MAL DONALBAIN

head shotReal Name: Mal Donalbain

Identity/Class: Human

Occupation: Being rich, would-be owner/operator of health emporiums run by hypnotized women

Group Membership: Leader of a small group of his own henchmen

Affiliations: The Cat (Shirlee Bryant), his henchmen (Ferd, Joey, two unnamed others), Zabo;
    possibly the
Manticore (see comments)

Enemies: The Cat (Greer Nelson), Dr. Joanne Tumolo, women in general

Known Relatives: Zabo (brother)

Aliases: "Boss" (name given to him by his henchmen)

Base of Operations: A penthouse in Chicago, Illinois

First Appearance: The Cat#1 (November, 1972)

Powers/Abilities: Mal Donalbain had no superhuman powers, although he used mechanical collars to control the minds of others. He also utilized technology stolen from Dr. Joanne Tumolo that would transform women into superhuman physical specimens. He also carried a handgun, which he could use fairly well, and a whip, which he never used.

 

 

 

 

 

full bodyHistory:
(The Cat#1 (fb)) - Soon after Doctor Joanne Tumolo explained her experiment to access the potential of womankind to Greer Nelson, she explained that the man who funded the project, Mal Donalbain was going to stop by the lab. She also explained to Greer that Mal suffered from Haptephobia, the fear of being touched. When Mal arrived, he explained that he had the perfect guinea pig for Dr. Tumolo's experiment, Shirlee Bryant. Dr. Tumolo argued that using Shirlee as a test subject was contrary to their agreement and that she wanted Greer Nelson to be her test subject. Mal yelled for Dr. Tumolo to not crowd him and pulled out a whip. He then explained that the experiment belonged to him and that it was his money that paid for all of it. Donalbain also added that Dr. Tumolo do the experiment his way or not at all. He then left Tumolo and Greer at the lab to take Shirlee to an opening of some sort, most likely a show of some kind. The next day, Shirlee Bryant was used as a test subject. Later, Dr. Tumolo discovered Mal Donalbain and his flunkies watching Shirlee as she changed into a costume resembling a cat. Shirlee complained that the suit looked like a Halloween costume and Mal replied that her opinion had become less and less relevant. He then reminded her not to forget her "neck accessory" and that he was sure that they would see eye-to-eye. As soon as Shirlee put on the accessory, her mind came under the control of Donalbain. Mal made a remark about her being the perfect woman, totally obedient and strong enough to do anything he commanded, and then ordered her to disable his three henchmen. She did with ease and he then ordered her to climb up to top level of the lab. Soon, she had climbed to the top and hesitated before Donalbain ordered her to swing across the room using the claw-hook built into the costume. Shirlee did so, but released too much line from the hook and fell to the ground, where she died, the hook still in the wall. Discovering that Dr. Tumolo had witnessed Shirlee's death, Donalbain had his henchmen attack her. The henchmen planted a stick of dynamite that destroyed Tumolo's home, seemingly killing her. The henchmen stole Tumolo's notes, which they presented to Mal Donalbain.

 (The Cat#1) - Desiring vengeance for Tumolo's seeming death, Greer Nelson, now wearing Shirlee's cat costume, snuck into Donalbain's penthouse, where she met with one of Mal's thugs, who exclaimed that Donalbain didn't much like visitors, especially "dames." As two other henchmen arrived to battle Greer as the Cat, another thug contacted Mal and explained that he and the other men had her trapped in Lab C, but his conversation was interrupted by the Cat attacking him. As the Cat questioned the man, gas filled the room and knocked her unconscious. When she came to, she was face-to-face with Donalbain himself, who explained that she made the same mistake as Dr. Tumolo and that he had plans for her. He then proceeded to explain that he was opening a nationwide chain of health emporiums, which he needed specialists to operate. He also explained to Greer that the specialists would need the same powers she had gained from Dr. Tumolo. Donalbain then revealed his machine, based off Tumolo's notes, that would give women enhanced physical attributes. Proclaiming himself master of a grateful nation of perfect physical specimens, he revealed that each woman transformed would be given a special neck accessory like Shirlee, which he called a Will-Nullifier, that would put them under his mental control. As one of his henchmen attempted to place the collar around Greer's neck, she gave him a shoulder charge, knocking him into Donalbain himself. A crazed, fearful Donalbain warned the henchmen not to touch him and ordered another mind-controlled flunky named Zabo to reprimand the other henchman. During the scuffle between the two men, Greer managed to escape. She was quickly pursued by Zabo, but managed to escape into the air vents. After a quick rest, Greer returned to Donalbain's penthouse, where she knocked out each of his henchmen. Hearing the noise, Donalbain quickly got dressed and summoned Zabo to his side. Discovering Greer once again, he fired a gun at her and ordered Zabo to stop her. The Cat knocked Zabo into some machinery and made her way towards Donalbain. A fearful Donalbain began firing his gun in a panicky way until the power went out in his penthouse. Greer commented to him in the dark that she could see him perfectly. Mal warned that if she came any closer, he would shoot. The Cat reminded him that he had only one bullet left and if it didn't kill her, she would get him. He worriedly asked what she was planning to do to him and she unsheathed her claws. Terrified due to his fear of being touched, Donalbain yelled that no one could touch him and shot himself, rather than be touched by her. As the Cat made her escape, Donalbain's penthouse caught on fire, due to a fire caused by the damage done to the machinery by Zabo being thrown by the Cat.

