The Marvel Universe is populated with heroes, big and small, just as the internet if populated with bloggers, big and small. Each individual blogger tackles his/her own unique topic, just as each hero has his/her own rogues galleries. Here at Superior Spider-Talk, we obviously are focused on Spider-Man and his own friends and enemies. Yet, sometimes there is a monster/villain so terrifying… so undefeatable… that Spider-Man needs to call in The Avengers! So in that fashion, a number of the internet’s best and brightest comic bloggers have banded together in a “Super-Blog Team-Up” of sorts to tackle the thing we know best… TEAM-UPS! Join The Daily Rios, The Middle Spaces, Vic Sage/Retroist, Mystery V-Log, In My Not So Humble Opinion, The Unspoken Decade, Flodo’s Page, Longbox Graveyard, Between the Pages, Bronze Age Babies, Superior Spider-Talk, Superhero Satellite, Fantastiverse, and Chasing Amazing for the greatest team-up of all time!
As this edition of the Super Blog Team-Up is focused on, well… team-ups, I thought it might be fun to take a look at what is perhaps my favorite Spider-Man team-up in the history of the character: “Brother Power, Sister Sun.” Some of my love of “Brother Power, Sister Sun,” from Spectacular Spider-Man #12-15 (1977), comes from the fact that the story is a classic case of complete and utter nonsense spinning wildly out of control. However the biggest highlight comes in the form of a wild team-up that occurs within. Just know that the team-up is buried deep within one of the most convoluted story-lines to occur within the pages of Spider-Man. I’ll do my best to break it down for you.
The story famously concludes the introductory tale of the mysterious Sha Shan, who would go on to become a regular cast-member and on-again, off-again girlfriend to Flash Thompson. The two met when Flash was injured in Vietnam. She helped nurse him back to health before the temple they were in was destroyed and Flash thought her lost forever. Imagine his surprise when she turned up very much alive in New York City and married to a man named Achmed.
Turns out that Sha Shan had been coerced into joining a group called the Legion of Light, led by two robed figures called Brother Power and Sister Sun. When Flash and Peter happen upon a gathering of these hooded figures in the park it is Flash who recognizes Sha Shan’s voice coming from under Sister Sun’s hood. Turns out that the man under Brother Power’s hood is none other than her husband Achmed! Gasp! He would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
Apparently Achmed had seen a vision of light that convinced him to start his cult. It isn’t until later that the vision is revealed to be none other than the Hate-Monger, everyone’s favorite Spider-Man villain… Ahem….
Turns out that the powers of light, the ability to shoot light beams out of your hands, can only be harnessed by a mortal who attaches himself to an innocent creature. It is this reasoning that made Achmed choose Sha Shan as his partner to become Brother Power and Sister Sun!
I hope not because this is where the story goes off the rails! Bill Mantlo, for some reason, felt like this story of cults, light powers, and hooded men was not enough to complete this Spider-Man story. What was missing, in his mind, was a giant man from Arkansas that walks around wearing a skin-tight, green suit, yellow gloves, and a hogs-head as a helmet. That man is Buford Hollis, also known as Razorback (why not? Mantlo must have been a fan of the college football team).
As Razorback, Buford is not the first character that Spider-Man has come up against who wears the skin of an animal as their costume. Who could argue that wearing the head of a hog is any sillier than the Grizzly wearing solely the skin of a grizzly bear (Amazing Spider-Man #139) as his costume? Not to mention that Razorback is armed with an electrified mane with the Voltage to debilitate Spider-Man.
You might ask, “What are Razorback’s considerable powers?” Well… he’s a large burly man that can build just about anything he would like to out of junk. Remember that electrified mane that I mentioned earlier, he made it out of spare radio parts. I guess that means my next stop is Radio Shack because I have got to get me one of those! His strength and electrical engineering prowess are nothing next to his innate mutant power to intuitively drive any vechicle, even if he’s never seen it before. It’s a wonder that the X-Men have never enlisted him to join their cause.
Sarcasm and Razorback’s lameness aside, Buford is actually a totally endearing character that, in my opinion, really elevates this rather awkward Spider-Man tale into a truly memorable one. The guy is wonderfully charismatic from the very get-go. He initially comments that the only reason he’s fighting Spider-Man is because, “I heard back in hog country… Texarkana, Arkansas – all you Eastern superhero-types always stomp each other by way o’ introduction! So I figgered I’d do the same!”
