"DR. WOODROW CATHER"
Real Name: Unrevealed
Identity/Class: Extraterrestrial (Dire Wraith) shape-changing technology-user/magic-user
Occupation: Civilian scientist at the John F. Kennedy Space Center
Group Membership: SciWraiths (a sub-group within the Dire Wraith race)
Enemies: Avengers, "General Bridges", Wraith Sisterhood
Known Relatives: None
Aliases: Dr. Woodrow Cather
Base of Operations: John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida
First Appearance: Avengers I#244 (June, 1984)
Powers/Abilities: As a Dire Wraith, "Woodrow Cather" possessed all the standard powers of his species. Cather had the ability to change his shape, color, size and mass so as to become any physical being he may have wished (within certain limits). By transforming into an appropriate creature, Cather could then use that creature's physical abilities (like flying while in the form of a bird) but he could not alter his brain/body structure enough to replicate any psionic or paranormal abilities which the being he was imitating may have possessed.
In his natural form, "Cather" would have possessed an unspecified level of superhuman strength but his transitory form may have been only slightly stronger than his human form. He did exhibit much greater strength after assuming the form of an alien (whose species has not yet been identified) whose strength was greater than that of the Vision but less than that of the Titanian Eternal Eros (Starfox).
As a Dire Wraith, Cather had some ability to manipulate the unique mystical energy emitted by the Dark Nebula's Black Sun. Since he was male, his ability was probably minimal but his powers were strong enough that he could summon the Mists of the Dark Nebula, a sorcerous fog that obscured the vision and numbed the minds of any non-Wraith beings (even androids) who were enveloped by it. However, although he implied that he had the ability to summon those Mists, he was not actually shown doing so.
As a Dire Wraith, Cather's natural form is believed to have had a barbed, razor-sharp tongue which he could use to absorb the brains of victims, thereby gaining their memories (but he probably avoided using this brain-eating ability since SciWraiths consider that ability repugnant).
As a Dire Wraith, Cather was hatched from an egg and had a lifespan of many Earth-centuries but his actual age was never revealed. However, if he was hatched on Wraithworld, then he must have been over 200 Earth-years old when he lived on Earth.
As a SciWraith, Cather possessed extensive knowledge of his race's advanced technology, including their stardrive (which he was able to secretly incorporate into NASA's experimental ion-drive rocket).
Paraphernalia: Cather possessed a Dire Wraith weapon, a sidearm that fired energy blasts that could kill living beings by disintegrating them. However, these energy blasts apparently did not damage unliving material.
Height: (As Cather) 6' (estimated); (Wraith form) unrevealed
Weight: (As Cather) Unrevealed; (Wraith) unrevealed (also variable)
Eyes: (As Cather) Blue; (Wraith) red (also variable)
Hair: (As Cather) Red; (Wraith) none (also variable)
Skin: (As Cather) Pink; (Wraith) pale yellow (also variable)
Fingers: (As Cather) Four (plus opposable thumb); (Wraith) three (plus opposable thumb) (also variable)
Toes: (As Cather) Five; (Wraith) five (also variable)
(Rom#1 (fb) - BTS/Rom#17 (fb) - BTS) - Beginning in the 1940's, members of the alien race known as the Dire Wraiths began to secretly arrive on Earth. Using their shape-shifting abilities to disguise themselves as human beings, these Wraiths infiltrated Earth's population and began to secretly lay the groundwork for their conquest of Earth. Their ultimate goal was to use Earth as a base from which they could conquer other worlds.
(Rom#2 (fb) - BTS/Rom#25/2 (fb) - BTS) - As part of their plan for conquering Earth, the Wraiths sought to advance human technology (so that it would be available for them to later use for their own purposes). Towards that end, a number of SciWraiths were chosen to seek jobs in the field of scientific research so that they could secretly use their knowledge of SciWraith science to "develop" advanced technology.
(Avengers I#244 (fb) - BTS) - A SciWraith calling himself "Dr. Woodrow Cather" began working as a civilian scientist at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
(Avengers I#245 (fb) - BTS) - For "some time" Dr. Cather was the highest ranking civilian scientist at the Space Center.
