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Constantine Stratos, who fought Superman
Constantine Stratos, known as Doctor Stratos, was introduced as a villain opposed by Superman in Adventures of Superman #431 (August 1987). The issue was written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Erik Larson, with inking credited to "India Inc."
The plot revolves around Doctor Stratos attempting to blackmail the world by sending devastating weather to various cities all around the world. Doctor Stratos believes that he is a god by virtue of having been the child of Greco-Roman gods. He claims he was found as an infant abandoned at the foot of Mount Olympus. However, Doctor Stratos has no powers whatsoever. His control of the weather comes from a cloaked satellite that he designed. Early in the issue Doctor Stratos, after some initial unannounced demonstrations of his ability to control weather, calls the President of the United States (Ronald Reagan) on the phone (interrupting the President's phone conversation with Mikhail Gorbachev. Doctor Stratos threatens the world with his "godly" weather powers, and informs the President that he will issue his demands when next they speak. (Nobody except his technician know that his "power" comes from the satellite, instead of within himself.) President Reagan contacts Superman to ask for help.
Superman spends most of the issue combatting various weather effects of dubious plausibility, in places such as London, Paris, Egypt, and Tetovan (Morocco). Finally, exhausted, Superman realizes that Doctor Stratos must be controlling the weather in so many distant places using a satellite. Superman knew all along that Doctor Stratos' background was in computer sciences and that he was using technological means to control the weather. Superman is able to scan the skies with his superhuman vision and trace transmissions back to Doctor Stratos' satellite. Superman quickly disables Doctor Stratos' satellite and then traces the tranmissions back to Doctor Stratos' base in Greece.
Doctor Stratos tries to stop Superman's approach by using a particle-beam-enhanced bolt of lightning. (Superman apparently didn't disable the satellite quite enough.) Unfortunately for Doctor Stratos, in sending a lightning bolt to strike Superman who is en route from the satellite to Doctor Stratos himself, Stratos has created a lightning bolt that will strike himself as well. Superman attempts to block the lightning bolt, but its energy strikes Doctor Stratos as well. Doctor Stratos is covered with flames and knocked through the wall of his Greek villa on a high cliff. He plummets to the ocean below, apparently shocked that he is going to die, because "gods do not die!"
Superman tries to find Stratos, but can't. He returns to Stratos' base to dismantle the rest of his equipment. In a twist Epilogue, we see the Aegean sea a few days later. The surface of the ocean boils, a hand reaches up from beneath the surface, and Stratos emerges, apparently a gigantic monstrous figure, now with the "power of a god." He vows he will meet Superman again and destroy him. Throughout this issue Stratos had seemed to be deluded in his beliefs that he was the offspring of gods and thus a god himself. Now, however, his transformation into such a powerful being makes such a theory more plausible. Either that, or he was indeed simply a normal human being who obtained vast powers be being struck by a particle-beam-enhanced lightning bold. Neither explanation is very plausible, but then, this is the DC Universe, where Doctor Stratos is no less a flight of fantasy than Superman himself.
Although there the story had some elements which seemed to have strong potential, and the plot pitting Superman against crazy weather around the world had the virtue of being new and different, the execution of this Superman story was not particularly impressive, neither in story nor art. Marv Wolfman, normally one of the most talented and dependable writers at DC Comics during this time, renowned for his work on The Teen Titans, delivered a story that seemed like a rushed fill-in issue. The art by Erik Larsen seems like a weak Al Milgrom imitation. There's an admirable enery to the breakdowns and the faces are nicely expressive. But overall combination of Larsen's pencils and the anonymously credited ink work seems awkward and rushed.
Unfortunately for Doctor Stratos, the villain of the story, this issue seems to have been so un-memorable that it has apparently never been followed up with a re-appearance of the villain. One can imagine the literary spirit of Doctor Stratos engaging the services of his fellow Greco-Roman mythological beings the muses to visit various DC Comics writers to petition them to write his return, only to be turned down as scribes read his first appearance and think to themselves, "This was one of the lamest Superman stories of the late 1980s. I don't want to write about this guy."
Dialogue excerpts from: Marv Wolfman, Adventures of Superman #431 ("They Call Him -- Doctor Stratos", DC Comics: New York City (August 1987), pages 3-5; reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 4 trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2005), pages 165-167:
Hodor (servant): Doctor Stratos, everyone is waiting for you to address them.
Later, after Superman has saved people from numerous dangerous weather problems caused by Doctor Stratos, he disables the weather-causing satellite, tracks Doctor Stratos down, and heads toward Doctor Stratos' palatial home and base of operations. From: Adventures of Superman #431, pages 20-22 (reprinted in Superman: The Man of Steel, Vol. 4, pages 182-184):
Doctor Stratos: So? Is a god obliged to cater to his worshippers? They will dutifully wait. Won't they, Marianne?
