IRON CROSS

Real Name: Helmut Gruler

Identity/Class: Human technology user;
    German citizen;
    19th century (as an infant); World War I era (as a young man); World War II era (as an armored warrior, and beyond); post-World War II era; pre-modern era; modern era

Occupation: Warrior, freedom fighter;
    previous occupations unconfirmed

Group Membership: Penance Council, V-Battalion (Roger Aubrey/Destroyer, Elizabeth Barstow/Silver Scorpion, Paulette Brazee/Citizen V, Fred Davis (formerly Bucky), Brian Falsworth/Union Jack, Jacqueline Falsworth/Spitfire, Robert Frank/Whizzer, Robert Frank Jr./Nuklo, Thomas Halloway/Angel, Madeline Joyce/Miss America, Irene Martinez, Isadora Martinez, Darren Mitchell/Topspin, David Mitchell/Human Top, ?? Mitchell/Twister, Robert "Rebel" Ralston, Ameiko Sabuki/Goldfire, Gwenny Lou Sabuki/Golden Woman, Hijiri "Sam" Sabuki, Kenji Sabuki/Golden Sun,  John Watkins/Citizen V, John Watkins Jr./Citizen V, John Watkins III/Citizen V)

Affiliations: Atlanteans/Homo mermani, Valerie Cooper, Jim Hammond (aka Human Torch), Nathaniel Richards, Howard Stark, Andrea Sterman, Thunderbolts (Atlas/Erik Josten, Charcoal/Charlie Burlingame, Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Moonstone/Karla Sofen), Uatu the Watcher;
    formerly Baron (Helmut) Zemo (while possessing John Watkins III and acting as Citizen V), Gerhardt, Karl, Franz Schneider, Nazi party

Enemies: AIM, Crimson Cowl (Justine Hammer), Dexter, Franz Schneider, Hydra, MODOK, Sandman (William Baker/Flint Marko), Baron (Wolfgang von) Strucker, Marylou;
    formerly Atlanteans/Homo mermani, Attuma, Citizen V (Dallas Riordan), Henry Gyrich, Invaders (Captain America/Steve Rogers, Human Torch/Jim Hammond, Namor), Liberty Legion (Blue Diamond/Elton Morrow, Jack Frost, Miss America/Madeline Joyce, Patriot/Jeff Mace, Red Raven, Thin Man/Bruce Dickson, Whizzer/Robert Drake), Thunderbolts (Atlas/Erik Josten, Charcoal/Charlie Burlingame, Hawkeye/Clint Barton, MACH-2/Abner Jenkins, Moonstone/Karla Sofen, Songbird/Melissa Gold),

Known Relatives: None (based on the picture below, it would seem he had a lover, if not a wife--I'd guess the latter, but we may never know)

Aliases: "Blue Max" (nickname used by Miss America), "Sir Ghoulahad" (nickname used by android Human Torch/Jim Hammond)

Base of Operations: Unrevealed;
    formerly Castle Masada, Symkaria;
    formerly mobile on the Vanguard carrier;
    formerly mobile on unidentified German submarine;
    formerly mobile throughout Germany

First Appearance: Invaders I#35 (December, 1978)

Powers/Abilities: Iron Cross' World War II armor granted him great strength and durability, sufficient to trade blows with the underwater Namor (though Namor did eventually gain the advantage; Namor is Class 100 strength at that level and almost constantly renewed in vigor).
    It would seem logical that his subsequent armor(s) would have been that strong or stronger, though he may have had to rebuild it from scratch.

    The World War II armor could perform at high capacity for extended periods without recharging, though he may have recharged when he was on the submarine.
    Its modern incarnation limits are unrevealed.

    The World War II armor enabled him to survive underwater, both preventing him from drowning (presumably preventing water from entering the suit, apparently making it airtight, even at the eyeslits) as well as providing him with sufficient oxygen to survive for at least several (or even a dozen or two) minutes without fresh air. It also allowed him to project his voice and clearly hear Namor's underwater voice, indicating both voice amplification and sound/hearing amplification.
    The modern incarnation armor allowed him to ocean's floor and function fully under the ocean's depths. It could also function fully in Earth's orbit. It also had the means to keep Gruler alive at well over a century old. Late in his life, he could not survive outside of the armor. Whether it had some pacemaker type function to keep his heart beating and/or worked like an iron lung, expanding his chest to keep him breathing, or used other means is unrevealed. I'd guess the iron lung function, but that's just speculative.