(Avengers I#244 (fb) - BTS) - At some point, Dr. Cather became the head of a NASA project to design and build an experimental ion-drive rocket. It hasn't been revealed if he headed the project from its beginning or if he took it over from someone else.
(Rom#48/Avengers I#245 (fb) - BTS) - Blaming the male SciWraiths for the loss of their homeworld and the failure of the ongoing Earth invasion, the female WitchWraith leaders killed the SciWraith leaders and abandoned the use of technology. The Wraith-sisters then began to hunt down and exterminate the surviving male Wraiths on Earth.
(Avengers I#244 (fb) - BTS) - Learning of the Sisterhood's intentions, Cather and four other human-disguised male SciWraiths conspired to use primitive human technology to fabricate one of their star-drives. They began to secretly build the star-drive into Cather's experimental ion-drive rocket, intending to use it to escape into space.
(Avengers I#244 (fb) - BTS/Avengers I#245 (fb) - BTS) - Since the equipment
supplied to Cather's project was hardly adequate, the SciWraiths began to sabotage other
projects at the Cape. These "accidents" enabled them to secure some needed equipment and
also crippled competing projects, thereby freeing up money and resources for use by the
Eventually, worried that the female Wraiths might be closing in on them, Cather's four Wraith-brothers resorted to making more overt raids while disguised as the Rocketeers.
(Avengers I#244) - After an attack by the Rocketeers on Test-Pad Five, Dr.
Cather was called to the Cape's office of military security by General Bridges. Arriving at
the office, Cather was shocked to see that a team of Avengers were present. After Bridges
introduced him, the Avengers provided Cather with a briefing about what Washington feared
was responsible for recent supposed accidents: an alien beast that called itself a Dire
Wraith. The Vision then provided a brief recap of some recent events, including the apparent
extermination of the breed of Dire Wraiths who used advanced technology by the Dire Wraiths
who had mastered sorcery, and Captain America promised Bridges that the Avengers would find
and stop the aliens. Cather then spoke up, demanding that some priority be given to his
ion-drive project and that the guard by his prototype rocket be doubled. Bridges was
dismissive of Cather's wishes, considering his "fool ion-drive project" to be less important
than the space shuttle, and stated his intention to call out a full battalion to help the
Avengers guard it. However, the Vision emphatically refused to allow any extra security to
be brought in.
That night, in a secluded hideaway, Cather met with his four Wraith-brothers and revealed that he was not the one who had saved them from the Avengers by sending the Dark Nebula Mist. The SciWraiths realized that that meant that "the Sisterhood" had saved them and Cather claimed that they had been toying with the Rocketeers and had only saved them in hopes of flushing him out. Cather then voiced his opinion that the females had been distracted by the presence of the Avengers and he provided his Wraith-brothers with jamming devices that would enable them to avoid being caught by the advanced detection equipment they anticipated the Avengers would have set up.
(Avengers I#244 (fb) - BTS) - Later that night, suspecting that his Wraith-brothers might still be detected, Cather returned to the test bunker so that he could avoid the enhanced security checks that would be in place by the morning.
(Avengers I#244) - The next morning, as Cather had hoped, the Avengers did detect his four Wraith-brothers as they entered Experimental Complex 27 and an alarm was sounded, ordering all personnel to evacuate the area. With the Avengers diverted to capturing his four comrades, Cather used the confusion of the evacuation to reach the experimental ion-drive rocket where he convinced the soldiers guarding it that there were vital parts on the rocket that he had to secure and that he would follow them once that was done. As the soldiers evacuated, Cather cut the ship off from Ground Control and then took the elevator up to the command module, not noticing that the Wasp was secretly following him. As the other Avengers captured the other Wraiths and the Scarlet Witch used a hex sphere to trap them in one form, Cather launched his rocket. Abandoned and betrayed, his Wraith-brothers revealed that the red glow from the rocket meant that the drive-engine was unstable and could explode at any time like a massive anti-matter bomb!
(Avengers I#245) - Aboard the rocket as it achieved orbit, Cather was only a few minutes away from safety when he was suddenly blinded by Captain Marvel entering through the cabin window in her light form. However, when Captain Marvel then returned to her solid form in order to take care of the Wasp, Cather took that opportunity to draw his sidearm and fire an energy blast that seemingly disintegrated Marvel. Enraged by her friend's death, the Wasp fired her bio-electric stings at Cather and was shocked when the stunned Cather changed into his true (transitional) form.
