooked up with Marvel’s ersatz organized crime family (of which he plans to reposition himself as leader).

Spoiler: They get him.
Tommy’s more than a pair of spats, though. Thanks to Hodge’s engineering skills, he’s got a sword-cane, exploding knock-out bombs in the crown of his top hat, and a passel of robots at his command, in two shapes: heavy industry models for Hulk-bustin’ and leggy, fully stacked lady robots for complicated show numbers/choreographed assassination attempts!

Tied to a Busy Berkely musical number set – OF DEATH – the Defenders endure abuse from swinging canes and robotic fists until they remember that they all have super-powers and the Hulk just headbutts Tommy into unconsciousness. They probably ought to make a note of that for future battles, maybe a little post-it note on Hulk’s forehead reading “Don’t forget – use powers to fight criminals” or something. Lord knows, they don’t want to get murdered by a criminal hula hooper or something.

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