Razorback constantly spouts wonderfully stereotpycial lines that are hard not to love, especially when good ol’ Sal Buscema draws him with such a winning smile plastered all over his face. Here are a few choice selections:
“Now I got me an excuse to clean up this here dirty city—usin’ you as my broom!”
“Ain’t no way these moony-eyed loonies can hang on t’me – not when I juice up my mane! Heck – This here rumble ain’t no different than any ordinary Saturday night after the rodeo back home!”
“The handle’s Razorback, wall-crawler! An’ unless you start getting’ with it I’ll best be remembered as the dude who 10-7’d Spider-Man permanently.”
If you didn’t know what 10-7’d meant, editor Archie Goodwin was quick to leave a note that informs us it means “Killed, in CB-lingo – Archie.” Razorback is also quick to remind Spider-Man and whoever is around him that he’s from Texarkana, Arkanas, with just about every sentence he utters. How could you not love a guy with such pride in his hometown?
When Buford’s sister gets swept up into the cult of the Legion of Light he is inspired by the heroes of New York City and decides to dress himself up as a hog and save her before her mind is completely gone. So he builds himself a giant rig named the “Big Pig” and blazes a trail for the city, a picture of his lost sister attached to his dashboard as a reminder of the severity of his mission. Razorback, Spider-Man, and Flash Thompson, the greatest trio in all of comics, eventually team up and hop in the Big Pig and set off for the Legion of Light’s estate.
Side note: How is it that all these strange cults have giant estates in prime real estate markets?
When Spidey sneaks into the mansion he overhears Hate-Monger’s plans to spread his hate. Turns out the Hate-Monger wants the three of them to attack him so that he can broadcast it as a hate crime against a religious organization. It will give his cult a national audience and extend his mind control abilities to the entire world! “Hoo boy – this is gonna be another one of those days!” quips Spidey. Indeed it is Peter, indeed it is.
The three are eventually kidnapped by the Hate-Monger, who has set a bomb up to destroy his own estate (when they said housing crisis I don’t think they meant this) and our three heroes. Spider-Man is able to reflect his webbing off a steel beam and onto Razorback’s belt, triggering the Big Pig to come crashing through the wall. Did I not mention that the Big Pig was remote controlled? The Big Pig is remote controlled. Awesome. I’ve got to get me one of those.
The three escape the bomb and head for Yonker’s Stadium where the Hate-Monger plans to make a televised announcement about being attacked by Spider-Man and how his Legion of Light only preaches love. Not so fast Hate-Monger! Spider-Man, Flash, and Razorback bust into the place astride their trusted Big Pig and take on the forces of darkness/light. After several scuffles, including Hate-Monger mind-controlling Spider-Man and the loveable Razorback to fight each other, Flash is able to sneak up on the baddie and unmask him to reveal the biggest shock of them all!
Turns out the Hate-Monger isn’t actually the Hate-Monger at all! He’s the Man-Beast! Yes, as if this story couldn’t get any weirder, the Hate-Monger is the Man-Beast, another of Spider-Man’s classic rogue’s gallery! Who is the Man-Beast you might ask? Luckily for us he explains his convoluted backstory in 2 pages.
Turns out Man-Beast is the evil opposite of the High Evolutionary, a being that tried to create a paradise Counter-Earth. When the High Evolutionary tried to destroy that world, Adam Warlock challenged the Man-Beast so as to save the world. Apparently Adam Warlock eventually won and turned the Man-Beast back into a wolf by de-evolving him. Instead of killing him, Adam Warlock left him to roam wild so that others might finish the task.
As is true of all villains in the Marvel universe, if they aren’t dead they won’t stay dead and even then don’t count on them not returning. Eventually Man-Beast’s memories allow him turn back into his half-man, half-beast form. The world, alerted to Man-Beast’s presence, was extra defensive so he knew he had to go conquer elsewhere. He disguised himself as an astronaut and launched into space. There he altered the controls of the ship so that it could pierce the “time-lag barrier” that separates the counter-Earths.
He used Vietnam as his landing grounds, hoping the war would hide his arrival. It was successful except for one man, Achmed Korba (remember him?), who he in turn has manipulated ever since. His genius plan was to use Brother Power to prepare the world for his arrival while he disguised himself as the Hate-Monger. Did you get all that?