When the Wasp called him a monster, Cather identified himself as a Dire Wraith of the Dark Nebula and then, as he fired a series of energy blasts at her, stated that, to his way of thinking, she was the monster. His shooting spree came to an end when the ship suddenly lurched, causing him to drop his weapon. Realizing that this was a sign that the star-drive's power levels were reaching the critical stage, Cather spent the next several minutes feverishly working the controls until the energy indicators had dropped out of the danger zone. No sooner had Cather announced that he was "safe now" than the Wasp held his own weapon against his head and said, "Guess again!"
Although held at gunpoint by the Wasp, Cather wasn't concerned because, as he explained to her, the ship's drive was unstable and without him to keep the power levels within a certain range the drive generators would invert, killing them and transforming the ship into a flying mass of anti-matter that would rain down on Earth, obliterating whatever it struck. As Cather argued that the Wasp could not force him to return to Earth because he would only fall into the hand of the Wraith-sisters, neither of them were aware that Captain Marvel, who had evaded death by turning into x-rays and sinking through the deck, was present in an invisible energy form. Overhearing the situation, Marvel radioed for help from the other Avengers on the ground.
Minutes later, Cather and the Wasp were still in a stand-off, with the Wasp insisting that he shut down the engines and Cather not only refusing (because it would be suicidal for him) but upping the ante by pointing out that the engines were growing less stable with time and that they would have to leave orbit soon or Earth would be doomed! At that moment, the Vision phased in through the hull and grabbed Cather away from the controls. The Vision continued to hold Cather as a Quinjet docked with the rocket and Starfox entered and shut down the drive systems. However, when the Vision mentioned returning him to the Cape, Cather refused and transformed himself into a stronger alien form which the Vision allowed to attack Starfox. Discovering that Starfox was too strong for him to defeat, Cather chose death for them all and jammed down switches to activate explosive bolts on the forward hatch. Now open to space, the cabin decompressed explosively, sucking the Cather-monster out into the void. Using their powers, the Avengers survived but Cather flash-froze into an icy statue floating in space.
What happened to Cather's frozen corpse has not been revealed. It could still be floating in space, perhaps in orbit around Earth. Or, if it had been warmed enough by sunlight or by the friction of re-entry, then it probably crumbled into ashes.
Comments: Created by Roger Stern, Al Milgrom & Carmine Infantino, and Joe Sinnott.
There are several inconsistencies between the two parts of this storyline, one of which is plot-related. In issue #244, the Avengers came to Cape Canaveral because the government was concerned about "a number of supposed accidents" and soon after their arrival they thwarted an attack by the Rocketeers. Given that all of the previous sabotage had been disguised as accidents, the overt nature of this attack suggests that it was the first time the SciWraiths had attacked as Rocketeers. However, Cather's later statement (to the Wasp) that his brother Wraiths "(had begun) making raids in the guise of the Rocketeers" contradicts this since it implies that the SciWraiths had already made (at least one) earlier raid(s) as the Rocketeers prior to the one where the Avengers opposed them.
There are also three inconsistencies in the artwork which
are due to the fact that the colorist changed from Christie Scheele on issue #244 to Julianna
Ferriter on issue #245.
1. Dr. Cather's human form's hair color changed from red to black between issues. Also, his flight suit went from being dark green at launch to light blue in orbit.
2. The Dire Wraith skin color changed from orange (for both genders) to pale yellow (for the males) and red (for the females).
3. General Bridges had brown hair but between issues the hair at his temples became white.
One thing that I've never known for sure is how this SciWraith "became" Woodrow Cather. Did he create an entirely false identity for himself via faked documentation? Or was there once a real human named Woodrow Cather who was killed by the SciWraith who then stole his identity? And, if there once was a real Dr. Cather, when was he replaced by the SciWraith? Was it before or after he had become the head of NASA's ion-rocket project?
