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West Virginia comic connections

By Staff | Jul 25, 2018

West Virginia tends to be overlooked as a setting in a variety of media.

It’s as true in comics as anywhere else, but there have been a few occasions where superheroes, villains, monsters and more have visited the Mountain State.

Both the Hulk and Batman have battled misunderstood man-monsters in the coalfields. The Dark Knight tracked the villain Blockbuster to the fictional town of Bleak Rock in 1981’s “Detective Comics” #498. The brute had been taken in by a miner’s family, and Batman soon found the real villain to be union president Boss Dooley. Dooley tries to kill Batman by causing a cave-in, and the hero teams with Blockbuster to save endangered miners.

In 1974’s “Incredible Hulk” #179, the Hulk is shot down while rocketing back to Earth from an outer space adventure. Bruce Banner wakes up in a West Virginia mining town and discovers the Hulk’s old foe, the Missing Link, has been taken in by a miner’s family. Banner learns the creature, renamed Lincoln, is inadvertently poisoning the family with radiation, but his attempt to intervene devolves into a battle between the Hulk and the Link.

The Missing Link’s story continued in 1982’s “Rom” #29, when the titular Spaceknight detects a mysterious source of radiation in the town of Lucifer Falls. It’s Lincoln, but after the obligatory fight, Rom manages to cure him and the family who cares for him.

In his 1979 debut issue, Rom arrived on Earth in the fictional town of Clairton, W.Va., whose residents freaked out and called the National Guard. Eventually, the town came to support him, and one of its residents, Brandy Clark, became the Spaceknight Starshine.

Although Marvel no longer has the license to Rom, the Spaceknights and their enemies, the Dire Wraiths, have remained a part of its lore. Clairton last appeared in 1997’s “X-Man” #31.

Filmmaker, author, playwright and West Virginia native Daniel Boyd released the graphic novel “Carbon” in 2014, blending horror and environmental allegory in a story set in a town where a villainous coal baron releases a monstrous force in his efforts to profit from a mystical energy source. The sequel, “Salt,” was released in 2016.

Green Lantern and Green Arrow faced off against an evil coal baron of their own in Desolation, W.Va., in 1970’s “Green Lantern” #77. The town would later be renamed Hope Springs and somehow wound up a part of the Green Lantern homeworld of Oa in a 1990 storyline.

Marvel’s recent “Carnage” series started with a trap laid to catch the serial-killer symbiote at a played-out mine in Grey Ridge, W.Va. Robert Kirkman’s “Outcast” is set in Rome, W.Va., while short-lived DC antihero Magog got intelligence from his military buddy Axel Baines who operated out of a gas station in Ordell, W.Va.

As you can see, not a lot of real West Virginia locations make it into the stories, but it happens occasionally. According to an online DC database, “Detective Comics” #85, released way back in 1944, features a businessman in “Feyetteville, W.Va.” masquerading as the Joker while committing a series of crimes. This does not go over well with Batman or the Joker.

In 2011, Random House released “Huntington, West Virginia, On the Fly,” a series of stories by underground comics legend Harvey Pekar that recounted his encounters with real people, including the owner of Huntington’s Comic World, Kathleen Miller, when he played a part in a film called “The Comic Book Lady.”

In 2016, West Virginian Beau Smith set issue 3 of his relaunched “Wynnona Earp” series in Wayne County, as the heroine worked to bust an underground fighting ring involving supernatural participants.

Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”