The Orb is a villain
published by Marvel Comics
and created by writer Len Wein
. The Orb first appeared in Marvel Team-Up
#15 in November 1973.
I have a hand full of comics-related memories from my childhood that has stayed with me over the years. There is an issue of the Justice League of America where the entire team gets beat by some adaptable alien blobs that adapt to take them all out: they fire kryptonite rays at Superman, pound on the the Flash until he is limping around on crutches, and turn Aquaman into a mer-man. The issue ends with the team waiting for help from Hawkman, but he has run off to Thanagar in their moment of need and left them in a lurch. I never saw the next issue, so I have never known what happened and quite honestly it has bugged me for years.
One of the other comics-related memories involves Marvel Team-Up #15 and The Orb. Marvel Team-Up was a vehicle for Spider-man to have adventures with other members of the Marvel Universe on a monthly basis. These adventures often involved some one-off villain like Turner D. Century, Hell-razor, or the Basilisk and can be held responsible (along with Marvel Two-In-One with the Fantastic Four member The Thing) with the whole Scourge storyline of the 80's. The usual formula was Peter Parker traveling about, often running into another hero's alter-ego at a street fair, science exhibition, or national landmark and suddenly becoming embroiled in an effort to defeat a villain that appears and threatens the safety of the public, etc. The adventures usually were summed up in a single issues, though multi-issue stories were know to occur, but usually involved the introduction of a third hero - no one got to share Spidey's headline for more than a month. It must have been in his contract.
Anyway, it is 1973 and I am about 9. My family had gone camping in the mountains of North Carolina in the Pisgah National Forest. The campground is called Carolina Hemlocks and within walking distance there is a general store which we kids would wander to every now and then. Well, of course they had a spinner rack for comics and one day, I convinced my folks to let me buy a couple and one of the ones I picked was Marvel Team-Up #15. The cover had everything: Spider-man lying dazed on the subway tracks as a train bears down on him, the driver stating "Good Lord! I'll never stop this train IN TIME!" But, there is hope yet for our be-webbed hero, because beside him on the cover is that demonic hero Ghost Rider - and not that weird grim Danny Ketch version either. This is classic Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider and he isn't even riding a hell-fire bike - he appears to be riding a Honda or something. The flame-headed one is beside Spider-man calling "Reach out - Grab my hand or You've HAD it!!" and Spidey in an act of self-sacrifice is telling Ghost Rider "No Get Off the tracks before you're killed Too!!! It's Too Late for Me! TOO LATE!!"
Clerk, I'll take this one, my good man!! Don't wrap it up - I'll read it on the way back.
So, how did Spider-man get into this horrible situation? Amazingly enough, the folks at Marvel Team-Up hadn't even bothered to put their villain on the cover, and what a villain he was. The Orb - motorcycle riding guy in red leathers with a helmet that looked like a giant eyeball! Whoa, Nelly!!! How can you beat this? Who is this guy? Why the odd helmet?
A quick read reveals that the Orb possessed the ability to hypnotize people with his giant eyeball shaped helmet and used it to wreak havoc to the motorcycle stunt show that Johnny Blaze owned. Needless to say one of the folks at the show was Peter Parker and after a few hostages are taken we learn the whole awful truth about the Orb.
The Orb it turns out is actually Drake Shannon who was formerly part owner of this cycle show with Blaze's mentor Crash Thompson. The two started out as friends but eventually they became rivals. Eventually, the two decided that they both wanted full ownership and since neither was willing to sell to the other, they did what all good business men do: they decided a motorcycle race would settle who would end up the owner of the show. The race was tight and there was no clear winner until Shannon decided to take Thompson out by running him off the road. As is the way of these things, Shannon lost control of his bike and crashed skidding 25 yards on his face.
(At this point, the Orb removes his helmet and we are treated to a full view of the disfigured Shannon. Obviously, reconstructive surgery was not discovered in the Marvel Universe despite unstable molecules and high school nerds who could create webshooters because Shannon's face was twisted and deformed and green if I remember correctly. The image of the Orb's twisted features still rest in my memory 34 years later - good job, Marvel!)
Anyway, after a bit of racing and some heroics from our heroes the Orb was defeated. I understand he appeared again later in comics and even got to the point where the big eyeball shot lasers but honestly, he will never beat that original introduction.