Mark Antaeus didn’t have a long career as a superhero. Aside from George Perez including him in group shots for the JLA/Avengers crossover, Anteaus appeared in all of one issue, a one-shot titled JLA Superpower #1.
But man, did it stick with me.
Mark Antaeus was a young man determined to bring justice to the world. He idolized Superman, even getting an S-shield tattoo on his back. He was so determined to be a superhero that he gave himself experimental treatments and cybernetics to make himself superpowered. His powers were rather run-of-the-mill for any cyborg hero. At his height, he could fight the entire JLA Big 7 to a standstill. Why would he fight the entire League, particularly since he was a member? Well, he had some ideas on justice the League wouldn’t go for.
See, Mark decided that the thing to do was topple dictators. And he did topple one after quitting the League. I told you he wasn’t on the team very long. That led to a confrontation with the League. He ended it but saw his actions led to more deaths than anything else. Afterwards, he flew off and committed suicide.
And that’s basically Mark’s story. He never adopted a codename. And he died.
Now, writer John Arcudi seemed to be doing something here where he was showing the limits of superheroes in the real world, but also showing the impact Mark had on the different members of the League. That was particularly true for Superman and Green Lantern Kyle Rayner.
That, more than anything else, was what I remember about this one-shot. Arcudi did some really strong character work with the Leaguers, but none of them seemed to be acting in-character. The issue was bookended with Superman brooding in the JLA Watchtower over what the reader eventually learns is Mark’s death. Superman took the death very hard. On the other hand, Kyle commented that Mark never seemed quite right in the head. He didn’t find the man’s death surprising. On the last few pages, Superman angrily snaps at Kyle and the others for not getting that a hero died. It was powerful stuff.
But even then, I think Kyle had the right of it. When Mark joined the League, he idolized Superman. Superman noticed and appreciated it. Mark initially brushed Kyle off. From there, Kyle thought there was something wrong with Mark’s overall obsessiveness and the guy was a ticking timebomb.
And yeah, Mark was. He was obsessing over being a superhero. He wanted to be like Superman. But he wanted to take that even further than the Justice League normally would. Mark didn’t see the harm in lethal force. And only Kyle noticed? I can see Superman wanting to guide a promising young man to do greater things. But he also seemed to be a bit blind to Mark’s fanboyish enthusiasm. As for the others, during a scene in the middle of the issue, Kyle brings his concerns to them.
How did it go? Flash Wally West decided to just sit back and watch Kyle flounder for his own entertainment. Wonder Woman dismissed Kyle’s concerns as mere jealousy. Batman didn’t see the harm in someone pushing himself to his absolute limits. And Aquaman just glared at Kyle when the Green Lantern mentioned Mark mutilating himself with cybernetics. See, that was when Aquaman had the harpoon extension on his one arm.
I don’t really recall Martian Manhunter’s reaction.
But let’s look at that. Batman is taking a guy on face value? Wonder Woman dismisses a teammate’s feelings? And Aquaman only had the harpoon installed when he lost his hand fighting a bad guy. He didn’t ask for a cyborg arm. About the only one who seemed right was Wally since he and Kyle had that kind of friendly rivalry going on.
Ultimately, Mark was less hero than anti-hero that only Kyle Rayner saw coming. It was still a powerful story, but I think what I remember most is Superman snapping at Kyle on the last page. It didn’t sit right with me then or now. But hey, at least we saw why the League doesn’t topple dictatorships.