Membership: Al, Joshua Pryce, Rose Steadbaur

Purpose: Protection of humanity

Affiliations: Cadaver, Clarence, Cloak & Dagger, Deathlok (Michael Collins), Drax the Destroyer, Gaea, Hulk (Bruce Banner), Living Tribunal, Namor the Sub-Mariner, Secret Defenders, Shadowoman, S.H.I.E.L.D.,
    S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Howling Commandos unit (Abominable Snowman, Bradley Beemer, Brother Voodoo, Clone of Frankenstein,
Glob, Gorilla Man/Ken Hale, Groot, Hellstorm, It the Living Colossus, Lilith, Living Mummy, Clay Quartermain, Sasquatch/Walter Langkowski, Vampire by Night, Warwolf/Vince Marcus, Zombie/"John Doe", many others);
    Silver Surfer, Mr. & Mrs. Steadbaur, Vishanti (Agamotto, Hoggoth, Oshtur), unidentified car drivers in Omaha

Enemies: Dr. Druid, Merlin, Slorioth

Base of Operations: Unrevealed

First Appearance: Secret Defenders#19 (September, 1994)


(Secret Defenders#24 (fb) - BTS) - The origins of the Cognoscenti are unrevealed, but they are born with the knowledge and the desire to protect humanity.

(Secret Defenders#25 (fb) - BTS) - Al + Joshua Pryce, the two remaining Cognoscenti, prepared to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, to oppose Dr. Druid, who was falling under the taint of the demonic Slorioth. They either sensed Druid's activities directly or were directed to discover them by Gaea.

(Secret Defenders#19) - With Al's bottled head tucked away in his knapsack, Joshua tried to hitch a ride on Route 87, just outside of Omaha, Nebraska. When a car passed them by, Joshua magically caused the car's manifold to breakdown. As the driver's pulled over and pondered the problem, a service station not present for miles, Joshua approached, offering to help fix their car in exchange for a ride to Boston, Massachusetts.

(Secret Defenders#20 (fb) - BTS) - While these riders couldn't take Joshua (and Al) the whole way, they took him far enough to get another ride with a fuel truck driver named Clarence. Joshua provided good company on the long overnight trip.

(Secret Defenders#20) - Clarence dropped Joshua off at a truck stop on Highway 4, somewhere east of Columbus, Ohio. They thanked each other for the help, and Joshua asked Clarence to stop for a cup of coffee, but Clarence was in too much of a hurry to get to Philadelphia. However, soon after Clarence took off, a speeding car crashed into his truck, blowing it up. Joshua lamented that that had been needless: if Clarence had had that cup of coffee he would have avoided such a fate (which Joshua had apparently foreseen). From the backpack, Al commented that it was a consequence of free will, which had its pleasures and its price. Al then urged him to hurry up so they could deal with their business in Boston.

(Secret Defenders#22 (fb) - BTS) - Joshua considered Clarence's fate and decided to exercise a little free will of his own.

(Secret Defenders#22) - At a rest stop along the Massachusetts Turnpike, Joshua foresaw the death of the Steadbaur couple from a girder that would fall off of a nearby building under construction. At a calculated moment, Joshua rushed forward, bumping into Mr. Steadbaur and then arguing with him about his ruined Zagnut candybar, delaying Steadbaur and his pregnant wife so that they were several feet out of the way when the girder came crashing down. Al recognized Joshua's actions as premeditated, and Joshua shared his thoughts on free will.
    Not long after, Joshua and Al arrived at Dr. Druid's Boston townhouse, but it was too late, as Druid had just departed with his agents, Sepulcre and Cadaver. Al blamed Joshua for the delay, and then asked Joshua how he intended to confront the great evil that had been loosed upon the world. Joshua responded, "Through direct intervention if need be! As in nature, we will have to assemble a counter-force!"



(Secret Defenders#23) - Within Druid's townhouse, Joshua noted how a number of factors could be made to act in their favor: Druid's own house, built atop an intersection of Ley Lines, a site of vast potential energies and magicks; Druid's Well of Transubstantiation; Dr. Strange's curse upon Druid; and even the span of Druid's dying oak (succumbing to rot, a reflection of Druid's corruption). Al was wary of Joshua's plans, noting that disrupting the natural order was not a task to be undertaken cavalierly, as it could result in their literal eternal chagrin. Al questioned whether they should take such a gamble with reality, but Joshua said his gut told him "yes...and living by your gut is what being a Cognoscenti is all about, right?"
    Combining their powers, Al & Joshua repeated the spell Dr. Strange had invoked on the day of the Secret Defenders formation in order to access the power they needed. The efforts succeeded, and their spell summoned past versions of three of the original Defenders: the Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer, whom they then sent to Starkesboro to oppose Druid and his Secret Defenders, who now also included .