 

 

 

Comments: Created by Linda Fite, Marie Severin, and Wally Wood.

Dr. Tumolo was revealed to have survived in The Cat#2.

    The designer of the Manticore's exoskeleton is "the same scientist who created the Hellcat costume for Brand Industries." The costume was designed by Mal Donalbain, initially for the Cat (Shirlee Bryant and then Greer Nelson (now Tigra)), before being taken by Patsy Walker to become Hellcat. I'm not positive whether Donalbain actually built it, and/or whether he is thus also the designer of the Manticore costume.

I'd like to point out that the Cat uniforms and the Hellcat costume are not the same.  There are two easily seen differences:
    1.  The Cat uniforms possess yellow cowls (the same color as the rest of the bodysuit).  The Hellcat costume's cowl is blue.
    2.  The Cat uniforms possess blue "cat's paw" emblems on the chest.  The Hellcat costume does not.

    I think it is evident that writer Linda Fite intended Malcolm Donalbain to be the creator of the Cat uniforms from the text in "The Cat" issue #1 (Nov 1972).  It could even be argued that Donalbain came up with the idea of the uniforms before he met Dr. Tumulo.  When Dr. Tumulo first observed Shirlee Bryant wearing one of the uniforms, she wondered about it ("Shirlee -- dressed like a cat?  What's this all about?").  Later, when she stumbled across a closet-full of the uniforms, she thought "More of those peculiar costumes - dozens of them!  I'll take one - for evidence of this scheme."  These do not seem to be the reactions one would expect from the creator of the Cat uniforms.
    Later, in "Giant-Size Creatures" issue #1 (July 1974), Tony Isabella retconned Dr. Tumulo to be a member of the Cat People.  Later authors, such as Steve Englehart, have interpreted that to mean that Dr. Tumulo intended to create artificial Cat People all along.  This has confused the origin of the Cat uniforms.  Steve, especially, seems to write as if Dr. Tumulo created the Cat uniforms (for her experiment) in "West Coast Avengers" issues #6 (March 1986) and #15 (Dec 1986).  Tony got it right, Dr. Tumulo experimented with giving women enhanced abilities, but didn't mention the uniforms.  I prefer to stay with Linda Fite's original premise.  One could argue that
the text I quoted was second-hand (Greer's retelling of what Dr. Tumulo told her), but I think the uniforms themselves give us a reason to conclude Donalbain created them: the blue "cat's paw" emblem.  The dictionary's definition for "cat's paw," "one used as a tool by another: dupe" certainly fits Donalbain's intentions for his army of enhanced women.  It does not fit with the women's liberation theme proclaimed by Dr. Tumulo.  Steve might argue that the doctor was using women's liberation as a cover for her activities (the words he wrote for Greer in WCA #6 hint that he does not consider Dr. Tumulo was at all honest with Greer about the doctor's intentions), but I don't think that is as obvious as Donalbain's plan.

To explain why the Cat and the Hellcat costumes are different, I propose two possibilities:
    1.  Donalbain subcontracted the manufacture of the Cat uniforms to Brand.  The version Patsy Walker found, in "Avengers" issue #144 (Feb 1976), could be a prototype or a "factory second" that was not sent to Donalbain.
    2.  Brand learned about Donalbain's uniforms through the same channels as Tony Stark.  When Captain America, Iron Man, and Patsy Walker spotted the costume, Cap wondered how it got there?  Iron Man (rather bitterly, IMHO) responded "Brand and Roxxon probably bought it, like they buy everything else!"  He continued "The rumor in financial circles was a crackpot named Donalbain developed the costume, and its powers, for his own purposes...but the woman who wore it turned against him when his purposes turned out to be illegal!"  Instead of buying it, could not Brand have heard the same rumors and decided to make their own?  They built it based on rumors and witnesses' accounts, which would easily explain the differences.  An analogy would be that Shirlee Bryant and Greer Nelson drove Ford Thunderbirds, while Patsy Walker drives a Mercury Cougar.  (You could probably come up with a better metaphor.  I'm not a car nut.).
    Patsy, however, believed (and may STILL believe) that the costume she took as Hellcat was the exact same costume originally worn by the Cat. Further, the costume fooled Cap and Iron Man too.  It would have been interesting to see a scene in "West Coast Avengers" #15, when Patsy and Greer were arguing about who was entitled to what creds, if Greer would have said "By the way, that costume you're wearing is just a cheap copy.  Just like you."  Greer, Spider-Man, the Owl, and Man-Bull are the only non-civilians who have ever seen the original uniform.  That reminds me, Spidey didn't notice the difference in Defenders I#61 (July 1978) either.  In it (his first encounter with Hellcat), he thinks she's the Cat (whom he'd met in Marvel Team-Up I#8 (April 1973)) until she straightens him out.