   The World War II armor also had several specific offensive weapons, including projecting electrical blasts able to agonize but not incapacitate the underwater Namor (and allegedly "with power enough to slay a charging killer whale."); anesthetic gas able to be released in a cloud that could incapacitate even the superhuman members of the Liberty Legion in a couple seconds; a thick, obscuring, ink-like fluid, mimicking the "ink" released by an octopus; and icy spray able to stun the Human Torch.
    The modern incarnation armor could project powerful energy blasts (comparable to Iron Man's armor). It also had its own computer systems, able to receive live feeds and distant communication across sub-planetary distances, even at the ocean's floor or from orbit. It could transmit data to other computer systems.

    Though not as fast as Miss America, the World War II armor was fast enough to catch cannonballs she threw in mid-air and toss them back quickly enough to strike and knock her out.

    The World War II armor could apparently fly or at least hover in the air (see comments).
    The modern incarnation armor could presumably fly at least a couple hundred miles per hour, if not faster than the speed of sound. Assuming he traveled to the satellites under his own power, he was presumably somewhere close to escape velocity, which would be around 25,000 miles per hour.

    The World War II armor was "lighter weight than you might imagine" Nothing further was specified beyond that, but given its weathering multiple strikes from the underwater Namor without visible damage, one would expect it was composed of some highly durable, ultralight material.

    Gruler had some experience in skill in tactical matters, often acting as field leader of the Penance Council (except in the more rare occasions when the Destroyer (Roger Aubrey) accompanied them). He also had some experience in fencing and fishing.

 

 

Height: Unrevealed (perhaps 6'2" in prime; presumably somewhat shorter late in his life - perhaps 5'11" or 6' tall);
    his World War II era armor looked to be more like 7' tall, while his modern incarnation armor looked closer to 8' tall.
Weight: Unrevealed (perhaps 250 lbs. in prime; he was much more lean late in his life - perhaps 170 lbs.);
    given that his armor was described as "lighter than you might imagine," I'm not going to guess what the armor weighed.
Eyes: Brown (apparently, they are dark, but cannot really be seen clearly)
Hair: Bald (black in youth)

 

 

 

History:
(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Helmut Gruler was born in 1898 AD (see comments).

(Invaders I#36 (fb)) - As a youth, in the days before World War I, Helmut Gruler was close friends with Franz Schneider. They enjoyed fishing on the Rhine, becoming friendly rivals (in fencing, for example) even through their years at the university.

(Invaders I#36 (fb)) - Both Gruler and Schneider were frustrated at their beloved Germany fell into a great depression due to the sanctions imposed on Germany after the Great War (World War I). Gruler felt that the only hope for their nearly bankrupt nation lay in the rise on National Socialism (the Nazi party).

(Invaders I#36 (fb)) <1932> - Gruler and Schneider attended one of Hitler's speeches, but while Gruler felt Hitler could unite all Germany, Schneider was sickened by the madman's words. Gruler responded that while Hitler was an extremist, he cried out for Germany and would likely be more reasonable once he had attained the power he sought. Schneider told Gruler he was acting like a fool, while Gruler noted that at least he was still German.

(Invaders I#36 (fb) - BTS) - The two old friends went seven years without speaking again.

(Invaders I#36 (fb)) <1939> - With a new war having started (World War II), Gruler felt the need to renew his old friendship with Schneider. When Schneider did not answer his knock, Gruler impulsively let himself in with the key Schneider had given him years before. Gruler looked in Schneider's basement apartment laboratory, where he found not Schneider, but instead a powerful armored exoskeleton and Schneider's hidden journal, which detailed how Schneider had been laboring for years on a fully-equipped armored fighting uniform to be worn by a German if ever Hitler was ousted from power, or, if necessary, one day by an anti-Nazi German who would fight against the Fuhrer. Gruler further learned Schneider had abruptly fled to America, leaving behind the armor...and before making certain improvements at which the journal only hinted.

(Invaders I#36 (fb) - BTS) - Gruler donned the armor, made certain additions of his own, and adopted the alias Iron Cross, fighting for Germany, right or wrong.

(Invaders I#37 (fb) - BTS) - Gruler destroyed all of Schneider's papers to assure no one else could replicate his armor, so he would remain unique.

(Invaders I#35 (fb) - BTS) - In mid-1941, Gruler allied with Nazi agents to locate Schneider and force him to reveal the improvements he had planned for the armor. They approached America via submarine.

(Invaders I#35 (fb)) - The submarine carrying Iron Cross rose to the surface of the Atlantic Ocean a few miles east of New York City, and the Iron Cross was launched from its surface.

(Invaders I#35 (fb) - BTS) - Nazis Karl and Gerhardt abducted Professor Franz Schneider from the Rhinemaiden bar around 86th street and brought him to a park beside the East River (East River Park?) by car. This abduction was witnessed by Miss America in her civilian identity as Madelyne Joyce, who then changed back into her Miss America costume and followed the abductors by air.