In Avengers I#244, Cather had to tell his Wraith-brothers that he had not sent the Dark Nebula Mist to save them before they realized that it must have been "the Sisterhood" who had been responsible. This indicates that Cather himself possessed some mystical ability of his own. This strikes me as odd since, given how this story hinges on how much the two branches of Wraithkind despise each other, the idea of a SciWraith having mystical abilities seems unlikely. Then again, the whole "male SciWraiths versus female WitchWraiths" concept wasn't even introduced until Rom's fourth year. Earlier stories had featured female Wraiths who used science (like Dr. Rachel Sweet) and male Wraiths who cast spells as a group (like the Wraith brothers who revived Kaaris'a).
In Rom#17, reformed Wraith
Jacob Marks had a
flashback to when he had first encountered other members of his race after having lived
peacefully amongst humans for decades. Marks had tried to disguise himself from his people
by displaying the emotions that a human in that situation would have had but the other
Wraiths reminded him, "You know us, just as we know you. No Wraith can hide from
another." This caused me to believe that perhaps all Wraiths had some sort of
"Wraith-sense" that told them when there were others of their kind in close proximity,
even if they were in non-Wraith forms. However, if that were the case, then how could
"Cather" and "Bridges" have been in the same room together without realizing who they really
were? As I see it, there are two possible explanations: Either my whole "Wraith-sense" idea
is wrong or some Dire Wraiths were able to block this "Wraith-sense" and prevent other
Wraiths from detecting them. Since Cather had mystical abilities which Marks lacked, this
would imply that the sense-blocking ability was mystical in nature. Plus, given that neither
Cather nor Bridges were able to detect each other, it could be that using the ability to
keep other Wraiths from sensing them also preventing them from sensing other Wraiths.
Sadly, since the "Wraith-sense" idea is just speculation on my part and given that this whole "recognize each other" scenario was only depicted once, the possibility that my theory is completely unfounded seems very likely. Oh, well.
The bodies of six of the eight Dire Wraiths who appeared in this storyline dissolved into ashes or slime within seconds of their deaths, as is normal for Dire Wraiths. Oddly, the bodies of the other two Wraiths, the Wraith Witch who was engulfed in liquid nitrogen and the SciWraith ("Cather") who died in the void of space, did not quickly dissolve/decay, presumably because being flash-frozen by sudden, intense cold had prevented that normal bodily process from functioning. I would assume that those two corpses would have dissolved if/when they were exposed to any warmth.
The three forms of "Woodrow Cather"
When Marvel first started publishing the Rom comic, Parker Brothers was supposed to come up with a design for the Dire Wraiths...but they never did. Left without any guidance, the Rom creative team made do by introducing the idea that the Dire Wraiths had a "transitory shape" that, as Jacob Marks explained in Rom#17, was "between (his) true form and this human shell." Several years later, after Ralph Macchio had taken over as Rom editor, he wanted to revitalize the Dire Wraith threat so he had Walt Simonson redesign the evil aliens. These new Wraiths were to be the sorcerous side of that race, replacing the science-oriented branch of the Wraiths who "looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy." However, when the second edition of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe chose to document this change, they did so by stating that Wraith "females look radically different from males." Although accurate, this statement is nonetheless misleading since it omits the fact that the male and female Wraiths look different BY CHOICE. This led to some people interpreting this as meaning that the male and female Wraiths had different true forms. This Avengers story was written during the period when some people (including, apparently, the writer and artists for this storyline) believed this inaccurate concept.
It's worth noting that, even though many Rom fans (myself included) believe that the so-called "female form" is the true form of ALL Dire Wraiths, this is actually something that has NEVER BEEN ESTABLISHED! While female Dire Wraiths have appeared in Marvel comics in their true, transitory and assumed forms, male Dire Wraiths have only been depicted in their transitory or assumed forms, and never in their true form. As a result, only two things are definitely known about the true male Wraith form: it does not resemble their transitory form and the males (or, at least, the SciWraiths) are all ashamed of their true appearance (as stated in Rom#48). Given that the Rom character is now licensed to IDW Publishing, it seems unlikely that Dire Wraiths will appear in any future Marvel publication and thus this mystery will remain unresolved.
