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.
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.
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.
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.