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Blue Blazes! A Spotlight on Marvel's Human Rocket

By Chad Derdowski     May 05, 2010
Source: Mania

Comicscape: NOVA Joins THE AVENGERS
© Mania

We at Comicscape hate to say we told you so but… oh hell. Who are we kidding? We love to gloat and rub it in everyone’s faces on the rare occasion that we’re actually right about something. And with the big reveal a few weeks back that Nova is slated to be a member of Steve Rogers’ Secret Avengers, we’d like to remind you of the February 3rd edition of Comicscape, in which we suggested that the Human Rocket’s profile had been sufficiently elevated in recent years to be a viable member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. And it looks like someone at Marvel was listening.

Of course, we also suggested that Speedball might be a good choice for membership. So maybe this is just a simple case of “even a blind squirrel finds a nut”? Either way, we couldn’t be happier to see Nova join the ranks of Moon Knight, Valkyrie, War Machine and Beast as a member of the Secret Avengers. It’s an oddball team reminiscent of Cap’s Kooky Quartet from the olden days. With the maskless outfit worn by the former Star Spangled Avenger, the Nordic good looks of Valkyrie and the animal magnetism of Hank McCoy, perhaps we’ll be calling them Steve’s Sexy Sextet in the coming months?

Or perhaps not. At any rate, we’re here to celebrate ol’ Buckethead being given Avengers priority clearance by taking a look back at his storied career.



Once Upon a Time in the ‘70s

Richard Rider was created by Marv Wolfman and Len Wein and first appeared as Black Nova in the fanzine Super Adventures all the way back in 1966. The character was intended as an homage to the old Lee and Ditko days of Spider-Man, as a working class hero who always seemed to be down on his luck, whether it came to the ladies or troubles with money. He also seemed to be inspired somewhat by Green Lantern, having been chosen by a dying Xandarian named Rhomann Dey to carry on his powers and legacy as a member of the Nova Corps, an interplanetary peace keeping organization.

Nova made his first appearance in The Man Called Nova #1, published by Marvel Comics, in 1976 with the tagline “In the Marvelous tradition of Spider-Man!” displayed prominently on the cover. Nova had his own rogues gallery including Condor, Powerhouse, Diamondhead and the immortal Sphinx, who became the Human Rocket’s arch enemy in the ensuing years, returning to plague him time and again.

Nova’s series ran for 25 issues, with dangling plotlines being resolved in the pages of the Fantastic Four. Readers saw Richard Rider relinquish his Nova powers following a war between Xandar and the Skrulls. Tired of being so far from home, Nova gave up his powers and returned to a life of flipping burgers and barely making ends meet… which doesn’t really sound a whole lot cooler than flying around in outer space fighting aliens, but who are we to judge? To each their own, that’s what we say.

Our own experiences with the Human Rocket came in the late 1980’s when a brother-in-law dropped off a stack of old comics he’d found in his parent’s attic. Among them were a few issues of Nova, a book we’d never heard of but quickly adopted as a favorite, which led to finding tattered back issues on the cheap at our local comic shop. Imagine our surprise and delight a few years later when Nova was revived on a new team of teen heroes.



New Warriors, New Adventures

In 1990, Fabian Nicieza just happened to pluck a character that was near and dear to our heart out of obscurity for his new teen hero book, The New Warriors. Naturally, we had to buy it. The book featured up-and-coming artist Mark Bagley as well as a bunch of forgotten (and occasionally brand new) characters from the Marvel Universe. It tackled topical issues like child abuse and environmentalism, often in a very heavy handed fashion. And it didn’t take long for Nova to become one of the most beloved members of the team, eventually getting his own solo series again.

The book carried on for a while, was cancelled and re-started and eventually recreated with the team as stars of a reality show, which of course, led to the Stamford Incident and the Civil War.



Annihilation, War of Kings and a Return to Earth

Opting to leave earth rather than stay and join Tony Stark’s government sponsored Avengers, Nova played a prominent role in both Annihilation and the War of Kings. He lost his powers again when Ego the Living Planet overtook the Nova Corps Worldmind, obtained the nega bands from Quasar, regained his powers again and set about building a new Nova Corps. That’s an insanely condensed version of a few years’ worth of events, but we weren’t reading all of that stuff, so cut us some slack, okay? The bottom line here is that Nova, who has never played more than a bit part on the grand stage of the Marvel Universe, found himself thrust into a starring role in the cosmic side of the story.

Our Comicscape Crystal Ball is a bit cloudy, but it appears that both Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, the tentpoles of Marvel’s cosmic corner, are being put on hiatus during the Thanos Imperative, which looks to be the big event for space-faring heroes this summer. And of course, now we’ll be seeing more of Richard Rider in the pages of Secret Avengers.