(Invaders I#35 (fb)) - Arriving in the park to meet the Nazis, Iron Cross smashed into and through a tree to stop. Overturning a car (containing civilians Marylou and Dexter) in his path, Iron Cross asked if the Schneider had revealed the information he sought. When the taller, bald Nazi urged patience as they had barely found the Professor in time, Iron Cross told them there was no excuse for inefficiency; "You are Germans, are you not?" Just then, Miss America arrived, and she kicked the two Nazis in the back as she pointed out the difference between Germans and Nazis. Recognizing her and realizing he should have expected to encounter one of her ilk in New York, Iron Cross acknowledged that there was indeed a vast difference, but that they were all loyal to the fatherland. As he announced his regretful duty to stop her, Miss America dodged his leap, but then -- acknowledging the current limitations of his suit -- he bent back a tree limb and used its release to launch him into the air after her. She dodged again, angering him by calling him "Blue Max" (see comments) in the process. She led him to continue leaping to pursue her in between two buildings, then took advantage of his limited vision between his eyeslits to kick him in the head from behind. When this merely stunned him, Miss America turned on her costume's communicator and then decided to throw some cannonballs at him while calling him a Nazi. As he leapt at her again, he reiterated that he was not a Nazi, and he caught the cannonball and threw it back at her, knocking her out.

    As Iron Cross turned to focus his attention on Professor Schneider, he was confronted by the rest of the Liberty Legion (Blue Diamond, Jack Frost, Patriot, Red Raven, Thin Man, Whizzer).

(Invaders I#37 (fb)) - Red Raven insisted the Iron Cross put down Miss America and he and his allies surrender, but they refused. Patriot was reluctant to move, fearing both the gun the dark haired Nazi held near Miss America's head, as well as Iron Curtain's mighty grip.

(Invaders I#35 (fb)) - As Red Raven rushed him, Iron Cross stunned him with a punch, then caught the onrushing Blue Diamond and used him as a club to take out Jack Frost and the Patriot (or maybe he punched out Jack before grabbing Blue Diamond, it wasn't clear to me). As Iron Cross easily flattened Thin Man, the Whizzer fled to get help, specifically to save Miss America.

(Invaders I#35 - BTS) - The Whizzer located Captain America, Human Torch, and Namor of the Invaders, who were visiting New York, and recruited their aid.

(Invaders I#36) - Holding the unconscious Miss America in his left arm, Iron Cross released an anesthetic gas from the armored glove of his right hand that dropped the rallying Liberty Legion members in 2 seconds. He then acknowledged to the Professor that his armor had its limitations, but that the Legion could not take advantage of them for fear of hurting Miss America or the traitorous Schneider; the Professor countered that they would see who was the true traitor to Germany. Iron Cross advised Schneier to choose his words carefully, or he would forget his mission to capture Schneider and would execute him instead. Iron Cross (possibly aided by one of the Nazis, as the other one had to keep Schneider at gunpoint) then loaded the unconscious Legionnaires into the back of their transport.

(Invaders I#36 - BTS) - Iron Cross and his allies brought their captives to and into their submarine, and the Legionnaires were placed into the classic transparent stasis tubes.

(Invaders I#36 - BTS) - Though they were long gone when the Whizzer and his allies arrived, Namor's flagship could track Madeline's still-active communicator.

(Invaders I#36 - BTS) - Schneider refused to reveal the means by which the Iron Cross armor could be improved, as well as how multiple units could be made; he did not wish to contribute to the creation of an even more dangerous "reichsweapon" than Iron Cross.