(Secret Defenders#24) - Despite Al's warnings that they could not brave the trans-temporal walkway to Slorioth's realm, Joshua led Al down the stairways after Druid. Joshua risked using up their limited store of ambient mystical energy in combating threats they encountered along the way--including mystic thorny vines that sought to ensnare them--in an effort to head Druid off. They reached Druid just as he reached Slorioth's Sacred Tabernacle, and Druid recognized them as Cognoscenti--whom he never dreamed he would encounter. Druid psychokinetically shattered a support column and bound Joshua in its fragments, allowing Druid the time to summon and partially merge with Slorioth. As the stunned Cognoscenti helplessly looked on, Druid place the Bride of Slorioth figure on the temple's altar, and Slorioth's true form erupted through the surface of the Earth.




(Secret Defenders#25) - While Cadaver, Cloak & Dagger, Deathlok (Michael Collins), Drax the Destroyer, the Hulk, Namor, Sepulcre, and the Silver Surfer futilely battled Slorioth on Earth. The Cognoscenti faced the Slorioth-corrupted Druid in Slorioth's Sacred Tabernacle, and Druid explained to them how vital chaos was to life. Druid was intrigued by Joshua who broke free the column's remnants, telling Druid that his messing up the natural order was what brought him there. As Druid revealed his plot to allow Slorioth to spread his power across Earth and strip people of hope, Al chided Joshua for his delay to save the Steadbaurs, even instructing Joshua to strike his name from the official transcription of these events, should there be a chance to do so; meanwhile, Mrs. Steadbaur was rushed to the delivery room.
    Refusing to accept defeat, Joshua manifested a causeway to Earth and appeared before Cadaver and Sepulcre. Naming himself as an avatar of the Cognoscenti, Joshua managed to convince them of Druid's betrayal and then reached out and pulled them into Slorioth's Sacred Tabernacle, offering them a chance at redemption for their inadvertent role in this potential disaster; Joshua only brought these two as their partially dead natures protected them from Slorioth's netherverse, which would drain the souls and sap the lives of all things living. As Druid confronted them, Al led Joshua to strike at Druid, who shattered Al's canister, causing him to crash helplessly to the ground. Druid then destroyed both Cadaver and Sepulcre, and Joshua took up Cadaver's Sword of Bone--which most beings could not bear to touch--and stabbed Druid in the chest, but the Slorioth-empowered Druid easily withstood the assault.
    As Slorioth began to drain life from those opposing him--which would cause a supreme temporal catastrophe if any of the past-summoned Defenders died--Joshua then drew power from all of humanity. Just then, Mrs. Steadbaur gave birth to a daughter, who was the next generation of Cognoscenti. Joshua forged his, Al's, and the Steadbaur infant into a trinity, turning Druid's own Celt-born powers against him. Using the power he had gained, Joshua smashed Druid back. To counter this greater power, Druid then began to magnify his own energies, which reached such a level as to attract the attention of the Vishanti themselves. Realizing that a direct battle between themselves and Slorioth would destroy Earth, the Vishanti submitted to binding arbitration, summoning the Living Tribunal.
    Joshua appeared before the Tribunal, arguing that the schedule of the War of the Seven Spheres had been accelerated too rapidly by Slorioth, and that the temporal discontinuity this caused would prove cataclysmic to Eternity itself. Despite Druid's arguments to the contrary, the Tribunal banished Slorioth from the Earthly plane. The past-Defenders returned to their own time, Agamotto restored Cadaver, and Joshua restored Sepulcre--despite her desire to end her existence, turning her back into Shadowoman and telling her that he and she each contributed to one another's destiny.
    Joshua and Al met with Shadowoman and Cadaver at the the House of Wyldwind, where he answered the question of why he hadn't summoned Dr. Strange alongside the other three Defenders: despite the claims of the collective karmic energies of those four beings proven a hoax, why take the chance...
    Joshua further explained to Al--back in a restored jar--that the Steadbaur infant was the next generation of Cognoscenti, and Al praised Joshua on his well-played hand, "You may yet have a future as Gaea's guardian...provided you heed by sage and sane counsel." Joshua admitted that he agreed with this advice (most of the time), and then the two left so Joshua could find an all-night pizzeria. As he departed, he told Cadaver and Shadowoman that while Druid's Secret Defenders were kaput, for now, if the world ever needed saving, and all the good super-heroes were busy, maybe they'd hear from him again.

(Nick Fury's Howling Commandos#6 (fb) - BTS) - Joshua joined SHIELD's Howling Commandos monster force.