Anyway, this accounts for two of the three forms in which "Cather" appeared during his encounter with the Avengers. The third form, which he assumed in order to break free from the Vision's grasp, was presumably that of an alien species but nothing was revealed about its origins. As a result, nothing is known about where this species might live or what its name for itself might be or even if the members of that species are sentient enough to have named their race. "Cather" apparently chose that form because it was stronger than he was in his transitory form but it proved to not be strong enough to overpower a Titanian Eternal like Starfox. This creature was somewhat larger and bulkier than Cather's transitory form and its limbs were more heavily muscled. This being was a bilaterally symmetrical semi-humanoid biped who had three fingers plus an opposable thumb on each hand and three toes on each foot, with every digit ending in a claw. Its skin was a yellowish-white with orange vein-like structures on its arms, its two eyes were red and forward-facing, it had a snout instead of the flat faces typical of humanoids, and a mouth equipped with large teeth. A distinctive feature was the large orange neural spine sail that began at the top of its head and continued along its spine. Its overall appearance suggested that it might be reptilian but this is only speculation. "Cather" was able to speak English while in this form but it is not known if actual members of this species are capable of speech.
Profile by Donald Campbell.
"Dr. Woodrow Cather" has no known connections to
Dr. Cather's ion-drive project was funded by NASA and was supposed to be the best hope for man to reach the stars. As originally designed, the rocket was presumably propelled by one or more ion thrust engines which created thrust by accelerating ions or plasma with electricity. Such engines are more efficient than chemical rockets because they require lesser amounts of reaction mass/propellant. Since ion engines do not function when there are ions present outside of them, the original NASA prototype would have included conventional chemical rockets to propel it up through the atmosphere and into the vacuum of space where the ion thrust engines could operate.
However, since "Dr. Cather" was actually a Dire Wraith, an alien who was familiar with his own race's more advanced technology and needed a spacecraft that could transport him away from Earth, Cather and his four SciWraith "brothers" began to secretly modify the prototype rocket, using the more "backward" human technology to create a version of a Dire Wraith stardrive-engine. In order to complete their secret project before their enemies found them, the SciWraiths sabotaged other projects at the Cape in order to acquire needed equipment and the funding that would have gone to those competing projects if they had not been crippled by the "accidents."
When the Avengers arrived at the Cape to investigate the accidents and the Mists of the Dark Nebula were sent to interfere with them, the SciWraiths realized that members of the Sisterhood were nearby and they were almost out of time. Cather betrayed his brothers by using them as a diversion so that he could reach the rocket and launch it into space. However, the presence of the primitive Earth components caused the stardrive to be unstable and required that the pilot constantly monitor and adjust its power levels so as to prevent the drive generators from inverting and transforming the spacecraft into a flying mass of anti-matter.
Although Cather managed to launch the experimental rocket from the Space Center and fly it away into space at a speed far faster than any Terran ship could have achieved, once it reached orbit Cather became preoccupied with dealing with Captain Marvel and then with keeping the star-drive's power levels under control. By the time Cather had gotten the energy indicators out of the danger zone he was confronted by the Wasp who threatened him with his own energy weapon. The two of them began arguing, with the Wasp refusing to let him pilot the ship away from Earth and the Wraith insisting that she dare not fire on him because he was the only one who could prevent the engines from exploding. Minutes later, they were still in a stand-off when the Vision phased through the hull and seized the Wraith. Seconds later, after a Quinjet had docked with the rocket, Starfox arrived and was able to quickly shut down all the drive systems. Faced with being returned to Earth, Cather shifted into a stronger alien form but Starfox was able to prevent him from regaining control. Unable to escape, Cather chose death for them all and pressed switches to activate explosive bolts that blew off the forward hatch and opened the command module to the vacuum of space. The Avengers were either able to resist the explosive decompression or were saved by their teammates but the Wraith was sucked out of the hatch and was instantly flash-frozen into an icy statue floating in space. Moments later, the Quinjet undocked from the now-harmless rocket and the Avengers returned to the Cape.
Whatever the Terran authorities decided to do with the orbiting rocket has not been revealed.
Four male SciWraiths who joined forces with "Dr. Cather" in order to try to secretly build a starship with which they could escape from Earth and the female WitchWraiths who were hunting them down.
