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Dr. Karl Malus

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Scientific brilliance.

Dr. Karl Malus was fascinated by the subject of superhuman powers since the first time he read a newspaper account of the Fantastic Four. Upon graduating with a degree in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles, he applied to various institutions for a grant to study supernormal capacities in depth. Unable to get any funding through legal means, Malus contacted certain wealthy investors' active in the Los Angeles underworld. They set him up with a laboratory facility with the agreement that they could exploit the fruits of his research. Malus immodestly called his facility the Institute for Supranormality Research despite the fact that he comprised its entire staff. The underworld provided him with human test subjects to experiment upon, comprised of individuals the mob sought to liquidate. None of Malus's early test subjects survived his various experiments. Malus hoped to eventually find an individual who already had superhuman powers he could study. In the course of research, Malus came up with a number of special toxins and other chemical-based weaponry which he sold to such Los Angeles criminals as the Enforcer.

Malus's first recorded encounter with a superhuman being occurred when the criminal Fly sought out Malus to bolster his waning powers. Malus sent the Fly to steal some special equipment, but the theft led the Fly into battle with the original Spider-Woman. Malus determined to transfer the Spider-Woman's powers into the Fly. He lured her to his laboratory by stealing the comatose body of the Spider-Woman's then-partner, criminologist Scott McDowell, who had been stricken by one of the Enforcer's toxic bullets. After the Spider-Woman defeated the Fly, Malus offered to resuscitate McDowell in exchange for lenient treatment. While reviving him, Malus injected McDowell with an extract of the Fly's blood, which days later caused McDowell's body to temporarily develop certain of the Fly's superhuman powers.

McDowell donned a costume Malus anonymously sent him and for several days wore it, calling himself the Hornet. Malus wanted McDowell to capture the Spider-Woman for study, but the ploy failed and McDowell eventually returned to normal. Around the same time, Jack Russell contacted the scientist; unaware of Malus's criminal connections, in hopes of finding a chemical means to curb his rampages as a werewolf on the three nights of the full moon. Malus instead placed a control-collar device on him which enabled him to force the Werewolf to battle Spider-Woman. (Malus made a similar device for Kraven the Hunter which Kraven used on Tigra.) When Spider-Woman freed the Werewolf, he attacked Malus and wounded him.

Upon his recovery from the injuries the Werewolf inflicted upon him, Malus served a short sentence and was paroled. He returned to his laboratory to continue his experiments. The dancer calling himself Daddy Longlegs, who had ingested some of the growth formula invented by Henry Pym, sought Malus's help to cure him of his freakish condition. In treating him, Malus acquired a sample of Pym's serum taken from Daddy Longlegs' blood. When Erik Josten, now known as Atlas, came to Malus for a means to renew the superhuman strength that the original Baron Zemo had given him, Malus decided to give Josten the Pym growth compound in addition to his strength-augmenting treatment. Hoping to finally have a superhuman accomplice, Malus gave Josten a new costume and suggested he call himself Goliath. Goliath was too powerful for Malus to control, however, and he abandoned him.

Malus later acquired yet another test subject when an ex-convict named Antonio Rodriguez requested Malus's help to cure his wife of an undiagnosed ailment. Malus agreed if Rodriguez would submit to treatment. Malus transferred genetic material from an armadillo into Rodriguez's body, transforming him into a human armadillo. Malus then dispatched Armadillo to free Goliath from the custody of the West Coast Avengers, hoping to assemble a team of henchmen. Captain America defeated the Armadillo, however and alerted the authorities to Malus's parole-violating activities.

Serving a short term, Malus was contacted in prison by Power Broker, Inc., a mysterious underworld corporation whose major business is the supplying of superhuman manpower to various clients. Malus agreed to join the company in return for getting out of jail. Power Broker, Inc. now supplies Malus and his fellow criminal scientists with all of the test subjects they can manage. One of Power Broker Inc.'s major sources of clients are wrestlers who wish to have their strength augmented so they can qualify for the new Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation.

Malus utilizes the process by which he restored Erik Josten's strength to augment the power of the wrestlers. To ensure that the wrestlers keep paying twenty percent of their earnings to Power Broker, Inc., Malus has been administering a highly addictive synthetic drug to the wrestlers in the course of their treatment. Power Broker, Inc. supplies further quantities of this drug' to those who continue to meet their payments. Wrestlers are told they will die without the drug to stabilize their power, but in reality they will only experience intense withdrawal symptoms. Only five out of ten persons who undergo the treatment emerge with superhuman strength; the rest become brain-damaged or physically disfigured. Among those who underwent treatment by Malus but escaped without being given the addictive drug is Sharon Venture, who became the new Ms. Marvel. Besides augmenting wrestlers, Malus continues to conduct more exotic experiments, like that which produced Armadillo. While working for Power Broker, Inc., he is protected from prosecution and has state-of-the-art laboratory technology and an ever abundant supply of test subjects.

Malus's experiments were discovered by Captain America, who exposed them to legal authorities, with the help of Demolition Man and the Night Shift. Malus was arrested and is currently in prison.

More recently, Malus was used by the hero team Avengers to give them information on the crime family Maggia in return for a reduced sentence.


First Appearance: Spider-Woman (1978) #30

View a chronological listing of this character's appearances

Issue Appearances:
Avengers Spotlight (1989)
Avengers: Solo (2011)
Cage (1992)
Captain America (1968)
Captain America: America's Avenger (2011)
Captain America: Sam Wilson (2015)
Dark Reign Files (2009)
Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme (1988)
Fantastic Four (1961)
Iron Man (1968)
Marvel Encyclopedia (2014)
Spider-Woman (1978)
Superior Carnage (2013)
The Marvel Encyclopedia (2006)
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition (1985)
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Master Edition (1990)
The Thing (1983)
Thunderbolts (1997)
U.S.Agent (1993)

Group Affiliation(s):
Frightful Four (Marvel)

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