Marianne: S- sure, Constantine . . . Wh- whatever you say!
Doctor Stratos: You see, Hodor? Marianne knows her place. Those cretins will learn theirs!
Ahhh, gentlemen, welcome to Castle Chaos. I trust your flight to Greece was uneventful. We will begin business after I deal with my former aide, Emil Markos. It might serve you all well to see the way I work.
Emil, you disappointed me again. And I warned you I would not tolerate failure. Beyond your repeated failures, you stole from me and attempted to enlist my staff to rebel.
Emil Markos: D... Doctor, I will repent . . . I was led astray . . . Please . . . I am storry. I beg you, Doctor Stratos-- Give me another chance.
Doctor Stratos: You beg of Doctor Stratos? Why should a god heed the plea of a mortal? No, Emil, I will not grant mercy. Doctor Stratos command you to Hell!
[A lightning bolt comes from what had been a clear sky a moment ago and strikes Markos, who was, unfortunately, standing outside the room on a balcony, exposed to the sky. The lightning bolt kills Markos.]
Doctor Stratos: And now, my good friends, let us to business. I was found-- a waif abandoned at the base of Mount Olympus-- My parents unknown to all save me. For I am a child of the Gods -- granted command over the force of weather itself. When I ascend to the Heavens, that power will become me. That has been decreed, for my destiny has been enscribedin the stars! And you, my mortal friends, now have the pleasures [sic] to serve me. Well, why do you stand there? Do as you have been commanded! All save you, Melinda. You will serve me . . . tonight.
Melinda: I . . . yes. Constantine . . . Of course, Doctor Stratos. Of course.
[The next panel shows Doctor Stratos in bed with Melinda, after she has "served" him.]
Doctor Stratos: Do you feel it in the wind, Melinda? The glory that will be mine? I revel in my impending success.
Melinda: So do I, Constantine . . . I pray for you . . . [she thinks to herself: . . . to die, you madman. You've humiliated me for the last time. Go ahead, Constantine-- Sleep. Just a moment longer.]
[Melinda slips out of bed, picks up a knife from a nightstand, and approaches Constantine, intent on killing him while he sleeps.]
Melinda: Then we'll all sleep better knowing that you're-- Constantine! Nooooo!
[A blast of cold air breaks shatters the glass of the window nearest to Melinda. Snow and cold air blast through the window, covering Melinda until she is encased in a block of ice, presumably killing her. In his bed, we see Doctor Stratos smiling, his eyes still closed.]
Doctor Stratos: [addressing a technician] Move aside, fool. Doctor Stratos is a god -- and he shall have the right to destroy his human foe. [Doctor Stratos uses the controls of his weather satellite to trigger a lightning bolt to strike Superman.] There! -- The hand of God shall smite the enemy from on high.
Superman (thinking): I see his castle below! And -- eh? He's trying to head me off with another particle-beam-enhanced bolt of lightning! So beat-- he just may do me in with this one!
Doctor Stratos: No! You're too close -- we'll all be--
Superman (thinking): He's right! Can't let the beam hit anyone! Stratos is only human. I am more than human! Must take the full bru-- AAARGH! [Superman is hit by the lightning bolt, taking the brunt of its energy. Doctor Stratos is right behind him.] So numb . . . can barely move . . . what happened? Wasn't able to get there fast enough-- too tired! Stratos?
Doctor Stratos: AIEEEEE! I-- I've been hit-- I'm dying!! [Doctor Stratos appears to be on fire. He is knocked through the wall, and plunges off the cliff into the ocean. He exclaims his surprise while he falls.] But I cannot die-- I am a god! Gods do not Dieeee!
Superman: Stratos? [Thinking:] Gone? Into the sea. I tried to reach him-- but I wasn't fast enough-- Too worn down! Got to see if by some miracle he survived-- though no man could live through something like that! [Superman swims under water, searching for Stratos.] Nothing . . . No sign of him anywhere! He must have disintegrated upon hitting the water. He's gone . . . and I still have a hundred questions. Most will never be answered. At least its over! That's something to be grateful about. I'll dismantle his laboratory and his satellite after I speak with his scientists. And after that, maybe a long vacation!
Narration: Days later . . . the Aegean Sea . . . A calm before the storm. Its waters glow with an unfamiliar warmth from below. Then comes the boiling energy . . . The frothing power . . . And the seas fairly part with a fire born ont of fabled Olympus . . . but in the burning depths of hell!
Stratos: [Now transformed into a monstrous giant.] It is as I have always known. The power is now inside me . . . I have claimed my proper destiny! The human Doctor Stratos is gone! Now Stratos, the God, walks the Earth! And Stratos will return for his due! Not tomorrow or th next day, but it is inevitable! And on that day, Superman shall die! That is his destiny!
Webpage created 19 December 2005. Last modified 20 December 2005.
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