(Nick Fury's Howling Commandos#6) - Joshua was one of several mystics who participated in the final assault on Merlin's forces.

Comments: Created by Tom Brevoort, Mike Kanterovich, Bill Wylie, and Tony DeZuniga.

I had assumed it was just a play on the word cognizant (meaning aware), but a web search yields this:
From Webster's on-line dictionary:

Main Entry: co·gno·scen·te
Pronunciation: "kän-y&-'shen-tE, "käg-n&-, -'sen-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural co·gno·scen·ti /-tE/
Etymology: obsolete Italian (now conoscente), from cognoscente, adjective, wise, from Latin cognoscent-, cognoscens, present participle of cognoscere
: a person who is especially knowledgeable in a subject

Cognoscenti have an entry in Mystic Arcana: The Book of Marvel Magic. In this entry Al's real name was revealed and the baby's first name.

Profile by Snood.

The Cognoscenti have no known connections to:



    Sidrat-Al-Muntah apparently the eldest of the Cognoscenti, exists as a disembodied head. How old he is and he got that way are unknown, but he presumably survives via magic. He remains within a canister filled with preservative, which prevents his body from decomposing. He can levitate through the air, cast a number of spells, sense objects and beings of power, and project mystic blasts, through removal from his preservative canister apparently robs him of these abilities. He is clairvoyant and, to some degree, precogniscent, and he speaks telepathically. He is rather jaded, caring sole for the mission to protect Earth and humanity, and not giving any consideration to individual lives. He serves as mentor to Joshua; by combining his powers with Joshua he can achieve feats such as summoning beings through time. When his and Joshua's powers are further combined with a third Cognoscenti, such as with the newborn baby Steadbaur, their abilities are magnified geometrically.


--Secret Defenders#19 ( 24 (fb) - BTS, 25 (fb) - BTS, 19, 20 (fb) - BTS, 20, 22-25




Joshua Pryce

    Working under Al's mentorship, Joshua is a relatively young man (though it could be that he is centuries old and just magically assumes this appearance). Despite his mannerisms being that of a teen, he is wise in the ways of magic and is attuned to every life on Earth. It was Joshua's carefully laid plan/gamble that brought the Vishanti and then the Living Tribunal to Earth to banish Slorioth. Joshua sensed that the daughter of the Stebaur's would be the next Cognoscenti, a fact which Al overlooked by paying no heed to individuals. Joshua has further joined SHIELD's Howling Commandos, and he was part of the assault on Merlin's forces.

    Joshua can magically perform many feats, such as damaging or repairing magical devices, handling Cadaver's Sword of Bone, projecting force blasts, opening dimensional portals and pulling others through them, and restoring injured magical beings, such as Shadowoman.

    In case you can't tell, it it a set of earphones, for a portable radio (like a Walkman) hanging around his neck.


--Secret Defenders#19 ( 24 (fb) - BTS, 25 (fb) - BTS, 19, 20 (fb) - BTS, 20, 22-25, Nick Fury's Howling Commandos#6





Rose Steadbaur


    Her parents were nearly killed by a falling girder at a truckstop on the Massachusetts turnpike, but Joshua foresaw this possible future and got in their way, saving them. His actions bore fruit as her birth granted the additional power Joshua needed to foil Druid and Slorioth.

    One would ASSume that she has some advanced degree of awareness and some inherent affinity for magic, and that Al and/or Joshua will seek her out some day.


--Secret Defenders#19 ( 24 (fb) - BTs, 25 (fb) - BTS, 19, 20 (fb) - BTS, 20, 22-25

images: (without ads)
Secret Defenders#25 (cover)
    #22, last page, panel 1 (front view of Al & Joshua)
    #23, p13, panel 1 (side view of Al & Joshua)
    #25, p20, panel 5 (Al, sans canister)
        p25, bottom panel (Steadbaur baby)
        p35, panel 2 (Joshua close-up)

Secret Defenders#19-20 (September-October, 1994) - by Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (breakdowns), Tony DeZuniga (finishes), Craig Anderson (editor)
Secret Defenders#22 (December, 1994) - by Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (breakdowns), Tony DeZuniga (finishes), Craig Anderson (editor)
Secret Defenders#23-25 (January-March, 1995) - by Tom Brevoort & Mike Kanterovich (writers), Bill Wylie (breakdowns), Tony DeZuniga (finishes), Craig Anderson (editor)
Nick Fury's Howling Commandos#6 (May, 2006) - Keith Giffen (writer), Mike Norton (pencils), Derec Aucoin & Norman Lee (inks), Mark Paniccia (editor)

First Posted: 06/24/2006
Last updated: 06/24/2006

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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