(Invaders I#36) - As Schneider vowed his work would go to the grave with him, Iron Cross warned him that his patience was wearing thinner than his armor. Nonetheless, he refused to allow Karl or Gerhardt to work over the "traitor," vowing that only his own hand would ever be raised against Schneider. At that point, Schneider identified Iron Cross as his former friend, Helmut Gruler; in response, since they appeared to be safe aboard the submarine, Iron Cross took off of his helmet and confirmed Schneider's suspicion. After Gruler had reviewed their shared and separate histories, Schneider told him he must be as mad as Hitler to think he would help him. Assuring Schneider his sanity was beyond reproach, Gruler struck his old friend, warning him he would spare much unnecessary suffering if he would share his secrets at once. When Schneider remained defiant, Iron Cross threatened to slay the six captured Liberty Legion members.
    Meanwhile, Captain America, Human Torch, Namor, and the Whizzer approached them in Namor's flagship, and Namor exited to confront their enemies in hopes of less risk to the passengers than a ship-to-ship confrontation would entail. Iron Cross had himself launched from a torpedo tube and struck Namor head on, and Namor recovered and struck back, but Iron Cross rallied almost immediately and stunned Namor with an electrical charge "with power enough to slay a charging killer whale." Nonetheless, Namor forced himself forward and caused Iron Cross' voltage to short circuit. Protected by his insulation, Iron Cross took another powerful blow, than released a black fluid, much like that discharged by an octopus, to obscure Namor's vision. Acting swiftly, Namor grabbed Iron Cross's right foot and swung him to dispel the black fluid, but Iron Cross struck back with a powerful left boot strike to Namor's head, then punched Namor. The Sub-Mariner fought back with a series of blows, ultimately unwittingly knocking Iron Cross back through the nearby submarine. Taunting Namor that he had doomed his allies to a watery death, Iron Cross tore the submarine's rent even larger, rushed inside and grabbed Schneider (who had at some point donned a diving suit), exited, punched Namor away, and swam to the surface. Namor was forced to stay behind to help his trapped allies, while the Iron Cross burst from the surface and escaped with Schneider, as Captain America, Human Torch, and the Whizzer feared to fire from Namor's ship for fear of harming Schneider.

(Invaders I#37) - Iron Cross continued his leap skyward, striking Namor's flagship with his fist and sending it to crash in the waters below, preventing it from pursuing him.
    After Namor rescued the trapped Legionnaires, the flighted heroes, Human Torch, Miss America, Namor, and Red Raven pursued and caught up to the Iron Cross. Red Raven attacked first, but Iron Cross incapacitated him with an electrical barrage, then threw him back into Miss America, stunning her, though Whizzer rescued her with Jack Frost's aid. Iron Cross then smashed Namor, who fell into the water and swiftly revived. Human Torch tossed a fireball at the Iron Cross, who retaliated with an icing spray, that briefly stunned the Torch, though he willed his flames to overcome it, then dazzled the Iron Curtain so he failed to see Namor smash into him from behind. Caught off guard, Iron Cross dropped Professor Schneider, which he pointed out to Namor after punching him back, forcing Namor to fly after Schneider to rescue him. Iron Cross turned another icy blast towards the Human Torch, who dodged it, them surrounded Iron Cross with flames that both pained Gruler and melted the armor's mechanisms. Powerless, Iron Cross fell into the ocean below and sank like a rock.

 

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Helmut Gruler apparently won a few medals, the nature of and impetus for which are unrevealed.

(Thunderbolts#41 (fb) - BTS / Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb)) <1951> - Inspired by the American All-Winners Squad, the Destroyer (Roger Aubrey) reactivated the V-Battalion, presumably including Iron Cross. The V-Battalion began waging a secret battle against those who would seek to repeat the kinds of atrocities committed during World War II.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion: Everlasting#1 (fb)) <1953> - Helmut Gruler attended the funeral of Brian Falsworth, aka Union Jack and the secret lover of Roger Aubrey. Helmut wondered if Brian's sister, Jacqueline, aka Spitfire, would remain a part of the V-Battalion, but Aubrey was uncertain, suggesting that for now at least they let her find solace in her new man, Lord Crichton.
    After witnessing Aubrey's outburst to Thomas Halloway (aka the Angel) about how Brian's death would change the V-Battalion and that they needed to focus more on changing the future than making amends for the past, Aubrey responded to Halloway that Aubrey's plans could prove terrifying, and that they must speak to Paulette Brazee, the lover of John Watkins I, founder of the V-Battalion for which Aubrey's organization was named; she deserved a say in how this new incarnation developed, for better or worse.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Helmut Gruler, now bald or sporting a shaved head, posed for a picture with a woman, presumably his lover or wife.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Gruler posed for a picture alongside an unmasked Destroyer (Roger Aubrey).

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Iron Cross posed for a picture with a few other poorly seen figures, presumably other members of the V-Battalion.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 (fb)) - As part of the V-Battalion (alongside Destroyer, Golden Woman, and Human Top), Iron Cross saved the entire planet from "otherdimensional" attacks.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 (fb)) - Alongside the Destroyer, Nathaniel Richards, and Howard Stark, Iron Cross met with Uatu, who directed the four of them to...go somewhere on an unspecified mission.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 (fb)) - V-Battalion members Destroyer, Golden Woman, Iron Cross, and Twister discussed Cerebro, and allegedly secretly prevented the genocide of the entire mutant race.

(Thunderbolts#41 (fb) - BTS) - Over 20 years ago (see comments), the V-Battalion battled unspecified foes on their home soil in Symkaria.