    As a corollary to this, the Hellcat does not have the same powers as the Cat.  Shirlee and Greer both underwent Dr. Tumulo's experimental treatments and gained enhanced physical and mental abilities.  Patsy did not.  At first, she attributed her success as a superheroine to the costume.  It would have granted her some enhancements, such as aiding her hearing and night vision and providing razor-sharp claws. 

    In the Hellcat entry of the OHOTMU, it adds to the tale the supposition that Donalbain was a former employee of Brand's, and they repossessed the costume.  There is no other mention anywhere of this possibility.  I discount it, primarily because Donalbain was a "world-famous sportsman, eccentric, and entrepreneur," not a corporate executive.  The OHOTMU cannot be implicitly trusted, because in this story we can easily see an outright error in the related entry for Tigra.  There, it says Greer, dressed as the Cat, "thwarted Donalbain's plans and sent him to jail."  In "The Cat" issues 1 and 2 and in "Giant-Sized Creatures" #1, Donalbain committed suicide, shooting himself in the head with his own pistol rather than let the Cat rake him with her claws.  Nowhere, other than the OHOTMU, does any text state that Donalbain went to jail.  Nor is there any reason to think that he did.  Even the OHOTMU doesn't do anything with this misinformation.  If the writer had intended for Brand to pursue Donalbain (as noted in the Hellcat entry), he'd forgotten it by the time he wrote the Tigra entry.

So, to sum it up, this is how I think of the costumes: 
1.  Malcolm Donalbain created dozens of the Cat uniforms for his proposed army.
2.  Dr. Joanne Tumulo created the experimental equipment to enhance women.  Donalbain realized he could take advantage of this and agreed to fund the experiment.
3.  Shirlee Bryant and Greer Nelson underwent the experiment and each gained the powers to become the Cat.
4.  Shirlee's uniform, as well as dozens of copies, was lost in the fire Greer accidentally set at Donalbain's headquarters while thwarting his plans.  Donalbain killed himself.
5.  Greer continued using the Cat uniform until she was fatally shot with a radiation pistol while fending off Hydra's kidnapping attempt on Dr. Tumulo.
6.  Dr. Tumulo, with the aid of other Cat People, transformed Greer into Tigra to save her life.  She abandoned both of her previous identities (Greer and the Cat) and the uniform as well.  (It may have become contaminated with radioactivity.)
7.  Captain America, Iron Man, and Patsy Walker found a copy of the Cat costume at Brand's warehouse.  Patsy adopted it and named herself Hellcat.
8.  The costume Patsy adopted was contaminated with radioactivity when she, with the Defenders, pursued the Red Guardian (Tania Belinsky) and was exposed to a nuclear explosion engineered by the Presence (Sergei Krylov) in "Defenders" issue #63 (Sept 1978).  Since then, she has worn a replacement.  The major difference is she neglected (or purposely decided not) to recreate the taloned boots.  The replacements are ordinary boots with a low heel.
9.  Since her sojourn in Hell, Patsy has been able to psychically manifest her costume.  Occasionally, she manifests a photographic inverse, i.e., the body suit is blue instead of yellow and the gloves and boots are yellow instead of blue.
Darci

    That's all great information, but I think both the OHotMUs and perhaps some West Coast Avengers information confirms them to be one and the same. I don't have time to check for any in-story confirmation right now, but if you can provide it, please do.
    The Hellcat costume would either be a prototype of the Cat costume, OR a modification of the Cat costume.

Despite the fact that Ferd is an unusual (if not silly-sounding) name, Ferd was referred to as "Ferd" on two separate occasions in the Cat#1 and "Fred" once. Even though "Fred" is a more common name and could very well be his actual name, I decided to go with "Ferd" because it was used more often than "Fred" was.
    It could just be short for Ferdinand--Snood

Profile by Proto-Man

Clarifications:

Mal's henchman, Joey, has no known connections to

This character, Mal Donalbain, has no known connections to


sub-entry imageFERD (OR FRED-see comments)

Ferd was one of Mal Donalbain's henchmen. He was the "muscle" of the group and was present when Shirlee Bryant did her test run as the Cat. During that run, Donalbain ordered Shirlee to disable him and she did so by him picking up into the air and spinning him around, much to his confusion. When Greer attacked Donalbain's penthouse, Ferd was the first to discover her. He attempted to subdue her and was quickly joined by Joey and another henchman. She eventually escaped but returned to find Ferd sleeping on the job. Greer knocked him unconscious and confronted Mal.

--The Cat#1 (fb), (#1,


 

 

 

 




sub-entry imageJOEY

Joey was another of Donalbain's henchmen. He aided another henchman in destroying Dr. Tumolo's home and stealing her notes. He later aided Ferd against the Cat and when she returned after escaping, she promptly knocked Joey and another henchman unconscious.

--The Cat#1 (fb), (#1,












images:

The Cat#1

 p11, pan6 (Mal Donalbain headshot)

 p17, pan6 (Mal Donalbain full body shot)

 p26, pan8 (Joey pic)

 p27, pan1 (Ferd pic)


Appearances:
The Cat#1 (November, 1972) - Linda Fite (writer), Marie Severin (pencils), Wally Wood (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)


Last updated: 08/29/05

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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