Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rick Jones, the Ultimate Sidekick

Marvel Digital has a highlight of Rick Jones's career (if you can call it that). While this covers some of Rick's highlights, it misses a lot. Here's my take.

Rick is one of Marvel's oldest characters and their longest-running supporting character. His first appearance was in Hulk #1. The government was about to test a new atomic weapon (back in the days of above-ground testing) when Bruce Banner spotted someone in range of the blast. He told is assistant to stop the countdown and rushed to get this person to safety. The intruder turned out to be Rick Jones, an orphan who sneaked onto restricted land as a bet. He had no idea of an atomic test. Banner's assistant was a spy and failed to stop the countdown. Banner got Jones to safety but was caught in the radiation from the blast. Banner and Jones were put in an room for observation. When the sun set, Banner changed into the Hulk and escaped. Jones followed, figuring that he owed the Hulk. Their relationship changed a few times during the Hulk's original run. At one point, Rick gained mental control of the Hulk.

Rick formed a group of ham radio enthusiasts called the Teen Brigade. Back then, a lot of people bought high-powered radios. Under favorable weather conditions, the signal could reflect off of the ionosphere and the ham radio operator could talk with people all over the world. When the Hulk was reported to be on a rampage, Rick and the Teen Brigade called the Fantastic Four for help. The god Loki changed the frequency that they were broadcasting on in order to lure Thor into a fight with the Hulk. Iron Man and Ant Man were listening to the same frequency and ended up forming the Avengers. Because of his role in creating the Avengers, Rick was given access to Tony Stark's mansion where the Avengers met.

After Captain America was revived, he mistook Rick for his lost partner, Bucky. Cap took Rick on as an apprentice along with the rest of the Teen Brigade. They managed to save the Avengers from Kang and Count Nefaria. At the same time, Rick used his Avengers ID to have a meeting with the President (I think it was LBJ by that point but he was off-panel) to ask for help for Banner. Banner was imprisoned a couple of times on suspicion of espionage and released thanks to Rick. Later, Banner was shot in the head and apparently killed. Rick stole the body and exposed it to gamma rays, reviving Banner as an intelligent Hulk. When the Hulk vanished and appeared dead, Rick finally confessed Banner's secret.

Rick finally got a chance as Captain America's costumed sidekick for a couple of issues.

During the Kree/Skrull War, Rick was imprisoned with the Kree Supreme Intelligence, a composite being who stimulated Rick's capacity for mutation. For a short time Rick became powerful enough to end hostilities between the two races.

DC comics let the trademark to the name Captain Marvel lapse and Marvel Comics created their own version. Originally he was an alien with divided loyalties sent to spy on Earth. Marvel decided to rework the character, making him more like the original Captain Marvel. The original was a boy who shouted "Shazam" and became the Captain. Marvel's new version was sent into the Negative Zone where he could only be released when someone wearing a pair of "nega bands" traded places with him. This person turned out to be Rick Jones. Rick also started a career as a singer.

The two were eventually separated. At one point, Rick exposed himself to radiation in the hope of gaining super powers. Instead he got cancer and became a supporting character in ROM. After being cured of cancer, Rick returned to the Hulk where he actually became the Hulk for a couple of issues. The Leader drained his "Hulkness" away but Rick remained as a supporting character in the Hulk for years (through most of Peter David's run). Rick fell in love with a Vegas showgirl named Marlo and the two hosted a talk-show for a while.

Captain Marvel's son became the next Captain. He was artificially created and was merged with Rick so that Rick could give him guidance.

When the Red Hulk appeared, some hints were dropped that he was actually Rick. It quickly turned out that Rick was actually the new Abomination.

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