Since the equipment which NASA supplied to Dr. Cather's ion-drive project was hardly adequate for the construction of a Dire Wraith star-drive engine, the SciWraiths were forced to sabotage other projects at the Cape in order to acquire the needed equipment and to cripple competing projects so that their resources would then be distributed to other projects (like the ion-drive rocket). The SciWraiths were able to secretly incorporate Earth-made versions of their advanced technology into the experimental ion-drive prototype rocket. These initial acts of sabotage were designed to appear as accidents which hid the fact that (some of) the "destroyed" equipment had actually been stolen.
Eventually, the SciWraiths came to believe that their time was running out and they resorted to committing an overt act of sabotage. Using the same type of flying rocket-suits previously employed by the Rocketeers, the four SciWraiths attacked Test-Pad Five in order to destroy the launch pad. Using mini-missiles to first damage the test-pad's gantries and to then weaken the pad, the Rocketeers caused the test-booster rocket to topple. However, a team of Avengers were nearby and the Vision and Starfox dealt with the fallen booster while Captain America, the Wasp and the Scarlet Witch were able to defeat all four Rocketeers. Before the Avengers could question their captives, the sorcerous Mists of the Dark Nebula appeared out of nowhere. As the thick, cloying fog obscured the vision and numbed the minds of all of the Avengers, the captured Rocketeers were invigorated and they were able to escape.
That night, all five of the SciWraiths met in their secluded hideaway and when Cather informed them that he had not sent the Dark Nebula mist they realized that "the Sisterhood" had helped them in hopes of flushing out Cather. Cather then stated that he believed that their pursuers had been distracted by the Avengers and he provided them with wristwatches that contained jamming devices that would enable them to bypass the detection equipment they anticipated that the Avengers would be installing. The SciWraiths vowed to continue with their primary mission.
The following morning, with their jamming devices dampening the base's security camera sensors, the four Wraiths were able to enter Experimental Complex 27 disguised as technicians but the Vision's android vision enabled him to detect them as they passed through a checkpoint and he sounded an alert and a warning to all personnel in the area. With their cover blown, the four Wraiths made a desperate attempt to reach their ship but the Avengers stopped them and then the Scarlet Witch cast a hex sphere that caused them to transform into their "true" (transitional) form and prevented them from changing form any further. Once the experimental rocket had launched and sped away, the four captured Wraiths realized that they had been abandoned, betrayed and doomed, and vocalized their feelings. When Captain America demanded to know what they meant about being doomed, one of the Wraiths revealed that the red glow from the ship was a sign that its stardrive-engine was unstable and that it could explode at any time like a massive anti-matter bomb!
The four captive SciWraiths were brought to a secured complex deep within the Space Center, the A-1 Isolation Block which was dedicated to Cryonics and Analysis. Still unable to change their shapes, they were then restrained atop lab tables. Unfortunately for them, two of the female Wraiths who had been hunting them gained access to the laboratory and were able to easily kill them. By the time Captain America came to check on them the four Wraith-brothers had all expired, and their bodies had begun to crumble into ash.
The Wraith sisters who had killed them soon died themselves while fighting Captain America and the Scarlet Witch.
images: (without ads)
Avengers I#244, page 20, panel 5 (main image)
page 13, panel 3 (red-haired head shot)
Avengers I#245, page 4, panel 5 (Cather in transitional form)
page 16, panel 3 (Cather in alien form)
page 17, panel 1 (Cather as frozen corpse)
Avengers I#244, page 21, panel 4 (Cather as red-haired human)
Avengers I#245, page 3, panel 1 (Cather as black-haired human)
Avengers I#244, page 21, panel 6 (ion-drive rocket launches!)
Avengers I#245, page 1, panel 1 (ion-drive rocket in flight)
Avengers I#244, page 7, panel 3 (Rocketeers)
page 19, panel 3 (as technicians)
page 21, panel 3 (hexed into "true" forms)
Avengers I#245, page 13, panel 1 (victims of the Wraith sisters)
Avengers I#244 (June, 1984) - Roger Stern (writer), Al Milgrom & Carmine Infantino (pencilers), Joe Sinnott (inker), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Avengers I#245 (July, 1984) - Roger Stern (writer), Al Milgrom (penciler), Joe Sinnott (inker), Mark Gruenwald (editor)
Last updated: 01/29/06
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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