Time for a story…back in 1982 I was eight years old and the thing I wanted most in the ENTIRE world for Christmas was Marauder from the Team America toys. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the toys – they were originally the Evel Knieval stunt cycles, but Knieval got in some legal troubles and the toys got renamed Team America. Marvel Comics was hired to do what they did a lot in the early 80s, come up with a story line for these toys. Seriously – GI Joe, Transformers, Rom the Space Knight, Insectaurs, Micronauts, Visionaries, you name it and Marvel came up with it. The toys were owned by various companies, but the character names and stories about those toys was all Marvel’s doing.
The writers didn’t always like doing the work, though, and Team America was one example of that. Apparently J.M. DeMatteis hated writing the book but had to. But to an eight year old, comics were just awesome stories about the toys you wanted for Christmas. And I wanted the Marauder. Check this bad boy out:
Oh yeah, that’s right, black chopper that does STUNTS! And no batteries! And it had KNOBBY TIRES!!! Yeah, ok, so the toy wasn’t anything spectacular, but I wanted it. Of course, I didn’t get it – I got the blue version instead, which was known as Wolf. So much disappointment.
The thing was, the toys did kind of suck, and sure once you had one you knew they sucked, but the story? Well, the writer might not have liked it very much, but damn he pulled out one of the craziest ideas ever.
You see, the Marauder was a mysterious rider who would show up wherever Team America (now apparently called the Thunderiders) went and would stop bad guys. Everyone thought it was one of the members of Team America, but they were always shown to be conclusively not to be the Marauder. The black rider even went up against, and stood toe to toe with, the Ghost Rider. That’s actually pretty freaking awesome.
So who was the Marauder? Nobody. The Marauder was a psychic gestalt of all five members of the team, each lending part of their skill and physical ability, which then possessed someone else, sometimes just a random stranger but often one of the team member’s girlfriend. And it was eventually revealed that the five members could do this because they were mutants. That’s right, these guys were part of the X-Men!!!
How fucking cool is that?
The comic only lasted twelve issues, but I’ll tell you, over the course of 1982 and until the big reveal and cancellation of the series in 1983, all my friends were buzzing about who the hell the Marauder was. Of course, we all wanted to toy, and none of us got one.
I kind of miss those days when you couldn’t just google whatever and instantly know everything there is to know about a thing.