Will the events of the Thanos Imperative play a role in Steve Rogers’ selection of Nova for his team? In recent years, Nova’s power levels have grown exponentially – back in the old days, he was just a strong dude who flew. Now he’s got all sorts of gravimetric pulses and a suit that comes equipped with its own weaponry. On a team consisting of War Machine, Beast, Moon Knight and Valkyrie, it looks like Nova is going to be the real powerhouse of the team. Or will we see a weaker Nova, his power lessened due to being cut off from the Worldmind? Either way, we’re just excited to see him featured so prominently on the biggest superhero team of ‘em all (though we’re really hoping his costume gets tweaked a bit and he loses those weird horn thingies on his shoulders).

Richard Rider, aka Nova, aka the Human Rocket – we salute you! From your origins in the Bronze Age to your time spent as a forgotten hero and the long, slow ascent into awesomeness that began with the New Warriors and your modern-day outer space adventures, you’ve always been one of our favorites. When Secret Avengers #1 hits the stands, we’ll raise a glass and shout out your familiar catch phrase “Blue Blazes!” in your honor. Congratulations. You’ve come a long way, baby.


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FerretJohn 5/5/2010 12:40:18 AM

Nova in the Avengers: great, wonderful, been a long time coming.  The Avengers themselves:  Not so sure about right now.  The line-ups leave me a little perplexed, especially the New Avengers and Secret Avengers.  So far the new Avengers feature Cage, Jewel, Spiderman, Wolverine, & the Thing, all straight muscle.  No blasters, no powerhouses (Thing being closest), no Techs (Spiderman is close but always underrated), and no one who truly stands out as a leader-type.  And two of the members divide their time with other teams while Spiderman, though a solid ally, never seemed a right fit as a regular member.  Cage and Jewel are fine but Marvel has a wide array of heroes at their disposal, why they chose the others with all their extracurricular activities I don't know.  Mighty Avengers: I'd rather see Rogers as Captain America and Hawkeye off doing his own thing with Mockingbird.  Secret Avengers: I'm still not sure what the hell that's all about.  I always loved the Avengers, and I'm glad all this persecution and angst is over and they're back to being heroes, but the line-ups really make no sence.

cdale78 5/5/2010 4:30:43 AM

Now all they need is Bug from Micronauts, Howard the Duck, and Iron Fist to make it the greatest comic ever.

ponyboy76 5/5/2010 5:30:30 AM

I've only been recently checking out Nova again  because of War and Realm of Kings. I like him better these days.

This is off the Nova topic but because I mentioned War of Kings, can someone tell me where the hell Havok, Polaris and Rachel Summers are? After War of Kings, Alex found out what was going on back on Earth with Messiah Complex and now Second Coming is going on and they stil haven't made it back to Earth. Anyone know what's going on?

And I also can't believe Nightcrawler is gone. He was a cool character and the heart and conscience of  the X-men.

SelectiveRealism 5/5/2010 5:42:23 AM

 Luke Cage is heading up the Thunderbolts.  They are supposed to have Crossbones, Juggernaut, Ghost, Fixer, Mach V, Songbird, Man-Thing and Moonstone.   That's a pretty good mix if you like amoral and crazy.

I don't know why they will have Luke Cage pulling double duty but it's not like Marvel hasn't done that before.  There supposedly are going to be more members of the New Avengers that have been released so far which makes sense since they do need to balance out the team.

The Secret Avengers line-up looks great and considering they have Moon Knight, Ant-Man, War Machine and Black Widow I don't think Cap's team will have many reservations about getting their hands dirty.



Butchman 5/5/2010 7:28:54 AM

Cdate, I may actually start buying Avengers agian with that lineup! lol

jcreep 5/5/2010 7:40:52 AM

I have not brought a comicbook in 3 or 4 years now & i do mis da comicworld of books but after seeing my main man Nova coming back as a member of the Avengers( Secret ) now i'm primed 2 buy that issue& probably tha series. this series reminds me of the " New Warriors " days, i do have that entire series( Night thrasher via da 2nd Nova series etc...). da reason(s) i stopped collecting is because i met a young lady & i lost my touch & the other was sometimes marvel changes artist from comicbook 2 comicbook( ala newwarriors & others ) so i hope they hope they keep all artist,writers & colorist on this new series but if they do change make sure the artist is better not worst & we're be alright. every1 praise 4 da return of nova..........guess what comicfan i'm baaaaaaaaaaak!!!!!!

jcreep 5/5/2010 7:46:07 AM

P.s......some of my words maybe off so read & fill in da blanks, thanx!!!

littlemikey979 5/5/2010 8:19:41 AM

I hope this doesn't take away from Nova's book, its been great to read for the past few years. Look forward to seeing him in action along Cap and the others in an Avengers book! Might actually start picking up the title again.

lister 5/5/2010 8:50:02 AM

I hope Guardians of the Galaxy comes back after the Thanos event.

DarthDuck 5/5/2010 9:24:56 AM

Looking forward the Thanos Imperative and, surprisingly, to all the Avengers books.  I'll be picking up all the #1, we'll see how many I keep reading...

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