(Thunderbolts#40 (fb) - BTS) - The Penance Council members saved the lives of everyone on Earth another time under unspecified circumstances.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 - BTS / Citizen V and the V Battalion#3 (fb) - BTS) - Baron (Wolfgang von) Strucker headed an operation involving manipulations of others infected with nannites controlled via a Voice Modulation Program; as part of this program, Strucker manipulated Commission on Superhuman Activities agent Henry Gyrich, who further manipulated Jack Nomad as Scourge.

(Thunderbolts#49 (fb) - BTS) - The Penance Council ordered their agent Citizen V (Dallas Riordan) to assassinate Henry Gyrich for his covert organization of Jack Nomad as Scourge. When Dallas refused, they ordered her to relinquish her title, but she instead fled.

(Thunderbolts#38) - Citizen V (Dallas Riordan) sought aid from Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and Moonstone (Karla Sofen) against the V-Battalion, who assaulted the trio within seconds. After Atlas joined the struggle, five members of the Penance Council appeared, unidentified, in vague hologram projections of their heads (to me, it looks like Gruler, Fred Davis, Roger Aubrey, Ameiko Sabuki, and Elizabeth Barstow). Aubrey (apparently) spoke, warning the Thunderbolts that this was none of their business: They were risking their lives unnecessarily, and that Citizen V was their property and must either perform as expected or cede the mantle to someone more worthy; Citizen V unmasked and revealed herself to be Dallas Riordan.

(Thunderbolts#39) - Via vague projected holograms of their heads, Gruler and the other four Penance Council members watched while Atlas reacted to Dallas' revelation. Aubrey insisted she renounce the mantle, and her family name would not be tarnished. Dallas argued until she was teleported away by the Crimson Cowl (Justine Hammer)'s cowl.
    All Council members were unidentified, except Aubrey, whom Dallas referred to as Roger.

(Thunderbolts#40) - Still interacting via vague projected holograms of their heads, Gruler and the other four reacted with surprise to Dallas' disappearance. When Hawkeye revealed the Thunderbolts knew nothing about it, Aubrey -- noting they no longer had a reason to fight -- severed contact, and the Vanguard carrier teleported away, but not before Atlas sneaked aboard.
    Aboard their ship, the Vanguard carrier, the full contingent of the Penance Council (Roger Aubrey, Elizabeth Barstow, Fred Davis, Robert Frank Jr., Helmut Gruler, Isadora Martinez, and Ameiko Sabuki - all clearly pictured and identified) broke to reconvene at 0800. The Vanguard carrier returned to dock at Castle Masada, on the Symkarian border, but the Thunderbolts (along with Sandman (William Baker), whom they recruited as a guide for Symkaria) soon located and infiltrated the ship. As Atlas revealed his true identity, grew to giant size, and began fighting V-Battalion members, Gruler noted they had no one to blame but themselves, presumably for revealing their existence; Aubrey agreed, and ordered the Penance Council to suit up for the first time in years -- and to fight on Symkarian soil for the first time in 20 year -- and provide and hands-on solution to the problem.
    Shortly thereafter, Iron Cross joined Goldfire, the Destroyer, Nuklo, and Topspin in confronting the Thunderbolts.

(Thunderbolts#41) - In the ensuing fight, Atlas burst through the ground, knocking Iron Cross back, after which Charcoal and later Songbird battered back Iron Cross. Eventually Moonstone stomped the struggle by releasing energies that rendered everyone intangible and thus unable to fight.
    After having a chance to calm down, the V-Battalion and Thunderbolts joined forces to track down the renegade Sandman, who had taken off in an apparent attempt to murder Silver Sable (Silver Sablinova). They located him in Silver Sable's Symkarian castle. Iron Cross flew through and shattered Sandman's form, after which Songbird, Nuklo, and Goldfire fused Sandman into solid glass; the Thunderbolts returned Sandman back to Seagate.

