April 24, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #11: The Alpha Centurion

Imperius Wrecks!
Imperius Wrecks!

Superhero supporting casts can oftentimes change from creator to creator.  Its not that uncommon.  Yes, some aren’t going anywhere.  Superman will always have Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White.  Batman will always have Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.  Spider-Man is going to be weighed down by Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson for all eternity.  But lesser supporting cast members can come and go, sometimes without warning.  When writer William Messner-Loebs was working on The Flash, Wally West had a huge supporting cast of friends that succeeding writer Mark Waid decided were only sporadically useful at best and largely ignored aside from the Pied Piper.  Loebs had Wally and Linda Park say hello to each other at a mutual friend’s wedding on his last page, and aside from her and Piper, Waid built a new supporting cast made up more of various other speedsters.  More egregious would be how Judd Winick gave Kyle Rayner a gay friend, Terry, during his Green Lantern run.  At the end of one issue, Kyle appeared to die and Terry got his power ring…only for returning writer Ron Marz to come in the very next issue to see Kyle alive, well, and with the ring on the very first page, and some dialogue how sometime between issues Terry had simply returned the ring and that was that.  Terry was never seen again.

Then there was the Alpha Centurion.   No one really knows what happened to that guy.

During Zero Hour, one of DC’s sporadic attempts to repair any continuity that got screwed up by the previous attempt to repair continuity, Superman somehow slipped into an alternate timeline where he wasn’t the hero of Metropolis.  No one knew who he was.  He found out the hard way when he tried to kiss Lois Lane and she freaked out.  Turns out instead she was engaged to some (actually rather understanding given the circumstances) dude named Marcus Aellus, the Alpha Centurion.  Now, technically, the guy had appeared in an issue of Zero Hour and even had a line before this, but Zero Hour was a weekly event and Superman’s books were likewise appearing weekly at the time, so readers were told about a week later who the dude in the Roman-style armor was.

This Superman is hideous!
This Superman is hideous!

On a side note:  this whole incident doesn’t speak well for Lois Lane, as if she needs to have a superhero to love.  Couldn’t she be attached to Jimmy Olson or something instead of the city’s greatest hero in different timelines?

This Alpha Centurion would later aid Exant and Parallax during the final battle because if he didn’t, his timeline would cease to exist.  That’s more or less what happened anyway, and Alpha Centurion disappeared.

Well, until he reappeared in the pages of Adventures of Superman #527.

This guy looks pretty healthy for a man who ceased to exist.

See, what happened was the Alpha Centurion was still a character in the main timeline; he just hadn’t arrived yet.

Marcus’ backstory was as follows:  he was a Roman centurion who was taken away by aliens, where he became a great fighter using their armor and weapons, which granted him great strength, speed, flight, and a bright energy sword and shield.  Due to Einstein being right about how time slows down at certain very high speeds, Marcus was gone from Earth a lot longer than he thought.

So, the guy returns to Earth, comes to Metropolis, sets up shop, and makes some (unsuccessful) moves on Lois Lane.  He has some interaction with Lex Luthor’s eventual wife (number 3 or something), Contessa Erica Del Portenza, which implied the Contessa might have been around when Marcus was still just some guy in Rome.

Maybe the biggest claim to fame for Marcus was being the only superhero besides Superman to attend the wedding of Lois Lane and Clark Kent.  He wasn’t exactly invited.  The guy just showed up.  This comes after Superman in narration says its a shame his good friend Batman couldn’t attend, since there was no good explanation for why Bruce Wayne would attend Clark Kent’s wedding.

That’s actually a very good point, by the way.  Brad Meltzer, when he took over first Green Arrow, and then worked his way up to Justice League, apparently thought all superheroes were on a first name basis and would routinely hang out at each other’s various social functions.  His first Justice League story showed various flashes forward and had reporter Clark Kent, ambassador Diana of Themyscira dressed in some kind of toga, and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne sitting next to each other at pilot Hal Jordan’s wedding like no one would notice how odd that was.  How anyone kept a secret identity post-Meltzer is beyond me.

Then again, there may be a good reason Meltzer brought back the old “erase memories” conceit during Identity Crisis.

See, this is how the Centurion got forgotten in the first place.  I couldn’t even stay focused on this one guy when the subject of more interesting characters appeared.

But at some point, new creative teams come along.  Alpha Centurion was just forgotten about.  Even the Contessa angle was disposed of.  Writer Jeph Loeb couldn’t just forget Lex Luthor’s wife, head of a terrorist cell of geneticists, and mother to his infant daughter Lena (a child that would also be conveniently forgotten), so one of Luthor’s first acts as President was to take out his estranged wife (technically the First Lady) with a cruise missile.  Without his creator Karl Kessel hanging around, no one saw fit to remember the old Roman.  He hasn’t really been seen since as near as I can make out.

I’ll check with Jimmy.  Maybe the guy will be back for Convergence.   Probably not.