I cannot think of a more logical plan for Man-Beast to pull off. Too bad he would soon be foiled by a man with the powers of an arachnid and a man dressed up in the skin of a hog. My only guess why Bill Mantlo thought this was an appropriate villain for Spider-Man is that he figured everyone was keeping up with every Marvel story and this was to be a brilliant reveal of a character from a completely different series of comics. It’d almost be like if at the end of “Avengers” it was revealed that Darth Vader was controlling the Chituari instead of Thanos.
Eventually Spider-Man and Razorback are successful in stopping the Man-Beast, but not after having to battle hordes of brainwashed citizens and the Legion of Light, controlled by Brother Power. Flash saves Sha Shan, who then relinquishes her powers of light. Razorback is reunited with his sister Bobby Sue, who is instrumental in bringing down Man-Beast after she learns the error of her ways.
Upon seeing Flash, Razorback exclaims, “Wait! Hall-e-lujah! They ain’t 10-7’d Flash boy! They’re alive!” Spider-Man, finally exhausted by Razorback’s stereotypical blathering responds, “Hayseed, I’ve never been so glad to hear your foghorn voice in all my life! Now shut up and give me a hand with your sister!”
All in all, the “Brother Power, Sister Sun” storyline has to be one of the more bizarre ideas for a story that has appeared in a Spider-Man comic. Sure there have been crazier things that have happened to Spider-Man, but few stories have felt so completely random and inappropriate for a Spider-Man story. Why Mantlo felt the need to add in all these characters and pit Spider-Man up against a cosmic being such as Man-Beast will always escape me.
In 1992, Bill was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that has landed him in institutional care ever since. The brain damage he suffered is considered irreversible and so we’ll never really get a chance to find out more about the genesis of this story. Manto was recently screened “Guardians of the Galaxy” where his co-creation Rocket Racoon was featured prominently. His family said that he was happy with the adaptation and it was a very happy day for him and his family.
As for Buford’s Razorback, I always think back to this character as a rare creation that radiates warm energy enough that I’m able to overlook his annoying speech patterns and inherent goofiness. Razorback would later go on to steal a spaceship with another female trucker, named Taryn O’Connell, called the “Star Blazer” and eventually renamed the “Big Pig III.” He, She-Hulk, and Taryn are involved in an intergalactic epic to find Taryn’s lover. After succeeding, NASA allows Razorback to continue piloting the shop, due to his mutant ability to handle all manner of vehicles.
During the “House of M” storyline, Buford lost his mutant powers as a result of M Day, but kept his signature strength and costume. The government recruited Razorback, post Civil War, as a part of the Fifty State Initiative as a member of the Arkansas team (I’m sure he was happy about that) only to be revealed to be a Skrull during Secret Invasion. Later we see him in a support group, recovering from his time being replaced.
“Brother Power, Sister Sun,” a story that doesn’t even feature someone named Brother Power, is an unlikely choice for a favorite team-up and is probably not particularly notable outside of it marking the real beginning of Flash and Sha Shan’s relationship. However, it remains a personal favorite perhaps for its oddness and definitely for the charismatic introduction of Razorback.
Be sure to check out all the other amazing coverage of comic book team-ups as part of the SUPER-BLOG TEAM-UP!
Super-Hero Satellite: Superman and the Masters of the Universe
Longbox Graveyard: Thing / Thing
The Daily Rios: New Teen Titans/DNAgents
The Middle Spaces: Super Hegemonic Team-Up! Spider-Man, Daredevil & The Death of Jean DeWolfe
Chasing Amazing: Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2099 Across the Spider-Verse: A Once in a Timeline Team-Up
Vic Sage/Retroist: Doctor Doom/Doctor Strange
Mystery V-Log: The Avengers #1
In My Not So Humble Opinion: Conan/Solomon Kane
The Unspoken Decade: Punisher/Archie!!
Flodo’s Page: Green Lantern and the Little Green Men
Between the Pages: World’s Finest Couple: Lois Lane and Bruce Wayne
Bronze Age Babies: When Friends Like These Are Your Enemies (FF/Doom, Batman/Joker, Warlock/Thanos, and Cap/Red Skull)