(Thunderbolts#49) - Iron Cross (armored) was present at a Penance Council meeting in Castle Masada, which included Valerie Cooper and Andrea Sterman. He listened as Sterman discussed the assassinations of Jolt (who survived), Gayle Rogers, and Roberta Haggert, and the involvement Roxxon and the Commission on Superhuman Affairs. Ultimately, Valerie Cooper identified the man behind the Scourge assassinations as Henry Gyrich.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 (fb) - BTS) - Gruler became dependent on his armor to survive. Within the immense armor, he could no longer fit on the Vanguard Carrier's bridge. The Penance Council's meetings were sent to him in his quarters via a live link to his armor.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 - BTS) - Gruler apparently heard the Penance Council monitoring Citizen V (Helmut Zemo secretly in the body of John Watkins III) during his conflict with Diamondback until Citizen V severed contact.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1) - Roger Aubrey met with Gruler to discuss his absences at the Penance Council meetings, but Gruler explained how his armor was keeping him alive as he was over 100 years old (see comments) -- "it is a miracle I have lived this long...or depending on your point of view, a curse"; and the armor would not fit on the bridge. Aubrey assured him they would keep him on a live link, but Gruler frustrated him by asking if he could turn it off like "Watkins" does.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#1 - BTS) - Citizen V discovered evidence of a Voice Modulation Program that could control some widely disseminated nano-probes, making those infected with the nannites subject to the holder of the VMP. Tracking the VMP via the nannites present in Diamondback, the Vanguard Carrier went orbital and did a parabolic descent over the Atlantic over the AIM island base involved in the study.
    Gruler's face was shown in hologram as Aubrey ordered those present to present the VMP or be obliterated. MODOK revealed that it was being tested in Atlantis as they spoke.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 (fb) - BTS) - Penance Council members Goldfire, Iron Cross, Nuklo, and Topspin were dispatched to Atlantis to battle the Atlanteans manipulated by the VMP-controlled nanoprobes. They arrived too late to save a Russian submarine from Attuma's attack, but -- by attacking Atlantis directly -- they halted the Atlantean army's rampage.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2) - Iron Cross and his allies battled Attuma's Atlantean forces. When Goldfire commented that short of genocide, the battle was hopeless, Gruler agreed, noting they might have little choice left them. Though none of them liked the idea, Nuklo promised to do what Mr. Gruler said. Iron Cross then contacted Aubrey, requesting other options. With Namor's reluctant aid in determining how sound could be received by the Homo mermani, Aubrey -- who had forced MODOK to surrender the frequency signals for the nanoprobes used in the VMP technology -- had Gruler pull his forces back so Goldfire could raise the water temperature, as sound traveled better in warmer water. Aubrey then issued a voice command to the neutralize the programming of the nanoprobes infecting Atlantis, freeing them from their previous mind-control; Gruler was shocked to realize Aubrey's voice was directing the VMP.
    Upon returning to the Vanguard carrier, Gruler met in his quarters with Betty Barstow and Fred Davis to discuss the dangers of Aubrey controlling the VMP. Gruler noted that Aubrey had long skirted the line, and Betty suggested that while they would not betray Aubrey, if the time came, that they should not betray themselves.
    Iron Cross subsequently joined the Destroyer, Goldenfire, Nuklo, Topspin, and other general V-Battalion agents in assaulting AIM's base. At Aubrey's command, Iron Cross and Goldfire blasted MODOK and the rest of AIM's "council for higher learning." When Goldfire sarcastically responded that she was doing so with the utmost respect, Iron Cross said "Hush, mdchen!" (mdchen meaning "girl"). Defeated, MODOK offered to reveal the head of the entire operation.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#2 - BTS / Citizen V and the V Battalion#3 (fb) - BTS) - MODOK noted the head of the VMP/nanoprobe operation to be Baron (Wolfgang von) Strucker, supreme commander of Hydra.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#3) - Aubrey sent Iron Cross, Goldfire, Nuklo, and Topspin (the latter three of whom Gruler called "kinder" (German for children) to inspect one of the satellites set to release the nannites. After sending the others to the next satellite in the array, hundreds of miles away, Gruler contacted Jim Hammond (then inactive as the android Human Torch) and informed him of their plan to disable one (of the 104 involved) satellite so as to short-circuit the lines of communication between all of them. Nuklo destroyed the next satellite, but Gruler noted the plan to have failed, as the signal simply bypassed the missing satellite.
    As Hammond stated his dislike and distrust of Aubrey, Gruler advised them to move beyond their past; Hammond then relayed codes to shut down the satellites (which had been designed by Oracle, Inc. and sold to Americans when Hammond ran Oracle). However, Gruler noted that he lacked the power required to trigger the shutdown override across the array. When Aubrey noted the Vanguard could transmit all of the needed power, Gruler told them the Vanguard was too powerful and would burn out the communications grid. They required a very...precise amount of energy, such as that which powered his armor (and thus his life support). Knowing that would kill him, Betty Barstow told him, "You can't do this!", and Helmut replied, "Yes, dear Elizabeth, I can..."
    Meanwhile Citizen V attempted to change the codes on the craft with Strucker's voice codes programmed into it, not to Aubrey's codes, as Aubrey had planned, but into his own (John Watkins possessed by Helmut Zemo). As Gruler finished rerouting the power to create the shutdown cascade, he noted that it was a world well worth fighting for, and so, worthy dying for. He told Elizabeth Barstow it was no sacrifice at all; he regretted having lived a life of dusk, and that a sunrise was a nice way to end it. Iron Cross' power reserves were depleted and his armor systems announced their shutdown, but all 103 remaining involved satellites stopped opening their cargo doors.
    Nuklo carried Gruler's armored body back as he returned with Goldfire and Topspin. Everyone was momentarily silent, and Betty and Aubrey discussed how they might have found another way, given more time, which they didn't have.

 

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#3 - BTS) - The V-Battalion spent the next 18 hours incinerating every involved satellite and their nanoprobes. The Iron Cross armor was removed from Gruler's body, and the V-Battalion robes replaced.

(Citizen V and the V Battalion#3) - Standing over Gruler's body, Citizen V commented that Gruler deserved something more dramatic, but Aubrey, in his Destroyer costume, noted that Gruler had had enough drama for several lifetimes. Aubrey stated that Gruler could have waited a moment longer to see if Citizen V could have reprogrammed the codes or scuttled the launch, and Citizen V responded that he thought Gruler wanted to stop anyone -- Strucker or Aubrey -- from using the weapon. Aubrey further told Citizen V that he knew he had tried to reprogram the VMP with his own (Citizen V's) vocal patterns, but Citizen V played it off as he simply knew that Aubrey would not be around forever and that he must prepare for the future. Aubrey than shared his plans of reconceiving Strucker's plans and sent Citizen V to return to the Thunderbolts.

 

 

 

Comments: Created by Roy Thomas, Alan Kupperberg, Don Heck, and Rick Hoberg.

    You can look up the significance of the Iron Cross itself on the internet...Google, Wikipedia, etc...

    Gruler references being 103 years old in Citizen V and the V-Battalion#1, a comic that came out in 2001, which would make him having been born in 1898. In some cases, this might be topical, but in his World War II appearances, Gruler references being a youth (and pictures make him look to be a teen) in the days before World War I, which started in 1914. He graduated college before Germany fell into a great depression due to the sanctions imposed on Germany after the war. So, he really couldn't have been born much later. The trouble with that would be that, as I write this, 2013 is wrapping up; with Marvel's sliding timescale, we could estimate about 2-3 years Marvel time have passed since the above-referenced Citizen V story, which would make him more like 110 at that time. As time marches on, he'll be increasingly old in the story, but it's an easy explanation that the energies of his armor, or perhaps the energies of the Vanguard carrier, or something in his life slowed his aging slightly, so that even 125-150+ years won't be unreasonable. It's a little more of a strain for the unpowered characters, like Fred Davis (formerly Bucky, partnered with Captain America (William Nasland, formerly Spirit of '76) and Captain America (Jeff Mace, formerly Patriot) and Elizabeth Barstow (formerly Silver Scorpion), even though they were decades younger than Gruler. But still, similar explanations can be easily be made.
    Elizabeth Barstow references turning 75 when Helmut turned 100, which would make her 78 in that same story...and then more like 85-6 as of 2014...

    Blue Max is a reference to the Pour le Mrite (for the merit), known informally as the Blue Max (Blauer Max in German), which was the German Kingdom of Prussia's highest order of merit. It was also the title of a 1966 movie about a German World War I soldier played by George Peppard (probably best known to my generation as Hannibal of the A-Team) who was seeking that award. And it was the name of a 2099 character.
    Obviously World War II era wouldn't have known about the 1966 movie, but writer Roy Thomas sure would have, and it was probably a tongue-in-cheek reference to Iron Cross as being like a big fighter plane.
    Or maybe I missed the point altogether. Anyway, I got the details from above from Wikipedia. So credit/etc. belongs there.

    In Invaders I#35, it seemed to me that Iron Cross had been launched from the submarine and crashed into a tree to stop. When he wanted to take to the air, he bent back a tree branch and used its unleashed momentum to carry him into the air. At the end of #36, he was launched out of the submarine via its torpedo tube; there wasn't any real evidence of anything keeping him from sinking beyond his own swimming motions, but when he escaped, he burst high into the air with Schneider. I reasoned that he had swam to the surface with such speed that he was just carried into the air by this force...but then in #37, he clearly fought a prolonged aerial battle, so he must have had some power to stay in the air like that.
    Regardless, it was a relatively low velocity flight, as Human Torch, Miss America, Namor, and Red Raven caught up to him, seemingly within seconds or minutes tops of escaping the submarine in which the Liberty Legion had been trapped when he departed. 
    The original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe#6: Appendix entry for Iron Cross confirmed that the armor granted him flying ability.

    Iron Cross certainly was not EVIL like the Nazi and other Axis foes of the Invaders series, but I would still like to see the specific events where he survived his seeming watery death in Invaders I#37 and becoming a member of the V-Battalion. I'd like to see Fabian Nicieza, Kurt Busiek, Christos Gage, or someone with a similar respect for continuity write an Iron Cross series!

    I suppose Gruler, as part of the Penance Council, the ruling body of the V-Battalion, could be considered behind-the-scenes in all appearances of the V-Battatlion. Not including those he actually appeared in, my notes list them as:

    Captain America/Citizen V Annual 1998 , Thunderbolts#24, 27, 31, 35,36, and 50, 51. Probably others. Let me know what I missed!

The other Iron Crosses (see also clarifications!)

    Captain America: America's Avenger (August, 2011), continued that years special editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. The Warrior Woman entry therein incorrectly referenced the Iron Cross who was a member of the Uberkommando in 1945 as Helmut Gruler. His status as a different Iron Cross and his real name, Oskar Mors, was revealed/confirmed in the Spitfire entry in subsequent OHotMU special, Vampires: The Marvel Undead.   

    While by himself in Midnight Sons#9, the Iron Cross refers to "mein  Fhrer," indicating he is a loyal Nazi, something Gruler was most emphatically not. The Midnight Sons version also referred to "our Reich."
    Gruler wanted the armor at its maximum power to be able to support Germany, though he was certainly willing to accept collateral damage in his initial struggles. Within 10 years of these events he united with various heroes of 1951 to oppose international and planetary threats. The Midnight Sons#9, Iron Cross was proud and amused to witness and film a bombing of a nightclub, and actively supported the effort to bomb
    These actions and the timing of events -- with Gruler being known to be active in mid-1941 and subsequent events in this profile both taking place in January, 1945 -- make it pretty clear that the Iron Cross in Midnight Sons#9 and Invaders Now#2's World War II flashback were the same character, but not Gruler.

    The circumstances by which Mors obtained his Iron Cross armor are unrevealed. We don't really know what happened to Gruler after he and his Iron Cross armor fell into the Atlantic Ocean after his armor's mechanisms were melted by the Human Torch...we also don't know how Gruler had an active set of armor in 1951. This would make a great story, by the way...Gruler's evolution from the German nationalist willing to work with Nazis into the member of the V-Battalion...

Profile by Snood.

CLARIFICATIONS:
Iron Cross (Helmut Gruler) should be distinguished from:


images: (without ads)
Invaders I#35, pg. 11, panel 2 (partial armored face close-up);
            panel 5 (oblique, full-armored);
    #36 cover (full vs. Namor);
        pg. 6, panel 2 (Gruler face);
            panel 3 (Gruler, youth);
Thunderbolts#40, pg. 7, panel 2 (Penance Council robes);
        pg. 19, panel 4 (aged face, close-up);
        pg. 21, panel 2 (modern Iron Cross armor);
    #41, pg. 1 (Iron Cross in flight)
Citizen V and the V-Battalion#1, pg. 10, panel 1 (Gruler's Vanguard quarters, larger image showing multiple pictures, including apparent lover or spouse);
            panel 2 (Gruler's Vanguard quarters, showing picture of Gruler and Aubrey);
            panel 3 (Gruler's Vanguard quarters, showing medals);
            panel 4 (modern mask, close-up);
    #3, pg. 19, panel 3 (death);
        pg. 23, panel 2 (dead, full body);
            panel 3 (dead, profile close-up, with armor hanging in background);
Citizen V and the V-Battalion: The Everlasting#1, pg. 1 (circa 1953, at Brian Falsworth's funeral);


Appearances:
Invaders I#35 (December, 1978) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Alan Kupperberg & Don Heck (pencilers), Rick Hoberg (inker)
Invaders I#36 (January, 1979) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Alan Kupperberg (pencilers), Chic Stone (inker)
Invaders I#37 (February, 1979) - Don Glut (writer), Alan Kupperberg & Rick Hoberg (pencilers), Chic Stone (inker), Roy Thomas (editor)
Thunderbolts#38-40 (May-July, 2000) - Fabian Nicieza (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Thunderbolts#41 (August, 2000) - Fabian Nicieza (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Greg Adams (inker), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Thunderbolts#49 (April, 2001) - Fabian Nicieza (writer), Patrick Zircher (penciler), Al Vey (inker), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Citizen V and the V Battalion#1-3 (June-August, 2001) - Fabian Nicieza (writer), Michael Ryan (penciler), Sean Parsons (inker), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Citizen V and the V Battalion: The Everlasting#1 (March, 2002) - Fabian Nicieza (writer), Lewis LaRosa (penciler), Jim Royal (inker), Mark Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor)


Last updated: 01/28/14

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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